Working in Whistler for a season is a fantastic idea. I worked for the Westin Hotel on the front desk and I got paid a lot more than my friends who worked on the mountain. I also got tips, all meals while I was working, commission, and a severely discounted season pass. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a new experience.
Hoi An is a great place to get clothes made to measure. Choose something from the local designs on display, take along something you'd like copied or a photograph (shops usually keep a selection of Next catalogues and fashion magazines for inspiration!) and choose your fabric.
By the next day and for a few US dollars (I had a silk dress made for $12 and a suit for $20) you can get a whole new wardrobe made to measure, including shoes.
And if you overdo the shopping and run out of space in your bags, the local post office are experts in shipping parcels home.
There are over 100 tailors shops all around town - hotels and guesthouses can usually give recommendations.
A relaxed square overlooked by the Church of Santo Spirito, on the less crowded south side of the river. Any of the restaurants in the square will produce a satisfying and inexpensive meal. Makes the leisurely evening stroll away from the tourist traps well worth it.
Cross the Ponta a Santa Trinita. Head down the Via Maggio for about 5 minutes and take a right.
The Bed & Breakfast is located in Palazzo Agostini, also known as Palazzo dell’ Ussero, with its fifteenth century facade and remains of the ancient city walls dating back to before 1155, when Pisa was an important Maritime republic. The facade is late-Gothic which in the 1400s alternated with the Renaissance style.
The name of the building comes from the coffee rooms of Cafe dell’Ussero, historic meeting place founded on 1st September 1775. The cafe was previously an inn, the Locanda dell’Ussero. Famous and distinguished guests have been - Carlo Goldoni in 1744, Giacomo Casanova in 1760, Count Alfieri in 1785, Filippo Mazzei in 1792, Gioacchino Belli in 1829 and John Ruskin in 1840.
The Relais dell’ Ussero is on the right bank of the River Arno between the Ponte di Mezzo and Ponte Solferino bridges, in the historical centre of Pisa and the oldest part of town. The Palazzo della Sapienza and Palazzo del Rettorato of the University are 30 metres away, Piazza dei Cavalieri, where we find the Scuola Normale Superiore, at 250 metres. Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral, Baptistery and the famous leaning Tower is only 850 metres away.
It is in the historic centre of Pisa, 1 km from Pisa rail station, 1.5 kms (5 minutes) from Pisa Airport, 80 kms (50 minutes) from Florence airport, 20 kms (15 minutes) from Livorno port - all can be reached by taxi.
This place was absolutely fantastic with the type of service that really makes you feel at home. It has a great central location and loads of other features such as free internet, free national home phone calls and free CD burning! And the staff were very informative and helpful while at the same time very funny and quite charming.
Via Nazionale, 7, San Lorenzo Market, one block from central station
Basically, this place is a mecca for students, especially American ones. There's table footy, pool, probably some other bar games I've forgotten... and a very, very cheap happy 'hour' which lasts all night. The cocktails are particularly worth it, especially after a hard day of thinking about art/history/Italian grammar. Its location in the Santa Croce area means that you're near all the coolest places to go out too. Ahh, Loch Ness... Get messy with Nessy.
Via dei Benci 19r
Cheap and cheerful pizza and pasta restaurant on Stroud Green Road in Finsbury Park. Friendly people, massive pizzas and noisy as hell on weekend nights. Pizzas cost about seven quid. Avoid the horrible pub next door though.
131 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3PX; tel: 020 7263 2114;
Nearest tube: Finsbury park
Really, there is other food in Miraflores other than pizza.
Once place to try is Aventuras Marinas. They are one of the few cheapy local places that stay open until 9pm-ish. Especially good is the Ceviche Mixto, and the Aquaditas, a heady soup made with coriander and mixed seafood.
One more recommendation is the most perfect little lunch place at 180 Alcoflores (parallel to Av La Paz). It has no name, just a menu outside with 4 starters and 6 main courses at 6 Sol for the full meal, plus complementary lemongrass drink (the name escapes me). The food tastes like home cooking, and they use real stock for their soups and sauces. Dishes change daily, but don’t change much, so expect soups as starters and chicken, rice, and bean dishes for mains.
This is a gem of a place that is always packed by 1:30pm, so get there just after 12 if you can.
Aventuras Marinas is at 130 Jr. Manuel Bonilla, just round the corner from Pizza Hut.
A very long stretch of pure white sand and sparkling, azure sea make this beach a great place to relax while in Trinidad. Being fairly flat, the tide hardly goes in and out, so there is never a walk of more than a few paces from your towel to the sea. The sea is very calm – few or no waves, and very safe for kids as you have to wade out quite a way to get out of your depth – there are also lifeguards on the beach. You can rent paddle boats and canoes from Hotel Ancon.
There are only three or four hotels sharing the beach – and these are very spaced out, so you can find a spot to yourself quite easily. If you walk down to the bottom end of the beach there are very few people around – this is the where the locals come for their days out.
Note – there are no general facilities at this beach and all the hotels are inclusive, though it is easy to get talking to the beach guards, who will let you use their loungers for the day and fetch you drinks from the bar for a small fee (negotiate down from their first offer!). One of the hotels will let you eat from their lunch buffet, depending on which guard you ask. One of the hotels also has a shop, though it sells little more than ice-cream, crisps, biscuits and drinks.
