Just About Travel

Where the experts holiday: Sophia Constant, director Rose Travel

Sophia Constant, together with her twin sister Rosanna, runs Sophia Rose Travel which specialises in organising luxury adventure travel in Africa and Latin America. The team shares a passion for exploration, deep local knowledge and planning expertise, creating tailor-made journeys for every client. Sophia is also a freelance travel writer, always enthusiastically planning her next escape.

What do you like to do on holiday?
Working at a fast pace in a city, holidays have to provide a real sense of escape. I personally crave wide-open landscapes and complete silence (birds aside) to let the mind wander and to gain perspective over all the daily worries that most people spend too much time focussing on while in a working routine. 

I am incapable of sitting still on a beach, so being active outdoors or going on adventures makes me feel like I’m making the most of precious time off. There has to be an element of discovery, whether that’s a new place, culture, history etc. I love the sense of freedom to be found while exploring wilderness regions, be it hiking in the Scottish highlands, riding in the Andes, or a 4x4 safari in remote corners of Africa, camping under the stars and dining around a campfire. 

I also love culture-heavy weekend-breaks –  just following my feet around a new city, and, having studied languages, I love trying to communicate and engage with locals wherever I go, which so often allows you to better understand the way of life in countries so different from our own. 

Latin America is my favourite place for both practising Spanish and devouring the continent’s treasure trove of distinct cultures and extraordinary history, particularly learning about the ancient Inca and Maya civilisations. But most importantly, every holiday should allow for total indulgence in food and wine. It’s not a time to hold back! Which is why Argentina is always at the top of my list...!  

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Where did you last go?
A spectacular road trip through South Africa’s northern and western capes on a press trip writing for Country Life Digital. We were exploring really remote communities in the country’s most breathtaking and pristine far reaches, where few tourists ever go, simply because so little of its beauty is known beyond its borders.

It was the perfect balance of adventure and culture: kayaking the Orange River, wildlife safari, learning about herbal medicine from nomadic San Bushmen, cooking over a fire with the Nama People, and sleeping in original diamond diver huts on the beach, miles from civilisation on the Atlantic coast.

I’d highly recommend it for the curious, intrepid explorer who’s willing to forgo the luxuries of a more developed tourist trail to enjoy a truly offbeat adventure. 


Do you know where you’re going this year?
Back to Kenya in November. My father lived there for many years and would take us on incredible safaris through really wild, uninhabited regions, which whetted my appetite for offbeat exploration, and inspired my career in travel. 

Through Sophia Rose Travel, we try to arrange experiences that widen the perspective, build bridges and understanding between distinct cultures and promote sustainable tourism that will positively impact local communities. My November trip is with travel videographers, Matthew Williams-Ellis and John Alexander, putting together a short film on the experiences Sophia Rose Travel arrange in Kenya. 

We’re highlighting lesser known regions and experiences to show just how diverse a journey through Kenya can be. We’ll be taking a camel safari in Laikipia, spending a night under the stars in the bush, interviewing the founder of ForRangers about developing anti-poaching units, learning about the delicate harmony of ranching alongside wildlife on unfenced ranches, such as Sosian in Kenya’s high-country, visiting the beautiful Aberdares mountain range, home to buffalo and elephant, meeting with women’s beading co-operatives in Samburu, and learning how to deep sea fish on the coast. It should be an incredibly varied and fun trip with so many new experiences –) I can’t wait! 

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Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
Argentina holds a special place in my heart. I went there to learn Spanish and have been nurturing my love affair with the country ever since.

I worked in a hotel near Iguazu Falls, taking guests on adventures into the jungle to spot endemic wildlife and birdlife. The following year, I went on a mesmerising road trip through the puna, the high-altitude plains of the Andes in North-West Argentina, which is one of the most extraordinary regions on earth. 

A single day can take you through desert dunes, salt-flats, copper-coloured mountains, cactus-covered valleys, turquoise lagoons scattered with flamingos, a labyrinth of house-sized pumice stones, and into bucolic fields sewn with high-altitude vineyards that produce the most delicious wines. And you’ll hardly see another car. 

There is nowhere more dramatic or breathtaking than Patagonia, where I would highly recommend a riding safari with Jakotango across the Andes, one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in the country. 

And every time I explore a new region of Argentina, I love book-ending it with a few days in Buenos Aires, whose sultry streets I could wander endlessly. I’d move there tomorrow!

