As the door of the room swung open, there it was. The bed. The most enormous bed I've ever seen. Forget the Pelourinho, forget Salvador, forget Brazil even. I just wanted the bed. It was delicious. A great plain of white sheets. I didn't see my boyfriend all night.
To be fair, I was sold on the hotel just with the image of that bed. Yes, there was a pool, and it was in the heart of the Pelourinho, and you could have breakfast at any time. Any time. Four in the afternoon if you so desired. But the bed. There was nowhere else to go. I don't have a bed fetish (well actually I sort of do, is anywhere finer?) but I had slept for two months on the worst mattress, it was as effective as putting a yoga mat on pallets. I'm sure its limp foam still holds the imprint of my discomfort.
Casa do Amarelindo is a French owned boutique hotel, right in the Pelourinho of Salvador. The Pelourinho is the 'old district' of Salvador, now a World Heritage site. It's goes for all your senses - the sounds of samba and bossa nova, the smell of fresh oranges and sandalwood, the coloured colonial houses, the cobbled streets and squares accommodating street peddlers and capoeiristas... it's a fascinating city. You can still breath the dark history of colonial Brazil and its murky past of slavery, but also feel the culture that was ignited as a result of the European and African fusion. The music, dance, religion and food of Salvador are all products of this meeting of cultures.
Casa do Amarelindo is a perfect boutique B&B. It is in keeping with the colonial style, but benefiting from the elegance of it's French owners. It has a fantastic restaurant, two terraces, a small pool (you will need this, even in winter Salvador is hot) and most rooms have a view over the bay. The bay of Salvador is more industrial than the word 'bay' evokes (don't go imagining the Mediterranean riviera) but the view is still impressive.
The rooms are all spacious, not all have the immense bed, you'll have to ask for it! The French owners are delightful, they've really sunk in to Salvador, embracing it, whilst bringing their European standards to the table. They have an instinct for what guests want - hence the all day breakfast offer and the ability to have breakfast wherever you want in the hotel. Also they have double glazing - which you need in the Pelourinho, the music doesn't stop. These touches really make it stand out.
The staff are really wonderful - genuinely kind, always happy to go that little bit further for you. Many of them were involved in the initial construction of the hotel.
Condor Airlines do good cheap rates to Salvador, via Germany, so get onto it. Within hours you could be by the pool, sipping caipirinha, eating gorgonzola and banana toasts, listening to the rhythms of Gilberto Gil. Then you, or two of you, or even three of you, can sleep like octopuses.
This is a fantastic Chambre d'Hote run by an English mother and daughter who settled in France four years ago. It's a 250 year old rammed earth farmhouse with loads of character.
They offer a double room bed and breakfast with private access up large exterior granite stairs. South-facing room with beautiful rural views over fields of Normandy cows. Very comfortable and Sue (mum) and Laura (daughter) are very hospitable and have two very friendly dogs.
Excellent location for a stop-over en-route down south or to stay for a few days and explore the local region.
An incentive is that if you book for a week you can choose from a free professional aromatherapy massage, candlelight dinner for two, a complimentary 'crepes' meal in nearby Villedieu (10 mins by car) or a carton of Bordeaux.
They provide a welcome basket of wine, cider, local biscuits and chocolates. Use of a garden and orchard - lots of good local walks and bikes you can use.
Sue and Laura have restored the building themselves beautifully, and Laura, who is a qualified stone carver, has her workshop on site and runs courses in letter cutting.
Good price too - 35 euros for one person, 50 euros for two. I highly recommend La Lande and feel sure you won't be disappointed!
My new husband and I have recently returned from our honeymoon which we spent initially in Venice for the Biennale and then we travelled by train to Puglia (Apulia) region where we spent a few days exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From Puglia we journeyed on to Greece by ferry intending to finish our journey in Athens.
For many years I had wanted to visit Greece and to travel there by boat and my husband is in love with all things and places Italian. We arranged our passage approximately sixty days prior to our travel date (bookings cannot be made too soon in advance of travel). Our intention was to take the overnight ferry from Brindisi to Patra and then travel by train to Athens. This proved remarkably easy to arrange with the help of the very comprehensive Greek ferries website at www.greekferries.gr/. I highly recommend travelling this way to Greece - at least once. We had booked an on deck cabin with ensuite bathroom for 196 Euros. This price included travel and overnight accommodation which was amazingly comfortable. We travelled with Endeavour line ferries which leave Brindisi daily at 6.30pm local time and arrive in Patra at approximately 10.30 am local time (as it happened our ferry arrived early at 9.30am local time).
