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Latest News * Italy * Iconic Drives Iceland * Cruise Update Team Trips: Maldives & Crete





Welcome to our latest newsletter!

2016 is flying by in the blink of an eye and I daren’t even mention how many Saturdays my wife told me it was until Christmas! I do hope many of you were able to come to the Oxted French Farmers Market in Station Road East; it certainly brought a little Ooh La La to the town for the day. For those who didn’t, Ashdown Travel and our dear friends at Kirker Holidays raffled a luxury weekend in Paris with all proceeds going to Sir Richard Stilgoe’s ‘Orpheus Centre’. It was a great day and I am delighted that we could support such a well-known local charity. Despite what is going on in the world, I am delighted to say that Ashdown

Travel is having an excellent year. We have been appointed a member of the very exclusive Peninsula Hotels ‘Pen’ club which sits nicely alongside our other preferred status with many of the World’s leading hotel chains. I genuinely believe that Ashdown Travel has some of the very best travel specialists in Surrey and with over 200 years combined experience, why not talk to the experts rather than using the Internet! This time, our destination feature is a country a little closer to home, Italy. However as you will read, this amazing country really does have it all, with incredible cities, amazing countryside and the stunning Lakes area. Cruising has also seen a huge increase in demand, so we have included a feature on what is happening onboard the water! There are many iconic drives around the world, however we have focused on 2 of our most requested, Route 66 and the Great Ocean Road. These really are fantastic ‘Bucket List Trips’ and can be combined as part of a larger itinerary. I do hope you enjoy the newsletter and we look forward to talking to you soon. Kind regards, Nick Samuels, Director nick@ashdowntravel.co.uk

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Belmond, the operator of many current Luxurious Train Journeys have announced that starting in May 2017 they will have their first ‘sleeper’ train in South America, the Belmond Andean Explorer.The new train is set to travel along one of the highest rail routes on earth traversing the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, exploring

‘W’ Hotels the luxury contemporary brand of Starwood hotels have a significant amount of new openings in 2016.Their legendary ‘whatever’ ‘whenever’ ‘wherever’ concept has many followers worldwide and with new openings planned in Miami, Las Vegas, Goa and Punta Mita in Mexico there is even more choice for a great fun stay in luxurious surroundings. Ashdown Travel is one of only a handful of Starwood Luxury Privilege Club Member agents in the UK and this means that our clients receive extra special amenities and privileges when staying in a Starwood hotel. Please ask us for more details.

natural wonders and ancient kingdoms on one and two night journeys. There will be a selection of four journeys visiting Cusco, the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, Puno where guests can visit the remote villages and floating islands on Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most of our customers love to fly from Gatwick Airport wherever possible and this year the airport has even more long-haul routes available. September sees the start of a new Cathay Pacific service to Hong Kong with onward connections to most of the Far East and Australasia. Norwegian Air Shuttle are flying non-stop using the latest 787 Dreamliner’s to Boston in Massachusetts and Oakland (San Francisco) in California. These routes have some great lead in fares and even some Premium upgrade options.

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Tuscany is full of historic hilltop villages, beautiful architecture, fabulous art and incredible undulating landscapes. The wonderful Chianti vineyards and unique Tuscan kitchen are in abundance to be enjoyed and experienced. Florence is undeniably the capital of Tuscany, just an introduction to the diversity and beauty that exists within the region. Florence’s museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. Shop for jewellery on the Ponte Vecchio, or climb the hill to the church of San Miniato al Monte to experience an enchanting view of Florence. San Gimignano, famous for its fascinating medieval architecture and towers that rise above the surrounding buildings. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990, San Gimignano offers visitors the chance to step back in time while enjoying its local products. Lucca, a walled city ideal for anyone with mobility issues and very easy to reach by car as

well as train from both Pisa and Florence. The walls that surround the old town have become a pedestrian promenade, today one of Lucca’s main attractions. Enjoy a bike ride around the entire perimeter or a leisurely stroll. Siena, Italy’s loveliest medieval town, a city that sits over three hills with its heart the huge Piazza del Campo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the famous Palio, a medieval tradition involving bareback horseriders racing on cobblestones, featured in the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Siena is an easy daytrip by train from Florence, just 43 miles away. Elba, part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, the largest marine park in Europe, famous for harboring French Emperor Napoleon in 1814 during his exile. Elba is renowned for its clear, blue sea ideal for diving and snorkeling, and the beautiful beaches. A unique destination in Tuscany, perfect for outdoor sports and activities including hiking and mountain biking.

