Atrium Prestige, Rhodes, Greece

Only a four hour flight from London, there’s a place where I can be away from it all, here in Rhodes, Greece. Not only is the weather warm, the sky is blue but the hotel too is pristine. I am staying at the Atrium Prestige Hotel ( ). On our arrival we were guided into the palatial foyer with chandeliers and a glass of fizz to welcome us. From here we were transported by golf buggy down hill to our room which is simply decorated with a pretty trailing ivy design and butterflies on the ceiling. The doors open out to a seating area and we are fortunate to have our own pool which overlooks the white villas below and the glistening and calm ocean.

It takes me a while to grasp that the reception area was at ground level with the rest of the hotel, apartments and villas cascading down towards the ocean. There are two main swimming pools and surroundings full of colour from plants, flowers, trees which complement the sky, white buildings and ocean. There is a small delicate chapel next to one of the swimming pools accessed by an arched white bridge.  

The main building houses an adults playground. The spa pool is amazing with two jacuzzi type beds incorporated into the pool. There are three spouts blasting water which is rather painful to go beneath and numerous jets pumping out water too. Being filled with salt water means that you don’t have to swim but can float as the jets move you around. All of the pools at the hotel contain salt water which is much nice than swimming in chemicals. The spa has treatment rooms which you can book as well as a sauna and hammam. The hammam is a vast steam room, large enough for corporate business meetings. For those feeling energetic there is a well equipped gym to use too. 

Near to the gym is an Greek BBQ restaurant, one of four restaurants. The Asian and Aegean restaurants are close to the sea whilst the gourmet restaurant (where breakfast is served) sits high in the main building with a glass edged balcony providing fantastic views out over the ocean. The hotel serves delicious food, wine and the hospitality is exceptional.  

There are of course a choice of bars here, two at the pool and one as you leave the tunnel which leads down to the black sandy beach. Follow the board walks and you’ll find countless parasols and loungers awaiting sun worshipping travellers.  

The Atrium Prestige provides a relaxing environment and I’m sure most travellers would use the time to have a morning lie in however here that would mean missing another great phenomenon, sunrise. A much better choice would be to watch dawn which fortunately occurs directly in front of the hotel. The red, yellow, green and blue colours at dawn provide a vivid rainbow across the horizon and precede a speedy sunrise. 

Our stay is only mard by the pathways which when damp due to the early morning air or the efficient cleaners become slippery. As the paths do slope down to the ocean it can be quite hazardous.  

If you want warmth, blue sky, great hospitality and somewhere that you don’t want to leave (we didn’t the whole week) The Atrium Prestige is an awesome place to go!  

Camper-vaning, Port Douglas, Hartley’s Crocodile Farm and Ellis Beach, Queensland, Australia (3)

We were escorted from the Daintree Rainforest predictably by the heaviest enslaught of rain. This eased in time for a Cassowary to be crossing the road ahead of us. A tall robust colourful bird different but similar to an emu. We stopped and watched it move across the road before hiding in the vegetation and disappearing. A rarity, apparently to see in the wild and a wildlife tick in the box for me.

On both our entrance to the rainforest and departure we crossed the Daintree River by ferry, not a ferry as we would experience  in the U.K but more of a platform on water. A $26 fee for the ten minute journey with signs warning of crocodiles inhabiting the area. 

Todays travels take us from the remote, uninhabited, natural landscape of the rainforest to Port Douglas. A contrast indeed with concrete, materialism and swarms of people. The area is nice with boutiques, bars and a mix of people from different backgrounds but something in me would prefer to return to the rainforest or nature. Any attempts today to visit the beach were thwarted, as soon as my toes touched the sand, there was a deluge of rain being dumped on me, requiring a dash back to Martha and yet more wet clothing needing to be dried out in our small space. 

The following morning we drove to the lookout at Port Douglas. An incredibly steep climb up for Martha but a wonderful view from Flagstaff Hill looking out to the sea and surrounding area. Thankfully the sun was shinning which always makes sightseeing more pleasant and engaging. From here I could see the beach that I attempted to venture on to the day before and I have my first glance of a swimming net. This is an area patrolled by lifeguards and protects swimmers from stingers (jellyfish), crocodiles and sharks (depending on where you are on the coast, depends on what’s out there). This was the moment when I realised that swimming in the ocean would not be an option for the time being.

