Stirring up the senses in Sri Lanka

by Lesley-Ann on March 5, 2015

Often referred to as ‘India Lite’, travelling round Sri Lanka is certainly less of an assault on the senses than India: You encounter less of the noise and chaos, you get less hassle from the locals and you certainly cover less distances to see the major sites. But, one thing Sri Lanka is definitely not lite on is the sheer variety of things to see and do. Here, on this little tear drop shaped island in the Indian Ocean, you’ll find some of Asia’s most fascinating Buddhist temples, 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, historic hill towns with architectural reminders of the British colonial era, an abundance of wildlife, verdant tea plantations and beautiful beaches that wrap around the island.

Sri Lanka has fond memories for me as it was the first big adventure Julian and I took together nearly 20 years ago. The country was different then. Accommodation was basic and, due to the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict, the north and eastern parts of the country were out of bounds. Now, 5 years after the end of the bloody 25-year civil war, the island is fully open and it has some of the best places to stay in the region from contemporary seaside retreats to boutique B&Bs, immaculately restored colonial-style hotels and wonderful private villas (perfect for families) strung out along the coast.

Here are some of my highlights you don’t want to miss on a trip to Sri Lanka: Read more

{ 0 comments }

A decade after our first visit to Oman, Julian and I returned with trepidation – was the country we loved so much for its authentic Arabian charm still the same or had it adopted the fast paced glitzy lifestyle of its neighbours like the UAE or Qatar? Let’s face it, if Oman was Dubai, 10 years would have seen the place go for broke with a building extravaganza leaving it unrecognisable.  But I’m glad to report that, although there has definitely been development (especially in the capital Muscat), the Sultan (Qaboos Bin Said) thankfully has a leisurely approach to tourism and is more concerned with culture rather than getting into the Record Books for the tallest building. In Oman we still delighted in the heady mix of rich history, traditional Arabian culture and spectacular scenery which we were seduced by first time round.

Read more

{ 0 comments }

Travel resolutions for 2015

by Lesley-Ann on January 9, 2015

With a new year just beginning, surely one of your resolutions will be to try something a bit different on your travels in 2015? Maybe it’s as simple as snatching that first weekend away from the children, just the two of you? Or trying an alternative ski resort (here’s one)? Or just turning left out of Faro airport instead of right on your annual trip to the Algarve (here’s what you could find)? Whatever your travel resolutions, I always find it’s better to plan things well in advance to ensure you get what you want, when you want. Plus planning holidays is the perfect antidote to the January blues!

Here are a few travel related things I’m looking forward to in 2015 which might inspire you: Read more

{ 0 comments }

Highlights, happenings and my favourite things of 2014

by Lesley-Ann on December 4, 2014

As the end of 2014 hurtles towards us I took some time to think back over the last year. Yet again it’s been one filled with many travels both home and away and a lot of fabulous memories. Here are just a few on the highlights, all travel related of course!

An unexpected fun 24 hours in Delhi

Delhi has everything you want from a short stay in a capital city (a wealth of museums, a vibrant arts scene, great shopping, pretty parks and sophisticated nightlife) but with the added bonus of centuries of history.  It’s a city of two halves, from Old Delhi with its ancient sights and frenzy of narrow alleys to the wide boulevards and leafy enclaves of New Delhi, built by the British for unashamed Imperial display.  To visit Delhi is definitely an assault on the senses but, it’s so much fun and you’ll definitely find magic amongst the madness.

Delhi 1

Delhi 2

‘At one with nature’ at Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica

To get this idyllic riverside lodge I had to ride the rapids – the best places are never easy to get to – but it was totally worth it.  Days were spent swinging in my hammock watching monkeys play in the trees and birds dart between the exotic flowers before mustering up the energy to zip line through the rainforest canopy. With no electricity, nights were spent sipping cocktails by candle light before being lulled to sleep by the murmur of the river.

Breakfast with a view

An early morning trek with a 1,100m ascent through knee high snow brought Julian and I up close and personal with the mighty Himalaya.  The view made our hearts skip a beat as we were rewarded with the most perfect panoramic view of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak. Then breakfast was served.

