Aug
31
2016

5 Great Ways To Discover The Napa Valley

By California / United States /

So you’ve left your heart in San Francisco after jumping in a car rental and wondering which direction to head? The answer is obvious, especially for those who don’t mind a tipple or two – head for Napa Valley and park your wheels at these five hotspots to continue some serious Californian dreaming. And it’s not all about the wine, as you’ll discover.

One … Napa Valley Wine Train

It’s time to journey back in time as you discover the Napa Valley in the comfort of a train with all the trimmings. The Napa Valley Wine Train, echoing the days of yesteryear when train travel was the luxurious way to experience a journey, is not only a charming mode of transport but also a restaurant on the tracks. With 100-year-old railcars and a 150-year-old rail corridor, the Wine Train retains railroading traditions that are disappearing on the American landscape, all within the stunning setting of Napa Valley and its treasured wineries. More: winetrain.com

Two … Lavender Inn

Lavender, a Four Sisters Inn, is a touch of Provence in the Napa Valley and is renowned for its cosy, homely accommodation offering in a setting that blends a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new. Gorgeous guestrooms features a fireplace, a king-sized bed heaped with pillows and many feature large brilliantly painted bathrooms with double sinks and contemporary benchtops. The good news? You can leave your Napa Valley car rental at home as there are superb wineries within walking distance including Hope & Grace, Somerston, Hestan Vineyards and Cornerstone Cellars. More: lavendernapa.com

Three … The Hess Collection Winery

Not just a mere winery, this one’s a museum as well, so you get the wine-art combo treatment located on the volcanic slopes of Mt Veeder. Hess Wines are legendary in these parts, the Cab Sav a favourite for many, and while there’s opportunities to do the cheese and wine pairing experience or straight up tastings, it’s essential you visit the contemporary art museum featuring works from the private collection of proprietor Donald Hess. It’s open daily and FREE. Self-guided iPod audio tours are available, too. More: hesscollection.com/visit-us

Four … Safari West

There’s plenty of reason to go wild in the Napa Valley, just ask the resident animals at this place, a 400-acre wildlife sanctuary. Safari West offers guided, open-air jeep tours daily. It’s an attraction with a real point of difference and a great place to take the family or wander through and talk to the animals. More: safariwest.com

Five … Napa Valley Bike Tours

Leave your car behind and spin your wheels on a bike tour of the Napa Valley. Join one of the company’s Guided Bike Tours, hosted by someone in the know, or go Self-Guided or Rent Bikes with the assistance of customised route maps and expert advice from the locals. This month (September 2016) is a chance to experience the new 12km stretch of the Napa Valley Vine Trail, connecting Napa to Yountville, offering a beautiful and relaxing bike ride with all the sights. More: napavalleybiketours.com

SCOTT PODMORE

 

 

Aug
29
2016

AFL grand final fever – five places to stay in Melbourne

By Australia / Melbourne /

STAR footballers retiring, others being given the flick, a coach sacked and season over for 8 Australian Football League teams. Yep, it’s the end of the home and away season in the AFL and it all turns a little stir crazy as the other 8 teams are a chance in this year’s finals – it’s time to find some accommodation and snap up a bargain rental car at Melbourne Airport for that big day on October 1 when the MCG comes alive for a full day of entertainment and footy action.

CLOSE TO THE ACTION

Pullman on the Park

Upscale hotel right opposite the “G” and Fitzroy Gardens. If you want to be right on top of all the action for both the pre GF parade and the big game the next day then you probably need to get in quick for Pullman on the Park. Only 24km from the airport, the hotel is also smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s sports precinct.

10 words or less: Swish hotel and everything is within walking distance.

CLOSE TO THE AIRPORT

Airport Tourist Village Melbourne

Let’s face it, if you’re flying into Melbourne from interstate, sometimes it’s easy to park your wheels somewhere close for when you arrive and when you depart. While ATVM is a budget option for a stay in Melbourne, it’s convenience with a capital C and “just plane handy”, as the ATVM say. It’s a mixed bag of studio units, executive apartments, deluxe or standard cabins. Simplicity, clean and tidy, and undercover BBQ facilities. modern park, centrally located just minutes from Melbourne’s domestic and international airports, and an easy trip by car or public transport from Melbourne’s CBD.

10 words or less: Super close to the airport, simple, tidy, close to CBD.

A LITTLE LUXURY

Grand Hyatt Melbourne

Another one right near the footy action. It’s also a five minute walk to Federation Square, 15 minute walk to the National Gallery of Victoria and all the other attractions Melbourne’s CBD has to offer. Throw in the fact the facilities are five star magic, stunning floor to ceiling windows, service of the highest standard and you’ll be sleeping like a king or queen when you’re not screaming support for your favourite footy club.

10 words or less: sheer luxury in the heart of the city.

A LITTLE QUIRKY

The Olsen Hotel

Adorned with beautiful artworks from artist John Olsen, close proximity to trendy Chapel Street and less than 3km from the MCG – the Olsen is a special kind of place to experience unique accommodation in the heart of Melbourne.

10 words or less: Quirky, quality, trendy and THE best bed and pillow combo around.

TAKE A PUNT

Crown Towers

Lavishly appointed guest rooms, suites and villas in beautiful Crown Towers in Southbank. Just a kilometre from historic Flinders Street Station, it’s a hive of activity right near the Yarra River, which snakes its way with accompanying walking tracks up to the mighty MCG where the two best teams in the AFL will battle it out for the big one. An ideal hotel for those looking for all the magic of Crown casino.

10 words or less: glitz and glam by the riverside in beautiful Southbank.

Also try Spring Sensations In Melbourne or  What’s Hot on the Melbourne Food Scene

SCOTT PODMORE

 

 

 

 

Aug
24
2016

Great road trips from Paris

By

Most people travel to France to see Paris, one of the world’s most famous cities. But few take advantage of the chance to hire a car in Paris and discover this beautiful country by road at their own pace.

Here are five great road trips from Paris. Remember, allow extra time because you’re sure to come across plenty of unexpected wonders.

Normandy (pictured)

Travel two and a half hours west of Paris and you’ll discover one of the country’s most beautiful coastal drives. There are several landmarks, from the famous island monastery Mont-Saint-Michel to the so-called D-Day beaches where some of the most dreadful scenes of World War Two took place. Another place to stop includes the colourful town of Honfleur, which inspired impressionist arists like Claude Monet.

Chamonix

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is a popular resort area near the border of Italy and Switzerland. Mont Blanc is the highest summit in the Alps, making it the ideal place for snow-based activities, while also offering panoramic views. It’s a six hour drive south-east of Paris. Along the way, stop at Avallon. It’s a quaint community, situated at the edge of the Moran Forest, and it comes alive when the market comes to town on Saturdays. You can also make a short detour to Lyon, a large city with architecture up to 2000 years old.

Loire Valley

The stunning Loire Valley is located in central France, just two hours south west of Paris. This region is famous for its beautiful and extravagant palaces, which were once home to kings, queens and others from the noble class. These structures are so magnificent, that they’ve earned the Loire Valley the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is also famous for its wineries.

French Riviera

Travel seven and a half hours south on your way to the beautiful French Riviera and you’ll come across the lovely city of Montpellier. There are plenty of sites to see, from museums, gardens and historic monuments. Continue further south and drive along the coast to Nice. Along the way you’ll go through the Camargues, which are home to great vineyards and famous white wild horses. Then you’ll pass picture perfect towns of Marseille and Cassis, before making your way to the famous Nice or Monte Carlo nearby.

Luxembourg

The trip to this tiny European country, which is bordered by Belgium, France and Germany, is well worthwhile. It’s a three and a half hour drive west of Paris, taking you through the lovely Champagne-Ardenne region. You’ll want to spend days at your destination. But some of the highlights along the way inclue the city of Reims, which is at the heart of the Champagne wine-growing region, and Verdun. Situated along the banks of the Meuse River, Verdun is home to one of the most famous battles of World War One. The Douaumont Ossuary in the town is home to the remains of more than 100,000 soldiers.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

 

Aug
22
2016

Adelaide’s unmissable events in Spring

By Adelaide / Australia /

Adelaide is known for its amazing food, wine and culture. Spring is the best time of year to visit Adelaide, as the city comes alive to celebrate those things.

Hire a car from the Airport and get ready for these spring events.

OzAsia Festival (pictured)

The OzAsia Festival has been touted as Australia’s premier Asia-focused arts festival. It runs between September and early October. It offers the latest in dance, music, film, theatre and visual arts out of Asia. Its flagship event is the Moon Lantern Festival, where thousands of people will gather to watch Australia’s largest lantern parade.

Royal Adelaide Show

South Australians will flock to the Royal Adelaide Show every September. It’s one of the state’s biggest entertainment events of the year. There’s something for everyone at the show. Mystery showbags, live entertainments and thrilling rides are always popular. Every night there are fireworks to celebrate this iconic event on the city’s calendar.

