Saturday, 31 March 2018

Astoria Hotel in Stresa, Lake Maggiore

Hotel Astoria in Stresa, Lake Maggiore ©Solange Hando

This lovely 4-star hotel is only 100 metres from the old town in Stresa and just across the road from the pleasant lakeside promenade. It is close to bus stops in both directions.

Twin Room at the Astoria ©Solange Hando

The Astoria has 100 rooms, including seven junior suites. All rooms have balconies overlooking the garden at the back or if you wish to pay a little more the lake at the front. Free wifi and air conditioning in all rooms.

The Astoria Restaurant ©Solange Hando

This is a large restaurant overlooking the garden and lake with panoramic windows. Choose from à la carte or menu of the day which usually includes regional and international dishes. Superb buffet for breakfast.
There is a bar in the lounge area and in summer another by the pool.

Secluded Swimming Pool ©Solange Hando

There is a quiet heated pool at the back of the hotel with whirlpool and solarium. Facilities also include a panoramic roof garden, Turkish bath, fitness room, table tennis and games area.

Astoria's Lawn and Flowers ©Solange Hando

Looking right across to the lake, the front lawn of Astoria  is beautiful, close to the bar with cosy chairs inviting you to relax in the day or until late at night. Definitely a highlight.

Lake Maggiore in Stresa ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 17 March 2018

French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean

Dramatic Scenery from ULM on Reunion Island ©Solange Hando

Located between Mauritius and Madagascar, this island is just 63x45 km but claims such dramatic scenery that 40% is listed by Unesco as a world heritage site. This includes one active volcano and three great calderas inland where people live, even in the remote Mafate where the only access is by donkey or helicopter.

Saint-Gilles Marina in Reunion ©Solange Hando

Yet this rugged hinterland is surrounded by a fabulous coastline and the old fishing harbour of Saint-Gilles has now turned into a mini St Tropez. It is a popular place for watersports, snorkelling, diving, surfing, sailing and more, with whale watching a top attraction during the migrating season.

Eating venues serve excellent seafood and pastries close to the local market and the island's only five star hotel is a short drive away. Euro is the local currency since Reunion is a French department and as such part of the EU.

Cilaos Caldera ©Solange Hando

Inland from Saint-Gilles, the 'road of 400 bends' climbs up through stunning scenery to Cilaos, the most visited of the three calderas which also gives its name to the colourful settlement. This is a lovely mountain resort with a lake, thermal springs and a 'Rock of Wonders' with a bird's eye view of the town, surrounding peaks and ocean on the horizon.

The resort is famous for embroidery, lentils and fruity wine and it is included in the national park which claims 80 km of walking trails. This is also a base for climbing the highest peak, the Piton des Neiges at 3071 metres, which despite its name has hardly ever seen any snow.

Beach in Saint-Gilles ©Solange Hando

But after a climb or a long day trip to Cilaos, it is always nice to return to the beach, relax on powdery white sands or sit in the shade of feathery casuarinas. There are several sandy beaches, best loved the idyllic Hermitage Lagoon protected by a coral reef.

Some sections of the coast however are truly wild with lava rocks, blow holes and steep but verdant canyons coming right down to the ocean.

Furnace Peak ©Solange Hando

Meanwhile in the south-east corner of this hot spot island, the 'Piton de la Fournaise' erupts almost every year, and often more than once. There are no settlements nearby and it is constantly monitored, keeping everyone away in case of imminent danger.

When it is safe, you can walk around this spine-shilling moonscape or join a jeep safari across the old lava fields. Alternatively you can book a helicopter ride or enjoy a really close view, as above, from a a microlight.

Colourful Reunion ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Madagascar Lemur Island, Andasibe

Lemur in Andasibe ©Solange Hando

On the edge of Andasibe National Park, a three hour drive from the capital, this river island is a lovely sanctuary for rescued pet lemurs. Canoes paddle quietly around, just a few at a time, and visitors are guaranteed some of the closest sightings they will ever get.

Above is a black and white ruffed lemur, one of around 100 species of lemurs on the island, this one critically endangered. They are diurnal creatures with a loud call, feed mostly on fruit and enjoy the canopy in low to medium altitude rainforest.

 Iconic Ring-Tailed Lemur ©Solange Hando

These cute creatures are highly sociable and may well jump on your canoe to take a look at you. They live on their own island and love to sunbathe in patches of grass. They spend about a third of their time on the ground and will eat almost anything.

They use their tail for balance and, like other lemurs, will mark their territory with scent.They are very vocal and as in other species, adult females are the dominant characters.

Close Encounter ©Margaret Morris 

Landing is not allowed on the islands but some lemurs are at ease on the river bank. As former pets, they are used to humans and will happily jump on heads or shoulders. They are highly inquisitive and surprisingly gentle and soft.

The common brown lemur stretching on my arm has short dense fur, a black face and orangy eyes. It lives in different types of forests, is diurnal but is known to feed at night during the full moon.

Diademed Sifaka ©Solange Hando

Named after the white crown-like fur around the head, this beautiful lemur also belongs to an endangered species. It has long silky fur and eats 25 different kinds of plants a day to top up its energy.

It is also known as the Dancing Lemur as when on the ground, it moves sideways by hopping on its hind legs. Colourful and truly amazing.

Time for Fun ©Solange Hando

Isn't that wonderful? Now if you visit Lemur Island, do remember this is not a zoo but a sanctuary where these unique creatures are free to roam and feed in a perfectly natural way.

