Set up camp in a fragrant and ancient pine forest overlooking the Adriatic just a short walk from the centre of Rovinj. (Porton Biondi Campsite is less than £4 per adult per night). From the waterfront in Rovinj you can hire little motor boats to explore the nearby waters, snorkel, swim and relax. The town itself is old and crumbling and charming and best reached by boat from Venice. So you get to see Venice too! (Affordable flights to Venice Treviso with Ryanair). Pick up some Italian cheese, bread and beer: the four hour ferry ride across the Adriatic, beer in hand and late afternoon sun is the perfect way to melt into holiday mode.
Aleja Porton Biondi 1, 52210 Rovinj
+385 52 81 35 57
Google map: bit.ly/LT3Emn
After a day spent wandering the enchanting alleyways of Dubrovnik, a well hidden hole in the city walls leads to this stunningly located bar on the rocks. Watch the sunset over the Adriatic with a cold beer, while locals plunge into the water from the high rocks next to you. An astonishingly beautiful place.
'Crijevićeva 9, Dubrovnik' is the address, but ask a local for directions or head to the city walls and look for the 'Cold drinks this way' sign!
Crijevićeva 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
+385 98 361 934
Google map: bit.ly/LUUW9t
Arcos de la Frontera is one of the pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalucia. It is perched high on a hill with magnificent if vertiginous views from the main square overlooking the Guadalute river. Admire the views, get lost in the picturesque maze of cobbled streets and then reward yourselves, as we did, with a splendid lunch of regional specialities washed down with a glass or two of rioja at the Restaurante El Convento.
Google map: bit.ly/MCQ99M
Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island which means 360 degree views of the island and a breathtaking harbour vista as you look across to Kowloon side. Hong Kong's most popular tourist attraction is a definite must-see, but I have a couple of tips that the guide books don't include.
My first top tip relates to getting up to the Peak. Your guide book will tell you take the Peak Tram, a funicular railway that's been running since 1888 which creaks 396 metres up the side of the hill at a hair-raising gradient. The ride is an experience not to be missed but the queues to catch the tram up the Peak (at the Garden Road Terminus in Central) snake right around the block morning, noon and night. The queues at the top to ride back down again however, are much smaller and anyway, in my opinion, the ride down is even more exciting and roller coaster-esque than the ride up. So, I always save the tram for the way down the hill and just jump in a cab on the way up thereby skipping the maddening queues at the bottom (Hong Kong's cabs are plentiful and cheap - the red and white taxis are for hire when the red circle on the dashboard is lit up and the white taxi sign on the car's roof is alight).
My second tip centres on what to do once you get up there. The majority of visitors flock straight to the Peak Tower, a wok-shaped viewing platform 428 metres above sea level. You undoubtedly get breath-taking views from this lookout point but it sits atop a giant shopping mall packed with tacky souvenir shops and generic chain restaurants. While I see the Peak Tower as a definite must do (it’s a great place to snap a few impressive skyline photos) I’d suggest that you don't confine your Peak experience to this Disneyfied corner but instead combine it with something that not everyone does. Ask your cab driver to drop you off outside the Peak Tower and take a gentle stroll along the Hong Kong Trail, a route which loops for about an hour around the top of the Peak through lush greenery that chirrups with cicadas. Along this trail you'll get beautiful views across the city and wind past some of Hong Kong's most luxurious houses (prices of the real estate up here exceed even those of Monaco's mansions). This is a perfect walk to take during the latter half of the afternoon so that you end up back at the Peak Tower just before sunset. Head to the viewing platform in time to watch the sun sink below the skyscrapers and stay until the city’s kaleidoscopic lights come up. By this point you should have worked up a healthy appetite.
Which brings us to my third tip - where to eat. Scoot straight past the shopping mall chain restaurants and head directly across the road from the Peak Tower to the Peak Lookout, the quaint cottage-like building that twinkles under chains of fairy lights. The restaurant sits on the site of the former resting shelter of the sedan chair carriers whose job it was to ferry the Peak's wealthy residents up and down the hill. Bag a table out on the terrace which overlooks the South side of the island and refuel with jet-fresh seafood, tandoori oven fired meats accompanied by pillows of fluffy naan or a char-grilled steak from the barbeque.
128 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong Island.
Google Maps: goo.gl/maps/yziA
The Hong Kong Trail
The Peak Lookout
121 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong Island.
(852) 2849 1000
Google Map: goo.gl/maps/TT7Y
* Natalie is our local for Hong Kong. You can read all about her here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/hong-kong-local-natalie-robinson.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/natalierobinson
She also has her own blog at: www.3badmice.com/
Visit a local supermarket for lunch supplies and take the 10-minute, hourly boat from the port in Dubrovnik to the beautiful island of Lokrum.
