Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Radisson Blu Birmingham turns six in style

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham, a landmark hotel in the heart of the city centre, has celebrated its sixth anniversary in style, with over 100 guests enjoying an Italian themed party at the hotel.

Many of Birmingham's finest, including the Lord Mayor Councillor Anita Ward, were on hand to share in the celebrations of one of the city's premier hotels.

In tribute to the popular movie 'The Italian Job', guests were greeted on arrival by blue, red and white Mini’s at the hotel’s entrance. Super stylish Lambretta and Vespa scooters were loaned to the hotel to further celebrate and embrace all things Italian. Inside the party, guests entertained themselves on Formula One stimulators, testing their mettle behind the wheels of a Ferrari in a Top Gear-style "Filini challenge". Meanwhile, Amore Voce, the Italian pop-opera singers with a name that translates as "love voice", provided the evening's entertainment with some striking sounds.

The Italian flavour continued through the food and beverages on offer for guests, with Jonathan Parnell, Head Chef of 'Filini', the hotel's authentic Italian restaurant in Birmingham, serving up delicious treats including homemade pizza, mini risottos and selections of Italian breads and olives.

Christopher Pike, General Manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham, said: "We are all extremely excited to be celebrating our 6th year of business in the city and it is great to be able to celebrate in style with so many of our valued guests and clients, it has been a great six years with some challenges along the way but we are extremely proud to be here and look forward to many more successful years in this wonderful city,"

One happy chap at the end of the evening was the lucky winner of the hotels Formula One "Filini Challenge" who achieved the fastest recorded lap on the Formula One Stimulators, in a hotly contested competition, winning a VIP stay in the hotel's impressive Presidential Suite in the process.


Ideally positioned near the business district, convention centre and shopping complexes, the Radisson Blu hotel in Birmingham city centre is located in a 39-storey glass skyscraper. This contemporary hotel offers stylish accommodation, with 211 stylish guest rooms and suites featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-panel televisions, free high-speed Internet access and other desirable amenities. In addition to state-of-the-art conference facilities, this hotel features an award-winning Italian restaurant, two bars, three spa treatment rooms and a health and fitness centre offering spectacular city views from the 18th floor.

Radisson Blu Hotels & Resorts (formerly Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts), part of The Rezidor Hotel Group, offers first class service, providing guests with a contemporary, upscale hospitality experience. Radisson Blu has received numerous awards for Best Hotel Chain and is renowned for its "Yes I Can!" spirit of service and the "100% Guest Satisfaction Guarantee". September 2005 saw the roll out of a free broadband service across the portfolio - the first international hotel chain to offer this service. Radisson Blu currently includes more than 250 hotels either in operation or under development and with more than 58,300 rooms in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including Birmingham! (EDITOR: Which is my home city!)

For more information, visit www.radissonblu.com.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

National Geographic Traveller - Photography Competition Shortlist Unveiled

Competition Shortlist UnveiledNational Geographic Traveller (UK) has unveiled the Shortlist for its Travel Photography 2012 Competition, now available to view at: http://photos.natgeotraveller.co.uk 
As a leader in breathtaking you-are-there photography from across the world, National Geographic Traveller launched its inaugural photo competition last September in association with The Aurora Zone and Tesco.

UK photographers were asked to submit their entries in one of six categories: People, Culture, Nature, Landscape, Adventure and City, for a chance to win a once-in-lifetime trip to see the Northern Lights in Finland with The Aurora Zone and a top of the range camera and kit, courtesy of Tesco.

The judging panel consisted of Carol Enquist, National Geographic’s photo editor; Jonathan Briggs, editor of the British Institute of Professional Photography’s (BIPP) The Photographer magazine; Marina Syrmakezi from The Association of Photographers; and Chris Hudson, National Geographic Traveller’s art editor.

Chris Hudson said: “We had thousands of UK entries in this, the first National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition, and were truly impressed at the incredibly high standard of submissions, whether professional or amateur. Many were exactly what we were looking for: inspirational, high quality images capturing unique moments from all corners of the globe.

He added: “In just one frame, a photo can embody the essence, emotion and atmosphere of a destination and sum up a multitude of feelings in the flash of a shutter.”

To see who made the grade and appears in the short list, visit http://photos.natgeotraveller.co.uk

The winners will be announced in the next issue and supplement on sale 9 February 2012, priced GBP £3.85.

See the 26-page digital sample of the Jan/Feb 12 issue: www.natgeotraveller.co.uk/jan12
Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NatGeoTraveller
And Twitter: http://twitter.com/NatGeoTraveller

Rezidor and Carlson establish the Carlson and Rezidor Hotel Group

The Rezidor Hotel Group, one of the fastest growing hotel companies in the world, and Carlson, a global hospitality and travel company, have announced that they have established The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

While the legal status and ownership structure of Carlson and Rezidor remain the same, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group will pursue the global alignment and management of its brands, the ambitious development of its revenue generation engines, global purchasing opportunities, and people development, on a global basis. Commercial activities will be conducted under the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group name, irrespective of geographies.

"Carlson and Rezidor have a long common history and have grown together over the past 17 years," said Hubert Joly, President & CEO at Carlson. "Going to market as one is a next and natural step. We are leveraging the strengths of two great companies to create value for all our stakeholders."

"The goal of this development is to generate more attractive financial returns for the owners and greater value for all shareholders, to be perceived by business partners around the world as one global hotel company, to offer more compelling and consistent value propositions to the guests, and to offer global career and development opportunities to the staff," said Kurt Ritter, President & CEO of Rezidor.

The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the world's largest and most dynamic hotel groups, with a portfolio of more than 1,300 hotels, including a hotel in Dresden, Stockholm hotel and hotel Leipzig.

Through a number of concrete revenue generation initiatives, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group aims to generate more than US$ 400 million in additional revenue and a RevPAR Index increase of more than 9 points by 2015. These initiatives include a reinforced global sales team; unique revenue optimization tools, partnership projects with travel intermediaries, including Carlson Wagonlit Travel; and the rapid growth of Club Carlson, the group's successful loyalty program.

The group will pursue the global alignment and management of its brands to ensure that its guests enjoy a compelling and consistent value proposition around the world. Joint purchasing activities entail the development of competitive sourcing agreements, especially for high-spend and business-critical categories. Global people development programmes also will help the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group fulfil its ambition to be the number one hospitality company to work for.

A global steering committee has been established to oversee these value creation areas and the development of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. It is co-chaired by Joly and Ritter.

The chosen logo of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group symbolizes several key elements: the combination of the Carlson name and the Rezidor name highlights the nature of the relationship, i.e. that of a partnership; and the Carlson symbol on top of the logo represents important values such as relationships, heritage, innovation and service.

The group's new website, www.carlsonrezidor.com, will launch on February 1st 2012.

Door2Tour.com reports recession hits romance as Valentines breaks decline

Door2Tour.com has reported that non-essentials like gadgets and CDs aren't the only things to have suffered at the hands of the current economic climate. With rises in petrol prices, food and energy costs squeezing household budgets more than ever, there's little doubt that consumers are thinking more carefully about where to spend. This year however, couples are opting to put something other than champagne on ice - their romantic Valentine's break.

Figures from the UK coach holidays company report a drop in dedicated Valentine weekend breaks by 50% compared to 2011, with an additional 72% drop in overall breaks departing over the Valentine weekend.

Despite offering level holiday prices on 2011 for its most popular Valentines break, the destination to have suffered the most was romance-favourite Paris. In a double whammy with increased costs of living, consumers are thought to still be exercising caution towards the Eurozone due to poor exchange rates. The second destination to have been sacrificed in the romance stakes was London, whose theatre break bookings for Valentines weekend have also weakened, though to a lesser extent.

Kate Glanfield, Web Manager of Door2Tour.com, said: "While there is still time for people to book a Valentines break this year, and patterns show that people are generally leaving it later to book, it does look as though this year's Valentine’s Day is going to lack some va-va-voom in terms of traditional, whisk-away romance."

Despite the decrease in Valentines break sales for 2012, Door2Tour.com has reported a 73% rise in event tours and a revival in theatre breaks London for departures throughout the year. The increasing demand in the latter is thought to have been boosted by a host of new shows such as 'Singin' in the Rain' and Dreamboats and Petticoats and a series of new stars freshening up the London stage.

Kate concluded: "What we've seen with the decline in Valentines breaks but the comeback of theatre breaks is that people are now combining a romantic break with an occasion more personal to them to save money. We frequently receive enquiries from people wanting to get away for birthdays and anniversaries, which just goes to show that that despite the cutbacks, romance is not completely dead."

