With the Piazza della Signoria and Uffizi just steps away, The Westin Excelsior sits at the center of Florentine culture. Browse boutiques along the Ponte Vecchio and take in the vibrant flavors and sweeping views.
With the Piazza della Signoria and Uffizi just steps away, The Westin Excelsior sits at the center of Florentine culture. Browse boutiques along the Ponte Vecchio and take in the vibrant flavors and sweeping views.
Hotel Bristol Warsaw, A Luxury Collection Hotel, founded by Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the famous pianist and politician,. Located on the historic Royal Route, next to the Presidential Palace and a short walk from the Old Town, the Royal Castle, and Polish National Opera.
Positioned on the shores of Lake Geneva, The Ritz Carlton Hotel de la Paix is host to a prestigious heritage that has endured for over 150 years. Subtly blending majestic Italianate architecture with contemporary, the refreshed interiors take inspiration from art time and nature. http://www.ritzcarlton.com/
Usually when we take the children to visit their grandparents in the UK, we split our time between Liverpool and London. When in Liverpool we always take a trip to the north west of England, to the Lake District in the county of Cumbria, to enjoy the beautiful lakes and mountains and also try to visit Wales with its abundance of castles and heritage sites. Both places offer true meaning of the great British countryside.
Portmeirion looks more like Portofino or Cinque Terre than a Welsh village.
Last summer we took a family trip to Wales to visit the picturesque village of Portmeririon. It was a stunning summers day, we had the car roof down, music on, wind in our hair, drove the A roads via lots of narrow country roads and eek while sitting in the back of the car the twins took it in turns to throw up as they suffer from motion sickness. Shame we had to stop so many times and so many change of clothing!!
Portmeirion is a village located on a private peninsula overlooking Cardigan Bay on the coast of Snowdonia. It looks more like Portofino or Cinque Terre than Wales.
It was created by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1976. He wanted to show how a naturally beautiful site could be developed without spoiling it. Today Portmeirion is one of Wales' premier visitor attractions, welcoming over 200,000 visitors every year.
This picturesque village is home to two hotels, a cluster of historic cottages, iconic architecture, a spa, arty shops, award-winning restaurants, an Italian ice cream parlor, stunning manicured gardens all this right on the sandy beach side.
It’s a great place to visit for a day trip or even a couple of nights at either one of the beach front hotels or self catering cottages - think colorful town houses with immaculate gardens steps away from the beach on one side and on the other the beautiful woodlands with a Chinese lake and trees which are hundreds of years old.
Even though the weather was great it certainly wasn’t warm enough to make a splash in the hotels outdoor swimming pool, but not to worry kids can paddle in the sea, play on the beach and enjoy the walking trails.
So if you’re ever visiting North Wales do add a visit to Portmeiron the picturesque enchanting Italiante style village.
Forget about the hottest lunch spots to be seen at, the coolest pool parties and the late night party scene as lets face it, we’ve all been there and done that in Ibiza!
Let me introduce you to the other side of the island – the side which is extremely beautiful, peaceful and of course family friendly.
Set in 30 acres of serene pine forest in northern Ibiza stands a stunning 6 bedroom villa with views of Cala Xucla Bay.
Set in 30 acres of serene pine forest in northern Ibiza stand two charming traditional designed houses which are joined together by a covered courtyard which make up the stylish Casa la Vista property.
This 6 bedroom property has two elements the first being the smaller building which is a restored 800-year-old finca, while the larger building is a high-ceiling, architect-designed wonder which blends traditional Mediterranean architecture with moorish-style archways and vintage doors.
Outside is an infinity pool which overlooks the pretty Cala Xucla bay and the lush green forest surrounding the property. When in season you can pick pomegranates, figs and plums from these trees.
There is a lot to do in the area for families from cycling, hiking, horse riding, tennis and of course sailing as the sandy beach is only 1km away from the villa.
If you don’t want to eat at home the closet restaurant and bars are approx. 10km away and Port de San Miquel which has more restaurants and shops is 15km away.
