#navbar-iframe { height: opx; visibility: hidden; display: none; }

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Shortlist of Destinations You've Never Considered: 1. BELGIUM

No 1 in the Series …

Keep your carbon footprint small and consider holiday spots within easy reach

This Week: BELGIUM

Belgium is fast becoming the hippest destination in Europe. Brussels, Namur, and French-speaking Wallonia offer stylish, affordable hotels, chic shopping, gourmet food, exciting nightlife, and great adventure!

Trendy eateries across Belgium offer fair-prices and a youthful vibe. If you are craving a good old American burger, Quick is a Belgian fast food chain. And of course, there are Brussels' legendary frietkots: they serve delicious Belgian fries to hungry night owls long after the restaurants have closed.

Why Belgium?

1. Duvel tasting tours
Belgian beers are deceptively strong! Always wanted to know the best way to taste beers? The Duvel Moortgat Brewery caters to everyone’s tastes with three different brewery experiences. As well as a Standard visit with a brewery tour and beer tasting, the brewery offers a Beer Tasting tour with a sommelier or a similar tour which includes lunch. The brewery is situated in the town of Puurs close to the city of Mechelen and is easily reached from Brussels by train and a short bus connection 

2. Family Friendly eating in Antwerp
SensUnik is a restaurant that has existed for 25 years and offers typical Flemish home cooking in a no nonsense atmosphere. Kids can even eat their meal their second floor with the luxury of a babysitter whilst  parents can enjoy their meal on the first floor in relative peace.  The daily specials menu is themed by day and changes according to what is available but the rest of the menu is based on local Flemish speciality food. Good value and quality prevails and makes this restaurant a secret gem in the heart of Antwerp.

3. The Brussels card with new additions for 2012
 The exceptional value Brussels card includes more museums than before as well as free local travel and discounts in the city. It offers free admission to no fewer than 32 museums in Brussels, and is available for 24,48 or 72 hours . 

4. Kite Festival in Ostend: 12-13 May 
Hundreds of extravagant coloured kites duck and dart the skies above Ostend for a breathtaking show. More info: 

5. At Anchor in Ostend: 25 -28 May
This is a major maritime event: over 100 classic vessels, various acts and live performances. More than 150 traditional ships moor in Ostend. Mast makers and riggers demonstrate their crafts providing a wonderful tribute to the city's maritime past.  

6. Beer Passion Weekend in Antwerp: 
June 22th – 24th 
40 breweries offer more than 200 speciality beers to taste at this event both open for beer aficionados as well as beer professionals. The main purpose of this event is to offer a cultural and educational approach to beer. Taking place in the famous Groenplaats, beers can be tasted and enjoyed in a exclusive village, accompanied by live brass bands and live Dixieland Jazz bands. 

Where To Stay

Funkapartment is located in trendy Zuid. Its position, in the heart of the artistic district of the city's southern area, is perfect for those seeking an inspiring location only about 5 to 15 minutes from the city's major art galleries, museums and city attractions. The modern and chic apartment has a fully equipped kitchen and boasts a sunny patio. It is located on the ground floor so there are no inconvenient stairs or lifts. The apartment even comes with two bikes! 

The totally refurbished, 3-star Hotel Mondo has recently reopened as a hip and trendy art deco hotel. Located at a stone’s throw away from Ostend’s sea front, casino, centre and beach, this lovely hotel is "the place to be" in Ostend. The magnificent Art Deco building dates from 1928 and provides a dose of nostalgia with a dash of modern comfort and a brilliant radiance.

Hip, elegant and cozy, located near the botanical gardens, Hotel BLOOM! is a truly modern hotel in central Brussels, where every room is decorated differently with a unique fresco made by a young European artist The result is a totally unique view inside the contemporary art world across Europe.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Want Less CD.. DVD.. PS3.. MP3..? Head for Turkey's Aegean coast

The historical town of Alacati with its chic, old Ottoman houses and cobbled
streets lined with pavement cafes is backed by hillsides of vineyards and olive groves.
Renowned locally for its converted windmills, historical village ambiance and great local food, it's a stroll from
the golden sands of Ilica Beach, and yet still a part of Turkey virtually unknown to foreign visitors. 

Many of the town's old Ottoman houses have been converted into boutique hotels oozing charm and style.
Here's my pick of the bunch...

1. The newly opened Beyevi boutique hotel in the 
heart of Alacati has been created by combining 
two historical houses. Lovingly brought to life again 
there are neutral colours and characterful oil 
paintings and statues throughout complementing a 
modern yet utterly sophisticated look. 
Ultra-chic rooms have all modern-day comforts with 
their historical feel respected. Perfect all year-round, 
there is a pretty outside courtyard and cafe for 
balmy summer nights which can be enjoyed with 
Beyevi's very own home-made liquors and a 
lovely open fire for the cooler months.

• 7-night holiday from £539pp including flights and transfers

2. Cadde 75 has been designed with the style-conscious in mind and with more than half a nod to the local architecture
of nearby Alacati. Each spacious room has its own distinct character, the emphasis being on homely country-style
meets contemporary. A large cafe area with timbered ceiling has the feel of a Swedish chalet, with sweeping views
through repeating French windows of the swimming pool surrounded by decking.
Private wooden gazebos complete with curtains make the perfect base for a day by the pool or a romantic
tete-a-tete by night. 

• 7-night holiday from £635pp including flights and transfers

3. It's no coincidence that the Nars Ilica has the feel of a
pasha's palace. Once an 18th-century Ottoman mansion
belonging to Tosun pasha, this grand residence is
sumptuously decorated with eclectic furniture and pieces
of art combining history and modern day luxury.
Right on the seafront at Ilica, there are
breathtaking panoramic views.

