Sent by Kalpesh Shah
Brighton & Hove 24/07/2023
Based in Hove
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Incredible feeling as I watch sunrise from hot air balloon
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
25 April 2023
Ras Al Khaimah is a hidden gem located in the United Arab Emirates and I was fortunate enough to be shown around as a guest of the Ras Al Khaimah tourist board. It is the perfect destination for travelers who want to experience luxury beachfront resorts, adventure, and relaxation. If you are planning a trip to Ras Al Khaimah, then you should consider staying at the DoubleTree Marjan Island and Movenpick Resorts. These two hotels offer world-class amenities and are located in one of the most popular locations in Ras Al Khaimah. During your stay in Ras Al Khaimah, you should definitely try out the exciting excursions available. The Jais Zipwire is one of the most popular excursions in Ras Al Khaimah. It is the longest zip line in the world, and the experience of flying through the mountains is simply breathtaking. You can also try out the Jais Sledder, which is a unique experience that allows you to slide down the mountain on a mechanical sled. I also experience a sunrise hot air balloon ride above the desert which was breathtaking. Another exciting excursion to try out in Ras Al Khaimah is the Pearl Farm. Here, you can learn about the traditional pearl diving methods that have been used for centuries in the region. You can also go on a boat ride and explore the stunning coastline of Ras Al Khaimah. In conclusion, Ras Al Khaimah is a wonderful destination that offers a perfect blend of luxury, adventure, and relaxation. The DoubleTree Marjan Island and Movenpick Resorts provide an excellent base for exploring the region, while the Jais Zipwire, Jais Sledder, and Pearl Farm offer exciting excursions that are not to be missed.
25 November 2022
We flew to Bordeaux and took the bus transfer to Bordeaux Saint – Jean train station. The train journey to Arcachon takes about 40 minutes. We had 4 nights at a hotel close to the beach and in the centre of the town which made our stay very convenient. Arcachon is a lovely seaside town attracting mainly French tourists and I would describe it is an upscale resort without the bling of St Tropez or Nice. There is a wide sandy beach with two piers where boats ply regularly across the Bassin d’Arcachon. This natural sheltered basin means the sea is pretty calm all the time which is perfect for families and swimming(although the water is rather cold)and it’s only when you cross to the Atlantic coast when visiting Cap Ferret that the big waves are found. The highlights for me in Arcachon is strolling the promenade stopping at a restaurant and bar and its also a great place to hire a bike and cycle around as it has great cycle tracks. I also loved walking around the historic Ville d’Hiver district where the rich patrons in the 19th century built wonderful villas which are all architecturally different and pleasing. We took a 30 minute boat trip across the bay for a day trip to Cap Ferret and on the way you get a brilliant view of the dunes of Pilat which are the largest dunes in Europe at the entrance to the Bassin. Cap Ferret has a laid back village peninsular feel similar to places such as cape cod and there are some excellent restaurants and the views from the top of the lighthouse are well worth climbing the 300 steps. I would also recommend the short walk to the Atlantic coast across the sand dunes to some amazing deserted sandy beaches. Arcachon is a real gem less well known than many of the French beach resorts and we would be sure to return.
13 July 2021
It was so amazing to be able to have a holiday for the first time since 2019 and to write this blog about it. With lockdown restrictions recently lifted allowing stays in the UK we decided on a trip to the Cotswolds. We chose Barn End cottage in the pretty village of Paxford which boasts the lovely Churchill Arms where we had an excellent meal from award winning chef Nick Deverell-Smith. We were only 10 minutes drive from the very lovely town of Chipping Campden where all the houses are built from Cotswolds limestone and there a pleasant afternoon can be spent amongst the shops and tea rooms and restaurants and I would also recommend looking around the Ernest Wilson memorial garden in the high street which is free to visit and is a tribute to one of countries greatest plant collectors. Also close to our cottage base is Hidcote Manor gardens a national trust house although most visitors come to see the spectacular gardens and flower/tree displays and there is also the pretty village of Blockley which has a wonderful cafe and from where you can enjoy some lovely walks across the Cotswolds countryside. Other places worth visiting include Stow on the wold a pretty village with interesting shops and the doorway to St Edwards chuch which looks like a doorway into another world and is said to have inspired JRR Tolkein. Broadway is another lovely village which as its names suggests is bisected by a wide road where the Lygon Arms hotel and restaurant is located as well as Boadway Deli which is another fab place for a lunchtime bite to eat. From Broadway you can also walk up to Broadway tower which is the highest point in the Cotswolds and you have spectacular view across to landscape towards Wales. I would thoroughly recommend the Cotswolds for a break of a few days for even a week or more.
