Sent by Ada Lanzaro Beaton
Based in Umm Suqeim 2
“I HAVEN'T BEEN EVERYWHERE BUT IT'S ON MY LIST.”
I love this quote. It’s emblematic of my greatest aspiration of exploring every country of the world. Travel is, simply put, my biggest drive.
The passion goes back a long way and led me to obtain a high school diploma in tourism. Then, since leaving my native Italy over 28 years ago, I have gained an in-depth knowledge of several very different cultures by living, studying and working on 5 continents in countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where I’ve been living for the past 16 years. I’ve also had the privilege of travelling extensively through 50 of the world’s most amazing countries.
But as much as the experience of visiting a new place, I get almost the same joy out of the actual planning that goes into it. Finding those hidden gems that aren’t in the mainstream tourist guides and the experiences that linger with you for a lifetime is the objective of every trip I’ve ever taken and, similarly, everyone I plan for my clients.
I am by nature a meticulous organiser with extraordinary attention to detail, so you can be sure that I will plan your bespoke itineraries considering all your finest personal requirements and desires, saving you lots of time and effort. It’s all about getting to know what you like most, what inspires and excites you and what you desire at that moment and then designing a holiday that suits your particular needs. Whether it’s a family holiday, an adventure-packed itinerary, a gastronomic tour or an indulgent luxury escape chances are I know the perfect place; and if I don’t, trust me... I’ll find it!
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
13 December 2018
1. CARRY HAND LUGGAGE ONLY Be smart and limit the amount of clothes you bring on your trip so that you can stick to a carry-on bag, which will save you time, money and, very importantly, will give you peace of mind for not having to worry about the airline losing your luggage. Besides, it’s so convenient to sail through the airport skipping the check-in counter and bypassing baggage claim on the other side. 2. BRING SPARE PASSPORT PHOTOS It’s always a good idea to print out an extra set of passport photos and keep them on you. This can make the process a whole lot smoother if your visa on arrival requires a photo or to apply for emergency travel documents in a hurry. 3. HAVE A TRAVEL UNIFORM Select a few comfortable pieces, with variations for different climates, that you can always wear on the plane, without having to think every single time you travel. Stick to basic pieces in neutral tones that you can mix and match. 4. ALWAYS PACK A SCARF A scarf is the most versatile travel accessory and you should always have one in your travel bag. It can jazz up an outfit, keep you warm on a chilly flight and, on the odd occasion, hide spills. Also very useful to have at hand when visiting mosques or temples that require covering up. 5. ROLL - DON'T FOLD I find that rolling garments, instead of folding them, not only saves precious luggage space but also reduces creases. I personally love Muji’s netted pouches which make it so easy to organise your clothes by type, which is very useful to find what you need to wear especially when your kind of trip does not allow you to unpack. 6. PROTECT YOUR TOILETRIES Prevent toilet leakages, which can turn into a disaster, by placing some plastic wrap under the lids of your bottles. 7. CARRY AN EMPTY DRINK BOTTLE Staying hydrated is very important when travelling, but most airport nowadays don’t let you go through security with your own bottle of water. So, pop an empty drink bottle in your carry-on and fill it up at an airport water fountain. 8. ALWAYS PAY IN LOCAL CURRENCY If you’re paying by credit card overseas, it can be really tempting to pay in your home currency; that way you can easily track your spending, right? Wrong. Not only will you get the worst exchange rate, but you’ll usually be charged an additional fee for the service. Check with your bank, but as a general rule, go for the local currency. 9. LET THE SUN SHINE IN Jet lag is the worst. If you find yourself in need of constant naps when you arrive at your destination, try sleeping with your curtains slightly open for the first couple of nights so you can wake up with the natural light and get your body rhythm back on track. 10. ALWAYS, ALWAYS HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE Last but not least, do not leave for any trip without having arranged your travel insurance. Best even, get your travel planner to arrange this for you as soon as you’ve booked your trip, so in case you have to cancel or delay your departure for unforeseen reasons, you’ll be covered for that.