Martin Randell Travel offers new cultural tours of India

The leading specialist cultural tour operator, Martin Randall Travel, is beginning a series of new tours to India in October 2012.

The programme of tours is as follows:

The Indian Mutiny of 1857. Led by Patrick Mercer MP, this is a tour of intense interest for military, imperial and Indian history. The tour explores Old Delhi, Meerut, Lucknow, Gwalior, Agra and New Delhi, providing an excellent overview of Indian landscapes, culture and architecture with arrangements for special access.

Land only price: approximately AUD$5,620 (£3,800) per person. Includes accommodation, most meals with drinks, tips, private coach travel, admissions and the talks by the lecturer.

Dates: 23 October-5 November 2012

Ashoka and Buddhist India, led by Charles Allen. This tour visits major Buddhist sites and sees much of the finest Buddhist and Hindu sculpture at museums in Delhi, Sarnath, Patna and Kolkata (Calcutta), studying the historical Buddha's life and the associated art and architecture.

Land only price: approximately AUD $6,420 (£4,340) per person. Includes accommodation, most meals with drinks, tips, private coach travel, admissions and the talks by the lecturer.

Dates: 1-14 March 2013

Temples of Tamil Nadu, led by Professor Adam Hardy. A tour examining the art and architecture of Hinduism in the southernmost state, including Madras, Mamallapuram, Thanjavur, Srirangam and Madurai. The lecturer is a leading authority on Hindu architecture who has designed a temple in India.

Land only price: approximately AUD $4,955 (£3,350) per person. Includes accommodation, most meals with drinks, tips, private coach travel, admissions and the talks by the lecturer.

Dates: 14-26 January 2013

Kingdoms of the Deccan, led by John M. Fritz. This tour features Islamic forts and mosques and Hindu temples in the capital cities of the Bahmani sultanates founded in the 14th century. Hampi and Hyderabad are also included.

Land only price: approximately AUD $5,810 (£3,930) per person. Includes accommodation, most meals with drinks, tips, private coach travel, admissions and the talks by the lecturer.

Dates: 1-14 February 2013

The British Raj, led by David Gilmour and Gavin Stamp. Led by two eminent lecturers, visiting the major centres of British power, which are still India's leading cities, Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Delhi. Private visits and special access also feature on this tour.

Price: on application

Dates: February/ March 2013

Other tours planned for early 2013 include Bengal by River, Rajput and Mughal Rajasthan, and Essential India.

A spokesman said: "Our aim is to create the most memorable tours to India available - the best planned, the most informative and the most illuminating. We are careful not to cram too much into each day, and the itineraries may include fewer places, but with more time spent at each, to examine, absorb, contemplate and recuperate. Led by leading experts in their field, these tours feature out of the way and less visited places, resulting in what we believe are the most fascinating range of tours currently available in English."

Visit www.martinrandall.com or call 1300 55 95 95.

Stylish Staycations In South West Wales

North Beach Tenby (www.northbeachtenby.com), the collective name for two luxurious, contemporary apartments in the picturesque beach resort of Tenby in Pembrokeshire, is offering stylish staycations from £650 per week for a family four (or even five) in 2012.

One of Britain’s most popular coastal resorts in Victorian times, Tenby remains a great destination for a traditional family seaside holiday.

The town has three wide, sandy beaches (North, South and Castle), totalling 2.5 miles in length, all of which have been awarded Blue Flag status (guaranteeing excellent water quality and beach facilities, such as public loos and lifeguards).

Other outdoor activities include hiking the coastal trail, windsurfing, sea kayaking, golfing and boat trips for pure pleasure or a spot of fishing.

If – heaven forbid – it should rain, there is plenty for families to do that is mainly indoors, such as visit Silent World Aquarium & Reptile Collection, Blue Lagoon Water Park & Adventure Centre, Anna Ryder Richardson’s Manor House Wildlife Park, Folly Farm, the Pottery Shed Café or Caldey Island, all of which are in or just outside Tenby.

Alternatively, guests can return to North Beach Tenby, get the log-burning stoves going and snuggle down in front of the TV or around a family board game. Created from a Regency townhouse, the two-bedroom apartments have sensational views overlooking North Beach and the Pembrokeshire coast, and are well located in the heart of Tenby, just a few minutes’ walk from all the old town’s attractions – shops, cafes, restaurants, medieval walls, National Trust property and, of course, the town’s beaches.

Both apartments accommodate four, each having a double room with an ensuite shower, a twin room and a bathroom with shower, but an additional single bed can be supplied on request at no extra charge to sleep a fifth person. Spacious living spaces have separate cooking, eating and dining areas. The fully-fitted kitchens have every amenity, including ovens, dishwasher and washing machines, while the living areas come complete with flat-screen TVs and DVD players and log-burning stoves. The apartments also come with off-street parking and use of a kayak, subject to availability.

A week’s holiday at North Beach Tenby costs from £650 per apartment in February (perfect for half-term holidays), including use of linens, full cleaning service and the provision of logs for the stoves. In April, during the Easter school holidays, a week’s stay is priced at £750 and in the summer, from £900 per week. Shorter stays are possible, but are subject to a minimum two-night stay and availability.

Reservations can be made through the website www.northbeachtenby.com.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

That's Christmas: Head East for your Valentine's Day romantic break

That's Christmas: Head East for your Valentine's Day romantic break: Car hire comparison engine eRentals.co.uk has announced a surge in bookings for unusual destinations in Eastern Europe this coming Valenti...

Sign up to new travel community website and win a cruise to Iceland

Noble Caledonia first started providing small ship cruises back in 1991 – for over 20 years it has been guaranteeing, in the words of the company slogan, “big experiences on small ships”.

The in-depth itinerary of its cruises appeals to adventurous travellers who value the educational value of benefitting from the knowledge of expert guest speakers and tour guides as they journey to fascinating places which are often a little off the beaten track.

Noble Caledonia cruises travel to so many different varieties of destination – maybe you would like board an exploration cruise of Antarctica or perhaps follow in Marco Polo’s footsteps and journey in style along the Silk Road from Moscow to Beijing?

With so many choices, it is always good to consult friendly fellow travellers so that you can make an informed decision about where to plan your next educational and enjoyable journey.

Noble Caledonia’s newly-launched Travel Post community website is one such platform where adventurous explorers can re-live their travels, stay in touch with friends they have met on cruises and make new friends.

The site is also a wonderful resource for those researching travel options. Travel Post website has so many inspiring travel articles, photo galleries, video clips and regularly-updated blogs from Captains and expert field staff.

Of course, adventurous travellers would rather board a cruise ship than read about cruises. Which is why Noble Caledonia are marking the launch of the site with a new Explorer’s Competition.

A few clicks of the mouse to register as a Travel Post member and enter the competition could result in you setting sail on a journey to a land of ice and fire.

The competition winner will receive a cruise for two aboard the MS Caledonian Sky’s Passage North cruise – a cruise which takes in the UK’s dramatic North Coastline before heading to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

To enter the competition register by clicking here or visiting http://travelpost.noble-caledonia.co.uk/competition

Entering the competition gives you the chance to experience the thrill of adventurous travelling first-hand.

If you do win, you can always write about your travels on Travel Post!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Düsseldorf Carnival Countdown: February 20 Brings “Rose Monday”: Miles-Long Parade and a Million Revelers Taking Over the City

Carnival is the wilder side of Düsseldorf, a city that is No. 5 on a list of global cities in quality of life. More than 300 carnival sessions and events lead up to the season’s highlight, Rose Monday, when the city becomes one of the world’s biggest outdoor party places.

The city’s once-yearly, one-day climax of carnival season falls on Monday, February 20, (called “Rose Monday”) this year: A city known for its cosmopolitan character and sophisticated living (Düsseldorf ranks No. 5 on a list of global cities in quality of life – Source: Mercer Quality of Living Survey) lets its hair down, unleashes its wild side, and transforms into a place where rip-roaring behavior is suddenly acceptable.

The Rhine region is known as Germany’s center of carnival festivities, or Rhenish Carnival, and Carnival in Düsseldorf is one of the strongholds. More than 300 carnival sessions and costume balls take place during Carnival season, also called Fools’ season, which kicks off on November 11 and ends on Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent: February 22, 2012). The season culminates in Rose Monday, its highlight. The city has no fewer than 60 carnival clubs, and their members are among the 5,500 parade participants who also make up the 45 bands and 70 floats.

One million people, many dressed up in costumes and called fools, line up to watch the Rose Monday parade, shout “Helau” (the local carnival greeting), and catch the candy (called “Kamelle”) that is thrown into the crowds from the floats. The parade is over a mile and a half long.

