This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Category Archives: Travel

Easy To Get To From The UK Destinations

1. Lanzarote, The Canaries

The island of Lanzarote is part of a clutch of islands called The Canaries – that make up the Spanish archipelago and is ideal for beach lovers. Peurto Del Carmen is notorious for its heady nightlife, and those that prefer a bit more quiet and elegance should head for the beautiful beaches at Famara and Papagayo.

Putting aside the beaches, the volcanic island of Lanzarote puts on quite a show away from the coastline too.

The stretches of black volcanic rock landscape is trimmed by a chain of multi-hued mountains only broken by the green of the odd cactus plant that has managed to flourish.

The dark shades of the landscape offer a sensational contrast with the low-rise white-washed towns that have sprouted up along the coastline. There is the odd dash of colour courtesy of painted window panes usually, green or brown but overall the island has been protected by the kind of tourism that demands high rise architecture.

This is thanks to the initiative taken by celebrated artist and designer Cesar Manrique who insisted on maintaining the island’s natural beauty. Often his architecture works with it and he created some amazing homes by integrating them into the rock face of a volcano. Famously, Hollywood actor Omar Sherif had one built for him in Nazaret which he lost to the developer during a game of bridge.

2. Tenerife, The Canaries

Tenerife, the largest of the seven Canary Islands, has a year-round spring-like climate and an impressive mountainous landscape that makes for an ideal getaway especially if you like to ramble. But the island has a surprising secret.

Best known for its debauched night life, it’s worth raising an eyebrow at what naturalist Alexander von Humboldt said when he climbed Mount Teide, the largest peak in Spain: “I have never beheld a prospect more varied, more attractive, more harmonious in the distribution of the masses of verdure and rocks, than the western coast of Tenerife.” Teide National Park has been named a Starlight Tourist Destination, which means low pollution and a pristine night-sky superb for star-gazing.

3. Paphos (Pafos), Cyprus

This ancient harbour is a town of two halves. Here’s why: its lower part, Kato Pafos, has neon lights, bars and heady clubs and its upper part Ktima, is calmer, where locals live and work.

Yet Pafos is where you will find the island’s most fascinating archaeological sites and is famed for being the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love at Petra tou Romiou. The town’s forest has probably the most spectacular scenery on the island and the Pafos Mosaics, a compelling meze of intricate and colourful mosaics, is a pleasure. It tells of all sorts of hedonistic stories including the famous tale of Narcissus.

The main attraction is the Tomb of the King’s, a Unesco World Heritage site around two kilometers from Kato Pafos. It’s a bit of a misnomer, as these tombs do not have a single royal resident but they do look grand therefore where dubbed so.

There are several museums in Pafos, but if you only have time for one then make it the Byzantine Museum in Ktima’s main square. The oldest icon on the island, the Agia Marina, is housed here and dates back to the ninth century.

And as for the sun, it may not be exactly T-shirt wearing weather but it is most certainly an agreeable 12°C in January.

4. Bodrum, Turkey

It may have long been held in the traveller’s mind as a sleepy fishing port, but behind the pretty white-washed facade of this natural harbour there’s lots to entice the style conscious holiday-maker. And it seems it has always attracted sophisticates. Way back in the the 1st century BC, star-crossed lovers Mark Antony and Cleopatra would enjoy time here on their way to Egypt.

Several cafes huddle along the front and the promenade where tea is served in curved glass tea cups and ornate rugs add a dash of authenticity. And there are plenty of bars and restaurants to entertain as the evening draws in.

It’s most popular tourist site is inside the 15th century castle. This is where you will find the Museum of Underwater Archaeology though the display of shipwrecks is interesting enough, from its heights you get to see peaceful views over the town and the Aegean Sea.

At the foot of the castle is a wonderfully colourful bazaar. There’s plenty of traditional gear to buy, but like Donna Karan and Mick Jagger, don’t leave without a pair of typical sandals.

This is a beach destination and some of its best stretches of sand and bays within this peninsula are accessed by boat—choose between chartering a dinghy or catch gulet (a typical Turkish wooden boat) from the harbour.

5. Antalya, Turkey

Around 2,000 years ago King Attalos II of Pergamon came across a glorious ribbon of coast that trimmed the deep blue sea where the waters met with spectacular cliffs. The backdrop was the Taurus Mountains. This was the Turquoise coast and this is where ie founded Antalya, the largest Turkish city in the Western Mediterranean coast. He thought he had found “heaven on earth”.

The natural scenery hasn’t changed much and over the years Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities were left here and there to be stumbled upon by today’s holiday-maker.

It’s old centre, Kaleici, is where most people stay. It sits just above the marina on an the site of an old Roman port. Mainly car-free it has a swathe of old Ottoman houses and quaint souvenir shops within a maze of narrow cobbled streets and for some light-touch touring, there’s a pleasant tram ride that runs along the sea front to the beach at Konyalti.

Trekking Romania’s Retezat Mountains

It was the start of a three day walk into Romania’s Retezat Mountains. Nik, my son-in-law, and I were going with Iulian Panescu, a mountain guide and photographer. Instinctively I’m not keen on being guided in the mountains, preferring to do my own thing. However, I began to consider the advantages of being with somebody with local know-how after learning of the aggressive Romanian sheep dogs. Iulian knows what to say and do with such creatures like a Transylvanian Crocodile Dundee. Also, local maps are not always reliable.

For some time we had been wanting to visit these mountains whose 80 lakes seem to mirror the sky. The Retezat region was Romania’s first national park and has over twenty peaks higher than 2000 metres (over 6,500 feet). It is strictly protected both nationally and internationally.

We strode upwards on a path into an autumnal mountain forest. Leaves, like free-fall butterflies, fluttered downward as we zig-zagged between tangled roots, colourful fungi and scattered rocks. We settled into our stride.

After six kilometres of walking, we spotted Gentiana Cabin, our temporary abode. I regard all mountain huts as places of undeniable charm, simply because of their very location. This cabin was more than able to wear that mantle with its attractive wooden construction and cosy situation amid the trees. Inside, a huge shiny Transylvanian terracotta stove provided the majestic centre piece for the interior along with solid wooden bunks, chairs, tables and solar powered light. Petre, the hut guardian, brought us all large mugs of mountain tea and so we ate a little, enjoyed some chatter, laughter and then crawled into our sleeping bags but not before a meditative moment staring at myriad of stars that shone from every corner of the crystal clear sky.

