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Category Archives: Travel

Take the Steps to Enjoy Your Journey

Some say the best way to enjoy traveling throughout a distant land is to prepare yourself by learning a few key phrases of the native language.  Travelers tell stories of the warm reception they always receive after greeting people they meet in shops and stalls abroad with a well-practiced phrase or two.  Most times, the attempts at pronunciation elicit laughter, but that’s just fine.  Music may be the universal language, but laughter is its first cousin, and the more you speak, the more you smile.  If you’ve made plans to travel to a country where a language that’s foreign to you is spoken, now would be the perfect time to purchase a subscription to Rosetta Stone.  They offer courses in the major tongues spoken around the globe and help you speak as if you were immersed in the culture.  Not only is learning a new language a boon to your travel, it can also lead to a rewarding career as an interpreter in your home town.

The modern family today often includes members from places far away who’re eager to establish themselves in a new land.  Mastering the language is key to making the transition smoother.  Knowing how to speak just one other language opens doors to opportunities that would not present themselves otherwise.  From working in the legal system, to acting as a guide for a visiting travel show host, when you know something about language and culture that can be shared with one person or many, you can begin a lucrative career.  Now Groupon has a way to make your language learning goals come true, for less than you ever thought possible.  They have teamed up with Rosetta Stone to offer discounts on their language courses when you enter a Groupon promo code at checkout that can save you as much as $80 off a 24-month subscription, $25 off a three-month subscription, and they offer codes that will unlock special rates and exclusive deals you’ll only get when you use Groupon.

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  If you plan to journey to places whose language you long to speak, make that first step a search of the Groupon site for a deal on a Rosetta Stone language learning course today.

Travel Is Reshaping the Fashion Industry

Travel Industry and Social Media is Changing the Fashion Industry:

Nowadays, being able to reach your target audience through the internet is more important than anything else!

If a brand fails to do that, see a major decline in sales. It could be through social media and digital marketing or e-commerce, but the new revolution of the fashion industry is how internet-famous your brand is. Models, makeup artists, producers, and stylists are hired more for their influence in the social media than their talents. The more followers on Instagram or Twitter, the more your brand would sell. That is the new formula that is reshaping the fashion industry.

Brands that still stick to the traditional marketing style have been losing their relevance in the industry and their sales. Three out of four buyers are inclined to buy a brand’s products after seeing it or hearing about it, online. Social media is transforming the fashion industry because now people want to experience firsthand what they buy through Snapchats or Tweets online. If a consumer does not find their desired brand online, they move on to the next big brand that is online and serve their wishes.

Today, a person’s social status is determined by their extravagant travels and experiences rather than the Jimmy Choos they wear or the bag they carry. It is all about opulent adventures in foreign countries and not how much you spend on your watches or clothes. There has been a break in the fashion industry that has brought about a shift in the way they do things now. Designers and brands worldwide are trying to modify themselves to be able to fit in the new demographic trends. That is how travel is changing the fashion industry. The Chinese tourists did approximately a record $229 billion shopping of expensive items in the year 2015. But, with the new wave of preference of destinations over lavish goods, brands have started adapting the same trend. They are now trying to reach different regions of the world by marketing their campaigns in a way they get the ‘experience’ people desire. These are just some of the ways high-end travel is reshaping the fashion industry!

New Hotel Brands Are Reshaping the Travel Industry:

Nowadays, with the advent of travelers in every industry, it has become a new trend for big hotel companies to roll out new varieties in the hotel business. They are re branding existing hotels with new portfolios. It has become a new business strategy where they offer you captivating designs, intricate detail to the menus, striking artworks and emphasize on the local cultures. These new hotel brands offer a new way to experience your hotel stay. They all promise uniqueness while remaining consistent with their quality and service. Below is a list of such hotels that have attempted to bring a combination of reliable quality and exclusive experiences, together.

AC Hotels by Marriott:

They are a collection of hotels centered on design and such hotels provide their guests with energetic atmospheric lounges. They located in France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and very recently in New Orleans. It is mainly for travelers who want to stay at Cosmopolitan hotels in cities.

