20 December, 2013

Festive Fun

As this is my last blog post before Santa starts making his way around the world, I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy the festive season wherever you are spending the big day! 

Merry Christmas to one and all! 

13 December, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Beautiful buildings

Today's photo was taken during the summer on a visit to The National Football Museum in Manchester. The unique building is in Cathedral Gardens, and opened in 2002 as part of a redevelopment of that area of the city. It has around 2200 glass panes, and looks absolutely stunning, especially on a sunny day! In 2010, the National Football Museum relocated from Preston, and is now housed here. It's well worth a visit, even if you're not a big fan of football, there's always plenty to see! 

If you want more information about the museum, visit the official website here, and if you'd like to contribute one of your own travel photos, then get in touch via the address on my contacts page.s

06 December, 2013

A secluded get-away in Sicily

If you've been following my travel blog for a while, you may remember several features on the beautiful island of Sicily. Today, I'm focusing on a boutique hotel set in a 40 acre estate in a dramatic and beautiful part of the Italian island.

Monaci delle Terre Nere is a stunning retreat on the slopes of Mount Etna. It is a Baroque house which has been transformed into a classy hotel which has beautiful rooms, and incredible views. The grounds are also breathtaking - full of fruit trees, grassy terraces, and there is an infinity pool with great views to the sea.

There are just eight rooms set in and around the main house, and all have an eclectic style incorporating the original features of the building - think 18th century antiques mixed with modern design. 

The hotel specialises in organic food and local wines, and there are also several wonderful restaurants which the owner will recommend if you want to venture out. That's certainly something you should do during the day as there's plenty to see here. Mount Etna (Europe's most active volcano) should not be missed, and you're only 40 minutes or so from Taormina, which has fabulous beaches and stunning scenery. 

This is a very unspoilt part of Sicily, and a very special place to stay. Monaci delle Terre Nere makes a great base from which to explore, but if you're simply looking for a get-away in incredible surroundings, then this is an ideal place for a bit of rest and relaxation.

29 November, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: A little ray of hope

I recently wrote a blog post about samara Private Game Reserve, which is situated in South Africa's Eastern Cape Great Karoo. I don't usually do follow-up pieces on the blog, but came across a heart warming tale, with a great photo to go with it, and thought I'd share it with you in the form of a Travel Photo Friday! In June of this year, a tiny little cheetah cub was born to Bellini, one of the wild females at Samara. None of Bellini's cubs had survived before, so it was understandable that she decided to hide her new cub under a bush close to Samara's lodge, where she knew humans would find her. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Nala.....

It's policy at Samara to leave nature to its own devices, but the staff felt their hearts melt as she mewed with hunger, as her mother had abandoned her, and they agreed to take her into their homes, feeding her every one and a half hours through day and night. You'll be pleased to hear she's thriving! What a gorgeous little cub, and the name Nala, means 'hope' - how appropriate! One....two....three.....aw!

22 November, 2013

Beauty in Brooklyn at Wythe Hotel

When visiting New York, many believe Manhattan is the only place to stay but with the transport system, everything is accessible. I wouldn't have thought of searching for a hotel in Brooklyn, but I came across one with so much style about it, that it has made me want to check it out! 

Courtesy of Wythe Hotel
Located in the heart of Brooklyn, the Wythe Hotel is situated on the waterfront in Williamsburg, a real up-and-coming borough. It was build in 1901, and has been converted into a 70 room hotel which is like no other in the area.  

Courtesy of Wythe Hotel
The rooms have high original timber ceilings, oversized windows, and heated concrete floors. Many of them boast floor-to-ceiling views of the Manhattan skyline, and East River. They're quirky in style, and extremely beautiful.

Courtesy of Wythe Hotel
 Another huge plus point of the hotel is its 6th floor bar and terrace, with stunning views of Manhattan and Brooklyn - a great place to return to after a day of sightseeing!

