Category Archives: Travel

Dreams of escape to Lanzarote

Sunshine virtually guaranteed all year round

The latest wave of Covid-19 has put a bit of a damper on thoughts of flying abroad for that dream holiday, but the Canary Islands is almost unique in being an all-year-round destination and good weather all but guaranteed.

A favourite is Lanzarote. It  is the Canary archipelago’s south-easternmost island. Although it covers no more than 800 square kilometres, it offers strikingly diverse landscapes. The legacy of the volcanic eruptions that took place in the 18th and 19th centuries is a spectacular scene of singular form and beauty. Next to unexpected landscapes made up of volcanic caves, lakes of lava and craters, lie beaches of golden sand and transparent waters.


What is more, the spectacular natural heritage has been jealously guarded by the people of Lanzarote; and not in vain, since the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993. Furthermore, in 2015, it became the first destination in the world to receive Biosphere Responsible Tourismcertification.


In Lanzarote you will find everything from the liveliest tourist towns, with their top  hotel facilitiesand recreational areas, to unparalleled landscapes, spots showing no trace of human presence, and solitary islets for the enjoyment of silence.


The Parque Nacional de Timanfaya, (Timanfaya National Park), a lovely succession of volcanic landscapes, is one of the island’s greatest tourist attractions, together with the Art, Culture and Tourism Centres created by the local artist César Manrique. The original cultivation systems of the farmers of Lanzarote, who learned how to overcome the island’s sterility and encourage the lava to exuberance, are another focus of attraction to visitors.


The benign climate, with its average annual temperature of 22º C, is also worthy of mention, since it makes Lanzarote the perfect destination for the practice of all kinds of outdoor sports.

SADDLING UP FOR A RIDE THROUGH TIME

Larnaka revamps Thematic Cycling Routes 2021 to encourage sustainable mobility

As Europe begins to re-open for foreign travel, the Larnaka Tourism Board has updated its Larnaka Thematic Cycling Routes to encourage sustainable mobility and showcase the variety of attractions across the region.

Larnaka is a cyclist’s paradise with its excellent year-round climate, unique cultural attractions, stunning vistas, and variety of fauna and flora. Adults and older children/teenagers alike can enjoy cycling in fresh clean air, with challenging, yet varied and picturesque terrain. 

Now with these thematic routes, a bike ride can also be combined with a piece of history or tradition. There are eight themed cycling routes that can be downloaded from the website and include a map, distances, altitude differences, degree of difficulty, the type of bike that is recommended to be used, plus the various points of interest.

Below are the key highlights for each of the eight routes:

Neolithic Route – the oldest cycling route in Europe, this 28 km route focuses on the antiquities of Choirokoitia and Kalavasos Tenta Neolithic Settlements, plus the villages of Tochni, Zygi, Maroni and Psematismenos.

Wine & Gastronomy Route – a 54 km route covering the picturesque villages in the mountainous province of Larnaka, such as Lefkara, Kato Drys, Skarinou and Choirokoitia, with opportunities to visit traditional wineries, silversmith artisans and a Halloumi cheese workshop. 

Multi-religious Route – this 18 km route visits various places of worship of various religions within the city. Although the island has strong ties to Christianity throughout its history, a basic characteristic of Cyprus is the peaceful coexistence of several other religions, including those of Catholics, Muslims, Armenians and Maronites.

Venetian Towers (Eastern) – Constructed over 500 years ago, the Venetian Watchtowers acted as an early warning system against naval attacks and remain intact in four separate villages within the district. This 46 km route includes watchtowers at the villages of Pyla and Xylofagou.

Venetian Towers (Western) – This 17 km bike tour takes cyclists to two watchtowers in the western area of Larnaka at the villages of Pervolia and Alaminos.

Camel & Donkey Route – This 50 km route introduces cyclists to the island’s furry friends – an integral part of daily life just 60 -70 years ago – and offers a unique insight on how the locals would move around the island in olden days. It includes suggested visits to Camel Park Mazotos and the Golden Donkeys multi-site farm in Skarinou.

Wheat & Bread Route – This 60 km route showcases the region’s long history of traditional bread-making as it passes through golden wheat fields and takes in a beautifully-restored flour mill, which now serves as a time capsule of Athienou town’s bread-making tradition.

Larnaka Birdwatching Route – This 11 km route is recommended between November and April. With its location on the south-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus attracts more than 370 different bird species during their migration from Africa to Europe – and back again. This is one of the best areas on the island to observe these majestic birds, and this route offers the opportunity to visit Voroklini Lake, Larnaka Salt Lake, Larnaka Marina and Larnaka Medieval Castle. 

For more information visit: www.larnakaregion.com/page/thematic-cycling-routes

For more information on Larnaka Tourism Board, visit www.larnakaregion.com

Ramping up spending on top end holidays

Sandy Lane in Barbados is among the places seeing an upsurge in spending

Travellers are splashing out on higher-level upgrades as they look forward to returning to their holidays, more than a year after the pandemic first struck, according to tour operator Pure Luxury.  

Dubai and Barbados are among the destinations luxury travellers are investing more, including an increase of nearly 200 per cent in the average price per night of rooms booked at Sandy Lane Barbados with Gold Medal’s trade-only luxury brand.

Similarly, the average price of rooms sold at Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf has increased by nearly a quarter, while bookings for villas at the resort grew by 14 per cent compared to a month ago. 

The bookings jump has been driven by the launch of Next Level Luxury, a campaign by Pure Luxury to help agents proactively upsell and “tap in to the desire of customers to travel in style when things reopen”. 

The operator produced a 22-page mini brochure featuring 24 offers in destinations in the Caribbean, Dubai & Arabia, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, with deals and offers also promoted across social media and via e-shots agents could share with customers.

“The Next Level Luxury brochure has gone down well, especially among those who have saved over the last year and a bit, and now want to spend more on holidays,” said David Walker, owner of agency, The Travel Snob, part of Not Just Travel. “It’s been a great tool in sending both to those clients that reached out initially to talk later about a trip, and to those regulars who I like to say book ‘wherever they fancy, whenever they want’.”

Overall average value of bookings made to key destinations such as Dubai, the Caribbean and Mauritius via Pure Luxury have been 29 per cent, 56 per cent and 67 per cent higher respectively than they were four weeks ago, suggesting agents have been able to leverage offers to encourage higher spend, said Nick Hughes, Gold Medal’s director of sales.

“It’s great to see the Next Level Luxury campaign deliver on its objectives to help agents inspire consumers to take their holiday to the next level of luxury,” he said. “We’ve heard from so many agent partners that their customers are dreaming of how they can make their next holiday extra special – whether that’s turning left on the plane as a special treat, or splashing out on bigger, better accommodation.”

The campaign was initially launched in response to the already rising numbers of high value, luxury bookings the operator was identifying – average booking value had increased by nearly a third over a four-week period.

Pure Luxury then ramped up the tools to inspire agents’ higher-spending customers, focussing on premium room types such as club, suites and villas that come with added value benefits such as club lounge access, butler service, activities or private areas, pools and beaches.

Lidl a step nearer to completion

The view from what will be the car park for the new Lidl in Mere Green

Work is gathering pace on the new Lidl supermarket being built in Mere Green.

The roof is now on with brickwork in place, filling in the steel skeleton of the new building. The car parking area, seen from the picture above is now laid with just final resurfacing before the opening of the store in a matter of weeks.

The store looks to be on schedule for completion by the end of the spring, but the German owned store are tight-lipped about the opening date and how many jobs will be created.

The new supermarket will on the site of the former industrial site in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos, further exacerbated by new of a new Aldi store set to be built on the old Waitrose site on Belwell Lane.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk virtually fully open with gym, shops like Poundland, bars and restaurants, together with existing supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

Early bird spring offers for Greek luxury resort

By Bill McCarthy

One of the top holiday resorts on Greece’s lesser-known Western Greece mainland worth considering for a summer break, is the 5-star Aldemar Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia. Consider heading here for a five star seascape, located in one of the most scenically beautiful areas of the country. 

We experienced the delights of western Greece and this luxury resort on a visit in May 2019

The 5-star Olympian Village Beach Resort in Olympia, Western Greece is located in a historic region, home of the Greek gods and the Olympic Games, filled with ancient temples and Byzantine monasteries, this is a stunning hotel complex overlooking the sea.

There are great offers from UK’s tour operators including jet2holidays, easyjetholidays and British Airways Holidays or visit the resorts own web site for holiday packages too, with  a 10 per cent early booking, spring offer throughout April: an ‘exclusive, fully flexible’ offer.