Canopy by Hilton:

They have combined the charms of newly built and renovated buildings. Their designs are locally influenced and hold classy significance. They have also signed up to be in the neighborhoods of Pearl District in Oregon, Portland, Ithaca Commons in Upstate New York and downtown Nashville. It is basically for travelers who wish to have a laid-back time, trying out beer and relaxing activities.

Cordis Hotels and Resorts:

They are a collection of upscale hotels with exceptional architecture and designs by the Langham Hospitality Group. They will, recently, have their opening this summer in The Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong. They are also planning to open in China, New York, San Francisco, Miami, Singapore, Dubai, Bangkok, Bali, Sri Lanka, Los Angles, London, and Orlando. It is intended for travelers who are away on business but want their bit of luxury, too!

Visit of London

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Hatfield House featured in blockbuster films such as Harry Poter and Shakespeare in Love

It’s all too easy to step into what was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I and imagine you’re on a film set.

The grand Jacobean manor house has served as the backdrop for scenes from major movies including Harry Potter, Tomb Raider, Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech.

It sits in a vast swathe of land only 20 miles north east of the capital and a few minutes’ drive from the A1, encompassing formal and informal gardens complete with a maze, a children’s farm and play area, endless acres of rolling countryside to lose yourself in and even its own 12th century church.

The house itself promises everything you’d expect; from chandeliers and tapestries to a vast library and armoury and one of the finest examples of a Victorian kitchen in the country.

But the hidden bonus here is the fabulous stable yard and the period roads and buildings that lead to it. Flanked by an eclectic mix of buildings converted from the days when the royal stud lived there, is a café that spills outdoors when the weather’s fine and sits among cobbles and a circular fountain in which children toss coins to make wishes.

Tickets: Free for restaurants and stable yard, £11 (adult) includes the west garden and park (£19, incudes entry to house) Visit Hatfield House website

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim is an awe-inspiring 18th century country house in the heart of the fairy tale town that is Woodstock. It is the principal home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and, more significantly, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

A true Baroque masterpiece, the house, seen by many as the greatest of its kind in Britain, sits amongst more than 2,000 acres of Capability Brown parkland and the most elegantly landscaped formal gardens. There’s a miniature train that transports families to pleasure gardens with its adventure playground, tall-hedge maze and butterfly house.
But everything about the palace is vast; from its 180ft library to its 67ft high hallway.

And outside, it’s on the same scale; big enough, in fact, to host events like the International Horse Trials. So if you’re looking for room to ramble, be warned: you’ll need to be fit to enjoy it fully and have serious amounts of time.

Best time to visit? Other than Spring when the daffodils are in full bloom, it’s Christmas when for more than a month the gardens are turned into a wonderland of light to create an hour-long circular walk past singing trees, a scented fire garden and lawns set ablaze by thousands of colourful fibre optics.

Syon House, Greater London

Panorama of The Great Conservatory and Fountain at Syon House Pic by Maxwell Hamilton

This is where the Duke of Northumberland lives when he’s in London and the closest of the country houses in terms of distance from the city centre. Built in Tudor times, it underwent a thorough transformation at the hands of the neoclassical architect Robert Adam and bears many of his hallmarks. Portraits by Van Dyck and Lely hang on the walls on what is the last surviving ducal residence and country estate, in Greater London.

Only nine miles from Charing Cross, you can quickly find yourself immersed in gardens renowned for their extensive collection of rare plants and trees, all of which surround a spectacular conservatory which dates back to the 1820s and was long known for housing plants from all over the world.

There’s even a frozen spectacle that is an ice house, built over 48 hours when the lake froze over, a formal Italianate garden and a Capability Brown lake overlooking water-meadows. So, even if you don’t want to step foot inside the house, it’s worth the trip for the chance to stroll in 100 acres of parkland and among some of the most spectacular trees in the country, including ancient oaks that date back to the 1600s.

 

UK travellers from your resorts

According to ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) there has been a 500 per cent increase in sickness claims since 2003 and companies have been bombarded with tens of thousands of them in the last year alone.

