Based in Lympstone

Adrian Walters

Available for new enquiries

It's Nice To Meet You

Hi, my name is Adrian and I live in the beautiful village of Lympstone, located on the Exe Estuary in Devon.

Having been born and bred in London, I am happy to call this stunning part of the world my home now, with its lovely beaches, coast and rolling hills which allow me to indulge in my favourite outdoor pursuits - running, cycling, walking and, of course, getting out on the water to kayak and paddle-board.

Having spent 11 years working for a highly respected and award-winning High Street travel agency, I have been enjoying life as a Travel Counsellor since the summer of 2018, and, having rolled the waves of the pandemic, am still loving the flexibility of being a TC . In this role I have organised a vast array of different travel experiences - from UK weekend breaks, beach holidays in Europe and beyond, self-drive holidays in the USA all the way through to cruises in Antarctica.

Catching the travel bug at an early age, I have always loved the feel, noise and buzz you get when visiting somewhere new - or revisiting a familiar destination. Twenty years ago, with my wife Pauline, I left the world of London finance to go travelling for a year and never looked back. I have been lucky enough to visit over 40 countries on 5 continents; from sleeping under the stars in the Sahara, backpacking around China and south-east Asia, to 5* luxury hotels in Bali. There’s never been a dull moment.

My favourite countries are South Africa with its diverse culture and scenery, Thailand for its incredible people and beaches, and Italy, well, for everything else!

Being a Travel Counsellor allows me to share my passion for travel with you, focusing on providing the best possible customer- service, and getting to know your own likes, dislikes and requirements. My goal is to give you the holiday you deserve, whether that’s a dream holiday of a lifetime, a family beach holiday, a romantic city break, a business trip, an adrenaline-fuelled ski trip, or even your honeymoon!

Unlike other travel agencies, I am independent and impartial with access to thousands of leading travel suppliers, major airlines, hotels, tour operators, cruise lines and car hire companies. I am backed by a team of professionals, keeping a 24-hour watch on the weather and global issues, with full financial protection from the Travel Counsellors Financial Trust and ATOL.

The flexibility of working from home means I am there for you whenever you call, and I am happy to come out to meet you to get your trip right from the start. Just call or email me, and I will be in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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My personally tailored offers

With independent access to thousands of travel suppliers around the world, I've got an eye for added value. Take a look through my latest selections below. But even if nothing particularly catches your eye - don't worry! Let's chat and I'll take the hassle away from tailoring a perfectly personalised holiday just for you.

Price from

£1,749

Cape Town & Kruger Safari
10 nights from £1,749
per person
Great taster holiday for a South Africa safari experience this June. Offer includes: All flights, departing Heathrow 19 June 2024 6 nights at the 4* Old Bank Hotel Cape Town 4 nights at the 3* Hippo Hollow Country Estate, Kruger On B&B basis Based on 2 adults sharing

Price from

£709

Walking Holiday in Andorra July 2024
7 nights from £709
per person
Fantastic offer for this July with leading Walking Holiday operator, Inghams, Experience beautiful Andorra, with return flights, transfers and a 7 night stay in the Hotel Montane on a Half Board basis Based on 2 adults sharing and departing Gatwick on 3rd July 2024

Price from

£1,695

3 Night Festive Adventure in Lapland
3 nights from £1,695
per person
Enjoy a fantastic adventure in Lapland this December, with lots of activities, a meeting with Santa, and a stay in a glass-roofed cabin Holiday includes return flights from the UK, accommodation on a full board basis, transfers and activities. Based on 2 adults and 2 children departing 8 Dec

Price from

£5,249

Tanzania Migration Safari & Zanzibar Beach
12 nights from £5,249
per person
Unearth the spirit of Africa with an amazing 5 nights on safari in the Serengeti, with all game drives and full board included, and then relax with a 7 night stay on the pristine beaches of Zanzibar. Includes return flights, all transfers, and is based on 2 adults travelling in May 2025

Price from

£2,495

APT 15 Day River Cruise - save up to 60%!
14 nights from £2,495
per person
Cruise the Danube, Main and Rhine from Budapest to Amsterdam this summer, for an amazing 60% discount on APT's luxury river cruise ships. 15 Days from just £2,495, which includes flights from the UK, full board, drinks and local excursions, as well as airport transfers in the UK

My Blog

I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.

