Archive for the ‘Lodging’ Category

Rafting and Rooms at L’Alcova, Spain

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Rafting in Sort, Spain

I am from Oregon, in the United States originally, but have lived in Spain for about 4.5 years. Oregon’s wild rivers are known for being some of the best around when it comes to white water rafting. Spain is much drier than my native State, and the rivers here are not quite as wet and wild as those back home. Still, there is rafting to be had if one is so inclined. A while back a group of us went rafting out of Sort, a village tucked in the mountains of Catalonia.

If you sign up for a trip with Rubber River Rafting, then consider staying the night just down the road at L’Alcova: Petit Hotel De Muntanya. After a day of rafting and sunshine, it may be better to stay in a hotel and relax instead of trying to drive back to a major city. This area of Catalonia is also really gorgeous, so a night near Sort is a treat.

Rafting in Spain

Rafting in Spain

L’Alcova: Petit Hotel De Muntanya is set in a stone house from the XIX century. It has 8 rooms, singles, doubles and quadruples, ranging from 45 to 90 Euros a night, which is a fair price. It is about 2 kilometers from rafting in Sort, and 20 kilometers from the National Park of the Alto Pirineo. Basically, there is a lot to do if you are into nature and outdoor sports close by L’Alcova.


L’Alcova: Petit Hotel De Muntanya  web:

Tel. 00 34 973 621 127 ·

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop

Budget Hostel: Albergue O Abrigadoiro, Spain

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Some of the cheapest accommodations in Spain are found along the Camino de Santiago. If you are hiking the Camino from France to Santiago, then you will want to register with the Pilgrimage office so that you can take advantage of deep discounts at hostels on the trail. When I say deep, I mean around 5 to 10 Euros a night for a bed. Sure it is in a shared, and sometimes flea-bitten dorm room, but 5 Euros is very inexpensive.

El Camino de Santiago - Pilgrim

Some hostels on the trail are run by the Spanish government, these are many times the least expensive. Others are run by private parties and are more Euros but many times nicer. Albergue O Abrigadoiro is one such privately owned hostel, offering just 12 beds at 10 Euros a pop. The hostel also has laundry facilities so that you can wash the dirt off your two changes of clothes. Other perks include hot showers and a coffee machine on-site.

Typical Albergue on El Camino de Santiago - Hostels

I should say that I did not stay in Albergue O Abrigadoiro, but I did have breakfast there one morning on the trail. Next to the stone house that holds the hostel, is a charming stone cafe, with pictures of ‘pilgrims’ on the walls and some of the best breakfast on the trail. Great coffee, opera playing in the background and toast with homemade bread. Excellent.


No website for this one, but make a reservation via email in high-season –

Address: San Xiao do

Phone: +34-982374117/676596975

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop

Eco-friendly villas and turtle spotting on the Greek island of Zakynthos

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

I recently visited the Greek island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante) and spent some time exploring the holiday villages of Gerakas and Vassilikos where you can find stone-built villa and pastel painted apartments to rent through Ionian Eco Villagers.

Stone Villa at Vassilikos fron Ionian Eco Villagers

Stone Villa at Vassilikos fron Ionian Eco Villagers

This collection of privately owned holiday lodging is run by local conservationist Yannis Vardakastanis who strives to provide a welcoming and eco-friendly holiday experience. The southern end of the the island of Zakynthos is home to the nesting sites of the Carretta Carretta or loggerhead turtle and Yannis is an award winning conservationist on the island, running the Earth Sea Sky turtle information centre close to the protected beach at Gerakas as well as a volunteer conservation programme to monitor turtles and wildlife. Although many of the resorts on Zante are packed with package holiday makers in high season, Gerakas and Vassilikos, where Ionian Eco Villagers is based, offers a much more low key and authentic Greek experience.

Villa at Gerakas by Ionian Eco Villagers

Villa at Gerakas by Ionian Eco Villagers

The properties range from simply furnished to boutique style but all are set in beautiful natural surroundings, with olive groves, lemon trees and bouganvillia and with space to relax and breathe in the scent of thyme and chamomile. There are different size and style of properties for different budgets, some with swimming pools, and the long sandy beaches of Vassilikos and Gerakas are within walking distance of all of them.

