Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Escape Worldwide's Top 5 for Romance!


Add a little romance to your life with our top 5 romantic destinations.


Traditional sky lanterns are launched across Thailand for celebrations and to bring good luck, and there’s no better way to mark a special occasion than to launch your own lantern in to the night sky. Made out of rice paper and a bamboo frame, the lanterns can drift for miles in a breeze before gently returning to the ground once the candle has gone out. The most popular time to launch a sky lantern is during the Loi Krathong festival in November, but lanterns are available in most beach resorts year-round – our suggestion would be to head for Krabi, and watch your lantern rise above a backdrop of island and outcrops of Phang Nga Bay.


A safari is a special travel experience, and a balloon ride over the plains of Africa is truly something else – a real ‘once in a lifetime’ experience when the romance of travel goes in to overdrive. Your hot air balloon will take off as the sun rises over the Masai Mara, and you’ll glide just above tree height as the animals below start to stir. Drift silently with the breeze and see zebra, hippo, elephant, lion and a myriad of other creatures, undisturbed by your presence. As you land you’ll be greeted with a glass of bubbly and breakfast in the bush - the perfect setting to pop the question, perhaps!


On a remote peninsula only accessible by boat from the Vietnamese mainland, Ninh Van Bay is home to the gorgeous Six Senses, the Country’s most exclusive resort and one of the most romantic settings imaginable. If you can drag yourself away from your beautiful villa with its own private pool and magnificent views across the bay, take a longtail boat around to the hotels private beach at Bai Nho, where you can have the place to yourself – apart from your own chef and butler to prepare and serve your dinner, of course. Quite possibly the most romantic meal you’ll ever have – the Vietnamese tiger prawns are to die for!


The home of salsa and rumba, Cuba is an island with a passion for dance, where you’ll hear music at every turn. Spend a few days exploring its vibrant capital, Havana, and immerse yourself in the beat of the City. Take your dance partner to the Casa De La Musica in the Miramar district of Havana to see how the experts do it, or take a class to improve your own skills. Otherwise, sit back with a cool Mojito and watch the world go by from the pavement café at the Hotel Inglaterra, a Havana institution.


There are few places to get away from it all these days, but the beautiful island of Zanzibar has a few hidden gems that are perfect for a romantic retreat. Tucked away on the southwest coast, Fumba beach is peaceful and relaxed, where the only crowds you’re likely to see are of dolphins and turtles. On the east coast, Pongwe beach is picture-postcard perfect, where a crescent of the whitest sand is backed by swaying palm trees, with hammocks strung between the trees. Both beaches have simple accommodation with few mod-cons – it’s just you and your other half!

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Thursday, 5 July 2018

Miami and the Florida Keys..... Darren loves it!

Away from the theme parks of Orlando, Florida’s far south holds a wealth of interest and something a little out of the ordinary. Darren picked up a car in Miami and headed through the Florida Keys to Key West.

Miami acts as the main gateway to southern Florida, and as one of the coolest cities in the US it’s a great place to start a trip. Most of the action takes place in Miami Beach rather than downtown, and Collins Avenue is really at the heart of things. Miami Beach Historic District is home to the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, with many of the buildings now turned in to hotels and clubs. Coined ‘Millionaires Row’, Collins Avenue is the place to be and be seen in Miami.

From Miami it’s only a little over 50 miles until you leave the mainland and hit the Florida Keys, a chain of picture-postcard coral cays that run over 100 miles southwest to Key West. The first town you’ll hit is Key Largo, a world away from the bright lights and glamour of Miami, and the contrast is one of the town’s appeals. Key Largo is a sleepy affair in comparison to her northern neighbour, where the pace of life is slower and the atmosphere is altogether more relaxed. This is one of the best locations in the US for deep sea fishing, and diving is also popular.

Driving in Florida is easy, with spacious roads that are well signposted, and it’s easy to slip in to a relaxed pace as you travel through the Keys. Miami itself is like many large cities in the US and can experience terrible congestion, so it’s best not to rely on a car here, but the journey following Highway 1 south from Miami to the Keys and through the islands towards Key West is a real pleasure. One of the highlights is Seven Mile Bridge, spanning one of the longest gaps in the islands roughly half way down the Keys. The original bridge dates back to 1909, and once a year in April the main bridge is closed for a few hours to allow for the annual Seven Mile Bridge fun run to take place. The views from the bridge are superb.

