On which holiday can I find the best food?
Our holiday to Puglia, in southern Italy, is packed with delicious, authentic cuisine and much of it is a regional or very local speciality. The region is much less developed for mass tourism than other areas of Italy and so there is a real flavour of exploring Italy as it used to be. Our guests visit a masseria (traditional farmhouse) where they indulge in an 8-course lunch. No that isn’t a typo! The masseria is owned by Armando, an eccentric character who grows and makes his own food, wine and olives. Armando will give a small tour of his beautiful masseria and gardens so guests can see that everything they are eating and drinking has actually been produced there. We have to ask the guests to make sure they do not spoil their appetite at breakfast as the quality of this lunch is mind blowing.
Which destination makes you feel the most relaxed?
Lake Bled has a wonderfully tranquil feel and our itinerary is designed to progress at a relaxed pace, so guests can appreciate their surroundings more and really enjoy their time in this stunning part of Slovenia. The Hotel Rikli Balance boasts amazing views over the lake with the breath-taking Julian Alps serving as a backdrop. For guests that wish to pamper themselves and relax during the plentiful free time we allow, the hotel has a luxury wellness and spa area which includes a sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor thermal swimming pools with Jacuzzis. Spa treatments are also available to indulge in. This is definitely a relaxing place to visit – a real treat for yourself and a place that I came home from feeling totally rejuvenated.
Where have you seen the most stunning scenery?
Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy in an area known as the Italian Lake District. The lake is noted for its picturesque surroundings of greenery covered mountains. The top of the lake is scattered with fresh-smelling pine trees and alpine growth, the middle is more open and lush with smaller hills and the lower end of the lake stretches to the verge of the plains of Lombardy. Around the lake are palm lined-shores with quaint little villages. The climate of the lake allows for Mediterranean vegetation and exotic plants to thrive, many of which can be seen on the three tiny Borromean islands, with their terraced gardens and aristocratic villas. It is a place that no number of photographs or videos will adequately prepare you for, as the atmosphere seems to capture all of your senses at once. It really is a beautiful place and one that changes so much in a relatively small space.
What is your perfect holiday?
A two-centre holiday is the perfect way to get the most out of a country. Our holiday to Russia is packed with culture, history, arts and more. We first stay in Moscow, the birthplace of communism and the capital of the largest county in the world. This large city feels very safe and one can still see remains of the Soviet era scattered around the city. Moscow is a haven for those with a keen interest in history. We take our guests to the main sites including The Kremlin, Red Square with the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral. Moscow has some of the most opulent metro stations I have seen anywhere in the world. We take our guests on the underground to appreciate their beauty and to experience the murals paying homage to the working class. Travelling by high speed train, our guests will then leave for in St. Petersburg. In stark contrast to Moscow, St. Petersburg has a very European feel, full of impressive canals and quite wonderful architecture. It is smaller than Moscow and planned to perfection by Peter the Great. Once the richest city in the world, which you will see evidence of in the beautiful palaces, such as the Hermitage Art Gallery and Peter the Great’s Summer Palace. For me, this is the perfect way to explore two great cities that are packed with history, architecture, culture and arts. I have a real soft-spot for Russia and find it a fascinating country to explore. It is so different and yet so similar to Europe at the same time. This is my perfect holiday and it is great that our guests can experience it all for themselves, too.
Which group activity is your favourite of all One Traveller holidays?
We have many group activities built into our holiday itineraries, however one of my favourites is the cookery lesson in Hanoi, Vietnam. Our guests visit a local house where they learn to cook some authentic dishes with a member of the family. However, before that they are taken to the local market to purchase the ingredients. As well as learning how to cook these delicious dishes, our guests gain an insight into the residents’ daily lives. The lunch on this day will be the fruits of our guests’ own labour as well as additional dishes prepared by the hostess. It is a fun-filled group activity and our guests have told us that they return with a feeling of really bonding with the local residents in this interesting part of the city.
Where do you find the friendliest locals?
We visit many countries across the world and the warm welcome and friendship shown by the locals we meet of all different cultures is frequently commented upon. Perhaps one place and people that stand out for me are the Slovenians we encounter during our eight-day holiday to Lake Bled. Not only are the Slovenians a friendly, hospitable bunch, but the country also has a really low crime rate, so you always feel incredibly safe there. The people come across as being so honest too, and you never feel like you’re getting ‘mugged off’ in any way. I am yet to meet anybody in Slovenia who I would not care to share a drink with.
Which is your favourite hotel and why?
The Hilton Giardini Naxos in Sicily has an enviable location in Giardini Naxos with direct access to the beach. The overall standard of service is just suburb and our guests always report on a great experience there, particularly with the friendliness of the staff. Rooms are elegant and spacious and are decorated in a tasteful Italian style, all with a balcony. The views from the dining rooms are breath-taking, looking out over the beach and Ionian Sea. Due to the location of the venue, it makes visiting the charming town of Taormina, the majestic Mount Etna and the idyllic Ionian islands easily accessible. This is the last hotel we visit on our Sicilian holiday and there are always comments from guests that we have saved the best to last.
Which holiday has the biggest wow factor?
All of our holidays are packed with their own ‘wow factors’ and these are very much on an individual level. Each guest gets something different from their holiday experience and this can differ within a group. Some of the biggest ‘wow’ factors our guests typically enthuse about when they write to us after their holidays include the memorable visit to the Taj Mahal (which is every bit as good as you would hope and expect), Angkor Wat, often referred to as witnessing ‘the most beautiful place in Cambodia’ and walking along the historic ramparts of the Great Wall of China – one of the world’s great wonders and a real ‘wow’ moment for just about anyone. I think as much as the ‘bucket list’ of wow factors is important, we do also receive feedback from a lot of guests who are just bowled over by the fact that they have been able to visit these incredible places and countries as a solo traveller.