It’s a very stylish contemporary 4-star hotel in the center of Madrid, next to the tranquil Retiro Gardens. Some of the best museums (Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza) are a short walk away, and the area is very fascinating and lively. It is very moderately priced for the quality and location.
c/Antonio Maura, 5
Forget Italy's ancient history and immerse yourself in a little mid twentieth century nostalgia instead. Back in the 50s and 60s numero uno stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman left their yachts at anchor in Portofino's dreamy harbour, then took over the Hotel Splendido to indulge in a little of La Dolce Vita. The views from this old fishing village are still groovy, but the Splendido's little sister, the Splendido Mare, probably has the edge over its elder sibling these days. Prices for both are reassuringly stratospheric. Far out, baby.
A cafe for the 'elite' of Athens, it is worth a visit to see that the economic downturn has not affected everyone equally. Quite exclusive shops ring the square.
Τσακάλωφ 1, Athens 10673 Greece
+30 210 3602497
Google map: bit.ly/HDb6Br
An absolutely stunning hotel in the midst of the bustling city of Phoenix. Don't be fooled by the Arizona desert, this is one of the best hotels I've visited. With two golf courses, eight swimming pools and spacious rooms, no one is gong to be disappointed by choosing the Biltmore.
2400 East Missouri Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85016, United States
+1 (602) 955-6600
Google map: bit.ly/GU3BHD
A paradise island combining postcard-perfect beaches, rustic luxury and a walk into real Malawian village life.
Sip a Malawi gin and tonic watching the sunset over Lake Malawi, have a candlelit dinner on the beach, snorkel through the fresh water of the lake admiring the most diverse collection of fish in any body of freshwater in the world. Venture into the island to meet the friendly villagers, visit their textile and furniture workshops or take in the largest cathedral in central Africa. All on a tiny island in the middle of one of Africa's great lakes.
Beautiful Riad and Kasbah about 15km outside of Marrakech that is the perfect place to get away from it all for a few days once you have explored the city. The service is impeccable, the rooms are pure luxury and the food is very good (although not the best we had on our trip). The thing that makes this place stand out is the peace and quiet and it gives you the opportunity to just really chill out after the madness of they city itself.
The MS Volga Dream is a luxury cruise boat that sails between Moscow and St Petersburg. The experience onboard is genuinely luxurious with amazing food, spacious cabins and beautiful decor. This is a great way to discover the beauty of the Russian countryside along with some ancient villages and islands, which you visit along the way. The cruise takes six days but you should really combine it with a couple of days in both Moscow and St Petersburg.
Shamwari is a private game reserve approximately an hour's drive east of Port Elizabeth. During my stay I was fortunate to see all of the Big Five which was a real privilege. The safari guides were fantastic, very knowledgable and friendly. The accommodation superb.
After the late afternoon game drive, which normally finishes just after sundown, you will be served an evening meal that will definiately impress and be a talking point. Cooking on the barbeque, or brie as the South African's call it, will be a choice of meats including warthog and kuku!
At meal times you eat with your guide and the other guests that will share your vehicle giving you a great opportunity to get to know each other. This reals helps everyone to bond and enjoy a shared experience together.
Nearest airport is Port Elizabeth.
Best way to get there is to rent a car. Alternatively, Shamwari can arrange for you to be collected from PE airport, or your hotel.
Palazzo Versace is a super swanky hotel at Marina Mirage on the Gold Coast. While my budget won't stretch to their room rates, everyone is welcome to enjoy a drink in the hotel. We chose the Versace signature cake, which was served with tea or coffee from a vast selection. At $16 it was great value, with a whopping big piece of cake (no supermodel portions here!) and was served on beautiful china while we lounged on silk-cushioned chairs.
Good Hope Cannery is a fly-in only fishing resort in British Columbia. Huge salmon, remote wilderness, and a beautiful lodge - does it get any better? I went up in August 2009 with my family and we had the time of our lives. It is a completely unique experience, including a cool float plane ride!
www.goodhopecannery.com. A 90-minute flight north of Vancouver.
With a prime location on one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan, the Rasananda is pure class. The rooms all have private gardens with outside showers, the food is amazing and there's a nice spa. Intimate enough for a honeymoon, but it's not cut off from the rest of the island. You can wander next door or up the road to find cool bars and cheap eats. Getting there is a bit of a nightmare if you have to take the minibus across the island's interior, but the hotel has its own speedboat which can do transfers from Samui. Classy way to arrive!
We spent a wonderful week in Instanbul staying at pasha!place. The apartment is perfectly situated next to Galata Tower, restaurants and shopping areas and is walking distance to Galata bridge. The apartment is beautifully renovated and furnished with much taste. And there is an absolutely fantastic view out of the livingroom window across the water to the Topkapi, Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque!
Just returned from a fantastic family friendly holiday at this luxury hotel on the coast. Superb service and facilities, very friendly and welcoming and sunshine every day!
Just spent a week in this wonderful five-star thatched cottage. Booked it thinking the website probably wouldn't live up to the pictures, but it was way above what we expected. It is newly built but in traditional stone, so it looked really old. When we got inside it had a real "wow factor", pure luxury. The views were to die for and we spent most evenings outside watching the sunset. It also had a webcam trained on the croft hill, and we saw buzzards and eagles from the comfort of our chair, amazing stuff!
