Mention South Shields and the last thing that comes to mind is spectacular coastal scenery which can be viewed from this bar on the beach. The exterior of the bar might be viewed as a blight on the view, with its concrete facade and brick built lift-shaft in front of the cliff face. But the interior is an amazing grotto - with splendid views of the beach and rock formations from the widows.
Tyne & Wear.
Situated at the mouth of a spectacular gorge and set in a tranquil olive grove. This spotless hostel lends itself to long spring sojourns for the intrepid walker or beach lover alike.
Eight person spacious dorms all with a patio, table and chairs surround a grass covered communal area with ample shade.
The manager is on hand to take care of simple needs like internet access, bottles of local wine and ice cold Mythos beers. Breakfast is a simple and cheap affair but the community spirit is what makes the hostel buzz.
Guests come from all over the world and some stay months or even the whole season to enjoy the local beaches and simple life that Plakias affords.
A world away from the resorts of the north the Plakias youth hostel gives much in return for the thoughtful and social traveller.
Plakias can be reached by bus from most major towns in the north of Crete.
Mirthios 74060, Rethymno, Crete, Greece
Tel. +30 28320 32118
book on reservations.bookhostels.com/psacreative.com/hostel.php?HostelNumber=10176
That is how King James described the coastline of the East Neuk of Fife. For two weekends, the 6-7th and 13th-14th June, thirty artists in the area open the doors of their studios to the public. Although many are painters, attracted by its superb scenery and wonderful skies, there are also ceramicists, a weaver, a textile artist and a jeweller. There is also an exhibition of the artists’ work at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews from 27th May until 19th June.
An hours drive from Edinburgh, twenty minutes from St Andrews
An illustrated brochure with maps can be down-loaded from www.eastneukopenstudios.org, or telephone 01333 730249
It is said that New Yorkers are a driven lot, but a large percentage of us are driven because we do not know how to drive. There is no need in this city to operate a car - there is excellent public transport at half the price of London. And yet New Yorkers are among the best-travelled people in the world. Sometimes we hire a car and driver, but our independent and sociable natures often inspire us to do what the locals do.
I am a regular visitor to Los Angeles and have figured out how to enjoy much of the area without a car. For a first-time or repeat visitor, my advice is to base yourself in Santa Monica. It has much of the iconic LA topography: sunsets on the Pacific Ocean; a sandy beach full of people who are in much too good condition; wandering “street” characters of every stripe; the occasional movie star sighting; one of the best outdoor food markets in America; superb restaurants; and, above all, the sense that this could not be anywhere else in the world but the LA we envision. All that is missing is Disneyland and that can be reached if one must.
My hotel of choice is the Georgian. It dates back to the 1930s and was preferred by more than a few movie stars for a romantic getaway. The building retains its elegant old bones but has been smartly updated. There are delicious breakfasts based on local ingredients, bracing ocean air, and those sunsets. The elegant Merigot hotel is another choice and its Cezanne restaurant offers many dishes based on local ingredients. I love the fish dishes there. Within three blocks of the Georgian Hotel are at least 50 restaurants, cinemas with 12 screens showing the latest hits and important independent films, and even a pub popular with British ex-pats. It is right across the street from the ocean and I would try to get in a swim every day.
You can rent a bicycle and cover a lot of local terrain. Santa Monica also has a superb local bus system as well as limited-stop long distance buses that go to Beverly Hills and downtown LA. Selective use of taxis can take you places where buses do not reach. The two I would recommend are both part of the J. Paul Getty Museum (www.getty.edu/museum), for which reservations are required to attend. The Getty Villa, straight up the Pacific Coast Highway, holds a superb collection of Greco-Roman art in an idyllic setting. It is a short trip from the Georgian Hotel. A bit further, and probably the most expensive transport (about $40) you will incur, is the Getty Museum, an omnium gatherum of paintings, sculpture, drawings and photographs. The Getty has one of the best educational initiatives of any museum in America. It also has good eating facilities, so I tend to make the visit a full day.
And what do I do if I need or want to go further afield? New Yorkers are resourceful and also friendly. I tend to befriend residents of LA, almost all of whom own a car and are willing to give me a lift. In exchange, I invite them for drinks on the terrace of the Georgian just in time for sunset over the Pacific.
Georgian Hotel: 1415 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401 Tel: 1-310/395-9945 Fax: 1-310/451-3374
Warm & friendly B&B, incredibly helpful staff and reasonable at £30pppn - breakfasts are delicious and varied. Walk through a forest at the end of the road to get to the powdery sandy beach or hop on a train to the new forest for a walk or bike ride (rentals at Brockenhurst station starting from £9 for an afternoon bike ride)
I stayed at this seaside cottage in Boulmer, Northumberland last year. There's a pub with good sea food down the road and the beaches are empty. My favorite day? Crab sandwiches at Craster followed by a walk along the coast to Dunstanburgh castle. Bliss.