The following morning Iulian led the way up the Valea Pietrele through thinning trees, onto a stony path and into a zone of one metre high dwarf pines. We came across the paw-print of a bear; its claw marks were easily discernible where it had tried to steady itself over the mud. There are estimated to be around 6,000 bears in the Romanian forests, one of the largest populations in Europe that roam around the park fauna along with chamois, wolves, lynx, otters and marmots.

Eventually we arrived at Pietrele Lake, the first of many ‘blue eyes’, born like all the other Retezat lakes, at a time when glaciers were receding. Higher, we entered a vast world of pure rock. Facing us was a ridge of pinnacles and sculptured rock faces.

Valeu Pietrele translates as the Valley of the Stones”, explained Iulian.

Now, as a professional guitarist, such imagery provided Nik with much to muse upon as he began seeing the features of his ‘Stones’ heroes, Jagger, Richards and Watts, within each weathered slab of rock. As the path zig-zagged to the saddle of Curmãtura Buccurei we could now see over into the next valley and a further four tarns. Even on an overcast day such as ours, these glacial lakes possessed a turquoise and mystical gaze. Iulian pointed to a scrambly route ascending Bucura Peak at 2433 metres (7982 feet). From a summit of stacked rocks the panorama revealed numerous peaks with draping ridge lines and yet more glacial lakes.

We began clambering downward and then along a ridge towards our next peak. Peering into the valley below us, we counted over a dozen chamois grazing on patches of grass, no doubt stocking up before the inevitable onset of winter.

We reached the final scramble which would take us to the very top of Peleaga Peak, the highest of the Retezat mountains at 2509 metres (8231 feet). Snow and ice had gathered beneath a Romanian flag fluttering in the wind. Standing at the top we enjoyed a spectacular view of the entire Retezat mountain area with its peaks, ridges, valleys and shimmering lakes. A truly breathtaking scene. Luckily the weather remained clear but the cloud-base was gradually sinking.

Our day continued down the other side of Peleaga Peak. We paused briefly out of the wind to allow Iulian to photograph a nearby chamois scrambling amongst the rocks. The sure-footed deer with its brown coat, cream facial dapples and short curved horns searched for morsels of autumnal vegetation. In the far distance we noticed another mountain called Retezat Peak standing with a rather obvious truncated summit. Legend says that as two giants fought with their swords, the very top of the mountain was sliced off.

Our rocky meander descended down to the large Bucura Lake. Next to it was a small refuge, where we took a break. The cloud had followed close behind us as we had descended. We sat enjoying our food under the lean-to of this small hut just as drizzle began to gently fall. Continuing, we walked around Bucura Lake and on up to the saddle of Curmãtura Bucurei once again. We then retraced our steps back to Gentiana Cabin where a considerable amount of food, mugs of tea and some beers were enjoyed.

After another night in our mountain hut, we said our farewells to Petre and walked back down through the trees. We stopped periodically to enjoy and photograph a number of incredible forest waterfalls on our way back to where our trip had begun. It was agreed, the Retezat Mountains were indeed spectacular – the descriptions had not deceived! For those who love mountain environments with an abundance of nature, this corner of Romania just has to be visited.

Exploring the Highlights of Japan

Japan is cherry blossom, and Japan is Hello Kitty. It’s neon signs, sushi, and it’s Sony, Nikon, and Nintendo. But beyond the brands and stereotypes which Japan exports, you will find a culturally rich, and a surprisingly diverse, country of fascinating sites to explore.

Tokyo – a megacity

The chances are that any visitor will fly into Tokyo, a mega-megacity with nearly 40 million people living in the metropolitan area. The skyscrapers soar towards the heaven, and the city glitters with lights, but behind the modern veneer is a city with a long and illustrious history.

The Imperial Palace, still home to the Emperor of Japan, sits amongst formal gardens; there are numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples; and Tokyo National Museum and the city’s other galleries have world-class collections on show.

Allow time to walk around the city. Seek out the various shopping centres such as Ameyoko Arcade, the city’s only open-air pedestrianised market and the shopping centre at Hachiman-dori for its enjoyable mix of high and low end shopping.

Hakone – Shinto and Fuji

From Tokyo you can reach Hakone on a day trip: it’s a little over an hour’s drive away. Historically this was the site of an important Shinto shrine, the Hakone Gongen, which lies on the shore of Lake Ashi. There has been a shrine here since 757, though the current structure was rebuilt in the late 16th century.

It’s within the UNESCO-listed Hakone Geopark and the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and the snow-capped peak of Fuji (which means “mountain” in Japanese, so you don’t need to say Mount Fuji) is just as captivating as it appears in the ancient woodblock prints.

If you have the time, go out on a boat trip on one of the lakes, visit the islands and hot springs, and hike to the Shiraito Falls, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nagano – see the snow monkey

The mountainous region of Nagano — accessible from Tokyo on the bullet train — gets some of the heaviest snow fall in the world, and yet, remarkably, people still manage to live here. If you are interested in learning about the area’s history, walking pilgrims trails and staying in heritage pilgrims’ hostels, Walk Japan’s is the best way to explore this wintery wonderland.

If you are feeling less energetic, take a trip instead to the Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park, famed for its naturally occurring hot springs. You won’t be the only one in the pool, however, as the local Japanese macaque (also known colloquially as snow monkey) roll in the snow and then hop into the steaming hot springs to warm up!

Kyoto and the cherry blossoms

Kyoto is Japan’s touristic heartland, and understandably so. It was Japan’s Imperial capital for more than 1,000 years, and 20 per cent of the country’s national treasures are located here. Of course it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and during hanami (cherry blossom season) from late March to May, the city is packed with visitors.

This is the cultural centre of Japan, its history, arts, and people. There are an extraordinary 2,000 temples and shrines, and Kyoto is also the ideal location to learn about the art of the Japanese tea ceremony, the highly stylised Noh theatre, and ink and wash painting. Lovers of architecture and aesthetics will be in their element.

