With three young, energetic children finding cheap accommodation by the sea with sunshine can be tricky. Last Easter we had a fantastic break over the river from Porto, in the lesser known Vila Nova de Gaia. We stayed in a family room at welcoming Hotel Davilina, next to a tram stop which took us into Porto, or more importantly, straight to beautiful white sandy beaches! Stop at Miramar to see the church in the sea, Igreja do Senor da Pedro, then have lunch at the beach cafe before strolling one tram stop along the boardwalk to the village. Then head back into town, for a pastel de nata and glass of something Portuguese at one of the friendly local cafes and bars.
Great food, staff, decor and views - from the terrace you can see Africa, the Atlantic, Cádiz - just stunning! The menu caters for all tastes and budgets. A great find!
I stayed in a villa called Casa Lucia in a pretty hamlet called Santa Lucia with two excellent restaurants we could walk to and just outside of Vejer de la Frontera. The villa was stylish yet homely, well equipped and very comfortable - the best villa I have ever stayed in. The terraced gardens were an oasis of tranquility and the focal point was the huge 12m long pool with waterfall. We were also only 10 minutes drive from the 7km unspoilt sandy beach of El Palmar.
(+34)956 41 00 69
Mimosa and jacaranda gave way to walnut, apple and cherry orchards as we climbed.
Kasbah Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains can only be reached on foot or by mule. I chose a mule, and friendly Berbers guided me along a river valley where women washed clothes and gathered firewood. We stopped for mint tea in a village house, admiring brightly coloured carpets hung from walls above the narrow alleys.
The Kasbah is perched high like a fortress, surrounded by snow covered mountains, a gentian blue sky and a view to a distant waterfall. With warm sun and a cool breeze on my face, I devoured tagine of lamb and the sweetest ever oranges. I envied those staying, with their wood burning stoves and deckchairs.
I had discovered Shangri-La – not surprisingly, Toubkal has stood in for Tibet. I wanted right then to do the long trek to the top of Toubkal – at 4167 meters the highest mountain in North Africa. But it was Christmas Eve and time to return home.
Day trips can be arranged to the Kasbah with a pick up from your hotel in Marrakesh.
+212 524 485611
This was the most unassuming, beautiful, restful spot one could imagine. An hour from the airport through hilly countryside and quiet villages takes you to this wonderful place in the middle of Crete, among mountains and olive groves with the most amazing views from your bedroom balcony on waking. Eleonas is a treasure, peaceful and with amenities like air con, swimming pool and fantastic Cretan traditional cooking. They love children which was a bonus and helpful with anything you need.Great value too, you can book per night. There is also a lovely lake…walkable, and quaint village with tavernas for a local treat. Pure Simple Bliss.
This was the most unassuming, beautiful, restful spot one could imagine. An hour from the airport through hilly countryside and quiet villages takes you to this wonderful place in the middle of Crete, among mountains and olive groves with the most amazing views from your bedroom balcony on waking. Eleonas is a treasure, peaceful and with amenities like air con, swimming pool and fantastic Cretan traditional cooking. They love children which was a bonus and helpful with anything you need. Great value too, you can book per night. There is also a lovely lake, walkable and quaint village with tavernas for a local treat. Pure simple bliss.
One of the most stunning hidden treasures on the west coast of Ireland. I stayed there for a week or so this summer and was blown away by the people, the scenery, the tranquility and the culture. The region is in the Gaeltacht so there is still some Irish spoken among the locals and they will be very accommodating if you show an interest in picking up "An cúpla focail". It is a very spiritual place brimming with history. For example, the Inishkea Islands just off the coast are reputed to be the resting place of the mythological Children of Lir. There is an ancient church and a Holy Well dedicated to Saint Deirbhile. The Heritage Centre in nearby Aughleam contains a wealth of information on local and family history of the area. If you are looking for history, culture or just a bit of peace and quiet this place could not be recommended more highly.
Leim Siar Bed and Breakfast: www.leimsiar.com/
Blacksod, Belmullet, Co Mayo, Ireland
+353 97 85004
To get there by public transport you need to get the 446 Bus Eirann from Ballina and notify the driver.
Google map: bit.ly/Tw5b8v
When flying long distances to Australia or New Zealand from London via Singapore book a flight which has a long layover time between flights and book yourself into one of the three Transit hotels. Each terminus has one, no need to go through immigration or customs just get off the plane and check in to your quiet hotel room. Brilliant and cheaper than flying business class.
For a taste of real Albanian life and hospitality, I recommend staying with Florian and his lovely family. Good value accommodation in dorms or private rooms and great food using produce all fresh from the garden. Amazing homemade wine too!
Shtoj i ri, Reparti Ushtarak, Shkodra
One of my favourite places in Toronto to go for afternoon tea is the King Edward Hotel. A tradition since 1903, the afternoon tea menu changes depending on the season, and the Nutcracker Tea, offered until the end of December, is not to be missed.
From 2:30pm to 5:30pm every day (except December 24, 25 and 26), tea is served at Victoria’s Restaurant in the hotel. The Nutcracker Afternoon tea is CDN $39 per person and offers delicate finger sandwiches, some of which are duck confit and smoked turkey, gorgeous pastries, including the mincemeat crumble tart and finally, my favourite, warm scones served with imported Devonshire cream and homemade strawberry preserves. And of course, there’s the tea. Only in December, you can choose the Nutcracker tea, which is infused with hazelnuts and vanilla or the Gingerbread House tea, a black tea with ginger root, nutmeg, vanilla, licorice, cinnamon and allspice.