14 December 2017
Travel, once the domain of explorers, adventurers and traders, eventually became more accessible to other members of society, albeit those at the wealthy end. Boarding a train, plane or ship for leisure was a luxury in itself, regardless of the destination. But then after WW2 modes of travel, especially air, became mainstream and just about anyone with means could pack their bags and visit more far away destinations. So the need to cater for the desires of those wanting to differentiate themselves from the masses emerged and resulted in the rise of luxury accommodation and first-class travel. Eventually however, in the ‘80s and 90’s, luxury travel became somewhat homogenised with the arrival of 5-star hotel chains. This has led to the more discerning luxury traveller of today, demanding a more individual form of indulgence, but not one defined by gold taps and designer furnishings. Luxury travel has shifted from expensive to unique, authentic and singularly local experiences that deliver a strong sense of place. Whilst the luxury destinations bucket list is constantly changing, one common trend amongst high-spenders now seems to be the focus on immersive experiences, ones that will create emotionally fulfilling travel memories. Here are five of my favourite authentic luxury travel experiences. 1. SECLUDED MEDITERRANEAN LIFE Have a true Mediterranean reclusive and exclusive experience by staying in a dammuso, Pantelleria’s iconic Arab-style dwelling made up of thick volcanic dry-stone walls, vaulted ceilings and domed roofs to collect rainwater. Sikelia is a luxurious 20-suite hideaway created out of an ancient dammuso. Its simple elegance is firmly integrated with the natural way of life of Pantelleria, an island which is a mix of Italian and Arab cultures, located 100Km off the coast of Sicily and 60Km east of Tunisia. Its rugged landscape has long captivated discerning travellers like Truman Capote, Sting and Giorgio Armani, who have kept it a closely guarded secret. Pantelleria is one of the few places left to still offer a window into authentic Mediterranean life. Eating like a local is the only option in Pantelleria, as its restaurants all serve similar fare focussed on ingredients grown on the island with plenty of aubergines, olives, tomatoes and the world famous Pantelleria capers. Whilst Zibibbo grapes, grown nowhere else in the world and whose meticulous cultivation is the only agricultural practice on the UNESCO World Heritage list, are used to make the island’s famous dessert wine Passito di Pantelleria. 2. JAPAN'S FUTURISTIC AND TRADITIONAL APPROACH Experience the epitome of Japanese service, hospitality and innovation all in one by taking the most futuristic and luxurious rail ride through the beauty of Eastern Japan on the Train Suite Shiki-Shima. The 10-car train accommodates only 34 passengers in 17 suites, all seamlessly combining traditional Japanese aesthetics with a futuristic spirit and each offering comfortable beds and a bathroom with shower and lavatory. The train has 2 observation cars, a five-star lounge, a dining car featuring a menu devised by a Michelin-starred chef and all service on board is done by butlers. The train, which embarked on its maiden journey on May 1st this year, is fully booked until June 2018 and reservations have to be requested by application and may get allocated by lottery. The Spring, Autumn and Winter itineraries (4, 3 and 2 days) along with the special ‘Season for East Japan’ trips have been designed to give a prime view into the beautiful scenery of eastern Japan, the local industry of each region and the unique culture that permeates Japanese daily life. 3. RE-INVENTED PRIVATE SAFARI How more authentic can a safari get than being able to immerse yourself in the wilderness of the Laikipia foothills, Kenya, in an enchanting family home where baboons scratch at the earth a few meters from the breakfast table and giraffes, elephants, rhino and many other species come to drink from the pool? Arijiju, named ‘the most beautiful house in Africa’ (CN Traveller UK), is a remarkable exclusive-use retreat in the Borana Reserve for up to 10 guests. The contemplative space, which draws inspiration from the Swahili vernacular, Ethiopian monasteries and the Kenyan tradition of grouped rooms, is designed to work with nature as its grass-covered roof and rough stone walls make it appear as if it’s part of the landscape. The 14 resident staff, including rangers, butlers, chefs and a masseuse, ensures every need is catered for and with touches likes lighting crackling fires at bedtime or delivering coffee to your room when you wake, you feel like you’re staying at a friend’s fabulous personal retreat. 