You'll easily spy the Revolving Restaurant if you are in downtown Cairo and look up - it's the tall building on the Nile which looks like a UFO has landed on top of it. It's not nearly as futuristic once you've made the ear-popping lift journey up to the 44th floor, but it is just very sleek.
If you really want to splash out then you can have dinner in the restaurant, but a more affordable way to enjoy the view of central Cairo is by having a drink in the bar on the floor below the restaurant. They have a minimum charge, but two or three drinks will usually meet it.
The best time to go is just before sunset as you'll see the sun going down behind the pyramids, and the city lights coming alive.
1089 Corniche El Nil, P.O. Box 63 Maglis El Shaab, Garden City 11519, Cairo, Egypt
+ 20 (2) 2791-7000
Google map: bit.ly/u89og6
Posada de la Laguna in the north east of Argentina was quite the most special place I've ever stayed. It was a four hour 4x4 drive from the city of Posadas on the Paraguayan border deep into the heart of the Iberà wetlands to the luxurious yet homely ranch where four of us stayed. On a quiet boat ride at dusk, with a guide who knew his environment and who was intuitive of his guests' level of interest, we marvelled at the caiman, the carpincho and wealth of bird life. We rode bare back with a gaucho in the pampas and ate delicious food served to us communally without the need of menu deliberations. If ever there was a place to feel at one with the world, Posada de la Laguna truly is it.
An amazing place, a real gem just across the border from Finland North of the Arctic Circle - the owner Sven is a real pro, 11 time winner of Europe's longest sled dog race, and he built and designed all the wood huts himself, with lovely attention to detail. The dog sled trips with Sven and the huskies are legendary and truly challenging - every trip is a great adventure! On one of our trips my glasses froze and I had to steer blind - Sven jumped onto my sled and managed to stop the dogs. Unbelievable!
There is also a great hot tub and the food is a real treat.
The bright blue skies and startling snow and icy landscape during the day and a night sky lit by the incredible dancing Northern Lights takes your breath away. Four days of coming 'home' to the Retreat after a days husky driving, snowmobiling, cross country skiing or sledging was perfect - warm, cosy and intimate; lovely home cooked (mainly vegetarian) food; plenty of hot water and roaring log fires. Welcoming hosts, Mikael and Maya will arrange all the above and for those wanting something less adventurous there is, among other things, yoga, massage, cooking and felt making; and around Christmas time trips to visit Santa! With temperatures averaging -30 it is a real bonus that all the necessary Outerwear and boots are provided. We watched the Northern Lights 100yds from the guesthouse standing on the frozen Torne River with the snow laden forest stretching from the far bank towards Finland in the distance. A gem of a guesthouse in a remarkable setting.
Kuala Lumpur has a few big mega sales each year and not only are they huge, they have some of the best deals around. Big malls such as the Pavillion and One Utama are massive with most shops having 50% to 70% off in their stores every year during March, May and December. These dates are known to change though and I've been to KL in July/August for some amazing shopping!
Stay at the Parkroyal hotel in Bukit Bintang where you have about three big malls within walking distance.
Pavillion KL is a glitzy mall where you can get the latest and high end fashion. Sungei Wang Plaza is right opposite Parkroyal hotel and this is where you will find 500 retail outlets selling everything from food to clothes and score a bargain!
Behind Parkroyal hotel,there is a Low Yat Plaza which is THE malls for electronics and IT products. I have bought cameras and computer accessories from here at half the price!
At the end of a long shopping day, hang out at one of the big food courts in the mall for really good hawker food in a comfortable air conditioned surrounding. Lot 10 (Starhill Gallery) in Bukit Bintang is known for it's fantastic and tasty food court.
www.kuala-lumpur.ws/klshopping/ - Top 10 shopping malls
Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
+60 3 2147 0088
Google map: bit.ly/ukkIUy
Stayed here recently on a trip to San Francisco and can't recommend it highly enough (actually booked it because of reading about it in these tips!)
Beautiful room, fabulous host, AMAZING breakfast, good wifi, voip phone in the room, and excellent location in a great area and right near lots of public transport. I doubt there is a better place to stay in the city. I will definitely be going back.
Last December I took my teenage niece to Krakow. For under £100 we had three nights in a clean, warm, twin room with our own bathroom. Even breakfast was included; it was pretty basic but who cared? We were surrounded by cheap and wonderful eateries and fun bars. Our hostel (better than hotels for meeting other young people) overlooked Rynek Główny, Europe’s largest medieval town square, with its massive underground museum (advance booking recommended) and a lovely Xmas market. Between us we bought loads of interesting presents: parents, boyfriend, grandparents, toddlers, school friends. There was some rubbishy tat, but not much, and Kay still had change from her Saturday job money. And on one day we went to Auschwitz. The tour was very informative and, of course, harrowing. It certainly put the commercial pressures of Christmas into perspective and, as Kay put it: “Made me so grateful to be born when I was, into the life I have.”