Osaka – shopping and street food

Osaka, on Osaka Bay on the island of Honshu is the country’s second largest city. Always a city of merchants, it’s a great place to shop, and it’s arguably the food capital of the world. Feast on udon (noodles), takoyaki (fried octopus), and oshizushi (pressed sushi), and expect to develop a taste for sake, the local rice wine.

Several large festivals are held in Osaka throughout the year, including Tenjin Matsuri in July, where you’ll see river boat processions and fireworks, drummers, lion dancers, and ornate floats with with plenty of people in costumes. The city has a vibrant night life especially around Dotonbori where a maze of tightly connected streets hums with bars, restaurants with extravagant facias.

Year on year, Japan is rated as one of the safest travel destinations in the world. It’s not a cheap place to visit, but what you can guarantee is that Japan will challenge and exceed your expectations, from the first petal of cherry blossom, to the very last sip of sake. It’s one of Asia’s most enthralling countries, and once you’ve had a bite of Japan, you’ll be desperate to return.

Club Med all-inclusive ski holiday in Chamonix

A confident skier and a beginner does not make a good coupling for a ski holiday in the Alps. One wants to scale the mountain highs and zip down with the wind. The other topples over awkwardly on the skis with every second snow plough.

Yet at Club Med this combo of holidaymaker works. The skiing (and snowboarding) experience that Club Med offers is sensational. It caters for all ski abilities from beginner, through to intermediate and seasoned.

How does it work?

Skiers are grouped into lessons of a maximum of 12 people based on ability. The groups retain the same instructor for the week who moves onto more difficult slopes as you improve. The groups travel across the domain, so there is no risk of boredom. Those that improve faster than the rest of the group can join a more competent group and those that need extra coaching will be able to get it.

None of us in the beginners group had previous ski experience, yet by day five we were able to descend a blue slope unscathed and with some competence. Seasoned skiers are taken off-piste safely with their guide and back to safety if things go wrong.

Skiers have the option to go it alone, but that would be missing the point of a Club Med holiday and of course the pleasant camaraderie of group skiing.

What about the kit?

The convenience factor is especially appealing. Their packages include all the ski hire, ski passes, tuition and transfers between the different ski slopes as well as lunch at nearby restaurants.

The company has several resorts in France and we chose to holiday at their Chamonix Mont Blanc in the Rhone-Alpes region in south-eastern France. After checking-in we were provided with a wrist band that gives access to the all-inclusive package and sent us to the bar for drink our or two.

Accommodation

The rooms are pleasant enough, if somewhat basic. The walls were dressed in a friendly shade of blue with a white trim to denote melting snow, but they are small. There is a shelving unit and a space (not cupboard) to hang clothes and a pair of curtains that don’t quite fit the windows. Oh and a tiny en-suite shower cubicle. The loo is separate.

I longed for a warming bath after long days on the ski slopes but in the absence of this luxury, the hamam, sauna and outdoor swimming pool did the trick, which is all included in the package. I managed to squeeze in an Ayurvedic massage to relieve the après-ski muscle stress in the Cinque Monds spa, which incidentally is a service that is not included in the package.

Food and drink

Dining is a major social aspect. Tables are for eight people so socialising is easy. A buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner with wine (just one style of country white and one basic red) and even cakes and biscuits at tea time were both ample and delicious. But eating in the same dining hall can get a little monotonous. Another restaurant, the Refuge offers an a la carte menu of Savoyard cuisine. With seating for just 50, getting a booking proved difficult. Those that did have the pleasure recommended the fondue, raclette (semi hard cow’s cheese) and pierrade (various meats cooked on hot stone).

Though this is highly polished ski-focussed resort, not everyone wants to ski and for those the company arranges walking groups to explore the region and the awesome alpine views.

What is Chamonix town like?

The town of Chamonix is just a minute walk away from the hotel, and is, I hate to use a cliché, as pretty as a picture. Gorgeous architecture houses a lovely range of shops and restaurants along dainty streets that fan out from a couple of pretty squares. All this is hemmed by a mountainous backdrop that is particularly stunning when the sun rises or sets and throwing off an orange hue on the mountain peaks.

The Montenvers rack railway is at the edge of town and it goes to just one destination – Mer de Glace (ice sea). This is one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. We took, perhaps foolhardily, the 350 steps to descend to the ice tunnel which looked spectacular from the station viewing points. Inside though, there was a light show that emanates from the walls and every now and again, an ice sculpture. I couldn’t fathom the point of the tunnel, but we visited it, because it was there.

Need to know

The resort has altitudes between 3 295 m and 1 050 m
46 ski-lifts ; 67 snow cannons ; Snowpark. (Grands Montets)
182 km of ski runs: 12 black ; 21 red ; 31 blue ; 16 green.

Club Med packages include return flights, transfers, accommodation, taxes and tips, all meals and snacks and an open bar drinks, afternoon tea, snacks. Also included are the ski pass, group lessons and ski hire and free access to various fitness and spa facilities. Free stay for children under 4 years.

Closest airport to Chamonix is Geneva.

Things To See On The Costa del Sol

Just over two hours flight from the UK, the Costa del Sol is the popular short-haul option with more than 300 days of sunshine a year and everything you could want for in a holiday. Nowhere else on earth can you find beaches, history, culture, sports, fantastic cities, the great outdoors and even skiing, all in one compact destination!

Kathryn Stride gives her run-down of some of the fantastic activities to try in the Costa del Sol for your next holiday.

Skiing and sunbathing in one place

We all associate the Costa del Sol with the sparkling Mediterranean Sea lapping against fantastic sandy beaches, and it’s certainly a great place to soak up the sun, immerse yourself in the relaxed atmosphere, and enjoy the world-renowned nightlife. However, what many people don’t know is that Andalucía as a region also offers Europe’s Southern-most ski resort, with great skiing from December to the beginning of May.

This winter wonderland is just a stone’s throw from the Costa del Sol and on a good day you can even see the sea from the slopes. In fact it’s so close that you could combine skiing with a day on the beach to recover before you head home. It’s even possible to be on the slopes in the morning and then within two hours drive be enjoying a long afternoon of warm sunshine on the coast.

The Sierra Nevada (Snowy Mountain Range) near Granada offers plenty of sunshine, good snow and a varied mix of runs for beginners and intermediates, plus a handful of more challenging runs. Although it is not a huge resort, there are wide, well-pisted slopes, quick and efficient lifts, and good restaurants and bars to rest those weary feet. The après-ski is quite legendary too!