Most delectable city hotel abroad – the Lodhi, Delhi

It’s not often Julian gets wooed by a hotel but the Lodhi definitely won him over.  From the private plunge pools on the balcony of every room to the impeccable, personal but discreet service, this tranquil oasis may seem imposing from the exterior – all square concrete like something from a communist nation – but inside its cosy and cosseting.  It even comes with a couple of excellent restaurants much beloved by the well-heeled folk of Delhi and perfect for people watching.

The Lodhi

Coastal walk on the wild(ish) side

This year Julian and I had our first foray to north Northumberland.  Ashamed to admit it, we’d never been to the bit of the UK that stretches beyond Alnwick (of Hogwarts fame) all the way up to the Scottish Borders. What we discovered was a coastline dotted with castles, expansive sandy beaches and big, big skies.  It was perfect for walking with our favourite being from the ghostly ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, around wide Embleton Bay and on to the tiny hamlet of Lower Newton.  After a swift pint at the local pub, the return walk took us along the wind swept sand dunes that fringed the bay, before returning to Craster for some of its famous kippers.

W68A1720a

My favourite new UK hotel opening

Firmdale are a small but perfectly formed collection of hotels clustered around London (plus one in New York); each is different but all come with the owner’s eclectic and quirky styling, wonderfully friendly (but efficient) service and super spoiling rooms.  This year saw the opening of the latest addition to the fold, the Ham Yard Hotel, which I’m glad to report didn’t disappoint.  The location is perfect, right in the heart of Soho with shops, restaurants and nightlife oozing from every corner.  Whilst, inside it’s a veritable pleasure dome: hot pink walls, extravagant art, a hip and vibrant bar serving delicious and unusual cocktails, a cinema, giant orange juicer (yes, I kid you not) and even an original Fifties bowling alley imported from Texas.

Ham Yard Hotel

Le Marché d’Alty

On holiday there’s nothing better than stumbling across a market selling the best of what’s grown and made locally.  Abroad they always seem to get it right but, it frustrates me no end that I can never find anything of the same calibre at home in Manchester.  Well, that was until our good friends Nick and Jen took over the running of Altrincham (“Alty”) Market and totally transformed it by bringing in some fantastic independent local food and craft people.  Now I have a bit of the continent on my doorstep, which this year had a new centrepiece in the form of Market House, where you can feast and be sociable in a relaxed ‘refectory’ style at communal tables on some of the north west’s best food and drink all served from vintage market stalls.

Alty market

My favourite picture – starry, starry nights in India’s Kumaon Valley

Julian (my talented budding photographer husband) is rather good at capturing amazing images from our travels.  This year, faced with some fabulous locations, he surpassed himself with one photograph in particular; the night sky of the Himalayas.  It took a lot of patience but even Julian surprised himself with the results!

The best shout outs from la Concordia’s lovely clients

“We would be hard pressed to think of anything that could have been done better.  It was all quite magnificent.” 

“It is the kind of personal service you expect but rarely get.”

“A part of family admin that everyone should outsource.”

“The level of service is second to none.”

 

Thank you to all of you for letting me arrange your wonderful trips this year and for following my travels.

Wishing you all the best for this festive period and happy travels in 2015.

Lesley-Ann xx

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Some Movember inspiration for your facial fuzz

by Lesley-Ann on November 6, 2014

 

As the month now known as Movember begins, I thought I’d do a big shout out to all those men who will be braving the jokes and smirks of partners and colleagues to grow a supportive ‘tache over the coming weeks.

On my travels, the one place I’ve found where perfecting the humble ‘tache is an art form is most definitely India – they certainly know how to cultivate a good one! I’ve curated a collection of my favourite ‘taches, which I’m hoping may give you some inspiration if you’re looking to add a hairy dash of decor to your upper lip this month.

But please – I beg you – bring this month to a clean shaven end! Read more

{ 0 comments }