31 August, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: Mesmerising Mallorca

Today's travel photo was taken on the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca. I went a few years ago, and having heard a lot of negative reports about places like Magaluf, I didn't know what to expect. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the island - one day we took a long trip in our hire car discovering what it had to offer, and stunning scenes like the one in the photo below were commonplace. It really is stunning.

There really is something for everyone on Mallorca, from the bustling capital of Palma to the spectacular mountains and picture-postcard villages of the North and West. I loved it so much, I am going back later this summer, so watch out for lots of Travel Lightbulb tips on the blog on my return!

In the meantime, do you have a travel photo you'd like to contribute? If so, get in touch on the email address on my contact page - I'd love to hear from you and share your experiences. After all, that's what travel is all about!

29 August, 2012

Porto Week: Luxury at The Yeatman

This is the second of my posts on accommodation in Portugal's second largest city Porto and today, it's all about luxury. Porto is a haven for wine lovers, and the prime destination for anyone who wishes to experience the pleasures of Port itself - the classic wine for which this city is famous.

The Yeatman is a stunning hotel located in Vila Nova de Gaia, just across the river from Porto in the middle of Porto's wine companies. If you are a wine enthusiast, then you'll be in your element here.   Some of Portugal's finest producers sponsor individual rooms and suites and the hotel's spa has exclusive skincare products and therapies using extracts from the vine!

As for the hotel itself, there are eighty-two stunning guest rooms and suites, each with private balcony's which have fantastic views across the river Douro to Porto's historic centre. They're all incredibly spacious; fitted to the highest standard, and even the bathrooms have stunning views of the city!

There are outdoor and indoor pools, and both look onto the stunning panorama of the city - what better place to sit and enjoy a Port before discovering what the city has to offer? Many guests say The Yeatman exceeds the expectations you may have of a five-star hotel, from the unique architecture, to the grand public spaces.

In my opinion, tourists who head straight to the Algarve, or indeed to Lisbon, without discovering the delights of northern Portugal are missing out. Porto is a great destination to begin exploring this part of the country, and it has to be said - the fact it doesn't draw too many tourists is probably one of it's biggest charms. If you missed my budget suggestion, find it below this post.

27 August, 2012

Porto week: Budget option at 6Only

This week I'm dedicating two posts to the fantastic city of Porto, and two very different accommodation options - one budget and one luxury. For some reason, Porto isn't considered to be one of the top destinations for a city break, but I can't imagine why. If you haven't heard much about the city, it's Portugal's second largest city behind Lisbon, and is very different to the rest of the country. It is a very hilly city with medieval alleyways; stunning over the top baroque churches, and beautiful squares.

Porto's historic centre is the Ribiera district, which is a UNESCO World Heritage zone with houses that  seem to tumble down the hillside towards the River Douro. The place I've picked as my low-cost find for this fabulous city is called '6Only'.


It's a guest house situated slap bang in the middle of the city, and as the name suggests, there are only six rooms. It's a stylish bed and breakfast that has recently been converted, and the great location means it's close to all the main sites. The rooms are comfortable, and the public spaces are stylishly finished. The breakfasts are also great with fresh juice and freshly baked cakes.

If you're looking for a simple but stylish place to stay in the old town of Porto, within walking distance to almost all the major sights, then this is the place for you.

24 August, 2012

Travel Photo Friday: Brilliance in Barcelona

Here's a photo to brighten your day and set you up for the weekend. It was taken in Barcelona's Park Guell. If you don't know about the park, Eusebi Guell bought a large farm, and wanted to build a stylish park for Barcelona's aristocracy. The works were commissioned to one of my favourite artists, Antonio Gaudi, and the park contains amazing stone structures and fascinating buildings. At the top of is a terraced area where you get an incredible view of the city of Barcelona.

Top tip: The park is large, and I'd highly recommend leaving around half a day for a visit, but it's well worth it.

If you have a travel photo you'd like to see featured here, then please email the address on my contact page - I love reader contributions, so get in touch!

