Travel with a mate http://www.travelwithamate.com Travel advice, destinations and reviews from a family of travel addicts. Thu, 25 May 2017 15:04:14 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 5 Reasons Why Greece is Perfect for Family Trips http://www.travelwithamate.com/5-reasons-greece-perfect-family-trips/ Thu, 25 May 2017 15:04:14 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31510 There are over a hundred reasons to visit Greece – blue skies, turquoise waters and stunning views. A trip to places like Mykonos in Greece is not just for romantic vacations, taking your family to Greece might just be one of the most memorable experiences you can have. Here are the top 5 reasons why ...

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There are over a hundred reasons to visit Greece – blue skies, turquoise waters and stunning views. A trip to places like Mykonos in Greece is not just for romantic vacations, taking your family to Greece might just be one of the most memorable experiences you can have.

Here are the top 5 reasons why Greece is perfect for family trips. Save these tips because they can be a handy guide when visiting this paradise.

Have a look!

Variety of Activities for Children

Greece offers a variety of fun-filled experiences for children and adults. From recreational activities to musical performances and experiences that bring you closer to nature, Greece is a slice of heaven on earth.

Athens

Athens attracts the highest number of tourists in Greece, which is why it offers a many activities to families visiting the city. You can spend your days visiting ancient ruins or exploring history from Acropolis to Ancient Agora.  The National Gardens and Zappeio Gardens are located adjacent to each other and have a mini zoo, duck pond, turtles’ pool and much more.

Hellenic Comos and Planetarium are the two top choices for taking exciting virtual reality tours. The Museum of Greek Children’s Art and Hellenic Children’s Museum also offers history lessons, as well as culinary and cultural classes for kids.

Cyclades

Cyclades has glorious beaches and sugar-cube island villages, where you can stay for several days and enjoy beachside recreational activities such as kite surfing, boating, fishing, scuba diving and a lot more.

The Ancient Olympia

The Ancient Olympia in The Peloponnese was once the original site for Olympic Games. The ruins have been preserved to offer an awe-inspiring experience.

Dikteon Cave on Lasithi Plateau

Crete is a perfect destination to visit for exploring popular Greek caves such as the Dikteon Cave situated on the Lasithi Plateau.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Heraklion Archaeological Museum at Knossos is considered to be one of the most important museums in Europe. It offers a display of archaeological finds from all over the island of Crete, dating back to the Minoan civilisation.

Medieval Forts

Medieval Forts at Corfu and Rhodes are great for mountain climbing along the sea. Children can also enjoy outdoor activities such as horseback riding or hiking on natural trails.

Nisyros’ Volcanoes

You can hear the famous Nisyros’ volcanoes bubbling and hissing from the top, or take a boat trip around the volcanic island of Milos.

Carnivals

Skyros and Patra host popular Greek carnivals. Apart from these, Greece offers various other carnivals and fun-filled events throughout the year.

Easy Family Accommodation

From luxury villas to beachfront resorts and cheaper condos within the city, Greece offers all types of accommodations for families. Exclusive accommodations such as villas in Mykonos make Greece your home away from home with luxury facilities and family entertainment. These luxury villas include panoramic views of enchanting towns on one side and stunning beaches on the other. Soak up the sparkling Greek sun in outdoor Jacuzzis or explore gardens covered with vivid purple flowers.

Mykonos is also a perfect destination for you if you love to party. Mykonos has various beaches including Platys Gialos, Ornos Beach and others. Delos, the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo according to Greek mythology, is also located close by.

Many family accommodations in Greece come with a fully-equipped kitchenette, laundry and ironing services along with centrally air-conditioned rooms. Complimentary services include beauty accessories like hair dryers, unlimited internet access, personal medical-aid kit, fully-equipped lounge and dining area, and a lot more. You will also find a number of options for luxury Mykonos villas and hotels within your budget.

Island Beaches

Island beaches in Greece are known for clear water, spectacular marine life and sand ranging from gold to crystal white.

Elafonisi, Crete – One hour boat ride from Paleachora, this island is known for pink sand and turquoise water.

Plaka Beach, Naxos – Naxos Island is home to not only the famous Plaka Beach, but also has many other beautiful beaches. Plaka Beach also offers a wide choice of taverns with local and international cuisine.

Sarakiniko Beach, Milos – This is an amazing rocky beach on the island of Milos. It is also referred to as the ‘moon beach’ because of its alien looking landscape.

Kolymbithres, Paros – Gorgeous blue water, grey rocks and numerous coves make this beach one of the best options for an adventure-filled family vacation.

Mystos Beach, Kyfalonia–White sand, azure water, high cliffs and fine pebbles make this the perfect beach for taking long, leisurely strolls and enjoying the sun.

The Food

Greek food is popular all over the world. The best thing for foodies in Greece is that you can find types of local and international cuisines. The most popular foods to try out in Greece include Taramasalata, Moussaka, Dolmades, Kolokythokeftedes, Honey & Baklava, Gyros, Souvlaki, Greek lamb kebobs, etc. Also don’t forget to sample the amazing Greek salad and Tzakzaki.

Want something useful to take back home? Of course, olives and olive oil!

Cultural Goods

You can find authentic Greek pottery, dating back to c. 1000 c. 400 BCE easily in cultural markets. These markets have ancient Greek candelabrums, lamps and chandeliers, as well as a variety of decorative items and Black and Red figure artwork. You can also purchase ancient Greek jewellery made of metal at affordable prices.

Don’t forget to take authentic Greek clothes and paintings as gifts because everybody is bound to love them!

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Life of luxury: 4 hotels that really give the wow factor http://www.travelwithamate.com/life-luxury-4-hotels-really-give-wow-factor/ Wed, 24 May 2017 10:26:15 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31503 At some point, all of us have dared to consider what life would be like at one of the world’s finest hotels. But what actually makes a hotel the best? We have vague preconceived ideas of an idyllic location with scintillatingly-designed rooms and even better facilities and food. In truth, it is far more difficult ...

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At some point, all of us have dared to consider what life would be like at one of the world’s finest hotels. But what actually makes a hotel the best? We have vague preconceived ideas of an idyllic location with scintillatingly-designed rooms and even better facilities and food. In truth, it is far more difficult to measure a hotel’s worth properly. By presenting you with a range of recommendations however, we can give you an insight into some of the best hotels the world has to offer.

Qualia, Hamilton Island, Australia

If ever a hotel demanded an Instagram post, the Qualia does.  Located more inside of, than on the edge of, the Great Barrier Reef, the Qualia strives to immerse its guests in the surrounding landscape. Floor-to-ceiling windows invite the ocean in, and locally sourced and crafted wooden guest beds combine with decorative stone to create an authentic-feeling abode. Relaxation is at the heart of the hotel’s ethos, and in-house yoga classes and spa treatments are evidence of this.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes, Cote d’Azur, France

Perched on the French Riviera, the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is a renowned retreat for A-list actors attending the Cannes Film Festival. Evocative of the Baroque style that was typical of French kings Louis XV and XVI, the hotel is sumptuously decorated. Complete with gilded mirrors and furnishings, the décor really is a sight to behold. The thirty-three cabanas that line the rocky French Riviera allow guests a tranquil sea-side sanctuary if they happen to grow tired of the preposterous wealth on show within their hotel.

What makes the Hotel du Cap really special is the conveyor belt of stars that have stayed there over the last century. The hotel hosted the lavish parties that are synonymous with the Lost Generation of American writers. F. Scott Fitzgerald visited, and Ernest Hemingway not only visited, but immortalised the hotel forever as the Hotel des Etrangers in his novel Tender is the Night. Since then, the Kennedy’s have spent their summers there, and everyone from Winston Churchill to Mick Jagger has checked-in.

The Gritti Palace, Venice, Veneto, Italy

Lying directly across the Grand Canal from the Santa Maria della Salute is the Gritti Palace – a 15th century palazzo that has been the beneficiary of a £36.5 million renovation. As you would expect of a former residence of the Doge of Venice, the suites are replete with invaluable antiques, paintings and fabrics. The food is a highlight; ingredients are collected from the city’s Rialto Market and prepared with true Venetian flair.

Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, US

Like a schoolboy’s idea of a high roller’s bachelor pad, the sky villas of the Palms Casino resort in Las Vegas, are ostentatious and extravagant. The focal point of the room is the glass-enclosed cantilever pool that extends out onto the Strip, giving the occupier a surreal sight of the lights of Las Vegas. A rotating bed, a private lift, and a dry sauna are just three of many indulgences that the sky villas’ house. Surprisingly, the Palms is also home to a recording studio that some of the most successful artists of all time have used – Jay Z, Madonna and Lady Gaga to name just a few.

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Why I love Thailand and why you should visit http://www.travelwithamate.com/i-love-thailand-visit/ Wed, 24 May 2017 10:06:50 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31480 Over the years we’ve visited Thailand many times, its fair to say we’re constantly drawn back to this tropical country for a multitude of reasons. From the bustling city streets and market stalls of Bangkok to the party islands and immensely beautiful tropical landscapes, there’s plenty of reasons to visit any time of year! Our last ...

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Over the years we’ve visited Thailand many times, its fair to say we’re constantly drawn back to this tropical country for a multitude of reasons. From the bustling city streets and market stalls of Bangkok to the party islands and immensely beautiful tropical landscapes, there’s plenty of reasons to visit any time of year! Our last visit was just a few weeks ago where we visited the popular islands of Phuket staying at a number of resorts and hotels. We were recently asked by Emirates Holidays to share our experiences of Thailand Holidays so naturally we jumped at the chance to tell you just why Thailand should be high on your list of places to go.

Jaw dropping landscapes

There’s usually 2 main reasons why I love to travel, beautiful landscapes and interesting cultures. Thailand has no shortage of utterly stunning views and I’ve been lucky enough to experience many of them for myself over the last 10 years. There’s over 200 islands to explore so no shortage of amazing coastal views and many of the islands can be visited easily by ferry or diving excursion.

