Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Pictured: a wall of graffiti in Kuwait City, against which Terry shot fantastic portraits of Kuwait's heavy metal heroes for our Jazeera magazine story.
Posted by Lara Dunston at 8:51 PM
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
But, more than anything, like the Sydney Opera House and other great iconic monuments, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a source of immense national pride. Its completion not only united the city when it connected Sydney's northern and southern shores in 1932, but it also united a nation during very challenging times. I suspect Burj Khalifa has done the same.
P.S.my tweets motivated this lovely post from Julie on Matador: How Twitter Helped Me Care About the Burj
The posts I will be popping up on my poor neglected travel blog over the next few days have been a long time coming. Some I drafted back in Beirut in November, others I scribbled almost a month ago while I was recovering from bronchial pneumonia from a hotel room in Bangkok where we were working on a guidebook. That diagnosis, by the way, based on nasty symptoms like coughing up blood, came from my doctor uncle in Australia by email because I was too busy working to get to a GP. It would be an understatement to say that 2009 has been a hectic year of travel and writing for Terry and I - something I only recently appreciated glancing at all the books we've written which have been published this year sitting on the shelf beside my desk here at my family's house in Bendigo, Australia: Footprint Italian Lakes, Thomas Cook Northern Italy, and Thomas Cook Travellers Calabria, plus a handful of books I updated for AA and Thomas Cook. Then there are others we've written that I haven't even seen (like the Rough Guides Clean Breaks, which I contributed to) or are not yet published, like the new edition to the Rough Guide to Australia (for which we updated four and a bit states - half the country! - on a four month-long road trip from October 2008 to February 2009), and another first edition, Back Roads Australia for DK. I skim down this page scanning my posts, and while there have been few compared to last year or the year before, when I stop at In Print and Online and then take a look at that archive I see why. We may continually read the claims that print is dead yet we've spent more time writing for magazines this year than any other, and up until we returned to guidebooks in December we'd spent six months solid doing little else but write for magazines. The irony is that we've now been hired by HomeAway Holiday-Rentals for a year to travel the world, stay in their properties, and blog about the experience - something I never could have predicted. So the travel blogging that for me had been an escape from my 'day job' as a travel writer now becomes our main source of income. Print is still not dead, however - as much as our new client appreciates social media, they are still going to pay us bonuses for every article we get published in a magazine or newspaper. So I'm expecting it's going to be another busy year, but I'm pleased to say that we'll be slowing down considerably. No longer will I be envying a donkey his pace. More on our new project, Grantourismo soon.
Pictured? Fortune tellers in Bangkok.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
While the vast majority of comments I get on Cool Travel Guide are wonderful and warmly welcomed, I've received a few comments over the last year that have caused me to reflect upon what Cool Travel Guide is all about and what I'm prepared to post and what I'm not and to come up with a posting policy. Here it is: while I welcome comments in response to posts I've published on Cool Travel Guide and other comments that might be slightly off-topic but touch on subjects this blog covers (see this post 'What is Cool Travel Guide?' to find out what those are), there are some comments that I won't post and won't address and they are:
4) comments that relate to content I've written for other publishers that has nothing to do with Cool Travel Guide content. For example, an anonymous person recently left an angry comment in relation to a review I wrote on a hotel for a Lonely Planet guidebook because their experience differed remarkably to my own. If you have a bad experience at a hotel, my advice is to complain to the hotel manager during your stay. There's nothing they can do about a noisy hotel room after you leave or if you leave an anonymous comment on Cool Travel Guide. If you've maintained your anonymity, I can't even follow it up with the hotel manager to find out what happened. Complain to the manager at the time of your stay and they can probably move you to another room or help find you alternate accommodation. If I didn't mention the noise in my review, then I obviously didn't experience it myself, but don't question and criticize my reviewing skills nor expect that I'll upload an anonymous comment that does so.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
