25 December, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hello fellow travel lovers, and a very Merry Christmas to you all! Wherever you are spending the festive season this year, I hope you have an amazing time.  Here's to a fantastic Christmas!

21 December, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: The perfect day

Coming up in the new year on my blog, I'm going to be featuring the most wonderful place to have lunch on the island of Majorca. Today, I thought I'd give you a sneaky peak at what's to come. This photo was taken as I was finishing lunch, and as you can see the views from the restaurant are amazing.  Sometimes all you need to be perfectly happy when you're on your travels is a cool glass of wine, and a stunning view like this!

If you have a photo you'd like to donate, then please get in touch via the address on my contact page. All I need is a couple of sentences about the photo, and the pic itself. I'd love to see your own travel shots! In the meantime, have a great weekend - cheers!

18 December, 2012

Luxury in the Lake District - The Swan Hotel & Spa

If you're looking for a weekend retreat with a bit of luxury, and beautiful surroundings, then look no further. The Swan Hotel and Spa is situated at the southern tip of Lake Windermere in Cumbria, and suits everyone from couples, to families and business guests. 

The oldest part of the building was erected in 1623, but now it has been expanded and offers 51 bedrooms and suites which have all the modern facilities you would expect. It still has character and charm though, and the rooms are fresh; bright and have stunning views.

The highlight of my stay at The Swan was DEFINITELY the food! It has a great reputation among Lakes locals (which is always a good sign!) and you can almost see other diners drooling as they enjoy their food! Breakfast, which is included, is also amazing with all sorts of cooked options on offer. Top tip - they serve incredibly delicious eggs benedict!

When I stayed, I had an energising massage in the spa which was just fantastic. It helped me to relax while also preparing me for a lovely walk around the local area. There is also a pool and gym area, for those who are feeling more energetic!

The boutique hotel is a great base from which to explore the countryside, but it's also the perfect place to relax and unwind. If you want a weekend away, with amazing food, then this could be just the spot for you! Visit the official website here.

14 December, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: Castara kids

I love today's photo, and the story behind it is even better. Steve Wooler has the tale...

Each year, an organisation on Trinidad brings over parties of under-privileged kids to Tobago, from the poorer parts of Port of Spain and possibly other parts of Trinidad. They enjoy a week or so camping on the playing fields outside Les Coteaux (a short distance from the old Arnos Vale Waterwheel) and during the week they are taken out to enjoy various activities. One of their regular events is a day out on Castara's main beach - and this photo shows the kids enjoying various activities on the beach.

Great photo Steve, thanks so much for your contribution. If you want to know more about Tobago, then I can highly recommend Steve's website - www.myTobago.info, it's a great source of information for anyone visiting the island.

If you have a travel photo you'd like me to feature, please get in touch through the email address on my contact page. Thanks in advance.

11 December, 2012

Travel back in time on the train in Majorca

If you ever find yourself on holiday in Majorca, then there is one thing you must not miss. There is a train which takes you between Palma and Sóller and it is absolutely stunning - as you can see from the photo below. 

Since 1912, a daily service has been running on narrow tracks along this route which is just over twenty seven kilometres long. As well as the beautiful, traditional train, the highlight of the journey is the stunning scenery along the way.

As you climb out of Sóller, you cross bridges, and viaducts, and get great views over the town - have your camera at the ready. It them plunges down to the plain through tunnels and gorges through the valleys of orange groves.

If you have ever wanted to travel back in time, then take this lovely forty minute journey. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and it's also practical if you want to take a day trip to either Palma or Soller. If you want more information, or timetables click here.

07 December, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: The Venice of the East

I'm really excited about today's photo, which comes from Arpit Verma, as I think it's absolutely stunning. Let's hear about where it was taken from Arpit....

The photo was taken in a place called Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan in India. Udaipur is famously called the lake City of India, and is one of the places with the most historical importance in the country. The image is of a lake called Lake Pichola, one of the several beautiful lakes in the city.

