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    Experience of the Week

    Some of our favourite Experiences from all over the world are picked out each week and stored here, so that if searching for your ideal travel destination is your first step you can see some of the top places to visit all in one place.

    January 2015

    • Where: Usk, Wales
    • Who: Jetter
    • When: January

    Usk is so beautiful even in January! Miles of pretty fields and hills and then the small village town of Usk itself along the river is seriously picturesque.

    We didn't get much phone signal out of town in the barn we were staying in, but plenty of life and phone signal in the town itself. There were several convenience stores, many pretty pubs - some really traditional which you don't get to see much of any more. And also a few really good restaurants.

    Come here for absolute peace and quiet surrounded by beauty and in reality you are not far from Newport, a 15-20 minute drive away or Cardiff 40 mins away.

    Plenty of places for a picnic along the river here, although i would come back in the spring for that, as it's a little cold in January. However most of our visit it was not too cold and the sun came out now an then! surprisingly there was no rain.

    Would definitely choose to stay here again, our barn was in Llangybi.

    Published: 27 March 2015

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    October 2014

    • Where: Palma, Majorca
    • Who: kayley
    • When: September

    Majorca often gets branded as a brash and loud haven for 18-30 year olds. It gets a hard time from the press and yet there are so many gorgeous authentically Spanish area's of the island to visit. Palma is hands down one of my favourite European cities. Its a shoppers haven with lots of fantastic cobbled streets full of shops and boutiques to explore. When you are tired there are heaps of eateries and bars ranging from low key tapas places to Michelin star restaurants.

    We always choose to stay just outside Palma in Playa de Palma. As the name suggests Playa de Palma is located right on a beautiful beach that stretches for miles. It is only around a 10-15 minute bus ride from Palma's city centre meaning that you can easily combine a city break with the beach! Playa de Palma has a gorgeous flat promenade allowing you to easily walk the stretch of the beach. The prom is full of reasonably priced restaurants and bars - perfect for cocktails pre-dinner before heading into Palma. If you don't fancy walking the 'strip' there is a noddy train that runs up and down the prom for a low cost. Majorca's aquarium is also located in Playa de Palma - perfect for families and reasonably priced at around 10 euros's per person.

    Our latest trip to the island was in September - the weather was in the 30's each day. We have however also visited in December and we were blessed with temperatures in the early 20's making this an ideal winter break.

    Published: 29 October 2014

    • Where: Bangkok, Thailand
    • Who: kayley
    • When: May

    We went on our honeymoon to Thailand in May 2014 and our first stop was Bangkok. We have visited the city many times however this time decided to really splash out. We treated ourselves to 3 nights in the Oriental and have to say it was one of the highlights of our trip.

    As we had visited Bangkok many times before we didn't really do any of the tourist sites on this trip - although the Grand Palace is a must!. We spent the days chilling by the pool overlooking the busy river or shopping in Central World! There are heaps of bargains to be had in Bangkok, everything is so cheap from clothes to local handicrafts. We finished each day with a foot massage - an hour costs around £10 so it would be silly not to pamper yourself!

    One thing not to miss is a trip to Lebua Bar where the Hangover 2 was filmed. Cocktails are pricey at around £15 per drink but the view is to die for (see pics!). We travelled in May and it was so HOT! Each day was 40 degrees plus so it really was too hot to walk without getting in a fluster! I would recommend traveling around by local tuk-tuk. This is a really cheap way to travel and is an experience in itself. We traveled from our hotel to Silom area where we enjoyed the night market and plenty of outside street bars where we could people watch and cool down with a beer.

    Published: 29 October 2014

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    September 2014

    • Where: Yerevan, Armenia
    • Who: jamiedodger
    • When: October

    I have to say that I wasn't expecting much from Yerevan but I was pleasantly surprised. The city is positioned on a hill side so you get some great views across the city. Its quite a green city with loads of tree lined streets and parks.
    There are quite a few historical buildings to discover and Yerevan makes a good base to explore the wilds of rural Armenia from. People here are friendly and mostly have good English. Cabs and food are cheap and there are loads of great places to eat and drink.
    The weather is really hot in summer so September October are good months to visit.

    I recommend staying at the bass boutique hotel for good service at ok prices.

    however you wont find the really cheap deals in Yerevan that you get in other cities in Armenia.

    Published: 16 October 2014

    August 2014

    • Where: Mancora, Peru
    • Who: Daphne
    • When: April

    I have travelled to various beaches in Europe, North and South America but never have I been in a more beautiful beach.

    The sand as white as that in the Caribbean, the palm trees swaying profusely all around the clean beaches.
    Whilst swimming in the sea; it is so clear that you can see your feet as well as a large variety of fishes and the shells!! Just like the ones that you buy in tourist shops.

    We stayed at a house called the house of dreams 'La Casita Suenos' it was a row of lovely double bedroom bungalows with en suite and there was a large house with no windows (as its so hot) and that was where we went to eat. A chef was hired very cheaply to cook all of our meals. Our meals consisted mainly of freshly caught fish and delicious meat dishes full of flavour. We were able to go through different menus and pick what we wanted for the next day.

    The Casita (bungalows) were all right on the beach, they were very clean and sparse, furniture lovely wood and comfortable king size bed. At night we were provided with a mosquito light.

    We saw some amazing looking birds and there were rocks on part of the beach that were covered in crabs.

    There were a few restaurants and hotels nearby. We visited one next to the Casita for excellent cocktails it was right on the beach.

    The beaches were not at all crowded, if I were to compare it to somewhere it would be the Caribbean but much better as we got the luxury without the price.

    There were water sports for those who like that; also much cheaper than most places we have been to.
    There are little bars on the beach and the waiter will serve you with food and cocktails whilst you lie on a lounger enjoying the stunning views.

    Incredibly beautiful place for couples, groups of friends or families. To get there you get a plane to Tumbes from Lima it takes 2 hours. The place is so beautiful weddings took place there.

    Published: 30 August 2014

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    July 2014

    • Where: Rhodes, Greece
    • Who: l.zieglmeier
    • When: July

    In the hot month of July I visited Rhodes, the liveliest of all Greek islands. Whether you're searching for a romantic getaway or a family holiday, Rhodes has plenty to offer to suit all occasions.

    Instantly, I was seduced by the crystal warm mediterranean sea; the vibrant blue seemed to blend into one with the clear sky. However the island proved to have more to offer than appearance; hidden adventures were everywhere, such as parasailing and banana boating - which I extremely enjoyed doing. Hiring a speed boat and going out to sea is also another great way to spend a day. The towns are also bursting with liveliness and offer the best of Greek culture and are just as awake and alive at night; with clubs which appeal to the young party crowds. I often visited the town Lindos, where cobbled streets were surrounded by traditional white Greek houses and the streets were filled with cheerful locals and wondering donkeys. The restaurants range from traditional Greek to Chinese, offering a range of food to satisfy everyone. There are many historic sites on the island, such as the Monolithos castle. I was very interested by the ancient fortress surrounding the little church on the cliff and I was enchanted by the view. The medieval old town of the city of Rhodes has been declared a World Heritage Site.
    If this doesn't seem fit for you, there are also many modern beach resorts where you can spend the day relaxing in the Greek heat. Whether your interests are beaches, bars or ancient sites, Rhodes offers an abundance of all three.

    Published: 15 August 2014

    June 2014

    • Where: Rome, Italy
    • Who: deansadler11
    • When: September

    Rome is a spectacular city. Its not too big compared to other cities and easy to get around. Its history is visible everywhere you look and Romes rich past makes it an extremely interesting and beautiful place.
    I travelled the city from my hotel on the outskirts which was so much cheaper than a central hotel, a short bus journey to the train station and the train took me to Termini, the central station. You can get on the metro underground system here which is a great way to get to all the big sites. I would recommend walking overland as much as possible too, as theres so much to see and you miss that on the metro.

    I'd recommend staying in Rome at least 2 full days to get the best from it. The major sites you need to see are the Collesium, I loved going inside but its very touristy and very busy - Watch out you dont get ripped off by the many guides offering their services. St Peters Square - you can go inside the church for free which is really extravagent ; you may wish to go in the Vatican at a price, its ok if your really into history as theres an incredible amount of things to see here but it takes a long time to get through.
    The pantheon is ok, not much going on there just an empty building packed full of tourists but if your in Rome its good to see if you have the time. Theres the old city to stroll through near the Collesium which is a nice walk. 5 Steps to Rome is a sight worth a visit. The Trevy fountain MUST be seen, best at night in my opinion. This is a such a beautiful city at night. You have to eat the ice cream or gelato as they say, as its the best in the world! Theres so many statues and carvings and impressive buildings. Altogether this is an amazingly beautiful city a must on any travellers list, I loved Rome.

    Published: 06 June 2014

    May 2014

    • Where: London Central, England
    • Who: Leahlas
    • When: April

    It's rare to find a day this warm in London in April! But it was glorious so it was the perfect time to visit one of Londons many central Parks.

    We headed from Waterloo, over Westminster bridge and then just a few hundred metres around the corner towards the right and we were in beautiful St James Park.

    Don't be put off by the hundreds and hundreds of people cramming across the bridge, because not only do you get the best views of stunning Big Ben, the river Thames and the Houses of Paliament, but once you get into the park the crowds disperse and you are left with lakes and heavenly greens to wander and relax in.

    It was surprising to see Pelicans in the lake considering we were in central London! we came across a lovely - but expensive- cafe/restaurant which offered take-out beers, but with no where else in sight to buy from and having not brought anything with us it was pretty handy to be able to grab a beer and hang out in a deck chair listening to a band playing fun music nearby.

    To hire a deckchair was just £1.50 each, so one of the less expensive things to do in London! I could have stayed there all day but we were heading back across the bridge to the London Aquarium which is on the river front next to the London eye. Try to find a special offer for this, because although it was a nice hours entertainment, especially if the weather isn't great - it wasn't that amazing and not worth paying full price for. They do offers for after 3pm also which is a better option as you won't be more than an hour in there and it will be much less crowded, definitely nice for kids though.

    Take a nice stroll along the south bank east of the London eye, it's a lovely walk along the river front and you come to a little hidden artistic corner of shops and cafes, lovely for a sit down.

    Published: 14 May 2014

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    April 2014

    • Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    • Who: Ant453
    • When: April

    What a fabulous place. Culturally as shallow as a puddle and really there isn't much to do aside from sunbathing, shopping and eating - but boy you can do that well.
    If you are there on a Friday what all of the ex pats do is brunch. This is a long (marathon not a sprint) eating and drinking affair that takes place at a large number of the hotels. Arrive at midday. You pay at the start and everything is included- all food and drink. We went to an amazing hotel which opened up all of their restaurants. This is an affair that the locals (expats) dress up for.
    Aside from that dune buggying was amazing fun. Ripping it up through the desert.
    And of course the dancing fountains set in the shadow of the magnificent Berg was wonderful. If you can book a table at one of the restaurants overlooking the water then you will be happy.
    All in all. Great holiday, wonderfully superficial, but if you get bored by sunbathing this is not the place for you as there is very little else to do!.

    Published: 23 April 2014

    March 2014

    • Where: Tenerife, Canary Islands
    • Who: LAS111
    • When: March

    We are a young family and we headed to the south west of Tenerife known as one of the warmest parts of the island, more sheltered from the trade winds in the north. We stayed on the coast of Alcala near Guia de Isora and although the beaches were black sand and a little gravelly compared with Los Cristianos and Playa deals Americas, we would definitely come back to this area.

    It was a more upmarket area and less touristy which is what we were looking for, which is fine in March as the sea is too cold to swim in so we mainly wanted to lie by the pool in our resort. It was around 22 degrees of lovely sunshine, it must have rained for an hour once in the week we were there early March, and there were a few days when it was a little cloudy, but even though it was a bit overcast it was still warm. On the whole we were blessed with warm sunshine, which is quite hard to find in Europe at this time of year.

    Eventually we did get a little bored of being in the resort all week so we grabbed a hire car for the day, around €60 which was cheaper than a return taxi to the next town. We managed to get round the whole island in a day which is a bit of a push and not recommended! Maybe spread it over two days! But we got up to the peak of mount Teide which was snow capped and stunning to see a volcano close up. We wandered around the shops of Playa de las Americas, which had some of the nicest beaches on the island and we headed up over the incredibly steep mountains in the west - amazing views but extremely winding roads.

    Overall, if you don't mind the mild breezes - the Canaries are known for being a bit windy, then Tenerife is brilliant for much needed sunshine in March.

    Published: 23 March 2014

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    February 2014

    • Where: Malta
    • Who: Travelbug
    • When: February

    We went to Malta for 2 weeks in mid February. We chose Malta for a couple of reasons, and we know it's not as hot as the Canaries at this time of year but we wanted somewhere different which offered great deals and a bit of sunshine. We got all of the above.

    It was around 18 degrees most days, and sunny and dry. We wore T-shirts every day, and although there was a couple of rain showers throughout the 2 weeks they only lasted an hour or so. It was genuinely great to be there in the fresh bright sun, and escape gloomy wet days back home.

    It's not a huge island but theres plenty to do. We took 2 open top bus tours, one for the north of the island and one for the south. It wasn't too expensive at €17 euros each, and well worth it when you can just hop on and hop off whenever you like, so it was a great way to explore the island.

    It was a little windy, so although it was good to relax outside and we had a few beach afternoons in general it wasn't really sunbathing weather. But we chose Malta mainly for an interesting location where we could actually get outside in comfort rather than coats!

    The area we stayed was called Buggiba, absolutely brilliant place, BUT even in February this was the clubby area of town and was fairly noisy in the evenings. After exploring a bit I would definitely go back but would choose to stay in St Julians.

    It's not expensive at all in Malta, everything from coffees to ice creams are fairly inexpensive, a welcome change from most Mediterranean countries we've visited.

    Don't bother with taxi's, the bus system is so good, it's just €2 euros for a pass for the day which gets you pretty much anywhere, and they are really easy to use.

    We chose a really cheap hotel, which meant that the pool wasn't heated which was a real disappointment, but you get what you pay for. So to really enjoy this pretty island and relax outdoors pay extra for a good hotel with heated pool as it will make all the difference to your stay.

