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A S H D O W N T R AV E L SUMMER 2014

NEWS * CRÈCHE HOTELS * CRUISING NEW ZEALAND * CULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS


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SUMMER 2014

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Welcome to our latest newsletter! Having just returned from my first visit to New Zealand I am still buzzing with the breath-taking scenery that these two amazing islands have to offer. It was more timely than ever to visit with this destination growing in popularity, the recent Royal Tour and the Cricket World Cup next year. With these thoughts still fresh in mind our destination feature this time will be New Zealand and we will also be hosting a New Zealand client evening in the Autumn for you to see more closely what outstanding possibilities there are for a truly memorable holiday. Cruising continues to be a massive growth area for us and with new destinations and luxury all inclusive options becoming more accessible, we thought it would be great to give you an update on some of our favourite suppliers. Closer to home I am delighted to announce that we have been appointed members of the Starwood Luxury Privileges club. We are just one of a few travel agencies to have been awarded with this prestigious status and it allows our clients to receive exclusive benefits from complimentary room upgrades to food and beverage credits. Just some of the Starwood brands you may know are St Regis, ‘W’, Luxury Collection and Westin to name just a few. We have also just redesigned our website which gives you a lot more holiday content and suggestions as well as being able to read more about the team and in particular the areas that they specialise in. We also have a

new Twitter account, as well our existing Facebook page, which we will use to bring you the latest news and offers for all things travel. If you would like to be kept up to date then please log onto the website www.ashdowntravel.co.uk and click through on the Facebook or Twitter symbols and “like” us or “follow” us as appropriate. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and we look forward to seeing you in the shop soon. Kind Regards, Nick Samuels, Director nick@ashdowntravel.co.uk Cover photo by Virginia King (www.virginiakingsculptor.com)

A S H D O W N T R A V E L 24-26 Station Road East, Oxted

For the adventurous traveller Silversea cruises have added a third expedition ship called the Silver Discoverer. This 120 passenger vessel will offer exceptional quality destination led voyages to some of the most isolated ecosystems of Southeast Asia, the stunning Kimberley in Australia, the Sub-Antarctic islands departing from New Zealand, and the wilds of the Russian Far East. These voyages will fill very quickly so early booking is recommended.

The Le Bristol Paris is legendary around the world for its world class standards and facilities, however many of you may not know that it is part of a small collection of boutique hotels called the Oetker Collection. Each one is unique in style but guarantees you an outstanding experience. The collection is made up of 8 hotels and Ashdown Travel has an excellent working relationship with them all. The latest additions to their collection are the world famous Eden Rock in St Barths and the truly outstanding L’Apogee Courchevel which really has taken the luxury skiing market by storm.

Airlines around the world are all fighting for business and are always looking for new and exciting products to offer and Etihad Airlines are no exception. With their hub in Abu Dhabi they offer a network of flights to over 100 destinations and with their new Airbus A380’s they have really upped the ante with state of the art technology and comfort in all classes right the way through to offering the world’s first inflight private residence with separate lounge, double bedroom and shower room!


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For a small country on the other side of the world, New Zealand has an incredible amount of diversity and plenty to see to warrant the very long journey to get there! The main highlights have to be the stunning, varied scenery from fjords, glaciers, alpine vistas to coastline, as well as incredible food and wine, and unique cultural experiences.The list could be endless but we’ve narrowed down a tiny amount of the numerous ‘must-sees’:

with over 20 vineyards in close vicinity. It’s also an ideal place to relax in a busy self-drive itinerary as it’s NZ’s sunniest city, with a selection of cafes and restaurants in the town and plenty of characterful accommodation to stay. The Marlborough Sounds, formed from the ocean filling a network of ancient sunken river valleys, is best seen from the water, either on a luxury yacht or kayak excursion. Marvel at forested hills rising steeply from the sea, the clear water, the sheltered inlets and sandy bays.

City life in Auckland

Kick-back, relax and enjoy the laidback lifestyle of the towns of Russell and Paihia. A definite ‘must’ is to take a boat trip to enjoy some of the 144 islands that make up this region. Plus you can learn more about the history of the nation at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Maori and British signed the founding documents of the nation. At Cape Reinga you will see the meeting points of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean and then head down 90-Mile Beach, officially a highway but best left to an official tour group in a 4WD!

