Hotels

The Egerton House Hotel

“Two regal red brick Victorian townhouses combine to form the Egerton House Hotel, a boutique property whose warm and welcoming staff feel like family to the legions of returning guests. The inviting lounge bar is a popular spot for board games, afternoon tea and legendary martini cocktails.”

Read the full review at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/central/knightsbridge/hotels/the-egerton-house-hotel/

Remarkable Rwanda: seven reasons to visit

Let’s face facts: if we’re talking about which country to visit next, we probably wouldn’t put Rwanda  - an African nation whose name will always be tinged with tragedy - at the top of the list. But we’d be wrong. For there’s more to this tiny state - measuring a mere 10,169 square miles, Rwanda is the fourth smallest country on the African mainland, behind The Gambia, Swaziland and Djibouti - than genocide and gorillas.

Here’s seven reasons why the Land Of A Thousand Hills should be top of your travel bucket list this winter…

 

Getting there is now a doddle
eaching Rwanda hasn’t always been easy. Bordered by Burundi to the south, Uganda to the north and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west - three destinations best described as ‘off the beaten track’ - the country could be regarded as one of the more unreachable areas of Africa.

Fast forward to 2017 and it’s all change: RwandAir  - Rwanda’s national carrier - now flies direct from London Gatwick to Kigali three times a week meaning that reaching Rwanda has never been more accessible or affordable. The flight takes approximately nine hours, with return fares starting from a reasonable £368. (01293 874 922; rwandair.com).

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Rwanda is clean and safe
“You’re going where?” they said.
“Rwanda,”  I replied.
“Isn’t that where they had the genocide? It isn’t safe,” they asserted.

This conversation was repeated many, many times in the run up to my trip to this little African nugget. Even as I left for the airport, the last thing everyone said to me was: “Stay safe.” Clearly friends, family and work colleagues were all sceptical of my most recent travel plans.

Happily I’m here to tell you that their fears and concerns were misplaced.
Sure you should always exercise caution and common sense when travelling in sub Saharan Africa - for example, don’t drink the water - but Rwanda is one of the continent’s safest destinations.

What’s more it’s capital, Kigali, is not only free from danger it is - unlike most big cities - astonishing well kept. Plastic bags are banished and on the last Saturday of each month, every single citizen is required to spend half a day cleaning the streets. Subsequently not only do the streets sparkle, but there’s an onus not to litter in the first place.

Bottom line? Rwanda can be explored with confidence. But don’t just take TNT’s word for it. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office claims that “Rwanda is generally safe and crime levels are relatively low.” For more information visit www. gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/rwanda.

 

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Gorillas in our midst
There’s only one place in the world where you can look a mountain gorilla in the eye and that place is the Virunga Mountains - a chain of volcanoes which runs along the north of Rwanda, the south-west of Uganda and a stretch of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Here - if lady luck is on your side - you’ll find around 800 mountain gorillas. (https://virunga.org)
 
One caveat: getting up close and personal with the mightiest primates doesn’t come cheap as the Rwandan government doubled the fees for gorilla encounters from US$750 to US$1,500 a head earlier this year.

However should the steep price prove perturbing, keep in mind that the money you are shelling out goes towards safeguarding the gorilla population (10 years ago, Rwanda was home to fewer than 60 gorillas).

More than this, you’re guaranteed a moment that you’ll remember for the rest of your life - something the great Sir David Attenborough can attest to. The veteran broadcaster and naturalist famously recounted in his 1978 Life On Earth series that meeting Rwandan gorillas was “one of the most exciting encounters of my life. There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know.”

Book your pass (80 are available per day) through the Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office of the Rwanda Development Board (00252 57 65 14; reservation@rwandatourism.com).

 

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Supreme safaris
Rwanda maybe famous for its gorillas but it’s also the place to gawp at golden monkeys - another species found only in the Land Of A Thousand Hills.