Sri Lanka - Two weeks of culture, golden beaches, stunning countryside and delicious food

20 February 2024

We had long looked forward to our holiday to Sri Lanka, having postponed it twice due to the Pandemic. When we finally got there in January, we were not disappointed. Sri Lanka is a jewel shaped island, perched in the Indian Ocean, just off the south-east coast of India, a country from which it takes a lot of influence. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the “organised chaos” of parts of India, there is certainly that strangely enjoyable feeling of not really knowing what’s going on around you – however, as always with Asian countries, it just seems to work. In our two weeks, we experienced the busy cities of Colombo, Kandy and Galle, but more importantly, got to see some amazingly verdant countryside, awe-inspiring mountains and stunningly beautiful beaches that Sri Lanka offers. Couple that with the friendly people, delicious food and abundant wildlife, it really is a destination that offers everything. To get there, you can fly direct with Sri Lankan Airlines, or have a stop off flight with one of the middle Eastern airlines. We flew with Qatar Airways, via a break in Doha, and they were very comfortable, and reasonably priced flights. You do have to obtain a visa, either online before you travel, or you can obtain one on arrival, but it’s a painless procedure. Once out of the airport, we had an instant reminder of why we love travelling in Asia. The heat for starters, which is a bit of a shock when arriving in January from the UK, the smells of the food, the tuk-tuk drivers pestering for your business, and temples. Lots of temples. We spent our first night at the beachside town of Negombo, and immediately realised that food and drink here is very cheap – and very delicious. We also sensed what a melting pot of different cultures make up this country. From Tamils who’ve migrated from India and the north of the country to the dominant Buddhists, and the large Christian population, temples, mosques and western churches sit side by side. You are made aware that things have not always been peaceful in Sri Lanka, and there are still a few ongoing economic, cultural, and political issues, but we did not feel this affected our experience. The country also suffered a massive economic downturn during and after the Pandemic and is only now beginning to rise up again. They really need the tourists to return, and it did feel there was a very progressive and positive atmosphere in the air to make this happen. The people are so friendly and want you to feel the pride they have in their country. We were there for their annual Independence Day celebrations (we always get a reminder of some of our own country’s actions in the past), and there were Sri Lankan flags on show everywhere. And it seems a fair bit of partying done in celebration. Our 9-day tour of the main sights of the country was a sort of clockwise tour finishing in Colombo. We started in Sigiriya, with its staggering rocky outcrop, Lion Rock, upon which a fortress once stood. It was very busy there, so we recommend getting there early, and take a sturdy pair of shoes. The climb to the top from the terraced gardens and lakes takes around 45 minutes but is well worth it. You get incredible 360-degree views over the surrounding jungle countryside, encounter plenty of monkeys, and you can even dip your toes in the swimming pools built by the former king. Sigiriya is also a good base to take in the Minneriya National Park, where we took a 3-hour wildlife safari, seeing eagles, peacocks and quite a few elephants in their natural habitat. To be honest, it’s a very bumpy ride, so 3 hours is about enough. We experienced a similar wildlife tour later in Udawalale, and there are similar opportunities in the more popular Yala National Park. Either way, you must include at least one wildlife tour at some point during your holiday. After a night in Kandy we took, what for me was the highlight of our holiday, the train journey from Kandy to Ella, rightly regarded as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. We travelled in the inexpensive First-Class carriage, with reserved, very comfy seats. At the end of the carriages the doors are left open, and tourists queue up to have their photos taken with their feet dangling over the footboard as the lush green tea fields and misty mountains flowed by. We also loved the snack sellers moving constantly up and down the carriages, shouting ‘wade wade’ and providing us with delicious samosas, dhal and warm chai. It really is a must-do experience. At the end of the 7-hour journey, we stayed in Ella for 2 nights, and it’s a really lovely town to stay in. It is growing fast, and is far from the sleepy village it once was, but the surrounding mountains and hills offer an abundance of hiking opportunities, such as Little Adam’s Peak, with views of stunning waterfalls, and even a 500-metre zip-wire for the braver ones Ella offers some lovely hotels, from simple backpackers to top of the range 4* and 5* properties, and there are some great cafes and restaurants to enjoy once your busy day is over. Take a walk to the iconic Nine Arch Bridge, an impressive jungle structure 25 meters high and 91 meters long. We were there on a very busy holiday weekend, and the town buzzed with Sri Lankans and international visitors alike. After a quick visit to the famous Galle Fort, we finished our trip with some beach time; 4 days relaxing on the fine, golden sands of Bentota. We had a lovely stay in the Thaala Beach Resort, sunbathing and eating yet more delicious curries, hoppers, fresh fish and noodle dishes, accompanied by wonderful chutneys and sambols . You can even sneak in an Italian or burger meal if the spicy stuff gets too much for you. To sum up, Sri Lanka is at the same time exciting, chaotic, beautiful, friendly, historic, troubled, and proud. You must go!