Photo by Ben Crawford (www.bencrawford.co.nz)

Rotorua’s thermal activity This is one of the best places to see the dramatic geo-thermal landscape of this volcanic region and hold your nose whilst visiting the bubbling mud pools and steaming water from the geysers. It is also a centre of Maori culture and you can try a hangi feast cooked in the steaming ground and visit a traditional village.

Lake life in Taupo Don’t miss the magnificent Huka Falls, just north of this picturesque lake, and we also recommend a jet boat ride or more sedate scenic cruise on this enormous inland lake. It is also famous for its trout fishing and Nick himself successfully caught a 10pound trout on his recent trip!!

Photos by (top) Ian Trafford (newzealandphotos@xtra.co.nz) & (bottom) enguin Place (www.penguin-place.co.nz)

Island life in Bay of Islands

Wildlife in Otago and Akaroa Peninsulas

Photos by (top) Chris McLennan (www.cmphoto.co.nz) & (bottom) Ben Crawford (www.bencrawford.co.nz)

It is a relatively small compact city and it’s easy to get around. We like staying in either Viaduct or the main harbour area and a day or two is usually enough to recover from jetlag, enjoy a boat trip, marvel at the views from the Sky Tower or test your nerves on the Bridge Climb, and then pick up a car or fly off to the next highlight.

Wine in Hawkes Bay New Zealand is undoubtedly famous for its vineyards and Hawkes Bay is particularly famous for its red wines – cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah. It is also famous for a huge earthquake in the 1930’s resulting in a huge rebuilding project and Napier’s reputation as an Art Deco city, reflecting the architectural style of the time.

Te Papa in Wellington New Zealand’s capital is a cosmopolitan harbour city with a real buzz around the cafes, restaurants and bars, a fun place for real food and wine lovers! On the waterfront you will find the famous Te Papa Museum, known as one of the best interactive museums in the world!

Wine in the Marlborough At the top of the South Island, this area is home to the world famous sauvignon blanc that graces our supermarket aisles (and shopping trolleys) here. There are over 40 cellar doors in the region but it is definitely best enjoyed on a tour so you can truly enjoy the produce! In the heart of the region, the town of Blenheim is a favourite of our clients

Christchurch is still rebuilding itself after its devastating earthquake so instead, whilst in the area, we would recommend a drive out to the Banks Peninsula and the town of Akaroa where you can find the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand at Flea Bay and the opportunity to see the very rare Hector dolphin on a harbour cruise. The Otago Peninsula is reached from the southern city of Dunedin. It is the home to colonies of Yellow Eyed Penguins, Little Blue Penguins, Fur Seals, and Royal Albatross.


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N EW Z EA LA N D Accommodation for all tastes

A ‘must’ in any itinerary. If your nerves can stand it, try out the original AJ Hackett bungee, a skydive, or the thrilling Shotover or K-Jet jet boat ride. If you aren’t an adrenaline junkie then there is still a huge array of outdoors activities including beautiful walks and hiking trails, 4WD Lord of the Rings tours, TSS Earnslaw steamship experience, wine tours, mountain biking, and a gondola ride up Bob’s Peak. Pan for gold at the nearby Arrowtown or just have a gentle stroll around the pretty lake and take a drive to the nearby Coronet Peak and The Remarkables mountains.

It may be an overused cliché but there are accommodation types to suit every budget. Some of our clients prefer the flexibility of a motorhome, and with the number of miles you will clock up it will certainly be convenient, with no packing and unpacking and just the freedom to stop for a photo opportunity and carry on the journey when you are ready. The majority of our clients tend to hire a car and we can book motels, B&Bs or more comfortable hotels depending on your tastes and budget. But New Zealand is also home to some of the most incredible luxury lodges, set in some outstanding locations. They pride themselves on their incredible attention to detail, world class cuisine and of course, exceptional wines. On his recent visit, Nick was lucky enough to see some of the most famous including Matakauri Lodge and Blanket Bay near Queenstown, Otahuna near Christchurch, Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses near Kaikoura, Bay of Many Coves in Marlborough Sound, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers at Hawkes Bay, Huka Lodge at Lake Taupo, Eagles Nest and the Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in the Bay of Islands. Ask him now for more details.

Rated as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, the TranzAlpine takes you from Christchurch,across the farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, the stunning deep gorges alongside the Waimakariri River and the magnificent Southern Alps, through the beech forests to Greymouth on the west coast. It is very easy to include as part of a self-drive itinerary as you can pick your car up in Greymouth and continue on your journey.

Unique Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers These glaciers are unusual, being in a temperate climate and at low altitude, and they still flow almost to sea level.The Fox Glacier plummets from 2600m in the Southern Alps right down to the river valley below. Admire their sheer enormity by guided hike or from several viewing points nearby.

The cascading waterfalls of Fjordland The dramatic Milford Sound was carved by glaciers in the Ice Age and it features as a breath-taking cruise in most of our itineraries. The fjord’s cliffs rise dramatically from the sea with waterfalls, some as high as 1000m, crashing into the water below. Doubtful Sound is deeper, larger and altogether more peaceful and serene and can be experienced by cruise or kayak.

Photos by (top) Gareth Eyres (www.exposure.co.nz) & (bottom) Rob Suisted (www.naturespic.com)

Traverse the Southern Alps by train

Photo by Legend Photography (www.andybelcher.com)

The adventure capital of Queenstown

Hike some iconic great walks There are 9 Great Walks as well as numerous multi-day and day treks. Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses dramatic volcanic plateau landscapes of crater lakes, alpine meadows and peaks, the Queen Charlotte Track hikes through the lush bush, around historic bays and along skyline ridges of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sound. The Routeburn takes you past soaring mountain peaks, huge valleys, waterfalls and jewel-like lakes, linking Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park.And the world famous Milford Track attracts hikers from all over the globe wanting to experience the dramatic vistas of mountain lakes, waterfalls and towering alpine peaks.

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Regent Seven Seas Cruises

SeaDream Yacht Club

Enjoy the most inclusive luxurious cruise experience ever, where absolutely everything is included and personal service is at the forefront of everything they do. Indulge in world-class cuisine whilst visiting exotic destinations and enjoying unlimited free shore excursions in every port of call, and all gratuities are included. All of the spacious suites on board the Seven Seas Voyager and the Seven Seas Mariner have balconies, both ships take up to 700 guests and on the smaller Seven Seas Navigator taking up to 490 guests, 90% of the suites have balconies. The amenities in your luxurious suite include L’Occitane products in the bathroom, fluffy bathrobes and slippers, a daily newspaper of your choice, 24 hour room service, in-suite dining during restaurant hours, a bottle of champagne and fresh fruit on arrival and a fully stocked fridge with beer, water and soft drinks. Throughout the ship at any time of day there is a selection of beverages available, including speciality teas and coffees, fine wine, premium spirits, ports, whiskeys and cocktails. Relax on deck or take part in a yoga or pilates class, a game of table tennis or the daily quiz. In the evening enjoy some jazz music, the late night cabaret, cocktails in the piano bar or dance the night away in the nightclub. The four restaurants are all different and offer gourmet food, complemented by fine wine with no extra charge even in the speciality restaurants. The restaurants are open seating giving you the option to choose when and where you wish to dine, the speciality restaurants require reservations but at no supplement. With some really fantastic itineraries ranging from the Mediterranean to Africa and Asia, the Caribbean, Alaska, the Pacific and South America there is a sailing to suit everyone.

