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Issue 51

For the More Discerning Family Traveller

In This Issue: * Following Lawrence of Arabia’s footsteps in Jordan * D.H. Lawrence’s idyllic Lake Garda * EasyJet heads to Iceland * Pampering in Austria * Bank Holiday in Devon * Plus we try Polaroid’s new Underwater Camera

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Pro Traveller

Issue 51

In This Issue: 7

EasyJet to Iceland See what’s on offer as budget flights head to the Glaciers


Luxury in Austria Beci Keys lives the high life with the best in Alpine pampering


Letters from Lake Garda What made D.H. Lawrence fall in Love with this Italian Lake?


Amazing Jordan Trevor Claringbold dons the sand shoes and heads for the desert


Tasty Caribbean Katy Dartford explores the tastes of the Cayman Islands


Photos from the Deep A detailed look at Polaroid’s new budget underwater camcorder


The English Riviera Can a Bank Holiday break in Devon really mean family fun?

BR OC HU 20 RE 1 3 OU T NO W

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Issue 51

Trevor Claringbold takes a trip north on easyJet’s new Icelandic route I’d been in Iceland less than half a day, & had already enjoyed a whistle-stop tour around two sides of the ‘Golden Triangle’. We were now on a dark, moody plateau, high enough that the icy clouds were reaching down to breathe their cool air over the jagged volcanic rocks. In front of us lay a colourful array of snowmobiles, primed, and ready to give our enthusiastic group their adrenalin fix for the day.

As we settled into the rhythm of undulating snow, the initial trepidation waned, and I began to realise there was more to Iceland than I had first thought. Its barren, jagged volcanic surface may have little greenery, but the eeriness holds its own unique beauty. Before I had an opportunity to examine my thoughts further, a large rock just below the snow suddenly changed the way I experienced Iceland – at least for this trip.

It was April, and the winter snows were melting fast. Contrary to what most people imagine, Iceland is not frozen under a blanket of snow for half the year. Instead, much like Britain, the snow comes and goes sporadically throughout winter, with only the highest areas retaining a covering for longer periods. Even here, as we soon discovered, it was disappearing rapidly. As we mounted the two-man machines, and the guides gave us instructions before breathing life into the ear-splitting engines, we were warned to follow the lead snowmobile’s tracks exactly, as there were certain areas that suddenly plunged down into icy cold water. I was the passenger, concentrating on making the most of this dramatic scenery that was speeding past me to get some atmospheric action photos.

In an instant the large, heavy snowmobile turned on its side, trapping my leg underneath as it slid along. Like any good journalist, my first thought was to keep my camera out of the wet snow. However, once one of my companions took that from me, there was little to distract me from the searing pain that was becoming apparent around my knee. So, frustratingly, I was helped back to base to get medical attention, whilst the rest of the group, slightly more carefully, continued their adventure. After coming to terms with the initial pain and shock, and having my leg strapped up, my concern was how I would cope with the remainder of my fairly hectic and energetic visit. From this point on, though, I realised that, in a bizarre way, having to limp around Iceland at about half the speed of your average tourist, did have the distinct advantage of forcing me to take my time and see far more. And without a doubt, Iceland is a country that needs to be seen. I have been fortunate enough to visit more than 60 countries around our planet, and nowhere, absolutely nowhere, is anything like Iceland.


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Issue 51

The day had started well, with a pleasant early morning flight on easyJet’s new Luton to Keflavik service. In less than three hours we were exiting the smooth, relaxed airport on the edge of the Arctic Circle. From the moment you arrive, the rough black volcanic landscape stretches for miles in every direction. As you drive across it, the realisation dawns that what you are actually surrounded by is all created by molten lava, that has been thrown out by one of Iceland’s many active volcanoes. But while this does lead you to keeping one eye on the steaming summits, strangely I never felt unsafe during my stay. Once the initial amazement has subsided, and the various comparisons to a lunar landscape, or a sci-fi film set have been aired, then other aspects become noticeable. The lack of trees is weirdly uncomfortable, coming as I do from the Garden of England where it’s hard to find a vista that doesn’t include a tree – even in the towns. As we travelled around the south western peninsular of this desolate isle, even bushes are rare. But then, I explained to myself, how would they grow on a bed of rock? Perhaps stranger was that most of the brightly coloured traditional houses in this area were built from wood. Were there trees here once, I wondered? Apparently not – well for at least the last thousand years anyway, our guide told us. Wood is imported from Denmark and Norway. Another common misconception about Iceland is that it is just a small island in the North Atlantic. It’s not. Compare

it by area, & it’s not vastly different to that of England. When you then realise that the population of Iceland is only around 300,000 – and 200,000 of those live in the capital, Reykjavik – you’ll get an idea of just how sparsely populated it is. A vast area in the centre is covered with glaciers, which in turn lead to immense rivers and waterfalls. Gorges have been cut and shaped by the ice over the centuries, creating some intriguing natural art formations. Check out the vast Gullfoss waterfall, where tons of water every second plunges into the deep canyon below. The natural forces have been kind enough to create a wonderful viewing platform in the heart of the falls, giving an awe-inspiring, if somewhat damp, feel of the unstoppable power surrounding you. But of all the natural wonders, it’s probably the geysers that Iceland is best known for. Indeed the original Geysir, from which all others derived their generic name, is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. Set amid a glistening, lava stained rock slope, which leads up from the inevitable (but actually very good) gift shop. There are various small pockets of water bubbling from the ground, like an eco-friendly witches cauldron. Multilingual signs warn of the dangers from the boiling water and spray, as you lead up to the larger spouts. In fact, such is the height that these impressive jets reach, when they soar into the air every 5 minutes or so, that by the time the water falls to the ground it is cool enough to be safe. They are a truly magnificent spectacle, no matter how many times you see them, and an awesome testament to the power that Mother Nature is restraining just below our feet.


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Although the landscapes and natural wonders are a must for every traveller here, it’s also worth making sure you leave time to take a look around the capital too. In the same way that Iceland is a most unusual country, Reykjavik is far from a typical capital city. There is no real bustling centre, no mass of high-rise offices, and no traffic jams. It has the feel of a pleasant provincial coastal town, with a quaint old-town area near the harbour, characteristic pastel coloured buildings, and a neat, clean appearance. Indeed, such is the population’s comfort with the period feel of their city, that there were considerable protests against a new, ultra-modern dockside concert hall and conference centre. The Harpa Centre was eventually built, however, and its glass-honeycombed exterior is now a significant landmark on the ancient quayside. By most European standards, hotels in Reykjavik are not expensive. The Hotel Borg has an air of calm elegance, overlooking square of Austurvöllur, in the heart of the city. The Art Deco styling disguises the slick, modern amenities, giving the impression of a quality period hotel in which everything works seamlessly. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and it’s the perfect base for sightseeing. Laying just across the Square from Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, and the cathedral, it’s also within an easy walk of many good shops, bars, and restaurants. If it’s culture that attracts you, then the museum and art galleries are also close by. If you’re looking for the ‘in’ place to hang out, then just along the coastal road is Kex. It’s one of those rare trendy places where nobody feels uncomfortable, or that they don’t fit in. Kex is a bizarre mix of youth hostel, bar and restaurant, where the food is first rate, and you can also have your hair cut in the bar-room barber shop!

The one must-do excursion, however, takes you around 40 minutes out of the city, to the unbelievably enticing geothermal spa of the famous Blue Lagoon. The six million litres of creamy pale blue water is naturally heated to around 38 degrees, and has been voted ‘The Best Medical Spa in the World’. Just to relax, and float in the mineral-rich waters, with the steam caressing you as it wafts its way heavenwards, is the closest thing to bliss you can imagine. There are, as you would expect, a whole range of treatments available too. And if all that goodness is getting a bit much, then you can always redress the balance with some serious over-indulgence at the Lava Restaurant. Sadly, still nursing my bandaged leg, I wasn’t able to make the most of the Blue Lagoon. But as I said, it was an injury with benefits, because now I have the perfect reason to return and spend even more time in this weirdly captivating land. Iceland may not be the first place that comes to mind, either for a short break, or a longer stay. Yet with some great deals now on offer, there’s never been a better time to find out just what you’ve been missing.