History, culture and amazing cuisine - a twin city stay in the Basque country

25 October 2023

When looking for a week away, or just a long weekend, within a couple of hours’ flight, there are many options available. Well, I have just experienced a lovely twin-city break in northern Spain, that I hope may tick a lot of boxes for you. If history, fascinating culture, delicious local food and wine and friendly people appeal to you, then a visit to Bilbao and San Sebastian might be something to consider. For starters, the flights to Bilbao are great value, and available with low-cost carriers from Gatwick, Stansted and Bristol, as well as other regional airports. In less than 2 hours we found ourselves coming into land amongst spectacular mountains and a stunning coastline. Travelling in early October, we knew that we might have been taking a bit of a gamble with the weather, but could not have been more surprised, with every day hitting the high 20s and early 30s. And there was plenty of sunshine. Bilbao Our first port of call was to the largest city in Basque country – Bilbao. The first thing that strikes you as approach the city, is the enormous hills that surround it. Whilst the city centre is relatively flat, if you are staying out towards the suburbs, then you need to be prepared to do a bit of uphill walking. However, this is where Bilbao’s excellent transport system steps in. With an extensive metro, bus and tram network, if the pavement pounding has left your feet in need of a little rest, then head for the underground and for less than 50 pence, you can travel from one side of the city to the other. We stayed in a lovely hotel about 15 minutes uphill from the Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s atmospheric old town, and in my opinion the most fascinating part of the city. The old town is a maze of charming streets, with quirky shops, markets, including what was once the largest indoor market in Europe, and my favourite, plenty of pintxos bars, restaurants and cafes. If you've overdone the pintxos and rioja, then this is another bonus of the fantastic metro system in easing your journey home. “Pintxos” are the Basque equivalent of tapas, and bar hopping around this part of town is great way to sample these tasty little snacks, washed down with a lovely glass of local ‘vino tinto’, and all on offer at a great price. We tried all sorts of prawn, chicken, fish, chorizo, olive dishes, with so many ways to serve them. And there are also plenty of fantastic, more formal, restaurants serving traditional Basque food if you are looking for something more substantial. Once you have thoroughly explored the Casco Viejo, one of the other must-sees of Bilbao is the famous Guggenheim Museum, with its striking modern design set by the river, and world-renowned for its collection of modern artworks. It’s incredibly popular, so make sure you plan your visit. Even if modern art is not your thing, just explore the building and its surrounds. It’s well worth the effort. The joys of Bilbao are not just confined to the city centre. As it was particularly warm, for a bit of fresh air and some spectacular views of the city, we took the funicular up to the summit of Mount Artxanda, where you can feast upon exceptional views, take in some lovely walks, and perhaps a few more pintxos Finally, if time allows, and for the cost of around £1, take the metro out to the north-west of the city, where you will find some lovely urban beaches, and quaint little villages like Algorta, where we had a delicious lunch of spicy mussels, calamari and ham & cheese croquetas, washed down with fabulous local wine. It was lovely to see so many locals just gathering for a coffee and a chat in the relaxed and friendly cafes dotted around San Sebastian After 3 busy days in Bilbao, we took the bus to Donostia-San Sebastian, around 65 miles to the east. The drive really showed you how mountainous, and beautiful this region is. The buses are very busy, though this might have been because we were travelling on the eve of a national holiday, but very cost-effective. It wasn't long before we were pulling into the compact city centre, full of hustle and bustle. Known for its stunning architecture, beautiful beaches and world-renowned cuisine, San Sebastian has long been on my “Wish List” for a visit. And it did not disappoint. One of its main attractions is La Concha Beach, a crescent of golden sand, right in the city. With its beautiful promenade, it is a perfect place to soak in some rays, and then watch the sun set over the surrounding mountains. At night, the city buzzes with a multitude of charming pintxos bars and restaurants crammed into every narrow street, all with their own unique slant on local Basque food, especially fish and seafood. There are 16 Michelin starred restaurants within a 10-minute drive of the city centre! Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to one of those, you will never be disappointed with any of the other humbler offerings. If you can put down your fork for a minute, there are plenty of interesting museums and some magnificent Gothic churches to visit or walk along to the other end of the city to take the funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo, where you not only get unparalleled views of the bay and the city, but can amuse yourselves with old-fashioned fun fair rides and attractions. What's not to like about dodgem cars and rickety old roller-coasters? It is very enjoyable way to spend a few hours. These two cities offer contrasting experiences, within an hour or so of each other, and 5 or 6 days would allow you to experience the modern dynamism of Bilbao, before chilling out on the beautiful beaches of San Sebastian, dining out on delicious pintxos and fantastic local wines. The flights there are inexpensive, and getting around the cities is easy and great value. Also, did I mention the food and wine? We’ll definitely be back!