12 June 2019
We went on holiday to see family who live in the countryside about an hour outside of Stockholm. During the summer the weather is lovely with warm sunny days which are long as the sunsets are late in the evening and it never gets really dark. We visited Stockholm which makes for a perfect short break. My highlights include wandering the labyrinth of cobble streets and alleyways which make up the original old town (Gamla Stan) and visiting the Vassa museum where this 16th century ship which was discovered and resurrected almost entirely intact from where it sunk in Stockholm harbour on its maiden voyage. I would also recommend a trip to the Skansen, the open-air museum. Swedish culture celebrates "Fika" which is to make time to meet with friends and have coffee and cake which is why the coffee and cake are so good and I would highly recommend the cinnamon buns called Kanelbullar. You can also visit the excellent Abba exhibition and even record yourself performing one of their hits. Away from the city we spent most of our time in the countryside which is beautiful and great for walking where we saw roe deer, hares, geese and an abundance of birds and wildflowers and sometimes you might even spot an elk. Dotted all over Sweden are lakes that attract people to swim in their clear waters and from Stockholm and along the coast nearby as hundreds of islands that make up the archipelago. We went to one such island called Furusund where we went to an open-air informal country music concert. There are a couple of hotels in Furusund one of which is very recently renovated and very comfortable, but I much preferred the Hotel Albert a short walk from the seafront which was built in 1884 and remains largely unchanged from then with loads of character and original features and furniture. A popular trip would be to spend 2-3 nights in Stockholm and then take one of the smaller cruise boats which take you along and through the archipelago with its beautiful views to gems of places like Furusund to fully experience Sweden.
19 May 2019
My wife and I travelled to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote with some friends for a birthday celebration over Xmas/New Year. Playa Blanca is located in the South of the Island and you can see Fuerteventura in the distance. The town has a 5km promenade which runs from the Marina Rubicon at one end to the lighthouse at the other and has a number of white sand beaches along it including Flamingo Beach and Dorado Beach which are wide and safe to swim. Playa Blanca is picturesque and there are no high buildings. There is a huge choice of restaurants and cuisine and the quality of all the restaurants we ate in was excellent. We went on a 30 minute boat trip from the harbour along the coast to Papagayo beach with it turquoise waters and unspoilt natural bay this is a beautiful spot and the one building a restaurant which overlooks the bay is a great place for a drink and lunch and enjoy the view across the sea. I would recommend Lanzarote and Playa Blanca for a holiday as its climate means it’s an all-year-round destination pleasantly warm, even in the depths of winter and it’s really convenient to get to for a relaxing holiday to unwind and enjoy.
