• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton
    Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

The Cuba Experience with Peter Ellis

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Vicki Tester

 

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.

Havana
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.

Suggested itinerary link – Cuba Itinerary

   

All pictures courtesy of Peter Ellis.

Highlights of Cuba

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Cuba has always been a beach destination with perhaps a quick tour in to Havana, the capital. However it is so much more than just excellent beaches. The architecture is amazing with a heavy Spanish influence, the biggest fortress in North America, stunning mountain ranges and music of quality everywhere.

Summary

Highlights of Cuba

Cuba has always been a beach destination with perhaps a quick tour in to Havana, the capital. However it is so much more than just excellent beaches. The architecture is amazing with a heavy Spanish influence, the biggest fortress in North America, stunning mountain ranges and music of quality everywhere. The 75,000 old cars are a huge attraction and you will see 10 times more cowboys in Cuba than any country north of it. Friendly and welcoming people will make you feel you have chosen well.

It is a third world country that has suffered a 55 year embargo, so things like roads are poor, but they have a richness in other ways and make the most of life.

 

Day 1: Havana

Day 5: Guama, Zapatas Peninsula

Day 7: Cienfuegos

Day 8: Trinidad

Day 11: On the beach

Day 15: Havana

Description

Description

 

Havana has much to offer but you would be missing so much by just going there and the beach. What follows gives a flavour of other locations and activities to ensure you experience the richness of the largest Caribbean island.

 

Day 1 Havana

Arrive Havana and transfer to your B&B in the centre of Havana. Over the next few days explore the city on foot with a guide taking you from one magnificent square to the next, explaining the history of the places and giving you a taste of Cuban life. Experience different ways to travel around – from biki taxis, coconut taxis to a 3 hour afternoon drive in a classic old car. Eat out at Paladars (private restaurants) and immerse yourselves in to the night life and the music and dancing. Follow the Hemingway trail in the city and venture out to his Finca (farm) which is now a museum to his time in Cuba.

4 nights Havana

 

Day 5: Guama, Zapatas Peninsula

Transfer to the south and the Zapatas Peninsula and visit a croc farm that is breeding the endangered Cuban Crocodile. Then catch your boat to your Eco Lodge deep in the National Park. Time to relax in the pristine environment and to explore it further.

2 nights Zapatas Peninsula

 

Day 7: Cienfuegos

Catch the boat back to your transfer to Cienfuegos, stopping along the way at the Bay of Pigs and a “Sink Hole” connected to the sea. A chance to swim with the colourful fish found here or snorkel off the coast. Explore Cienfuegos on foot and enjoy the French inspired architecture and clean city.

1 night Cienfuegos

 

Day 8: Trinidad

Drive up to the mountains for a 3 hour trek through the forest, stopping to explore the caves, waterfalls and to swim in the clear pools along the path. Finish with a lunch in the mountains before continuing to Trinidad, one of Cuba’s jewels in the crown. It is a truly magnificent city, untouched by modern architecture and easy to explore. Here join a salsa class and then practice your moves on the steps at Casa de la Musica. Then take the train out to the Valle Los Ingenios to learn about the sugar trade, the sugar barons and the slaves that worked here.

3 nights Trinidad

 

Day 11: On the Beach

Stopping at Santa Clara to see the Che Guevera mausoleum before heading to one of the pristine beaches that Cuba is famous for. Time to relax and take advantage of the water sports on offer. Diving and snorkelling is excellent in certain places.

4 nights Beach

 

Day 15: Havana

Transfer back to Havana to catch your homeward flight.

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Little Gems

Little Gems

When in Havana climb to the top of the Edificio Gomez Villa and see the oldest “Camera Obscura” in the New World. This will give you a unique panoramic view of Old Havana and people moving across the squares. The camera zooms in magnificently on local sites.

What our client says

Client Feedback

Coming Soon!

Region: Rocky Mountain States

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Yvonne Dann

 

The area encompassing the beautiful US Rocky Mountain States of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and into Colorado has its own unique cultural history, combining both the heroic and tragic aspects of the opening up of the American West – from the epic movement of pioneers from east to west to the displacement of a native population. From the Black Hills of South Dakota to Hell’s Canyon in Idaho, from Montana’s breathtaking Glacier National Park to the awesome expanses of Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, the area is blessed with an unspoiled and natural scenic beauty.

The Real America

The Wild West

Wild West Story

Yellowstone in Winter

Favourite Road Trips

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

Winter Photography in Bryce Canyon Country

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Capture stunning winter photographs of iconic spots  throughout Bryce Canyon Country 

Snow-Covered Hoodoos 

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

Panguitch Lake

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

Winterized Arches

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 info@experienceholidays.co.uk

You can also visit www.brycecanyoncountry.com

Gastronomic Tour of Nova Scotia

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With over 500 festivals celebrating its rich diverse culture, dramatic beautiful scenery, outdoor adventure, a fascinating maritime history, warm hospitality and a superb gastronomic reputation, Nova Scotia is the perfect fly drive destination.

Summary

Gastronomic Tour of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia, one of the four Atlantic Canada provinces, is perfectly located to make full use of the abundance of marine life around it. Add to this numerous restaurants and cafe’s, with excellent menu’s and wine lists and a simple self drive tour turns into a gastronomic experience.

Day 1: Halifax
Day 3: Lunenburg
Day 6: Antigonish
Day 6: Mabou
Day 7: Cabot Trail
Day 8: Baddeck

Day 9: Louisbourg
Day 11: Charlos Cove
Day 12: Depart Halifax

Description

Description

Day 1: Halifax
Fly in to Halifax and the start of your gastronomic tour of this fascinating region. While sampling your first meals, why not get involved in the lively music scene of Halifax which is truly diverse. Two days of exploring the city – not forgetting to visit the oldest Farmers Market in Canada.
Halifax 2 nights

Day 3: Lunenburg
Pick up your vehicle and set off along the Lighthouse Route along the South Shore stopping to visit some along the way. Have lunch at pretty Peggy’s Cove before continuing to Lunenburg for a two night stay. Lunenberg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and here, enjoy the fruits of the sea and land. Nova Scotia is famous for its fresh quality food. Why not join the Cooking School based here to hone your skills and watch masters at work!
Lunenburg 2 nights

Day 6: Antigonish
Head due East to your next destination Antigonish, perhaps stopping at the University town of Wolfville with its excellent cafes and restaurants. If time allows, consider visiting one of the many vineyards in this area. You will be amazed at the rise/fall of the sea in the Bay of Fundy up to 46 feet – one of the biggest in the world.
Antigonish 1 night

Day 6: Mabou
Cross the Causeway to Cape Breton island – the further end of Nova Scotia province and follow the Ceilidh Trail for an overnight stay at Mabou. In early October this area comes alive with the sound of music as the Celtic Colours Festival takes over the whole area. Some of the freshest and tastiest fruits of the sea can be found in little pubs and restaurants in this region.
Mabou 1 night

Day 7: Cabot Trail
As you continue north east, the Ceilidh Trail joins the Cabot Trail – you are on your way to one of the most spectacular drives in Canada
Cabot Trail 1 night

Day 8: Baddeck
Complete the Cabot Trail to Baddeck and take time to relax and explore the cultural life that is centred on the Bras d’Or Lakes of Cape Breton Island.

Baddeck 1 night

Day 9: Louisbourg

Continue on to the National Historic Site of Louisbourg and stay in the pretty seaside town.  Use the full day to drive to Louisbourg and explore the historic town that helped shape the history of the region – with a little more time, include this as a three night stop.

Louisbourg 2 nights

Day 11: Charlos Cove
Return to the mainland, now joining the Marine Drive, for your final night stay at Charlos Cove. Time for a final gourmet meal and splendid accommodation before you think about packing for the last time and heading home.
Charlos Cove 1 night

Day 12: Depart Halifax
Back to Halifax for your return journey home or to continue your adventure …

All photographs by kind permission of Nova Scotia Tourism

NS Musicians in Mabou      NS Peggy's Cove      NS Skyline Trail

Little Gems

Little Gems

Cape Breton Island, linked to the mainland of Nova Scotia by the Canso Causeway is a must.  Plan your visit to coincide with the Fall colours and the Celtic Colours music festival.  Plan carefully though as some of the visitor attractions close at or about Canadian Thanksgiving!

What our clients say

Client Feedback

Content coming soon

Destinations Show, Olympia

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 


Photograph by kind permission of UnCruise Adventures

Don’t forget we will be at Destinations Show at Olympia, London, on February 02, 03, 04 and 05. Find us on Stand AC32 which we are sharing with the American company Uncruise Adventures. Most of the team will be there over the 4 days and would love to see a friendly face or two. This is one of the biggest travel shows in the U.K and a great place to find new destinations and experiences that would suit you. If you have a particular place in mind for your holiday next year (or the year after) give us a call to book an appointment with our team expert for that part of the world. However we will be very pleased to see you as and when you are free.

For your free tickets to Destinations Show, please go to: http://www.destinationsshow.com/london/form/registration  and then type in MSC97 in the appropriate place.

We look forward to seeing you at either event.

Don’t be a Fool to miss the Fall – Your 5 must do’s

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

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

Fall scenics along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skyline Drive - Credited to Virginia Tourism Corporation

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.

Charlottesville-Vineyards-Credit Charlottesville-Albemarle-Convention-Visitors-Bureau.jpg

Charlottesville-Vineyards-Credit Charlottesville-Albemarle-Convention-Visitors-Bureau.jpg

Cheer on Favourite Teams

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.  

Get Cultured

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

Picture courtesy of CapitalRegionUSA.Org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jefferson Memorial - Credit 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: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Canada takes over the TV this week

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

This week the BBC are showing a few series which are all based in Canada showing what a fabulous place North America really is and certainly not to be missed.

We hope you caught Dan Snow last Sunday night with Operation Gold Rush in the Yukon. More jaw dropping scenery to follow next Sunday night (21.00 BBC2) in part 2.

Arctic Live started Tuesday on BBC 2 from 20.00 – 21.00 live from Churchill and continues on Wednesday and Thursday with Kate Humble, Simon Reeve and Gordon Buchanan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2016/44/arctic-live-1

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081vcx0

Include Cape Cod In Your New England Trip

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

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

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: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

 

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Getting more from your trip to New York City

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

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

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

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.

We are a call away!

For more information please contact us on 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

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