Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

Wish you were hair in Istanbul

Stitched up and ready to go they looked like Frankenstein’s monster to me but hey, no pain, no gain… and I imagined they were sending back postcards with Wish you were hair in Istanbul.

Yes, Istanbul as well as being ahead of the curve in much else is also the epicentre for hair restoration.

And so armed with that information you won’t be staring, like someone I could mention.

Hair isn’t the only thing that they’re restoring in Istanbul though with the Stay Hotel chain leading the way in recycling.

Gone today, hair tomorrow: A full head again

Stay’s new hotel, Nisantasi, is now open for bookings in the heart of the city’s refined fashion and cultural district.

The 82-room property is housed in the heart of Nisantasi, a fashion hub in the old town.

So while the men are looking after the threads on their heads your womenfolk can hit the designer boutiques.

From Louis Vuitton to Chanel and Hermes, as well as local designers such as Begum Khan.

And true to The Stay Hotels’ sustainability pledge, they recently launched an eco-friendly fashion label, The Stay Line.

And guests can buy at the hotel’s dedicated retail space, the Stay Line Corner.

A stitch in time

Head start: For your new scalp

The Stay have clearly factored in the hirsuitically challenged tourists as they map out their specs.

The hotel boasts a vegan leather headboards graced with European Down and Feather Association-certified pillows, which will soothe the back of the head.

The recycling extends to room key cards and menus.

And they are brimming with local produce including vegan and vegetarian dishes accompanied by Turkish wines.

They’re really on this… evidenced by being awarded carbon-neutral status by sustainability specialist Bureau Veritas.

And they plan to be zero waste by the end of the year.

When in Istanbul

Art for arts sake: At The Stay Hotel

And when in Istanbul you’ll walk your curvy slipper shoes off (you know the ones you buy at the Grand Bazaar).

If only the Turks specialised in massage… wham, bam thank you hamam.

Stay have a spa and wellness floor opening in the autumn.

There’s a dip in the indoor pool, a Pilates session or an authentic Turkish hamam.

While If the gym is your thang, you can work out in the sleek fitness suite or book a personal trainer.

Wellness experiences include indulgent couples’ massages in a dedicated treatment room.

While here’s something which will be well up the Scary One’s street and take the edge off… a zen garden.

Mezze around by the Bosphorus

With Onur in Istanbul

And Istanbul, the crossroads of East and West clearly has more Turkish delights than the sticky square sweets with icing sugar.

And so the ground-floor Saint Pâtissier patisserie will offer guests French fancies, freshly baked bread, and Turkish treats.

From the autumn, foodies will flock to the entertaining Italian rooftop restaurant, Marcello E Matteo.

You’ll dine on the signature focaccia di recco al formaggio or sip well-crafted cocktails as the chefs break into an operetta.

The Stay Hotels will also reveal a curated art collection hung in rooms and public spaces.

And that includes an AI video-mapping installation by the world-renowned duo OUCHHH. Mmmmm!

The icing on the cake for lovers of culture, will be a bookshop while fresh flowers will be on sale at Misk flower shop.

And lots there then for all tourists to put on their postcards… Wish you were hair in Istanbul with double rooms coming in from £200 per night B&B, with flexible booking terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

On the up, highfull in Paris

On the level here… the best view of the City of Light, any city, is by skyline, and so we’re on the up, highfull in Paris.

But this time sans famille.

Louvre is all around: And time to check out the Mona Lisa

It’s a dozen years since we stayed in a room without a view, a basic attic in Paris.

Booked through all-paris-apartments.com on Boulevard Jules Ferry, and for four nights for €1,274 for the four of us.

Tower de force: And Laurie and Ally in Paris

And like all women Mrs M, still gets dewy-eyed about Paris.

Only her Paris, every woman’s Paris, is a rooftop balcony with an eyeful of a certain tower.

Peninsula awe

Salut: Your table is served

Comme Le Peninsula peut-être?

Life for high-end Parisians is spent on the balcony.

