A Week on the Amalfi Coast

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Visiting the Amalfi Coast was a long-held romantic dream of mine. I had wanted to spend my honeymoon on a beautiful clifftop hideaway, but we ended up in Vegas.  I know, go fgure.  So for our 10th wedding anniversary I was taking no chances, the flights were booked well in advance.  Whatever it cost (and to be honest it didn’t break the bank) I was going and him indoors was coming with me.

 

Getting there…

 

Again, as we do with most of our flights, we booked with Easy Jet.  Tickets were around £150 return, per person, and I booked about 10 months in advance.  Flying out of Bristol, the flight to Naples took just under three hours and for this flight it was an early alarm call of 3.00 am, which I normally try to avoid, but sometimes you just got to go with it.

 

Arriving in Naples just after ten we looked out for someone holding a card with The Painters across it and off we went.  Traffic in and around Naples is super busy and arriving during a rain storm didn’t help, but we were soon winding along the Amalfi coastline and it took around an hour and 40 minutes at a cost of around £100 to get us to our hotel.

 

You can train it to Sorrento and get a taxi or ferry to various destinations, or of course hire a car, but from what we witnessed, someone else driving along the narrow clifftop roads where you’re squished into awkward spaces as vehicles manoeuvre to get by, was preferable to the other options. You need bags of patience and nerves of steel for that journey and SP and I bickering wouldn’t have been the idyllic start to the holiday I was aiming for.

 

Where to stay…

 

When it came to choose the perfect place to stay I asked my sister-in-law who had honeymooned in the Amalfi Coast the previous year.  I knew I didn’t want to stay in a big resort like Sorrento and reading reviews of Positano led me to think it was over-priced and over-crowded (I was right), so when she said to look at Praiano, a quieter spot with a 10 minute boat ride into Positano, I knew I’d found our holiday home.

 

A bit more digging around on destination websites and I found Hotel Le Fioriere, which offered the one thing I know SP loves (aside from being near water) a rooftop terrace.

 

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Run by brother and sister, Luigi and Rosalia, who made us feel immediately welcome and at home, we stayed on the first floor in a large sea-facing room that included a double and sofa bed.

 

Aside from the great location (in between Positano and Amalfi), breakfast was plentiful and served buffet-style with plenty of fresh coffee, our room was clean and tidy with a balcony, and the restaurant, Voce e Notte Grill and Sunset Bar, was an absolute treat.

 

We couldn’t believe our luck to find such a perfect view that we could enjoy every night.  The menu isn’t lengthy but offers plenty of delicious choice.

 

As for drinks, Steve worked his way through a number of Italian craft beers and I enjoyed refreshing gin from Tuscany, thanks to Federica the bar manager, who was always on hand to talk us through and pour some of the country’s quality drinks.

 

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Where to visit…

 

Positano

 

A must-see, Positano is picture postcard perfect.  I wanted to come in to the town from the sea, so that we could feel the effect and it didn’t disappoint.

 

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Plenty of restaurants, naturally serving all the classic Italian favourites with a good selection of seafood dishes and a side order of chilled Peroni.

 

The beach has plenty of beds, roughly costing 20 euros each with parasol and little table and bear in mind that you’ll find few sandy beaches here, it’s all pebble-based so we took our aqua shoes.

 

We just went the once and to be honest that was enough.  It is heaving and I’ve read gets worse in July and August, when really it’s best to avoid if you’re not a fan of crowds

 

Ravello

 

A ten-minute bus ride can take 30 on the Amalfi Drive and luckily on our way to the town of Amalfi I found a seat.  Steve had to stand.  Public transport is slow, but it does get you from A to B for just two euros each.  With crowds already building in the day, once we got to Amalfi our first step was  straight on to the next bus to Ravello, the hilltop town with the most amazing views.

 

A large village some 335m up, the climb is steady on a full bus, but the views at the top are fabulous.  However, I didn’t capture any of it on camera as we grabbed a table in a café on the square on arrival and as we went to walk around the heavens opened, so along with everyone else we got the next bus back down to Amalfi.

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If you visit Ravello, I have heard that Villa Rufolo is a must-see.  With cascading gardens high above the coast, the views are spectacular.

