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!

sunset-e83cb7062e_1920

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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Bucket list travel!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about bucket lists recently.  Realising that a bucket list isn’t just for those people in their 60s (and later) means that this opens the world to everyone in a way!

We all know that if a business plan isn’t written down, then it doesn’t exist.  So it’s the same with a bucket list – if you don’t verbalise it and then write it down, then you’re less likely to do it.  But what to put on a list and where to leave it?

There are loads of websites you can visit to record your list, no point in repeating them here – have a look at http://larakrupicka.com/bucketlistwebsites/  You can also pin pictures of your dream destinations at Pinterest and get ideas.  The trouble is, once you start thinking and looking for destinations to add to your bucket list, you’ll get easily distracted and the list will group enormously!!  Not necessarily a bad thing though.

So what should be on the list?  You should always have a destination/experience in mind if your numbers come up on the lottery.  But equally, not everything has to be this big.  You’ll have to have some easily achievable items, it’s very satisfying ticking items off.  Think about experiences as well as destinations.  Films that have inspired you – do you want to ride off into the sunset like John Wayne, ride a scooter round Rome like Audrey Hepburn, visit South Africa to see Mandela’s history, and so on.  TV is a great source for inspiration – lots of people wanted to see the Northern Lights after Joanna Lumley showcased them, Sue Perkins started a trip along the Mekong river in Cambodia recently.  Entries on your list must make your heart skip a beat when you think about them!

What about your hobbies and interests – gardening – there are some beautiful gardens and plants to see all over the world, museums – the list of museums to visit is almost endless, music – follow your favourite band or artist to a new concert venue, cooking (or just enjoying food) – learn to cook from a local expert.

Research your destination – Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet guides are great sources of information, as are brochures from your travel agent (but please don’t just use us as a source of information)

If you’re stuck on where to start, just give me a call.  I’d love to help you build your list and then even better, I’d love to help you tick off items on it!!

Part of my own bucket list achieved last year!

Part of my own bucket list achieved last year!

Olein can be contacted at 01252 519669 or email olein@diamondtravel.ltd.uk

 

Diamond Travel, Agency ref S0466.  Registered office 18 Corfe Way, Farnborough, Hampshire GU14 6TS.  Company registration number 4100025.  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 Operators and other principals.

Pirate Holidays

Well not really – but on Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I’d check out the locations for the Pirates of the Caribbean films as potential holiday destinations.

According to Wikipedia, Port Royal (where the Governor lives and where Elizabeth meets the pirates at the start of the first film) was a real location in Kingston, Jamaica.  Tour operators don’t offer many holidays in Kingston – but there are fabulous hotels along the coasts in the north and west of the island.

Dominica was used as a location for several scenes in all the films. One of the quieter Caribbean islands, it has unmatched beauty.  With its dense rainforests, magnificent waterfalls and mountainous centre, Dominica will bring out the eco-adventurer in you. The island is still unspoilt, but you can expect the locals to go out of their way to spoil you with the genuine warmth of their welcome and their wonderful hospitality. People come here for the whale and bird watching alone, but it’s also great for diving, hiking and exploring the island’s beautiful interior. (Thanks Caribtours – one of the great tour operators we work with)

Singapore was another location used in 2 films.  It’s international airport was recently named as the BestAirport in the World by Business Traveller – for the 25th year running!  However good the airport is – it’s even better to leave it and explore the fantastic city beyond the runways.  Time has some great ideas for things to do in the city.

No need for eye patches, parrots or bad pirate accents!  Unfortunately I can’t send you on holiday with Johnny Depp either – but you’ll have an unforgettable time anyway if you book with Diamond Travel

What would you like me to blog about?

I love writing about travel, but unless it’s something you want to read about – it’s kind of wasted!!  So what would you like to write about?

  • Destinations – new, upcoming, just below the radar, off the beaten track?
  • Destinations – the well-established, well-loved places but with a fresh look at them?
  • Travel news
  • Special offers
  • ?????????

Just let me know!  Email olein@diamondtravel.ltd.uk or contact me through the website on the enquiry form

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.

Changing holiday trends

The Office of National Statistics published their latest social trends today.  http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/st0710.pdf

In amongst the details about smoking, health and household expenditure is a little nugget.  In 1971, UK residents made 6.7 million holiday trips abroad.  In 2008, UK residents made 45.5 million holiday trips abroad.  Took me back to family holidays in the 1970s!!  We never made it abroad, although my parents holidayed round Europe in the 1950s before I came along and stopped their adventures!!  My holidays were more holiday camps on the South Coast – Isle of Wight, Sussex – we never traveled too far. 

I suppose it was slightly different for us – we used to holiday “overseas” in Jersey as that’s where Dad’s family was (and still is) – not as exotic as going somewhere properly “foreign” but at least the sun shone and the beaches are fabulous.

How times have changed!!  My kids are well-travelled, but not as much as some of their friends.   The increase in immigration has helped them understand about their friends’ parents’ homelands.  Its not uncommon for their friends to go on holiday to India, Nepal, Africa, the Caribbean or Eastern Europe to visit family.  Really helps them understand the multilayered nature of UK society.

We (as a holidaying nation) are now tending to travel further and further away from the UK.  Anyone who’s been in travel for 40 years or more will talk with misty eyes about the first holidaymakers they took to Majorca or Benidorm.  These are still popular holiday destinations – 40 years ago, we’d never have dreamt of going to Turkey on holiday.  The resorts of Marmaris et al were barely developed then (I’m not sure to be honest if anyone other than the Turks went there anyway then?). Certainly if you thought about Egypt for a holiday in the 70s, it would have been Cairo that you thought of – the hugely popular resorts along the Red Sea weren’t built then.  I thought about holidays to the Pyramids as being a bit like an Agatha Christie novel, something like “Death on the Nile” – very colonial in atmosphere!

Politics have played their part in helping us choose where to go on holiday since the 70s.  Eastern Europe is now popular for stag parties but before the Wall came down, never on anyone’s list of destinations – you simply couldn’t get there.  Franco was still around in Spain until 1975 and although Spain was probably the most popular destination for British holidaymakers from the early 1960s onwards – it’s after the mid 70s that it really developed into the country that holidaymakers know well now.  We honeymooned in Yugoslavia before the war out there and it was good – maybe a little dated, but in the mid80s we weren’t that experienced (as a couple) in exotic holidays – didn’t really have much to compare it to.  However their tourism business was hit hard by the war and its after-effects and is recovering well now.

So tell me about your 1970s holiday memories!!!

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.