Trains, buses, taxis, and a plane – a different way to see Europe

05 July 2023

For our summer holiday this year we thought we would try something different. Flying to your ultimate holiday destination can be quicker, but if you have the time, and fancy enjoying a little bit more interesting scenery than an over-stocked Duty-Free shop and an over-priced café, then why not consider travelling on the train? So being lovers of beautiful scenery, fascinating history, superb food, delicious wine, and interesting people, we decided to spend a week or two in the Italian Lakes, travelling via overnight stops in Paris, Munich and Verona The first leg of our journey was taking the Eurostar from the magnificent St Pancras station in London, all the way to the centre of Paris. You need to allow a bit of extra time to check in and clear two immigration points, especially if there are few trains going around the same time, but once you are on board you can kick back and relax as the Kent and northern France countryside zooms by at around 200 miles per hour. It only takes just over 2 hours and it was great to just step off at Gare Du Nord and walk 10 minutes to our overnight hotel. No baggage collection, no border checks, no long transfers to the city. You just drop your bags and off you go to experience what this wonderful city has to offer. After only one night, we walked another 10 minutes to the Gare de L'Est and proceeded eastwards, first across to Stuttgart in Germany, and then down to Munich for another overnight stay. Again, we had a lovely hotel a mere 5 minutes from the train station, dispelling the myth that you do not want to stay anywhere near city train stations. Despite being the major city in southern Germany, Munich’s city centre is great for the visitor, with historic buildings, the stunning Rathaus (town hall), with its’ must-see Glockenspiel show, and of course the legendary ‘brauhauses’. Believe me it was thirsty work sightseeing, so we very much enjoyed the tasty beers on offer – maybe too much! It’s a little bit corny with its lederhosened staff and oompah band, but I loved the Hofbrauhaus, serving beer since the 1500s, and recommend a visit. We saved the best train journey until last. Travelling from Munich to Verona, via the Brenner Pass on a particularly sunny day, it was an unforgettable experience. From the green, flat pastures of lowland Austria, you pass high up through the snow-capped Alps (even in June!), with breath-taking gorges and ravines, before dropping slowly down through the north of Italy to Verona. The big windows allow plenty of time to take your photos, and it is well worth securing a window seat for some amazing views along the way. After 5 hours or so, you arrive in Verona, and are ready for that special Italian experience. Like Munich, Verona was also a pleasant surprise. A compact, busy little city, with an abundance of historic buildings, including the magnificent Coliseum, intriguing little lanes lined with quirky shops, and obligatory coffee shops and restaurants. I am