Terrific towns and picturesque pueblos

This area of Spain has been slammed for its concrete tower blocks and non-existent town planning. However, don’t be fooled by this negative press coverage. For every Torremolinos there are several stunning white villages nestled into the hillsides, not to mention vibrant, Spanish towns and cities with great architecture.

Marbella is a fantastic town with lots of charm, a predominantly Spanish population, a beautiful beachside promenade and tons of bars and restaurants. It is often confused with the nearby Puerto Banus and thought to be an expensive, flashy place, but in fact this is a very real, working Spanish town and merits a visit.

Marbella’s hidden gem is its historic and picturesque Old Town, or casco antiguo. This has changed little over the centuries and still features ancient architecture, a maze of narrow cobbled streets with charming white washed houses, and beautiful plazas adorned with fountains. At the centre is Orange Square, a beautiful Andalucian square, full of orange trees and sweetly scented tropical plants. The Old Town is full of unusual shops and galleries, little chapels and churches, not to mention a fantastic selection of bars, cafés and eateries, and is a great place to explore.

The picturesque Pueblos Blancos white villages are a typically Andalucian feature and have been well-preserved, yet little explored by most tourists. If you are able to hire a car then you can spend several days driving around the stunning countryside, exploring these little villages and stepping back into Andalucia’s past.

One of the most breathtaking places to visit is the mountaintop city of Ronda, located less than an hour’s drive from the coast. This city is set above a gorge (El Tajo) giving dramatic views and the stone bridge that spans the gorge offers the perfect place to take in the stunning scenery. The old town dates back to Moorish rule and is full of history and charm.

Closer to coast and more popular with tourists is the beautiful village of Mijas Pueblo. Located just a 20 minute drive inland, this village has remained relatively unspoilt by tourism maintaining its Spanish charm and offers spectacular panoramic views of the coast from its many view points. Wander the cobbled streets and sample the local delicacies, there are also many specialist shops around the town including handmade leather and ceramics. Every Wednesday the town hall puts on a popular flamenco show at midday in the main square.

A Sportsperson’s Dream

For golfers, it features more than 70 fabulous golf courses, which has earned the Costa del Sol its nickname of Costa del Golf. With year round sunshine this is a golfer’s paradise. The coast is host to some high-profile big prize tournaments such as the Volvo Matchplay.

If you like tennis, there are many fantastic tennis clubs, as well as many outdoor courts attached to hotels and urbanisations. Many international tournaments are hosted in the Marbella area.

The region is a perfect place for mountain-biking and hiking in the nearby hills and mountains. For the more adventurous a hike up the iconic La Concha is a must, but as it is as high as Ben Nevis it isn’t to be underestimated. There are numerous companies offering quad-biking, horse-riding and walking tours to help you make the most of the stunning scenery just minutes from the coastal resorts.

There are also a host of water sports to take advantage of the warm Mediterranean Sea, such as sea-kayaking, windsurfing, scuba diving, kite surfing or even learning to sail. Or if you want something potentially less wet, you can take to the sea for a spot of fishing, or enjoy a catamaran cruise to try and spot some of the native dolphins.

Andalucia’s unique cultural treasures

Andalucía boasts some of the most amazing architecture and the most breathtaking sights to be seen anywhere in the world.

There’s the narrow, bustling cobbled streets and ancient architecture of the Jewish Quarter in Seville; the harmonious blend of two thousand years of Christian and Muslim religious history in the stunning Mezquita in Cordoba; the world-famous Alhambra set against the snow-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada in Granada, and the golden dome of Cádiz cathedral shimmering high over the white-tipped waves of the blue Atlantic ocean.

These cities’ treasures are no more than two or three hours away by car from the Costa del Sol and make fantastic day trips to spice up any Costa del Sol holiday itinerary.

Spain’s capital, Madrid, is also within easy reach of the Coast now, with a two hour journey by high-speed train bringing all of the city’s immense heritage right to your door.

Even closer to the coast is the lovely and often overlooked city of Malaga. Malaga is so much more than an airport. Its long history has left a host of beautiful monuments such as the Cathedral, Gibralfaro Castle, the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre. There are also a selection of beautiful historical gardens, and over 20 different museums to choose from.

However, it’s the city’s artistic heritage that is its biggest claim to fame. Malaga was Picasso’s birthplace, and has the fantastic Picasso Museum to honour and celebrate the city’s most famous son. This gallery has over 200 examples of works by Picasso on permanent display, including oil paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches, etchings and ceramics housed in a stunning 17th century Renaissance building.

Relax and Rejuvenate

A holiday in Spain is a great way to get rid of the stress and strain of working life. Visit some of the beautiful beach clubs, stroll down the promenade and enjoy the laid-back pace of life. In addition, there are some amazing luxury spas and health clubs where you can pamper yourself and ensure you come back rested, relaxed and rejuvenated.

If facials and treatments just aren’t enough to achieve the desired result then you can combine a relaxing holiday with a spot of cosmetic surgery, for a truly rejuvenating trip! There are several world-renowned clinics to choose from in this area, and it can often be a more affordable and discreet option than the UK. All clinics have fully-qualified, English-speaking surgeons, excellent after-care and an opportunity to recover gently from the surgery before returning home.

Family Fun

Spain is a very family-friendly place and kids are welcomed wherever you go. The Costa del Sol has a whole host of fun places to go and things to do, ranging from days spent on the beach, swimming and playing ball games, to great amusement parks like Tivoli World in Benalmadena and the Parque Acuático Mijas water park in Mijas-Costa.

Families can also enjoy a number of other high activity attractions in the area including Funny Beach, near Marbella, with its go-karting track, trampolines, electric bikes and cars, and children’s rides as well as Aventura Amazonia, a tree top high ropes course just a 10 minute drive from Marbella.

For animal lovers there’s the Bioparc Zoo (Fuengirola), SeaLife centre (Benalmadena),Butterfly Farm (Benalmadena), Crocodile Park (Torremolinos), and the Selwo safari park in Estepona.

The cinema in the Fuengirola’s Miramar centre shows English films and other activities include a large crazy golf park with bbq restaurant (Fuengirola) and Costa Jump, a huge indoor trampoline park.