4. UP-CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH THE AMAZON Explore the Peruvian section of the Amazon river, one of the world’s last great unexplored regions, aboard the luxurious vessel Aria Amazon. The boat features 16 design suites with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows and king-size beds, an observation deck, a lounge, a bar, a small library, a gym and a massage room. The 24-crew member Aria is staffed with world-class naturalist guides who lead guests in small groups by skiff to first-hand encounters with Amazon wildlife from pink dolphins and piranha, to monkeys and three toed sloth, to toucans and macaws. In February and October 2018 select Aria Amazon expeditions will be joined by Jean-Michel Cousteau, who will lead talks and excursions on some of the same Amazon stretches he first visited decades ago with his famous father. A truly unique opportunity to connect and immerse oneself with the environment. 5. ART ABOVE ART A stay at The Silo Hotel in Cape Town is an experience that even the most discerning traveller will struggle to match with any other hotel elsewhere. Located inside a disused concrete grain silo dating from 1921, The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design; a tribute to timeless glamour and contemporary luxury. The hotel sits above the Zeitz MOCAA, the recently inaugurated museum that houses the continent’s largest collection of contemporary African art. And with the unique and varied collection of African art specifically selected to complement the exceptional interiors of each of the 28 rooms, The Silo Hotel offers an extension to the artistic journey of the museum and an individualised experience for each guest.
27 November 2017
I recently bumped into a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. When I told him what I was doing these days his first reply was “Does anyone still use travel consultants?”. Now, it’s not as if I hadn’t heard this before, but it did get me thinking about it once more. And this time I thought maybe I should do a little research and then write down my thoughts. Interestingly it doesn’t seem to be as doom and gloom as some, including my friend, may assume. A 2016 article in USA Today reported that a survey conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents of 14,000 households showed the highest number of people booked through a travel agent than in the past three years. Furthermore, research carried out by MMGY in 2015 found that 18% of travellers worked with an advisor, a 50% increase from the year before. It’s true to say the traditional agent in a retail outlet on the high street is not as prevalent as they once were but the ones that still exist and are doing well have reinvented themselves and found a new and valuable role. For instance, greater specialisation and flexibility with agents working from home and going to their clients is now more prevalent. So whilst the boom of the internet era, and with it the plethora of online travel sites, has had a huge impact on the travel industry and caused the demise of many travel agents, it seems there is somewhat of a return to favour of the traditional means of booking travel through a person rather than a website. From my experience this seems to come down to several key factors: • People are increasingly busy, very busy and, quite frankly, they don’t have the time to wade through the enormous volume of information now available. They would prefer to give someone else the headache of weighing up and pricing the options while they manage their daily pressures of work and family. Time is money and it costs a lot more to do it yourself than get someone else to do it, at no extra cost. • The sheer amount of travel content is both a blessing and a burden. Not only does it take time to decipher it, but for many people it is simply overwhelming. How do you choose the right flight or hotel when there are so many options to pick from? • When things go wrong, and they inevitable do at some point, what do you do? We’ve all been there – there’s a major disruption to flights and you need to reschedule, the hotel is overbooked or not what it looked like on the website and you want to change, you’re in transit, your flight is delayed and the car rental company will be closed when you land. It’s a lot easier to make one call to your consultant and get them to fix it. When you do it yourself you’re on your own and waiting on hold when you’re on international roam is a very expensive exercise. • Most people don’t have the experience and industry knowledge so there is a greater chance of making a mistake or getting yourself into trouble by not reading the fine print when you organise it yourself. My own experience, both as a traveller and a travel professional, further reinforces these points. And whilst not everyone will want to use a travel consultant to help them with their business or leisure travel, there is no doubt that a large proportion of the population will always do so. And it seems from the research that a growing number who tried their hand at the do-it-yourself model are realising that the travel consultant does play a valuable role after all.