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Useful Contacts Hotel Borg Posthusstraeti 11, 101 Reykjavik, ICELAND Tel: (+354) 551 1440 Email:

Blue Lagoon 240 Grindavik, ICELAND Tel (+354) 420 8800

Flights :

Holidays :

Imagine the scene as you stand on deck under the midnight sun and a powerful humpback whale emerges majestically from the water close to your boat. The beautiful creature’s picture book splashdown, just yards from your vessel, is the stuff of holiday dreams.

Evening boat trips set off from lively Reykjavik for the Faxafloi bays, where whales are diverse in species and abundant in number. As the boats engines shut down you will hear the soothing sounds of nature and if you’re lucky you may even hear the magical song of the humpback whales.

The experience is a million miles away from the swarming beaches of traditional summer package holidays but thankfully, just a short plane ride away from the UK in magical Iceland. Tour operator Transun, celebrating its

Iceland’s 2011 whale watching season turned a 94.5 per cent sighting success but in the unlikely event of not spotting the creatures, you will be offered the chance to try again for free.

30th anniversary this year, is now offering holidays to the land of the Midnight Sun – so called as the sun never sets in the summer months. And that gives the perfect chance to try some night-time whale watching from June to August.

Transun’s 3-day Whales and Wonders package includes the famous Golden Circle tour. Natural wonders include spouting geysers, hot springs and the mighty Gullfoss waterfall. Be sure to pack a camera.


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Issue 51



Keep the kids occupied with a little help from Peppa Pig World at Paultons Family Theme Park!

Children are being given the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of photography this October half term with new family holidays in India and Morocco.

If you’re want a guaranteed funfilled day out look no further than Paultons Family Theme Park in Hampshire, which is now home to Peppa Pig World as well as more than 60 other rides and attractions.

Two new trips from The Adventure Company will allow the whole family’s imaginations to run wild. Whether exploring exotic temples or colourful souks, travelling out of traditional high season ensures minimal crowds while the weather conditions will be ideal for photos. Prices for the trips, which combine the excitement of a real family adventures with photography, start from just £899pp including flights, accommodation and tuition.

Set in over 140 acres of beautiful landscaped parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, Paultons Park is still owned and run by the same family that first opened its gates to the public in 1983.

Families will also receive a free 50 page photo book of their favourite work as a lasting momento to take home at the end of the trip.

Exclusive to Paultons Park, Peppa Pig World is a magical kingdom that brings to life one of TV’s most popular children’s characters. Featuring seven magical rides, a host of fun animated attractions, indoor and outdoor play areas and a Peppathemed toy shop, Peppa Pig World is destined to keep little ones entertained for hours.

Call 0845 287 1198 or visit

For more information :

A SURPRISINGLY SIMPLE SOLUTION TO TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN Planes, trains and automobiles no longer have to be stressful, thanks to ‘My Travel Surprise’ – the first ever one-stop shop for children’s travel toys. My Travel Surprise offers a range of lightweight, budget-friendly games and activities specially designed to keep youngsters entertained on any journeys or holidays. My Travel Surprise was founded by mum-of-two Amanda Mitchell, who was frustrated at the lack of suitable toys available to keep her children occupied during flights and car trips. My Travel Surprise has a range of unusual toys that are not readily available on the high street and start at just £2.50. Each toy ordered will be delivered partially wrapped in cartoon travel paper, so parents can give it to their child as a surprise gift.


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Issue 51

Oonagh Duffy relaxes in one of Austria’s top wellness retreats Situated in the enchanting Tannheim Valley, the Hotel Jungbrunn is a true Austrian paradise, encapsulated by soaring snow clad mountains and undulating malachite hills. First impressions at the Best Wellness hotel are important. The interior design exudes quality & panache, from the sumptuous Anne Jacobson chairs and stylish stripey wallpaper in the hotel reception area, to the handcrafted wooden fixtures on the walls. The name Jungbrunn translates as youth fountain, which reflects on the hotels fixation with life-style and health. Originally used as a small cafe in the first ski lift station, the hotel has come along way since its early ski-centric days, and is currently run by couple Marcus and Ulrika Gutheinz. Marcus was passed down the hotel from his father, Raimund Gutheinz who was the inventor of the regions’ first ski lift. Since owning the hotel, Marcus and Ulrika have spent five years refurbishing both the interior and exterior, as well as expanding the land from its original size. Yet they have

still remembered to pay tribute to the history of the building, by implementing an in-house ski museum that includes the original ski lift. The refurbishment has recently won the couple an award for the best Austrian spa hotel. The hotel’s facilities are impressive with its striking unique designs and vast choice of spa treatments. The spa area is of exceptional quality, and uses local natural elements to furnish the rooms. Jagged crystal-like glass covers the treatment room doors, glistening with the reflecting sun rays, and real breathing moss camouflages the walls in the relaxation area. These features not only aim to aesthetically please, but also function in different ways to benefit both health and room temperature. The spa area includes several different types of saunas that help relieve stress, and therapy rooms offering an expansive range of treatments. The facial treatments involved having a light skin peal, face mask, eyebrow shaping and a hand massage. For part of the procedure your entire face is covered in a mask, which is quite a strange feeling but nonetheless relaxing. The facial lasts about an hour, and leaves your skin feeling smooth and regenerated. The hotel also boasts an award winning signature spa treatment, which uses coloured light therapy, rock crystal salt scrub, and creams that are massaged onto the body whilst lying on a waterbed, for a totally relaxing full body experience. With all of these excellent facilities the hotel is perfect for romantic getaways, allowing couples to escape into the peaceful, tranquil environment that includes an outdoor


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Issue 51 Guests that suffer with food intolerances need not worry, as the hotel restaurant caters for all, and the chefs will specially prepare meals to your requirements each day. Of course, with such an idyllic setting you’ll want to explore the area, and the hotel takes advantage of the surrounding countryside to organise nature watch guides and hikes through the serene wilderness. One option is a nature watch hike that takes you to Lake Vilsalpsee, accompanied by the hotel’s nature watch guide Andy and his enthusiastic border collie Simba. Unfortunately Andy doesn’t speak English, so hotel staff try their best at translating the entire trip. Throughout the nature hike, Andy teaches about the numerous varieties of flowers that grow on the mountains, and importantly which ones are poisonous. Thankfully we didn’t get to meet any of the poisonous blooms. Reaching the lake entails hiking through the naturally kept forest, scrambling over the craggy ash-coloured rocks, and pausing to take in the refreshing waterfall that tumbles endless sheets of crystal clear water.

nudist area, where guests can be at one with nature and swim in the pools filled with refreshing natural water. However if this doesn’t sound like an option for you, then there are many other pools and spa areas in the hotel to enjoy... Clothed! The spa area and interior design of the hotel are not the only features that represent how life-style and quality focused the hotel is. One only has to try the exceptional cuisine to realise that. The gastronomic delights are created by Austria’s youngest, yet very talented head chef. With the help of the other chefs in the kitchen, six different 6-course meals are prepared each night, showcasing traditional Austrian favorites with a modern twist.

When you eventually arrive at the cerulean blue lake, it will take your breath away. Andy explained that Lake Vilsalpsee is a nature preserved area, as the lake contains rare algae which is only found in this area. The lake is a great place for families to enjoy picnics on the meadow, witnessing the birds bathing in the water, and deers grazing on the distant, gently sloping mountains. For skiers, paragliders, and those who enjoy breathtaking scenery, ‘Neunerköpfle’ is a ten minute walk from the hotel. To reach the summit of the majestic mountain, visitors can either hike, or take the ski gondola which allows you to enjoy a spectacular birds eye view of the Tannheim Valley.

The presentation of the food is extremely trendy, and the succulent veal cooked in two different ways, accompanied by yellow patty pan and parsley mousse, was deliciously mouth watering. The veal was presented on a plate that represented a black board, and has the appearance of contemporary art that once belonged in a prestigious art gallery.


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The mountain is popular for winter sports, including both alpine and Nordic skiing. It’s also popular with a growing band of paragliders, who also take full advantage of the height and breathtaking scenery to launch themselves into the fresh alpine air. For those less adventurous, the location is perfect for long gentle strolls, surrounded by the abundance of greenery and wildlife. With the predominant religion in Austria being Roman Catholic, every year the Alps are occupied by the spiritual tradition of the Sacred Heart fires. The fires take place in the mountains of Nesselwängle, a short drive from the hotel. The festival originates from the nineteenth century, and involves men lighting fires up on the mountains, in the shape of Christian symbols. The burning embers from the fires glimmer in the smoking mountains, representing outlines of the cross, a candle, a pair of praying hands and a communion challis. These symbols can be seen from a considerable distance, making pretty spectacular viewing. The Hotel Jungbrunn is an exceptional hotel with first class facilities. The location is perfect for adventurous thrill seekers or for those who just want to absorb the best of Austrian culture and life-style. Recommended.

Hotel Jungbrunn, Austria

• Alpine wood positively affects the health, as it lowers the heart beat dramatically, due to the oils in the wood. Scientists researched why Austrian farmers had long life expectancy considering their poor diets. Research showed it was because the farmers chalets were made out of pine wood. • The trees in the forest near Lake Vilsalpsee are left to grow naturally. However once a year someone evaluates which tree must be cut down due to particular reasons. The chosen tree is marked with a number and local farmers participate in a lottery draw, where they can ‘win’ the tree. If their number is chosen, it’s their responsibility to cut down the tree within a year, and use the wood how they wish. • The pines from the trees near Lake Vilsalpsee are made into pine schnapps, which is a very strong alcoholic liqueur. • The ‘fountain of youth’ is represented in the hotel, by obtaining its own water source that guests can drink from and swim in.

For more information and current prices for the Hotel Jungbrunn, visit their website:


• Due to increased interest of the hotels design and decorations, Marcus and Ulrike have future plans to manufacture their own furniture and fittings and sell them to hotel guests.

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Summer 2012

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Summer 2012

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Issue 51

Emma Plaskett discovers why D.H. Lawrence fell for this Italian paradise I wish I could say that my years spent studying the works of D.H Lawrence in English Literature classes inspired me to embark on a successful writing career. However, at the time, I had to agree with the words of the man himself, ‘When will the bell ring and end this weariness?’ But when given the opportunity to walk in his footsteps along the beautiful Italian shores of Lake Garda, I must admit I was more than happy to do so. Lawrence’s apartment in Gargnano

Gargnano, a rustic village situated on the northwest side of the lake, was home to Lawrence himself, and provided the backdrop for many of his works, including and . I couldn’t help but wonder if my own creative juices would somehow form a tantalising cocktail as a result of seeing firsthand the beauty that he saw one century ago. Approaching the understated Hotel Gardenia del Lago in the full heat of the day, only footsteps away from where the writer once lived, it was a relief to see tables and chairs under the shade of the olive trees, preparing themselves for my arrival at the water’s edge. And after a good night’s rest in an air-conditioned room (with stunning views of the lake and mountains, I might add), I was only too keen to enjoy breakfast in the same spot, this time graced with a cool dawn breeze to accompany my embarrassingly heaped plate of pastries, fresh fruit and Italian meats and cheeses. It was in this moment that I knew instantly why Lawrence decided to make his home here. Any writer- or indeed, anyone with a soul- would happily live here. But, out of sheer curiosity to explore some of the nearby sights, I was temporarily able to escape the magnetism of the waters. Unlike the south of the lake which is highly populated by tourists, Gargnano and its northern neighbours have retained an impressive amount of history, and many streets have been virtually untouched for centuries. Although many of these small villages are situated so close to the lake’s edge that you cannot physically walk along the shore, it’s surprisingly satisfying to walk behind the old stone buildings and catch glimpses of the lake every few yards. Like greeting renowned old saints- each one humbly bearing his own unique glory, interjected with picture postcard glimpses of the majestic waters, kissing the feet of the mountains behind.

I must admit I was surprised to hear that most of the locals around Gargnano actually had little knowledge of D.H. Lawrence, despite the writer having once lived in their village. However, the infamous Poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio, seemed to be on everyone’s lips. Perhaps this was largely due to his grandiose former home, standing haughtily on the hillside of Gardone Riviera (a popular village south of Gargnano). The Citadel is pretty hard to miss in comparison to the humble apartment of Lawrence, and guided tours of the estate are even on offer to visitors. D’Annunzio may have been a rebellious hedonist and womaniser, but his invention of two separate reception rooms- one for creditors and government; the other for close friends and family- is pure genius. And the fact that a mere writer could inject fear in to the heart of Mussolini, shows the power of his popularity amongst the people. Whilst in Gardone Riviera, I made a beeline for the port and took a boat ride across the lake to the privately owned island named Isola del Garda. Inhabited by the Cavazzo family since 1927, an impressive neo-gothic Palace takes its place amidst aromatic exotic gardens and stately terraces. Initially I felt like an intruder stepping on to someone else’s land, until I was greeted so warmly by a Cavazza family member and her delightful young girl who proceeded to give us a tour of their home. The stunning view from Il Vittoriale

It was along one of these crooked cobbled streets that a local Signora stopped to greet us with a blessing: – May God bless you and protect you. One could be forgiven for thinking she was an apparition- a mystical presence still lingering from days gone by. Either way, it was a relief to know that our presence was welcome here.


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Suddenly I felt privileged to be there, allured by the elegance of the Venetian Villa, caressing the pines and cypresses as if they were my own. Standing on the terrace looking out at the lake’s distant shores, the sun embracing my cheeks, I felt like a queen keeping watch over her land. A short boat ride north of Gargnano took me to the enchanting village of Limone sul Garda. Despite the abundance of lemon groves that have been present here and around the lake for centuries, the name Limone strangely isn’t derived from the word ‘Lemon’, but rather an ancient Celtic word , meaning ‘elm’. According to records, lemons were traditionally used for their healing powers, as well as culinary purposes. Today in the Garda region, it’s possible to buy just about any lemon flavoured food or drink product imaginable. A decent collection of touristy shops in Limone will give you the opportunity to bring home a bottle of Limoncello, or lemon favoured olive oil and balsamic vinegar for all those Jamie Oliver wannabes. D.H. Lawrence describes firsthand his experience of seeing the lemon groves for the first time:

Many of the lemon groves are being preserved in the area, and if you want to take a walk in Lawrence’s footsteps you can visit the recently restored in Limone. Lake Garda is much larger than its cousins, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, and as such it commands a respect not dissimilar to the ocean. This also means, much to my delight, that even in the most humid of temperatures, there are very few creepy crawlies to be seen. So al fresco dining at Ristorantes such as Al Miralago, by the water’s edge in Gargnano, is a sheer paradisiacal experience; free from malicious wasps and Vampiric mosquitoes. Antipastis and Primi Piattis of every fish imaginable can be encountered on the taste buds here. And of course there’s no better place to sample a tantalising lemon sorbet drenched in Limoncello to salute il giorno.


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Exploiting every opportunity to see more of the region, I stopped off in the captivating city of Brescia on the way back to Milan airport. I was saddened to hear that many visitors overlook the city in favour of the lake. However, Brescia holds many hidden gems, one of which has now been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site- the Museo di Santa Giulia.


