I've long had a love affair with Italy and it seems I'm not alone. With its stunning landscapes, delicious cuisine and friendly people, it's easy to see why it has remained such a popular travel destination. Fine art photographer and bestselling author Gray Malin also fell in love with Italy, which inspired this beautiful photography book bursting with lust-worthy images, which captures five road trips he took over the course of six years, shooting from land, sea and air. Not exactly a rough gig, if you ask us!
If you've never been to Italy, this tribute to the Italian Riviera in all its dazzling decadance will make you want to hop on the next plane; if you're no stranger to its charms, it will reignite your passion for La Dolce Vita. From crowded marinas along the Amalfi Coast jam-packed with seriously stylish speedboats, to hidden beaches, to otherworldly landscapes such as the limestone cliffs of Scala Dei Turchi in Sicily, this book captures the sun-drenched glamour of the most fabulous Italian destinations.
All of the wonderfully colourful photographs capture the vibrance of the landscapes he visited - from eye-popping sun parasols to the sparkling azure sea, this book is a ray of sunshine that instantly transports you to the beaches of Italy. Enjoy with an Aperol Spritz and it's all you need to make the gloomiest of days that little bit brighter.
Gray Malin: Italy published by Abrams & Chronicle Books is available from Amazon.co.uk (£20.29 for a hardcover).
If you're one of those people who are always looking for the 'hidden gems' when you visit a city, then you'll love Don't Be a Tourist in Paris, which is dedicated to unveiling the best that Paris has to offer - outside the tourist traps.
I've been to Paris on several occasions, but after having read this book, it makes me want to visit all over again - and this time I'll ensure I do it properly by avoiding the usual haunts.
Recommendations within the book cover everything from hotels to bars, restaurants, clubs and bistros to creative haunts such as bookshops and galleries. I loved the playful tone of some of the headings within the book like where to go if you're 'feeding a broken heart or a hangover' and 'Top 5 for a detox (after two much wine and cheese)', which let's be honest, we can all relate to! There are also tips on how to find French village life in the city and where to 'eat like a local', to ensure you'll find some authentic treasures along the way.
When I next board the Eurostar, I'll be clutching my copy of this book ready to explore all of the wonderful places that Vanessa has taken the time to painstakingly explore, so that we can all feel like cool Parisians - even if it's only for a weekend.
Don't Be a Tourist in Paris is published by ROADS Publishing and is available from Amazon.co.uk (£25.00 for a hardcover).
Good things come in small packages. At least that's the premise of this book dedicated to tiny campsites. Featuring more than 80 tiny campsites across the UK (determined by its size being less than an acre in size), this useful holiday guide provides camping lovers with full details for each campsite, so they're armed with all of the information they need to find the tiny campsite that's perfect for them.
The guide provides a wealth of information including an overview of the facilities, nearby pubs and supplies, contact details, a list of nearby rail stations and recommendations for what to see and do in the local area.
We've rounded up our favourite tiny campsites...
This campsite in a small forest glade in Inverness-shire even comes complete with an outdoor bush shower. There is also an independent, mountain-hut style hostel sleeping up to 8 people privately, which is great for families and small groups.
Located near Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire, Walkers Cottage Camping boasts a 180-degree view of the picturesque Wye Valley. Here campers will be able to mix with the local wildlife including a field of sheep and beehives hidden amongst wildflowers. Given its location on the edge of the Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve, you'll be rewarded with stunning starry nights.
At Ten Acres Vineyard guests will be able to camp amongst the vines. Animal lovers will also love the pigs that live on site whose job it is to graze the grass amongst the vines - aww.
Tiny Campsites by Dixe Wills is published by AA Publishing and is available from Amazon.co.uk (£11.99 for a paperback).
To commemorate its 80th anniversary, Butlin’s has created a gorgeous coffee table book, The Nation’s Host: Butlin’s and the Story of the British Seaside, which showcases many never-before-seen images from Butlin's archives.
Butlin’s developed the book in collaboration with The History of Advertising Trust (HAT), the largest archive of British advertising and marketing communications in the world, and acclaimed seaside historian Katherine Ferry, who was granted unique access to the archives to tell the incredible inside story of Butlin's and the British seaside.
The book reveals the tale of the brand's origins in a British society still reeling from the economic downturn of the 1920s, to its heyday in the mid-twentieth century, and the challenges posed by the arrival of overseas package holidays to the company’s plan for reinvention in the present day.
