MAR02

Escape of the Week… Casa Camper Berlin

 
  • From a Spanish shoe manufacturer based in Mallorca to a distinctive and formidable hotelier, Camper has certainly come a long way. Its most recent addition is this sleek and central Berlin base with a superlative restaurant, set in the vibrant Mitte district. It’s clear these shoes were made for walking.

    Casa Camper Berlin

    Casa Camper Berlin effortlessly combines minimalist chic with a down-to-earth vibe and intelligent comfort. It’s popular with a mix of guests, from cool clubbers to iPhone-toting businessmen, all busy enjoying the wonderful Tentempie Lounge – the hub of the hotel, where you’ll  find free snacks and drinks at any time of the day (or night).

    Casa Camper Berlin

    Rooms: The 51 rooms are pretty uniform: expect wooden floors, wine-red walls and simple, stylish furnishing. The only differences come in the size and, although none are small, the Suites are twice as big as other rooms and have a proper seating area. We suggest opting for one of the rooms on the fifth or sixth floors, which benefit from some gorgeous views over the rooftops of Berlin.

    Casa Camper Berlin

    Food: Casa Camper will certainly endeavour to keep you full. Start the day with a hearty breakfast (in bed, if you want) and then book into the hotel’s restaurant, Dos Palillos, in the evening. Its stupendous Asian-inspired tapas (the chef previously worked at world-renowned Catalan restaurant El Bulli) is a firm favourite among the hip Mitte crowd, so be sure to book ahead. Between these two culinary bookends, you can wander up to the top-floor lounge for free snacks with a view.

    Casa Camper Berlin

    When to go: There is enough in Berlin to keep you busy for weeks, but Casa Camper is an excellent base for a short trip or weekend break, as many must-see sights are within walking distance.

    Casa Camper Berlin

    Customer Review: “We were thrilled with our stay at Casa Camper. Everything worked about the hotel – the location was perfect (we walked almost everywhere), the price was right, and the hotel was excellent value.”

    Beth, Canada (07.08.14)

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , , , ,
FEB27

Just Back From… Vietnam

 
  • i-escape’s co-founder and director Laila spent Christmas and New Year in Vietnam with her husband and 2 teenage boys. Here she shares some of her favourite experiences and holiday snaps with you.

    Riding with locals in Ho Chi Minh City

    Ho Chi Minh City

    Ho Chi Minh City

    Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon – is known as the motorbike capital of the world. With over 4 million scooters and bikes in the city, they rule the roads (and pavements) in all directions. They’re piled high with everything and anything – entire families are transported on the back, side and front of these nippy 2-wheelers.

    Scooters in Saigon

    Scooters in Saigon

    To get under the skin of this crazy, bustling city, we spent an amazing (but hair-raising!) day exploring from the back of vintage Vespas driven by knowledgeable locals. We not only saw the famous sights, but also visited hidden temples and markets, drove down tiny back lanes and alleyways, checked out a traditional herbal-medicine shop, and stopped for some lotus-tea refreshment.

    Hotel Majestic

    Hotel Majestic

    Our base in Ho Chi Minh City was the stunning Hotel Majestic– a grand hotel built in 1925. It has maintained much of its opulence, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a sundown cocktail at the rooftop bar looking out over the Saigon River.

    Chillaxing on Phu Quoc island

    Mango Bay on Phu Quoc Island

    Mango Bay on Phu Quoc Island

    Just a 50-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh, secluded eco-escape Mango Bay on Phu Quoc was the perfect place to spend Christmas and relax. There was something for everyone at this gorgeous jungle-hut-feel retreat – the beach and watersports for the boys, an amazing spa centre for my husband, and daily yoga classes by the sea for me, as well as great food and a wonderful beach bar where everyone could meet up and chill out.

    Mango Bay

    Mango Bay

    I particularly liked the hotel’s brand-new 2-storey Bay View Villas, with their large terraces and amazing sea views.