Top tip: Udaipur is a huge tourist attraction for people around the globe, and no wonder it is called the Venice of the East.

If you have an unusual photo, or simply a beautiful travel pic you'd like to see featured on Travel Lightbulb, then please send it to me at travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk. Please include your name, and tell me where, and when the photo was taken. All contributions are welcome! Have a great weekend wherever you are.

05 December, 2012

A beautiful historic mansion - Casa Gangotena, Ecuador

Travel Lightbulb is taking you to Ecuador today, and a hotel that is featured in the Condé Nast Traveller Hot List for 2012. Casa Gangotena is in the capital city of Ecuador, Quito. The hotel situated in a newly-restored historic mansion which overlooks Plaza San Francisco - the heart of one of the best preserved colonial districts of Latin America.

It was originally built as a palatial family home in the 1920's, but fell into gradual disrepair. Thankfully it has been restored to its original glory. The three-storey hotel has just 31 rooms, which are full of antiques but also bursting with contemporary design. The best rooms are the balcony suite and the Junior suite - which used to be the tea room of the Ganotea family.

Quito itself has one of the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic centres in the Americas. Along with Kraków, it was the first World Cultural Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1978.  Take it all in at the bar on the top floor - the view is unbelievable!

Quito is a great place to explore, and is not only sophisticated but also wonderfully eclectic! This is the perfect base from which to do that. If you want more information on today's featured hotel, visit the official website here.

03 December, 2012

Do you trust online reviews?

When you're planning to visit somewhere or go on holiday, how often do you use internet review sites before you make your decision? I have to say while I always have an idea of what I'm looking for, I sometimes go onto sites such as Trip Advisor to see what other travellers think. There's no doubt that the internet is part of everyday life (and a crucial part of the travel industry); but if you read a bad review, would you still visit that restaurant or stay in that hotel?

While I find review sites very helpful, incredibly, it is estimated that 1 in 10 reviews are fake. Around 85% of consumers search for reviews and recommendations online; and as we all know word of mouth can have a big impact on our views, which makes it very influential. Mark Hall, managing director of online reputation management comany Got Juice says:  "A single bad review can ruin the chances of gaining new customers and create a long standing, horrible word of mouth campaign offline."

So should we trust review sites in the first place? I have to say I make my own choice in the end, and believe that all reviews should be taken with a pinch of salt anyway. On a recent holiday I went to a restaurant that came highly recommended - it was ok, but actually turned to to be the poorest meal of the trip. The motto of the tale? One man's meat is another man's poison!

30 November, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Tour under the tower

Today's photo was taken at the Blackpool tower in Lancashire, England. The tower, which was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, was opened to the public in 1894, and is a popular tourist attraction to this day. It has a great history, with stories from possible demolition (during its first 30 years it corroded after it wasn't properly painted), to it almost being used as a radar station during the second world war.

I took this photo when the Tour of Britain (an elite cycle race) was in town, hence the people and barriers at the bottom of the photo! The tower is lit up at night, and there are eight kilometres of cables to feed the incredible 10,000 light bulbs used to illuminate the tower.

If you have a photo you'd like to see featured here, please get in touch via the email address on my contact page. Just send me your photo and a couple of sentences about where it was taken. Thanks in advance!

27 November, 2012

A Robinson Crusoe style lunch in Tobago

Sometimes the best meals aren't necessarily enjoyed at the swankiest restaurants or most exclusive places. In Tobago, I had a fabulous lunch that was simple but just perfect at the beach bar of the Blue Haven Hotel. 

The hotel overlooks Bacolet Bay, on the Atlantic coast of the island, and is said to be the site where Robinson Crusoe was stranded in 1659.  In the middle of the bay is the small beach bar, and I enjoyed a delicious fruit punch while enjoying the views when I arrived at the beach. It was fantastic to see the barman had also poured a fruit punch for the birds to enjoy - great to watch all different coloured birds fluttering around while I enjoyed my drink.

