A cheap holiday in Sharm El Sheikh turns into a delightful surprise

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

I don’t see myself as stingy, but for some reason I’ve always been attracted by ads for cheap holidays. As a businessman I work hard for my money, and a quick budget break now and again does wonders to restore my zest for life.

Last year during the winter months I found a super deal for a seven nights all-inclusive holiday in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Everything was included, even the airfare. And the total cost per day for me and my then partner worked out less than I would have paid for the hotel alone if I tried to book it myself.

To be in Sharm El Sheikh during the European winter was heaven on earth. The azure seas, the lovely white beaches, the virtually unlimited entertainment and food – everything contributed to make those seven days some of the best I’ve ever spent in my life.

For curio hunters the town is a treasure trove of handmade gifts and works of art. I usually don’t much care for wandering through flea-markets where all the stalls sell the same cheap plastic kitchenware, but this was something totally different.

At night the place truly comes alive, with a surprising number of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.  We dined at a different restaurant every night and were quite surprised at the variety of food, both Egyptian and international, on offer.

The days we spent either on the beach or exploring the town. There are also a number of tours available for those who want to explore the surrounding desert. And the Egyptian people were delightful – if one could learn to cope with the fact that they all seemed to be master salespeople.

All in all it was a very satisfying experience and I certainly wouldn’t mind doing it again. In terms of value for money it was virtually unbeatable.

Read More

Holidays: A quick visit to Hanoi nearly turns ugly

Posted on Jul 28, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

As a business owner I sometimes have to travel. The fact is that I love travelling, but during the average business trip there is unfortunately never quite enough time to really get to know your destination. I try to make the best of the situation though and spend every free minute sightseeing and savouring the food of the city where I find myself.

Recently I had to fly to Hanoi in Vietnam for a few days for an important business meeting. I must admit that I knew very little about the city and its people before I left. I had heard horror stories about the communist regime, so at the back of my mind I expected a dull, grey city with citizens sombrely going about their daily activities.

What I found was completely the opposite. Hanoi is a bustling (and apparently thriving) city with more signs of being a free market economy than one sees in London. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, people are selling things. On the streets, at traffic lights and even while you’re sitting at a pavement café, hawkers will approach you with a kaleidoscopic variety of products.

To me the most interesting part of the city was the area called the ’36 streets’. Here every street is dedicated to the manufacture of some or other specific type of product. On one street you will find small businesses making kitchen products; on another street it will be silver jewellery and yet another street will specialise in bamboo curtains.

The Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of the city is a beehive of activity at any time of the day or night. There are lots of restaurants and food vendors and every morning a lot of fitness-conscious Vietnamese can be found jogging around the lake.

I had time for a brief visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the embalmed body of the famous North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh can be viewed. The long queues clearly show how popular he really was.

The tour leader told us to leave our cameras on the bus, but I had no intention of having my rather expensive palm-sized camera stolen, so I slipped it into my shirt pocket. And that’s where the trouble started, because one of the security guards found it and I was summarily taken to a back room to be questioned by the police. It took them two hours to find an English-speaking officer who then proceeded to bombard me with different variations of the same questions. Eventually they got bored and let me go, but not before I started seeing images of myself being locked up in a communist jail for attempted spying.

I have to add, that despite this experience, the average Vietnamese person was wonderfully friendly and warm. I would go back without the slightest hesitation and if the deal I went to negotiate comes through it might happen sooner rather than later.

 

Read More

I visit Germany on a long-weekend break

Posted on May 26, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

As a business owner my life is often quite hectic and rather unpredictable. I would plan a short break away and then something would go wrong and I’d end up spending the best part of the weekend sorting everything out.

Now and again, however, I am lucky and things go according to plan, so I can enjoy a few days away from the stresses of work.

The last time this happened was at the beginning of May. I took the Thursday and Friday, plus the Monday and went to visit my cousin in GarmischPartenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps.

I booked a budget flight to Munich and from there took a train to Garmisch, which lies about 100km south of Munich at the foot of the impressive Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The train journey was a spectacular experience all on its own. The track winds through the Bavarian Alps like a snake and the scenery is, in a word, breathtaking.

My cousin picked me up at the station in his Mercedes. Having lived in Germany for the best part of his life, he drives only German cars. I don’t think he’s a snob, he just truly believes they are superior.

That night we enjoyed quite a few glasses of Glühwein. It’s a typical German concoction containing red wine and various spices and raisins and it is served hot: perfect for those cold nights in the snow-clad German Alps.

The next day we took the train through a very long tunnel, which goes more than halfway up the Zugspitze and from there we took a cable car to the top. The view was absolutely stunning; for miles and miles on end all one could see were snow-capped mountains stretching into the distance. I am not much of a skier, but the whole experience was magnificent.

There’s a very old little restaurant near the top cable station where we enjoyed a Glühwein once again to try and get some heat into our semi-frozen bodies.

