Beirut and Lebanon as a whole is a fantastic destination, and I simply can't recommend the place enough! Beirut itself is like a phoenix trying to recover and find itself again, and thankfully succeeding.
There is a relaxed and cosmopolitan atmosphere wherever you travel in the city. The downtown area has had some serious re-development and looks a bit too new and clean, but where else will you be able to find old churches, a mosque that's only six months old, fancy bars and shops that wouldn't look out of place in Bond Street, all side by side? Although, take a closer look down the road and you will still see bullet holes and the scars of being attacked, (which is precisely why the re-development has been able to occur).
The best way to get around is in a shared taxi, which will cost about £1 to go around the city or £5 to travel to must other places in Lebanon. Do not, however, catch a taxi from the airport as these are ridiculously expensive; start to walk out of the airport and you will get stopped by a taxi where you will get one for a much better price. Travelling elsewhere though is extremely easy as Lebanon is so small everywhere is a short day trip away. I only had time to visit Balbeek, and to have entire ancient city practically to yourself is well worth the trip. Driving there is certainly an experience, as road rules simply don't exist, but that just adds to the charm.
Lebanon is also incredibly cheap and the people the most genuinely welcoming and happy to see you that I have ever come across in my travels. It's also very safe, so whatever you hear about Lebanon in the news, don't let that cloud your judgement. The place certainly deserves more people visiting it (although I quite like being pretty much the only tourist).
The museum's name speaks for itself I think. Basically it's guided small tours around re-created tenement rooms. Really worth a visit. If you've been to the Dennis Severs house in London you'll get the idea.
Although it sits dauntingly high above the little town, the ruined castle is a straightforward, rocky, if tiring, 30-minute walk from the centre.
The path is fairly simple to follow - if in doubt, look for the ankle-level lights that mark the way. At the summit, you can scramble around the ruins and take in the view of Tilos's central plain and surrounding mountains, as well as the beaches at Plaka and Agios Antonios.
Arriving from Livadia, you may see a sign directing you. Failing that, just walk back along the road from the central bus stop.
We have just been on a great tour of South Africa and had a specialist guide take us around the site of the Battle of Isandlwana (which happened in 1879) and the incredible defence of the Hospital at Rorkes Drift. Anthony Coleman was our guide and was booked through Prana Holidays. Highly recommended.
This beautiful 17th century monastery is a hit with the tour buses, but even with the crowds it's a wonderful diversion from the beach, and a great way to see the entire island unfold from your car window as you climb Corfu's hills.
Perched high on a headland and surrounded by wild flowers, the orange buildings are wonderfully ornate inside, and you can look at the famous ceiling carving of the ‘Tree of Life’.
Be sure to cover your shoulders or wear respectable clothing, no matter how intense the summer heat!
Above the beach resort Paleokastritsa
A Greek Ghost town (or village), Old Perithia was built in Byzantine times, and is hidden in the hills of Corfu.
This mountain village was once the bustling home to 1,500 people, but today about six people live here, and the rest of the village is a tangle of crumbling stone walls and deserted squares.
An interesting insight into how tourism has affected the island - as the original villagers fled to the coastal resorts for jobs, leaving their olive groves behind.
We wandered around for a few hours in amazement at all the empty houses, and then cooled off in one of the remaining tavernas.
An eerie afternoon, but a refreshing change from our busy resort!
Old Perithia, off the main road between Kassiopi and Acharavi.
These guys have a walking tour of San Luis Obispo that includes the disgusting (but must see) Bubble Gum Alley, the old Mission and historic Chinatown.
And the guide was great about suggesting local places to eat that tourists might not normally find.
A cobbled path uphill from the port town to the hilltop Monastery, via the Convent of the Apocalypse. Shaded in parts, it's not too taxing, although best avoided in the midday heat.
The higher you go, the better the views get - you can easily make out nearby islands, approaching cruise ships and abandoned windmills.
About a kilometre out of Skala, along the Chora road (it's signposted)
What is it? It's a cross between a fun house, museum and a shop.
This place in Melbourne is full of collectables, fossils, old antiques, old scientific curios, natural history items (taxidermy anyone?) and even has a perfume library. Amazing, crazy, eclectic, eccentric ... that's Wunderkammer!
Channel your inner Lady Macbeth for less in this bargain castle in the Scottish highlands. It was built for the Duchess of Sutherland, and even housed royalty, but now you’ll find backpackers and other budget travelers staying in the historic halls. The Castle overlooks the River Kyle and hills of rugged heather, and is decorated with an opulent art collection and gallery of marble statues. We rented a mountain bike and went for long country walks, before returning to our ‘manor’ for a game of pool and a meal fit for a king in the restaurant. Rumours of a castle ghost add a gothic chill to your stay, but luckily we didn’t come across any spooks!