SeaDream’s twin mega yachts are a balance of casual comfort and refined elegance. Yachting defines the lifestyle aboard, and the harbours and ports you visit. With a maximum of 112 guests with almost as many crew, you are assured of great personal attention. All accommodation is ocean view and your voyage fare includes gourmet meals with wine at lunch and dinner, an open bar with select premium brands, gratuities, mountain bikes, the fitness centre, golf simulator, an extensive CD and DVD library. Both yachts have a retractable water sports marina providing a variety of exciting water activities, including laser sailboats, glass bottom kayaks and water ski-ing equipment. In the evening sample hors d’oeuvres with pre

dinner cocktails and listen to the sounds of a live guitar during the multiple course dinner served under the stars. After dinner watch starlit movies on the big screen or dance the night away at the Top of the Yacht bar. The SeaDream spa is a member of the Thai Spa Association and the only one of its kind at sea. Offering products from brands such as La Prairie, Thalgo and Essie, the Spa provides treatments for body, facial, hair and nails. SeaDream is not about rock climbing, bowling alleys, feathered ladies on stage or more bars than Bermuda... it is about opulence and intimacy. SeaDream will appeal to those who love sports, the history buffs, the gourmands and the thrill seekers. SeaDream is yachting...not cruising!

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01883 714312


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Crystal Cruises Six star service is the essence of the award winning Crystal experience with a high staff to passenger ratio. All inclusive luxury begins with fine wines, premium spirits and champagne served throughout the ship as well as bottled water, custom coffees, soft drinks and juices. There are up to five dining venues for breakfast and lunch and up to eight for evening dining, a choice of classic main and late sitting or an option for flexible dining by reservation in the Crystal dining room. Experience The Silk Road and The Sushi Bar for Nobu’s Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine, and Prego for Italian fare. Staterooms and penthouses are generously appointed with exceptional style and design, most with a fabulous teak verandah where you can enjoy meals al fresco and watch the world go by. The award winning spa and the state of the art fitness centre with Pilates classes, spinning, yoga,

Silversea Cruises Tai Chi and boot camp ensure there is something for every guest. Crystal offer shore excursions for all activity levels and the Crystal Visions enrichment program lecture series on every voyage features celebrities, destination and world affairs experts, economists, astronauts and more. Themed cruises offer a variety of special interest topics and these voyages bring together experts to lead lectures and give interactive demonstrations with engaging optional shore-side excursions such as trekking in Costa Rica and kayaking in Croatia. Crystal Boutique Adventures are unique and allow just a hndful of guests to explore destinations in extraordinary settings not available to the average traveller, taking guests inside private estates, art studios, museums, castles and well-known businesses for exclusive behind the scenes tours.

On six remarkable ships, the only ultra-luxury cruise line that travels to all seven continents, you will experience an extraordinary level of personal attention and service. Silversea offers small ship cruising with between 296 to 540 guests on board and a staff to guest ratio of almost one to one. The smaller ships enable them to be welcomed in secluded harbours not reached by the larger vessels and are able to tie up dockside, making the destinations even more accessible. Silversea suites are amongst the largest afloat, each having a panoramic view and most with a private verandah. Every guest in every suite category on all of Silversea ships has the services of a butler. Every Silversea ship has at least four dining choices, with an extensive selection of complimentary red and white wines and an open seating policy, most requiring a reservation for dinner. Onboard activities include bridge classes, dance classes, food demonstrations, water volleyball and singles events. Silversea enrichment programmes

complement every voyage with intimate lectures and informal demonstrations to enhance your appreciation of each destination.These distinguished guest lecturers are drawn from diverse walks of life, authors, journalists, historians and other specialists. In the evening, enjoy the show lounge, the panorama lounge or bar for live music and dancing or try your luck in the Casino. On select voyages distinguished gentlemen are available as dinner companions or to spin you around the dance floor! Luxurious and exhilarating,Silversea Expeditions “Silver Explorer” will give adventure seekers rare access to some of the most remote destinations. Voyage across the Polar Circle, explore Africa’s west coast, trek through Central America’s jungles or traverse the ancient plateaus of Patagonia. With only 132 guests on board you will enjoy all the Silversea benefits, and the complimentary shore excursions guided by expert naturalists are limited to small groups to ensure you get the most out of your experience. They have also expanded the fleet to include Silver Galapagos and Silver Discover.


