AirBnB’s top 10 most popular stays have been revealed
Itching to discover where the most diehard wanderlusters among us are wish-listing? We’ve got the lowdown on the 10 stays around the world that have caught the attention of the people – and for good reason. Amalfi Coast villas, Joshua Tree cabins, Marrakech riads and even a secluded Aussie property, these Airbnb gems clocked up the most likes on the site’s Instagram page in 2018. And when you see the images, it’ll be crystal clear why each of these incredible places deserves a spot in the top 10.   So, the only thing left to ponder is… will you bag yourself a stay before everyone else does? Fingers and toes crossed for you. 10. The Triangle Siargao – General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines Got a grown-up fascination with teepees? Well this life-sized A-framed cabin in the Philippines is sure to tickle your fancy – it sure did for the 45,000-odd people who liked it on Instagram. Thanks for the pic, @thetriangle.siargao! [caption id="attachment_46224" align="alignleft" width="600"] The magnificent Triangle Siargao[/caption] Tucked away in the jungle, this property may look a little secluded, but you’ll have more than enough to live with, two friendly dogs as your welcome party and an indoor swing to pass the time. Pretty cool, eh? 9. Exclusive Villa with Private Dock and Swimming Pool – Piano di Sorrento, Italy Well, this is living, isn’t it? A cliff-side Amalfi Coast property that’d make anyone want to pack their bags and head for Italy. It’s not hard to believe this blue-soaked shot by @lizbedor received over 49,000 Instagram likes. [caption id="attachment_46223" align="alignleft" width="600"] A private oasis in Italy, anyone?[/caption] The property has its own private dock: the ideal starting point for a daily of sailing or the setting for a simple stroll after your private pool swim – whatever you prefer really. 8. Incredible Apartment & Views! Pool! – Perledo, Lake Como, Italy Was there ever any doubt that a Lake Como property would feature in this list? Not in our book; it’s one of the most magical places on Earth – and this photo captured by @sssoph90, which garnered almost 50,000 likes shows you why.   Situated high above the village of Varenna, you can see why visitors are itching to stay here, and we haven’t even mentioned the property’s three balconies, which happen to be just perfect for stargazing. 7. Vintage Design and Contemporary Art at Casalibera – Trastevere, Italy This could be the only balcony in the world where you don’t mind staring into the neighbour’s – and vice versa.   Set in Rome’s trendy Trastevere neighbourhood, this stylish apartment is the perfect place to sit with a good book and a glass of wine and watch the world go by. It’s no coincidence that the photo, taken by @jonisan, amassed more than 50,000 likes.   The apartment feels serene but is also within walking distance to all things Roma, which means – you guessed it – incredible pizza is never too far away. 6. The Boat House – New South Wales, Australia Hooray, Australia made the cut! Yep, a blissful little oasis on the NSW Hawkesbury River that can only be accessed by boat. Imagine laying out on the sun-kissed deck all day long, winding down the clock with a glass of wine.   It’s no wonder this pic, taken by @sarahlianhan, racked up over 55,000 likes. [caption id="attachment_46222" align="alignleft" width="600"] Some pretty nice Australian real estate[/caption] All we want to do is lay out on the property’s private pier and swim to the secret beaches scattered around the home. 5. BEAUTIFUL RIAD – Marrakech, Morocco Well this is not your average poolside by any stretch of the imagination. This stunning Moroccan homestead is your own private piece of heaven during your stay, ideal to curl up with a good book in, and waste the day in utter bliss. [caption id="attachment_46221" align="alignleft" width="600"] Moroccan paradise[/caption] The photo taken by @theresatorp was liked on Instagram just under 60,000 times and we can see why, we feel positively peaceful just looking at it. 4. Joshua Tree Campover Cabin – Joshua Tree, USA Tell us, where on Earth can you stay at a place with a lookout reminiscent of a setting of an old Western movie? Looking at this photo, you almost expect Clint Eastwood to ride by on horseback, tilt his hat in your direction and say, ‘nice digs’. [caption id="attachment_46220" align="alignleft" width="600"] Joshua Tree perfection[/caption] It’s no surprise this image taken by @alalam100 received over 65,000 likes on Instagram.   The Joshua Tree cabin is the perfect spot to appreciate the calm of the Mojave Desert and provides pretty much undisturbed daily sunrises and sunsets. Bliss. 3. Willow Treehouse – secluded, unique, and romantic – Willow, NY, USA A modern version of Robin Hood-style dwellings, this treehouse gives guests that ‘you’re on your own’ feeling in a somehow soothing way. During your stay, the swimming pond nearby will be your best friend, before you ascend up to your bedroom loft and take in the stars.   The treehouse is located near Woodstock in New York state and this image alone shows you why visitors are drawn to this woodland escape.   2. Lazzarella Room in Old Mill – Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy Like something out of a romantic movie, this Ravello property perched above the Amalfi Coast screams ‘Italy’ in every stereotypical sense – and we couldn’t be more pleased about that.   The vine-strung window looks out to the quaint town and hillside, and immediately gives you both the feeling of peace and the thirst to get out and explore.   The image is taken from the dining room of an old mill that has been turned into a homestead, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Amalfi Coast.   1. LUC 22 Boutique Alpine Retreat – Queenstown, New Zealand Imagine staring out a window from the comfort of your bath tub and seeing this. By ‘this’ I mean a stunning vista of horizon-stroking mountains, a smooth pool of bright blue water and a crisp, cloud-covered sky. That’s what you’ll get when you choose to take your baths at this Queenstown alpine retreat, which overlooks the stunning panorama of Lake Wakatipu. [caption id="attachment_46218" align="alignleft" width="600"] The most impressive AirBnB view of all[/caption] It’s not hard to determine why this place scored the number one spot with almost 110,000 likes. Can we stay?! Image taken by @chachi86.