Many of these have turned out to be fake claims fuelled by a bevy of touts and claims management companies (CMCs) who encourage holiday-makers to become dishonest, even coaching them about how to get the “evidence” they need to make a claim. This would include eating in a hotel simply to blame the venue for the supposed food poisoning.

People have reported receiving cold calls from claim companies suggesting falsely, that “a fund has been set up to compensate for deficiencies in hotel hygiene”.

Let’s face it, it was only a matter of time before this scam was rumbled. The day of reckoning has come and we Britons have been identified as the biggest culprits and even been dubbed the “the fake sick man of Europe”.

As Nick Longman, managing director of Tui – the parent company of Thomson and First Choice – so succinctly said: “it’s totally embarrassing”.

Mr Longman, who was the first to create a black list of fake tummy bug claimants, said: “A hotel will have customers from four or five markets of Tui and it will only be the British Tui customers who are complaining.”

Recently a hotel in Greece fought back. One British couple from Darlington found themselves facing a £170,000 counter claim by the Greek resort hotel after making a food poisoning allegation. The couple later withdrew the claim saying that they only did it when contacted by a claims company.

The industry is now toying with ideas to deal with this “British problem” and this may well result in banishing UK travellers from all-inclusive resorts leaving all of us with far less choice – and having to dole out more dosh too; remember how bogus whiplash claims made insuring our cars more expensive?

Spanish hoteliers have come out fighting saying that bogus claims by British tourists have cost them £42 million. It turns out that the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada and Benidorm have seen the highest number of scams.

In the meantime the Hotel Business Federation of Mallorca wants Brits barred from popular all-in breaks saying that if the compensation culture is not stamped out it will only allow UK sun-seekers self catering and bed and breakfast accommodation.

The group’s president Inmaculada Benito told Spanish newspaper Diario de Hora: “The only way to address this once and for all is by taking drastic measures.”

Since spring 2016 travel firm Tui has recorded around 15 times more illness claims than in previous years. They are typically worth around £3,000 to £5,000, sums that are often more than the cost of of the actual holiday.

But this has a knock-on affect as the operator has to revert to the hotels to claw back some of the money paid out. Naturally this leads to friction leaving hotels feeling hard done by, unsupported and reluctant to welcome UK visitors.

Operators such as Tui and Thomson are now inclined to stop selling to the British market. Tui’s Nick Longman, said “There’s a distinct risk that if this carries on as it is unabated, the hoteliers will say to us either ‘We don’t want to work with the British market at all’ or ‘We’re not going to offer you all-inclusive’.”

Thomas Cook’s UK managing director, Chris Mottershead, also warned that the scam could lead to the end of such holidays. ”It’s a very serious situation because it has the effect of stopping all-inclusive holidays for the UK market,“ he said. ”It has the potential of putting hoteliers out of business. They will stop British customers coming into their hotels.”

I applaud the effort made by ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents who have launched the “Stop Sickness Scams” campaign urging the government to legislate in order to curb the incidence of bogus claims.

Easy money for one, means banishment and higher holiday prices for all

Surf in Siargao

Siargao: one of the top 10 surf sites in the world

In everyday parlance, “on Cloud 9” means feeling elated, on top of the world, but for surfers it’s more than this. Cloud 9 is the name of the most famous wave in the Philippines, and Siargao Island is regularly rated as one of the top 10 surf sites in the world. That alone was enough to make me book the succession of flights — two days in total of travelling — which would ultimately bring me to Siargao.

There are, as yet, no direct flights to Siargao from Manila, but that’s part of what has kept Siargao and its coastlines pristine. And it means that this tropical island with its warm climate remains a paradise ringed by coral reefs and sand bars and which makes it the ideal place to dive and surf.

Dive and surf in Siargao

The sea is omnipresent, wherever you go on Siargao. When you lie in bed, you hear the waves breaking on the shore. When you walk out, it is always in view. And when you want to hop from one picture-perfect island to the next, the only way to do so is by boat.
(c) Alice Day and Daniel Friedl

But back to Cloud 9, the raison d’être for my trip. Its thick, hollow tubes make it ideal for surfing, especially from November to April when the waves have plenty of swell. These extra inches of water lift surfers comfortably above the reef, which otherwise lurks perilously close to the surface of the water.