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
My list just seems to get longer and longer. I long to sail the icy shores of Antarctica and observe the uninhibited wildlife of the Galapagos Archipelago. 

Having spent years organising tailor-made journeys through Latin America for clients, and having had the privilege of enjoying incredible African safaris, I had never given much thought to Asia until I went island hopping in Bali last year. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing and just loved the openness of the people we met, all the exotic foods we tasted, the celebration of craftsmanship, and the spirituality that I encountered in certain parts. 

I realise I have only scratched the surface and every region will have such a different cultural identity! Japan is top of my list – a country with such a fascinating history and ancient culture that is so far removed from our own. I’d love to stay in a traditional Ryokan for a restorative, nature-focussed experience, and see the contrast between Japan’s modern metropolises and its most pristine countryside. 

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
In the UK, the big cities and the south coast seem to receive the most visitors. Rural England, Scotland and Wales, deep in the countryside, is where I feel most inspired by natural beauty. 

I’m from Yorkshire and think the Dales and Moors are completely breathtaking! These wild, remote and unspoilt landscapes are home to the most down to earth, hard-working people, traditional country pubs with a wonderful warm atmosphere, castles, abbeys, stately-homes, pretty fishing villages, a heart-melting coastline, the best fish and chips hands down, and you’re only a couple of hours from London on the train! I’d really recommend visiting to get a more rounded and genuine experience of life in the UK. 

How do you plan your holiday?
A combination of all of these. I love having a hard-copy guidebook, starring intriguing places and circling restaurants or museums that sound unmissable. 

While we have so much information at our fingertips via the internet, it can be hard knowing what and who to trust. There’s such value in booking holidays through travel companies that give advice from first-hand experience, with in-depth knowledge of a region, as well as building a personal relationship with the client so that each recommendation is tailored to their interests. 

This is what we pride ourselves in at Sophia Rose Travel and it’s where we really ensure that we add value to an exploration. We particularly love providing specialist guides who will bring a place to life. I always make sure I leave some time completely unplanned to just wander and see what I find. That makes it all the more exciting when you stumble upon somewhere particularly beautiful or special. 

How often do you go away?
Working in travel, even though I absolutely love it, I sometimes feel a bit too nomadic. For Sophia Rose Travel, I’m often away on reccies in Latin America or Africa to ensure my knowledge and advice is both fresh and imaginative. 

I am also a freelance travel writer and love embarking on journeys of discovery to new destinations. I’m trying to make sure that every few months I spend at least two weeks solidly at home to decompress.

I think it’s essential to have at least one week’s holiday a year that is completely dedicated to R&R, recharging the batteries and disengaging from your busy schedule. In July I spent a week on a river in Scotland: fishing, reading, walking and sleeping. It was just what I needed to take on the rest of the year with positive energy and to give my work my all. 

Who do you travel with?
My twin sister and I share our travel business together – she lives in Kenya and I live in London. We often travel together, both for work and holiday, which gives us time to catch up and reconnect. If you are able to find time to travel as a family, it’s incredibly special to share new experiences together and enjoy each other's company outside of your usual home environment. 

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Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
It’s hard to say with the UK – I imagine we’ll see a strong revival of ‘slow-travel’ as life seems to be too fast-paced! Whizzing around ticking off a bucket-list or guidebook highlights has lost its appeal, and more often people are keen to get under the skin of a destination, to really try to understand and engage in different cultures, and take journeys at a leisurely pace. It’s so important to slow down every now and then to actually appreciate what’s around you. 

In the regions where we arrange holidays, Africa and Latin America, in recent years we have seen a major shift towards sustainable tourism, with a rise in travel companies promoting eco-friendly accommodation and cultural experiences that positively impact local communities. 

Among our clients, we’ve noticed that now almost everyone is conscious to incorporate an element of their trip that is about giving back to whichever part of the world they are exploring. It’s been really uplifting to see this greater awareness and respect amongst travellers and indeed the travel industry. 

Thanks Sophia! For the low-down on Sophia Rose Travel, please visit sophiarosetravel.com. Follow Sophia Rose Travel on Instagram.