There's a reason I haven't been blogging much these last few months - or rather, lots of reasons. Terry and I have been busy travelling, mainly through the Middle East - to Syria, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon - on commissions for a number of magazines, and squeezing in some assignments at 'home' in the UAE in between. We continued to do a lot of writing for in-flight magazines, especially Gulf Air's Gulf Life and Jazeera Airways' J Magazine (as I told you last time I wrote one of these updates in October), mainly because the editors are so easy to work with, and the magazines are fun. In Gulf Life's November Heritage issue, we had a piece on Doha's stupendous Museum of Islamic Arts, and in the latest edition, December's Food issue, we've got a feature on our experience behind-the-scenes with Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire in his kitchen at Reflets, Dubai (which I blogged about here), and small pieces on Jordan's cupcake king and owner of Sugar Daddy, Fadi Jaber, Amman's heavenly mussabaha, hommous, foul and falafal place, Hashem, Kuwait's best burger joint, Slider Station (pictured), and Dubai's colossal sweet shop, Candylicious. In December's issue of J Magazine, we've got a feature on Kuwait's fabulous four women politicians and Aleppo's food biz family and their matriarch Dalal Touma, the woman behind one of the city's best restaurants, Zomorod. You'll also find Terry's lush images illustrating our stories and lots of our reviews of restaurants, cafes and shops in the magazine's Destination Guide. One of my reviews went up on i-escape, on Kangaroo Island's Southern Ocean Lodge (and you'll see a lot more of my reviews soon on the site on properties in Australia and Syria), while our review of Doha's Four Seasons hotel went up on Travel Intelligence. We've got a lot more pieces coming out in early 2010, everywhere from Asia's Connect to the Ritz Carlton magazine, and I'll let you know about those as they appear.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Are you a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ traveller? That is, every country you visit you consider it to be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience and treat it as such? Do you go to a place thinking you may never get back there again so everything you do is a special adventure? Do you go with the idea that you won’t even dream of returning because there are simply too many other amazing places to explore in the world? Maybe it's more of a financial imperative? Or, do you travel thinking you are definitely going to return some day, so you take it easy, kick back, and don’t put too much pressure on the trip? And in doing so, you find you appreciate the place and the little experiences and everyday moments more? Indeed, if this is a place you end up liking a lot, you won’t have a problem returning the next year, and the next, and perhaps the one after that… so that by the time you’re 80 you could be leaning over to the diners at the next table one night to boast “my husband/wife and I have been coming here every summer for the last 30 years”, as a very contented woman told us one evening in Capri as her beloved husband sliced a ripe juicy peach for her after their meal – a habit that seemed so matter-of-fact, he’d probably been doing it for 30 years… So, which traveller are you? Do have one travel preference over another? Or do you mix it up with destinations you treat as once-in-a-lifetime experiences and favorite holiday spots you return to every year? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Travel 'experts', whether they are travel writers, guidebook authors, travel bloggers, tour guides, travel agents, hoteliers etc, are also 'real' travellers in my mind. Yet publishers and travel sites are frequently pitting the two against each other. Sure, the travel experts sometimes get special treatment and they can rarely shut themselves off from the act of reviewing, even when they're on holidays, but the fact is that they do take holidays and do travel like 'normal' people too. I book my flights and hotels online. I have to negotiate local transport like you do. I eat as many bad meals as I do good ones, and I also get allocated my share of crappy hotel rooms too. Yet increasingly the opinions of the experts - the people who stay in hundreds of hotel rooms a year, catch scores of flights, and talk to thousands of other travel experts and travellers - that is, the people who make it their business to accumulate vast travel experience and knowledge and develop skills at discernment - seem to be increasingly undervalued and overlooked in favor of the opinions of 'real' people. One example is the hotel reviews in Budget Travel (a magazine I love, by the way), such as this one which states that "Online reviews generally praise the hotel as an affordable gem with a fun, unique theme" and "Reader Dawn recommends Franklin Feel the Sound, where she stayed in June 2009. She writes that the Franklin exceeded her expectations and was excellent value". Frankly, unless I know who these online reviewers were and have more information about them and Dawn, I don't care what they think. I want to know how much hotel experience they've had, how many hotels in Rome they've checked into and inspected, and how many hotels they've stayed at fullstop, so I can then determine what their idea of "affordable" or "unique" is, and how different their expectations may be to that of other travellers. You see, travel experts know these things. What do you think?