Stir into the mix the full quota of the Big Five (think lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard) plus crocodiles, hippos, zebras and giraffes - all of which can be spotted at Akagera National Park (akageranationalpark.org) over on the east flank of the country - and you have an unsung safari destination.

Meanwhile bird lovers will want to make a beeline for the Nyungwe Forest National Park (rwandatourism.com/destinations/nyungwe-national-park) to see more than 300 species of birds. Covering over 1,000 square kilometres of pristine mountain rainforest, the park is also home to East Africa’s only canopy walkway that will bring you face to face with Rwanda’s wonderful wildlife.

Rwanda is an African success story
Case in point? A record 64 per cent of Rwanda’s MPs are women, the highest percentage of any country, helping make Rwanda one of the most gender-equal nations in the world.

That’s not all… Rwanda has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has emerged as one of Africa’s leading business tourism destinations.

Just last month the architecturally splendid new Radisson Blu Convention Centre – whose design was inspired by traditional Rwandan basket weaving – hosted no fewer than three prestigious events. Step forward leading hotel investment conference AHIF, AviaDev Africa - a unique event bringing together airports, airlines, governments, industry suppliers and tourism authorities - and World Travel Awards (aka the travel industry’s leading awards programme) Africa Gala Ceremony 2017.

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Fab accommodation
Until now those visiting Rwanda have had to hunker down in clean but basic, simple places to stay. But just because it was, doesn’t mean it is…
In Kigali, seek out the Serena Hotel (serenahotels.com/serenakigali) which opened its doors earlier this year and serves up five-star accommodation and a refreshing courtyard swimming pool.

 

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Further afield Wilderness Lodges - famed for its gorgeous accommodation in seven other African countries - has opened a jaw dropping six bedroom lodge called Bisate. The lodge has been built on land bought from farmers and is embedded in the local community: expect to wake in your room (all of which boast spectacular views of Mount Bisoke, an active volcano) to the sound of a goat or cow. (www.wilderness-safaris.com/camps/bisate-lodge)

And there’s more still to come: a new luxury lodge – here’s looking at the One & Only Nyungwe (www.oneandonlyresorts.com/one-and-only-nyungwe-house-rwanda) -– is scheduled to open at the end of this year on the edge of the Nyungwe National Park.
 

Culture vulture
While in Kigali - Rwanda's modern, bustling capital city - do take the time to visit the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre (a collective that runs walking tours, hair braiding and basket-weaving classes, www.nwc-umutima.org/). Follow this up with a trip to the Niyo Cultural Centre which displays local art and teaches traditional Rwanda dancing and drumming to street kids. (www.niyoculturalcentre.org)

 

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Then make for the Kigali Memorial Centre to confront the horrors of the genocide - which saw an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus butchered during 100 days of madness in 1994. The memorial is movingly done and genuinely unmissable - not only out of respect for the victims of the genocide who met their fate as the rest of the world watched, but out of necessity.

Or as the great philosopher, George Santayanas, once said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (www.kgm.rw)

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Could your child be Radisson Blu's mini CEO? (Child Entertainment Officer!)

Then Radisson Blu might just have a job for them!

 Hotel brand Radisson Blu, has announced a nationwide search to find a new ‘Board of Directors’ – with a difference. 

A group of Mini CEOs (Child Entertainment Officers) are being recruited to rate Radisson Blu’s family offering at one of six hotels in either Edinburgh, Durham, London, Sligo, Limerick and Cork this August.

Boys and girls between the ages of 6 – 10 years can apply for the role (and ask their parents or guardians to be a reference for them) so long as they meet requirements which include having “a sense of humour”,  “can command attention with adults” and “likes jumping on beds and into swimming pools.”

Successful candidates will win a free stay at a Radisson Blu of their choice for them and their family, along with all the perks of a weekend getaway: read complimentary restaurant meals and plenty of leisure time.

In addition to the break this August, they will be asked to join other Mini CEOs selected from around the UK & Ireland, to attend a group board meeting at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel in London this October.