Whether it‘s a la carte dining and that starts like the best Parisian at le petit dejeuner.

The Peninsula Paris’s rose-filled rooftop garden is now open for guests for breakfast with a view over the city skyline for the first time.

Dormez vous: In your Paris bed

Le Rooftop will serve fresh bakery items, including croissants and pains au chocolat, and cafe, naturellement.

There’s also a new ‘light-bite’ summer menu designed by chef David Bizet and Antoine Guichard.

For visitors wishing to enjoy small plates with their evening cocktails.

La famille de triomphe: By the arch

Menu highlights include Ume plum served with honey from the hotel’s beehive.

Et Pugliese burrata with basil oil, smoked piquillo and black garlic; and courgette carpaccio with sauteed fiddleheads.

Or the two-Michelin-starred French gastronomy restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc with panoramic views.

Secret rendezvous

Cocktail set: And it’s drinks o’clock

But then your mademoiselle wants (and deserves) to be treated as the only femme in la monde.

And so the Peninsula has the ‘Secret Table’ for your romantic rendezvous.

It’s a private terrace at the highest point of the hotel building.

With views of the Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, and the rooftops of the City of Light.

Beret good: The Notre Dame

And with a dedicated butler for a sumptuous seven-course tailor-made dinner with paired wines and – of course – fine Champagne.

Guests can also get out on the city with a private chauffeured driving tour of Paris in the hotel’s own Rolls Royce Phantom.

You’ll take in the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Alexandre III, the Place de la Concorde, and the Arc de Triomphe.

Deal us in

City of lights: And there are fireworks

Stays include a daily American breakfast for up to two persons to be enjoyed in the garden of a suite.

‘Peninsula Time’ – flexible check-in and check-out times, unlimited use of fitness centre and swimming pool, and a bottle of French rosé from Château d’Esclans.

Stay in a Garden Rooftop Suite at the hotel on 19 Avenue Kleber from €1,550 until 31st August.

Mais oui, you’ll be on the up, highfull in Paris.

Caribbean, Countries, Deals

Putting the bar back into Antigua & Barbuda

They’re putting the bar back into Antigua & Barbuda… in truth, it’s never been away, they’re just mapping it out better for us.

Because after you’ve checked out everything else these beautiful Caribbean islands have to offer then it’s rum time.

Now I’ve trod the walk of shame around the world from Malibu to the Maldives but I’m assured this Caribbean crawl will knock my socks off.

And our friends in Antigua & Barbuda know it… setting out a 32-bar crawl map.

Beach boys and girls

Map of rumdays: Antigua & Barbuda

If you’re daft enough to wear anything on your feet… it’s a flip-flop flipping 30+ under the palm trees, on the beaches.

Of which there are 365, one for every day of the year.

And who knows, you might bump into any one of a stellar cast of rich and famo, Amy Winehouse, Bono, Usher or Silvio Berlusconi.

With names such as Sneaky Pete’s, your starting point on the north of the island, through Jacqui O’s and Papa’s by the sea on the south…

I do love you… but I’m off to the bar

Smiling Harry’s in the east and Mama’s Pasta in the north.

And then onto the likes of Uncle Roddy’s on Barbuda.

Irie, as they say here.

A short crawl

Limbo dancing: And Jimbo dancing

And so how far will we be crawling?

Well, 14 miles long and 11 miles wide which is one for every day of your fortnight’s holiday.

So the only question to ask is when can we start?

Caribtours de force

Smiles better: The friendly staff

Our friends at Caribtours, naturally, are all over it.

And as The Scary One is of the English variety we’re flagging up Caribtours’ The Inn at English Harbour, No. 20 on the list.

The five-star Inn blends the perfect balance of Colonial style buildings with luxurious and contemporary comfort.

And it’s yours for seven nights from £2,125pp with flights from major cities in the UK and USA.

And with your 30 British pennies getting one Eastern Caribbean dollar you’ll have plenty of cash for your rum tour.