Because of Düsseldorf’s 260 bars, pubs, and restaurants in the city’s historic Old Town, the city is also known as “the longest bar in the world.” And these venues become the backdrop for the extended festivities as the parade spills into the entire city and the revelers take over.

In addition to the parade there is “Altweiberfastnacht” on the Thursday before Rose Monday (February 16, 2012). Extremely popular with Düsseldorf’s women, it’s a time for them to storm the town hall, a custom developed in previous ages to show the town fathers who’s boss. Revelers cut men’s ties off – not just in the town hall, but also from any man on the street. In anticipation of the big parade, Sunday, the day before, has an almost Venetian atmosphere. On Düsseldorf’s famous shopping boulevard Königsallee, partiers in costume meet to dance, sing, or simply have fun.

Miraculously, the city is back to its civilized self two days later, on Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, and with it the long wait until the Carnival season kicks off again the next November.

For more information about Carnival in Düsseldorf, please visit http://www.comitee-duesseldorfer-carneval.de.

Düsseldorf International Airport, Germany’s third largest, offers several non-stop flights from US & Canadian cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, Toronto, San Francisco, Vancouver), as well as convenient connections to many European cities and beyond. Find fair week specials for hotels and air fares at www.visitduesseldorf.de and www.fly2dus.com

Düsseldorf Tourism & Marketing GmbH is the visitors and convention bureau of the city of Düsseldorf. Its responsibilities include tourism and city marketing, as well as conference and meeting marketing, hotel reservation services, fairs and convention services, city event ticket sales and advance ticket reservations. For more information visit www.visitduesseldorf.de.

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Be That Writer: Native Foreigner Announces Digital-only Magazine f...: A new, interactive resource for international travelers returning home. Native Foreigner, an online community for travelers returning from...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Romantic Retreats For 2012

Luxury villa company CV Travel has come up with its top choice of romantic retreats for 2012, from cosy villas for two on the Greek islands, to a boutique London hotel, a town-house in rural France, to a Spanish cottage.

Coastal sun-kissed Greek villa for two

Pelagia Cottage, Messinia, Greece

What could be more romantic than sitting in a hot tub overlooking the Greek coastline as the sun sets across the Gulf of Messinia. CV Travel’s Pelagia Cottageisa beautifully restored villain a superb setting on the edge of a low headland on the Peloponnese.

The property has two outdoor dining terraces, one dappled by shade and the other with a private jacuzzi on the headland with rock bathing just below and within walking distance of beautiful sandy beaches, local shops and tavernas in the Greek village of Stoupa.

A 7 night stay in Pelagia Cottage costs from £1680 - £1925 per week including car hire, maid service and food hamper, based on 2 guests sharing. Contact CV Travel on 020 7401 1026,www.cvtravel.co.uk


Just a diamond’s call away

The Draycott Hotel, Kensington, Great Britain

Romantics and lovers of tradition will enjoy the afternoon tea and biscuits, champagne at six and bed-time hot chocolate at the 5* Draycott Hotel, a red-brick house in the heart of Kensington and Chelsea, close to Sloane Square and temptingly close to London’s high end shops.

The Draycott recalls an era of Edwardian grandeur in style, with high ceilings, period antiques and theatrical memorabilia and is set around a peaceful private garden square. 24-hour concierge service ensures that a call for a large diamond at 2am will at least be answered.

Those falling for the hotel’s charms, and each other, can also book a wedding reception there at a future date.

A two night stay at the Draycott Hotel costs from £318 per person in 2012 (based on a standard double bedroom), including breakfast, available through CV Travel, 020 7401 1086, www.cvtravel.co.uk


`Wedding cake’ villa above the sea

La Ventana, Siesta, Ibiza

For those with nuptials on the mind La Ventana in Ibiza is a real `wedding cake’ of a whitewashed Spanish villa, tucked up in a private location on the cliffs above the small town of Siesta. Its immensely intimate setting, with wide-open sea views from its raised private terrace and its own hexagonal swimming pool make it a very special romantic retreat. The villa is private, but within a romantic stroll of a spa, lovely beaches and the bars and restaurants in the town.

La Ventanacan be rented through CV Travel from £2,170 per week between April and October 2012. Sleeps up to 4.

Contact CV Travel on 020 7401 1035 or visit www.cvtravel.co.uk


Centuries of love

The Cockloft, Cotswolds, Great Britain

Stroll in the grounds of Wiltshire’s oldest inhabited manor house, with its 13th century porch and 15th century chapel, and amid the ancient yews, stumble across a love folly and pluck a bloom from the profusion of old fashioned rose species that fill the gardens in May and June. This historic manor house has witnessed centuries of romance and modern-day romantics can enjoy a week’s stay at `The Cockloft’ in the grounds of the manor house, a heavily-beamed, ancient, stone-built house with traditional polished wood floors, furnished with antiques.

A week’s stay at The Cockloft can be booked with CV Travel (020 7401 1086, www.cvtravel.co.uk) costs from £600 for two.


Villa for two on the island of Corfu

Villa Akrothalassia, St Spiridon, Corfu

Akrothalassia on the North east coast of Corfu is a very romantic, secluded property situated deep within a private olive grove, just a few steps away from the sea. The property’s romantic charm includes a Jacuzzi bath which has superb views of the sea with an eye-catching silhouette of an offshore island.

A week’s stay starts from £1415 based on 2 people sharing and includes car hire maid service and food hamper. Contact CV Travel on 020 7401 1026 or visit www.cvtravel.co.uk


A tower for two in rural Umbria

`Renato's Tower', Borgo San Biagio, Umbria

This quirky, restored medieval tower in a hilltop Umbrian hamlet with a hot-tub on the roof terrace, is absolutely perfect for a romantic weekend or honeymoon retreat. From the rooftop terrace couples enjoy beautiful views of the undulating countryside while the tower offers rustic and comfortable accommodation on 4 floors and is in close proximity to historic towns and places of interest for plenty of romantic excursions.

Renato’s Tower can be booked for two from £995 per week. Call CV Travel on 020 7401 1039 or visit www.cvtravel.co.uk


Wake up to the waves

`La Trasita', Positano

Wake up to the sound of the waves and the scent of the sea in a 14th century Saracen tower, perched on the headland on a coastal path leading away fromPositano, making it a unique venue, with its own roof terrace, galleried double bedroom and sitting room with balcony. Sea views are, naturally, unrivalled.

La Trasita is available to book through CV Travel from £1445for two to share per week. Tel 020 7401 1039 or visit www.cvtravel.co.uk


Town house on Sicily’s coastline

Casa Cefalu, Sicily Coast

Wander through the streets and squares of Cefalu with its palazzi, churches, old fashioned bars and a sandy beach, before returning a short stroll to Casa Cefalu, a pretty town house in the medieval centre of Cefalù, on the north coast of Sicily.From the house’s two terraces magnificent views over the roofs of the medieval town, the twelfth-century Norman cathedral and out to sea can be seen.

Casa Cefalu can be booked through from CV Travel from £895 for two to share per week. Call CV on 020 7401 1039 or visit www.cvtravel.co.uk


Charming rural retreat, inland Mallorca

Son Siona, Mallorca, Spain

Son Siona is a traditional cottage with plenty of rural atmosphere and secluded countryside for a very peaceful and romantic stay. The local village of Buger is a short walk away and is one of the smallest municipalities on the island of Mallorca and one of the most attractive. Bursting with character and cosiness, the house has its own private pool and large private gardens, making it perfect for seclusion and romance.

Son Siona is available to rent through CV Travel (020 7401 1035, www.cvtravel.co.uk) from £805 to £1565 per week.


Town house a deux in one of France’s most beautiful villages

La Petit Gordes, Gordes, France

Take a leisurely stroll together through the stone paved streets of one of France’s most beautiful villages, Gordes, a picturesque hillside town with spectacular views overlooking the hills of Luberon, and a place where film stars and local artists have made their home. Visitthe Saint-Firmain Palace cellars, the Sénanque Abbey and the Village des Bories. CV Travel’s La Petite Gordesis a charming two bedroom stone town house with a large private pool, just 5 minutes walk from the centre ofGordes, and driving distance fromthe beautiful town of Bonnieux and the city of Avignon.

La Petit Gordes can be booked through CV Travel (020 7401 1044,www.cvtravel.co.uk) A 7 night stay in La Petite Gordes costs from £2,360 to £3,655 per week including villa hire and maid service, for up to 4 guests sharing. Return flights, transfers and car hire can be arranged on request.