    Published: 25 February 2014

    • Where: Menorca, Spain
    • Who: Kay Ashmore
    • When: July

    Menorca and in particular S'Algar is my favourite place on earth. Forget the Middle East, Asia and America I am never happier than when I am in Menorca. The island is totally unspoilt with the exception of a couple of tourist resorts and the architecture is amazing which is partly down to the fact that both the French and English did in days gone by occupy this pretty little island.

    Menorca is one of the tiny islands that make up The Balearics and without doubt the nicest although I am biased!! The restaurants are amazing and with the exception of Burger King at Syp Supermarket I have never experienced a bad meal! Menorca is well known for it's Gin, Cheese and leather sandals, in that order and I can vouch for all three! Mahon is the capital and although quite small in comparison to other capital cities around the world it offers great shopping, a fantastic local market and a myriad of places to eat. You need to spend a whole day in Mahon to experience all that it has to offer.

    There is a local bus service which covers the whole island which, I forgot to add is approximately 21 miles long and just 9 miles wide. You can cover the whole island in a day as long as you have a car which in my opinion is imperative as many resorts are off the beaten track and especially if you opt to holiday in a villa.
    If it's a relaxing holiday that you are looking for look no further than Menorca, I have never met anybody yet who has visited this amazing island and not wanted to return year after year.

    Published: 05 February 2014

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    January 2014

    • Where: Guardalavaca, Cuba
    • Who: LAS111
    • When: December

    Cuba in December is a really great time to visit; it’s out of the hurricane season and outside of high season. It was still around 28 degrees everyday, with cool breezes and without the overwhelming humidity that you might find here in summer . There was a sprinkling of rain every other day for an hour or so, but still warm and not enough to stop your holiday. They use CUC’s for tourists, do not take dollars as there is a very high charge to change these. The Cuban people that we came across in Holguin, Guadavalaca and Havana were incredibly friendly and helpful, and we felt safe, however they appreciate tips and really expect them. There are a lot of people begging in the streets of Havana, and they will chase you a little but they are no trouble.

    Playa Pesquero is about 50 kilometres from Holguin airport, we booked a taxi in advance from the airport but its really easy to get one when you arrive.It has a heavenly beach and the most beautiful waters that I’ve ever come across in the Caribbean, absolutely crystal clear and warm. It wasn’t ideal for snorkeling off the beach and it wasn’t great in Guadavalaca either, maybe best to take a trip on a Catamaran for this. No trip to Cuba would be right without a visit to Havana, so we took an internal flight up from Holguin which took around an hour.

    We took a coach tour which had a guide for the day, and included a 3 course lunch in El Florida best known as a previous hangout of Ernest Hemmingway sipping Strawberry Daiquiris. As you can imagine Havana and much of the rest of the countries roads were taken up with Old American Cars and bike taxi’s. The patched up American 40’s and 50’s cars are still going strong, with some of them lovingly restored and in top condition, but the majority are everyday family cars hanging on for dear life with some serious exhaust emissions! Overall Cuba is a recommended destination to visit.

    Published: 10 January 2014

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    December 2013

    • Where: Paris, France
    • Who: Timsted
    • When: December

    Paris is an amazing City. We flew into Paris Orly and a very easy (and cheap compared to UK) 20 minute train ride and we were in the city centre. The Metro is nothing like the London Underground. It is horrible, smelly, dirty and not a place i would choose to ever be again! It is a stark contrast from the wonderful city that sits above it! Still … It worked.

    We only went for a day and night so didn't have much time to explore on foot. We went to Le Relais de Venise for dinner. It is extremely popular and you can't book a table. You need to be prepared for a 20-40 minute wait to get a table (in the middle of December where it is colder than London I wasn't overly happy with this) but boy is it worth it. When you sit down they simply ask you how you would like your steak cooked and that is it. Probably the best steak and most amazing 'secret' sauce ever.

    Our hotel was right next to the Arc de Triumph which is amazing, unfortunately i didn't get to drive round it but it looked like complete madness!!

    We wanted to see all the other sights (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame etc) and really didn't want to go into the Metro again so we took the hit (€54 EACH!) to go round Paris and see the sights on one of the open top tour buses. We only wanted to see 4 of the 12 sights on there are as we needed to get off and go to the airport but they don't discount. To be fair, you can get off, look around for as long as you want and then just get on another bus. They come every 10 mins to all the attractions so you won't be waiting long.

    An amazing destination for a short break but remember your hats and scarves if you are going in December especially if planning to go on open top bus tour!!

    Published: 27 December 2013

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    • Where: Cape Town, South Africa
    • Who: Traveladdict
    • When: November

    Cape Town is one of the most spectacular cities in the world. Most people tend to spend a few days in Cape Town before driving on through the garden route, followed by a few days at Kruger National Park.
    Saying that could easily spend a good week in Cape Town alone and still only have scratched the surface of what this city has to offer.

    We visited Cape Town in November, the weather averaged 28 degrees each day which was perfect. South Africa seems to have a reputation of being unsafe however I can honestly say that we felt really safe within the city and never saw any problems. We were staying by the V&A waterfront area of town. This area makes a great base and its really easy to explore the city before coming back to your hotel and enjoying the vibrant nightlife of the V&A.

    Things not to miss include a trip to Table Mountain. Catch a cable car to experience a breathtaking birds eye view of the city. Once at the top there's a great little cafe where you can have a drink and enjoy the views in the sun. Boulders Beach is also worth a visit where you can see hundreds of jackass penguins waddling the along the Atlantic shores.

    Camps Bay is the place to splash your cash on a posh sea food lunch whilst watching how the other half live! You also get spectacular views of Table Mountain from most of the beach lined restaurants.
    For nightlife, head to Long Street in the centre of town. Lots of trendy bars that have a nice relaxed scene. Food and drink are super cheap in Cape Town, make sure you try their amazing steaks washed down by local wine! Speaking of wine, even if you are using Cape Town as your base it is easy to visit the famous winelands which are just an hour's drive from the city. There are lots of organised trips departing from Cape Town if you don't want to drive.

    Published: 08 December 2013

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    • Where: Indonesia
    • Who: beachbum
    • When: August

    Indonesia is an incredible country and is also HUGE boasting the largest archipelago in the world. With so much to see and do it is impossible to see everything this amazing country has to offer on a 2 week trip! We were lucky enough to have 4 weeks and still only scratched the surface. My tip would be to start in Bali and then pick one or two places from there to discover. It's easy to have the tick box mentality of trying to cram as much in as possible trying to see everything. Do not underestimate the travelling times between islands! We spent A LOT more time on ferries, coaches, trains than we had anticipated!

    Here are my best bits!
    1. Bali - Great starting point to an Indonesia adventure due to good transport connections. Bali is the most touristy place in Indonesia. I would skip the lively area of Kuta (Magaluf for Australians!) and head to the sophisticated resort of Seminyak for gorgeous beaches and a chilled out vibe. The mountain town of Ubud is definitely worth a stop for monkey watching and trekking!

    2. Komodo - land of the famous dragons! Operators in Bali can arrange you access to this National Park where you can then see the world's largest lizards in their natural habitat! Be warned, this is scary stuff so do make sure you stay with your guide at all times. Also, the island is very baron, dry and hot. Make sure you take lots of water and a good hat with you!

    3. Gili Islands - The Gili islands are a backpackers paradise. These three traffic free islands located a boat ride away from Lombok offer the best beaches and the most chilled, laid back atmosphere to be had! There are countless beach cafes, bars and restaurants lining the shores perfect to kick back and relax.

    There is so much to see and do this list is endless! Weatherwise, we travelled in August and the weather was gorgeous, 30 degrees every day and blissful sunshine. Take me back now!

    Published: 06 December 2013

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    • Where: Koh Tao, Thailand
    • Who: kb081
    • When: October

    Just like most travellers, we made a bee-line for Koh Tao for its reputation as been a fantastic place to snorkel and dive. The island is a haven for backpackers looking for cheap eat and sleeps whilst learning to dive in beautiful surroundings.

    The beaches on Koh Tao are simply stunning. Paradise postcards really with soft white sand and warm shallow seas. Although this island is famed for its diving, I would actually say there is little need to dive. I snorkeled both from the beach and on an organized tour and the sea life was amazing. You could see a huge array of fish just beneath the surface so if scuba isn't your thing you can still see all there is to see with a mask and snorkel! That been said, PADI courses on the island are very cheap so if you are new to scuba, this is the place to learn!

    The island itself has a very laid back feel to it. In fact, I preferred Koh Tao over Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan. Although it was busy with travelers, the larger hotels have yet to develop on this island so it sort of still feels a little bit undiscovered!

    Whilst there are no real sights on the island, a trip to the beautiful bay of Koh Nang Yuan is definitely worth it. This island just north of Koh Tao is easily reached by boat and makes the perfect day trip on a lonely island. The beach here is stunning and somewhat unique with three cone shaped peaks all linked via a sandbar. Definitely take your camera to snap this phenomenon.

    And the best bit you have to try....beach side coconut milkshakes. Delicious!

    Published: 04 December 2013

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    November 2013

    • Where: Dubrovnik, Croatia
    • Who: Timsted
    • When: October

    What a pleasant surprise. I had never thought about going to Dubrovnik or even Croatia until I went on a work trip. We stayed about 10 min cab ride from the old town. If I were to return I would definitely stay as near as possible to the old town as that is where everything happens.

    When you enter the old town by going over a bridge and through the gates you are faced with a very picturesque walled town. It was really sunny when we were there in October, a comfortable 24-26C.

    There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the old town which isn't very big so you can get round them all in a day. Make sure you go up the steps on each side as there are hidden shops and restaurants. The best food we had was at a restaurant called Moby Dick. It was the best steak and seafood that we had. A close 2nd was the one just outside the entrance to the old town! I forget the name.

    The town is very much set up for the cruise market. There are a number of different ships call here every day so it gets very busy around lunchtime. However inbetween all the souvenir shops there are so great coffee shops etc.

    When the sun goes down there are plenty of bars to have a few drinks in. If you want to watch any football head to the Irish bar, it's down one of the narrow side streets. For some late night drinking you will have to go to Revelin. It is inside the walls of the fort on the ocean, a great location and atmosphere.

    I am told the best bar in Dubrovnik is Busa. It is carved into the rock and overlooks the sea but I can't confirm this as we didn't make it there as it closes at 12pm.

    All in all I was pleasantly surprised with Croatia and Dubrovnik and would definitely consider it for my next holiday.

    Published: 21 November 2013

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    • Where: Dunedin, New Zealand
    • Who: kayley
    • When: April

    On a 2 week trip to the South Island of New Zealand we decided to pop in to the town of Dunedin to see some long lost family friends. Dunedin is the second largest city in the South island and its scenery could easily be mistaken for that of Scotland. Its dramatic coast and rolling green hills are stunning. If walking is your thing, there are lots of fantastic treks along the cliff tops to enjoy.

    We traveled in April and while the days were sunny it was quite chilly and we definitely needed a coat when out by the sea.

    One of the highlights of our trip to Dunedin was the wildlife we encountered. We booked ourselves onto one of the Monarch Wildlife cruises and were lucky enough to see albatross, seals, penguins and lots of other bird and marine life. It was great to see so much wildlife in its natural environment. Whilst a lot of Dunedin's attractions belongs to the coast, Dunedin's city is also very vibrant and definitely worth a look. Dunedin is home to one of New Zealand's most popular Universities, meaning there is no shortage of bars, shops and restaurants. The Speight's beer factory is also worth a pit stop!

    On a sunny day, the botanical gardens are worth a look as is simply just wandering around the town taking in the sights of the beautiful heritage university buildings and the soaring cathedral spires.

    Whilst there is a lot to see and do in Dunedin I would say that 2 days is probably enough time to see all the main attractions. Whilst the city is fairly lively it is a lot less vibrant than Queenstown - therefore it makes a great place to chill pre or post partying!

    Published: 26 November 2013

    • Where: Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
    • Who: kb081
    • When: May

    Sharm el Sheikh is one of the most developed beach areas of Egypt and offers visitors a great beach resort just 4 hours from the UK. We visited Sharm in May and the weather was already in its late 20's. Sharm makes a great winter break as temperatures rarely drop below 20 degrees year round.

    Sharm's biggest draw (apart from the amazing weather!) is its incredible beaches. The coastline is stunning and is home to some of the worlds best snorkelling and diving spots. Every day we would snorkel just off the beach and see heaps of colourful fish and gorgeous coral. The beaches here are all natural and the sea is very calm, making it the perfect beach destination.

    Nightlife in Sharm is very vibrant. We headed into the commercial centre of Naama Bay most nights and enjoyed sitting out watching the world go by in the bars. Our favourite bar was Camel bar, right in the heart of the town. The resort also boasts a Pacha nightclub for those who don't want the night to end! As two twenty-something girls we felt safe and never had any problems going out on our own.

    We did a couple of day trips including quad biking in the desert and a snorkelling trip out to Ras Mohamed National Park. Both were such good fun and really allowed us to make the most of our time in Egypt.

    I would recommend Sharm for anyone wanting a great and affordable beach holiday fairly close to home.

    Published: 14 November 2013

    • Where: Kalutara, Sri Lanka
    • Who: charscully
    • When: November

    We stayed in the area of Kalutara a the Avani Hotel - a quiet area/hotel. We organized our airport pick up/ trips though Select Sri Lanka,(Owners name is Gayan) who were excellent, quick responses to emails and upon arrival had a comfortable fully air-conditioned vehicle.

    We only had 5 days in Sri lanka so after one day of relaxing we were up 5am and on the way to see the Elephant Orphanage which was really special, don't miss swim time which is at 10am. We then went onto the spice/herb gardens... I would not do this again, it was a hard sell on over priced products. After this we headed to the botanical gardens, which is well worth a visit (if you can get there around lunch time it is a great place to stop off ( most hotels will give you a packed lunch). Our final stop was Kandy to see the temple of the tooth! Kandy is a beautiful area and I would highly recommend spending a few nights here.

    Whilst having reservations about where we could safely eat, we came across a restaurant called Fresh Lobsters whist walking along the beach it was a short Tuk tuk ride from the hotel and we were looked after by the owner Philip and his wife ( the chef) you must pre order your fish (prawns etc) the day before but it is well worth it. The food was incredible and with beers for 4 people came to around GBP 35

    We travelled on the 3rd Nov and the weather was really warm, only raining for an hour or so in the afternoon.