Adelaide Fashion Festival

This fashion festival celebrates innovative design and style. The festival runs over five days in October. It showcases established and up-and-coming local designers. There are several designer runways hosting 20 events. The focus is on creativity and unique style – something Adelaide designers never shy away from.

Adelaide Film Festival

This international film festival was established in 2003. It’s held over two weeks in mid October every second year. It showcases some of Australia’s best new talent. It also launches new films and art to international audiences. This event continues to grow every year.

Victor Harbour Rock ’n’ Roll Festival

This September you can literally dance the weekend away at Victor Harbour. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival runs in the heart of one of South Australia’s most gorgeous seaside towns. This free festival is just a short drive from Adelaide. It boasts live rock ‘ n’ roll music over three stages. It also has more than 500 vehicle displays, market stalls, memorabilia and more.

Also discover 5 things to do near McLaren Vale or Fly to Adelaide and drive to 5 great regions

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Aug
20
2016

5 great things to do within an hour from Heathrow

By UK /

Stuck at Heathrow Airport for a few hours with nothing to do? Instead of waiting in the airport for hours until your next flight, why don’t you explore some of the highlights nearby? Simply pick up your hire car from Heathrow Airport and do one of these five great things to do within an hour from Heathrow.

Windsor Castle
Drive just 15 minutes from Heathrow Airport to visit one of England’s most iconic castles. Windsor Castle still operates as a royal palace, where official ceremonies often take place. The majestic castle is surrounded by colourful gardens and a variety of old buildings, including the Chapel of Saint George with its colourful stained glass. Take a guided tour so you can learn about the history of the castle and the royals who have lived here.

London Tower Bridge
Journey 40 minutes east into central London to tour some of the city’s famous sights. Among the top of your list should be London Tower Bridge. It’s a marvellous structure which looks over the River Thames and other iconic landmarks, such as Big Ben. Since opening in 1894, millions of people have visited the 65m high structure. From the top you can also look through a glass floor and explore modern exhibits.

Denham
This picturesque village is unlike any other place you’ve ever laid eyes on! The main street of the village is full of Georgian-style houses and businesses. One of the great reasons to visit Denham is the traditional pubs – they prove to be a massive hit with the tourists and locals alike! There’s the Swan and just out of town is the Standard of England near Beaconsfield.

Hampton Court Palace
With its stunning architecture and medieval charm, Hampton Court Palace is one of the landmarks you’ll regret not seeing if you don’t make the time for a visit. The outside of the palace stands tall and proud in Tudor red brick architecture. Within these impressive walls are spiral chimneys, great paintings, fancy gardens and even a maze. Best of all, it’s only a 20 minute drive from Heathrow.

Stoke Park Spa
There’s plenty of things to do in Stoke-on-Trent. Also add the Stoke Park Spa to your list. It’s situated within a 1000-year-old estate. This retreat is the perfect place to go when you need to relax and it oozes elegance and luxury. There are Italian marble steam rooms, a deep relaxation room and other options which cater for your every need. Whether you want a facial, body wrap or cultural experience, this extensive menu has a treatment for everyone.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Aug
19
2016

5 reasons to visit Stoke-on-Trent

By UK /

Hire a car to best explore Stoke-on-Trent. The Staffordshire city, which is widely known as ‘Stoke’, is the much-loved home of England’s pottery industry. Tick these five things off your list when you visit Stoke-on-Trent.

Gladstone Pottery Museum (pictured)
As mentioned, the city is famous for its pottery. Therefore, how could you possibly visit the city without exploring the industry’s unique history in the area? At this museum you’ll learn how ceramics have been created over the years, and what conditions were like for the workers. There are daily demonstrations before you’re offered the opportunity to have a go yourself. Even more special, this is the last complete Victorian pottery factory left in England.

Churnet Valley Railway
This rural line traverses stunning countryside, which has become known as Staffordshire’s “Little Switzerland”. The Churnet Valley Railway allows you to step back in time with this 11 mile return journey through valleys and forests. You’ll also stop at towns such as Cheddleton, which is the railway’s base of operations and motive power.

Trentham Monkey Forest
Step into a forest with more than 140 monkeys. They roam the park in complete freedom, so you’ll see them swinging from trees and walking in your path. Guides take you through the area, explaining the history of the park as well as information about how these animals live in the wild. it’s an educational and enjoyable day out, and is situated inside the Trentham Estate.