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That's Health: Altitude Sickness and the older traveller: According to over 50s travel review and advice site, Silver Travel Advisor, when travelling to destinations at high altitudes it is crucial ...

Oceania Cruises' To Offer Four Ex-UK Cruises In 2012

Oceania Cruses' first new-build luxury cruise ship, `Marina', will offer two ex-UK sailings in June 2012, a round-trip 12 night cruise from Dover embarking on 6th June, calling into Scotland, the Orkney Islands and Skye, four port calls in Ireland and returning to Dover via Fowey, (Cornwall), and a voyage from London to Copenhagen, via Ireland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, and Norway on 18th June.

UK guests will also be able to disembark in the UK following a 12 night sailing on board Marina from Copenhagen to Dover, boarding in Denmark's capital on 31st August and calling into Norway, the Shetland Islands, Scotland, three port calls in Ireland, including an overnight in Dublin on 8th September, and returning to Dover via Falmouth (Cornwall) on 12th September.

Oceania Cruises' 650-guest, luxury cruise ship `Nautica' will offer two ex-UK sailings, a magnificent 21 night round trip from Dover, departing on 3rd July, that calls into Scotland, Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, the Isle of Sky, Belfast and Dublin, Falmouth, Chergourg and Zeebrugge (Belgium), before returning to Dover. Nautica will also be sailing a 12 night cruise around the British Isles, departing from Dover on 24th July and calling into Scotland, the Orkney Islands, Sky, four port calls in Ireland, Fowey and Le Havre.

Two return-UK cruises on board Nautica are being offered in 2012, with two magnificent sailings of the Baltics, Russian and Scandinavia, embarking in Stockholm on 19th June, spending two nights in St. Petersburg on 21st and 22nd June, continuing via Tallinn, Riga, Sweden, Poland, Denmark and Germany, through the Kiel Canal to Amsterdam, on to Zeebrugge and returning into Dover on 3rd July. The same itinerary operates on 16th September, with two overnights in St. Petersburg on 18th and 19th September.

Details of all ex-UK and return-UK cruises can be found at www.oceaniacruises.com and at the links below, or call 0845 505 1920

Oceania Cruises are renowned for exceptional cuisine, a relaxed on board ambience and their four ships’ exceptional standards of comfort and service. Cruises include all meals, with no supplement for the ships’ superb speciality restaurants which rival the finest on shore dining, and fares include complimentary soft drinks and bottled water. In April 2012 the larger of the four ships, Marina, will be joined by an identical sister ship, Riviera.

To find out more about Oceania Cruises, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call 0845 505 1920.

Ex-UK and return-UK cruises are detailed below:-

British Isles Legends

6th June, London to London, 12 nights on board Marina, from £2183


Northern Interludes

18th June, London to Copenhagen, 14 nights on board Marina, from £1973


Scandinavian Splendours

19th June, Stockholm to London, 14 days on board Nautica, from £2462


Viking Expeditions

3rd July, London to London, 21 nights on board Nautica, from £4196


British Isles Legends

24th July 2012, London to Le Havre, 12 nights on board Nautica, from £2168


Nordic Dreams

31st August, Copenhagen to London, 12 nights on board Marina, £2213


Scandinavian Splendours

16th September, Stockholm to London, 14 nights on board Nautica, £2628


After 100 Years, The Chance to Relive Scott's Last Expedition

Aurora Expeditions are proud to partner with London's Natural History Museum on their new exhibit Scott's Last Expedition. Scott's Last Expedition will look at this landmark journey into the unknown from different angles including everyday life in the base-camp hut, examining the different tales of human endurance and revealing the remarkable scientific achievements of the expedition, a story largely untold until now.

Aurora Expeditions are proud to be offering visitors to Scott's Last Expedition and online visitors to the Museum the chance to win an expedition cruise to Antarctica to experience the icy continent first hand.

At the time of the Terra Nova expedition, 1910-1913, there were still many unanswered questions about Antarctica. Scott brought with him the largest team of scientists that had ever visited the continent in an attempt to find the answers.

The expedition returned with jars and bottles containing thousands of zoological and geological specimens. They also collected a rich record of data, fundamentally contributing to what is now known about the continent. Today, more than 40,000 specimens collected by Scott's Terra Nova expedition are held in the Natural History Museum's collections.

Elin Simonsson, the exhibition curator at the Natural History Museum who led the exhibition development, says 'Our mission is to share this fantastic and inspiring story of Scott's last expedition with the world, and for the first time tell it from a broader perspective. One hundred years on, we want people to know that Scott's last expedition was not just a journey to the South Pole, it was also an important scientific expedition that carried out work across many fields.

Running unti 2 September 2012, this exhibition reunites for the first time real objects used by Scott and his team together with the scientific specimens collected on the 1910-1913 expedition. Visitors can also walk around a life-size representation of Scott's base-camp hut, which still survives in Antarctica. The exhibition includes:

The death of the Polar party - starting at the expedition's most dramatic point, with the deaths of Scott and the Polar team, the exhibition will revisit the entire expedition with a look at the many different tales of the powers of human endurance and exploration.

The hut - visitors will be able to enter a life-sized representation of the base-camp hut, which formed the centre of the Terra Nova expedition. In a space that contained a photographer's dark room, a laboratory, a bread-making oven and a gramophone, the expedition members achieved a surprising level of domesticity. As one of the survivors explained, 'Whatever the conditions of darkness, cold and wind might be outside, there was comfort and warmth and good cheer within'.

The science - the thousands of scientific specimens brought back from the Terra Nova expedition represented 2,109 different species of animals and plants. Over 400 of these were new to science. The scientists studied Antarctic wildlife, both on land and in the water, surveyed new terrains, studied glaciology, geology and the effects of atmospheric electricity. They also produced the longest unbroken record of Antarctica's meteorological data, which remains the baseline for modern records today.

Key scientific specimens on display include the geological specimens found with Scott's body at the last camp, the extinct plant fossil Glossopteris indica, which proved that Antarctica had once been part of the supercontinent Gondwana, and the emperor penguin eggs that three men risked their lives to collect on the notorious Winter Journey.

Terra Nova's legacy - The epic tale of Scott and the Terra Nova expedition continues to inspire new generations of scientists, historians and explorers.

During his final days, Scott wrote, 'Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale.'

As these words show, the story of Scott's last expedition is one of adventure, bravery and human endeavour.

Visitor Information

Dates and times: 20 January - 2 September, 10.00-17.50 (last admission 17.15)

Visitor enquiries: Monday-Friday +44 (0)20 7942 5000, Saturday-Sunday +44 (0)20 7942 5011

Admission: Adult £9, child and concession £5.50, family £26

Website: www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/scott


British Airways flies newly refurbished Boeing 777-200

British Airway's customers flying on a recent Boston flight were the first to experience the airline's very latest seats and cabins following the first complete refit of one of BA's Boeing 777-200s.

The aircraft was the first of 18 to be fitted with British Airways' recently launched First cabin, new World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins and the airline's latest Thales in-flight entertainment system.

The multi-million pound refurbishment gives the 18 Boeing 777-200s the same contemporary interiors as British Airways' six brand new Boeing 777-300ERs.

Frank van der Post, British Airways' managing director of brands and customer experience, said: "This exciting and ambitious refit now brings our 777s right up to date, with new interiors and the very latest inflight entertainment system.

"We have had fantastic customer reaction to our new fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs, which originally showcased our new cabins, and we know those who travel on these 18 aircraft will be equally impressed with our investment.

"Customers will be able to enjoy the very best travel experience British Airways has to offer, with more comfortable seats and brighter, more contemporary cabins."

Over the next five years British Airways will be investing more than £5bn in new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges, and new technologies to make life more comfortable in the air and on the ground.

It takes British Airways' Cardiff-based engineers, at the airline's Welsh maintenance base, approximately a month, or 5,700 man hours, to carefully remove a 777's old seats and interiors and replace them with the airline's very latest cabins.

Each aircraft will also have a staggering 13 kilometres of wiring removed and new fibre optic cables installed to power the new in-flight entertainment system.

New widescreens will be fitted in Club World and customers flying on these refitted Boeing 777-200s will also be able to experience the airline's sophisticated new First cabin.

New seats and cabins in World Traveller Plus and World Traveller, feature the latest cushioning technology and in-seat power sockets.

The Thales in-flight entertainment system offers over 700 hours of movies, TV and music options on demand; that's more than 230 TV programmes, 70 films and 400 CDs, providing customers with 50 per cent more choice on movies and doubling the range of TV and music options, as well as plug and play technology.