Villa at Vassilikos from Ionian Eco Villagers

Villa at Vassilikos from Ionian Eco Villagers

As part of the holiday service Yannis provides information about wildlife in the area, taking guests on nature walks and providing bikes for guests to get around. The company supports the local economy by encouraging individual Greek property owners to preserve the unspoilt character of the area and discourage the building of larger scale hotels that would threaten the turtle and wildlife habitats in the area. Ionian Eco Villagers encourages the use of solar power and other eco friendly measures in their properties and they run turtle friendly catamaran trips around the bay where you can swim in the turquoise water, explore sea caves and if you are lucky, you may see some turtles too.

Turtle nesting beach at Gerakas

Turtle nesting beach at Gerakas

If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday in the sun that’s eco-friendly amid the olive groves and unhurried rhythm of Greek life, do take a look at Ionian Eco Villagers for a range of holiday properties to suit all budgets and tastes.

For more information visit the Ionian Eco Villagers Website and you’ll find other ideas for Zakynthos lodging on the Uptake website

Photo Credits: All photos by Heather on her travels on Flickr

Foxy Boxy? Aire de Bardenas Design Hotel, Spain

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Aire de Bardenas - Rooms with views of Navarra

Aire de Bardenas - Rooms with views of Navarra

‘Are we lost?’ I asked my mom as we drove through the countryside outside of Tudela, Navarra. ‘The map says it’s this way…’ she said, and just as she did the sign appeared, nailed to a pile of stacked wooden vegetable crates: Hotel Aire de Bardenas. It was a small sign, and it could have been easily missed.

Crates surrounded the entire hotel, and made a fence behind which we parked the rental car. The crates were creative and recycled, which I liked, though I wasn’t sure if I aesthetically liked them. The walk up to the entrance of Aire de Bardenas was lined with fruit trees, where ripe cherries hung from thin limbs. I tried one, and it was delicious.

Bath for the large Bardenas suite

Bath for the large Bardenas suite

Aire de Bardenas is a hotel, but I am listing it here under Lodging, because it is like no hotel I have ever seen before. The rooms are not rooms, but large shipping crates (new), with large windows that look out onto the barren, yet beautiful, landscape of southern Navarra. Everything in Aire de Bardenas is white, or light-wood, or soft green, or light gray. The color scheme is very tranquil, and lends itself well to the red dessert land around the hotel.

In 2009, Aire de Bardenas won the award for Best Small Hotel, according to Travel and Leisure Miami. I think this is a stretch. I would give Aire de Bardenas the Most Creative Small Hotel Award, because it is nothing if not original. Best however, is a bit much. Maybe this is because I am all about comfort. Hotels, like high-heels, should be both stylish and comfortable, and Aire de Bardenas lacks something when it comes to cozy. In the garden areas, rocks are spread about instead of grass, and lawn chairs are made of metal and not conducive to long periods of reading.

Creative Crates

Creative Crates

I guess if guests want to read a book at Aire de Bardenas, then they can go inside and sit in the lobby, which is quite pleasant. As you can see, I am on the fence about Aire de Bardenas. I DO recommend it. I think it is the best place to stay in Tudela, and I love the countryside around Aire de Bardenas. If you are interested in design or architecture, spend the 165 to 300 Euros to stay in one of Aire de Bardenas 22 cubes. I can guarantee it will be an overnight experience like none other.

More on Aire de Bardenas:

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop

Unusual stay: Sleep in a cave at Bluesprings Caverns, Indiana

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The boat ride through the caverns

 To add to the list of unusual overnight stays that include museums and a former battleship, consider Bluesprings Caverns in Bedford, Indiana. The caverns offer an overnight adventure from October 1 to April 30.  Along with bunking in Canyon Hall– an expansive chamber 100 feet underground, this after hours experience includes:

  • climbing, crawling and walking through less developed parts of the caverns not seen on regular tours
  • a boat trip on the Myst’ry River that flows underground
  • learning about cave exploration safety

The hitch to enjoying this unusual stay is that you must be part of an organized group geared towards 9 to 16 year-olds. Think Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church-type groups, other youth groups, school trips etc. The minimum group number is 15 and groups may be put with other groups.

The $28 per person fee includes breakfast.

In case this has crossed your mind, there are restroom facilities in the cave.

To book a stay, plan ahead. Now is not too early since spaces fill up quickly. Click here for more details about what to expect and for a packing list.

A visit to Bluesprings Caverns does not have to be an overnight or as part of a group.  Hour-long guided boat rides on the underground river occur 7 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  After Labor Day, caverns are still open seven days a week but the hours are a bit less. Click here for the schedule and tour prices. The trip is not recommended for kids younger than 3 or people with ambulatory issues.

