My wife and I stayed two weeks in Lecce staying at La Piazzetta B&B. Was a great choice, lovely accommodation in very central location and the staff were really helpful and pleasant. The room was clean and well appointed, and the bed comfortable and we had daily breakfast served in-room at an agreed time. The room was cleaned every two days, we had fresh towels every two days and bedding every three days. We were able to walk from the hotel to many sights. The area around is packed with restaurants, which some are quite cheap, and Lecce's buzzing night life is next door. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. It's not a luxury hotel but is perfect if you are looking for somewhere nice to sleep at an affordable price.
Take a trip on one of the many river boats which take off from stops along the River Danube, cost about 600HUF about £2.00. You can either stay on, take in the history of the nine bridges each with their own story. Or you can go up to Óbudai Island or Margaret Island both with breathtaking gardens.
Along the River Danube
As the name suggests, these are essentially drinking establishments set up in disused buildings, often in the court yards of a derelict apartment blocks. Renowned for their cheap beer, hip music and interesting surroundings - it's definitely worth taking the time out to hunt down one of these bars.
In the backstreets of Budapest
An adorable hostel awash with tiny cool details and cute things. I stayed at Friends on Griboedova, but they have some other location in the center as well – somewhere near Nevsky prospect and on Vosstania street. The one on Griboedova is clean, cosy and very comfortable. The staff are really friendly, they just act as friends – no wonder, since they work at “Friends hostel”. Yes, the famous TV show has something to do with the interior design – brick walls, board games, bicycles and homely atmosphere. Staff speak very good English and they help you very good. They have dorms and privates. Shared bathrooms, of course. Lots of biscuits, free tea & WIFI. I really recommend Friends hostel to anyone.
An erect willy is a part of the chef's special in Sighişoara's smartest dinery. Made from pork meatloaf, it salutes Vlad the Impaler, the Translyvanian hero whose birthplace is just around the corner. The town is the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe, old MittelEurope alive and well in Transylvania. The impressive Tolkienesque clock-tower houses a good museum. Climb to the top to gaze down on the pan-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and ancient covered walkways that link nine defensive guild towers. And the willy was delicious, thank you for asking.
The place to stay in Sighisoara is the Casa cu Cerb - the name translates as the Stag House and the hotel is easy to find: on the front of the building there's a painted rearing stag, complete with real antlers that project into the small main square.
A face behind reception may look familiar; this is where Princes Charles has stayed on trips to the area. HRH is apparently related to Vlad the Impaler but you wouldn't guess, a friendly autographed 'Charles' portrait welcomes you to Translyvania. Ask for a room overlooking the square: you can watch the Transylvanian world go by, see and hear the clock-tower, listen to the echoing chacks of jackdaws, and almost don't need to leave your room. The top floor rooms are the best value.
The hotel is not quite what it seems, dig a little deeper to discover that in 2001 it was restored to an extremely high standard (a traditional wooden staircase is particularly superb) by the Messerschmitt Foundation www.schloss-anras.com/messerschmitt_eng.html. Established by Willy Messerschmitt it is dedicated to preserving the best of German architecture. The link between Germany and Transylvania, if you're wondering, is that the region was formerly peopled by the Saxons, their churches and villages remain today. (You should also know for politeness at least, that until the first world war Translyvania was very much Hungarian and for many, still is.)
Two must-see-dos (as well as the pork willy) in Sighişoara are a) a walk up the covered walkway (protection against winter snow) to the defensive church and graveyard at the top of the hill. An old horse-drawn hearse parked round the back adds atmosphere, as if it were needed. Then b) is a little pizzaria, San Gennaro, near the main square. Baked in front of your eyes, the pizzas are thin and fresh and delicious and costed us two euros each. There's a garden at the back to enjoy them with a beer if the weather's good.