Our next over night stay would be at Ellis Beach however a stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm was to come first. Hartleys is a great place to visit. On arrival we were greeted by Gonzo a parrot and we were directed to join the tours and talks on offer ( not by Gonzo I may add but by the lady on reception). The trip is well organised with the opportunity to watch crocodile and snake shows, go on a boat ride on the crocodile lake whilst they were fed and to hear their powerful snapping jaws as well as going into the enclosures with Wallabies, Kangaroos and kookaburras. I left Hartley’s feeling that I’d seen and learnt a lot about the wildlife of Australia including what to do when you encounter a crocodile (run in a straight line away from it and every man for himself) and a snake.

From Hartley’s the drive allows so many beautiful places to stop along the coastline. This is made easy with lookouts that you can park up at and admire the awesome views. This helps with the fatigue of being in a van and travelling too. A revival of the mind ready for the next part of the journey. Ours is to Ellis Beach, an isolated area on the main road with only a restaurant that closes early today. We set up on the camping pitch and cook dinner. It’s no longer raining, in fact it is really warm, too warm to close Martha’s doors to sleep. Tonight we are going to learn that this is in fact not a good idea…….

(Martha is the name given to our very old, leaky and cosy camper-van)

Camper-vaning, Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park, Australia (2)

I awaken to the orchestra of noise on day two of camper-van life. It has rained non stop all night and at the moment the storms seem to have depleted. I recall waking in the night and realising that the rain had uninvitingly entered the Martha. This morning Martha had a damp smell about her and felt too warm to be in. Unfortunately my lack of knowledge of camper-vaning had made me forget to bring my now sodden shoes inside during the night. This added to the collection of soggy clothes being hung to dry in the very confined space including two adults, making it feel very cosy.

In my naivety I had forgotten that the rainforest meant there would be rain and not just a shower but full on constant wetness. It is 30 degrees and I realise that even if it stopped raining I would be wet from the humidity. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, there are crocs here. Crocs who have the speed and ability to snag themselves a human dinner and despite being reassured by a one armed man that taking a dip in the ocean is safe, I for one am not willing to try.

Myall Beach is where the noise of the rainforest meets the sound of the crashing ocean. A short walk along the beach leads us to the wooden path winds of Dubuji Boardwalk.  Mangrove trees with their roots above the ground supporting the trunk in the bogs containing the vocal frogs, red and black crabs and peppermint stick insects (which fire a peppermint spray towards predators). Here too are jungle fowl roaming freely, spiders building the most delicate but perhaps fearsome webs and mosquitoes hoovering, ready to bite.

Our stay at PK’s has been memorable. The site has a great pool to cool off in and a large bar, eating area to stay dry in. There are a mix of ages of people who stay in camper-vans and lodges. Oh and did I mention the snakes and the Cassowary birds? Thankfully I haven’t encountered either…..yet…..I think?!?!

Waikiki, Hawaii

A delayed six hour flight with Hawaiian Airlines flies me from San Francisco to Honolulu airport. Leaving San Francisco also leaves behind the heavy blustery rain that seems to be following me on my trip. The planes lands and the door opens to the warm, dry air and the smell of heat. I note how dry it must be as I walk to collect my luggage. The walk ways have roofs but most are open to the side and the elements.
A taxi ride from the airport takes me to my hotel in Waikiki. Accommodation costs are a consideration and therefore sometimes I am unsure of exactly which room I may be in. The lady checking me in explains that I am on the 37th floor and is accessible by an elevator. After a discussion she says to return if it is too high. It takes a while for the lift to collect me and deliver me but the view outside is amazing. I feel a sense of achievement at: getting in the elevator, leaving the elevator and walking to the balcony to see the view to Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

After using the elevator to descend to street level I walk along the beach front to find something to eat. The busy sandy beaches lead to the green and blue ocean. In the distance I can see waves with surfers riding them. It feels chilled here, a real relaxing holiday feel and even the people working seems to be at ease. I eat at a beachfront hotel. Prices here are on par with California something I had been expecting however I do note that although there are a lot of people here, it is quieter than San Francisco. The food provides me with enough fuel to walk along the beach and to see a stunning sunset. 

