Milan (Bergamo) Airport is miles from Milan but only 5km from the insanely beautiful and romantic Bergamo. Stay in the Citta' Alta and dine at La Colombina: small, local, friendly, delicious trattoria. Tricky to find but well worth it. Plenty of other things to see, do and eat as well.
La Colombina, Via Borgo Canale, 12, Bergamo Alta. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Homestay is THE way to go if you want to really get close to the Cuban people and culture. And my Spanish has come on really well with my trips to Cuba because the people are interested in talking to you and have the time to do so.
There is lots of help available these days with regard to investigating and even pre-booking homestays. Websites like www.cuba-junky.com provide lists of homestays and first information on the houses. And companies like www.takeyourtimetravel.com offer holidays in Cuba with homestay, pre-booked from the UK.
A gorgeous terrace with swimming pool and stunning views and in-house beauty treatments more than compensate for plain rooms, but it's the staff who really make this hotel. A room covered in pre-wedding chaos, including floral trimmings, was completely spruced up by bedtime; a late-night impromptu drinks party on the terrace met with free pizza rather than shushing. Drop by for all you can eat breakfast on the terrace, only 15 euros. NB: insurance costs means no irons in hotels.
We rented a flat direct from a Venetian Family just 50m from the Rialto Bridge and shopped at the famous markets for fish and vegetables. Wander the backstreets and copy the local habit of eating ciccetti with a glass of prosecco at any time between 11am and 8pm.
For great value food and wine eat at an enoteca in the quiet areas of Castello or San Polo, for luxury arrive in a water taxi at midnight during Carnevale!
We found or flat at www.holiday-rentals.co.uk
This is a delightful family-run B&B type hotel. It consists of about 14 small, simple but utterly charming rooms on the edge of the sea, put together round a small courtyard in the style of the old Greek 'village rooms'.
You can swim in the clear sea just below, or you can simply sit on one of the small terraces, drink in hand, and contemplate the view of Aegina across the water. Once there, you may find you have little inclination to move very far! Rosy provides delicious lunches, and in the evening two minutes' stroll will take you to the open-air restaurant, the Alkyone, from where you can continue your contemplation of Aegina and the sea as long as you want.
Very friendly couple own this large two bedroom appartment, a 15 minute walk from main square.
They picked us up from the airport in two cars, fed us breakfast, and booked restaurants on our behalf.
They live upstairs. Works out for four at £15 per night including the above. Easy access to the centre and Kazimierz.
Friendly cheap casa particular in Vinales.
The owners only speak Spanish so it's an excellent opportunity to practice.
Excellent evening meals!
25 C. P. del Rio No 6B,
Pinar Del Rio
Telephone : 79 3105
Accessed just off of the road into Vinales. Phone ahead and they'll meet you off the bus.
The south of France is the place of dreams for many, idyllic villages, vineyards, historical sites and access to all the places in south-east France worth visiting - Nimes, Arles, Avignon, Aix', Orange and smaller villages like Gordes, Isle-sur-la-sorgue and of course, Menèrbe.
The best way around the region is by car despite parking restrictions in places like Gordès.
Beaumes-de-Venise is in the region of the Cötes de Rhöne wines and the appellation Cötes de Ventoux wines. It also has it's own appellation, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, one of France's best sweet white wines.
Choose a local farmhouse for a stay.
Beaumes de Venise, Vaucluse, Provence, between Carpentras and Vacqueyras.
Take the TGV from Paris to Avignon and then hire a car.
Where to find it -
My family and I decided to visit Icaria after passing by some years ago on a Greek Island trip. We found Evon's Rooms in Faros, not too far from the airport with a beautiful beach.
The owner was very friendly and hospitable and the rooms were cheap, clean and very well presented. We stayed in their biggest room which had four single beds as well as our double and cost us only 60 Euros per night in October.
Icaria is a great place and Evon made our stay even more enjoyable!
Faros Beach, Icaria
Bryce Canyon Lodge is the sole concessionnaire hotel within the wonderful Bryce Canyon National Park, and if you want to be really close to the action, it's the place to stay - their "hotel rooms" at US $136.50 + tax are a little expensive, but very well equipped and comfortable, their restaurant excellent.
Beware, they close for several months during the winter.
It is important to book direct with the hotel - we foolishly booked through an organisation called Hotels-by-City on their "Utah-hotels.org" web site, which claimed to be "the official Utah hotels site". This was completely untrue, and they seriously ripped us off, charging us US $238.99 + tax a night. Be extremely wary!
Certainly not the four star accommodation we expected. Hotel was advertised with spa but there was none. Room was fine - nice bathroom. Boasted satellite TV but only news channels were in English. Pool area was small but nice when it wasn't packed with hundreds of holidaymakers and kids. This was an all inclusive package but food was poor to mediocre although they did try to make an effort on Christmas Day and there's no bar just a cheap looking counter where you get drinks from. You certainly wouldn't want to spend any time there. If all you're looking for is a room then this hotel is fine.