I sailed out to Cloud 9 from Siargao Bleu with a handful of other surfers, our boards, and a clutch of hangers-on who would sit on the beach and watch. The boat was wooden, styled like a traditional fishing boat, but with a roaring motor onboard. We dashed across the tops of the waves, bouncing up in the air when we hit one straight on, then crashing back down with a thunk. It was scarcely past breakfast, but still a few beers were being passed hand to hand. The anticipation was building.

Tourism development is a balancing act. If you don’t create enough infrastructure, enough opportunities for things to do, then people won’t want to come. On the other hand, if you build too much, and visitors come by the thousand, you can damage the environment, spoiling the places and experiences which made it a desirable destination in the first place. Thus far, Siargao has got the balance right. Of course there are bigger, brighter, and more luxurious resorts in the Philippines. But what they gain in facilities, they lose in atmosphere and quality of experience. The purpose of a tropical island retreat is to get away from other people, to appreciate the beauty of the sea and the sand, and to feel at peace. When you swim or surf, you don’t want to be competing for space. Thankfully, in Siyou won’t have to.

The best places to see Britain’s

Autumn brings it’s own natural palette to Britain’s forests, arboretums, parks and gardens.

From late September and throughout October it’s all abut fiery reds, golden yellows and rich burgundies of turning leaves. Here are ten places to relax and enjoy Britain’s autumnal beauty at its best.

Stourhead, Wiltshire, south-west England

Stourhead gardens in Autumn

Stourhead’s world-famous 18th-century landscaped gardens – featuring classical temples, a lake, and a domed ‘grotto’ – were described as ‘a living work of art’ when they first opened in the 1740s. The original gardeners planted sycamore, oak, beech, and Spanish chestnut trees, followed by birch, horse chestnut and ash, added a generation later alongside more exotic trees and shrubs. The trees reflecting in the lake in all their golden glory is a sight to behold, and a highlight of the free autumn colour guided garden tours in October.

Faskally Wood, Perthshire, Scotland

Lake in Faskally Wood

Perthshire is known as big tree country, with around 25 species of tree including Scots pine, silver birch, hazel, ash and oak. While it’s a beautiful place to visit year-round, Faskally Wood really delivers the goods when it comes to autumnal displays.

Created as a “model forest” in the 19th century, it’s full of beautiful specimens which are pointed out on the guided trail-blaze walk in October. As night falls, the wood transforms into the Enchanted Forest with a shimmering light and music show

New Forest, Hampshire, southern England

 New Forest National Park’s ancient woodlands cover more than 50 square miles. Discover mighty redwoods planted in the late 1850s, as well as alder, beech, sweet chestnut and other varieties. Take the tall trees trail under majestic conifers on Rhinefield Ornamental Drive – it’s one of the best places to experience the vivid array of autumnal hues, which arrive in time for New Forest Walking Festival in October.

Don’t miss the huge 500 year-old Knightwood Oak on the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive near Lyndhurst, and look out for the park’s famous wild ponies, as well as pigs roaming the forest floor on the hunt for green acorns.

Richmond Park, London, England

Escape the city and soak up the rich colours of autumn with a walk or cycle around Richmond Park, when the leaves of the park’s ancient oak trees are tinted a deep orange. It’s a national nature reserve, the largest of London’s royal parks, and three times the size of New York’s Central Park. You’ll most likely enjoy some wildlife spotting among the autumn leaves – Richmond Park has been a deer park since 1637, and is populated with 630 freely-roaming red and fallow deer.

 Bodnant Gardens, Colwyn Bay, Wales

Set in a stunning location overlooking Snowdonia’s Carneddau mountains, highlights of Bodnant’s woodland garden include striking sweet chestnut trees, a waterfall, and a deep valley framed by towering trees. October is the peak time to enjoy the season’s shades, celebrated on an autumn colour walk with Bodnant Garden’s resident expert.

Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, Kent, south-east England

Known as “The Garden of England” Kent is where you can find one of world’s finest coniferous tree collections at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest.

Most of these species have been introduced from all over the world – on a walk through the forest you’ll find pines from California, Scotland and even Taiwan. During the autumn months, orange, red, purple and yellow leaves decorate the canopies and forest floor. If a footpath isn’t exciting enough, at Go Ape Bedgebury Forest adventurers can zip-line, balance and scramble their way through the tree tops instead.

Mount Stewart House, County Down, Northern Ireland

This stately home is framed by one of the National Trust’s most unusual gardens. The warm climate of the surrounding Strangford Lough (a large sea lake) supports exotic plants, which has led to parts of the landscaped gardens taking inspiration from the Mediterranean. In October, Mount Stewart’s guides take visitors on an autumn walk around the garden’s rusty hues.

 

Travel to Moscow

The name Moscow is used synonymously with the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin, yet the city is so much more than a political city and has plenty to offer visitors.

The beating heart of Russia is a global commercial hub, a cosmopolitan metropolis with 1,000 years of history and more than 10 million inhabitants. It boasts some of the finest hotels in the world, iconic buildings, rich cultural sites, and fine restaurants, so whether you are just passing through in transit, or have a day at leisure between business meetings, be sure to make the most of the most impressive capital city between London and Beijing.

Unlike its sister city St Petersburg, the Venice of the north, few foreign visitors think of coming to Moscow. The Cold War memories of a cold, grey city still linger, but in 2017 they couldn’t be further from reality. Now is the time to immerse yourself in everything Moscow has to off

In Moscow, location is everything, and you can’t do better than to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Moscow (read our review), a stone’s throw away from Red Square. An historic hotel where the decor is inspired by the decadence of Imperial Russia, you’ll live like a Tsar in this palace. Superior guest rooms start from £225 at the weekends, and whether you’re treating yourself to fine dining in Novikov Restaurant, relaxing in the spa, or soaking up the stunning views of Red Square from the rooftop O2 Lounge, you’re not going to want to leave

Must Visit

The Kremlin is Moscow’s fortress and it is the city’s cultural centrepiece as much as a political institution. Inside the vast fortified compound you will find three cathedrals, the Patriarch’s Palace, a church and the bell tower of Ivan the Great, and together these buildings are the holiest sites of Russian Orthodoxy — Moscow’s Vatican, if you like. Exquisite religious frescoes decorate the walls, incense drifts in the air, and every now and then it is possible to hear the sound of devotional plainsong. Here too is the Armoury Chamber with its extraordinary collection of state regalia, gold and silver plate, and jewels. Prepare to stand entranced by the craftsmanship and the wealth, the shear number and variety of sublime artefacts.

Must Drink

Forget the stereotypes: Moscow has so much more to offer than vodka, though if that is your tipple of choice, you’ll certainly be in for a treat. The city’s best mixologists are to be found in the O2 Lounge on the rooftop of the Ritz Carlton hotel. Dress to impress so you fit right in, and as you stand on the terrace gazing across the city, you’ll never forget the sight of St Basil’s Cathedral lit up at night.

Must Shop

Catherine II commissioned the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi to build her a neoclassical trade centre after the 1812 fire in Moscow. Today the complex is the GUM Department Store, and you should come here as much to appreciate the impressive metal and glass vaulted ceiling as for the designer stores. The delicatessen displays put even Fortnum and Mason’s to shame, and the shoe and handbag selections may well prompt hysteria.

Must Eat

The Radisson Royal has a flotilla of ice breaker yachts, and every evening you can step aboard for a dinner cruise afloat on the Moskva River. The gourmet menu includes fresh seafood platters, and the hot smoked sturgeon is undoubtedly a culinary highlight.

For authentic contemporary Russian cuisine, prepared with seasonal, organic ingredients from local farms, go to LavkaLavka. Think of it as Moscow’s answer to River Cottage. Our absolutely favourite dish on the menu is the beetroot spelt with porcini mushrooms, though the duck breast with stewed plums, honey, and ginger is also a highlight for your tastebuds.