Read the post here: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2019/10/08/where-the-experts-holiday-sophia-constant-director-at-sophia-rose-travel/

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Where the experts holiday: Sophia Constant, director at Sophia Rose Travel

Sophia Constant, director at Sophia Rose Travel - which specialises in organising luxury adventure travel in Africa & Latin America, talks travel:

http://www.justabouttravel.net/2019/10/08/where-the-experts-holiday-sophia-constant-director-at-sophia-rose-travel/

Guatemala greats

Eight, great things to see, do and experience in Guatemala


“You’re going to Guatemala? I really wish you’d reconsider your decision,” said my friend Henry. “I hear it’s dangerous down there.” Henry wasn’t the only one with concerns. Plenty of acquaintances wondered what my friend Amanda and I were  thinking, when we boarded a plane to Guatemala earlier this year.

We were thinking that Guatemala (which is sandwiched between Mexico to the north, El Salvador and Honduras to the south and Belize to the east) is home to vast rainforests, volcanoes, Mayan sites, mountains, cobblestone villages, postcard-pretty beaches and major cities – meaning we could effectively combine several holidays in one.

Sure Guatemala suffers from a bit of a public image problem (the Foreign Office website claims that 5,000 violent deaths occurred in the country in 2015 alone) but I’m here to tell you that situation on the ground couldn’t be more different from what’s reported in the media, with most deaths being almost gang murders that don’t affect tourists.

Here’s eight reasons why gorgeous Guatemala, an underrated, affordable corner of Central America, should be on your bucket list…


Lago de Atilan

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Praised by 19th century travel-chronicler, John Lloyd Stephens, as being "the most magnificent spectacle we ever saw”, Lago de Atilan can’t fail to charm even the most jaded of traveller. Indeed its lure is so strong that many foreigners now call Lago de Atilan home, having  fallen for the area while on holiday.
This beautiful Highland lake – which is at least 320m deep and measures 18km by 12km at its widest point – is ringed by small towns, each with their own character. 
Panajachel is the most popular resort town and therefore the busiest, being crammed with travel agencies, tuk tuks and dive bars.
Quieter, more peaceful options include, Santa Cruz La Laguna and Jaibalito. Looking to party? San Pedro La Laguna is where it’s at, but the prettiest and most laid-back late is San Marcos.

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Antigua

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Less than an hour away from the concrete jungle that is Guatemala City, lies Antigua – one of Guatemala’s most appealing destinations.

This picturesque colonial town is packed full of cobblestone streets lined with elegant buildings, whose yellow and orange facades are framed by a backdrop of three volcanoes.

Browse the the craft markets, galleries and chi chi shops before stopping off for an enchilada (a super Central American pie) in a spot such as Cafe Condesa (cafecondesa.com.gt), a charming old world cafe that’s set around the patio of a 16th century mansion.

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Tikal

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What’s the number one tourist attraction in Guatemala? Take a bow Tikal, the mother of all Maya ruins. 
Here the reminders of a once great Mayan civilisation cast their compelling shadow across the Guatemalan landscape. Towering pyramids pierce the skyline as visitors gaze upon the remnants of what was one of the most dynamic and sophisticated civilisations.


Flores

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Santa Elena is the town that most tourists  stay in, when taking a day trip to Tikal. However I’d recommend giving Santa Elena a miss (unless banks, buses and shopping malls exert a pull on you) and basing yourself in the island town of Flores. 

Set against  backdrop of the emerald waters of Lago de Peten Itza, Flores is far prettier – and full of boutique hotels (many of which boast rooftop terraces), and fabulous restaurants where you can feast like a king for less than 100 quetzal (under £10). 

A couple of places worth knowing about… Overlooking the lake, Raices (7867 5743) specialises in seafood and chargrilled meats and enjoys possibly the prettiest setting in Flores for a meal. Meanwhile Cool Beans (5571 9240) is a laid back hangout whose verdant garden is a great spot for a light bite.

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Livingstone
Sometimes all you need is a little sun, sand, and sea… if you agree, look to Livingstone. The beaches in Livingstone proper are nothing to write home about,  but venture a few kilometres to the north west and you’ll find beauties like Playa Quehueche and Playa Blanca (be prepared to take a boat to get there).
Beyond the beach, don’t miss Los Siete Altares – an array of freshwater lakes and pools. A series of boats make the journey to Los Siete Altares but, if you like walking, it’s a pretty walk along the shore of Bahia de Amatique.