For more teenage fun, there are many good organisations on the coast who offer such adventures as scuba diving, quad-biking, jeep safaris in the National Parks, mountain treks on horse-back, canyoning in the region’s gorges, and paintballing. As well as Segway tours to explore some of the major towns and cities.

Eating and Drinking

One of the many pleasures of a visit to the Costa del Sol is the fantastic food. There are so many great restaurants to choose from, serving all types of food. The chiringuitos on the beach are great and tasty tapas is an excellent way to sample some of the local Spanish fare. You don’t have to walk far to find a good restaurant, the main problem is knowing which one to choose.

Visit in Mallorca Spain

Some say Mallorca is a beacon of calm, sophistication, beauty and A-List celebrity. It is also an Island of great wealth with its 870,000-strong population enjoying the highest per capita level of disposable income in Spain.

Some believe only what they read in the papers – tales of union jack shorts, binge drinking and abandonment of inhibitions – this classy portrayal may come as some surprise.

Mallorca is in fact breathtakingly stunning. From deserted white sand beaches to craggy pine-clad mountain ranges, the exquisite architecture of historic buildings to flower-filled fields heavy with citrus trees, Mallorca offers every kind of beauty for everyone.

The trick is to get behind the wheel of a car (or indeed the helm of a motoryacht or charter a day out on a small yacht), explore and discover your personal piece of Island paradise.

Serra de Tramuntana

For me, the best place to start is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana, the western backbone of the Island that offers steep mountain scenery set against a Mediterranean backdrop.

Cala Deià

My favourite beach, Cala Deià, can be found here, one of the most bewitching inlets on Mallorca’s entire coastline with the clientele to match.

The littoral outlet for well-heeled Deià, a village that has been home to Mick Jagger, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Branson and poet Robert Graves who is buried there, Cala Deià may be small (200m wide), far from sandybeaches but the water is crystal clear, the rocky outcrops imposing and the atmosphere convivial.

Either lunch at one of the delightfully primitive beach restaurants or, as I prefer, pack a hamper with a chic-nic of smoked salmon, cheeses, baguettes, leafy salad, strawberries, linen napkins, champagne flutes and iced cava and become the envy of the west.

Fornalutx Village

The Serra de Tramuntana also hides my favourite Mallorcan village, Fornalutx. Twice elected Spain’s most beautiful, Fornalutx is surrounded by fragrant orange and lemon groves set against an imposing mountain backdrop.

The miniature main square is fringed with immaculately presented pavement cafes who’ll reward you with a cool beverage after you’ve tired your legs mounting the never-ending steps to nosy at the patios and flower-decked balconies of the lovingly preserved stone Mallorcan houses.

Son Marroig and Monestir de Maramar

As you drive back down south, take the coastal road and nip into Son Marroig and Monestir de Miramar on the way. Both former residences of the Habsburg Archduke Ludwig Salvador (who fell head over heels with Mallorca) and both open to the public for a few euros entry, it’s undoubtedly the views that will captivate you more than the houses for they are the stuff of dreams – particularly from the neoclassical marble temple at Son Marroig which is now a popular venue for post-card perfect weddings and acoustic concerts.

Palma

From village to city, capital Palma is Mallorca’s only real city and deserves your full attention for at least a day. It shares many characteristics with big sister Barça – a Gothic Cathedral that has received the Gaudi touch, refurbished old buildings, mazy shopping streets, gardens with splashing fountains, art museums and an impressive city beach.

The best vantage point for looking down over Palma’s rooftops, endless marina front and visiting cruise ships is the Castell de Bellver. In a wooded hilltop just west of the City, this 14th century fortress is immaculately conserved and built in a canny circular design with a central keep. Climb up to the rooftop for the most attractive and peaceful views and go on a Sunday – it’s free.

The wine route

Whatever your penchant; following the wine route of the Island’s 60 plus bodegas, scaling the countryside to a hilltop monastery or swinging a club on one of Mallorca’s 22 immaculate golf courses, all of Mallorca is within easy reach.

Puerto Pollença

A drive from Palma in the south to Puerto Pollença in the north takes just 50 minutes on smooth motorway and to reach the beach resort of Cala Millor on the Island’s east coast is just one hour 15 minutes from the capital. Nothing requires great logistical planning.

Beachside Holiday Resort in Alanya Turkey

If Turkey has a an exotic version of a bucket and spade seaside resort, Alanya on its south eastern coast is it. Its lovely white sand beaches are lapped by the warm waters of the Mediterranean sea and overlooked by the towering Taurus mountains. And as you follow its coastal curve and meander inward too, the mood perceptively changes from historic to bizarre, lively and amusingly, a little cheesy too.

Along the harbour are myriad restaurants, some named after celebrities such as James Dean and Elvis and an open-air segment of cafés, dubbed the tea rooms, that look onto the tens of moored ships. Some of these are private yachts and some take tourists out to sea. Smaller ones dressed in yellows, reds and orange bob on their laurels, offering a colourful eyeful against the deep blue of the sea.

One sun-scorched afternoon, I found myself on the Sea Angel, a wooden pirate ship that looked twee with its a statue of a a silver angel. With Kapten Arif at the helm I was was about to spend four-hours with a rather large gaggle of Russian, German and Dutch tourists. Party music escaped from some overhead speaker while the crew-cum-gymnasts served and entertained. The ship anchored every now and again so we could jump ship and swim in the warm sea water and as we sailed by Alanya’s rich heritage of coves and caves (Phosphorus being the most famous), crew members took to diving off them in all manner of daredevil ways. Even dolphins turned up on cue to a collective joy. A lunch of skewered chicken followed by juicy watermelon was remarkably good. Though not a sophisticated jaunt, young families and those young at heart may find this to be tremendous fun.

Yet everywhere I looked I was reminded that this is an historic town. It’s 13th century castle, built by Seljuq Sultanate of Rum on a rocky peninsula, is perched 820 feet high. It’s now an open-air museum with a palace, villas and a chapel that was converted into a mosque and is testament to a long history of invasions including the Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires.