I had a few hours on the beach sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming before going back up for lunch. The menu is full of simple but delicious treats such as lovely salads and sandwiches. I opted for the club sandwich, and it is one of the best I have ever tasted. The side salad had a beautiful dressing on it, and the sandwich was jam packed with fillings - yum yum!

The staff at the beach bar were fantastic when we visited. They not only made us feel welcome, but the service was perfect. Nothing was too much trouble - and it's no surprise that this place is called the "No Problem" beach bar!

If you want more information about the beach, have a look at the My Tobago website - a great resource for anyone visiting the island.

23 November, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: Olympic Edinburgh

It has been a huge year for sport in Britain with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. However the passion and pride wasn't restricted to London - the whole of the country felt it. On a trip to Edinburgh a couple of months ago, I had to snap this shot of the Olympic rings on the city's famous 'mound'. I loved the way the colours contrast with the gloomy Scottish sky, and the beautiful Ramsay Gardens - the white buildings in the background.

If you have a travel photo you'd like see featured here, please get in touch on the email address on my contact page. All I need is your photo, and a short paragraph about where it was taken. I look forward to your contributions! Thanks in advance.

20 November, 2012

A crooked gem - Little Moreton Hall

My blog post today features an iconic Tudor manor house in Northwest England. To be honest, you have to visit this attraction as the photos below don't do it justice. The stunning, quirky timber-framed building has totally defied logic for over 500 years, and that's because it's......for want of a better phrase......higglety pigglety!

Some floors of the hall are so crooked and uneven (see photo below) that you feel like you've had one drink too many, or that you're on a ship! In fact I have a challenge for you - visit, and try and spot a straight line. It won't be easy!

We took a free guided tour to hear the story of the Hall, and it's definitely the best way to discover the history of the building. Expect lots of great stories about life in the 1600's, and you'll also discover the origin of some words we still use nowadays.

A visit here would also be great for kids - there are quizzes for them to do; Tudor clothes for them to try on, and Tudor boardgames for them to play.

We visited on a freezing cold winter's day, and the hall was very cold, so make sure you wrap up well, and if you need a cuppa to warm up, there is a restaurant (which uses seasonal produce from the garden) and tea room (picture amazing home-made cakes!) on site.

Visiting Little Moreton Hall is one of the best days out I've had in the North West of England, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you want more information, visit the National Trust website here.

16 November, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: Sahara scenery

If you've ever experienced trekking, you'll know that you come across some stunning scenery that you just don't get on your average holiday. I have completed two charity treks in recent years, and the photo below was taken on a week long journey through the Sahara desert.

It was a long, hot and challenging trek, but raising money for charity, and the stunning scenery along the way made it all worthwhile. You can't beat the feeling of being miles away from civilisation.

If you have a travel photo you'd like to contribute, then please get in touch at the email address on my contact page. Have a great weekend!

13 November, 2012

A little haven on the Ile de Ré

Today I'm featuring one of the lesser known parts of France - the Ile de Ré. The island is off the west coast of France near La Rochelle, and has been called one of the jewels of the Atlantic coast. The great thing is it's largely unspoiled and not only has beautiful sandy beaches, but also ports to wander around; forests to discover and salt marshes.

Villa Clarisse is located in the historical capital of the island, Saint-Martin-de-Ré (listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO) and is perhaps the most 'chic' address in the heart of the old city. It's an 18th century mansion which was renovated in June 2011, and is dedicated to well-being and relaxation.

There are nine rooms and suites at the Villa which are all organised around a courtyard. All have stunning bathrooms; fireplaces, and lots of original features. Many guests describe them as beautifully styled, but relaxed and welcoming. It's child friendly and is not only near shops and a fairground, but there is also a pool area and beautiful gardens.

If you are looking for a French 'retreat', then you will not go wrong staying at Villa Clarisse, and on the Ile de Ré itself. If you would like more information, visit the official website here.