Must See The View

The 540m high Ostankino TV Tower was the tallest free-standing building in the world until the completion of the CN Tower in 1976. Built to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, this iconic structure is a masterpiece of Soviet engineering and unexpectedly beautiful when it is lit up in many colours at night. The observation deck is open daily until 21.00 and on a clear day you can see right across the city in every direction

Travel in Andorra

If you have never been to Andorra, and perhaps can’t even place it on a map, you’ve missed a trick. It’s time to improve your geography, and to add another country to your list.

Andorra is one of Europe’s micro-states, tucked into the border between France and Spain. Part of Europe but not the EU, it was traditionally considered as a tax haven, but in recent years the economy has diversified away from agriculture and banking to embrace major developments in tourism.

Mountains and lakes, historic buildings and museums, quaint villages and year-round opportunities for outdoor activities abound, and with easy access via airports in Barcelona and Toulouse, Andorra is indisputably one of Europe’s best kept secrets. On arrival all you need to do is sit back, with a glass of duty free champagne in hand, and plan what you want to do.

Must visit

You come to Andorra for the mountains. The country has a stunning mountainous landscape – the average elevation is 1,996m – and whilst skiers and snowboarders flock here in the winter to make use of the snow, the natural geography makes it a superb summertime destination too.Once the snow melts, the ski slopes of Grandvalira become the highest golf course in Europe; the Soldeu Bike Park has more than 100 km of free-ride, cross-country, endure and slope style routes; you can camp by the side of glacier-fed streams; and there are numerous walking trails, all with picturesque picnic stops.

There are 13 Via Ferrata routes, which combine trekking and rock climbing, and for an unforgettable experience, you can even scramble these routes at night! Beginners should try the Creu de Noral or Sugudet from Ordino; but if you’re a serious climber and want something to get your teeth into, the Canal del Grau from Canillo is said to be fiendishly difficult.

Must eat

Andorra was, until very recently, a predominantly agrarian society, and so locally-sourced meats and vegetables feature highly on most restaurant menus. The cuisine is akin to that in neighbouring Catalonia, but possibly a little more hearty. At L’Enoteca, a traditional restaurant in Andorra La Vella, the capital of Andorra, typically Andorran dishes on the menu include duck breast with pear and Muscat reduction, pork cheeks with crayfish, and Iberian pork in spices.

Although rarely exported, Andorra also produces some of its own wines. The wineries to look out for are Borda Sabaté 1944, Casa Auvinyà, and Celler Mas Berenguer. Remember that there’s no duty on alcohol in Andorra, so you can afford to drink unusually fine wines.

Must chill

Andorra’s geography means that thermal springs naturally occur across the country, and people have certainly bathed in them for hundreds of years.

In Andorra La Vella you’ll find Caldea, which is the largest thermal bath complex in Europe. The water comes up from below the ground at a 68ºC, and then is cooled to a variety of temperatures for the different pools. In addition to jacuzzis and saunas, there are also bubble beds and warm marble slates, Indo-Roman baths, and a divine-smelling pool with fresh grapefruits bobbing about on the surface.

The baths are open late into the evening, making Caldea the perfect place to retreat to soothe your tired muscles and warm up your extremities after a long day skiing on the piste or climbing mountains.

Must see

In and around Canillo are a dozen historic religious sites, which collectively form the Canillo Cultural Circuit. You can see them all by car or, if you have time, it is well worth walking between them, as though you were a pilgrim.

Highlights of the circuit include the Church of Sant Joan de Caselles, a Romanesque church dating from the 11th century; the Creu dels set braços, a strange seven-armed cross whose eighth, missing arm is said to represent a local boy stolen by the devil; and the Basilica Sanctuary of Nostra Senyora de Meritxell, with open cloisters, an ancient chapel, and sculptures of Andorra’s seven patron saints.