Watch the below video to see the villa in all its beauty:
As well as hiring the villa privately, the owner also runs week long retreats throughout the year called – Santhosh Retreats.
The aim of Santosh Retreats is to ensure guests enjoy, relax and re-energise
Their health and fitness programme includes hiking, the art of yoga and dance, and the discipline of Pilates to strengthen the core. Your day will commence with the sun salutation, welcoming the sunrise with an hour of Yoga. Continue your day with a hike through the forest and along the rugged coastline with a knowledgeable local guide. You’ll get to try LatinBurn - Santhosh’s own fitness dance, similar to Zumba but with more of a focus on the dance steps. West End stars and Latino dance experts jet in to host workshops - from salsa and tango to dirty dancing.
Full information on the retreat please visit www.santhoshretreats.com.
At the 25hours Hotel, Museums Quartier, Vienna, guests are submerged in a bold circus of artists, clowns and elephants. This hotel is the stage with its guests as part of its ensemble cast.
The 25 Hours interior designers bring creativity, vision and imagination to a whole new level. They take the pulsating Viennese culture outside the hotel and bring it crashing inside with an explosion of color, character and vibrancy. By smartly and efficiently utilizing the space inside the hotel, they offer a unique, urban yet cosmopolitan experience.
25 Hours Hotel take the pulsating Viennese culture outside the hotel and bring it crashing inside with an explosion of color, character and vibrancy.
The originality and unique interior of 25 hours Vienna is that every room has a slightly different circus theme – each room has a main feature wall and each room comes in its own bright color palette. Our room’s main color was bright yellow and the wall which had the bed against it depicted a horse with circus acrobats standing on its back and a big top in the distance. This particular room had floor to ceiling windows along two sides offering wonderful views of the city. I especially loved the TV stand which was made from three vintage suitcases stacked on top of each other.
Another style room which our friends were staying in was slightly smaller but had a blue color palate and came with a balcony and an out door free standing bath – yep true story… a bath on the balcony in the middle of the city. For a couples break this is a cute romantic room where you can turn off all the lights and watch the city by candle light emerged in bubbles! Ooh Laa Laa!
Keeping up with the cool current trend, the hotel operated a burger food truck on the hotel grounds. They also had a restaurant on the ground floor and a funky roof top bar and terrace which provides breathtaking views of the city.
The best way to see Vienna is by bike and at 25 Hours Hotel they say that you should ‘ride it like you stole it’ –basically the bikes are yours during your stay so enjoy them and ride everywhere but remember to book in advance, grab a bottle of water and off you go.
The 25 Hours concept has hotels in 7 European cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Zurich, Dusseldorf, Cologne and soon to be Paris. Each hotel is totally different but true to its location and its originality, creating a unique fresh appeal that brings the outside world into your dreams. It’s certainly a fun brand and perfect for the cool free spirited soul to rest their head.
Exploring the streets of Paris with 3 little ones in tow sounds like a challenge; one which you may not wish to accept, but let me tell you, we actually had a great time!
Let me start from the beginning. At the time the twins were 3 years old and my eldest was 4. We were traveling to London for a week as a family and of course, I wanted to add another little adventure into the mix by taking the Eurostar over to Paris for a couple of days.
I would have to credit our travel stroller the Mountain Buggy Nano for being the life saver of our trip to Paris
I would have to credit our travel stroller the Mountain Buggy Nano for being the life saver for this trip. It’s the perfect city stroller that is light weight and folds up to fit in even the smallest storage spaces. Believe me I know as there were many times these handy foldable wheels were shoved inside the wardrobe in our hotel in Paris, the over head compartment on the Eurostar and we even folded them and put them in the restaurant corner when dining at those cute al fresco Parisian cafes (where you’re sitting in a line like a sardine cramped into a tin listening to the French couple next to you….)
So with the twins in a Mountain Buggy Nano each and our eldest on daddies shoulders we were off to explore la Paris and with a detour trip to Euro Disney thrown in for extra measure.
