30 May, 2012

A luxury lodge in Zambia

One of my recent travel rambling posts talked about safari holidays, and today I'm featuring a luxury lodge near Victoria Falls on the banks of the Zambezi River. Tongabezi prides itself on exclusivity and attentive service, and is one of the most romantic looking lodges I've ever come across.

Photo courtesy of  Tongabezi Safari Lodge
Service is so important here, that each house and cottage has its own valet to take care of guests throughout their stay, and act as a private concierge. The houses are all private, even though there are no windows to shut out the sounds of nature - you can lie in bed and enjoy the sound of the hippos in the river!

Photo courtesy of  Tongabezi Safari Lodge
 One thing that many guests comment on is the fact that you can dine wherever and whenever you wish - from your private dining room, to the look-out where you can watch the sun set over the Zambezi. Guests at the lodge can do as much or as little as they like, and that's perhaps the beauty of this place - it's your holiday, and you can decide what you want to do, and when you want to do it!

Photo courtesy of  Tongabezi Safari Lodge
One thing that surprised me about this place is the number of trips included in your stay including sunrise and sunset boat trips on the Zambezi; lunch on a local island, and a visit to the Victoria Falls. Boat trips are also available to Livingstone Island, where David Livingstone caught his first glimpse of the falls.

Photo courtesy of  Tongabezi Safari Lodge
This is the perfect destination for a special occasion, and would be a fantastic choice for a honeymoon. If you'd like more information on Tongabezi, visit the official website here.

28 May, 2012

A quirky colourful find in Mexico City

Zona Rosa is a neighbourhood in Mexico City which is known for its shopping and nightlife. It's located to the west of the historic centre of Mexico City itself and has a real bohemian feel about it. There are charming squares, beautiful gardens - all very cosmopolitan. 

Room Mate Valentina is a beautifully designed, and inexpensive hotel, and is the perfect base from which to explore. There are 62 funky rooms, which are also very large. They all have flat screen televisions, satellite TV, and ipod stations.

There is free high speed internet at the hotel, and a Spanish style breakfast buffet which is open until 12pm daily - a nice touch if you've had a bit of a late night!

Speaking of late nights, the neighbourhood is a great place to party at the weekend, and although the rooms are sound-proofed, you may want to ask for a room that doesn't face the street.

You can rent bikes from the front desk (less than USD$5 per day) which is a nice touch and a great way to explore the streets of the Zona Rosa. If you'd like more information on the hotel, there official website can be found here.

25 May, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Optical Phenomenon

On a recent holiday, I was lying on a beach....looked up, and saw the view in the photo below. A stunning rainbow like circle around the sun. I'd never seen anything like it, so as soon as I got back I went online to see if I could find out what it was. It turns out it is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals creating coloured or white arcs and spots in the sky. They can also form around the moon, so keep your eyes peeled, and see if you can spot one!

In fact, if you've ever seen one let me know by leaving a comment below I'd love to hear if you've seen this amazing phenomenon. I welcome photographic contributions from any of my followers, so if you have a cool travel photo you would like to send, e-mail it to: travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk - all I need is your name, and a little bit about where the photo was taken. You may see it on Travel Lightbulb in the near future! I look forward to your contributions!

23 May, 2012

Boutique on a budget in West Yorkshire

Leeds is city full of things to do. It has so many attractions it really does offer something for everyone from great shopping; arts; dining and nightlife. During the industrial revolution, it developed into a major industrial centre, and many of the buildings around the city have been converted. 42 The Calls is a prime example.

Photo courtesy of 42 The Calls
The 4 star boutique hotel is a converted riverside corn mill which makes the most of its original features.  It's brilliantly located just a few minutes walk from the town centre, overlooking the River Aire.

Photo courtesy of 42 The Calls
The rooms feature oak beams; industrial grinders, and exposed brick walls. With cream paintwork and lush bed throws, it all ends up looking very classy. You have a great variety of rooms to choose from, with the more simply study rooms, to the Director's Room and Junior Suite.

