Monthly Archives: February 2017

Great Choices for a Weekend Break in England and Wales

The title pretty much says it all – if you’re hoping to get away for the weekend somewhere in England or Wales, there are plenty of options available to you. Let’s jump right in with some of the best luxury hotels in the English and Welsh countryside!

A luxury country stay at Nash Hall in Powys

This former threshing barn dates way back, all the way back to the 1600s, in fact. It has since been rather beautifully restored (you’ll be pleased to hear), and has a number of great little pieces such as its very own games room and a proper vintage jukebox.

It is very close to the great Offa’s Dyke Path, so it makes for a fab starting point for any exploration of the area and of Hay-on-Wye. So get to Nash Hall to get your country chic on.

The Hotel and Extreme Academy in Cornwall

If you’re looking to take to the water and try your hand at some surfing, get yourselves down to Cornwall and stay at this hotel just above Watergate Bay, a two-mile long stretch of golden sands famous for its surfing opportunities.

The hotel is nice enough, and all bookings include breakfast, but it’s its in-house Extreme Academy that the place really shines – you can experience surfing, body boarding, kite surfing, wave skiing and even traction kiting. Fantastic!

Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire

Stoke Place is a traditional country house with a modern twist, offering up the best of four-star luxury to its guests. Its extensive gardens were designed by the famous Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and its 39 bedrooms are all tastefully decorated.

But for a truly unique experience come during its Black Widow’s Ball. With fancy dress, a transvestite tarot reader and a midnight feast, this Hammer Horror event must be experienced to be believed.

White Horses in Gwynedd

There are actually a few different places to stay in Portmeirion, in Gwynedd, North Wales, from a converted castle to the original hotel and a whole host of different cottages, but our favorite would definitely be the White Horses, a former fisherman’s cottage.

A Grade II listed building, White Horses is situated on the Portmeirion quayside, sitting directly over the water. You can even fish from the garden if you so please!

Ellenborough Park in Gloucestershire

Just outside of Cheltenham, this is the perfect place for any guy or gal who likes to place the odd flutter on the horses. A manor built in the 15th Century, Ellenborough Park gives off a real country living feel, but is in fact just ten minutes from Cheltenham town center!

 

The World’s Sexiest Travel Destinations

The world is full of beautiful places, many with enchanting stories to tell. But what can be said about the spots that sparkle with hedonistic promise throughout the day and come charging to life after sundown? You know what I mean: the inventive party cocktails, spectacular scenery and sun-kissed bodies a plenty. Yes, one can visit Paris for fashion, the Mayan ruins for their fascinating historical value or New York City for its pulsating energy. But when it comes to all that sizzles with a capital “S” these sexy locations are hard to beat:

1. Marrakech, Morroco

Marrakech has enjoyed a positive evolution in the last few years; from a historic destination –with a rather seedy nighttime environment — to a classy and upscale community of jetsetters. Only a few hours from the fabled Sahara Desert, visitors can indulge in the curious duality of this landmark Moroccan destination: traditional marketplaces, mosques, and beautiful landscapes on one side and a modern array of dazzling restaurants, bars and clubs on the other. Be prepared to pay for your revelry, as with this rise in popularity comes an exponential increase in the consumption of alcohol and other decadent goodies.

2. Hvar, Croatia

Don’t let the picturesque rolling hills and calm, clear waters fool you: Hvar’s glamorous clientele and vibrant nightlife is said to rival that of the infamous Ibiza. This lovely island gem – arguably the most enchanting on the Adriatic Sea – features breathtaking beaches, charming medieval streets, an immense seafront promenade and a slew of trendy nightspots designed to make you drink and dance until you drop – preferably on that Croatian cutie you were eyeing all night.

3. South Beach, Florida

With its pastel-colored façades, iconic neon signs, beach-body sun worshippers and a legendary nightlife scene, South Beach reigns supreme as the party capital on western side of the Atlantic. Celebrities, trendsetters, and curious onlookers alike flock to this beachfront community to live the “vida loca” on a grander scale. Spend your days frolicking on the palm tree-lined beaches then shop for colorful suggestive garments only found in Miami. When darkness falls, leave your modesty at home, dress to impress, and prepare for wild nights at any (or all) of the fashionista hangouts around town.