Puerto Del Carmen - quiet end. 5 minutes from beach.
Christmas Eve in the small town of Remedios, is when the town's two neighbourhoods compete with fireworks and floats. The party goes on all night, and Cubans come from miles around, to drink rum, dance and set off hundreds of fireworks at each other!
It's a brilliant night, for meeting Cubans and enjoying the real fiesta experience. Everything is in Cuban pesos too, so it's mind-bogglingly cheap.
Staying in Remedios is a bit tricky - as everyone has their families over for the festival, but being Cuba they'll squeeze you in somewhere. There is also a small hotel in the main square - Hotel Mascotte.
Rent a car on Christmas Day, and drive along the stunning causeway out to Caya Santa Maria and spend Christmas on the beach!
But remember your passports, immigration control is heavy on the causeway to the islands.
Santa Clara is the nearest big town to Remedios - just get a local bus, or taxi, although getting back out on Christmas Day is difficult - far easier to go to the beach, and wait for Boxing Day.
We travelled from Trinidad, where we stayed at Casa Alicia y Miguel, Frank Pais street.
We finished our two week trip in the Hotel Santa Isabel, Plaza Armas, Havana - after so many casas, it was pure indulgence to spend one night in a nice hotel and well worth the vast expense!
Remedios is around 15 miles from Santa Clara.
My boyfriend and I wanted to spend a week relaxing in Tuscany, somewhere where we could get away from it all but still have the option to get out and do things if we felt the need. We found a real hidden gem – a gorgeous 18th century family run villa, Hotel Villa Lecchi, which was right in the heart of the Chianti wine tasting region…what more could we ask for?!
The villa is surrounded by medieval walls and offers a pretty pool, garden and terrace. Not to be missed is the food served in Hotel Villa Lecchi’s restaurant. It uses traditional recipes and these have earned it a great reputation with both locals and tourists alike and it really does have a great atmosphere.
For those wanting to venture out, there are plenty of opportunities nearby to sample the local wines and bikes can be hired at the hotel to get out and see the stunning local scenery. For those who fancy exploring a bit further afield, Genoa is only a short drive away and offers an abundance of churches, palaces and interesting museums.
We booked through Keyplaces and stayed in a lovely double room, which had air-con, mini fridge etc and was really reasonably priced.
Travel wasn’t included in the price, but we got cheap flights with Meridiana from London to Florence, which is about an hour’s drive away.
Keyplaces - 0845 688 0833 or www.keyplaces.co.uk
Meridiana - www.meridiana.it
Hotel Villa Lecchi is less than 10 miles from San Gimignano.
This hotel was referenced in some article in the Guardian. It lived up to expectations. We had the Rudolf II room, which is featured on the website.
Large and spacious, with a superbly comfortable six-foot bed to help you relax after a day's walking around Prague. While not in the town centre, it is close to the castle, and plenty of restaurants nearby, if you can't face the walk back up the hill.
One of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in, vegetarian or otherwise. They now also have a few bedrooms upstairs
Walk west about three minutes along Washington St. from the city centre, and it's on your right.
Tel. +353 21 4277939
Book your hotel room directly with your casino as far ahead as possible.
Check their cancellation policy and you will find that most of the hotels give a full refund on cancellations.
By doing this you will be able to pick and choose a different hotel closer to your arrival time to see if you can get a better deal.
If you are not able to get a better deal, you already have your previous booking made many months before you travel.
I have used this tip and I have, on a number of occasions got better deals.
Go directly to the casino websites to make your booking.
We stayed in a newly refurbished studio apartment in the centre of the medieval Korcula town.
The location was perfect, just around the corner of the main piazza and cathedral.
The studio itself was very comfortable having its own private bathroom. The whole house was spotless.
The woman who owns and runs the place speaks good English and was very helpful and keen to give us all the information we needed to make our stay in Korcula pleasant.
So if you are planning to stay in Korcula, we would recommend this place.
Marco Polo Apartments, Ulica Marka Andrijica, Korcula Old Town, Korcula, Croatia
Their website is: www.marcopolo-apartments.com
Dibai House is a beautiful hotel based on a restored safavid house in the centre of the city.
It was so interesting to stay in a different accommodation that mixes the comfort of a modern hotel with ancient Persian architecture.
1 Masjed Ali Alley, Haroonieh, Isfahan.
Friendly guesthouse run by an Austrian guy, Michael. Really close to the old market and bars at the centre of town. Free breakfast and bikes, reliable tuk-tuk drivers and hot water available.
Wat Damnak Street, tel:011-221838, email: gutmeyr_m2gmx.at, www.queenvilla.com
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