Celebrate Semana Sanata
Guatemala's Semana Santa isn’t like any Easter you have ever experienced. The country comes alive with its annual ‘Semana Santa’ Holy Week, especially the city of Antigua which covers its streets in intricate alfombras (carpets) as well as quetzals, flowers and crosses in preparation for the processions on Good Friday –  which are announced by a battalion of roman soldiers. It’s a cliche I know, but to miss Semana Santa in Guatemala is to truly miss out.


Guatemala City
Guatemala’s capital is often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons – read crime and congestion – but don’t be scared by its sinister reputation. 
True Guate (as the city is affectionately known) can’t be described as an effortless destination – it’s undeniably dirty and big – but the country’s capital is cleaning up its act. Subsequently those who do decide to explore this fascinating city are guaranteed brilliant museums and galleries and, in areas, like Downtown Zona 1, a new wave of bars, restaurants and cafes.
Still inclined to skip the city? You might not have a choice: Guate is the transportation hub of the country.


The people

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Wherever you go in Guatemala, a welcome as warm as the weather is assured. Even off the beaten track, out of the big three tourist areas, Guatemalans will go out of their way to help – and you’ll leave having amassed a book’s worth of tug-at-your-heartstrings experiences.
Guatemalans have rightly earnt a reputation for being among the happiest people in the world, despite the poverty and hardships they endure on a daily basis. 
They don’t ask for more from life than it can give, and as such smiling faces are evident everywhere: from the taxi driver who starts crooning his favourite tune to help pass the time while going absolutely nowhere when stuck in Guatemala City traffic, to the teenagers playing an impromptu football game on the rubble. 

View the post at: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/09/26/guatemala-greats/

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Where the experts holiday: Heidi Fuller-love, travel writer and broadcaster

British freelance travel, food and lifestyle writer/broadcaster, Heidi Fuller-love, lets us in on her top travel experiences

What do you like to do on holiday?
I generally like to go somewhere as remote as possible. Because I travel so much (a lot of which is luxury travel, lucky me) I want to be in simple accommodation by the sea or up in the mountains and away from ‘the madding crowds’

Where did you last go?
On holiday? I was in Kep, a delightful coastal village in Cambodia.

Do you know where you’re going later this year?
One of my favourite things to do is to just take off for several months and wander. I’m thinking of Laos for later this year.

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
There are many favourites but I think a favourite trip was island hopping in the Maldives– staying in local guesthouses, meeting local people. But I also loved my small cruise around The Galapagos  and a wonderful wild two weeks in the Azores.

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?

I’ve barely nibbled at China, so that’s on my books. I generally say I want to go everywhere that I haven’t yet been!

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
In Crete I would say go to a  local bar and drink raki (an unsweetened, often aniseed-flavoured, alcoholic drink) until dawn!

How do you plan your holiday? 
I work a lot with PRs, but I rarely use guidebooks. I tend to subscribe to sites like Atlas Obscura to get lots off offbeat ideas. I also belong to lots of digital nomad forums.

How often do you go away?
I travel for six months of the year.

Who do you travel with?
Mostly alone.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
Booming! But with much more of an eco tourism aspect.

Heidi Fuller-love is  an experienced British travel, food, and lifestyle writer/broadcaster currently based between Spain and Greece. She speaks French, Greek and Spanish, and travels for five months of the year.  Heidi pens food, and travel features for publications ranging from World of Cruising, Rough Guides, High50, Britain magazine and Food+Travel,  to Selling Travel,  ABTA and The Guardian and others. She is also a judge in this year’s Wave Awards.
In addition, Heidi produces audio  for various outlets, including Deutsche Welle  Afropop, RFI and  BBC RadioFour's From Our Own Correspondent.
To view her work, visit HeidiFuller-love.com

View the post at: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/08/28/where-the-experts-holiday-heidi-fuller-love-travel-writer-and-broadcaster/

What's hot: August 2018

Just About Travel tells you what’s hot (and what’s not) in the travel world

HOT

Carry on cruising
To mark 60 years of the Carry On film franchise, a Carry On-themed cruise will set sail from Bristol this autumn. The 15 night Med voyage departs on 22 September with double cabins starting at £1,239 per person. Expect to see stars such as Bernard Cribbins, Liz Fraser and Angela Douglas on board. For the full low-down, visit www.cruiseandmartitime.com


Showing your respect to Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has approved a new statue of himself at the airport on his native Madeira after the original statue, delivered by local artist Emanuel Santos, was ridiculed around the world when it unveiled in March 2017 to make the renaming of the airport as Aeroporto Cristiano Ronaldo. The identity of the Spanish artist behind the new work is unknown but Ronaldo’s older brother, Hugo, confirmed that the Portuguese football ace had given his blessing.