 

Back in Amalfi, we just stopped for a quick ice cream, before getting back on a bus to Praiano.

 

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One Fire Beach

 

There are two small areas to catch some rays in Praiano and the one closest to us (signposted the beach, next to the church) was Lido, One Fire Beach.

 

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There are 300 steps to get this spot, but once down there two beds and parasol costs 40 euros for the day and you can jump in and out of the water to your hearts content, knowing that bar service, a shaded restaurant and clean loos are to hand.  Staff are young and friendly and there is a good energy about the place.  You can also catch water taxis from here to reach Positano.

 

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Where to eat and enjoy a Limoncello

 

There are two main areas in Praiano, Vettica Maggiore and the Marina di Praiano.  We stayed in the former, which is the first stop after leaving Positano, so we ended up eating and drinking around this area as the walk to the marina didn’t appeal.  We did it once during the day and it took around 40 minutes, but with no pavements, I didn’t fancy doing it again, on an evening.

 

Voce e Notte Grill and Sunset Bar

Our hotel roof-top restaurant and the reason why I booked our stay here, was the nicest spot we found in Praiano.  Friendly service, modern surroundings, great food and a choice of drinks with an absolutely stunning view, it was the easiest choice to ‘stay home’.

 

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Trattoria San Gennaro

Next up is the first place we visited as it was opposite our hotel and was featured in my copy of Rough Guide to Italy.  Trattoria San Gennaro is garden-based with white plastic chairs, but don’t let that put off.  You overlook the square where local kids kick a football around every night blowing off steam after a hot day and the view over-looks Positano.

 

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The food is fabulous.  I went for home-made pasta with prawns and courgette – scialatilli con zucchini e gamberitti and Steve had seafood.  Delizioso!

 

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We tried our first Lemoncello Spritz here and absolutely love it.

 

Tramonto d Oro

This restaurant is upmarket and boasts panoramic views over the coastline.  We dined here for our anniversary, so it was lobster for SP.  Gorgeous food and a fine dining ambience, where we felt completely looked-after.  Pricier than the others, but worth it.

 

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Café Mirante

The best thing about walking up 300 steps from the beach is stepping in to Café Mirante at the top, where the shades are up, the vibe is relaxed, and the drinks made to order.  They also come with free snacks.  We loved the Café Mirante Mule that specially made for us as we (I mean me) like gin.

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What to know…

 

  • The Amalfi Coast is busy in June and gets busier July to August
  • SITA buses (orange) are regular and cheap. You buy tickets ahead in shops, hotels, etc.
  • Small resorts like Praiano have little or no pavements and if the Amalfi Drive runs through it then you will spend a bunch of time pressed against a wall
  • There is a hotel in Praiano that has a lift to the beach Le Grand Hotel Tritone
  • SP and I agreed we came at the right time, with kids or walking issues the trip wouldn’t have been so successful
  • The church in Praiano has a gorgeous square in front of it. If you’re running out of cash, grab a bottle of wine and snacks from a supermarket, sit and enjoy the view with the locals.  It’s the same view as every restaurant nearby.

 

The last word…

 

In another lifetime, as a millionaire, I’ll go back to the Amalfi Coast by Super Yacht.  I do think that’s a great way to see it and I can totally see why cruises around this area are so popular.  It is simply stunning and jumping off and spending the day in Positano is a day well spent.

 

 

We loved it.  We also really enjoyed the last night of our holiday in Naples, getting back into the bustling city was great fun. It was alive and bursting with energy and we were advised to visit Antica Pizza Fritta Da Zia Esterina Sorbillo for one of its famous pizzas.  We queued for around 50 minutes to enjoy that pizza, but was super delicious.  Steve ordered the famous fried pizza, but in truth mine was better.

 

Visit my Instagram page and click on Highlights to see videos and more pics.

 

Have a great weekend folks!

 

Gail xx

 

Have you visited the Amalfi Coast?  Please share your thoughts below.

A Long Weekend in Iceland

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Last weekend, to avoid the severe weather, Steve and I went to Iceland.  Oh, how we didn’t laugh as we butted against minus double-digit temperatures after leaving a snowy, but warmer Bristol behind.

