Grifco Speaks To Dr. Jill Nash, Travel Journalist & Author

Grifco recently sat down with the very talented Dr. Jill Nash, director and author of the popular travel guidebooks, Luxury Backpackers, to discuss her take on the future of the travel industry. We also picked Jill’s brain on travel trends, her favourite recently visited destinations, and travel essentials she cannot live without!

Grifco: So tell us Jill, what do you think the top 2012 travel trends are?

JN: I think travelling on a budget still remains a key priority for many. People are very cautious about spending, but will still want a break away. So with this in mind, trends towards big saving deals through packages or price comparison websites will remain popular for 2012. Equally, DIY bookings, and independent travel still remain strong for those who want to make up their own itinerary.

People are far more educated about travelling now, and will research their destination and accommodation before booking, so travel opinion website such as trip advisor will continue to help guide peoples choices. There is so much information on the internet too, which does make it sometimes confusing, tiresome, and laborious ,so many are choosing ‘travel specialists’ to act as booking agents and advisors, or sticking to places they know, trust or are familiar with.

Luxury travel is still going strong too- especially in the ‘honeymoons’ sector. With couples still getting married and taking that ‘Honeymoon of a lifetime’, they are looking for different experiences away from the beach – such as city breaks to train travel. In terms of destinations, mainland Spain and the islands will remain popular for couples and families, as will other ‘close to home’ options like Croatia, Italy, Malta and France.

Grifco: Where do you think the hottest destinations will be in 2012?

JN: I think the USA is a particularly interesting destination to watch for 2012. With city breaks to New York and Las Vegas remaining popular for couples and groups, and regions such as Colorado and Texas for those wanting more authentic American ‘off the beaten track’ adventures. Road trips on the West Coast and wine regions of California are also gravitating in popularity.

Grifco: In the last year, where was your favourite place that you visited and why?

JN: I’m surprised by my answer here – but Malta & Gozo. These two islands are completely undersold and do not get enough positive media coverage. They offer great climate, are easily accessible from the UK, perfect for young families, culture vultures, nature enthusiasts and foodies. I was particularly impressed with the level of quality home-made cuisine and local wines. The beaches were outstanding too, as were the many small boutique accommodation options. It is also a good choice for those watching their wallets.

Grifco: What is your all-time favourite holiday destination and why?

JN: The Philippines. For its outstanding natural beauty, unparalleled scuba diving, and pristine beaches. My favourite hotel has to be super luxurious Amanpulo in the Palawan Province.

Grifco: Do you have any travel essentials that you can’t travel without?

My dive computer (which also doubles as a watch), my rather large backpack, my batik sarong (which works as a beach dress, cover-up and something to sit on) and my Platinum AMEX card (in case of emergencies!).

Luxury Backpackers guidebooks feature multiple varieties of stylish adventures around the world to inspire every type of traveller. The latest guidebook, Family Adventures in Style is now available.

For more information on Luxury Backpackers, visit their Website, Facebook Group, YouTube channel, or follow them on Twitter.

www.luxurybackpackers.com

Facing My Fear In Paradise, Peter Island Resort & Spa

Peter Island has everything you could ever expect and want from a luxury private island with buckets of charm thrown in to make sure you’ll be returning for years to come.

I landed in the British Virgin Islands in the middle of the night which at first I thought was a shame as I wouldn’t get to see the island as we arrived, but pulling back the curtains on the first morning and seeing THAT view was absolutely unforgettable. Palm trees swaying in the breeze, white sands, dazzling sun and crystal blue waters – I had arrived in paradise.

 

 

 

 

 

Huge draws for guests visiting the Caribbean are the amazing beaches and incredible tropical coral reefs and Peter Island is no different. So much so that mid-way through breakfast on my first morning, I had already been asked by three members of staff if I had booked a diving trip yet.

Unfortunately however I have been haunted by a fear of the open water for years (I blame my 6-year old self for watching ‘Jaws’ in naïve defiance) but I thought that if I was ever going to face my fear it should be here. So I headed down to the dive shop and was greeted by the delightful resident dive expert Randy and his team. Randy has been diving in the BVIs and around Peter Island for decades so I knew I’d be in safe hands.

We were joined by Armando, Randy’s best-friend and professional photographer. Armando accompanies all dives and takes the most incredible photos. Stepping on the boat I was trembling in my flippers, but the pair immediately had me laughing over a chilled diet coke as we sped out to Indian Point, one of the best coral reefs just off Peter Island

 

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Luckily for me the BVI waters are crystal clear and relatively shallow for diving, which meant that the reefs were right near the surface with lots of sunlight reaching the ocean floor. After a bit of practice next to the boat (who knew breathing could be so difficult!) Randy eased me out over the reefs and showed off his encyclopaedic knowledge of the ocean, naming everything we saw. It was truly the most beautiful place I had ever been; I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discover this incredible world full of colour and life!

 

 

 

 

 

It was an amazing experience but the real highlight was when a Reef Shark swam right next to me – after I had stopped hyperventilating into my mask I realised how beautiful it was. If that doesn’t cure a fear of open water, I’m not sure what will! I’ll always remember Peter Island and am sure I’ll be back one day – maybe I’ll even manage to swap my snorkel for a full tank dive next time!

 

My Return To Marrakech!

Having previously explored the breezy seaside fishing port of Essaouira, spent evenings under the stars in the Atlas Mountains and afternoons visiting tanneries in Fez, my fondest memories were always of Marrakech. It’s a combination of the variety and vibrancy it so effortlessly oozes and the cool, boutique hangouts it has to offer in a city with such culture. After persuading my best friend Pete to join me, we booked our flights to Marrakech with the decision that we would stay inside the ‘old city’ as this is where you experience the real Morocco.

