FEB10

Our favourite budget-friendly hotels

 
  • We all like a bargain, but not if it’s at the expense of comfort and style. Here, our travel-loving team share their favourite budget-friendly breaks to fuel your wanderlust. All are beautiful – and more importantly, all are around £100 per night or less!

    Abi, Assistant Editor
    Rosa Et Al Townhouse, Porto

    Rosa Et Al is an old mansion in one of the city’s artiest quarters, which was given a quirky makeover by owners Emanuel and Patrícia. The rooms mix vintage furniture with iconic design pieces, the dome-topped staircase is lined with contemporary art, and there are lots of lovely little treats such as bottles of Port and help-yourself herbal teas. And the food: multi-course brunches, delicious cakes, mouth-watering dinners accompanied by free-flowing wine… it’s some of the best I’ve ever tasted!

    i-escape: Rosa Et Al Townhouse, Portugal

    Emily, Bookings Consultant
    Avalon, Kabak Bay, Turkey

    This small adults-only hideaway is such great value and the owners are so kind and friendly. The breathtaking views and absence of little ones makes the setting very romantic and peaceful. We did little more than laze around and eat. We braved the steep walk down to Aktas Beach and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on our way back.

    i-escape: Avalon, Turkey

    Anna, Marketing Assistant
    White Hart Somerton, Somerset, UK

    I loved our stay at this inn-with-rooms and would go back in a heartbeat. Our room was beautiful and full of indulgences like a whole range of Bramley bath products. (I had a peek at the others, too, and all are gorgeous, especially show-stopper number 3, with its mosaic-backed bathtub). The food was delicious and the bar had a really welcoming atmosphere. All the staff were so lovely to our toddler (they even made him his own mini cooked breakfast!); we felt like he was just as welcome as us, which will always be a winner in my eyes.

    i-escape: White Hart Somerton, UK

    Nadine, Kids Collection Editor
    El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo, Baja California, Mexico

    I loved staying in this 2-horse town in a wonderfully coloured and vibrant little rental, which is charm itself. It has gorgeous walled desert gardens and you’re just a stone’s throw away from the beach and authentic fish restaurants. The town beach itself isn’t that special, but there are gorgeous ones nearby (and not that special in Mexico = really lovely in most people’s books), plus you can take a boat tour to go snorkelling in the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park.

    i-escape: El Encanto de Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

    Kate, Head of Bookings
    Herdade Quinta Natura, Algarve Portugal

    This friendly hideaway offers one of the best breakfast spreads I have seen in a small hotel. It’s beautifully presented, there’s a huge variety (considering they only have 4 rooms) and it’s all fresh and delicious. The owner is a chef so that helps! The property is close to some awe-inspiring beaches and it has a gorgeous swimming pool with just the right sun-to-shade ratio, set in a well-tended garden. It’s a great little find and so reasonably priced.

    i-escape: Herdade Quinta Natura, Portugal

    Liz Simpson, Editor
    Hostal Sa Rascassa, Catalonia, Spain

    My husband and I still talk about our dinner at this off-the-beaten-track gem. The restaurant is really special – laid out under fairlylit trees, just steps from a secret cove on the pretty Costa Brava; we could hear the waves as we tucked into super-fresh seafood and wonderfully decadent puddings. The rooms are simple but they’re great value.

    i-escape: Hostal Sa Rascassa, Spain

    Mike, Editor-in-Chief
    The Small Venetian House, Chania, Crete

    Chania is a great place for a city break, or a few days of urban R&R at the end of a Crete holiday. This little 15th-century townhouse is right in the old quarter (though you can get pretty close by car, unlike some) and amazing value (the same price as a midrange hotel room, but with a kitchen, sitting room and roof terrace). It’s compact, but you get your very own Cretan city pad.

    i-escape: The Small Venetian House, Crete

    Melissa, Senior Editorial Assistant
    Artist Residence Cornwall, Penzance, UK

    This lively art-inspired hotel has great-value eclectic rooms and a fantastic buzzy restaurant serving tasty Cornish fare with a Deep South twist. It’s perfectly located for exploring Cornwall, and is within easy reach of St Michael’s Mount, the Minack Theatre, St Ives and countless beautiful beaches.

    i-escape: Artist Residence Cornwall, UK

    Nikki & Aidan, Directors
    S’hotel D’es Puig, Deia, Mallorca

    We love the great-value 2-bedroom apartments at S’hotel D’es Puig in the glorious village of Deia where we got married; we go each year. The apartments are simple but you have access to the hotel pool and the views across the Tramantura mountains are breathtaking. You can go hiking in the hills or walk down to the small cove, and Deia has a cluster of superb restaurants. When we last stayed it was touching 40 degrees in Palma but up in Deia it was delightfully cooler.

    i-escape: S'Hotel D'es Puig, Mallorca

    Ben, Bookings Consultant
    Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, Italy