Photo courtesy of 42 The Calls
They pride themselves on locally sourced food at 42 The Calls, and breakfast is a real feast - it includes 12 varieties of sausages; homemade waffles, and kippers. You can also get a lighter continental option if that doesn't float your boat!

Photo courtesy of 42 The Calls
Despite the luxurious rooms and fantastic location, you can find rooms here for around £80 per night on a regular basis. So if you're looking to explore the city of Leeds, then I can't think of a better base than this hotel. If you'd like more information, visit the official website here.

21 May, 2012

Chill out at a quirky country house in Portugal

Today's post comes with a feast of photos - Monte do Chora Cascas (Hill of Weeping Bark) is one of those places where you have to keep snapping! This stunning country house is situated in the relatively undiscovered Alentejo region in Portugal. It's set in beautiful gardens with amazing views across fields from the swimming pool terrace.

There are just six rooms (named after angels), and they're all beautifully stylish. Think colour-washed walls, four posted beds, and embroidered bedspreads. Instead of noisy air conditioning, there are ceiling fans, and shuttered windows to keep you cool. I visited in the hot month of September, and never felt the need for air-con.

Two rooms share a terrace (see photo below) and the others have a shared patio. There are so many outdoor spaces to enjoy though, that you don't really need a private space apart from your room. 

The day beds by the pool, for example, are the perfect place for an afternoon snooze, or to read another chapter of your book while escaping the heat of the midday sun.

The sitting room is the essence of cool - think comfortable leather sofas; wooden coffee tables; quirky chill out music, and design books to die for - a lovely space in which to have enjoy a pre-dinner drink from the honesty bar before heading out for dinner.

Speaking of meals, the only one available here is breakfast (local bread; cakes; jams and cheeses to die for!) but Montemor is only 2km away, and there are plenty of local restaurants to choose from. It's also a lovely place to explore by day or night. 

The highlight of the outdoor space at Monte do Chora Cascas is the swimming pool in the garden. It's open all year round (but bear in mind it's not heated), and there are loads of loungers and chairs in which to chill out. I booked two nights at the house for a special occasion, and it not only lived up to my expectations - it exceeded them. If you're looking for a place that oozes cool in which to chill out, then you won't go wrong booking a stay here. 

For more information, click here to visit the website.

18 May, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Disobeying the rules

The Maldives is one of those places where you just can't stop taking photos. Even on a stormy day like the one when today's photo was taken, it looks dramatic, and the colours mean you can't put your camera down! I took this one while wandering around the island after lunch. This cheeky chappy clearly can't read - either that, or he simply likes disobeying the rules!

I welcome photographic contributions from any of my followers, so if you have a cool photo you would like to see featured here, e-mail it to: travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk - all I need is your name, and a little paragraph about where the photo was taken. You may see it on Travel Lightbulb in the near future! I look forward to your contributions!

16 May, 2012

Value for money week - Acropylis views in Athens

I continue value for money week by heading to Greece and featuring a hotel that won first place in the top 25 trendiest hotels in Greece in the Travelers' Choice Awards 2012. The Fresh Hotel has 133 bedrooms and is located in the heart of Athens, within walking distance of the museums and the Acropolis.

The rooms are minimalist, and perfect for both business and leisure travellers. They have comfortable beds, and ultra-modern bathrooms with free toiletries. Also included in the rooms rate is a breakfast buffet, with a selection of hot foods.

One of the highlights of this hotel is the stunning roof-top bar, which has panoramic views of Athens at night (see photo below). Many guests say it's nice enough to tempt you not to leave the hotel at all! There is also a pool on the roof which is open during the summer months. The hotel also has a small gym and sauna - again features you may not expect at a low price.

There are many hotels to choose from in Athens, but not many have the style and location of the Fresh Hotel. At around 90 euros a night, the standard of accomodation is exceptional, and you get that touch of class you may expect from a pricier hotel. Proof this week, that accomodation that leans more towards the budget price range certainly doesn't have to be boring!