Built by Seljuq Sultanate of Rum on the rocky peninsula part it includes villas and a chapel that was converted into a mosque. Part of the peninsular juts out onto the Mediterranean sea and this is where “man throwing ledge” remembers the gory story of slaves being pushed to their death. Slaves would be given three stones to throw into the sea. If the stones made a splash (an impossible task thanks to the rock formations) they would live another day, if not they would be thrown to their death.

Following the winding floral stone path downwards I was stopped in my tracks by Che Sukru. Clad in just a pair of shorts, his tanned torso was bent over a hand operated juicer making pomegranate juice that he sold for couple of lira a glass. Drinking the juice in his garden café shaded by mandarin and lemon trees while chickens clucked and pottered, was an experience that was beyond quaint.

Following the path as it twisted down to ground level I was led to the now defunct but still fascinating arches of the Tersane shipyard. It serves as a museum to this bygone industry with part-built ships, maps and information describing how it may have been.

Nearby and standing to attention in the harbour is the 13th century octagonal landmark Kızılkule (Red Tower) so called because of its red bricks. Built to protect the town from attack, there are five floors each with a museum of artefacts. Climbing all 86 steps to the roof means getting sensational views over the marina and the beaches.

Reaching the town from the harbour means walking through a bizarre cat sanctuary where stray cats can tuck into bowls of food and shelter in purpose built hutches. It’s part of a serene park where fountains flow while felines and people mingle in quiet reverie.

Just beyond that is a sprawling warren of tiny streets laced with numerous of shops selling fake designer bags, clothes and shoes. Michael Korrs, Prada, Chanel populated the shelves with the odd smattering of Mulberry. It’s common to haggle and it’s impossible to resist.

Amid these streets, restaurants and bars are plentiful with Bar Street being the hotspot for a pulsating night life. It’s also round here that I lunched at Mini Mutfak, a fabulous Turkish restaurant where lamb Kofta (meatballs) never tasted so good and I simply loved the Yavalama – mint beef balls with small chick peas in tzatziki sauce.

Beyond these tiny roads is the main road, Ataturk Street named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) a Turkish army officer, revolutionary, and the first President of Turkey who founded the Republic of Turkey. There is an impressive statue of him at the central crossroads where the Turkish flag flies at full mast. Indeed, most buildings in Alanya have the Turkish flag hanging from them.

There are long stretches of beach and perhaps the prettiest is Cleopatra beach. It’s in front of Dalmatas Cave (a tiny two storey cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites). They say it was named after the Egyptian Queen who stopped by and enjoyed a swim in this bay. Had she done so today she could have also lazed on a comfy cabana or sipped her tipple at a choice of beach side cafes.

One day I joined a jeep tour – a convoy of 18 jeeps filled with people who were encouraged to throw water at each other. I couldn’t fathom out why but on the bright side we clapped eyes on gorgeous pine forests, banana and cotton plantations as we trucked our way through the dirt tracks of the Taurus mountains We stopped for a bbq lunch alongside Dim River and visited an old village to have a peep inside an ancient mosque.

A more sedate day out was to Dim Caye for lunch. Al-freso restaurants are stretched out over the Dim river on platforms. Some restaurants allowed diners to fish for trout for their lunch. Not so at Gol Piknik, where we were seated on cushions and served Turkish cuisine served to a backdrop symphony of a waterfall and the quacking of passing ducks. After a quick finger check of the cold water temperature and I resolved to stay on dry land, though I did spot others – adults and children – splashing and frolicking around the river flumes.

There is a weekly bazaar that takes place in town and although mostly a food and vegetable market with the odd vendor selling flags, it offered a reassuring snapshot of local life.

That afternoon I visited a uniquely Turkish venue, a local Hammam. My lack of Turkish banter was of no concern because no words needed – a knowing look at reception led to a wet sauna followed by dry heat followed by a long dip in a swirling hot tub followed by an eye-watering pummelling given by a slight lady who you’d think couldn’t hurt a fly and soapy deep clean scrub. After a short rest, presumably to recover, a lovely massage pieced me back together again.

It felt truly exotic.

Hotel Rooms With Amazing Views In The World

1. Oliver’s Travels, Tamarind House, St Lucia

Oliver’s Travels, Tamarind House, St Lucia

Made from local stone with high greenheart ceilings, and Barbados tiled floors, this exceptionally large Caribbean house offers the rare luxury of space, privacy and sensational views of the Pitons. The 640sqft master bedroom is furnished with a beautiful antique king size four-poster bed, a hand carved standing cheval mirror and private terrace. From the bed, the view of Piton is framed by bougainvillea climbing up the stone walls. The main house has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, while the separate cottage is the master bedroom suite with its own living room, kitchen, dressing area, marble bathroom, and terrace.

Prices start from £3,145 per week.

2. PurePods, Canterbury / Kaikoura, New Zealand

PurePods, Canterbury / Kaikoura, New Zealand

Made completely of glass from roof to floor, guests can sleep under the dazzling stars of the Southern Cross and awake to pure New Zealand native bush. With sliding glass doors for hot weather and bio-fuel fires for winter months, the Pure Pod offers unique year-round nature experiences. Reached only by a walk through the bush land into a completely private haven, the Pure Pod offers 360-degree views of the valley and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. There are three PurePods – one in Little River, Canterbury, and two in Kaikoura.

From £210 per night based on two people sharing.

3. Uma by COMO, Ubud, Bali

Uma by COMO, Ubud, Bali

Uma by COMO, Ubud, immerses guests in the culture of Bali. The Terrace Rooms are serene and magical, with French doors that open onto a private terrace overlooking the gardens, paddy fields and hills of the lush Indonesian island. Carved wooden panels give the room the charm of a traditional Indonesian home, while the contemporary furnishings including a four-poster bed, sunken bath tub, outdoor shower and a private pool, make it the ultimate luxury jungle escape.

Prices start from £191 per night based on two people sharing.

4. ITC Maurya, New Delhi, India

ITC Maurya, New Delhi, India

Nestled in greenery, in the heart of Delhi’s diplomatic corridor, ITC Maurya is the city’s premier luxury hotel (President Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton have all stayed at the hotel). The Luxury Suite offers breathtaking views of Delhi’s green ridge, and blends grandeur and exemplary hospitality soaked in Indian traditions. The hotel is also home to Bukhara, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, where guests can experience authentic North-West Indian cuisine in a traditional and rustic setting.

Prices start from £254 per night based on two people sharing.