    I can still close my eyes and hear the sound of bees buzzing and smell the flowers from my spring visit. I loved getting off-grid and away from the tourist hordes on this rustic Tuscan farm. It’s real back-to-nature stuff: long walks on the nature trails around and farm and lazy afternoon swims. It made me re-think why on earth I live in a city. The lack of mod cons might not be to everyone’s taste, but those who get it will really get it.

    i-escape: Fattoria Barbialla Nuova, Italy

    Browse the rest of our cheap & chic collection >>

    Posted in Our Favourite..., Kids. Tagged , ,
FEB08

A Balearics babymoon

 
  • All of the i-escape parents agree that babymoons (why stick to one?) are a fantastic idea: make the most of leisurely lunches in the sunshine, pampering opportunities and a lie-in (oh God, a lie in!) before the days of nappies, night feeds and newborn cuddles. Don’t get us wrong, we love our little ones fiercely and family holidays are enormous fun, but in a very, very different way to those lazy romantic breaks we went on pre-babies…

    We’ve delved past the party resorts of these islands and found some seriously special spots on Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza where you’ll feel utterly spoilt.

    i-escape: Balearic islands

    Menorca

    Torralbenc, Cala en Porter

    A feeling of understated luxury permeates this rural retreat alongside its signature scent: a calming mix of lavender and rosemary that gives you a feeling of utter relaxation. The light-filled rooms have huge beds (perfect if you’re struggling to get comfy) and very special bathrooms. If you want to hide away just the two of you, we loved the Garden Cottage which has a lounge and a bedroom joined by a pretty private terrace. We were blown away by the food in the restaurant and loved eating breakfast on our terrace before spending lazy days by the saltwater pool.

    Spoil yourself: the indulgent sea-view spa offers a range of relaxing treatments from facials to manicures.

    A little extra: a welcome drink on arrival for booking through i-escape.

    Top tip: If you want a change of scene, head to the tiny but very beautiful sandy cove of Cala de Binidali.

    i-escape: Torralbenc, Menorca 

    Mallorca

    Son Jaumell, near Capdepera

    We fell into an easy rhythm during our stay at this dreamily romantic hotel: days of reading, lazing, siestas and delicious meals were only punctuated by little trips out to the beach and nearby Capdepera with its 14th-century walled castle and Wednesday market. The food was out of this world. Gastronomic with an emphasis on local produce and exquisite presentation, you can expect dishes like seabream stew with a potato and hazelnut fondant or hake with raisins, pine nuts and a pumpkin foam. Rooms are beautiful and beds enormous – expect to sleep like a log.

    Spoil yourself: Just relax. Bag a double day bed by the heated pool or flick through the coffee table books in the communal guest lounge.   

    Top tip: Visit Cuevas de Arta – vast caves outside the medieval city of Capdepdera which contain gigantic stalactites – the biggest dangling down 26m at the time of writing, and still growing.

    i-escape: Son Jaumell, Mallorca

    Ibiza

    Es Cucons, Santa Agnes de Corona

    This laidback finca sits in a tranquil, remote valley; you’ll need an up-to-date sat nav. Hosts Maria and Barbara are so welcoming, and dedicate time to speak with each guest to help them get the most out of their stay. They’ve created a cosy and colourful retreat where all of the beautifully decorated bedrooms have private outdoor space, and indulgently deep claw-footed tubs in their bathrooms – just the ticket for soothing away backaches and tiredness. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the alfresco restaurant, there’s a gorgeous pool and a tiny spa – you never have to leave and we doubt you’ll want to.

    Spoil yourself: Make the most of eating for 2 and tuck into the indulgent afternoon tea – the ‘Forte’ brew is served in old-fashioned steel teapots alongside freshly made cakes and pastries.

    A little extra: a dinner for 2 in the restaurant for stays of 4+ nights (shorter stays receive Cava) as a thank you for booking through i-escape

    Top tip: If you can drag yourselves away, hire a car and explore: we loved lingering over lunch at S’Escalinata in Eivissa’s Old Town and browsing eclectic homewares at Sluiz Ibiza near Santa Gertrudis.

    i-escape: Es Cucons, Ibiza

    Find out which Balearic island is for you >>

    Posted in Honeymoons. Tagged , ,
FEB04

Which Balearic island floats your boat?

 
  • IbizaMallorca, Menorca and Ibiza: the ‘Big 3’ of the Balearics. All have good travel connections, beautiful landscapes and a plethora of things to see and do – so how do you choose which to visit?

    Despite being very close, each has its own distinct personality, as is often the case with siblings! So we’ve created a handy guide to help you find your perfect match – choose your ideal character and you’ve chosen your favourite island, too.

    Mallorca

    Mallorca, Balearic Islands, SpainPalmaBeautiful and diverse, Mallorca is the sophisticated elder sister. More grown-up than Ibiza and more worldly than Menorca, Mallorca is the largest of the islands and offers hidden depths as well as a cosmopolitan edge. Hike rugged mountains, discover hidden beaches and soak up sophistication in capital Palma – it’s all possible here.