not a coffee connoisseur, but Italian coffee is simply the best. No visit to Verona is complete without a visit to the Casa di Giulietta, where you can view the balcony Shakespeare based his Romeo and Juliet on. If nothing else, it’s a lovely building. For the final week or so of our trip we had to completely rely on local buses, trains, and ferries to get us to, and around the Lake Garda area, before we headed for my personal highlight of the holiday, a 2 night stay by the lesser-known Lago d’Iseo. It must be said that Italian transport timetables are more of an approximate indication of whether or if a bus or train will run. Anyone you ask doesn’t know, the bus drivers don’t know, so there is a great sense of achievement in actually getting to somewhere vaguely near the time you expected to - as long as the bus has gone in the right direction of course. It's all part of the fun! Straddling the border of Lombardy and Veneto, Lake Garda offers a multitude of day trips, which would more than fill a weeklong holiday here. Our apartment was a 45-minute walk from the lakeside town of Sirmione, with its old town, castle and Roman ruins, perched on the tip of a picturesque peninsular. It is well worth spending a day visiting, but perhaps a little too busy with tourists to want to stay in. You could also take the high-speed ferry that zig-zags its way to Malcesine, followed by the ear-popping cable car to the top of Monte Baldo for some of the most spectacular views of the lake from over 2,000 metres up. If you are feeling really daring, and have a head for heights, you can always sign up for a tandem paragliding flight back down to the Lake. Buying a 10 Euros All Day bus pass also allows you to ‘hop-on/hop-off’ up and down the lake. Why not take your breakfast in Pescheria, lunch in Riva del Garda, perhaps a coffee, or something stronger in Garda, and finish the day with a delicious evening meal by the lake in Sirmione? Oh! and perhaps a little sight-seeing along the way. My perfect Italian day After our wonderful final two days in the smaller, but beautiful town of Iseo, by Lago d’Iseo, where we even managed a swim in the warm lake waters, our final journey was to Milan Airport for our flight home. Due to a rail strike it wasn’t the easiest of journeys, but you soon learn, this is how it is here. Just point yourselves in the right direction, allow plenty of time for delays and some crazy driving, and you’ll get there in the end. Overall, I would really recommend taking the train and buses for your travels across Europe. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of Brexit, we encountered very few problems, and sitting back in your comfy train seat, watching the variety of sights and towns to pass by, is a lot more satisfying than viewing from 38,000 feet…. just make sure you allow some extra time! If you fancy a rail trip around Europe, or maybe a lovely stay in the stunning Italian Lakes, I feel I could really make this happen for you. Just get in touch

Winter sunshine in Europe? – it’s out there!