Puglia is just under 2 ½ hours flight from the UK and is the region at the ‘heel’ of Italy. The Trulli houses, small white circular stone houses, date back to the 19th Century and help to make Puglia an enchanting destination. Completely unspoilt and a fascinating destination with plenty to see and do… from UNESCO sites of Castel del Monte and Alberobello, home of the Trulli houses to the amazing nature and coastline of the Gargano National Park. From the mystical ‘Sassi’ caves of Matera to the stunning baroque masterpiece of Lecce, known as ‘Florence of the South’. Puglia also offers some of the finest food and wine and you will not be disappointed! Locally produced vegetable antipasti to start, whilst the Puglian pasta ‘oreccheitte’, known as ‘little ears’ is served with homemade tomato salsa, fresh basil and grated ricotta cheese! Around the coastal

areas seafood and fresh fish are a must! For those who like luxurious hotels, the Borgo Egnazia is a stunning 5* hotel nestled amongst the olive groves just metres away from the Apulian coastline. Another lovely alternative is the Masseria Torre Coccaro. This is a beautiful secluded hotel in the Puglian countryside, but close enough to the coast for beach lovers. The Canne Bianche Hotel & Spa is a chic boutique style property and due to the coastal position, you will be within driving distance of Puglia’s main attractions. With over 800km of coastline, Puglia is wellloved by those who have a penchant for beaches or life on the open sea! Wherever you go you will never have far to go to find an ideal spot, plus a climate as warm and sunny as anywhere in the Mediterranean!





The Italian Lakes offer a bit of everything; pretty towns and villages perched on the water’s edge, a backdrop of mountains, fine buildings and, of course, stunning scenery. The largest and most well-known are Como, Garda and Maggiore which each offer their own unique charm. Como is the most glamorous with millionaire mansions on the lake and some chic and glamorous resorts like Tremezzo and Bellagio. Some of our favourite hotels are Serbelloni in Bellagio, the Grand Hotel Tremezzo and the modern contemporary Filario Resort & Spa in Lezzeno. Maggiore is a spectacular lake with shores bordered with lush Mediterranean vegetation, and the backdrop of the Alps in the distance. The main towns of Stresa and Baveno bustle

away with local pizzeria’s and pavement cafes perfect for people watching. Our favourite hotels are Villa Aminta and the Grand Hotel Des Iles Borromees. Garda is the largest and busiest of the Lakes, however it is still stunningly beautiful and has great views of the Northern Alps. Ferries are in abundance to guide you effortlessly around this great lake. There is a choice of larger and smaller resorts to suit every style and budget; however our best-selling hotel by far is the Grand Hotel Gardone in Gardone Riviera, which has a long list of esteemed guests including Sir Winston Churchill! A number of the Ashdown Travel team have stayed in the Lakes and would be delighted to assist in helping you plan a trip to this amazing area.

The Amalfi Coast is surely one of the most breathtaking coastlines in Europe. With villages clinging to mountainous hillsides at impossible angles, dramatic views of the soaring coast around every corner, this is one place that you cannot forget your camera! You are also ideally placed to visit the historic sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, whilst not forgetting the source of that devastation – Mount Vesuvius, the one active volcano on mainland Europe. A boat trip along the coast or across to the island of Capri is the perfect way to see another view of this fascinating area. The largest and best known resort, Sorrento, has accommodation to suit every budget; whilst romantic and fashionable Positano retains a more chic and exclusive air. Perched slightly inland high above the small fishing village of Amalfi, is the true gem of this coastline, Ravello. Ravello suits those seeking

a more peaceful retreat, whilst surrounded by stunning views across citrus groves down to the sea. The composer Wagner was said to have been inspired here by the gardens and views, and his music is featured during the annual festival every summer; whilst the beautiful gardens at Villa Cimbrone continue to delight visitors old and new alike. The boutique Belmond Hotel Caruso is a delightful property housed in a former 11th century palace in the heart of Ravello and the sympathetic renovation has successfully preserved many ceiling frescos. With regular flights from Gatwick to Naples and transfers a little over an hour, this area is perfect for at least a long weekend! The Amalfi Coast can also be easily twinned with Florence, which is exactly what Anne did recently, where she stayed at the Belmond Villa San Michele, making a perfectly contrasting Italian getaway!