    Who goes? Flights to Mallorca are plentiful, cheap and short (2.5 hours from London) so it’s a firm favourite for easy family and romantic holidays. Palma’s reputation as a great city break is growing, and the harbours are a mecca for high-profile yacht owners – Beyoncé and Jay Z are long-time fans.

    Palma, Balearic Islands, SpainHoliday wardrobe: For her, chic sundresses and a silk scarf. For him, crisp shirts and tailored chinos. Pick up a cool fedora in Palma, for when the midday sun hits.

    Luxury for the day – or stay! Font Santa’s spa boasts the only subterranean thermal waters on the Balearic Islands, giving their water a unique mineral content. Enjoy the pool, thermal steam sauna, dry sauna and ice fountain before a lingering over a gastronomic supper in the elegant on-site restaurant. Come for the day or stay longer in one of the sanctuary-like bedrooms.

    Mallorca, Balearic Islands, SpainFont Santa Hotel, MallorcaCocktail culture? We love Abaco in Palma for elaborate cocktails in a decadent 16th-century mansion filled with cascading tropical plants, classical music, exotic birds and tinkling fountains – expensive but worth it.

    And for mementos? Palma is king for boutiques and designer names. For leather goods, Inca town has the widest selection on the island.

    Ibiza

    Ibiza, Balearic Islands, SpainIbiza is the fun sister. Whether you’re dancing ‘til dawn in world-famous clubs, chilling at a yoga retreat, or sipping bellinis in an A-list agroturismo, this island is all about Mediterranean escapism and there’s an unrivalled boho-cool vibe.

    Who goes? Groups of friends and laid-back families. Ibiza is big with the It-crowd: Charlotte Tilbury, Poppy Delevingne and Jade Jagger all make regular visits, as do world-class DJs.

    Atzaro, IbizaHoliday wardrobe: your coolest swimwear and sunglasses, designer kaftans and yoga pants for early-morning sun salutations.

    Luxury for the day – or stay! Atzaro’s award-winning Balinese spa is the island’s best. Relax with yoga classes and Balinese beds, try the hammam, sauna and lap pool then head over to The Orange Tree restaurant for outstanding exotic tapas as the sun goes down. Book a day of luxury or stay longer in one of the decadent guest rooms.

    Atzaro, Ibiza Ibiza, SpainCocktail culture? Spend your Sunday swimming and picnicking at sheltered Benirras Beach in the north. Arriving early means you’ll have a prime spot for the uniquely Ibizan ‘sunset drumming’ ritual. A fabulous way to enjoy a bohemian taste of the island’s party vibe.

    And for mementos? The hippy markets of Es Canar (Wednesdays) and San Carlos (Saturdays) are great for handmade jewellery, leather goods, lovely clothes and eclectic art.

    Menorca

    Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain MenorcaThe sleepiest of the Balearic siblings, Menorca is unassuming and underrated. Simple pleasures rule the day, and though summer brings beach-loving crowds, shoulder season sees the island at its best. Quiet towns give a taste of local life, the cooler weather is perfect for walking the ancient Cami de Cavalls coastal path, and wine buffs relish the autumn vineyard harvests.

    Who goes? Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig holiday here, purely because this isn’t a place to see and be seen. It’s an under-the-radar gem, best appreciated by families and outdoorsy types in search of quiet beaches, authentic tapas bars and peaceful rural walks.

    Holiday wardrobe: walking shoes, your comfiest shorts and something chic for evening meals out.

    Torralbenc, MenorcaTorralbenc, MenorcaLuxury for the day – or stay! Spend the day at Torralbenc’s excellent sea-view spa, where natural lavender and rosemary potions are used alongside Natura Bissé products to create memorable treatments. Come evening, book dinner on the restaurant terrace for a twinkling evening of theatrical dishes and fine wine. The calming rooms are good value for what you get.

    Torralbenc, MenorcaCocktail culture? Cova d’en Xoroi, the island’s coolest bar, is ensconced in the rock face overhanging the Mediterranean Sea. Come for sunset cocktails during spring and autumn, or for hedonistic DJ sets throughout summer.

    And for mementos? Menorca is all about the foodie purchases – stock up on heady tipples at the Xoriguer Gin Distillery and award-winning Hort Sant Patrici vineyard.

    Found your match? Get more info with our Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca collections.

    Posted in Travel Tips. Tagged , , , , ,
FEB01

Editor’s Letter February 2016

 
  • Liz, i-escape editorI’m really excited about this month’s destination focuses: the Balearics and Sri Lanka.

    The Balearics is a region we all adore. Don’t be put off by worries of all-night clubs and all-inclusive resorts; the places we feature are a million miles from all that! We’ll help you discover Ibiza’s secret beaches and beautiful inland hideaways, Menorca’s amazing-value hotels and tastiest tapas, and the places to eat, shop and stay in Mallorca’s chic towns (Palma, Soller). We’ll also reveal stunning hikes and gorgeous country fincas.

