Posted January 28, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Stonehaven’s the place to go if you want an out-of-this-world break but haven’t the time or inclination to venture too far from home. Tucked away on the northeast coast of Scotland, this town may be small in size, but it more than makes up for it with a multitude of beautiful attractions and cultural events. It also boasts a famously photogenic harbour that has been the proud subject of many photographs.See
Dunnottar Castle – This may be one of the most spectacular ruined fortresses you’ll ever see. Dramatically perched on a rocky headland, parts of the castle seem like they are about to slip into the raging sea at any moment. It has seen and survived many dark chapters in history since its construction centuries ago. These days, visitors to the castle can approach it via a scenic coastal path along the cliffs, where they can also enjoy views of the many puffins and gulls that currently call the ruins home.StayThe Ship Inn
– Located right beside the harbour, this homely little hotel offers guests wonderful views of Stonehaven’s scenic waterfront. With only eleven rooms, you can be sure you won’t be jostling for space at the breakfast table with other guests. A hearty breakfast is included in the price of the room, and the attached restaurant offers up a selection of fresh, tasty dishes with a home-cooked feel. Room rates start at £60, including breakfast.Play
Victorian Heritage Trail – Queen Victoria’s unmistakable profile on signs leads visitors to attractions along the trail. Take in sights that she herself would have enjoyed, such as the charming Old Royal Station in the little town of Ballater. Stop by the two distilleries along the trail and quench your thirst with a glass of tasty single malt.
Check here for Stonehaven travel information.
Posted January 27, 2010 by BookingBuddy
If you’ve spent the last month staying in and getting over the excesses of the recent holiday season, then February is the perfect time to get out and face the world again! There are several lively festivals to kick off your year in style, and a plethora of fun events are happening around the country this month.
14th February – Chinese New Year celebrations, London Chinatown
The start of the Chinese New Year falls on Valentine’s Day this year, so those of you feeling a bit sick of lovey-dovey couples will have something more interesting to look at instead. There will be music and acrobatics performances, and expect to bump into fantastically colourful dragons and lions as they dance around Chinatown. The events close with a spectacular fireworks display, traditionally used to scare away evil spirits.
15th – 21st February – Jorvik Viking Festival, York
The tranquil town of York gets transformed into a Viking battlefield this week. Watch big hairy men dress up as warriors and engage in skirmishes during this entertaining historical festival. For less bloodthirsty folks, there is a craft market selling Viking wares, textile demonstrations and a beard contest!
16th February – Pancake Race, Olney
You won’t find a more entertaining way of celebrating Shrove Tuesday than in Olney, there the tradition of pancake racing originated more than 500 years ago. Competitors dress up in old-fashioned ‘housewife’ outfits – including skirts, aprons and headscarves – and then race more than 400 metres through town, while carrying a frying pan and pancake. The winner is then first to arrive at the Church, and tradition dictates that she must then toss her pancake in the air.
Posted January 26, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Can’t wait for the arrival of warmer weather? Then how about escaping to the sub-tropical climes of Rustenburg to soak up some sun? This tranquil town in South Africa is a gateway to a few stunning game and nature reserves, where adventurous types can come face to face with large animals.
Kedar Country Hotel – This hotel and spa provides a relaxing hideaway for those of you needing a break from city life. The rustic-looking huts are built with stone and thatch, and decorated with cheerful, vibrant prints that reflect the area’s cultural heritage. The rooms may be simply furnished, but who would want to spend much time moping indoors when the scenery outside is so stunning? The Armoury restaurant is decorated with relics from the Boer War - including a replica cannon- and serves traditional South African fare. Room rates start at about £75.
Sun City Resort - This sprawling luxury resort is a little bit of Las Vegas that somehow landed in South Africa. Even if you’re not staying in one of the four hotels, it’s worth taking a day trip to this lavish resort just for a look at its various attractions. The complex boasts several casinos, a spa, and two lush 18-hole golf courses - the Lost City course has 38 live crocodiles in its water feature!
Cape Town Fish Market – Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as the Cape Town Fish Market is actually located in Rustenburg, and offers more than just fish. The menu draws on the country’s bountiful produce, and offers up astoundingly fresh fish, as well as prime examples of beef and lamb. Customers who want a taste of South African fare can opt for a bowl of potjie – a large, hearty stew with either chicken, prawn or seafood.
Check here for Rustenburg travel information
Posted January 21, 2010 by BookingBuddy
The glittering city of Dubai is an ode to excess, but if you look closely enough, you can still find quiet little hidden spots that tell of the city’s illustrious history. While the city is known for it’s many shiny new developments, visitors longing for a bit of nature need only travel a short distance to find some stunning landscapes.
Hatta Rock Pools – The ancient town of Hatta lies a short distance away from Dubai. Intrepid explorers will be rewarded with a great day out at these stunning, jewel-hued rock pools nestled among the Hajar Mountains. The cool, spring-fed pools are a delightful oasis in the dry, mountainous terrain, and a popular picnic spot for many local families.