Carbisdale Castle, Culrain, Sutherland, IV24 3DP
0870 004 1109
Not everyone wants to be in the city centre and this hotel is only about a 15 min bus ride to Princes St. Its main advantage is that it is right by the Braid Hills Golf course (and the hotel has special green fees), is very near the main bus routes, is not far from one of Europe's largest artificial ski slopes and it is also one of the hotels nearest to Rosslyn Chapel. They have plenty of free parking and its bistro has great views across the city.
Shannon Harbour is a delight, where the river and canal meet. A haven for fisherfolk but just a joy. It is being 'improved' (hopefully not too much) but the old bonded warehouses still stand in grand dilapidation.
The Harbour Master's House is now a B&B of top quality and Grainne serves up the best (and biggest) Irish breakfast.
Great place, great people .
The Harbour Masters House,
One of the most beautiful villages in France and one of the least tourist-infested. Medieval streets, an abbey and a river with paddling place. Fabulous walking all round (GR36).
In the Corbieres hills, south of Lezignan.
You don't need to pay for an organised trip to Auschwitz. Catch the PKS-Oswiecim bus which leaves from the lower floor of the bus station behind the railway station. Ask at the ticket office if you can't find it. Pay on the bus (about 18zl for a return ticket). The bus is slightly larger than a minibus and when I went it was driven fast on the bumpy roads, so be warned if you suffer from travel sickness! It picks up and drops off along the route, but it is obvious when you arrive outside the Auschwitz camp gates and the driver announced it on my trip. Your ticket has return times printed on the back and the bus picks up outside the gates where it drops off. Journey takes about 1hr.20mins. Frequency of trip varies but is about twice an hour during the main part of the day. You don't need a guided tour of the camp. Buy a small booklet (c.7zl) and read the comprehensive display boards. Entrance is free. Allow two or three hours for your visit.
Bus station on ul.Bosacka behind railway station.
It is a small chateau in Picardie,with a beautiful garden attached to it. The French owners also do chambres d'hotes, so you get to stay in a characterful real chateau. Pick the chambre du potager which has a view over the beautiful garden.
It is off the big A28 at Neufchatel-en-Bray along the A29 to the junction of D1015. Digeon is the pretty villege it is in. It is NW of Grandvilliers and SW of Amiens.
The perfect place for a late afternoon or evening drink is from one of the terrace cafes by the castle overlooking Zante town. Great view and you can see the lights of the town twinkling and the whole bay stretching before you.
There's a beautiful little church there which isn't always open, but if it is take a look inside at the gilding and chandeliers - it's a favourite for weddings and christenings.
You can also climb the cobbled lane up to visit the stone Venetian fortress perched on the hill. There's a rather trendy nightclub on the way up if you want to mix with the beautiful people.
Take a taxi or drive up the hill at the back of Zante town and follow the signs - there's a big car-park nearby.
If you're interested in more than lying on a beach, Romas Mansion will give you an interesting glimpse into the history and culture of the island.
It's an old mansion built in the 1660s and was used in the 19th century as the seat of government on Zakynthos. It was the home of the aristocratic Romas family and has now been opened to show the interiors and furnishing of the home of a wealthy Zakynthian family in the last century.
You'll find beautiful furniture, family portraits, leatherbound books and furnishings which would not look out of place in a stately home in England.
You can see photos of how the house was damaged and rebuilt after the earthquake in 1953 which destroyed most of Zante town.
Romas Mansion, Louka Carrer 19, Zante town, Zakynthos, 29100
The Bluecoat is the oldest Grade 1 listed building in Liverpool’s city centre (dating back to 1717). Following a £14.5m redevelopment, it re-opened in March 2008 as a major landmark on the UK map of contemporary culture.
With a new wing of galleries and a state-of-the-art Performance Space, the Bluecoat showcases talent across all creative disciplines including visual art, music, literature, dance and live art, and nurtures new talent by providing studio spaces for artists within a unique creative community.
I highly recommend the daily guided walk from NaraWalk. The pace was excellent and the guide very knowledgeable and friendly. In addition to the historic sites, she showed us shopping areas for a wide range of items, including the famous Nara pickles. Nara is a short journey by train from Kyoto or Osaka and the website provides a link to an English-language route planner.
Much more peaceful after the bustle of Tahiti. Moorea is astonishingly beautiful, and the best way to see it is to take a bus tour.
The Circle Island Tour takes you past pineapple fields, coffee plantations and flower-filled villages up to Belvedere Lookout, where you can see Opunohu and Cook's Bays.
One of the highlights is a stop off to see the little rectangular 'Marae', ancient structures which used to be sacred buildings, used as open-air temples and funeral sites.
(Picks up from all the main hotels)
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