Near Alnwick in Northumberland
For a road trip to remember ditch the car and try cycling the Nullarbor, Australia. East to west or west to east, it doesn’t matter, the wind will always be in your face and the flies will be lapping up the sweat. Lets not forget the March flies biting your bum as you labour through the sand hills near Yalata. The upside? Camping under a star spangled expanse of sky in the middle of nowhere with only the dingoes for company, waking up to a mob of roos bounding past your head, whale watching from the immense Nullarbor cliffs, sticky date pudding at Nundroo roadhouse, beachcombing along the deserted beach at Eucla, complete strangers stopping to offer you a cold drink, the couple who cooked us a 3 course meal in their caravan, complete with liqueurs and finally the sense of achievement when you hit ‘civilisation’ at the end of your 1300km pedal. Would we do it again? You betcha!
A diverse Caribbean universe: more than a dozen isles, each a world of its own, like satellites orbiting the double suns that are Grande Terre and Basse Terre. These two islands make up the "mainland" of Guadeloupe, two butterfly wings, divided only by a narrow channel, but completely unlike one another. In the east, on Grande Terre, sugar plantations dominate the flat terrain. Mountainous Basse Terre in the west plunges from the 1500m high peak of the Soufriere volcano down to the turquoise blue Caribbean Sea below: blanketed in dense rainforest, it has gorgeous golden beaches in the north, and natural wonders in the south, like the sea-bed hot springs in the Jacques Cousteau diving area
I refuse to disclose the joys of the Hotel Romvi in Tolon. (Damn.) The fact that it is small, family run and on the beach is something I do not wish to share with worldwide Guardian readers because you'll all be there next year filling the sunbeds two steps from the restaurant which serves great home-cooked food.(Done it again - damn.) I'm booking now before you get there. The fact that the town can be ignored as you sip ouzo with your feet in the sea is an even greater asset.
It's only 30 mins from Epidaurus, Mycenae and twenty by boat from Napflion.
SO DON'T GO!
Try Sunvil Travel
This is a little beach which can only be reached down a steep, perhaps impossible slope or by boat.
But it is perfect, one little taverna which washes its fresh fish in the sea. A beach with the purest sand and if you are lucky the most beautiful marble pebbles.
So it is for swimming, lazing and off course eating.
Need I say more ...
Take the only island bus, you will know what I mean when you get to Skiathos. Get off at stop 13 and follow the road round the Cape to the furthest point which is about half a kilometre then down the cliff to the beach. Don't worry I have seen the most beautiful legs tricking down in flip flops.
If you try, you can still find the authentic Cyclades on some of the small islands – calm, without mass tourism or too many cars. One such island is Kimolos, in the Western Cyclades.
In the "Horio", the main town of the island, the white-washed walls of the houses form the 16th century Kimolos Castle.
One of these houses has recently been renovated to provide independent self-catering accommodation for up to six people.
You can also include a skippered 51 foot sailing yacht as part of your holiday.
Villa Glyfada is just what you want if you pick Paxos as your Greek island destination: a good balance of unspoilt sights and three small port towns with plenty of small restaurants and evening bars.
In the remote olive grove hills, Villa Glyfada is hidden amongst the big old olive trees, some even centuries old.
Having candle lit BBQ dinners on the verandah with a view over the secular olive groves and deep blue sea is unforgettable.
It was difficlut to stop reading on the wooden porch swing and deck chairs to meander down through the trees to the hidden beach.
Nicely furnished and well equiped, this villa has everything you need to feel at home. Even a couple of friendly Greek cats looking for some attention.
Very good value for the price. And while you are there don't forget a day trip to gorgeous Anti Paxos.
100 Euros per night for 2p renting the house,and 130 Euros per night for 4p.
Paxos,Ionian Islands in Greece
Phone: 0030 2662 0 32589 or 0030 697 92 66 706
It is a pretty village in Mani that combines crystalline waters and distant mountains from where you get beautiful sunsets of the Messinian Gulf. Gorgeous beaches (Ritsa, Salio,Limanaki, Kalamitsi, Foneas, Delfinia,Kalogria, Stoupa), amazing food (restaurant Elies is simply great), friendly people and nice bars.
It is in the Southern Peloponnese. Nearest station is Kalamata. The restaurant Elies is at Ritsa.