Hotel Review: Hotel Providence, Paris
Paris is cool again, according to Susan Gough Henly, who Checks into Hotel Providence in the heart of the action. From the moment we arrive at Hotel Providence, on cobblestoned rue René Boulanger in the hip 10th arrondissement, we are entranced. Wrought-iron balconies dot a cream limestone building adorned with delicate carvings. Metal tables and wicker chairs grace a tree-dotted terrace shaded with green awnings.   And just inside, a crackling fire warms a lobby cosy with leather smoking chairs and sink-into-me couches.   There are those who describe Paris as a museum piece with none of the edginess of Berlin or vibrancy of Madrid. They have clearly not spent time in the 10th arrondissement. This former working-class neighbourhood, still rich with immigrant diversity, is now the epicentre of hip and happening Paris.   Tech start-ups and boutique fashion labels perch beside African barber shops, artisan fromagers and hip bars. If you’re young or young at heart this is the place to explore.   Sit next to real Parisians at Melbourne-style cafes while you admire the exquisite symmetry of elegant Haussmann limestone buildings. That’s if you can bear to drag yourself away from the intimate environs of Hotel Providence.   The reception desk is next to the bar, right where I like it, and the very helpful receptionist says those magic words when you arrive before noon: “Yes, your room is available."   There are five categories among the 18 rooms: Mini, Classic, Superior, Deluxe and the top-floor Suite under the eaves of the mansard roof with views all the way to Sacré-Cœur.   Owners Pierre and Elodie Moussié and Sophie Richard have combined sumptuous velour wallpapers from House of Hackney with custom-designed bars (in each and every room) and antique gems from flea markets and second-hand stores that evoke an atmosphere of bohemian chic.   Our fourth-floor Classic room overlooks giant carved cherubs that adorn the theatre across the street. We can watch backstage staff haul up sets with a giant pulley but, we’re more entranced by the marble-topped bar with its antique cocktail shakers, martini glasses and jars of olives.   There’s a smart phone, chock full of insider Paris tips, which you can take with you during your stay. It even includes unlimited local and international calls.   The room, though compact, has oodles of charm, with deep forest-green velour wallpaper, a crystal chandelier, bronze storage rack and a metal-framed frosted-glass bathroom. The bathroom also has a vintage feel with old-fashioned white tiles yet its spacious glass stall complete with rain shower and high-quality toiletries is thoroughly up-to-date.   Come evening, the lobby bar has a warm glow. Locals and hotel guests are sitting at tables inside and on the terrace. We settle in to enjoy tuna tataki and avocado and a smoky roast lamb with an excellent, well-priced Bordeaux. Retiring to our sumptuous boudoir for the evening, in the interests of partial journalistic disclosure, all I can say is that the bedding is so sublime I order the sheets the next day.   Breakfast, which can be delivered to your room or enjoyed in the restaurant, is copious by French standards and includes excellent breads and pastries, cereals, yogurt, fruit and juice as well as hams, cheeses and boil-your-own eggs. Afterwards, we hop on a couple of the hotel’s comfortable bikes to pedal to the Canal Saint Martin. Nearby is one of the finest bakeries in France, Du Pain et Des Idees, as well as Holybelly, which takes its cues from a Melbourne-style cafe, where the coffee is excellent and the food inspired and affordable. Welcome to the new Paris. Details Hotel Providence 90 rue René Boulanger, 75010 Paris, France The IT verdict   Stylish boutique hotel with bundles of charm, perfect for young-at-heart Paris-bound travellers wanting to tap into the city’s design, fashion and tech scene.   Location: 8.5/10   Away from central (read touristy) Paris, the Hotel Providence is in a quiet nook of the uber-hip 10th arrondissement, chockablock with tiny boutiques and cafes.   Style/character: 10/10   Chic, stylish boutique hotel with a lot of attention to detail.   Service: 9/10   Front desk staff excellent. Some waiters could focus on client requests more attentively.   Rooms: 10/10   Whimsical and practical, each room had bucketloads of distinctive charm, plus a private cocktail bar. Bedding is sublime.   Food and drink: 9/10 Excellent expansive breakfast (for France) and an interesting range of tasty, reasonably priced dishes for lunch and dinner. There are plenty of excellent places to eat nearby too, such as Restaurant 52.   Value for money: 10/10 Exceptionally good value for money, especially on weeknights. We paid $338 per night. All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.