Small Group or Private Tour | Culture & Scenery 15 Days & 12 Nights • From £2,695

Small Group or Private Tour | Scenery & Wildlife 11 Days & 9 Nights • From £1,745

Machu Picchu is perhaps the most breathtaking archaeological site in the world. Yet Peru also offers a wealth of other magnificent ancient, colonial and scenic sights. Staying in good hotels with great character and with some free time to relax, this tour reveals Peru’s many wonders, including Cuzco and Arequipa, the Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and, of course, Machu Picchu.

The Cox & Kings highlights: • Stay overnight at Machu Picchu • Visit the oldest private colonial mansion in Lima • Spot majestic condors at the Colca Canyon • Scenic Andean Explorer train journey from the altiplano to Cuzco • Inti Raymi departure • Small group size – maximum 26 people • Price includes international flights, accommodation in 4- & 5-star hotels, Tour Manager, excursions and some meals.


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Located between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the small country of Costa Rica is one of the most ecologically diverse places on Earth. This journey visits some of the major national parks in the country and explores the astonishing variety of wildlife and contrasting habitats found here, including rainforest, cloud forest, volcanoes, lakes and canals.

The Cox & Kings highlights: • View the Arenal volcano from your superior hotel • Cross Lake Arenal by boat • Cruise the canals of Tortuguero • Caño Negro boat trip • Explore the hanging bridges at Monteverde • Small group size – maximum 26 people • Price includes international flights, accommodation in 4-star hotels, Tour Manager, excursions and some meals.

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The Great Ocean Road, in the southern state of Victoria, stretches 150 miles along some of the most spectacular coastline the country has to offer. It was constructed by returned-servicemen following WWI and is dedicated to the soldiers killed in action and so forms the world’s longest war memorial. The road wends its way past shipwrecks off the coast at the fishing village of Port Fairy, the historic lighthouse and wildlife at the Otway National Park, idyllic seaside towns such as Apollo Bay, surf breaks at Bells Beach, and the magnificent limestone stacks of the Twelve Apostles. The iconic sight of these rocky stacks, broken off from the mainland in dramatic fashion by the elements is best seen at sunset with the colours of the stone burning in the fading light. Shortly followed by, if you are lucky enough, little penguins returning to shore.

There are other highlights such as Loch Ard Gorge, situated on what is known locally as the shipwreck coast and you can see why, with the mighty Southern Ocean pounding the shore. Just outside Port Campbell is another formation known as London Bridge, and it did indeed fall down, in spectacular fashion leaving two tourists stranded on the newly formed island to be rescued by helicopter! It can be seen on a (long) day trip from Melbourne, but we suggest hiring a car and selfdriving with a few nights stay along the way. We like the Oscars Waterfront Boutique Hotel in Port Fairy and the Apollo Bay Guesthouse and Captains at the Bay both in Apollo Bay. It can also link the two state capitals of Melbourne and Adelaide as part of a wider trip. It can be enjoyed at any time of year, but we suggest visiting in their summer, our winter, for the warmest weather.

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Established on November 11th 1926, Route 66 is one of America’s most famous roads. Winding 2400 miles from Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in Chicago to Los Angeles, it followed the old trails laid out by the early explorers and railroad, through some of the most romantic and celebrated portions of the American West. Once referred to as the Main Street of America, and dubbed The Mother Road in John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’, Route 66 was the first all-weather highway that linked Chicago to Los Angeles, and travelling Americans embraced it with much enthusiasm. Eventually, the USA moved on to the national highway system moving people and goods across the country

much faster, so consequently towns faded and the historic road became obsolete. In 1985 whatever was left of Route 66 was officially decommissioned, but even today this famous road still captures the hearts and imagination of travellers who find driving down Route 66 a magical experience. Highlights include: Chicago, St Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. If you really want to drive it in style then why not rent a big American Muscle Car or for motorbike enthusiasts we can even rent you a Harley Davidson which you can ride completely independently or as part of a small group tour.


of organised activities both for the daytime and evening, you will have no shortage of things to keep you occupied during your floating vacation.