I’ve been to a number of them including Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta so be sure to check out my blog posts on them! While the general atmosphere varies from island to island their vistas are all equally jaw dropping. On the mainland there’s plenty to see too, I can highly recommend taking a train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the North which takes about 12 hours. You’ll cut through a lot of the Thai landscape and spend the day enjoying the view!

Colourful Culture

Thailand is a majority Buddhist country with a devout following of both its religion and its monarchy. Almost every town has a massive statue of Buddha somewhere and there’s plenty of incredible temples to explore as well.I’d definitely recommend you visit the reclining Buddha in Bangkok for instance. You’ll find it at Wat Pho which is easy to get to by tuktuk.

Buddhist influences can be seen everywhere around you from the architecture of buildings new and old, to the arts and the daily customs of locals. As with many Buddhist countries I found the people to very friendly and open, happy to share their knowledge with tourists and welcome you to their country. I’ve had countless wonderful experiences meeting locals, finding out more about Thailand and Thai culture than any guide book could have ever told me.

Amazing accommodation options

I think this has to be one of the biggest reasons we’ve visited Thailand so many times over the past decade. Our requirements, standards of travel and ultimately our accommodation requirements have influenced our trips heavily. Now that I’m in my late 30s my wife and I have moved more towards short term rental style apartments which are some of the most competitively priced in the world. We’ve stayed in amazing condo apartments in Bangkok and found some fantastic boutique hotels and resorts that offer far more bang for their buck than most hotels in Europe ever could.

Now that we’re parents too our standards and requirements have changed once more with the lure of family friendly resorts now a keen focus. Our 3 year old daughter needs entertaining with kids clubs and swimming pools so the days of sunbathing are over! Thankfully Thailand has no shortage of incredible resorts. We recently reviewed two such resorts on Phuket island in the towns of Karon and Surin.

Easy to get to

Sitting in the heart of South East Asia, a mere 12 or so hours from Europe, there’s lots of flights to choose from and plenty of ways to add Thailand to a larger itinerary too. Having travelled to Asia many times know I’ve been able to visit Thailand as part of 4 month trip through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. I’ve also spent months living in Malaysia and Thailand as extended rental properties are easy to find. There’s a blogger community currently residing in Chiang Mai for instance. There’s also plenty of domestic flights between the islands which have made my travels around Thailand even easier.

Hot and sunny!

I adore hot, humid and sunny weather and there’s no shortage of that in Thailand. With an extended monsoon season from July to October torrential showers are all but guaranteed every afternoon. This never put me off visiting though as the rain often dries as quickly as it appeared and the impressively heavy downpours can be quite entertaining!  The hottest time of year is from March to June, with April and May being the hottest months. Temperatures are rarely below 30C and can peak at 39C. I’ve pretty much seen sunshine on every day of my travels through Thailand and the afternoon showers are a welcome reminder to seek some shade.

I could go on about the endless reasons you should put Thailand high up on your bucket list. Check out a few of Thailand blog posts to discover more.

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Hotel Review: Absolute Twin Sands Resort & Spa – Phuket http://www.travelwithamate.com/hotel-review-absolute-twin-sands-resort-spa-phuket/ Fri, 19 May 2017 14:55:22 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31305 Phuket islands in Thailand is an eternally popular tourist destination which seems to be going from strength to strength. With a modern international airport, plenty of competing airlines and no end to the tourist attractions, its easy to see why so many come here (numbers were up some 15% in 2016). So its no surprise ...

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Phuket islands in Thailand is an eternally popular tourist destination which seems to be going from strength to strength. With a modern international airport, plenty of competing airlines and no end to the tourist attractions, its easy to see why so many come here (numbers were up some 15% in 2016).

So its no surprise that there are plenty of new hotel developments and we were recently invited to experience one new accommodation option, The Twin Sands Resort & Spa from Absolute Resorts. If you’re looking to book online you can do so here.

With a week in the Thai sunshine ahead of us we were keen to see just what they could offer the international traveller. Here’s how we go on.

 

Construction work

First of all its worth pointing out that while 2 major phases of the entire property are complete, The Twin Sands Resort & Spa is currently undergoing phase 3 development, adding many new rooms as well as swimming pools, waterfalls and more facilities including a kids club. This is due to be finished around March 2018 so depending on when you’re reading this the work may have been completed or may well still be ongoing. During the day the work was fairly noisy but you’ll likely be out some of that time, the view from pool facing rooms and the pool is somewhat interrupted by a large building site. On the whole the construction work didn’t distract or annoy too much. There’s also another luxury hotel being built nearby where worked finishes around 10pm so if this is an issue to you it may be worth waiting until 2018 before visiting.

First Impressions

Our airport transfer ride was smooth and easy with a friendly driver who was happy to chat with us. Phuket is a fairly hilly island right up to the coastline. Pulling in to the driveway of the The Twin Sands Resort & Spa there’s an instant sense of style and purpose about the place. Opting for a super modern look the architecture compliments the interior and general style of everything at the property. Lots of friendly Thai smiles as we checked in and were shown to our room. I really like the modern styling here, with well lit outside areas and well thought-out indoor areas too. More on that later

Our room

We had a studio apartment for a week, again a super modern and coordinated interior design where everything from the wardrobes and tables to the beds and curtains were perfectly matched and complementing. Its surprising how some hotels get this wrong but here at the Twin Sands I can safely say they got it right. Modern and stylish yet cosy enough to call home for 7 days.

The bathroom is ultra modern with a fantastic waterfall shower, perfect for a tall guy like me and made showering our daughter too super easy. The kitchen was equipped with just enough cutlery and crockery for the 3 of us, plenty of utensils to cook with and a very generously sized fridge freezer which we made great use of. While eating out is often the preference when in Thailand its great to have the option of cooking for ourselves and having a lazy breakfast in the mornings.

Our room overlooked the main road and newly built (and ongoing) luxury hotel which thankfully is low-rise and doesn’t obscure the view too much. The coastal vista is very pleasant, once you filter out the construction site below. The balcony was a generous size although the all glass wall may be a little scary for some.

There’s a big flat screen TV in the apartment with a very comfortable L shaped sofa and coffee table, plenty of drawers to empty out our suitcases in to and really feel at home. An extra single bed was added for our daughter which did take up some room but once we re-arranged the furniture a little it fitted right in.

After a week living here I can definitely say we felt full at home in our studio apartment. With the room cleaned once a day by the staff it always felt clean and orderly, which is saying something when you have a toddler!

Facilities

The pool area is situated over two levels, just a few steps apart. The main pool is up top with a straightforward rectangular shape, a shallow kids area separated from the rest of the pool and some steps to climb in. A comfortable underwater seat runs almost the length of the pool making it a pleasant place to jump in and cool off.

There’s very little shade here which is a bit of an issue in the intense heat of the day, much better around 5pm onwards when things start to cloud over and cool off a little. The lower level offers more sunbathing beds and plunge pool with bubble jets. Both pools have the distinctively modern infinity style which I do like. There’s also a swim-up bar where the very friendly bar tender can whip up a mean cocktail or two, as well as reasonably priced beers. The bass-heavy playlist on his bar sound system gives the pool area a fun and active atmosphere that is surprisingly inviting. There’s happy hour here every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with many drinks at reduced prices, its just a shame it wasn’t every day like most places, we often forgot which day it was and whether it was happy hour today.

There’s a well equipped gym here which proved popular, situated in part of the spa area. It overlooks the pool and has all the modern equipment you would expect. Towels are usually provided but weren’t available on a couple of days during our stay. There’s also a large TV which you can use yourself to help make your gym workout go that little bit faster.

 

Thailand is known for its massage treatments and spa therapies so no resort would be seen dead without some offering. The treatments available were varied so there’s likely to be something for everyone. I would say they are quite expensive, certainly the most expensive I’ve seen so far during our time in Thailand so you may want to compare prices with spas in nearby Patong.

Dining

Situated right on site in block 1 is the Blue Mango restaurant and bar. The menu seemed reasonably priced so we thought we’d check it out on our first night. Wow, I have to say one of the best meals I’ve had on the island, possibly in the country! On the menu I discovered “Massaman Nong Gae”, a popular sweet and mildly spicy curry with braised lamb shank. It sounded great but tasted incredible! So good in fact we made sure we visited again during our stay and had it again. The staff here were all very friendly and made our daughter feel very welcome. She also enjoyed watching the kitchen at work through a cleverly designed glass window. There’s a great atmosphere here often with visitors from outside the resort clearly coming for the exceptionally good food. You can even order food to be delivered to your room if you’re feeling super lazy.

One strange quirk about the restaurant and bar is that they are not part of the Twin Sands resort company so its not possible to put anything on your room and pay during checkout. You do however get a 15% discount if you are a guest so do make sure you give the your room number. This quirk caught us out a couple of times when ordering drinks at the pool. Forgetting to bring any sort of cash to the poolside it made paying for our refreshments a little more awkward than it needed to be. It wouldn’t be that difficult for the restaurant and resorts businesses to organise a credit arrangement so guests could pay at checkout.

What to do nearby

As the name “Twin Sands” suggests, the resort is just a short walk from two beaches and a quick tuk-tuk ride to a third. Walking to the beaches is a bit confusing, especially as Merlin beach is hidden down a rather rocky track road and quick jump over what I hope is just drainage water from the hotels. Your best bet to get to this beach is to walk to the Marriott hotel entrance and easily make your way through their resort to the sandy beach beyond. The beaches are cute with some great views out of the Andaman sea, but for more amenities and nightlife you’ll want to head over to Patong.

The resort offers a free shuttle bus service to Patong, dropping people off along the bay or at the main shopping mall in town. This minibus service proved invaluable and gave us a chance not only to explore more and find entertainment for our daughter but also buy all the ingredients to cook in our apartment and purchase the toddler essentials like nappies.  With Patong just 15 minutes away its more likely you’ll spend time over there than at the peninsula but as more hotel and resorts appear I’m sure there will be more amenities and attractions available nearby.