 

In truth, visiting Iceland had been a long-held dream of Steve’s (I really must stop that Lonely Planet subscription before we’re bankrupt) and I was taking him to see the Northern Lights for his 50th birthday.

 

Getting there…

 

Flights to Reykjavik are pretty reasonable.  I paid around £200 for two return Easy Jet tickets from Bristol and you can fly from most airports in the UK.  Our flight was early in the morning, which suited us as a band of bad weather that forecasters had predicted was due to blow in within hours after us.  As it was, our flight was delayed, and I did feel a bit nervous as I watched men de-ice the wings.  However, as soon as we got above the clouds the flight was smooth and in under three hours we had landed at Keflavik airport.

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Where to stay…

 

My husband loves being near water, so I secretly booked the Icelandair Reykjavik Marina Hotel at the old harbour, which is the far side of town when you drive into Reykjavik and had received good reviews on Trip Advisor.  It was middle of the road cost-wise, around £860 for three nights bed and breakfast.  A trip to Iceland isn’t cheap.  You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto!

 

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We loved this hotel. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but inside it was stylish, warm, friendly and clean.  The reception, concierge and dining facilities were on a par with a UK boutique hotel and Slippbarin, the restaurant and bar was good.  It wasn’t an extensive menu and certainly not cheap, but the food we had was delicious – pizza-style flatbreads, one-pot fish of the day dishes and a cheeseboard we can thoroughly recommend.  The gin was good too 😉 and Steve enjoyed his beer.

 

Our room was contemporary in design and big enough for us.  If you don’t like frosted glass en-suites then this might be a problem for you, but we didn’t mind and the bed was super soft and freshly-cleaned.  We were snug-as-a-bug.

 

The breakfast buffet had everything you can think of from continental choices to crispy fried bacon and bright yellow wedges of omelette and herbs.  Icelandic options (fish and salads) were available to tuck into and we finished our breakfast each day with a wedge of seeded bread, toasted and topped with honey.  We were set for the day.

 

Where to visit…

 

Blue Lagoon

 

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is halfway between the airport and the capital and a friend advised us to visit as soon as we landed to make the best use of time.  There is a locker building at the entrance to the spa where you can drop off large hand luggage and then mosey on down to the spa itself.

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Apply a mud mask

 

Buy tickets ahead of your visit to Iceland and you can include travel to the spa and then on to your hotel, to make your journey seamless.  Our tickets included a small locker in the spa itself (you pay extra for the locker room I mentioned above), towel and a mud mask to enjoy while in the water.  It also includes a drink at the swim up bar, which was a lovely way to toast our arrival and the beginning of our weekend.

 

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Whale Watching

 

SP loves sea life so going on this trip for us was a given.  I also spotted that blogger Best Before End Date had been and read up about this trip on her blog.  We ended up going with the same company, Elding Whale Watching, https://www.elding.is/ which was based just along from our hotel.

 

We had to arrive for a 9.00 am start, were offered a sea-sickness tablet and asked to get on a bus when we arrived as a shawl of fish that whales like to lunch on had been spotted in another area off the mainland.

 

There are no photos of the two hump-backed whales that we saw as I was one of many who didn’t fare well on the waves.  Do not decline the tablet when offered is all I can say.  You are out searching and following whales for three hours and once you feel poorly it doesn’t stop until you get off.  Many were absolutely fine, and I think I would have been worse if I hadn’t taken it.

 

The boat was big, with lots of space inside and outside and we were given bright red waterproof fishing overalls to protect our own clothes.  Like everything else you do in Iceland in winter, wear lots of layers, the wind is even more biting on the sea.

 

As for the whales there were lots of ooh and aahs as we watched them come up for air and a flash of tail was even seen.  If you enjoy a boat ride, don’t miss this.

 

The Northern Lights

 

Be prepared for a late, but fun night chasing the Northern Lights.  Our guide with Sterna Travel was very informative and talked about the history of the Aurora Borealis, the region we travelled through and shared some Icelandic ghost stories as we drank hot chocolate late into the night.

 

We really shouldn’t have seen the lights as there was a 0% chance the night we went out, but we were very lucky, and a smattering of the mystical green lights came out for us.