They do not like water so are unlikely to leave and fall prey once again to human predators. Staff ensure full protection while tourism helps to fund conservation.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Mauritius Images Part 2

Port Louis, Views from the Shrine ©Solange Hando

 Port Louis, the capital, has great views from the citadel or, as above from the quiet hillside shrine of Marie Reine de la Paix, closer to the peaks.

Umbrella Street in Port Louis ©Solange Hando

This is at the heart of the city, a lively shopping district near the Caudan waterfront and craft and food market. Umbrellas are for colour and shade.

Pamplemousse Garden ©Solange Hando

Close to the capital, this superb botanical garden displays 650 varieties of plants, including rare specimens, giant waterlilies, baobabs and 85 species of palms.

Lunch in Eureka ©Solange Hando

In this multicultural island, food ranges from Creole to French, Chinese, Indian and more. Look out for restored colonial mansions turned into restaurants, like this one just outside Port Louis.

The Coast North of Port Louis ©Solange Hando

Mauritius is a romantic place with honeymoon and wedding resorts but if you want to tie the knot in this little Church of Our Lady on the north coast, expect a long waiting list.

Love Flowers? Enjoy ©Solange Hando


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Images of Mauritius Part 1

Mauritius Beach, Bel Ombre ©Solange Hando

Quiet coves or long stretches of white sands, clear warm waters protected by the coral reef, Mauritius is perfect for beach lovers with superb resorts lapped by the Indian Ocean.

Black River Gorges National Park ©Solange Hando

Down in the south west, a scenic drive from some of the most popular resorts, the park offers 50 km of trails where the more adventurous can watch exotic birds, including pink pigeons and waterfalls.

Chamarel Coloured Earth ©Solange Hando

This is a top attraction in Mauritius created by lava rocks which cooled at different temperatures. It does not not erode and should you mix the colours, they will separate again within a day.  

The North Coast, Cap Malheureux ©Solange Hando

Beyond the bustling Grand Baie resort, this is the most northerly tip of the island, a quiet place with some lovely coves looking out to the islands.

The National Flower ©Solange Hando

Growing on a bush endemic to the island, it is commonly known as the 'earring', just one of many exotic flowers adding myriad colours to Mauritius.

Sunset on the Indian Ocean, Mauritius ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Images of Provence Luberon

Gordes in Luberon, Provence ©Solange Hando

At the heart of Provence, Luberon is a scenic land of fertile valleys and hill top villages framed by mountains and tumbling streams.
Several villages, including Gordes, are listed among the most beautiful in France, in a region made famous by expat Peter Mayle, author of 'A year in Provence' and its sequels. 

Shepherd's Hut, Luberon ©Solange Hando

Known as 'bories', these traditional dry stone huts are still found on mountain slopes. Once used by shepherds, now they can offer a welcome shade to walkers on a hot day.
Not far from Gordes in the Apt region, the restored Bories Village is a historic monument, an inspiring place where the local architecture is sprinkled among the holm oak trees.

Fontaine de Vaucluse in Provence ©Solange Hando

Fontaine de Vaucluse is one of the most popular spots, a must see for its spectacular scenery and the river Sorgue, emerald green, lined with tempting restaurants on stilts and a working paper mill.
You can canoe on the Sorgue  and if you follow the path up the cliff, for 15 minutes or so, you reach the source of the river. There, you might witness the largest resurgence in Europe, most impressive after the rain.

Luberon Vineyards©Solange Hando

Driving across Luberon takes you past lush vineyards where one can often visit the cellars, taste and buy from the producer.
Red, rosé and white are all available, the perfect accompaniment to the tasty food of Provence, especially rich in tomatoes, olives and melons in Cavaillon.

L'Isle sur la Sorgue ©Solange Hando

Often called 'the little Venice', l'Isle sur la Sorgue is a delightful place laced by canals and tightly hugged by the river. There are lovely buildings and attractive lanes, flower-draped bridges and old waterwheels covered in moss. 
The town is known for its art studios, galleries and most of all its antique shops for which it comes second only to Paris in the whole of France.

View from Menerbes Hilltop Village in Provence, Luberon ©Solange Hando

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Love Travel, Want to Write

Festival in Bhutan ©Solange Hando

Top Tip
Forget the destination track
The tighter the focus, the more original the feature, the easier the sale
So what can you write about?

Culture and craft
Heritage, festivals, food and wine, embroidery, woodcarving, pottery, the list is endless...
Local travel
Steam train, river trip, rickshaws, bus journey, hot air balloon, donkey riding
Family fun, water sports, golf, cycling, paragliding, cooking, painting...
Conservation, eco-lodges, bird watching, trekking, saving turtles
Local people
Visit a school, talk to monks, meet a budding actor, a poet, a chef, a guide with an unusual story

Now what do you do with all these ideas?
Choose your favourites, do the research, take lots of pictures and find suitable markets
Where do you start?
On shelves and online, bear in mind weekly mags need a lot more copy than monthlies

Check out
Women's / Men's magazines
Publications for seniors, families, young adults, outdoor fans
Special interest, sports and hobbies magazines
Food and wine
Health / Spa / Body and Mind
Travel magazines
In-flight magazines

Study your chosen market
Length, style, format, fact box
 Pitch to the editor
Keep it brief and to the point

Would you like to know more?
Will guide you step by step on the road to success