Sun International
Discover luxurious Africa on a soul-intriguing journey
Immerse yourself in the ultimate in South African luxury Sun International’s Sunlux Collection invites you to discover Africa’s wonders on a truly soul-intriguing journey, from Cape Town’s landmark The Table Bay, within the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront; to the gracious Boardwalk in South Africa’s friendliest city, Port Elizabeth; Sun City’s The Palace of the Lost City, nestled in an extinct volcanic crater surrounded by the Pilanesberg Big-5 nature reserve; the timeless Time Square in Menlyn Maine, Pretoria; and the heart of Johannesburg’s Sandton at The Maslow. [caption id="attachment_44998" align="alignnone" width="600"] Be intrigued by the ancient[/caption] The Table Bay Be captivated by perennial beauty. The Table Bay, opened in May 1997 by former South African president and icon, Nelson Mandela, is situated on the historic Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, in prime position against the exquisite backdrop of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean.   The Maslow Time Square Arrive at the place that’ll take you further. The Maslow Time Square is a specialist 17-floor business hotel situated in South Africa’s first ‘green city’, Pretoria. The hotel is packed with state-of-the-art facilities and technology to satisfy the most switched-on business executive, but with the ability to switch to leisure mode as well.   The Boardwalk Quintessential elegance. Port Elizabeth is rated as South Africa’s friendliest city, with a charming coastal atmosphere perfectly mirrored by this quaint hotel itself. The Boardwalk conjures up scenes from a bygone era and is an ideal place to pursue your wildest or most elegant portside dreams. [caption id="attachment_44999" align="alignnone" width="600"] Be captivated[/caption] The Palace Be intrigued by the ancient. From its inception in 1992, The Palace has enthralled and amazed visitors from all over the globe. This addition to South Africa’s Pilanesberg landscape is dwarfed in years by the 1.3-billion-year-old extinct volcanic site on which it is built; it’s the perfect base from which to explore this timeless place.   The Maslow Sandton The mind’s preoccupation relies on the body’s location. Situated in the heart of Sandton’s financial district in Johannesburg, The Maslow is a specialist business hotel that is consciously positioned as a game-changer as well as a destination for professionals and a portal for travellers to discover unique fascinations within and surrounding this diverse city.   For more information, visit suninternational.com
Hyatt Regency Bali
Treat yourself (and the whole family) at this dreamy Balinese resort
Your ultimate blissful Bali getaway, with newly renovated rooms, a quiet beach, kids’ club, and beachfront eatery! Whether you want to spend your entire time chilling out by the pool or catching up with friends in one of the bars, the classic Balinese resort that is Hyatt Regency Bali has plenty of space and opportunities for you to completely recharge; it’s the perfect tropical escape. Originally built on a coconut plantation, the resort is blessed with the widest beachfront in the region and has the largest garden on the island. Families will enjoy the laid-back Sanur vibe, while couples will revel in its romantic, old-school charm. With 363 newly renovated rooms and facilities, the resort is eminently comfortable while at the same time retaining an authentic Balinese feel. [caption id="attachment_44994" align="alignnone" width="600"] Welcome to relaxation[/caption] Need to know Location The Hyatt Regency Bali is right on the main street of Sanur with 500 metres of beachfront and Bali’s top destinations close by: Seminyak is 45 minutes away and Ubud just an hour. Eat: The hotel has two restaurants: Omang Omang with its all-day dining, and Pizzaria by the beach. Outside the hotel you can enjoy hundreds of cafes, restaurants and bars. Play: Though most people come to Sanur to relax, there are plenty of options for turning your mild a little bit wilder. Beach clubs are within 10 minutes of the hotel, and bars with live music or sports are a quick walk away – plus you’ll find chilled-out yoga studios as well as hip boutiques and salons. Within the hotel, guests can swim in one of three pools, mingle at the Beach Bar or get pampered in the lavish spa. Top Tips The hotel’s renowned, established garden makes a fabulous backdrop for family or romantic portraits. Book a photo session with a local photographer and snap some of your best Insta shots ever. The garden is home to about 500 species of flora and fauna, and trees from the old garden of Bali Hyatt have been restored and given a new home. Head to the spa to try a watsu (water shiatsu) treatment – essentially a massage on water! Sindhu market offers a glimpse of local life. A wet market by day and food market by night, Sindhu is Sanur’s unofficial melting pot. Located 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel, the market opens from 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm.   The resort is accepting bookings from 20 December 2018. Find out more at hyattregencybali.com