Conclusion

We really enjoyed our stay at The Twin Sands, despite the construction work going on around the resort is well staffed, well catered and very well designed. It was great to have more space to ourselves and have the option of eating in and borrowing a DVD movie from reception for a night. Its an interesting property that is set to get much bigger and more luxurious in the next 12 months or so. The continuity of styling inside and out presents a very well thought out and well managed property that I can see growing from strength to strength as the peninsula gains more notoriety.

Get 7  nights complimentary at Twin sands

If you’re interested in staying at this resort get 7 nights complimentary accommodation by clicking here.

This a limited time offer, terms and conditions apply

This review was sponsored by Absolute Resorts. All opinions are my own

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Sleeping under the stars – The best places to stay http://www.travelwithamate.com/sleeping-stars-best-places/ Thu, 18 May 2017 16:38:52 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31472 Whether you’re looking for a break from the mundane 9-5 routine, or just looking to embrace nature a little more, there’s nothing more peaceful than spending a night under the stars. Where this was once restricted to campers and those brave enough to tackle mountain climbing, more and more resorts are offering ‘beds-with-a-view’ – and ...

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Whether you’re looking for a break from the mundane 9-5 routine, or just looking to embrace nature a little more, there’s nothing more peaceful than spending a night under the stars. Where this was once restricted to campers and those brave enough to tackle mountain climbing, more and more resorts are offering ‘beds-with-a-view’ – and here are some of our favourites:

Bangkok Tree House, Thailand

Not only boasting a gorgeous view of the River, this beautiful hotel allows their guests to enjoy a full alfresco experience – without outdoor showers, treehouse bedrooms with voile curtains draped over four-poster beds, (definitely something to mimic at home!) and natural ponds to swim in!

And if that doesn’t sway you; as well as the hotel being completely environmentally friendly, it also holds a strict promise to remove 1 kilogram of rubbish from the Chao Phraya River for every booking made.

Jade Mountain, Saint Lucia

Condé Nast Readers Choice Awards voted this gorgeous hotel the #1 Caribbean resort no less than three times, and it’s not difficult to see why! Guest can enjoy the one-of-a-kind tropical surroundings from their luxury suites, or one of the 24 luxurious infinity pools on site – each offering exquisite views of the Caribbean Sea and the Pitons. And if that’s not relaxing enough; guests can then watch their sun set from the comfort of their own bed! Amazing!

Sabuk Lodge, Kenya

Perfect for anyone looking for a true wilderness adventure in a really beautiful setting, the Sabuk Lodge is uniquely designed with local stone and wood.

As well as the ‘Under the Big Sky’ beds giving guests a gorgeous view of the night sky as they sleep, the hammocks and day beds provide a truly relaxing experience.

Lion Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

Experience an African safari experience like no other at the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, hidden away deep in Kruger National Park.

Not only will you get to slumber under the clear South African sky, but these breathtaking treehouse bedrooms look over the reserve, giving guests the unique chance to watch the magnificent African animals in their natural habitat.

Kakslauttanen, Finland

A night in one of these snow igloos is bound to be an unforgettable experience. Not only do you have an incredible, panoramic view of the night sky, but this is one of the most popular places to catch a glimpse of the infamous Northern Lights.

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A taste of brunch around the world http://www.travelwithamate.com/taste-brunch-around-world/ Thu, 18 May 2017 12:41:36 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31462 Oh, Brunch! One of the best parts of the weekend – only second to those long-awaited lie-ins! Whether you’re nursing a hangover, looking for the perfect runny yolk or ordering a Mimosa to start your day with a sparkle – brunch is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday! So what does brunch look ...

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Oh, Brunch! One of the best parts of the weekend – only second to those long-awaited lie-ins! Whether you’re nursing a hangover, looking for the perfect runny yolk or ordering a Mimosa to start your day with a sparkle – brunch is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday! So what does brunch look like around the globe? We’ve taken a look at a snapshot of brunch menu options from different countries around the world.

UK

The Full english Breakfast is renowned as Britain’s staple brunch order to set you up for the day – not to mention a tried and tested cure after a night on the pop!

The suburban boroughs, however, are giving the classic fry-up a modern twist. A Balham brunch, for example, will consist of Bavette steak, roast vine tomatoes, grilled
sourdough toast & two fried eggs – fancy!

USA

Never one to do things by halves; you can expect the full works when ordering Brunch in America. Pancakes or waffles combined with bacon, toast, sausages, eggs, fries – the works! And all served with a side of syrup!

Canada

One of the sweeter brunch options on this list; Pets de Sœurs – literally translated as ‘Nun’s farts’ – are made by rolling and slicing baked pastry covered with butter and brown sugar. Topped with Vanilla sauce or maple syrup (or both if you have a real sweet tooth) this is definitely a sugary start to the day!

Mexico

Brunch in Mexico is as spicy as you might expect! Huevos Divorciados or ‘Divorced Eggs’ is an authentic Mexican breakfast made up of two eggs sunny side up served under two different sauces; Salsa Verde and Salsa Roja. They are then placed on two separate, crispy, corn tortillas – the idea being that “each egg is going its separate way.” The Brunch is usually accompanied spicy Mexican breakfast potatoes and a side of guac!

Turkey

Whilst you might see both runny eggs and yogurt on a breakfast menu in America, you rarely see them combined – but in Turkey ordering them together is the go-to Brunch option in the form of çılbır. Flavoured with paprika, garlic and dill infused butter, and eaten with warm flatbread, this is definitely a tangy start to your day!

Jamaica

Ackee; which is often described to taste buttery with an egg-like consistency, is actually originally an African delicacy – however it found it’s way across the Atlantic during the slave trade and became one of Jamaica’s favourites for brunch with friends. Often served with spiced cod, tomatoes and onions, ‘Ackee and Saltfish’ is definitely on the

Maldives

Also famous for it’s fish-based breakfast menu; Mas huni is the most popular Maldivian brunch option and is made up of tuna, onion, coconut, and chili and traditionally served with a flat bread called huni roshi.

What unique brunches dishes are your favourite to order? Let us know in the comments!

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Why Niagara Falls offers the perfect break for couples http://www.travelwithamate.com/niagara-falls-offers-perfect-break-couples/ Wed, 17 May 2017 13:02:10 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31455 Stunning scenery, luxury hotels, dozens of activities and plenty of sightseeing opportunities – it’s no wonder that Niagara Falls is one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. If you’re in need of a break away from reality, and an escape from the stresses of modern day life, look no further than Niagara Falls. ...

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Stunning scenery, luxury hotels, dozens of activities and plenty of sightseeing opportunities – it’s no wonder that Niagara Falls is one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world. If you’re in need of a break away from reality, and an escape from the stresses of modern day life, look no further than Niagara Falls. On the doorstep of southern Ontario, you can expect some of the most beautiful sights and sounds in the world, but don’t take our word for it – here are just a few reasons why Niagara is the perfect place for couples…

You can relax and unwind

Most partners head here for a chance to unwind, and you certainly won’t run out of places to relax. Firstly, there’s plenty of national parkland around if you’re looking to hike your way to tranquillity. You could grab yourself a picnic basket before taking one of the many walking trails around Niagara River and the Gorge. Or instead, keen photographers might like to head into the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, where you’ll be able to experience the rugged, untouched landscape in all its natural beauty.

Sharpen your gardening skills

Of course, for those who prefer a less strenuous walk, why not amble around the many horticultural wonders in the area? You could drop by the soothing Centennial Lilac Garden – 10 acres of public garden containing two hundred different varieties of lilac – or instead, how about visiting the perfectly manicured Botanical Gardens? Aside from the world-famous rose gardens, you’ll also find the Butterfly Conservatory – the tropical residence of over 2,000 butterflies.

There are plenty of sunsets to enjoy

If it’s spectacular sunsets you want, nothing compares to the wild and untamed beauty of the Falls in the evening. Their cascading waters are lit up like a technicolour dream, so why not take in the views with a candlelit dinner at one of the restaurants on the Falls edge? Or how about a helicopter ride high above the other tourists in the area, where you can photograph the full Niagara landscape? Of course, there’s always the Niagara Skywheel if you’d like to take things a little slower.

Don’t forget about hotel packages

Given that this area is so popular with newlyweds and couples in desperate need of a getaway, it’s no surprise that most of the top-quality hotels in the area provide packages and offers that specifically cater to couples. For example, at the Marriott on the Falls, they have a package called “Niagara Romance”. With this couples retreat, you’ll enjoy a one or two night stay in a deluxe Fallsview room with a king-size bed and spectacular views of the Horseshoe Falls. You’ll check in to find a bottle of sparkling wine, beautiful long-stem roses, delicious chocolate-dipped strawberries and a few Hershey’s Kisses in your room to enjoy, before dinner in their Milestones restaurant.

Are you travelling to Canada this year? Let us know your holiday plans by leaving a comment below…

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The Best Places to Tee-Off Around Europe http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-places-tee-off-around-europe/ Wed, 17 May 2017 09:17:58 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31445 Often referred to as the luxury pastime, Golf is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or two. If you’ve caught the travelling bug, however, it’s also the perfect way to unwind on your holiday – even if you’ve never tried it before, the handicapping system allows the novices to compete with the pros so ...

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Often referred to as the luxury pastime, Golf is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon or two. If you’ve caught the travelling bug, however, it’s also the perfect way to unwind on your holiday – even if you’ve never tried it before, the handicapping system allows the novices to compete with the pros so everyone can have fun! A golfing holiday is a wonderful experience if you haven’t tried it before.

Europe is the epicentre for many luxury golf courses situated in the world today, and we’re here to give you the low-down and what are the top spots to visit if you’ve got golf on the brain!

Spain – Finca Cortesin Hotel Golf & Spa
Often touted as one of the most phenomenal hotels in Spain & the golf course certainly isn’t bad, either. The green itself was designed by Cabell Robinson and holds up to the championship-standard. It is one of the largest courses in Spain and the Finca Cortesin certainly gets a surplus of business because of it quality.