Friday, October 9, 2009
Pictured? That's me chatting to Pierre Gagnaire.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
It's been a busy period for Terry and I, as you've gathered from the dearth of blog posts these last months. And we've got a lot of work being published to prove it, from a small 'Up Next' piece on Abu Dhabi in the September edition of National Geographic Traveler to half a dozen eco-experiences I wrote about in Rough Guide's Clean Breaks book. I saw our first edition Travellers Northern Italy guidebook for the first time in a bookshop in Dubai the other day too and got exhausted just looking at it - that was a tough trip. Although I know you don't believe me. We've always written for in-flight magazines, but we've been doing a lot more writing for them these past few months. If you're wondering why, it's because it's fun, the editors are lovely, easy to work with and respond to emails, it's nice to submit a story and see it in print a month or two later, and they pay on time. In September's Storytelling issue of Gulf Air's in-flight magazine Gulf Life, we have features on Abu Shady, Syria's last hakawati or professional storyteller and a review on the Sheraton Aleppo; while in the October issue, we have articles on Syrian sculptor Mustafa Ali; a new Damascus jazz duo comprised of opera star Rasha Razk and pianist Ghazwan Zerkli; and funky Zen bar in Damascus with its fabulous views. All feature Terry's gorgeous photos of course, as does a story on Doha Tribeca Film Festival director - he shot the stunning portrait of Amanda Palmer in the lobby of Doha's W hotel. We've got a bunch of stories in this month's issue of Jazeera's in-flight J Mag too, and in MPI's One Plus magazine a profile on Emirati Ali Al Saloom who is changing the way visitors to Abu Dhabi experience the UAE.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Our recent trip around the Middle East (see this post) wasn't meant to be that kind of trip. There was no guidebook to write. No insane photography commission for Terry to undertake. Just lots of stories and hotel reviews to research and a couple of meetings about a book we're developing. However, somehow a trip that was meant to be fairly straightforward and one we'd hoped would trundle along at a slower pace than normal - a donkey's pace was what I desired - turned into the usual frenzied adventure where we find ourselves running from one appointment to another, and working long days that extend well into the night, every day and night. And now we're frantically writing up those stories and Terry's editing and prepping images for the stories (hence the lack of time for blogging), at the same time as we're pitching more stories, doing more reviews, going on photo shoots, and prepping for the next trip - every day and night, well into the night. So how as travel writers do we get ourselves into this situation? And is it possible to avoid this frenzied life?
Monday, September 21, 2009
We're back in the UAE and after a couple of days in Dubai (pictured*), we're chained to desks once again in Abu Dhabi - not our desks, but our friends', at their colossal home in the new part of the capital, off the island. The closest thing to a 'home' for us still being in storage in Dubai. A 'desk update' in publishing-speak suggests a guidebook update by phone and email. It's what publishers commission authors or in-house staff to do when they're not inclined to spend the money to send writers on the road. From what we're hearing, it's happening increasingly of late. But we won't have that. Aside from the fact that we still don't have a 'home' to speak of - this week marks our 45th month living out of our suitcases! - travelling is why we do what we do. Why on earth a travel writer would want to write something from a desk without having been to a place we'll never know. We've well and truly researched the stories and reviews we're currently writing up, having spent the last six weeks on the road travelling around Syria, Qatar and Kuwait. But we're paying for it now. We're tired. Chronically tired. My feet are wrecked. We've both been fighting off the flu for a couple of weeks although poor Terry has finally lost his battle. As we write, we're talking to publishers and potential sponsors about future projects - in Thailand, Syria, and the Arabian Peninsula - and in the interim we're considering trips to Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Iran, and possibly Kathmandu. We're also contemplating an opportunity that could keep us on the road even longer if it comes off, but more on that in the near future... for now, deadlines await. So what have you been up to and where are you going next?