The museum preserves the remains of the church of San Salvatore, and a Monastery built in 753 AD. which housed the poor. The magnificent works of art proudly displayed here conspired together to imprint a lasting memory of Italy. USEFUL CONTACTS

This was a souvenir to take home that no customs officer could deprive me of.

Web site dedicated to the Centenary of Lawrence’s time on Lake Garda: Bresciatourism: Piazza del Vescovato, 3 Brescia. +39-030-2400835 Hotel Gardenia al lago

Villa di Gargnano.

Gheza Bus and Car Rental:

+39 347 2416263

Local Guide: Chiara Garioni

+39 338 7573813

Ristorante Gemma

Limone sul Garda.

Vittoriale degli Italiani Ristorante Locanda Angeli Ristorante Al Miralago Ristorante Il Girasole Boat on Lake Garda: Isola del Garda:

Gardone Riviera. Gardone Riviera Gargnano. Sirmione.

Tel: +39 328 3849226

Museo di Santa Giulia (Unesco World Heritage Site) Brescia.


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Summer 2012

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Summer 2012


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Trevor Claringbold is enthralled by the delights of Southern Jordan


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Issue 51 Away from the congested centre, there are pleasant areas of seafront, with cafe’s, an aquarium, and a tree-lined promenade that leads to the pretty little harbour area. Multi-coloured fishing boats bob up and down, with the fortress as an impressive backdrop. Even late in the evening when I wandered by, local ‘entrepreneurs’ crowded around to offer me trips in glass-bottomed boats!

Under clear blue skies, on a Red Sea beach, we’re helping our chef scoop piles of soft sand away from a raised mound. Somewhere under here is our lunch. It was the final step of a captivating lesson on Bedouin cooking, given by Chef Didier, which had begun several hours before. Large joints of lamb were marinated, before being placed on top of a smouldering fire in a deep pit. Then, under a metal lid, they were covered with sand and left to slowly cook. In the meantime our group learned how to prepare a variety of local salads and dressings, before settling down to enjoy the delicious al fresco meal with our hosts. It was the last morning of a brief but exhilarating trip to Jordan, staying at the Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort, in Aqaba. Jordan has just a few miles of coastline, on the northern tip of the Red Sea, so to secure this idyllic spot was no mean achievement for the hotel. Just around the headland to the south lies Saudi Arabia. In the opposite direction, the Israeli border is just beyond Aqaba itself, and as the coast doubles back, directly across the water from us is the coast of Egypt.

Back at the hotel, the warm evening breeze wafts across the terrace where local musicians serenade the relaxing guests. All around, coloured lights illuminate the hotel and grounds like some magical, enticing oasis. The pool lights fade from red to purple, to green, to blue, and back to red, and the palm trees that skirt the beach are gently lit, so that the shadows tease the waves beyond. It all creates an atmosphere of perfect calm, helped along by the odd cocktail of course. By day, the Tala Bay Resort may not be so peaceful, but it is certainly every bit as enjoyable. There are no less than four swimming pools, including one ‘infinity pool that gives the impression that you’re able to swim on across the Red Sea until you reach the shores of Egypt. For children, there is a special kids pool, water jet area, and a playground, as well as a children’s club. It is particularly impressive how comfortably families with children fitted into such a high standard of hotel. Often there can be a slight unease when bringing young children to such a place, but here it is quite the opposite.

To call Aqaba an historic town would be to do it an injustice. Along with neighbouring Eilat, on the Israeli side of the border, these were the famous ancient ports of Eilath and Ezion-Geber where King Solomon built his mighty fleet of treasure-gathering ships. The story goes that the vessels returned laden with gold, precious stones, and other valuables from a mysterious land called Ofir. Its strategic location at the head of the gulf has meant that Aqaba has had many masters since those glory days. Nabataeans, Romans, and Byzantines all ruled here, and with the beginnings of Islam the city was fortified (the remains of which can still be seen). During the crusades it again changed hands, and Renauld de Chatillon had boats carried overland to the city in preparation of an attack on Mecca. Unsurprisingly, Saladin didn’t take too kindly to this, and responded by sending the Egyptian fleet. It’s all a far cry from the Aqaba of today, where the port is still a valuable asset. Now, though, it’s because it is the prime access for goods coming into Jordan (and also to Iraq). A constant stream of lorries head up the steep winding road that heads north to the Desert Highway. There are still remnants of the medieval town just outside the modern centre, with the ‘Egyptian Gate’ the best preserved landmark.


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Families, and children, seemed not only accepted, but wholly welcome. The rooms are also very impressive. Spacious, well appointed, and cleverly designed. Most have a sea view, and all have flat screen televisions and free internet – a definite bonus for today’s travellers. And gorgeous as it was, not all the food is cooked Bedouin style of course. The choice of restaurants offers a truly superb menu of international dishes. Perhaps it’s to be expected, as Jordan lies on the confluence of so many historic trading routes, but cuisine really does seem to have influences from every direction. And if you fancy a treat one morning, ask about having breakfast on the beach. Trust me, there is no better way to start your day than having a mouth-watering bonanza served as you sit under palm trees, with the sun glinting off the Red Sea. Of course, no matter how good the hotel is, you’ll want to get out and explore. Jordan is pretty safe in most area, and certainly this southern region is no more dangerous than the leafy south of England.

paintings. At first glance it’s like a giant maze of sand paths between the rock outcrops. It was described by T.E. Lawrence as “vast, echoing, and God-like”. When you first arrive at the remote, dusty little town which precedes the desert site (and marks the end of the tarmac road), it hardly sets you up for what is ahead. There are a few tiny ramshackle general stores, most named in some way to highlight the links to Lawrence. The Lawrence Super Market (which was about the size of the average living room), The Lawrence of Arabia Grocery Store, and the Lawrence of Arabia Phone Emporium – which looked wholly out of place with the big illuminated ‘Orange’ sign above the corrugated iron shed. The town is in the entrance gorge to Wadi Rum, and is dominated on both sides by high craggy cliffs. Take a walk up to the base of them, past the ‘Rum Coffe Shop’, and you’ll begin to get a feel for why this made a good refuge for Lawrence and his troops.

Of course, you may get the usual people trying to sell you all manner of things, or trips to the famous sites, but be polite, and just stick to ‘No thank you’ if you don’t want what they are offering. They will soon find another target. If you do want to arrange a trip to the main tourist magnets, then doing it through the hotel is your best bet. We set off mid-morning in a clean, air-conditioned minibus, along extremely well-maintained tarmac roads. Our destination was the famed desert region of Wadi Rum, with its monolithic rock formations and ancient cave


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Camels vie with pick-up trucks for priority on the one main road, and we even witnessed one camel being given a lift in the pick up. As you head off into the desert, the tarmac quickly gives way to sand tracks, which in turn fade out, leaving the guides to show their worth in the endless mix of sand and rocks that lies ahead. The high protrusions of rock tower out of the flat expanses of desert, with little else to disrupt the view. A brief stop at Lawrences Watering Hole displays the hardships of this region, as a young girl of maybe 9 or 10 years old, herds a troublesome group of goats towards the water, before escorting them back across the desert to who knows where. As we head deeper into the wilderness, a distant camel train is kicking up a dust trail in its wake, and we stop to investigate an intriguing chasm snaking into the high cliffs. It is extremely narrow, with both walls brushing my shoulders as I inch around a slippery, sloping ledge. Thinking better of it I retreat, and instead take advantage of an invitation into a Bedouin camp for cinnamon tea. As some of our group try on the authentic costumes, the concoction of aromas from the back of the dark, tented structure wafts across us causing us to reel back and regain some of the fresh desert air. The day ends with a tortuous climb to the summit of a vast sand dune, giving us a spectacular view of the sun setting over the desert panorama. Wadi Rum would easily have been the highlight of our trip, had it not been for one of the great wonders of the ancient world. A two hour trip towards the Dead Sea ends

as you head down a twisty road into a quiet unassuming small town. A tiny sign on a junction simply points with a single word – Petra. I had read about this fabled ancient city many times, but nothing prepares you for the sheer enormity of visiting it in person. As you head towards the entrance, down a long winding slope, you are teased with a few carvings and features on the walls of the canyon. You then enter a kilometre long gorge, called the Siq, which in places narrows to just a few feet between the towering, multicoloured rock faces. Then, almost without warning, the final turn reveals a glimpse of the mighty Al-Kazneh (or Treasury). To say it takes the breath away would be an understatement. I found it amusing to stand there for a few minutes and watch the reaction of the steady stream


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of tourists as they casually rounded the last bend. Without exception, they stopped in their tracks with gasps of amazement. What, I wondered, would people of ancient times have made of it, in a world so primitive compared to our own. But this is just the start, as the enterprising Nabataeans carved a huge, impressive city out of the sheer cliff faces, and became one of the most important trading centres of pre-Roman times. Silk’s, spices, and other goods from China, India, Arabia, came here to sell to merchants from Egypt, Greece, and further into Europe and North Africa. As you venture further into the valley, past the remains of the amphitheatre, glorious mausoleums, and stunning temples, you begin to realise that this must have been the London or New York of its day. A vital centre of the known world, rivalled only by the capital cities of the great civilisations at that time.


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To explore Petra properly, you need several days. The walks up to the tops of the mountains at either end of the site, which provide great rewards in their own right with hidden monuments and panoramic views, take several hours each. Suffice to say we will cover Petra in greater detail in a future issue, but it is, without doubt, an unmissable spectacle. Not all of the trips from Aqaba are so cultural, or course, and great fun can be had much closer to the resort. Quad biking in the sand and rock of the surrounding countryside can be a buzz, and diving in the Red Sea, amid shoals of multi-coloured fish – although keep an eye for the jellyfish which can be annoying at certain times.


Whatever you choose to do, Jordan really is a surprisingly liberating experience. Cast aside all your pre-conceptions of visiting the Middle East, as even families will find a warm welcome and ample to suit all ages. Oh, and don’t forget the sunblock!

The Tala Bay Resort is part of the Radisson BLU Group. For more information, or to book, please visit Jordan Tourist Board Fly to Aqaba with Royal Jordanian, or via Amman with .


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Issue 51 With it becoming increasingly fashionable to seek out 'new' or ‘previously unknown' holiday locations, it’s a mystery that breathtaking places like Cantal are still overlooked by busy tourists fleeing to the already popular parts of the world. But perhaps it’s the lack of tourist disruption that has left Cantal beautifully untouched and ripe for the holidaymaker’s plucking. Set deep in the fresh, rural, mountainous region of Southern France, Cantal has many sights to be envied. Cruising northwards along winding roads towards Rodez, you’re surrounded by plush green countryside that sweeps far into the distance. These views were formed thanks to volcanic plateau and glacier movements. Cantal’s landscape was lovingly sculpted during volcanic eruptions that followed many thousands of years later, & by glaciers that etched a new path through the terrain, forming the 12 entwined valleys we see today. Further north towards the Puy Mary, a nearby volcano, crimson coloured cattle graze on the mountainsides. They are famous here in Cantal, outnumbering humans by four to one. With such fertile feeding grounds, it’s no surprise that Cantal has its own high quality ranges of cheese and meat. If your looking to relax, head for a dip in a Nordic Bath Spa at the Alta Terra. The ecological building offers a quaint, rural, rustic looking bed and breakfast, and a Nordic Bath Spa in a prime location for enjoying the panoramic views of the surrounding area. The aroma of roasting pine wood hits immediately you enter the establishment. This is not a material often used to build an entire interior of a hotel or Spa, but the family in charge are proudly ecological. The spa, whilst being simplistic and stylish is mixed with warm colouring, enticing smells, and a Haman giving it more of a Moroccan ambience. The Nordic Bath is hidden up a candle lit staircase, and experienced only by those willing to brave the snow. The bath, heated to 40 degrees, is literally heart warming. Combined with the tradition of spending 30 minutes in the water then one minute out in the snow, it could even be considered a playfully relaxing pastime.


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If you’re looking for comfort and fantastic food then I would recommend a stay at the Auberge D'Jeadin. This quaint family run establishment has each of its rooms designed individually, thus creating a great uniqueness to compliment the typically French comfort. The Auberge D’Jeadin also affords the opportunity to eat locally produced, delicious meals such as lentil’s blonndes and frois gras soup, steak fillets with trouffade (mash with cheese and garlic), cheeses and an apple crumble for desert; and all this with a choice of their locally produced wines, whilst cosying up to a crackling open fire and overlooking the ice-capped mountains. Truly delightful! After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to try a spot of snow shoeing. The Alta Terra is not just a Nordic spa but also the best place to find a guide to lead you across the scenic Puy Du Mary. For those, like me, who had never been snow shoeing, it's similar to hiking up a snow covered mountain with tennis rackets tied to your feet. Nevertheless our tour guide Stephene (the joint owner of the Alta Terra with his wife Virgine) was extremely knowledgeable, fascinating and full of energy. The views

over the valleys were exquisite, and without doubt my most photographed feature of Cantal. Once you have recovered from your trek, the sensible thing to do if you’re a food lover is to head into Murat. Here, the local market in the centre of town overflows with locally produced foods and wines. Trust me - these are foods that you cannot and should not leave without tasting. Despite only being some 10 miles east of Cantal, the city itself is steeped in history, and you don't have to move far to experience it. Amble through the narrow winding streets, and you can see the remains of the castle and fortifications that hail from the times of conflict way back in history. Many are now recycled into the cities more modern buildings. During World War Two Murat was still well protected by its city walls. That didn’t stop the war impacting heavily on the town, however. History recounts how one resident assassinated a German Commander in Chief. Sadly though, this assassination led to retributions, and the Germans returned and took all the men aged between 15 and 60 to the Concentration Camps. On a lighter note, families looking for a fun filled summer getaway should check out the Camping Des Blats. Here you have a choice of staying on the camp site, in a Kota (originated in Lapland), or in one of the slightly more luxurious cottages. The Kota’s on site are fascinating little wooden huts that make great short stay holiday homes. They even have an on site Kota Sauna, and if you’re feeling peckish there’s even an open barbeque grill that you can book out and use if staying or visiting. The Kota Grill is another exciting cabin where you can get more local food - we were tempted by the barbecued duck - and that was definitely worth the extra Euros. Here you can be fed, watered, and entertained all season. There’s a wide range of family orientated activities to keep you busy, such as bike rides, scenic walks, and many more. For those of you who enjoy something more adventurous, and are willing to travel a little further afield, I strongly recommend a visit to the Le Lioran Ski Resort. The stunning mountain views and associated activities are available in all weathers, and all year round. The lasting feeling I was left with after my trip to Cantal was one of a buzzing close knit community, and a friendly population who all pull together to benefit their glorious land. The people you meet are both warm-hearted and welcoming, giving you the feeling that you’re part of their extended family, and welcome to experience the luxuries the region has to offer.