Start the day with a trek to the fortress at the highest point of the island, for unbeatable views of Dubrovnik and to avoid the morning crowds, before taking the coastal path back to the monastery. On the way, take one of the rocky paths, lined with thick Mediterranean woods, down to the shore to discover your own private beach - an ideal place for a picnic lunch and a few hours of sun worshipping.
The main hub of island activity boasts a botanic garden, olive grove and (supposedly) haunted Benedictine monastery, inhabited by peacocks.
Finish the day by watching the sun go down from the comfort of a sun lounger, enjoying live guitar music in the cafe, or, best of all, floating in the beautiful tranquility of the salt lake.
Boats to Lokrum depart from the city's old harbour at least every hour between 9 and 5 (weather permitting).
Google map: bit.ly/LxqmTJ
Though Hvar is known for its posh port and brilliant beaches, those with steel knuckles and a set of wheels can go for a joy ride on the narrow, twisted back lanes of the island's old roads. Not for acrophobes, the summit near the charming village of Grablje reveals heart-stopping panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and Croatian mainland. Ancient stone walls mix uniquely with modern patchworks of lavender bushes and olive trees; dense pine forests nestle below the horizon. Back at sea level, stop in tiny Milna where inexpensive fresh fish, delicious omelettes, and perfect white stone beaches reward hardy souls in the only open-air alfresco cafe.
Nice tree lined square surrounded by pavement cafes.
Plenty of seating in which to relax, away from the more tourist parts of Florence.
One end of the square has the church of Santo Spirito dating back to the 15th century.
On the south side of the Arno river on the right as you come over the Ponte Santa Trinita.
Google map: bit.ly/LTXFOw
Great location to sit and drink and watch the world go by, on Piazza Santa Croce. The Santa Croce church is just yards away.
For such a prime location, the prices were surprisingly good. We only had drinks but at €3.50 per large glass of house white we were not complaining.
Service was good.
Amazing hotel in the heart of the longshen rice terraces. Stunning views from the balconies and wonderful air conditioned, en-suite rooms at really good prices. It's family run and they could not be nicer or more helpful. A bonus is the amazing food they serve, I would go just for dinner! Ping'an is beautiful beyond words, walking through the terraces and seeing the long haired Hao women is an experience I will never forget.
From the hilltop village of Vejer de la Frontera I got my first glimpse of Africa: the brown crust of the Moroccan Rif misty on the horizon but surprisingly near.
Having travelled on a bus from nearby Cadiz I set out on foot to wander the tight web of streets.
Then, coming to the edge of town, looked down to a field where a donkey stood obstinately braying.
At lunchtime I entered from the sunshine into the gloom of a bar where three – what I thought to be local – men stood chatting and laughing.
I ordered a bottle of San Miguel at two-thirds the price of more touristy places and sat at a table to write postcards undisturbed.
Conil is a beautiful white town with a fantastic huge expanse of sandy beach. Lovely to walk around it's narrow streets and to discover great places to eat in the bars and restaurants either in town or along the beach.
Google map: bit.ly/LioTPF
A river island at the city limits, L'Ile de La Jatte offers memorable, tapering views of Paris along the length of the Seine. The island's park, famously painted by Georges Seurat, is also the location of 27 beehives, whose occupants harvest pollen from the city's flowers. The park is used appreciatively by the island's residents, but in our experience, they struggle to fill it, leaving plenty of room for visitors to relax or play. The handful of local eateries aren't great value, though tables over-looking the river will excuse the price to some. But the views that justified the trip for us were from the footpath that encircles the island, particularly at its most northerly point.
Metro station: Ponte de Levallois-Becon
Google map: bit.ly/Lq9UzN
I wouldn’t say the tiny, walled village of Pedraza has something for everyone, but if you like medieval dungeons, imposing castles, nesting storks and outlandishly good ham then Pedraza has something for you. Better known to the city slickers from Madrid who flood the town on the weekends, Pedraza is very much off the beaten path for Brits visiting Spain.
We visited this atmospheric village on the last day of a walking tour in the Segovia region. It may be my own bias, but I can’t help feeling that, despite the large public car park near the castle, walking is much the best way to approach the place. We felt like wandering pilgrims as we trekked up the side of a dramatic valley and through the massive stone archway to enter the village. It was a quiet Tuesday in April, and our only company were the storks making graceful circles overhead. Not a car or other human being in sight. In the spring, storks build enormous, gravity-defying nests in the belfries and ledges of the village. Watching them at their work is awe inspiring.
