Rough Guide

Monday 22nd December at 7:30pm on five

The travel show that profiles some of the most exciting destinations in the world continues. In this instalment, Julia travels to Costa Rica to explore its dense rainforests and pristine beaches.

Toby, meanwhile, goes off the beaten track in Colombia – a country keen to shed its image of danger and reinvent itself as a tourist destination.

“Some places just sound exotic, don’t they?” says Julia. “Costa Rica is one of those places.” The Central American country boasts a varied landscape of rainforests, volcanoes and beaches. Julia starts her trip in the thick jungles of Rincón de la Vieja in Guanacaste province, where she takes a thrilling ride on a series of zip lines strung through the forest. “You feel like a bird flying through the trees!” she cries as she slides down a cable suspended almost 100m above the ground.

Julia then swaps forests for savannah as she takes to Costa Rica’s plains to practise her cowgirl skills. Riding horseback with a pack of sabaneros, Julia attempts to lasso a cow – but even the most docile animal seems rather reluctant to be ensnared. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” she remarks.

Julia’s final destination is the Pacific coast, home to some of the best surfing beaches in the world. The beaches in Costa Rica are celebrated both for their exquisite beauty and their year-round surfing conditions. Julia hops on a board and joins in the fun – but can she hang on long enough to stand up?

Toby’s travels take him two countries further south, to Colombia – a place once synonymous with cocaine, drugs cartels and kidnappings. The Colombian government is now taking firm steps to undermine the drugs trade by giving farmers incentives to switch from coca to other crops, as well as making tourism a key industry. Toby is keen to see for himself if Colombia’s reputation is undeserved. “It’s actually rather exciting to be a tourist and still feel like a bit of a pioneer,” he says.

Toby’s first stop is the coastal city of Cartagena, where the government’s desire to create a tourist-friendly environment is most apparent. The centrepiece of Cartagena is the walled old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a plethora of quaint streets and brightly coloured colonial buildings. Toby travels the virtually car-free zone in a horse-drawn carriage and learns a bit about the Colombian people. “I tell everybody here, we are really friendly. We are very loud people!” enthuses his guide.

However, Toby hankers after a little more adventure than Cartagena’s well-manicured streets have to offer, so he takes a four-hour trip east to the Tayrona National Park. Along the way, he is given a sharp reminder of the unrest that lurks under Colombia’s surface when he is told not to drive the road at night for fear of bandits. His destination is an eco-lodge set up as part of a government programme to entice locals away from the drugs trade and into tourism.

After a refreshing cup of home-grown coffee, Toby ventures into the Tayrona park, 37,000 acres of rainforest close to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Pausing on one of the park’s beaches, Toby reflects on the changes wrought in Colombia: “Bearing in mind that only ten years ago this part of the coast was a battleground between right-wing paramilitaries, Marxist guerrillas and narco-traffickers, and now it’s a playground for so-called eco-tourists –I’d say it’s pretty different.”

Toby wraps up his trip by going white-water rafting. The trip is organised by a group of young locals who have turned their backs on the drugs cartels to set up a business for thrill-seeking visitors. By focusing on giving tourists a natural high, these enterprising young men now make more money than they did on the coca farms.

Monday 15th December at 7:30pm on five

Continuing this week is the travel show that profiles some of the most exciting destinations in the world, offering authoritative, opinionated and inspirational travel advice. In this instalment, Toby and Julia fly long haul for a taste of the good life in Asia. Toby samples the natural luxuries on offer in Malaysia; and Julia visits magnificent Hong Kong.

Toby arrives at the Malaysian island of Langkawi feeling less than fresh after a 15-hour flight. He quickly forgets his jetlag, however, when he is shown to a £360-a-night villa situated in the middle of one of the world’s oldest rainforests. “No complaints here, then,” says Toby as he casts an approving eye over his surroundings. With an exclusive beach and native wildlife on his doorstep, Toby is ready for a well-earned rest. But despite the temptation to lounge about, he resolves to make the most of the activities on offer.

First, Toby jumps in a speedboat which takes him out to a private yacht – a traditional New England schooner that costs £700 a day to hire. After munching on seafood and quaffing champagne, Toby boards another speedboat for a wildlife tour. During his adventure, he is lucky enough to spot a mudskipper – a fish that can survive on land for short periods by storing water in its gills. “The big luxury here has nothing to do with the things you normally associate with luxury. It’s about the absence of those things,” says Toby.