Credit: Finca Cortesin

Portugal – Monte Rei Golf & Country Club
 Located on the Algarve, a name synonymous with fantastic golfing culture, the Monte Rei is the best Mediterranean escape for those looking for the feeling of sun on their slacks! The clubhouse is at the heart of the resort with villas dotted around the location, with a swimming pool & tennis facilities for those who don’t feel like hitting the green – it’s got something for everyone.

Credit: Monte Rei

France – Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort
The hidden gem of the Côte d’Azur, the Terre Blanche is a luxury getaway that was once owned by actor Sean Connery in the past. A warm welcome is always expected here, with stellar service from the moment you step onto the property. The resort boats two courses and its very own David Leadbetter training academy to help you improve your game.

Credit: Terre Blance

Switzerland – Golf & Country Club de Bonmont
With stunning views overlooking Lake Geneva and the Mont-Blanc mountain in the distance, you’d be forgiven for spending the entire holiday looking out the window of your room. If that wasn’t enough, their 18-hole golf course is 6080 metres long and is a simply beautiful sight – and you know that’s really saying something when you consider its surroundings!

Credit: Club De Bonmont

Scotland – Old Course Hotel St Andrews
St. Andrews is the home of golf – this is no exaggeration, it literally is. This Scottish landmark gave birth to the sport we now know as golf in the 1500’s. It’s well worth getting yourself a professional caddy for the experience as they can not only educate on the illustrious history of the old course, but also let you know where to go next as the course’s criss-cross layout is often confusing to first-timers!

Credit: Old Course Hotel

There we have it, seven of the best golf resorts located across Europe. If you don’t want to turn up at these dressed shabbily, be sure to take advantage of the latest golf sale to grab yourself a fashionable bargain.

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Mountain biking: 4 insane UK trails all thrill-seekers will love http://www.travelwithamate.com/mountain-biking-4-insane-uk-trails-thrill-seekers-will-love/ Tue, 16 May 2017 16:46:01 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31424 The UK offers some of the most exhilarating mountain biking destinations in the world, and with more and more companies offering mountain bikes on finance, it’s never been easier to get your two-wheeled adrenaline fix. So if those thrill-seekers among you are looking for a new off-road ride to hit this weekend, here are our ...

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The UK offers some of the most exhilarating mountain biking destinations in the world, and with more and more companies offering mountain bikes on finance, it’s never been easier to get your two-wheeled adrenaline fix. So if those thrill-seekers among you are looking for a new off-road ride to hit this weekend, here are our top five insane trails that prove your next downhill run is never too far away!

Coed Llandegla, North Wales

(Image credit: https://www.singletracks.com)

Whether you’re a novice looking for a fun but safe way to ease you into mountain biking, or a seasoned thrill-seeker looking for their next challenge, ‘Degla’ has you covered! There are a huge range of different routes that suit whatever your ability and fitness level; so if you’re still finding your feet, take your time on the picturesque Green Trail or – if you’re a little more experienced – take advantage of the boardwalk sections and wild series of table top jumps on the B-Line Trail.

Nan Bield Pass, Lake District

(Image source: http://flattyres-mtb.co.uk)

The Lake District’s Nan Bield Pass really is the definition of natural trail riding, and definitely not one for the faint hearted. It includes some of the toughest climbs out of any UK MTB trail , even requiring you to carry your bike up steep, rocky and brutal terrain – however, if you think you’re up to the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with some of the country’s most incredible technical rocky descents. You’ll definitely be heading home with boasting rights after tackling this one!

Fort William Downhill, Scotland

(Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com)

Famously serving the downhill section of the UCI Mountain Biking World Championships, Fort William is one for every keen mountain biker’s bucket list.

Unlike Nan Bield Pass, the intimidating climbs are assisted by gondolas – so you can save your energy to tackle the challenging 525m drops over 2.5km  – giving even the most experienced riders a good 4-5 minutes of down-hill exhilaration. Certainly not one for the faint hearted!

Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

(Image source: http://www.wild-rides.co.uk/)

And finally; Brecon Beacons is one for the adventurers among you. With the national park covering over 500 square miles, you don’t just have your choice of trails, but you can also camp under the stars and leaving reality at home for a few days!

As home to the Great Forest and the Black Mountain and the Great Forest this route boasts some of the most incredible views in Wales – but that’s not the only thing that attracts bikers from all over the world. The choice of trails cater to everyone; from easy ones for those of you who have only just given up on stabilisers, to mind-blowing endurance trails that, by their own admission “should be considered totally unrideable for the majority of people”. Amazing! We’d definitely recommend taking someone with you on their trail – even if it’s just to take a photo of you defying gravity!

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My favourite neighbourhoods in Cape Town, South Africa http://www.travelwithamate.com/favourite-neighbourhoods-cape-town-south-africa/ Tue, 16 May 2017 09:40:17 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31407 I recently read an interesting article entitled “Cape Town’s Best Neighbourhoods” that brought back wonderful memories of my time there. I need to add my own two cents’ worth—my personal “must dos” in Cape Town and why you should definitely visit these neighbourhoods when you’re there. I’m a total foodie too so couldn’t help but include my ...

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I recently read an interesting article entitled “Cape Town’s Best Neighbourhoods” that brought back wonderful memories of my time there. I need to add my own two cents’ worth—my personal “must dos” in Cape Town and why you should definitely visit these neighbourhoods when you’re there. I’m a total foodie too so couldn’t help but include my favourite dishes worth trying when you go to the Mother City.

Bo-Kaap

HOUSES

We felt as though we were in the midst of a permanent celebration in Bo-Kaap. In the 1990s, the residents decided to paint their houses in gay colors to celebrate the end of apartheid or the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, perhaps both. In the spirit of joy and camaraderie, they consulted with each other to make sure the colors didn’t clash. That same spirit exists today.

At the Bo-Kaap Kombuis (Kitchen), the gracious hosts acquainted us with Cape Malay cuisine. We started with samosas and dhaltjies. The first is a fried pastry filled with chicken, vegetables and the seasonings that give the cuisine its piquant flavor. Dhaltjies are balls of fried dough packed with chickpeas, onion and a variety of savory ingredients served with a sweet chile dipping sauce.

SAMOSA

For our entree, we selected the “Tasting Platter.” We wanted to try everything! We overdid it just a tad with the lamb curry, chicken curry, bobotie (beef in a crisp egg custard), rice and roti (Indian flatbread). But we will do it all again when we return.

On Sunday morning, we had the traditional koesisters, doughnut-like pastries, spiced with ginger, naartjie peel, cinnamon and anise, cooked in syrup and sprinkled with coconut. It’s an indescribable mixture of tart, spicy and sweet tastes.

Camps Bay

BEACH

Camps Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful in Cape Town with the majestic mountain range known as the “Twelve Apostles” looming above it. Don’t look for 12 peaks. They took some “artistic license” there. But that makes the scene no less august.

AFRICAN MARKET

A drive along Victoria Road took us to the African Craft Market, another celebration, this time of the colors, shapes and textures found in traditional artifacts, jewelery, baskets, leather goods, masks. Don’t miss the “T-bag Designs”: teabags dried, emptied and then painted. You’ll surely be taking some home for family and friends. Even the person who has everything doesn’t have a painted teabag.

Camps Bay is famed for its eateries, from right-off-the-beach casual to dress-up-night fancy.

OSTRICH STEAK

At Hussar Grill, we had the divinely decadent Hussar Carpetbagger: fillet mignon stuffed with smoked oysters and Cheddar cheese in a brandy and mustard sauce. Next time, we’re going to have the grilled ostrich fillet. If you haven’t had ostrich, it has the taste and texture of the finest cut of beef while being lower in fat and richer in iron.  At Husser’s, it’s served with their own wild berry and apple schnapps sauce.

 

BEIGNETS

For a casual breakfast, we went to La Belle’s Bistro and Bakery for ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb buttter and poached pear. But really, we went for the beignets: square pillows of light pastry deep fried and covered with powdered sugar.

Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town

Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town lie along the coast of False Bay. Fish Hoek is a traditional fishing village transformed into a popular resort, perhaps not as much a photo op or as “in” as Camps Bay Beach on the Atlantic Ocean, but the water is warmer, calmer and shallower—in other words, more family-friendly for a pleasant swim.

SIMON’S TOWN

A stroll through Simon’s Town is a visit into history: restored Victorian buildings, museums filled with the tales of bygone days, and boutiques with antique jewelry and home accessories and throw-back fashions. We had to indulge in the seafood there: incomparable Moules Mariniere, steamed local mussels sauteed in a creamy white wine and garlic sauce and succulent Mozambican Tiger Prawns.

MUSSELS

It sounds like we ate our way through Cape Town! Granted, the food was unforgettable, but so were the many remarkable places that we visited.

For a broader view, visit the Cape Town destination page on dealchecker.co.uk.

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Best baseball stadiums to visit in America http://www.travelwithamate.com/best-baseball-stadiums-america/ Tue, 16 May 2017 08:35:12 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31398 Alongside hot dogs and more nachos than you can imagine, the gatekeepers to America’s pastime actually do as good a job of entertaining spectators as feeding them. To demonstrate this point, we have put together a list of the most eccentric and wacky events that you probably won’t believe take place during a live televised ...

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Alongside hot dogs and more nachos than you can imagine, the gatekeepers to America’s pastime actually do as good a job of entertaining spectators as feeding them. To demonstrate this point, we have put together a list of the most eccentric and wacky events that you probably won’t believe take place during a live televised sporting event in front of thousands of people.

PNC Park – Pittsburgh Pirates

The most recent development to attract headlines involves innovative use of the latest technology. PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, underwent a range of renovations costing millions of dollars in recent months. One of them was a huge 11ft high and 136ft wide LED screen. Besides posting live updates from games across the country, the LED screen can also incorporate a game of Super Mario Bros. for one lucky fan.  The selected spectator has to literally run sideways and jump upwards to head-butt boxes to collect items. Who thought playing a video game could be such an exhausting workout?