Schlosshotel (and ski resort)

The five-star wellness Schlosshotel Fiss in the Austrian Tyrol may well be an example of alpine luxury at its finest. It is located on a sunny plateau high above the Tyrolean Inn Valley, around 1,400 metres above sea-level and framed by the mighty 3000-metre Samnaun mountains and the Ötztal Alps which looks gorgeous all year round. And, it is the only hotel directly on the slopes in Fiss.

During the winter months Fiss comes into its own as a ski resort. The area is blessed with snow for around eight months of the year and when snowfall is lean, the 212km of ski slopes are topped up with artificial snow. Those staying at the hotel have the wonderful ski-in and ski-out access to the slopes.

Who for

All levels of skiers will love this ski resort and its stunning scenery of pristine woodlands and immaculate glaciers. The Schlosshotel Fiss has ski-in and ski-out access to the 2,820m of slopes across the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis ski region.

The resort is perfect for families even when there are big age differences between the children. An impressive 125,000 square metres is reserved exclusively for children and teenagers interested in learning how to ski or snowboard. The ski schools and kindergartens deploy state-of-the-art training methods such as the “Snow-V” which makes learning how to ski far easier.
Kids train n the Snow V

On top of this, Shloss Hotel Fiss has a kindergarten where children are supervised and entertained all day or for just a few hours, while their parents devote their energies to winter sports or to exploring the splendid surroundings on foot.

Accommodation
Schlosshotel Fiss, Amethyst suite

The Schloss Hotel Fiss has 270 light and spacious en-suite rooms. Each room has oak floors, carved wood and golden ornaments, with plenty of local character. They are checked twice a day, by staff who extremely focused on detail and who will offer to change linens and bedding twice a day if required.

Food and Drink

For generations Fiss has been a land of farmers. When tourism developed family businesses flourished and did well serving the demand of holidaymakers while maintaining farming traditions producing meat and dairy production. The dishes on the menu introduce local specialities with international cuisine, for instance you will be able enjoy marinated Thai grass fed Fiss beef with a schnitzel or delicate sushi followed by a local veal cooked in white wine and garnished with alpine herbs and berries. Meanwhile the kids have their own menus with a hot children’s buffet and an ice cream station.

In the evenings, adults can relax in the bar over their favourite tipple, with live music soothing away the day. Or go shopping for designer goods in the hotel shop. Cigar smoker can have time out in the cigar room.

Facilities

The hotel has its own in-house ski-hire shop and cable cars just outside.

Inside, there’s the splendid 5,000sqm spa reached via a stylish wellness lounge. It’s an ideal place to soothe the muscles after a day on the slopes.

Schlosshotel Fiss, Spa wellness lounge

The “Aquamonte”, a mini indoor water world has a 250m long swim-in-swim-out pool and an outdoor section with two whirlpools with views over the slopes.

Schlosshotel Fiss, Waterworld AquaMonte, in-out pool

The positioning means that even when taking a sauna you will be looking at the stunning valley beyond. Their beer infused sauna works well at releasing muscle tensions and relaxes the mind.

This hotel is designed to be family friendly and it really shows. Its spa is divided in two areas, for children and adults, with special treatments for children such as a TuttiFrutti or chocolate peeling. There’s also an indoor children’s cinema and a games room and their own waterpark.

Resort facilities

Spacious and comfortable cable car lifts commute from valley to valley and to slopes that range from positively gentle to seriously steep. The 460-hectare skiing area is suitable for all kinds of winter sports: beginners, leisure skiers, freestylers and pros can swoop down mogul pistes, carving and racing tracks, fun areas and free-ride tracks. The 68 lift systems take them up to the summits in no time.

Rail adventure in North Wales

The seaside town of Llandudno is my base, a pretty town with a mish mash of elegant Victorian and Edwardian architecture and pleasant scenery. It stretches out from the foot of the Great Orme, a huge chunk of limestone that curves around the town. It surges up from the sea and towards the seafront and its wide ribbon of sandy beach and an even wider promenade with a war memorial obelisk as its landmark.