    Cruising Halong Bay

    Halong Bay

    Halong Bay

    We spent a magical couple of days on board a traditional junk boat in Halong Bay, a UNESCO site and one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. Seeing the breathtaking limestone islands jutting sharply out of the water was a highlight that we’ll never forget, as were visiting floating villages, kayaking through limestone tunnels, swimming in emerald-green water, learning to cook some traditional Vietnamese dishes and doing Tai Chi at dawn.

    Cruise Halong

    Cruise Halong

    There’s nothing quite like a stay on Cruise Halong.  Don’t miss sunrise from the top of the deck – well worth getting up for!

    Take a look at all of our Vietnam hotels here >>

    Posted in Our Trips.... Tagged , , , , ,
FEB25

Easy Escapes for March

 
  • This month we’re craving vibrant cities rich with exciting festivities, beautiful architecture and plenty to see and do. Whether it’s an easy hop from home, a little added warmth in the Adriatic or a full-on adventure across the pond, our hassle-free suggestions are perfect for an easy March jaunt.

    No need to thank us; all you have to do is book*. Secure your accommodation through i-escape, then follow our recommendations for travel, and voila! It’s time to start packing.

    Go green in Bristol – £145 per person (2 nights, 26-28 March 2015)

    Bristol

    Bristol

    With Bristol being the European Green Capital 2015, this year sees a whole host of creative and environmentally informative events taking place across the West Country’s largest urban stronghold. Discover the excellent city farms, eat ethically at an independent eatery, or take a bicycle tour around the streets – it was also placed in the world’s top 10 bicycle-friendly cities in 2013!

    Number Thirty Eight

    Number Thirty Eight

    Stay: at Number Thirty Eight, a hilltop townhouse hotel where Farrow & Ball shades give nautical panelling a luxe edge, and sash windows open over the undulating Downs or twinkling cityscape. It’s quintessentially Bristol. A 2-night stay in a Superior House Room with tub comes to £145 per person, including taxes.

    Total cost: £145 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Bristol and other local accommodation options.

    Sight-see in Dubrovnik – £449.50 per person (4 nights, 9-13 March 2015)

    Dubrovnik © Michael Phillip

    Dubrovnik © Michael Phillip

    As anticipation for the next season of Game of Thrones reaches fever pitch, see the real King’s Landing with a visit to Dubrovnik’s beautiful pedestrianized Old Town. The cobbled streets are delightfully devoid of tourists at this time of year, allowing you to discover its fascinating history, atmospheric architecture and tempting culinary treats in relative peace.

    St Joseph's

    St Joseph’s

    Stay: at bijou St Joseph’s, tucked away in the heart of the Old Town and new to i-escape! Despite the central location its romantic suites are surprisingly peaceful, and the gracious hosts are happy to share their invaluable local knowledge with you. The hotel is offering a 10% discount throughout March, making a 4-night stay in a Deluxe Queen Suite just £262.50 per person, including taxes.

    Fly: from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik with British Airways for £166 per person, departing Monday 9 March and returning Friday 13 March.

    From the airport: Skip hiring a car and make use of the hassle-free hotel transfers, which cost £21 per car (one way).

    Total cost: £449.50 per person, including taxes.

    More info: Getting to Dubrovnik and other accommodation options.

    Party in Miami – from £1,303.50 per person (7 nights, 21-28 March 2015)

    Miami

    Miami

    Miami Beach is in the mood to celebrate, so it’s time to join the party! 2015 sees its centennial and a whole host of fun is planned to mark the occasion. Don’t miss the week-long 100 Hour Centennial Celebration in March, with live music, a tennis exhibition and even an en-masse wedding!

    Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach

    Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach

    Stay: at Metropolitan by COMO Miami Beach, a contemporary take on an Art Deco classic and another new addition to our collection! As it’s a COMO hotel, you’ll get a world-class spa, irresistible food and faultless service, plus you’re right on a swathe of beautiful beach. A 7-night stay in a City Room starts from £549.50 per person (excluding taxes). Make use of their 21-Day Advance Purchase rate and/or 4-nights-for-3 offer to ensure you get great value. Please note, rates may rise according to demand.

