Many restaurants in Barbados operate a strict dress code so make sure you pack
a collared shirt, lightweight trousers and closed shoes.
We took a Silversea cruise (0844 251 0837; www.silversea.com)
on the Silver Wind from Tower Bridge to Barbados. The ship is small –
just 296 passengers and 212 crew – so no queues, no formalities and
attentive personal service. The free bar means no receipts to sign and no
tipping – it’s a great feeling to put your wallet away for the holiday.
Other things we really like are no fixed meal times and totally free
seating. The food is tremendous.
The best meal we had in Barbados was at The Cliff (www.thecliffbarbados.com),
a spectacular theatrical event with flaming torches and breathtaking views
of the floodlit cove and sea. It’s not cheap though – about £80 a head
We went with First Choice (0871 200 7799; www.firstchoice.co.uk)
and stayed in the Royal Decameron Club (www.decameron.com),
an all-inclusive resort in Runaway Bay close to Ochos Rios. The town of
Runaway Bay had little to do but the hotel complex satisfied all our needs.
Instead of a regular hotel room or apartment, we found we were staying in a
mini-cottage, located among the well-tended gardens of the resort, which was
dotted with hammocks, shaded with mango trees.
The resort was not too large so it was easy to find your way to the three
restaurants and two bars. There was also great access to a variety of
watersports, such as snorkelling, sailing waterskiing, the sea trampoline,
scuba diving or you could take a trip on the glass-bottomed boat, where you
could see the colourful fish and coral.
We also explored the island by taking advantage of the many tours on offer.
They were expensive, but we recommend them: among the highlights were the
village of Nine Miles, home to a museum dedicated to rerggae star Bob Marley
museum; Dunes River Falls; and definitely going “tubing” in a
We had a lovely time in Chicago this year, cycling the lakeshore path,
visiting the museums – go to the science museum (www.msichicago.org)
– shopping the Magnificent Mile, eating great Asian and American food,
watching the skyline from a boat on Lake Michigan and posing for pictures at
the Cloud Gate. We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton (001 312 981 6600; www.fourpointschicago.com).
The staff are nice but ineffective and the service was average, but the room
was spacious and the location central.
Low point: Avoid the Shedd Aquarium, which is fantastically overrated.
Wyoming and Colorado
We love road trips in America. Our latest was to see Yellowstone National Park
and beyond. The highlight was Grand Teton National Park, with its beautiful
mountains and Jackson Lake shimmering in the sunshine.
Take the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake and climb through Cascade Canyon or
join a guided, raft trip down the Snake River, which gives a different view.
We stayed five nights in Yellowstone National Park (001 866 256; www.usparklodging.com),
two at Mammoth Hot Springs (877 751 8747; www.yellowstoneparknet.com)
and three at Old Faithful (www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com).
One night at Old Faithful, though, would have been sufficient; we found it
commercialised and expensive. We only had two nights in Grand Teton, but I
could have stayed for a week.
The best (and most expensive) accommodation was Signal Mountain Lodge (www.signalmountainlodge.com)
on the edge of Jackson Lake. We had an “Upper Lakeside Retreat”. It was
extremely comfortable, spacious, well equipped and had magnificent views
from the sitting room and balcony.
Elsewhere, Buffalo was delightful. We stayed at The Blue Gables Motel (307 684
2574; www.bluegables.com) in a
lovely little cabin and the owners lit a campfire every night to which all
guests were invited; marshmallows optional.
Boulder, Colorado, was also buzzing. It is a very different American town
where people walk everywhere. It has the interesting National Center for
Atmospheric Research (www.ncar.ucar.edu),
open-air public swimming pool and a pedestrianised town centre full of
wonderful shops and restaurants.
We also had the best meal of the trip at an Asian restaurant called Moongate
(720 406 80302; www.moongateasianbistro.com),
which serves a mix of Thai and Chinese food.
Low point: The Old Faithful Geyser experience is overrated and although
it was interesting to see the other geysers and hot springs, it was very
The worst (and cheapest) accommodation was a Travelodge in downtown Laramie.
