Hot destination – Bradenton & Anna Maria Island, Florida

One of my suppliers is featuring these resorts on the Gulf Coast of Florida this month.  Great area – very laid back.  2 hours drive from Orlando and under an hour from Tampa International Airport and Busch Gardens.

Anna Maria Island earned a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award as one of the Top Ten Islands in the United States. Downtown Bradenton’s Riverwalk received a 1st place award as the top cultural, sports and recreation project by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Commission. Plus six of our beaches now have the prestigious “Blue Wave Certification” from the Clean Beach Coalition. With easy access to three international airports, we’re close to all the major attractions, yet far from the crowds.

Horse Surfing
The Bradenton Area continues to receive nationwide media attention for horse surfing experiences along Palma Sola Bay. Tagged by many as the World Capital of Horse Surfing, we are home to the only horseback riding stable in the State of Florida that offers horseback riding on the sand and swimming with horses.
“The Greenest Little Mainstreet in America”

Florida’s first LEED Platinum and Net Zero Energy Retail Park 

On the quaint island of Anna Maria, history is being made with the first platinum LEED and Zero Net Energy Commercial Park. A collection of Historic 1920’s bungalows have been retrofitted into boutique shops and cafes with a green twist. The historical relics are completely powered by solar energy and geothermics.
Village of the Arts

If you’re an art lover, Bradenton is the place to visit! A national arts magazine has listed Bradenton as one of the nation’s top 10 small cities for art. The June 2012 issue of “American Style,” a lifestyle magazine that focuses on art, artists and galleries, ranked Bradenton as tenth in its nationwide poll of the public arts and cultural amenities in small cities.
Bradenton Riverwalk

As Downtown Bradenton’s showpiece, the riverwalk serves as an outdoor gathering place and host for many diverse events and activities. The stretch is a mile and a half and is one of the longest public Riverwalks in Florida. Running alongside the Manatee River, the Riverwalk includes a Family Fun Zone with a splash fountain and playgrounds, a great lawn for picnics, kayak launch, a day dock for boaters, a botanical walk and the 400-seat Mosaic Amphitheater.
Eco Tourism and Agritourism

When our visitors need a break from the sun and sand, there are several agri-tourism treasures for them to explore, offering entertainment and education for curious minds of all ages. All they need to do is head inland. Here are just a few of the many great places to start:

  • The Bradenton Area boasts not one, but two world-class wineries:
  • Bunker Hill Winery- is a “GREEN” Environmentally Responsible Winery and offers complimentary tours and tastings of their handcrafted wines.
  • Rosa Fiorelli Winery- has a 10-acre Muscadine vineyard and their wines have won more than 100 awards. Tours include your choice of an authentic Italian lunch and wine in a complimentary souvenir glass to take home.
  • Dakin Dairy Farms – A visit to Dakin Dairy Farm is not only fun; it’s good for you! The farm is one of only three dairy farms left in the Bradenton Area.
  • Mixon Fruit Farms- has always been famous for its plump, juicy citrus, its gift shop and Groveside Café. But now, visitors can take a ride on the Orange Blossom Express through the groves past the Children’s Magical Maze and Wildlife Rescue, where the family will delight in an interactive show with rescued Florida animals, reptiles and birds. Our favorite thing about Mixons … their homemade orange swirl ice cream!
  • Robinson Nature Preserve – Robinson Nature Preserve in Bradenton is an exquisite nature preserve that is a popular destination for wildlife photography and bird watching, Tucked into the corner of northwest Bradenton, it includes 487 acres of coastal saltern, marsh, and mangrove habitat.
  • Turtle Watch Tours – In the Bradenton Area, the beaches are shared with Florida’s abundant wildlife and families visiting from May through November can experience “turtle nesting season”.

Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key

Plus some of the best beaches and sunsets you’ll ever see!

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Want to find out more?  Just call Olein on 01252 519669 or email olein@diamondtravel.ltd.uk for more information and prices.