14 February 2023

When it’s your wife’s birthday you always like to find something special as a treat, so this year we thought we would try something different and head off to hunt down some much-needed warmth and sunshine for a long weekend. It’s the first weekend in February though, so where can you go that is not too far to travel, and where there is a good chance of having some nice weather. Well, it seems the Algarve in Portugal might just be the place. Flights from the UK to Faro are around 2-3 hours, and at this time of year, offer excellent value for money. We flew, with 2 friends, from Bristol, on a very early Friday morning flight, along with golfers, second homers and general sun-seekers. It was very easy, and it was great to walk off the aircraft and feel the sun on our faces. It was 18 degrees and only 10 o’clock in the morning! We had chosen to stay in a lovely nearby fishing port called Olhao and had booked a lovely 2-bedroom apartment in the centre of town for less than £70 per night. An absolute bargain! As it’s the off-peak season, there are some amazing deals you can get with apartments, houses and even a 5* spa hotel for around £100 per night. Despite it being the depths of winter, though still warm and sunny, we were amazed at how many cafes, bars and restaurants were open, and were thriving. Being winter as well, it was also noticeable how low the prices were for everything. Apparently, the prices shoot up in the busier summer months. By lunchtime on Friday, we were all sat at a waterside café, sun cream on our faces, with a lovely cup of coffee and a plate of the obligatory delicious Portuguese custard tarts – Pasteis de Nata. The Portuguese people are by nature some of the friendliest, welcoming in the world, and with-it being a less frenetic time of year, all the staff in cafes and restaurants made the whole experience wonderfully relaxing. Admittedly, some tourist attractions are still closed for the winter season, but in this area even in February, there is still plenty to do and see. Local transport is cheap and reliable, so it would be well worth a visit to the nearby charming town of Tavira, with its cobbled streets and fascinating architecture. We opted to take a ferry out to one of the islands that lie offshore, Ilha da Cultara, just a 20-minute crossing away. With its white, sandy beaches, quaint fishing huts and lovely cafes serving proper locally cooked food, it was well worth the journey. As it was the weekend, we also headed for local food markets. The range and freshness of the products on offer put our trips to the local supermarkets to shame. It’s all supplied and sold by the locals as well. In Olhao one enormous building houses an incredible variety of fresh fish and shellfish. From massive crabs, tasty looking Langoustine through to whole tuna fish, the sight and smell is amazing. We then popped next door to see all the fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and local delicacies, before settling down for yet another delicious coffee and pastries. In the evenings, there were plenty of restaurants open, where the food was plentiful, offering various culinary delights from local, freshly landed fish, to exotic Indian curries. We tried it all. For my wife’s birthday we had a lovely meal with fish kebabs and stews, and they even provided a birthday cake, with the whole restaurant singing and cheering a ‘Happy Birthday’. All in all, flying just over 2 hours to this wonderful part of Europe offered us great value for money, and a brilliant way to recharge the batteries ready to get through the rest of a British winter and look forward to sunnier times ahead.