Courtesy of Wythe Hotel
The hotel's location is fantastic - only 15-20 minutes from lower Manhattan, and there are lots of vintage stores, and cool cafes around the hotel in Williamsburg anyway if you fancy experiencing something a little bit different. If you want more information about this funky hotel, check out the official website here.

15 November, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Sam Lord's Castle, Barbados

Today's Travel Photo Friday is a little sad. The tale goes like this....in the parish of St Phillip on the Caribbean island of Barbados was a beautiful Georgian mansion. It was built in 1820 by a notorious buccaneer Samuel Hall Lord, known as 'Sam Lord'. Legend has it that Sam Lord acquired his wealth by plundering ships, which he lured onto the reefs off the coast, by hanging lanterns in the palm trees. Captains mistook these lights for the island's capital, Bridgetown, and wrecked their ships on the reefs. 

For years, the property was run as a stunning hotel, but it was sadly consumed by fire in 2010, and remains closed to this day. It's incredibly spooky to wander round the ruins, seeing the effects the sea air has had on the building, and think of the good times people had holidaying at the hotel. 

Top tip: The beach by the hotel is secluded and stunning, so if you find yourself in this area of Barbados - have a wander round, and pop down to the beach for a swim!

If you have a photo you'd like to contribute, please get in touch - and I'd also love to hear your own stories of derelict properties that you may have come across on your travels!

08 November, 2013

Unexpected beauty in Isla Cristina

Have you ever stopped somewhere when you're driving, and been surprised at just how nice a place is when you don't have very high expectations of what you're going to see? That happened to me when I decided to stop for lunch in Isla Cristina, which is situated in the province of Huelva. 

It is one of the most important fishing ports in the province, and is also a popular summer holiday resort, and I loved it! I had a wander down by the port and the small beaches, which were packed with Spaniards on their holidays, but it was the town itself that I found beautiful. 

It was the height of summer, and the intense midday sun was beating down, so I decided to wander through the little winding streets walking from side to side to grab a bit of shade! The good thing was that everyone else seemed to be having a siesta, so the streets were deserted!

I came across beautiful buildings, and even the doors were stunning, and I couldn't resist taking my camera out to get some shots. 

It just goes to show that it's well worth getting off the beaten track, and discovering places that you've never heard of before. You never know what you may find!

01 November, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Always look up

I was once given a top tip by a friend who is a photographer. The advice was to "Always look up".  If you're a keen photographer, especially when you go on holiday, I have to say it's a great tip! 

I took today's photo when wandering around Isla Cristina in Southern Spain, and although it was searingly hot that day - 42 degrees no less! - I'm glad I had my wits about me and looked up, otherwise I'd never have spotted these storks and their nests on the top of a stunning church. This is a little preview of the post that will be appearing on my blog next week actually - I'll say no more, but rest assured there are some cracking photos to look out for in the blog post.

If you'd like to see one of your own travel photos featured here, then please get in touch via the address on my contact page. Thanks, and happy travelling!

25 October, 2013

Safari at Samara Private Game Reserve

Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that I'm desperate to go on a safari one day. Luxury is the way to go in my opinion, and I came across the beautiful award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and it's definitely a contender for me!

The family-owned reserve has modern luxury accommodation in three different locations, situated within 70,000 acres full of wildlife. There are suites in the main homestead; others which offer more privacy with individual cottages, and two which share a wooden deck overlooking a waterhole.

The reserve is home to a growing abundance of African wildlife, including a large number of endangered species. You have the opportunity to see the elusive cheetah, aardvarks, as well as a huge variety of other animals, and birds.

Home cooked meals are served in either the dining room; under the stars, or on the veranda. Guests report that the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and the attention to details is sublime.

Imagine coming back from a drive to find someone had run your bath, and left you a glass of sherry by the bathtub....perfect! If you want more information, you can visit the official website here.

18 October, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Leopard in the lens

I love today's photo contribution, which comes from fellow travel blogger Cole Burmester. Here's the background to the photo...

