Five Hotels, Five Countries, Five Fabulous Holiday Destinations!

If you have left planning your summer holiday until the very last-minute, now is the perfect time to search through those shiny travel brochures or scour the internet for that special holiday you have been dreaming about since your last trip somewhere warm and exotic.

With our busy lifestyles, it can be easy to put things off, but with just 168 days until the end of the year (sorry!), you may find that if you do not book your trip soon, another year will pass you by and your bucket list will be getting longer rather than shorter!

The world is big and the choice is vast, so to help you get in the holiday mood, we thought we would share some of our favourites – with 5 Hotels, 5 Countries, and 5 Fabulous Holiday Destinations:

Mondrian Hotel, Miami Beach, USA

Miami Beach is a wonderful destination at any time of year, and while you may see some rain during the next couple of months, the temperatures remain warm and there is still plenty of sunshine around.  The Mondrian Hotel is an uber-cool luxury hotel on the bay side of Miami, far enough away to relax and unwind, but close enough to enjoy everything the gorgeous sunshine state has to offer.

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Gansbaai, South Africa

It may still be ‘winter’ in the Western Cape of South Africa, but there is much for the traveller to see and do.  Safari’s, wine tasting tours, and shark-cage diving are just some of the activities waiting for you, and if you treat yourself to the magnificent Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, you will stay in one of the finest hotels in all Africa.

Vila Joya, Algarve, Portugal

The Vila Joya (Jewellery Box) Hotel is one of Portugal’s best-kept secrets.  Perching on the cliff tops overlooking the Mediterranean; it is a fantastic destination for those looking for something truly unique.  Upon arrival, you are greeted with the words “welcome to paradise”, and once you have dined on one of their exquisite 7-course menus, you will understand exactly why they call it that!

Meliá Zanzibar Hotel, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar, also referred to as ‘The Island of Spice’, is an enchanting island sitting in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.  A short hop from Tanzania mainland, this island in the sun is perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway, and if you are looking for luxury, look no further than the Meliá Zanzibar Hotel.  A five-star all-inclusive property with private beach, it is simply breathtaking.

Sofitel Hotel, Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil

While we usually avoid large chain hotels in favour of smaller, locally owned properties, the Sofitel Hotel on the Costa Do Sauipe coast of Brazil is certainly worth a mention.  Combining the luxury of a five-star hotel with a huge expanse of coastline, this is a wonderful destination for beach bums who enjoy nothing more than sipping an ice-cold Caipirinha while listening to the soft sounds of the waves and the Samba!

Wherever you are heading off on holiday – we hope you have the time of your life!

Hotel Star Ratings – What’s in a number?

Since the invention of Trip Advisor, it seems most of us would rather rely on the opinions of other travellers who have “been there, done that”, than the number of stars listed by a hotel name.

Why, well, every country seems to have its own star rating system and what one country deems a four-star hotel, another may well rate a 2-star property – so how do we know we are getting what we are paying for?

Social media outlets that offer advice and opinions are all well and good, but as they are open to everyone, a competitor with sour grapes can easily add a damaging report about a neighbouring hotel. Then there are the travellers who use these channels to write a book on how they didn’t like the wallpaper, the light switches were too high, and the orange juice at breakfast was sour!

So, while I do take note of what has been written by other travellers, I also read between the lines, and combine the hotel star rating with an overview of all the reviews/opinions available to try to get a better idea of what the property is really like.

After travelling to over 40 countries, I truly believe you get what you pay for, and while I understand everyone has a travel budget, I don’t understand why someone would book a 2-star hotel when they are used to, and expect, the luxurious amenities they have at home!  It doesn’t work like that…

Luxury 5-Star Rooms at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Like most people, I enjoy staying in five-star properties but they can be expensive and unless you are going to spend a great deal of time in your hotel room or using the hotel facilities they might not be worth the investment.  We prefer to save these hotels for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthday treats or romantic beach breaks, when we really make the most of the luxurious rooms, great facilities and five-star service.

We generally opt for four-star hotels where you get all the little luxuries you are used to at home such as quality bed linens, tastefully decorated rooms, clean bathrooms and electrical goods, without the pomp and ceremony offered by five-star hotels. Perfect for city breaks and country escapes!

In most European countries, three-star hotels are decent properties with nice rooms, adequate facilities, and are therefore perfect for a weekend city break, but when you compare the prices of a three-star hotel with a four-star, you may find that there isn’t much between them, so location may be your deciding factor.

When it comes to a two-star hotel, well again, you get what you pay for.  In the few two-star properties I have seen, you get a clean but basic room with private bathroom, and very few facilities. These properties are ideal for those travelling around the world on a budget, and if you do some research beforehand, you may well find a real gem.

I have to admit I have never stayed in a one-star hotel so really cannot comment (do they even exist?), but before I would choose such a hotel, I think I would rather go for a guest house or B&B, and that’s a whole new ball game when it comes to star rating!

5 Luxury Hotels in South Africa

As recent reports indicate we will be spending most of our travel budget on accommodation in 2012, we thought it only right that we take this opportunity to share our 5 favourite luxury hotels in South Africa with you.

Anyone reading our blogs will have realised that South Africa has a truly special place in our hearts, and as we countdown to our next trip below the equator, we simply cannot wait to visit our favourite hotels and share a glass of South African wine with the owners who are fast becoming dear friends.

We couldn’t possibly put these hotels in order of preference, as we love them all, so in no particular order:

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

A simply stunning five-star property overlooking Walker’s Bay, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a place that everyone visiting South Africa should experience.  Combining two luxurious lodges with the most amazing private nature reserve, Grootbos is a place where one goes to relax, indulge and enjoy the very best foods, wines, and nature activities amongst the world’s greatest collection of Fynbos.

Rosenhof Country House

Set in the “Wild West” town of Oudtshoorn, the Rosenhof Country House is an exquisite five-star property that boasts sumptuous accommodations, excellent dining and some of the friendliest local staff one could wish to encounter.  A great stopover for those travelling the Garden Route, the Rosenhof is just beautiful.

Lairds Lodge

Lairds Lodge has a homely feel and a relaxed atmosphere that allows one to really appreciate the beautiful property, exceptional dining, and attentive staff.  Perfectly positioned between the two popular towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, Lairds is a great base for those looking to get away from the bustling city.

Winchester Mansions

We love the Winchester Mansions, and if you are looking for a Cape Town break we don’t believe there is anywhere better to stay!  Set on the Atlantic Seaboard in the bustling town of Seapoint, this property is great for those who enjoy walking (it’s a mere 20 minute walk to the V&A Waterfront), and offers a fantastic sea facing bar, which is just ideal for those late afternoon sundowners!

Lalibela Game Reserve

If you are heading off to the Eastern Cape for a Malaria Free Safari, then one of the best places to stay (in our humble opinion) is Lalibela Game Reserve.  Featuring three different lodges, this spectacular game reserve boasts South Africa’s Big 5, along with a variety of other beautiful animals, and combines a relaxed atmosphere with quality accommodation, great game viewing and delicious menus.

What are your favourite hotels in South Africa?  Let us know so we can add it to our “to see” list!