Trentham Shopping Village
This cute area is perfect for a day of shopping. With 60 timber lodges which house not only shops, but some of the best cafes and restaurants around, Trentham Shopping Village has something for everyone. We highly recommend heading into the hear of the village to try out the famous Welsh ice cream at Cadwaladers, or dine alfresco by the river. Then there are plenty of independent shops with unique gifts.

Walking
The area is home to many great walking tracks, which aren’t constantly filled with walkers. All you need are runners and for the weather to be on your side. Some of the best include the Biddulph Grange Country Park, which takes you through National Trust gardens. If you like flower fields, then you’ll also love walking through Consall Hall Gardens. Then there’s the Dane Valley Way, which takes you to stunning waterfalls and the gorgeous town of Buxton.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Aug
15
2016

Spring sensations in Melbourne

By Australia / Melbourne /

Spring is one of the most sensational times to visit Melbourne. Not only are the flowers across the city’s gardens in full bloom, but the sun starts to come out after a long, cold winter. Hire a car from Melbourne Airport and explore one of these events.

AFL Grand Final (pictured)
After a season of suspense, every footy fan in Australia has their sights set on the AFL Grand Final. The big game is full of excitement and drama, with the two top teams battling it out in front of a packed area. Be one of the 100,000 screaming fans watching the game unfold inside the MGG.

Royal Melbourne Show
The show is perhaps Victoria’s most iconic event. There are colourful lights, exhibits, rides and 450,000 people who pack the Melbourne Showgrounds for eleven days in September. There are exiting activities, plenty of competition and pop up restaurants of some of the city’s finest eateries. Of course, no visit to the show is complete without walking away with a show bag.

Melbourne Cup Carnival
The Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s (and the world’s) most prestigious horse races. The first Tuesday of November sees people from all over flock to Flemington Racecourse for not only one of the world’s best horse races, but also the fashion. Colourful designer frocks light up the field. This event is also steeped in history, with the first race dating back to 1861.

Melbourne Festival
The Melbourne Festival is one of the country’s leading international arts festivals. Every year in Spring it lives up to its reputation as showcasing the latest and most creative in the arts. From theatre, music and dance to visual arts and multimedia, the festival showcases innovation and vision. The event runs for 17 days every October.

Melbourne Marathon Festival
The Melbourne Marathon kicks off at the perfect time of year. It has a full marathon, half marathon, and also a few smaller races. The Melbourne Marathon has been going every year since 1978. These days, thousands of people participate in the marathon.

BRIANNA PIAZZA

Aug
11
2016

Top 5 things to do in Berlin

By

This German city has plenty of great things to offer. Hire a car from Berlin Airport and add these five things to your to do list.

Potsdam
Just 25km southwest of Berlin are spectacular gardens and palaces. Spend the day exploring the residences where Prussian kings and German Kaisers lived until 1918. Among the highlights is Sanssouci Palace. Built in 1745, it’s complete with an incredible centre dome, circular rooms at each end and a grand courtyard. You can take a self-guided tour with an audio guide to learn about the fascinating history.

Brandenburg Gate (pictured)
The Brandenburger Tor is an icon of Berlin. It has more than 300 years of history and is one of Germany’s most visited attractions. Since 1989 it’s been a symbol for the reunification of Germany. However, before then it stood for many things, from peace to war and even terror at different points in time. Night is the best time to see the gate, when it’s lit up and there are less people around!

Berlin Wall
You’ll see almost every visitor to Berlin lining up along remaining sections of the Berlin will with a camera. Although the Wall was mostly destroyed in 1990, a restored stretch remains. It’s covered in graffiti artwork, most of which is making a political statement and will give you good insight into the significance of the wall in Germany’s Cold War history.

Grunewald Forest
This is Berlin’s largest forested area. It’s located south-west of Charlotteburg and is the perfect place to explore on foot or by bicycle. You’ll even see some riding through the woods on horseback! When the weather’s warm you can go swimming in the forest’s freshwater lakes, including Wannsee or Schlachtensee. Pack a picnic and you’re all set.

Berlin Cathedral
The Berliner Dom is a magnificent structure and regular catches the wandering eye of visitors to the city. It’s magnificent dome signifies its glory as the largest church in Berlin. It’s architecture is fascinating and dates back to 1894, when building began. It suffered considerable damage during the war but restorations finished in the 1990s.

BRIANNA PIAZZA