The next day I am invited to walk 5 miles around Diamond Head, a volcanic crater which I see from my hotel room. It’s warm around 24 degrees Celsius so sun cream and water is necessary. The walk is uphill from Waikiki Beach so any excuse to stop is welcomed. There is so much to see here including different trees, plants, flowers, birds and small bays with surfers paddling out to the waves. On the way round I take a detour at Fort Ruger Pathway which then changes my plans for the day. I follow a path which leads to another and then a tunnel. Walking out from the tunnel I see Diamond Head State Monument, 760 feet above me and along a one and a half mile track. There obviously is a fee but at $1 (80p) this isn’t enough to deter me. 

The path at first seems easy, grassy, paved and a gentle slop. Then it becomes windy but it feels safe as there are verges and no fear of shear drops. The windy paths go on for some time, become steeper and the path turns into a rubble track. At the end of the windy path there is a tunnel. Long and pitch black with some people trying to light it with the torches on their phones. I can’t I am feeling scared of the height and need to hold on to the single rail. At the end of the 225 foot tunnel is a choice, the right turn takes you up about 99 steps or the left turn leads along another path. I choose the steps, easier to get to the top and in my head they are enclosed in the crater so there’s no fear of falling.

I’ve learnt during my trip to focus on the step in front, not to look up, not to look down. At the half way point I need air and my fear of heights kicks in. I count 1,1,2,3,1,1,2,3 to get me to the top and into another shorter but dark tunnel. I thought I’d reached the summit. How wrong I was. In the tunnel I look right. I turn my torch on and the light shows a spiral staircase. It is pitch black! At this point I froze. My next choice was to go up or back down the stairs. There was no contest. I couldn’t do the stairs I had to go up. Shaking I made it up the first set, then the second and realised I still wasn’t at the top. Another climb up the inside of a military bunker took me to fresh air. The view was amazing. I took a few photographs and have no idea how they were not blurred, my hand would not stop shaking.  (The photographs below are curtesy of

Again as I turned I was the pathway leading back to the tunnel but I also saw the path way leading to the Diamond Point summit. It took me a while to control my fear and climb the remaining 54 steps and then another set of 5 to the top. Well not quite the top, the last four steps eluded me. From here there is a 360 degree view of the Pacific Ocean and views across Honolulu and beyond. I hear a guide telling other tourists that they have to help 2-3 people down a week from here and I stop, just for a while to refocus control my breathing and reduce my shaking. I start the descent, easier than the climb up but still tough with the rocky pathways until I reach the open green ground below and reflect upon my high achievement.

Walking back takes me to Makalei Beach Park (a pretty quiet surfing area) for a cooling dip in the ocean before a eating a delicious plate of salmon and rice at Barefoot Beach Cafe. A great end to a 13 mile walk today.

Would I do the hike up Diamond Head again? On the way down I saw a sign the walk. If I’d had seen it on the way up, I would have sat down and enjoyed the view. Somethings are best the first and only time.

Los Angeles Beaches, California 

I arrive in Los Angeles at eleven in the morning. The plane lands half an hour early but following apologies from the pilot I am sat on the runway for an hour and a half. Leaving the airport itself is easy as it is an internal flight, no passport controls to deal with.

Outside I notice the twenty degree difference in temperature from New York which I left behind at minus three degrees. The sky is blue and the warmth is appreciated. I arrive at my hotel at Redondo Beach. The hotel and view are breathtaking. There is a marina next to the hotel and the start of Hermosa Beach which I walk along before eating and returning the the hotel for an amazing sunset.

The next day the sky remains the same vibrant blue as the day before. Breakfast at Polly’s on the pier sets me up for the 37 mile (58k) cycle ride to Santa Monica. The ride is mainly flat and offers an opportunity to see the area. Starting at Hermosa beach a two way cycle lane mostly follows the beach to Manhattan Beach and Playa Del Ray. I leave the beach area to see Venice Canal, a man made canal system built in 1905. The canal is lined with a narrow path and then a variety of houses with small bridges crossing the canal. A pretty and quiet area worthy of the detour. 

I carry on to Venice Beach. Here there is a two and a half mile pedestrian only promenade strewn with shops selling clothing and cannabis as well as numerous recreational areas for activities including basketball, skateboarding and volleyball.

From here the journey continues for two and a half miles following the beach to Santa Monica Beach and Pier. The pier has a Ferris wheel and roller coaster with shops and restaurants. It’s alive with people enjoying the sunshine, watching dance demonstations and fishermen. 

A bridge leads over to Downtown Santa Monica and the 3rd Street Promonade and a shopping area lined with trees, stalls and fountains. An inviting area to relax before the long cycle back.