Next, Toby embarks on an unusual tropical adventure that allows him to get up close and personal with the natural world. With the help of a climbing expert, Toby will ascend into the rainforest canopy by climbing several massive trees. In order to make it safely back to terra firma, he will have to rely on his abseiling skills. “As long as you don’t look down, it’s not frightening!” says Toby.

Meanwhile, after a 12-hour flight, Julia is plunged into the madness of one of the most densely populated cities in the world – Hong Kong. After being whisked away from the airport in a Rolls Royce Phantom, Julia finds herself on the doorstep of a Hong Kong institution – The Peninsula Hotel. She checks into her £400-a-night harbour-view room to freshen up before hitting the streets of Kowloon to explore on foot.

At one of the city’s many temples, Julia visits a fortune teller who specialises in reading faces. “You’ve got a long face, like the horse,” the spiritualist tells a bemused Julia. She then goes on lain that this means Julia is a very active person. After learning that her large nose is indicative of wealth, Julia leaves her consultation happy. “What more could you want from your nose?” she says.

Feeling rather flush, Julia pays a visit to Ranee K boutique, which offers one-off designer dresses created by New York-trained owner Ranee. After trying on several outfits, Julia chooses a red and purple floor-skimming number. That evening, she slips on her new threads for a night of glamour. First is a panoramic harbour cruise on a traditional Chinese junk, the Aqua Luna. Then Julia heads back to her hotel to view the amazing nightly laser show from the rooftop bar. Forty-four buildings are featured in the show, the largest permanent one of its kind in the world. “It’s certainly a spectacular display for a spectacular city,” says Julia.

The next morning brings a visit to the Museum of Art, where free lessons in t’ai chi are conducted several days a week. “I’ve always wanted to learn,” says Julia excitedly. After the class, it is time to leave Hong Kong. To finish off her trip of a lifetime, Julia collects her bags and heads up to the Peninsula’s helipad. “I’m leaving in style from the roof of my hotel!” she says.

Monday 8th December at 7:30pm

Continuing this week is the travel show that profiles some of the most exciting destinations in the world, offering authoritative, opinionated and inspirational travel advice. In this week’s instalment, Julia steers clear of traditional tourist traps to explore the hidden side of Amsterdam; and Toby soaks up the imperial opulence of one of Europe’s most expensive cities –St Petersburg.

This week, Julia shuns bicycles, canals and coffee shops on a quest to experience some of Amsterdam’s quirkier pastimes. It takes just 40 minutes to cross the city on foot, so Julia dons her walking shoes to explore the labyrinthine lanes that make up the city’s backstreets.

First stop is the red-light district, but Julia bypasses the sex shows and adult shops to visit an unlikely attraction –Amstelkring, a Catholic church. The church was built in the attic of a wealthy merchant’s house during the Reformation when public services were forbidden. “It’s amazing what you find behind closed doors,” enthuses Julia.

The next port of call is the famous Vondelpark, but Julia only gives its lush lawns a cursory glance before heading to where the real fun is –next door. Hollandsche Manege, the oldest riding school in the Netherlands, conducts lessons right in the heart of the city within its architecturally designed walls. Overlooking the track is a mezzanine bar, where Julia sips a cocktail while watching the action. “It’s such a beautiful building,” she says. After a spot of shopping at a boutique specialising in spectacles, Julia is ready for dinner. She heads to Ctaste for one of the city’s more unusual dining experiences. “It’s going to be pitch black,” says her host, Richard. “Your senses are going to be sharpened.” Julia is led into the curtained dining room by a blind waiter and served up a mystery dish. Will she be able to identify the different flavours on the plate?

Toby enjoys a gastronomic tour of his own in the birthplace of the Russian Revolution, St Petersburg. This former communist city has embraced capitalism with enthusiasm and nowhere is this more evident than in the dining room of the Grand Hotel Europe. Toby meets with hotel manager Dimitri to sample one of the most expensive meals in the world –Beluga caviar served with blini pancakes and washed down with copious amounts of premium-quality vodka.

“I fancy something like an egg sandwich,” muses Toby as he sits down at the table. After his £450 lunch, Toby announces, “I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed by that.” Toby leaves the Grand Hotel Europe feeling quite peckish, so he decides to try his luck at a traditional Russian cafeteria. Customers can help themselves to as much as they want from the buffet for just £7. The catch is that they are only permitted to stay for one hour. “You’ve got to be really hungry or want to get drunk really badly to dine here,” says Toby.