* the pic is of the view from our room at Jumeirah Emirates Towers where we stayed recently; Terry had photographed the hotel and we'd done site inspections so many times over the years, but never checked in. Now we've stayed, we know why it consistently wins awards for being Dubai's best business hotel. While the rooms are a bit dated in terms of their style, they're impressively appointed, the lobby has always been one of the city's buzziest, and the towers and adjoining Boulevard are home to some of my favorite restaurants and bars, including Vu's, Noodle House and The Agency.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Another postscript to my posts of a couple of weeks ago on blogging and Blogspot in Syria (see my last post and the postscript before it): after uploading the posts below, I received loads of emails and tweets from around the world, from Syrians asking everything from why I couldn't go to an internet cafe where it's often possible to access Blogspot (sorry, we were working 16-hour days so the only time I had to email was early morning or late at night at our hotels) to foreign and local censorship/IT experts wanting me to provide them with a list of every hotel we stayed at and the hotel's proxy info (apologies again, but one of the things we were doing in Syria was reviewing hotels, so we were moving hotels every second day, and I had enough to do as it was). Based on my recent experience ('recent', because I've never had time to blog on previous trips to Syria), my advice to you is if you're planning to travel to Syria and blog regularly, do your research first but research widely: there are plenty of experts eager to share their opinions (indeed, some rather aggressively) and there is a lot of contradictory advice around (even among the self-proclaimed "experts") about blogging and Blogspot in Syria, from people both outside and within Syria. I found that rarely did opinions align and every expert was able to cite a wealth of research on the subject. Once again, I apologise for not having time to test out your theories and suggestions, but I'm a travel writer who also blogs, rather than a travel blogger who also publishes - and that's likely to stay that way until someone pays me as much to blog as I earn writing. The paid work - which one charming "expert" referred to as "travel fluff" (rest assured, I took her as seriously as she took me) has to take priority, I'm afraid. So, back to work... or writing nonsense?
Friday, August 14, 2009
A number of people have contacted me via the comments to my post below and on Twitter in response to my appeal for advice after my blog was momentarily blocked in Syria. Shukran jazeelan to everyone for their tips - much appreciated! Unfortunately (or fortunately), I'm a busy travel writer with a lot to do here in Syria at the moment - boutique hotels to review, restaurants to try out, artists and musicians to interview - and blogging is not high on my list of priorities at the moment sadly, so I don't have time to test out all your suggestions now. In addition to my lack of time, the intermittent and excruciatingly slow internet access at a lot of the hotels we're staying at means I simply can't get on the net when it's convenient nor wait for photos to upload at the usual size I post them. And I don't have time to keep running back to the Four Seasons, which must have the fastest internet access in town. Quite a few people have written to me about blogspot being banned here and forwarded links supporting this (sorry, but I don't have time to respond to everyone), however, just for your info, I can access a large number of blogspot blogs that I usually read from other parts of the world from Syria (and I was able to access them on previous trips here too), including many listed on my own blogroll, and Syrian-based blogspot blogs that I don't normally read but have discovered on this trip. People are asking me what ISPs I am using and am I using proxies. As I am reviewing hotels, I am moving hotels every couple of days so I'm using whatever ISP the hotel is using and whether the hotel has a proxy or not, I'm sorry but I don't have time to investigate, and would rather be talking to a singer such as the wonderful Rasha Rizk than an IT guy. Hoping you understand.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My harmless little blog Cool Travel Guide has been blocked in Syria for a whole 24 hours - I was confronted with the dreaded "Access Denied" sign when I tried to update it yesterday. But, there's been a miracle, or someone came to their senses, and now I can access it. I realize my mistake - my Syrian advisors tell me it's because I used the 'I' word, which I'm not about to use again, so guess all you like. So, how did it get unblocked? Did the censors actually read the content and realise I was a 'friend' of Syria's? Just a travel writer who writes about places she loves and stays clear of politics? Or was it that the Minister for Information and her staff, who were staying at the same hotel as us last night, overheard my loud complaints to the general manager this morning? Either way, I can post for the moment, but if you don't hear from me again, you'll know why. Come and follow me on Twitter instead.