    Published: 11 November 2013

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    • Where: Taba, Egypt
    • Who: Traveladdict
    • When: June

    We normally travel long haul but were in desperate need of a week's guaranteed sunshine plus peace and quiet and Taba sounded like it would fit the bill. Taba is Egypt's northernmost resort of the Red Sea Riviera and is much quieter than it's neighboring resorts of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.

    We visited in June and the weather was already very hot. Most day's we experienced highs of 35 degrees. Luckily our hotel pool was fairly quiet so we spent most of our time cooling off in the water! Most hotels in Taba are classed as 5 star, however as with most of Egypt I would say that the hotel standard is more of 4 star quality.

    After a couple of days by the pool, we decided to venture down to the gorgeous beach for a change of scenery. We thought that the beach area would be too hot for us, but actually there was a pleasant breeze by the sea and we spent the remainder of the week there reading, sun bathing and snorkeling. The beach was stunning and was set amidst spectacular mountains.

    Taba is a haven for snorkelers. Our hotel had actually built a wooden platform from the beach that allowed you to access the sea further out and closer to the coral reefs without the need to swim too far. This was a great experience and we spent hours ogling the amazing array of fish directly beneath us and feeding them bread from the platform.

    All in all, Taba was everything we wished for. We were so lazy that we didn't actually venture out of the hotel grounds but this was exactly what we had intended. I would really recommend Taba for anyone who wants lots of R&R and sunshine without having to travel too far to get it.

    Published: 30 October 2013

    October 2013

    • Where: Athens, Greece
    • Who: kb081
    • When: September

    We went on an island hopping trip to Greece in September and due to flight connections, we ended up having a full unexpected day in Athens. We had originally omitted the city from our travel plans as to be honest we had thought that it would be a noisy, dirty city in comparison to the beautiful islands we had visited over the 2 weeks. How wrong we were!

    Athens is a dynamic, historic and full of fun city that appeals to all ages. As we only had a day in the city we decided to see the sights by booking a hop-on, hop-off bus trip. This was fantastic as really allowed us to see all that Athens had to offer in a short time. The bus starts at the main Syntagma Square (outside Mcdonalds) with buses passing by every 30 minutes - the trip in total lasts 90 minutes so you can either stay on for the duration or 'hop on and hop off' wherever you fancy.

    Sights not to be missed include the awe-inspiring Acropolis - which has to be seen to be believed - the Parthenon, and the Panathenaic Stadium. I'm not a history buff but Athens beauty and history did really blow me away.

    We went early September at the temperature hit 40 degrees - make sure you take lots of water with you as you will be walking in the stifling heat and there is little shade when you get to the majority of attractions.

    As well as the infamous historical sights, Athens is surprisingly modern and offers a vibrant shopping, eating and drinking scene. We had a fabulous lunch at Strofi restaurant directly overlooking the Acropolis. Food was traditional Greek and the service was great. I would imagine that the night time view when the Acropolis is lit up is incredible. We will have to save that for our next trip back to Athens!

    Published: 24 October 2013

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    • Where: Ayia Napa, Cyprus
    • Who: Travelbug
    • When: October

    I was really surprised by Ayia Napa! I didn't expect it to be so lovely after having been taken over by clubbers for so many years, but after travelling around most of the island I found it to be my favourite area in Cyprus.

    It's well set up with a clean and modern strip to wander down the pretty shops and yes...bars, but during the daytime all was serene except for a few quad bikes zooming around. Plenty of fun activities for kids, from crazy golf, to karting to parks and a fantastic mini water park just to the west of the main Ayia Napa beach perfect for those tweens that need to get rid of some energy! The main beach isn't that wide, but it's quite long and soft dark yellow sand.

    Yes there are plenty of hotels over looking the beach but they aren't high rise and ugly and don't take over the surroundings with shadows. All the beaches have sun loungers set up on them which you'll tend to need the umbrellas for shade as the sun is relentless even in October, about €5 per day. It was about 30 degrees until a passing cloud or two cooled it down. The next beach down to the west is about a 15 minute walk called Nissi beach known as being more upmarket. I found it had two sides to the beach, the left side was quiet perfect for families, and the right side had beach bars, party music and was really packed. The sea is wonderful here almost Caribbeanesque and really shallow, you can even wade out to a little island 100 metres offshore.

    Having visited other parts of Cyprus where the beaches seem to be either pebble or rough sand with small pebbles, Ayia Napa definitely has the best beaches and the clubbing is easy to avoid in the north part of the town. Plenty of good restaurants and facilities, I think I would choose to come back here above other resorts in Cyprus even though we are a young family. Loved it and loved the sunshine!

    Published: 07 October 2013

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    • Where: Pissouri, Cyprus
    • Who: LAS111
    • When: September

    We stayed in Aphrodite Hills around 9 kilometres from Pissouri. There were no beaches where we were staying as it's mainly a resort for golf on the south coast, but it's just a 20 minute drive from Pathos and a 10 minute drive to Pissouri.

    We visited at the end of September and it was absolutely scorching! So much so that we stayed out of the sun between 11-2pm as it was so easy to burn, we had one thunderstorm in the evening the whole time we were there, the rest of the time it was very dry, sunny and hot with a few nice breezes to cool things down.

    Pissouri has a little village with some nice villas to stay in but you would need a car to get down to the beach in Pissouri Bay as its very mountainous here. Pissouri Bay had a few pretty shops and restaurants as wells as a few nice Hotels and a lovely cafe overlooking the beach which was great for lunch.

    The beach was mainly sand with a few pebbles and one of the nicest beaches on the south coast as many of the others are just pebble beaches. The sea water was fairly warm and calm, just right for swimming in. There's also lots of watersports to choose from here including jet ski's and windsurfing and kayaking.

    Published: 07 October 2013

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    • Where: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
    • Who: Emma.Morris
    • When: July

    Amazing holiday destination...beaches, weather and hotels were all good.

    We went in July (when there was a risk of hurricanes) and the weather was great... we went for two weeks and only saw two rain showers and both of these were at night time!

    My favourite thing about the Dominican Republic is the beaches. I have never seen sand so soft and white (even in the Indian Ocean) and in Punta Cana they stretch for miles. The sea is just as also lovely, very still on the Punta Cana side and good for snorkelling. We went on a day trip to Sanoa Island and on the way stopped off at a natural lagoon in the middle of the ocean, it was fantastic!

    The hotels here are mainly big complex's and I wouldn't recommend going outside of the complex on your own - the towns don't look tourist-friendly.

    It's the ideal place for relaxing and doing nothing apart from a couple of exciting excursions.

    Published: 27 September 2013

    • Where: Prague, Czech Republic
    • Who: Emma.Morris
    • When: May

    Beautiful city, perfect for a short break.

    Went in May and had lovely weather - needed a thin jacket but it was sunny and bright.

    Easy to walk around the city and see all the spectacular monuments and architecture. The square in the Old Town was a good people watching spot although the drinks were expensive. The Charles Bridge is a must do! It's a very busy city and I was conscious of pick-pocketers but we didn't have or see any trouble.

    Lots of hotels, B&Bs and hostels so no problem finding accommodation.

    Published: 27 September 2013

    September 2013

    • Where: Hammamet, Tunisia
    • Who: LB1008
    • When: May

    Most tourists tend to visit Hammamet due to the coastal location, European vibe and beach activities available. For a package holiday it is a good place to stay. Children are very well catered for, the hotel strip is very safe and if you want to let your hair down in the evenings this is a good place.
    Hammamet is comprised of the beach, the city and the old town (Medina) which is lovely to walk around (parts of it date back to 1500) and a nice way to see some Tunisian culture outside the hotel walls. It goes without saying that the sun and sea was fantastic (the beaches are extremely clean due to the number of hotels along them) but for me a highlight was visiting a Hammam there - no amount of exfoliator, mask or beauty product came close to how buffed, clean and shiny I was when I emerged - a proud moment in my life, and it only cost me 3 dinar! Just remember to wear underwear or swimwear, some people will be be topless there but this is not ideal. You can bring your own wash products but mud and salt scrub is sold there and these are amazing! There are quite a few Hammams to choose from, just ask in the hotel.
    If you go during the summer the atmosphere is lovely, every evening most hotels invite different musicians/street entertainers, theatricals and magicians to perform Al fresco so it is a lot of fun wandering around and taking everything in.
    If you are staying for a week or more, it is worth visiting a Souk to watch the locals do their weekly shopping and partake in some retail therapy yourself. Silver is really good to buy there and there are beautiful hand made ceramics that you can haggle for.
    Just a quick note, although most hotels will have pharmacies and shops, toiletries, nappies, wipes and shampoos are much more expensive so bring enough to last!

    Published: 16 September 2013

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    • Where: York, England
    • Who: Travelbug
    • When: July

    What a city! So lovely, and we only had a day here. I would definitely come back, and explore more of Yorkshire next time. But as it was we had wonderful weather and strolling around this medieval city was so peaceful and relaxing.

    York Minster is the famous Cathedral here and it's truly breathtaking, some parts are under renovation but there's still plenty to see. Incredibly beautiful and absolutely huge! There were plenty of tourists here but its easy to see why it's the main attraction.

    The whole city has a really lighthearted ambience, pretty medieval buildings, great shops and plenty of places to eat, we couldn't resist a good old traditional pub with good old english food as it just felt so English!!

    The river cuts through the city and does great boat tours around the city and countryside, even if you are limited on time, I would recommend just doing and hour long boat tour as it gives a great overview of the city and great for putting your feet up if you've been walking round the town all day and shopping like I had!

    If you are anywhere near here, either Leeds or heading up to Newcastle, if you can stop of just for lunch it will be worth it.

    Published: 05 September 2013

    • Where: Malta
    • Who: deansadler11
    • When: September

    Malta is a small Island in the Southern Mediterranean. Ideal if your looking for hot dry weather. We stayed on the northern tip of the Island in Paradise Hotel. Not a bad hotel maybe not quite as good as its 4 star rating but it was nice enough. There is a ferry port at top of the island which takes you to two other smaller Islands Gozo and even smaller Island of Camino.
    I would highly recommend going to Camino, in my opinion is where you can find the nicest water and beach. The water here is very clear and a stunning light blue colour. A great place to do water sports, like banana boat or water parachuting. Very good for snorkelling with good marine life and caves to explore. Watch out for the Jelly fish though.
    Gozo seemed quite nice but we didn't spend as much time as I would have liked there. The waters all around Malta are very pleasant and nice and warm, a few really nice beaches dotted around so ideal to find a hotel close to one of these. The roads on the Island are quite rough so expect a bumpy ride on transfers to your hotel. It's a very dry arid island and of course not that big. Not perhaps a place you'd want to live if you like it busy, as I think you would feel a bit stranded and bored but a great place for a 7 or 10 day holiday with nice weather, beaches and relaxation. There's a few things to do if you are active like seeing the museums in Valetta which document interesting history of war and there's scuba diving, water sports and excursions to other islands. Try a pastitsie if which is a local pastry delicacy.

    Published: 08 August 2013

    • Where: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
    • Who: deansadler11
    • When: June

    Playa as the locals call it is a very touristy destination on the east coast of Mexico about an hours drive south of Cancun. Cancun is the most popular destination in the region but Playa is a great alternative. It's less populated but is fully loaded with all your holiday needs with stunning beaches, hotels, apartments, bars and restaurants.

    There's plenty of choice if you're eating out. There's a main street called 5th avenue that runs parallel to the never ending beach and along this avenue you can find everything you need for bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. 5th avenue is very long and is being extended even more, and it's great for a stroll along in the evenings. There's always plenty of people filling the street. Expect a few locals to call out to you occasionally to buy from their shop, usually these locals are always friendly and often very funny. Generally the local people are very nice and helpful to deal with.

    Weather here in summer months is very hot and humid! Playa offers a great base from which to visit many attractions nearby. There are many Mayan pyramids such as Kobe and Tulum only a short bus ride away. There's also plenty of activity parks that offer a range of exciting things to do. Personally I would recommend visiting a Cenote. This is the Spanish word for a sink hole, but honestly it's better than it sounds! There are many underground waterways in east Mexico and dotted about are these spectacular spots of natural beauty, they are basically lovey pools of clear turquoise water full of amazing marine life found inland. The best one I visited and remains my favourite destination in Mexico is called 'garden of Eden'. Located in the forest with some fantastic ledges to jump off into the refreshing water.

    Published: 07 August 2013

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    August 2013

    • Where: Mexico City, Mexico
    • Who: deansadler11
    • When: June

    Flying over this city as you approach is quite an experience. It's absolutely vast like a never ending tightly packed colourful concrete jungle. For most part this a very poor city but there are also some very rich places here too.

    Down town is very pleasant with lots of historic buildings primarily of European architecture. The centre is quite nice with greenery and fountains. There are people absolutely everywhere! Obviously Mexico City has a huge population. The traffic on roads doesn't seem to abide by any rules and the police here are thought to be quite corrupt! It can be pretty dangerous if you are to venture out into the outskirts of this huge city but generally if you stay together and close to the centre you will be fine. We stayed in a gated community fairly far out from the centre but it felt very safe.

    Theres some great pyramid excursions to be done, we travelled 1.5 hours which was worth the effort. I'd definitely recommend this as a cultural destination and if you like to travel rather than just holiday, this needs to be on your to do list! Not so appealling to families though. Don't be put off by stories you hear which give Mexico city a bad name. It's safer than it sounds but as with all places use your common sense.

    Published: 07 August 2013

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    • Where: Las Vegas, Nevada USA
    • Who: Suze
    • When: April

    Las Vegas is the ultimate indulgent destination!

    Whatever you want to do you can do - 24/7 - whether its eating, drinking, gambling, shopping or entertainment you can do it!

    Shopping wise you must go to the Premium Outlet Centre NORTH (South was rubbish when we went last time), Make sure you sign up on their website before you go and get a voucher for a coupon book - there is nothing better than savings on already massively discounted stuff! I always take an extra big bag in my suitcase and pre-pay for an extra bag on the way home - you will fill it to the brim!