Westin Maldives
A whole new sea of tranquillity in the Maldives
The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve. There is a new wave of wellbeing on the tropical archipelago oasis of the Maldives with the opening of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort and its brand new combination of 70 amazing overwater and island villas and suites. The resort is an idyllic paradise in the UNESCO-listed Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve and takes inspiration from the ‘shape of the water’, the marine life of the Atoll and the elements of water, sun and wind. It has been designed to maximise environmental sustainability whilst providing a supremely luxurious and tranquil Maldivian escape. [caption id="attachment_44983" align="alignnone" width="600"] Over water bungalow, yes please![/caption] Need to know Location: Being nestled on this beautiful coral island in the Biosphere Reserve gives guests of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort uninterrupted ocean and pristine turquoise lagoon views. From the atoll’s most desirable locale, guests are in close proximity to landmarks such as the Hanifaru Bay, known for the largest gathering of manta rays globally. This is a whole new level of tranquillity. [caption id="attachment_44984" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nothing like being able to see the ocean through the lounge room floor![/caption] Eat The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort presents three unique dining experiences. The Pearl is the resort’s specialty restaurant famed for exquisite Japanese cuisine with exceptional ocean views. The all-day dining experience at Island Kitchen stays true to the Westin brand’s Eat Well credo through a balanced menu combining Chinese, Indian and Maldivian fare. At Hawker, guests can sample authentic Asian street food with a live kitchen in a casual bustling atmosphere. Adjacent to the Library and overlooking the azure blue Indian Ocean, Sunset Bar is a relaxed lounge serving tapas and wonderfully imagined cocktails. [caption id="attachment_44985" align="alignnone" width="600"] Stay in complete luxury with paradise at your doorstep[/caption] To learn more call +960 660 4444 or visit westin.com/maldivesmiriandhoo
Viceroy L’Ermitage Bevery Hills
Why you should book a room at the Viceroy L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
You never know who you’ll bump into in Beverly Hills. Shonagh Walker stops by one of the exclusive suburb’s most luxurious hotels and finds herself discussing its many merits with one of the world’s greatest rock stars.
The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
Hotel Review: The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
If you're looking for an abode to call your own during your stay in Thailand, it can seem a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully Danielle Norton has done the "hard" work for us, reviewing a 'calm' hotel that doesn't accept guests under 10 years of age. Where The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand. One hour’s drive north of Phuket Airport. What to expect You can find us by the pool in a cabana at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.From the moment we are collected from the airport by Sarojin staff, until the day we leave, we are treated like treasured guests. The driver pulls over, one minute into our hour-long drive, to offer us a chilled towel and a refreshment from the esky on the front seat. We connect to the car’s wi-fi and he offers us an iPad to use on the journey.   This introduction is indicative of our entire stay at the Sarojin. As the original Lady Sarojin used to say, “excellence and nothing less”. The service at this resort is next-level and we love that every time we sit down, either poolside, in the foyer or waiting for a driver at the front of the property, an icy glass of water appears.   The Sarojin property is a paragon of meditative tropical resort gardens that encourage relaxation and deep contemplation. At night, hundreds of flickering lights glow in the ponds, bobbing like boats on a river, their reflections doubling their efforts. By day, the infinity pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by floating pavilions, glistens invitingly.   The communal spaces of the resort are designed with peace and privacy in mind. In the Pandanus Room library there are a wide range of reading materials; from novels to daily newspapers from around the world. Specific titles can be arranged on request.   