Caernarfon to Beddgeert – Welsh Highland Railway

My first rail adventure starts in Caernarfon where I alight the delightful narrow gauge Welsh Highland Railway train. The line was built in 1923 but economically it was derailed soon after. After 70 years in the sidings, it was pulled back into service by a group of railway enthusiasts.
Engine 87 on Welsh Highland Railways

The locomotive is engine 87 and as I watch the steam funnel out it leaves a dreamy nostalgia in its wake. So it’s surprising that the vintage styled wood-decked carriages are in fact no more than 20 years old, and some just a couple of months old. A modern kitchen serves sandwiches and of course Welsh rarebit (a version of cheese on toast) and a tea trolley does the rounds.

The journey passes through Caernafon Bay and the Lley Peninsuala, the old slate quarries and once at Bryn Gloch the Snowdonia National Park unfolds beyond. The valley narrows dramatically as we pass between mountains Moel Eilio and Mynydd Mawr.

Now it’s all alpine views and tumbling waterfalls towards Rhyd Ddu. Soon we climb to the summit of the line at Pitts Head and soon after the train begins its descent zig-zagging all the way down the hillside to Beddgelert. The top speed is 25mph so there’s time savour and digest what my eyes are devouring.
Welsh Highland railway

The entire length of the line is 25 miles all the way to Porthmadog, but I was disembarking at Beddgeert to make my way to Portmeirion.

Portmeiron Village

Those of a certain age will remember the cult series The Prisoner. Actor Patrick Mcgoohan, aka No. 6, was regularly chased (there were 17 episodes) by a balloon each time he tried to escape
Portmerion (c) Portmeirion Ltd

The 70-acre Italianate Portmeiron Village was created out of the fantastical imagination of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Anything that caught his fancy on his travels ended up here. Even the odd relic from film sets.

No-one lives at the holiday complex; it’s all hotels, eateries, a beach and 19 miles of footpaths through lush greenery. It took him 50 years to complete yet this unusual man never spent a night here – he was simply showing off his skills.

Turns out Prince Edward and Mrs Simpson stayed in the Peacock suite in the hotel, Brian Epstein stayed in Gate House and Jules Holland loved the 2-bed Unicorn building so much he made a replica in his garden. There’s also the Bristol Colonnade where the Welsh choir often sings.

Porthmadog to Blaenau – The Festiniog Railway

The Festiniog Railway Company is the oldest surviving railway company in the world. It opened in 1836 to take slate from the quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog for export around the globe. But nothing lasts forever and it’s raison d’etre disappeared when the quarries closed down. So again it was down to the rail enthusiasts (bless them) to revive it in 1945 as a tourist attraction.

The engine is the Merddin Emrys named after a Welsh wizard. It’s a push-me pull-you Double Fairlie that pulls us up to Minfford and then Penrhyn offering brilliant alpine views across the valley down the Dwyryd Estuary to Harlech Castle. Every station we stopped at reminded me of those I had seen in episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine with my toddler. It was beyond quaint.

As we climb, a rugged landscape unfolds through the Snowdonia National Park passing woods and dips before doing a extraordinary loop-the-loop at the Dduallt Spiral.

Llangollen to Corwen and back – Llangollen Railway

This was once a British Rail line but closed in 1968. Restored in 1975 by enthusiasts it is the only standard gauge heritage railway in North Wales. The locomotive, a restored 80072, was built in 1953 and the train’s carriages look the part in upholstered red velvet seats and dark wood panelling. It was all very civilized so taking a tea of scones and jam served on a white linen table cloth seems the right thing to do.

Llangollen and a horse drawn boat

Llangollen is a pretty but eccentric ancient town. There are 3,000 inhabitants and some most unusual shops from a Wiccan store to a taxidermy studio with stuffed animals for sale – I know. Looking up at an isolated hill I could see the eerie ruins of Castell Dinas Bran (Crow Castle).
Horse drawn boat on River Dee

The highlight though is the Horse drawn boat trips. Boats are pulled by a shire horse with a rope and these slow motion trips along the River Dee last around 30 minutes, enough time to zone out and enjoy the serenity.