    Choose a hotel on the strip (easy to get around) and with a pool - but do get down to the pools early as there are never enough sun loungers.

    If you haven't gambled before then do take advantage of the free lessons most casinos give during the day. Cheap roulette and tables can be found at Excalibur and off strip - worth practising there first before you play the big hotels and lose a lot quickly. The Craps tables are always the loudest and the most fun!

    And yes it is free drinks if you are gambling - even if you are on the 1c slots! DO tip the waitress $1 a time at least (per drink) as they will come back more often. We always factor in gamble time before a night out as the drinks in clubs are expensive - they are doubles but still pricey.

    The queues for clubs can be a nightmare...I'm too old to queue and its a buzz kill so I usually buy VIP line passes beforehand on lasvegas.com. Its worth the $20 to walk straight past the massive line...and some give you free drinks for a couple of hours and whilst its well drinks (non-branded alcohol) the measures are very generous. DO tip the bar staff - its worth it for quick service all night.

    Consistently best night out every time I go is Tao on a Thursday night.

    Published: 07 August 2013

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    July 2013

    • Where: Edinburgh, Scotland
    • Who: Ahs
    • When: June

    Visiting Edinburgh is like stepping into a postcard. The buildings are magnificent, and the whole city so picturesque and clean.

    It's a really small city, well at least it seemed it. Really easy to walk around although I should recommend taking a bus tour to really get the most out of the city and an understanding of what you are looking at and the real historical significance, which is handy when you see a large George IV statue and wonder why its there!

    I didn't expect it to exactly be hot in Scotland but i was surprised it was pretty warm, albeit overcast.

    The castle set up on the hill is the incredible backdrop to this great city, and the manicured Princes Park is a central hub for tourists to get their bearings, it's opposite the station with the National Gallery the other end. Edinburgh is very hilly! You'll find Jenners famous department store at the bottom of the Hill on the corner of Princes Street.

    The countryside around Edinburgh is stunning and if you get chance take the 10 minute drive down to the port where you will find Leith, a little waterside town which has sort of built itself up into a cool restaurant district. Some of the nicest restaurants and menu's I've come across and best of all right on the waterway is a row of 3 or 4 seafood restaurants with everything from Champagne and Oysters to really rustic traditional seafood, the whole air and environment smell of the sea and fresh fish which just makes you want clam chowder!

    Published: 21 June 2013

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    • Where: Devon, England
    • Who: John
    • When: April

    There is so much to do in Devon. Not just go to the sea side, which in April still isn't sunny and the water is beyond cold! Not even the hardcore British sea-siders were in the sea!

    We went to Ilfracombe in Devon which was very pleasant. There is a nice little town with so many shops! Don't expect big shopping centres as they are all small independent shops, no chain stores here! An overwhelming number of them were selling the usual seaside tat or fudge!

    The ice-cream here is amazing though so you must stop and have one at the harbour. You can walk up the very steep hill to the little chapel to burn your ice-cream off and get a good view of Ilfracombe. You should have a look at the famous Damien Hurst statue of a pregnant woman, it is on the edge of the harbour. If you walk up the hill one side of the harbour you will get a great view of it and the rest of the town.

    A visit to smugglers tunnel a short walk from the harbour is a must do, its in a nice little cove of 2 small beaches steeped with loads of history, a fun and educational day out!

    Published: 15 June 2013

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    June 2013

    • Where: Magaluf, Majorca
    • Who: John
    • When: May

    What a place! Not for the faint hearted at all. Or if you are, stay off the strip and definitely out of BCM. Lets start there.... For €25 you can enter and drink for free all night. This place is madness, if you are here to party this should definitely be on your list. You will almost definitely find yourself in BCM square for a few drinks anyway!

    May is usually quite nice weather wise in Majorca BUT on about 5 out of our 7 days here it was raining. It was very windy too. So much so that i wore jumpers and hoodies most of the holiday! I have been to Majorca many many times and i would usually say it is guaranteed sunshine in May as it always has been before but not this time. If you are thinking of going to Majorca in May then try to go as near to June as possible as then you will get more sun.

    During the daylight hours, Magaluf is still quite busy compared to other places in Majorca that we went to. I didn't think that Majorca would be that busy in May which is why we went. Most places weren't but Magaluf was heaving. There is a great beach in with plenty of bars and cafe's lining the coast. All the food is cheap and quick which allows you to get back to sunbathing / recovering from the previous night!

    There are loads of things to do in Magaluf from the hundreds of Crazy Golf courses to the slingshot, bowling and anything else you can think of. There are lots of family activities to do but i wouldn't really advise taking your children here. If you are looking for a good value hotel in Majorca then you can do one bay over to Palma Nova which is a bit quieter.

    Published: 08 June 2013

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    • Where: Windsor, England
    • Who: Pattie
    • When: May

    ETON

    Such a lovely little town and high Street about half an hour from central London by car right next door to Windsor. You probably wouldn't visit just Eton on it's own, being so close to Windsor you may as well visit both.

    At the one end of Eton high street is the famous Eton College and at the other end maybe half a mile is the bridge over the Thames to Windsor with views of the castle. A good tip if you are in the car, it's a lot easier to park in Eton than Windsor and just walk over the bridge.

    The pretty high street has lots of coffee shops, pubs, little restaurants, souvenir shops and an official Eton College gift shop.
    You'll see a couple of traditional English tailors which make the Eton School uniforms amongst other things. And some upmarket galleries among the beautiful and very old buildings along the high street. An afternoon is all you need here or just a few hours as it's so small but it's quaint old english atmosphere is so appealing. A definite must see if you can find the time to get out of central London.

    Published: 01 June 2013

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    May 2013

    • Where: Panama City, Panama
    • Who: LB1008
    • When: March

    Panama City is amazing! I was taken aback at how cosmopolitan and glitzy it is - investment and development there has been massive and it is a bizarre mix of shanty towns, old traditional buildings and huge high rises with a very international feel. The new part of the city has a very American feel to it and tourists and expats are very well catered for. For me a particular highlight was walking in the evenings along Avenida Balboa to a huge park which runs along the seafront - everyone comes out and the area is full of joggers, skaters, families. It is a really chilled out place to be and, because security men patrol everywhere, very safe. For shopping, Albrook Mall is great, or if you can go to Colon for duty free splurging. There are national parks about fifteen minutes outside of the city (Parque Soberania and Metropolitano are great places to hike/bird watch) if you need a bit more greenery and less chaos.

    However, for me the nicest part of the Capital are Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo, the old and colonial parts of the city. In terms of safety, the fact that the President lives there means that policing is high and I felt perfectly comfortable walking around with my cranky infant, more so than in the new part of town. As clichéd as it sounds, walking around the old town in the evenings is so pleasant as market stalls are spread out among the streets (you can buy beautiful indigenous tapestries and prints, as well as the good old Panama hat), artists come out to paint and the views of the city from here are beautiful. Just maybe take a map or after a few churches, ruins and cobbled streets you may get lost like I did.

    Traffic is horrendous and the buses (diablos rojos) are absolutely terrifying, so I would recommend walking - you see a lot more much quicker.

    Published: 01 June 2013

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    • Where: Las Vegas, Nevada USA
    • Who: John
    • When: April

    This was the 2nd trip to Las Vegas so i kinda knew what to expect. We were on a stag do and so didn't do anything by halves. Transport from the airport was a stretched Hummer for 18 passengers. BTW, if there is a big group of you this works out quite a lot cheaper than Taxi's, so much so that we went everywhere by limo.

    We were only here for 4 nights so there was a lot to get packed in...... First up was going to a shooting range. We went to discount firearms not far from strip, i fully recommend going. Hundreds of guns to choose from. Some of our group (the stag) had a surprise skydive which they absolutely LOVED. Great scenery of the strip if you can manage to open your eyes on the way down!

    The highlight of the trip was dinner at Texas de Brazil. If you like steak, or meat in general, you MUST GO HERE!! They will keep bringing all different types of top quality mean until you say stop!

    We decided to stay in the Wynn Hotel as that is where the 2 best clubs are at the moment. Tryst was the first one which was a great atmosphere and music but the small of them. Great night out though. Surrender was the place to be this year so we booked a cabana (expensive but if there is a group of you very worth it) before we left so got a great deal on it. This has a massive swimming pool in the middle of it and is huge. Calvin Harris was playing the night we were there and so great music and it was madness.

    If you have never been and plan on spending most of your time on the strip then The Wynn probably isn't the ideal hotel as it is at the end of the stip and you will get loads of taxi's everywhere!

    To summarise, everyone will LOVE VEGAS BABY

    Published: 26 May 2013

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    • Where: Soller, Majorca
    • Who: Travelbug
    • When: May

    I had no idea such a lovely little place existed! I only found it when search for hotels on booking.com and saw all the hotels in this area were pretty much sold out! So of course I had to go there.

    Now I know why they were sold out, it's absolutely beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous rocky mountains. In fact it was probably sold out because a lot of people were there specifically for hiking through the mountains and there were also a ton of cyclists hitting the crazy hair pin bends through the narrow mountain roads.

    The beach is really small but so pretty and the water just looks amazing, really tropical! It seems fairly up market here, tiny town but a row of nice hotels line the bay, and tons of great restaurants to choose from and not bad prices. Really nice ice cream shop next to the Marina Hotel but I forget it's name, it offered Black Vanilla ice cream, so good!

    There was a traditional old tram that ran through the town that you could take a trip on along the beach and up into the actual town of Soller. And plenty of pedalo's and boat trips you can take. I just found it so peaceful and pretty here, like Majorca's little secret. I probably wouldn't stay for a week as it's so quiet unless you are hiking or cycling but definitely a few days or even a day trip from Palma. There's a short cut through a toll tunnel through the mountains that makes it pretty quick to get to, about 45 mins from Palma.

    The weather was cool by Majorca standards, in the low 20's and was a little windy when I was there in May. Lovely place, highly recommended.

    Published: 26 May 2013

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    April 2013

    • Where: Goa, India
    • Who: jan57
    • When: February

    We went in end of Feb beginning of March, the weather was very hot 38degrees most days. The place to be was Baga beach, you can lay on a sunbed all day for free, just pay for your drinks lunch etc from the shacks.
    At night the shacks come alive with music and lights. Steaks and sea food were the best meals to purchase from the shacks and cost average £4-6 a couple with drinks £8-10. I recommend Shack on the Bay, which was one end of baga beach.

    The best way to get to the famous Wednesday market was by boat, we paid £10 each for a taxi and boat to the market. But if we had gone to the beach we could have haggled for a speed boat-taxi for half the price.

    The best bars are to be found in Tittos lane, especially Cape Town Cafe where you can have beer and selected cocktails 2 for 1 which works out 90p for 2 beers and £2 for 2 cocktails, it also has a late night disco in the back of the bar from 11pm onwards. If you fancy a better class restaurant with music then the italian restaurant Titto's is the place to go.

    At first the traffic is a bit daunting as there are not many paths and the traffic, cars & scooters swerved round you beeping as you walk in the road. Also there are a lot of power cuts as most places use generators for electric these can last for a minute to 3 or 4. Also there is somtimes a whiff of sewage, this is because most hotels bars etc have septic tanks, so they do pong a bit when being emptied. however this is a cheap place to eat and drink, the people are friendly, and the sun always shines.

    Published: 19 March 2013

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    • Where: Rodney Bay, St Lucia
    • Who: Louisa
    • When: March

    St Lucia is a beautiful islands with lots to offer visiting tourists. Unlike other caribbean Islands it is safe to walk around and explore the Island rather than staying inside your resort. There is lots to see and do, the beautiful Pitons provide an amazing back drop to the Island and can be climbed in 4 hours.

    We arranged an Island tour with a local driver who took myself and my partner around the Island from Rodney Bay to Soufriere via Canaries and Anse de la Raye. His local knowledge meant that we stopped at all the best photo stops and saw lots of the Island. The tour also included visiting hot springs, the waterfall where Superman 2 was filmed and seeing the volcano and bathing in the sulphur springs which apparently take 10 years off your life!

    The Island is like a natural spa providing the perfect place to relax and unwind, Reduit beach is beautiful and is the perfect place to get a good tan, there are plenty of watersports on offer and locals selling traditional carribean food. I would recommend St Lucia to anyone thinking of visiting the carribbean, for sunshine, relaxing and sight-seeing it has a lot to offer.

    Published: 21 April 2013

    • Where: Miami, Florida USA
    • Who: AdamG
    • When: May

    Miami is so full of clichés’….and let me tell you, they are all true!
    Body building men, totally un-natural women, partying all hours, small dogs in handbags, people walking ten dogs at once!....and its just great fun!

    We travelled in May and spent a week prior to taking a Caribbean cruise. Weather was great, very hot; beaches were very large, stretching for miles on end.

    I loved the food in Miami; Mexican fare was the best, including the best Quesadillas I have eaten along South Beach.

    You will definitely not be stuck for nightlife, as alongside the beaches, are bars, clubs, restaurants and more.

    If you are a fan of sport then there is also a major tennis tournament, basketball, so will never be short of something to do. We didn’t actually take in a sporting event, but could see plenty was going on.

    I would say if you enjoy a lively city and designer shopping, then this is the place for you. Also though Miami has that Art Deco feel, which if you are into architecture, you will also find interesting, if you just take a wander along Ocean Drive.

    If you are planning on shopping it is reasonably expensive, so make sure you have plenty of spending money. If you are avoiding shopping then I’m sure you can just relax on the beach for a week and still have a great time.

    All in all, it is a fun and care-free city, so enjoy it, whether relaxing, partying or both!

    Published: 12 April 2013

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    • Where: Versailles, France
    • Who: sunseeker
    • When: February

    Paris is one of my most favourite cities in Europe, so I was very excited when I received a trip to Paris as gift from my other half. This was a birthday present and I was over the moon.
    Forget about flying, take a Eurostar train if you can, for those living in London as I do it’s a no-brainer – it cuts your journey time considerably, allowing more time to enjoy this amazing city. Our hotel was only about 15 minutes walk from Gare Du Nord and about the same time to Louvre, so excellent location indeed. We stayed in the Opera district and literally walked everywhere. The only time we took the metro was when we went to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery on our last day.

