Rethymno has a gorgeous harbour and great Italian-looking architecture. It's situated on Crete so loads to do - looking around Knossos (the Minotaur etc) is a good day out. Try getting a cheap local rental cottage rather than stay at the big touristy resorts.
You must try the atmospheric and much-loved La Banasterie Guesthouse. It is located slap bang in the centre of the maze-like citadel, but on a quiet side street and with excellent restaurants within a one-minute walk.
Jean-Michel and Francoise make the ancient house terribly atmospheric, using fairy lights and illuminating the stairs and halls by candlelight at night. If you would like a home from home, with an authentic French atmosphere, I couldn’t recommend this place more highly!
Absorb Amsterdam's culture even as you sleep by staying in the Lloyds Hotel which is part of the Cultural Embassy in the centre of town. They have reasonably priced 1 star right through to a more extravagant 5 stars and many of the rooms have furniture created by Dutch designers. The staff are incredibly friendly and there are often local bands playing at the Cultural Centre in the evenings. A really lovely base from which to explore this beautiful city.
Though part of the Apamea Cham Hotel, it is located on the other side of the road, with spectacular views of four of the noria water wheels which moan as they turn, and its independent access means that most diners at night come from outside the hotel.
The menu is varied (the only non-expensive place in Syria where I found fish available) and prices are very reasonable for excellent cooking. Beer and spirits are served. The only downside is that you are sitting on one of the key sites of the dramatic suppression of the 1982 Hama uprising.
To the north of the centre of Hama, on the east side of the Orontes river and adjacent to Apamea Cham Hotel. Open for dinner, but not necessarily for lunch.
Rated three-star, and accessed rather unattractively by lift from a dingy corridor near the clock tower in the centre of Hama, this well located hotel is distinguished by exceptionally helpful staff. When asking where I might buy a replacement camera case, they arranged for one of the staff who is a tailor by day to stitch my broken strap.
Very good at arranging day trips to sites such as Apamea and Krak des Chavaliers, and working out how you might share with other visitors or those staying at the Cairo hotel which the management also owns. Taxi from the bus station should be 50 Syrian pounds.
tel (33) 512414
Unless you are planning to spend a fortune on one of the two Cham chain hotels, this is the best hotel in Tadmor.
It's rated three stars. Many of the rooms have great views across the palmery to the famous ruins. It is about five minutes walk to the Archaeological Museum (from which transport runs to the Valley of the Tombs) and about a further 15 minutes to the Sanctuary of Bel.
PO Box 75, Palmyra/Tadmor, Syria
100 metres from the souk complex, very much part of the old city, this 18th century house has been converted for bed and breakfast accommodation (12 rooms).
It would be hard to imagine anywhere with more atmosphere, even if the facilities are not luxurious. Very helpful staff, happy to organise day-trips at a reasonable price. The only drawback is that it's a 20 minute walk to the Christian quarter if you want to have a restaurant meal with alcohol. I paid £12.50 per night for a single.
Clearly marked by signs, about 200m from the Bab Antakia gate to the Old City. www.halabiatours.com
The fishing village of Castara is undoubtedly the best location in Tobago and renting one of the six lodges at Castara Retreats is a superb way to enjoy the best of this unspoilt Caribbean island.
The philosophy behind Castara Retreats was to create a small eco resort to reflect principles of beauty, balance and respect and to reflect these aspirations in the buildings, the gardens, in the relationships with the local people involved, and with the clients.
The principle of sustainable tourism is having a positive impact on the local economy in the village of Castara, the community and the environment.
For those tourists who are interested in responsible travel and offsetting carbon emissions from flying, staying in Castara Retreats most certainly supports conservation and the local communities.
We stayed in Coasthanger Lodge for 12 nights (not long enough) and absolutely loved everything about it.
The lodge is thoughtfully and tastefully designed, and blends in sensitively with the landscape and the surrounding area.
The moment we arrived we felt instantly relaxed and we will never forget stepping into the lodge for the first time and looking out at the stunning views towards the turquoise sea and the beach.
Coasthanger is perfect for daily living, and the deck, which is just off the bedroom, is a perfect spot to relax at any time of day. The deck has full sun throughout most of the day but also benefits from a cooling breeze from the sea, so it was very tempting to spend all day there, relaxing and reading and generally delighting in the wildlife around us.
However we didn’t, and we had some wonderful experiences in Castara and some very happy memories to bring home with us.
We left Castara Retreats thinking that we had been part of something very special and feeling very privileged to have had the opportunity to share the local culture and the life of many of the people that we met.
There is no doubt that we will return to Castara and to Castara Retreats in the near future.
Check out the website which is very extensive and you will get a wonderful picture of what you can expect.
When planning a visit to Amsterdam, consider booking an apartment as an alternative to a hotel.
As it is difficult to arrange affordable hotel rooms for three people, this is exactly what we did. Our apartment on the Damrak was an authentic Amsterdam home, with all mod cons and very central.
The location also meant we were surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants for 'self-catering'. Great cooked breakfasts nearby, and nearly all cafes serve freshly squeezed OJ. Check out Leidseplein for restaurants.
This is a really unspoilt small seaside village on the east coast of mainland Greece about midway between Athens and Thessaloniki. It is just south of the city of Volos on the Pagasitic Gulf, opposite the Pelion peninsula.
Amaliapolis is situated on a large bay and has nice tavernas which are well known locally for fresh fish, cafes and a couple of minimarkets. The gently sloping sandy beach at one end of the village is good for kids, as the water is quite shallow. There are very few tourists so the locals are very welcoming to visitors and, as the tavernas cater mostly for Greeks, the prices are reasonable. There is a good cross section of accommodation from some upmarket villas, through to holiday apartments, a couple of small hotels and basic rooms for rent.
The main square looks out over the sea to a romantic uninhabited island in the bay with a whitewashed church and it is a great place to sit with an ouzo and watch the world go by.
Off route 1 (E75): tinyurl.com/28twd2
An adobe-style hostel built up in the hills above Huaraz by an English couple, Alex & Bruni. Amazing spot with fantastic views as well as home comforts like orthopaedic mattresses and home grown English-style pub food. They have a hostel in Huaraz too, but take the opportunity to visit their lodge in the mountains.
Not long returned from a great week in Valencia. Rented a lovely penthouse apartment with a large outdoor terrace, next to the Port Americas Cup and near the beach. There were four of us so was very good value for money. Good location. Can recommend them.
Avenida del Puerto, Valencia.
Nearest Metro: Fransisco Cubells ( 300m)
Stay at the Albion hotel, close to the Menin Gate. Stylish, friendly, good value; easy walking distance to the centre.
Eat at the De Stoove. A 100-yard walk off the tourist centre behind the cathedral rewards you with good food, a classy environment and personal attention.
Take the battlefield tour with Salient. A young vibrant guide gives an informative and moving trip.
Albion Hotel: www.albionhotel.be/
St.-Jacobsstraat 28, B - 8900 Ypres Belgium
Google map: tinyurl.com/n8t6dw
De Stoove: Surmont de Volsbergestraat 12
Salient Tours: www.salienttours.be/
5 Meensestraat, Ieper 8900
Google map: tinyurl.com/mla7lu
For quality accomodation with a difference - self catering accommodation at lighthouses.
September 2005 we stayed at two, Danger Point near Gansbaai/Hermanus - excellent location with a good restaurant a few minutes away, very handy for shark and whale watching, lighthouse keeper couldn't have been friendlier.
CapeColumbine, Northern Cape, another excellent location with the village of Paternoster nearby with a choice of quality eateries. Lighthouse keeper's a real character.
Accommodation very high quality and we would say good value from a European viewpoint. Danger Point - sleeps 4, from R581 per night not per person.
Danger Point, by the way, was the site of the wreck of HMS Birkenhead which gave us Birkenhead drill, ie women and children first.
Live like a local by staying on a cosy houseboat. See the city from water-level, looking at upside-down buildings shimmering; share your evenings with locals and your breakfast with swans.
The incredibly friendly gay owners will fill your fridge with wine and your window boxes with flowers, all for less than the price of a good hotel. You will find yourself down a quiet side canal, but only five minutes walk from the action.
For Amsterdam junkies, fall in love with the city all over again; for newbies, lose your virginity in style. Bliss!
If you get tired of Peru's never-ending old ruins and the coldness of the Andes, and dream of a nice beach, Máncora is the place to go.
Situated near the border of Ecuador at the northern corner of the country, this small beach resort is ideal for budget travelers. Big luxury hotels and restaurants haven't yet arrived here.
Instead, you will find nice, friendly small hotels, bars, many seafood restaurants, a vegetarian restaurant, and half a dozen souvenier shops.
This, Peru's best beach resort, is popular with surfers. You can hire a surf or body board, enjoy jumping in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, or just enjoy the sun on the beach. The busiest surfing months are November and February. Outside these months the place can be tranquil and room rates negotiable.
There are daily night buses from Lima to Máncora.
There are 12 rooms, all very nice and newly renovated. A large living room and a cozy terrace are nice hangouts where you meet people and where you feel like in your own home.
The location is great, on a quiet, tree-lined street in a lively neighborhood, and within a short walk of the tube.
+54 11 4831 0517
Google map: tinyurl.com/mgvrg7
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