To aid in creating a sustainable new Translyvanian rural economy Prince Charles bought a couple of farmhouses and converted them into self-catering accommodation. These are managed for HRH by Count Kalnoky www.transylvaniancastle.com/kalnoky/kalnoky.htmlwho who also welcomes guests to his own estate in Miklósvár - a typically Translyvanian agrarian village. We stayed there in a 'gingerbread' cottage with maize cobs hanging under the eaves. Meals including breakfast are usually served al fresco under a wonderful grapevine-covered loggia, or in the evening in a very atmospheric ancient dining room (think dark night, Dracula, flickering candles, intriguing fellow guests, Dracula ...)
The last stronghold of the European Wolf is Translyvania; there are an estimated 3000 still roaming the forests, more than the rest of Europe combined. There are also brown bears and lynx. Count Kalnoky organises guided nature trips into the woods and forests. We first met sheep, with their shepherd, and our guide issued a sheepdog cautionary - speak softly and carry a big stick (you may look like a shepherd). The dogs are large and can need watching, their role is, after all, fighting wolves and bears.
We found ammonites in a forest stream, saw really beautiful insects, and picked and ate delicous wild raspberries with our picnic which included the ubiquitous strong plum spirit. This was enjoyed in a meadow alive with grasshoppers and birdsong. The raspberries you also see being sold at the roadside by gypsy women and girls along with baskets of some luminously yellow fungi. In the middle of nowhere on a wooded hill we came across an American archaelogy professor plus students excavating a Hunnish 4th century settlement. But the very best came last, as we crossed a stream on the way back, there glistening in the mud were the very recently formed spoor of a large brown bear.
Casa Cu Cerb
Str. Scolii, 1, Sighisoara, Mures, 545400
+40 265 774625
Google map: bit.ly/WOXqd8
The Hotel Sighisoara is a good hotel next to the square with a separate outdoor restaurant with good quality food where the aforementioned chef's special is good value, five or six meats served on large wooden board. A meal to remember. www.sighisoarahotels.ro/
Pizzeria San Gennaro - just opposite the Casa Cu Cerb. Baked to order delicious thin pizza, garden in the rear. Was 2 euro for an eat-in pizza.
Cycle away the winter cobwebs in the Brecon Beacons!
Park in the village of Talybont on Usk, where you can start and finish at the White Hart or Star pubs. One has a bunkhouse and the other a B&B and restaurant open through the winter; both have great beers and good food.
Cross the canal by the footbridge then cycle north on the Taff trail which begins with a long climb alongside the Talybont reservoir. you will see the high peaks ahead of you to the left. You then pass through Talybont on Usk and Taf Fechan forests, before crossing a B-road leading to a fantastic climb up stone tracks to the Cwm Cynwyn pass as the base of Cribyn at an altitude of nearly 2000ft. On a clear day the views are stupendous and you may surprise a few walkers, fell-runners and sheep.
The descent is very technical with huge boulders and terrifying drops coming down the other side before the surface improves to a fast tarmac descent into LLanfrynach, where there's a pub for a well-earned pint, before following the roads back to Talybont.
Talybont on Usk village:
White Hart Inn:
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7JD
Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys LD3 7YX
Google map: bit.ly/UILn0F
If you want to have a great time in Barcelona, you need to meet J. and M. They are so knowledgeable about the city and they're friendly and helpful! The location of their apartment is beyond perfect. We literally walked to Las Ramblas in five minutes; the Catalunya metro stop was another five minute walk and it takes you evrywhere. We went to the Gothic Quarter in seven minutes - all you do is cross the Las Ramblas main street and you're there. The beach was a short 15 minute stroll. How much better can it get? I can't get over how wonderful the location was! When I look for places to stay, I'm really picky about cleanliness. Their apartment was above and beyond - extremely clean and chic. The personal bathroom was spotless! To be honest, that room is worth way more than what they are charging and we were so lucky to stumble upon them. For anyone going to Barcelona, this is the only place I would recommend.