Info Point: Alta Terra:

Camping Des Blats: Le Lioran:



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Uniting Old And New World Cuisine in Grand Cayman

Katy Dartford tastes the high-life in the Southern Caribbean There’s arguably nowhere in the world that has such an intricate mix of cuisines as that of the Caribbean Islands. Five hundred years ago Europeans brought wheat, beef, onions & garlic to the New World. African slaves brought foods like okra, callaloo and ackee (a fruit with a pulp that has the texture of scrambled eggs), and Asians most importantly, brought rice. But the New World also introduced their native foods, never seen in the Old World before 1492, including beans, corn, squash, potatoes and, especially, the chilli pepper.

you don’t feel over indulgent. From a delightful silky potato veloute with white truffle oil, followed by a creamy wild mushroom risotto, a fillet of beef, pink from just the briefest affair with the heat, accompanied by truffled arugula salad and morel cream sauce. For dessert; sticky sweet candy floss, or ‘sugar spun trees’ followed by “flourless chocolate cake- a trail of flaked chocolate with pineapple citrus gel and cilantro mint coulis.

This exchange between the Old and New World is still going on in Grand Cayman, and there’s an abundance of great restaurants and bars serving a range of food from traditional to ultra modern concoctions.

Imports of wine on Grand Cayman tend to be only the most upmarket varieties because of the relatively high import duty. This means a third of all restaurants with award winning wine lists in the Caribbean are found on the Cayman. So I washed this my meal down with a bottle of delicious Syrah, from the vineyards of Francis Ford Coppola.

Caribbean dishes like Blackened Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish), fish tea, Curry Goat, Rice & Peas, Plantain, Jerk Chicken, Dumplings, Roti and Patties are still enjoyed in beach side bars across the island, but the influence of ultrachic, gourmet style dining has been making its mark too.

A blend of old and new can be found at•the Ristorante Pappagallo. ( The Italian/Cayman

A fine example of this is one of Grand Cayman’s newest restaurants, Osetra Bay ( Perched on the waterfront at Morgan’s Harbour in West Bay, Osetra oozes sophistication. Inside it resembles a Greek temple, with white candlelit draperies swaying in the ocean breezes. Bora Bora leaves cover a central gazebo with ten intimate cabanas leading off from it. There are also two indoor champagne lounges and an outdoor cocktail lounge. Osetra offers a taster menu at 60 Cayman dollars. I sampled 6 unique dishes, proportioned small enough so


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eatery on the West Bay is set in a bird sanctuary, by a silvery tarpon lake. There are two dining rooms; the Pappagallo room is decked out in a typically Mexican style thatching, and has huge glass-fronted bird cages housing live parrots, macaws, cockatoos and African greys. On your left hand side is the Flamingo Room, thatched in a Cayman style Both have panoramic views over the lagoon. The menu has a range of Italian and Cayman style dishes like Linguine with sautéed shrimp and scallops, Lobster and Shrimp Buba style, or jerked Kurobuta Pork Center Chop in a “Jack Daniels” sauce. Alternatively you can go for a locally caught fish of your choice, presented in a variety of styles from Cayman, jerk to Mediterranean. For a great traditional Caribbean lunch or dinner, try Morgan’s Harbour seafood restaurant•in West Bay.

The locally caught shrimp kebabs and conch fish cakes are a good choice at about 12 Cayman dollars each, and you can also enjoy the view of the sparkling waters of the North Sounds. ( The East End of the island is more traditionally ‘Caribbean,’ being far more laid back, rustic and less developed. A short drive along the coast road takes you to the sleepy village of Breakers, named after the white waves seen off the coast. Right by the waterfront is the seafood and Italian restaurant, The Lighthouse. ( Decked out like a ship inside and supervised by Captain G and his crew, it’s a unique and enticing place. Its specialty is the Havana rum mojito, which comes in a range of flavours like passion fruit, peach and mango. Follow that with a flash fried Fisherman Platter, which


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is piled high with conch fritters, calamari and shrimp with chilli dip and jerk. A great way to finish the night is at Tiki Beach•on West Bay Road. Made up of three palm thatched huts, open on all sides to the cooling tropical breezes, the bar area spills out over wooden decks arranged with white linen covered banquettes. Caribbean favourites like Mojitos and rum punch are served here for around 8 dollars. Reflecting the islands strict religious heritage, nightlife in the Cayman Islands isn’t as hedonistic as some of the other Caribbean islands. There are some late bars, beach and boat parties, but no all-nighters or casinos. Drinking or dancing isn’t allowed after midnight on a Saturday, but chilling out by the beach and watching the sunset is of course available in abundance at Tiki Beach. There are many Caribbean drinks and dishes to enjoy on Grand Cayman, but if you don’t fancy fried plantains, a crab salad or Guinness punch, there are plenty of other options to satisfy your taste, whether you’re looking for the more rustic, or you’re a modern gourmet lover.

Cayman Islands


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Testing Polaroid’s cute new X720E Underwater Camera The latest offering from Polaroid is a handy, robust waterproof camcorder and camera – the X720E. It’s a stylish, pocket sized treat, and surprisingly good for its budget price. We had a chance to give it a serious trial, on a recent trip to Greece. It’s waterproof to 3 metres, Polaroid claim, and certainly we used it without issue at around that depth. There are smaller waterproof cameras on the market, but to be fair the slightly more bulky design is beneficial when using it in water. It gives you more to hold steady against lapping waves or underwater currents. The handy restraining cord also allows it to hang around your neck quite safely, letting you swim without fear of dropping it to the bottom of the sea.

Using it is quite straightforward, with the large rubber buttons simple to locate even underwater. The 2-inch LCD screen is handy, too, although we did find it suffered a bit from glare in bright sunshine. The video captures in what they claim is ‘Full HD’, although it is only 720p. It would have been nice to see it in a ‘fuller’ 1080i, which is more the standard now. That said, the picture quality is still excellent for such a small lens, and looked flawless even when played back on a large 42” flat screen TV. There is also a x3 zoom and a few other setting options, which work well, and partially make up for the lack of manual settings. Still photographs can be captured in a choice of sizes up to 8 megapixel. On a negative side, the lack of a tripod mount can be annoying if you are planning any lengthy filming, or a shot that needs steadying.

Photos taken with the Polaroid X720E

It supports a microSD card up to 16GB, which allows a good amount of video footage or photos (or a combination of both) before having to transfer it to your computer via the USB cable. There is also and HDMI socket for direct playback of the video. Power-wise, we were impressed by the amount of use we had from a pair of AA batteries, so it won’t eat large stocks of them during your holiday. Overall, it’s an impressive bit of kit for the money, and certainly one which will give you a lot more versatility (and fun) with your holiday memories. Recommended.


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sail boating, snorkeling and the like. The lagoon’s temperature is•kept•pleasantly balanced, hovering at about 26 degrees during summer, which is nine

Tourists in Chile now have a luxurious new des-

degrees more than the nearby sea temperature. Ac-

tination at their doorsteps – the world’s largest

cording to, a leading online accommoda-

pool - which offers the truest Caribbean sea

tion booking Web site, guests in this man-made

experience, with its turquoise blue crystal

paradise never have to feel crowded as they have

clear sea waters, white sand beaches, water

their choice of 3,323 feet of constantly circulated

sports adventure and more.


Located about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital

“This masterpiece offers a wide array of water activi-

of Santiago, this man-made lagoon at the San Alfon-

ties, including some that you won't find in any other

so del Mar resort (located in Algarrobo) is the larg-

hotel pool,” the Web site states.

est pool in the world and has been built overlooking the Chilean central coast. The luxurious private resort holds the Guinness record for having the world’s largest crystalline water pool, which is a

Check out some photos of the largest pool in the world... photos that ought to get you up and running towards Chile if you're planning your next vacation

kilometer long and spread across approximately 20 acres containing 66 million gallons (250 million liters) of water. To be precise, the world’s largest pool is as large as approximately 6,000 eight-meter long regular pools combined, according to the resort authorities. Developed by Crystal Lagoons Corporation, the San Alfonso pool in Chile is surrounded by white beaches and palm trees that provide a feel of tropical seas. Guests•can safely enjoy the oceanic experience and also indulge in water sports such as


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The World’s Largest Pool!