A hotel that offers an ‘imagineer’ to create your special experiences is one for which I had high expectations. Staff can organise any type of romantic gesture you can come up with. Dinner on a candlelit beach is one thing but a ‘message in a bottle’ scenario for a special proposal during a couple’s beach stroll, or an engagement ring in a teapot while enjoying afternoon tea underneath a private waterfall, is quite another. The romance of this resort makes it an idyllic setting for honeymooners and loved-up couples. Fabulous food Dine out on the good stuff at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The Ficus restaurant hosts an all-day à la carte breakfast on the central resort lake, in the shade of the ancient tree after which it is named. Hundreds of water lilies float on the water’s surface and the sun shimmers; when the complimentary sparkling wine is served with our morning croissants, it feels like the most beautiful place on Earth.   The Edge restaurant and the Beach Bar look out onto a magnificent white sand beach. The degustation menu is a delicious parade of fragrant curries and delicate flavours: a brilliant way to try every dish on the menu in small portions.   Coupled with the golden light of the early evening and a cocktail, it’s the perfect end to a day in paradise. The restaurant seems casual but the service is exquisite, and the views over the Andaman Sea are spectacular, particularly the light show created by the setting sun. The accommodation The impressive accommodation inside The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.Our room has a garden view and a luxurious outdoor ‘sala’ under which we can bask on the day bed, reading or zoning out to our hearts’ content. Inside, the king-size bed with its mountain of pillows is sumptuous, hence the availability of the aforementioned all-day breakfast.   The rooms open onto an opulent, airy bathroom, lined with smooth pebbles to give the illusion of the outdoors in the wet area where there is a choice of showerheads and a huge oval bath, big enough for two. The spacious bathroom is almost as big as the 95 square metre room. If, like me, you prefer more privacy you can request curtain dividers between bedroom and bathroom.   The resort has 28 garden residences, 14 pool residences and eight jacuzzi pool suites and six one-bedroom spa suites which are like apartments with a generous lounge area leading out to the jacuzzi on the private balcony. These alternate with pool rooms, enabling a two bedroom configuration for families or larger groups via connecting doors. We loved The incredible spa bath inside the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The moment we set foot on the boardwalk leading from the resort’s main path to the Pathways Spa, tranquil notes of music waft around us and we breathe in deeply. Staff are eager to help us exchange our shoes for soft white spa slippers and usher us to a daybed where we sink into the soft cushions and contemplate life, looking at the leafy palm fronds in the gardens and listening to the trickling of water in the adjacent pond. A cleansing ginger tea is delivered along with a cold towel. Spa therapist, Nang, offers us four choices of oils. I opt for the romantic blend, a mixture of geranium, lavender and patchouli, keeping in tune with the theme of this honeymooner’s paradise. Nang calls it the ‘lucky oil’ and I feel very lucky indeed as I succumb to her skilled massage techniques.   The treatment room is designed to feel like the surrounding ecosystem; the floors are timber and one side of the pavilion is open to the garden. It’s soothing and rejuvenating and reminds me of the ‘forest bathing’ trend. Birds chirrup in the encircling jungle garden and the sound of waves lapping against the shore lulls me into a state of complete relaxation and surrender to the moment.   The spa menu options are plentiful. We choose the oriental-style massage – a combination of Swedish relaxation and Thai stretching techniques. Afterwards, a state of calm has infiltrated my entire being. Things to note Some of the scenery at the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The nearby Similan Islands has some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the world. Sadly, when we visited they were still closed (May–October) for regeneration of the coral. Check on the state of these closures before booking.   The resort restricts children under 10. Because it is a place of peace and calm, kids must be old enough to respect this and maintain it.   A garden view room including breakfast costs from $670 per night for two people.   For more information and to book, visit Sarojin, Khao Lak.
The Viking Orion feels so unlike a cruise ship – and that’s precisely the point
Iconic art and understated style: Imogen Eveson on why the Viking Orion has made her a cruise convert.