    We have visited all the famous landmarks, but a trip to Versailles was by far my most favourite. Château de Versailles - the name itself has the sound of opulence and grandiosity it represents. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamt about making a visit one day and it was well worth it! The stunning architecture, beautiful gardens and a chance to re-live the most famous days of the Sun King’s rein while walking around, listening to the amazing history that was written here, I want to go back just thinking about it! You need a whole day to enjoy Versailles in its glory, but it is a day & money well spent. I say, forget about the Eiffel Tower – Versailles is the most romantic place in France...
    I very much hope to return to Paris soon and there is absolutely no doubt that I will take that funny, double-decker of a train to Versailles again!

    Published: 10 April 2013

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    • Where: Montenegro
    • Who: adam
    • When: August

    Last August , I travelled on the beautiful Azamara Quest cruise ship for a 12 night cruise around the Greek islands. The desination I would like to tell you about is Montenegro. Named after the black pine tress which surround the island, Montenegro is a beautiful, clean and really friendly destination.

    A fabulous fjord leads you into the main bay, if you are lucky enough to sail into Montenegro; and definitely worth waking up early to fully appreciate. Once in port there is a wealth of cafes and restaurants around this historic walled town. I can personally recommend the bar/club oppositie the cruise terminal that has a truly relaxed atmosphere and an outdoor DJ in the eveing playing chilled music!

    Turn left out of the port and head down the road to find a beautiful crystal clear beach and restaurants set against the oyster bays, serving fresh seafood and traditional wine that is still pressed under foot! Also you can take a hike up to the top of the mountain to the top of the old fort for a spectacular view! (See photo). The town square is wonderfully lit up at night with the church in the centre being a sight to remember, stop for some fresh food and possibly a cocktail or a coffee and soak in the atmoshpere.Wonderful!

    Published: 09 April 2013

    March 2013

    • Where: Majorca, Spain
    • Who: Lozza D
    • When: September

    In September last year, my husband and I got married at a beautiful country hotel called Son Julia in a little town called Llucmajor, about 15 mins from Palma. It was the most beautiful setting, a truly breathtaking hotel overlooking the countryside, and the hotel staff were absolutely amazing. Nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way to accommodate all of our guests. In particular, Laura, the marketing manager, was an absolute angel when it came to all the finer details and the logistics of the day itself. I couldn't have asked for a better place to walk down the aisle.

    I only wished we could have stayed there longer. We are hoping to go back very soon to savour the moments all over again, but in less of a whirlwind! We saw a few venues around the island in January last year but once we saw Son Julia, there was never a question of it being anywhere else!
    We stayed in Majorca for two weeks in total, starting off with a few days in bustling Palma. There were some fantastic places to eat in the centre of town, and a fair few bars. I would highly recommend Sambal, as we ate there with our friends the night before the wedding and the food and drink was excellent. Cocktails at Bar Abaco were great too, it's a bar with very traditional Spanish decor and waiters, but it's pretty pricey.

    After the wedding, we went to Soller as a bit of a mini-moon. We stayed in the town and travelled most days into Port de Soller. The views are stunning and if we went there again we would stay at the port by the beach. Would highly recommend Ca'n Boqueta, Randemar and Cas Xorc restaurants.

    All in all, it was a truly memorable holi-weddi-moon, I would recommend Majorca to anyone. There is SO much that island has to offer, I loved every minute. Last tip, if you have the money and time, take a boat ride around the island and you will be in awe, I promise!

    Published: 20 March 2013

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    • Where: Malaysia
    • Who: TiLi
    • When: May

    Malaysia is an incredible country! There is just so much to experience, but in short during my travels some of my absolute favourite places were Langkawi on the Malaysian Peninsula, its was boiling hot, the beaches, the atmosphere and the bars really made it a great place to party! We were even lucky enough to experience the bio-luminescence in the warm sea water - so amazing a glowing green when you move around in it!

    We stayed a few days on the Perhentian Islands, complete opposite of Langkawi, very quiet, beautiful beaches, Coral Bay beach was the perfect place to wind down. You can dive here, and there is an incredible shipwreck to investigate, almost still intact, very eerie.
    You can't visit Malaysia without enjoying KL, great shops, great service, really inexpensive for haircuts and massages if you've been travelling and need one! The Petronas towers are a really awesome sight.

    Next, the island of Mabel which most people visit for the diving, and so did I. Truly fantastic diving but I was really disappointed that such a lovely Island was so unkempt and full of smelly rubbish and stray dogs.

    I went to lots of places along the way but the highlight for me was flying over to Bourneo to Kota Kinabalu to climb Mount Kinabalu. I'm not normally a hiker or trekker but I'm fairly fit which helps when you are trekking a 13000ft mountain! The experience is really once in a life time and the views are just simply breathtaking, see my picture. Take a tour and you'll be able to stay on the mountain and watch the sun rise, there is just nothing like it. I was there in May and the weather was perfect for the climb, obviously you need to wrap up but it was mild weather.

    I wasn't overly fond of the food here, but saying that when we managed to get to nicer eateries in towns I really enjoyed some delicious food even if I was dubious about what exactly was in it sometimes!


    Published: 11 March 2013

    • Where: Negril, Jamaica
    • Who: hazeybaby38
    • When: March

    Negril is a beautiful place with so many fantastic experiences on offer whether you fancy just chilling out on stunning beaches such as 7 mile beach which is breathtaking with crystal clear waters,shops,cafe's,bars,very nice restaurants.A visit to half moon beach is a must if you want to see beautiful tropical fish or simply relax at this amazingly beautiful and remote beach which has a very nice bar and restaurant where you can sample the famous jerk chicken or spicy lobster.

    To experience a truly amazing sunset experience head to Rick's cafe and watch the sunset with a cold drink in hand-bliss.If you want a once in a lifetime experience then why not visit Dolphin cove where you can swim and fall in love with the cute dolphins.Negril offers lot's for the active visitor such as the Canopy tour where you can zip wire over the lush tropical countryside and enjoy scenic nature walks,want something even more exciting then you may want to try a jungle river safari a truly exciting experience.

    My husband and i enjoyed all these experiences so much and on our last evening we took a cruise to Luminous lagoon which is a fascinating natural wonder as the boat came to a halt we watched in awe at the sight of the water turning a luminous color.I left my heart in Negril,relaxed on stunning beaches,ate in wonderful restaurants,experienced warm Jamaican hospitality,took in the most beautiful experiences that will stay with us forever.

    Published: 27 February 2013

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    February 2013

    • Where: Nicaragua
    • Who: Luca
    • When: April

    Absolutely amazing country! Cheap, cheerful and full of delicious rum.
    We began our journey through Nicaragua in Managua. This is the capital and to be honest is just a big dirty city, like pretty much all central american capitals. We only stayed here for a day before deciding to do a big trip out to the Corn islands. It took three days to get there as we went by land. It was a really exciting adventure at the beginning, however, once we got to the pirate town of Bluefields we'd had enough. It hadn't stopped raining and we had to catch a 3 hour boat to the Corn Islands. In summer, or just generally when the sea is calm this could be pleasant and may only be 3 hours, however, it took us 6 hours and was absolute hell. People were throwing up everywhere. I wouldn't wish that boat trip on anyone in bad weather. Once we got to the Corn islands it was fantastic. One of the cheapest untouched Caribbean islands. It was magical; I definitely recommend it! Needless to say we flew back to Managua after a week at the amazing Corn Islands.

    We then moved onto Leon, where we caught up with some friends and went Volcano boarding (amazing!). This was a nice city, definitely worth visiting. we stayed at the Big Foot hostel.
    Next on the list was Grenada, which was an amazing little town. Lots of tourists though and lots of child prostitution which really disturbed us. Besides this it was a really nice place.

    From here we went onto the big lake, lake Ometepe. We stayed on the boob shaped islands for 3 days and went scootering around the islands. 3 days was enough as it was a bit boring.

    The best was yet to come. After the lake we went onto the border town called San Juan del Sur. This was by far my favourite. You could surf, fish and drink every night and it was soooo cheap. Definitely recommend this place.

    We ended up staying over a month in total in Nicaragua and it was amazing. Highly recommended!

    Published: 26 February 2013

    • Where: Bruges, Belgium
    • Who: Chris Sterry
    • When: October

    As my wife will not fly or sail our Non-UK holidays are restricted to Eurostar and due to our disabled daughters respite stays can not last for more than 6 days, depending on departure and return days. We did, however manage to book a 4 days visit to Bruges in Belgium in October 2012. What an extemely pleasant and beautiful place Bruges is. From the fine architecture, the cobbled streets, magnificent walks, the gardens and also swans, canal trips, the chocolate experience, a brewery visit, not the mention all the various museums. No matter what your taste, Bruges will have it.

    Then there is the experience of visiting Ypres, seeing the Flanders Field exhibition, the Menin Gate Memorial, Hill 61 and trenches, and the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. All certainly an experience to see.

    In our winding down years this was an opportunity not to be missed. It was a total good holiday experience, from an excellent hotel, Hotel Academie, to the sights of Bruges, all a pleasure to see.

    Published: 19 February 2013

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    • Where: San Francisco, California USA
    • Who: ALT123
    • When: June

    I travelled to San Fran in 2010 for a work conference and fell in love with it straight away. The city reminded me of every American film or show I had watched on the tv with lots of noise from people & police cars all the time and also steam coming up from the manhole covers around every corner. There is plenty to do there and as well as the obvious things like shopping I recommend of course the amazing Alcatraz.

    You need to get a boat across from the harbour and once there you will have to walk quite a bit to get into the prison where you can then enjoy a guided tour by one of the many guides at the entrance. I would reccommend getting the headphones and self touring as it is much more informative & you wont get interrupted every minute by silly questions. Aside from Alcatraz no trip to San Francisco is complete without riding on a tram & taking a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge...yes its just a bridge but its San Francisco and you have probably seen it a million times in the movies so its a must see.

    The city has everything you would expect from a US City and it is amazing but the one thing I noticed more than anything was the amount of homeless and drunk people on the streets. They will ask you constantly for monies & you do end up getting a bit fed up by it all. This is the only negative I could find with this wonderful City but thought I would mention it.

    Unfortunately I was there for work so had to work lots and then head back to the Uk after 4 days but if I was on a holiday I would have done a twin centre trip and had a few nights in Vegas too which is only an hour flight away.

    I loved San Francisco and would definitely travel back there.....with Vegas added on too.

    Published: 11 February 2013

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    January 2013

    • Where: France
    • Who: Lev
    • When: January

    Morzine

    After skiing for many years and having never gone to France before I was suitably impressed!! I can’t comment for year in year out but great snow especially at the top and it wasn’t too icy the further down you came. Plenty of runs to keep busy on and a real good mix of difficulties, the blacks were about as challenging as I've seen anywhere with some pretty fierce reds along the way and if you’re looking for off piste then there was plenty of untouched snow.

    If you get bored of Morzine and its close neighbours then you can buy a Portes de Soleil pass which then allows you to ski France / Italy / Switzerland for about an extra 60€ (for a week)

    The all important apres ski had a good atmosphere but found the beer a little pricey at 5.50 € a pint but this seemed to be the same everywhere.

    I took my son with me for the first time and abandoned him in a French ski school mainly because it was cheaper than the English school but the French schools all spoke perfect English. He really enjoyed the ski school and it gave me from 9.30 till 12 to do my own thing. As it was his first time I assumed it would be more a 'baby sitting' service until my wide smiled 8 year told me they had been on the mountain rather than just the nursery pen which gave him great confidence to ski with me in the afternoons.

    Would definitely recommend and go again.

    Published: 28 January 2013

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    • Where: Breckenridge Ski, Colorado USA
    • Who: OGAdamson
    • When: December

    An hour and a half’s drive up the I70 from Denver is the old gold mining town, now ski resort, of Breckenridge. As a 'real' town, it has a lot of character and a huge selection of bars, restaurants and shops to supplement its four interlinked mountains offering a huge range of skiing for all abilities. Traditionally blessed with an excellent snow record there are challenging double diamond runs in the back bowls, fun black and blue runs and wide open cruising green runs for beginners. There are also great facilities for snowboarders.

    All the runs are well marked and most tree-lined, particularly useful in bad weather and there is usually an “easy” way down – good for mixed ability groups skiing together. The ski school is thoroughly recommended, particularly for children. The slopes are generally quiet by European standards, well groomed, well patrolled and served by efficient lifts with barely any queues (except for peak weekends at Christmas, New Year, President’s day etc and even here they are well managed). However, despite the many sunny days, it does get seriously cold so the right kit is essential. Breckenridge is also nearly 10,000 feet above sea level so you need to take it easy the first few days to get used to the altitude.

    There is plenty of skiing here to occupy two weeks but if you should tire of Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek are all within an hour’s drive and all covered by the lift pass. In fact, a visit to all is worth-while especially the back bowls at Vail and the Outback at Keystone. If you do book independently, do buy your lift pass in advance online at Epic Mix – you will save a fortune! You will pay for a season’s pass with just 5 days skiing.

    Most accommodation is in condos but there are some hotels. A lot you can ski back to but there are free buses regularly running around the resort. The condos are huge by European standards and very warm and cosy with all mod cons. Most will have access to Jacuzzis and pools too. There is a big supermarket in town but it is cheap enough to eat out every night. The mountain restaurants did seem a lot more expensive this year for nothing very special – best to ski a full morning and have a late lunch in town. If you’re not too keen on the skiing, there is dog sledding, snow mobiles, ice skating, a shopping outlet about 20 minutes’ drive away at Silverthorne and Breckenridge even has its own brewery, although all beer is very gassy here!

    Published: 16 January 2013

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    • Where: Uttarakhand, India
    • Who: Rob
    • When: December

    We visited Nainital in North India as we were attending a wedding in this pretty hill station. Nainital is simply stunning and not at all what people associate with India. From the hustle and bustle of Delhi take we took an overnight sleeper train from Old Delhi train station to Kathgodam; it was my first time on a sleeper train so we booked the best class available; this was our own cabin with bunk beds (for only £20 each - ok, its not western luxury but it is clean, safe and comfortable), 6 hours later we woke in Kathgodam and hired a taxi to take us on the 1.5 hour climb up the mountains (1000 Rs (£12 for a large car). Do the usual research on hotels, but its worth being within a sensible walk of the lake.