To round off his weekend sojourn, Toby visits a traditional men’s spa, or banya. These saunas have been around since the 11th century and are designed to cleanse both body and mind. After being rubbed down with oils and exfoliated with salt, Toby is massaged with oak and eucalyptus leaves before he takes a bracing plunge into a cold pool. “After having been through the whole process, I have to say I feel great!” he declares.

rough guide to hidden gems (5/15)

Continuing tonight is the travel series that brings opinionated, authoritative and inspirational consumer travel advice back to terrestrial UK television. The series is presented by Julia Bradbury and Toby Amies. Tonight’s instalment visits the Moroccan city of Fez and the former British colony of Belize in search of some of the world’s best-kept secrets.

This week’s theme is the exploration of secret hideaways and lesser-known delights. Toby kicks things off with a visit to the exotic Moroccan city of Fez. This vibrant, bustling place is often overlooked in favour of the better known Rabat, Marrakech and Casablanca. Yet Fez is home to perhaps the best-preserved medieval city in the world. The enormous, car-free medina of Fez is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been inhabited for over a thousand years. The labyrinthine streets and alluring corners provide Toby with plenty of chances to lose himself.

Toby learns a little about the history and culture of Fez, including its past as a centre of study for Muslims, Jews and Christians. The city also boasts a fine modern quarter, the Ville Nouvelle, with strong architectural influences from its days as a French protectorate.

Also this week, Julia explores the mysteries of beautiful Belize. This tiny country in Central America gained its independence from Britain in 1981, but English is still widely spoken there. It remains a curious blend of former British colony, Hispanic culture and Caribbean-influenced coast. Nestling alongside its larger neighbours Mexico and Guatemala, Belize may not be the obvious choice for an exotic getaway, but Julia learns there is plenty to keep the visitor enthralled.

Julia checks out the coastline, which is home to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, before trekking inland to learn more about the ancient Mayan culture. There are thousands of Mayan sites in Belize, including temples and pyramids. Many of them are accessible to tourists and provide a tantalising glimpse of a lost civilisation.

rough guide to
weekend breaks (4/15)

Continuing tonight is the travel series that brings opinionated, authoritative and inspirational consumer travel advice back to terrestrial UK television. The series is presented by Julia Bradbury – the consumer-champion from BBC1’s ‘Watchdog’ – and independent film-maker, photographer, DJ and journalist Toby Amies. Tonight’s instalment profiles the best weekend breaks on offer, with a trip to Antwerp on the Eurostar; some family fun in Dublin; and a visit to Tel Aviv, Israel’s multicultural capital by the sea.

Toby kicks things off this week with a city break in Belgium’s centre of fashion, Antwerp. He plans to travel in style with a seat booked on the new highspeed Eurostar, but he gets his first taste of the high life before he has even left London. St Pancras, the new home of the Eurostar, boasts Europe’s longest champagne bar.

Just three hours after his first glass of bubbly, Toby arrives in Antwerp, where more trendy bars await. Here Toby has plenty of chances to swap a champagne flute for a tankard full of the famous local beer. But Antwerp is not all about the nightlife –from hip B&Bs to its world-class Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the city is carving a reputation for itself as a home of cutting-edge style.

Elsewhere this week, Julia revisits her roots with a weekend in Dublin, her home town as a child. She gets to experience a genuine Irish house party –an age-old tradition that involves music, dancing, storytelling and singing.

Later, Julia swaps the revelry for a complete change of pace in Howth. Once a sleepy fishing village, this popular resort town is less than an hour by train or bus from Dublin’s city centre. When she delves into its history, Julia discovers that there is more to Howth than meets the eye – this seaside suburb once proved an attractive hangout for smugglers.

For the third trip in tonight’s show, Toby jets off to Tel Aviv. Although not an obvious choice for a weekend break, this Jewish seaside capital has developed into a wealthy, progressive and multicultural city in recent years. As the first modern Jewish city, Tel Aviv is due to celebrate its centenary in 2009.

Toby discovers that the city’s cosmopolitan vibrancy was strongly influenced by its first wave of settlers – Jewish immigrants who fled Europe after the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s. Young people from across Israel are also attracted to the way of life here, with 14km of beautiful coastline on the city’s doorstep. The recent influx of people has made Tel Aviv a truly multicultural metropolis that blends Middle Eastern tradition with a continental flavour.