Did lots of walking and looked forward to returning to the luxurious bathroom in the cottage. The water came from a private underground spring and my skin felt amazing after a week, due to no chemicals in the water. Ate out at the Three Chimneys and Old School House Restaurant, both fantastic and nearby. Talisker Distillery was also a must-visit, especially the tasting sessions!
I hate to tell anyone of the cottage in case we don't get in next year but thank you to the owners for an amazing week. And thanks, Ally, the owner for getting us a fresh lobster, straight from the sea!
Can't wait to go back!
Isle of Skye
The Melia in Zaragoza has always offered us a highly personalized service in a wonderful and luxurious hotel. The rooms (from €131 including breakfast) are spacious yet cosy and always comfortable and unpretentious. Its location is a great asset, enabling you to explore the delights of one of Spain’s less well-known gems.
Avenida Cesar Augusto, 13, 50004, Zaragoza
+ 34 976 430100
If you're looking for an oasis of peace and quiet in the bustling city of Granada then look no further than the Palacio de los Patos. It is located along one of the approach roads into the city centre and everywhere is within walking distance, including the Alhambra and the Albaicin district. It was my first stay ever in Spain and I spent quite a lot of time researching all the hotels in Granada. The reviews for the hotel were good and it didn't disappoint. The service and food were excellent, and the cleanliness second to none. The setting is a juxtaposition of traditional palatial and ultra-modern with a courtyard separating the two and was a perfect microcosm of Granada itself. It is not a cheap hotel but is worth the money - go on, treat yourself!
Solarillo de Gracia, 1, Centro, 18002 Granada, Spain
+34 958 53 57 90
The Missoni is the newest five-star hotel in Edinburgh and after spending a weekend there I have to say it is one of the most impressive.
You get a fantastic location for touring Edinburgh, it's in the middle of the Royal Mile a few minutes from the castle and about a 15 min walk from Princes Street.
The hotel is unlike other five-star propertys in that you get a lot of things free. These include unlimited movies, free wireless internet and a free minibar.
The staff were great, room was comfortable and all in all a great place to stay in Edinburgh.
If destination heaven exists, fulfilling every exacting criteria of the jaded traveller, it would have to be Grootbos Nature Reserve on Walker Bay in South Africa.
I was lucky enough to find it when planning a journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
I’ve stayed before at places claiming to be “luxury,” which were anything but - but this is reassuringly expensive and did in fact prove to be more than worthy of the description. Well, if it was good enough for Brad Pitt and Kate Moss I should never have doubted it …
Bungalows are set in milkwood forest spread out either side of the main building. For two of us we had a huge lounge, outsize bathroom with bath you plod across to find the taps. There is a second shower room, and outside shower (for the brave or exhibitionist perhaps) on our own private decking, a kitchenette, dressing and storage area. The canopied bed was six foot wide. I lay in the bath looking at colourful birds inches away through the floor to ceiling window, surrounded by candles, then we lay in loungers on the decking, looking down across dunes to the sea as the sun went down.
But to recap. On arrival you are greeted with drinks and sat down to plan your stay - they like you to stay at least two nights as there is a full programme of activities, most of them included in the price. I was whisked straight off to go riding from the hotel’s own stables, in the “fynbos” - the local vegetation which is very pretty, very diverse and smells heavenly. Botanists go crazy apparently - David Bellamy has signed the visitors’ book.
The next day we went whale watching and had close-ups of southern right whales, cape fur seals and even a great white shark. There were only seven guests, the boat was comfortable and there was no danger of seasickness. We were there in October which is a great time to see whales, while the weather is still pleasant enough to swim.
We had a private guided jeep tour and walk in the extensive grounds with one of the local guides Silence, who pointed out plants, a mongoose scuttling across our path, birds - and even a highly venomous puff adder which had crept into the hotel’s ornamental pond and was being safely removed by an expert for relocation. Silence introduced us to weaver birds, bou bou, drongo, cape bulbul with their white-painted eyes, colourful sun birds and sugar birds, olive pigeons, yellow rumped widow, and the resident black harrier.
The restaurant was a dream, reached along the little wooded path from our bungalow, past the swimming pool and into the main central building. Five leisurely but elaborate courses with superb wine, attentive and friendly staff.
What I loved about the place was the combination of the feeling of absolute pampering, with touches like the soft white bathrobes, massive towels and full size up-market toiletries; but also a real sense of outdoor adventure, riding, sharks and unexpected wildlife encounters - it’s the real taste of how South Africa could be in an ideal world, where the staff are happy to take your round the local township and show you how they live, and the knowledge that the owners of Grootbos are aware of the fragility of the local ecology, sponsoring locals to visit the Eden Project to advise on the Fynbos, and giving much needed employment in one of the most outstandingly beautiful spots in the world.
Amazing boutique hotel - with a dreamy landscape worthy of the best honeymoon vacation ever. The present general manager is a wonderful gentleman with a wealth of knowledge about Asia - he recommended going on the boat and arranged a lunch on a remote island for me and my partner. I was swept away by the service, the gold dust in the river and the wonderful Laotians!
Zermatt is the most special place in the Alps. The colours in the autumn are fabulous, the sun and blue sky in summer make a perfect holiday. With the Matterhorn dominating the skyline it is the most perfect place for walking.
Alpine Walks Zermatt do custom holidays for groups as small as four people. Either stay in a luxury hotel with a spa (as we did) or they will lead walks from mountain hut to mountain hut. Perfect for a family or a couple of couples.
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