    Naini Lake itself is beautiful and the walk around it very relaxing. Hire a rowing boat if the weather is warm, we went in December and whilst the days can be nice and warm as soon as the sun goes down its freezing. A walk around the tibetan market is a must and great for local bargains (a small amount of haggling is required). Best restaurant is Sakleys for a range of cuisines and excellent desserts. I would highly recommend taking the cable car up the mountain to get amazing views of the snow-capped Himalayas and an aerial view of Naini Lake. If you have time there are multiple other lakes around Nainital so plenty of lovely walks. Also nearby is Jim Corbett National Park which is India's oldest park and the opportunity to see elephants, tigers, leopards, king cobras in a natural setting.

    Nainital has many Indian tourists but is also very welcoming to westerners and well worth a visit to anyone seeking to find a different side of India.

    Published: 12 January 2013

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    • Where: Amman, Jordan
    • Who: Sarah-s
    • When: December

    I visited the capital of Jordan, Amman for 4 days in December - the coolest time of the year. Like London in September but there was bight blue skys and sunshine every day I was there.

    Amman is known as the 'city of 6 hills' - or mountains rather. So your never far away from a beautiful view. The locals are friendly and most speak English very well. I was told that its the safest country in the middle east to visit and did feel safe - even as a young woman.

    The look of the city is odd, but interesting and endearing. Amman looks almost symmetrical, apart from the very small 'new city' (of glass) all the other buildings are all square and made of the same sandy brick. Most of it feels quite old, although there is a lot of new development construction going on. However personally I prefer the old town, it has a historic and cultural feel to it, and gives you a real sense of the city.

    We visited the desert, just an hours drive from the centre of the city. With beautiful views of the mountains running down to the dead sea. It was my favourite part of the trip and I would highly recommend going there, and having a swim in the dead sea.

    Published: 29 December 2012

    December 2012

    • Where: Amman, Jordan
    • Who: Sarah-s
    • When: December

    I visited the capital of Jordan, Amman for 4 days in December - the coolest time of the year. Like London in September but there was bight blue skys and sunshine every day I was there.

    Amman is known as the 'city of 6 hills' - or mountains rather. So your never far away from a beautiful view. The locals are friendly and most speak English very well. I was told that its the safest country in the middle east to visit and did feel safe - even as a young woman.

    The look of the city is odd, but interesting and endearing. Amman looks almost symmetrical, apart from the very small 'new city' (of glass) all the other buildings are all square and made of the same sandy brick. Most of it feels quite old, although there is a lot of new development construction going on. However personally I prefer the old town, it has a historic and cultural feel to it, and gives you a real sense of the city.

    We visited the desert, just an hours drive from the centre of the city. With beautiful views of the mountains running down to the dead sea. It was my favourite part of the trip and I would highly recommend going there, and having a swim in the dead sea.

    Published: 29 December 2012

    • Where: Flaine, France
    • Who: Timsted
    • When: December

    We went to flaine in December as a large group for a few days skiing and drinking.

    There are 2 types of skiing holidays: one where all you want to do is find the best snow, spend all day skiing and then retire to bed early ready for an early start tomorrow, the other where you do some skiing and then hit the après ski. Flaine is very much suited to the first type of ski holiday.

    It was snowing from the minute we arrived to the minute we left. You would think this a good thing for a ski resort but it isn't, as visibility was terrible and 90% of the lifts and runs we're closed. There was enough open to enjoy the few days we were there but if you were in Flaine skiing for a week it could get very boring. The weather seemed to get perfect for skiing the day we left!

    Flaine as a ski resort isn't great as there really isn't anything there. There is the 1 bar, White bar, at the bottom of the slopes, a pizza takeaway, supermarket and that's about it, Flaine is split on 2 levels. There is a lift that takes you up the side of the mountain to save walking (see video) which takes you up to another token restaurant and small shopping centre. Flaine is very fragmented as a resort and has no town centre like places like Chamonix or Schladming. We were staying in a hotel further up from the 2 levels I mentioned but there are busses every 15 mins to take you up and down. They do stop at 6pm though so be warned if you are down the bottom after that time. Our hotel put busses on for us until 11pm so I assume others will too.

    With all the above said and done it is a skiing enthusiasts paradise as there are so many runs (over 500km) with a good balance of beginner up to expert.

    Published: 22 December 2012

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    • Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
    • Who: dollyem
    • When: August


    Myself and my friend both 27 visited Chiang Mai for 5 nights from the 9th August 2012.

    Joining the train from Bangkok station around 10pm in the evening the journey was meant to take 13hours but due to it being a public holiday and extremely busy it took us 16hours all in all.

    Chiang mai is in the north of Thailand it was highly recommend to us from people we had met along the way.

    There is something quite rural about chiang mai, its very traditional and has that jungle feel.

    Although we went during what is known as rainy season during the 5 days we were there it only rained once with temperatures being mid 30’s the whole time.

    There is plenty of things to do in chiang mai to name a few of my favourites:

    There is loads of opportunity to join a cooking class where you learn traditional Thai dishes or a course in Thai massage – these start from as little as £5pp i would recommend asking around for the best deal.

    Tiger kingdom - i have done various big cat things around the world - South Africa - wild and America tame, and I must say this is a must do, staff there are helpful, friendly and encourage you to get up close and personal with all the tigers there are various different packages you can do but we did the package for all 4 smallest to large this cost 1480bhat we also paid 600bhat to have professional photos with the smallest and large - this was two CDs with around 110 pics on them would say this is worth it

    The night bazaar – this is on pretty much every evening great place to grab bargain and good street food.


    Finally the elephant nature park – this is for rescued elephants its an amazing place to visit where you can get up close and personal with the elephants, from feeding them to bathing them in the river near by Lek the founder has done some amazing work with these gentle giants .

    Published: 04 December 2012

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    • Where: Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
    • Who: Janet.A
    • When: December

    Fuerterventura, Correlijo one of the Canary Islands was our destination as a family of 4 and 3 other families. We decided to spend Christmas somewhere warm. We arrived and the weather was overcast something we were not expecting but it wasnt going to spoil our time here. The supermarket was not over expensive to get the essentials we needed. The choice of restaurants was fantanstic and could be as cheap or as expensive as you wanted.

    We did pre-book for New Years Eve in one of the childrens favourite restaurants as they get booked really quick for New Year. During the stay we only had 2 what I would say good sunny days. The rest of the time was overcast and drizzly. We took a trip over to Lanzarote by boat the children loved it. We also bought little fishing rods for them to fish in the sea and of course wetsuits to keep them warm. A football kept them entertained as well.

    There are plenty of bars with activities for children, snooker, cards, entertainers. Taxis are plentiful and are cheap to get around the Island. This was a very safe place to holiday as a family and as couples as we returned there in the April where the weather was mid 70's but because of the wind you think its cooler so put plenty of sunscreen on!

    Published: 01 December 2012

    November 2012

    • Where: Goa, India
    • Who: Mr&MrsKarnik
    • When: March

    I went to Goa in the month of March, it is very hot and humid at that time of the year and is also the end of the season for toursits in Goa. I had heard a lot about Goa from my husband who had regularly visited Goa during November and December before our marriage. I must say I completely agree with him, even though it was the end of season we completely and throughly enjoyed our 7 night visit. November and December is considered one of the best times to visit Goa, weather is pleasant and there is party mood all around. Because we travelled there in March compared to what anyone would be paying in Nov/ Dec it was relatively cheaper.

    We stayed in South Goa away from the hustle and the bustle of North Goa, enjoying the hotel's private beach. We had hired car for a day visit to North Goa and also I wanted to visit Baga beach which is very popular if you want to party hard! Our day started with visit to St Cathederal at Old Goa and then we made our way to the beach and market area. After a day of shopping, I would suggest a visit to the beach shack to take in the sunset view and enjoy the mouth watering seafood Goa has to offer (which was enjoyed by the husband as I am a vegeterian). There are plenty of options available in terms of food, entertainment, shopping and the heavenly beaches.

    One of the best ways to see all that Goa has to offer is by hiring a motorbike or scooter, and exploring at leisure. South Goa where we stayed was very safe area as we used to go for walks at night and always felt at home with the surroundings. I would suggest Goa should be on everyone's must visit bucket list.

    Published: 30 November 2012

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    • Where: Gumbet, Turkey
    • Who: honeyxx
    • When: August

    Turkey was my first choice of holiday due to it being well known for the heat and sun. I wanted to escape rainy England and have a relaxing holiday in the sun. The weather was amazing while I was there, even in the evening it was never cold. There was no sign of rain and it was clear blue skies.

    Turkeys currency is in Lira, so it was much cheaper than england and the exchange rate was incredible. In most of the markets we visited you were able to barter with the stalls and get items for a cheaper price. I went to turkey in late august/early september, this was a good time to go as it meant kids were back at school but it was still busy. I spent most of my time there around the pool relaxing or on the beach. However, the beaches in gumbet were not to a incredible standard. They were OK.

    I would say to avoid the markets if you felt under pressure or cannot stand up for yourself as the stall owners are very persuasive and can be intimidating. I would say Gumbet was a safe area however I would also say that it can be a little scary in the night as there isn't many street lights etc. Overall, Turkey was a very enjoyable experience.

    Published: 30 November 2012

    • Where: Tenerife, Canary Islands
    • Who: joannaf
    • When: August

    I went to Tenerife 2 years ago with my boyfriend. We went to lively area of Playa de las Americas which is situated on the South coast of the island. We weren’t looking at going for a party holiday but wanted somewhere which was lively and had a few bars and clubs to entertain us at night.

    We stayed in a hotel which was just off the stretch of bars and clubs called the Verónicas strip. At first I was a bit apprehensive about staying so close to all the bars as we both were looking more for a relaxing holiday than a partying one but it turned out to be a perfect location for us. There were a lot of bars and clubs located here but we did notice that they put entertainment on for all age groups. Some of the bars had theme nights which suited families as well as young people out to have a good night.

    During the day there were a lot of activities for all tourists to do. Me and my boyfriend decided to do some of them one day and got a really good deal. We got to do jet skiing, banana boating and power gliding all for 35 Euros each. I really enjoyed the banana boating and jet skiing but weren’t too keen on the power gliding!

    The beaches in Playa de las Americas had beautiful golden sands and clear blue waters which was where we spent most of our time!
    Eating out in the evening was really cheap as well. Most restaurants offered the same sort of deal which was a 3 course meal for 15 Euros. The nicest restaurants were located right on the beach front which made the eating experience in Tenerife memorable as it meant we could sit on the beach front and enjoy a lovely meal.
    I would definitely recommend Tenerife for families as well as young people as Playa de las Americas offers all different day time activities and night life experiences for all age groups.

    Published: 28 November 2012

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    • Where: United Arab Emirates
    • Who: rashila
    • When: October

    We went to Dubai in October a few years ago with family and friends, it was the best time to go as not too hot but hot enough for us - it was 30-35 degrees centigrade. The down side of October for a tourist was that it was Ramadan - so not everything is open in the day but they open after their fasts.

    Desert safari is of course a MUST DO thing in the UAE. Book yours through the hotel reception and you'll enjoy a full afternoon of fun! Nothing compares to this unique experience of bashing through dunes and enjoying a real arabic night in the middle of the desert! Not for people with weak stomach though hehe, you have been warned :)

    The Diera shopping malls have always been the central point of all regular shopping needs! Best place to go after a busy day and enjoy coffee, something to eat in the food court, or buy supplies for following day and hang around shops!

    Spice souq is a great place to hunt for arabic souvenirs. Get sheeshas, sheesha tobacco (Al Fakher is the best trust me), arabic coffee, spices (damn those dried lemons are GREAT for soups!)...Great experience! Be prepare to haggle HARD! You can easily pay more in shopping centers if you don't know the prices!

    Spice souq can be found right by the electronic and gold souq in Al Ras by Deira Old Souq Abra station.

    If you like gold/ diamonds/ you - name - it - precious - metal be sure to check the gold souq. They probably have enough gold there to make another Eiffel tower hehe. Not to mention any kind of precious watches (TAG, Rolex, Longines, Breitling...). Dubai is a good place to buy since you can be 99% sure you buy what they say. If they say it's 18k gold, it's 18k since government controls are VERY STRICT!

    Dubai is great place to find all kind of electronic gadgets you desire. Wheather you need an iPod, mobile phone, camera, telephone, camcorder, laptop....THEY'VE GOT IT :)

    Published: 22 November 2012

    October 2012

    • Where: Ibiza, Spain
    • Who: tessaademolu
    • When: October

    Ibiza is fast becoming one of my favourite European destinations. Besides the sunshine, it truly is one of the friendliest places I have been.

    This was my second trip to Ibiza, and whilst the clubbing aspect of this beautiful island is undeniable, there are really some gems here too.

    We stayed at the Hotel Nautico Ebeso, which is in Figuretes, about a 5 minute walk from Ibiza town, which was very handy. It was great value for money, as it is a 4 star hotel which we managed to get for £250 for 4 nights! The sea view from our room was just sublime, and it reminded me of the art deco hotels you find in Miami.

    On our first night, we wandered into Ibiza town. It is a little touristy in the town, and you do get badgered by promoters offering you everything but the kitchen sink to come and have watered down drinks at their bars. The atmosphere is great though, and they're probably the cheapest drinks you'll get in Ibiza!

    The culinary experience in IBZ isn't particularly what it's known for, but again, there are some real gems in IBZ. A restaurant/lounge called KM5 is just the right balance of great food and an awesome chill experience. But the piece de resistence of eating out in Ibiza, is a great new place called Lio. It's a great place, where you get to take in aa great cabaret show with some amazing talent, whilst dining on some of the most amazing food on the island! Now, Lio is owned by the same family that own Pacha, so it's only to be expected that it turns into a great club around 2am.

    Whilst in Ibiza, it'd be a crime not to take a ferry, or charter a private boat over to Formentera. The beaches there are reminiscent of the Caribbean, and many a beach party is held there in the day!

    Ibiza is a must, no matter your age! That place is awesome!

