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Stunning heritage haweli located in the quietest of Varanasi's Ghats. The place just oozes character and it's often frequented by visiting writers, poets and artists. Rooms and public areas are tastefully decorated with a mix of antique and reproduction furnishings, art works and sculptures. If you're looking for five star comforts, being waited on hand-and-foot then this isn't for you. If you savour an authentic experience with slightly eccentric service, then you'll love the place to bits. Room 19 has the best views and is the most flamboyantly decorated of them all. Rooms 17-19 on the second floor feel the most private; also recommended are rooms 15 & 16 on the first floor. All of these have semi-private verandahs. Bathrooms are basic but clean. Vegetarian dinners are served nightly at 8pm in a splendid dining room. Very reasonably priced and gets booked up.
The spiritual centre of Varanasi are these steps leading down from temples and palaces to the River Ganges, where you'll experience everything from pilgrims washing away their sins in the river and people washing clothes (though given the level of pollution in the river, it's hard to tell whether they come out cleaner) through to cremations. Now on this latter point I feel a bit queasy: not that devout Hindus choose to burn their loved ones on great pires in front of the river and then scatter the ashes in it; it's the boat loads of tourists who go by taking pictures of funerals which I can't quite fathom. I mean, how would you feel if a coach load of Indians turned up at a crematorium and started taking snaps while you were bidding farewell to a member of your family?
There are around 80 ghats in all, occupying. Assi Ghat, at the southernmost end of the riverside marks the spot where the Ganges and Assi rivers meet - it's also one of the calmer spots in this stretch. As the saying goes, in some parts of India you'll see all of life in just a few minutes: nowhere is that truer than at the Ghats.
For a truly unforgettable experience, take a stroll along the Ghats in the late afternoon and then at sundown, experience the ceremony of 'Aarti' when Hindu priests light fires in praise of the sacred and revered river.
Well worth a detour to this countryside mill-cum-restaurant, a short drive from the city centre in between Dubrovnik airport and the road to Montenegro. Excellent river fish and hearty meat dishes served up in rural surroundings which are charming and, in warmer months, offer some respite from the heat under the natural canopy of the forest. Full of character.
The Nepalese capital back in the 15th Century and to the present day home to some of the most stunning temples and monuments of the period. The old city is easily to navigate on foot - bear in mind that if you're not a national of an SAR country, you'll be asked to pay a US $15 entry fee to help pay for the preservation of the city. The main sites - including the five storey pagoda of the Nyatapola Temple - can be enjoyed in half to a full day. Plenty of places to stop for something to eat or drink too. What's particularly lovely is that rather than just being mothballed for sightseers, it's still a living city - though be careful of those motorbikes haring through the streets!
The only high-end place to say in the tiny village of Nagarkot, which enjoys quite the most splendid views of the majestic Himalayas. The in-house restaurant offers a decent range of dishes a la carte and there's a twice-daily fixed-price buffet; oddly Nepalese cuisine barely features. There's an indoor pool which is puportedly heated but I found to be quite invigorating. There are also daily yoga and meditation classes, which are free for hotel guests. Service ranges from fantastic to unremarkable, largely depending on whether the managers are on duty. I loved the bar here: a design theme which is 1960s alpine retreat meets 1970s Geneva nightclub - the centrepiece fireplace and copper chimney is a great place to warm up over a glass of wine on a chilly evening. Try and book one of the refurbished rooms on the fourth or fifth floor of block B, or failing that head up to the rootop terrace of the same building for the best views. About an hour's drive from Kathmandu International Airport.
The antidote to bling that's the norm in the region. A hotel manages to achieve style, comfort, reasonable prices and - best of all - social responsibility (it claims to donate all of its profits to local charities. My stay here was just a pitstop during a brief visit to Doha but I was thoroughly impressed. Look out for some seriously discounted rates through the usual aggregators - I got an excellent standard of room here for about USD $100 / night.
Just an hour's drive from Kathmandu International Airport and a world away from the chaos of the Nepalese capital. One of several key vantage points for enjoying sweeping views of the majestic Himalayas - on a clear day you can see the peak of Mt. Everest too. In recent years the village has developed around tourism, with plenty of cheap and cheerful places to stay, as well as Club Himalaya - the only luxury option in town. Many come here for the trekking. On a clear day (best time to visit, incidentally is January) the sunrises and sunsets are absolutely spectacular.