C RU I S E U P DAT E Large or small, formal or informal, lively or quiet, families or adults there really are cruises that come in every shape and size and offer something for virtually everyone. Choosing the right cruise ship can be daunting and something of a lottery, however getting it right is so important! Our team at Ashdown are very experienced in booking cruises and have first-hand experience of a number of Ocean and River Cruises. I would strongly endorse our cruise expert Sue as being one of the most knowledgeable in the business. Cruising has been one of the fastest growing sectors of our business over the last few years and in this feature we will highlight some of the cruise companies and what they offer.


Large Ship Cruises This sector of the market has seen some huge new arrivals, most notable the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas which is officially the world’s largest cruise ship carrying up to 5479 passengers and a gross tonnage of 227,700. Catering for everyone, this fun filled ship will sail mainly around Europe in the summer and the Caribbean in winter.

Small Ship Cruises The Regent Seven Seas Navigator is one of our favourite small ships. Sitting at 28,550 Tonnes and just 490 passengers, this elegant small ship gives a refined and intimate experience. Regent offer an all-inclusive concept where virtually everything is included in your cruise fare. Itineraries operate globally.

Formal Cruises Crusing evokes images of fine dining and elegant

attire and this is still the case on many lines. The Cunard Queens Grill onboard the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth epitomises this with traditional afternoon teas, pre-dinner canapes and some of the finest A la Carte dining you will find at sea. Itineraries are worldwide, however the Southampton to New York crossings on Queen Mary 2 are a fabulous way of starting or ending your US vacation.

Informal Cruises ‘Its Yachting, Not Cruising’ is Sea Dream Yacht Club’s strapline. These small yachts carrying a maximum of 112 guests float effortlessly around the Mediterranean in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. With no formal dress code at any stage it really is a totally relaxed and informal experience visiting some of the smaller ports that the larger boats cannot call into.

Lively Norwegian Cruise Lines have a number of itineraries around the world and their fun filled lively atmosphere will suit the young and the young at heart. With Broadway style shows and plenty

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Silversea cruises have been one of the leading luxury cruise lines for over 20 years. Offering both Ocean and Expedition cruising, their lovely collection of ships offer a great range of destinations for the discerning traveller.Whilst generally quieter in style, you will still get live Jazz bands and fantastic shows to compliment the outstanding dining experiences. Their new flagship, the Silver Muse, launches in 2017 and her inaugural season will be in huge demand.

Families Cruising as a family has seen a huge increase in demand. With children’s clubs from the age of 2 up to 17 and a mix of cultural and relaxing ports, it does offer something to keep the whole family happy. P&O cruises have 5 family focused ships Aurora, Azura, Britannia, Oceana and Ventura which have enhanced family accommodation including interconnecting cabins and family suites. With a number of sailings from Southampton there is also no need to fly.

Adults Traditionally British and with 4 ships sailing mainly out of Dover and Southampton, Fred Olsen cruises have been successfully operating cruises for over 150 years. The range of destinations they offer is extensive and includes a number voyages up to Scandinavia and the Baltics, as well as some shorter itineraries around the British Isles. Catering to the more mature clientele they will offer a real home from home experience and have a huge number of repeat guests.





The island of Fire and Ice has seen a huge increase in demand for tourism in the last few years and it is so easy to see why! Most trips start and finish in Reykjavik and many people use this as a base for exploring. The compact old town is easily covered on foot and contains most of the historical places of interest. At the centre is the attractive Austurvollur Square where the diminutive Parliament House and small Lutheran cathedral are located. North of here, old narrow residential streets with colourful wooden and corrugated-iron-clad houses lead down to the old and new harbours. To the south lies the picturesque artificial lake complete with resident wildfowl and surrounded by walks, gardens and modern civic buildings. Iceland has a spectacular and stark volcanic landscape, home to more than 170 geothermal pools, stunning national parks, glaciers and nature reserves. There is a huge amount to keep the adventurous busy, those wishing to explore will

find the Golden Circle full of crashing waterfalls, gushing geysers and active volcanoes. The dramatic landscape provides opportunities for mountain biking, horse riding and river rafting. Husavikn in the north provides encounters up close with whales in a quaint setting. Those wishing to relax will find the many geothermal spas including the Blue Lagoon Spa a great way to unwind. May, June and July are the driest months of the year in which to visit and between November and April you have a great chance to see the amazing Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights). Our favourite way of exploring this amazing island is by using Super Jeeps. These customised Land Rover Defenders are fully equipped with all the state of the art technology including thermal insulation and 40 inch Artic tyres, DVD players and even onboard WIFI. Most importantly however they can access most areas in virtually all weather conditions so you can really get out there and be at nature with this incredible destination!