18 April 2017
Arriving at Siem Reap airport you are immediately greeted by the relaxed informality that characterises Cambodia. From the low-rise open space design of the terminal to the attitude of the airport staff you are at once propelled many miles from the slick, security obsessed, large scale urban mega airport experience of Hong Kong, Singapore or even nearby Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok from which you most likely just departed only 45 minutes before. But Cambodia's recent thrust into the world of international mass tourism has preempted a need for some attempt at systematic processes. Evidence of which is the somewhat comical and certainly entertaining display that awaits visitors as their passport is handled by no less than 15 immigration officers for visa processing. Surprisingly it takes just a few minutes and you're on your way. Apart from a convenient entry point, Siem Reap is a must see on any visit to Cambodia. In fact it’s worth a visit alone even if you don't have time to explore other parts of the country. The ancient Khmer temples that litter the landscape around Siem Reap are the tourist icon of the country. And it's not just foreigners that associate the country so intimately with its temples; the Cambodians themselves have proudly placed Angkor Wat on their national flag. The number of temples accessible from Siem Reap are numerous and the distance they cover is not to be underestimated in a misguided attempt to see too many. You really aren't likely to be able to take in more than ten temples over 2 days. Angkor Wat alone will take the best part of half a day, not to mention the immense 10km square Angkor Thom. Everyone has their personal favorites but my must see list would include: Ta Prohm, known as the jungle temple due the way the rainforest trees have wrapped their roots around the temple in a perversely protective yet destructive means of coexistence. Bateay Srei Womens Citadel, for its distinctly pink coloured stone, sense of small scale intimacy and relatively intact fine architecture. Bayon, with its 200 rather whimsical smiling faces carved on 42 towers. And of course Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, which are undoubtedly the most impressive for scale and sheer awe value. One word of advice: get yourself a guide who can help you explain the significance of these marvellous treasures. It'll also insure you find the most efficient route between sites and save you time. Siem Reap itself has a charm and vibrancy all of its own. Conveniently, the main tourist heart of the city is very compact encompassed by a few city blocks. It's a bit like any number of Thailand tourist hubs in terms of its nightlife and sense of energy but without the weird freaky undesirable element. For now at least, it's a nice balance for those that want a bit of action at night, good shopping and an excellent range of restaurants. Despite the poor state of repair and narrow roads, motor vehicles and bicycles coexist remarkably well and I felt quite safe getting around on a bike sans helmet than in most modern cities. If you are up for a day's cycling, an ideal destination is the floating villages. On route you will pass many villages with houses squeezed between roadway and waterway, most of which are built suspended over water. It gives you an up-close and intimate insight into the daily lives of some of Cambodia's less privileged and well worth experiencing. The floating villages themselves are amazing. For generations these people have lived in floating houses on the Tonle Sap Lake with no land at all for animals, crops etc. The solution is floating pens to raise pigs, chickens etc. and naturally a healthy diet of fish. Children get to the floating school by canoe or in large round plastic washing tubs. Beyond Siem Reap there is the Cambodia of flat green rice fields, mountain villages, congested urban neighbourhoods brimming with constant activity and picturesque beachside towns offering amazing seafood delights. Here’s some highlights. If you like the hustle and bustle of a large South East Asian city then Phnom Penh is worth a day or two, but I personally wouldn't devote much more than that. One of the highlights for all the wrong reasons is Tuol Seng Genocide Museum (s-21 Prison) where Pol Pot inflicted some of his most heinous atrocities against his own people. I highly recommend doing some reading on the topic in advance or watching the film The Killing Fields; it will put a lot of things into perspective and give you a deep respect for the resilience of the Cambodian people. If Pol Pot wasn't able to permanently wipe a smile from their faces I doubt anything could. With jaded nerves and