Since its inception in 1936, Butlin's resorts were seen as aspirational, yet within reach of the average person - in other words, affordable but not cheap. Billy Butlin, the founder of Butlin's resorts, was a true entrepreneur who helped revolutionise the travel industry by making travel accessible for all, offering a week's holiday for a week's wages.
Butlin's has long been renowned for it wealth of activities under one roof - perfect for the unpredictable British weather - and visitors could take advantage of all activities on offer - at no additional charge. From an amusement park to fitness classes, dancing, waterskiing, and much more, there really was something for everyone to enjoy. In addition to these activities, Butlin's also offered performances from top singers and musicians, with many stars cutting their teeth at Butlin's such as Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Ringo Starr, and Annie Lennox, to name a few.
During the wartime years (1939-1945), Butlin's resorts were transformed from holiday bungalows into housing for soldiers from The Royal Navy. After the war, Butlin's welcomed back tourists, which was made easier thanks to easier access from new railways that had been built. For people who had become accustomed to queuing for rations, the promise of no queues at Butlin's was an enticing one.
By the late 1950s, a prosperous era returned and Butlin's had come to symbolise the affluence of the working class, with people being able to enjoy leisure pursuits once again. By 1963, Butlin's had welcomed 1 million visitors in one season - a long-held dream for Billy Butlin.
Today, Butlin's continues to delight its guests with a variety of activities to keep the whole family entertained. If you're a history lover, a seaside lover or simply a fan of Butlin's resorts, then this is a must-read book.
The Nation's Host: Butlin's and the Story of the British Seaside is available from Butlin's store for £20.
I was so inspired by our recent review of Cool Camping Europe (Second Edition), that I wanted to discover what fabulous camping options there were to be had a bit closer to home.
Living in London, the pull for country life is strong, particularly after a trying week when one's daily routine consists of being squashed like a sardine on an overcrowded tube carriage with a million strangers. So, it was lovely to settle down this evening with a cuppa and the latest edition of Cool Camping Britain (Second Edition), so I could start planning my next rural escape - even if the summer months seem hopelessly far away during the long rainy days of December!
The guide is bursting with recommendations for inspirational campsites across the UK, ensuring that there is something for all camping enthusiasts to enjoy, whether you prefer glamping or more traditional no frills camping.
We've rounded up our top five favourite UK campsites featured in Cool Camping: Britain (Second Edition):
1. Treen Farm Campsite, Penzance, Cornwall
This traditional campsite in Cornwall is low on frills but high on outstanding natural beauty. Some of Cornwall's most breathtaking beaches are within walking distance. Other nearby attractions include the stunning outdoor theatre at Minack Theatre and Land's End.
2. Ninham Country Holidays, Isle of Wight
This family run campsite is perfectly situated for exploring Shanklin, a popular resort town on the Isle of Wight. The site's 230 pitches are divided into two fields, which helps to create a sense of privacy, without any distractions.
3. Glendaruel, Argyll, Scotland
This 22-acre escape in Argyll is perfect for those wanting to get away from it all. There are only 10 pitches for tents and there is also the Little Camping Lodge on site, which sleeps up to four people. Nearby walking trails and cycle routes provide healthy entertainment for the family.
4. Lochness Shores, Inverness-shire, Scotland
This 99-pitch campsite on the shores of Loch Ness rewards its visitors with the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it. From forests to mountains, nature doesn't get much better than this. Offsite adventures include canoeing and river kayaking adventures.
5. Rothiemurchus, Inverness-shire, Scotland
This award-winning woodland campsite is a must for forest lovers and is the best place to enjoy the Caledonian woodland. Offsite activities include archery, hiking and canoeing at the nearbyRothiemurcus Centre.
For more cool campsites, visit www.coolcamping.co.uk. Cool Camping Britain: Second Edition is available from Amazon for £14.86 (paperback).
There's nothing better than escaping the stresses and strains of city life than to make time to relax in the great outdoors. While my own relationship with camping has typically been a bit apprehensive, largely due to a fear of non-existent showers and toilet facilities, even I have come round to the joys of embracing the great outdoors - tent and all.
Coolcamping: Europe (Second Edition) is a gorgeous book featuring a variety of hand-picked campsites and for the more precious amongst us (glamping experiences), to provide a wealth of inspiration for your next camping holiday.
From teepees to gypsy caravans and everything in between, you'll be amazed at the sheer amount of fabulous camping experiences that are to be had when you know where to go. Countries (and their stand out campsites) featured within the guide include: Portugal, Spain, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Greece.