Post-script: this post and my tweets on Twitter generated scores of responses via email and Twitter about blogging in Syria. Most were friendly messages from Syrian bloggers, IT experts and officials, with tips on how to get around proxies, using Blogger/Blogspot and other blogging software in Syria, and advice on what's acceptable and what's not regarding blog content. I'm sorry I didn't have time to follow everyone's suggestions - it was an incredibly busy trip with little time for blogging unfortunately - but a huge thanks to everyone who got in touch.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Aleppo's labyrinthine medieval souq - or rather souqs within a souq - has long been one of our favorites in the Middle East, mainly because it has remained relatively untouched by tourism up until recent years - especially compared to Istanbul's Grand Bazzar and Cairo's Khan el Khalili. It's a place where locals shop for anything from women's underwear to camel meat, as much as backpackers haggle for hookah pipes and harem pants. Great buys include olive soap (buy the soap the locals buy, not the soap packaged for tourists), Syria's famous silk brocades and other textiles, and gutras (men's checked headscarves). These days you'll also find stores and stalls with their eyes on the growing tourist market selling jewellery, carpets, and brass and copperware, and spruikers on corners hustling for sales. But we prefer wandering the back-alleys, where the locals shop for their cheap plastic shoes, spangly fabrics, and children's clothes, offering a far more authentic experience.
Aleppo is Syria's most atmospheric city after Damascus and it's our next favorite destination after the capital, the highlights for us being the medieval souq, the labyrinthine old quarters dotted around the inner-city, and the complex cuisine, arguably the most interesting in the Middle East. The new town with its stylish cafes - currently full of hip young Syrian expat kids home for the summer holidays - is pretty appealing too. We're here to do hotel reviews and a feature on Aleppo's oldest restaurant dynasty, as well as gather content for other stories, so we've been at the Aleppo Sheraton for a few days. While it can't compare in terms of atmosphere to Aleppo's myriad boutique hotels in restored old houses, the hotel's location, slapbang in the centre of Aleppo, mid-way between Al Jdeida and the souqs, is unbeatable. As is the comfort and space of our room, the big desk, and internet access - things that become more important to a writer and photographer on deadline than sleeping under an Ottoman-era ceiling, I'm afraid. Oh, and the views, pictured, are pretty special too.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
One of our many reasons for coming to Syria this time was to interview Abu Shady, the last of the hakawati, or traditional storytellers. We last interviewed him almost two and half years ago when we were here to update our Lonely Planet Syria and Lebanon guidebook - that's the 'current' edition every Western traveller is clutching in their hands here now. (We're not using it ourselves - nor are we using any other guidebook - there's no need obviously after so many trips here, but it's interesting to see how many people have a guidebook *and* a guide - very different to last time when there were far more independent travellers around. Why people need help ordering a meal, I'll never know, but it's something I'm going to ponder in another post.) When we last spoke to Abu Shady he was conscious of his age, depressed that numbers of people attending his performances at Al Nawfara cafe in Damascus' Old City were dwindling, his biggest competition being cinema, TV and the internet, and was grooming his son to take over after he died. Ironically, now his nightly performances are packed (people even phone to book tables) and storytelling is more popular than ever (in line with a resurgence of interest by Syrians in everything old), yet he no longer wants his son to take over. Why? Because the pay is lousy. I guess there's a point artists reach when they're no longer prepared to go hungry (or allow their family to go hungry) for their art. I'll pop up the link to our story soon.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Syria has long been home to some of the Middle East's most bewitching boutique hotels (the only country that beats it in the beautiful hotel stakes is Morocco) so we're delighting in one of our main tasks over the next two weeks - to review and photograph a handful of the country's most characterful properties in Damascus and Aleppo. The first hotel we checked into last Wednesday was Beit Al Mamlouka, still one of the most romantic and intimate hotels in the Old City of Damascus. Despite what you read in numerous articles, it was not Syria's first boutique hotel - the hotel's first and former owner, May Mamarbachi, painstakingly restored the property over three years, opening it in 2005, but by then several fine little boutique hotels had already been operating since the late 1990s in Aleppo, including Beit Wakil and Dar Zamaria. Diwan Rasmy, which would later become Beit Salahieh, opened soon after, and many more followed. Damascus has witnessed a number of recent openings, which we'll be looking at and reporting back on over the next weeks. Under its 'new' management - Tony, the owner of a silk company, took over two years ago - Beit Al Mamlouka is still a wonderful place to check into and is quite possibly one of the city's most romantic hotels. More to come...