Nationals Park – Washington Nationals

The nation’s capital, Washington, plays up to its deeply historical nature at Nationals Park. Likenesses of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, replete with giant foam caricature heads, participate in a race around the stadium. The running joke is that Theodore Roosevelt consistently fails to win, with the reasons for his losses ranging from attempting to tweet while racing, to being tripped by a man dressed as a shark.

AT&T Park – San Francisco Giants

Perhaps the most picturesque stadium in all of Major League Baseball, AT&T Park perches right on the cusp of San Francisco Bay. Because of the proximity to the water, home runs often land with a splash into the affectionately named McCovey Cove. This invariably leads to a comical scramble between several kayakers rapidly paddling to claim the home run ball. Another two reasons that make the home of the Giants so distinctively American are the giant Coca Cola bottle and classic baseball glove that loom over the stands.

San Francisco Giants - AT&T park

Miller Park – Milwaukee Brewers

The final example takes us to the home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team – Miller Park. Up until recently, whenever a Milwaukee player hit a home run, the mascot – Bernie Brewer, already perched high above the outfield in preparation, would vault down a slide into a pool of beer. I’m sure the sponsorships from Miller forced Bernie to insist the pool was refreshingly cold but I can’t help but harbour a sneaking suspicion that a heating pump was somehow involved. This seems hard to believe by modern standards, but if anyone can be forgiven for encouraging copious alcohol consumption – the Milwaukee Brewers can. After all, they are called the Brewers and they play in Miller Park.

Milwaukee Brewers - Miller Park

Despite their wild and wacky eccentricities, you can’t doubt how thoroughly entertaining baseball stadiums can be. Wembley looks comparatively tame entertainment-wise. But perhaps the excessive entertainment is just a means of off-setting the comparatively lethargic pace of baseball?

Which stadium would be first on your list to visit?

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Six Beautiful Chateaus to Rent in Dordogne  http://www.travelwithamate.com/six-beautiful-chateaus-rent-dordogne/ Wed, 10 May 2017 16:56:42 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31384 If you’ve ever looked into renting a property in Dordogne, France, you’ve probably seen the term “chateau” crop up again and again. But what is a chateau and why is it considered the crème de la crème of French property? What is a Chateau? When translated to English, a chateau is often associated with a ...

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If you’ve ever looked into renting a property in Dordogne, France, you’ve probably seen the term “chateau” crop up again and again. But what is a chateau and why is it considered the crème de la crème of French property?

What is a Chateau?

When translated to English, a chateau is often associated with a castle. Which can be true, some chateaus are very similar to castles. However, more often than not, chateaus are more similar to a large manor or country house. These chateaus are usually linked to noble heritage, with the prestigious families building these beautiful houses hundreds of years ago, usually picking highly opulent designs and architecture.

In Dordogne, it’s thought there is around 1001 of these castles and chateaus. Of course, many of these are nothing but ruins now, but there are still plenty of the houses open to the public. In fact, you can even rent your own chateau! And fear not, these chateaus won’t break the bank. You can get excellent deals on the likes of Airbnb or HomeAway renting a chateau for as little as one night.

Here are six of the best available:

1: La Maison des Sarrasins

If luxury is what you’re after, then you’ll get little more luxurious than the spectacular La Maison des Sarrasins, a clifftop chateau overlooking the Dordogne valley. Built in the 18th century, this chateau has 7 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms as well as extra rooms in the guest house, meaning it sleeps around 20 people overall. Recently renovated, the house is filled modern amenities, featured within the charming period décor, as well as 27m heated pool. Animals are allowed at an extra cost and the rental even comes with your own housekeeper.

2: Luxury Chateau in Saint-Geyrac

This designer furnished 17th century chateau was voted one of the Guardian’s top 50 villas to visit back in 2015, and it’s little wonder why. Incredibly luxurious, your rental will give you access to the full house with your own housekeeper and satellite TV for a rainy day. The house is situated just 30 minutes away from local Michelin-starred restaurants or you can even arrange catering within the house for an extra cost.

3: Maison Grise

If you’re looking for your own chateau, but on a smaller scale, then Masion Grise could be your perfect rental. This four-bedroomed ‘petite chateau’, is just a short distance from well-loved tourist attractions such as Beynac and Castelnaud, and the medieval village of Sarlat as well as being close to two large rivers, which are perfect for canoeing. Or you can stay at home enjoying the rental’s pool and tennis facilities. The house itself is very eye-catching and with its own tower, you’ll feel like you’re staying in your own little castle!

4: Château de Pile

The Château de Pile can either be rented by the room or you can rent the entire house, making it perfect for those who want to experience a chateau stay but without the price of a full house rental. This 19th century build has five double rooms, WiFi throughout, a games room and terrace. The house itself is a short distance from the medieval town of Eymet, which has lots of markets, pubs and restaurants to enjoy. It’s also just 25 minutes away from Bergerac.

5: Perigold Manor House

Built in 1904, this renovated manor has five en-suite bedrooms with accommodation for 10 people; there is also Wi-Fi throughout. To the front of the manor is a large pool, specific children’s pool and jacuzzi, while to the rear there is a beautiful orchard including apple, pear and walnut trees. Situated close to the Black Perigold, you’ll be able to explore the region’s most famous castles including Beynac, Losse and Castelnaud.

6: Dordogne Manor House

This private 4-bedroom manor house is a slice of luxury chateau life situated in a small French hamlet. With four bedrooms all with traditional décor, this 16th century manor sleeps up to eight people and is animal friendly for those who like to holiday with their dogs. The house has a minimum stay of six nights and is just a short drive away from other villages making it quiet but not too remote. Local activities include cross country biking, caves and canoeing.

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Cut The Costs Of Visiting Attractions On Your Travels http://www.travelwithamate.com/cut-the-costs-of-visiting-attractions-on-your-travel/ Wed, 10 May 2017 16:49:28 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31382 When you go on your travels, it’s likely you will want to visit several of the attractions in the location. After all, if you are headed for a popular city like New York or London, there are a wealth of places that are must-sees before you go back. But the thing about attractions is that ...

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When you go on your travels, it’s likely you will want to visit several of the attractions in the location. After all, if you are headed for a popular city like New York or London, there are a wealth of places that are must-sees before you go back. But the thing about attractions is that they can cost a small fortune. And a lot of the time you will only be inside for an hour or two. So it can eat into your budget without giving you much for it. However, there are some ways you can still enjoy the top landmarks. In fact, here is some handy advice on cutting the costs of visiting attractions while on your travels.

Go for a tour with a local group instead

When you go direct to the attractions, you can expect to pay the highest price to get in. And it can feel like you are short on money after you have paid the admission. But going straight to the attraction is not your only option. For one thing, look into local tour groups which include the landmark as part of the tour. They will often charge you a lot less and will teach you a lot more. After all, if you go straight to the landmark, you will often have to look around it on your own. But with a local tour group, you will get more information while paying a lot less too. Just make sure that the cost for the local tour includes the landmark. After all, you don’t want to be left with a surprise when you have to fork out money to still get inside the landmark!

Look for vouchers and coupons

A lot of travelers miss certain attractions as they can’t afford the admission cost. After all, it can cost an arm and a leg to get into the major attractions. However, there are some ways to make it cheaper. For one thing, you should have a look for vouchers and coupons before you go. After all, you might find a code which will give you entrance to the attraction for a lot less. You might even get a 2 for 1 voucher which can help you to reduce the cost if you are traveling with a friend. And for sites where you can get attraction tickets, you can often find deals to make this cheaper still. For example, Groupon promo codes can help to make it even cheaper to buy the tickets. Therefore, you will be able to visit more attractions as you can go for less!

Visit at non-peak times

While you will want to visit most of the attractions in the day, you shouldn’t rule out an evening visit. After all, a lot of attractions reduce their prices an hour or two before closing. And they also sometimes open at night for a lower price. After all, they know people will be out dining and wining during the night! Therefore, look at going then to ensure you get a reasonable deal. And remember to go on non-peak times like weekdays to get a better deal on the entrance fee.

Also, booking online before you go can save you some money. So do this before you arrive at the destination!

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Top 4 South American Countries to Visit http://www.travelwithamate.com/top-4-south-american-countries-visit/ Mon, 08 May 2017 15:39:47 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31375 If you could spend the rest of your life exploring one continent, you could do worse than choose South America. This part of the world is not only huge; it also contains just about everything you could want from life. Love bustling cities? South America has them. Love wildlife, rainforests, and beyond? It has them ...

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If you could spend the rest of your life exploring one continent, you could do worse than choose South America. This part of the world is not only huge; it also contains just about everything you could want from life. Love bustling cities? South America has them. Love wildlife, rainforests, and beyond? It has them too. Love beaches? Come on…you know they’ve got them! Alas, most of us can’t travel all our lives. So if you have a limited amount of time to explore the continent, where do you go? Here are four options worth considering.

 

Argentina

Argentina is one of the biggest countries on the planet, so you can’t see everything, but there’s one place every visitor to Argentina – no, every visitor to South America – must see: Buenos Aires. This might just be the continent’s greatest city, a city full of life, love, and magic. Find yourself here, and you’ll soon be dancing, drinking, and eating in the streets with all the locals. When you’ve had your fill of city life, you’ll be able to retreat to Argentina’s other-worldly natural scenery. Like many other South American countries, there are many hikes and day trips that’ll have you clamoring for the outdoors – and none more so than the incomparable Iguazu Falls.

Brazil

Like Argentina, Brazil is another heavyweight of the world. Cities, beaches, and the world’s largest rainforest all call Brazil home, and it’s not surprise that it’s routinely voted as one of the world’s best destinations to visit. In Rio, you can sample the carnival-like atmosphere and see the highlights of Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer Statue. In the south, you can take an Amazon river cruise and get up close and personal with one of the world’s most enchanting waterways, all the while having the chance to spot the Amazon’s extensive wildlife. When you want a break from exploring, park yourself at Porto de Galinhas and do nothing but watch the world go by.