The guide is broken down into helpful sections including 'campsites at a glance', 'campsite locator' and 'useful words and phrases' in a variety of languages, such as 'sleeping bag' ('saco-cama' in Portugese or 'un saco de dormir' in Spanish) and 'campfire' ('un feau de camp' in French and 'kampvuur' in Dutch), just in case you were wondering.
Each campsite entry is accompanied by a selection of gorgeous images to provide you with a sense of what you can expect to find when you arrive. Each entry also gives you a low down on the site's 'cool factor', an overview of the types of people that are likely to choose that particular campsite, camping rates, food and drink options, details on how to find the campsite and recommendations for offsite day trips.
So, which campsites featured within the guide are on our must-visit list? Check out our recommendations below...
Best campsites in Europe - The top 5 campsite holidays we're lusting after...
1. O Tamanco (Casas Brancas, Portugal)
Rustic charm and a variety of camping options including glamping tubes, tents and yurts, make this campsite truly unique. It's located near the Silver Coast, which boasts fishing villages, castles and monastries.
2.Lima Escape (Ponte de Barca - Viana do Castelo, Portugal)
Located on the edge of the Peneda-Geres National Park, you'd be hard pressed to find a campsite with more stunning natural beauty. Hiking and biking enthusiasts will love exploring the surrounding mountain treks and paths.
3. La Fresneda (Teruel, Spain)
This small but perfectly formed campsite with only 25 pitches is set in a stunning valley. Outdoor lovers will love exploring the rugged canyons and mountainsides as well as the natural rock swimming pools, which are only 15 mins away. Guests will also enjoy the onsite restaurant Bar La Roca, where guests can indulge in local tapas.
4. Forest Days (Catalonia, Spain)
Poised on a beautiful farmstead surrounded by mountains and fertile farmland, this really is glamping at its best. The site features four fully furnished bell tents, each featuring a super kingsize bed, a woodburning stove, an outdoor dining space and a hammock for two. With a campsite this well equipped, you'll never want to leave...
5. Il Collaccio (Perugia, Italy)
Deep in the valleys of the Umbrian hills is where you'll find this breathtaking campsite. This camping complex combines a family-owned truffle farm with a modest hotel, a pool, chalets, cabins and teraces for campers, caravans and tents. There is also an on-site restaurant and lots of activities to keep you busy including tennis, volleyball, table tennis and petanque.
For more cool campsites, visit www.coolcamping.co.uk. Cool Camping Europe (Second Edition) is available from Amazon.co.uk for £15.88 (paperback).
Beside the Sea: Britain's Lost Seaside Heritage (2015) is a stunning retro fabulous coffee table book, highlighting the heydays of the British seaside. From the Victorian era to the end of the 20th century, millions of Brits used to flock in droves to British beaches. Sadly, this trend soon took a nosedive after cheap package holidays abroad became all the rage. This book recounts with nostalgia how holidays used to be all about fish and chips, bracing weather and chilly waters, not tropical holidays to far-flung destinations.
My father who is old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s, fondly recalls the pool at Portobello, with its stunning classic Art Deco design and seriously high diving board. Apparently, on the rare hot summer days, local poseurs would skip work to don their skimpiest posing briefs and flex their muscles to the delight of the girls who had gone to the pool with their best swimsuits in the hopes of catching a few rays. Heat to the pool was supplied by the nearby Portobello Power Station – though most accounts of the water temperature still ranged from icy cold to sub-Siberian. It is also reported that Sean Connery worked a number of seasons as a lifeguard at Portobello Pool before becoming a full-time actor in the 1950s. Sadly, the pool closed in 1979 and was demolished in 1988. Other key attractions in Portobello included the Marine Gardens (opened in 1909), which featured a roller skating rink, circus, cinema and auditorium as well as a 'human zoo' (yes, this shockingly actually existed), featuring Somalians who were paid to perform mock battles to provide visitors with 'exotic entertainment'.
Other beaches featured within the book include: Blackpool, Filey, Brighton, Mablethorpe, Hastings, Hornsea, Southport, Whitley Bay, New Brighton, LLanduduno, Lee-on-the-Solent, Margate, Redcar, Jaywick, Morcambe, Scarborough, Cleethorpes and Bangor, providing a comprehensive overview of some of the most popular seaside beaches and resorts over the ages.
Overall, this is a fantastic book for anyone with a love of the British seaside or a passion for historical photography.
Beside the Sea: Britain's Lost Seaside Heritage is published by Aurum Press. Available from Amazon.co.uk (£19.99 for a hardcover).
Midnight at the Pera Palace is a fascinating account of the history of Istanbul and is a must-read for history buffs and fans Istanbul (myself included).