Qamardeen Hotel – It may not be as hyped up as some of the city’s glitzier concoctions, but the Qamardeen more than makes up with its exceptional service. Shopaholics will be glad to learn that the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates are a short hop from the hotel. The rooms are decorated in a quietly elegant manner, with beautifully detailed touches and cutting edge facilities. For some respite from the never-ending bustle of the city, ask for a Garden Access room, which allows guests to enjoy the serenity of the hotel’s beautiful garden. Rates start from around £125.
Shabestan – Said to be one of the best Iranian restaurants in the city, hungry travellers can be assured of getting some bang for their buck at this elegantly decorated restaurant. The lamb dishes are the stars here, with the chelow kebab highly recommended by many. Pair it with some fragrant saffron-infused rice and you have a meal fit for a king. Wash it all down with a glass of tea, and some faloodeh – a light Iranian ice cream flavoured with rose water and saffron.
Check here for flights to Dubai.
Posted January 20, 2010 by BookingBuddy
These cold grey winter days have had many people hankering after warmer climes, but how hot is too hot? Following on from last week’s virtual visit to some of the coldest places on Earth, this week, we’re bringing you to the hottest places on Earth. Those silly looking hats with attached fans may come in handy should you find yourself in any of these hotspots. Death Valley, USA
– With a name like that, you won’t expect to find many signs of life or greenery in the driest place in America. Summer temperatures have been known to top 56o
C, but that hasn’t stopped hikers from attempting to walk through the valley. If you’re not (fool)hardy enough to do the same, Death Valley also boasts many luxurious resorts scattered throughout its seemingly inhospitable terrain, so you can take in the stunning dessert scenery from the air-conditioned comfort of your room.Bangkok, Thailand
– It may come as a surprise to you to find out that Thailand’s capital has the honour of being named the world’s hottest city. Bangkok is surrounded by lush green farmland, but the constant smog and high humidity raises the average daily temperature to well over 28o
C. For some respite from the heat and notoriously bad traffic snarls, head north to the cooler provinces, such as Chiang Mai. Dasht-e Lut, Libya
– If a name like Death Valley doesn’t scare you, then perhaps the sight of parched, cracked mud will. This plateau in the Libyan desert is said to be the driest spot on earth, and is so hostile to life that not even bacteria is able to survive. The temperature here has exceeded 70o
c in some years, so you’ll need more than a fan to keep cool.
Posted January 19, 2010 by BookingBuddy
If you’ve decided to heed the siren song of the sea and are looking for a warm, sandy beach break, you may be disappointed to find that the popular beach resorts are full of other like-minded visitors, all looking to escape the spate of grey winter days. So why not cast your net further, and grab a cheap flight to Troncones? A couple of hours north of Acapulco, this little-known village boasts miles of sparkling white sand. It is relatively untouched by tourism, so on you good day, you may even have the beach all to yourself!
Casa Viva – Indulge your desert island fantasies with a stay in this luxurious resort. With only three private casitas (little huts) on the premises, you’ll be able to get away from it all in peace. The resort boasts an 80-metre long private beach, and is set in a lush nature reserve with birds flying freely. The kitchen, bar and dining areas are all located in the common area, with the pool placed just outside the hut. For those of you who prefer a little more privacy, the Casita Caracol, a two-story hut, has a built-in kitchen, as well as laundry facilities. Rates start at around £80 per night.
Horseback riding – There may be quicker ways of sightseeing, but nothing beats horseback riding down the beach for fun and romance. One and three hour rides are available from a small stable near Playa Larga, not too far from Troncones. The adventure takes you through jungle and mangrove landscapes, before you finally end up in a charming Mexican village.
Casa Morelos – Located in the nearby town of Ixtapa, this laidback restaurant is a favourite with the locals. Some of the dishes are familiar favourites, such as the crispy fish tacos or guacamole and chips. However, the menu also serves up some less well-known items like cactus salad. With the sea so close by, it’s no surprise that Casa Morelos is known for its seafood dishes, but the restaurant also offers up a smaller selection of meat and poultry for those who aren't fans of seafood.
Check here for Troncones travel information
Posted January 14, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Sick of snow, snow and yet more snow, and longing for hot days lying about on warm golden sands? With most of the northern hemisphere seemingly covered by the white stuff these days, skip the Mediterranean and grab yourself a cheap flight to Calangute
. This seaside town in Goa has a laidback atmosphere, and boasts a justifiably famous stretch of beach. If you do get bored with the beach, then hire some bikes and explore the surrounding countryside, or take a walk through the town and enjoy the huge range of fresh seafood on offer.
– Located near four beautiful beaches, this boutique hotel offers visitors some respite from the noise and activity of downtown Calangute. All ten rooms are named after Goa’s famed beaches, and the offbeat décor gives the hotel a lighthearted mood. Check out the wall-sized mural of Bambi lounging by the pond in the reception area. The rooms are spacious and comfortable furnished, with ceiling fans to help beat the heat. If you manage to resist the lure of the nearby beaches, the wooden deck and swimming pool make great spots to soak up the sun and indulge in some cocktails. Room rates start at about £70.