Colombia

There’s nowhere quite like Colombia. This lush land has a little bit of everything, with mountains, beaches, cities, a coastline on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides. You can enjoy the madness and passion of Bogota before heading over to Medellin, a calmer, cooler version of the capital, which is fast becoming one of the best cities on the continent. If you do only one other thing, make it a visit to Tayrona National Natural Park. The popular park is the place to be if you love beaches, mountains, and rainforest all rolled up into one beautiful destination.

Ecuador

Ecuador packs a lot of punch into its (relatively) small size, with cities, culture, and plenty of outdoor adventures awaiting those who make the trip to the country. The two national parks of Cotopaxi and Cajas are highlights, offering views of volcanoes and hiking trips. If you the chance, make sure you take a trip to the Galápagos Islands, which is home to nearly thirty species of bird that can’t be found anywhere but here.

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Awesome Things To Do In The U.S.A That You Might Not Have Considered http://www.travelwithamate.com/awesome-things-to-do-u-s-a/ Mon, 08 May 2017 08:45:44 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31368   The United States of America is arguably one of the most interesting countries in the world. Offering a plethora of amazing experiences, cultural attitudes and peoples, America truly is the melting pot of all the world’s diversity and life. Whether you’re looking for great food, great amusement parks or fantastic getaway retreats, America has ...

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The United States of America is arguably one of the most interesting countries in the world. Offering a plethora of amazing experiences, cultural attitudes and peoples, America truly is the melting pot of all the world’s diversity and life. Whether you’re looking for great food, great amusement parks or fantastic getaway retreats, America has the best of all three.

But sometimes, as a tourist, it’s tempting to go off the beaten path, and exploring new things you might not initially think of doing. Each state has their benefits, and attractions you must see, but if you’re truly looking for an alternative, fun time to have in the States, you need to look no further than this list.

Go Drinking In Chicago

Chicago is not the city many people would consider the premium destination in the States for bar culture, but it really is a great one. Not only is the comedic culture alternative and hilarious there, but it has local access to some of the greatest microbreweries around today.

Chicago is famed for its amazing theater culture too, and so going to a show there might perfectly contemplate this activity. Chicago is often a city that new tourists to the states overlook in favor of hotspots like New York and Washington D.C, but if you’re really open to a good time with real, genuine people who have a story to tell, Chicago could be just your city.

See Comedy In L.A

L.A comedians are some of the best in the world. Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, Joey Diaz and Louis C.K are some of the biggest names that always draw a massive crowd, and for good reason. All of the best comedians flock to L.A to test their mettle and stand on the stages that some of the greatest of all time have. If laughing hard tires you out after a couple of nights, consider checking out more of what this state has to offer by checking out the best of L.A.

Travel Route 66

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway or Mother Road, was one of the initial highways within the U.S road system. Running through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, a long travel holiday along this road in a rented vehicle is a perfect way to get a taste for some of what this great nation has to offer. Just be sure you’re willing to put in the road miles, and that you have the two weeks it’s generally accepted the journey will take.

Hike In Colorado

Colorado is famed for its mountainous geography and is a prime spot for travelers looking to get in the wild and escape the frantic beck and call of city life. Not only will a long journey help you get some exercise, but is also immensely healthy due to the air quality there. There is a real lack of pollution that can take your breath away if you’ve lived in a built up environment for a good part of your life, and it’s worth checking out.

An extended stay in Northern America can be a wonderful thing. If you’re already a resident, it’s likely you haven’t explored all your state has to offer, let alone the next 49. Making the effort to explore the great, historical nation you’re in or are traveling to is a great way to unwind, relax, and find that sense of adventure you crave.

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Around India in 17 Days http://www.travelwithamate.com/around-india-17-days/ Tue, 02 May 2017 10:46:29 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31310 India is huge, and it is filled with history, art and spirituality and the architectural elements of all three. We had two and a half weeks, and so plotted out our itinerary with precision, aided by the convenience of air travel that saved us time and, in many cases, our transportation budget. So with flight ...

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India is huge, and it is filled with history, art and spirituality and the architectural elements of all three. We had two and a half weeks, and so plotted out our itinerary with precision, aided by the convenience of air travel that saved us time and, in many cases, our transportation budget. So with flight tickets in hand, we set out on our first visit to India with our “must see” list.

Mumbai 

Appropriately enough, we began our tour of India and Mumbai at the Gateway of India on the Arabian Sea. The magnificient monument of gold basalt and reinforced concrete stood like a sentinel overlooking the Mumbai Harbor.

From there, we took a ferry to the Elephanta Caves, an ancient Hindu shrine that is at least 1,500 years old. Throughout the intricate network of caves were statues and reliefs from a long gone artistic tradition.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park is 2000 hectares away from the busy streets of Mumbai. We saw only a fraction of 270+ species of birds, but more than we have ever seen anywhere else!

Now we will take the first of our domestic flights from Mumbai to Bangalore.

Bangalore

The Krishna Rajendra Market is festive with beautiful fabrics in brilliant colors and the melodious sounds of unrecognizable languages. We were there early to watch as goods were unloaded and the local people clamored about for the best bargains.

The Lumbini Gardens on the banks of Nagawara Lake are dedicated to Lord Buddha. It is a serene paradise with rich and varied flora as we walked along with celestial views of the lake. It may sound incongruous, but there is also an amusement park for the kids.

The Shiva Temple in Bangalore is one of grandest in all of India with a 20-meter image of Lord Shiva rendered in dazzling white marble. The temple has celebrations on a regular basis, so in addition to the artistry all around us, we were able to experience its spiritual elements.

Vishakhapatanam

Bojjana Konda is a group of Buddhist monuments that date as far back as 200 BCE with carved-out caves, monolithic dagobas that preserve relics of the Buddha, tiers of rock platforms and an awe-inspiring staircase to a double-storied cave.

Kailasagiri  is a hilltop with a spectacular view of the sea and winding beaches, and in the evening, the city far below glittering with its rainbow of lights.

Raipur

Ghatrani Falls is surrounded by thick forests. It takes a bit of a hike to reach them. Well worth it to see such a testament to the power and glory of nature.

The Nandan Van Zoo and Safari is spread across 202  hectares, the world’s largest man-made jungle. In an eco-friendly vehicle, our guide took us through a stunning display of natural beauty to see the animals roaming freely in their natural habitats.

New Delhi

The Jama Masjid Mosque in Delhi is the largest in India. It was completed in 1658 and has three gateways, four towers and two minarets. The minarets are 40 meters high and built with alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. To give you an idea of the vastness of the courtyard, it holds 25,000 people

Since time was at a premium, we went to the Crafts Museum in lieu of strolling through the village streets. There we experienced the traditional local life as we met the artisans and watched them work, weaving, wall painting and spinning their potter wheels. We bought some fabulous and unique creations to take home.

Udaipur

Udaipur is surrounded by four lakes and called the “Venice of the East.” It was like being in a fairy tale with fantastical palaces and temples and narrow, crooked streets lined with whimsical townhouses.

Jag Mandir is an island palace on Lake Pichola that was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal! Its grandeur includes a row of enormous stone elephants at the entrance and a 17th-century tower carved from bluestone. We strolled along the paths of a lush garden and gazed at the views across the lake.

And then it was time to fly home and start our “must see” list for our next holiday in India.

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Hotel review: Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort http://www.travelwithamate.com/hotel-review-novotel-phuket-surin-beach-resort/ Wed, 26 Apr 2017 07:21:58 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31281 On a mission to explore more of Phuket in Thailand, our friends at oovotel invited us to experience some of their resort offerings on the island. Our first stop was the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa and after a 40 minute drive along the coastline heading North we reached the 2nd of our Novotel experiences, the Novotel ...

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On a mission to explore more of Phuket in Thailand, our friends at oovotel invited us to experience some of their resort offerings on the island. Our first stop was the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa and after a 40 minute drive along the coastline heading North we reached the 2nd of our Novotel experiences, the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort. Here’s our experience.

First impressions

You can’t help but be impressed by the grand entrance to the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort. A long driveway leading to an arched entrance with plenty of plush seating and impressive warm decor. Our daughter was greeted with her new best friend, the same Pikachu mascot we met at the Karon Beach Resort just a couple of days before. She was definitely happy to see him (or is it her?) again! Check-in was super easy and we were guided through the impressive dining areas and just a short walk to our “Suite Poolside Terrace“. We were so pleased to see once again that Novotel’s child friendly services were very much evident here. A Mickey Mouse duvet and pillow, cuddly toys and a play-tent for her to enjoy as soon as we arrived in the room. Childhood bliss! A welcome like this sure does set the tone for the rest of your stay and means everything to a little toddler.

Our room

I think the name “Suite Poolside Terrace” wasn’t entirely accurate. While it was a generous size with plenty of space for our suitcases and their contents it wasn’t strictly by the side of a pool. Just a short walk to the edge of one I grant you. Aside from that the suite was all you need for a relaxing stay. A huge master bed, a cute and perfectly sized kids bed / sofa in the lounge area. Flat screen TVs in both rooms and a generous sized fridge that you could get stocked with mini-bar goodies or make use of with your own purchases.

The Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort is definitely a bit older than our previous experience at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. The decor was more your standard hotel room artwork, with earthy colours that seem to compliment the immense greenery just outside the big sliding glass doors (more on that later). The front door to our room wasn’t the most sealed of doors so tended to let in noise from the busy corridor outside. Not too much of an issue in the day but it woke our daughter earlier than usual when people started heading for an early breakfast.

One other oddity is that the play-tent our daughter enjoyed so much on the first day was inexplicably removed by house-keeping the next day. Our daughter wasn’t upset, just a little confused. Still the kids club, pools and food kept her very busy.

Facilities

First thing of note here at the Novotel Surin Beach Resort is the fantastic landscaping within the grounds. The rooms encircle the pool and outdoor area where there’s a fantastic number of tall trees, hedges, meandering pathways, flowers, and greenery that you can’t help but find relaxing. Considering this is a large hotel complex it never felt too busy or loud, the trees and vegetation doing a fine job of absorbing the noise of activities from some 400 or more guests making use of all the facilities.