22 August, 2012

LODGE WEEK: A Luxury lodge in New Zealand

For the second post of the week featuring stunning lodges, we head off to a totally different corner of the world, New Zealand. Minaret Station is the country's first luxury tented lodge, and sits at the head of a picturesque glacial valley. If you're struggling to imagine what the scenery looks like here, it may help you to know that Peter Jackson filmed parts of the Lord of the Rings in the immediate vicinity of the lodge.

If you've ever dreamt of arriving somewhere in style, then this could be for you, because it's only accessible by helicopter from Wanaka Airport. There are many places that claim to have luxury tented accomodation, but they really mean it here! The four luxury tented suites are available in either double or twin configuration, and come with sheepskin carpets; king size beds; private decks with their own hot tub, and are fully en-suite.

All food and drinks are included in the package, and you can expect the freshest food imaginable as it comes either from the mountain stream, or the farm. As for the wine, the Central Otago region boasts the world's southern most vineyards, and is renowned for it's uniquely charactered wines due to the hot dry summers and cooler winters.

The main Mountain Kitchen lodge is the hub of this site, and contains the library, dining room (with roaring fire), kitchen and living room. Meals are served in the dining room, or out on the deck - and if you prefer they can serve your meal at your tented suite. There is also a library of DVD's and books.

If you want peace and quiet then this place if for you - Minaret Station is a 65,000 acre private high country property with no road access, 25km lake frontage and adjoins Mt Aspiring National Park. If you'd like more information you can go to the official website here.

20 August, 2012

LODGE WEEK: Argentinian serenity

Argentina is a country that's very much on my list of places to visit, and when I stumbled upon the magical place I'm featuring today (in the first of two posts on lodges), it climbed even higher up my bucket list! Aguas Arriba Lodge is 37km from Chalten (the trekking capital of Argentina), and overlooks Desierto Lake. It's under the distant gaze of Mount Fitz Roy, with majestic views of the Vespignani glacier.

You can only get to the lodge by boat (or a three hour trek if you're fit enough!), ensuring total seclusion and a serene experience.  The seven rooms are extremely comfortable, and have picture postcard views . In fact many guests leave their curtains open so they wake up to the sun rising over Mount Fitz Roy.

There are lots of hiking trails around the lodge and each evening before dinner, you all get together to plan the activities for the following day- such as treks, fly fishing or boat trips. The great thing is, because you're already in a stunning secluded location, you have the advantage of feeling like you're in the wilderness while still being close to the lodge.

On offer is delicious food described by the lodge as fresh, natural, local and 'Grandma's recipes'! You can enjoy the food in the dining room; the living room, or on the deck overlooking the lake with amazing views of the glaciers.  There are lovely places to relax apart from your room. There is a library with books on everything from Patagonia to classic cars, and history. You can watch the sunsets or full starry sky from the deck, and there is a second deck at the back of the house which faces the forest.

It's a superb place for those who love nature and the beauty of the mountains to immerse themselves in the magnificent natural splendor of Mount Fitz Roy and the Argentine Andes. The motto on the official website says: ""leave the hiking shoes, the mud, water and the mountain in the entrance hall. Get on your comfy shoes, breath in and relax" - sounds like a plan to me!

17 August, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - Tales from Japan

Today on Travel Photo Friday we travel to Japan - a country I find both beautiful and exciting. It's a contribution which comes from Beth Nicholls who is currently on a six month adventure in Japan. So let's hear the story behind the photo.

"Fushimi Inari is quite an extraordinary place. A few miles south of Kyoto, it is home to over 1000 red torii shrine gates, which weave around the mountainside. ‘Inari’ is the name of the god of rice, a diet staple and fundamental part of Japanese life. There are thousands of Inari shrines across the country but the one at Fushimi is the most famous. It was founded twelve centuries ago, and remains an active part of the community. Nearly every single one of the 1000+ cinnabar red shrine gates are ‘sponsored’ by local businesses. But when a company’s name is written in beautiful flowing kanji lettering, it somehow doesn’t feel commercial at all."

