Five Favourite Places I have Stayed in On My Travels

I could, perhaps, be termed as a frustrated traveller, in the sense that I have been to a decent number of places, and have a reasonable sense of adventure to pursue journeys to locations far and wide, though I can’t see myself sleeping outdoors in the jungle, or spending time in places where I am too uncomfortably close to certain creatures in their natural habitat. There are four main points which have contributed to my love of travel: (1) Being exposed to stories about it at a young age by a wonderful grandfather whose own sense of adventure had little boundaries, and receiving little gifts or souvenirs from his travels (2) Reading about far-off places, which fed my fevered imagination like a writhing salmon feeds a hungry bear (3) Meeting my beautiful life partner, who shares my passion for seeing different places around the world. (4) Living on a tiny island which has become tantamount to a single sprawling metropolis, warranting escape from its shores, ideally on a regular basis, if one is to retain one’s sanity. More than the economic aspect of travelling, sadly, there have been two other things that have tended to keep us away from far-flung places – my life partner’s work schedule, which has often been rigid and unforgiving, thus making it impossible for us to simply drop everything and travel for more than 3 weeks at a time, and being the proud parents to four (five in the past) gorgeous cats and dogs (two of each), which makes it harder to justify the time spent away from home. However, the two of us have tried to make the most of our free time together, and I would say have managed to put together some idyllic, memorable trips. Whilst the accommodation has not been foremost in our minds as we were planning some get-aways, we still succeeded in stumbling upon and booking some decidedly intriguing temporary homes for our explorations, which I am going to detail below.

(1) Glengarry Castle Hotel – set on the shores of the magnificent Loch Oich, nestled in between lochs Ness and Lochy in the Scottish Highlands, this stately country house hotel manages to be both imposing and cosy at the same time. If it is the romance of the Highlands scenery and the secluded feeling of being lost in the middle of verdant woods that you are after, Glengarry certainly has you covered. You can explore the woodland, fish for trout and enjoy a sumptuous dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, which boasts international cuisine with Scottish accents, utilising local ingredients such as the famed scallops, different types of game and all manner of fruit and vegetables. Other than the intimate feel to the place despite its overall grandeur (I am not one for ornate furnishings  and overly rich décor), I felt the excitement rising in me as we drew up to the site of the hotel and got our first glimpse of the ruins of Invergarry Castle, in the hotel’s immediate vicinity. The castle’s history is also compelling – although built fairly recently compared to the myriad other structures of the sort dotted around the British Isles – in the seventeenth century according to sources – it is said to have hosted none other than Bonnie Prince Charlie himself, right after the defeat of his army at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Fans of the series “Outlander” would probably picture themselves sharing the once proudly-standing edifice with the MacDonells during these turbulent times. Literature aficionados as well as history buffs can also draw pleasure from the fact that Sir Walter Scott is said to have derived inspiration from Chief MacDonell, to whom this castle belonged, basing one of the primary characters in his novel “Waverley” on the laird himself. For more information, take a look at the hotel’s website and watch this video:-

 

http://www.glengarry.net/hotel.php

(2)  Canela Cave Hotel – Cappadocia in central Turkey is, hands-down, one of the most magical places I have ever been to. With its intriguing fairy chimneys, ancient sites such as the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu and various parks, open-air museums with stunning frescoes and caves to discover, Cappadocia is one of the tourist favourites after Istanbul, and it’s not hard to see why. When my husband and I were doing some research, we decided that we had to try and stay in one of the area’s historic cave hotels. Perhaps it sounds a bit corny, but the idea of experiencing the charms of a troglodytic dwelling really appealed to us. Rather than stay in Goreme, the large town which is one of the region’s mainstays, we chose the nearby village of Cavusin. It was the right thing to do, as you get a sense of how Anatolians live and have always lived in this picturesque little village which appears to be largely untouched by time. Other than tourists such as ourselves traipsing around the caves, you can see farmers and fruit vendors going about their daily chores. Goreme is convenient to be close to; it is the base from where you can get a closer look at those wondrous structures, the chimneys themselves, aside from being a large, vital town boasting some excellent eateries, especially for dinner. And the cave hotel itself? Quite simply, it was a delight. Although it does not precisely emerge from the grottoes as you would imagine a cave hotel to do, the attractive building that houses the accommodation blends in seamlessly with its spectacular surroundings. You can tell that it is hewn out of the same rock, even if it has been designed in the manner of a small Mediterranean villa. With a breakfast terrace that affords astounding views of the ever-present rock clusters and formations and a bedroom that looks like a cross between Aladdin’s cave of marvels and a rustic room with Turkish elements, the Canela Cave Hotel is pretty, evocative and perfectly suited to its environs. The breakfast we were offered was very much in-keeping with traditional Turkish fare – beautiful fresh cucumbers, goat’s cheese, tomatoes, watermelon, mouth-watering savoury pastries and strong fragrant coffee, which was a bit too much for Himself. 🙂 Our hosts, Yarkin Duzkan and Arda Kurcuk, couldn’t have been friendlier and more attentive, which, we were pleased to discover, is typical of wonderful Turkish hospitality. From suggesting activities and recommending restaurants to sharing nargile with us of an evening, they were another facet of a joyous stay in a place which enchanted us in every manner possible. Visit the hotel’s website and watch the video below if you want to know more:-