The pools here are some of the best on the island for a number of reasons. Firstly shade! I’m constantly surprised how little shade hotels put over their pools considering how hot and intense the sun can be in Thailand. Not a problem at this Novotel!  The foliage and winding loop of the pool (with an island in the middle) created plenty of places within the water to swim without being burnt. Very important for parents of a very active toddler who loves to swim for hours. There’s also two fun slides here that were mostly underused. I suspect because you can’t see the end of the slide from the top or the jarring knock on your spine as you slide down.

Kids World

Safe to say our nearly 3 year old was addicted to the kids club area known as “Kids World“, a multi-level air conditioned kids paradise with an activity area, TV room, ball pool and computers too. With multiple guided activities every day there was plenty for children to do here. Some really interesting and different activities too like learning to tie-dye and also the yummy cookie making class which resulted in us taking away a huge box of cookies that our daughter helped create. Delicious!

The staff here were helpful and attentive, although we did notice someone else had signed our daughter out at reception, presumably while there was nobody manning the door. I’m sure it was just someone signing the wrong row on the sheet but obviously a worry if staff think our daughter left with us when she may have walked off or left with someone else. Anyway all was well and our daughter couldn’t wait to return to the kids club every day. Definitely the highlight of her stay.

Massages

While the hotel does offer spa treatments I wouldn’t necessarily call it a spa. You’ll find the treatment areas above the gym on a mezzanine level. The treatment rooms are just a thin partition walls in a larger room with just a curtain separating you from the outside world. So there’s no calm and serene spa experience here. You’ll hear plenty of noise from the gym machines and other guests too. Having said that the massage was very good, I’m definitely too much of a wimp to opt for a Thai massage, I much prefer the essential oils and tamer Swedish style!

Dining

There’s plenty of dining options here both poolside and restaurant style. By the pool you can request service by pushing the wireless button next to your sun lounger. The ultimate way to get a tasty lunch! We fell in love with the Pepperoni Pizza which was just 179 TBH (around £4.50) and big enough for the 3 of us to share. All of the dining options at the resort are outdoors but split over multiple levels. With a booth style dining area overlooking the pools, its shaded from the sun with large fans above the tables.

There’s also a sushi bar with reasonably priced sashimi and Novotel’s “Champions” sports bar with plenty of TVs showing everything from Baseball and Aussie rules football to Formula One and monster trucks too. We got to experience the “Asian buffet” one evening at the “Asia Alive” main dining area. Lots to choose from with freshly cooked-to-order meats and noodle dishes from the chef. Plenty of of Sushi, Massaman curries and Asian nibbles too.

The dining areas all run out of one kitchen so the buffet / breakfast area is right next to the Champions Bar too, all of which are at the end of the main entrance building and the back of which has no wall so the entire area is not air conditioned While it was cooler than dining right outside by the pool it would have been nice to have one air conditioned dining option after a hot day in the sunshine. For a quick daytime snack there’s also a small lobby bar and food store selling coffees, cakes and crisps. They also have a very convenient shop here for your poolside essentials like suncream.

What’s nearby

Outside of the hotel its just a short walk to the beach across the road. The beach is fairly quiet with plenty of space to yourself. Along the resort road there are a few shops including laundry, a minimart and some great little restaurants worth checking out. There’s even a small wine bar which is unusual to see in Thailand! Along the main road you’ll find a few more dining options. A little further afield you’ll find some fun night markets and also Phuket Adventure Mini Golf which is great for all ages. Its easy to get about here if you walk out of the hotel and flag down a tuk-tuk or taxi driver. Thailand has no shortage of transportation although Phuket’s prices have risen since our last visit.

Conclusion

We really enjoyed our stay at the Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort mostly because our daughter had so much fun with all the facilities. One of the best pools for families who want shade while swimming, an amazing array of activities for kids, a very warm welcome and plenty of great friendly service from the staff. Our room was well positioned and we really enjoyed sitting outside in the evening and enjoying the lush green vista. If you’re travelling as a couple its worth checking out their Phuket romantic package too.

Hotel information

Novotel Phuket Surin Beach Resort
106/27 Moo 3, Cherngtalay, Talang, Surin Beach, 83110 Phuket, Thailand

Tel: +66 76 303 300
Fax: +66 76 300 303

E-mail : info@novotelphuketsurin.com
Website: novotelphuketsurin.com

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Hotel review: Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa http://www.travelwithamate.com/hotel-review-novotel-phuket-karon-beach-resort-spa/ Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:50:08 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31252 We recently returned to Phuket island on the west coast of Thailand to explore more of this popular holiday destination. We’ve been to Thailand many times but only once before to Phuket back in 2009. So we were keen to stay somewhere different and experience something new. With an invite to check out two of ...

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We recently returned to Phuket island on the west coast of Thailand to explore more of this popular holiday destination. We’ve been to Thailand many times but only once before to Phuket back in 2009. So we were keen to stay somewhere different and experience something new. With an invite to check out two of the numerous Novotel hotels and resorts on the island we ventured south to Karon beach to review the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. Here’s our experience.

First impressions

After a pleasant drive along the coast we reached the small circular driveway of the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa and were greeted by the very friendly staff. Thailand is known for its friendly locals and good resort service so there were no tricks missed here. A quick golf cart ride along the carefully manicured path lead us to our wonderfully secluded “plunge pool suite“. Our 2 year old daughter nearly lost her mind when who should greet her but none other than a 6 feet tall Pikachu!

Thankfully she wasn’t scared and was soon hugging and high-fiving. The child-friendly welcome didn’t stop there as inside our suite was a plethora of welcomes suited perfectly to a 2 year old. She had her own bed with princess duvet and pillow along with a gaggle of cuddly toys for her to cuddle the stuffing out of. Not only that but a play tent in the master bedroom and a fun little treasure hunt for tasty chocolates (hidden in the wardrobe!). Its safe to say our little daughter felt right at home instantly and I’m sure all parents will agree that this means everything when you’re on holiday! The family friendly box most definitely ticked!

Our suite

Our plunge pool suite was an impressive space with a modern but earthy feel. As the name suggests it had a private plunge pool that we could step right into from the master bedroom and take a refreshing dip complete with jet bubbles. There was ample seating outside and the perfectly presented hedging landscaping did a wonderful job of making this fairly tightly packed complex of suites feel quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of Karon and indeed other parts of the resort.

Inside the suite we had plenty of space for our suitcases and clothes, two large flat screen TVs (that was permanently on the cartoon network demanded by our daughter).

The bathroom had access from both the lounge and master bedroom, annoying if you forget to lock both doors but beautifully presented with some very well thought out colour schemes and the very welcome addition of a bath! Perfect for our little toddler who for some reason despises showers.  The master bed was huge and comfortable and the suite had the perfect balance of modern conveniences like smart lighting controls and universal power sockets as well as a natural homely feel.

Facilities

While our plunge pool was an instant hit especially with our daughter, there’s plenty more to see and do on-site. The main pool was always a popular hangout with a lively bar called Joe Kool’s Poolside Grill. The pool was an interesting shape with a bridge in the middle for easy access to your grilled lunch. There’s also the Horizon restaurant upstairs where the impressive breakfast buffet was served and often had live music and other entertainment in the evenings. There are two other pools on site offering a more exclusive feel. One has “Champions” Novotel’s signature sports bar showing plenty of sport all day long on multiple screens and offering the usual burger-and-fries style menu.

As any parent will tell you we are at the whim of our children’s demands and on discovering the kids pool and play-centre she was hooked! A smaller pool with a fun little water slide kept her amused for a while but her favourite place to visit was without doubt the kids centre. An indoor play area with all manner of activities, chill out areas, play-stations, books, movies, toys and anything else a child could ever want. Our daughter, rather than getting hooked on one thing, tried everything for about 60 seconds each, So I can safely say I’ve seen a lot of what this place has to offer.

The staff here were wonderfully attentive and eternally patient as kids of all ages, moods and attitudes pass their doors. It was a welcome escape from the humidity outside too. Our daughter enjoyed painting figurines, colouring and drawing, playing chef with the toy kitchen and making new friends every day. Its also a place to meet mums and dads and compare a few travelling-with-a-kid notes.

I very much liked the fact that there was always someone sat at reception by the door making sure parents signed their children in and out.

Also on site, through a labyrinth of walkways and corridors you’ll find the spa with a range of great treatments to choose from. I’ve been lugging suitcases, buggies and a toddler around Asia for 2 months now so a good back and shoulder massage was definitely needed. The staff were friendly, always smiling and with a calm air of serenity that every spa should have. The treatment room was dimly lit, sweetly aromatic and with the standard etherial background music. My 60 minute massage was firm and certainly showed my back muscles who’s boss. My only gripe with the spa experience was the door of my treatment room didn’t seal out the sounds from outside so the occasional guest or staff member walking the corridor could be heard, the odd banging door, etc. Not that big a deal but when they try so hard to create the perfect calming environment these sounds seem somewhat magnified.  Other than its well worth getting at least one massage during your stay just to pamper yourself.

Massage room

Eating at Tai

One of the biggest reasons for any trip to South East Asia is without doubt the food. Novotel’s Asian cuisine restaurant Tai offered us a set menu to experience some of their finest dishes. Tom Yam flavoured vegetable spring rolls to start followed by Japanese Tempura King Mushrooms, Wagyu Beef Massaman Curry and Steamed whole Sea Bass served with Chilli and Garlic Sauce. The curry was without doubt my favourite, beef that just dissolved as you chewed with sweet and spicy Massaman flavours that I will try my hardest to replicate when I return to England (and almost certainly fail!).

All of this delicious food was rounded off nicely with a seriously chocolatey mini cake with hot melted gooey centre. Divine! The atmosphere in Tai is quiet and somewhat reserved compared to the more informal and western dining options at the Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa. A welcome change and very tasty meal I can highly recommend.

What’s nearby

Karon beach is all of a 3 minute walk away. Don’t follow the road around the coast, instead hop across the busy road (a member of staff will stop traffic for you!) and take the bridge to the other side where you’ll easily see the short-cut straight to the beach. There’s a number of small restaurants here all vying for your attention as you walk past, definitely worth stopping for lunch or a beer.