    Fly: from London Heathrow to Miami International with British Airways for £729 per person, departing Saturday 21 March and returning Saturday 28 March (overnight flight arriving Sunday 29 March).

    From the airport: Keep it simple and take a taxi (approximately £25 one way), then cycle around once you’re at the beach!

    Total cost: from £1,303.50 per person, excluding some taxes.

    More info: Getting to Miami and other accommodation options

    *Please note that only the accommodation may be booked through i-escape.com. The information on travel is provided as a service to you, and must be booked through other websites, as indicated. All prices and availability are correct at the time of publishing. The per person prices are based on 2 people in a double/twin room or an apartment for 2. Published on 25 February 2015.

    Posted in Easy Escapes. Tagged , , , , , , , ,
FEB23

Escape of the Week… Cider House

 
  • Our new Escape of the Week does pastoral bliss like nowhere else. Folded into a tree-lined valley on the edge of Dartmoor, this 4-bedroom B&B is the most recent incarnation of Sir Francis Drake’s old cider house and still retains the feeling of rural serenity that first attracted Cistercian monks to the abbey next door many centuries ago.

    Cider House

    Cider House may be high on the relaxation scale (something helped by wonderful hosts Bertie and Bryony), but its location on the edge of Dartmoor, not far from the English Riviera, means it’s also a great base for getting out and about. That’s if you can remove yourself from the stunning grounds and halls of illustrious neighbour Buckland Abbey – it has a Rembrandt, don’t you know?

    Cider House

    Rooms: The 4 rooms are all spotless and elegant, with carefully chosen furnishings and a good use of space. Each features a statement wall of ornate paper, and huge beds with Hypnos mattresses are wrapped in crisp Egyptian cotton sheets. Expect the same detailed luxury in the bathrooms, where you’ll find Ren toiletries, cosy robes, double-ended roll-top baths (with the exception of Langworthy) and pin-you-to-the-floor-powerful showers.

    Cider House

    Food: The kitchen garden, sprinkling of beehives and cluck of hens all provide ingredients for the delicious breakfasts that await in the morning. Expect plenty of home-cooked and local fare (apple juice from the orchard, homemade bread, Groats pudding) to gorge on in the pretty dining room. You’ll have to venture out for dinner, but there are a number of characterful pubs in the surrounding countryside, including the welcoming Who’d Have Thought it? in the next village.

    Cider House

    Top Tip: If you’re looking for a truly spoiling meal, try Michelin-starred The Treby Arms, or visit one of the many seafood restaurants offering a gastronomic perspective of the English Riviera.

    Cider House

    i-escape gift: a gift of homemade fudge and free entry to Buckland Abbey.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,
FEB20

Meet our bloggers: Fritha of TigerlillyQuinn

 
  • blog profileWe’re delighted to announce that over the next year we’ll be collaborating with a small selection of fantastic family and lifestyle bloggers, who will be joining us to explore the i-escape Kids Collection and bring you the scoop on some boutique gems. Over the next few weeks we’ll reveal a little more about them here. First up, let us introduce you to Fritha of tigerlillyquinn

     

    Your blog in one sentence…

    The lifestyle blog of a twenty-something mum to a small boy named Wilf, and wife to a bearded husband named Tom.

    tigerlillyquinn

    tigerlillyquinn

    What kicked it all off?

    I started to blog a year or so after I graduated from university. I’d been trying to get a job in illustration and was told a blog would be a good place to show my work and interact with other creatives. It then evolved over the years into a lifestyle-ish blog and then, after I had Wilf, into a family lifestyle blog. I’ve been blogging now for almost six years!

    When picking a break, what are the top three things you look for in a destination?

    I am a big fan of colour and design, so I always look into a destination to see if it will fit with the type of aesthetics we enjoy. We tend to go for city breaks mostly, because we feel cities usually have colour in abundance and there is always so much to discover. We don’t drive so we tend to pick places that are very accessible by public transport. And checking whether the accommodation is child-friendly is always a must; it’s always so much easier to relax if a place is set up to welcome children.