The room smelt of cheap aftershave and the bathroom was tired. Driving the
hundreds of miles across Wyoming should not to be undertaken unless
necessary. Put it this way: even McDonald’s was a treat.
Coast to coast
On our trip across the US, the best place to stay was the Del Marcos in Palm
Springs (001 760 325 6902; www.delmarcoshotel.com).
A boutique hotel, designed in 1947 by William Cody and now fully restored,
it’s friendly and reasonably priced, too.
The best restaurant was Shibuya at the MGM Grand Las Vegas (702 891 3001; www.mgmgrand.com)
– it surpasses Nobu and comes in at around half the cost.
I’d recommend a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas (702 233
It costs about £300 per person, which may seem steep but you get a 90-minute
helicopter ride over the desert, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Canyon.
An unforgettable experience.
Low point: Our advice would be not to bother with Sea World in San
Diego. While the animal shows are impressive, the park itself is starting to
look very tired. You are herded into fast-food joints as the only, and
frankly revolting, places to eat. Worse, though, is that once you have seen
the animals goaded into doing more and more ludicrous things you start to
wonder whether they wouldn’t be much better off in their natural habitat.
The Beehive restaurant in Boston was disappointing. It was lauded in our
guidebook as a bastion of cool fun and good food, but we found ourselves crammed
onto a tiny, wobbly table and fed only passable food too slowly – and then
charged steeply for the pleasure.
Easter Island and Chile
We had a few days in Santiago before flying to Easter Island for cultural
interest and relaxation. Easter Island statues are just like the photographs
and lived up to all expectation; and swimming on the South Sea Island beach
looking back at the row of stone giants was surreal.
Coordinate your trip to Easter Island to coincide with the Tapati annual
festival (Jan-Feb) which celebrates the culture of the island with parades
and concerts culminating in Polynesian music and wonderful dancing.
We also took the Navimag ferry (www.navimag.com)
from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, which takes about three days and nights
and sails through some spectacular scenery. I’d certainly recommend staying
at the Hosteria Pehoe in the Torres del Paine national park (www.visitchile.com);
it cannot be beaten for its position in the middle of a small island and the
views of the mountain peaks are stupendous.
It’s worth booking the whole trip through Journey Latin America (020 8622
and let them book specific flights. It costs the same and they can help you
if there are problems or you need to change the schedule.
We knew exactly what we wanted for a trip to Orlando and found all the
elements separately on the internet – the charter flights into Sanford
airport, the airport transfers and the hotel, the Best Western Lakeside in
Kissimmee (001 407 396 2222; www.bestwestern-maingate.com).
We were going to take in Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando and ordered “Magic
Your Way” tickets from the US through Undercover Tourist (0800 081
We were also able to take advantage of a special offer from Travel Republic
(020 8974 7200; www.travelrepublic.co.uk).
The Best Western Lakeside feels spacious and quiet. The low-rise buildings
surround a pleasant pool with gardens and mini golf, and there are on-site
restaurants and a deli. The free bus service to the major theme parks, with
friendly helpful drivers, means car hire is unnecessary. You can stock up
the in-room fridge with food and drinks bought from the nearby supermarket,
or eat at one of the many excellent restaurants within 10 minutes’ walk.
Food in the parks, on the whole, is limited to the burger/fries/pizza variety,
but there are good restaurants if you are prepared to pay (and book). We
liked Boma (407 939 3862; www.disneyworld.disney.go.com),
the African-themed buffet restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, where
the food was interesting, varied and delicious. I also recommend the Golden
Corral, a chain of all-you-can-eat buffets with a huge choice at bargain
I’d recommend staying at the Flamingo (001 877 674 5718; www.flamingolasvegas.com),
which has a great location. Restaurant.com saved us a lot of money and we
had one of our best meals at Mon Ami Gabi (702 944 4224; www.monamigabi.com),
but don’t forget Stripburger (www.lasvegasstripburger.com),
with its tall burgers and crazy cocktails, right on the Strip.