Where to eat, play and stay in New Zealand’s famous wine regions
If it’s food – and especially wine – you’re after, there aren’t many places better suited than New Zealand. Known for its particularly iconic slew of delicious white wines, it’s no surprise they’re highly sought after the world over – and though delicious when sampled anywhere, there’s nothing quite like visiting the regions from which they hail. The Marlborough and Nelson Tasman regions of the South Island provide some of the best wine touring experiences in New Zealand. Here's a guide to visiting the Top of the South. Marlborough In the Marlborough wine region it's easy to feel a little heady – and it's not just the effect of the intense, complex and sensual Marlborough sauvignon blancs that have made this small northeastern corner of the South Island a star destination on the world's wine map.   It's also the scenery: the surrounding mountains that shelter the vines from climatic extremes; the rocky, braided rivers on whose flinty alluvial plains the grapes thrive, and the vines themselves, stretching for kilometres in every direction and glowing near-psychedelic green in the sun.   This beautiful and bountiful part of New Zealand is the best place in the world for growing sauvignon blanc and the wines here taste like nowhere else on Earth. Where to taste In Marlborough, geography and technology neatly solve the wine tourist's perennial problem of where to go and what to taste. Although the landscape of undulating hills and wide valleys has three winegrowing sub-regions, the majority of cellar doors (37 in all) are clustered around the town of Renwick in the Wairau Valley 12 kilometres west of the main town of Blenheim.   The flat terrain of the valley floor makes for blissfully easy taste-touring and technology assists travellers further with Visit Us, a section on the mobile-friendly website of New Zealand Wine that provides fully searchable information on cellar door listings, dining and accommodation options, tours and other experiences in Marlborough. Wine Marlborough’s website also has a handy interactive wine trail map.   Another perennial problem for wine tourists – drink-driving – is solved by full- or half-day self-guided or small-group guided biking tours operated by several local providers, including Explore Marlborough. Tours typically visit five or six boutique wineries chosen by knowledgeable guides and include a relaxed lunch. The terrain is mostly flat, and pick-ups and returns to accommodation make the experience even more stress-free. If it rains, tours are made by minibus.   One thing to keep in mind while touring in Marlborough is that although 85 per cent of the vineyards are devoted to the production of world-class sauvignon blanc, the region also produces first-class pinot noir, chardonnay, aromatic wines and méthode traditionelle sparkling wines. A day of cellar door-hopping might also seem sufficient at first, but Marlborough is a place where visitors tend to linger. Where to eat Brancott Estate Marlborough, New Zealand.Unsurprisingly, Marlborough is a haven for food lovers. Farmers’ markets, artisan producers, food trails and regular food festivals dot the landscape along with restaurants and eateries ranging from bean-bag-on-the-terrace-style relaxed to award-winning degustation and à la carte dining. Vineyard restaurants in Marlborough attract international- and Michelin-level chefs and the cuisine is innovative and based on seasonal local ingredients.   Dining options in close proximity to Renwick include Brancott Estate (try lunch with matched wines); the Bistro (lunch and dinner) and Gourmet Restaurant (dinner only) at Hans Herzog Estate; Rock Ferry Cellar Door & Cafe (seasonally inspired organic cooking); Wairau River Wines (the blue cheese soufflé is wildly popular) and Allan Scott winery (well known for its seafood chowder). What to do If wine touring whets your appetite for seeing and tasting more, Marlborough can oblige with a host of activities including mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving, food, scenic and wildlife cruises, or just relaxing on a beach. You’ll find many of these activities in the Marlborough Sounds, a beautiful maze of ancient sea-drowned valleys in the north of the region that Captain Cook used as a base on all three of his great voyages of exploration.   The Sounds are a sanctuary for wildlife and specialist cruise operators such as e-Ko Tours can take you on dolphin swimming and viewing, birdwatching and whale-watching excursions with the chance to step ashore in pristine settings. For a back-to-nature experience with a twist, Pelorus Eco Adventures operates a guided inflatable kayaking tour along the beautiful Pelorus River where the scenes for the wild river barrel scene in The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug were filmed.   Marlborough is renowned for its delicious seafood, particularly salmon and greenshell mussels, and on the Marlborough Tour Company’s Seafood Odyssea Cruises to aquaculture farms, guests enjoy platters of sashimi-style Regal salmon, steamed Cloudy Bay clams and steamed greenshell mussels paired with local Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Calorific guilt can be expunged on the Queen Charlotte Track, a two-to-five-day hiking or (seasonal) biking experience of the region’s waterscapes that a seamless network of cruise and pack transfers lets you tackle in easy sections if you wish. Where to stay Tucked away among landscaped gardens near Renwick, five-star Marlborough Vintners Hotel offers 16 one-bedroom suites with views over the vines to the Wairau River and Richmond Range beyond. In Blenheim, five-star Chateau Marlborough, a two-minute walk from the town centre, has a good range of accommodation from a two-bedroom penthouse to one-bedroom apartments and studios.   If seclusion in the Marlborough Sounds is what you seek, Punga Cove retreat at Endeavour Inlet in Queen Charlotte Sound is accessible by scenic road or water taxi services from Picton. Getting to Marlborough Blenheim is 309 kilometres by road north of Christchurch and 115 kilometres from Nelson. Air New Zealand operates daily services to Marlborough Airport from Auckland and Wellington and the daily Coastal Pacific train service between Christchurch and Picton stops at Blenheim. Nelson Tasman It's tempting to travel the 115 kilometres north-west from Blenheim to Nelson in a comparative frame of mind, but like everyone else you quickly discard those thoughts when you arrive. Nelson Tasman does everything its own way, as it has always done, with great success.   It's a paradise for potters, painters, alternative life-stylers, food lovers and wine lovers who are drawn to the region by its beautiful scenery, fertile plains, golden-sand beaches and high sunshine hours. The regional city of Nelson has a strong artistic vibe and a thriving dining scene, and across Tasman Bay to the west is Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest and perhaps most beloved of all of New Zealand’s national parks. Where to taste Compared to Marlborough, Nelson Tasman is a small wine region with only 22 wineries featuring on its Great Taste Trail, but it makes lovely sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, aromatics, dessert wines and pinot noir. The history of winemaking in the region is long, having begun with German settlers in the mid-19th century, and it continues to evolve with the introduction of new varieties such as Montepulciano.   All but a few vineyards are located along the coast of Tasman Bay west of Nelson city and there are two sub-regions, each of which can be toured in a day. The Waimea Plains sub-region near Richmond, 13 kilometres south-west of Nelson, produces perfumed pinot noirs, rich and expressive chardonnays and vibrant aromatics. The Moutere Hills sub-region 20 kilometres further west is where winegrowing in the region first commenced. Slightly warmer and wetter than Waimea, it produces wines of complexity and depth.   For the energetic, there’s the Great Taste Trail, an off-road cycling route that is part of The New Zealand Cycle Trail / Nga Haerenga and which showcases the area’s coastal and inland scenery as it passes vineyards, breweries and orchards. As in Marlborough, there are expert operators of independent and guided tours like Wheelie Fantastic’s Moutere Wine and Artisans tour, Nelson Tours and Travel which offers a range of personally guided van tours, and Wine, Art and Wilderness which specialises in luxury tours to boutique family-run vineyards. Where to eat Boatshed Cafe Nelson. Image via Stephen GoodenoughYou won’t go hungry while wine touring in Nelson Tasman as the majority of cellar doors offer food of some kind including platters, cheeseboards, home baking and rustic fare. The region does not have destination vineyard restaurants in the same way that Marlborough does but two essential stops on any tour should be Seifried Estate in the Waimea Valley and Neudorf Vineyards in Upper Moutere. These long-established and much-awarded wineries will show you why touring in Nelson Tasman makes for a memorable wine holiday.   In Nelson, highly awarded Hopgood's & Co. in Trafalgar Street is a travellers' favourite that serves modern, seasonally based bistro-style food. The nearby Cod and Lobster Brasserie specialises in seafood and regional fare including beef, lamb and venison. Urban Eatery in Hardy Street is run by a Michelin-trained chef and no reservations are needed. On the Nelson waterfront, the iconic Boat Shed Cafe is a must-do, as is Jellyfish Restaurant & Bar at Mapua Wharf in Mapua. In Kaiteriteri, Kai Restaurant & Bar is the pick, as are Hooked on Marahau and the gourmet burgers at The Fat Tui food caravan in Marahau. What to do No visit to Nelson is complete without a visit to the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum in the birthplace of the globally famous annual design competition. Thirty-two kilometres west of the city, Mapua Wharf on the Great Taste Trail is home to a vibrant collection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, stores and attractions.   A trip to the region is not complete either without a visit to iconic Abel Tasman National Park: Wilsons Abel Tasman operates a complete range of guided walks, tours, scenic cruises and lodge accommodation. For the more active, Abel Tasman Kayaks offers a range of guided adventures and Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures enables visitors to experience the park by catamaran. Where to stay Located on the Maitai River which runs through the heart of Nelson city, Trailways Hotel Nelson is a good base from which to explore the cafes, theatres, galleries and shopping of Nelson’s CBD, and further afield. Across the road, DeLorenzo's 30 luxury studio apartments include seven interconnecting apartments and four accessible rooms. Just a few metres from the harbour on the Nelson waterfront, Wakefield Quay House is a heritage 1905 villa enjoying a new career as a stylish luxury B&B where host Woodi serves canapés and fine local wines and beers on the villa’s seafront deck.   For close proximity to the start of the Great Taste Trail and to the beach and airport, the Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco is a good pick. On the western side of Tasman Bay, the beachfront Kaiteriteri Reserve Apartments at Kaiteriteri are next to the water taxi departure point for Abel Tasman National Park. A little further up the coast at Marahau, Abel Tasman Lodge offers a small range of spacious private chalets set in tranquil gardens. In the heart of the national park, behind a magnificent beach recently purchased by the people of New Zealand in perpetuity, is iconic Awaroa Lodge. Getting to Nelson Tasman Nelson is 115 kilometres by road from Blenheim and 415 kilometres from Christchurch via the scenic state highways 6 and 7. The city has daily air connections via Air New Zealand to six other New Zealand centres.