By journeying as far north-west as you can on the British mainland you will arrive at the village of Durness and on its western edge is the magnificent beach of Balnakeil Bay – which itself is but part of the fascinating promontory of Farhaid Head. Facing westward towards Cape Wrath and the towering sea-cliffs of Clo Mor, the beach and extensive sand dunes are wonderfully devoid of any detracting 'tourist infrastructure'; so this will appeal to the more active/outdoor visitor. The nearby rocky shoreline abounds with a great diversity of sea-birds - Puffins, Terns, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Gannets. The underwater scenery is equally mesmerising and the clarity of the water compares with the Caribbean. For good measure, don't miss a visit to the massive Smoo Cave on the eastern seashore of Durness. Accommodation in Durness includes the Youth Hostel (SYHA) and the Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse.
With low-cost flights going to Zadar, just a short taxi ride from Pakostane, this has to be one of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts in Europe. Pine Beach resort has everything an ordinary all-inclusive has, but the prices are amazingly low because the accommodation comprises Polynesian-style thatched beach hut villas. True, there's no electricity inside these simple huts, but they are quirky and refreshingly close to nature. Individual huts are scattered throughout the resort's pine forest leading down to one of the best beaches in the area, 1km long. Activities like sailing and kayaking are all free and the food is good, served under the pine trees. Every villa is simply furnished with toilet facilities no more than 30 metres away, and all overlook the sea. Perfect as you can enjoy all the benefits of all-inclusive without selling your soul.
Pakoštane d.d., Brune Bušića 45, 23211, HR - Pakoštane
+385 (0)23 250 961
Portifino is much beloved of the celebrity (starting with Truman Capote and Guy de Maupassant), jet set and well preserved crowd. In summer it must be hell (50 euros just to park) and single track coast roads with very confident bus drivers. But in winter (even December) it was heaven: bright sunshine, enough warmth to fling the windows open and gaze at the bright turquoise Ligunan Mediterranean sea. We walked the ancient cliff paths (the coasts used to be cut off to cars till decades ago and the town still is car free) hardly meeting anyone gazing at the endless views. It is an almost surreal cute seaside town - and very close to the recent unesco heritage site of ' five villages/cinque terre' with its network of 15th century footpaths and grapes harvested by boats because the cliffs are so steep. But our bargain tip: We loved it all the more because we booked a luxury four-star hotel (which in high season is 500 euros) for the princely sum of 58 euros (including an extensive lazy breakfast in the sunshine and a check out at 12) , on a late booking website. Domina Home Piccola has a private beach, wonderful views, lovely staff and a footpath direct to the harbour. It is closely located next to Hotel Splendido, the hot spot of Portfino at a constant 600 plus euros. We could not believe our luck and spent the day wandering up to the old church in the national park that backs onto the village. However be warned and don't visit Restaurant Delfino, we nearly lost our savings on the hotel room by paying a not advertised cover charge plus service charge. Avoid Avoid.
What it lacks in creature comforts, this small, friendly campsite makes up for in stunning scenery and a warm welcome. Practically on the Pembrokeshire coastal path, it is a short walk to the nearest beach and there is a gorgeous, reasonable but not overlong family walk round Dinas Island from one beach to the next. Why not order fresh bread and Welsh cakes from the farmhouse for your picnic? Delicious. This is our top tip for a budget beach holiday: camping in a farm field, five minute walk to some sand and bathing quality sea, national park coastline walks, short drives to larger beaches with more amenities and much quieter than Cornwall or Devon: plenty of sand space even in school hols.
For a budget beach holiday with great scenery and atmosphere, try YHA Treyarnon in Cornwall. Accommodation suitable for families, individuals or groups, and great value meals to be had in the bar-style dining room – or you can self-cater. Youth hostel rates, even for ensuite rooms, compare favourably with those for B&B. The youth hostel is situated right on the cliff above the beach, a classic surfing beach with life guard, but also good for bucket and spade stuff, and there are rock pools for paddling/swimming in when the tide is out. The afternoon light is amazing. Other beaches nearby.