    Published: 31 October 2012

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    • Where: Fuerteventura, Canary Islands
    • Who: JenT
    • When: August

    I've stayed in Fuerteventura a number of times, we prefer the midlle of the island Caleta de Fuste as this is easy access to the rest of the island. We always hire a car to explore the many beautiful beaches the island has to offer.
    Please be very careful of the huge waves on some of the surfing beaches it can be very dangerous indeed, I know having first hand experience of my husband and 11 year old getting stuck out in the sea. Luckily they got back in and they are strong swimmers but people do get caught out. The sea is bright blue and the sand in almost white.
    The temperature in Fuerteventura is comfortable even in July and August due the continual breeze and it very rarely rains.
    Broncemar Beach is a 3 star plus hotel which offers excellent rates for the quality of the hotel or the Barcelo 4 star is also good value. Their are quite a few restaurants to choose from, last year I noticed the economy seems to be picking up again....but for how long?
    The water park in Correljo at the top of the island is expensive for what it is but its the only one on the island, this resort also has the best surf shops.

    Published: 22 October 2012

    • Where: New York City, New York USA
    • Who: Suze
    • When: August

    Rather than staying in the very touristy locations (like Times Square) go to either Upper East or West Side. I've stayed in the 70's on Upper West Side twice now and would highly recommend it.

    You feel like you are seeing the 'real' New York as there are schools, childrens parks and lovely deli's and bagel shops packed with locals rather than tourists.

    Of course you must see the usual sights of New York but make sure you also make time to just wander around the different neighbourhoods and admire the different architecture. Take a blanket and sit in Central Park watching the world go by (Strawberry Fields on a Sunday afternoon is very entertaining!). And you absolutely must order a (huge) breakfast at a local diner.

    Other hidden pleasures are the New York Boat Basin (West 79th) with its promenade & very reasonable cafe (extremely good margaritas). Walk the High Line (an old railroad track) and for shopping get out of town and go to Woodberry Common in NJ. Either take a Greyhound or hire a car and you are guarenteed to come back absolutely laden with cheap stuff!

    Going out has to be in the Meat Packing district - so many choices! And in the summer its all about the roof top bars - try Salon De Ning at the Peninsula Hotel, its pricey but the Blueberry Sling is lovely!

    Published: 23 September 2012

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    September 2012

    • Where: Bahamas
    • Who: helenahewett
    • When: May

    I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Bahamas twice and got married there this year. Every island is different and I’ve many islands still to explore but I’ve fallen in love with the group of islands and the people that live there.

    Most people will come into Nassau, the most populated island and capital city. The cruise ships come into here and many people stay at the massive (in my view ugly) Atlantis on Paradise Island. This island had large hotels and didn’t have the character that I was expecting from the Caribbean. The sea is always close and is phenomenally beautiful .

    Get the bus like the locals do they are cheap and easy to get. They do stop around 6.30 though so you’ll have to get taxis then. Go to the fish fry and rather than eating at the highly promoted Twin Brothers, go where the locals are on Andros.

    I’d highly recommend the Bahamas segway tour which takes place on a privately owned area on the southwest of the island. It is lots of fun and the break in the middle is an amazing place to paddle and cool down. Do be warned though it is easy to fall off if your push it too far and get cocky. Most of the men fell off at some point…

    You have to visit some of the out islands to get a real sense of what the Bahamas have to offer. We got a boat to Harbour Island, once there we hired a golf buggy and then zipped around the island and explored the Pink Sand beach. The main town Dunmore consisted of photogenic pastel –painted cottages and white picket fences. It’s very easy to dream of never leaving.

    We stayed five nights on the privately owned Kamalame Cay when we married at Captain Bill’s Blue Hole on Andros. I don’t think you could find a more luxurious or perfectly relaxing place. If you want to get away from everything this is the place to go.

    Published: 09 September 2012

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    • Where: Kent, England
    • Who: hoxtonsalon
    • When: August

    Folkestone and Dungeness

    When the railways first reached Folkestone in early Victorian times the town boomed as a destination for the London gentry to take their summer breaks and an elegant and wealthy seaside town was born. The grandeur of that time can still be seen with the enormous detached residences and grand hotels that have now been subdivided into flats and budget coach holiday hotels. It has been a town in decline for many years - the introduction of cheap package holidays to Spain and beyond left no place for the traditional seaside holiday and since then the closure of the channel crossing and amusement park have added to the challenges for Folkestone.

    But in recent years the regeneration has begun to transform the town with the support of the Creative foundation, and closed down shops have been brought back to life as galleries, a theatre has opened, new coffee shops and restaurants.

    We like Folkestone as a great family holiday destination - especially with younger kids. The highlight is Folkestone beach in the harbour, The water is shallow, waves offer great fun, the sand fine. At the back of the beach a coastal wall protects the cliffs and provides a series of tunnels to protect you from the sun. When the tide goes out great rock pools are exposed, perfect for first crabbing experiences. Great fish and chips and fresh seafood for lunches and some decent traditional seaside pubs to quench our thirst. We have spent many happy hours on this beach.

    Beyond Folkestone you really should jump on a miniature train from Hythe to Dungeness and visit Britains only official desert. Hard to believe as it is next to the sea and several man made lakes - it is actually incredibly dry and is formed from the largest stretch of shingle in Europe. This really is an incredible place - beautiful nature parks, again great fish and chips and miles and miles of shingle.

    Folkestone has found a bright new future as a cultural hub but still retains all the joys of a traditional seaside destination.

    Published: 18 September 2012

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    • Where: Jersey, England
    • Who: Pattie
    • When: June

    Less than an hour on a plane from the UK mainland yet this English speaking Island has a very French feel to the architecture and atmosphere. We had lovely blue skies and warm sunshine in June.

    We hired a car which was about £150 p/w; driving round the island is a pleasure as there is not much traffic although remember to take it in turns at all junctions for priority on the road. There are bays and beaches all round the coast so exploring is easy and fun.

    Accommodation is not cheap! So we stayed at a 2 star hotel Miramar which was quite dated but very friendly and spotlessly clean . This was in St Brelades Bay which is a very wealthy beachside suburb a few miles west of St Helier. We had a steep 10 min walk down to the beach but an amazing surfing beach if you are into that. We mostly explored by car to places like Bouley Bay, Midnight Bay, La Roque all with free parking.

    We like castles and there are quite a few, my favourite is Mont Orguiel which is fully intact and costs about £10 each to visit. The views from the top over the harbour are stunning. Jersey war tunnels are also fascinating. Our son’s family went to Gerald Durrell conservation zoo and said it was the best day out with the kids they’ve had. Fantastic wildlife and gardens.The best trip we had was in a tiny amphibious vehicle out to Elizabeth castle straight off the beach at St Helier. The castle is reachable by a 15min walk at low tide but I recommend go for the Duck as they call it , £12 including entrance to a beautiful castle overhanging the sea with free historic reenactments.

    Jersey has a very maritime background, so my husband enjoyed ogling at all the amazing yachts and motorboats at the marinas, lots of fresh seafood restaurants.
    We visited Portelet Bay by boat, which is one of the best in the world for Beach ratings I’m told. Jersey is a truly lovely island and we will go back.

    Published: 13 September 2012

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    • Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
    • Who: Ant453
    • When: August

    The first thing that people think of when you mention Amsterdam is the fact you can legally get stoned and/or hang out in the red light district. Neither of these were things that interested me.

    Amsterdam is an utterly beautiful city with some amazing museums (van Gogh, Anne Frank's house, the erotica museum), fantastic city scapes and is filled with the most hospitable people I have come across in Europe. It is a wonderfully chilled out place with no rushing around.
    The inner part of of the city is filled with little streets and canals. You can spend ages pottering around there dipping in and out of museums, finding cafes, and watching the world slowly trundle past.... mainly on bicycles. Cafe culture is big in Amsterdam.

    I stayed in the centre right by a canal and it is at night time when Amsterdam is at it's most romantic. Wandering through the streets by the canals with the full moon reflected on the water, gentle laughter coming from the nearest cafe was magical.

    Bikes are the best way to get around and hire shops are everywhere. The inner part of Amsterdam is all canals and pathways - but it takes a matter of 10 minutes to get out of this maze to find the parts of the city that the locals go to. There, cycling along on the raised cycle paths is a delight.
    If you are wondering where to head off to just ask a Dutchman or woman. I have never encountered such a warm welcome to a city. Everyone I spoke to - from directions in the street to questions at a cafe went over and above with their responses and their desire that my visit was as good as possible.

    Amsterdam is great- but it is a small city and I would say that 2-3 days would be the most that I would like to spend there. It is a great base for other parts of Europe though.

    Published: 31 August 2012

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    August 2012

    • Where: Croatia
    • Who: crengifo
    • When: April

    Spent 10 days in the beautiful Croatia, having been to many places over the years I can honestly say that I have never seen such beautiful blue waters.
    Flew into Dubrovnik with Monarch for a ridiculously low price, went as a couple and used booking.com to book the first and last nights in Dubrovnik but then used local WIFI in cafes to book as we went. At this time of year it's just starting to get hot and all the tourists haven't started coming yet.

    Dubrovnik is beautiful, great little shops and restaurants but the best bit is the city walls walk on a hot day followed by some ice cream. Beware that large cruise ships do descend on the town and dump a million tourists off now and then!
    We went by coach to Split and from there visited Sibernik mainly because we wanted to go to Krka national park (not as famous as Plitvice which we thought was too far to go), Sibernik was quaint and beautiful. Krka national park was absolutely beautuiful, take swimming wear to take advantage of the beautiful lakes and waterfalls.
    We took a boat to Hvar from Split (the famous party island), not too many party animals had descended by then, the water was blue and it was lovely and hot. We stayed in the Hvar Yacht Harbour Hotel (again booking as we went) which was lovely.
    From Hvar we headed back to Split, and decided to rent a car and drive down back to Dubrovnik which was a lovely drive stopping at restaurants on the way and driving through a tiny bit of Bosnia (passports required!)
    If we could have had more time there is so much more of Croatia to see and many more islands to hop around near Hvar.

    Highlights - the scenery and waters, Dubrovnik as a beautiful city, the waterfalls at the national park.
    Needs improvement - the food isn't great, if you pay more money you can get good seafood and we had some great steaks but the nation seem to really like baked goods and awful pizza!

    Published: 31 August 2012

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    • Where: Santa Marta, Colombia
    • Who: Casey2012
    • When: January

    Santa Marta is located in the north of Colombia, the main bonus is that the weather is nice and sunny pretty much all year round. The main areas to visit are Cartagena, Santa Marta (town), Taganga and Tayrona National Park as well as numerous beautiful towns and villages inbetween.

    Cartagena is probably the most popular with tourists on a budget to those looking for a high end holiday. Just walking around Cartagena is a wonderful experience, there are many street entertainers, little markets, lively bars and in general just a nice buzz about the place.

    Santa Marta town is a bit more of a local town but still has a great nightlife and a good base for visiting the surrounding areas. From there you can catch a 'colectivo' little minibuses that the locals use to Ronda for a swim in the rivers with the locals or to El Rodadero for a swim in the sea or a nice relaxing day on the beach.

    Taganga is by far my most favourite place in Colombia. It consists of one main street full of restuarants, cafes and bars selling lots of fresh food especially fish. A lot of the roads are just rubble which just adds to it's chararter. The community feel in this village is hard to describe unless you go and I would highly recommend a visit. During the day it is very relaxing and walking to some of the other beaches is a must but make sure to bring water. Locals and tourists mix during the evening either over a mouth watering local meal or dancing salsa in the clubs followed by live music on the beach.

    Last but not least is Tayrona, words can not describe the beauty of this place, it is like looking at a postcard. Staying in the park is not exactly luxury but worth it, during the walk to each campsite there is lots of nature and animals to see.

    My top tips, try Redds (alcoholic flavoured beer) & papas rellenas (filled potatoes)

    Published: 16 August 2012

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    • Where: Guatemala
    • Who: LB1008
    • When: August

    Gorgeous mountains and volcanoes, jungle, ruins, lakes, diverse markets, wildlife and an amazing Mayan history and culture. Guatemala was an absolutely beautiful country to travel around, which made it sad that it has one of the highest violent crime rates and financial inequality in Latin America (the indigenous people have not fared well) and is the only country that has actually made me nervous at times.

    I visited Guatemala in August, which made things very muggy and the insects were out in force! Crossing the river border from Mexico was very quick and easy (save the thirty minute argument with customs and $50 dollar bribe I paid to get my South African travel companion into the country. UK citizens don't need visas but South Africans do - apparently my friend had one that border control didn't like!). Overland entry should be free at the border and if anyone tries to charge you ask for un recibo (a receipt) and you may find that the fines are dropped.

    From the border I got a bus to Flores and Tikal - the jungle makes a stunning backdrop to the Mayan ruins there. Going onto the western highlands was beautiful too. Lake Atitlan is gorgeous to chill out at for a weekend and the sheer number of volcanoes (both active and dormant) are staggering and fairly easy to climb. Just check which ones are safe to trek when there. From there I continued to Guatemala City and left it fairly rapidly!

    If you are sensible, travelling around the country is very easy, prices are very reasonable and you can get a bus to anywhere you want - just try and blend in (don't flash cameras and when on buses watch your bags with eagle eyes) and speaking Spanish really helps. Never photograph children in rural areas as people are suspicious of child stealing and lynchings can occur. But if you keep your wits about you this is such a stunning country and the people are wonderful. I left this magical country frazzled but inspired!

    Published: 06 August 2012

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    • Where: Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde
    • Who: Theresa
    • When: June

    For our Ruby Wedding Anniversary we decided to go somewhere different & chose Boa Vista in the Cape Verde Islands, about 6 hours flight just off the coast of Africa. We Stayed AI in the Riu Toaurag, the only hotel on a beach that went on for miles, no other building or person in sight.

    The weather was Hot in Cape Verde and the sands white & beautiful turquoise clear water,the sea is quite rough with undercurrents & you have to wait for the green flag to swim safely, there is always a nice breeze that you really do need. Hotel was 5 star & fantastic, great food, unlimited drinks, staff great.