I first visited Arvidsjaur when I was a young teen. My auntie and I went just after Christmas for our annual holiday together. On our first night we witness the Aurora Borealis from just outside our spa hotel - Laponia. Over the course of three days, we went husky sledging, travelled across frozen lakes on skidoos and ate fantastic local food. For those of you not interested in the Christmas side of things and just want a snowy holiday away somewhere peaceful and beautiful, Arvidsjaur is the perfect destination.
This was one of the nicest boutique styled inns we have ever visited. The riad was beautiful and Tissam the manager was wonderfully helpful. We were travelling with my mother and step-father (in their 80s) as well as our eight-year-old daughter and so had rather complicated and diverse needs/desires. Tissam accommodated us all artfully, giving us a gracious welcome, an extended orienting walk towards the medina, and all sorts of very helpful tips. We stayed in the riad three nights and ate there the last two nights. The meals (tagines) were delicious - among the best we have enjoyed in Morocco. In the evenings we sat on the roof decks enjoying cool drinks and the lovely view. If we ever return, we will definitely stay there
My initial impression of Aracataca, a small community of 30 - 40.000 people was that it was almost too real. A place so vibrant and colourful where everybody seemed to know one another and everything seemed to jump out at you in relief.
Being in Aracataca is a special experience. Imagine being in a small North American town of the 1950’s, then transport it to a Caribbean setting and then you will have a slight inkling. The people ride around on bicycles and motorbikes and only a few cars and lorries pass by on the streets.
Everything is bright and colourful. The shops all have hand painted signs beckoning to you to enter their premises and trees stand along the pavements creating shade for the houses and shops. In the evenings families sit together on their porches enjoying the cooler temperatures that soar during the day. Everything feels close at hand and in reach of you. A railroad cuts through the town, and you can hear the train’s horn signalling its passing many times a day. Dragonflies swarm and yellow butterflies dance in the heat of the midday sun.
Aracataca is famous for the Nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the writer of ‘100 years of Solitude.’ In his books Marquez created the imaginary place of Macondo, which also goes beyond being a fictional place, by existing as a state of mind where many things are possible, a space where you can create your own sense of reality. Magic realism is not just the style of writing that Marquez used, but it is a super real state of aliveness here in Aracataca!
It is good to experience the town on a bicycle like many of the local people do. The streets are generally safe to cycle and it is a quick way to get around and see different parts of the centre.
You need more than one day to see the Gabriel Garcia museum, La Telegraphista museum, the river and the African palms, for you need to go beyond the obvious paths and spend time meeting some of the people to really experience Aracataca.
And the perfect place to stay is The Gypsy Residence, a new hostel that offers a sympathetic understanding of Macondo, Marquez and Magic Realism.
One or two day tour packages are also on offer to open you to the magic of Aracataca.
Don’t miss out on this unspoilt destination, a chance to taste traditional food of many cultures, a stone’s throw from the Caribbean sea, Santa Marta and Cartagena.
Having arrived in this dry, dusty and underrated Rajasthani desert town in the heat of the day, nothing could be more welcome than a fresh pineapple lassi in the shady restaurant of the Hotel Harasar Haveli. As a traveller on a shoestring, hotels catering for a range of budgets are a wonderful thing; however much you are spending per night, you can enjoy the same respectful hospitality, facilities and magnificent views. In a peaceful location north-east of the town centre, I was grateful for the distance from the frenetic activity of central Bikaner. There are frequent passing auto-rickshaws, meaning the Harasar guest has easy access to local sights.
My 'budget' bathroom was astonishingly state-of-the-art, as well as spacious; dazzingly clean with highly modern fixtures, and (unusally in budget Indian accommodation), a powerful shower with plenty of hot water. The bedroom was appealingly simple, with subtle and pretty Rajasthani touches like the little stained-glass topped table.
For me, the very best thing about this fabulous hotel was the views. During the day, I lingered in my cane easy-chair in the shade of the tented restaurant with coffee ... resident sparrows were brazen enough to land on my table and attempt to peck from the sugar bowl. The panoramic view consists of a plethora of rooftops and narrow winding streets leading to Bikaner's most striking building on the skyline: the red-sandstone Junagarh Fort. I was able to witness simultaneously the majesty and the minutiae of Rajasthani life, as a woman at a nearby residence hung out to dry a beautifully colourful array of saris.
In the evening, whatever your status as a guest, you can ascend to the very top of the hotel, to the exposed rooftop, where the restaurant is lit by candles and strings of fairy-lights, and the sparkling city lights spread out before you. The food is reasonably-priced, delicately-cooked and subtly-flavoured; the service formal, polite but not obsequious; and, every night, there is a (here I quote from the website) 'cultural bash: folkdance and music by gypsies with dinner'.
This is a small and excellent hotel that is close to Pedong, about an hour from Kalimpong. Pedong is a very small town and is excellent to visit if you want to go off the beaten track as it does not get many tourists. There is a beautiful monastery there - Sanchen Dorji Gompa and several schools as well as beautiful walks and views. I would highly recommend a visit to Pedong should you visit Kalimpong or the surrounding Darjeeling areas. The people here are some of the most friendly, welcoming people I have ever met and it is an extremely beautiful and peaceful place.