    Amsterdam - tigerlillyquinn

    Amsterdam – tigerlillyquinn

    What destination is high on your hitlist for 2015?

    I’d love to visit Rome as it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go to for a while now. In fact, I’ve never been to Italy at all – something I’d like to rectify this year.

    If you could pack your bags for any i-escape hotel, where would you go?

    Soho House in New York would be amazing. Or The Farm in Jaipur!

    Soho House New York

    Soho House New York

    If you could only visit one country for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

    Ooh, that’s such a tough question! Probably France as I’m a bit of a Francophile, but I should choose a bigger country like the US if I’m only going to be able to visit one for the rest of my life! It’s so vast and so different depending on where you go.

    What’s your earliest travel memory?

    My family moved around quite a lot and loved to travel in quite a bohemian way. I think my first travel memory was camping in Spain with my parents and older brother – we were there for six weeks and I clearly remember hanging out the washing and collecting water from a tap in a field to carry back!

    Lapland - tigerlillyquinn

    Lapland – tigerlillyquinn

    What’s the essential item in your suitcase?

    My camera. I would feel like I’d lost a limb if I left it behind. We took a day trip once and I left it at home by mistake – it took a while to get used to appreciating everything while I was there, rather than trying to record it.

    Any top tips for stress-free travel with the kids?

    Always make sure you have an activity bag with you for the journey, especially if you’re on a long flight where they’ll have to sit still for a while. I try to include toys Wilf might not have played with in a while (so they feel ‘new’ to him), as well as crayons and paper, a children’s magazine, and a tablet full of kids’ apps for when boredom really kicks in! In general though, I find travelling with my son a pleasure. He’s often better behaved when we’re away, as I think we’re a little more relaxed and there is so much to see and do!

    Take a look at Fritha’s blog >>

    Posted in Guest Blogs, Kids, Travel Tips. Tagged , , , ,
FEB18

New budget beauties

 
  • We’ve had a busy few months hunting down some top new boutique stays across the globe, and we thought it was time to share our favourites with you. Here are our latest budget boltholes (that’s just one ‘£’ on our pricing scale!), from Brighton to Delhi. They won’t cost the Earth, but they still carry the discerning i-escape stamp of approval – and as always, they’ve all been reviewed in total honesty.

    Le Domaine De Tam Hai, near Hoi An, VietnamLe Domaine De Tam Hai

    What you’ll love: This boutique guesthouse sits on a glassy lagoon fringed by coconut palms, with thatched villas, white sands, a laid-back restaurant and spectacular sunsets. It’s wonderfully remote but brilliantly easy to get to, with kayaking, snorkelling and more to occupy your days. And who wouldn’t love the circular ‘Sea Sofa’ bar that drifts in the shallows?

    What you might not like: It’s great value for the room, but it’s not an all-inclusive resort. You’ll have to pay extra for most meals and activities.

    Artist Residence Brighton, Brighton, UK

    Artist Residence Brighton

    What you’ll love:  This quirky hotel has beautiful design touches (coffee-sack cushions, a postbox set into the stairs), plus a fresh, informal vibe.  There’s a funky cocktail bar in the form of a beach shack, and the friendly staff instantly put you at ease. It’s close to the seafront and sights, too.

    What you might not like: The rooms are petite – no cat swinging possible here. It also books up fast at weekends.

    Koh Pha Ngan Pool Villas, Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

    Koh Pha Ngan Pool Villas

    What you’ll love: Utterly secluded, this self-catering retreat has incredible views and a lovely infinity pool. It’s made up of 4 ‘mini villas’ with a bedroom and bathroom apiece, plus a main house with a kitchen and living area, but only 1 booking is taken at a time so you’ll never share with strangers. What’s more, gorgeous beaches are only a 10-minute drive away.

    What you might not like: The price for the view is a steep hill with lots of steps. You’ll also need some sort of motor to get around.