Souza-Lobo Restaurant – Managed by the third generation of Lobos, this beachfront restaurant makes great use of the abundant, fresh seafood available on its doorsteps. The menu features authentic Goan cuisine – spicy curries, fried seafood, and rice dishes to help counter all that spiciness. A live band provides music every night, and if you’re lucky, there may be a dance troupe performing too.
Kerkar Art Complex – Calangute boasts a vibrant cultural scene, and the Kerkar Art Complex is a great spot to soak it all in. Local artists exhibit their crafts in the gallery, and workshops and exhibitions are also held within the complex. On Thursday and Friday nights, the complex also hosts music and dance performances by local groups.
Check here for flights to Calangute.
Posted January 13, 2010 by BookingBuddy
The UK’s recent cold snap may have had most people rugging up and turning up the heating. However, there’s always the odd one out, who insists that it’s just not cold enough, and then laughs at you for piling on the scarves. For these masochists, a trip to some of the coldest places on earth may be just the thing. Don’t forget to pack those mittens!
– The little village of Oymyakon has the dubious honour of recording the coldest air temperature in the Northern hemisphere. The mercury fell to a lowly -71o
Celsius back in 1926, and global warming hasn’t driven it much higher these days. The area is so cold that the surrounding water is completely frozen, and usable water has to be brought into the town by tankers. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
– This bustling Mongolian capital city lies 1300 metres above sea level, with temperatures in winter hovering around the -20o
C mark. Set in a valley on the Mongolian steppe, the temperature rises to a pleasant high of around 25o
C in July, before plunging back down to freezing temperatures again. Warm up with a mug of suutei tsai – tea with salt and milk – or a huge glass of Mongolian vodka.
– Also known as Mount McKinley, the loftiest peak in North America boast winter temperatures around -40o
C. You’d have to be a hardy mountaineer to scale the 6,194 metre peak and brave wind speeds of over 18 miles per hour while doing so. For a warmer – and less rugged – view of the peak, pay a visit to Denali National Park.
Posted January 12, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Amsterdam seems to have a slightly sleazy reputation, but a visit to this picturesque city reveals some wonderful surprises. The many parks and museums make the city a perfect place for a family holiday. Amsterdam is also well known for its cutting-edge fashion brands, and the wide range of shops available makes it a fashionista’s dream destination.
Barrio – Hidden behind the busy Kalverstraat, this interesting little store has a bit of everything. It’s a fashion boutique and a music store, and even has a hairdresser operating in one corner. Step in, and emerge a brand new person – you can have your haircut while browsing through their varied magazine selection, and then get dressed up in new clothes and shoes!
Blue Wave Houseboat – Amsterdam is famous for its’ many scenic canals, so why not stay on one? This floating home is a much more unique option than staying in one of the numerous chain hotels in the city. The terrace provides a great view of canal life, and the interior has been comfortably renovated. There is a large double bed, a cosy kitchen and dining area, and free Wifi too! Rates are around £140.
Restaurant Greetje – This modest restaurant near the Rembrandt House combines classic French and Dutch culinary traditions to come up with an interesting, yet unpretentious menu. Put aside any fears of fashionable ‘fusion cuisine’ with miniscule courses – dishes here have a reassuring, home-cooked feel to them. Ambitious diners are encouraged to try the Grote Begin (Big Beginning) – a platter of several hot and cold courses, such as wild boar ham, stingray terrine, and smoked beef.
Check here for flights to Amsterdam.
Posted January 7, 2010 by BookingBuddy
The writer Samuel Johnson put it best when he wrote ‘…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ There is so much to see and do in this capital city that it is simply impossible to cram it all in during a short visit. A thoroughly cosmopolitan city, you’ll be able to eat your way through the world’s cuisines, or shop from London’s very own up-and-coming designers, without venturing too far.
Southbank Centre – This large complex encompasses the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Expect to see a diverse range of cultural events happening side by side – from blockbuster art exhibitions to spoken word performances by little-known writers. Where else do you except to find punk legend Henry Rollins performing only steps away from the London Sinfonietta?
Camden Market – Almost as many tourists come to Camden Market to gawk at its colourfully outfitted denizens as to actually shop. The sprawling market is best known for its many stalls selling ‘alternative fashion’ – need an all-latex jumpsuit, a Gothic Lolita headpiece or huge Doc Marten boots? You’ll be able to find all these here, and much more besides. The restaurants, cafes, and food kiosks are all just as varied, offering up organic, free-range, vegan brownies, to deep-fried chip butties, to spicy Thai noodle dishes.
St James’s Hotel and Club – Splash out for a room at this elegant townhouse hotel - smack in the centre of town yet hidden in a quiet street, it almost feels like a secret that no one else knows about. The newly renovated rooms show a painstaking attention to detail, featuring silk wallpaper, beautiful Murano glass chandeliers, and highly polished fittings. It is a relief falling into the wonderfully soft bedding after a long day exploring the city. Room rates start from around £290.
Check here for flights to London