14 May, 2012

Value for money week - A sign of the future in New York

Following on from last month's luxury picks here on Travel Lightbulb, I have dedicated this week to a couple of finds that are more affordable! I wanted to feature some cool accomodation that doesn't break the bank. If you're looking for a holiday in New York, then Yotel New York is part of a chain of hotels which may fit the bill.  While I normally find hotel groups can lack character (especially if they are at the cheaper end of the market), today's find is different.

Photo courtesy of Yotel
The people at Yotel have tried to create a first class hotel experience at great value. So how do they do it? They keep things simple. They have automated check in and out (see above photo) which frees up members of the team to help guests elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of Yotel
Instead of rooms, they have cabins, which they describe as "small but perfectly formed" and I have to agree!  The design is very clever - extra space has been created by using convertible beds with storage. You would think a smaller room space would mean missing out on some comfort; but they still have flatscreen TV's; powershowers; air con, and there is free wifi throughout the hotel.
Photo courtesy of Yotel
There are no coffee making facilities in the room, but there is a galley on every floor where you can get free hot drinks. Parts of the Yotel look like something out of a sci-fi film, especially their left luggage service (see photo above). You place your belongings in one of the bins, and watch the cleverly named 'Yobot' store it safely for you - it even gives you a receipt!

Photo courtesy of Yotel
When in New York City; location is key and at Yotel you're only a fifteen minute walk from Times Square, and five minute walk to the nearest subway station. As far as price goes, this is budget New York style - it may not be considered cheap accomodation in other destinations, but for NYC an average rate of $200 in a location like this seems top notch.

Top tip: Ask for a room on a high floor when you check in - there are superb views to be had from the upper floors of this hotel!

11 May, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - A French Chateau

I love receiving contributions from followers of my blog, and today's Travel Photo was taken by Alex Proctor Pearson. So let's find out more....

The photo is of Yvoire Chateau in France on Lake Geneva. You can get to the village of Yvoire by car, but the best way is by paddle steamer either from Geneva or directly across the lake from Lausanne. Pedestrian only cobbled streets flanked either side by various arts and craft shops.

Top tip: There is a great restaurant at the top of the high street (Restaurant la vielle Porte) which has a terrace overlooking the village and lake where the local speciality is filet de perche, which is fish from the lake cooked in lemon and butter - a local speciality for lake dwellers.

Thanks for the contribution Alex. If you would like to see more of Alex's photos, then take a look at his photography website www.appphotographs.com. If you have a photo of your own that you'd like to see featured here, then please send it to travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk with a short paragraph about where it was taken and you could see it right here on Travel Lightbulb in the coming weeks!

09 May, 2012

A five star resort hidden in a Chinese village - Amanfayun

Sometimes hotels pop up in a location and it's the building that dominates that area. Very rarely do they fit into the landscape, and incorporate the local culture into their style, but today I feature a place I believe does just that. Located twenty minutes drive from Hangzhou (one of the most charming cities in China) there is a property discreetly located in the middle of tea plantations, and surrounded by some of the most famous temples of the city. 

Photo courtesy of Amanresorts
In fact, despite the amenities of a 5 star resort, you could be staying in a Chinese country village. There are 42 rooms, suites and villas and no two rooms are identical. The style of the rooms is just what you'd expect from such a resort - minimalist, yet beautifully stylish.  The rooms are huge, and there are little touches that make a difference - fresh fruit each day, and heated stone floors.

Photo courtesy of Amanresorts
As well as the local area, there is also lots to do in the hotel itself. There are several restaurants to choose from, a spa; pool, and library with an extensive array of books and DVDs in both Chinese and English.

Photo courtesy of Amanresorts

This is a beautiful place to stay, but you should also make sure you get out and see the sights, such as the West Lake, and some of the nearby temples. This is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle and concrete of modern China, and comes highly recommended. For more information, the official website can be found here.