The cave tour experience reminds me of my childhood trip to Mammoth Cave. The blind fish, an unusual feature of Mammoth Cave, live in Bluesprings Caverns–so do blind crayfish.

Except for the overnights, the cave closes for the season from November 1 to March 31.

1459 Bluesprings Caverns; Bedford, Indiana 47421

Call 812-279-9479 for reservations and check out the website and more information.

Photo courtesy of Bluesprings Caverns

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Sleeping Under the Stars in France

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

A Night Under the Stars

There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars, but choosing the great outdoors often means a certain amount of luxury is missing. However, a new concept in luxury camping has begun in France: Les Carres d’Etoiles (boxes of stars)is the idea of Louis and Nathalie Blanco who have brought a new way to enjoy the sky above. 
The Carre is a small bedroom with a glass dome above the bed that allows you to lie in bed and enjoy the night sky. At the foot of the bed a ladder leads to a lower level which is fully equipped with a toilet and shower, kitchenette with coffee maker, fridge and microwave, a sofa and a flat screen TV.  Each cabin also comes with its own astronomical telescope and star charts so amateur astronomers can enjoy the sky above. Weather permitting of course. 

The first of these cabins opened in Burgundy in 2010 and there are now 23 units to rent around France; from the Loire Valley to Picardy and Provence.  The units are portable and designed to stand anywhere- from the grounds of a luxury hotel to a local camp site or regional forest. 

With a fully equipped kitchenette guests can choose self catering and take advantage of the carres welcome baskets- available in various sizes- which offer a range of regional produce.  Other dining options, even breakfast in bed is available in many of the Carres attached to hotels. 

Les Carres d’Etoiles sleep two are available from around €95 per night, depending on location and season. 

Related Posts:
Unique Treehouse Lodging in Southern Germany
Apartment for Rent in le Marais Area of Paris, France
Paris Attractions for Families 

Photo Credit: Les Carres d’Etoiles

Loyalist Lakeview Resort, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

The Loyalist Lakeview Resort (also known as the Loyalist Country Inn) is a large, grey Victorian building in the middle of little Summerside, the second city in Canada’s picturesque Prince Edward Island. The spacious resort is next to Summerside’s lovely harbourfront and the colourful Spinnakers’ Landing, a recreated fishing village with interesting shops, good cafes, a nice board walk, as well as a playground and picnic area.

Summerside light house

The resort offers good value for money. We arrived in Summerside on an impulse and just showed up without a reservation. The very friendly receptionist gave us a large, comfortable family room for only CAD 100 (this was in the off season). Breakfast was not included, but that seems to be the norm in North America. However, the breakfast menu was extensive and quite inexpensive as well.

The Loyalist is a very family-friendly lodging option: the resort offers a swimming pool, (a major bonus when travelling with young children) and DVDs to borrow. Also, children can choose a little gift when checking in; nothing big, a colouring book or a small toy, but it’s a thoughtful little extra. A good option for adults, as well, The Loyalist offers an exercise room and sauna, free Internet and daily newspaper.

Loyalist Country Inn

For other lodging options in beautiful Prince Edward Island, read our review of Fitzroy Hall in Charlottetown.

Loyalist Lakeview Resort
195 Harbour Drive
Summerside, PEI C1N 5R1 – Canada
tel + 1 902 436 3333

Review and photos by Anne-Sophie Redisch of Sophie’s World
twitter: SophieR

Unusual stays: Sleep on Battleship New Jersey

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The "Big J" offers overnight encampments to all ages (6 and over)

The Battleship New Jersey, aka BB-62, now located in Camden, New Jersey offers visitors an unusual overnight stay. Launched December 7, 1942, a year after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, the ” Big J,” as its also called, is now a floating museum that keeps its doors open to overnight guests on prearranged nights. Before it was decommissioned, the ship took part in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars and became the most decorated Naval ship ever.

On an overnight stay, visitors sleep in the actual sailors’ bunks after storing their belongings in the same lockers the sailors used. Dining takes place in the “Crew’s Mess.” For an extra fee, guests can get a personalized dog tag made. This is a chance to be in the Navy, or at least get a glimpse into what life at sea in the military might be like.

Docent tour: The turret guns

On the ship’s tour, the 16-inch gun-turrets, a simulated launch of a Tomahawk missile and a look-see of the captains quarters are included–so is climbing up and down the ships ladders and companionways.

Unlike many of the overnight museum stays I wrote about last month that are geared toward kids, the Battleship New Jersey’s overnights are also geared towards adults. The more geared to adult  stays can include team-building, menu upgrades, entertainment and more. 