While uncertainty stills surrounds international travel for UK holidaymakers because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Aldemar team in Olympia is gearing up for its Summer Season 2021. Covid protocols are in place as they were last year, implemented for the safety of both the hotel staff and guests, throughout their stay.

It is a visually stunning hotel complex that stretches along (5 kms) sandy beach, surrounded by dozens of pools and beautiful gardens.

This part of Greece is one of the greenest and its natural wonders range from breathtaking mountains to ancient pine forests. The UK PR for this resort refers to this area as ‘Tuscany without the price-tag’ and as she’s partly Italian, we took her word for it when we visited, only to discover that indeed it was just that too and more!

The sprawling, low-rise five-star complex is situated in a secluded area near the village of Skafidia, just 30 kms from Ancient Olympia, hence why this area of Western Greece is also referred to as the ‘Olympian region’ of Greece. 

There’s accommodation to suit all budgets, from hotel-style rooms to apartments, family bungalows and even luxurious, top-of-the-range presidential suites with their own pools. 

Sit on the patio and in the distance is the island of Zante/Zakynthos and a little further north, Captain Corelli’s Kefalonia. Daily ferries can transport those eager to have their Greek Island fix, to both. The ferries depart from the port of Kyllini which is a 40 minute taxi ride away from the resort hotel.

Out and about Olympia is a must see. It was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and drew visitors from all over the Greek world 

The Olympic Games were held every four years from the eighth century BC to the fourth century AD. The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground and a single column. 

Further afield is historic Sparta, Patras and Kalamata, all a full day trip. But if touring is not you thing. The resort has plenty to keep all ages entertained and relaxed. 

What’s on offer for early bird bookings

  • Welcome Package: Μineral water and Aldemar bath set (soap, shampoo, shower gel, nail file, shower cap, cotton buds, and sewing kit).
  • Free Internet Access
  • Complimentary bottle of wine in-room on arrival
  • Free use of beach and pool chairs & umbrellas
  • Free use of slippers during your stay in the hotel (for VIP & Family rooms bathrobes and beach towels are also available to use during your stay in the hotel) 
  • FREE Mini Club. For children aged 4-12, seven days a week, 10:00 – 18:00, multilingual supervisors (upon request).
  • Entertainment activities, Mini Buffet at the Mini Club “ALDY”, including a selection of sponge cakes, sandwiches, juices, water, one ice cream per child, children’s play area and mini restaurant.

Irish ferries sail in with new service

Irish Ferries will operate Isle of Inishmore on its new Dover to Calais service this summer

Operator to run cross-Channel ferries

Irish Ferries is to start operating a new service between Dover and Calais for the first time in summer 2021 in a bold move to offer and alternative to the existing very fleets and the Channel Tunnel.

Despite the current travel restriction in place in the UK and uncertainty when some kind of normality will resume, the operator, part of Irish Continental Group, is planning to transfer its Isle of Inishmore ferry on to the busy cross-Channel route where it will compete with existing firms P&O Ferries and DFDS.

Services are due to begin in June 2021 with Irish Ferries planning to add more capacity on the Dover-Calais route in the “coming months”.

“We are very excited about launching our services on the best short sea ferry market in the world and we believe we can bring more choice for customers in the years ahead,” said Irish Ferries.

“The initial level of passenger services offered will be dependent on the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions.”

Doug Bannister, Port of Dover’s chief executive, added: “We are delighted to welcome Irish Ferries to Dover. This announcement gives the millions of customers across the UK and the Republic of Ireland who value the intrinsic benefits of the shortest sea crossing to Europe, the prospect of even more choice.” 

Irish Ferries is also adding a new ship, Blue Star 1, to its fleet which will sail on the Rosslare to Pembroke route.

Turkey to reopen to Brits

No vaccine requirements for UK tourists

By James Chapple

TTG Media Ltd

Turkey says it will be ready to host British tourists this summer. The country has pledged to review its pre-travel test requirement too, starting 15 April.

It has also announced a priority vaccination programme for those employed across the country’s tourism economy.

This will extend to hotel workers and other tourism employees, who will be vaccinated before the summer.

“We are looking forward to welcoming British tourists with open arms, as we did safely last summer,” said Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, Turkey’s minister of culture and tourism.

“We have world-class border processes in place for ensuring travel will be low-risk throughout Turkey. We are working with the British authorities to ensure these necessary processes are world-class and as up to date as possible.

“We will not require vaccination passports from international travellers when entering the country.”

Ersoy said that the country would review case numbers from 15 April and determine whether it will continue to require Brits to provide evidence a negative pre-travel Covid test.

“I expect there will be no such requirement from British visitors as the UK government is rapidly, and impressively, rolling out the vaccination program for the whole nation and a significant portion of the population will be vaccinated by early summer.”

The minister said Turkey would continue to invest in its safe tourism certification programme, which has been expanded for 2021 and made compulsory for all hotels and other accommodation with 30 rooms or more. In excess of 8,000 such businesses have been certified to date.

All certified accommodation providers will provide testing facilities for tourists should they need a test ahead of their return journey. Tests will cost €30 (£25) and will also be available at the country’s airports.

Turkey is also offering a Covid-19 insurance package from €15 (£12) covering treatment, medication and emergency care costs if a traveller requires hospital treatment. An additional accommodation support insurance will cover guests in event they have to extend their stay owing to Covid.

“We are confident that the successful vaccination programmes ongoing in both the UK and Turkey will ensure this season is even safer than last year,” said Ersoy.

Vaccine passport to cruising

BY TOM PARRY

Virgin Voyages require guest and crew jabs

Virgin Voyages will require all guests and crew to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before sailing, the line has announced.

The move follows similar policies from Crystal Cruises and Saga, while all passengers aged over 16 onboard Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas in Israel will also have been inoculated.

Virgin Voyages, which recently revealed its third ship Resilient Lady would launch in Europenext summer, said its vaccination stance was to “ensure we’re providing the safest travel experience”. 

“This is a step towards the safe return to sailing and is the right decision for Virgin Voyages,” said the line’s president Tom McAlpin in a statement.

McAlpin said he was “really encouraged” by US president Joe Biden’s plans to offer vaccinations to every American adult by the end of May. 

“We’re an adult-only cruise line, which allows for us to offer a highly controlled, safe environment for everyone onboard,” added McAlpin. 

“Our business us uniquely set up to do this with testing and vaccine travel requirements. There’s a huge pent-up demand for travel, and Virgin Voyages will be ready to welcome you onboard soon.”

Welcome back to island paradise

Seychelles opens up to the world  

The Indian Ocean island destination has announced that it will be welcoming visitors from across the globe, irrespective of their vaccination status, as from March 25. Visitors from South Africa will still not be permitted to enter Seychelles for the time being until further review.

The announcement was made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde in a press briefing this morning, Thursday, March 4, 2021, at the Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) conference room at Botanical House following the Tourism Task Force Committee meeting.  

Visitors will now only be required to present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure. 

There will be no quarantine requirement nor restriction on movement upon entry into Seychelles.

Additionally, the minimum stay in establishments upon arrival will no longer be applicable. 

However, visitors will still be required to adhere to other public health measures put in place in view of the pandemic these will include wearing of face masks, social distancing, regular sanitisation or washing of hands. 

The new measures also give visitors access to all communal area within the hotel premises inclusive of bars, swimming pools, spas and Kid’s club.

The press conference announcing details of how the island will open up again to visitors

Minister Radegonde stated that the decision to review and relax the entry procedures in the country has been made possible in view of the success registered in the aggressive vaccination campaign that the country embarked on earlier in the year. 

 “The vaccination campaign has been quite successful. The government has done everything in its power to make sure that the population is protected. We have now arrived at the point where opening our borders further is the next step to allow for our economic recovery. The measures being announced reflect broadly the recommendation of our tourism partners and have been done in full consultation with and the endorsement of our health authorities.” 

The small island nation off the east coast of Africa whose economy is based primarily on tourism was the first African country to launch a bold, comprehensive and effective Covid-19 immunisation campaign, in January 2021.  

The destination will continuously review the new entry measures to ensure that at all times the health and safety of the visitors and the local population are not compromised.

More details will be available shortly on http://www.tourism.gov.sc.

Electric Volvos are a safe bet

Volvo S90 

By Bill McCarthy

Volvo has been a trendsetter in many ways over the years, notably with innovative safety features, and now with electrification of the Swedish firm’s vehicles.

Thing is about Sweden, you never know when you might run not a moose on those empty roads, so the firm built in a warning system to detect extra large animals, like a wandering moose, along with a raft or other safety features. Add to this the Swedish firm’s proven all wheel drive capability, such a boon on those snowy and icy Nordic roads, and you have quite a package.

You won’t see many on most British roads, but you will see a growing number of electric powered vehicles, whether full hybrid, plug-in hybrid of full electric, so the firm has reacted to this be stating that by 2025, it wants half of its global sales volume to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

This big saloon is a plug-in hybrid that offers excellent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions, to make it an extremely attractive company car with lower benefit in kind payments. It is also luxurious, almost decadent, with just about every creature comfort catered for, and a few other bits and pieces as well.

It is a million miles from the tank-like Volvos of yesteryear, looking svelte and sleek. It also adds cutting-edge technologies, ranging from safety to cloud-based apps and services. In addition passengers are cossets in top end comfort, with ride and comfort, matched by few.

It has just two trim levels, R-Design and Inscription driven here, both feature the T8 twin engine technology, with petrol only and diesel abandoned.

 The two litre petrol engine is mated with an 86hp electric motor to deliver a total of 399hp.

That is a lot of power on tap and, mated with a slick eight-speed auto box, the big car delivers blistering pace, racing to 60mph in a shade under five seconds. Very impressive if you take into account the excellent economy on offer. It also has a claimed electric power only range of around 37 miles, a figure I struggled to attain, with nearer 30 miles achieved, even driving carefully. It has a theoretical range of 134 miles, which in the real world equates to nearer 60mpg. Still impressive in such a vehicle.

Having said that, a daily commute on electric only, does give mind-blowing figures, with the plug-in charge up taking around six hours. What you gain in fuel economy, you lose a little on electricity costs, but the savings are clear to see.

Driving in hybrid mode, the electric range does drain fairly quickly so switch to ‘B’ mode on the gear selector which allows the battery to regain power under braking, while slowing the vehicle by just taking your foot off the accelerator.

It has a real road presence, featuring the now-familiar Thor’s hammer style headlights, LED running lights, folding door mirrors, power boot lid, piano black front grille with chrome surrounds and twin exhaust tailpipes, and sitting in smart alloy wheels.

The interior is dominated by nine-inch, tablet style touch screen and a 12.3 inch TFT driver information display.

The touchscreen hosts the major functions, like Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system, satellite navigation, various apps, a sophisticated voice-control system, top end sound system with 10 speakers and connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

You can even turn the car into a WiFi hotspot thanks to the standard data SIM card and it features in-car entertainment applications such as Spotify, Pandora, Baidu or TuneIn and Volvo On Call.

Otherwise quality is exceptional with soft touch materials throughout, powered and heated leather seats which are firm and supportive and a large glass areas. Features include dual zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric windows and door mirrors sports mat and pedals.

Also standard are ambient lighting, rear footwell and side step illumination, heated sports multi-function steering wheel, heated, powered front seats with lumbar support, split folding rear seats, power folding rear backrests, and ski hatch.

It is an engaging drive, Even at high speed, engine and road noise is muted, with just a hint of wind noise from the large door mirrors. Excellent torque means motorway driving is a comfortable affair, the key acceleration range of 50-70mph achieved in what seems the blink of an eye.

In practical terms, there is much on offer including a huge, long boot with 500 litres capacity and a power-operated tailgate, which can also be operated with a ‘kick’ function to trigger a sensor beneath the boot.

All models  are packed with safety equipment, which goes without saying on a Volvo, with full complement of airbags and a raft of driver, passenger and pedestrian safety technology. Neat options include automatic parking and  360 degree camera, where the surround view from the four wide-angle lens cameras appears on the centre touch screen at even at very low speeds.

 It also includes City Safety, part of the Intellisafe package, which includes pedestrian, cyclist and the now famed Nordic ‘moose’ detection.

Factfile

Volvo S90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 AWD Inscription

Price: £56,155

Mechanical: Combined 390bhp, two litre petrol engine and electric motor  driving all wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Insurance: 42E

Max speed: 112 mph

0-62mph: 4.8 seconds

Combined mpg: 104-148mpg

CO2 emissions: 44-61g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles