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Christmas in Sicily

Posted on: December 22nd, 2013 by isabel.albiol

Noto Xmas amEver since exploring SICILY 15 years ago, I have felt this varied island would provide a wonderful escape from the dark days of winter in London.  We irisheaded to Siracusa just south of Catania to an apartment looking straight out over the sea, tucked away in the maze of old streets that make up Ortigia.  With its Greek remains, glorious piazza and curious duomo, Ortigia proved to be a perfect spot for Christmas. The market buzzed with stalls of slithery fresh silver fish, meaty hunks of swordfish  as well as mountains of vegetables and fruit bursting with vigour. There were tempting cheeses and salami, rich-red sun dried tomatoes, plump dates and juicy sanginello oranges. Exploring down the coast, we watched flamingos on the salt pans, marvelled at Neolithic caves and the baroque glories of Noto and Modica.  In the evenings,, Ortigia showed its true Italian style and we strolled along blending in with the locals enjoying the passiagiata. Breakfast and lunch, warmed by the sunshine, were spent with local gooodies to eat as well as mincepies and prosecco on our spacious terrace and of course Christmas presents were acquired entirely in ortigia! It was a perfect and memorable Christmas.Ortigia piazza

PURE LIFE Experiential Travel in Morocco

Posted on: November 5th, 2013 by isabel.albiol

lunch with a viewAs a guest at this by-invitation only annual travel show, I renew old friendships, check up on places that I am already familiar with and of PURE member logocourse broaden my knowledge globally. With a tight schedule of meetings every 20 minutes for the three conference days, plus evening drinks, dinners and meetings it is a busy but worthwhile week. 2013 provided a really interesting collection of new lodges, small ships and exciting experiences to learn about and incorporate into future tours, from Ballooning in Bhutan, peaceful villas in Ecuador and Sri Lanka to the cultural sites of West Africa. Whilst there, I took the opportunity to visit Fez and enjoyed strolling the maze of streets, absorb the colours and, in some cases over-powering smells (leather tanning!) as well as visit the vineyards and ruins of Volubilis.  Morocco with its variety of sites and experiences, range of climate zones and hugely differing styles of hotel, is able to provide an interesting holiday at almost any time of year.Fez leather tanning

Inspections in Burma

Posted on: September 21st, 2013 by isabel.albiol

OrcaellaI spent three weeks making inspections in Burma to ensure the charter I am working on with CAZENOVE+LOYD of the new ORIENT-EXPRESS boat ‘Orcaella’  will be tailored for our clients.  In January 2014 and 2015 we shall travel from Mandalay to the Chinese Border and I was thrilled to return to this fascinating, rapidly changing country with its charming people.  Lotus-pondI spent time in Yangon, which I still think of as Rangoon and inspected many crumbling colonial buildings to choose the most interesting to visit during our walking tour  when we explore the town.  Then I moved up country to Mandalay to embark on ‘Orcaella’ for a ten day voyage up the Chindwin River towards the high hills of the Indian-Burmese border. In spite of the torrential monsoon rain the scenery was fascinating and we sloshed our way through villages, buzzing markets and golden temples and I was relieved to reflect it would be dry season when I return with friends and clients.  I was pleased to find the modernity of ‘Orcaella’ includes proper bathrooms rather than the plastic units that many river boats call a bathroom. The delightful cabins have huge opening windows and top-deck viewing with glass in hand became an evening fixture. So, I am much looking forward to our adventures in Burma with Robert Gordon, CMG OBE who will join me as speaker in January 2014 and 2015.Ad & hat crpd E

Inspections in Piedmont (Italy) for a Wine Tour

Posted on: July 5th, 2013 by isabel.albiol

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a moment of enthusiasm I decided a biking tour would be a good way to check out this famous wine producing area of Italy not realising just how hilly it was.  Genoa duomoWe sweated up hill and cooled off speeding down-hill, but all the exercise did enable us to eat spectacularly well at Michelin starred restaurants soaking up the chunky red wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Producers were welcoming and the tour is taking shape.  Our hotels ranged from the naturally charming Villa Amelia to simple village B&Bs and after ten days of exercise it was time to relax beside the sea.  From the pretty car-free village of Camogli, we walked along steep coastal tracks, checked to make sure the Hotel Splendido was still as glamorous as ever and of course shopped in Portofino. A highlight was Genoa, a city that lived up to my expectations with its striking duomo and historic shipping associations.AD biking P'mont

The Glories of England

Posted on: June 5th, 2013 by isabel.albiol

YuccaTaking advantage of the wonderful summer weather, I took clients on a whirl wind tour from London to Scotland and Norfolk.  We sped north to the Lake District to walk in Column painting 2 Little Langdale, where my family has a stunning cottage once owned by Beatrix Potter.  I used the opportunity to check up on areas I once knew well, see friends and stay in some glorious country pubs and hotels ranging from Arts & Crafts in the Borders to grand Yorkshire castles plus a seaside moment in Norfolk to see the pictures at Houghton. It was a useful and enjoyable reminder of the wonders of this country, its gardens and houses.

Ankor, Siem Reap & Koh Samui

Posted on: January 5th, 2013 by isabel.albiol

At Ta Prom Siem ReapHaving completed a three week tour of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand (see Past Tours),I took some time off with the opportunity to visit areas new to me. The highlight remained exploring the remoter parts Six Senses Koh Sof Angkor Wat with its over-grown empty temples, so different from the thronging hordes clambering about the more accessible and well-known ones. I biked round Siem Reap enjoying the shady roads and charming Cambodian friendliness.  Koh Samui turned out to be an island I definitely do not wish to return to, but my stay at the Orient-Express hotel was a delightful rest and a day yachting amongst the nearby islands was peaceful – a relief from the garish advertising plastered everywhere.  I checked out each of the top-end hotels on the island, from the Four Seasons to W Hotel, but each was simply a big soulless machine.  The weather was of course glorious: beach lounging and dining became increasingly seductive as my holiday days sped past and return to London loomed ever nearer.Bamboo boat