Le Royal Méridien King Edward Hotel
37 King Street East
+ 1 416 863 4106
Google map: bit.ly/Sob896
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
A wonderfully stylish little hotel in the heart of an Andalucian pueblo blanco. Cool and calm on the inside, Almohalla has stunning rooftop and mountain views from the garden and pool. The English hosts David and Myles are great - full of good ideas and they know when to leave you to it - and they do a damn fine eggs-all-kinds-of-ways breakfast. The perfect chill out spot just 40 mins from Malaga. We stayed in room three which is split level, like your own little apartment.
Travelling through Indonesia always involves resisting the magnetic pull of Bali. Parts of the island are still beautiful, but much has been destroyed. Lombok is to the east of Bali and from Mangsit Beach you can watch spectacular sunsets behind Bali's Gunung Agung. This is the best way to see Bali, and the friendly folk at Windy Beach Cottages will happily bring you a cold beer to ease the hardship.
The teahouse serves a fabulous afternoon tea with traditional Javanese snacks cooked to order, cakes and fresh local tea and coffee, in an attractive Javanese setting, with very pleasant staff. Then wander round the hotel which is full of artefacts and historical and cultural treasures.
A beautiful picturesque area in central Bali. It is still very underdeveloped, no mass tourism or big hotel chains. A quiet little gem and a refreshing change from the more touristic areas of south Bali and Ubud. A beautiful locally run place is called Sawah Indah villa, absolutely gorgeous, (check out the tiling in the bathrooms) tastefully decorated and they offer reasonably priced tours to Mount Agung. There are also other options in Sideman but I must say this is my favourite. The food is nothing to shout about in Sideman, but I am a veggie so my options are limited. I would definitely recommend eating local food rather than western food, which is not very inspiring. If you get the opportunity to go to a ceremony at the local temple, don't miss it. A truly magical place, lots of great gentle walks through the rice fields and the view of Mount Agung will take your breath away.
It is a lovely peaceful guesthouse, perfect for an idyllic break away from the crowds and is located in Greece, on the beautiful mount of Pelion, in a village called Portaria. Klio, who runs the guesthouse, is the perfect host and had a lot of suggestions for day trips in the surrounding area, which has many interesting sights.
Αmazing landscapes full of forests, breathtaking views over the sea, spectacular beaches and many picturesque villages in the area.
The hotel is surrounded by a nice garden. All the rooms of Klio are very clean and built according to the traditional style of Pelion.
It is uses a stone which is produced only on this mountain.
+30 24280 99222
Marrakesh offers so many choices, that it was hard to decide, but Riyad Al Moussika has been the right one.
We spent a weekend in this spot of beauty and we were totally satisfied. I share completely all the positive reviews and me too I highly recommend this place.
62, derb Boutouil - Kennaria
+212 524 389067
I spent with my husband four nights in Muhlisbey Hotel. On arrival we were offered free tea, water or coffee. Front desk staff gave us all the information we were looking for and took excellent care about our needs all the time. The room was really small but you are not here to stay in the room! They were very clean and tidy, furniture and equipment is new, hotel was fully restored and open in last month. The location is just in the heart of old Istanbul city. It takes only five minutes walk to Blue Mosque as well as Hagia Sofia. It is the perfect base point for exploring Istanbul due to the tram, bus and Orient Express connection. I would recommend Muhlisbey Hotel to all who would like to have value for their money! You will feel really welcome there!
McCarthy’s Bar* says this is the best bar in the world. Outside it looks like my old cub-hut, inside the floorboards are bare. The pictures tell the stories: a young Queen Elizabeth II; framed WWI dreadnoughts; and, still arousing, a fifties-era Vargas pin-up girl in a negligee. Noël Coward, Kipling and King George V drank here. No longer a colonial capital, Levuka is quiet now; offshore is Wakaya, the hideaway island where the unfortunate Keith Richards fell out of a tree.
Royal Hotel. Sensational! Genuinely unchanged since colonial days. Fiji's oldest hotel. In the snooker room you can easily imagine the joking and laughter of long-departed flying-boat crews - their pictures are still on the walls. Real value - a few £s a night.
Good local dishes. Try breadfruit here, it’s good.
Ovalau Club, Totogo Lane, Levuka, Ovalau, Fiji.
(No findable phone number, or website, or email - it's that kind of place!)
Robbies Lane, Levuka
Phone: + 679 344 00 24
Beach St. Centre of town.
Phone: + 679 344 0235
The Belvedere in Stonehaven offers shelter and a hot meal on a dark winter’s afternoon: a most welcome sight after our nippy adventure along the coast. We celebrated our third wedding anniversary by clambering around the algae-covered Dunnottar Castle, which stands on a craggy rock that juts out into the ocean. We discovered dripping caves and gazed over the misty North Sea, then booked in to a cosy, well-heated room. Large windows, with a view onto the garden, filled the room with fading orange sunlight. In this serene setting, with our tea and biscuits, we felt no need to turn on the flat-screen TV or use the wifi.
It is a very clean hostel with private rooms with their own bathroom. We had a triple room with bathroom for 240 RMB. The staff are friendly and there is always lots going on. You can book tours through the hostel to see the Terracotta Warriors or Han Yang Lee museum which is smaller but much quieter but in a beautiful setting. You can buy western food here or try local Chinese restaurants nearby for a quarter of the price.
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