Saturday, 29 November 2014

Dreams of Lonely Planet? 100 Pages to the Best Job in the World

Traditional Festival in Bhutan ©Solange Hando

Do you love travelling?
New people, new places, new cultures...
Have you ever dreamed of selling your stories ? 
Seeing your name in print and earning some cash?

'Be a Travel Writer' won't get you a dozen commissions overnight, or promise you'll be the next Chris Stewart or Simon Calder, but it will certainly set you on the right track and help you sell every feature you ever write.

If  you enjoy discovering places and meeting people,
If you can you write in simple English and take digital pictures,

This is for you.
Add it to your Christmas list and it could change your life...
Just 100 pages to 'the best job in the world'.

Only eight copies left on Amazon, more on the way, but don't let them slip away...

Good luck and I hope to see you on the road.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Sicily, Hotel Alberi del Paradiso in Cefalu

Alberi del Paradiso in Cefalu, Sicily ©Solange Hando

Set in lush grounds, framed by lofty palms and bougainvillaea, Alberi del Paradiso is a quiet retreat nestling on a slope above town and sea. Birds twitter in the garden, a stream gurgles by the old water mill and the scent of jasmine lingers in the air.

Just minutes from the sea, this low-rise eco-friendly hotel is within the Madonie Mountains Nature Park which claims the highest biodiversity in Europe.

The Reception at Paradiso Hotel ©Solange Hando

Step inside the light airy reception and you will be greeted by a particularly friendly staff. Nothing here is too much trouble, whether you wish to call a taxi, book an excursion or the free shuttle to take you into town or down to the beach (20 minutes on foot, steep climb on the way back). The shuttle stops early evening but if you wish to dine out, any restaurant will call you a taxi (10 euros).

Rooms and suites have balconies with sea or mountain views and air conditioning which controls humidity as well as temperature. Free WiFi and tea and coffee making facilities are standard and there's plenty of on-site parking, shaded by a solar panel roof.

Fresh Fruit, Breakfast Time ©Solange Hando

Breakfast is an attractive buffet, where you can squeeze your own oranges, to be enjoyed on a terrace which almost feels like a tree top house. The policy of 0 km (local products) and 0 waste (efficient recycling) also applies whenever possible in the al capone restaurant.

Prepared by chef Roberto Bonvissuro and his team, the best of Mediterranean cuisine is on offer, based on organic products from the Madonie mountains and the sea and accompanied by quality wines from a well-stocked cellar.

Light lunches and snacks are available in the bar.

Swimming Pool at Alberi del Paradiso ©Solange Hando

Other facilities include a sheltered outdoor pool, tennis court and a spa with jacuzzi, massage and beauty treatments (on request) in a quiet spot among the olive trees. 

Add a private beach with loungers and parasols, accessed by hotel shuttle, what more could anyone ask for?

View of Cefalu from the hillside ©Solange Hando

Excursions from Cefalu?  
Think Taormina plus Etna, the Aeolian Islands, Palermo or inland villages but it's always a pleasure at the end of the day to return to Alberi del Paradiso,  wonderfully peaceful yet so close to the resort with its fine sands, elegant boutiques and al fresco restaurants.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Hotel Jules César, Five Star in Arles in Provence

Jules César, Five Star in Arles, Provence ©Solange Hando

Recently renovated by top French designer Christian Lacroix, the Jules César, now upgraded to five star, is a stunning, often surprising venue, where local traditions and Baroque flourishes mingle with bright contemporary colours.

The name pays tribute to the rich Roman heritage which alongside the Romanesque monuments, has earned the city a place on the UNESCO list. The hotel is conveniently situated close to all main attractions and has ample parking space.

Striking Décor at Jules César ©Solange Hando

Individually decorated guest rooms range from classic, superior and deluxe to junior suites in Provençal, Lacroix, and in this former convent, monastic styles.

All are spacious, offering complimentary WiFi, hospitality tray with Nespresso machine and turn down service. Bathrooms are also spacious with power shower and Occitane toiletries.

Heated Pool at Jules César ©Solange Hando

Facilities include a secluded outdoor pool and two off-site spas, the vaulted Calendal near the amphitheatre, for Floramé aromatherapy and more, and Moana for Polynesian and other rituals.

The concierge can arrange travel and baby sitting but most of all, guests will appreciate the warm welcome and service with a smile throughout the hotel.

Scallops on Avocado Cream of Green Tea ©Solange Hando

Dinner is served in the gourmet Lou Marquès restaurant (or on the terrace in summer) where the décor combines bright chairs and wood panelling with black friezes reminiscent of the city's bull fighting tradition. 

The menu is definitely haute cuisine and whether you opt for deer morsels or sole with crispy oyster and red quinoa, it is to be savoured at a leisurely pace. Wine and food pairing is available for 35 euros.

Breakfast is in a rustic kitchen with glass roof and decorative indoor shutters while the brightly-coloured bar serves afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks with tapas.

Jules César Luxury Hotel in Former Convent, Arles ©Solange Hando

But luxury aside, the Jules César top assets are the small but quiet grounds so close to the town centre. Walk around the cloister or relax under the trees in the adjoining garden and you are in a true oasis of peace where little disturbs the silence but birds twittering in the trees.