Now you can add that to the list of people…Putting the bar back into Antigua.

As we continue our Caribbean odyssey through Barbados and Tobago and onwards… 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe

Father’s Day Budabest unless you’re English

I’ve stepped on some toes here with this Father’s Day teaser… it’s Budabest unless you’re English.

England is revolting (no, it’s friendly rivalry, I like them and even married one).

Their beloved Three Lions, their soccer side, have just been stuffed 4-0 at home by Hungary, on the back of a 1-0 defeat over there.

So the city on the Danube is probably the last place the Engerlish would think of visiting right now.

Celtic nations celebrations

Remember them: Puskas and the 1953 6-3 win

But among England’s Celtic neighbours there were smiles, chief among them Scotland, who won 4-1 in Armenia.

With the Jocks the last team to beat the Auld Enemy by four on their patch.

In Ireland too, my second home.

Bridge of highs: On the Danube

And with Father’s Day around the corner we should all be dropping hints about the joys of Budapest.

Online travel specialists Click&Go are offering this three-nighter 3* on the Danube from €229pp for this September.

You’ll be staying at the Agape Apartments and saving €22.35, a couple of goulashes and beers there.

Click to it

River of dreams: Budapest on the Danube

Click&Go’s deal includes return flights from Dublin to Budapest on a room only basis.

Now you’ll be staying in Pest area of the city, next to the great boulevard.

And you’ll be bang in the night life with restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, pubs, shops and stores all within a short walking distance.

A bus and tram stop are just 150 m while Budapest airport lies some 20 km away.

There are 40 accommodation units in total with brand new, spacious suites or apartments.

Specs appeal 

Who needs that? The Grandhotel Budapest

And the specs are appealing.

The modern, stylish and cosy studios and apartments feature TV, a well-equipped kitchen with fridge, microwave and coffee facilities.

And there is a pleasant bathroom with bathtub, hairdryer and towels features.

It’s Father’s Day Budabest unless you’re English.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Skiing

Chalet La France et WFH

Only the War Room pin map transports me from my home office… and to think I could be enjoying Chalet La France et WFH instead.

It’s a thing, of course, and one which more of us have been availing of since Covid.

It first came to my attention when the Bajans started offering year-long working visas to Barbados.

Pierre perfect

Just Gîtes: And enjoy your kitchen

And now tour operators around the world have their versions too with Pierre & Vacances leading the way in WFH vacances.

P&V specialise in self-catering accommodation across the Alps, with reliable WiFi.

And there’s a discount too on mobile WiFi, so even logging in from the chairlift is a possibility.

Deal us in

Lap it up: Work from home

So what’s the deal?

P&V are promising up to 30% off bookings, free WiFi and a special discount of 50% on Gobox (€62 a month instead of €124).

FamilEat is P&V’s 10% discount on a range of healthy, nutritional, seasonal dishes delivered direct to your apartment door.

And having dipped my ski boot in the snow, if you will, with home deliveries in Val D’Isere earlier this year I’d recommend this Just Gîtes way of holidaying.

Lodge bravo

Home in in this: And a working lunch

So without further adieu here’s where you could be working… magnifique France.

Avoriaz – Saskia Falaise, L’Amara, Électra, Atria-Crozats, Arc 1950 – Arc 1950 Le Village, Tignes Val Claret – L’Ecrin des Neiges, Flaine – La Forêt, Arc 1800 – Le Belmont, Les Alpages de Chantel.

And let’s breathe!

Et aussi…. Méribel – Les Crêts, Les Fermes de Méribel, Les Ravines, Chamonix – La Ginabelle, Les Menuires – Les Combes, Les Carroz-d’Arâches – Les Fermes du Soleil

Now skirting through the specs you’ll find ski in, ski out and also the best in spa, sauna, hamam (mais oui), pools and wellbeing.

Mais oui, c’est Chalet La France et WFH.

 

Countries, Deals, Europe

Whose a Cretan?

And it’s important to pronounce it properly so as not to give offence… whose a Cretan?