Scoot City Tours (702 699 5700; www.scootcitytours.com)
offered a great tour to the Grand Canyon: a really fun experience, with
great people and some of the best scenery in the world.
Our RV trip through New England began at Boston’s Hilton Hotel (001 617 236
from where we took in the delights of this vibrant city.
A two and a half hour guided cycle tour gave us more than a tourist’s view of
the city’s sights and a walk along the well-marked “Freedom Trail”
provides a fascinating insight into Boston’s history. The one “must”
is a whale-watching tour on a high-speed catamaran.
The city is famous for its seafood and any number of restaurants and food
outlets can be found, from the stalls in Quincy market to the excellent
burgers at the Cheers bar (www.cheersboston.com)
or the excellent Red House in Cambridge (617 576 0605; www.theredhouse.com).
The RV was organised through Complete North America (0845 263 7100; www.completenorthamerica.com)
– it was our first time driving an RV and it was awesome. We deliberately
chose campsites for their lack of facilities and “backwoods”
descriptions. We were not disappointed; we were disturbed at breakfast by
nothing more than red squirrels and chipmunks. BBQs over the campfire at
night completed the idyllic image.
A lovely trip on the Andean Explorer Train (www.perurail.com
or www.seat61.com) took
us to Lake Titicaca, where we visited the floating Uros Islands and met
local people in their homes. But we all felt that the day trip by boat on
the lake was too long and the morning’s visit to Uros would have been
sufficient, and given us time to explore the countryside around the lake
edge. And if we’d realised that Arequipa is such a lovely place we would
have spent a few days extra at the end of the organised trip there instead
of in Lima.
US West Coast
On a tour to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the Charlton Hotel in
San Francisco (001 510 986 8049; www.jdvhotels.com)
was definitely my favourite hotel: the employees were always willing to
help, and the location was within walking distance of most attractions.
On a sunny day I would suggest a walk along Baker beach, adjacent to the
Golden Gate Bridge. Elsewhere in San Francisco, I would recommend a trip to
Fisherman’s Wharf and Wines of California Wine Bar on Pier 39 (www.winesofca.com),
where you can choose from a selection of three different wines from $10.
On the first day in Vegas I’d recommend getting up early to go to the “Tix
for Tonight” stands. Half-price show tickets are available, along with
discounts on dining and buffets. To make the most of Vegas make sure you buy
a 24-hour bus ticket ($7). All the hotels appear excellent along the Strip,
but my favourite was Caesar’s Palace (www.caesarspalace.com).
It was as extravagant as you would expect and non-hotel guests can swim in
the pool. We left wanting more, so I would suggest a lengthier stop.
Low point: We also stayed in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas and had
to stand in the hall for an hour while our room was cleaned, which took the
shine off our first day and next time we’d find a hotel more centrally
located on the Strip.
I have to admit I was extremely disappointed with LA. I felt I had connected
with San Francisco and Vegas, but found this harder with LA. Certain areas
felt vacant and uncared for and its sheer size meant commutes were long and
tiring. The one thing I really loved, though, was Universal Studios.
The first part of my trip to Alberta was spent a the Chateau Lake Louise (001
403 522 4413; www.fairmont.com),
situated in Banff National Park. The resort stands about 2½ miles from the
tiny hamlet that is Lake Louise and isn’t visible until you turn the very
last corner on the ascent to the hotel, after which I just stared in
amazement at the chateau-style building by the lake with its bright
turquoise waters and surrounding glaciers. During our stay we organised
canoeing trips on the lake, walking and hiking and visits to nearby
waterfalls such as Johnston Canyon and Takakkaw.
In Calgary I went to the Stampede (www.calgarystampede.com),
an annual rodeo and festival that has been held every year since 1912 and
where a plaid shirt, jeans and a cowboy hat is a must if you want to join in
the stampede experience. Imagine a colossal funfair, so big there is a ski
lift contraption to take you from one of the venues to the next.