This post is certainly not about the best places to dine or the places to be seen at while in Paris, it’s more about encouraging you to enjoy the experience of exploring a fascinating city with kids in tow and to just enjoy the experience for what it is.
We actually walked a lot and when I say walk I mean to the Eiffel Tower, up the Champs Elyees, up the many steps of Sacre Coeur then around the picturesque streets of Montmartre and the trendy St Germain des Paris area. Not forgetting a sightseeing cruise down the River Seine, which gives your legs a rest but fills up your camera with photos. We also walked through the many stunning parks of Paris with special mention for the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden grounds where the kids ran free, stopped at a little café under the trees for light lunch and ice cream and then they passed out in their strollers, allowing us to have a sneaky glass of rose!
We also managed a day trip to DisneyLand Paris. We originally booked a car to take us but for what ever reason the car didn’t show up (Parisian taxi drivers are very particular about timings so keep that in mind..) so we ended up taking a train. This was the only day it rained while we were in Paris, but luckily the kids found wearing their DisneyLand ponchos part of the fun as it kept them dry while in the queues for the rides. My kids were too young to go on most of the rides but the rides they could go on they thoroughly enjoyed, annoying part was the queues
(although you can get Fast Pass tickets for some of the main rides) By the end of the day the kids were bordering on losing the will to live, as their attention spans were zapped, but we wanted to stay in order to watch the Disney parade which is the last big event of the day.
Well I’m so pleased we did – at that time Elsa was at the peak of her career so when she started to sing “let it go” my kids’ faces lit up and they started gleaming from ear to ear. The show lasts about 40 mins with all the famous and favorite Disney characters and princesses in full swing. With a successful day accomplished at Euro Disney the kids literally passed out on the train home.
Whenever we travel and stay in a hotel we always try to book interconnecting rooms rather than adding extra beds to the room - yes it’s means paying for two rooms but it’s much more convenient especially when the kids go to bed, plus there’s space to move around and the kids enjoy sleeping all together in one bed.
Luckily for me, a few of my Dubai friends were in Paris so I put my glad rags on and left the kiddies in daddy’s capable hands and met the girls at Hotel Coste for dinner and a few too many espresso martinis at The Mandarin Oriental. A grown-up end to a magical time in a truly magical city.
So don’t let the fact you have young kids or big families stop you from enjoying big cities like Paris – in fact it adds to the adventure and the memories.
Check out the Mountain Buggy Nano, it now comes in a double stroller!
Out of the five lakes, which compose the Italian Lakes region, Lago di Como is without a doubt the most popular. Shaped like an inverted Y, surrounded by mountains and dotted with charming resort villages, Lake Como is the most picturesque travel destination for travellers of any type and especially for lovers.
Lake Como is one of those special places that a single visit does not do justice. As many families have done for generations, Lake Como can be an annual summer holiday and each time it can be as varied as the previous one.
We stayed in Cernobbio, which sits right smack in front of the large town square and right on the water’s edge making you in the middle of the action. And there is plenty of action with nightly summer festivals and fates. There are lots of nice restaurants and also a lido. http://www.lidodicernobbio.com/v1/
Beautifully located in the square are two boutique hotels, the interior are a little old fashioned (think Faulty Towers) and the rooms are quaint but the location is perfect and the views are stunning:
Hotel Regina Olga – offers beautiful grounds with a private swimming pool. Prices range from Euro 150 upwards
Hotel Miralago – a small boutique property on the waters edge. Room prices start from Euro 150 plus
The most prestigious villa/hotel is without a doubt Villa d'Este, which has been transformed into the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este one of the most luxurious hotels on the lake and located on the waters edge of Cernobbio. Prices range from Euro 1000 to Euro 3000
Traveling around Lake Como is pretty easy by ferry. There are slow boats, fast boats and private boats – we ended up doing all three. For 20 euros the ferry will take you to the following towns of Varenna, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Lenno, Menaggio and Cadenabbia. We ended up taking the slow ferry from Cernobbio to Bellagio which took 2 hours and the fast ferry back which took one hour.