Each cabin also gets bigger, high-resolution widescreens: customers in World Traveller will be able to watch TV and films on 35 per cent larger video touchscreens (now 8.9 inches); in World Traveller Plus they are 60 per cent larger (now 10.6 inches); Club World widescreens increase by 16.3 per cent (now 12.1 inches) while the new First screens increase by 275 per cent (now 15.4 inches)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Hotels outside London. Why not launch an Olympic Getaway package?

The perceived wisdom is that everyone is really excited about the Olympics and if they can't get tickets to any Olympic event (it doesn't matter which one, just so long as it is an Olympic sport!) will demand TV and radio coverage of all things London 2012 24/7.

It might be considered to be heretical to express this opinion but what about the rest of the population? What about those who might sneak the odd glance at a race, or who might follow the medal tally in a desultory fashion or even those who dislike how the Olympics takes over all broadcast channels, even when it is abroad, let alone in Britain?

If you own a hotel or a guesthouse outside of London, why not launch an Olympic Getaway Package?

You could make sure to have TV channels available that do not cover the Olympics, organise tours of the local beauty spots, visits to country pubs or other watering holes that do not have TV, etc. 

Choice Hotels' survey reveals mixed views on whether hotels outside London will benefit from this summer’s events

Choice Hotels Europe, the company behind the Comfort, Quality and Clarion brands, has revealed the findings of its hotelier survey into which hotels are most likely to benefit from the games in London this summer.

The survey was conducted amongst 30 UK-based Choice Hotels owners, operators and general managers and just over half (51%) believe that all UK hotels will benefit from the increased inbound tourism expected in the summer. However, 29% think only hotels in London will benefit, while 18% believe that the games won't bring any benefits at all to hotels outside the M25.

Duncan Berry, UK CEO, Choice Hotels Europe commented: "Our survey reveals mixed views on whether hotels across the whole of the UK will see a benefit from the inbound tourism expected from the games."

Earlier this year Choice announced the opening of the Comfort Inn Hyde Park, bringing the number of Choice-branded hotels in London to eighteen. Other Choice-branded properties well-positioned for easy access to venues include Quality Hotel Coventry city centre (football) and Quality Hotel Reading (rowing).

Choice Hotels Europe franchises nearly 500 hotels across Europe alone. Brands operated by Choice Hotels in Europe include Clarion which could be described as four-star, Quality, which sits in the three-star bracket and provides a mid-scale full service offering and Comfort, the largest Choice Hotels brand worldwide, known for value and reliability.


The Rezidor Hotel Group and Al Jassim Group announce Hotel Missoni Doha

The Rezidor Hotel Group, reportedly one of the fastest growing hotel companies worldwide, and Al Jassim Group have announced Hotel Missoni Doha. The unique luxury lifestyle hotel will be exclusively designed by Rosita Missoni and feature approximately 200 rooms and 70 serviced apartments. It is scheduled to welcome the first guests in late 2015.

"Qatar benefits from very healthy economic conditions. Its people are receptive towards a new kind of luxury and lifestyle and our Hotel Missoni flagship will be a perfect addition to Doha's rising market," said Kurt Ritter, President and CEO of Rezidor. Doha is the capital of Qatar and home to strong gas, service, real estate and medical industries. The city is also becoming an important corporate and meetings destination in the Gulf, and will be a true sports-hot spot in 2022 when Qatar will be hosting the FIFA World Cup.

Sheikh Khalid Bin Jassim Al Thani, CEO of Al Jassim Group added: "Inspired by Qatar Nation Vision 2030, we actively seek out new partnerships and aim to raise the bar at every opportunity. Hotel Missoni Doha will add significant value to the existing urban aspect and contribute to the commitment and vision of Qatar by greatly supporting the transformation of Doha into one of the world’s leading business, sport and cultural cities."

Hotel Missoni will be built along the C Ring Road in the heart of Doha. The proximity of the hotel, being just 10 minutes from the International Airport and the West Bay area, lends itself as the perfect location for a luxury lifestyle experience in Doha. In addition to its central location, the hotel will be situated for all entertainment and leisure activities offered in Doha and the surrounding areas.

Besides approximately 200 rooms and suites, Hotel Missoni Doha will offer around 70 serviced apartments with one, two or three bedrooms. The extensive food and beverage outlets will comprise Hotel Missoni's signature restaurant "Cucina" with a traditional yet creative Italian menu, a second all-day-dining restaurant, Bar Missoni, a pool bar and a lobby lounge.

The food and beverage offering will be further enhanced by a number of distinguished fine dining restaurants providing a variety of culinary tastes incorporating the luxurious and stylish essence of the Hotel Missoni brand. Guests will benefit from an 800 square meter Spa and fitness area, an outdoor swimming pool, approximately 1,500 square meter conference and banquet facilities including ball room, and a business centre.

Hotel Missoni is a co-operation between the legendary Italian fashion house Missoni and Rezidor. Each hotel is designed by Rosita Missoni and combines the vibrant Missoni colours and patterns with international design classics and local touches. Hotels Missoni are operated in Edinburgh, Scotland and in Kuwait City, with further properties under development in Oman, Turkey, Brazil and Mauritius.

About The Rezidor Hotel Group

The Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the fastest growing hotel companies in the world. The group features a portfolio of more than 415 hotels in operation and under development with 90,000 rooms in over 60 countries, including hotel in Nice, hotel Nancy, hotel Sofia, hotel Weimar and hotel Bochum.

Rezidor operates the brands Radisson Blu Hotels & Resorts and Park Inn by Radisson in Europe, Middle East and Africa, along with the Club Carlson loyalty programme for frequent hotel guests. Under a worldwide licence agreement with the iconic Italian fashion house Missoni, Rezidor also operates and develops the new lifestyle brand Hotel Missoni.

In November 2006, Rezidor was listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Carlson, a privately held, global hospitality and travel company, based in Minneapolis (USA), is the majority shareholder.

The Corporate office of the Rezidor Hotel Group is based in Brussels, Belgium.

Door2Tour.com reveals flower shows are blooming whilst UK holiday sales are wilting

Door2Tour.com, the website tour consolidator, has revealed that overall flower show sales are up 158% year to date compared to the same period last year.

It has also found that that over half of the increase can be attributed to sales for the once-every-ten-years Euro flower show, Floriade 2012, an international event with more than 100 participants taking part from across the world, including countries, businesses and horticultural companies. Floriade 2012 is a showcase for the very latest trends in gardening, horticulture and the environment, with countless innovative attractions and interactive activities for all to take part in.

Despite the increase in flower show sales, Door2Tour.com has also found interest in traditional UK breaks are down in line with recent reports from other travel companies such as TUI, who have also experienced weaker UK holiday bookings with an 11% drop in summer 2012 bookings compared to last year.

Rachel Jones, Online PR & Marketing Co-ordinator at Door2Tour.com, said: "Although sales for our flower shows appear to be blooming at the moment with favourites such as Chelsea and Floriade 2012 receiving huge interest from the public, this has been counteracted by drooping UK holiday sales despite holidaymakers tightening their money belts and trying to save the pennies by holidaying at home. One of the reasons for this decline in UK holiday sales could be because families simply cannot afford their annual holiday this year therefore are not booking anything at all."

The coach holidays company has also seen a 15% increase in Euro breaks, with a come-back for destinations like Rome, Spain, Belgium, Austria and Germany. Destinations that appear to have suffered since last year include France with interest in Paris city breaks declining, although trips to Disneyland Paris are selling extremely well, with travellers still being drawn to the major European theme park.

Rachel concluded: "Although our UK sales seem to be down this year compared to 2011, it would appear that our customers are taking advantage of the recent troubles in Europe and opting for European coach tours instead which is why we have seen an increase in interest for destinations such as Rome, Spain, Belgium and Austria. With many still trying to budget when it comes to planning their annual break away, some are choosing popular all-inclusive holidays so they do not have to worry about any hidden extras thus being able to enjoy their holiday. The added advantage of holidaying abroad is you’re more or less guaranteed good weather compared to UK coach holidays where the weather is somewhat unpredictable."

Event sales are also flourishing, with a 73% increase in overall events sales. This has been boosted through early interest shown for events such as The X Factor and Dancing on Ice Live Tours, Royal Ascot, the British Grand Prix, The Grand National and the hotly anticipated Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Premier Inn announces opening of second hotel in Stratford upon Avon

Premier Inn has announced that, following an ever increasing demand for affordable rooms that don't compromise on quality, it will invest in a second Premier Inn hotel in the majestic old town of Stratford upon Avon. Early last year Stratford upon Avon helped Premier Inn reach a new milestone with its 600th hotel opening in the town, with the help of comedian Lenny Henry.