    As for Sri Lanka, it’s my all-time favourite holiday spot. It’s as exotic as India, as tropical as Thailand, but way easier to visit in terms of travel logistics, with far fewer tourists. I adore its food (zesty salads and mind-blowing fish curries) and its spectacular scenery (from mist-shrouded mountains to green, green tea plantations and long golden beaches), but it’s the smiling people that really enchant me. They are genuinely delightful – so pleased that you have come to visit their country, and so keen that you should see the best of it.

    In terms of hotels, Sri Lanka is one of the most exciting places in the world to visit right now, with new openings springing up all over the country. We’ve already got a beautiful collection of places to stay, from simple mud huts to luxury boutique hotels, and this month we’ll be showcasing 4 fabulous new openings. Watch this space!

    Later in February, our Marketing Manager Sarah will be holidaying in Sri Lanka and taking over our Instagram account; she’ll bring you an exclusive peek at her travels around the country. Other team members will be jetting off on their own adventures, too: Senior Editorial Assistant Melissa will be exploring wonderful Bali and its beautifully diverse landscapes; Directors Nikki and Aidan are off on a family jaunt to sunny South Africa, and Assistant Editor Abi is hoping to spot the Northern Lights in Iceland.

    We’d love you to share your own insider tips for any of these regions – come and chat to us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Have a great February,
    Liz

    i-escape: Sri Lanka i-escape: Sri Lanka i-escape: Sri Lanka i-escape: Sri Lankai-escape: Sri Lanka i-escape: Ibizai-escape: Ibizai-escape: Ibizai-escape: Menorca i-escape: Menorcai-escape: Mallorca i-escape: Mallorca

    Posted in Editor's Letters.
JAN29

Our monthly travel news and inspiration

 
  • Bai Tram Hideaway, VietnamThe first month of 2016 is almost over; well done all for battling through dreary January! Here at i-escape towers, we’ve been using this time to plan ahead, looking to February winter-sun escapes (stay tuned), Easter family breaks, and long, lazy summer getaways both à deux and en famille. There’s a lot to look forward to, and the web has been a hive of news and inspiration. Here’s what caught our eye this month…

    Lucy Williams brought us her captivating accounts of tiger spotting and camel trekking in Rajasthan.

    We’ve just added 10 more travel tomes to our reading list.

    This multi-functional and stylish tote bag is the perfect travel companion – now to choose our signature shade…

    Ben Lerwill took us all on a fascinating journey through the Northwest Loop of Vietnam.

    Adventurer Henry Worsley tragically died during his solo attempt to cross Antarctica this month – find out more about his inspiring endeavours via his fundraising page.

    Casa Zinc, Courtney Adamo Tiger Safari, Lucy Williams

    We marvelled at the Northern Lights from space… stunning!

    These fantastic photo apps got our creative juices flowing.

    Courtney Adamo and her beautiful brood are on a year-long family adventure, and we were thrilled when they stayed at one of our all-time Uruguay favourites.

    Back in November, WOW air announced great-value routes from Bristol to North America (via Iceland), launching in May 2016 – being Bristol-based, we can’t wait to get involved!

    Vietnam…And for the month ahead, don’t miss your last chance to take advantage of our exclusive ‘luxe for less’ 2016 deals. Vietnamese island paradise Mango Bay from just £33 per night? Irresistible.

    Image credits: tiger by Lucy Williams, globes by Courtney Adamo.

    Posted in Travel News.
JAN27

Why we love… Greece

 
  • The romance and beguiling beauty of Greece captures our hearts with every visit and every new boutique discovery. You may think it’s crammed with well-trodden tourist sights – Santorini’s blue roofs, Mykonos’ windmills, Crete’s palm-lined beaches – but, with over 50 stunning islands and the mainland’s many peninsulas to choose from, you needn’t revert to postcard clichés.

    Untitled-2

    Despite encompassing some of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations, Greece offers plenty of secret corners. What’s more, its extensive coastline groans with beautiful beaches, backed by mountains, olive groves and achingly pretty villages. Here are some of our favourite spots…

    For foodies: Six Keys, Pelion

    Six Keys
    Vibe: Contemporary and spacious suites with a semi-private beach and truly outstanding Greek cuisine.
    Setting: Overlooking the placid waters of the Pagasitic Gulf, its horizon ringed by rugged lilac mountains. It’s near the pretty fishing village of Afissos, beneath Pelion’s wooded hills.
    Why we love it: Under the tutelage of Athenian superchef Iannis Baxevanis – Greece’s Heston Blumenthal, if you will – the kitchen produces some astonishing dishes based on traditional Hellenic recipes, with innovative twists and underused (often foraged) ingredients.
    Must do: Take time to walk along the kalderimia (cobbled donkey tracks that run between villages) – it can often be quicker than driving, and the ancient pathways are a magical way to see the area and lead you to places such as Fakistra Beach (pictured below).
    Fakistra Beach, Pelion