Check the public transport timetable http://www.navigazionelaghi.it
When staying on the lake you must rent your own speedboat and venture out for the day. Take everything at your own pace in order to really enjoy the beauty of Lake Como and all its hidden gems. The lake’s waters edge are dotted with countless restaurants, all serving classic Italian fare – moor your boat, and wait for the staff to ferry you onto shore. A lot of these restaurants also offer water sports too. We stopped for lunch at a great restaurant between Cernobbio and Bellagio called Hotel Albergo Aroura, the food was great, the view was simply stunning and the watersports were awesome.
If you want to take a break from the lake and enjoy Como from above then you should take the funicular to the top of the hills. My husband hiked up to the top of one of the hills, which has a tall tower at the peak. It took him and his friends 3 hours, but they enjoyed a splendid, chilled lunch at one of the cafes at the top, took some breathtaking pics of the view and then got the funicular back down. It’s a medium to high intensity hike but is well posted and the views at the top are well worth any discomfort.
Hiking Trails - https://www.mountainwalking.org
Bellagio is the most popular town on the lake and is bustling. With many shops and restaurants, its beautiful but very busy with tourists coming and going on ferries and private boats. Walk up the long straight flight of steps called Salita Serbelloni that starts behind the harbor and goes straight up the hill. All along the narrow street are small cafes, shops, and colorful houses, each one of them with their own unique story. To really enjoy the town I would recommend a walking tour in order to discover the little-known vantage points and sights that many visitors miss. It’s a 3-hour tour, were you visit a sleepy fishing harbor with rare Larian gondola boats bobbing on the water, a park, and a botanical garden. Then, finish up with a gourmet lunch at a Michelin-listed local restaurant. Another guided tour, with limited daily ticket sales is the beautifully maintained gardens of Villa Serbelloni which occupy a large area above the town and contain a myriad of highlights including plants, statues, small caves and water features.
A few must visit spots in Lake Como are:
Villa Balbianello - Visit the immaculate gardens and this dramatic villa on Lenno.
Villa Carlotta -This is the most visited villa in Lake Como for good reason! Get lost in the extensive and elaborate gardens, explore the museum and grab a bite to eat.
Villa Oleandra - Look out for George Clooney’s house – enough incentive!
For the adventurers and thrill seekers, try the following activities:
Paragliding – View Lake Como, from another perspective – the sky. Gera Lario is the perfect place to start this unforgettable experience. It takes about 50 minutes from Cernobbio to the village. A shuttle will take you up to Montemezzo where you can enjoy the breathtaking view before taking a flight that lasts 15-20 minutes and during which you get a chance to drive the parachute!
Jungle Park - The jungle rider park is the perfect family fun activity with 7 paths created depending on people’s ages. From 1-meter high platforms for children and higher platforms for adults that can reach 15 meters of height, Jungle rider park offers other attractions such as Soft Air for fight lovers, archery, canoeing for water and other adventures.
Mountain Bike Tours – There are many biking tours around lake Como, contact
email@example.com - a great way to explore the beauty and charm of this place
Nearest Airport is Milan which is a 30 minutes car drive to Cernobbio.
Lake Como is one of those special places that a single visit does not do justice. As many families have done for generations, Lake Como can be an annual summer holiday and each time it can be as varied as the previous one. This was my first visit to this magical place, I fell in love with it and I will certainly be going back many more times again.
Here’s a little teaser…
We recently visited Lake Como and decided to extend our vacation so we could drive 2 hours to the Italian Rivera to visit Portofino. We simply rented a car from Hertz in Como (straightforward and easy) and then dropped it back to the airport in Milan (also stress free).
The drive to Portofino is mostly highway driving in the early stages but then you hit the mountains and start going through many winding tunnels until you hit the coastal town of Santa Margherita leading you via the coastal road of Portofino.
Entering Portofino you can’t help be amazed by its postcard level beauty - the ocean on one side filled with massive, private yachts and on the other side imposing mountains all dotted with pastel color houses and hotels.
