Cuba is a destination that is hugely popular at the moment, the increase partly due to changed relations with the US, and this in turn spurring on potential visitors to explore the island before it changes beyond recognition. Peter and his wife Julie visited for a holiday last month, and loved it! Below is their report.
With direct scheduled flights from Gatwick to Havana, and charters from both Gatwick and Manchester to Holguin, Cuba is easily accessible and well worth considering for your next Experience Holiday.
We stayed in B&B accommodation for almost the entire trip and they are recommended – better presented and family run. However there are good 5 star hotels with more on the way should this be your preference. The B&B’s are good value and often well located – ours was very central making everything very walkable for the Old Town.
You should consider a 4 night stay here particularly if the plane gets in late. There is so much to see and do and it is very worthwhile having a guided (themed) tour as many of the best sites are not obvious or easy to find. Added to which you will be shown the less touristy side of the city. Every kind of method of getting around from donkey carts to old Russian trucks squeeze through these streets so keep your eyes peeled. Certainly try getting around on a biki taxi, a coconut taxi and for sure book at least a 3 hour tour of the city and Hemingway Finca in a Classic convertible also taking in the fortress (the biggest in the New World).
We have a list of “Paladars” which are privately owned/run restaurants which are excellent but often fill quickly – so book some of them for the trip. Rum cocktails abound, especially mojitos which it is claimed were invented here.
Havana is a very safe, walkable place with huge contrasts in architecture and levels of renovation – from ruins next to renovated.
Guama, Bay of Pigs to Cienfuego We took the long way down to Cienfuegos to take in the wilder Zapatas Peninsula which is a RAMSAR site and a big National Park. We stopped at a crocodile breeding centre (for the endangered Cuban croc) which was interesting and also the place to catch your boat to Villas Horizintes Guama. This is a good eco lodge deep in the Park and worth a night or two.
Bay of Pigs is the site of an abortive invasion of Cuba in 1960 but there is little to see here. It is also where you find “sink holes” connected to sea which are full of colourful sea fish. Take your swim suit so you can take a dip in one or to snorkel off shore. A good diving spot as well.
Cienfuegos is worth a one night stop as it has plenty of history, is very clean and some interesting architecture – Palacio de Valle is perfectly placed for outstanding views of the Bay and city. Cruise ships come in regularly, so get your sightseeing in early. The casa particular that we stayed in was eclectic and fun and had good food.
Trinidad and the drive there
Not too far to go from Cienfuegos but we detoured in to the mountains, Sierra del Escambray so that we could undertake a 3 hour hike through the mountains. There are caves, waterfalls, plenty of bird life and a chance to cool down in any of the cool clean pools you find along the trail. Well worth doing on the way to Trinidad.
Trinidad is a must see destination – a really well preserved Spanish/Cuban city which is very easy to wander around. Plenty to see and do, including dancing lessons and every evening dancing on the steps of the Casa de Musica. Live music is everywhere in Cuba and most of it is good. While here take the train to the sugar growing Valle Los Ingenios – slow but fun with a bar on board if you are missing your mojitos. Here visit the eighteen century mansions of the sugar barons and their slave quarters and learn about the sugar trade and those that worked for it.
On the Beach – Varadero Finish a trip to Cuba on the beach. We went to Varadero which is well developed with large hotels and nothing like the rest of Cuba. The beach here is beautiful white sand, kept very clean and the water crystal clear. A great place to unwind and relax. Most hotels are all inclusive. All have entertainment and there are places away from the hotel to eat out at (one is Al Capone’s old home).
There are a number of other beach destinations which have their own appeal depending on your interests and preferences.
For more information on Cuba, give us a call or send us an email – we’d be more than happy to chat through ideas and possibilities with you.
Capture stunning winter photographs of iconic spots throughout Bryce Canyon Country
Capture the largest collection of hoodoos in the world at Bryce Canyon. These rock formations invaded Bryce Canyon 40 million years ago and are always changing because of frost-wedging in the winter, so your snowy photograph will become a part of history.
Picture courtesy of Bryce Canyon Country
Whether you are looking up or down, frozen Panguitch Lake in Bryce Canyon Country offers beautiful scenery and great photograph opportunities. The snow and ice create an additional texture and color.
Picture courtesy of Bryce Canyon Country
Arches like this one have been forming for millions of years in Bryce Canyon. Arches are always changing and eroding from wind, snow and ice. But your winter photograph will capture their beauty and always stay the same.
Picture courtesy of Bryce Canyon Country
If you are a keen photographer or just like visiting amazing places then please contact us for more ideas to help put your bespoke holiday together – Call 01323 446550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fall is a fabulous time to visit the Capital Region USA. Throughout the already scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and the valleys below, the landscape morphs into a kaleidoscope of colour. The fall harvest begins at farms and vineyards across Maryland and Virginia and is celebrated at festivals and events throughout the region. And the cooler weather brings a variety of outdoor festivals where visitors can experience authentic American culture. Here are five top experiences you should seek out on your autumn holiday to America’s Capital Region.
Take a Scenic Drive
Rent a car and follow one of the region’s National Scenic Byways to view the spectacular fall foliage. Skyline Drive, part of Shenandoah National Park, runs 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and features numerous overlooks where you can pull over, take in the view and capture some stunning vacation photos. Once outside the park, the drive meets the Blue Ridge Parkway which continues another 217 miles through the mountains of Virginia. Known as the “road that built a nation”, Maryland’s Historic National Road passes through the mountains of western Maryland, travelling through small towns and historic sites along the way. Discover more scenic fall drives in Virginia and Maryland.
Fall scenics along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org
Skyline Drive – Credited to Virginia Tourism Corporation
Taste the Harvest
Celebrate the harvest at farms and wineries throughout the region. Virginia Wine Month is celebrated in October and features wine festivals and special events at wineries, restaurants and retailers throughout the state. Taste one of the region’s specialties in its peak season during the Urbanna Oyster Festival in Virginia or the St. Mary’s Oyster Festival in Maryland. Harvest celebrations include the Suffolk Peanut Festival. Washington DC hosts several food festivals in the fall including Capital Food Fight and Taste of DC.
Have Fun on the Farm
Enjoy the crisp autumn air while having some old fashion fun as farms throughout the region host fall festivals featuring corn mazes, pumpkin patches, apple picking, hayrides and more. Check out all of the corn mazes and pumpkin patches in Virginia and in Maryland, look to Bowles Farm, Butler’s Orchard, Cove Run, Forrest Hall and Warrington Farm for fall fun.
Fall kicks off the season for many of America’s favourite sports – particularly football. Fans pack the stadiums and sports bars, cheering on their favourite teams. See the regional hometown teams in action at Fed Ex Field, home to the Washington Redskins or M&T Bank Stadium, home to the Baltimore Ravens. Head to the VerizonCenter in DC to catch a hockey game with the Washington Capitals or a basketball game with the Washington Wizards. Steeplechase races are also prevalent throughout the fall. Checkout the Montpelier Hunt Races or the International Gold Cup in Virginia and the Shawan Downs Legacy Chase and the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day in Maryland.
Enjoy the fall weather while experiencing the culture of the region at one of many outdoor festivals and events. Explore DC’s diverse neighbourhoods during the H Street Festival or Walking Town DC, an event featuring more than 50 free, guided walking tours throughout the city. Hosted in the scenic waterfront town of Easton, Maryland, the Waterfowl Festival celebrates the wide variety of waterfowl species in the Chesapeake Bay region with retriever, birds of prey, and fly fishing demonstrations, miniature decoy paintings, calling contests and more. The Virginia State Fair features animals and agriculture exhibits along with live music, shows, arts and crafts, a midway filled with games and rides, and lots of traditional fair foods.
Picture courtesy of CapitalRegionUSA.Org
Jefferson Memorial – Credit CapitalRegionUSA.Org
To start planning you bespoke holiday to the USA to see the fall next year then please contact us so we can put your plans into actions and help make the most out of your holiday with our expert advice – Please call us on 01323 446550 or email: email@example.com
Finally if this is all too highbrow for you we have Buble at the BBC on Thursday BBC1 at 20.00. This will be similar to the show Graham Norton did with Adele last year which had over 4.5 million viewers.
With entry into many a country requiring the application of a visa or visa waiver prior to travel please do contact us for advice on the best way to do this if you are in any way unsure. We suggest that you go directly to the embassy or government website concerned where you will be directed to complete the relevant information, and only charged the fee required for the actual visa or visa waiver. There are many companies set up online who will be eager to action this for you, and in the process will charge you a service fee for doing so – this could amount to you paying well over the odds for your visa/visa waiver.
We are always happy to provide the website links to the official sites so please do get in touch for assistance. An ESTA for the USA, an eTA for Canada, an electronic visa for India and also for Sri Lanka are just some (but not all) of the locations where this is necessary.
One of our favorite little B&B boutique hotels ‘The Platinum Pebble’ in Cape Cod, New England, USA have written the following article about being on Cape Cod –
The best place to stay on Cape Cod means different things to different travelers. Why are you traveling and what do you enjoy on holiday? For us, the best place to stay is where we have the best access to explore our new surroundings. We live like a local in our travels and soak up as much as we can as we discover the best of where we happen to be. Harwich drew us like a bonfire with its central Cape location, direct access to the beach and bike trails, farm to table restaurants, almost everything is walkable, and Provincetown is the same distance as Falmouth so we can easily explore the entire Cape. Now our goal is to bring it to our Guests via customized itineraries so your vacation is everything it should be.