http://www.canelahotel.com/index.php?page=home

(3) L’Aubergine Rouge – When the first promotional video you encounter for a particular maison d’hote located in the South of France is like a cross between a Quay Brothers film and a sequence from the 2001 hit film Amelie, you know you’re in for a treat! L’Aubergine Rouge is to be found snuggled between the striking houses in the La Roquette area of Arles, itself one of the most captivating towns in Provence. More recently known for being the town where the enfant terrible of the Impressionists, Van Gogh, derived inspiration for some of his best-loved paintings, Arles is also famed for being one of the best-preserved provinces of the Gallo-Roman area. Among its attractions, Arles can be enjoyed for its theatre pertaining to the aforementioned ancient Roman epoch as well as its arena or amphitheatre, necropolis and medieval cloister dedicated to Saint Trophimus. In addition to this, the typical Saturday morning open-air market offers all manner of regional delicacies, as well as an opportunity for bargain-hunters to browse the stalls for interesting knick-knacks and clothing items. In the summer, the town’s bohemian streets are turned into venues for festivals celebrating the arts as well as Arles’s most notorious erstwhile resident, Van Gogh himself. Film and art aficionados will be quick to point out that the bed & breakfast is situated in the neighbourhood where the much anticipated Van Gogh film, starring the extraordinarily talented Willem Defoe and directed by acclaimed scriptwriter and director Julian Schnabel, was shot.  L’Aubergine Rouge is the perfect place to stay if you want to experience Arles’s versatility to the full  – constituting a type of concept accommodation rather than a boutique hotel (referred to as “hotel de charme” in French), it is the brainchild of chef and former lecturer of catering studies Eric Grandin, who also runs a café promoting local produce in a market-style, outdoor setting. The guesthouse consists of three differently-themed rooms, the first of which is “La Vinyle Room”, a large, vibrant space allowing you to step back in time and put your dancing shoes on as you wallow in the comfort of the cosy furnishings.  Poppy, scarlet and vermilion greet you in different corners of your accommodation, as the red tones of the bed and breakfast’s eponymous fruit vegetable, the aubergine, are recalled. Vintage touches are scattered all around the room, and you can entertain yourself with a selection of long plays on the solid record-player reflecting your host’s eclectic taste in music – flamenco, pop, rock, disco or classical music – take your pick. Next up is, naturally, “Van Gogh’s Room” – what else? Admirers of the volatile painter will immediately recognise which scene the room has been modelled on – none other than the artist’s “Bedroom in Arles”, of course. Decorated down to the slightest, most minimal feature in a manner in which you are transported back to late nineteenth-century lodging, this room is a wonder in recreating the spirit of a bygone era. Finally, the largest room available is “La Suite Celeste”. Suitable for two, three or four people and located on the second floor, this accommodation is a wonderfully laid-out exercise in light, airiness and space, with soft, elegant furnishings. Eschewing the bright hues of the other rooms, it embraces the luminosity of its natural light, which is reflected in the paler, more neutral colours. The Celeste Suite also possesses its own kitchenette and little private terrace, where guests can enjoy the tranquillity of the environment in which the guesthouse is located, and their own privacy. As far as food goes, you can choose to breakfast at the guesthouse, which is highly recommended. Eric’s years of experience as a skilled chef shine through in his lovingly crafted dishes, which range from regional specialties hailing from different areas of France to Ayurvedic and vegetarian cuisine. You will fall in love with this unusual homage to all things Van Gogh, vintage and just plain sassy. Highly recommended for lovers of quirkiness! Plunge into L’Aubergine Rouge’s unique world via the following links:-

http://www.lauberginerouge.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cafelejour/