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L O N G HA U L C R È C H E H OT E L S

Almyra, Cyprus, shows that you don’t have to sacrifice style on a family holiday. Its’ cool and minimalist design is refreshing for such a family focused hotel and their dedicated children’s club looks after babies, children and teenagers aged 4 months to 15 years in age-related settings. Their unique ‘Baby Go Lightly’ service allows you to order a variety of items prior to your arrival such

Sani Resort in Halkidiki is a luxury family orientated resort, near the beach with a great range of facilities. The resort has a choice of hotels, and the Porto Sani Village and Sani Asterias Suites offer a high standard of accommodation in a unique setting. There are independent crèche and childcare facilities provided through Melissa’s Creche Club and Melissa’s Children’s Club for children aged 6 months to 12 years, plus a resort run teenagers club. At the centre of the resort is the fabulous marina, around which are located nearly a dozen bars and restaurants and good selection of shops. All of the 50 Asterias Suites are either marina or beach-view, whilst the suites at the Porto Sani Village are set behind the marina

as baby food, nappies, games, push chairs and toys, making both your packing and traveling a lot easier! Adults will also love the great food, service and the spa treatments on offer. Almyra is within walking distance of Paphos town centre where a wide range of restaurants cater to even fussy little eaters. Cyprus is 4hrs 30mins away by direct flight from Gatwick.

through the gardens and around the pool complex. The resort offers a feast of activities including mountain bike hire, tennis, sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, scuba diving. Eating out plays a big part in any holiday, and the Sani Resort gives you a wide choice, hence the standard board is bed and breakfast. Nevertheless, clients at the Sani Village can opt for half board and can still enjoy some of the marina restaurants on the resorts’ flexible dinearound programme at no extra charge, or have a meal allowance in the a la carte restaurants. Direct flights from Gatwick are just 3 and half hours to Halkidiki, with just under an hour’s transfer time to resort.

Carlisle Bay, situated on the south coast of the Caribbean island of Antigua, is wonderfully stylish yet very family friendly. The sweeping sandy beach defines this elegant resort and with superb crèche and childcare facilities for children aged from 6 months old, this is the place to come to for some well-deserved R&R. Apart from the Garden Suites, all rooms have seaviews, and many are directly on the beach, including the ground floor Beach Terrace Suites which have a bedroom with kingbed and a second twin bedroom - perfect for all the family! There is a large graduated pool at the heart of the property, as well as tennis courts, gym, yoga and Pilates pavilion, spa, library and 45-seater cinema. Mealtimes are relaxed with 3 restaurants on site including Ottimo!, a poolside restaurant serving classic Italian dishes. The Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives have long been favourite

areas of the world for Ashdown Travel clients, and are increasingly becoming popular with families. Despite the average flying times being between 10.5-12 hours, there is usually only a 3 hour time difference so only minimal jetlag to adjust to, making it easy even for little ones to start their holiday as soon as they arrive. The majority of properties can arrange nannies or babysitters for under 3’s, and children’s clubs are available from age 3 or 4 onwards. We get great feedback from clients staying at Beachcomber properties on Mauritius, particularly Le Paradis and Trou aux Biches. Whilst in the Maldives, the contemporary Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is only a speedboat ride away from the air terminal and their service is simply phenomenal. Want the dramatic arrival onboard a seaplane? Then check out the stunning LUXMaldives, with its family water villas, kids club and 7 restaurants, the whole family is catered for effortlessly.


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The Ballet in Russia

Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas

Folies Bergere Paris

During the summer months, the vast Arena di Verona welcomes hundreds of thousands of people for the annual Opera Festival. Different operas are performed each season but Verdi’s Aida is always in the programme. The sheer scale of the performing space is perfect for this most spectacular of all grand operas. The Arena is a focal point, however,Verona offers so much more for a weekend visit. Visitors can enjoy the elegant squares including the Piazza Brà, the Piazza delle Erbe, the Roman Forum and the Giardini Giusti, as well as Juliet’s house with its famous balcony. The opera theme continues at the wonderful new museum of opera, AMO, which tells the story of how an opera develops, from the libretto and music to a fully staged performance, using a wealth of material from the Arena’s own archive.