Entering Portofino you can’t help be amazed by its postcard level beauty - the ocean on one side filled with massive, private yachts and on the other side imposing mountains all dotted with pastel color houses and hotels. The main road literally ends at the Piazzetta (town square) where the town comes alive with hundreds of tourists, designer boutiques and many restaurants as well as access to all the boats, yachts and ferries. Portofino certainly lives up to its reputation as a glamorous place, especially during the summer, as you can spot many celebrities and palatial yachts that get bigger and bigger. However, it also preserves its authenticity with cobbled streets and tiny stores and an amazing wild side since the village is also the center of the Portofino National Park and Marine reserve, leading to fantastic hikes up and through the mountains.
One morning from literally our hotel entrance (Splendido), we took one of the hiking trails up to the top of the mountain from where we witnessed the most amazing views that went on for miles and then climbing down the other side we ended up straight onto a pebbled beach with a typical Italian restaurant – it reminded me of the restaurant featured in the movie Mama Mia. It was so random but a refreshing beer at the end of our two-hour steep trek was the perfect way to end our adventure. As we were on the other side of the mountain instead of walking back, we jumped onto a super-friendly Canadian family’s boat who kindly offered to take us back to the Portofino port. With a 30 min boat ride is perfect to witness Portofino from the sea and we even got a great view of Dolce & Gabbana stunning home on the cliffs edge..
During our few days in Portofino we stayed in two hotels – both equally fabulous but one being a lot more luxurious that the other.
Hotel Piccolo I really loved as its set in the mountain with its entrance on the main road and right across the narrow street the steps take you down to its private beach and restaurant. It was the perfect lunch spot to enjoy a large glass of rose and enjoy the view, not to mention checking out all the super yachts. While enjoying our lunch, Mr. Zara himself (yes the owner of high street giant Zara AKA Europe's richest man Amancio Ortega) moored his 154-foot yacht right in front of us! We were literally a stones throw away (see photos below) it did cross my mind to swim in front of his boat with the hope he would invite us on board !!! LOL
Even though the beaches are all pebbles, so its an “oh and an arh” to get to the water, but once you’re in the ‘Med’ its just amazing, so refreshing, so clean and utterly perfect.
The hotel has 23 rooms all furnished rather basic in whites or neutral palette with some rooms offering great ocean views. The hotel is just a few minutes walking distance from the hustle and bustle of the port/marina area.
Our other hotel was the Belmond Hotel Splendido which is set in lush terraced gardens on the steep, verdant hillside with fabulous views of the bay. This 16th century monastery building oozes elegance and sophistication. The interior is traditional with an opulent feel of white marble, antiques furniture and old photos of famous guests who have stayed at this immaculate hotel. The stunning well-manicured grounds are perfect for dining and relaxing by the pool. It’s a hotel where you don’t ever want to leave, as the view is just simply breathtaking that no picture can replicate. Again, you can take a simple 5-minute walk down to the harbor or take one of the walking trails from the hotel doorstep.
Every night we ate in the harbor but people dine early and most of the popular restaurants get fully booked in advance with reserved tables. So if there’s somewhere you want to eat in particular, book in advance but wherever you eat, trying the pasta is a prerequisite and a MUST!
Portofino is Italy through and through. Everything that you want to experience about this magical country you can find in this tiny, picturesque village perched on the ocean-side. Places like these deserve multiple trips back as they really do fuel the soul.
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As an avid traveler, pre and post my three children, and a lover of boutique hotels, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, stay at unique properties and take adventures off the beaten track.
I've been lucky to see and enjoy so much that I think now is the perfect time to share my travel experiences, so I have created Unique Family Travel - a company where my team and I can develop bespoke, wonderful and unique travel experiences for you and your family. I can guarantee our experiences aren't available on the likes of large booking websites as we take you on a tailored journey which caters to your specific needs.
Each destination and journey should be a timeless memory, created for you and your family and captured in fantastic memories to keep forever. We can help with this simply because that's how I would do it for myself, my family and friends!
Do get in touch with us, drop us a line and lets get you going on your next amazing, unique travel experience.
PS. All photos on this site are taken by me, mostly on my iphone :)
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