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It wasn’t much I grant you and if you don’t see the lights you will be offered a return visit out to chase them the next evening.  Some companies keep the offer open for several years, free of charge, until you do.

 

For reference, we were picked up at 8.30 and dropped home at 11 to midnight, so make sure you don’t have another trip booked for early the next day.

 

The Golden Circle

This half-day trip leaves around midday and includes stop offs at three key locations in Þingvellir National Park in the south west of Iceland.  You will see the gorge at Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American tectonic plate, a Geysir Geothermal Area and the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall.

 

Again, another really lovely trip, that you must do.  Let me simply share with you the breath-taking views we enjoyed.

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Where to eat and enjoy a beer

 

Icelandic Street Food

 

When you’re cold and hungry the Icelandic Street Food restaurant is the perfect place to take refuge.  Offering re-fillable bowls of Lamb’s Soup, Shellfish Soup and Fisherman’s Fave – a warming dish of fish and mashed potato, the young owner here has hospitality down to a T.  With his grandmother’s wishes close to his heart, no-one is allowed to leave this casual dining restaurant with an empty tummy.  Therefore, you can sit, take a break from the cold, and eat to your heart’s content. Service even includes free sweet treats.  When we visited there were mini macaroons, brownie squares and slices of carrot cake to tempt and make sure you had some sugary energy to carry on with your day.  Worth a visit.

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Micro Bar

A small bar and you need to get on google maps to find it, but worth it.  I had researched best venues for beers ahead of our trip and this one was 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel, so we had to pay a visit.  We visited on a Thursday night and it was busy, but with plenty of places to sit.  In a cellar with lots of candle lighting the room, they offer a ton of different beers and you can grab yourself a sample tray and work your way through a number of good craft options.

 

What to pack…

 

Don’t skip over this bit, it’s important.  I cannot stress enough how frigging cold -15 can be.  Single layers will NOT be enough.  Therefore, keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared to pack this little lot:

 

  • Thermal vests
  • Base layers
  • Thin jumpers, hoodies, cardigans (that you can layer)
  • A padded/quilted coat (long if you have one)
  • Opaque tights or leggings you can wear underneath trousers
  • Trousers (jeans should be fine, but consider what you’re visiting, they’ll be horrid and cold if wet)
  • Waterproof boots and/or hiking boots
  • Hats (bobble, trapper, bean with earflaps just cover your head and keep your ears warm
  • Scarf
  • Gloves (take extra pair as back up)
  • Flip flops are handy for the outdoor spas
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream

 

 

What to expect…

 

I’m not going to sugar coat this bit.  SP loved this trip, me not so much.  It’s rare that I want to come home from a holiday, but after three days of cold, wintry weather, the kind where you get on a warm coach and promptly fall asleep like nana, you might do too.

 

I am so glad that we went.  I loved the spa day, whale watching (I’ve forgotten the puking already), the Northern Lights and seeing the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall.  Our hotel is even up there with some of the nicest we have ever stayed in, but at times I was too cold to really enjoy it and it felt like a school trip.

 

I think trying to fit in all the ‘must-sees’ into three days was probably a bit too much.  We had high expectations and there wasn’t much down-time, which when you sandwich a weekend away in between two busy weeks, you probably should allow for.

 

I would say go but be prepared.  I will leave you with the birthday boy’s take on the holiday, who said “It is a once in a lifetime trip that I’ll never forget”.

 

I’m happy he’s happy, now where’s the brochure for Mexico….

 

Have a great week folks!

 

Gail xx

 

Have you visited Iceland?  What was your experience?  Please do share your thoughts and comments below…

Packing for a (short) Staycation

I’ve been standing looking at my wardrobe for a good hour now, at times I’ve also sat down.  SP and I have been invited for a weekend in Devon with friends and I have that sicky icky feeling that I’m trying to quell, cause I don’t know what to pack.  I mean, what do you pack for a weekend in the UK where you have no idea what the weather is going to do?

 

I want to make sure I’ve got all my bases covered and it would be dead easy to just pack for practicality (it’s bound to be cold and wet isn’t it?).  But, I want to appear as if I’ve stepped out from one of those A5 catalogues that fall out of the Sunday supps.  Yeah, I want to look like I’ve got some sense of style like these pics below that I scooped off Pinterest.  A tall order.  So I better get started.

 

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Boden. Image via Pinterest

Hush. Image via Pinterest

Hush. Image via Pinterest

Boden. Image via Pinterest

Boden. Image via Pinterest

Hush. Image via Pinterest

Hush. Image via Pinterest

 

Four days later and what looked like a promising weather forecast has turned out to be but a dream. It’s going to be grey sky all weekend.

 

Things can change though!  So, with a colour theme finally decided, blue, (I’m rad, I know), I’m going to pack lots of layers, take a few light pieces, but make sure there is plenty in my weekend bag to keep me warm.  Hence my bag will include:

 

  1. blue/white striped t.shirts
  2. cotton chambray long-sleeve shirts
  3. denim jeans –  1 boyfriend/1 skinny
  4. grey cotton harem pants (dead comfy)
  5. denim shorts (ever optimistic!)
  6. swimming costume (there is a heated outdoor pool – item most likely to stay in bag!)
  7. off the shoulder cotton day dress (in case the sun does show its face)
  8. two blue light-weight knits
  9. blue hoodie (part of the back-up plan)
  10. one floaty easy-to-wear dress (heading out for pub dinner Saturday night)
  11. low-heel embellished sandals to go with above
  12. Adidas Originals trainers to go with everything else
  13. large bright yellow tote to add a pop of colour
  14. cross-over tan bag
  15. fluffy socks….

Continuing on the blue theme, I did a little snooping on the net and found these lovely pieces that would have been great additions to my weekend wardrobe, had I had the spare cash.  I am absolutely loving all the baby blue off the shoulder tops that I’ve seen around and you can pick up some great bargains in the sales right now – try Mango and Zara for cheap deals. I would also like a sweatshirt with a cheeky message, a long denim skirt, which would be a great addition to the wardrobe and would see me into Autumn as well, and some longer-length boyfriend cut-offs.  Ah well, I can dream.

 

Hope you have great plans for the weekend. Enjoy!

 

Gail xx

Croatia: Holiday Photo Diary

It’s such a downer when your holiday is over isn’t it?  I’m trying not to let the post-holiday blues get to me and it is lovely to be back in blighty. There’s no place like home, of course, but still who wouldn’t want to sit by glistening blue waters all summer.  I would.

 

I hope you are well and have had a good few weeks. This week’s post is a short photo diary of my holiday to Croatia, which included a trip to the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.

 

Croatia was not our first choice of destination this summer.  In fact we were originally booked for Egypt because I’d heard it was wall-to-wall sunshine and SP would be happy swimming with lots of fish.  Then, as we know, safety became even more of an issue to travellers there and the holiday wasn’t viable so we had to find somewhere else to lay our sun hats!

 

We didn’t have many immediate friends that had travelled to Croatia, one or two, but when I found a well-appointed hotel just outside of Dubrovnik I quickly booked us a room with a sea-view as I had wanted to visit this city for some time.  Our accommodation, Hotel Croatia, sits on a cliff top above the charming little village of Cavtat.  A quick read of Trip Advisor confirmed that the reputation of the hotel was solid and it had a swimming pool and a waterfront sunbathing area, we were covered.

 

So without further ado, here’s some photographic evidence of our week in gorgeous Croatia.

 

First stroll around Cavtat Marina

First stroll around Cavtat Marina

 

Cavtat

Cavtat

 

Possible mooring spot for super yachts

Possible mooring spot for super yachts

 

Plenty of places to eat, drink and watch the world go by

Plenty of places to eat, drink and watch the world go by

 

There's always room for Greek Salad

There’s always room for Greek Salad

 

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Trying out one of the purchases I made for the holiday. This shirt dress was in fact a good buy (thank heaven) and I got lots of wear out of it.