5. Beachspoke, Blackmoon, Cornwall, UK

Beachspoke, Blackmoon, Cornwall, UK

Ever dreamed about lying in a super king sized custom made bed whilst watching the sun set or rise over the ocean? At Black Moon, that’s exactly what guests can do. With the bedroom separated from the living room by a huge sliding mirrored wall, guests can enjoy truly spectacular coastal views towards Gwithian lighthouse. A striking one-bedroom property, Black Moon transforms the ubiquitous luxury cottage into a private hideaway.

Prices start from £200 per night based on two people sharing.

6. Blue Chip Holidays, Laburnham, Cornwall, UK

Blue Chip Holidays, Laburnham, Cornwall, UK

Perched at the top of Tregonhawke Cliff on the south coast of Cornwall, Laburnham is a secluded one-bedroom lodge that boasts 60 miles of uninterrupted panoramic sea views. Laburnham has an open plan living space, kitchen and dining area that opens up to the private clifftop garden, and a master bedroom that opens onto a decking area that overlooks the glistening sea. Stunning sea views and fresh sea air make this cosy British bolthole the ultimate Cliffside retreat.

Blue Chip Holidays offers three nights at the Laburnham from £488 on a self-catering basis.

7. Forest Domes, Finn Lough Resort, Northern Ireland

Forest Domes, Finn Lough Resort, Northern Ireland

Set within the woods on the banks of Lough Erne, the bespoke Stargazing Forest Domes atFinn Lough Resort allow guests to escape the noise of the outside world and enjoy stargazing in solitude. The new forest domes feature 180-degree transparent walls and roof, and include luxurious creature comforts, such as a four-poster bed, waterfall shower, under floor heating, fluffy robe and slippers, and daily breakfast. Accessed by a short walk or drive through the forest or aboard a boat or pedal Hobie via Lough Erne, guests can immerse themselves in nature and watch the changes in the night sky around them.

Prices start from £175 per night including breakfast, based on two people sharing.

8. Le Sirenuse, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Le Sirenuse, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean, fifty kilometers from Naples, Le Sirenuse is the most stunning and iconic hotel on the Amalfi coast (and discreetly plays host to A-list celebrities). The rooms and suites retain the personal touches of a private residence and offer dramatic views over the bay of Positano. Standing 70 metres above the sea, the rooms are an unbeatable oasis of peace and silence, with breathtaking views.

Prices start from £325 per night including breakfast, based on two people sharing.

Trekking in Fann Mountains Northwestern Tajikistan

There is a place where the mountains stretch up to touch the sky, turquoise lakes shimmer like jewels against a dusty backdrop, and — so they say — Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great, rises from the deep, dark waters on a full moon night, and grazes on the shore. History and legend here are intimately entwined, but one thing is for certain: the views alone will take your breath away in Tajikistan.

Where is Tajikistan?

Tajikistan is one of those funny places we know exists, but few people could actually place on the map. Nestled between China, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan it’s a small, mountainous state which was historically of great significance — Alexander the Great built cities here, it was central to the Silk Road, and the Great Game was played out along its rivers and passes — but in recent years it has fallen, undeservedly, into obscurity.

It’s all about the trekking

Thankfully, a new generation of trekkers, climbers, and other adventure seekers have decided it’s time for all that to change, and the Fann Mountains in northwestern Tajikistan look set to become one of the wildest and most exciting travel destinations of 2017.

Pioneering the development of trekking and tourism in Tajikistan is Luca Lässer, owner of Kalpak Travel, who fell in love with the ‘Stans whilst completing an exchange programme at the American University of Central Asia. He describes the Fann Mountains as “a magical destination [which] will quite literally take your breath away,” and as the peaks here soar to well over 5,000m, that’s no exaggeration!

The roads, often unmade, could do little more than cling to the mountainsides, rivers rushing hundreds of feet below, and a sheer face of rock above. Often I couldn’t see the sky: that required getting out of the vehicle and craning my neck back, staring straight up. The natural barrier created by the mountains was so high.

Amazing landscape

From the main road, we crossed a rickety metal bridge, rusted and barely holding together, and climbed and climbed, one hairpin bend after another. Clouds of dust blew up from the track, and on the barren slopes around us, there was little to see but scree.

But then we passed over a hump, and another bend, and laid out below us was a turquoise lake, the surface of the water glittering in the sunlight.  Around the lake, the vegetation was lush and jade green, a veritable oasis which until now had been completely hidden from view.

This lake was Iskanderkul, named for Alexander the Great. It is said that he came here whilst on campaign, and when his favourite horse, Bucephalus, died, he was buried in the lake. The shepherds will tell you that on a moonlit the ghost of this horse rises again, but though we watched intently from our campsite on the shore, we didn’t catch a glimpse of Bucephalus.

The people

Though the landscapes in the Fann often seem empty, in fact that’s far from the truth. People have lived here for millennia, and some of them have preserved their languages and cultures since ancient times. Their villages sit by the riverside, and in summer the shepherds drive their flocks to high meadows over mountain passes. And so my second fond memory is of the people, and in particular a family in Aini who took me in for the night. The concrete wall around their plot encompassed not only the family home, but also a beautifully tended garden. The grandmother of the house sat with me beneath the apricot tree, telling stories I’ll never understand. But in the warmth of the sunshine, relaxed in the company of new friends, there was no better place in the world to while away an afternoon.

Access

Unlike the Alps or the Pyrenees, the Fann Mountains are hardly easily accessible, but their remoteness is part of their charms. You won’t find yourself following another trekking party up the pass, or competing for space at the best camping spots. The attraction of this wilderness is exactly that — it’s still wild. And the thrilling thing is that it’s waiting to be explored.

Practical Information

Kalpak Travel has 13-day trekking tours to the Fann Mountains, with scheduled departures in July and August. The tour costs €1,690 and this includes ground transportation, accommodation, meals, camping equipment, and services of an English speaking guide.

There are no direct flights from the UK to Tajikistan, but there are reasonable connections from London to Dushanbe (the capital) with Turkish Airlines, Air Baltic, and Air Astana. You will need to apply for an e-visa before you travel, and this currently costs $50. No additional permits are required to visit the Fann Mountains.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Over 20 years ago, when Britain became linked to the rest of the European rail network, the prospect of London to Venice on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express became a reality with a through rail journey. This is a step back into the nostalgic past of the 1930’s experiencing the opulence of Rene Lalique glass carvings, marquetry wood engravings and sumptuous seating and to-die-for silver service meals.