Tel Aviv is often called the ‘White City’ because of its many light-coloured buildings. Toby explores the city’s heart, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The centre includes thousands of Bauhaus buildings built from the 1920s to the 1950s in a modernist and functional design, which was adapted to the needs of the city’s lifestyle, customs and climate. Toby then ventures into the ancient port town of Jaffa, which is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible.

Finally, Toby rounds off his weekend by enjoying a night on the tiles with Aviv Geffen, a popular Israeli musician who is also well known for his leftist political activity.

rough guide to eco escapes (3/15)

Continuing tonight is the new travel series that brings opinionated, authoritative and inspirational consumer travel advice back to terrestrial UK television. The series is presented by Julia Bradbury – the consumer-champion from BBC1’s ‘Watchdog’ – and independent film-maker, photographer, DJ and journalist Toby Amies. Tonight’s instalment looks at eco-friendly holidays, with a Berber retreat in Morocco, an eco-safari in Kenya and a luxury eco-lodge in Nicaragua.

Julia heads to Nicaragua this week to find out more about the idea of eco-tourism. Featuring the largest area of virgin rainforest north of the Amazon, endless miles of pristine coastline, 76 national parks and six active volcanoes, Nicaragua is an eco-tourist’s fantasy. Julia’s stay at the Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Eco-Lodge is an experiential way of understanding what ecotourism is all about while also exploring the natural beauty of the country.

Leading the way in terms of environmentally friendly accommodation, Morgan’s Rock is a natural haven for the traveller who is looking for luxury whilst enjoying the adventure and excitement of an exotic destination. Most importantly it is a project of nature conservation, community development and reforestation offering agro- and eco-tourism. Julia milks the resort’s cows and collect eggs for her breakfast, and has the opportunity to plant her own tree as part of a reforestation scheme. Luxurious ethical travel does not come much better than this.

Toby, meanwhile, is off to Kenya for a two-night eco-safari in Amboseli National Park. He stays at Porini Camp, one of the country’s first authentic eco-tourism camps. In 1997, Kenyan organisation Porini Ecotourism agreed with the local Maasai community to set aside the area as a reserve for wildlife, so that the habitat could be protected and wildlife conserved. The community receives a rent for the lease of the area by Porini Ecotourism, as well as an entry fee for each tourist visitor.

Toby is escorted on a walk by Maasai warriors to a village to get an insight into their way of life. He stays overnight in their camp in the middle of the bush, awakens to the noisy calls of the birds and then drives through the bush into Amboseli National Park where he spots giraffes, rhinos, elephants and many other animals. In the evening he goes on a game drive in Selenkay Conservancy, followed by an outing at night to look for nocturnal animals such as aardvarks, serval cats, caracals, bat-eared foxes and African wild cats.

Toby’s second destination this week is Morrocco, where he visits the Kasbah du Toubkal retreat. Perched on top of a rocky peak at the foot of the Atlas mountains, Kasbah du Toubkal is one of the first tourist destinations to give proceeds back to the local community. As no cars are allowed, Toby walks up to the mountain retreat where he spends a day with the local Berber tribesfolk and finds out how their community works. Whilst the money it makes helps the Berbers live in their traditional way, the hotel itself is luxurious –making Toby wonder if giving just five per cent back to the community is enough.

rough guide to cities (2/15)

Continuing tonight is the new travel series that brings opinionated, authoritative and inspirational consumer travel advice back to terrestrial UK television. The series is presented by Julia Bradbury – the consumer-champion from BBC1’s ‘Watchdog’ – and independent film-maker, photographer, DJ and journalist Toby Amies. Tonight’s instalment looks at cities, with Julia and Toby visiting three very different metropolises.

First up on Julia’s itinerary is cosmopolitan Berlin where she visits the Tacheles gallery to explore the city’s rich art scene. A prime example of Berlin’s varied history, the Tacheles building has been many things over the 100 years since its construction, including a department store, a showroom for electrical appliance company AEG and, in the 1940s, the central office for the SS.

When night falls, Julia hits the town to party like a real Berliner. The German capital is truly a city that never sleeps, with even the underground train system running throughout the night. With plenty of revellers out and about, there is a chance to befriend folk from all over the world.