As you travel through the Florida Keys be sure to stop regularly, and randomly, wherever takes your fancy. There are plenty of excellent locations for snorkeling and diving, hire a boat at one of the marinas and take to the water, or just chill on the beach for a while. It’s easy to follow the main highway through the Keys, but getting off the highway to explore the islands turns the journey in to an adventure.

At the very end of the Florida Keys is the town of Key West, the southernmost point in continental USA and one that is closer to Havana in Cuba than Miami. The town has a relaxed feel year-round but really comes to life in the winter months, when the tropical climate attracts the jetset crowd from around the US. The trendy set from Miami make Key West their winter party hangout, and it’s an ideal place to chill out for a few days after travelling through the Keys. The Old Town of Key West is a major draw, with buildings dating back to the 1880’s and an air of history that’s perfectly charming. Look out for the birthplace of Pan Am, the airline which started here back in 1927 for mail delivery between Key West and Havana.

While many visitors to Florida head to the theme parks of Orlando, the southern part of the state is home to some fascinating corners, and the drive from Miami to Key West is a great way to get a little off the beaten track.

Don’t miss…Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, a historic landmark and one of the most famous bars in the US - a great place for a cool beer on a hot day

Don’t miss…head to one of the numerous shopping centres in the Miami area to grab yourself a bargain – clothes and electronics are popular

One to avoid…parking in Miami is an expensive business, with valet parking being anything up to $60 a day - collect your car after your stay here and head out of town

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Driving Holidays.... a great way to holiday

A driving holiday is a superb way to really get to know a destination, and many countries are well suited to this style of holiday. Darren shares some of his favourites.

The USA is one of the most popular self-drive destinations and there are a myriad of routes and itineraries you can consider, from the theme parks and beaches of Florida, the volcanoes and coastline of the Hawaiian Islands or the classic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. One of the most popular itineraries combines the states of Nevada and California, taking in Las Vegas, San Francisco and LA, plus a host of other locations in between. From Vegas it’s only a short drive to the Grand Canyon, albeit in the wrong direction, while the route through to San Francisco will take you via Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks. Then follow the Californian coast south to LA, stopping in the likes of Monterey, Carmel and Santa Barbara en route.

If you want to combine your transport and your accommodation, then hiring a motorhome is a great option, and New Zealand is one of the best destinations to do this. Motorhomes accommodate between two and six passengers so are great for couples or families, and come complete with shower and flush toilet, decent cooking facilities and often a built-in barbecue! New Zealand offers drivers good quality, quiet roads and is crammed full of interest, especially for the outdoor enthusiast – be sure to allow yourself enough time to do it justice. South Island is far quieter than North Island and is home to the most spectacular countryside, while North island has cosmopolitan towns and more historic interest. The combination of both islands, linked by ferry across the often-choppy Cook Strait, will give you a truly memorable trip. There aren’t many places in the world where snow-capped mountains and glaciers are so close to the coast, where you can see geysers bubbling and where bungee jumping is almost a national sport.

For something a little bit different why not head to Cuba, where the lack of public transport means having your own wheels really comes in to its own. Roads are quiet here so driving is fairly straightforward, and the Country is crammed with interest, but there are a few tips to ensure your trip runs smoothly. There’s a lack of signposts so get hold of a decent map before you leave home as local maps tend to be poor. Plan your journey to avoid driving after dark, as street lights are gloomy or non-existent. Try not to cover too much distance at any one time – getting stuck behind a donkey and cart is a common occurrence, and can really slow you down! Most importantly, take a phrasebook, plenty of patience and a sense of humour – things never run as expected in Cuba, and that’s part of the charm of this wonderful country.

South Africa is one of our favourite driving destinations, with spectacular scenery, loads of interest, great food and superb wine – it’s also extremely good value for money when you get there. The ‘Garden Route’ is a classic drive along the Country’s south coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, taking in a number of national parks, attractive towns and a stunning coastline. The detour to the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas, Africa’s most southerly point and where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, is well worthwhile, while the Cape of Good Hope is a rugged and dramatic coast dotted with beautiful beaches, but with an icy-cold sea. Park up for a few days in the winelands area around Stellenbosch to sample a Chenin Blanc or two!

Wherever you decide to explore on a driving holiday, take a sense of adventure with you as it’s often the best way to really get off the beaten track and to truly experience a destination away from the tourist crowds.

Top tip…Check out any local laws or driving customs that are different to the UK such as speed limits or give way rules before leaving home. For example, in South Africa you’re obliged to move over in to a special hard shoulder when being overtaken on certain roads.