The ferry had many amenities including several cafes, bars and a restaurant. Since we were on honeymoon we decided to treat ourselves to the silver service restaurant which proved remarkably inexpensive and of a very high standard. As a result we had the restaurant to ourselves since other travellers obviously mistakenly presumed like we had that it would be very expensive to dine in this particular restaurant.
The entire journey for us was a magical experience allowing us to view a wonderful sunset and a clear night sky alive with shimmering stars. The dawn brought with it stunning vistas from our cabin window of the many Greek Islands we sailed past. As a result we arrived in Patra refreshed and happy and looking forward to the next leg of our journey.
The approach to Lake Country House and Spa takes you across the MoD firing range in Powys and the beautiful, but desolate, windswept Brecon Beacons. Thankfully we made it however, and our welcome was far more cordial at the Lake Country House.
Set in 50 fabulous acres of tended garden and wild woodland with facilities in abundance to keep you entertained during your stay. There's a nine-hole golf course to infuriate and delight, the lake where fishing is allowed (not sure if you're able to cook what you catch - best ask the chef!) and walks through the mature woodland. If this all sounds far too strenuous however, then the newly built Kingfisher Spa is available for treatments, and use of the generously sized pool, hot tub and sauna.
The rooms in this former hunting lodge are all different; from quintessential British country manor house to those with a more contemporary feel. All are well appointed with the luxuries that one would expect from a hotel of this standard. L'Occitane products are in the bathrooms reflecting the fact that the Spa has recently become the only one in the UK to use their products and treatments. Other nice touches are the bowls of fresh fruit and homemade shortbreads in your room and with a turndown service provided while you are enjoying a meal in the superb restaurant.
With two AA Rosettes under their belts you know that the dinner at The Lake Country House is likely to be special. There’s no need to go to the formality of making a reservation if you're a hotel guest, just arrive when you are ready between 7pm and 9pm and your table is waiting for you. This arrangement epitomises the relaxed and friendly service that guests are used to receiving here.
Locally sourced ingredients and a daily changing menu meant it didn’t disappoint. Choose from a set list including a full vegetarian option. You could be tempted by succulent venison, guinea fowl or a fantastically moist John Dory. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can swap options as the staff are happy to accommodate personal preferences where they can. The green pea bavarois with asparagus and artichoke on the vegetarian menu was the starter my wife fancied and it was no problem at all to change - and it was declared a success!
Dessert followed accompanied by dessert wines by the glass, again a nice touch as some restaurants just don’t cater for this option. We took our coffees in the relaxing and elegant lounge to finish and then paid the extensive wine cellar a visit. We were shown around by Luke Marriott, the front of house Manager, who couldn't contain his obvious pride at the list of bins that he has compiled. A selection that comprises decent house wines at reasonable prices and rising to some of the best that money can buy - wines for the serious connoisseur.
Breakfast is served in the dining room, which, again, is very relaxed and informal. A cold selection of fruit, juices, cereals and bakery, with a choice of full Welsh breakfast (Laver bread included), kippers or haddock to start your day. If you're feeling energetic why not take full advantage of the Spa facilities and have an early morning swim to work up an appetite?
We left reluctantly after breakfast and the warm welcome that we received on arrival was mirrored in our departure with best wishes and a promise to return to this wonderful lodge and its warm and friendly staff. The Lake Country House and Spa is a wonderful mix of old and new with the 18th century lodge and the modern Spa building looking out over the lake that justifiably has won the AA Hotel of the Year and Johansen’s Most Excellent Spa. As the accolades mount, surely a 3rd rosette for the restaurant can’t be far behind? What more do you need to pay this stunning property a visit, good food, a warm welcome and superb facilities and one more added bonus - for a small additional fee they accept our four legged friends! A truly cosmopolitan hotel.
The Lake Country House Hotel & Spa
Just before the little road which leads down to Barafundle Bay is the Stackpole Inn. A great little pub with fantastic beers and even better food. Recommended to anyone before or after a trip to Barafundle.
This is a gorgeous boutique hotel in the verdant hills above Skofja Loka, a great base for exploring nearby Ljubljana, Bohinj and Bled by car. It's an old manor house which has been lovingly restored by its British owners. Sarah leads optional hikes in the mountains during the day (we opted out!), while Keith prepares gourmet feasts for the evenings, topped off with an array of homemade liqueurs. There are only four of five bedrooms, each of which is HUGE with enormous beds. There's even a jacuzzi in the garden with mountain views! Sarah and Keith are friendly, thoughtful hosts (they even made us cake to take with us when we left). It really was perfect and a total bargain for a luxury hotel and food.