Widemouth Bay is quintessential English seaside. A huge expanse of sea and sand welcomes you as you drive into the bay. The Bay View Inn is a great, friendly pub/restaurant and has good reasonably priced rooms, including family rooms with DVD players, comfy beds and terraces overlooking the ocean. It's a popular place for the locals and gets busy but at 11PM all goes quiet and a good night's sleep can be had with just the sound of waves to help you drop off. The Bay has a surf school, local shop selling fresh seafood, good cafe on the beach and a charming old-fashioned 50's fresh fish and chip van for cheap and cheerful evening suppers.
With three young, energetic children finding cheap accommodation by the sea with sunshine can be tricky. Last Easter we had a fantastic break over the river from Porto, in the lesser known Vila Nova de Gaia. We stayed in a family room at welcoming Hotel Davilina, next to a tram stop which took us into Porto, or more importantly, straight to beautiful white sandy beaches! Stop at Miramar to see the church in the sea, Igreja do Senor da Pedro, then have lunch at the beach cafe before strolling one tram stop along the boardwalk to the village. Then head back into town, for a pastel de nata and glass of something Portuguese at one of the friendly local cafes and bars.
The cheapest Michelin starred food in the world at Tim Ho Wan's restaurant in Mongkok, Kowloon may not be a secret - you will be able to identify the small restaurant by the queue outside - but what I did discover this year was that you could get takeaway. The pleasure I took in walking past all the outraged queuing tourists to pick up my freshly baked pork buns was only topped by the pleasure of sitting by the side of the road eating the delicacy.
2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mong Kok
Flat 8, Ground Floor, Phase 2, Tsui Yuen, Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa St
+852 2332 2896
Google map: bit.ly/X010Bv
A tiny crescent shaped strip of perfect white sand on Indonesia's most remote island right off the tip of the country. You will find almost no tourists here, quite a few turtles and the snorkelling and diving are second to none. Crystal clear waters, an abundance of marine life and warm tropical temperatures. There is virtually no accommodation on Pulau Weh so be prepared to book in advance if you can for one of the handful of places available.
Pulau Weh, Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia
I spent with my husband four nights in Muhlisbey Hotel. On arrival we were offered free tea, water or coffee. Front desk staff gave us all the information we were looking for and took excellent care about our needs all the time. The room was really small but you are not here to stay in the room! They were very clean and tidy, furniture and equipment is new, hotel was fully restored and open in last month. The location is just in the heart of old Istanbul city. It takes only five minutes walk to Blue Mosque as well as Hagia Sofia. It is the perfect base point for exploring Istanbul due to the tram, bus and Orient Express connection. I would recommend Muhlisbey Hotel to all who would like to have value for their money! You will feel really welcome there!
This "département" (county) allows you to travel anywhere on long distance bus for just 1€. So you can travel from Perpignan to the ski slopes or to visit the excellent Modern Art Museum in Ceret.
They are also running tests for local trains for 1€ as well.
It is a very clean hostel with private rooms with their own bathroom. We had a triple room with bathroom for 240 RMB. The staff are friendly and there is always lots going on. You can book tours through the hostel to see the Terracotta Warriors or Han Yang Lee museum which is smaller but much quieter but in a beautiful setting. You can buy western food here or try local Chinese restaurants nearby for a quarter of the price.
As its name suggests, simple and homely Koldunine specialises in koldunai, ravioli-like dumplings which are basically the Lithuanian version of Polish pierogi or Russian pelmeni. I popped in for lunch and tried koldunai filled with potato, which were much tastier than they sound. The service was quick and friendly, and if I had more time in Vilnius, I would have definitely gone back. Koldunai is not a gourmet restaurant, but it’s a good option for lunch or when you’ve built up an appetite after sightseeing. The food is tasty and authentic, and doesn’t cost much either.
Savičiaus g. 6,
+370 679 26259
Google map: bit.ly/U5X4gW
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