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If you’re looking for wildlife locations in South by Linda America, then why not try stopping off in On a cold winters day I flew Ecuador’s Amazon region. Here non-stop you can from find Gatwick with British Airways to a paradise the most amazing array of tropical birds; herons, of endless beautiful beaches and luxurious kingfishers, spoonbills and ospreys to name a few. accommodation - The Maldives. Walk along raised boardwalks through the We transferred by seaplane to the hotel JA dense flooded palm forest and very often you’ll Manafaru in one of the most northern atolls. This get to see various species of monkeys showing off amazing 35 acre private island has everything you their devil skills! woulddare need forjumping an idyllic Maldives experience. Take a dugout includes canoe across thebungalows, lakes and along Accommodation beach two the canals that stretch out all around bedroom suites and water villas, all with the theirlodges own where you will findnumerous all sorts restaurants, of insects and private pool. Of the ‘Thespiders, Cellar’ and lazy lizards watching you, as you slowly with its underground volcanic stone cave where you paddle by. dine surrounded by vintage wines, tops the list. Whennext yourstop rainforest comes end Our was thevisit larger Oneto&anOnly then what would better thankilometres an onward Resort – Reethi Rahbewith its six of trip to the Galapagos Perhaps a 7 night beautiful beaches and a Islands. huge range of activities for all ages. Younger children are well cared for in one of the best children’s club I’ve come across. Our third hotel on our whistle stop tour was the Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi where you can

cruise where you won’t have to keep packing experience unique underwater Spa, or and sail or unpackingtheand you can completely relax day or the night on traditional Dhonis spending a few enjoy wildlife. The yachts travel at night so romantic calmtoseas. you have hours plentyonofthetime visit the numerous We then travelled onto the fabulous Four islands during the day. Seasons Kuda Huraa. The hotel features an Look out for the basking marine iguanas, the Educational Marine Discovery Centre as part of waved albatrosses, giant tortoises, the Galapagos their conservation work to help injured turtles penguins and so much more. Take time out to and protect the coral reefs. I also had the chance visit the Charles Station spa to to experience the Darwin relaxing Research Healing Waters learn about the conservation efforts of this unique massage – highly recommended! environment. All too quickly we came to our last hotel, the Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, where you can stay in their thatched bungalows and villas, and dine at the Blu Beach restaurant which overlooks the two kilometre lagoon. It’s also worth a visit to the Ayurvedic Retreat, where you can enjoy a complimentary 30-minute wellness consultation to bring balance to your life. I had always wanted to go the Maldives and I can honestly say that it surpassed my wildest dreams and I can’t wait to return!!

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A S H D OW N T EA M T R I P Crete, Greece by Katie Don’t you just love that feeling you get as you taxi down the runway, looking out of the aircraft window and see the rain pouring down, knowing that in just a few hours you will be on a gorgeous island in the Mediterranean? That’s just what I experienced upon a recent trip with GP Associates to the strikingly beautiful island of Crete. We visited three individual hotels, each offering very different experiences created for a special clientele in mind. The Elounda Peninsula is a hotel best suited for a young couple on holiday or honeymoon, whereas the Porto Elounda Golf and Spa is suitable for families and includes an exceptional kids club, 9 hole golf course and a world renowned Six Senses Spa. Last but certainly not least, the Elounda Mare is a more secluded and quieter resort more appropriate for adults. Each one a masterpiece of beauty which exceeded all expectations.

These properties sit in a prime location overlooking Mirabello Bay on the North Coast of Crete, an area of outstanding natural beauty. From the moment we arrived we were welcomed by warm friendly staff and we all loved the private pool bungalows boasting views across the ocean. Luxury didn’t stop in the rooms. Breakfast was an exceptional array of buffet choices hardly leaving much room on your plate! Following a hearty breakfast, a boat trip departing the Elounda Peninsula on the luxurious Eliana K IV took us for a delightful cruise along the coast to view the historic island of Spinalonga, once occupied by Greece’s leper colony. As I sit and type this, glancing out of the window watching our June showers, I long to return to Crete and watch the sunset, knowing tomorrow would bring another glorious day of sunshine and relaxation in paradise. .

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