Saluting sausage dogs
The world’s first museum dedicated exclusively to sausage dogs has opened in Passau, Bavaria. As well as browsing its 4,500 exhibits – think dachshund-themed puppets, stamps, salt shakers and beer mugs – you’ll read about the dachshund’s history. Picasso, Napoleon, Einstein and Warhol were all huge fans of the breed. For more information, visit dackelmuseum.de


Payouts for connecting flights
Passengers can now claim compensation for connecting flights outside the EU that are delayed or cancelled. A ruling by the European Court of Justice states that if you check in at an EU airport and an onward flight from a non-EU country that is part of the same booking is delayed for more than three hours or cancelled, you can claim up to £530. To make a claim, which can be backdated six years, visit the respective airline website.


Help is at hand
UK airports are making progress when it comes to helping passengers with hidden disabilities, according to a new report.
These can include autism, dementia, hearing loss and many other conditions that are not obvious. “We are pleased to see how well airports have responded in improving the assistance they offer,” says Matt Buffey of the Civil Aviation Authority.

 

Introducing tourist taxes
New Zealand has proposed introducing a ‘tourist tax’ of NZ$35 (£18) for visitors entering the country. Expected to come into force in late 2019, the tax’s purpose is to ensure tourists “contribute to the infastructure they use and help protect the natural environment they enjoy,” according to a statement from the New Zealand government.
The money, accumulated by the new tax – upto NZ$80 million (£42 million) a year – will be spent on tourist amenities and conservation projects.


Music in Melbourne
It’s official – Melbourne is the live music capital of the world. With a total of 465 live music venues, Melbourne has become the live music capital of the world, according to new Census data. The city is home to more live music venues per capita than any other major global city including London, New York, Tokyo or Los Angeles. The music industry generates in excess of $1.42 billion in the city, with 62,000 annual performances attracting more than 12 million patrons in Melbourne. Melbourne is also the music festival capital, with an estimated 350 festivals that feature live music.


Staycations
If there’s something the UK can pride itself on, it’s the vast array of famous monuments and historical landmarks. From one end of the country to the other, there is a dazzling range of history that draws tourists in from all over the world. Despite that, it seems we’re not actually as clued up on our landmarks as we’d like to think and perhaps rather than jetting off abroad this summer, we should take some downtime to appreciate the wonders of our little island.
WestLand London, dealers in antique fireplaces, decided to conduct a survey of 2,000 people in the UK to find out exactly how much they know about our famous monuments and landmarks. And, er, it’s shamefully rather little. Overall, Brits scored just 44.5 per cent on the test to identify historical monuments and landmarks – bearing in mind these included The Angel of the North, Westminster Abbey, Stonehenge, Blackpool Tower, and The Royal Liver Building.

Holidaying with Peter Kay, Emma Watson and Julie Walters
Peter Kay, Emma Watson and Julie Walters are the unlikely group of celebrities that UK adults most want to share a holiday villa with. Travel agent, Florida4Less, asked 2,000 people which British stars they’d most like to take a Florida holiday with and why.
Funnyman Kay came top of the list largely because of his sense of fun, which a quarter (25 per cent) of the people who voted for him cited as the main reason.
Actress and activist Emma Watson came second on the list, with one in three (29 per cent) saying her good looks made her the ideal companion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three times as many men voted for her as women did, making her men’s top choice.
Julie Walters came in as the nation’s third choice, with her voters split between the fact that she’d be entertaining to talk to (12 per cent) and her sense of fun (10 per cent) as the main reasons. She was also women’s favourite celeb choice.

 

NOT

Exploring Cinque Terre
A cemetery in a village on the Cinque Terre coast of Italy is overrun with tourists – so much so that locals have been recruited to patrol around and keep order. Fabrizia Pecunia, the mayor of Manarola, wants to enforce a ruling that noboidy can use the site for picnics, selfies “or other disrespectful activities.”