In order to have an overnight encampment experience, groups must:

  • be included in a group of at least 30 people (This means that your group does not have to be 30 people, but if you are under 30 people, you’ll need to go on a night when there will be at least 30 people. The ship is not opened for night business unless there are at least 30 people.)
  • include a youth between the age of 6 to 18
  • not have a child younger than 6. The ship stay is not considered a safe option  for anyone under 6.
  • overnight stays must be prearranged.

The cost of the overnight is $50.95 per person regardless of age. There aren’t any group discounts.

Other details of note: Both male and female and all ages are mixed together for sleeping arrangements. This is indeed a communal experience. Also, your group may be sharing sleeping quarters with another group. (This is similar to the museum stays)

Boy Scout troops can connect a stay with the ship’s merit badge program. Girl Scout troops can experience a USO-style performance and a presentation by a female Navy veteran.

Click here for a useful PDF file that contains all the information you need to know for making overnight stay arrangements. This is a user-friendly operation.

By the way, the ship is open during the day for regular interactive tours. Tours are either self-guided or docent led. Click here for tour schedule and pricing.

Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial
62 Battleship Place
Camden, NJ 08103

866-877-6262 or 856-966-1652 (extension 108 for ticket office; extension 203 for encampment)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Battleship New Jersey

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Ride the Waves: Camping Sopelana in the Basque Country

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Basque Country Surf

It could be argued that the Basque Country has some of the nicest beaches in Spain. Certainly they are popular with surfers, who find waves along the Peninsula’s northern coastline. Due to the fact that the Basque Country gets a lot of rain, a beach holiday can be ruined if a storm rolls into this area (which they often do). When the skies are clear, the Basque beaches are ample, gorgeous and shadowed by green hillsides.

Even if it is raining while you are visiting the Basque Country, there is so much to do in this region that it matters little what the weather does. At Sopelana, campers are just 20 minutes from Bilbao where the Guggenheim is located. Come in August, and visit San Sebastian for its week-long city festival (concerts, food, and all-night parties). In the summer, make sure to book ahead at Sopelana, as everyone goes on vacation in August in Spain (and in many other parts of Europe).

Sopelana is a simple campground offering bungalows, tent sites, a couple pools, a store, and nearby beach access. Families will like Sopelana, because there is lots for the kids and bungalows can easily accommodate a family of four. Bungalows at Sopelana are of the ‘4-star’ variety and have kitchens, running water, and showers. In high season, a bungalow sleeping four goes for 100 Euros and a tent site for about 24 Euros.

Basque Sunbathers


For prices, location information and booking see Sopelana here:

Playa Atxabiribil, 30

Basque Country


Photo Credit : The Spain Scoop

Summer Camping On Spanish Shores

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Camping In Spain

Spain is famous for its miles and miles of beaches. Come summer, many Europeans from the south come to Spanish shores, set up camp (literally) and stay a month or two. You must be thinking, as I was when I heard about this custom, that this could get spendy. After all, a 2-month vacation is Spain is not cheap!

Beaches of Tarragona, Spain

Beaches of Tarragona, Spain

The secret is Campings. Most northerners who come to Spain for long periods of time int he summer are not staying in ritzy hotels in Madrid, or stylish design flats in Barcelona, but in campgrounds. But wait! Before you click away thinking that camping is not for you, let me tell you that camping in Spain is not camping at all.

The forested areas with squirrels, bonfires, marshmallows and outhouses that I knew to be campgrounds as a kid do not exist here. Instead, this is a luxury affair, where a Camping can have several pools, beachfront property, cafes, stores and many bungalows to house the family. A child’s paradise, gone are the days of climbing trees and catching frogs down in the stream. In Spanish Campings kids frolic in pools with waterworks areas and slides, or in the Disneyland-like playground, while parents sip cool drinks under sun-umbrellas.

Camping Tamarit is prime example of how fabulously luxurious camping can be on the Iberian Peninsula. Offering many bungalows, a standard Junior bungalow goes for 60 Euros in low season and 150 Euros in high season. Pitching a tent in one of their standard areas can run you anywhere between 12 Euros and 45 Euros depending on the season. Still, families can save at Campings like Tamarit. Of course, one needs a car to get to Tarragona, where Tamarit is located. However, for the right person this luxury camping could be ideal way to save on a fine beach holiday.


Reservations online:

tel: 34-977-650-451

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop