For a slice of unpolished Sicily, catch the hydrofoil from Trapani to the Egadi, a mini-archipelago off the north-west coast. We stayed on Marettimo, the smallest and most remote. There are walking trails across the island but the real joy is in the simple pleasures — sunning yourself on an empty, rocky beach, ordering a brioche con gelato in La Scaletta, the local ice-cream parlour, watching the fishing boats offload their catch on to wooden trolleys to be sold through the village.
When you arrive at Marettimo’s tiny harbour you’ll be greeted by locals offering rooms in fishermen’s houses. To guarantee a bed for the night — and more space — book into the Residence, the island’s only hotel. May and September are sleepy; in July and August the Italians pile over.
Re-visiting a hotel that you have previously enjoyed is nearly always a dissappointment when you compare it with your earlier visit. This is the gem that breaks that rule! In September 2005, we booked for two days and stayed for two weeks. We made three further visits in 2006! It just gets better and better. Le Domain aux Quat' Saisons is a jewel of a hotel which is delightful in every aspect. The early 19th century house has many interesting features and has been tastefully converted without destroying the original layout of the house. The bedrooms are large, well designed, very comfortable and spotlessly clean. There is a lovely garden which leads onto the vines. The pool is sheltered by a wall with more interesting plants around it.
The meals continue to delight and reach new heights on each visit. (If a meal is offered on the evenings when you stay - make sure that you take the offer. Usually four courses with aperitifs, quality local wines and coffee - excellent value and delicious food!) Evening meals here are a joy and the owners make sure that everything goes with a swing! There is much to see nearby and the owners will advise on some excellent local restaurants for the evenings when they are not cooking.
The owners clearly have high standards but still find ways of making everything even better. Without exception all the guests who visited, during our stays, praised this unique haven! Congratulations to Le Domain aux Quat'Saisons.
Small, beautifully furnished and efficiently managed, the Racó del Pi occupies a sheltered spot in the rambling backstreets of Barcelona just off Los Ramblas. It's all very understated, a style that gives the gothic architecture chance to impress inside as well as out.
Such is the location, however, that all this amounts to a hill of pinto beans as most of your trip will revolve around the multitude of shops that wait within easy reach. By all means, make time to explore the city but don't forget that excellent (and cheap) train links can take you out into quieter areas for a different perspective on Catalan culture.
Part of this culture is, of course, the food and it's not difficult to find in Barcelona but it's worth noting that the Racó offers an extensive breakfast spread for an additional cost. With the room rates being so reasonable then it's something to consider at least once.
It is a small 'homestay' where the hosts are welcoming and accomodating. Lots of laughs and giggles took place in the lounge with Rose and John. Easy to find and a pleasant easy walk into the town centre.
82 Caledionian Road
Tel:- +64 3 377 4832
It is the most fabulous peaceful weekend away. It sleeps 6 however my husband and I were alone for our break. It is the most peaceful place we have ever stayed and we were exhausted when we got there.
The barn is perfect, beautifully and faultlessly renovated. It felt as if we were living in a beautiful painting and I enjoyed wafting thought the different areas (in my pyjamas, I said that I was exhausted). For added sound we opened the floor length window to hear the babbling brook.
Going out to eat can be tiring when tired so we had a fabulous meal sent in.
This is my first ever review. The young couple who own the barn are brilliant hosts and I would love to help them publicise it. I may be shooting myself in the foot as I look forward to seeing it over the different seasons.
Between Keswick and Cockermouth
When it comes to accommodation in the Lakes, the words 'gilding' and 'lily' could be pinned next to "ensuite" and "colour tv" on the noticeboards. It seems that few hotels and guest houses understand that, when it comes to decor, simple can be enough. In some ways, Raise View is no exception.
It would be petty, however, to point at examples of chintz or magnolia paint jobs and walk away because Raise View is so much more. Topmost in the plus points is its beautiful position overlooking Easedale and Helm Crag. Get a room at the back of the house and you won't care if foot and mouth keeps you indoors.
Raise View elevates its offering further through a deep understanding of the traveller's needs by offering quality at every stage - especially when it comes to the food. This, and the heartfelt friendliness of the owners, tips the experience into "homely". And better homely than suffering through the many stylish but cold boutiques springing up.
An unusual hotel in Verona, lying right by the river and just a short walk from the Arena. If you've not been before it's a bit tricky to find, hiding as it does behind a large set of doors (drive through these for private parking shaded by a pergola), but once inside you'll find an interesting building with a splendid communal area downstairs. We loved our stay, and this is very much a 'boutique' hotel.
They do have their own site, but we preferred to book online at the site below, useful for the Google map aside from anything else.
Tel. + 39 045 59 77 21
Okay, I'm going to be totally perverse here by suggesting a place that isn't in Sicily. Vulcano is actually one of the Aeolian Islands just north of Sicily (others include Stromboli and Lipari) and is quite unlike anywhere else I've visited. The name's a bit of a giveaway (Vulcano/volcano geddit), as these islands are all volcanic (and there's Etna on mainland Sicily of course. Vulcano itself has (apparently) Italy's largest 'non submarine' volcanoes, there are little 'fumaroles' spouting steam, the beach has black sand - unbelievable - and there are thermal spas and mud baths. A bit like Iceland with hot weather we reckoned. Stayed at a very nice modern hotel on the Gulf of Ponente.
A very family-friendly small hotel in the south of France. Our room was spacious and very comfortable, a perfect family atmosphere. Plenty of toys and entertainment for the kids.
The food was excellent. All guests ate together in a typical "French family" style. All diets are catered for and there are even baby listeners so that parents can eat without their children if wanted.
The views and the surrounding area are beautiful and the welcome is amazing. I really recommend this place.
Quite simply, the best hotel I've ever stayed in - and I've stayed in some good hotels in my time.
The standard room we stayed in was laid out like a mini-apartment: an entrance hall with mini-bar and tea/coffee facilities; bathroom and bedroom both off this little hall. The bathroom was well kitted out and there were slippers and robes for both of us. The bed was huge! We have a super-kingsize bed at home and this bed dwarfed it.
The hotel facilities are great and the service is impeccable. Staff are extremely friendly and helpful. We had booked a room-only rate but upon arrival were told that breakfast was included. There is a free port table where you can sample port and the cherry liqueur, ginghina, and there are a number of board games available for you to play in the lounge area.
We felt instantly at home here and I would recommend this hotel to anyone.
Rua Rodrigues Sampaio, 17
Want a taste of Aeolian island luxury, but can't afford the prices over on Panarea? Located on nearby Salina, the lushest Aeolian island in the archipeligo, Signum makes for a deeply relaxing, stylish retreat. After a short hop on the hydrofoil from Milazzo, and a thrilling cliff-edge bus ride to the village of Malfa, drag your suitcase down a winding footpath past traditional white washed houses to a cacti-filled, antiques laden reception.
All the components of a trendy boutique hotel are in place: myriad balconies with splendid sea views, (modest) horizon pool, and vine covered terrace where you can feast on terrific local seafood by candlelight. And don't miss the cute pebble beach, backed by crumbling fishermen's huts.
Hotel Signum, Via Scalo 15
Tel: 0039 090 984 4222
I've not done the whole villa thing before but with 6 of us on holiday this worked out at about £100/person for the week. Italian Breaks is run by Cristina, a Sicilian ex-pat, so just about every nook and cranny on the island is covered and we had the best value for money holiday for a long time. Recommended!
Tel: 020 8666 0407
Baga Beach in Goa has a shack where, between 1300 and 1600 hrs, you can get a fresh fish tali for around 60p, accommodation is on the beach in the form of apartments, which are unbeatable in price with a fridge, tv and above all friendly advice.
Ask for Raymond who also has scooters for hire, this busy family concern caters for all walks of life and a stress free enviroment is ensured.
Tel: 0091 9822384032
Yuva is a family run eco holiday centre about 30 mins drive from Fethiye. It is set in 40 acres of pine forest and has direct access to the Mediterranean sea. It hosts a range of activity holidays from April to October for beginners and the more experienced including yoga, walking and chi gung, but you can also stay all year round without taking part in a course or activity to just relax and enjoy the beautiful natural environment.
Food is mainly delicious locally produced organic vegetarian and accommodation is in large traditionally built stone houses and wood cabins, all ensuite. Prices start from under £200 a week half board not including flight.
Yuva is a great place to relax, enjoy the sea, sunshine, and the natural environment and eat well and healthily at the same time!
Tel: 01760 755888
This is a hotel almost in the centre of Palermo. It is in a traditional old Sicilian building and has large rooms, some with balconies overlooking the street. The staff are friendly and efficient, and the breakfast buffet is pretty reasonable.
Via Roma 72, Palermo 90133
A fantastic, reasonably-priced hotel in the city's best district. Opposite the Hilton, the location is brilliant - just five minutes by bus to the main square, the hotel is opposite the main church and viewpoint.
The 'Castle District' is quiet, high up on the Buda hilly side of the city, so you get great views - especially at night. Hotel Burg has clean rooms (with free minibar!) and English-speaking staff. Best of all, the prices were very reasonable.
Castle District, Buda.
Originally Ireland's flagship youth hostel, it's a little tatty these days and definitely no frills. But it has loads of character and a fantastic view, and at 14 euros a night a perfect base to explore the area settled by St Columb in the 6th century, and the Slieve League - at 600m, Europe's highest sea cliffs.
In the town of Glencolumbcille, take the road beside the Glenhead tavern and it's 1.5km up the road on the left - 973 0130
With the largest walled garden in the medina, filled with shady trees & palms & constant birdsong, this is a veritable oasis. Large terraces overlook the garden and the roof terrace overlooks the whole medina.
10 bis, Derb Chemaa, Arset Loughzail
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