    Hotel Ses Sucreres, Ferreries, Menorca

    Hotel Ses Sucreres

    What you’ll love: This peaceful little B&B is bang in the middle of the island – perfect for exploring, particularly when you throw 2 electric bikes into the mix. The 6 rooms are large and airy, with a funky mix of vintage pieces.  There’s also a small roof terrace, plus a pretty walled garden where breakfast is served on warm days.

    What you might not like: Ferreries is quiet – if you want buzz, head elsewhere.

    Dune House, near Paternoster, South Africa

    Dune House

    What you’ll love: It’s a beach villa with wonderful architecture, openness and space. It’s set right on the dunes of sweeping Britannia Bay – perfect for a bit of wildlife spotting (you might see seals, dolphins and even whales from the patio) – and it sleeps 10-12 so it’s ideal for families and groups. There’s even a discreet houseman to look after you.

    What you might not like: You’re very secluded (2 hours north of Cape Town) and the best restaurants are in Paternoster, 25 minutes away.

    Attico Partenopeo, Naples, Italy

    Attico Partenopeo

    What you’ll love: The roof terrace of this central B&B brims with plants and beachy furniture – perfect for lazing under the southern Italian sun. Rooms mix sea blues and breezy whites, and some face Naples’ hilltop castle. It’s in a great location, too, just off the main shopping street and close to the port.

    What you might not like: The emphasis is on stylish simplicity, so don’t expect bells and whistles.

    Scarlette New Delhi, New Delhi, India

    Scarlette New Delhi

    What you’ll love: This quiet guesthouse provides a much-needed refuge in a peaceful part of very busy Delhi – you’ll love coming back to the home-cooked food, warm welcome and 4 eclectic rooms after a day exploring. Best of all, the intimate size allows a personal touch from owner Pauline and her charming team.

    What you might not like: It’s a little removed from the main centre. Staff can help you arrange transport, though.

    Hotel Petit Mao, Mao, Menorca

    Hotel Petit Mao

    What you’ll love: With gorgeous original features and cool, contemporary design, this small hotel in Menorca’s pretty capital punches above its weight in the style game. There’s a lovely pool to lounge by, and host Nina strikes the perfect balance between attentiveness and independence.

    What you might not like: All those charming period features don’t provide much soundproofing.

    Take a look at all of our new hotels >>

    Posted in New Hotels, Our Favourite.... Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
FEB16

Family Escape of the Month… Borgo Santo Pietro

 
  • The carefully manicured opulence of this restored 13th-century Tuscan villa may seem better suited to hand-holding romance and honeymooners, but don’t be fooled by appearances. Along with decadent antique-filled rooms, you’ll find relaxed and hospitable staff plus a host of kid-friendly activities and facilities.  

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    Within the 13 acres of grounds are a playground (out of earshot of other guests), a trampoline, a spring-fed infinity pool and tennis courts. You’ll even be equipped with an iPad when you check in, and families and children will find themselves looked after at every turn.

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    Rooms: The rooms are decadent and luxurious – expect polished floorboards, cavernous stone fireplaces and luscious fabrics. Despite the grown-up decoration, many are perfect for families: the Rinaldo Pievano di Sorciano Suite is on the ground floor away from any others, and any of the 7 Garden Suites (little cottages with private terraces and gardens) are also ideal. Two of them interconnect if you’re travelling with extended family or friends.

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    Food: Luckily for guests, owners Claus and Jeanette are real foodies. This translates into 2 fantastic restaurant options. Valle Serena Restaurant offers imaginative fine dining, while the more relaxed Treehouse Bar and Brasserie serves delicious home-style Tuscan food. Wednesday evening, when Borgo’s farmers’ market arrives, is a particular treat – choose from meats, seasonal vegetables and fresh fish, which are cooked for you on the spot with the sound of live music in the background. Salute!

    Breakfast is a relaxed affair, laid out in the open-plan kitchen and taken outside or at the long kitchen table. The chef will cook you scrambled eggs, pancakes and omelettes – anything that takes your fancy.