Such has been the popularity of Stratford upon Avon that the second hotel is now opening to the public on 13th February 2012, creating 41 jobs within the community and bringing a further investment of £6 million into the local economy.

The brand new 130 bedroom hotel is situated on the banks of the canal near Birmingham Road, minutes away from the Stratford upon Avon train station. Many of the rooms will overlook the scenic canal, with the hotel just a short walk into the historic town centre. The town is best known for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare and is steeped in culture, drawing a great number of tourists to hotels in Stratford upon Avon each year.

Nick Brightman, General Manager of Premier Inn Stratford upon Avon Waterways, commented: "The fabulous location by the canal side gives guests a lovely, scenic view. Its close proximity to the railway station and the town centre makes it perfectly situated for both business and leisure travellers."

Each bedroom caters for up to two adults and two children (aged 15 and under) and includes: an en-suite bathroom, a king size bed, remote control TV with Freeview, tea/coffee making facilities, and a spacious desk area with WiFi Internet access. The site will also offer the All You Can Eat 'Premier Breakfast.'

Premier Inn offers all guests a no quibble 'Good Night Guarantee' - which means if customers are not 100% satisfied with their stay, they will receive a full refund.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Premier Inn announces £5.9 million investment in Camborne

Premier Inn has announced it is set to open a new hotel and restaurant development in Camborne, bringing a total of 41 new jobs to the area. The new Table Table restaurant, named Trevithick Inn and Premier Inn hotel will be opening on Treswithian Road in January 2012 - injecting a total investment of £5.9 million into the local economy.

In line with Premier Inn's parent company Whitbread's long term commitment to the conservation of the environment, the new site will incorporate a number of key green initiatives. Efficient under floor heating will be incorporated in the Trevithick Inn to avoid the need for radiators; solar PV panels will provide electricity and electric car charging points will be installed in the car park. Similarly, LED lighting will be fitted in the reception and restaurant to reduce electricity consumption.

The Trevithick Inn Table Table - as named by Lee Misselbrook of Falmouth - will aim to serve top quality pub food in a great environment. Classic dishes on offer include hand battered fish and chips, as well as current favourites such as chicken fajitas. There will also be a new selection of desserts available including profiteroles and the indulgent chocolate pecan tart. Customers can take advantage of main meals from Monday to Friday between the hours of 11.30am until 6.30pm, with guests being able to add a starter or dessert for a small fee.

The adjoining Premier Inn will feature 65 bedrooms and will cater for up to two adults and two children (aged 15 and under). Each room includes an en-suite bathroom with shower and bath, a comfortable king-size bed, remote control TV with Freeview, tea and coffee making facilities and a spacious desk area with internet access.

David Murdin, Whitbread Restaurants Marketing Director, said: "We are delighted to bring a new hotel and restaurant to Camborne and we can't wait to welcome our guests to the Trevithick Inn Table Table restaurant and Premier Inn in January."  

10 Romantic European Villa and City Apartment Ideas for Couples from The Villa Book

Le Bateau, ParisWith all the Christmas festivities now over, and with Valentine’s Day looming, now is the perfect time to be planning a special getaway for two. We have come up with a variety of destinations and properties to entice you to start planning that romantic springtime break!
1. Paris … well, we had to start with Paris… the ultimate romantic destination, and what could be more romantic than staying at Le Bateau, a houseboat on the Seine, almost at the foot of the Eiffel Tower! Accessed by a tree-lined, cobblestone quai, there are expansive views of the Seine and the Beaux-Arts architecture of Passy from its deck-terrasse, where you can sit and enjoy a morning coffee or cocktail in the evening. The interiors are exceptionally spacious (800 sq. ft) and comfortable, with polished wood panelled walls and floorboards and a king-size bed in the cosy bedroom. The boat is equipped with TV and wi-fi internet connection, and there are two bicycles available for exploring Paris. Nearby sights include a twice weekly open-air market, a good selection of restaurants and cafés and, of course, the numerous historical sites in this fascinating part of Paris.
Guide price: €2170 per week.

2. Venice is another personal favourite, and of all the places we have ever stayed in Venice, there is nowhere quite like Le Residenze for a truly memorable romantic break. Situated on Giudecca Island, directly facing San Marco across the lagoon, Le Residenze dates back to the 16th century when it was the home of a Venetian noble family. It has recently been renovated, retaining all its original grandeur, including wall frescoes and Venetian terrazzo floors, to create 11 superb apartments, a reading room and wine bar with working fireplaces and an impressive ‘winter garden’ lobby. The latter opens both to the front of the building and views of San Marco, and to the rear where there is a stunning three acre private garden, with swimming pool. Among the many guest privileges is the use of the adjoining Palladio’s Spa, as well as complimentary boat transfers (a 4 minute ride) to Piazza San Marco.
Guide price: €1200 per night. Minimum stay 4 nights.

3. When asked to recommend romantic breaks, apart from the cities like Paris and Venice, we always immediately think of Santorini, and any time from Easter to the end of October is a great time to go, maybe avoiding the crowded high season months of July and August, if it is a romantic break you are after! And of course, you must make sure you stay in a villa with a Caldera view … somewhere like the aptly named Fira Dream would be perfect. Perched high on a clifftop above the spectacular Caldera, this 17th century ‘canava’ has been refurbished to the highest of standards, yet without losing its traditional, simple Cycladic style. Access is via a courtyard into a large living area with high vaulted ceilings. From here, a handmade stained glass door leads to the master bedroom with circular bed and a Jacuzzi set with mosaic glass tiles. The villa has two terraces, one with rooftop jacuzzi, to take full advantage of the breathtaking views and sunsets. The village centre of Fira with a great selection of bars and tavernas, some again in magnificent cliffside locations, is just a few minutes walk away. Airport transfers and a continental breakfast each morning are included in the rental price.
Guide price: €340 per night. Minimum stay 3 nights.

4. The Greek Islands offer so much in the way of romantic properties, you are spoilt for choice, but Petra Villa on Patmos, recently added to our programme, did catch our attention as being an idyllic retreat for a quiet, romantic break. The villa dates back to 1542 and is one of the oldest houses in the traditional village of Chora, known as one of the most picturesque villages in Greece, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its maze of narrow, cobbled streets and white-washed houses, cars will need to be left in a car park at the entrance to the village, from where it is a 5 minute walk to the villa. Quaint and charming , the interiors are furnished with antiques, yet offer all modern comforts, including air conditioning, wi-fi access and home cinema. A traditional patio at ground floor level is furnished with a large marble dining table, sofas and chairs, while a furnished roof terrace right at the top of the house, has amazing views to the sea and the famous Monastery of St John.
Guide price: €800 per night (can request special rates out of high season for just one couple). Minimum stay 3 nights.

5. If asked to suggest a totally unique and extraordinary out of season romantic break, by the sea, in Europe, we would have no hesitation in suggesting the magnificent Palazzo Santa Croce in Positano. Situated high above the town (about 10 - 15 minutes walk down to the town centre and beach), there are wonderful views over the picturesque town, the dramatic coastline and the sea. Dating from the 1700’s, the property has been wonderfully preserved and still features the original lacquered doors, painted ceilings and original stucco work. It also has a fascinating history of famous guests, including Picasso, Steinbeck and Alberto Moravia. The current owners have restored the building to all its former glory and more! It is rare to see such exquisite taste and attention to detail – the end result being a haven of relaxation, combined with enormous beauty and a true sense of the property’s history and culture. Among the many exceptional features are the two master bedrooms, with their frescoed ceilings, decorated and furnished in opulent Baroque style, with enormous paintings, columns, mirrors and silks. There is a large terrace, furnished for relaxing and dining outdoors (and with a long hydro-massage tub!) and, on a lower level, a luxurious spa, with heated pool, with fountain and contra-flow jets for lumbar and cervical massages. Breakfast is served each morning with juice squeezed from the property’s own lemon and orange trees, home-made marmalade and home-baked pastries….. don’t be put off by the price of such perfection – the owners will reduce the price for couples staying. And if the romantic break leads to a wedding, there is even a consecrated chapel!
Prices on request. Usually one week minimum stay, but shorter stays allowed out of high season.