30 April 2018
Kerala is located on the south west tip of India and we flew into Trivandrum at the start of our eight-day visit exploring the coastline and backwaters. Kerala has 44 rivers and 34 lakes and innumerable canals to explore. Our first night was spent at the idyllic Poovar Resort Island which can only be reached by boat transfer and gave us our first view of waterways, birds and tropical trees and vegetation along its banks. The resort has its own Ayurveda village specialising in Ayurvedic healing and treatments as well as a lakeside Yoga centre. The following day we set off up the coast visiting Kovalam beach and on to our next stop at Varkalla, another lovely beach resort with Red Cliff and a spectacular sunset. Fortunately, we had a driver during our trip which was invaluable, especially when navigating the roads being simultaneously used by pedestrians, animals, scooters, tuk tuks, other cars, buses and trucks. Our next port of call was the Lakesong Resort at Kumarakom. Kumarakom is a truly beautiful and peaceful place on the shores of Lake Vembanad Lake and surrounded by Paddy Fields. We took a boat trip and visited a Bird Sanctuary full of migratory birds calling to each other. The bird sanctuary was founded by George Alfred Baker and is now managed by the Kerala tourism development corporation. We travelled north to Kochi, the capital city of Kerala, which has a long history of colonial power from the Dutch, Portuguese and English who operated power along with the Rajas of Kochi. Fort Kochi is the old town and Saint Francis church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the Jewish synagogue are all located here along with an array of gift shops, as well as the iconic Chinese fishing nets which are believed to have been introduced by Chinese traders in the 14th Century. We travelled to Alapuzzha for what was to be the highlight of our trip as we boarded our own private houseboat built in traditional style with a covering of coir. We had a driver perched on the front of the boat and an air-conditioned cabin and cook for the next two days. Not only did this give us our best insight into the waterways slowly drifting by but towards the end of the day we disembarked and went by canoe into the smaller side canals where excited local children swam and played while their parents washed clothes on the river bank and the beautiful lotus flowers and mangoes, jack fruit and cacao grew in abundance. We chose crayfish caught fresh that morning and enjoyed them for dinner, sat on the front under a canopy watching the lighting show over the still waters. We enjoyed Ayurveda massage treatments which left us relaxed and pampered. The food is a rich mixture of spices, coconut and sauces and there is a wide choice of vegetarian options. As our trip drew to a close we returned to busy Trivandrum for a final night before flying back home full of memories of a quite wonderful culture and country.
08 October 2017
My wife and I love Italy. For us it has it all, from the most wonderful cities and countryside to it’s warm sunshine and superb food and wine. Visiting the Cinque Terre (which means 5 lands) on the Italian Riviera has for some time been on our bucket list and we also very much wanted to visit Tuscany. Our first stop in Tuscany was to its capital Florence. We arrived in the early evening and as our hotel was by the Ponte Vecchio we walked across this iconic bridge and found a small traditional restaurant serving delicious Ravioli. Next morning, we set off to explore the city with it’s amazing art collections and sculptures in the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery, before getting our first glimpse of the Il Duomo di Firenze. The Cathedral has an incredible dome (the largest brick dome ever constructed) which dominates Florence’s skyline along with its bell tower. We had superb views of the city from the terrace café on the rooftop of one of the cities department stores. Later in the day we drove to the medieval town of Lucca which was on our way to the Cinque Terre. Lucca is a gem of a place with the historical centre inside the original walled city (where you can hire bikes to ride its 5-km circumference). As well as it’s maze of streets and original building and churches it is also the birthplace of Puccini and recitals of some of his most popular operas including Madam Butterfly and Tosca are held every night. We arrived at our hillside hotel in Levanto which would be our base for exploring the Italian Riviera and in particular the Cinque Terre. Levanto itself is a pretty seaside town with a crest of a beach and a good selection of restaurants which I can highly recommend. The Cinque Terre itself is comprised of 5 villages located on a dramatic stretch of coastline between Levanto and La Spezia and are quite inaccessible by car owing to the backdrop of the hills and rugged terrain. The villages are connected by a train line that runs between the villages as well as many walking/hiking trails dotted across the landscape. I would suggest you spend a minimum of two days visiting the Cinque Terre and longer if you have time to really enjoy the walks and majestic scenery the Cinque Terre has to offer. We firstly took the train (€4 per person per journey) to the furthest of the villages from where we were staying, Riomaggiore, which took around 20 minutes. What a sight it is to behold with its cove filled with small fishing boats and its pastel coloured houses hugging the rock. As we walked up the steep pedestrianised streets to the top of the village we had more wonderful views back over the rooftops and along the coast. We hopped back onto the train and on to the next village, Manorola, which has a similar pretty harbour side perfect for the seafood restaurants and meandering around it’s streets against the bright blue sky and sun sparkling on sea. Our final stop of the day was to Corniglia, the only village not to have a direct access onto the sea. Unless you are feeling energetic and want to take the 382 steps up to the hilltop top village, there is a shuttle bus that runs regular to the village centre from the train station. Next day we decided to take advantage of the car we had hired and drove an hour up the Riviera coast to the seaside towns of Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. This part of the Italian Riviera is a popular stop off point for the rich and famous with their mega yachts moored off the coast. Portofino, with it’s pretty marina, has an array of boutiques and restaurants to watch the world go by. Returning to Levanto we took the train once more to the final 2 villages of Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Both have their own unique character while still have the common theme of tightly packed but beautifully formed pastel coloured buildings. At Vernazza we watched as people took advantage of the ferries that ply their trade between the villages and while we didn’t use the ferry this would also be a great way to view the Cinque Terre villages from the sea. Monterosso al Mare is the only one of the villages to have a seaside beach suitable for spending time sunbathing or walking its promenade but the village also has some lovely shops, restaurants and picture postcard alleyways and churches. Completing our journey we drove back to Pisa for our flight and beforehand we stopped and visited the breath-taking site of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Cathedral and Baptistery. I would thoroughly recommend this slice of Italy whether you only have a few days like we did or have longer to have more time to relax and explore.