So I booked on the first departure of the season’s 2016 Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from London’s Victoria station bound for Venice. I knew the UK stage of the journey would be on board a former Pullman (similar to the Golden Arrow) with the second stage through France, Germany, and through the Alps to Switzerland and then into Italy.

Imagine my surprise, horror and disappointment big time when having arrived at Folkestone on board the Belmond British Pullman, it was “everyone off”, then onto a bus for a drive to the Channel Tunnel terminal, off the bus, a walk through Passport Control, back onto the bus via a car park and then the bus drove into a shuttle train and onwards through the Tunnel. Inside the bus and once at Calais, it was stay on the bus for 25 minutes and a drive through the back streets of Calais to a railway siding where the real Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train sat waiting to “greet UK travellers!”

And when I asked “why the bus ride through the Channel Tunnel and not stay on board the train”, a spokesperson for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express management said: “Our train is not licensed to travel through the Channel Tunnel”. Now that is what I call progress!

Once the real Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train set off from Calais everything was perfect. Staff were dressed in regal 1930’s uniforms; compartments were of the highest standard; food was outstanding although be warned, drinks ranging from a simple G&T to a bottle of wine were expensive. A Sainsbury red of about £9 costs about £80 on the train – but it was nicely served!

It was James Sherwood, owner of Sea Containers, who struck on the idea of resurrecting the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in the 1970’s and he purchased two of the original carriages at a sale at Monte Carlo in 1977.

One of the carriages was “Audrey” which had been located in the back garden of a lady’s house. As part of the “sale” the lady makes an annual pilgrimage to Venice in the carriage which was once her garden shed!

I was one of the fortunate ones to travel to Venice in carriage “Audrey” which is unique with the opulent wood panelling and fittings. One of the other dining cars displays the famous and glorious Rene Lalique glass carvings.

There is little doubt the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is an experience worth the expense – and worth paying for.

Even the Belmond British Pullman provides luxury of a bygone era starting with Brunch of smoked salmon and scrambled egg, Champagne and a variety of nibbles to enjoy as the Pullman train slowly makes its way through the Kent countryside to Folkestone. At Calais Ville station you are greeted with the full regalia of 1930’s era uniforms, your own carriage attendant, drinks in your compartment and no luggage to worry about at all as your main suitcase is taken care of until you reach your Venice hotel and your “flight bag” is already loaded and waiting in your compartment once you board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train at Calais.

On the first evening you are “encouraged” to dress for dinner. Men in black tie; ladies in an evening attire of their own choice such as a cocktail dress. It is Champagne in the Lounge Bar dining carriage before being called for either the 19.00hrs or 21.30 hours dinner.  The menu is a mouth-watering choice of fish and steak of cheese and dessert. The wine list is extensive and wines are of the highest quality but be prepared to “gulp” at the prices. But then I suppose you would not be making such a journey without taking “add-on costs” into account first!

There is a first class pianist; a Chef du Tran; a Head Waiter who ensures everything is “tip top”; and silver table service leaves you in no doubt people in the 1930’s really knew how to live and enjoy life.

The compartment is compact and you have only a wash basin. The toilet (one per carriage) is at the end of the corridor but the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express do provide passengers with a very nice (for keeps) dressing gown and slippers to make that middle-of-the-night corridor visit that much more comfortable!

After a night’s sleep of sorts and waking up to the snow-covered Alps and the start of the journey into Italy, breakfast is served in your compartment. There is an alternative of a Champagne and lobster breakfast for the romantic at heart in the dining carriage at around £150. Very romantic.

After breakfast you take in the fantastic scenery of the Southern Alps and northern part of Italy. Down the sides of Italian lakes before heading into Milan for the fourth and final locomotive change. At each frontier you have a new locomotive and driver from that country you are about to travel through.

Lunch on the second day comprises: Pan-friend scallops on the bed of pureed peas in mussel emulsion and red beetroot; this is followed by Duck breast roasted with redcurrants and accompanied by green beans. Then there is Zucchini flower stuffed with lemon grass-scented black and white quinoa. Finally, orange cheesecake with lime zest. And – oh yes – do not forget the wine and a generous opened-ended credit card to pay for a bottle of appropriate wine – or you will look the odd-one-out!

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express approaches the coast and soon Venice comes into view. It was Mussolini who dreamt on the idea of linking the main island with a rail connection across the Lagoon. These days a road runs alongside the railway with a huge parking house as cars have nowhere to go – nor are they allowed to go anywhere – on any of the islands. The train station is large, reasonably modern and hectic but once again Venice Simplon-Orient-Express staff are waiting on the platform for travellers. You are escorted – by water taxi – to one of the numerous hotels. The main hotel used by the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the Belmond Cipriani Hotel (read our review) but I selected the Londra Palace Hotel on island where St. Mark’s Square was just a 10 minute walk away. This proved an excellent choice as not only was my hotel first class with excellent service but I avoided water taxis as I could walk to the Basilica, museums and explore the many narrow canals and bridges between this and the Grand Canal. I had an excellent choice of small cafes and restaurants for meals during my four days in Venice although nothing was “cheap” with the exception of a slice of pizza (3 euros) or “just one cornetto” (2 euros)!

A simple evening meal was about £20 and a good bottle of wine £15-£20.

If you hire a private water taxi – hotel back to the railway station – the cost was 70 euros for a 15 minute journey.

I took a 45-minute gondola ride through the narrow canals with an excellent Gondolier named Marco (everyone knew Marco). Coming from a family of many centuries existence in Venice his knowledge of buildings, construction and prediction that not only is Venice sinking and the water level rising but in 100 years’ time Venice will “be no more!”

Costs: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, hotel and flight return. Approximately £2,250

Costs: Extra hotel days in Venice. At least £150 a day – without meals

Meals: Allow up to £200 per day for lunch and dinner with some wine

Hotel Londra Palace: Book On-Line for “deals” or use your local travel agent to plan and book your entire trip. I used: Howard Travel of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and was expertly guided through each stage by their representative “Wayne”.