Being both Muslim and modern, and straddling two continents (Europe and Asia), Istanbul is a place that has long embodied the ties between the East and the West. Pre-1930 Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinople (named after Roman emperor Constantine the Great, referenced to in the catchy 1950s swing song 'Istanbul, Not Constantinople'. Since history began, it has been a place of intrigue for those looking for somewhere special.
Throughout history, Constantinople would witness the rise and fall of several empires (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman), which has influenced the variety of cultures present in modern day Istanbul.
Today, it's a thriving, cosmopolitan city with more than 13,000 inhabitants, making it more populous than two-thirds of the world's countries. Modern shops and hotels blend harmoniously with mosques, making it a truly unique destination.
The Pera Palace
The Pera Palace was established in 1892 in Pera (then Istanbul's most fashionable neighborhood), to service tourists arriving on the Orient Express. Decades later, it remained part of a community of luxury properties with sister properties in Nice and Monte Carlo that set the benchmark for style and sophistication in its day.
During the First World War, Pera Palace was frequented by British and Allied officers, dignataries, journalists, authors and travelers.
'The rich, having made money easily during the war, ate, drank, and enjoyed life to the hilt, buying properties and spending recklessly. The ridiculous styles and dress of the women with their made-up faces, half-exposed breasts and immodest manners occupied my special attention. - Grigoris Balakian, Armenian priest and genocide survivor
From 1909-1918, the First World War brought Istanbul to its knees with many men lost in battle. On 13 November 1918, the British, French, Italian and Greek Allies steamed into the Bosphorous, breaking Turkish tyranny, making it the 'largest and deadliest contingent of armed foreign vessels ever to reach the city'. The newcomers aimed to spread Christianity in favour of Muslim beliefs, leaving many Muslims heartbroken as they didn't want to abandon their traditions. M.M. Carus Wilson, a British lieutenant at the time, said: 'A walk is a continual kaleidoscope of the nations...'
By 1919 Pera Palace established itself as a place where 'foreign officers and businessmen are feted by unsrupulous Levantine adventurers and drink and dance with fallen Russian princesses or with Greek and Armenian girls whose morals are as flimsy as their gowns.'
In 1920, the Russian Civil War drove 860,000 Russian refugees to Istanbul, many of which graced the doors of Pera Palace. Second-hand shops in Pera were filled with past lives being sold on consignment (silver, china, linens). Tents were set up outside Pera Palace to provide a makeshift university for hundreds of Russian students, with members of the prestigious Russian Imperial Acadamey verifying the student's examinations.
By 1923, Pera Palace became state owned in efforts to recoup some of the unpaid taxes from its previous owner. It wasn't until 1928, that it saw a new owner in its possession - businessman Musbah Muhayyes. It was also at this time (after the Allied occupation), that Greek, Jewish and Armenian immigrants fled the city to return to their homelands, leaving their possessions behind, creating a windfall for the Turks that remained in the city.
During this time, Pera Palace was a hub of artistic creativity, hosting a variety of performances in its garden bar, which brought art lovers and pleasure seekers together during the jazzy roaring 20s, which saw a boom in the alcohol industry and an increase in indulgence in narcotics. By the 1940s and 1950s, business started to wane as guests sought more modern alternatives.
In the 1970s, the hotel witnessed another burst in popularity after a California psychic revealed a vision that Agatha Christie (a former guest at the hotel in its heyday), had left a deep secret hidden in Room 411 of the Pera Palace, which transpired to be a fabrication.
In 2006, the hotel was closed for a 23 million Euros restoration project. The newly refurbished hotel reopened its doors on September 1, 2010.
Today, Istanbul remains a melting pot of nations including Jews, Muslims, Greeks, Romans, Armenians and Russians, all practicing their religions and customs, creating a multi-cultural haven for many.
In 2013, a sub-Bospherous metro line meant it was the first time in history that anyone could make an inter-continental journey entirely by dry land. It's hard to believe that the original journey by Orient Express took 81 hours (including 15 hours on the Black Sea) - not a journey for the fainthearted.
Visiting the Pera Palace Hotel
The Pera Palace Hotel is located in the Tepebaşı neighbourhood of Pera, once known as "Little Europe". It is about 20 km fromAtatürk International Airport. The hotel is in walking distance of Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square.
Ensure that you visit the Atatürk Room or ‘Museum Room’, with many personal items and reading material of the great leaderMustafa Kemal Atatürk exhibited to the public.
For hotel bookings, visit Bookings.com.
One of the greatest luxuries of all is having the time to relax with a great book.