06 July 2017
Hello and thank you for reading my latest travel blog on our trip to Seville. We spent 5 days in Seville in June 17 and love this city. Our hotel the Fernando III was located in the Old Town a few minutes walk through the narrow lanes that are a feature of the city to the Cathedral square and the Alcajar Palace. Our hotel had a roof top swimming pool which was great for a refreshing dip. Throughout the Old Town there are an abundance of great restaurants serving a mouth watering selections of tapas dishes. I loved being able to sit outside savouring the balmy warm evenings and the convivial atmosphere. For wonderful views of the Cathedral at night I would recommend the roof terrace at EME hotel which also serves great cocktails. It is hot through the summer months with temperatures reaching 40C so if this is too hot for you then Autumn, Winter or Spring maybe the perfect time to visit. I would recommend pre booking your tickets and guide to the Palace and Cathedral as long queues form and this is a great way to skip the lines. Both are well worth a visit for the spectacular mixture of Arabic and Christian architecture and beautiful gardens while the Cathedral which is the 3rd largest in the world behind St Pauls in London and St Peters in Rome is awe inspiring with its amazing altars as well as the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Its Giraldi bell tower is quite a challenge to climb its 34 ramparts but if you persevere it offers fabulous views. Another great way to see the city is by horse and carriage ride with the immaculately kept horses and gleaming carriages this is a great way of seeing all the sights of the city. We also discovered the wonderful Aire spa and ancient baths and for a relaxing and enjoyable spa treatments. One of the newest and most controversially sights to visit is the modernist Metropol Parasol commonly referred to as the mushroom an amazing structure you can walk on top of due to its innovative walkways which offers spectacular views of the city. I would definitely recommend Seville for a city break and hotel prices and eating out is surprisingly good value. Contact me if you would like so more information.
04 May 2017
My wife and I travelled to Playa Blanca in Lanzarote with some friends. Playa Blanca is located in the South of the Island and you can see Fuerteventura in the distance. The town has a 5km promenade which runs from the Marina Rubicon at one end to the lighthouse at the other and has a number of white sand beaches along it including Flamingo Beach and Dorado Beach which are wide and safe. Playa Blanca is picturesque and there are no high buildings. There is a huge choice of restaurants and cuisine and the quality of all the restaurants we ate in was excellent. During our stay we visited Jameos del Agua which is located in the north of the Island. It is the unique creation of island born artist and architect Cesar Manique who in the 1960s built a home and gardens and a theatre inside a Volcanic Lava tube that was formed about 4000 years ago and is well worth visiting. We also took a 30 minute boat trip to the Island of La Graciosa off the coast of Lanzarote which is a Nature Reserve and has just 600 inhabitants. We had a fresh seafood lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach close to the marina where the boat docked and I would recommend it as a nice place to visit and we returned to the mainland in the late afternoon. I would recommend Lanzarote and Playa Blanca for a holiday as its climate means it’s an all year round destination and it’s really convenient to get to for a relaxing holiday to unwind and enjoy.