a heavy heart after Phnom Penh you're best advised to seek the kind of calming influence only the seaside can provide. Two of the most interesting and picturesque towns on Cambodia's short southern coastline are Kep and Kampot. Kep is not much more than a small village now but the highlight is the fresh crabs. There are a row of restaurants come shacks on the waters edge so take your pick, order your fresh crab straight from the sea in front of the restaurant and enjoy – that you certainly will. I highly recommend the fried pepper cab. The pepper of course is from nearby Kampot for which it is famous worldwide, having served the finest restaurants of France for many years. Kampot is a larger town on the banks of the Kampong Bay River. Its appeal is its colonial buildings most of which have that magical charm of original ornate grandeur masked with dilapidated neglect. The last destination on our 18-day holiday was the mountain region of Mondolkiri, which is about 8 hours north east by car from the capital. The altitude and rolling forested hills provide a much cooler climate and fresher air. One of the main reasons for visiting this region is the opportunity to elephant trek. A one-day trek was ample time in my view, with the highlight being the lunch time stop at a river and the chance to wash the elephants. I would stress the importance of a little research to ensure you are using guides that do not exploit their elephants to maximise the tourist dollar. Cambodia certainly offers an interesting cultural experience and some stunning world class sights. Its tourism infrastructure is not as slick and developed as some other South East Asian countries, which means you might need a little more patience with the basic tasks of getting around but the reward is that it's a little more authentic and you can still find places where you feel like you're discovering something new rather than being the four hundredth tourist already through that morning. It's probably summed up best with my most lasting memory of the place which is the amazing ingenuity, imagination and skill shown in transporting all many of objects and people on two wheels. No one else blinks an eyelid of course, except gob smacked tourists like me.
18 April 2017
It's become customary in our family to meet up and spend the Christmas festivities somewhere in Europe and this time was the turn of Spain. Valencia was the main destination of our visit, but Barcelona was the logical entry and exit point due to the international air connections from our Dubai base; an enticing two-day taste test left us with a strong desire to return one day and do the city and its cuisine justice. After a few days in Barcelona you could be excused for wondering if you had not yet reached Spain but rather a neighbouring country known as Catalonia. It is in fact already recognised in its own and Spain's constitution as "an autonomous community of Spain" with the official status as a "nationality". It’s soon apparent after a short time there that the Catalans are fiercely parochial. For instance, it is now law that all public signs and restaurant menus must be written in Catalan as well as Spanish. It's also a regular topic of conversation on the street and overtly expressed as I observed by a loud toast "to Catalonia" by a group of birthday party guests on the next table at one restaurant. During the short taxi ride from the airport the friendly driver was more than willing to give us a sightseeing guide mixed with a quick lesson in current day politics. He pointed out the old Arenas de Barcelona, which has now been turned into a shopping centre, a likely fate for the other remaining bull fighting rings in Catalonia since the sport is now officially banned. A little surprised that the animal protection lobby has had such a strong influence, we were soon corrected that it's much more to do with the fact that bull fighting is a traditional Spanish not Catalonian sport. Its ban therefore is a result of Catalonia's desire to distance itself culturally from the rest of Spain rather than a desire to champion the ideals of animal liberation. For a short visit staying in the old town area is definitely the way to go. Everything is in short walking distance and the myriad of small lane ways lined with small bars, restaurants and boutiques will easily occupy your daylight and night time hours. It’s one of those places that really should be appreciated by random wanderings without being too concerned about where you are heading or indeed taking the most direct route. Every lane has its surprises and every small communal square has its own special ambience so put the map in the back pocket and walk. Hence our chosen