Diamond Travel, agency ref S0466.  We act as The Global Travel Group Ltd in connection with the sale of travel products.  Unless specified as the operator, The Global Travel Group Ltd is the agent of ATOL Protected Tour Operators and other principals.

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Next stage of the big road trip

Day five and six. Went straight into St Louis via a bakery for breakfast. Were parked by the Arch by 9.30, so we thought we’d see if there was any chance of getting up the arch in a decent interval. Good news was that we could do it straightaway, bad news that Sharon couldn’t go. We soon found why when we saw how to reach the top! The pods take 5 people and look like something out of a sci-fi movie! Fantastic views from the top made up for the claustrophobia and we got to know the others in our pods very well in the 4 minutes up and 3 minutes down again! Then drove to Springfield Missouri for our overnight stay. We stayed in a R66 landmark building, which was very 50s and fun! Off to Tulsa in the morning, not so much to see on the journey apart from the heavy rainstorms. So heavy that we had to stop in a local diner in Carthage for a mid-morning snack. Locals friendly as always everywhere. Tulsa big and full of roadworks seemingly. Chinese buffet dinner tonight. Getting energy ready for long road trip tomorrow

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Romance from Diamond Travel

Not long now until Valentine’s Day so now’s the time to think about romance.  Whether it’s a day out, a weekend or longer, Diamond Travel can help you with some ideas.

 A day of romance

  • London Eye plus dinner – 3 course dinner in a Covent Garden restaurant followed by a trip on the London Eye for some breathtaking evening views – from just £40 per person
  • Notting Hill Movie Tour – spend a couple of hours revisiting the locations used in the romantic comedy – just £8 per person
  • The Bodyguard – seats to see the show, from £60 per person
  • Champagne Afternoon Tea at Harrods – £38 per person

 

A weekend of love

Some cities are renowned as romantic destinations.  Paris, Rome and Venice are always popular.  However, you can pop down to Cape Town for a long weekend and at this time of year, the weather is loads better than in the UK!  Closer to home, Bruges is a compact town in Belgium, with canals, medieval buildings and chocolate.  Alternatively, Budapest has museums, spas and the River Danube – beautiful city to explore.

 

 More time?

If you can manage a longer break, you could try;

  • The Caribbean – stay at an adults only, all-inclusive hotel where you could enjoy a candlelit dinner on the beach.
  • A hot air balloon ride over the Nile or Masai Mara
  • Learn to samba in Rio or tango in Buenos Aires
  • Las Vegas – renew your wedding vows with Elvis!
  • My ultimate destination however for romance has to be a SouthPacificIsland.  Cruise through the seas around Tahiti and French Polynesia.

Wherever you choose to spend time with the one you love, just call Olein at Diamond Travel.  I’ll make you both sparkle!

All prices quoted subject to availability at the time of booking.  Diamond Travel, agency S0466, acts as The Global Travel Group plc in connection with the sale of travel products.  Unless specified as the operator, The Global Travel Group plc is the agent of ATOL Protected Tour Operators and other principals.

Cuba, Cuba!!

Some destinations have always seemed exotic to me! Cubais one of them – isolated for so many years, but somewhere that you seem to know through literature.  I’ve read Hemingway and Graham Greene, so it was somewhere that I had on my list of ‘places to go’.  Last year, we did just that.  Celebrating our Silver Wedding Anniversary was a good excuse to splash out.

 It was certainly an experience we’ll all remember, for the best of reasons.  We flew with Thomson into Holguinand spent the first night at the Playa Pesquero.  Lovely hotel complex, shame we didn’t have the time or energy to explore it for longer!  After a couple of mojitos and dinner, we were ready for bed.  As we were on a twin centre holiday, the next day a group of us were then bussed back toHolguin– quite a drive from the hotel.  Our first experience ofCubathen started – the guide wasn’t sure how long the flight was?  “Maybe 30 minutes?”  The flight was a local airline and very casual, but after an hour in the air, we were wondering where we were headed.  Anyway eventually we landed in Havana– but not the international airport, but the local airport, with guards along the perimeter fence.  We were the only plane there and the luggage carousel was great.