07 January 2022
Having not been able to fly to the USA for the past 2 years until recently when the restrictions were lifted made me reflect on my visits to the Big Apple and reminded me just why I love New York. The last time I visited was in 2017, a family holiday with my wife and teenage children. It was their first visit and we stayed at the New Yorker hotel with views of the Empire State and a few blocks from Times Square. I loved showing them the sights including taking the boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island which is where immigrants from across the world would take there first steps in North America as they were processed for entry. We loved wandering around central park and took a tricycle trip from one end to the other. Some of the best views of the city can be found from the observations deck of the empire state building built in the 1920s and at the time the tallest building in the world. One of the best things about New York is the food with a myriad of different restaurants from across the world and we loved the restaurants in Little Italy and the Cheesecake factory. For a contrast to the skyscrapers of midtown try a wander around Greenwich Village with its brownstone townhouses and quirky shopping. We also loved the iconic buildings such as the Flat iron and the architecture of Grand Central and host of museums including Metropolitan Music of Art and MOMA. There really is some much to see and do in New York and I know I’ve only just scratched the surface and am keen to return and scratch the itch to return to a great city
10 October 2016
We went for a mini break in early October and stayed in a hotel within walking distance of the Old Town but we also took advantage of the great tram and underground services which are the best way to get around. Prague has many sightseeing attractions so even if the weather wasn’t as hot as it would be through the summer months it really doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the city. On arrival we walked to the main square of the Old Town which is flanked by wonderful ancient buildings. Dominating the square is City Hall with its imposing tower and its unusual astronomical clock. I would recommend a historical tour of the City Hall which includes discovering the underground rooms and houses which were the original Prague which were subsequently built upon in the 14th & 15th Century as they were low lying and therefore prone to flooding. A trip to the top of the tower for great views of the city is also recommended. Connecting the two parts of the city and spanning the Vltata River is the Charles Bridge. During late morning and afternoon the bridge is extremely popular as people travel across from the old town towards Prague Castle. The Bridge itself is also a popular tourist site as it is ancient having been constructed originally in 1357 and its towers at either end and sculptures and views make it a must see. I would recommend also the boat trips that run from beside the Charles Bridge. The small wooden boats do tours of the river and the one or two picturesque canals that run alongside the river. Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral which stands beside it are also well worth a visit as they contain a lot of historical artefacts and impressive interiors. Within the castle is a picturesque medieval street called Golden Lane. We also took the funicular up the hill to Perrin Point. From the top are again great views of the city. Another area worth visiting is the Jewish synagogues and cemetery which are both educational and interesting. There is a wide choice of restaurants (I would recommend Café Savoy simply for its amazing ceiling and good food) and the famous Czech beer (which they say is cheaper than buying bottled water). Shopping malls and the streets around Wenceslas Square have a whole host of shops. Prague has an abundance of museums, theatres and opera houses. I could go with many other recommendations and would be keen to visit again and would thoroughly recommend.
25 July 2016
I visited Lucca, Florence and Pisa on a small group tour over five days. We flew into Pisa and took a short train journey to Lucca. Lucca is one of Tuscany’s real hidden gems, a walled city with ancient buildings and beautiful churches, lovely piazzas (and Pizza) and narrow streets. During our stay in Lucca we hired bikes and rode around the elevated walkway and cycle paths that form the top of the wall of the old city before following the scenic Serchio River through the Tuscan countryside. Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini and in a church within the old part of the city we listened to songs from many of his most famous operas including Madame Butterfly and Tosca. There are many good restaurants and Gelatos to savour your favourite ice creams. Having spent two nights in Lucca, we took a train for about an hour to Florence (or Firenze in Italian). Florence is spectacular and no wonder it appears on many people’s top cities to visit. The Duomo Cathedral dominates the skyline and it’s incredible that it was built over 600 years ago. The city is packed with amazing sculptures and I would recommend visiting the Palazzo Vecchio which is Florence city hall as just next to it is Loggia Dei Lanzi which displays for free some of the best sculptures. In addition at the Galleria Dell Accademia is the sculpture of David by Michelangelo which is well worth seeing. Other famous places to visit include the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio the beautiful medieval bridge that spans the Arno River. A Tuscan tradition is aperitivos where you sample different foods and wines in the variety of restaurants and bars. Our final visit on our trip was to Pisa to witness the Leaning Tower and the beautiful cathedral on the same site before catching our flight home. I loved this trip and would highly recommend it.
