Monday, 23 May 2011

Alentejo, Portugal - Europe's hidden gem...

Q) is there anywhere in Europe away from the crowds that offers a truly unspoilt experience, with good weather and easy flight access that won't break the bank?

A) Absolutely, and it's called the Alentejo region...

Our Director Oliver Broad visited Portugal on Sunday for lunch, celebrating the first ever flight from London Heathrow to Beja, in the heart of the Alentejo region, Portugal...

As the sun rises over Heathrow and the first distant lights on overnight arrival aircraft appear in the distance, we set foot on our EMB 135 to Beja, Portugal. "Where" I hear you ask?...exactly! Lying 177 south east of Lisbon, Beja is an ex military base that has been developed into a passenger terminal, currently only serves London Heathrow.

But why Beja and why now? Standing at the heart of the Alentejo region, an area of Portugal covering nearly one third of the country and well known amongst those 'in the know' for being one of the best kept secrets. Some Brits who love the area so much have uprooted their families and emigrated there (including one of our clients) !

Don't expect a Starbucks, don't even expect the Coca Cola signs that we have become so accustomed to on our travels around Europe. This is how holidays should be. Total escapism.

A range of accommodations awaits from 5* luxury hotels to small and friendly guest houses to the government run Posada's. Each would appeal to different tastes but the latter should certainly be experienced to allow for an authentic stay.Truly an unspoilt destination with uninhabited picturesque coves, historic towns, wineries and the largest man made reservoir in Europe. The latter itself can accommodate you for at least a week as you move around the shoreline from pier to pier exploring off the beaten coves, villages and wildlife.

My trip alas would only allow me a taster of a day to whet my appetite and invite me, like a select few before me, to fall in love with the region.

Keen to attract visitors with it's ailing economy, Portugal have invested heavily in the airport infrastructure at Beja. On arrival choose to explore with a self drive option (there is very little traffic at 0900 on a Sunday, your arrival time, great to help you get used to driving on the right!). Alternatively transfers can be arranged wherever you choose to stay, and this should not just be for a week in one place. At the very least, split your week in two, coast plus inland would be the obvious choice, or maybe end in Lisbon if you are short on time and cant afford to be away for the full week.

Wine tasting, relaxing with the locals, cycling, walking, sun bathing, shopping, tasting local delicacies, there is something for anyone looking for a part of Europe that is still barely discovered.

And so if you want to experience it before the crowds descend, consider the Alentejo region ASAP...

7 night stays with direct flights from London Heathrow, accommodation and transfers start from only £419 per person and is fully ATOL protection, with the AITO 100% Financial Protection Guarantee too!

For more details call Robert Broad Travel on 01543 258631 or email

Evora, Alentejo region, Portugal

Yesterday I visited the Alentejo region for the inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Beja. Here is a quick video from our time in Evora, stay tuned for report and pics coming soon...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Lisa, our Seychelles expert gives us the lowdown on this beautiful destination...

Lisa in our office visited the Seychelles earlier this year and offers her opinion on the destination below...
Who does the Seychelles appeal to? Honeymooners looking for a romantic, paradise setting or those who are looking for a prefect beach destination in a completely non 'built up' environment. It would also make a fantastic wedding destination at surprisingly good value for money.

What surprised you the most? How easy it was to get around the islands either by a small aircraft or short boat ride, meaning it is ideal for island hopping. Plus everybody on the Islands were incredibly friendly.

Which was your favorite hotel and why? My favorite hotel was the Domaine de L'Orange. I loved the lush tropical gardens it was set in and the style of accommodation, a excellent boutique hotel and the views from the from the Villa presidentielle were amazing. I also loved the island of La Digue, as it is very relaxing and amazing beaches.

What kind of budget does it appeal to? Prices for some of the hotels may seem very high. However it is very exclusive and this quality of the islands should be taken into account as there really is nowhere like it to compare. However there are affordable options suiting lower budgets such as guest houses which are beautiful and a great way to allow you to visit the islands if your budget doesn't allow more luxurious hotels.

What is the flying time? Between 10-11 hours with Air Seychelles.

Where can you fly from? Air Seychelles fly from Heathrow with touch downs in Italy or France. Emirates also offer flights from regional airports with good connections from in Dubai meaning you do not have to travel just from London Heathrow.

Would you combine it with anyway and if so where? With the Emirates flights been so convenient you could spend a few nights in Dubai. You can also combine Mauritius and the Seychelles together.

What else is there to apart from the beach? There is the Valle De Mai which is a Nature Reserve and World Heritage site. There is also the option to island hop which I would definitely recommend!

What kind of food is served? The majority of the food served is fish as it is readily available and is delicious. It is highly inspired by French, Indian and African cuisine and there are lots of fish curries. Is very rich and is exotically prepared.

Call Lisa to plan your dream holiday to the Seychelles on 01543 258631 or email

Thursday, 5 May 2011

L'Austral launch, April 2011

L'Boreal getting ready for her launchL'Austral departing MarseillesL'Astral heading off into the sunsetL'Astral, taken from l'borealL'Astral and l'boreal departing in tandemPool area onboard l'Boreal Le Levant sailing past l'borealLe Levant, Compagnie du Ponants smaller luxury yachtSun deck onboard l'BorealPool and deck onboard l'BorealSundeck, outdoor lounge and bar area onboard l'BorealGym onboard l'Astral L'Astral, from Compagnie du PonantSpa treatment room onboard l'AstralL'astral corridorL'Astral BridgeL'Astral bridgeView from outside l'Astral's bridge with l'Boreal ahead L'Astral bridgeL'Astral bridgeL'Astral libraryL'Astral loungeL'Astral owners suiteL'Astral owners suite

L'Astral launch, April 2011, a set on Flickr.

Photographs from the very exclusive launch of Compagnie du Ponant's new luxury super yacht l'Astral and her sister ship launched last year l'Boreal. Taken by our Director Oliver Broad at the end of April 2011. Call Robert Broad Travel on 01543 258631 for your personalised quotation and to book your Compagnie du Ponant cruise.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Marseilles Harbour, April 2011

Taken during our visit to the South of France for the launch of Compagnie du Ponant's new luxury yacht, l'Astral.