Literally anywhere on the south west coast of Crete; a mix of bustling little ferry 'ports' (Sfakia, Ag. Roumeli etc.), bijou mini-beach resorts (Loutro), deserted beaches with nearby basic rooms and authentic tavernas (Licos, Phoenix). Just sit back and relax watching the crazy hordes head off to the Samaria Gorge and guessing which ones will be half dead by the other end having never walked to the supermarket let alone tackled a challenging lengthy hike wearing flip flops!
Start off on the harbour side at Chorio Sfakion (Sfakai) but be sure to buy ferry tickets from the office near the bus stop first.
Vassiliki is a quaint fishing village on the southern coast of the Ionian island of Lefkada. Excellent restaurants line the harbour front where diners can enjoy their meals while watching local fisherman tending their boats. There are many small B&Bs or flats to choose from and from which you can explore the surrounding area. It is an easy drive to the island's dramatic west coast beaches or the local winery. There are also several isloated beaches within walking distance from the village. The bay is a popular wind-surfing spot in the summer.
Vassiliki is on the west coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea. It is only 5 1/2 hours from Athens by car, or 45 minutes from the closest airport at Preveza.
Amathia is an uninhabited island off the coast of the larger island of Kassos in the Dodecanese. A local boat will take you to Amathia where you will find deserted beaches, clear waters and, usually, very few othewr people. It is a tranquil place where a day passes like a dream. Take food and water with you.
There are flights from Athens to Kassos via Rhodes, or ferries from Piraeus,Crete and Rhodes.
Hotel Andreas on Agistri. This is a really friendly place for couples and families who don't want the usual hotel package with entertainment et al. The best recommedation for Agistri is that it's where the Greeks go for holidays! We love the place. Also known as the best-kept secret in the Saronic Islands, only an hour and a half by catamaran from Piraeus.
Mykonos does have the reputation for being a party island but if you are looking for a serious bit of R&R, head to Ostraco Suites. Situated on a hilltop just above the hustle and bustle of Mykonos town, this is a fantastic place to stay. We were met at the airport by one of the staff and welcomed with an upgrade on arrival to a suite for a few nights which was heaven! Rooms are really luxurious and the breakfasts are served on the veranda - fresh fruit, home baked breads and so on - the list goes on. If you do feel like heading into the lively town centre, try Interni restaurant, an incredible setting tucked away in the old town and delicious food/cocktails. One other tip, Ostraco Suites will organise jeep hire for you - we hired one for a few days to explore the island and stumbled across beautiful Fokos beach, deserted with a huge stretch of white sand (just remember to take your own picnic/water etc as there are no bars or kiosks nearby, just one taverna on the beach only open from 1-7pm!)
The island of Ikaria feels off the beaten track in Greece. It is a mountainous island, near Samos in the eastern Aegean with some beautiful beaches. You need your own transport as buses are almost non-existent and when you are away from the main roads you often find yourself driving on dirt roads. Ikaria is a bit of a voyage of discovery. For me, a special place is to be found near the small village of Arethusa, half way up a mountain side, with a wonderful view of the sea – here you find the Ikarian Centre, where you can stay, and if you wish, join a Greek language course. I stayed there for 2 weeks in 2008 and it felt like I was part of a small community for a couple of weeks; a world away from busy urban life and busy tourism. We learnt some Greek, and we learnt about the island, and Greece; we went hiking, had a cooking lesson, learnt some Greek dances and had plenty of time left over to swim and explore the local tavernas.
For those of you who need to pinch the pennies this year, I'll let you in on a little tip.
The full-on party resort of Laganas in Zante is often top of the list for cheap and cheerful package bargains with tour operators, but it is also a little too hectic and youthful for those of us who are after a relaxing break away from it all.
However if you want to take advantage of low prices and have a civilised holiday experience simply take a short and scenic walk west along the beach, around a headland and past a tiny islet, to discover a small, welcoming and attractive village with its own beautiful beach and a much more authentic feel.
An uninhabited island called Marathonisi, or Turtle Island, lies opposite Aghios Sostis' bay and is named after the creature its shape resembles - the Loggerhead turtles that nest their eggs on the pretty beaches surrounding the island. The rural setting of Aghios Sostis is set against the peaceful countryside of olive groves and pine trees and an imposing mountain backdrop.
If you want to get out and about in Zante there is plenty to see and do: Navagio (Smugglers) Cove with its impressive white cliffs and pale sands is a sight to behold; the Blue Caves, discovered in 1897, are breathtaking for snorkelers and sightseers alike; the Byzantine and Venetian capital of Zante, Zante Town, is the island's cultural and commercial centre with many shops, museums and churches; and last but not least, there are many tiny and traditional mountain villages to be explored.
So for a credit crunching holiday - stay in Laganas but holiday in Aghios Sostis!
Aghios Sostis, Laganas Bay, Zante, Greece.
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