(4) Puro Hotel – Gdansk is one of the many destinations within Central Europe benefiting from a boom in its tourism industry. Together with Sopot and Gdynia, it forms a trio of attractive Baltic seaside resorts in the north of Poland which have always drawn visitors due to their unspoilt nature. The Old Town in Gdansk, exactly outside of which this hotel is located, has a magnetic appeal in that it effortlessly manages to combine old-world charm with innovative ideas in dining and retail. A few days spent in Gdansk give travellers the opportunity to explore its often turbulent history, from its rise in importance as a trade centre in the Middle Ages, which period unfortunately also registered a massacre of the local population by the Teutonic Knights, to its long-forged ties with Prussia. Aside from this, the town permits visitors to admire its grandiose Hanseatic architecture, discover museums dedicated to ancient art, amber, the Second World War and of course the European Solidarity Centre, documenting the struggle of the workers against Soviet oppression in the 1970s and 80s, led by local hero Lech Walesa. If the exquisitely crafted amber and silver pieces take your fancy, you can help yourself to a couple, although be warned that the more intricate creations carry a rather hefty price tag! If you’re somewhat strapped for cash, though, it is enough to wander through the narrow streets exhibiting these and other curious wares, and take in the beauty on display. A visit during the latter half of November and December will guarantee a more special kind of atmosphere, with the Christmas market and the promise of snow! In terms of where we stayed, although I wouldn’t normally include a chain hotel, the Puro Hotel in Gdansk was particularly impressive as far as lodging of this ilk goes in that you get so much for your money. The hotel has been designed in such a manner that artistic considerations seem to have been given the same weight as comfort. Taking their cue from urban spaces around various different cities, the London-based interior design studio DeSalles Flint have created a unique look for the hotel that is exciting and contemporary, but still replete with warmth and cosiness. The interior design company’s prerogative has clearly been to weave Polish-Baltic touches into this sea of stylishness, utilising local materials or those reminiscent of a distinctive Northern Polish culture and style. It is truly an exquisitely-crafted meeting point for Nordic chic and Polish snugness.  The restaurant has also benefited from this invigorating amalgamation of influences, basing its menu around sea flesh, poultry and pork, which have been treated with various cooking styles and matched with a variety of ingredients so as to satisfy visitors curious about the local cuisine and discerning local diners alike. Our room was remarkable for its sheer size (a complaint I often have about standard hotel rooms is their lack of space – I’m a tall girl and I usually carry a substantial suitcase!!) and tasteful décor, besides being warm and comfortable. The bathroom also does not disappoint, being spacious, with a choice of every amenity that a hotel guest could wish for. The bar downstairs itself is noteworthy for its delicate, innovative cocktails and its satisfyingly vast selection of spirits. Again, a place located right in the centre of town is not usually a requirement that my husband and I posit, being that we normally like to stay a little further afield, since this gives us the chance to explore a city thoroughly, but the Puro Hotel’s position is ideal for weekend breaks, situated just outside the Old Town as it is. Even if the script on the video below is in Norwegian, you can still see why we fell in love with this hotel:-

For further details, take a look at the following link:-

https://purohotel.pl/en/gdansk

(5) Bed & Breakfast Sant’ Erasmo – Just a short jaunt from the hub of cosmopolitan sophistication that is Milan lies the alpine city of Bergamo. Thanks to its connections to other, busier environments in Lombardy via the motorway, and in no small part to a flight operated by low-cost giants Ryanair, Bergamo is very widely visited by domestic and foreign tourists alike. Travellers on a shoestring budget may elect to stay downtown, which is pleasant enough as far as Northern Italian locations go, but the real draw is in the old fortified Upper City, or Bergamo Alta, as it is referred to. From early Celtic settlements in the pre-Roman era to its days as part of the Republic of Venice, a short-lived stint as a section of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and finally a segment of unified Italy in the nineteenth century, Bergamo’s history is rich and illustrious. It is brimming with dazzling palazzi, chapels and basilicas from the Renaissance and baroque periods, as well as being lined with quaint boutiques selling typical bergamaschi delicacies such as “casoncelli”, fresh pastry cases stuffed with beef or pork and “polenta osei”, an early twentieth-century innovation on savoury snacks made out of that northern Italian staple, polenta, itself a kind of paste made out of cornmeal flour (but mixed with buckwheat flour in this region). The sweet versions contain sponge cake, chocolate, butter, hazelnuts and cream. The sponge cake is also covered with yellow marzipan and dusted with crystals of yellow sugar. Is your mouth watering yet? Bed & Breakfast Sant’ Erasmo is placed just a short walk away from the historical town centre, in a tiny alley leading to the walls of town. The two words that came to mind at first glance of this comely property are “romance” (in the populistic sense of the word, not in the context of writing or medieval concepts) and “serenity”. The furnishings are soft and pristine, very much in the contemporary rustic/ shabby chic style, which accentuates the tranquil and natural surroundings of the property. The centrepieces of the bedroom are the wonderful nineteenth-century iron beds. The room is uncluttered and allows a few key pieces to shine through and – again – not draw attention away from the greatest attraction, which is actually on the exterior. In fact, the garden overlooking the breath-taking panorama of the historic centre is the star of this accommodation. Perched on a chair, enjoying your typical Italian breakfast of coffee and croissants or crusty sweetened bread with Nutella, you can take in the sight of the gorgeous terraced hills, the almost edible-looking poplar trees swaying in the gentle breeze. You can gaze at the mustard-coloured houses typical of northern Italy and watch people treading the pretty cobblestone streets or going about their constitutionals  and jogs. More than anything else, you can allow your imagination to wander and transport you to centuries past, and picture merchants selling their wares in the winding streets during the epoch when Bergamo formed part of the Republic of Venice, or perhaps Napoleonic troops trudging up to the fortified city, ready to capture the town, loot its coffers and ravish its women. Wherever your flights of fancy take you, Bergamo is certainly worth a visit, and this bed and breakfast is probably one of the best places to stay for its vantage point. It is also worth pointing out that the jovial host offers guests an airport transfer service for a very reasonable additional fee.

If you want to take a closer look, check the links seen hereunder:-

http://www.bbsanterasmo.it/?lang=en

 

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