 

Loved wearing these sandals from Primark and just £10 - FUN

Loved wearing these sandals from Primark and just £10 – FUN

 

I love wearing shorts and try to get away with it when on holiday

I love wearing shorts and try to get away with it when on holiday

 

You can't beat a colourful kaftan

You can’t beat a colourful kaftan on holiday – so handy

 

Old port, Dubrovnik

Old port, Dubrovnik

 

We walked the city walls, but honestly it was too hot to take many photos and we melted hence the lack of bodies featured

We walked the city walls, but honestly it was too hot to take many photos and we melted hence the lack of bodies featured

 

Dubrovnik. View from the city walls

 

Looking out to sea

Looking out to sea

 

The city walls run for 6365 feet

The city walls run for 6365 feet

 

Old Town, Dubrovnik

Old Town, Dubrovnik

 

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

 

The sun sets on our week in Croatia

Adriatic sunset

Did you have a good time SP?

Did you have a good time SP?

 

He did.  We loved it and will absolutely go back.  SP’s sister is heading to Pula later in the year and we would love to travel around this country more, although for an easy, chill-out break, we would likely go back to this hotel.  It had everything we needed and more.

 

Now I’m just envious of everyone still getting ready to go away.  Ah you got to love the summer months.

 

Next week, it’s all about staying here in the UK.  What will I pack for a weekend in Devon?  Pac-a-mac at the ready!

 

Gail xx

 

 

 

 

Ko Lanta: A Photo Diary

Hi

 

This week’s post features the second leg of our trip to Thailand and a four night stay on the island of Ko Lanta.  Having had a wonderful five days in Ko Phi Phi (did I mention that our friends got engaged a few minutes into the new year?  Yep.  Magical.) it was time to say good-bye and get on a boat.

 

The ferry ride to Lanta isn’t that long from Phi Phi, just an hour, so no sooner are you boarding a boat than you’re off again.  A very different looking island greeted us.  Where as Phi Phi is all craggy cliffs and sharp corners, Lanta is long, open and flat and there are proper roads.  We didn’t rent bikes, but you can do so easily and it looked very pleasant to drive around (didn’t spot any erratic tuk tuks).

 

We stayed towards the southern tip of the island at Kantiang Bay, which turned out to be just perfect for us.  It was our first visit to the island so I did do some research.  We aren’t the type of people who want to hole up on a resort, so as well as researching where to sleep I always look at the social scene and surrounding area.  I knew we were not far from the Mu Ko Lanta National Park, a marine national park (SP and his fishes) and also The Drunken Sailors and The Why Not Bar (the former being a coffee shop/evening cafe known for serving some of the best loved food on the island)!

 

The accommodation we booked was in a small boutique hotel, with a colourful exterior and interior.  With individually-styled rooms that overlooked the beach and a pool that led directly on to it, Phra Nang Lanta was a great find.  It offered us lovely breakfast al fresco with fresh smoothies made to order, golden omelettes and those delicious slices of hot French toast that I love to smoother with honey  – oops, diet post to follow, obvs!   (I did go for a run along the bay, twice.  No, doesn’t count?  Mmm, I suppose not.)

 

As for the bay we practically had it to ourselves.  Yes, there were plenty of others holidaying, but there was so much bay to share and it was beautiful.  Lazy, long days in the sun turned into lounging nights listening to reggae, drinking Mojitas.  It was pure bliss and we totally found our zen.  Informal dress prevails in Lanta, so don’t go with a big bag of clothes suitable for Marbella, it’s relaxed wear only.

 

If I could sum up Ko Lanta in a few words, it would be – unspoilt, green and tranquil.  Beautiful is a given for most places in Thailand and we love being next a big blue sea, but this island offers something very special – peace.  Even the air is calmer.

 

Below are my photos from this second instalment of our Thailand trip.  If you missed last week’s Ko Phi Phi Photo Diary click here.

 

Til next next time

 

Gail x

 

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Kantiang Bay

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Taking my life into my own hands. But as I got into the darn thing I thought I’d share the photo!

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Great for a spot of lizard lounging

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Pretty breakfast spot

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This would also look nice on MY coffee table

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I like a hotel that caters for everyone!

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I spy

Ko Lanta

Berry Lassi from The Drunken Sailors

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Snoozing at the Sailors

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Equally as happy

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Kantiang Bay

 

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My fave book of the holiday. Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood. A great read which I got totally lost in.

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I’ll take the little big one

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Sun beginning to set on the bay

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I could think of so many worse views couldn’t you?

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Bye bye Lanta. We’re off to Railay