Sun seekers’ sensations!

By Helen Foster

While I love the feel of warm sand between my toes and the sound of the sea washing over me, a beach alone isn’t enough. My shores have to be fringed with interesting shops, iconic landmarks and be within easy reach of places that are oozing with character.

Although I love the perfect sun-soaked beach where I can unfurl my towel and lose myself in the murmuring music of the waves and the pages of a good book, I need that proximity to lots of other interesting places I can explore when the time is right to turn a page of my own holiday story.

The Algarve, Portugal

A highlight of the Algarve, for me, are the golden rock formations rising out of the bluest of seas at Ponta da Piedade. These magnificent limestone pillars and arches have been sculpted by the crashing winter seas and they give this coast, just two miles south of Lagos, a distinctive beauty. This wild headland is more cultivated for tourists than it first appears. Boardwalks and steps weave along the cliff tops and down into the hidden sandy grottos, allowing you to take in the views along the coast, or by looking up from below, dwarfed by the towering cliffs.

With a coast as spectacular as this, a boat tour to view the rock formations and secret beaches from a totally different perspective is a must. The locals who work the boats welcome you aboard with a genuine warmth you’ll find everywhere on the Algarve, while drifting around the rocky arches and outcrops transports you to a surreal watery world; one you will always remember. A bonus is a delightful café and restaurant by the car park at the cliffs where you can get your breath back over a tasty lunch and refreshing drink.

The stunning view from Ponta da Piedade Cliffs in the Algarve

The stunning view from Ponta da Piedade Cliffs in the Algarve

You don’t need to work as hard to enjoy the delights of the intimate Praia de Carvoeiro in the Lagoa region. This small beach is sheltered between two rocky headlands and surrounded by pretty fisherman’s cottages, many of which have been transformed into classy little restaurants and lively bars, ideal retreats from the heat of the midday sun. The sands are picture-perfect golden and the sea here isn’t tidal, so great for families. It is also a really short stroll from some of the best holiday shopping you’ll find anywhere. Carvoeiro’s tree-lined boulevards afford a cooling shade while you meander the elegant boutiques and select your fine dining venue for the evening.

There are so many beaches to choose from on the Algarve. For example, Alvor Beach is the longest stretch of sand with a boardwalk taking strollers through the Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve with ease, while Praia de Benagil benefits from being close to the iconic Benagil Caves. Being every bit as stunning as its sister beaches, it is buzzing with boat trips taking tourists into the caves, and returning with the thrill of the boats being driven at speed from the sea straight up, high onto the sands – it felt very James Bond!

Málaga, Spain

Being a city girl, I don’t like to be too far away from the buzzing hub of civilisation, even on holiday. Málaga, the capital of the Costa del Sol, boasts as many as 20 beaches within easy reach of its city parameter. Playa de La Malagueta, a manmade crescent of yellow sand, is just a 10-minute walk from the lively Promenade of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, which will take you past a host of restaurants, bars, shops and other activities, where you can sample a little Malagueño culture and cuisine as you go.

Malaga's Playa de la Malagueta

Malaga’s Playa de la Malagueta

The 3,000-year-old city port is still evolving today and the Paseo del Muelle Dos, opened in 2011, is a snazzy shopping wonderland and home to Jose Carlos Garcia’s restaurant, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city.

If this is too pricey for your holiday budget, there are lots of other eateries to suit all tastes and purses. So much in this beautiful city is free, and the Palmeral de las Sorpresas, or Palm Garden of Surprises is a stunning waterfront promenade with children’s playgrounds and activities, endless gardens housing 420 palm trees and 7,400 tropical plants, water features and more. This sleek new addition to the city’s attractions is very different from the ancient favourites, such as the Moorish Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castle with its neighbouring Roman Theatre, but there are few better places to while away the hours as the sun shines or sets.

Just over an hour’s drive or bus journey from Málaga is Estepona. This exquisitely pretty town nestles behind a stunning beach with its 2.5 miles of wide sands snaking from the port, past the town and beyond. You will find some of the best fresh fish dishes served in the elegant restaurants and traditional chiringuitos along Estepona’s promenade. Often passed over for its glitzier neighbours, you will have a lot more room to spread out on the beaches here, even on the town’s main beach, Playa Rada, which backs onto the promenade.

The Old Quarter here isn’t just a step back in time, it is an explosion of invigorating colour, where the bright white walls of the houses are the perfect canvas for the profusion of coloured planters and cascading blooms which adorn the tiny lanes. The town’s plazas are also completely charming places in which to take some time out to enjoy a tasty Spanish tapas treat sitting on a terrace fringed by orange trees.

Malaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol and boasts 20 sandy beaches within each reach

The best of both worlds: Malaga is the city capital of the Costa del Sol and boasts 20 sandy beaches within each reach

Crete, Greece

It was a yearning to visit Spinalonga, an island off Elounda in northeastern Crete, that kicked off one of my best holidays ever. Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island, tells a fictional story of a leper who was sent out to Spinalonga – Europe’s last active leper colony from 1903 to 1957. The lepers have long gone but I was moved to be following in their footsteps through the houses, shopping street and church – all there, as described in the book.

The ferry over to the island takes about 15 minutes from Elounda and costs around €10. The beaches on Elounda are pretty shingle suntraps and not overly populated. Elounda is a busy little town, complete with a picturesque clock tower and some spectacular seafront eateries.

You can’t help but love the way multi-generational families come out to dine together, and how the smallest, noisiest members of the group are made so very welcome by the waiters, waitresses and maître d’s. I don’t think I have ever visited a more child-friendly destination; it was wonderful to see everyone so happy and relaxed as they dined out together.

A boat over to Spinalonga Island costs around €10. Spend the day taking in the the history of these old streets and enjoy the clear blue sea surrounding the island.

A boat over to Spinalonga Island costs around €10. Spend the day taking in the history of the old streets and enjoy the clear blue sea surrounding the island.

Crete is a great place for waterborne exploration. If it is a fabulous, sizzling beach you want, then head for the beautiful seafront town of Ierapetra in southeastern Crete – it is an easy place to drive around – and hop on a ferry to Chrissi Island. Just 25 minutes later you will be in an island paradise of just 17 square miles of the best sand and sea you’ll see anywhere.

The only shade is beneath the grassy parasols by the sun loungers, so take some light cotton cover-up clothes, as well as your sunscreen. Thankfully, there are small beach shacks selling cooling drinks and snacks. Don’t forget that a dip in the azure waters here is a wonderfully refreshing experience.

Back in your rental car, a drive up (and down) into the forgotten rural world of the Lassithi Plateau proves a memorable adventure. The area is famed for windmills and Dikteon Andron, the cave where Zeus was born and for which you will need sturdy shoes to tackle the slippery steps.

The real pleasure is to take your lunch under the shade of the vines at a tiny café – that serves as the village shop, bar, and community centre – with the local farmers. Communicating largely by using mime, you can spend a couple of fun hours ‘talking’ with the laid-back and lovely people who live here, grow the food you are eating, brew the wine you are drinking and are openly amused by your fascination with their ancient tractors and farming tools!

Did I mention the truly breathtaking views? They come as standard in this destination.

Feel the sand beneath your toes at these destinations and relax back at your own self-catering apartment at the end of a fun-filled day with Apartments4you

Explore all that the USA has to offer!

With its diverse regions and lively cities the USA has something for everybody. With many bucket list attractions and amazing landscapes it is no wonder that millions visit its states annually. It would be hard to list all those places which are worth to visit in the country but we have selected some states below to inspire you with holiday ideas.

California

Few states, if any, have more things to see and do than California. With its major metropolitan cities, majestic mountains, legendary national parks, trailblazing theme parks and, of course, remarkable ocean views, the sunshine state is best sampled in week-sized chunks. In all, California can be separated into 12 regions, each with its own distinct natural beauty and exciting adventures.

Head to San Diego for a slice of surf culture, a romantic dinner or a visit to one whale of a theme park. Head to Lake Tahoe and sample more snow-covered terrain than any other U.S. destination. Or head to Palm Springs, home of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the LG Skins Game, for a golf and spa holiday experience like no other. And when you’re done, you’ll realize you’ve barely scratched the surface of ways to explore the nation’s third largest state – and the No. 1 state for tourism.

Florida

From Florida’s “Space Coast” to the Gulf of Mexico, holidayers will find a little bit of everything their hearts desire: exclusive shopping, world class golfing, bustling beaches and warm ocean breezes, to name a few.
Along the west coast lies the Tampa Bay area, where residents and guests alike, it seems, are required to be outdoors. Tampa was recently named the fifth best outdoor city by Forbes, thanks to its clean air, vast parks and perpetually sunny weather.
Sanibel Island’s beaches are well known for their unspoiled beauty, tranquility and colorful seashells deposited daily by Gulf waters. Visitors to Sanibel are more apt to sunbathe, take a sunset stroll along the sugary sands – or perform the famous shell-hunting ritual that has come to be known the “Sanibel Stoop.”
Between the do-everything city of Fort Lauderdale and exclusive Palm Beach, lies culturally diverse Delray Beach, where holidayers can follow a day at the beach or tennis center with a night downtown among the galleries, restaurants and shows.
Farther south, sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Gulf, sits incomparable Key West. In the Keys, scuba divers, eccentric artists, anglers and partygoers all peacefully coexist, and it appears as if just about all of them gather nightly to view the magnificent sunsets. Although the Keys reside in the continental United States’ southernmost region, ocean breezes keep temperatures pleasant, enticing more than 1 million visitors each year to come and join the fun.