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    Kids’ activities: The gardens provide ample space for running around. Or you can strike out on the hotel’s bikes to visit the neighbouring countryside or swim in the nearby river (ask for directions) . Inside are DVD players, iPads, and a piano room for the musically inclined.  Right now there’s a fantastic 3-night Easter Package including Easter Egg hunts and pizza making for the kids, as well as meals and massages for the parents!

    Borgo Santo Pietro

    Baby equipment: Cots (note there is a small nightly charge).

    Customer reviews: “Borgo Santo Pietro was an amazing place to stay and we really loved it there. We would definitely recommend it for a special holiday as nothing was too much trouble for them and you were made to feel very special. The hotel itself is absolutely beautiful and the food and staff were wonderful.”
    Joanna, United Kingdom (13.09.14)

    Read the full review and book >>

    Posted in Family Escape of the Month, Kids. Tagged , , , ,
FEB13

Super stargazing stays

 
  • Chances are you didn’t know it was the International Year of Dark Skies, but if you’re anything like us, you won’t want to ignore it. We’ve scoured the map to pick out some top dark-sky sites (and some boutique pads where you can enjoy them) for a journey into the intricate wonders of our celestial ceiling.

    Chile

    Elqui Domos

    Elqui Domos

    Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert is famous for being one of the driest and emptiest places in the world. The result is a sky beautifully unimpeded by clouds or light pollution. Elqui Domos is a celebration of everything astronomical: accommodation sits in geodesic domes or glass-roofed wooden houses, all equipped with their own telescope, and the hotel organizes poolside tours of the heavens.

    Northumberland

    Lord Crewe Arms

    Lord Crewe Arms

    You don’t have to travel abroad for a starry encounter: Northumberland National Park has been designated a ‘Dark Sky Park’ and, at 1500 square km, it’s Europe’s largest. Frequent organised dark-sky events will introduce you to the best bits, or you can pack a flask and some sandwiches and go solo. Lord Crewe Arms, an ancient, history-soaked coaching inn, sits in a beautifully remote Pennine village nearby.

    Namibia

    Wolwedans Dune Camp

    Wolwedans Dune Camp

    The NamibRand Nature Reserve isn’t just concerned with protecting what’s on the ground: its efforts at reducing light pollution have earned it a place among the gold tier of ‘Dark Sky Reserves’. The landscape is also stunning, so we suggest a hot-air balloon ride to enjoy a star’s-eye view of the wilds below.  Stay at Wolwedans Dune Camp, an isolated 6-tent camp set against a high sand dune, with heart-stopping desert and mountain views.

    Tuscany

    Follonico

    Follonico

    It may not be the first place that pops into mind for stellar adventures, but the skies that first drew Galileo’s eye in the 17th century are still rich with wonderful displays; be sure to catch a glimpse of Jupiter’s 4 Galilean Moons, named after the man himself. Follonico, a very special B&B with quirky rooms and delightful owners, makes a perfect rural base.

    Australia

    Southern Ocean lodge

    Southern Ocean lodge

    Thanks to their isolation and lack of pollution, islands offer some particularly spectacular sky viewing – and pristine Kangaroo Island off the coast of mainland Australia is no exception. We’re particularly fond of the stargazing platform at Southern Ocean Lodge, a fabulous low-rise eco resort and spa, which offers a chance to marvel at the Southern Cross and the magical constellations of the Milky Way.

    Iceland

    Hotel Ranga

    Hotel Ranga

    Iceland is famous for its grand displays of the Northern Lights, but its minimal light pollution also makes for excellent stargazing. Beautiful Hotel Ranga has recently added an astronomical observatory with a roll-off roof and computerized telescopes to kick off your dark-sky adventure. In summer, when the days are longer, you can make use of the solar telescope to observe sun spots and flares.

    Brecon Beacons

    The Felin Fach Griffin

    The Felin Fach Griffin

    The Brecon Beacons was the first designated ‘Dark Sky Reserve’ in Wales (and the fifth in the world), meaning that the views are as spectacular by night as they are by day. The lack of light pollution is a point of local pride, and the benefits are resplendent for all to see – appreciate them from The Felin Fach Griffin, an award-winning country pub with great food, lots of character and 7 comfortable rooms.