09 November, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Peruvian children

Sometimes when you travel, kids tug at your heartstrings and their little faces stay at the heart of your memories for a long time. This is what happened to me on a trek through the stunning Andes mountains in Peru. Our small group were staying in tented accommodation on the edge of villages, so we were always interacting with the local people and their kids.  The people we met had next to nothing, but their kids were always playing and having fun. The group of school children below came to see us on the morning we were leaving. We gave them small gifts such as pencils and postcards of where we were from - you would have thought we'd given them diamonds, they were so thrilled! There wasn't a dry eye in our group!

I'm always looking for travel photos, so if you have any you'd like to share, please get in touch via the email address on my contact page. All I need is a photo and a short paragraph about where it was taken.  Thanks in advance, and have a great weekend.

07 November, 2012

Charm in Chiang Mai

I do love chic modern hotels, but do you ever feel they lack something? It's lovely to be able to enjoy modern luxury, but there's also nothing better than a bit of old world elegance and charm, and that's what today's featured accommodation has in bundles.

137 Pillars House is situated in Chiang Mai, seven hundred kilometres northwest of Bangkok. As the unofficial capitan of the North of thailand, Chaing Mai remains a close second in national importace to Bangkok. The house occupies a prime address along the Ping River in the Wat Gate area which was formerly designated to foreigners by the government.

Historians and conservationists worked hard to keep the integrity of the 1889 structure at the house, and the 30 suites are beautifully designed but you still have all the modern comforts you could wish for (including air conditioning; an in room music system, and a personal espresso coffee machine). Oh, and the outdoor shower is a superb addition, and a great way to start your day!

Nothing is too much trouble for the staff here from breakfast in bed, to freshly made sundowners in the bar. They'll even make you a picnic hamper (with champers of course!) to take on your adventures into the mountains, or along the river.

Thailand is a fabulous county, and this could be a great place to stay at the end of your trip. The house itself is beautiful, but the surrounding area is also stunning, as well as being quiet - you'd never think that you were in a city. If you'd like more information, then why not visit the official website here.

05 November, 2012

Edinburgh: Europe's leading destination

Edinburgh has beaten London; Paris and Barcelona to the title of Europe's leading Destination in 2012. When I heard this story, I knew I had to mention it on my blog - I am, after all an exceptionally proud 'Edinburger' - as we're known! The prize was given at the World Travel Awards in Portugal - an event described by organisers as the "Oscars of the travel industry".

If you have never visited Edinburgh, then I have to say you really are missing out. I know everyone is proud of their home city, but when I had to move away due to work commitments, I found that I actually appreciated it even more.

It's not only a world class tourist destination due to the fact that it is steeped in history, but it also has a superb all year round atmosphere. It plays host to numerous world-renowned cultural events such as Edinburgh's Hogmanay (the New Year's celebrations) and the Edinburgh Festivals that take place each summer. Whenever you visit, it has something to offer - give it a try........or miss out!

02 November, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Niagara Falls

Today's Travel Photo Friday comes from Justin and Jan Reischek, and I'm sure you'll agree it's a stunner! It was taken from one of North America's most popular restaurants, The Keg Steakhouse, which is on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Niagara Falls.

What a beauty! I've never had the chance to visit the Niagara Falls, but if I do, I'd also like to head to the restaurant considering how good the views are! It's unusual to see a shot like this, as many I've seen have been taken from below - I love the way it shows the sheer power of the water. Thanks Justin, and Jan - your contribution is much appreciated. If you'd like to contribute, please get in touch through the email address on my contact page. Thanks in advance.

30 October, 2012

A car enthusiasts delight

If you're passionate about cars, then I have just the place for you. The Lakeland Motor Museum, which is located close to the southern tip of Lake Windermere, is an unexpected delight! It has around 30,000 exhibits which have been assembled over a period of almost 50 years.

There are all sorts of exhibits here from vintage and classic cars, to those which are just plain fun - one of my own personal favourites is the little gem in the photo below!

As well as tracing over 100 years of motoring heritage, the museum also pays tribute to Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell. If you haven't heard of them, they were father and son who between them captured 21 world land and water speed records in the Bluebird series of cars and boats. Donald Campbell was tragically killed on nearby Coniston Water in 1967, whilst attempting to break his own water speed record.