With fewer than 100 full time residents, the village wasn’t much busier than the scenic valley around it. We ambled through the cobbled streets, stopping at the wee exercise area that overlooks the valley near the castle. I’m sure you could get a serious workout if you were so inclined, but we goofed around like kids, swinging on the chin-up bars while enjoying the spectacular views. Later, we toured the Carcel, a 15th-century prison that still bears the evidence of a time when prisoners were kept in chains in a dark pit and had their food lowered down in buckets.
Luckily the food offerings for today’s visitors are a little more sophisticated. Visitors can belly up to any of the excellent cafes and restaurants that ring the main plaza. Vegetarians beware - meat is everywhere. The plaza also seems to be the centre of village life. We witnessed a lively parade rehearsal by local school children while we were enjoying ham sandwiches and beer. Que bueno!
With warm weather comes the opportunity to partake in the favourite past time of many Parisians: le pique-nique. The possibilities for picnics in Paris are endless, though my favourite spot is the Pont des Arts. This pedestrian bridge stretching out over the Seine from the Louvre is a perfect place to join the families, friends and lovers for an impromptu picnic; bunched on blankets laid across the wooden slats, while the sun sets behind the Eiffel Tower further down the river. Free of traffic, you can enjoy your picnic to the sound-track of the gentle hum of boats and barges that pass beneath and the the soft ripples of the river lapping the banks below.
Pont Des Arts. Metro: Pont neuf (line 7)
Google map: bit.ly/LwX98t
Ripley Castle is set in a beautiful landscape with its own lake and waterfall. For the best view of the castle take the path signposted for the deer park, walk past Eel tower and pause at the bridge over the waterfall to admire the castle in its all glory as it is reflected in the lake's water. The friendly tour guides provide a thorough guided tour of the castle itself sharing stories about its bloody English civil war connections. The gardens are well tended, colourful and child friendly.
For those of you who like your bars to be truly special then look to Mickeys at Elbow Beach. Situated right on the beach overlooking the Atlantic, this bar has it all, the perfect setting, wonderful staff, great fun, but most of all, the secret drink, 'the Special.' Only two members of staff know how to make it. The fun part is getting to know which ones they are.
60 South Shore Road Paget 0, Bermuda
+1 (441) 236 3535
Google map: bit.ly/KeYpBJ
Jumping Jenny's doesn't just claim to be the best but it is. As every cake mouthful melts you instantly HAVE to have more. Be it a cool or warm day, a cup of tea in proper china hones the taste buds for more delicious cake - oh if you insist. All supped and enjoyed while watching the vapor trails from National Trust's steam yacht Gondola which has just deposited you at the jetty below, dissipate to reveal the most fantastic view of Coniston and the Lake District mountains.
Restored to it's former Art Deco glory, The Midland Hotel is a stunning place to have a really special afternoon tea. Served in the original sun room which looks out over Morecambe Bay, there is a choice from scones with jam and cream right up to the extraordinary Champagne Afternoon Tea. This gives you a selection of freshly made finger sandwiches, such as cucumber, ham, and smoked salmon; a scone with jam and clotted cream, mini profiteroles, strawberries, cake and of course a glass of champagne along with the pot of high quality tea. All beautifully presented, and to be savoured along with the magnificent view. A real treat. £22.50 for the champagne tea, down to £8.50 for the Midland Cream Tea. Booking is advisable at the weekend.
Marine Road West Morecambe, Lancashire LA4 4BU
+44(0)845 850 1240
Google map: bit.ly/L7aC6M
Park next to Llyn Geirionydd, and take a walk across Mynydd Deulyn – "mountain of the two lakes" - into the beautiful Crafnant Valley. Follow the easily accessible path around Llyn Crafnant, and then before you head back, stumble across this unassuming cafe, tucked away on the banks of the lake (table cloths pegged down just in case!). Take in the beautiful and unspoilt scenery, with a proper cup of tea and a very generous slice of delicious home made cake. We sit and linger and day dream, until finally heading back over the mountain.
They call the shared sleeping area of this beach-side guest house 'Stars', and it's not hard to see why. Swinging beds are open to the elements, set high on top of a cliff with the most magnificent views of the Pacific. All come with mosquito net, palm roof shade and locker. Waking up to watch the sunrise over the bay, complete with the sound of the waves is truly something magical. As an added bonus, you will be hard pressed to find a better view from the open bathrooms. If you don't fancy sleeping so close to nature, there are other room options - all just as lovely. The vibe is relaxed, and delicious food is served from the simple terrace cafeteria on the beach.
Calle Rinconcito, Mazunte, Mazunte 70946, Oaxaca, Mexico
Bus from Oaxaca City to Pochutla, then a taxi or 'collective' (shared van) to Mazunte.
$80-$100 per person per night, or $120-$160 for two people per night.
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