Top tip…where possible, plan your itinerary to collect your vehicle in a quieter location to give you the chance to get used to the local style of driving on quieter roads. For example, start a New Zealand itinerary in peaceful Christchurch rather than more hectic Auckland.

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Amazing Havana in Cuba....


The Cuban capital Havana is a captivating mix of intriguing history and faded glamour, with a decidedly retro feel. Mark spent a long weekend discovering the charms of the City.

Havana is an extraordinary city that’s packed with interest, and one that makes a great destination for a long weekend with a difference or as part of a wider trip to Cuba. 500 years of history has left the City with an incredible array of buildings from various architectural styles, while the last 50 years or so has changed its character again. Lose yourself in the backstreets of Old Havana, watch the waves crash on the Malecón, Havana’s seafront promenade, and take in the nightlife of Vedado - ideally with a cold mojito in your hand.

A great place to start exploring is at Parque Central, a tree-lined square that marks the start of Old Havana where men sit under the shade of the trees to discuss the latest goings on in the world of baseball, a Cuban obsession. The square is surrounded by a series of historic buildings including the neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, dating back to 1875, and the Gran Teatro de La Habana, a stunning building that’s home to the Cuban National Ballet. Just to the south is the Capitolio Nacional, the seat of Government until the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and a perfect place for visitors to Havana to appreciate the City’s neoclassical architecture.

From Parque Central walk along Calle Obispo (Bishop Street) in to the heart of Old Havana. The cobbled streets here date back almost 500 years, and this particular street is dotted with historic buildings that are now home to boutique hotels and lively bars. Calle Obispo leads in to Plaza De Armas, one of Havana’s most important and prettiest squares and one that’s been restored in recent years. Any visitor to Havana will notice that many of the City’s historic buildings are crumbling, but an ongoing restoration scheme is breathing new life in to these areas. It’s then a short hop to the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana, a Havana landmark noted for its unequal towers and fine baroque architecture. Plaza de la Catedral is a great place for a spot of lunch – check out the Restaurant El Patio’s grilled fish and sublime mojitos!

Havana’s diverse history is also reflected in its places to stay, with hotels dating from various eras in the City’s history. Old Havana is dotted with quirky hotels that were formerly merchant’s houses, such as the Hotel Florida on Calle Obispo, a beautiful property centered around an internal courtyard. Perhaps Havana’s most renowned hotel is the Hotel Nacional De Cuba, dating from 1930 and reflecting the era’s Art Deco architecture. The hotel welcomed Hollywood legends in its heyday including Marlon Brando, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, and today is a great place to soak up the City’s retro atmosphere.

A great way to really experience Havana is to rent a classic American car for an afternoon – you’ll need a driver too as the cars tend to be held together by a wing and a prayer (or at least a piece of rope and a roll of sellotape!) as spare parts haven’t been available for years, but it’s quite an experience. Cruise along the Malecón to the Plaza de la Revolución, the heart of revolutionary Havana that saw Fidel Castro address huge crowds. Today, the square is dominated by the famous Che Guevara image on the side of a government building.

Even in a short trip, Havana’s charms will grab you immediately. Recent reforms have given Havana a new burst of life, and things are changing quickly so visit soon to experience one of the world’s truly unique capitals.

Don’t miss…drinks at the terrace bar at the Hotel Inglaterra – the service can be typically Cuban (slow), but it’s a great spot to watch the world go by.

Don’t miss…dining at a paladar, a local restaurant often housed in private houses, where some of the best food in Cuba is served in an informal setting.

One to avoid…keep an eye out for crumbling buildings, potholed pavements and even badly pitched baseballs when exploring the city, to avoid any unexpected injuries.

We have some fantastic trips to Cuba including magical Havana -

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Family Safaris.. a truly amazing experience for both young and old!

An African safari may not be the kind of holiday that first springs to mind as a family-friendly option, but a safari can be the perfect trip for a family to share adventures and experiences of a lifetime.

A safari is a holiday with a difference, for both adults and kids alike. Spending time in the national parks and game reserves of Africa is as much an adventure as a holiday, and one that is action-packed and exciting, fun and educational in equal measure. East Africa is one of the best areas for a family safari, with Kenya and Tanzania offering easily accessible game parks that are home to a huge variety of wildlife including the famed ‘Big 5’, plus family-friendly accommodation and good value for money too.

