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Short Breaks from Luton

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Ever needed to just get away, but you can't go for too long? Please tell us about your short breaks away (e.g. day trips, road trips or weekend breaks), whether it be for ultimate relaxation, or to be active and practice hobbies you may have (fishing,

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      15.06.2004 23:00
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      Temporary escape from Luton is ridiculously easy, even for those inhabitants who have to rely on public transport. In its prime position almost on top of the M1 and boasting two train stations, not to mention its own airport, it couldn?t be easier to escape the city (so long as you have the money to do so!) The choice is less ?where can I get to quickly?? when planning a short break from Luton, and more ?where do I feel like going?? as so many destinations, both at home and abroad, are within easy reach. However, if a weekend away is beyond your budget or timeframe, there are loads of things to do within minutes of Luton itself. A trip to St Albans is only a short drive away (or 20 minutes on the train). St Albans is perfect for shopping, a wander around the historical Roman baths or the Gardens of the Rose (the flagship gardens of the Royal National Rose Society, with over 30,000 roses on display). You could always visit the museum, the open farm at London Colney or spend an evening out at the Alban arena watching comedy, a live band, a play or a film. If relaxation, luxury and pampering are more your thing, Champneys Health Resort in Tring, Hertfordshire, or Henlow Grange in Henlow, Bedfordshire are both within easy driving distance. Each offers day treatments as well as longer stays in sumptuous surroundings, at a price! However, late deals and other bargains are available, check their websites for details. Of course, Luton is only half an hour or so from the centre of London by train. A day or weekend in the capital comes highly recommended and can be spent shopping, taking in tourist destinations or simply drinking in the culture and cosmopolitan atmosphere. There?s nowhere else in the country that offers the same variety of entertainment, you could eat in any nu
      mber of restaurants, visit Big Ben, a museum or art gallery, watch the animals at London Zoo, take a ride on the London eye, enjoy the wonders of the underground system, take in a show, play yourself silly at the London Trocadero, touch a celebrity at Madame Tussauds, or any one of thousands of other pastimes available for your delectation! But if all of that just sounds like too much hard work, Whipsnade Wild Animal park is less than ten miles outside of Luton, and is easily reachable by bus from the city. Whipsnade is home to more than 2,500 animals, many of which are endangered in the wild. If you don?t have a car, or don?t feel like driving, Whipsnade provide a ?Safari Bus? which will take you on a tour around the park. Alternatively, you could watch one of the many events, like the Sealion Splash or the Chimp Chat, which take place throughout the day. Wallabies, deer, marmots and mara, amongst other animals, roam freely around the park (and are relatively calm and well-used to visitors, in my experience). There is even the ?Great Whipsnade Railway? which takes you to areas that are inaccessible on foot, such as the ?Passage Through Asia? where you can see various types of deer. My personal favourites, however, are the wolves and the Przewalski's horse?s, though the big cats, elephants and giraffes are also well worth a look. If animals aint your thing, you can spend a day picnicking or flying kites on Dunstable Downs, just outside Luton, where you can also watch gliders flying overhead. There?s ample parking, an ice-cream van at weekends and in school holidays, an information centre and public toilets at the site, but be warned that it is popular, and you won?t have the place to yourself! For wildlife enthusiasts, it is possible to spot Marbled White, Grizzled Skip
      per, Meadow Brown and Chalkhill Blue Butterflies, amongst others, on the downs. If you?re free on the 25th of July this year (2004) you could watch the Dunstable Downs Kite Festival, an annual event on the downs. But if you?re more of a beach babe than a country bumpkin, you can dangle your toes in 'the drink' in Southend or Brighton in a little over an hour from Luton. Although Brighton is the more cosmopolitan of the two, Southend does have the sand, the bingo, and, at 2360 yards (2.158km), the longest pier in the world to boast about. Bed and Breakfast is reasonably priced and plentiful in both resorts. Both destinations are easily reached by train, though the journey can be laborious at around two hours each way, not to mention expensive in peak travelling times. If it?s culture that floats your boat, then a visit to Shaw?s Corner at Ayot St Lawrence, around 20 minutes from Luton by car, is highly recommended. Shaw?s Corner was the home of George Bernard Shaw from 1906 until his death in 1950. The rooms remain as in Shaw?s lifetime, and you can even see his writing hut in the garden. A little further to the East is Hatfield house, home of the Marquess of Salisbury. Both the magnificent house and gardens are open to the public, with guided tours, picnic areas, a children's play area, gift and garden shops and the licensed restaurant and tea rooms. There are different events most weekends at Hatfield House, including book fayres, Christmas fayres, car rallies and craft fayres. Elizabethan Banquets are regularly held in the evenings at the old Palace, where you can drink unlimited quantities of Mead or wine and eat five courses brought to you by costumed serving wenches, whilst a troupe of entertainers engage you with songs and spe
      ctacle in authentic period style! And while you're in Hatfield, why not spend an hour or two at the Galleria shopping outlet, and bag yourself a few bargains at factory prices! If you can hear the call of the ski slopes, but can?t afford to fly to the snow, then the dry ski slope at Welwyn Garden City is only half an hour from Luton by car. But if it just has to be the real thing, then Xscape at Milton Keynes is the place for you. Just a few junctions up the M1 will take you there from Luton. Xscape at Milton Keynes has two 175 metre slopes and a 135 metre nursery slope of real snow for skiing, snowboarding or even tobogganing. Xscape promise to provide ?the whole resort experience, the whole day, for the whole family.? Along with the snow they also have a Snocafe and Snobar, for that essential après ski! If the UK just won?t do it for you, then Luton Airport, the home of Easyjet, should be your first port of call. Flights are available to most of Europe, including Malaga, Nice, Madrid, Geneva and Majorca, to name just a few. Easyjet promise to offer ?a simple, no frills service at rock bottom fares? and will get you to your destination in a matter of hours, at a far from unreasonable price. I hope I?ve given enough ideas above to appeal to even the most picky bored Lutonian, but if none of these do it for you, Luton is only a few stops along the railway line from Borehamwood, so you could always pop along to Elstree and watch the next Big Brother eviction!

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