"Each of them offer prayers for prosperity – and some of them pay as much as $150,000 for the privilege! I visited with my parents many years ago and we purchased a tiny red model gate from the shrine shop and hid it in the forest, off the mountain path. We searched for it but couldn’t find it this time round – I like to think that a cheeky wild monkey moved it and uses it as the entrance to his little house in the trees…"

Beth - what a beautiful photo and a wonderful story! I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip in the unique country that is Japan. Beth is the founder of 'Do What You Love', and you can read more about her adventures on her blog which can be found at dowhatyouloveforlife.com. If you want to contribute, please email your travel photo, along with a paragraph about it at the email address on my contact page.

15 August, 2012

One of Verona's best kept secrets

In the stunning city of Verona, since the beginning of the 1900s, the 'Antico Caffe Dante Ristorante' has been a meeting point and a part of life for locals. It's been described as the heart of good food and wine in Verona, and is situated in the heart of the city in the beautiful Piazza del Signori.

Photo from www.caffedante.it
It's an elegant restaurant, and something many describe as an eye-opening experience. While it's located in an area populated with typical average tourist offerings, this is a class apart. It's set in a beautiful historic building, and the food - especially the signature dish of is braised beef cheeks in barolo sauce - is to die for.

Photo from www.caffedante.it
The restaurant has an extensive menu, and an even bigger wine list! They also have a tasting menu which includes pre and post dinner drinks; two starters; a main course, and a dessert.

Photo from www.caffedante.it
Travel Lightbulb was set up to try and help others discover the hidden places you may not come across, and this is definitely one of Verona's best secrets. Eating at this restaurant can only be described as remarkable, and a dining experience not to be missed. You can visit the official website here.

13 August, 2012

A little bit of France in Manchester

I always think it would be nice to be able to bring a bit of the countries you visit home with you. Wouldn't it be good to be able to enjoy a delicacy of a foreign country when you're back on home soil to brighten up your day? Well in my opinion, a new restaurant in Manchester lets you do just that. Le Relais de Venise is better know to many who eat there as 'L'Entrecote'. A few years ago, I visited the original restaurant in Paris (which opened in 1959), and was delighted when it opened another branch in the UK. As well as Paris, there are already successful restaurants in both London and New York, and I wanted to see if I could replicate the fantastic experience I had in Paris. The question is, would it work outside of the French capital?

You won't spend hours pouring over the menu here - there is no choice. To start, a simple green salad with walnuts and a mustard vinaigrette. This is served with some pieces of crusty baguette so you can make the most of the dressing.

That's followed by steak frites, so the only question you need to answer is whether you want it rare, medium or well done. The best bit about the main course is the secret sauce that comes on the steak. I don't quite know how to describe it (I suppose it wouldn't be a secret if I could!) but think garlic, and herbs, and something that compliments the fantastic meat, and doesn't overpower it.

When your main course arrives you may think the portion sizes are small, but they cleverly serve it in two stages, holding one half back to keep it warm. This means you enjoy the meal at its best, and the second half of your steak is served with freshly prepared frites.

As for the wine and desserts there is a small but perfectly adequate wine list which suits all budgets, and the desserts are what you'd expect from a French restaurant - a cheese board; lemon tarts; profiteroles, and creme brulee amongst other delights.

I really did feel like I was in France when I was in the Le Relais de Venise. They have achieved in not only with the food, but also in the ambience they've created - waitresses in black and white uniforms; tables for two close together; and teeny wine glasses just as 'en France'. In answer to the question I posed of whether it works outside of Paris - I think it does. The food is simple, but delicious. The service is swift, but not rushed and the staff are friendly. If you're looking for a good old steak but want it delivered in the style of a Parisien restaurant, then this is the place for you.

10 August, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - 2012 Olympic Special 3

It's quite fitting that my Olympics special 'Travel Photo Friday' feature ends with a cycling theme since that's how these straw sculptures were discovered in the first place (if you haven't read the story click here). British cyclists have been stealing the headlines for some time now with Chris Hoy; Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins all impressing over the last ten years or so.

I loved the fact that the straw cyclist looks like he's having to dig in just to keep going. However when I first discovered this one, I didn't realise what would be round the corner.......