Seeing animals in their natural environment is something that all kids will relish. Standing on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve watching a tower of giraffes on the opposite bank as they majestically stoop down to drink is a magical sight, and then a few minutes later you may be hurtling through the bush in search of lion on the prowl. Next stop is a pod of hippos wallowing in the river, making their extraordinary noise that sounds like playful laughter, belying the fact they’re one of the most dangerous animals you’ll encounter – albeit from a safe distance. After a relaxing afternoon around the camp’s pool, head out with your guide in search of more big game, as this area is home to a huge variety of wildlife including all three big cats as well as elephant, buffalo, zebra, crocodile and a huge variety of birdlife.

Many safari lodges and camps offer activities geared up especially for kids, so they can learn about the surrounding area and its wildlife in a fun manner, often with Masai tribesmen sharing their wealth of knowledge. The Mara Intrepids Camp on Kenya’s Masai Mara arranges different programmes of activities for different ages of kids, teaching them about the park, its wildlife and the environment in general. Masai naturalists will show them how to track wildlife from their dung, how plants are used and some basic survival skills in the wild. There’s even an obstacle course so kids can see what the wildlife has to go through!

School summer holidays are probably the best time for a safari in Kenya as the annual migration tends to be in full swing on the Masai Mara, with a few million extra wildebeest, zebra and other grazers making the plains their temporary home as they journey across from the neighbouring Serengeti. While the chances of catching the very moment when huge herds of animals spectacularly attempt to cross the Mara River are limited, visiting the Mara at this time of year leaves most visitors overwhelmed with the sheer quantity and variety of wildlife they see. By the October Half Term the migration tends to be on the move again, so a safari at this time of year should still give you plenty of activity in both Kenya and Tanzania. The annual migration only affects certain animals, and is unique to the Masai Mara and Serengeti, with other game parks unaffected as wildlife tends to be resident in these areas year-round. Christmas and the February Half Term have an emphasis on wildlife activity across the border in Tanzania, and while Easter tends to see more showers, it can be a surprisingly good value time to visit either country.

With a huge amount of wildlife activity year-round, visiting East Africa on a safari holiday at any time of year will be a rewarding, action-packed experience, and one that parents and kids alike will remember forever.

Top Tip…If you’re travelling with younger children arrange to have a vehicle to yourselves, so you can tailor the pace to suit your group. Consider travelling between parks by light aircraft to reduce travel times.

Top Tip …Combining two or three national parks will give you the widest cross section of wildlife, as each park is home to different animals. Take a guidebook or wildlife chart with you, so the kids can tick off the different animals as you go along.

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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Honeymoons...... something special

As the wedding season approaches, we take a look at some of their most popular destinations for honeymooners.

If your idea of the ultimate romantic honeymoon is to be alone with just the love of your life, then look no further than the Maldives. Hundreds of tiny islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a stunningly beautiful destination where romance comes easily. Lazy days on the beach, beautiful sunsets and understated service are the order of the day here – forget sightseeing and partying! Resorts do vary quite considerably, and as you can’t really leave your island once you’re there its important to get the right one for you. Larger islands tend to offer a range of facilities and more of a village feel, ideal for those who like a little more activity, while some islands are little more than a dot on the horizon, perfect for a real get-away-from-it-all. From the moment you land at the airport, the beauty and romance of the Maldives really does take your breath away.

For a longhaul honeymoon that won’t break the bank – and for a destination that’s fantastic at including extra touches to turn a holiday in to a honeymoon – Thailand is hard to beat. It’s a great value destination anyway and one that’s awash with stylish, quality hotels, but it’s easy to make your budget go a long way in Thailand. Keep an eye out for hotels that will offer complimentary touches such as room upgrades and spa treatments to help celebrate your honeymoon. Thailand excels at world-class hotels where the service is second to none, plus there’s a really good range of hotels that will give you high standards at a great price – pool villas are a bit of a Thai speciality, where your individual villa comes complete with your very own swimming pool, and they can sometimes cost little more than a standard room. With plenty of flight options and competitive hotel prices, Thailand tops the ranks for unbeatable honeymoon value for money, but without compromising on standards.

