30 July, 2012

The elephant in the room

When you're on your travels, sometimes you come across something that tickles you - and that's what happened on a trip to Portugal earlier this year. I was on my way to Martinhal beach in the Algarve, which is overlooked by the stunning Martinhal beach resort and hotel, when I came across this little guy.

It was part of a touring exhibition of art from Quinta dos Vales (a winery, retreat and arts centre in Estombar) and there were lots of elephants placed in all different locations around the grounds of the resort.

They were all very different in both colour and texture - some painted, while some had pretty cool mosaics. The way the light hit the elephants was just stunning - especially the way the strong Portuguese sunshine hits the darker sculptures.

My own personal favourite was the elephant in the photo below - she looked like she was out for a morning stroll, enjoying the beautiful views from her vantage point!

Sadly, the exhibition is no longer there, but I couldn't resist posting the photos, as they look great! If  you missed my review of the Martinhal hotel itself, click here to read the post - it's also worth going for a cocktail, but it should be noted they don't serve drinks at the hotel itself until 3.30pm - the beach bar is the place to go before then!

27 July, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - 2012 Olympic Special 1

Today is a very special day for sportsmen and women throughout the world. The London 2012 Olympic games begins today, and to honour the event, I'm doing something new here on Travel Lightbulb. My Travel Photo Friday is not just one photo, but two. Not only that, but this theme is going to continue on Friday's over the next three weeks while the games are on. So....now to tell you the tale of today's two photos.

My husband was cycling through the village of Rostherne in Cheshire, and just about fell of his bike when he saw straw figures, like the one in the photo above, all around residents houses! They were so good that the next day, he insisted we head out in the car to see them.

He was right - they're SUPERB! Today's photos are just a little taster of what's to come....prepare for swimmers, cyclists, and comedy over the next few weeks! Oh and enjoy the Olympics!

If you have a photo you'd like to contribute from your travels, then send it to me at travellightbulb@hotmail.co.uk. Please include your name; and a short paragraph telling me where, and when the photo was taken. All contributions are welcome!

25 July, 2012

Algarve beach week: Cordoama

Following on from my first Algarve beach post, today's featured location is another one of my favourite beaches. Cordoama is dramatic, stunning, and unspoilt. It's reached by going through the village of Vila do Bispo in the Western Algarve, around 25 minutes from Lagos. After driving through the town, you really can't miss it as it's signposted all the way.

There are several stunning beaches around here, but this is one of the more accessible ones - the access road was improved a few years ago meaning a much less bumpy drive than before! This beach is on the Algarve's wilder West coast and has beautiful clean water with rolling waves that are perfect for surfing.

It's such a large expanse of sand that it's almost too far to walk from one end to the other - it just seems to go on for miles. There is a small restaurant just beside the parking area, which serves fresh fish (they do superb grilled sardines when they are in season) and they also serve grilled meats, and lighter bites like toasties and salads.

There are stunning cliffs at this beach which not only make Cordoama a dramatic place to photograph, but it's also a great place for paragliders - they regularly use them as a jumping-off point. My suggestion in the summer months would be to get there at a decent time - the car park can fill up pretty quickly especially if there is a decent swell which obviously attracts the surfers.

23 July, 2012

Algarve beach week: Beliche

This week, I've decided to feature two of my favourite beaches in Portugal. Today's offering is near Sagres, at the Western tip of the Algarve. There are a number of beaches in this area, but my favourite is Beliche.

Getting to the beach is easy - it's well signposted from the town, and parking is plentiful. As you can see from the photo below, there are LOTS of stairs to get down to the beach, so take your time as some of them are quite steep.

The bay itself is stunning wth soft golden sand and huge towering cliffs which give you shelter from the wind, which can sometimes be quite strong in this part of the Algarve.

Out of season it can be really deserted, and even in the busy summer months, it would take a lot of people to make it busy! It's hard to sum up just how big this beach is, so take my advice and go and see it for yourself if you're in Portugal.

20 July, 2012

Life's a beach

Today's photo makes me want to jump on a plane! It comes from cameraman and budding photographer Dan Martland, who contributed an amazing Manhattan scene a few months ago (click here if you missed it!). Let's hear more about today's photo from Dan himself.

Just a two hour flight from New York to Delray beach in Florida, it's amazing how the weather is so different. What better way to spend your birthday, than out in the sun! This seagull has the right idea!

Top tip: If you ever get the chance to visit Delray beach, you must try the best ice cream in America. check out "Kilwin's".

Thanks Dan...fantastic shot, and my mouth is watering at the thought of the ice cream! If you'd like to see more of Dan's photos, take a look at his gallery here. If you'd like to share you're own photo with me on Travel Lightbulb, then send your pic, and a short paragraph about where it was taken to the email address on my contact page. Have a great weekend everyone!

18 July, 2012

An adventure paradise in Tanzania.

Today's post features a place that has been described as one of Africa's most remarkable hotels. Chole Mjini Lodge is located in Tanzania; south of Zanzibar, on a tiny tropical island called Chole. There are no roads; no cars; no electricity, and no computers - it really is the ultimate place to get away from it all.

There are also no rooms here....instead there are seven treehouses, which are open to the elements. All have views of the sea, and most have a second level to accomodate families. They also have their own private bathing area which is located below the houses with open-air showers. The treehouses are simple, but stylish and who needs anything other than that when you can fall asleep to the sounds of the waves in a jungle island paradise?

So apart from totally chilling out, what is there to do on the island I hear you ask. Well, there are excursions planned every day (tide dependent) from sunset sailing to snorkelling and swimming with whale sharks, or watching turtles hatch.

Dinner each night is in a different setting, and you can choose if you want to eat on your own, or with other guests. The food is simple, and dominated by a variety of seafood caught that day, with plenty of fresh vegetables and salads.

If you want a luxurious air conditioned en-suite room, then this is not the place for you. However if you want to discover your inner Indiana Jones and are looking for a trip that provides you with paradise and adventure, then you cannot go wrong with Chole Mjini.

16 July, 2012

Petit piece of paradise

Some years ago, I went to an island resort called Petit St. Vincent, a stunning private resort in the Caribbean. I visited while on a trip with the Scaramouche (if you missed that post, click here) and feel I'm due a return trip!When I heard it had undergone a multimillion-dollar facelift, I knew I had to check in with them and see what's new. It turns out a lot has changed on the 115-acre private island, but it has maintained the crucial chill out factor it always had. 

Mike Toy Photography
Petit St. Vincent calls itself a private island for private people, and with only 22 cottages, it does always feel like you have your own little piece of paradise. You can find your own spot of beach or reef to snorkel on, but you can also find seclusion in your beautiful cottage. With it being a private island, food is all inclusive, and while that's not always a good thing it's perfect on PSV. 

Mike Toy Photography

If you're looking for gadgets and mod cons, then you are in the wrong place - the wood and stone cottages are without phones, Wi-Fi and TV's. This renovation is about making improvements, while maintaining the charm of the "get away from it all" island. They have equipped the wood and stone guest cottages with air conditioning and Bose i-pod docks, and have remodelled the bathrooms and furnishings. They have also added a barefoot bar/restaurant, and a thatched roof spa.

Mike Toy Photography

One of the things I remember about PSV was their quirky little flag system - red means do not disturb, while yellow means you need something. I'm pleased to report this local code remains in place even after the transformation - some things should just remain as they are. This is a stunning hotel to stay at anyway, but also a fantastic option for anyone who would like to spend some time on dry land after a sailing trip around the Grenadines.

Mike Toy Photography
Those of you who are regular visitors to the Caribbean will be able to appreciate that it's not always possible to get unspoiled paradise in the Caribbean. Sometimes it's slow service, sometimes it's a resort that's not quite the five stars it promised, but every now and then a place gets it just right. 

13 July, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - My motto for living

I'm going right back to the start with my photo today. It's not so much a travel pic, but my motto for living, and the reason this blog began. If you missed my first post on why I started this blog, click here to read it, and if you already know, then you'll appreciate why I decided to get creative with my motto. A sunny day in my garden provided the perfect backdrop!

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.

11 July, 2012

A deluxe pod in the Swiss Alps

If you fancy a trip to the Alps this summer, then I've found a resort that would provide the ultimate mountain escape for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Not only that, but it is the perfect romantic getaway far from the crowds!

Whitepod offers an unforgettable experience in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Located at an altitude of 1700m, it not only has an authentic mountain lodge, but also the Whitepod camp - 15 domed pods which surround a central chalet and spa.

The pods are fabulous and not cold - they're equipped with wood-burning stoves and luxury bedding. They're all decorated differently, but all have king-size beds; your own bathroom, and large bay windows with your own private deck. The view is just amazing, and you could spend hours snuggled up inside enjoying the stunning views.

At the centre of the pods is an early 1800s wooden chalet where guests meet for breakfast in the morning or gather in the evening around the fire for evening drinks. Many people comment on how it's fun to sledge to the restaurant (which serves typical Swiss food) in the evening!

There are lots of activities on offer, from skiing, to snow shoeing, and dog sledging. Whitepod is only 45 minutes away from Geneva airport, and this would definitely be a trip to the Alps that you would never forget!

09 July, 2012

A peaceful oasis in Marrakech

I may have found the perfect spot to stay in Marrakech. Some people say that walking around the city makes your head spin, and the place I'm featuring today is the perfect peaceful antidote to that. Riad Dar-K is an elegant peaceful oasis in the medina of Marrakech.

The fantastic location (about two minutes from the souks and the museum) in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the Medina means you can never get lost. Traditional architecture combined with modern touches ensures this is one stunning guest house.

The rooms are not only nicely decorated but are also spacious, and the best thing is there are only two double rooms and two suites. If you have a preference for air conditioning, request a room or suite on the first floor.

The room rates include breakfast, which is served in the dining room, courtyard, or on the roof terrace, according to the season. If you wish, traditional Moroccan lunch or dinners are also available on request. There is a plunge pool (which is used from April to October) and the terrace is a perfect place to enjoy the sun, or the sun setting on the rooftops of Marrakech.

One of the best things about this B&B is the owner and staff - nothing is too much trouble, and the attention to detail really makes Riad Dar K a great choice. It comes highly recommended if you're looking for good value for money in a stylish and elegantly decorated riad.

06 July, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Temples at sunrise

Today's Travel Photo Friday features a destination I've yet to include on Travel Lightbulb. The contribution comes from Heidi Brough, so let's find out more about it from the girl herself.

This photo is of the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. There are so many temples to visit in the country, but getting up early to watch the sun rise is an absolute must. Siem Reap nearby is a great place to stay with lots of culture, great food and good nights out - the new Thailand!

Heidi, thanks so much for your beautiful photo! I'm sure it was a challenge to take this pic! If you want to share your own travel photo with me, just send it to me using the email address on my contact page, and include a short paragraph about where it was taken. Thanks in advance for your contributions.

04 July, 2012

Inside the volcano

Sometimes places deserve large photos to illustrate just how amazing they are, and today's post certainly deserves that. Since I was a little girl, I have had a bit of an obsession with volcanoes, and when I heard about what was on offer in the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano near Reykjavic, I knew I had to feature it on my blog.

Photo by Vilhelm Gunnarsson
As someone who suffers from vertigo, today's attraction terrifies me, but I also know it's an amazing opportunity to experience something very few people will ever get the chance to do. This Volcano last erupted over 4000 years ago; and for the first time in history, visitors to Iceland will have the opportunity to see what it looks like on the inside.

Photo by K. Maack
Visitors will descend 380ft through the top crater in an open elevator system (this is the bit that gets my vertigo going!) and down to the bottom of the magma chamber, accompanied by specially trained guides. It's the only place on earth where a huge volcanic magma chamber is accessible, and currently safe to explore.

Photo by K. Maack
The chamber is absolutely enormous - the ground space is equivalent to almost three full-sized basketball courts, and the distance from top to bottom is just short of three Statues of Liberty planted on top of each other - staggering statistics!

Photo by Vilhelm Gunnarsson
You only have a small window in which to take this opportunity - tours are only operating from June 15th until July the 31st 2012, with several departures each day. Only small groups are taken down, and it takes around 5-6 hours to complete the tour, including up to an hour inside the volcano itself. For more information, visit www.insidethevolcano.com

02 July, 2012

Top tips for planning a road trip

If you're new to my blog, then let me explain that on the first Monday of every month, I write a general blog post on travel which I like to call my 'travel ramblings'! Today I decided to be practical, and give you some travel advice on planning a road trip. I've been on several road trips in my life, and have found them to be some of the best holidays I've ever experienced. It can take a massive amount of time and effort (if you REALLY want to do it properly), so here are my top three tips.

Destination & Duration
Your destination is a key part of your planning, and no doubt it is also what inspired you to go on a road trip in the first place. Will you focus on one American state? Do you want to tour the British Isles? How about a European road trip (that gives you SO many options), or do you want to go all out and travel around the world? As far duration goes it sounds like an obvious thing to plan, but working out how long your going for will enable you to work out your destination, and (if you're planning to do several countries) how many countries you'll realistically be able to visit in that time. On one trip, I travelled through Spain; Portugal and France, but spent a week in Portugal so I didn't feel like I was rushing from one place to the other. That is key - make sure it's a road 'trip', not merely a long drive from place to place.

Finances are a crucial part of any holiday; but on a road trip this will determine exactly what sort of accomodation you'll be able to stay in, and what trips you can do along the way. Are you limited to camping, or can you stay in a few budget options to enable you splash out at some stage of your trip? I can HIGHLY recommend doing this, as you feel like you're spoiling yourself! I stayed in a few cheap places, and then stayed in the most stunning former convent as a reward. I always think you can budget for your accommodation costs before you travel, and then estimate your spending money ensuring you won't run out!

While a road trip is all about feeling free to go where you want, and stay longer in one place if you really like it, I believe it's important to have a good itinerary to ensure you're not travelling too much in any one day. I found that six hours really is the limit in a car if you're in a hot country - after that; you stop enjoying the scenery; want to get out to stretch your legs....and have a cold drink! One of the interesting things I did for a couple of my destinations was not pre-booking any accomodation. On reflection although it was nice to fee free to arrive in a place and have a drive around to see where I wanted to stay, it turned out to be the most stressful part of the journey. Interestingly, the places I stayed in were also more expensive than the ones I had booked before I travelled; but I settled for them because I was tired and just wanted to drop my bags, and explore.

So those are my tips for planning a successful road trip. In my experience they can be the best holidays as you discover places that are totally off the tourist trail, as you're not restricted to flying into a specific airport. Some of the places I visited in Spain were full of locals, and five hours from the nearest airport - those can be the little gems that you just wouldn't get on your average holiday. If you're thinking of going on a road trip, DO IT! Embrace the planning; surround yourself by maps to organise your travel, and when you're there enjoy the trip of a lifetime away from the regular tourist trails!