• 7-night holiday from £819 pp including flights and transfers

4. Occupying a charmingly renovated, whitewashed 120-year-old stone Greek mansion with turquoise shutters, Tas 
means stone in Turkish. Alacati's first-ever boutique hotel and widely recommended, it has a garden stocked with
jasmine and lavender, and rooms decorated in a rustic yet tasteful style. No detail has been spared in this homely
hotel with its laced linen curtains, canopies draped romantically over beds and handmade quilts.
Tas' open kitchen is always a hive of activity, with figs being peeled for jam and cakes being baked for the
complimentary afternoon tea service.

• 7-night holiday from £649 pp including flights and transfers

5. Solto Alacati is a sumptuous and stylish sea-front hotel with a high 
standard of accommodation and sweeping views of the beach and 
harbour. The elegant hotel boasts stylish interiors throughout, with 
rooms exuding tasteful grandeur; many also have their own balcony 
and vista across the water. The tantalising breakfast with freshly 
baked bread and homemade jam, made from locally grown fruit is 
complemented by the blend of Mediterranean and Aegean tastes 
of its L'Olivo restaurant later in the day. The Solto's own spa provides 
aromatherapy massages and there is a Turkish bath, sauna and 
indoor swimming pool. Solto even has its own private beach.

• 7-night holiday from £680 pp including flights and transfers

6. Opened last year and built in a style sympathetic to the historical surroundings, the gorgeous whitewashed Morro 
is a welcoming haven where space and serenity mingle to complement the tranquillity of the village setting. With just six 
high-ceilinged comfortable rooms, each generous in size, and a gorgeous swimming pool set among peaceful manicured 
lawns and mature planting it'll feel like the house of your dreams. Rooms have either a balcony or open out onto the 
garden, and there is also a connecting suite in which to stay. Located in the centre of Alacati, Morro is yet tucked 
away down a tranquil lane.

• 7-night holiday from £539pp including flights and transfers

All holidays available through www.greenislandholidays.com

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Two Top Wildlife Destinations With as Much Give as Take

 1. Rhino Conservation in South Africa

2011 has been a sad record year for South Africa: Over 400 rhinos are reported to have been killed by poachers for the sake of their horn. With South Africa being the focal point for trade of rhino horn, home to 70-80% of the global rhino population, their protection is now paramount.  

African Conservation Experience are excited to have joined forces with a dedicated team of conservationists to enable international volunteers to assist with the protection of rhinos as part of the Mofemedi Rhino Recovery Initiative. Keen conservationists and wildlife lovers can join this project as a volunteer for a period of 2-12 weeks. They will work alongside rangers, reserve managers and vets to protect the rhino population through monitoring and tracking the rhinos' movements, as a constant presence has proven to be one of the most effective measures to prevent poaching. 

In addition to protecting the rhino population, the volunteers also assist with elephant monitoring, buffalo habituation and a predator study, helping to broaden the knowledge of other charismatic African species. The project kicks off with several weeks of especially exciting work in April as vets and researchers dart a number of rhinos, elephants and buffalo to fit the tracking collars that will enable the close monitoring throughout the year. This work is vital to the success of the project and also gives volunteers the amazing opportunity to get up close to the wildlife. Based in the UK and founded in 1999 African Conservation Experience (ACE) arrange volunteering placements for international participants at conservation projects in southern Africa. The company has a strong responsible travel policy and ethos and consists of a small team of Expert team consisting of zoologists, conservationists and travel specialists. The conservation placements are ideal for a unique holiday, honeymoon, gap year, career break and sabbatical or for students of relevant subject areas wishing to gain practical experience and
research skills.

2. Swim with the Fishies in the Maldives' First UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Not only can the newly launched Dusit Thani Maldives lay claim to the largest swimming pool in the Maldives and a bespoke spa elevated amongst its coconut grove… this five star resort has raised the bar even higher by securing a prime spot in the country’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, offering guests access to a plethora of aquatic neighbours and its very own resident marine biologist.

Located on Mudhdhoo Island in Baa Atoll, the brand new Dusit Thani Maldives is located in the Maldives’ first ever UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is home to marine life including eagle rays, manta rays, a variety of turtle species and the endangered whale shark. With a remarkable house reef encompassing the island - one of the best in the Maldives - there is no better place to explore, allowing guests to swim the 360-degree Faroe reef system and three underwater caves alongside the schools of banner fish and big eyed trevallies.

For guests who don’t know their manta ray from their monkfish, but would like to, the islands onsite Marine biologist, Lauren Arthur, is on hand to  talk them through Baa Atoll’s phenomenal marine biodiversity. And for those who really want to take advantage of their unique vista, there is once in a lifetime opportunities to explore the reef during the day and night, join reef clean ups and monitor sea turtle nesting habits whilst staying at the resort.

Lauren Arthur, graduated from Newcastle University with an MSc in Tropical Coastal Management. Before moving to Mudhdhoo Island with Dusit Thani Maldives, Lauren worked as a marine biologist in Fiji. Talking about the resort’s unrivalled location, Lauren told me, “Being able to holiday in a world-renowned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is such an exceptional opportunity.'

The tropical waters which surround the Dusit Thani Maldives mean guests will have the chance to experience first-hand a diverse mix of marine life in their natural habitat. With everything from the ocean’s gentle giants - whale sharks - to smaller favourites like ‘Finding Nemo’ clownfish frequenting the are, it’s fair to say that Dusit Thani Maldives guests have their very own "safari in the sea”.

The resort is just 35 minutes travel time via sea plane from MalĂ© International Airport. Dusit Thani Maldives is a Preferred Boutique Resort, the first in the Indian Ocean.