Get a taxi from the centre of town, or wait for the beach bus which goes backwards and forwards several times a day (though not to a specific timetable!). There are always plenty of taxis waiting at the beach to take you back to town at the end of the day.
Just 50 metres from Plaza Mayor, this casa particular has a nice room with ensuite bathroom, aircon and 24hr hot water. Outside is a small patio where you can hear music from Casa de Musica. Lovely family and great Cuban food. Owner happy to help with tours.
Calle Simon Boliviar 504, Trinidad
tel: (01419) 2343
Rogelio and his wife are the warm and friendly hosts of this beautiful, colonial casa particular (B&B). Right in the centre of Trinidad old town, this 18th century house is filled with antiques and original features. Huge iron beds, original wooden floors and tall windows make it a truly romantic place to stay. From the roof terrace you can enjoy beautiful views over the rooftops and up to the mountains while watching the sun setting at an amazing speed over the horizon. Just 20 minutes by car or taxi to a palm-fringed, white sand beach, on one side of town and the jungle-covered mountains on the other, this casa is perfectly placed for exploring the best Trinidad has to offer. Book in advance as this place is very popular!
Simon Bolivar #312, Trinidad;
Staying at Casa Antigua gives you first-hand experience of how the Cubans live. Horatio and Marta run their “casa particular” (the Cuban version of a B&B) with a great deal of pride. They have managed to restore their 1940s villa, replacing once-lost original features, and have rescued their family's antique furniture to create a fascinating environment for their guests. With limited resources, they offer a warm welcome, good breakfast and tips and ideas for how to make the most of your stay in Cuba. Speaking excellent English, they are happy to talk about the history and politics of Cuba as well as recommending the best bars, restaurants and things to do in and around Havana. To get the best out of Cuba, stay with a family - it's an experience you'll never forget and much cheaper than staying in impersonal hotels.
The casa is in the district of Vedado, Havana;
These museums are worth a visit. Really enjoyed both and best of all - they are free entry!
Brighton Museum: Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, BN1 1EE
tel: + 44 (0)1273 290900;
Hove Museum: 19 New Church Road, Hove, BN3 4AB;
tel: 01273 290200;
Far Out Nepal is a small local trekking company that can organise treks, cultural trips or any kind of trip you would like to take in Nepal. They are really fantastic to deal with and on-the-ground arrangements are first class. My friend and I trekked to Everest base camp with them - two middle aged ladies - and they looked after us so well, to the point of providing hot water bottles when it got cold! They have now organised us a trip to Tibet, with a few days in the south of Nepal, a jungle adventure. Their prices are amazing, and even though your flights might cost a bit more to book independently, your trip will still be cheaper than going with another trekking company. I can highly recommend you contact Sunir in Kathmandu.
Singapore has a tremendous range of food and drink but the ColBar is a unique restaurant that is redolent of the colonial repast enjoyed by British ex-pats since it opened in 1948. It is run by Mrs Lim and is located in Portsdown, a quiet suburb with a pleasantly “arty” ambience.
The restaurant is a wooden-walled shed with school canteen tables, aluminium ashtrays and a concrete floor. Ceiling fans circulate the air affectionately and football team photos adorn the wall. It’s basic, and is all the better for that. The food is good Malay and Chinese but you can get the full British breakfast if required.
This is a much loved place that has already had one close call with the wrecking ball of progress. It was relocated lock, stock and wok a few years ago when an expressway was planned. The locals fought a rearguard action and the ColBar was saved. It doesn’t open on Mondays but is a fantastic place to relax away from the commercial bustle of Orchard Road and the Central Business District.
9A Whitchurch Road, off Portsdown Road
Because of the dual currency system in operation in Cuba, going out to the usual tourist haunts in La Habana Vieja can get really repetitive and they aren't the place to meet locals, simply because they don't earn pesos convertibles and therefore can't generally socialise in these places. Instead I'd recommend the malecon (the seafront promenade in La Habana) to anybody looking for an authentically Cuban experience. Get down there before sunset (which is spectacular in itself) with a bottle of rum and some friends, and watch the place take off on a Saturday night. The atmosphere is electric, there's music everywhere and you're guaranteed to meet some characters!! Not only is it a cheap way to socialise, but you won't be surrounded by tourists.
Along the seafront, La Habana.
For a taste of romantic Vieux Montreal, this is the place to stay. A converted 18th-century fur factory, the auberge’s huge rooms have thick stone walls, hardwood floors, marble baths and lots of antiques, and there’s an art gallery in the lobby. Atmospheric down to the freshly-baked croissants.
Rooms from C$115 a night
Rue St Paul
Tel: + 842 2634
Free (although donations are encouraged and special shows cost) art gallery just west of downtown. Includes artefacts, textiles, and many schools of paintings, with good groups of Canadian and Quebecois pieces.
Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion
: 1380 Sherbrooke Street West;
Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion and Liliane and David M. Stewart Pavilion: 1379 Sherbrooke Street Pavilion;
tel: (514) 285-2000;
This is a set of two little Chilean restaurants that have particularly good empanadas. Many varieties, including several delicious vegetarian options. Also serves nachos, quesadillas, tacos, and burritos - quality ingredients and sauces.
152 Napoléon; tel: (514) 286-6075;
64 Marie-Anne W; tel: (514) 982-9212
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