Karon beach

Walking in to town is very easy and you’ll soon be surrounded by shops, cafes, restaurants and more hotels. Phuket isn’t the cheap island it once was so expect to pay similar prices in town as hotels charge. There’s plenty to choose from here and lots of daytime activities too other than tanning yourself on the long stretch of beach, from Elephant treks to cooking classes. You can book many of these from tour operators in town or just ask at reception of the Novotel and they’ll help arrange your activities too.

Getting around

If there’s one thing is very easy to do in Thailand its get around! Thailand has all manner of interesting transportation options. You wont fail to spot plenty of tuk-tuks zipping about, you’ll more likely hear one coming before you see it. These aren’t the 3 wheeled tuk-tuks you’ll see in other parts of Thailand as 4 wheels are definitely needed in this hilly environment. Many of them are no adorned with powerful sound systems blasting dance music from there flashing LED covered speakers. If you’re looking for a night out the party will definitely start the moment you jump in to the back of one of these.

Other options include taxis and hotel transfer vehicles to and from the airport but your best bet for a good deal now is Uber or the more popular Asian version called “Grab”. Just download the Grab app, sign up and book a local driver for much less than the cost of a normal taxi. Prices are still high compared to other areas of Thailand and Asia but Grab taxis are still one of your cheapest options.

Conclusion

The Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort And Spa was a refreshing resort in a refreshing location we hadn’t explored before. Karon is definitely a welcome break from the madness of some areas of Phuket like the ever popular Patong. The resort caters brilliantly for children which quite frankly transformed our stay as our daughter was in heaven the whole time. The landscaping of the entire site created a very impressive secluded feel throughout, the plunge pool suite was perfect for the 3 of us, I now wish I had a plunge pool at home! Its also worth checking out their Phuket hotel promotion for the latest special offers.

Novotel Phuket Karon Resort and Spa

Hotel information

Novotel Phuket Karon Beach Resort and Spa
568 Patak Road, Karon, Muang Phuket, Phuket 83100

Tel: +66 (0) 76 358 666
Fax +66 (0) 76 358 645

E-mail: H8825-RE@accor.com
Website: novotelphuketkaron.com

This review was sponsored by Novotel resorts and hotels. All opinions are my own.

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7 Natural Wonders Of Indonesia http://www.travelwithamate.com/7-natural-wonders-indonesia/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 03:04:36 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31238   With over 17,000 different islands, ranging from little islets dotted with palms to the colossal valleys of Sumatra, Indonesia offers one of the greatest concentrations of untouched natural beauty that can be found anywhere in the world. With all the fascinating wildlife, breath-taking photo opportunities, and some of the most popular scuba diving spots anywhere ...

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With over 17,000 different islands, ranging from little islets dotted with palms to the colossal valleys of Sumatra, Indonesia offers one of the greatest concentrations of untouched natural beauty that can be found anywhere in the world. With all the fascinating wildlife, breath-taking photo opportunities, and some of the most popular scuba diving spots anywhere on earth, you might feel pretty overwhelmed when you’re planning a trip to Indonesia. To make things easier for you, here’s a list of the most incredible natural wonders you can see in the country…

Komodo National Park

This barren, rocky island stands out from some of the more fertile areas of Indonesia, and its most famous species is also very unique. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest species of lizard, with some adults growing up to three metres long. These fascinating creatures can often be seen walking along the beach when you visit the island’s central camp of Loh Liang. The staff at the national park run guided walks lasting around half an hour, which takes you past a dry riverbed at the nearby Banu Nggulung. Here, you can see monitor lizards in their natural habitat; another massive reptile. Regular two-day boat trips to Komodo depart from Labuanbajo, a settlement on the nearby island of Flores.

Tanjung Putting National Park

This is another great place if you want to see a lot of wildlife on your trip to Indonesia. Tanjung Putting is a massive national park stretching over 4150 square kilometres of central Kalimantan, which is the Indonesian-owned southern part of Borneo. Aging, but surprisingly comfortable riverboats, will take you up the Sungai Sekoneyer river, with plenty of stops where you can see orangutans being fed on a three-day journey towards Camp Leakey. This is a wildlife rehab centre where orphaned or formerly captive orangutans are taken care of and trained to re-enter the wild. As you travel up the river, you’ll also have a good chance of seeing vibrant birds like kingfishers and hornbills. Just remember to stock up on mosquito repellent and Malarone to keep the area’s less appealing wildlife away! If it’s in the budget, you can even rent out famous two-story teak houseboats privately. Note that these are known as Klotok in the local language.

Raja Ampat

If you’re planning to bring your scuba gear on your trip to Indonesia, then Raja Ampat (just northwest of Papua Island) is an absolute must. Above the glinting blue ocean, you’ll see scattered, rounded hills covered in luscious tropical forest, in between tiny islets and tucked-away coves. Beneath the waves, the natural beauty becomes even more stunning. Epaulette sharks (those are small!) and Manta rays will drift over a multi-coloured underwater landscape of coral, broken up by massive underwater ridges, walls and valleys. You’re also likely to see shoals of parrotfish and barracuda patrolling their habitat. If you’re not planning on scuba diving while you’re out here, you can still have a great experience through kayaking, snorkelling and cruises on traditional schooners.

Lake Toba

At the northern end of Sumatra’s range of volcanos, at a height of 1130 metres, Danu Toba is the home of a caldera of a local super-volcano; the largest volcanic lake on earth. The beautiful ocean-blue waters cover a massive 100km expanse, and frame the land wedge of Pulau Samosir, home to the fascinating Batak people. The sleepy, winding roads around the region are excellent for exploring the land by bicycle, which has made Lake Toba one of the most popular tourism spots in the whole of Indonesia.

Mt Bromo

Indonesia is studded with volcanoes, and seeing at least one makes the “to-do” list for many travellers who visit the country. If you see just one during your trip, make sure it’s Mt Bromo. With its immense, almost surreal height, Mt Bromo is one of the truly epic natural spectacles you can see in Indonesia. A massive 10km-wide crater, formed by the turbulent volcanic history of the land, is overshadowed by the smouldering peak of the volcano itself. There are massive plains of hardened ash and volcanic sand, stretching from end to end of the crater, and the peaks of Kursi and Batok stand either side of Mt Bromo, making it seem even larger! If you can, try to see the crater during sunrise. 4×4 excursions leave from the settlement of Cemoro Lawang in the early hours of the morning in order to capture this sublime natural spectacle at just the right time.

Harau Valley

If your trips aren’t complete without some interaction with the locals, be sure to make a stop in Harau Valley. This is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, stretching up to 100 metres high, and enlivened by the waterfalls of Lemba Harau. If you’re adventurous enough, you may want to join rock climbers who negotiate tenuous routes up through the cliffs. However, you’ll probably be more at home taking the walking trails through the bright green rice paddies which fill the base of the valley. Taking this route will allow you to see how day to day life goes by in the area. If you want to stick around and learn a little more about the local people, there are many comfortable homestay programs in the area that are popular amongst western tourists.

Api Banda

People go to Mt Bromo to feel dwarfed, but visit Pulau Gunung Api Banda for the sheer beauty of the volcano. This volcano has a distinct conical shape, resembling Japan’s iconic Mt Fujiyama, but is only around 650m high, and as many people will agree, the country’s most picturesque volcano. The slope is steep and challenging, but most visitors manage to climb to the peak in around three hours. Once there, you’ll have a spectacular view of the surrounding islands, and possibly a sunset unlike any other you’ve seen before in your life!

If you want to make sure you’re soaking up all the natural beauty Indonesia has to offer, be sure to visit a few of these amazing sights.

 

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Earthly Employment! Ways To Earn Money While Traveling The Globe http://www.travelwithamate.com/earthly-employment-ways-earn-money-traveling-globe/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 14:09:50 +0000 http://www.travelwithamate.com/?p=31234 There comes a time during a road trip where the trappings of life seem to escape you, and you don’t worry about things like money, at least for about 10 minutes! While you can spend a lot of time working and staying in your parents’ spare room to get the money you need to travel, some ...

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There comes a time during a road trip where the trappings of life seem to escape you, and you don’t worry about things like money, at least for about 10 minutes! While you can spend a lot of time working and staying in your parents’ spare room to get the money you need to travel, some of us have found a way to earn money and travel at the same time. Think about it, working in another country gives you a whole new angle of soaking up the culture, and not just as a tourist. Here are some jobs to think about if you’re planning on spending a long time away from home.

Au Pair

The job that requires the least amount of training on this list, being an au pair has its challenges, especially if you’re not used to looking after children! But it’s a great way to spend time with a family native to your chosen country. During the days you would be looking after the children and doing the housework, but you have the evenings free to do what you want as well as weekends. The family would provide you with everything, and you wouldn’t need to pay rent.

Ski Instructor

One of the first things people think of as a way to earn money while getting a vacation. It is to an extent, but it’s a lot of hard work to get to that point. There are complete ski instructor courses available lasting up to 15 weeks but are as short as 4 weeks, ensuring that you are getting your ideal amount of time outside in the beautiful snowy surroundings of peaks like the Alps. It will also give you an incredible base of languages because you will need to learn a little bit of (almost) everything to get you by.   

Teaching English

A lot of people find that the best way to earn money in another country when they come from the western world is to do a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course and teach adults the language. As you are no doubt fluent in English, it’s possibly the easiest qualification to get! The qualification doesn’t take long to get, and there is such a high demand for people to go out to countries to teach the language. As a way of experiencing a culture and earning a decent wage, there aren’t many better options.

Flight Attendant

And probably the most “career” oriented one here, being a flight attendant is the best way to travel the world. As long as you have some patience in dealing with customers, this is a great way to see every corner of the world for free. As part of the job, you will have many layovers in other countries so you can look at each one and decide where to go on your vacation. One of the perks of being a flight attendant is the discount you can get on flights for you and the other members of your family.

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