07 May, 2012

Travelling, and tickling your taste buds

So far in my travel ramblings feature, I have covered a wide range of topics from owning your own private island, to the benefits of going long haul. This month I decided to focus on one of the things I think is one of the highlights of travelling - discovering new tastes.

On a recent trip to Peru, I came across the dish in the photograph above - 'aji de Gallina'. It's a delicious, traditional Peruvian chicken stew in a sauce that can only be described as spicy, nutty and cheesy! It was my first meal in the country, and was the start of a love affair with the food of South America.

Food can be a very important part of enjoying a trip to a new country. When I return home I sometimes try and replicate dishes I've experienced on my travels - it's almost as if I'm trying to take my taste buds back to where I experienced the food!  I come back from the Caribbean with bottles of hot pepper sauce. I return from Portugal with all sorts of piri piri marinades to test out on chicken. 

However it doesn't always have to be food that excites you on holiday. Sometimes the simple things in life - like sipping a cold beer on a hot day can fill you with pleasure. My family and I constantly try to reenact the scene from the 1958 movie 'Ice Cold in Alex' when we're in a hot country....desperate for a sip of cold beer. Have a look at the scene in question on youtube, and try it out on your next trip! 

What are your best food and drink experiences on your travels? What's the one flavour/dish that takes you back to a country you've been to? Leave your comments below; on my facebook page or on twitter @TravelLightbulb.

04 May, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Amusing road signs

One of the most amusing parts of travelling is funny road signs - I remember one from years ago that said "CAUTION DANGEROUS BEDNS AHEAD"! Today's photo comes from a recent trip to the Caribbean, and doesn't feature a spelling mistake like that, but I found it just as amusing. We were driving around the stunning coastline of Tobago, and came round the corner to see this sign...

It made me laugh out loud, and we giggled every time we passed it after that on our trip! Have you seen any funny road signs on your travels? I'd love to hear about them! 

If you have a photo 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.

02 May, 2012

Beautiful Barbados - Sea-U Guest House

I was inspired to start writing this blog after discovering places all around the world that I knew others would love. One of those places was the Sea-U Guest House in Barbados. Some people believe the island has started to get a little over developed on certain coasts but Bathsheba, on the island's rugged East coast, is one of the nicest areas on the island - overdeveloped it is not!

Photos courtesy of Sea-U
We stayed here for two nights during our holiday to Barbados. It's a great getaway, but a place that would also be perfect for your whole trip if you want to experience a change of pace from a busy life. It is as charming as these photos suggest with lush gardens and stunning views looking out over the Atlantic ocean. There are perfectly situated hammocks in which to relax and make the most of those views, and have a little nap while the ocean waves hit the cliff below.

Photos courtesy of Sea-U
The nine rooms are designed in 'island style', and are very comfortable. You can request an air conditioned room, but there are overhead fans, and the constant breeze that comes off the Atlantic does cool the rooms down anyway. Breakfast is a real treat - it includes eggs and bacon; toast; coffee or tea, and the best bit of all.....banana bread that is still warm from the oven. There is an 'honesty bar' at the Sea-U which has a variety of beers, wines, spirits, and rum punch - oh so yummy!

Photos courtesy of Sea-U
Bathsheba itself is a place full of character. It has less tourists than the rest of the island, but the location is still great for beaches (more suitable for surfing than swimming, but make sure you have a dip in the rockpools that emerge at low tide). There is plenty to do in terms of sightseeing - Andromeda Botanical Gardens; Harrisons Cave, and St. Nicholas Abbey to name a few. While evening meals are available at Sea-U, there are also other dining options nearby- The Round House and The Atlantis Hotel are both great options for lunch or dinner.

Photos courtesy of Sea-U
Sea-U is a retreat from the world that provides its guests with superb amenities without damaging the stunning surroundings, and the fabulous Bajan culture that you want to see. I can't recommend it highly enough. If you'd like more information on Sea-U Guest House Hotel, click here - it really is a special place.