 ImageThis could be a very long post – so I’ll split it over several posts.  More to follow!

The Hot European holiday destination for 2011

The hot destination for this summer is Portugal for all the right reasons!  Read on….

Even though we’re suffering through a recession and financial difficulties, there’s no reason to not have a holiday this year.  The Post Office have very handily just published their price comparisons for cities and holiday resorts – http://www2.postoffice.co.uk/travel/travel-extras/travellers-checklist/travel-tips

So what does all this mean for the traveller?  Does it mean that Riga and Prague are going to overloaded with British tourists looking for a cheap city break – well, they already are magnets for stag parties looking for cheap beer over the weekends.  A bottle of lager in Prague will cost you around £1.78 but Riga (shown as the cheapest city overall) will charge you £2.78 for a bottle.  Better bet is to go to Lisbon where the beer is cheap at £1.42 for a bottle plus you get more sunshine!

In fact, Portugal is coming out as a very good bet for summer sunshine on the cheap this year.  Cheaper than Turkey and Egypt which are countries often promoted as cheap destinations.

So what else has Portugal got that the rest of Europe hasn’t – apart from cheap beer?!

It’s an easy-going destination, packed with historic interest, breathtaking scenery and world class sports and leisure facilities.

Most UK tourists flock to the Algarve but there’s lots more to Portugal than these fantastic beaches and golf courses!  Let’s start at the top – the north of the country is green with beautiful countryside.  Try a river cruise along the Douro – fly into Oporto (Portugal’s second largest city) and join a 7 day cruise, exploring the region of Port Wine and taste wine in the traditional cellars.

Moving south, the Central Region also has stunning countryside, great to explore by car.   Also has the country’s highest mountain range, Roman remains and a Geopark (find out more here – http://www.naturtejo.com/conteudos/en/home.php)

Lisbon is a fascinating city, known as the white city thanks to its unique light.    Julius Caesar established a municipium there a couple of thousand years ago, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe.  The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon. The city became the European hub of commerce with Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploring riches like spices, slaves, sugar, textiles, and other goods.  It was the starting point for so many explorers over the centuries.  Combine a city break in Lisbon with a beach holiday just along the coast on the Estoril Coast.

The Alentejo region is full of history and again perfect for exploring by car.  For example, Beja – is the capital of Baixo Alentejo (lower Alentejo), and is a major centre for the production of wheat, olives and cork. Beja’s old town is an area of narrow, cobbled streets stretching southeast from the castle keep to the 13th century convent of São Francisco – now a superb pousada.

So the final destination on mainland Portugal is the Algarve, beloved by British tourists for years.  A wide variety of beaches – some good for water sports, some good for family fun, some hidden and some hugely popular.  Don’t forget to explore Faro – its more than just the airport!

Whatever your reasons for exploring Portugal, Diamond Travel can help with the planning and preparation – making sure you have the best holiday ever.  Contact us now to book your next escape.

PS – did you know we can book all kinds of travel – by air, rail and sea!

Diamond Travel act as The Global Travel Group Ltd in connection with the sale of travel products. Unless specified as the operator, The Global Travel Group Ltd is the agent of ATOL Protected Tour Operators and other principals.

Thanks to the Portugal Tourist Board and Wikipedia for information above.

Great hotels

Some great hotels on the latest Tripadvisor lists. They’ve got them in different lists – such as Bargain, Family, Luxury, Romance etc. These kind of lists really help me suggest hotels to clients. There are thousands upon thousands of hotels worldwide and its impossible for anyone to know them all. Relying on impartial advice like this is so helpful. However I always read between the lines – luxury for one person isn’t always the same as luxury for another.

Regarding luxury – I was surprised to see 3 hotels in Prague in the Top 10. Why does Prague feature so strongly in luxury when many people in the UK know it as a bargain break destination and also one where so many stag parties go to get drunk on cheap beer? Are the Czechs fighting back about this image? If so, I say this is fantastic!