The Nicoya Peninsula is on the west coast of Costa Rica, famous for it's beaches and surf. The south of the peninsula is dotted with small surf towns, generally the vibe is typical surf culture, very relaxed and low-key, more rustic than plush.
In Mal Pais I'd recommend Casa Colina. It's great value and good for either a couple or single traveller. I stayed as a single traveller and met some memorable people there. It only has six rooms, all rustic in style, but very clean and a good size. It's owners, Ari & Dave (German and American) are very friendly hosts. Ari will take you horse-riding, Dave runs the surf school, and both make fantastic breakfasts. There's only one table, so all guests eat together which creates a unique atmosphere. It's about a three minute walk to the beach (fantastic surf, ask Dave about where to swim) and five minutes into the small town. There is a plethora of fantastic restaurants - don't go judging them by the furniture ... the food was an amazingly high standard. Ask Ari to book you a massage (there's a place almost on the beach near to the B&B, so you can hear the waves while letting the post-surf lesson aches and pains melt away) and also do the zip wire - it gets you up above the tree tops and gets the nerves a little jangly too.
The beaches are beautiful and not at all crowded. Although don't leave anything unattended. Even flipflops. You'll notice people bury their flipflops in the sand so they don't get permanently borrowed.
Further up the hill from Casa Colina (which literally means 'house on the hill') is the Argentine restaurant which is a perfect sundowner. Spectacular views over the sea and delicious coolers.
Last word - don't go to Casa Colina if steps aren't your thing. Do go if your bottom could do with a little more tone.
San Jose in Costa Rica tends to be a one-night, pass-through, get me out to the beach/volcanoes/rainforest quick kind of place. But, in Santa Ana, which is a suburb of San Jose, there is a perfect boutique B&B to use as a pit-stop while covering the rest of Costa Rica. Owned by Rita and Steve, originally from Michigan, Casa Bella Rita is far enough from the city to relax, but near enough to airports for zipping around.
They have just five colourful and spacious rooms, a small swimming pool and great views, but the key to this place is the hosts. Rita and Steve are like friends of friends in the first 10 minutes. And after that, like your friends. They'll cook for you, take you to dinner, take you and pick you up from the airport, recommend or warn you about local sights.
It's a lovely stop-over for one or two nights, or use as incredibly handy base while in Costa Rica. Nearly all travel goes through San Jose, so there's something special about dropping back into the same place after a few days in the Nicoya or Osa peninsula, or the Caribbean or Central Pacific coasts. Fly NatureAir for a super quick, super cheap way to get around. They are a carbon neutral airline so you will be assuaged of your guilt.
It's not cheap at $100 per night, but if you can work it into your budget then do. I'd be surprised if you found anywhere nicer in San Jose.
This is a 'heavenly' boutique hostel for women in 18th century convent in the old Trastevere district of Rome, close to the river Tiber. The old cells are very large, airy, calm, clean, simple and beautifully furnished, and look out onto a peaceful courtyard where you can eat and drink. A restful place, professionally run, and only 25 euros a night for bed and breakfast. A great place for women to stay.
On the Via della Lungara,a bus ride from the Roma Trastevere railway station, and easy walking across the river to the great sites.
Compared to other hostels around the world I would definitely rate Circus as a boutique hostel. You can choose between dorm style or private rooms. Dorm beds cost from 15€ and are fun if you go with a group (note: no hen or stag parties allowed).
Last time I rented a private room with ensuite bathroom and it was cleaner and bigger than the last expensive hotel room I was in. Rates were about 38€ per night for the private room.
The staff are ever so friendly and speak lots of languages including perfect English. They also have lots of money saving tips for you including a weekend metro card that gets you and a friend unlimited travel on the S and U Bahn.
The hostel is in Mitte which is in central Berlin and therefore not too far from most sights and easy walking distance to funky areas such as Prenzlauer Berg.
Oh, and they do a great all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast for only 5€!
10119 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 28391433
U Bahn: Rosenthaler Platz (very close)
I had a fantastic night's stay at The Bays.
The bathroom was immaculate, the bedroom comfortable with great facilities. The snacks and drinks in the fridge were very reasonably priced, allowing a late night viewing marathon with the DVD player provided and the choice of the management's DVD collection.
Breakfast was an ocean of choice. 17 different home-made breads, various home-made jams as well as fruit and juices, great coffee and fresh local sausages and bacon.