We only had two plans for this holiday and that was to relax and eat plenty of good food (as you may already know, Grifco girls love their food!) and as a PR girl who loves a good itinerary, we managed to accomplish both!

Where to stay… After following the advice of Conde Nast Traveller Online, we booked Riad W described online as ‘understated and very elegant’.  After walking through the bustling medina with our luggage we arrived to the small morocco entrance of Riad W. The only way I can describe this special Riad is a sanctuary. The feeling of visiting someone’s home is even more reassuring and relaxing. Breakfast was served daily, from fresh, warm Moroccan crepes and freshly squeezed orange juice to succulent fruit with yogurt and honey. Elsa Bauza, the owner of this true hidden gem is delightful and has some fantastic insider tips to share with her guests.

The Five Star Option…Kasbah Agafay Hotel and Spa, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World portfolio, is a 20 minute drive from Marrakech with breathtaking views over the desert and mountains. A real haven of luxury and beauty, the spa is one of the most quaint, relaxation spots I have ever experienced especially the traditional hamman which was unforgettable (slh.com).

Spend the Day… at Beldi Country Club. A 15 minute taxi ride from the medina, this stunning hotel, pool and restaurant is surrounded by rose gardens and olive groves. Walk through the long, arched walkway, past the farmers preening the array of brightly coloured roses, and you will come across this spectacular pool. The cost of a three course meal and pool use is well worth it, serving a delicious three course Moroccan menu offering traditional tagines to homemade ice-creams. (On my next Morocco visit I will be trying one of the hotel’s cookery classes and organised picnics to the countryside).

Spend the day (and party at)…the famous Nikki Beach, (although not for the faint hearted) as the music from the house DJ gets louder hourly! This glamorous pool offers a stylish venue however still upholding its Moroccan charm. It may surprise some but the food here is incredibly good (especially the fresh fish) which you can enjoy while you dangle your feet in the pool. Nikki Beach is the ultimate spot for people watching-so don’t forget the shades!

Drink cocktails… at the elegant Bo et Zin and be sure to sit outside in this bar/restaurant in the warmer months. It has a fantastic ambience and the exotic gardens with beautiful fountains and summer loungers are what make it so striking.

Experience… the restaurant/lounge/boutique Art Deco villa, Le Comptoir, where waiters are replaced with belly dancers at around 9.30pm. Exotic woman in full costume create a buzzing atmosphere both up and downstairs, dancing around tables and sometimes, on tables! The food is delicious here too with French, Moroccan and Asian influences. I would recommend sitting upstairs for a more relaxed bar/restaurant atmosphere.

Get Lost… in the medina with its endless stalls selling beautiful trinkets, hand embroided scarves, fresh spices and ceramic goodies! But make sure your last point of call is Le Jardin, in the heart of the medina. Recommended by a Moroccan friend of mine, this stunning, sensual courtyard serves great food in a beautiful, romantic setting.

Foodie Heaven At The Hole In The Wall

The Grifco Girls are naturally lovers of all things travel and spa related, but we do have another passion that’s very close to our hearts…great food! Whether it’s a Friday dimsum session, or discovering the next new burger pop-up, we are always on the look out for the next hot restaurant.

With the current push towards a ‘Staycation’, I decided to hop on a train and take the short journey to the countryside of Cambridgeshire to discover the latest gourmet offering in the area, The Hole In The Wall.

Located in a village called Little Wilbraham, The Hole In The Wall is a picturesque 16th Century restaurant and free house run by Masterchef finalist Alex Rushmer. Situated on a quiet country lane, the sunny garden of the restaurant is the ideal place to sit out and enjoy some of the local Cambridgeshire ales The Hole In The Wall has to offer.

Taking influences from his Scandinavian heritage and travels to Japan, Alex’s cooking style is very much ‘modern British’ but with new quirky twists. The restaurant is big on using local produce and cooking in a sympathetic manner to ensure that quality shines through. The menu varies from week to week but one of the simple favourites that will always make an appearance would have to be the Steak For Two. This local steak is served on a wooden board and carved for you at the table, and complimented by the all-important triple cooked chips, braised shallots, fresh salad, garlic mushrooms and braised beef cheek pudding. I’m recommended the perfect bottle from the extensive wine list and tuck in.

Those are seriously crunchy chips!

The Steak For Two is a winner but I thought it would be rude to not try some of Alex’s other creations…

Alex’s signature dish, Smoked Duck with Pickled Cucumber and Spiced Caramel Sauce, goes down a treat.

The Shime Saba is a lighter alternative to the steak – a Japanese style mackerel pickled in white wine vinegar, it’s so delicate and fresh and one of the highlights of my meal.

Serious about my food I always find room for dessert. Instead of facing the dilemma of choosing between them, I decided it was only right that I order them all.

The Rhubarb Crumble was served with small crunchy balls of meringue. The Rice Pudding was creamy but not heavy and served with a crispy Italian Cannoli Roll. My favourite however would have to be the Sticky Toffee Bread and Butter Pudding, a match made in heaven, the warm doughy duo-dessert was perfect with home-made Vanilla Ice-Cream.

If a jaunt to the countryside is in order, this little 16th Century gem should definitely be top of your list to try. Foodie Heaven.

For more information on The Hole In The Wall, visit their Website, Facebook Page or follow the restaurant on Twitter.