The Top 10 Homes From Home
Where can you get an authentic taste of life in your chosen destination? Danielle Demetriou shows you how to become one of the family wherever you are in the world
Sunday 26 November 2006
1. Moor memories in Morocco
A glass of mint tea rarely appears at La Maison Bleue in Fez without accompaniment from an army of lute-twanging musicians. It is a fitting introduction to the good life, Moroccan style. The property, built in 1915, was the home of the late Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a judge and astrologer. Today his grandchildren run it as a guesthouse, offering six atmospheric bedrooms.
Home sweet home: A rich blue zellij mosaic, original cedar doors and stained-glass windows, this is a stylish take on the classic Moorish home. Dine on aromatic lamb tagine served by waiters in pantaloons and babouches as you recline on brocaded divans, with musicians playing in the background.
The bill: Best of Morocco (01380 828533; realmorocco.com) offers four nights' b&b at La Maison Bleue, from £580 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights to Fez and private transfers.
2. Get in training for 'I'm a celeb'...
... at Gunya Titjikala (you never know who they'll ask next). This camp may be set in a desert rather than a rainforest, but visitors are sure to learn some new survival skills. This is the first resort of its kind in Australia, allowing tourists to spend time with aborigines in a remote settlement in Titjikala, 77 miles south of Alice Springs.
Home sweet home: A tad more comfortable than the beds in the reality TV show, guests sleep in three deluxe safari tents, complete with en suite eco-loos. Activities include exploring aboriginal rock art, bush medicine demonstrations and Dreamtime campfire stories.
The bill: Austravel (0870 166 2020; austravel.com) has 10-day holidays in the Northern Territory from £1,536 per person, based on two sharing, including return international and domestic flights, two nights at Gunya Titjikala, three nights at Uluru and a five-night self-drive.
3. This Cuban casa's particular
You've downed the drink (mojito), learnt the dance (salsa) and watched the film (Buena Vista ...). But for aficionados, the best way to enjoy a trip to Cuba is to stay in a private home, known as a "casa particular". Cuban families who obtain a licence from the government are allowed to rent out rooms in their houses. There are now hundreds to choose from, where visitors can get a true taste of family life, all for a fraction of the price of a hotel.
Home sweet home: Get to know the locals at Mrs Oralia Lopez's large white house in a quiet residential street for $20 (£11) a night, or at Casa Dubrocq, where the rooms overlook the Malecon and cost $30.
The bill: Visitors must book directly with the owners. For a wide choice, consult casaparticular.info. Expect to pay around $25 including breakfast. Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; virgin-atlantic.com) flies from London Gatwick to Havana twice a week from £628 return.
4. There's room at the old inn
Forty-five minutes from the bustle of Dublin, on the banks of the river Vartry, the tranquil delights of Hunter's Hotel await. The oldest coaching inn in the country, it has been remained in family hands since John Hunter, a butler from nearby Ashford, took over the lease in 1825. Today, the property is run by his descendants, Maureen Gelletlie and her sons Richard and Tom, who offer typically warm Irish hospitality.
Home sweet home: From the full Irish breakfasts and the teatime scones to the roasted racks of lamb served at dinner, the cooking is hearty and homely. Equally cosy are the 16 guest rooms. It may not win awards for cutting-edge design, but its open fireplaces, wooden staircases and floral upholstery create a peaceful stopover.
The bill: Doubles at Hunter's Hotel in Rathnew, County Wicklow, cost from €95 (£64) per person, including breakfast. Book through Ireland's Blue Book (00 353 1 676 9914; irelands-blue-book.ie). Ryanair (0871 2460000; ryanair.com) flies daily to Dublin from £20 return.
5. Back to the land in Africa
When Will Powys returned to his native Kenya after the First World War, he was rewarded by the British government with a plot of land in the foothills of Mount Kenya. Over the past eight decades, Powys and his descendants have toiled hard to transform the land into a successful 35,000 acre ranch, known as Borana. Now open to paying guests, visitors can immerse themselves in ranch life, on the edge of the Laikipia Plateau, and enjoy game drives.
Home sweet home: Borana Lodge, the main house, is managed by Powys's grandson Fuzz and his wife Bimbi. Six secluded and comfortable cottages offer stunning views of Mount Kenya. An organic dinner is served nightly on a large rosewood table in the dining room where guests eat together.
The bill: Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700 611; abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers a seven-night Signature Kenya itinerary for £2,893 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights, full board, and three nights at Borana.
6. Make a house out of bananas
A visit to the remote Akha Hill tribes is not for the faint-hearted. The first challenge is getting there - a journey involving a long boat ride north up the Mae Kok River, then a trek of just under two miles through dense jungle. But on arrival it will all seem worth it. The Akha Hill tribe operate the only locally owned and managed guesthouse in Chiang Rai, Thailand's northern province, making it a most authentic way to get an insight into highland life there.
Home sweet home: Visitors might learn how to build a banana-leaf house or cook traditional dishes in bamboo before going to sleep in traditional fringed huts - albeit with the luxurious addition of a hot shower.
The bill: Double rooms at the Akha Hill tribe guesthouse (00 66 89997 5505; akhahill.com) start at 250 baht (£3.60) per night. All the money goes towards the local community's education fund. Thai Airways (0870 6060922; thaiairways.co.uk) flies from London Heathrow to Chiang Rai via Bangkok for £486 return.
7. Down on the fragrant farm
For most city dwellers, the word farm conjures up images of mud, rain and overly pungent aromas. These misconceptions are likely to vanish in a sweet-scented cloud within moments of arriving at Mathew and Gita's home in the lofty highlands of Kerala, in southern India. Eight years ago, the couple introduced farm stays to the Kanjirapally Estate, a working coffee and cardamom plantation on the fringes of the Periyar National Park.
Home sweet home: Guests sleep in three bedrooms in the family home and are served Keralan food which is prepared by Mathew at a large table in the dining room. Tours of the plantation are available for guests who are interested in finding out how coffee and spices are grown, managed and harvested. Other activities include bamboo rafting, boat rides and a day with a local mahout and his elephant.
The bill: Real Holidays India and Sri Lanka Portfolio (020 7359 3938; realholidays.co.uk)
offers 14-night holidays in Kerala for £1,850 per person based on two sharing, including return flights, transfers and three nights' full board at the Kanjirapally Estate.
8. Learn to speak like a local
Every day is carnival day in Salvador de Bahia. The north-eastern coastal city is famous for being a party town, home to the country's oldest cathedral, and the safest city in Brazil. If you want to get beneath the sun-kissed surface of Brazilian life move in with a local family while learning Portuguese at a nearby language school.
Home sweet home: Daily language lessons will help overcome linguistic obstacles with your adopted family. Additional samba, capoeira and cookery classes combine to ensure that your education is complete.
The bill: Journey Latin America (020-8622 8492; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers two-week language holidays in Salvador from £1,326 per person, including return flights, transfers, tuition and b&b at the home of a local family.
9. The best bed & breakfast: Just one of the family
Sake, sushi and hot springs are not the only ingredients for a memorable trip to Japan. Check into a minshuku, or "people's inn", which offers the chance to stay in a Japanese home. Inside Japan (0870 120 5600; insidejapan tours.com) offers a 10-day tour of Tsumago, Tokyo and Kyoto for £740 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes airport transfers, two nights' b&b at Daikichi Minshuku and a seven-day rail pass. ANA (0870 609 0243; anaskyweb.com) offers direct flights between Heathrow and Tokyo from £817 return.
10. The best palace suite: Live like an emperor
A slice of life at the top is on offer at the Palazzo Ruspoli, a 16th-century palace in Rome which has opened two suites to the public. One of them, La Residenza Napoleone III, is so called because the emperor lived here with his mother in 1830. The Roof Garden Suite is just as pleasing, with a vast terrace with views over Rome. One night in La Residenza (00 39 347 733 7098; residenzanapoleone.com) costs from €950 (£640) with breakfast, the Roof Garden from €620. Easyjet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) flies daily to Rome from five UK airports, from £34.
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