It was taken at Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya on my 2nd day in Africa. We were nearly on our way out of the park gate when our guide got a radio message that a leopard was up in a tree. Hurtling along the road, we managed to pull up about 40m away from the tree. It was magical just sitting there watching it rest, and I probably took more than fifty photos! Definitely a highlight of my three months in Africa.

What an amazing shot - it looks like the leopard is looking right down the lens! Simply stunning. If you'd like to read more about Cole's travels, and Lake Nakuru in particular, visit www.fourjandals.com
Thanks for the contribution Cole, and happy travelling!

11 October, 2013

Something a little different in the Algarve

If you've ever been on holiday in Portugal, you'll know that the array of local food on offer is absolutely delicious. As someone who is allergic to fish, however,  I often look for an alternative to the grilled meat dishes served in the majority of restaurants, so I can enjoy a little change.

I found something completely different in the town of Luz, at Chicca's. It's a small restaurant which serves delicious home made food, with a variety of vegetarian dishes; pasta; meat, and beautiful pies.

The owner, Chicca, is delightfully eccentric, and brings a blackboard packed with daily specials to your table. If you have a question about any of the dishes, then just ask and you'll see just how passionate Chicca is about her food! 

I ordered the lasagne (above) and my husband had one of the delicious chorizo pies, which is accompanied by no less than nine delicious mini salads. The best suggestion I can give you is to leave room for dessert - they're astonishingly good, and I apologise for the lack of photo to illustrate that!

The food is fresh, delicious, organic, and not too expensive either. Top tips: Chicca doesn't take reservations, so go early if you want to be sure of getting a table. If you want more information on Chicca's, visit the official website here.

04 October, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Scotland in the Caribbean

Looking at today's photo, with the rugged coastline and rolling waves, you would be forgiven for thinking the picture was taken in Scotland. However the blue skies probably tell you that's not the case! The photo is in fact taken in St. Andrew - one of eleven parishes of Barbados. 

The parish is named after the patron saint, Saint Andrew, and during the colonial years under Britain, the British thought the area resembled the hills and fields of Scotland. This led to parts of the parish being nicknamed the "Scotland District". It really is a beautiful part of the island and, being a proud Scot, I love to visit every time I go to the island! 

If you have a photo you'd like to see featured here, please get in touch via my contact page.

27 September, 2013

Bowled over by Sweden's capital city

 Before I visited Stockholm, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it the capital of Sweden; I knew it was spread across fourteen islands in the south-east of the country - but that was about it. When I got there, I was stunned by its beauty and the whole vibe of the place.

The fact that this beautiful city is built on islands, means there are lots of beautiful bridges connecting them all - in fact there are 57 bridges! Another thing that strikes you as a visitor is how clean the city is, despite the streets bustling with people in the summer months. I've never seen so many people just sitting around enjoying some food and a glass or two of wine!

Speaking of food, there's one thing you must try when in Stockholm - the traditional Swedish dish of meatballs, and brown cream sauce. They are served with lingonberries (similar in taste to cranberries), which compliment the dish beautifully. 

Top tip: Make sure you spend time wandering the streets of Gamla Stan (the Old Town) - there are picturesque streets; great shops and restaurants, and this is where the city seems to come alive!

20 September, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Cows and captions!

Of all the travel photos I have featured on my blog, I have to say that this is the first one that I think should actually be the subject of a caption competition! I saw these cows on a lovely walk in Cheshire one Sunday afternoon - is it just me, or does the one on the right look like it's deep in conversation with the other one? 

This isn't an actual competition, but if you feel like leaving a comment just for fun, then please feel free! If you have a travel photo you'd like to contribute to my blog, please get in touch via my contact page.

13 September, 2013

Taking to the water in the Lakes

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in England, and one of my favourite places in the area is Coniston Water. At five miles long, with a maximum depth of 184 feet, it is the third largest of the lakes. It is also where Donald Campbell attempted to break the World Water Speed Record in 1966/67.

It provided an important fish source for the monks of Furness Abbey, who owned the lake in the 13th and 14th centuries, and since then it has been used to transport slate and ore from the mines in the valley above Coniston Village.

There are breathtaking views to be had around here - especially when you're on the water itself. There are various ways to do just that - an elegant Victorian Steam Yacht Gondola sails between March and November. You can also hire your own boat, whether it be a motor boat, canoe, or sailing boat. My own personal favourite way to experience the Lake is in a rowing boat. 

My top tip - if you're a lady, make sure you have a competent rower with you - nothing sexist whatsoever here....it just means you can sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery without the hard work! For more information on boat hire, click to visit the Coniston Boating Centre website.

06 September, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Windmills of my mind

Today's photo was taken in Vila do Bispo, in the Western Algarve. I was wandering around the town, and came across the stunning restored windmill - which I'm sure you'll agree looks amazing against the deep blue sky. The town itself has a very interesting claim to fame. 

In 1543 a man from the village called Ferñao Mendes Pinto was one of the first European to land in Japan. In 1992, a new square was built on the outskirts of the town to celebrate its twinning with the island he visited - and that is how 'Praça de Tanegashima' came to be!

If you have a photo that has a story behind it, or just a cool travel photo you're willing to donate, then get in touch - details of how to do that are on the contact page of my blog. Thanks!

30 August, 2013

If it's Made in Belfast, it's good!

I stumbled upon an online review of a restaurant called 'Made in Belfast', and made a point of visiting it on a recent trip there. Wow - this place is fantastic!

The decor is eclectic, with mismatching chairs, and a shabby chic style - but it really works, and gives the place an informal, but quirky feel about it.

The food is simply stunning. I had the dish pictured above - beetroot and feta risotto. I wasn't sure what to expect with the vivid pinky colour of the beetroot, but I was secretly hoping it would be pink, and I wasn't disappointed! The flavours were fantastic, and the portion was HUGE!

My dining partner had the Moroccan lamb, and it was so tender, it just fell to pieces with his fork. He also thought the flavours were delicious, and I agreed when I had a little taste of his dish!

If you're looking for somewhere to eat in Belfast city centre, then I can't recommend this place highly enough. It's cool without trying too hard; the staff were fantastic, and the menu rocks! It's so successful there are now two venues in the city, so if you want more information, visit the official website here.

23 August, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Tucking in

Today's photo, which comes courtesy of Tanya Davie, is one of my favourite contributions to date. It's the sort of photo that takes your mind a moment to ask itself "Am I really seeing this?". You are indeed seeing a giant fork in the middle of a lake! The lake in question is Lake Geneva, and the fork has become an emblem for the town of Vevey. It's made of stainless steel, and is 8m high and 1.3m wide! It was designed by Swiss sculptor Jean-Pierre Zaugg, and was embedded in the lake in 1995. It was initially intended to stay there for a year, but has become a permanent fixture - and I love it! 

Tanya, thanks so much for the photo contribution - it's certainly one of the more unusual shots to be featured on Travel Lightbulb! 

If you have a photo you'd like to contribute, I'd love to hear from you - details of how to get in touch are on my contact page.

16 August, 2013

Crazy architecture in Seville

At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking the structure I'm featuring today is a roller-coaster.....but it's not!

It is, in fact, a wooden structure called Metropol Parasol in the old quarter of Seville. It has totally revitalised the Plaza de la Encarnación, and contains a market, shops, and a podium for concerts and events.

The parasol (locally nick-named 'The Mushroom' because of its shape) was completed in 2011, and is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world, and the world's biggest building to be held together by glue - quite a scary thought when you're at the top!

Speaking of the top, the views from the upper level are sensational and well worth the €1.60 fee to get there. You can see right across the whole of Seville, and beyond, and there are signs to tell you about the many interesting buildings that you can see along the way.

The market is worth a wander, and below ground there are impressive Roman ruins so there's plenty to see here. The main attraction for me though, was the trip to the top, and the way the crazy modern structure seems to frame the old buildings of Seville perfectly. Well worth a visit if you're in this stunning city.