Many honeymooners look for a holiday that will give them memories of a lifetime, and one of the most popular options for this style of trip is a safari in Africa. Spend a few days exploring the game parks of East or Southern Africa before hitting one of the glorious beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline, hopefully spotting the ‘Big 5’ on the way. Kenya is at its best from July to October when the annual migration is in full swing, when millions of wildebeest, zebra and other animals head to the Masai Mara to create the greatest wildlife show on earth. The East African coastline also boasts some of the world’s best beaches, where recent hotel openings have raised standards too, or perhaps head further afield to the likes of Mauritius or the Seychelles.

A honeymoon is a once in a lifetime holiday, and with so many destinations to choose from, the hardest decision for many couples may be knowing where to start!

Top Tip…if you’re tied to departures dates – perhaps a Sunday evening departure for a Saturday wedding – consider a destination served by multiple airlines to give you flight flexibility. Dubai, the Far East and the Indian Ocean lead the way.

Top Tip…take a copy of your wedding certificate with you, as some hotels will include freebies for honeymooners such as room upgrades but they may ask for proof! Generally, travelling within 6 months of getting married will class as a honeymoon.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018 of Darrens favourite destinations

Darren loves China and has been a couple of times, let him guide you on how to make the most of this amazing destination:

China is one of the most fascinating destinations imaginable, with incredible history, stunning scenery and a modern twist. For the first-time visitor, there’s a list of “must see” highlights that are on most people’s agendas, but there’s so much to see that you could spend months touring the Country and still have only scratched the surface.

Shanghai and Beijing are by far the two most important cities in the Country and are the main gateways to China, and both have a wealth of interest – Beijing is a real assault on the senses so it’s often easier to start a trip to China in Shanghai, which has a more western-orientated outlook. Take a stroll along the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront boulevard, where the art deco and neoclassical buildings of the colonial era now house the city’s most exclusive boutiques and innovative restaurants, and the view across to the futuristic skyline of Pudong, Shanghai’s new financial heart, is just spectacular. Take the super-fast elevator to the world’s second highest viewing platform at the 492m-high Shanghai World Financial Centre for views back across to the old city.

Beijing itself packs more interest in to one city than most entire countries do, with the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Temple of Heaven leading the way. Explore the hutong, Beijing’s old streets that have escaped the city’s rapid development, where a more traditional way of life can be seen. Outside of the city centre, various stretches of the Great Wall of China can be accessed – some sections receive hundreds of thousands of visitors a day and can be choked with domestic tourists, so it’s worth travelling a little further to a slightly more peaceful section to really appreciate it.

Modern-day China is just as fascinating as its past, and the contrast between ancient and modern is most apparent in the big cities such as Beijing, where the Country’s economic rise in recent years is startling. International luxury brands from Prada to Ferrari have really made their mark, with designer shops rubbing shoulders with traditional markets and trendy bars replacing old-world teahouses.

The friendliness of the Chinese becomes more apparent as you get a little off the beaten track, and many visitors end up enjoying the lesser-known places more than the headline locations. In Sichuan province, the small riverside town of Leshan is a friendly place to spend a day or two, and has a major draw in the shape of the Grand Buddha, the world’s largest Buddha statue. Take in some of the teahouses that Sichuan is renowned for and sample local delicacies such as sour cabbage fish soup and Sichuan hotpot – be warned, Sichuan food packs a fiery punch!

China can be quite a daunting destination to deal with, as little English is spoken away from the main tourist areas and communicating can be difficult. Unless you’re familiar with written Chinese characters or can manage a few words of Mandarin, simple things like reading street signs or menus is just about impossible. The Chinese are a very resourceful bunch, however, and have embraced technology to communicate with overseas visitors – be prepared to order food and drinks via a translation app on a mobile phone! Travelling as part of a tour group is by far the most straightforward way to deal with day to day China, where a guide will navigate around the language, the streets and the vast numbers of domestic visitors that the major sites receive.

Many people see a visit to China being for history buffs and culture vultures, and while there’s a huge amount to keep them entertained, the Country offers such a wealth of interest and a real contrast of images that really engage you, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place.

Don’t miss…the world’s fastest train, the Maglev, connecting Shanghai airport to the city centre in around 7 minutes – travel faster than a Formula One car at over 260 mph.

Top Tip…take a business card from each hotel you stay in – taxi drivers rarely speak English, so if you have the name of your hotel written down you’ll be able to find your way back again.

One to avoid…being scammed in to attending an extortionate tea ceremony by con artists targeting visitors in Tiananmen Square, the Bund and other main areas. Don’t be fooled by over-friendly students wanting to practise their English, who want to take you for tea!

We have some amazing holidays to China -

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