World class performances of music, opera and ballet take place every evening at St Petersburg’s theatres and concert halls and one of its most famous, the Mariinsky Theatre opened in 1860. It has a long and distinguished history of both opera and ballet performances and the new Mariinsky Theatre opened in 2013. A stay in St Petersburg can be coupled with a river cruise where you can gently meander down the river from Moscow enjoying the beautiful sights along the way. At the end of the cruise, an overnight stay onboard the ship will allow you time to enjoy a ballet performance at the Mariinsky. Tickets are available for purchase prior to departure from the UK and will be delivered to your ship on the morning it docks in the city.

Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company that mixes dramatic street theatre with awe inspiring circus acts. Amongst its many iconic residences in Las Vegas is the timeless production of “O” at the Bellagio. It is inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water’s pure form, and weaves the simplest street performance to the most lavish of operas, with world-class acrobats, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters performing in, on, and above water to create a breathtaking experience. Combine with a 4 night stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, enjoy a flight over the Grand Canyon by day and a fantastic Vegas show in the evening. Cirque du Soleil are also showing The Beatles Love at the Mirage, Zumanity at New York New York and Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay. All tickets are available to book prior to leaving the UK.

The Folies Bergère is a cabaret music hall, located in Paris, France. Established in 1869, the house was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s’ Belle Époque era through the 1920s’ Années folles.The institution is still in business, and is always a strong symbol of French and Parisian life. Paul Derval was 86 when he died, he had reigned supreme over the most celebrated music hall in the world. In August 1974, the business was passed onto Hélène Martini, the empress of the night (25 years earlier she had been a showgirl in the revues).This new mistress of the house reverted to the original concept to maintain the continued existence of the last music hall which remained faithful to the tradition. Since 2006, the Folies Bergère has presented some musical productions with stage entertainment like Cabaret and Zorro the Musical. In 2014 amongst many productions are the musicals Love Circus and Hello The Buddies.

© Ennevi Photo. Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

Opera in Verona

A S H D O W N T R A V E L 24-26 Station Road East, Oxted

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01883 714312


A S H D OW N T EA M T R I P S Lake Como & Venice by Abigail It was an early start for our flight to Milan but once we had arrived and were in the taxi, skirting the shores of Lake Como, it was well worth it.The views were breath-taking with the backdrop of the snowcapped Alps framing the picturesque lake and by lunch we had arrived to a very warm welcome at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The hotel dates back to the early 1900’s and is one of the oldest in the area. It has a stunning lakeside position, next door to Villa Carlotta, and with incredible views over to the famous town of Bellagio. Our rooms were the recently renovated Lake View Prestige rooms which have kept the flavour of an historic hotel but given a contemporary and stylish twist. The views from the balconies were just incredible but even the Park View rooms, overlooking the 20,000 sq m of parkland behind the hotel, are beautiful. They also have a small number of ultra-modern rooftop suites each with a private terrace and outdoor heated Jacuzzi. The ‘beach’ was one of the most unexpected parts, with a sand covered terrace, sun-loungers, cool bar area and a unique pool on a floating platform over the lake. Whilst in Como we visited the historic Villa Balbianello reached by the hotel’s own launch, and we took a ferry over to Bellagio to stroll

around the little streets and enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by. Following an idyllic couple of days we returned to Milan and took a train through the Italian countryside to Venice.Wow! It was as picture perfect as all the iconic images show it to be. Every twist and turn of the narrow streets revealed another photo opportunity of a bridge over a canal with a gondolier drifting on by. We did enjoy a gondola serenade but part of the charm was just strolling through St Marks Square, past the Bridge of Sighs and Rialto Bridge and then just getting lost around all the back streets. We stayed at the Bauer Palladio, on Giudecca Island facing St Mark’s Square. It is sister hotel to the Bauer Hotel and Bauer Il Palazzo, just a short boat ride across the lagoon, and within minutes you are in the heart of the city. The advantage of the Palladio is the beautiful gardens you can relax in after a busy day sightseeing, and even more relaxing is the Spa! Across the water the Bauer Hotel gives a contrasting modernity to its neighbour the Palazzo housed in an original Venetian house from the 18th Century, with rooms opulently decorated in a more traditional Venetian style. It was a fantastic few days and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing another side to Italy, one so easy to reach as a short twin-centre break or extended holiday!

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