Two tips: 1) If travelling here from Kathmandu International Airport, avoid the pre-paid taxi counters in the arrivals hall which will want to charge you an enhanced rate just for tourists; grab a cab from one of the touts outside for NPR 2,000-2,500. 2) For the return journey, ask around in the village and you should find someone willing to take you for around NPR 2,000-2,200. Try and bargain on stopping off at Bhaktapur on the way back - factoring in around NPR 400 for each hour of waiting time.
Many cities vie for the title of the oldest inhabited city on Earth - Damascus among them - but people, prepare for a place which will just blow your mind. Welcome to the wheel of life, done only as the extremities of India can do. You'll either be immediately captivated or loathe the place at first sight. I fell in love with it, for words I can't even begin to describe.
Here's a nice touch for anyone booked to stay in the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Amman. If you book the 'meet and greet' service you'll be escorted through (sometimes chaotic) immigration facilities and then taken to relax in a private lounge in the arrivals hall, reserved for hotel guests, while a porter waits at the carousel for your luggage. If you're an unconfident traveller or travelling with an elderly relative who might feel overwhelmed, then this service is highly recommended.
Following its merger with Brazilian carrier TAM, Chile's LAN is giving its lounges a refresh - this is the first of three in South America (with Miami also planned) to get the design makeover. There look nods towards 1960s air travel glamour - when Pan Am was arguably at its peak - with lots of sophisticated dark tones mixed with neutral colours. Bathrooms (each with showers, if you need to freshen up before your flight) are in contemporary monochrome and spotless. A really welcome update to this carrier's lounges.
Think a slightly cutesy, more Californian take on Dean & Deluca - with prices to match - but a very welcome alternative to the norm of airport eateries which dollop up poorly conceived and usually equally unrewarding, overpriced meals. NFM is high concept and high prices but is performing an admirable job in raising the bar for all airport outlets. I hope they thrive. NB there's a T3 outlet coming soon, at time of posting.
The embodiment of 'Baywatch' minus the Hoff. Ocean front real estate here is much in demand by those with a few million dollars to spare. At weekends the promenade and beach are teeming with affluent families at play, with plenty of opportunities for decent places to eat nearby. Just remember to have your teeth bleached if you want to look like a local.
Affordable, accommodation and London are seldom used in the same sentence. So here's the exception. The location is fantastic: walking distance to St Pancras International and Kings Cross stations - so very handy if you have an early start or late return on the Eurostar. For culture vultures the British Museum is also nearby, with the bars, shops and restaurants of Soho and Covent Garden within 15 minutes walk. All the rooms come with basic self-catering facilities: a fridge and a microwave, which is great if you want to save on restaurant bills. Be aware that at the cheapest end of the scale, the rooms are really tiny: you'll likely have to climb over the bed to get from one side of the room to the other. Try booking one of the larger studios with a patio or balcony.
For those who like their hotel to be a bit more un-hotel, this newer arrival on the WeHo scene is worth thinking about. Though there are other apart-hotel options in the area, this one comes without the kind of nightmare duvet covers you wish Martha Stewart had been wrapped up in when she was incarcerated. Quite a Soho House kinda viba and a good fit for LA, let alone WeHo. Not cheap, but not outrageous either.
I stumbled across this place during my last visit to Athens. Having eaten out in many of the city's more touristy restaurants, I began with low expectations and was very pleasantly surprised. The location - a short stroll from Syntagma Square - is great for where I usually stay. The main dining room, with its checker board design floor, is usually packed throughout the day and evening, with much of the original 1930s charm of when the place first opened remaining to this day. The food isn't exceptional but hearty, served in generous portions and terrific value. Budget on spending around EUR 12-15 for two courses + wine. Cheerful service.
What an interesting mix of a place this is, not least stylistically. In an attempt to corner the market for all budgets, there's a wide range of room and suite types - and even a couple of cottages, if you prefer to do your own thing. Eclectic is perhaps the best word to describe the range of options. The grounds offer superb views of Lake Ullswater, with the property occupying a quarter mile stretch of the shore. While the original building dates back to the 18th Century, the place has been operating as a hotel since the 1940s. Still, a good base for a couple of nights for exploring the outstanding natural beauty of the national park.