09 August, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Beauty in Burma

Today's photo was kindly donated by Naomi Alyssa, who also writes a travel blog. It was taken in one of her new favourite countries, Burma. Here's Naomi's tale: The photo is of the Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda in Mawlamyine/Moulmein. I got there one day for some sightseeing, and wound up witnessing an initiation ceremony for a group of novice monks. One of the families spotted me watched and invited me to join; by the time the ceremony had ended and we'd all eaten dinner, the sun was setting and had turned the pagoda a deep gold. It was such a gorgeous sight, and something you see often in Burma!

Thanks Naomi - what a beautiful shot - I can almost feel the heat of the sun! If you want to read more about Naomi's travels, then visit her blog www.anywhere-but-home.com. If you'd like to contribute your own travel photo, then please get in touch - details of how to do just that are on my contact page.

02 August, 2013

A hotel with history in Worcestershire

I love featuring quirky places on Travel Lightbulb, and today I'm not only showcasing something of that ilk, but it's also jam-packed full of history. The Wood Norton Hotel in Worcestershire is just a few miles from the Cotswolds, and Stratford-Upon-Avon, and was originally built as a hunting lodge for European Royalty in 1897.  

In 1939, the BBC bought the site, and by 1940 it had become one of the largest broadcasting centres in Europe. It was used for some the filming of the Doctor Who series Robot, where Tom Baker made his first appearance as the much loved time lord!

Following a four million pound restoration in 2012, it is now a beautiful luxury hotel. There are fifty rooms, which make the most of traditional features including oak-panelled walls, and stunning fireplaces. Fine British cuisine is served in the restaurant, with food made from local ingredients.

The hotel is the perfect location for exploring the Cotswolds, Worcestershire, and the Malvern Hills and it would also be a beautiful wedding venue. If you'd like more information on the hotel, you can visit the official website here.

26 July, 2013

Travel Photo Friday: Titanic proportions

On a recent trip to Belfast, I visited the Titanic experience, which tells the tragic tale of the world's most famous liner. As well as the main exhibition (which extends over nine galleries), you can also visit the Titanic Dock and Pump-house - which is where today's photo was taken. Titanic sat in this very dry dock on the eve of her first and last voyage in April of 1912. What I loved about it was that you're able to wander around the dock by yourself, and soak up the sheer scale of the liner - just take a look at the size of the people in the photo below, and that gives you an idea of how massive the dock is!

Top tip: If you go to the Titanic Experience, I'd highly recommend a trip to the dry dock as well - it's very strange, and ghostly to walk in the footstep of the Titanic. 

If you have a photo you'd like to contribute, then please get in touch through the details on my contact page - I'd love to see photos from your own travels!

19 July, 2013

Beachside in Brazil

The photo below gives you an idea of just how idyllic the location of today's featured hotel is. The Uxua Casa Hotel and Spa is the only boutique hotel in the historic main square of Trancoso,a small fishing village on Brazil's idyllic southern Bahian coast.

There are ten private casas, with a stinning beachside location, and the balance between luxury and laid-back is just right! Four of the houses are restored fishermen's homes which face the 16th century town green. The others are hidden in a lush private garden. The rooms are all unique and are furnished with a lot of recycled materials, and are simply stunning.

There are two restaurants specializing in traditional Bahian cuisine (think fish stews, and fresh seafood), and many guests say one of the highlights of their stay is the food. There is also a spa, and a gym so you can chill out, or exercise - whatever takes your fancy!

There is also a stunning lake-like swimming pool made entirely of of healing aventurine quartz - a native Bahian stone considered to be among the most therapeutic minerals in the world. Not only that, but the hotel has one of the coolest beach bars I've ever seen - a spectacular 'beach lounge' created from old fishing boats which takes 'shabby chic' to a whole new level!

The hotel is a 90 minute car ride from the Porto Seguro airport - just remote enough for you to feel like you can leave all your worries behind! If you want to find out more about this hotel, then visit the official website here.