6. While on the subject of Palazzos and Italy … there is always Rome to consider too. Here we are renting a luxurious and unique apartment in a 16th century Palazzo, right in Via Condotti, one of Rome’s finest shopping streets, and a 5 minute walk from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Steeped in history, and one the residences of Emperor Napoleon III, who lived here in 1830, the one bedroom apartment has been restored to all its former splendour. Entrance to the Palazzo is through massive wooden doors and along an arcade of Doric columns with ancient artefacts on display. Guests can reach the apartment by elevator, or by the grand marble staircase lined with antique busts of Roman emperors. The apartment (about 2350 sq. ft) has parquet floors, hand-stencilled walls, antique furnishings, huge oil paintings and 16th century tapestries. One painting in the bedroom, opens to access an exquisite marble bathroom! This has to be one of the most amazing places to stay in Rome, and definitely on the short list of a very special occasion. Continental breakfast each morning is included in the price.
Guide price: €1500 per night. Minimum stay 3 nights.

7. If the idea of a Mediterranean Island appeals, offering sunshine and beauty out of high season, then our small villa, Pequena Deia, in the charming village of Deia on Mallorca might appeal. A former artists’ colony, Deia is a beautiful stone-clad village with no less than three Michelin star restaurants (and lots of other restaurants and tapas bars), art galleries, boutiques and fabulous sea views. There is even a small beach, two kilometres from the village, an 18-hole golf course 20 minutes away and Spa facilities at the nearby Residencia Hotel. Our very pretty, traditional stone house here is about 15 minutes walk from the village. Formerly a Priests’ sanctuary, the house retains its authentic charm, with white-washed walls, original exposed ceiling beams and painted wooden shutters. There is a terrace with swimming pool and sea views.
Guide price: €2275 per week. Minimum stay one week.

8. Also by the sea, and offering much in the way of authentic charm, is our Dubrovnik Apartment. It is hidden away in a quiet street, just steps away from Stradun, the main promenade in the old town. The Rector’s and Sponza Palaces, the Cathedral, St Blaise’s Church, Europe’s oldest pharmacy (housed with the Franciscan Monastery), Mariin Drzic Theatre, museums and art galleries are all within a short walk, as are Dubrovnik’s finest restaurants, cafés and the ferry to the beaches on romantic Lokrum Island…. a perfect base for exploring this captivating city. The interiors of the apartment are very tasteful with exposed stone walls, original ceiling beams and flooring, and an antique ‘Windof’, used for open fire cooking more than a hundred years ago. The apartment is equipped with all modern amenities and the owner can arrange for breakfast delivery for guests on request.
Guide price: €250 per night. Minimum stay 4 nights.

9. St Tropez is fabulous out of high season, and we have the perfect small villa, L’Escale Beach, right by the sea, for couples looking for peace and privacy, yet easy access to St Tropez village, just 15 minutes drive away. The pretty bougainvillea-filled garden at the front of the house has a heated pool, and direct beach access to L’Escalet Plage. There are two large covered terraces to relax or enjoy meals ‘al fresco’.
Price for 2 people out of high season on request. Minimum stay one week.

10. Last, but not least, London is also a great city for a romantic break and we are offering some very charming, quintessentially English-style apartments in an Edwardian building in Cadogan Gardens – just behind Sloane Square and a quick stroll away from the Kings Road, Sloane Street and Knightsbridge. The Draycott Apartments are part of a boutique hotel and guests will benefit from hotel facilities, including a 24 hour reception and room service. Additional thoughtful touches include complimentary tea and biscuits in the drawing room at 4 p.m., a glass of champagne at 6 p.m. and hot chocolate at 9.30 pm.! A stay here is really like a home away from home, in particularly relaxing, hospitable and luxurious surroundings.
Guide price: €325 per night. Minimum stay one night.


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lastminute.com unveils its Top Secret collection

lastminute.com, the UK's largest online hotel, travel and leisure specialist recently opened the doors to the Top Secret Collection.

Based in Central London and open until January 22nd, it showcases the retailer's Top Secret products which offer 4 and 5 star luxury for 3 star prices. The range includes Top Secret hotels, Top Secret restaurants, Top Secret cars and Top Secret theatre seats.

lastminute.com's Top Secret Collection is open free of charge to members of the public at the Getty Gallery on Great Eastcastle Street, minutes from Oxford Circus. The luxury experience showcases the very best that lastminute.com Top Secret has to offer; from food to fitness, cupcakes to cocktails and competitions and giveaways.

Beauty therapists have been onsite at the event providing a variety of treatments, including foot reflexology, hand massages and Indian head, neck and shoulders massages. Customers have also been able to book their hotel stays, theatre tickets, car hire and restaurant tables from the pop-up where lastminute.com staff have been on hand to give advice.

Matthew Crummack, President of lastminute.com commented: "Top Secret Hotels embodies what we stand for: making the unattainable, attainable and offering 5 star luxury for 3 star prices. Through our Top Secret offering we are using our knowledge, experience and supplier relationships to bring customers deals that they otherwise wouldn't get. We are delighted to be able to showcase our online offering for the very first time in a physical space and believe it represents what lastminute.com stands for:  added value and affordable treats, especially at a time when we're looking for those extra special moments."

The Top Secret Collection comprises of:

-Top Secret Hotels: lastminute.com can secure up to 45% off luxury 4 and 5 star hotels, allowing the customer to simply choose the date and location and lastminute.com will give the customer the hotel's location, star rating and description. The hotel will be kept secret until the booking is made although it is guaranteed to be a top hotel and the offer includes luxury hotels London.

-Top Secret Restaurants: lastminute.com is offering customers the chance to dine at a Michelin star restaurant for less than £30. By choosing a location within central London lastminute.com will give the customer the type of cuisine and a sample menu. The secret is that the diner will not find out the name of the restaurant until they have booked, but it will be a top Michelin starred restaurants.

- Top Secret Theatre Tickets: lastminite.com can secure discounted tickets in the top three seating bands for both musicals and West End plays. The secret is that theatre goers will only find out their exact seats once the tickets have been picked up on the day of the performance.

- Top Secret Cars: lastminute.com can secure excellent car hire deals all year round that guarantee to take a further 10% off the price of the car a customer books. The car hire provider will be a secret until the booking is complete, but it will be quality names such as Alamo, Avis, Europcar or Thrifty.


lastminute.com is the UK's largest online hotel, travel and leisure specialist, with over 1.65 million visitors per week. It provides customers with the best ways to make their free time go even further.  Whether planning a great night out, an amazing weekend away or a relaxing two-weeks somewhere far away from home, lastminute.com has it all - and at great prices.

lastminute.com offers customers the opportunity to book London hotels, city breaks and flights, buy tickets and experience packages and make restaurant reservations through its one-stop shop. From adventuring in the mountains to relaxing beach breaks, spa stays, theatre trips and dining, there really is something for everyone.

Monday, 16 January 2012

All Inclusive holidays could save cash-strapped Britons £403 million each year whilst abroad

- Consumers want budget certainty in an age of uncertainty in 2012, as 74% consider an All Inclusive holiday.

- Over half of UK holidaymakers overspend on holiday
- 40% claim ability to pre-budget as main reason for going All Inclusive

More and more British tourists are opting to go all inclusive 2012, as over half of holidaymakers (57%) overspent whilst on holiday last year, costing the UK’s consumers a staggering £403m. The new research released today by First Choice shows that British holidaymakers are struggling to control of their holiday budgets and overlook exchange rates and extra costs whilst abroad. The biggest causes of overspending on holiday are evening meals (42%), daytime snacks and drinks (31%) and evening drinks at the bar (27%) – all of which are included in the cost of an all-inclusive holiday.

With value leading the way in 2012 as the driving factor behind holiday bookings (40%) and over 74% considering an all-inclusive holiday this year according to the British Travel Association, Brits will welcome First Choice’s bold move to become the Home of All Inclusive. In five years (2004-2009) the all-inclusive holiday market has grown by 32%, according to latest research from Mintel³ and research from First Choice shows a family of four can save £511 per week on an All Inclusive Holiday versus a bed and breakfast only trip.

The ‘First Choice Holiday Spending Study’, conducted in association with the Centre of Economic and Business Research (Cebr), also shows that overspending impacts the lives of over half of Brits (52%) when they return from non all-inclusive holidays. It reveals that 1 in 4 have to cut back on things such as the weekly food bill (26%), and luxuries such as weekend socialising (28%) when back in the UK.

Commenting on the First Choice Holiday Spending Study, Douglas McWilliams Chief Executive of leading financial institution the Cebr, says: “The figure of £403 million is surprising, particularly when people want budget certainty these days. It seems it is the little extra things on holiday that sometimes we don’t even consider that really do add up and make a difference.”