Picture courtesy of Angie Watson
Two of our favorite places to visit on the Cape are Provincetown and Falmouth but, the distance between the two is a couple hours…more in High Season. When we first came to Cape Cod we chose Harwich because it opens up both sides of the Cape without too much wasted travel time in between. For us, the decision was easy because we like to see it all! As an unintended consequence we found that Harwich is also about the same distance to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with drive and ferry time considered. For travelers searching for the best place to stay on Cape Cod, it’s about making this a vacation of your dreams…what is important to you is what defines where you should be.
To decide on the best place to stay on Cape Cod, access and walkability were high on our list. Harwich has it all and we have discovered that having very little time to spend enjoying the best place on Earth (as Innkeepers) we are glad to have easy access to nearly everything when we do get a breather.
For more information on making Cape Cod part of your bespoke tailor made holiday to the USA then please give us a call on 01323 446550 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is plenty to do in New York City from shopping along some of the most famous streets in the world, going to the top of iconic skyscrapers, heading across the river to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to browsing through all the various markets. The attractions are legion but if you are willing to travel a short distance out then there is even more to offer.
Join a tour, drive yourself or take the train and taxi to the following attractions which are just a couple of hours away from downtown NY. Overlooking the Hudson River is the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a guided tour and tour of the garden will leave you far more knowledgeable about this historic President. The first presidential library is located here and gives you details of this particular era. Just a short drive further along brings you to the Vanderbilt Mansion. Full of stunning art, furniture and surrounded by national parkland, you soon understand why they lived here.
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
While in this area why not visit the Culinary Institute of America where students will give you a guided tour of the facilities and finish of dining at one of four restaurants found here. The food is excellent, as you would expect, and the prices very reasonable.
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
To stretch your legs, head to Poughkeepsie and the New York State Park found here. One of the key attractions is the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge. This crosses over the Hudson River and is over 2 kms long.
For those interested in history (and flying) then make your way to Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome which is home to a huge collection of 1900 – 1939 aeroplanes, cars, motorcycles and their memorabilia. From June to October there is an air show every weekend (weather permitting) with vintage aircrafts flying including WW1 German Fokker planes. For those intrepid enough, you can take to the skies in a biplane ride any day of the week.
A wonderful way to see this beautiful and interesting part of New York State.
If you have ever yearned to experience the real Western way of life, then this destination should be on your travel agenda. Located with a stunning mountain backdrop it will not be long before they will have your horse saddled up ready to ride in to the Old West. Within a few minutes you will be forgetting the stress of modern life and concentrating on the scenery, wildlife and the huge horizons.
The real cowboys will be looking after you, telling tales of cowboy wisdom and way of life and improving your riding and cowboy skills. All done with the legendary Western hospitality.
Make sure you are there for a Friday and go along to the regular Friday Night Rodeos in the town of Dubois. The rodeos originated as a fun gathering to practice and show off ranching skills and have now developed into entertaining, competitive events. A night to remember.
Picture courtesy of Wind River Country
For those of you that enjoy mountain climbing Wind River Country hold an International Climber’s Festival every July celebrating the climbing lifestyle. With speakers, competition, food, music and competitions it is a fun way to enjoy the sport and meet like minded people from around the world.
Finally, visit the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary to see these wild animals and to learn of their story in North America – particularly how the Native Americans lived and used them.
Start planning now to ensure your bespoke, tailor made holiday in this amazing and adventurous place is confirmed.
I have just been sent these fantastic pictures from Yvonne that I wanted to share! I cant wait to hear all about here travels and experiences.
‘Having just returned from my trip to the USA here are just a few pictures from my travels through Wyoming and Montana – this area is stunning with incredibal scenery, wildlife and plenty of adventure. Heres a few pictures’ – more information to follow.
You will be receiving our Spring Newsletter in the post over the next few days and you will see we are promoting Atlantic Canada once again. If you are not on our mailing list and would like a copy of our Newsletter, contact us (see details below) and we will send it to you.
Atlantic Canada remains one of our favourite destinations for all sorts of reasons – stunning scenery, wonderful places to stay, fresh seafood, an abundance of wildlife and marine life but best of all the friendly welcome that you will receive from the people who are living there. Atlantic Canada is made up of the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, each of which has its own unique highlights. Over the next few days, we will blog about these in more detail. We love working with the tourism representatives of these Provinces who are enthusiastic, friendly promoters, keen to see more tourists from the UK visiting them. As are we!
Picture courtesy of Atlantic Canada
Getting there has never been easier with Air Canada flights daily to Halifax, Nova Scotia year-round and St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador in peak season. Halifax also has weekly charter flights operated by Canadian Affair in the summer months. With flight times from 5-6 hours this is really a destination within easy reach and well-suited for a short break with a difference, as well as a main holiday.
Atlantic Canada has the 4 seasons that we experience but usually with warmer summers, colder winters and stunning autumn colours.
Keep an eye on our blog over the next few days as we look at each Province in more detail or get in touch now.
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