Arizona

The seasons blend into perpetually warm and sunny days here in the heart of the Desert Southwest, where golfers, explorers, power shoppers and sightseers know there’s never a bad time for making memories that last a lifetime.
Oases of holiday resorts dot the landscape, offering championship courses that challenge and inspire golfers regardless of skill level. Spas, meanwhile, conjure the healing powers of native desert plants to provide signature treatments that regenerate the body and nourish the soul.
Every area of this grand state is unique and special in its own way. With high-end retailers such as Tiffany’s, Gucci and Cartier – and more spas per capita than any other U.S. city – historic Scottsdale is a shopper’s paradise and a spa lover’s dream. There may be no better place to indulge yourself, or, as more than a third of the teams in the Major League have discovered, no better setting for spring baseball. 
Venture beyond the diamond to Sedona, and you’ll discover a surrounding landscape that includes ancient rock art, pueblo ruins and incomparable desert mountain views. We are your source for Arizona Holiday resorts.
While the rest of Arizona relishes the 365-day-a-year tee time, fresh powder awaits skiers and snowboarders atop Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks. From here, day trips to Grand Canyon National Park are possible.

New England

From the smell of the salty ocean air to the sweet summer breezes, New England has it all. Whether you prefer an active holiday full of sailing, skiing and cycling, or you want a leisurely getaway rich with history and culture, you’re sure to find more than you even imagined.
Romantic couples or families with children are equally entertained with New England holidays – at any time of year. In this part of the country, there are four distinct seasons, each bringing new scenery and a new set of activities.
Soak in the rays at a pristine beach or scream with delight on an amusement park ride. Take a bicycle ride down a leaf-strewn lane or take a drive along the famous Cape Cod seashore. Ski perfect mountain slopes or visit one of the region’s many historic sites. Sample an array of vintages at a top-notch winery or spot a humpback whale on a relaxing cruise.
At any time of year, indulge in the freshest seafood anywhere in the country, served at some of the best restaurants in the country.
With its natural beauty, deep cultural significance and myriad ways to spend your free time, you’ll want to come back to New England again and again.

Texas

People in Texas love their football. That much is true. But they love the great outdoors just the same. 
Whether your passion is golfing, hiking, hunting, boating, deep-sea fishing – or starlight shows reserved only for the widest of open spaces – then a Texas holiday should be on your next destination list. Catch a trophy bass on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a beautiful, 114,000-acre stretch of clear, fresh water that serves as a regular stop on the pro anglers’ tour. Discover tranquility – and some of the finest golfing in the Southwest – just an hour north of Houston at Lake Conroe.
Explore the Texas Piney Woods at Lake Palestine, by boat, by foot or on an authentic steam train. Or head south to Texas’ southernmost city, Brownsville, which is home to historic U.S.-Mexico battles and a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the beaches of beautiful South Padre Island.
From Hill Country lakes to national forest trails to sandy Gulf Coast shores, your Texas holiday will have a little bit of everything for those who want to commune with Mother Nature.

Nevada

A Nevada holiday is so much more than a drive through the desert. A diverse climate offers plentiful sunny days that are popular with outdoor sports enthusiasts, but heavy winter snowfall in the mountains make Nevada a winter sports paradise as well. In this wild, beautiful state, visit historic Old West mining towns, enjoy guest ranches offering the cowboy lifestyle, or see a star-studded show and play the slot machines.
Las Vegas is world-famous for its round-the-clock neon lights, dining and, of course, world-famous casino entertainment. When it’s time to move beyond The Strip, travel 446 miles southeast to Reno. Nestled against the Sierra Nevada foothills, Reno offers a wide array of shopping, distinctive dining and year-round outdoor sports from skiing to golf and everything in between.

apartments4you have a wide range of self-catering holiday apartments suitable for all of the family. Take a look at the holiday apartments that we have available: www.apartments4you.com