David Burling, Managing Director of TUI UK & Ireland comments: “Many of our customers will have overspent at Christmas, but they can go on all inclusive holiday knowing that this won’t happen again. In the current climate, people want to leave their money worries behind when they go on holiday. All Inclusive is fast becoming the holiday of choice for many British consumers, offering them great value for money, and yet First Choice is the only mainstream holiday company offering a completely All Inclusive portfolio. We pride ourselves on listening to our customers and creating unique offers that reflect the need of each holidaymaker.”

From summer 2012, all First Choice holidays will include flights, transfers, hotel accommodation, three meals a day and all local drinks as standard. Offering a range of holidays for different budgets, from 3 star to 5 star, customers will be able to choose from standard, added value resorts such as SplashWorld and Holiday Village, and premium properties.

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Pets on a ferry?

Take out the stress of finding kennels and catteries this year by taking your pet on holiday with you. Travelling to the continent by ferry with pets has become even easier as there is no longer a requirement for your dog, cat or ferret to have a blood test or undergo tick treatment when you return to the UK. The PETS scheme has changed to that all you need is a pet passport: a document issued by a government-authorised vet that exempts your animal from quarantine. Most vets can do this, which simply involves a blood test, rabies vaccine and identifying your pet with a microchip.

This year alone, ferry companies have taken two rare Oryx, Zara Phillips’ horses en-route to an equestrian event and a gibbon called Lisa, as well as the more usual cats and dogs. Travelling on-board with a pet couldn’t be easier. Depending on the crossing, domestic or international, dogs and cats can travel on-deck, in the car or even in a special cabin and many operators will even carry pets in cars free of charge. Visit www.discoverferries.com for more information.

With more than 3,500 pets travelling with Stena Line between Harwich and the Hook of Holland alone in 2011 (a 6.4% increase compared to 2010), ferry operators are more than equipped for a safe passage for our furry friends. Brittany Ferries reported a 10% increase as they carried more than 43,000 pets in 2011.

LD Lines saw a massive 29% increase on pet travel last year on their Portsmouth–Le Havre route, whilst P&O Ferries carried 19,478 cats and dogs on their Dover–Calais route alone (an increase of nearly 6% on 2010). DFDS Seaways, along with all other continental ferry operators, are expecting to significant increases in the number of pets travelling with the simplification of the scheme. Irish Ferries can reveal that dogs are the most well-travelled pets, followed by cats and (perhaps surprisingly) ferrets.

Whilst the new EU changes are good news for all animal-lovers, pets headed to Ireland will see no change to the already existing ‘open door’ policy. This is because both The Republic of Ireland and the UK who have not had indigenous rabies for many decades will continue to apply no compliance checks on pets travelling between the two countries.

Details can be found about the PETS scheme regulations by visiting www.discoverferries.com

Policies vary depending on ferry companies; contact the specific operator for further information.

www.dicoverferries.com provides comprehensive details of ferry companies and routes from the UK to Europe, Ireland and the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and Isle of Wight.

Visit www.dicoverferries.com – your one-stop-shop for up-to-date information and news about travelling by ferry

Airport Shuttles Going Green

While shared-ride transportation is inherently eco-friendly, many members of The GO Group, the world's largest airport shuttle provider, are going one step further.

GO companies serving San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, Milwaukee's General Mitchell International, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International are converting all or part of their fleets to alternative fuels - either compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane.  While GO companies in Los Angeles (serving all southern California airports) and Chicago (serving Midway and O'Hare) also are in the process of doing so.

CNG is a fossil fuel, while propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining.  Both burn cleaner than gasoline or diesel fuels, although CNG is considered the cleaner of the two.

Companies that convert to alternative fuels can earn a 50 cents-per-gallon tax credit as well other incentives from local government and the airports.

GO Shuttle Express in Seattle, which has 43 propane-fueled vehicles, began the conversion process last January and has 20 more systems to install.

According to J. R. Rowley, president of GO Shuttle Express, the fuel saving has been around $2 per gallon.  Maintenance costs, however, have been slightly higher due to the learning curve.

In San Francisco, GO Lorries has adapted 16 vans to CNG, with another 28 to be retrofitted for CNG by May. 

"The conversions are expensive," says Julio Bonilla, president, "but the fuel savings mitigate the cost."

As of December, GO Riteway Transportation Group in Milwaukee has moved 21 of its 500-vehicle fleet to propane, experiencing a $7,000 fuel savings since October. 

According to Jason Ebert, fleet and facilities coordinator, the maintenance costs are lower as oil changes can now be performed every 7,000 rather than every 5,000 miles as in the past. 

Ebert reports one reason GO Riteway opted for propane is that it is 90 percent as efficient as gasoline, which allows for a greater vehicle range than CNG, which is only 31 percent efficient.  Also, the cost of a propane conversion is one third less than the cost of a CNG conversion.

The GO Group LLC is a one-stop source for airport shuttles, which transport some 13 million passengers to and from airports in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Europe. Travelers can book ground transportation to and from both departure and destination airports at www.goairportshuttle.com.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Shopping and Champagne by the Sea. Luxury Personal Shopping with Hilton Brighton Metropole

Hilton Brighton Metropole is giving shopaholics even more reasons to hit the shops with its Luxury Personal Shopping Package. With champagne, an afternoon tea, plenty of shopping and an exclusive personal stylist, this is the ultimate girly getaway and all just a stone’s throw away from Brighton’s beachfront.

Hilton Brighton Metropole has teamed up with Personal Stylist, Jane Busby. With 15 years as a stylist under her belt, Jane has a wealth of experience advising clients on new looks, colours and creations to suit every budget. From high street to high fashion Jane knows what’s hot and what’s not. Whether it’s a new LBD or experimenting with the latest trends, Jane knows exactly where in Brighton fashionistas can get their manicured mitts on this season’s must-haves.

The Luxury Personal Shopping Package begins with a bang as champagne awaits guests upon arrival at Hilton Brighton Metropole. Located only moments from the beach, the hotel is perfectly situated for strolls along the sea-front and accommodation includes a Deluxe Room with sea view. Guests can feast on a delicious three course supper in the elegant Windsor Restaurant before exploring the best of Brighton’s night life.

The following morning, fuel-up for the day ahead with a traditional English breakfast before meeting Jane to hit the shops. From chic boutiques and retro finds down the famous lanes, to high street havens, Brighton is the ideal location for retail therapy. And, with Jane’s expert eye and abundance of experience, there won’t be a fashion faux-pas in sight.

Return to the hotel where a fabulous Champagne Afternoon Tea will be served in the Metropole Lounge Bar. Satisfied shoppers will be treated to a selection of finger sandwiches, homemade scones, cup cakes and the hotel’s very own Metropole Macaroons.

The Luxury Personal Shopping Package is available Sunday to Friday subject to availability and is priced at £549.00 for two people sharing.

For further information or to book visit www.brighton.hilton.co.uk or call 01273 720710.

*The package includes one night’s stay at the Brighton Metropole, champagne on arrival, a three-course meal, breakfast, a champagne afternoon tea and three hours shopping with personal stylist Jane Busby. The three hour shopping trip can be taken on the afternoon of arrival or the following morning. Jane will need to have a phone conversation with guests prior to the start of the shopping trip in order to plan and tailor the experience.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts announces winter sale

Macdonald Hotels & Resorts has announced its winter sale, offering savings of up to 50% off the standard room rate at the company's portfolio of 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts in the UK and Spain.

The luxurious, 5-star Macdonald Spa hotel in Bath provides guests with the perfect opportunity to explore the historic city, while other options include unwinding with a family adventure break at the 4-star Macdonald Cardrona hotel in Peebles or even relax with a winter sunshine break at Macdonald Villacana resort in Malaga. The winter offer also allows children aged 12 and under to stay and eat for free.

To qualify for the offer, potential guests must book their stay between now and 6 March and stay with the hotel group before 16 March 2012. 

This latest seasonal deal also offers guests a 3-course dinner with a bottle of wine from just £20 per person.  And whether patrons choose to dine in the award-winning John Paul at The Marine at the 4-star Macdonald Marine Spa & hotel in North Berwick or the new Scottish Steak Club at Macdonald Inchyra Spa & hotel near Stirling, diners are assured of culinary excellence within a hotel group where chefs proudly prepare mouth-watering dishes from whole raw ingredients.  

Ruaridh Macdonald, Sales and Marketing Director of Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, commented: "Wherever our discerning guests choose to stay within Macdonald Hotels & Resorts this season, our fabulous winter offer guarantees couples and families the chance to banish the January blues with savings and exemplary service at truly luxurious hotel locations across the UK."