Goa home rental is a upmarket charming villa in north Goa close to the Mapusa-calangute road on the edge of Parra village in Guirim village.
I recommend it as its a spacious three bedroom villa in a gated community (with 24hr security) with a pool for adults and kids. The villa itself has shinny furnishings, furnished kitchen, nice bathrooms. Staff are friendly and were ever willing to please our needs e.g. taxi, sightseeing trips etc.
Location is walking distance to bus stop with easy access to beaches, night and Wednesday flea markets, churches, restaurants, pubs, etc.
We were three couples and each had a bed room/shower to ourselves, pretty spacious. In the mornings the local breadman would bring in fresh Goan Pao (local bread). We were dining out every evening even though there were ample cooking pots, pans, cutlery, crockery etc. Dining in Mapusa Market was at a coffee shop called Xaviers serving Goan dishes mainly, lovely shakes, chilled beers, nice food and fantastic prices. Brittos in Baga has nice food including souza lobos on Calangute beach.
9 White Square Nirvana, Demello Vaddo, Parra-Guirim Road, Guirim 403507, Bardez,Goa
In the tiny village of Darap, Dara Goan Village Retreat is a small, hidden homestay run by Shiva Gurung and his wife Radha, with a little help from their children. Darap clings to the foothills of Sikkim's eastern Himalaya in the shadow of Kanchenjunga, and although just a few miles down the road on the way to sacred Kechopari Lake, it is a million miles from the concrete hotels of Pelling's main drag.
Radha showed me how to make momos and Shiva suggested plenty of activities like cultural sight-seeing, bird watching, trekking, fishing and walking. But what made it unique for us was getting to know the local Lepcha and Limboo people in and around Darap. Shiva arranged for Purna, a young local student, to take us on a trek off the beaten track. His parents still live high in the valley in a 200-year-old mud and bamboo hut. We drank butter and salt tea, millet beer, rakshi – hooch made from rhododendrons or maize, pronounced 'roxy' – and creamy milk straight from the cow.
To get to Shiva and Radha's Shangri-la you must get out of the car and do a little hiking: climb a winding, near vertical stone path, and cross a wooden bridge over an ice cool mountain stream into a wide terraced garden. We stayed in one of the two simply built wooden chalets, each with en-suite shower room and wide veranda (complete with heavy rocking chair). The family welcomed us into their home, where we ate home-cooked meals and talked about the state of tourism in Sikkim and the history of the mountain tribes.
Namboo Road, Darap Viz, Pelling, Namboo Road
West District, Sikkim India
+91 9733085322/ +919775415450
Pelling Tourist Development Association:
A fabulous homestay just outside the centre of Agra, but a short autorickshaw ride from all the sights.
The Singh family have lived here for many years, and are genial hosts with a wealth of knowledge of the area. The property, originally built for British Army top brass, is cool and spacious, with spotlessly clean bedrooms equipped with everything a traveller needs, including ensuite bathrooms, ice cold A/C and a TV. Breakfast is plentiful, and supper can be provided.
The warmth of the welcome cannot be overstated, and even though we were only there for three days, we left feeling part of the family, as cliched as it may sound. Wholeheartedly recommended.
Stunning government hotel, with beautiful gardens and views all round. Rooms were large with two queen size beds, fridge and verandah that had a view to the highest mountain and trekkers delight - Saddle Peak. Good size bathroom with expensive tiled floor.
All this if you go during May when it was out of season but the weather still perfect, for 400 rupees (5.50 Pounds). I had the hotel to myself! Best bargain I've ever had.
Trips organised to the sumptuous islands of Ross and Smith, untouched gems, along with nightly walks to see the turtles.
Turtle Resort, Kalipur, North Andaman
Original tea planters' club. Stay in a planters villa, dine at the club, followed by a game of High Range Hazard in the billiard room (surrounded by big game trophies) or a hand of whist in the card room.
An authentic slice of life in the Raj.
Munnar, 685612, Kerala State, India
+ 91 04865 230253
Originally an old Haveli, the Jagat Niwas is a delight. A central courtyard with verandas in layers around it, with plants, and antiques. Bedrooms decorated in Rajasthani style, many with balconies overlooking the lake. You can recline in jarokhas to watch the sunset while deciding what to eat that evening in the renowned roof terrace restaurant. This restaurant is so popular with the locals, it is best to book in the morning. Staff helpful and always cheerful - they encouraged us to join them to watch the cricket which indicates the relaxed environment. The approach down Lal Ghat is also part of the charm. Very much old Udaipur and a short distance from the Palace complex.
This is a comfortable, affordable and eco-minded refuge from the demands of south India, on the edge of one of its most interesting cities. Built as a mini-palace for a Maharajah's mistress (with classic Raj era tall, cool rooms), the grounds were first converted into a film studio (with 50's motel style rooms), now all into a hotel, run charitably to benefit poorer local people. So you can feel all good about it all while sipping cocktails in the verandah, dining gracefully on the lawn after dusk, or sleeping mightily well in hand crafted beds under slow revolving ceiling fans. The city centre is a short rickshaw ride away, down a noisy road, back out in the busy world.
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