Tourists in Chile can now boast a luxurious new destination at their doorsteps – the largest pool in the world - which offers the truest Caribbean sea experience, with its turquoise blue crystal clear sea waters, white sand beaches, water sports adventure and more. Located about 100km (60 miles) west of the capital of Santiago, this man-made lagoon at the San Alfonso del Mar resort (located in Algarrobo) is the largest pool in the world and has been built overlooking the

snorkeling and the like. The lagoon’s temperature

Chilean central coast.

is•kept•pleasantly balanced, hovering at about 26

The luxurious private resort holds the record for having the world’s largest crystalline water pool,

degrees during summer, which is nine degrees more than the nearby sea temperature.

which is a kilometer long and spread across approxi-

According to, guests in this man-made

mately 20 acres containing 66 million gallons (250

paradise never have to feel crowded as they have

million liters) of water. To be precise, the world’s

their choice of 3,323 feet of constantly circulated

largest pool is as large as approximately 6,000 eight-


meter long regular pools combined, according to the

“This masterpiece offers a wide array of water based

resort authorities.

activities, including some that you won't find in any

The San Alfonso pool is surrounded by white beaches

other hotel pool,” the Web site states.

and palm trees that provide a feel of tropical seas.

Check out some photos of the largest pool in the

Guests•can safely enjoy the oceanic experience and

world... photos that ought to get you up and running

also indulge in water sports such as sail boating,

towards Chile if you're planning your next vacation


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A WEEKEND ON THE RIVIERA ...The English Riviera, that is...

With all this talk of ‘Staycations’, is the English seaside holiday still a viable option for a family? Trevor Claringbold takes his own family to find out.

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Issue 51 A lot has been written recently about ‘staycations’ and the economic downturn meaning more people looking for holidays at home. But is the tradition English seaside holiday still a viable family break? A Bank Holiday weekend on the English Riviera was maybe asking for trouble, given the stereotypical traits of such a choice – bank holiday bad weather, and long traffic jams heading for the West Country. However, with glasses half full we set off. Saturday morning traffic was busy, but generally kept moving, except for a useful queue alongside Stonehenge that gave my wife the chance to take a few snaps from the car window. A stopover for a few hours in Exeter was a pleasant experience, with the grey clouds above the cathedral threatening, but not delivering the predicted showers. The modern shopping centre and historic streets make a delightful combination, subtly urging the casual visitor to explore further. An hour further on, and the brown tourist signs were welcoming us to the English Riviera. The name may be a

The Cwtch Barn is a gorgeous 4-star converted barn, in a quiet, rural location, but just a few minutes drive from either Torquay or Paignton. It has four bedrooms for eight guests, and has been designed as a reverse level house to make the most of its delightful rural position. There are vaulted beamed ceilings that run through the spacious living room, kitchen and dining areas, that give it an unbelievably light and airy feel. On a sunny day you have the feel that you are not really inside at all. Unusually, the main entrance is on the top floor accessed from a higher raised ground level at the front of the barn. The rest of the house sits below on a lower ground level. The facilities are excellent, with a stylish modern kitchen, en-suite bathrooms in two of the bedrooms, widescreen television, and even a washing machine. The decor is chic and comfortable, making you feel instantly at home. Outside there’s a pleasant garden, and a small patio area that is a glorious sun-trap. And if that’s not enough, the lane alongside the barn leads to a local nature reserve, with woodland walks, and a footpath back down towards the sea. There is parking for three cars, making it a great place for families to get together for a holiday, and conveniently it’s just across the road from the wonderful local food and drink in the Occombe Farm Shop. Cwtch is Welsh for a hug of a cuddle, and the Cwtch Barn certainly a great place to get cosy on your visit to the English Riviera. Call Blue Chip Holidays for details – 0844 7044 987


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throwback to the glory days of the past, but certainly the first impressions of Torquay seafront do have a distinctly Mediterranean feel. The Riviera is spread around a wide bay, with Babbacombe and Torquay at the eastern end, Paignton in the centre, and the small fishing town of Brixham at the western end, below the towering headland. Getting around is easy by car – although beware of parking charges which can be quite high in the popular places. Local busses are also good, and if you are staying in one of the main towns, the regular ferries across the bay can make a pleasant and inexpensive alternative way to get about. Of course, being a Bank Holiday, the weather was unpredictable at best during our stay. However, with some careful planning, and assistance from the very helpful


local tourist office, we discovered there were a also a number of convenient indoor attractions – definitely a bonus when you have young children who need a fair amount of entertaining. In comparison to many other seaside resorts, the number of places worth visiting locally was very good – whatever the weather. The rest of the area backed this up too, with ample restaurants, parks, beaches, and sports facilities. Of course, even if a resort ticks all these boxes, it doesn’t automatically make it a great resort. It needs that certain something; a feeling that makes you glad you came here, and where you’d be happy to go back. The English Riviera, without doubt, has that feeling. If you are planning your next ‘staycation’, it’s certainly an ideal place to take the family. Even for a rainy Bank Holiday!

If you are able, make use of the Greenway Ferries from Torquay to arrive in Brixham by sea. It’s the best way to get the feel for this enticing small fishing town. The pretty harbour is surrounded on three sides by steep slopes, clad with small, tightly packed houses, in a myriad of pastel colours. It’s a scene reminiscent of the Italian Riviera, were it not for the sea shanties being sung at a makeshift concert in the fish market. The bustling quayside is full of that quintessential English seaside atmosphere, played out to a harmony of seagulls and seawash. . A trip up onto the headland reveals a large Napoleonic fortress. Interesting in its own right, it also has some panoramic views across the bay, and to the dramatic cliffs to the west. . Without doubt, the highlight is a visit to Sir Frances Drake’s ship, ‘The Golden Hind’ – well a full sized replica, to be precise. The original carried Drake on a voyage of exploration (and a good deal of plunder) in 1577; the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. A tour of the vessel drives home what brave men these early adventurers were, suffering terrible hardships on a ship not much bigger than the ferry we had just crossed the bay on. The small plaques giving snippets of information don’t overwhelm you with too much detail, but leave you feeling you have genuinely l earned something useful. It is an extremely well presented attraction, as interesting and informative for children as it is for adults. .


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As a rule, I am not a great fan of zoo’s. That said, some have pleasantly surprised me, and certainly Paignton falls squarely into this category. .

Probably the most surprising attraction is the subterranean world of Kent’s Cavern. . Records show that explorers have been visiting the

The site is something of a Tardis, as despite being nestled amid housing estates the zoo seems to spread endlessly as you amble around. Indeed, after five hours, we were still in danger of not seeing everything before the gates were closed.

caves since the 16th century, but the archaeological evidence points to people & animals living in these caverns for hundreds of thousands of years. . That was confirmed recently, when a jawbone that was found here in 1927 was dated to over 40,000 years old – making it officially the oldest human fossil in Western Europe. . The caves are well suited to family visits, with well maintained paths throughout. Tours are conducted with small groups, and certainly the guide we had was excellent with both adults and children.

The zoo houses the largest collection of animals anywhere in the south west, laid out in 6 different ‘habitat zones’. Lions, tigers, giraffes, gorillas, and elephants are amongst the larger exhibits, but there are many more besides. . Younger visitors will enjoy the Jungle train, and the top quality play areas too. Parents will be pleased by the prices for extras; because unusually for such an attraction, for once we didn’t feel ripped off by the cost of refreshments around the site. (Oh, and make sure you try the delicious ice cream cones!)

It’s a relaxed journey amid the magnificent, multicoloured rock formations that line the underground passages. Strange shapes abound, some real, and some contrived by shadows. . It’s a very simple trek, with no very narrow or low parts to worry the children. With the exception of few moments of total darkness for a fascinating demonstration of prehistoric candles, the entire route is well lit. . The final section has some informative scenarios using mannequins to portray life in the caverns at various times in their history. A photo taken amid your stone-age family is, of course, obligatory.