accommodation, Catalonia Catedral in Carrer dels Arcs just near the Barcelona Cathedral, was perfectly located. It's a picturesque old building that's benefited from a substantial renovation which means it has maintained much of its traditional charm but gained some welcome modern comforts. Having said that, you really shouldn't miss the area known as El Born, just north of Via Laietana, especially if you like to shop in small private label shops rather than the local international known chains like Zara, Massimo Dutti, Blanco, Mango and Desigual, which are seemingly on every other street corner. The other area worth exploring is the Gothic precinct which is conveniently right next to El Born. If you want some nightlife this is definitely the place to head but we got the feeling there were some parts you'd be advised not to roam around too late on your own, especially if you're a woman. It is also a great area to stay given its proximity to so much of what you'll want to see. We reached Valencia in a 3-hour train ride along the coast. In some respects, Valencia is a lot like Barcelona and much of my travel advice would also apply here: stay in the old town, discover the laneways and streets on foot and soak in the atmosphere from a sidewalk café. It's one of the most striking features of both cities that you'd be hard pressed to walk more than 50 metres without passing at least one restaurant, bar or café. Most offer outside seating out of necessity as the shop space is often barely enough to accommodate a kitchen; thankfully winter still has a very temperate climate which lends itself perfectly to fresh air dining. But be warned, Valencia is a tease for the indecisive. The plethora of café and restaurant options means that the simple act of choosing a place to eat can become a major undertaking. I'd like to say you couldn't go wrong but our experience was that quality can be a bit hit and miss so a little consideration is worth while. The best strategy, as always, seems to be to try to head for where the locals go and avoid those places where foreign languages are the norm. On the topic of things culinary, stop over at an Horchateria, for an horchata of course, a traditional local beverage made of almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley and tiger nuts, which is a perfect refreshment during the warmer months. One of the best known in Valencia is Horchateria de Santa Catalina whose interior is as much a draw card as its namesake item on the menu. Valencia is also the home of Paella and you'll have no problems finding it on the menu, but again do some research to find a place with a good reputation. A good option is to try one of the many restaurants along Paseo Maritimo on the southern end of the beach, near the Formula One Grand Prix track. From the Old Town you can get there by metro (tramway) or a bus in about 20 minutes. En route you'll see a little of the suburban Valencia where the locals spend their lives as opposed to the Valencia that's mostly the domain of visitors. In the same general vicinity, not far from the Grand Prix track on the harbourside, is one of modern architectures greatest shrines. The sprawling precinct known as The City of Arts and Sciences which is made up of four attractions: The Hemisferic (IMAX Theatre), the Principe Felipe Science Museum, the Oceanografico (Europe's largest aquarium), The Agora (multi functional event venue), the Umbracle (landscaped palm tree lined atrium) and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (performing arts centre). Designed by one of Spain's great modern day architects, Santiago Calatrava, it is a must visit for anyone who appreciates beautiful aesthetics. Like many culturally mature and forward looking European cities, Valencia for all its beautiful historic buildings and monuments has proudly fostered contemporary architectural design. The 1990's signaled its transformation from an industrial city to a modern vibrant and popular tourist destination. It was during this period that not only many of its new age landmarks were created but many of its most significant historic ones also restored. So much of its appeal, like the country itself, is its combination of many things old and new. Whatever your personal preference you'll find more than a few aspects of Barcelona and Valencia that will appeal and have you thinking about the next visit, as you reluctantly head to the airport to leave.
Dubai, UAE 31/03/2021
San Francisco - Dubai 08/09/2019
Dubai, UAE 21/03/2019
Edinburgh, UK 05/09/2018
Dubai, UAE 10/06/2018
Dubai, UAE 10/06/2018
Rome, Italy 29/01/2018
Dubai, UAE 15/11/2017
Dubai, UAE 05/09/2017
Dubai, UAE 29/07/2017
Doha, Qatar 06/07/2017
London, UK 04/07/2017