30 May 2016
We flew to Taormina in Sicily to celebrate our wedding anniversary in May. We stayed at the lovely La Plage Resort which is located directly below the town of Taormina. The small bay in front of the resort has wonderful views and is connected via a shingle bar to the small Island and nature reserve of Isola Bella. The quickest route to Taormina town was via the Fenicular which whisks you up the hillside, there are also regular buses and taxis which negotiate the short but winding roads. Taormina is extremely picturesque and most of the centre of town is pedestrianised. One of the main attractions is the Roman Ampitheatre which is well worth the short uphill walk to reach it. Concerts are still regularly held here and it has breath taking views and on a clear dayyou have the backdrop of Mount Etna which remains an active volcano to this day and plumes of smoke can be seen rising from it’s peak. We did a private tour entitled "In the footsteps of the Godfather" which allowed us to visit some of the locations from the film including bar Vitelli and the church where Al Pacino’s character gets married in both the villages of Savoco and Forza D’Agro. Both villages are wonderful to wander around and are quintessentially Sicilian. We ended our tour in the village of Castelmola which is located on the top of the hillside above Toarmina itself. Castelmola has a beautiful square with more wonderful views of the surrounding area. Taormina has many restaurants and you can get spoilt for choice but our guide gave us two tips for restaurants we ate at which was La Dracena and Duca di Cesaro both with central locations but just away from the main thoroughfare where we were treated to great hospitality and the food and pasta in particular were to die for!
12 April 2016
We spent a week in the Paphos area of Cyprus as we were visiting a good friend who lives there and was our guide and taxi driver during our stay. We arrived at the beginning of April and despite being still quite cold when we left England on arrival in Paphos the temperatures were between 21-24 degrees Celsius and we were lucky enough to have blue sky every day so great for sun worshippers. In actual fact Paphos is practically an all year round destination for people looking for warm weather and enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year. We drove over the hills that are the backdrop to Paphos and are the foothills to the Troodos Mountains with Cyprus’s highest peak Mount Olympus and arrived at the village of Latchi. Latchi is a fishing village with a nice harbour and promenade boasting a good selection of restaurants with a reputation for excellent fish dishes. Boat trips can be hired from the harbour and go all along the coast and there is a nice beach. Coral Bay about 5 kilometres from Paphos has an excellent beach and plenty of tavernas and restaurant. If you want your fix of shopping there is a very good mall between Coral Bay and Paphos with a lot of the major retail chains and has a multiplex cinema and coffee shops. During our stay I took the opportunity to visit two hotels. The first was on the seafront in Paphos which was the four star Athena Beach Hotel which has excellent facilities as well as being directly on the beachfront. The hotel has around 400 rooms and has a wide choice of restaurants, sporting facilities such as tennis as well as a great spa. I also visited the five star Elysium which is closer to Coral Bay and the hotel is luxurious and in beautiful surroundings. Again Elysium had a wide choice of dining experiences and a wonderful spa. I would recommend both hotels to future visitors to Paphos. We also visited Aphrodite Hills which offers luxury villas and apartments as well as a hotel located around 20 km from Paphos. The Resort offers an 18 hole golf course, great spa, all manner of sports and a village square with a selection of restaurants and bars as well as large swimming pool. A number of the villas also come with their own private pool and are well worth considering for your holiday. Paphos and the surrounding area have a lot to offer to travellers including a number of archaeological places of interest. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Paphos and look forward to going back again.