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I’ve visited many model villages over the years, in the UK and abroad. The vast majority have been disappointing, with dilapidated, outdated displays that have seen better days. So it was a welcome relief to discover the Babbacombe Model Village not only bucks this trend, but does it in style. .

Museums, and holidays with children aren’t always the best combination. If it hadn’t been raining we may not have discovered what a gem the Torquay museum is. To begin with, it is the first time I’d ever been welcomed to a museum by a creature from another galaxy. The costumed intergalactic warrior was highlighting the current exhibition of costumes and props from some of the biggest sci-fi films – including Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, and Dr Who. .

We visited at dusk, as the village stays open, and is illuminated throughout for a magical effect. Spread across a hillside, the numerous scenes blend with the lush ornamental gardens. Take your time and look carefully at the displays, as there is a wealth of humorous detail that is easy to miss. Check out the poor man by the archery range with an arrow in his backside, or the window cleaner about to get an eyeful of a bathing lady. . This is not a model village that is stuck in the past. The centrepiece is a new modern town centre, with impressive neon signs and fast food stores. Amid the interior displays are some from TV programmes such as Dad’s Army and Eastenders. . As darkness falls, the village takes on an enhanced realism - with the exception of a spectacular fire breathing dragon that lives in the castle! .


In complete contrast, local girl Agatha Christie has a dedicated display, which was enhanced by an exhibition of the original book cover artwork from the 1970’s period. The Agatha Christie section was both interesting an revealing – enough to inspire my 11 year old daughter to head to the museums bookshop and spend her pocket money on one of the authors works. . Elsewhere, the more traditional side of the museum has a well presented collection of local artefacts, including the 44,000 year old jawbone discovered in Kent’s Cavern – the oldest human fossil in Britain. Having visited the caves earlier, it rounded off the story nicely. .

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MORE PLACES TO VISIT... If the weather is kind, Splashdown is the largest outdoor water park in the UK. Waterslides twist and turn on the seafront at Paignton, and will delight the children for hours. . Living Coasts is Torquay’s Coastal Zoo. It is easily spotted by the large net covers above Torquay harbour, which protect the free roaming penguins, seals, octopus, and rays. .


Occombe Farm, just across the road from our accommodation, is certainly worth a visit. The working organic farm has a brand new visitor centre, and a beautiful 2km nature trail. They also offer cookery lessons, and have an award winning farm shop with top quality local produce that is not to be missed. Of course, there is more than enough to do in the local area, but don’t forget Exeter, Dartmouth, and the wilds of Dartmoor are all with easy day trip range.

POLINA’S VIEW The Impressions of an 11 Year Old... I especially liked Paignton Zoo, as I like animals, and there were lots there. It was a lot of walking, but worth it. The Model Village was good, and I liked spotting all the little things. I recognised Albert Square from Eastenders, but not any of the people. The Torquay museum was interesting with all the sci-fi bits, and it also made me interested in Agatha Christie – so I bought one of her books. The Cwtch Barn was a great place to stay, and really comfy.

Pro Traveller

Issue 51

Off to the Market A Quick Round-up of Christmas Getaways

Visiting Christmas markets in Europe is a great way to stock up on those festive essentials and make Christmas shopping a different and far more enjoyable experience. With gourmet food festivals and mini-breaks in winter wonderlands, there is something for the whole family. Ferries are the perfect way to escape the hassle and the holiday starts when you step onboard! With an unlimited amount of baggage allowed onboard, a Christmas driving trip is the ideal plan for family fun this winter. This winter’s deals include: Holland with Stena Line. From traditional Christmas Markets to Funky Markets via underground Christmas Markets, Holland has it all. For a traditional Christmas market experience, visitors should head to the Rembrandtplein, one of Amsterdam’s major squares. Hidden amongst Christmas trees and snowmen, are dozens of market stalls selling festive goodies, from hot chestnuts and mulled wine to stocking fillers and winter clothes. In Valkenburg, they can boast the oldest and largest underground Christmas Market, hosted in the municipal caves of Valkenburg. It’s perfect for shoppers looking for a market with wow-factor. You can also admire the mural paintings, sculptures, and visit the unique 18th century chapel inside the cave, as well as buying old Dutch trade artefacts.


Stena Line operates twice-daily six-hour return crossings between Harwich and the Hook of Holland, fares starting from£59 per person one way with a car. Or rail and sail from £39 per person one way with a Dutchflyer ticket (which includes train travel from London Liverpool Street or any Greater Anglia network rail station to Harwich, Superferry crossing and onward train travel to the Dutch city of your choice) France with Brittany Ferries Spend a festive break in the Celtic regions of Brittany and Normandy – day trips, mini-cruises and mini-breaks, there is a different type of ferry holiday for everyone. Day trips to France start from just £32 with a great choice of destinations from Portsmouth and Plymouth to Caen, St-Malo and Roscoff. Or, take the car for just £29 extra and drive a bit further to Mont-St-Michel and see the spectacular winter illuminations. Why not enjoy a gourmet cruise to St-Malo including a two-night mini-cruise from Portsmouth with a delicious four course meal served onboard and a full day in the beautiful walled town of St-Malo. Prices start £95 per person return plus you can take your car for just £29 extra. Take the festive spirit a notch further with a gourmet getaway – a two or three-night break in a selection of charming family-run establishments in Normandy or Brittany from just £99. Spain with Brittany Ferries Head to northern Spain and the Basque Country and explore an alternative winter destination. Discover Bilbao, renowned for tapas, shopping and the iconic must-see Guggenheim. A four-night stay in the cultural capital of the Basque country starts from £219pp– price includes a car, two-night cabin accommodation and two-night b&b (with parking) at the Silken Indautxu Bilbao. Alternatively, enjoy the variety of the Atlantic coast onboard the state of the art vessel, Pont-Aven, for two days and nights on a return mini cruise from Portsmouth from just £79pp. Ireland with Irish Ferries Enjoy a memorable four-night Christmas break in an Irish Castle above the Dublin Bay and spend an authentic Irish Christmas with carols singing, mulled wines and mince pies on Christmas Eve, followed by a threecourse dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Wake up to a copious‘full Irish’ breakfast on Christmas Day, before a Champagne reception and traditional festive lunch. Christmas celebrations continue on St Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) with breakfast and dinner also included in the package. Price is £569pp and is based on two sharing – the package also includes return ferries for a car and two people between Holyhead in north Wales and Dublin, or from Pembroke in south Wales to Rosslare. Additional nights either before or after Christmas start from £57 per person, for B&B. Belgium with DFDS Seaways Enjoy a magical Christmas with DFDS festive cruises and discover Northern Europe’s best and most traditional Christmas markets. For example, pick up some unique festive gifts at the colourful Christmas Market in the heart of medieval Bruges. Alternatively opt for a festive

break in Hamelin and watch this legendary medieval town transforms into an enchanting wonderland with over 70 decorated wooden stalls as well as a Nativity scene with real animals and a giant advent calendar. A four-night festive break to Bruges or Hamelin starts from £219pp and £289pp respectively (based on two sharing) – departures from Newcastle on 1, 8 and 15 December. It includes two nights in an en suite cabin, coach transfers and two nights in a hotel with breakfast and live onboard entertainment. For more deals and ideas for a winter break by ferry, visit with comprehensive details of ferry companies and routes from the UK to Europe, Ireland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, and Scottish Isles.

C y p ru s . A p la c e to d

Pro Traveller Magazine - Issue 51  

Pro Traveller Magazine, Issue 51 - The magazine for the more discerning family traveller. This issue features Jordan, Italy, Iceland, France...

Pro Traveller Magazine - Issue 51  

Pro Traveller Magazine, Issue 51 - The magazine for the more discerning family traveller. This issue features Jordan, Italy, Iceland, France...