Cretins, not to be confused with our Mediterranean friends, of course, means a stupid person.

And it has its derivation in a medical term for a deformity which came to be short hand for a stupid person.

Which is the last thing a Cretan could be accused of being.

Homer run

Pool your talents: On the Greek islands

 

Referenced by Homer, it’s a good place to start, and theirs has been a real odyssey… and the Greeks are all about odysseys.

Crete, Greece’s biggest island, has only been incorporated into Greater Hellas since 1896.

But its history is thousands of years old.

And you’d have to be a cretin not to capitalise on that.

Cretan kings

True blue: The Aegean

Our Cretans have celebrated one of their own mythological figures King Asterion in their new Asterion Suites & Spa boutique hotel.

The Asterion is on the north-west coast with views over the Aegean Sea and Saint Theodore Island’s nature reserve.

All rooms feature a balcony or terrace with sweeping views of the sea, pool or gardens.

While all the best hotels (Sandals Barbados anyone) has swim-up suites and the Asterion is no exception.

It also has suites with private pools and the Universe Panorama Suite with a rooftop private pool.

Special spas

Swim-up pools: You deserve it

The state-of-the-art Orion Spa offers a holistic experience using traditional Cretan ingredients such as olive oil, aromatic herbs and aloe vera.

And aloe vera might just have saved my sunburnt back.

The Spa also features a seaside gazebo for bespoke treatments by the beach.

A new one on me and an extension on special spas in the Maldives.

The Asterion Suites is a great base to go on and explore the wonders of Western Crete.

From the city of Chania to historic sites to all our fave Med activities.

Deal me in

You dancer: Cretan dancing

Seven nights at the five-star luxury Asterion Suites and Spa in Chania, Crete costs from £827pps with our friends at TUI.

It includes return flights from London Gatwick to Chania and transfers.

Price based on select September and October 2022 departures. 

With these prices then whose a cretin and whose a Cretan?

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Deals

Keeping up with missus round the world

Now whatever and wherever I go I’ll be keeping up with the missus round the world.

Bandanini and Bandanettes, my regular visitors here, will know that she returned to the UK from Australia as a child on a working ship.

And she still has the coral necklace from Tahiti, while there are pictures galore from the Panama Canal crossing, Curacao and Portugal.

Sail the seven seas

A seafaring craft trip is still the quickest and most exotic way for globetrotters to see the planet.

And while rowing seems to be the most fashionable way.

And I discovered in Barbados last week that ‘everyone’ is now paddling across the Atlantic from Ireland and the UK, I’ll stick to cruising.

Our friends at Ambassador have the very thing.

120 days on the sea

For 2023/2024, Ambience will be sailing a brand new 120-night ‘Grand Round the World Cruise’.

It is the cruise line’s longest itinerary to date.

And for those who feel no place is like home then they have a new ship on the seas.

Ambition will depart from both Ambassador’s home  port of London Tilbury.

And six new regional UK ports… Newcastle, Dundee, Liverpool, Belfast, Bristol and Falmouth.

The Big Ship: Ambience

Ambassador are the first British cruise line to launch in over a decade.

And this will be their second ship Ambition’s inaugural season.

Ambassador pledges too premium value, authentic cruising experiences for the British market.

So they will be no-fly itineraries that are adult-focused.

And here’s the kicker… it’s primarily aimed at the 50-plus market.

Get back to me when I get there.

Nifty Fifties

Lounge around: On Ambience

Now for all you Nifty Fifties, get saving for January 6, 2024.

And if you’ve got a spare £10,000 then you’ll get change as it’s £9,229.

You’ll visit six continents, 24 countries and 34 ports of call, and the Panama Canal (OK, we know SHE’S been there).

This world cruise spans 34,759 nautical miles.

Where you goin’?

Full steam ahead: On Barbados

Sailing via the Azores and the Caribbean, Ambience will transit the Panama Canal.

You’ll call at beautiful islands of the South Sea and onto New Zealand and Australia.

Before you’ll explore Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Tropical Indian Ocean islands are more stepping stones to the excitement of Kenya.

Guests can also experience South Africa, and Durban and Cape Town, as well as Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world.

Cross the Atlantic to Brazil to explore Rio, before sailing home via Cape Vede, Casablanca in Morocco and Lisbon.

And there’s more

On a theme: The themed cruises

Both Ambience and Ambition’s 2023-2024 itineraries will offer a number of themed cruises.

As well as a selection of multi-generational sailings.

And this way you’ll be keeping up with the missus around the world.

 

 

Deals, Europe

Extra good time in Seville

If the city is still in one piece after the Scots football fans’ invasion of these last few days then it’s worth checking out an extra good time in Seville.

And that’s what our old friends Travel Department guarantees with their TD Active Holidays.

And so it’s off to sunny Spain and the Costa de la Luz in Andalucia.

Scots invaders

Light the blue touch paper: Rangers fans

The Scots, the Rangers army who descended on Seville for their Europa League final match with Eintracht Frankfurt, are just the latest invaders in the city’s and region’s history.

Sevillians, as I guess is as good a name as any, carry influences from the Romans to the Moors.

Gio force: Rangers boss Gio Van Bronckhorst

And they have left their imprint on the landscape and culture of Andalucía, which is far more cultural than the bottles of Buckie and Irn-Bru.

It’s unsurprising that Rangers fans took to the city… it’s the home of oranges.

Columbus and the New World

Chris cross: The Columbus statue in Barcelona

 

Seville boasts remarkable sites, including the cathedral and La Giralda tower and the vast and impressive Alcázar Palace.

Yes, we know that he was Genovese but the Spanish love him on account of discovering all those lands across the Atlantic, and the riches they yielded.

And you will see him pointing the way too from Barcelona from Las Ramblas.

His first voyage to the New World though was launched at the Muelle de las Carabelas.

You won’t be asked to set sail though (it’ll be too hot).

Deal us in

Ya dancer: Andalucia flamenco

On this trip, you can relax on the beach or visit other seaside towns in the region, with recommendations and tips from your expert guide.

Priced from €819pp, it includes flights, transfers, seven nights’ accommodation on a B&B basis and that guide experience.

There are a selection of dates right across the summer and up to 19th October.

And we can assure you that you will have an extra good time in Seville.

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Israeli clear of Covid regs

And it’s what they promised in the Promised Land – yes Israeli clear of Covid regs now.

Our friends in the Land of Milk and Honey will be removing on-arrival PCR tests from May 20 and letting people fly with an antigen test from May 10.

Right, we know that it hasn’t been a biblical 40 years since Israel was this open rather than just these last two years.

But it’s just made us more impatient, and that goes too for our dream makers too, our travel providers, who are lining up all manner of packages for us.

Lots of fun at the YMCA

Garden of plenty: The YMCA 3 Arches

Now our eye fell on the YMCA 3 Arches particularly when we saw that it had been designed by the architect of the Empire State Building in New York.

And that means tall with the 3 Arches a 152ft tower with views of the YMCA gardens below and historic Jerusalem vistas, many with views of the King David Street.

Not forgetting of course those modern day facilities we all expect… sports center with fitness room, pool, sauna, jacuzzi and group exercise studio.

The tour providers

Cradle of Christianity: Jesus and Bethlehem

Travel Israel helpfully do all the work for us offering flights from Edinburgh to Tel Aviv (you can also go from Glasgow and London Heathrow) and accommodation for £1,255.

With the excellent SWISS International Airlines.

And they list out a number of excursions you can add on.

Like Christmas (well, this is the Holy Land) you can go mad ticking off the trips you want.

And the excursions

Snap to it: And photograph the Old City

The Jerusalem Day Tour we imagine does what it says on the tin, and at a competitive £63 for two.

You will drive to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of the city.

And stop at Mount Zion to visit King David’s Tomb,Room of Last Supper and the Dormition Abbey.

No visit to Jerusalem would be complete without a visit to the Jewish Wailing Wall.

And channel your inner Jesus at the Via Dolorosa and visit the Church of Holy Sepulchre.

Before you’ll then proceed to the New City and a visit to Yad Vashem, the Memorial to the Holocaust.

But seeing you’re here you really should tick off as much as you can.

Two unforgettable days

Super Supper: And a bespoke Last Supper

And the 2 Day Tour of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Masada & the Dead Sea Small Group Tour does just that.

You’ll depart on  Day 1 and take in Jerusalem (obvs) and the Old City; Western Wall; church of Holy Sepulcher and Bethlehem. And overnight in Jerusalem.

Float on: The Dead Sea

Day 2 will take in Massada, a swim in the Dead Sea (been there, but would always go again).

Of course as comprehensive as this is there’s always more. 

So check out their Galilee offers and in Jesus’ Steps packages.

And so let’s celebrate Israeli clear of Covid regs.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Music

Erect those Las Fallas in Valencia again

No, you mucky pups, this is not a phallic fest but rather it is time to Erect those Las Fallas in Valencia again.

Because Las Phallas are the flaws… and ours come in all shapes and sizes

As can be seen on the streets of Valencia in oversized satirical erections… of public figures.

That is apart from the last couple of years when Covid put it on hold.

Crida Credo

Fireworks: And Valencia goes wild

OK then, the Spanish fest all kicks off with the ‘Crida’ – the opening ceremony where the ‘Mayor of Falleras’ encourages citizens and visitors to enjoy the festival.

And it was declared an event of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2016, Las Fallas has returned.

There are traditional acts such as the mascleates (fireworks), late night parties, and art installations.

Where you’ll see around 800 monuments fill the streets from 15-19 March.

The origins of the fest are hundreds of years old.

That was when carpenters would burn old remains from their workshops every 19 March.

That coincides with the celebrations of San José, the patron saint of carpenters.

And this marked the end of winter and gave a warm welcome to spring.

So, if you’re in Valencia this week.

Or you’ve already enjoyed spectacle and fests as a whole then you’ll see this really does stand up as a magical fest get-away.

Gunpowder, music and art

Smiles better: Spain saves its kisses for you

One of the most spectacular acts of Las Fallas is the mascletà.

That’s Valèncian-style fireworks – daily at 2 pm until 19 March with a roar of gunpowder to shake off that sangria hangover.

In the evening, guests can visit the Turia Gardens for fireworks (and we love fireworks) at the castle. 

On the nights of 15-16 March, València begins the planta.

The erection of monuments in the streets where 800 works of art are spread across 400 locations in the city.

These fallas are classified into different categories according to their complexity, size and originality and the locals work on them all the year around.

The most spectacular are placed in the historic centre – Ciutat Vella – and the neighbourhoods of Ruzafa and Gran Vía.

Making a name: For Valencia

The best way to appreciate the monuments is with a guided tour.

And get a local to highlight the most spectacular sculptures and tell visitors the details and traditions of the festival. 

Like all the best fests there is an awards ceremony in which the Fallas artists collect prizes for their masterpieces.

As well la ofrenda – the offering – in which the city offers flowers to the Virgen de los Desamparados, the patron saint of València.

Festivalgoers dress in traditional attire, carry bouquets and walk the streets to the beat of local musicians.

The procession ends at the Plaza de la Virgen, where a giant image of the Patron Saint is installed and covered with flowers. 

La Cremà – the end and beginning 

Burning love: And a message from the sponsors

With the ‘Cremà’ comes the final act of the Fallas. On 19 March, the sculptures are set aflame in great bonfires that cover the city.

The process is carried out in a staggered way, starting at 8pm with smaller statues and 11pm with the larger ones and the winners. 

With the bonfires come the finale fireworks, which signal the end of Las Fallas.   

Events are free to attend and 2022 flights from £17 via SkyScanner

So Erect those Las Fallas in Valencia again.