    For families: Lefkas Luxury Villas, Lefkas
    Lefkas Luxury Villas

    Vibe: Cool and light cliff-top villas for 2-8, with private infinity pools and uninterrupted views of the shimmering Ionian Sea.
    Setting: Just 350 steps above the stunning sands of Egremni, but in your own little oasis. You’ll be privy to some of the best sunsets in the archipelago.
    Why we love it: Self-catering provides flexibility for families, and kids love the pool and crow’s nest bedroom.
    Must do: Want a change of beach scene? Kathisma and Agios Nikitas (below) are both glorious. Head to the south of Kathisma, where it’s quietest – around the corner, past the rocks.
    Agios Nikitas, Lefkas

    For beach bums: Onar, Andros

    Onar
    Vibe: Individual stone houses for 2-7 on a gorgeously secluded cove on Andros’ east coast. It’s easy to see why it’s named Onar (Greek for ‘dream’).
    Setting: Tucked into quiet gardens and an easy, leafy stroll from a stunning beach, on a criminally under-rated Greek island.
    Why our guests love it: It’s unique, tranquil and calm, with wonderful food and service plus a charm that’s hard to find.
    Must do: Andros is home to Vitali Beach, one of our favourite coastal spots in the world. You can hire a jeep to the shingly cove and enjoy some exceptionally clear sea.

    Vitali Beach, Andros

    Read more about this fascinating country in our insider’s guide >>

    Posted in Our Favourite..., Easy Escapes, Family Travel. Tagged , , ,
JAN26

Your perfect winter-sun escape

 
  • Wishing you were in warmer climes? We’ve got you covered. This trio of sun-drenched destinations should provide hours of blissful daydreaming. And because we love to brighten your day, we’re also offering you the chance to win a stay at one of the featured hotels, plus a £1000 holiday wardrobe from the lovely folks over at Vestiaire Collective.

    All you have to do is choose the break that takes your fancy and then you can start planning what to pack – to help you along, the team at Vestiaire Collective have hand-picked some of their favourite suitcase fillers.

    A Mexican beach break

    Jashita, Tulum

    i-escape: Jashita, Mexico

    Vestiaire Collective’s top packing picks: Vita Kin Tunic, £1,124.34; KIINI swimsuit, £264.11; One Teaspoon denim shorts, £79.23

    We immediately fell in love with this serene beachfront hotel. Soliman Bay’s tranquil white sands and waist-deep turquoise waters are hard to beat, but the all-round spoiling vibe had us hooked too. The 17 suites have loads of space, fantastically eclectic furniture, and beautiful bay views from their private terraces. The hotel’s Sahara Café kept drawing us back with its spear-caught fish and beachside cocktails. We weren’t the first to make a return reservation before we’d even checked out.

    A Moroccan city sojourn

    El Fenn, Marrakech

    i-escape: El Fenn, Morocco 

    Vestiaire Collective’s top packing picks: Acne Studios leather handbag, £124.51; J W Anderson khaki dress, £211.29; FENDI sunglasses, £169.78

    Sleek and chic, this boutique riad has everything you could want for a spoiling stay in vibrant Marrakech. It’s ideal for sightseeing (it’s near the Palace Gate and within walking distance of Djemaa el Fna) and also a wonderful place for lounging – there are plenty of nooks in the lush courtyard, and the roof terrace offers magical views. Decadence abounds: rooms are styled with oriental furniture and vintage pieces, you’ll wake to coffee and sweet pastries outside your door, and there are 2 marble pools to cool off in.

    A Vietnamese spa stay

    Fusion Maia, Danang

    i-escape: Fusion Maia, Vietnam

    Vestiaire Collective’s top packing picks: Céline sunglasses, £113.19; Duskii swimsuit, £264.11; Isabel Marant sandals, £187.89

    Luxury is made easy at this stunning hotel on Vietnam’s east coast: treatments in the super-slick spa are included in the room rate, the food is supremely delicious, the pristine beach is right on the doorstep, and the spacious villas are wonderfully romantic. We loved having the privacy of our own mini garden complete with a plunge pool. Breakfast is a very important affair and can be eaten anywhere at any time – Full English on the beach at 5pm? No problem! There’s absolutely no question that you’ll leave feeling more spoilt and relaxed than when you arrived.

    i-escape and Vestiaire Collective competition

    Posted in Competitions.
JAN22

Interiors inspiration: Greek chic

 
  • Our favourite hideaways all have one thing in common: seriously beautiful interiors. We thought it was high time we showed them off, so each month our Assistant Editor Abi (a self-confessed design addict and the person behind interiors blog These Four Walls) will round up the best-dressed places to stay one of our featured destinations, starting with Greece. She’ll look at what makes each special, and give tips to help you recreate the look at home. A quick warning: reading may induce serious house envy!

    i-escape: stylish Greek hotels
     
    If you think Greek décor is all about blue shutters, rustic wooden furniture and terracotta floors, you’re in for a surprise. Today’s designers are pushing the boundaries, reinterpreting traditional Mediterranean influences and combining them with oodles of contemporary style.