Well worth their five stars.
31 Avenue Road
Tel: 01485 532079
Antico Fiore is a charming hotel in Venice, an old palace totally renewed and furnished in old Venetian style.
Very comfortable rooms and service, special breakfast overlooking a canal reaching the Canal Grande.
Very close to St. Mark's square and Accademia.
Mountain biking tour company based above the village of Berchules. They have different packages available for different levels of experience. Awesome views, great tracks and great people. The added bonus for us was the full-time 4WD support while riding which made riding accessible to everyone. Highly recommend this company - we had a great time. Seriously - go!
Just a couple of bumpy, hot and dusty hours from San Pedro Sula you can arrive on the football pitch of Buenos Aires, the centre of village life in most Central American villages.
Buenos Aires is the first village you reach in the Merendon Mountains, a cool, misty range covered with primary and secondary growth cloudforest. The village smells of woodsmoke, hot corn and sweet coffee. Stock up in the local shops, and try Waldina's famous fried chicken at the Tucan.
The village boasts spectacular views over the valley and a lovely, very basic eco lodge, where you will wake up to the sounds of bird song and coffee pickers singing on their way to work and little else.
From here, arrange a guided tour of Cusuco National Park. On the way up to the park (a steep climb) you will most likely be invited in for a strong, painfully sweet cup of local coffee.
Quite suddenly, the pine forest gives way to giant ferns. Here are toucans, tapirs, jaguars and howler monkeys. You can swim in (some) waterfalls, and spot orchids and hummingbirds.
Here you are a world away from both the humid bustle of San Pedro Sula and also from the Central American tourist trail. You are immersed in everyday latin american village life and the cool, silent word of a spectacular cloudforest that sees surprisingly few visitors a year.
Hitch a ride on a local truck from Cofradía (they leave the main square almost every day at around 2pm). When in Buenos Aires, stay in the eco-lodge. the local Patronato head (Miguel Mejia) can give you information on how to visit the park and get yourself a local guide. Basic facilities are available at the base camp, from which you can explore the forest (take a guide!)
Riad Al Moussika is magic! First I thought that it was a bit dear, but then, when I experienced the hotel, I realized it was worth every penny!
You feel like a pasha and you are treated as one. The service unrivalled. The private taxi came to pick us at the airport, then we arrived in this beautiful historical palace where a very qualified and involved staff was waiting for us. Our room was a beautiful suite viewing the Moorish court, MAGICAL! We had an hammam with a massages - so delightful.
The breakfasts and lunches made by the chef Khalid were delicious and we discover the real amazing Moroccan cuisine! We truly had a second honeymoon.
Mykonos oozes chic, but this cute and quirky guesthouse is an oasis of affordable, but comfortable, rooms amongst the boutique hotels and super-luxe villas.
Perched on a hillside, the guesthouse is located above the School of Fine Arts, and is solar-powered. So far, so Mykonos.
But inside it's a far less trendy affair, a jumble of cosy rooms with traditional whitewashed walls and splashes of bright decor.
With a pretty terraced garden, sweet sleepy cafe and rooms opening out to the sea, the location is peaceful but only a few steps into the town center.
The lovely owners will offer to pick you up from the airport, and you can hire bikes to explore the surrounding countryside.
Perfect for a laid back and romantic island escape.
School of Fine Arts, Mykonos Island, Cyclades, Greece 84600
Book on www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/greece/mykonos-island/10117/
It doesn’t have to be all beaches and boats. For an alternative Grecian experience, take the train inland from Athens to Kalambaka, the end of the line west. A short taxi ride to Kastraki village brings you to the heart of the spectacular Meteora region, famous for the monasteries impossibly perched on top of the dramatic rocky outcrops.
Stay at the modest but charming Doupiana House hotel and wonder at the stunning sights from the veranda. But don’t stop there, get walking and follow the winding road up to the highest monastery for the cheapest and most rewarding journey you’ll ever make.
Doupiani House, Kastraki (nearest station Kalambaka)
Probably the most incredible hotel I have ever stayed in. The design and attention to detail was inpeccable. The Skye bar on the roof had the most amazing cocktails and Sushi and is full of the beautiful 'Paulistas'.
Melhor Visualização: 1024X768.San Paulo
The only fully sustainable hostel/hotel in Uruguay in the centre of the old city.
Wonderful service and great contacts for the surrounding areas around the city. Great location and a lovely breakfast. US$20 a night. Very recommendable.
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