The Saturday was quite chilly, but the sky was clear, so we went for a walk through the famous Partnach Klamm, a stunning gorge in the mountains close to town. We hiked right to the top of the mountain and from there took the cable car back to town. By the time we got back home we were tired and cold, but fortunately my cousin had a fresh bottle of Glühwein to rectify the situation.

That night we went to a typical German restaurant and enjoyed some traditional local dishes and quite a few excellent German beers. I’ve always been amazed at how the normally stoical Germans unwind after a couple of beers and turn into raucous party animals.

I was sad to leave the Monday, but luckily I can always go back. Next time I will go during the summer so we can go for walks in the surrounding woodland.

Read More

Sandy Lane Barbados holidays

Posted on Mar 9, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

Palm tree through cactusThe idea of a luxurious holiday break keeps me and many other hard-working souls from going crazy during the long slog of an average working week.  The destination I’ve had in mind recently is sunny Barbados in the Caribbean, and the hotel I have in mind is Sandy Lane Barbados: ITC Classics.  Sandy Lane Barbados offers the highest levels of luxury and superior personal service in a spectacular setting.   Who would not want to stay in a colonial-style room or suite with a private veranda on which to sit out on?  The 112 rooms and suites at Sandy Lane have an average size of 900 square feet, so there is plenty of space for guests to relax in.

Anyone who wants to be pampered on their holidays will appreciate Sandy Lane’s spa and John Frieda hair salon.  Those seeking peace and quiet are sure to seek out the hotel’s dedicated meditation room.  For the more active holiday maker, Sandy Lane offers no less than nine floodlit tennis courts as well as a gym and an aerobics studio.  For someone who likes to hit the fairways, the choice of three championship-style golf courses at Sandy Lane is particularly appealing to me.

Having worked up an appetite on the golf course, I would like the idea of dining in one of four restaurants at the hotel, perhaps their signature establishment, the à la carte L’Acajou, or the more laidback Bajan Blue.

ITC, or International Travel Connections, has been meeting holiday makers’ needs since 1974, establishing close relationships with the finest hotels in the world.  I already can’t wait for my holiday!

Read More

Dreaming of a Costa del Sol holiday experience

Posted on Jan 14, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

When I dream about holidays, one location often comes to mind, the Costa del Sol. It is far enough away to be a getaway that feels luxurious, but close enough to be comfortably affordable. While we are dreaming, here are the places I would visit if I were to take a holiday in the Costa del Sol.

One of the first things I would do is get some golf clubs and hit a few greens. Nothing quite beats playing a round or two with the sea as your backdrop and golf courses are abundant in Costa del Sol. Top on my list are Valderrama and the Finca Cortesin Golf Resort, but with over 130 courses to choose from, I am certain I will find something of interest, even if I cannot make it to either of these.

Next, I would head to the Picasso Museum to brush up on my culture. The famous artist was born in Malaga, so it is only fitting that there is a museum there dedicated to his work. Of course, Picasso’s work is not exactly my style, but I might meet some interesting people at this artistic hangout.

Finally, there are the beaches. What would a holiday to the Costa del Sol be without a trip to the beach; it would be a waste of money. Burriana Beach, La Rada and Mistral Beach are all on my list, although Mistral may have too many little kids for my liking. However, I have heard that the beach bar and water sports are well worth putting up with a few noisy children.

There you have it, my shortlist for a Costa del Sol holiday. Someday I will head to Spain and explore the stunning Mediterranean coast, but for now I will have to be content with simply dreaming and planning.

Read More

Fresh air and culture

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 in Holidays | 0 comments

I’ve been meaning to take a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for a while now.  I think I went as a kid, but apparently it’s all changed since then.  I went last weekend, and it certainly has changed a great deal.  I remembered the rolling landscape, and the sculptures dotted around outside in the open air, but it all seems on a much bigger scale now.  The friends I went with reckoned that more land has been acquired over recent years in an attempt to bring sections of the historic estate back together again.  If so, it has been well worth it.  It is an incredible landscape, and all the more surprising that it is only a mile away from the M1.  Once you’ve parked your car and wandered off into the country park, you really do feel miles from anywhere.

It now has a big visitor centre housed in an interesting wood-clad building, with a brilliant café and a shop stocking designer home goodies and pieces by a variety of artists.  Some great things in there, including some iconic Vita furniture to lust after, and I’ll definitely be saving my pocket money for the next time I come.

We had a great walk outside, and spotted some Henry Moore works dotted around the landscape, and had a walk down by the lakeside which has recently been renovated and opened up to visitors again.  There are some historical gems down here, including a grotto and an obelisk, which look fantastic nestling in the woodland.  We also saw the sheep pen by Andy Goldsworthy, and some red and yellow pieces made of mesh that looked like hay bales.  An odd but attractive sight, popping up through the trees where you least expect it.  I can well recommend it, and I certainly won’t be leaving it as long this time before I go back again.

Read More