............yes, I think he took a wrong turn, and ended up in a hay bale! I hope you've enjoyed my Olympic themed photos over the last three weeks - I certainly love them, and it's great that so much effort went into making them - I'm sure they've been stopping traffic for weeks. Back to normal next week with another great travel photo, and if you want to contribute, just send your photo and a short paragraph about where it was taken to the email address on my contact page. Enjoy the last few days of the 2012 Olympic games.

08 August, 2012

A chill out spot in Antigua

Antigua is a beautiful Caribbean island famed for having 365 beaches - yes, that's right - one for each day of the year! The Trade Winds Hotel is one of the island's best kept secrets, and despite being set in lush deep gardens, it's still close to the beach. In fact the hotel have a complimentary beach shuttle service which is available on request.

As with many hotels in the Caribbean, the bedrooms are not filled with mod cons, but Trade Winds doesn't pretend to provide the ultimate in hotel luxury. Having said that the rooms have recently been refurbished, with tropical styling, and great beds.

The hotel restaurant, The Bay House, is one of the best on the island, and is renowned for its superb  service, and delicious local and international cuisine. If you have't tried Caribbean food it's a must - so tasty!

 So what is there to do on the island if you want to get out and about? It's well worth taking a boat trip to Barbuda, and you can also take a tip to Montserrat. That said, you can easily fill your holiday with days on the beach, sightseeing (Nelson's Dockyard is worth visiting) and generally chilling out. If you hire a car, remember there are all those beaches to discover!

There are spectacular views from the hotel across Dickenson Bay, and although the location is lovely and peaceful, it's just a fifteen minute drive to the airport, or ten minutes to the bustling capital, St John's. You can visit the hotel's official website by clicking here.

06 August, 2012

Fiat Fetish!

When you're on holiday, do you ever find yourself getting a little obsessed with taking photos of one particular subject? It might be a beautiful sunset, or it could be a beach scene. On almost every holiday I go on, I seem to have an attraction to one thing or another, and when I was in Italy, it was the Fiat 500!

These iconic little cars are so cute, and in Italy, they're EVERYWHERE! There are old, well-loved ones on streets. Beautiful cars that, despite their age, are still looked after by their also ageing owners.

There are also quirky ones that have been 'pimped' over the years (see below!). So instead of thinking that all I was going to go home with was photo after photo of cars, I filled up my memory card with countless shots, and the more I captured, the more I realised I had a complete crush. Mind you, what's wrong with that - after all, everyone loves a little holiday romance!

Come on, reveal your own photographic infatuations - what are you obsessed with?

03 August, 2012

Travel Photo Friday - 2012 Olympic Special 2

If you dropped by my blog last Friday, you'll be well aware that for the duration of the London 2012 Olympic games, my Travel Photo Friday will take on a bit of a new look - two photos and an Olympic theme! For the story behind the photos click here to read last week's post. If you already know the background of how I came across these straw sculptures, read on!

One of my favourite straw people was the one of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in the photo above. I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself a couple of years ago, and he was a giant!

I loved this swimmer hanging onto the railings, looking as though she's about to dive into a pool! I have to say though, I've saved the best til last.....check in again next Friday to see the final two photos - very amusing they are too! 

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.

01 August, 2012

Happy 1st birthday Travel Lightbulb!

Is it possible for a blog to have a birthday? Well I have decided it is, as I had to mark the occasion somehow! I can't believe a whole year has passed since I started travel blogging, and I have loved every minute of it.

The idea came from a fantastic e-course I did which encouraged me to look at life from a different angle, and to try and do what I love every day. Since then I have made significant changes both in my life, and my career - and from there the blog was born!

As a girl who's passionate about holidays and travelling, I started Travel Lightbulb because so many friends and family asked me for tips on where to go, and what to do. I thought it was selfish not to share the amazing spots I have found with others; and along the way, I have now also discovered some incredible places that I would like to visit myself in the future.

So what's next for Travel Lightbulb? Well I'm working on some new features, and have some posts lined up that I know you're doing to love! In the meantime, I just want to keep dreaming of those places out there that I haven't yet discovered. I'd love to hear your comments on my first year of blogging, so feel free to leave them below, or send them to the email address on my contact page. Thanks for following, and here's to the second year!