4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Although not as lively as its famous neighbor Cancún, Playa del Carmen has a sensual appeal all its own. Located at the center of the gorgeous Mayan Riviera, this lovely coastal resort boasts an inviting tropical beach atmosphere complete with fire shows and moonlight serenades. Although the clubs are large and festive like in other parts of Mexico, the local bars are seductive and quiet enough to allow you to engage in friendly conversation while sipping on native tropical cocktails.

5. Anguilla, Caribbean

Anguilla is made up of 33 magnificent beaches bordering the Caribbean coastline. There is never an overload of tourists or a big “party scene” and casinos are strictly forbidden. So what is the allure you might ask yourself? For starters, you can take a naughty skinny-dip in the pristine but secluded waters or gyrate your hips to the hypnotic steel drum music playing live at the best local bars. And if you happen to find yourself alone in this fantasy-like environment maybe you’ll get lucky and have the opportunity to engage in some heavy-duty stargazing – of the Hollywood variety that is.

 

Best Vacation Islands in the Caribbean

Magnificent surroundings, turquoise blue water, palm trees, sandy beaches, exotic food and diverse cultures all come to mind when one dreams of escaping to the Caribbean isles. With over 7,000 islands to choose from, each one with its own unique charms, it can be a daunting task trying to plan the perfect Caribbean holiday. But that’s what we’re here for! So take a look at our list of the Caribbean’s best vacation islands.

1. U.S. Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands, only 1,000 miles away from the city of Miami, are something akin to 50 floating emeralds in a sapphire sea. Because they are part of the United States, the islands have somewhat of an American feel, but they nonetheless remain quintessentially Caribbean.

There are three main islands, all located within easy travel distance from each other. St. Croix, the easternmost island is also the largest and covered in green, rolling hills. St. Thomas hosts the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, and offers 13 miles of sandy beaches along its irregular coastline. Then there is St. John, the smallest of the three, most of which is covered by national park.

The US Virgin Islands has the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean and stellar shopping facilities on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. Liquor, tobacco, jewelry, native arts and crafts, fine art, leather goods, the list goes on. St. Thomas particularly is one of the best duty free shopping destinations in the Caribbean. There is no sales tax up to $1,200 per family member when you shop in the US Virgin Islands!

The islands are also great location for activities like hiking, turtle watching, snorkeling, scuba diving and water sports.

2. Turks and Caicos

Imagine 224 miles of beaches! That’s what you’ll find in Turks and Caicos! This coral reef-laden island paradise is known throughout the region for its unspoiled natural beauty. Providenciales, also called Provo, is the most popular among the many islands with tourists. However, if you prefer a quieter island, head over to Grand Turk and discover its charming old town and colonial past.

The Turks and Caicos are considered to be some of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving. Both islands have abundant coral reef, and thanks to the many dive shops it’s easy for both novices and experienced divers to get out on the water.

Shopping addicts will also love the Turks and Caicos with its array of designer watches, gold jewelry, local art and casual-island wear on display.

For nighttime entertainment, head over to Osprey Beach Hotel in Grand Turk for ripsaw music on Wednesdays and Sundays or to Grace Bay Club for a beautiful sunset around a beachfront fire pit.

3. St Kitts

St. Kitts was once known as ‘The Mother Colony’, the first permanent English settlement in the Caribbean. Today the island is covered in tea plantations with the locals still practicing decidedly British traditions like afternoon tea. One of the island’s prime attractions is the Brimstone Hill Fortress, which stands 800 feet high and offers stunning views of the mountainous island and its beaches.

Visitors looking for more of the island’s rich colonial history can visit the Romney Manor Plantation, which was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Likewise they can also visit the capital city of Basseterre to check out its many colonial-era buildings.

It’s not all history on St Kitts, the island has plenty of water activities too. Deep sea fishing, sailing, diving and windsurfing are all possible in the area. Check out Pinney’s Beach, the most happening spot on the island!

4. Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

Sint Maarten is an island that is divided into two halves, a French northern half and a Dutch southern half. At less than 100 square kilometers, it is one of the smallest islands in the world to be divided amongst two nations.

There is a border between the two sides, though checks are infrequent. The principal airport on the island is the Princess Juliana Airport, located on the Dutch side of the island. The airport is an attraction in itself because of its wild landing approach, which sees jets flying above a nearby beach and beachgoers just before hitting the runway.

The French side of the island is called Saint Martin. Known for its nude beaches and naturist lifestyle destinations, it is also noted for its delicious cuisine and luxury shopping. Its capital and largest city, with just under 6,000 people, is Marigot.

The Dutch side of the island is called Sint Maarten. Its capital and largest city, with only 1,300 people, is Philipsburg. Mostly famous for its vibrant nightlife, casinos and rum-based alcoholic beverages, it serves as a popular port of call for visiting cruise liners.

5. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles that was formerly a colony of both Britain and France. At only 600 square kilometers and 170,000 people, Saint Lucia is one of the world’s smallest independent countries.

It’s a beautiful, volcanic island that is covered in lush green rainforest. Its most famous landmarks are the Pitons, two peaks that jut straight up from the sea and are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One fun way for visitors to really explore the island is to hike to the peaks of these mountains with local tour guides.

The capital and largest city of Saint Lucia is Castries. The city has 60,000 people and is the point of disembarkation for most cruise ship passengers who visit the island. Marigot Bay is another city in Saint Lucia and is home to what many say is the most beautiful bay in the entire Caribbean!

Saint Lucia is a popular island for vacationers because of its hiking, diving, snorkeling and numerous beaches. Special note to Jazz music lovers, the St. Lucia Jazz festival is held in early May and is a great time to visit the island!

Exploring the Texas Hill Country

Just north of San Antonio and west of Austin, the Texas Hill Country is one of the state’s most pleasant surprises, as its rolling green hills, wineries, orchards and charming towns present a scene that doesn’t altogether resemble the stereotypical image of Texas as a dusty, Southwestern state. Visit in the spring to see wild flowers like the Texas bluebonnet – the state flower of Texas – infuse some color into the hillsides.

Most travelers will start their trips from either San Antonio or Austin, and driving around the region visiting quaint communities like Fredericksburg and Kerrville and stopping to enjoy the beautiful countryside at places like Lake Travis is a great way to experience Hill Country. Reservation services like Gastehaus Schmidt make it easy to stay awhile and book bed and breakfasts or country inns in communities across the Hill Country region.

Let’s start our exploration in the town of Medina, which is just northwest of San Antonio, where we’ll stop in at the Love Creek Orchard for a tour of the apple orchard. Tours are only $5 and visitors can buy some apple pie and other apple-related products to have a wonderful picnic lunch on the scenic orchard grounds.

Another scenic stop in Hill Country is the Pedernales Cellers Winery just outside of Fredericksburg. Open every day, the winery invites visitors to taste its excellent wine and enjoy the property’s 145 acres of rolling vineyards.

Back in Fredericksburg, travelers can learn a little about Texas history, as it’s the hometown of two of the state’s greatest persons: President Lyndon B Johnson and Admiral Nimitz. The town’s National Museum of the Pacific War presents some interesting facts on the admiral, while LBJ has his own state park with an informative visitor center and some great natural scenery.

Directly north of Fredericksburg is the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which is a great place for hiking or rock climbing on its stunning pink-granite rock dome. Only experienced climbers should attempt to scale the rock face, and even they should register their climbing routes in advance with the state park office.

Continue north from Enchanted Rock and travelers will quickly reach the small town of Llano. While there’s not too much to do in this small town, don’t miss the opportunity to try some good ol’ Texas barbecue at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. The bbq alone is worth the drive!

The last place we’ll mention on our little tour of Hill Country is Lake Travis, which is situated near Austin on the eastern end of the region. On the weekends the lake is a popular spot for partying Austinites who gravitate to its shores to rent party boats and jet skis. But visit during the week and travelers will instead discover a quiet and beautiful lake with plenty of camp sites and recreational opportunities.