Designer Philippe Starck is getting into the boutique-budget market with the Mama Shelter hotel in Paris.
Chic boutique hotels on a budget
Like airlines, low-cost hotels are changing the way we travel. Here's how to stretch your travel dollar without killing the buzz of a hip stay. When rifling through accommodation options in big cities, choosing budget hotels can be a miserable exercise in bullet-dodging. Tune Hotels It’s a netherworld of threadbare towels, mould-dashed showers in the hallway, sweaty box rooms more suited to prison-based fever dreams, and mattresses with the weight-bearing capabilities of a soggy cardboard box left outside in a thunderstorm. It doesn’t take many visits to the curiously interchangeable budget hotels in London’s King’s Cross area, for example, to make the Tune Hotels concept sound relatively attractive.   In short, base rates are low, while you pay for any add-ons – be it air-con, wi-fi, in-room safes, a TV or towels and toiletries. That’s not quite as annoying as it may sound. With rooms in London starting at $60, I don’t mind paying an extra $5 a day for 24-hour web access and $2.50 for towels and toiletries. (I’d not use the safe or TV anyway.) The rooms are undeniably small, but crucially, they’re furnished to a high standard with comfortable beds, power showers and an overall sense of clean, smart slickness.   CEO, Mark Lankester, reckons that low-cost airlines have conditioned travellers to recognise that spending less doesn’t have to equate to poor quality. And paying extra for some amenities is a matter of choice.   But he also points out a new breed of traveller – known in marketing speak as the ‘Millennial’. “They’re voracious travellers and world citizens,” says Lankester. “For them, the size of the room is less important as long as it’s affordably priced, comfortable and – importantly – has great internet connectivity.”   Over the last decade, a handful of other design-focused budget chains have cropped up – all pushing a variation on the quality, cool and affordable shtick. Motel One Motel One – all egg chairs, trendy lamps, iPads and rates from $73 a night – is expanding out from its German base and now has five UK properties, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle. Citizen M and Chic&Basic The artier, minimalist Chic&Basic has invaded Amsterdam from its Spanish hub, while Citizen M has expanded into New York, Boston and Seattle after tagging in Glasgow, Paris, London and Copenhagen to its Dutch properties. The latter has buzzy common areas and canteen-style self-service restaurants to complement pod-style rooms where all electronics – mood lighting, electronic blinds, the works – are controlled from a bedside screen.   Each brand has its quirks, but in common is the assumption that guests will trade space and supposedly outdated services for affordability, connectivity and centrality.   Natasha McLaughlin, Land Product Manager for STA Travel, says these hotels aren’t just appealing to budget travellers – guests are being pinched from mid-range chains. “The likes of Novotel and Holiday Inn have their appeal as they are internationally consistent. However, everyone wants something boutique, stylish, and something a bit special, so I can understand why these hotel styles are trending.” Moxy The big boys are now getting in on the act – Marriott has joined forces with IKEA for the Moxy chain, which first opened its doors in Milan in 2014, and has since expanded across 14 European countries, the UK, Japan, Indonesia and across the USA. Mama Shelter Even legendary luxury designer Philippe Starck is dipping his toes in, collaborating on Mama Shelter, which kicked off in Paris in 2008. The brand has since expanded to other French cities,  Belgrade, Prague, and Los Angeles. GM and co-owner, Jeremie Trigano, uses terms such as “urban kibbutz” and “sensual refuge” to describe the hotels. All come with free movies, an overload of in-room technology and high-end bedding. But rates start at $73.   With all of these up-and-coming chains, however, suitability depends on mentality. For wallet-conscious solo travellers and those who use hotels as a necessary base for exploring the city, they’re ideal. For couples, the rooms can be a squash if spending more time in them beyond sleeping and getting changed. Full-on city break or non-expense account business overnighter? Yes. Romantic weekend? No.   But getting a cheap big city room no longer needs to be a grim game of Russian roulette.
Romantic Maldives accommodation on any budget
Whether you’re heading over with a little or a lot, you’re just thankful to be together in the Maldives, right? The good news is there’s an accommodation option for any budget…
Beautiful places to stay in Belgium
A stay in one of these stylish Belgian hotels will place you right at the heart of the country’s cultural and historical centres, finds Lucy Cousins.