Among the various nightspots Julia visits is a table-tennis bar, where she gets to know her fellow patrons over a few games of ping-pong. “It’s like speed dating!” she enthuses.

With many people considering Berlin to be the spiritual home of cabaret, no visit to the city would be complete without taking in a show. After experiencing the traditional pastime for herself, Julia takes a trip backstage to get up close and personal with the artists.

The next day, Julia relaxes at a sauna, where she rubs shoulders with the locals – literally. “It’s the only city in the world where you can share a chicken schnitzel naked with your granny,” she reports.

For a completely different style of recreation and relaxation, Toby jets off to Brazil for a hefty helping of beaches and samba dancing. His first mission is to cycle from Copacabana to Ipanema and learn about how Rio’s beaches influence city life.

The beaches may be a big tourist drawcard, but their allure contrasts sharply with the city’s underbelly. Ex-pat Bob Nadikarmi, who has lived in Rio for 20 years, has seen it all. He takes Toby on a tour of the slums and talks about how the nature of crime and poverty has changed over the years.

A visit to a samba school is next on the agenda, and Toby joins in to show his stuff at a dance rehearsal. Samba schools are an essential part of Rio’s culture, as they form the heart of the carnival parades each year.

Toby completes his busy day in Rio by sampling the city’s fabled nightlife and drinking a caipirinha –the national drink of Brazil.

From South America to the Middle East, Jerusalem is the final city featured in this week’s programme. Julia visits a number of important religious sites and wanders the fascinating streets of the old town. She also takes special care to avoid the infamous Jerusalem Syndrome, a curious religious obsession that affects about 100 tourists a year.

rough guide to beaches (1/15)
monday

Beginning this week is a new 15-part travel series Rough Guide To… bringing opinionated, authoritative and inspirational consumer travel back to terrestrial UK television. Combining the expertise of the Rough Guide brand with fresh presenting talent, the series names the top destinations around the world in a wide variety of travel experiences. This first programme focuses on beach holidays.

The series is presented by Julia Bradbury –the consumer-champion from BBC1’s ‘Watchdog’ – and independent film-maker, photographer, DJ and journalist Toby Amies.

For viewers who really want to know the locations of the very best beaches, luxury destinations and island-escapes; along with those who would prefer to learn how to choose the most responsible holidays or the best wildlife destinations in 2008, the programmes reveal the ultimate experiences for the savvy international traveller.

With a real passion for knowledge and a desire to reveal the heart of a destination in an in-depth, immersive and engaging way, the series – like the Rough Guides themselves – is witty, irreverent and pulls no punches. Each week the programmes explore the top five destinations in each holiday category, as well as naming the places that fail to live up to the hype.

Rough Guide To… is not just about where to go, but is also about making the most of a place –so Julia and Toby will be looking for unique experiences in each of the places they visit.

The first programme looks at beach holidays, which can be about far more than just sunbathing. For her first assignment, Julia heads to the Koh Phi Phi islands in southern Thailand –the location for Leonardo di Caprio’s 2000 film ‘The Beach’. After touring the islands’ stunning coastline and sampling some of the local cuisine, Julia immerses herself in Thai culture and finds out what life on Koh Phi Phi has been like since the tsunami of 2004. She surprises herself with the simple enjoyment to be found in hanging out with the sea gypsies and discovers true fulfillment in their laid-back way of life.

Looking for a completely different kind of beach experience, Toby visits Essaouira, Africa’s ‘city of wind’ on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Wind and rain might not be everybody’s idea of the perfect beach holiday, but the activities available more than make up for the weather. Toby tries his hand at kite surfing and quad biking with limited success, but still manages to have the time of his life.

Then, he heads off to check out the local medina – or Arab quarter – and learns more about Essaouria’s hippie heritage and connections with Jimi Hendrix, completing an unusual but original day at the beach.

In stunningly beautiful Watamu in Kenya, Toby is introduced to a brand new pursuit – beach safari. Watamu is a tropical paradise with its own national marine park boasting over 600 species of fish. After helping release turtles into the sea, Toby learns to dive and –with much trepidation – experiences his first encounter with a conger eel.

After escaping the confines of his plush, gated hotel, Toby heads to a nearby village and meets the locals, who are more than happy to welcome him into their community. It is then time for Toby to achieve a lifelong goal by going big-game fishing. Will he be able to reel in the big one, or will he return only with tales of the one that got away?

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