Pictured: Beit Al Mamlouka's tranquil courtyard with trickling fountain.
The atmosphere in Damascus is electric now, and the streets of the Old City more alive than we've seen them before - and we've been regular visitors since 1998. Summer traditionally sees Syrian expats from around the world returning home to spend time with their families while Damascus has long attracted Gulf Arab tourists escaping the sweltering summer temperatures of the Arabian Peninsula - while it's warm here now (low to mid 30s Celcius), the Gulf is scorching (average mid 40s Celcius), so Syria is a cool escape in comparison. But we're seeing travellers from all over the globe getting lost in the Old City's labyrinthine streets at the moment, including Europeans, Australians and Americans. By the look of their travelling gear - harem pants and hippy attire dominate backpacker wardrobes here - they were expecting a cheap destination. But Damascus now boasts an array of beautiful boutique hotels, an ever-growing number of fine restaurants, a handful of hip bars and stylish cafes, a lively arts and cultural scene, and an increasingly chic shopping area in the new city. We're reporting on all of these for magazines over the next week or two, so I'll try and share a few of our discoveries with you as we go.
Pictured? That's Naranj, a relatively 'new' restaurant by Damascene standards, which was very good - the buzzy atmosphere indicative of that found in the whole city at the moment. Although Naranj is not the best, and don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise - that's a title reserved for Al Halabi at The Four Seasons Hotel, and I'll tell you why in detail very soon.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We spent our last night in the UAE in Dubai - stuck in a traffic jam, checking into our fully booked hotel, shopping for last minute necessities at busy Dubai Mall - packed with shoppers laden with shopping bags as late as midnight - and strolling the waterfront overlooking the new Burj Dubai, where tables at the outdoor restaurants and cafes were crammed with families, despite the 45 degree heat. It was the same old Dubai - not the 'ghost town' I'd be reading about in the media while we were in Australia. Ironically, summer has historically been the time of year when Dubai is usually a ghost town, when locals and expats who can leave the country for a couple of months evacuate for cooler climates for their summer vacation.
Pictured: the enormous aquarium at Dubai Mall.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I might not get much time to blog over the next six weeks as we have a tight travel schedule, bouncing around the Middle East researching stories and doing hotel and restaurant reviews. So why not come and follow me on Twitter @laradunston?
One of the stories I've been commissioned to write is about how Twitter has been embraced in the MidEast and how it's being used. Twitter users are meeting socially at tweet-ups across the region, getting involved in charity work through Twestivals, and using Twitter for social change. If you're a Twitter user based in the UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait or Qatar, or anywhere else around the Middle East, please email me or leave a comment here - I'd love to get in touch with you.
The photo pictured is the workspace of British writer-poet Robert Graves in his former home, now a museum, at Deia on Mallorca. It's the kind of space I'd love to write at. If I didn't live out of my suitcase, that is, and actually had a home in which to write... But who's going to feel sorry for a travel writer, right?
The nice people at Trip Base recently gave me a little award - well, I was a finalist in their Best Travel Guides category - and I was so busy I didn't even have time to thank them properly (although I did as I was told and put the badge up). So, a big heartfelt thank you, Trip Base - or shukran jazeelan as we say here in the MidEast. If you want to see which other blogs won awards, you can see the full list here and here, and if you want to know more about Trip Base, check out their site.