There is actually a full size replica of the 1935 Bluebird car, along with the 1939 boat and jet hydroplane's. It's a fascinating place to visit, and there are so many weird and wonderful things to see here that it's worth a trip even if you're not a car enthusiast. For more information, visit the official website here.

26 October, 2012

Olympic Orbit

Today's photo takes us back to the London 2012 Olympics earlier this year, and to the Orbit Tower. It's the tallest art structure in Britain; was designed by internationally acclaimed artist Anish Kapoor, and is one of London's major new visitor destinations.  It was taken by Gemma Thompson, here's her tale...

The Orbit is an amazing construction with incredible views of the Olympic Park, and inside the stadium. I was lucky enough to watch Usain Bolt's 100m semi-final win from up here. The winding walk down the stairs was a tad scary - I was glad there is a lift to get up there! Well worth a visit.

Great photo Gemma, thanks for the contribution! If you have a photo you'd like to see featured on here,  please get in touch via the email address on my contact page. Thanks in advance!

23 October, 2012

The Pig - A 'restaurant with rooms' in the New Forest

If you're looking for a stylish but laid back country house hotel in the UK, I have somewhere that may interest you! The Pig is a relaxing retreat set in the heart of the New Forest National Park,  just one mile from the village of Brockenhurst, yet only a 90 minute drive from London. 

There are twenty six bedrooms with sixteen in the main house, and ten in the stable yard. They are all well equipped and have gorgeous bed linen and great showers and baths. They also have a little coffee machine; kettle, and a mini fridge with cold drinks and nibbles....oh, and the views are beautiful too!

Such is the importance of food at this place, they like to call it a restaurant with rooms! There is a walled garden, and the gardener/forager and chef grow and find the food, and then the chef decides what will go on the menu. 

The food is so fresh that the menu doesn't just change weekly, in fact it doesn't even change daily....it can change by the hour depending on what food has been sourced - now isn't that the way it should be?

The hotel was received the 'Outstanding Excellence and Innovation UK' award in the Conde Nast Johansens Awards in 2012, and it's no surprise. This could be just the perfect place to bed down after a fantastic meal!

19 October, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Flying to Paradise

This photo was taken on a trip to the Grenadine islands in the Caribbean (if you're new to my blog, you may not have read my review of this wonderful trip, so take a look here). One of the most exciting parts of the trip is the short flight from Barbados to Union Island, as you're flying through tiny puffy white clouds, and see the gorgeous islands in all their glory as you fly into Union. This photo always makes me want to return and do the trip all over again!

Why not contribute your own travel photo, and I'll provide a link to your blog/website. If you fancy doing that, then please get in touch on travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk - or on my twitter page @travellightbulb. Hope to hear from you soon and in the meantime, have a happy weekend!

16 October, 2012

Michelin star dining in Dublin

Today's featured restaurant is the first Michelin starred place to be featured on Travel Lightbulb. The whole point of my blog is to feature things that suit everyone, from big budget luxury destinations to cheap as chips finds that are just as special. Chapter One, a stunning restaurant in Dublin, is leaning towards the more expensive side of things, but it's actually great value for the fantastic food and I couldn't leave it out. 

It has been said that you are not just buying a meal when you eat here, but that instead you're buying an experience, and I couldn't agree more with that statement. The attention to detail is fantastic, and the staff are friendly and have perfected their service so it's neither overly formal, or too casual.

So onto the food itself. The head chef focuses on local and seasonal producer to create an array of modern dishes with robust flavours. There are plenty of options for the carnivore, and also for the fish lover. They also cater extremely well for vegetarians with a whole menu dedicated to those who prefer that option.

Speaking of the menu options, you can go for anything from pre-theatre to a four course dinner. They also have tasting menus if you really want to savour lots of different flavours. If you're visiting Dublin, and want a superb culinary experience, then book a table at Chapter One. Their official website can be found here.