Their ‘duties’  in August will include assessing whether this enough space in the swimming pool for inflatables, reviewing the family packs and giving recommendations for new restaurant dishes.
 

Radison Blu Marketing Director, Steve Manfield, said: “As a parent myself, I know how travelling with children can be stressful and how a hard earned break can be ruined if the kids are miserable or not suitably catered-for. The search for our Mini CEOs will ensure that we listen and act upon the suggestions of our younger guests, to make the experience a truly memorable one for the whole family.”

Those that think they fit the bill, can apply here: http://www.radissonblu.com/miniceo 


Radisson Blu’s search for mini CEOs comes as the brand’s Rwanda outpost has revealed that it has been selected to host World Travel Awards Africa Gala Ceremony in October (https://www.worldtravelawards.com/event/africa-2017).

The prestigious event will take place at the five star Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre - which features the first convention centre in Rwanda with room for up to 5,000delegates – on 10 October 2017, with hundreds of hospitality leaders from across the region expected to be in attendance.
 

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Worldtravelnews365/posts/J8rGhs4UNYj

 

The new breed of hostels

The much maligned hostel has - huzzah! - upped its game. The Sybarite reports on the rise of the designer hostel

Naysayers will no doubt tell you that hostels are synonymous with uncomfortable, germ-ridden bunk beds, shared bathrooms and sleepless nights (caused by the fear that someone might steal your suitcase).

They may have been right circa 2000 but they’re wrong in December 2016. Make no mistake: fast forward to today and hostels - once the preserve of dread-locked teenagers and twenty somethings - have gone decidedly upmarket, proving that it is possible to sleep in style on a budget.

These new breed of boutique hostels are a world away from their predecessors, focusing as they do on quality not quantity. Translation? Expect stylish extras - think fully equipped and, crucially, clean kitchens, complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the property, exhibition spaces, funky art work, rooftop terraces and reading rooms - all for an amazingly economic price.

What’s more owing to their communal spaces, these boutique hostels represent a great way to meet like minded travellers while simultaneously ensuring a guilt free trip: staying in a boutique hostel (most of which are family owned and run) as opposed to a big chain hotel, means that the money you’re spending will go back into the community.

The company that has arguably done more to dispel the image of hostels as dirty, shabby, crash pads for skint students, than anyone is Generator - aka the pioneer of the posh hostels.

Chic, full of character and invariably located in an enviable postcode, Generator (www.generatorhostels.com) is bridging the gap between backpacker basic and four/five star luxury chic. Case in point? Generator Paris - which opened to rave reviews in March 2015 - is situated in the French capital’s up-and-coming 10th arrondissement district and comes complete with a rooftop bar boasting breathtaking views of Montmartre and Sacré Coeur no less for under US$80 (US$36 if you don’t mind sharing with a stranger). In short, Generator mixes the comfort of a hotel with the sociable DIY aspects of a hostel, providing everything you need while doing away with all the things you don’t.

Freehand Hotels (www.freehandhotels.com) is another hot hostel group that’s changing the game by offering first class facilities (read cocktail bars and private pools) for affordable prices. Freehand made its debutin Miami back in 2012 and has since expanded to Chicago, with plans to open in both the Big Apple and New York imminently.

Out of the independent options, The Sybarite has soft spot for Santiago’s CasAltura (www.casaltura.com) which shows that style is possible on a shoestring. Situated in a beautiful 100 year old building, CasAltura is more flash-packer than backpacker thanks to its stunning rooftop terrace, well designed kitchen, comfortable lounge and dining room, satellite tv and friendly staff. The location can’t be bettered either: CasAltura is close to Mercado Central and Parque Forestal (two top Santiago sights) and within easy walking distance of most of the Chilean capital’s must sees and dos. Little wonder then, that this boutique hostel has fast become a hit with savvy Sybarites.

Bottom line? Leave your preconceptions at the door: hostel-hopping around the world no longer requires roughing it….