    Here’s a tour of some of the country’s most inspiring interiors, along with a few ideas to steal…

    Villa Kalos – a rustic farmhouse with a modern edge

    We’ll start on the island of Ithaca, where Villa Kalos sits in a sea of olive and almond trees. Kalos means ‘beautiful’ or ‘handsome’, and it’s an apt name for this rambling old abode, which has been given a slick makeover by its photographer owners. Inside it’s all cool greys and whites, with exposed stone walls alongside swathes of polished concrete. The 4 bedrooms come with low-slung beds and smart steel lamps, while the open-plan living area has a fantastic blend of old and new – gnarled farmhouse tables flanked by designer chairs, boxy sofas around a coffee table made from salvaged pallets, and open shelves brimming with vintage crockery.

    i-escape: Villa Kalos, Ithaca, Greece
     
    Idea to steal: Use contrasts to create a striking look. Mix smooth and textured surfaces or furniture from different eras, and place light and dark colours together.

    Melograno Villas – understated seaside chic

    Over on remote, rugged Astypalaia is another example of modern Greek style, this time with a subtle nautical twist. This trio of hillside houses for 2-6 (all with sea views and Jacuzzis) makes a big play on natural textures: there are low-hanging light shades woven from twisted wicker, lanterns fashioned from driftwood, bathrooms with pebbled floors, and headboards made from weathered timber. Clever built-in storage nooks and seating moulded from smooth plaster keep everything looking sleek and clutter-free. The overall effect is beachy and breezy – perfect for lazy summer escapes.

    i-escape: Melograno Villas, Astypalaia, Greece
     
    Idea to steal: Conjure up memories of sun-drenched holidays by using beach finds in unusual ways – turn shells into tea-light holders, stack colourful chunks of coral inside glass vases, or suspend driftwood from wire to create quirky wall hangings.

    Pylaia Hotel – a calming contemporary haven

    If you need to soothe a busy mind, the serene interiors at Pylaia Hotel (also on Astypalaia) will do the trick. The rooms, lobby and restaurant all have dazzling white walls that frame the azure sea outside, and subtle splashes of colour are incorporated through cushions and ceramics in soft shades of duck-egg blue, sunshine yellow and sage green. As for the furniture, it’s a clean-lined mix of Eames rockers, low couches and box-framed beds, with clever reed screens that create cosy corners within open-plan spaces.

    i-escape: Pylaia Hotel, Astypalaia, Greece
     
    Idea to steal: Use neutral colours to achieve a restful background ambiance, then jazz things up by adding colourful textiles and occasional prints.

    Kinsterna Hotel – sumptuous style in a historic setting

    Greece’s Byzantine past is on show at this 13th-century manor house turned romantic spa hotel, perched above olive groves and vineyards near the medieval city of Monemvasia. The building’s beautiful original features – huge stone hearths, vaulted ceilings, frescoed walls – have been retained and restored, and now sit alongside lustrous silks, flocked wallpaper, gilded mirrors and chunky pillar candles. There’s also a sprinkling of designer pieces, including perspex ‘Ghost’ chairs by Philippe Starck. It’s opulent but not over the top – a tricky balance to achieve.

    i-escape: Kinsterna Hotel, Monemvasia, Greece
     
    Idea to steal: Group together candles and mirrors of varying sizes to create eye-catching displays.

    Ekies All Senses Resort – playful interiors to delight your inner child

    Kids big and small will adore the Alice-in-Wonderland feel at this funky, family-friendly beach retreat in the mainland region of Chalkidiki. Every room is different: some echo traditional blue and white schemes through geometric tiling and clashing prints, others are loft-like spaces with a distinctly retro flavour. There are plenty of whimsical touches in the communal areas, too: parasols designed to resemble giant lampshades by the pool, oversized armchairs on the beach, plastic Panton chairs in reception, even a multi-level alfresco lounge wrapped around a tree.

    i-escape: Ekies All Senses Resort, Chalkidiki, Greece
     
    Idea to steal: Forget the rules and have fun with design! Above all, your home should be somewhere that makes you smile.

    For more Greek hotel inspiration, see our full collection >>

    Posted in Our Favourite..., Top 5. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
JAN20

Our top-to-toe guide to romantic Vietnam

 
  • Vietnam is a fascinating country with a big history. Long and thin, it encompasses a stunning array of cities, beaches, mountains, rivers, temples and more, making it a hugely rewarding honeymoon destination. But with indulgent and remarkably good-value hotels at every turn, it can be hard to find your niche. Luckily we’re here to help. We’ve rounded up our favourite romantic resorts for a south-east Asian sojourn, so all you have to do is follow your heart. And don’t forget to send us a postcard…

    i-escape: Vietnami-escape: Halong Bay, Vietnam

    City glamour in Hanoi

    Vietnam’s capital is an elegant blend of French architecture, royal legacies and artisan influences – beautiful to wander around, and a mecca for shopping. Better still, to the east lies the UNESCO-listed seascape of Ha Long Bay, where limestone outcrops rise majestically from the water. Experience the city’s colonial splendour from one of its best-loved historic hotels, the Sofitel Legend Metropole. This grand dame has epic chocolate afternoon teas, classically glamorous rooms, and an oasis-like courtyard leading to a fabulous spa. Service is, of course, impeccable – even Charlie Chaplain honeymooned here.

    i-escape: Hanoi, Vietnam

    Spa heaven near Hoi An

    Delightful 16th-century Hoi An, another UNESCO site, is famed for its world-class tailoring, street boats and pretty French quarter. Stay in a spacious villa with a private garden and plunge pool at nearby Fusion Maia, set on 30km of unspoilt beach. As well as having 4 restaurants, it also offers shuttles to Hoi An and bikes to borrow. That said, you may struggle to tear yourself away from the pampering. Guests receive at least 2 free treatments per day in the hotel’s super-slick spa, where you’ll also find an adults-only pool, a waterfall, a Jacuzzi, a steam room and a sauna. Choose from scrubs, wraps, reflexology, massages and beauty treatments – heaven.

    i-escape: Fusion Maia, Vietnami-escape: Hoi An, Vietnam

    The hidden gem

    Little-known Qui Nhon has an airport, and we’re all the better for it. Thanks to this handy connection, we can now easily access the hitherto overlooked bay between Danang and Nha Trang, on which Bai Tram Hideaway Resort sits. Our stay here felt like being in our own Robinson Crusoe paradise… albeit with thatched parasols and iced drinks on tap! Other than the local fishermen, you’ll have the entire beach to yourselves, and the resort itself is made up of just 6 villas (each with a private pool). Go now, before the rest of the world catches on!

    i-escape: Bai Tram Hideaway Resort

    A serene slice of Saigon

    Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) is a mesmerising cacophony of motorbikes (4 million of them!) and people, whose excellent street food and beautiful French-colonial architecture draw hordes of visitors. It’s chaotic, but stay outside the city at serene An Lam and you’ll have ample respite. It’s a real fly-and-flop luxury break, and within 40 minutes of landing you can be in An Lam’s restaurant sipping cocktails overlooking the beautiful Saigon River. When you’re ready to explore, simply hop in the hotel’s private speedboat for great river views and Bond-style glamour as you zip towards the city lights.

    i-escape: Saigon, Vietnam

    Barefoot romance

    Hidden just a short drive from super-chilled Phu Quoc island’s main town, Mango Bay is one for the backpackers at heart. Half jungle forest, half Swiss Family Robinson, this secluded eco-friendly resort has sandy coves, authentic Vietnamese food and a wonderful laid-back vibe. Mod cons are limited (all the better for it), showers are open-air, and the rates are seriously great value. Our favourite hours were spent lazily playing chess over cocktails while watching the sun glide below the horizon (this is one of the only places in Vietnam where you can see the sun set, as it’s west facing).

    i-escape: Mango Bay, Vietnam

    All-out island luxury

    A 45-minute flight south of Saigon, the tiny island of Con Dao awaits. Despite having just 1 road, a village and a handful of hotels, it boasts a colourful and dramatic history, plus a vibrant modern-day life. On a perfect mile-long crescent of private beach, Six Senses have worked their magic, creating an eco-village from which to discover this enchanting place. Wood-panelled villas complete with sea views and private plunge pools are the last word in luxury, and there’s no danger of getting itchy feet – choose from snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing, diving, squid fishing, Vietnamese cooking classes, guided island tours and more.

    i-escape: Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnami-escape: Six Senses Con Dao, Vietnam

    For more Vietnam inspiration, check out our Insider’s Guide >>

    Posted in Honeymoons. Tagged ,
JAN18

February half-term holidays

 
  • The first school holiday of the year is almost upon us! And no better way to beat the winter blues than by whisking the family away on a mini-break. Whether you want to stay close to home or venture further afield, our Kids Collection Editor Nadine has chosen some gems which still have space.

    Barsham Barns, North Norfolk, UK

    i-escape: Barsham Barns, UK

    Even in February, the deserted beaches and wonderful wildlife of the unique North Norfolk coast (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) are a treat. There’s great local produce, unspoiled villages and historic parkland to discover, plus awesome stargazing at night. Hole up in blissful comfort and style in these award-winning barn conversions, most of which have a games room attached. They come in 2-7-bedoom variations to suit every size and shape of family party.

    Offer: 25% off midweek and 15% off weekend stays

    Molino Rio Alajar, Alajar, Seville, Spain

    i-escape: Molino Rio Alajar, Spain

    In southern Spain, spring starts to spring in February: look out for wildflowers blooming in the hills and woods around this bucolic rural retreat. Stay in one of 6 rustic cottages set around a large garden, overlooking a valley. You’ll find a tennis court, table football, dogs to walk and lovely donkeys to ride. Babysitting can be arranged, and there are food shops in the local village.

    Exclusive offer: A free guided donkey ride per child (up to an hour)

    Llys Meddyg, Newport, Pembrokeshire, UK

    i-escape: Llys Meddyg, Wales, UK

    Conveniently sited near the wondrous Pembrokeshire coastal path, this gastro restaurant-with-rooms will entice you to Wales for its delectable seasonal fare and comfortable guest quarters. Five of the rooms can take families, and there’s a special children’s menu. You’ll find a playpark 5 minutes away, while older kids will enjoy seal-watching and birding on the estuary.

    Half-term packages and activities: A hedgerow-foraging walk on 20 February (£10 per child). Plus get 2 nights at £95 per adult or 3 nights at £90 per adult, including a 3-course dinner for adults and a 2-course dinner for children

    Casa Taos, near Marrakech, Morocco

    i-escape: Casa Taos, Morocco

    For mild temperatures and an average of 7+ hours of sunshine a day, head to Marrakech. The souks and sights are less frenetic at this time of year, and there are bargains to be found. But only if you can tear yourselves away from the excellent hospitality and delightful gardens at Casa Taos, located only 15 minutes from the city in Souihla (‘little California’). There’s a fountained terrace, ping pong, truly delicious food (plus a kids’ menu), and a choice of richly coloured suites or a 2-bedroom villa in the orchard.

    Offer: Stay 3 nights and pay for 2, or stay 7 nights and pay for 5

    Swinton Bivouac, Yorkshire Dales, UK

    i-escape: Swinton Bivouac, UK

    Get back to nature in one of the quirky off-grid woodland shacks on the vast Swinton Park Estate. Decorated in a shabby-chic style, each cabin has 2 double beds and 3 singles, a living area, and a wood-burning stove which also provides hot water for the shower. The on-site cafe serves local free-range fare, with a kids’ menu. Explore by bike or on foot; falconry and horse riding are also on offer nearby, and you can head out to see castles and tumbling Aysgarth Falls.

    Activity: Beth’s Forest School on Thursday 18 February – kids make dens, use ropes and play games through the trees, before finishing with storytelling over toasted marshmallows (£15 per child). There’s also a family quiz night in the cafe that evening

    Ea Astei, Basque region, N.Spain

    i-escape: Ea Astei, Spain

    Only 40 minutes from Bilbao yet a world away, this is a haven of tranquility enveloped in forested hills. It has charming self-catering cabins and apartments to suit all, and it’s only 10 minutes from beaches. One of the joys of staying here is the heated pool, sauna and hot tub; another is the helpful and friendly owner, who can’t do enough for you. Lovely restaurants and proper markets are at hand, too.

    Offer: Stay 7 nights and pay for 5

    Le Castel, Normandy, France

    i-escape: Le Castel, France

    Le Castel is a 19th-century chateau turned relaxed country pad, set in acres of parkland and uniquely equipped to serve the needs of families. The suites are vast (and not crammed with precious knick-knacks), and there are communal dinners nightly with separate kids’ suppers at 5pm. A woodland den and mini playground await outside, along with a play gypsy caravan, football, croquet, bikes, games and a sandpit to suit all ages. What’s more, there’s heaps to discover in the nearby countryside and coast.

    Exclusive Offer: Stay 4 nights and pay 3, plus a free pasta-making class for adults and children

    Quinta da Bouça d’Arques, Viana do Castelo, northern Portugal

    i-escape: Quinta da Bouca D'Arques, Portugal

    The Minho province of northern Portugal is one of the country’s hidden gems, with wonderful local gastronomy, beguiling countryside and undiscovered beaches. Expect the weather to be mild, but even if it rains you’ll be cosy and warm in this manor house turned boutique hotel. The old farm dependencies, spread across the spacious grounds, have been converted into stylish apartments with kitchenettes that are perfect for families.

    Exclusive Offer: Children stay for free (3-night minimum)

    Kasbah Tamadot, High Atlas, Morocco

    i-escape: Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco

    Luxury doesn’t get better than this: a crenellated castle with soaring views across the High Atlas, plus beautifully landscaped gardens, excellent service, delicious food and sumptuous rooms. Families are welcome during the school holidays, with a young diners’ menu, nature walks and mule rides on offer; you might even see snow on the peaks! Staff have thought of everything from umbrellas to babouches, so you’ll be snug and dry come rain or shine.

    Offer: Stay 4 nights and pay 3; kids go free

    Bude Barns, Cornwall/Devon border, UK

    i-escape: Bude Barns, UK

    Delightfully off the beaten track yet styled with real modern flair, these 2 chic barn conversions have everything you need for a successful UK jaunt. Choose between a 2- or 4-bedroom barn, both with underfloor heating and a wood-burner. You also get a welcome hamper, outdoor and indoor games, a chicken to feed, and toys and books galore. Venture forth for woodland, walks and wildlife, along with great beaches and King Arthur’s ruined castle at Tintagel.

    Have a look at the rest of our Kids Collection >>

    Posted in Family Travel, Kids. Tagged , ,