The picture? That's Mallorca again, and the view from our room at the Maricel hotel.
Well, we're off again. And yet it seems like we'd only just arrived. After five taxing days of sleeping and eating in Barcelona, and before that seven grueling weeks working on a book in Mallorca, the last 12 semi-sedentary days in the UAE have sped by. It's been busy. We had a few days of restaurant reviews, interviews and photo shoots, then time in catching up on loads of writing and planning our next trip from our friend's colossal Abu Dhabi villa, rightly dubbed 'Falcon's Crest'. Picture this: a monumental Arabian villa, sweeping staircase, 20+ rooms, five bathrooms, one of which is nicknamed Hef's (it's all black!), and a gold falcon over the driveway gate.
But, sadly it's all over already and today we're headed back to Dubai to our other 'home away from home', Al Manzil, so we don't miss our early flight to Damascus in the morning. We're trying Jazeera Airways for the first time, and over the next six weeks we'll be testing out a number of low-cost Gulf airlines as we bounce around the region a bit researching stories for in-flights and travel magazines: Syria 2 weeks, Qatar 9 days, Kuwait 5 days, Lebanon 5 days, Jordan 4 days, then back to the UAE again. That's a lot of countries in a short space of time for us with not a lot of time in each place - normally we like to take things a lot more slowly. But it's work, not play: we're doing some feature stories, profiles, and a bunch of hotel and restaurant reviews, as well as having meetings for a couple of book projects we're developing. No, not guidebooks! And for the first time in some years this will be the first trip where we're working on magazine stories only - no guidebooks, thankfully. The last few have really taken their toll... but who's going to listen to a travel writer complain, huh?
Monday, August 3, 2009
My scheduled posts on Mallorca didn't go up as hoped, so I'm going to save my best boutique hotels and best restaurant lists for another day, as I have some packing to do... I will post them over the next week or so, though, I promise. Especially as I've heard that UK travellers are now scrambling to get away from the dismal weather, and naturally, many are heading to Spain. For now, I'll leave you with a final pic that might entice you away...
Saturday, August 1, 2009
And here are some more of Mallorca's most stunning beaches (my favorites anyway), where you can soak up some sun, work on that tan, and have a wade in the calm sea; continued from part 1 (below):
* CALA TORTA – a beach beloved by locals and expats and popular with travellers on driving holidays, Cala Torta is reached by a winding road through a national park; turn-off just out of Artà on the road to Capdepera. Although the road was recently sealed, there’s still a very rocky, dirt section near the end. There’s a small beach bar and lifesavers, but no toilets, so watch where you step when walking over the sand dunes!
* CALA MONDRAGO – in the south near Santanyi, these two adjoining sandy coves boast perhaps the clearest water of any of Mallorca’s beaches; while the first one gets crowded, the second cove is quieter.
* CALA D'OR - you'll find one of Mallorca's prettiest beaches, with aquamarine water that looks especially lovely in the late afternoon, just in front of the hotel of the same name. Surrounded by low cliffs and white Ibiza-style houses belonging to affluent Spaniards from Barcelona and Madrid, aside from hotel guests, it's pretty much local-owners and wealthy holiday-makers. This is a beach that's worth checking into the hotel for.
* CALA SANT VICENÇ – several coves surrounded by rocky sandstone cliffs where the local teens like to lay their towels on the rocky ledges, flirt, and dive from the rocks. Far from unspoilt though, and the characterless town is comprised of little more than hotels and holiday houses. Don’t stay here, do a day trip instead.
* PORTO CRISTO – this fine beach has one of the loveliest settings, in a bay embraced by low cliffs, and on a day when the sea is sparkling diamonds, and kids are diving off the swimming pontoons, it can seem like one of the most stunning beaches in the world. This is a touristy town, though, with the road running along the beach lined with takeaway food places, generic restaurants, and souvenir shops. There are far worse places to spend a holiday on Mallorca though.
What have I left out? What are your favourite Mallorcan beaches?