    Costa Rica

    Alma del Pacifico

    Alma del Pacifico

    The skies of northwestern Costa Rica offer the chance to spot the Magellanic Clouds: two clustered galaxies which glow like bright bruises in the sky (that’s if you can pull your eyes away from the impressive lava rivers flowing from the Arenal Volcano, of course!).  Alma del Pacifico, a comfortable and colourful villa and spa resort on a seemingly endless stretch of Pacific beach, makes an excellent base.

    Canary Islands

    Casa Los Geranios

    Casa Los Geranios

    A secluded location off the coast of Africa, combined with high peaks that soar above any star-distorting atmospheric turbulence, mean the Canary Islands are an ideal spot for some dark-sky exploration. Your best bet for a cosmic display is the Caldera de Taburiente National Park on La Palma, which already hosts a number of observatories. Stay at Casa Los Geranios, a traditional Canarian house for 2-8 in the island’s sunny south, with gob-stopping views over volcanoes to the shimmering Atlantic.

    Dartmoor

    Cider House

    Cider House

    The vast open moorland of Dartmoor is perfect for celestial adventures: with only a sprinkling of towns and villages, you don’t have to travel far to escape the interruption of light.  Cider House, an indulgent B&B in the prize-winning grounds of historic Buckland Abbey, is a wonderful place to stay on the edge of the National Park.

    Take a look at our full collection >>

    Posted in Top 10, Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
FEB11

Spotlight on… Venice

 
  • As Venice Carnival kicks off and the masked madness gets into full swing, we turn our attention to Italy’s iconic sinking city. Well, if it’s good enough for Clooney…

    Venice Carnival

    Venice Carnival

    Why go?

    It may be too late to attend this year’s Carnival (a stunning floating parade launched the celebrations on Saturday), but with George Clooney’s recent nuptials shining yet more light on the shimmering canals of Venice, there’s still a party to be had in this unique UNESCO-listed city.

    Venice from San Giorgio

    Venice from San Giorgio

    Highlights

    Venice is wonderfully easy to get to: visitors can either fly straight into super-convenient Marco Polo or arrive via nearby Treviso, a 40-minute bus ride inland (and often better for the budget-conscious). Alternatively, you could take the Eurostar, changing in Paris to get a double whammy on the romance scale!

    Piazza San Marco

    Piazza San Marco

    Gio & Gio

    Gio & Gio

    View from Bloom Settimo Cielo

    View from Bloom Settimo Cielo

    Now, to choose your base. If you want to be in the thick of it, you can’t beat San Marco. At its heart is the city’s most famous piazza with its dazzling Basilica and corresponding tower, plus the pretty candy shades of historic Palazzo Ducale. Grab a seat at Caffé Florian or spoil yourself with Bellinis at Harry’s Bar – a long-time favourite of those wishing to see and be seen. Bohemians will love Novecento Boutique Hotel and romantics will relish Bloom Settimo Cielo’s rooftop terrace, while Gio & Gio offers a real home-from-home experience.

    Grand Canal

    Grand Canal

    Ca Maria Adele

    Ca Maria Adele

    If you’re here for the art rather than the photo ops, you may be happier across the Grand Canal in Dorsoduro. Venice has more art per square mile than any other city, and Dorsoduro leads the way. The Gallerie dell’Accademia has an epic collection of masterpieces, while the Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses works by Pollock, Dalí and Picasso (to name a few). Most recently, a bold contemporary art collection arrived at the Punta della Dogana. Decadently Venetian, Ca Ma Adele is perfectly placed for all 3, and you can take private water taxis directly from its entrance.

    Oltre Il Giardino

    Oltre Il Giardino

    Oltre Il Giardino

    Oltre Il Giardino

    With a full-time population of little more than 60,000 and an influx of up to 20 million tourists annually, finding an authentic corner of Venice is no mean feat. But San Polo at least offers a more understated experience, with fewer tourist traps and more traditional artisans – look out for carnival masks, wood carvings and antiques. Oltre Il Giardino’s warm welcome and near-unique walled garden provide yet more respite from the busy city, and fantastic cicheti haunts ripple out from the Rialto Market (back home, the Polpo cookbook offers a fantastic insight into this informal Venetian cuisine).

    Lido di Venezia

    Lido di Venezia

    Alternatively, if you’re visiting as a family or during summer (and don’t mind taking regular boat rides), consider staying at Hotel Villa Pannonia on Lido di Venezia – a sandbar island just beyond the main city. Beaches and contemporary architecture line the lagoon, and there are even roads! Granted, it lacks the history of the city’s heart, but on a hot summer’s day you may be grateful for the opportunity to sunbathe and cycle the boulevards.

    When to go

    Palazzo Ducale

    Palazzo Ducale

    Crowds descend in February for the Carnival and Valentine’s Day, but soon afterwards the streets become blissfully quiet. Winter can be incredibly atmospheric (particularly if it snows), but it can also bring acqua alta (flooding caused by high tides), so it’s generally easiest to aim for spring or autumn, when temperatures are mild and pleasant.

    Our top tips

    In the 18th century, Venice experienced a glut of operas and a lack of musicians, so Vivaldi was hired to train one of the many troops of orphans enlisted to fill the gap. Today, acclaimed violin troop Interpreti Veneziani performs recitals in the beautiful Chiesa di San Vidal, in San Marco. Where better to enjoy his Baroque concertos than in the city itself?

    Gondolas

    Gondolas

    Finally, whatever you do, don’t bring a noisy pull-along suitcase! In a city with so little sound pollution, the clattering wheels have become an unwelcome backdrop to daily life. Some evidence even suggests they are damaging Venice’s ancient paving stones and bridges. As such, officials have moved to ban rubber-wheeled luggage and travellers caught using it are likely to incur a fine.

    See Venice’s full destination guide and accommodation options for more info.

    Posted in Spotlight on.... Tagged , , , , ,
FEB09

Escape of the Week… Kensington Place

 
  • It may be small, but Kensington Place outperforms many larger hotels in its setting alone. Perched on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, every one of its rooms benefits from views across the city, with some boasting sea and mountain vistas. But the beauty isn’t just on the outside – the interiors are a triumph of luxurious, contemporary design.

    Kensington Place

    Kensington Place is also fantastically located near many of Cape Town’s finest bars and restaurants, and it’s within easy reach of vineyards, nature reserves and beaches for day trips. If you’d prefer to hang around the hotel, the excellent staff will ensure you feel perfectly at home and can arrange spa treatments for tired guests.

    Kensington Place

    Rooms: There are only 8 rooms, which means each can pack a perfect punch of beautiful furnishings and spoiling touches. Expect dark wood furniture, crisp linens, sisal flooring, and lovely African prints and textiles as decoration. To crown it all, all rooms are wonderfully large and have balconies with splendid views across the city. There are also plenty of extras to help you feel at home: satellite TVs, DVD players, iPod docking stations and laptops come as standard.

    Kensington Place

    Food: Breakfast – rather indulgently – is served all day, so fresh yoghurt, muesli, fruit, and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon can be enjoyed on the terrace at whatever time you rise. You’ll have to venture out for full evening meals, but with trendy Kloof Street a short stroll away and a number of eateries nearby, this is no hardship. That said, sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best, and not much can beat a light room-service supper on your balcony while watching the sunset over Table Bay.

    Kensington Place

    When to go: Any time! High summer is from late September through to February, and March is delightful. April to September is referred to as the ‘Green’ season in the Cape (it sounds better than the rainy season!),  but days can be as hot as the British summertime, without the fierce sunshine.

    Kensington Place

    Customer review: “Highly recommend staying here; stylish, comfortable, great location and we were very well looked after. We will be back.”

    Louise, Australia (14.04.12)

    i-escape gift: 2 tickets for the Table Mountain cable car.

    Read the full review and book  >>

    Posted in Escape of the Week. Tagged , , ,