01 July 2015
I visited Gran Canaria for 5 days in June 2015 as part of a group trip with some fellow travel Counsellors. This was my first visit to Gran Canaria and I was based in Maspalomas on the southern coast of the island which is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Maspalomas is famous for its abundance of sand dunes and beautiful beach. The whole area of Maspalomas and neighbouring Meloneras have been built in recent years which give the area a modern and upmarket feel with a number of excellent hotels and shopping areas. The southern part of Gran Canaria is most popular with tourists as it is an all round destination and it rains on average no more than 5 days a year and has some beautiful beaches. As a result of the lack of rain outside of the resorts the land in the south of the island is quite arid and barren. There is a 3km promenade which runs from the lighthouse in Maspalomas along past the hotels which is great for a stroll or run if you are feeling energetic. We took a water boat trip from close to Maspalomas up the coast past Anfi to Puerto Rico a large resort with lots of apartments and a large sandy beach. Further along the coast we docked at the beautiful fishing village of Puerto Mogan which is called Little Venice due to the small arches and canals found around the port area. The fishing village has some lovely building draped with beautiful flowering bougainvillea. We also spent a day exploring the mountainous interior of the Island. Gran Canaria is referred to as being like a miniature continent. This is because of the dramatic changes of scenery you experience travelling from the south through the mountains to the north of the island. The main cause of the differences in scenery are as a result of the trade winds and mild ocean currents. Some of the views are like a mini grand canyon and then you travel through palm tree plantations while at the highest points of the island you will find pine forests and dramatic scenery including Roque Nublo. One of my favourite experiences of my visit was visiting a farm in Agaete who produce wine, oranges and coffee. The conditions in Agaete mean it is one of very few places where coffee beans can grow and be harvested. I enjoyed wine tasting with cheese and local ham and of course some wonderful coffee. We also spent a day in the island capital Las Palmas. It has a long pedestrianised shopping area that reminded me of larger Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid. We visited the wonderful undercover market with its great displays of fruit, vegetables and spices. In the old town you can visit the Christopher Columbus house museum and discover the pivotal role Gran Canaria had in his voyages to discover the New World. Las Palmas also has a superb 4 km long sand beaches which makes it an ideal city break destination. I would also add there are many golf courses for the keen golfers. I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Gran Canaria and I'm certain it wont be my last.
14 April 2015
We spent a family holiday in Cape Cod renting a house on a golf course near to the town of Falmouth. Cape Cod is in the state of Massachussetts and is a peninsular which juts out into the Atlantic on the easternmost part of the state. Cape Cod has a number of places given names from the United Kingdom such as Chatham, Sandwich, Harwich and Barnstable. This is because this part of America is where the Pilgrim fathers first set foot on American in the 17th Century at Plymouth (located just north of Cape Cod) having set sail from England on board the Mayflower. As a result they named their towns as a reminder of the old country and Massachussetts including its capital Boston is steeped in history which is not often found in other parts of the US. We had come to Cape Cod having spent a few days in New York and we drove up through Connecticut and Rhode Island before finally crossing over the bridge that spans the canal across the entrance to Cape Cod. It is similarly a straightforward 2/3 hour drive from Boston south should you want to combine a visit to Boston with Cape Cod. Arriving in Cape Cod we were struck by how we felt transported in a time warp to a different era of maybe 30/40 years ago and a much less frenetic pace of life. This was perhaps after the hustle and bustle of New York and it was refreshing to visit somewhere with an almost old fashioned but quintessentially American seaside feel to it. There are so many beautiful beaches dotted along the Cape Cod peninsular that even in the peak of summer it never felt crowded. I loved the weatherboard clad houses located alongside the beaches with fantastic views looking out to sea and some amazing sunsets. We often hired bikes and this was great for exercise as well as for getting around the towns we visited. This also helped us build up an appetite for another great reason for visiting Cape Town which is for the excellent restaurants and seafood in particular. Lobster are a speciality as well as some excellent fish. Cape Cod is also famous as being the summer retreat of the Kennedys and you can visit the JFK Museum in Hyannis to get a great insight into the Kennedy family. Hyannis is probably the biggest town on the island and was also where there is a shopping mall with all the major US retail brands including Macy’s, Sears, Barnes & Noble and a multiplex cinema. Towns like Sandwich and Chatham can feel like you are transported back into the 19th Century and are beautifully maintained and great just to wander round and enjoy the scenery or pop into the many antique and bric a brac shops and tea rooms. I’d recommend the Sandwich Glass museum with its extensive collection of old and new glassware. During our holiday we took the boat trip a short 30 minutes across from Falmouth to the island of Martha’s Vineyard for the day. I would thoroughly recommend Martha’s Vineyard as it is picture book beautiful and very easy to get around if walking around the towns but also has some spectacular beaches and scenery to explore. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to take the boat trip to the neighbouring Nantucket Island located about 90 minutes away from Cape Cod but if you do this I would recommend an overnight stay but Nantucket is definitely somewhere I’d like to visit in the future. Whale watching is also a popular trip to do from Cape Cod/Nantucket. Overall this was a really great holiday for all of the family as we had both grandparents and grandchildren with us and the evenings were spent both in restaurants but also in the towns/villages where entertainment was regularly put on or we played mini golf (there were quite a number of these dotted around the place). For golf enthusiasts there are at least 5 or 6 golf courses on Cape Cod for you to enjoy.