    However apart from the beach, sea & pools there is nothing else there, we knew this before we went so I did my homework & arranged for a local guide who picked us up from the hotel and took us to see the real Boa Vista. We asked to go to see the children in the school, we know it's a very poor island & we took lots of Pencils, drawing pads etc. water & oil paints & lots of kiddies sweets, it was all appreciated. The children were delightful with smiles that would light up a room, they sang songs for us. After leaving the schools we asked our guide to take us to other places off the beaten track that the hotel tours do not take you, the beaches we saw were unbelievable we would never have found them without him.

    Water is like gold there but plenty given out in hotel. Our guide was called Dada he was great & speaks several languages he even took us to his home to show us his baby girl who we took presents for. Great place if you like the sun, pool & beach but not much else to do. A week was enough for us as we are not really sun worshippers but like to get out & about & that is not easy to do there, hope this helps, Theresa and Rob

    Published: 03 August 2012

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    July 2012

    • Where: Calcutta, India
    • Who: TiLi
    • When: July

    Arriving safely in Calcutta in the morning, we scouted some ok accommodation after an hour or so slog around town. After a quick shower we were off to the Indian Museum, the oldest in Asia (est. 1814) and didn't it just feel like that...! The following day we visited the large and beautiful Victoria Memorial building. It houses a complete history of Calcutta which contrary to the Indian Museum, is presented in an interesting and modern format.

    Next day we visited South Park Street Cemetery which may seem a little random but it's very likely the most interesting place we visited in Calcutta. It’s a colonial graveyard in the center of the city - perhaps 200 m2 - and it was created in 1767. It contains the graves of the sons of Charles Dickens and Captain Cook amongst many other famous people from the period, not least those from the notorious East India Company. I imagine the majority of people buried there have an interesting history.

    The rest of our time in Calcutta was spent wandering around the streets, exploring and enjoying life there. There a large amount of old Colonial buildings you can see here, these are in various states of disrepair and are scattered about everywhere in the city. Whilst wandering around you are constantly reminded about the history of the place, it's quite remarkable. Calcutta was actually our favorite city in India, we really enjoyed our time there and it was easy to spend four nights.

    The vast majority of people are genuinely happy here and everyone is really friendly. Although not everyone is trustworthy, we certainly never felt threatened and once you learn how India works, the trust thing isn't an issue.

    We loved the food and didn't get sick once - though we were (mostly and unbelievably) vegetarian for 7 weeks! Eating on the street is where the best (and cheapest) food is at, though a modicum of common sense is required.

    In short; we loved it! 5 star may have been nicer, but then again, you wouldn't be enjoying the real India if you did that...

    Published: 29 July 2012

    • Where: Almaty, Kazakhstan
    • Who: nickpatt
    • When: July

    Almaty is friendly but daunting place at the same time. Communication is the biggest problem here, you need to speak Kazak or Russian to be able to communicate successfully. You may find the odd person who speaks very limited English.

    With regards to cost of living, most things are cheaper. Fuel is about 30 pence per litre. Food is very cheap. Some alcohol is very expensive, mainly due to shipping costs. Bottle of Patron £55 is not very good.

    Weather wise, I was there in July and its 28°C so pretty good. It can get up to 40°C and as low as -25°C in the winter. Websites show the weather to be 8-10°C in the night but I was very comfortable in shorts and t-shirt so the weather must have been warmer.

    In terms of safety, I felt comfortable walking around the town center just unable to communicate with most people is difficult.

    As this was a business trip, I don't see myself coming back here unless business kicks off.

    Apparantly the Skiing is pretty good here but for most Europeans there are cheaper and closer destinations.

    For the nicest views, head up to the mountains and take the cable car up to where the ski resort is. Around £8 for a return ticket and there are stunning views. There are a lot of trees knocked over due to a hurricane that hit last year but only in the mountains. (Not a common thing) Mini Earthquakes occur 5 times a year though.

    There is a nice restaurant where you can try the local food on the way down from the mountain. I tried Horse meat which was ok, and Camel and Horse milk - I can't stress how disgusting these were, but at least I can say I tried them.

    I would recommend getting pre-arranged car service if you do visit. Makes the communication bit a lot easier. Finnaly be aware that if you do arrange a pickup service from the airport, they will hold up a board with your name or company in Russian letters. Bit hard to read for the non Russians out there.

    Published: 17 July 2012

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    • Where: Tokyo, Japan
    • Who: LB1008
    • When: June

    Tokyo is mental. There are no words. I have never been so completely overwhelmed and terrified by a city before (although it feels extremely safe). It is just amazing. When you land at Narita airport get a tourist map of the area so you can get a vague idea of where everything is and what you want to do. I was really impressed with the subway system there-it is colour coded and pretty simply to use. The only problem are the crowds. Don't even attempt to travel between 9-9.30am and 5-7pm unless you want to get squashed.

    There are so many different districts that you can go to and I didn't see them all, but the Shinjuku district is a must visit. It is a mass of skyscrapers, shopping malls, noodle bars and strip joints and you're lucky if you aren't mown down by people. For new gadgets go to the akihabara district, and the Sony building will entertain you for a fair while.It took me a day just to get used to the sheer volume of everything-night time is unforgettable as instead of calming down, everything goes up a notch.
    If you need a bit of time out, Shinjuku Gyoen National park is absolutely gorgeous and very peaceful, while the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo is lovely. It is the home of the Emperor and Imperial family so you can't go in but walking around the gardens is very pretty. I walked from Hibiya subway station over Babasaki moat and the Palace plaza-the view from this direction is great and you can get some beautiful photos.

    For accomodation, there is a huge variety but I spent a night in one of Tokyo's Capsule Hotels (hotel Asakusa) and it was an experience! Most are men only, so do check before you go. And one night may be the limit for your limbs!

    Published: 16 July 2012

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    • Where: Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
    • Who: ChloSpeed
    • When: July

    Going on safari in Tarangire National Park was undoubtedly a highlight of the month I spent in Tanzania, and would thoroughly recommend everyone to go on a safari in their life, and take serious consideration of Tanzania as on option for this. Words cannot explain the experience of being able to see animals in their own habitat, rather than cooped up inside a zoo.

    The safari was completely safe, and whilst some animals (lions!) did get extremely close to the safari vehicles, respect for the animals meant that it was still completely safe and they just carried on like we weren't even there. The range of wildlife was also amazing and included, elephants, lions, cubs, giraffe and many smaller animals some of which were native to Tanzania. The weather was also lovely throughout the safari, and the guides were extremely friendly, and always tried to ensure you had the best possible view of the wildlife.

    Published: 09 July 2012

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    • Where: Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand
    • Who: Travelbug
    • When: October

    My sister and I visited at the end of October, the weather was perfect and it seemed the tourist season was quieting down slightly. We took a 45 minute Ferry from Phuket over to idyllic Koh Phi Phi Don. We had prebooked a bungalow on the island, and when the ferry arrived there were porters from most hotels waiting with trolleys for your cases to walk you over to your hotel. This was really helpful as it was a 15 minute walk through bumpy winding streets and through the market to get to our bungalow.

    There seemed to be quite a lot of rubbish around and it smelled a bit of sewage mixed with the street cooking aromas, but you soon get used to it! We were there 5 days, gorgeous beaches, plenty of bars and restaurants, although I did have a spell of an upset stomach for many days, good idea to bring medication for this. Great nightlife and most conveniences, even a little Seven Eleven store had found its way there! My sister did her Padi course there and I did an intro Padi course, reasonable prices and fantastic diving.

    Our favourite day was where we hired a half day on a longboat out to Koh Phi Phi Ley, we did a bit of haggling to get the price down. This was the highlight of our Thailand trip and I would go again just to do this. We went to the famous Maya beach, lazing around and swimming for a few hours, we saw a huge Monitor lizard, and stopped off at Monkey beach and handed out banana’s to the friendly Monkeys. Our longboat driver was happy to then take us a round the whole of Phi Phi Ley island pointing out the best spots to jump out into the clearest blue warm water we had ever been in, to snorkel around for 20 mins, we got rather sunburnt backs from this! But the most enjoyable snorkelling experience we’ve ever had. I would go out of my way to get back to Koh Phi Phi Don again, wonderful!

    Published: 01 July 2012

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    June 2012

    • Where: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
    • Who: Suze
    • When: June

    The Galapagos Islands presents the traveller with a real dilemma – as a wildlife lover do you visit the fragile eco-system to see its beauty for yourself, all the time knowing that your very presence is detrimentally impacting the wildlife? Selfishly I decided that I couldn’t just look at books or a programme on the islands and that it really was a must-see for me – and I wasn’t disappointed! The Galapagos Islands are absolutely beautiful and you were literally tripping over the wildlife!

    I tried to reduce the impact of my visit somewhat by choosing a small boat and I am glad I did as you really did get a completely different experience than a large cruise ship. I had a 6 day cruise and I would recommend this option as (despite the marketing otherwise) you really don’t have the same experience on a 2 day cruise. With a longer cruise you are able to sail out to some of further islands, away from the short trips, and so of course reducing the numbers of tourists who are visiting the island at any one time. The few islands we visited at the same time as a cruise ship were my least favourite – there were just too many people on too small a space – and of course with so many humans around the wildlife scarpered! A smaller boat will also mean you have much more interaction with your fellow passengers, usually leading to late night drinking & chatting under the amazingly clear starry sky up on the top deck!

    I can’t believe that there is anywhere with better stars or sunsets than the Galapagos. Swimming with the seals was a truly magical experience – even if they did scare me frequently by suddenly appearing inches in front or beside me to swim in tandem or play - fantastically fun creatures and an experience that shouldn’t be missed. In hindsight I missed a trick in that I didn’t combine the cruise with a few days on main land Ecuador, but that would be my only regret from the holiday.

    Published: 20 June 2012

    • Where: Tioman, Malaysia
    • Who: Leahlas
    • When: July

    We flew from Kuala Lumpur out to Tioman Island for 5 days. We were hoping for something isolated and beautiful and that’s what we got. We took an hour long flight on a 20 seater Berjaya Air propeller plane from Sultan Abdul Kuala airport into Tioman, and a short car ride to a beach for a boat to Salang Sayang resort/village. Boat is the only way to get to the village. We stayed in very rough little huts on the beach but this was what we wanted, and it was idyllic. The island is mountainous and mainly jungle, so unless you take jungle tours you can’t walk much further than your beach resort. The snorkelling was fantastic right off the beach, however as beautiful as the white sand was we did get nipped a lot by little sand flies while sunbathing.

    Be careful not to leave your bags unattended on the beach as monkeys hop down from the trees and raid them! Although our hut was basic, it was all we needed. We did struggle to find much on offer for food, and when we asked for coffee we got a strange concoction of thick condensed cream at the bottom with syrupy black sweet coffee on top, if you ask for Nescafe you get something that resembles a more normal coffee. The island was teeming with wildlife, and just wandering to the village store we saw Monitor lizards on the banks of the streams. We were there in steamy July, and we did have a tropical storm for 2 days of our visit. It didn’t stop us enjoying it, if anything we enjoyed it more; it was still incredibly hot and we had never seen torrential rain like it. In fact it meant that most flights were grounded and we managed to get the last flight out of there before they stopped service for several days. It meant cutting our stay a day short, but to catch our other flights in KL we had to do it. It really was a desert island and an unforgettable experience.

    Published: 20 June 2012

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    • Where: Istanbul, Turkey
    • Who: Leahlas
    • When: November

    We went for a romantic long weekend in Istanbul, even though it was a 5 hour flight for just 4 days we fitted in everything we wanted to do. We went in November and it was still really warm, we did need sweaters and light coats for the evenings, but the daytime sun was fine for just T-shirts. We stayed in the Swiss hotel overlooking the Bosphorus, which was a 5 minute taxi ride from Taksim the main shopping High street in Istanbul. It wasn’t really walkable unless you had plenty of time as the streets were extremely steep, although there are trams if you can find out where they stop!

    This isn’t a town for wine lovers, it’s hard to find wine or extremely expensive as they import most wine. We did eat kebabs of course, which were some of the best we had ever had, and drank tea and played checkers in the bars in the daytime The main thoroughfare in Taksim was possibly the busiest street I had ever seen, and no matter what time of day was completely packed elbow to elbow.
    We took a half day boat trip down the Bosphorus river and under the famous Bosphorus bridge which spans the Bosphorus Straight between Europe and Asia On our return we ate at one of the restaurants on the Galata Bridge in the harbour with views of the city skyline punctuated with picturesque mosques very romantic. This is just a stones throw from the Old Town which is a maze of grimy narrow cobbled streets, tiny tourist shops and street sellers. The street sellers are a little pushy and the old town can be overwhelming but was definitely worth it to see the culture, the old buildings and just experience the throng! Every 5 shops was a replica of the previous however. There’s plenty of history and taking the tram round the city was easy and inexpensive. Be aware of local holidays before you go as many streets were completely closed down on our last few days due to holidays.

    Published: 15 June 2012

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    • Where: Sapa, Vietnam
    • Who: Shackers
    • When: October

    High in the mountains of northern Vietnam lies the idyllic village of Sapa – reached only bus and train – most people come via the overnight train from Hanoi which takes 8-9 hours. If there’s only two of you book a private berth, otherwise you may end up sharing with people you don’t know and the locals tend not to sleep but talk throughout the journey. Pack ear plugs and some nibbles though as there is a very limited trolley service.

    On arrival you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d arrived at an alpine resort. We stayed at the Sapa View hotel located right on the edge of the town which has the best views in town – pay a little extra for a mountain view room and you can wake up every morning to the most amazing view of the mountains.
    When we visited in October, the weather was lovely and hot Although hot during the day, the temperature drops drastically once the sun sets so make sure you pack warm layers.

    The area is renowned for its trekking – if you don’t want to lug your hiking boots all the way to Nam, many stores rent them out, or you can pick up fake well known brand named boots for around £15.
    My other half did a 10km trek organised through the hotel with a local Hmong guide, despite him not being a walker, and in searing heat, this turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole trip for him.
    As the purpose of visiting Sapa was to go trekking, the hotel receptionist, on her day off, arranged to take me on a very small trek to get the experience – walking with the local guides who are all young girls from the Hmong village was a great way to learn more about their culture and see first-hand day to day living, and witness many villagers hard at work in the paddy fields.
    it’s certainly not party central but there are enough good quality, reasonably priced restaurants and bars in the village.

    Published: 25 June 2012