10 April 2015
During the time I was working in the Middle East my family and I had a holiday in Doha the capital of Qatar. During our taxi ride from Doha airport to our hotel our first impression was of the spectacular skyline of Doha dominated by the skyscrapers that are concentrated by and run along the West Bay area of the City. The waterfront is called the Corniche and curves for about 5 kms around the bay and is a popular place where people come to walk and enjoy the views of the bay and the city. You can watch the traditional Dhow fishing boat operating and many are tied up at Dhow harbour. At one end of the Corniche is the Museum of Islamic Art, not only is the building a stunning piece of architectural but the exhibits of art within are incredible and well worth a visit. At the other end of the Corniche is the Sheraton Hotel one of the first major hotel developments in Doha and still an iconic symbol of the city. Doha is best enjoyed outside the summer months of May-September when temperatures can soar to up 50 degrees. Outside of these hot summer months Doha has a climate where temperatures are always warm ranging from 20-30 degrees during the day but cooling down over night. It very rarely rains in Doha perhaps 2 or 3 days a year. We were based at the Intercontinental Hotel one of the few places in the City where there is a beach. Our hotel was also located in close proximity to the Pearl. The Pearl is a Marina and luxury apartments complex with many upmarket boutiques and restaurants and is a pleasant way to wile away a day or evening strolling the marina or watching the entertainers who are dotted along it’s promenade. Shopping in Doha is quite an experience and my recommendations are to firstly visit Souq Waqif in the centre of the city where you can wander through its maze of narrow alleyways full of shops and markets selling everything from jewellery and antique, clothing and spices. There is a tradition of falconry and the falcons can be observed sitting on there posts but don’t get too near. It’s a real assault to the senses and you will want to stop at one of the many outside coffee shops and restaurants for refreshments and where many partake of the shisha waterpipes smoking different flavoured tobacco through a hookah. The Fahar Islamic centre building is also located at Souq Wafiq which is an impressive sight with it’s swirl shape and minaret. My other shopping experience recommendation is at the ultra modern Villagio Mall which is located in the Aspire tower zone of the city. As well as boasting all the brands you could expect in any major shopping mall in the UK it also has a Venetian theme and even gondolas that operate along the canal inside the shopping mall. Aspire zone boasts the Aspire Tower which at night is lit up with thousands of bulbs of different colours and sits in the main sports complex original built for the Asian games of 2006. My final must do for your trip is to leave Doha and head for the desert on a Jeep safari where the experienced drivers take you “Dune bashing” in their 4X4 vehicles eventually arriving at an idyllic beach location where you can take a camel ride or take a refreshing dip in the ocean.
05 November 2014
The island of Capri is a 30 minute ferry journey across the bay of Naples setting off from Sorrento and arriving at Marina Grande. We were keen to get a closer view of the island but rather than another large boat sharing with groups of people we opted for own small boat with our own captain - a local who had a great knowledge of the sights and water ways around the island. As we were in our small boat we were able to enter the spectacular blue grotto with its brilliant turquoise waters as well as passing straight through the limestone arch that has broken away from the mainland. We passed many amazing cliffs and sights, including the home of Gracie Fields, the famous actress and singer who was a long time resident of Capri. On returning to land we headed for the entrance to the funicular which is a tram/cable car which whisks you up the hillside on which much of Capri stands. From the stop of the funicular there are fantastic views of the Island and on a clear blue sky day the bay of Naples with Vesuvius can be seen in the distance. If you are feeling intrepid and have a head for heights there is a cable car that will take you to the top of the Island referred to as Ana Capri. Alternatively you can take a leisurely stroll around the quaint alleyways filled with shops and cafes/restaurants or stop for afternoon tea at the iconic Grand Hotel Quisisana. Meandering the pedestrian pathways down the hillside there are beautiful view around every corner but too soon we were back at the Marina Grande with only a quick stop to pick up a souvenir or two before our return to Sorrento. I would say a holiday to the Amalfi coast is not complete without a visit to the beautiful island of Capri and I wish I could have stayed longer much longer
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