Minarets, Markets and Mayhem - 4 Days in Cairo

09 December 2022

If you are looking for somewhere different to have a ‘long weekend’ then why not consider a trip to Egypt’s fascinating capital – Cairo? It’s a 5-hour direct flight from London to the largest city in Africa, and you quickly realise what a different part of the world you have flown in to We spent 4 days there in early December on our way back from a beach holiday in Hurghada. Weather wise it's a lovely time to visit, with daytime temperatures in the mid-20s and comfortable evenings to stroll around. Arriving in Cairo the first thing that strikes you is the crazy, seemingly random, though remarkably safe driving. It’s like bumper cars, without the actual bumping. They seem to have a sixth sense about how to avoid each other, and never lose their temper, just sit constantly pressing their car horns, whilst swerving in and out of the redundant lane markings. It takes a bit of getting used to, but as every driver says – ‘relax! It’s normal’ So where to stay? On the advice of a regular visitor, we were recommended to stay in the upmarket central area of Zamalek Island, a great location for getting out and about, with an abundance of cafes, restaurants and, if wanting something more familiar, upmarket western style hotels, where you can always find an ice-cold beverage. Once settled in, our first wander out of the hotel made us really feel the vibrancy and liveliness of this city. People, cars, motorbikes, and brake-less bicycles came from every direction, though everyone was so friendly and welcoming. You can really sense their natural kindness and generosity, even to odd-looking strangers like us. In three very full days in Cairo, we managed to visit all the must-see sights, such as the Great Pyramids at Giza, the Sphinx, the Cairo Tower, the Egyptian Museum of Cairo and even managed a small river cruise on the Nile to breathe in the city afloat. Of course, seeing the Pyramids for the first time is an awe-inspiring experience, and a real highlight, even whilst you try and dodge the local hawkers selling their tour guiding services. The Pyramids are the last remaining of the Ancient 7 Wonders of the World, and they really must be seen, just to wonder how on earth they were built over 4,000 years ago, without a modern crane or earth-mover available yet. Truly masterpieces of ancient engineering. As a child I can remember the Tutankhamun Exhibition that came to London in the early 70’s, and to now see the famous golden mask of the boy-king, discovered in 1922 by British scientist Howard Carter, up so close it truly mesmerising. The Egyptian Museum houses over 50,000 extraordinary antiquities, from tiny intricate golden jewellery to mummified remains of the pharaohs and their elaborate sarcophagi. It is a unique, memorable experience. On our final day we took the very modern Metro to visit the Khan Al-Khalili souk in Old Cairo. We chose to visit on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, and we did notice that our neighbourhood was a little quieter than usual. We soon found out why – everyone seemed to be at the souk, or at one of the mosques at the souk. It was amazingly busy and chaotic, but we couldn’t help but smile as we snaked our way through the narrow streets and alleyways, past the shouts of ‘welcome to Cairo’ as the traders lured us to their overflowing market stalls, with everything you can imagine for sale. When it became too much, we just took a seat at a street café with a refreshing mint tea, or remarkably strong local coffee, whilst practicing our haggling skills After every sense had been battered, we found a lovely retreat at nearby Al Azhar Park. As it was a Friday the park was full of families picnicking, playing, and just generally relaxing in the calm, tranquil fresh air of this city centre park. Road trains full of lively youngsters singing and wanting to just say hello, processioned around the greenery. We grabbed a delicious kebab, sat on a bench, and watched the world go by, as well as the boisterous wedding parties all flocking in for photos by the lake. Getting around is never an issue in Cairo. With the modern, low-cost Metro available, and the cheapest Uber taxis I’ve ever encountered just a tap on an app away, it was easy to travel, and it was far more comfortable to sit in the back of a taxi than try and walk. Eating was always a treat, whether in a street café, or one of the wonderful riverside restaurants. From Egyptian mezes of grilled vegetables, tasty koftas and delicious salads and sauces, you’ll never go hungry. I personally recommend trying the Beeja Restaurant at the top end of Zamalek. Sat on the banks of the Nile it is a great, buzzy place to watch the river life float by at night, as the lights of Cairo glimmer around you. The food was lovely, the service attentive and the waiters even played tricks on us. A great way to finish our trip For me Cairo is one of the great cities of the world I have been lucky to visit. I can understand that it might not be to everyone’s taste. It is incredibly noisy, manic, and seemingly disorganised, but that all seems to add to its charm. The people are so friendly and welcoming; it always felt safe and secure. If you want to experience something so different, yet so close, please give Cairo a consideration. You won’t be disappointed….but take a deep breath first!

When we travel again

19 May 2020

A question I get asked a lot, at the moment, is “When do you think we’ll be travelling again?” It is a pertinent and relevant question for which, sadly, I have not got an answer. For me, however, the more thought-provoking question is - “HOW will we travel again?” As I write, whilst there are signs that we are getting on top of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and there is an easing of the social distancing measures, with more freedom of movement, there is no doubt the virus is still out there, and will continue to have a major impact on our day-to-day lives for some time. From the earliest days of the virus, the travel industry has taken a lot of blows, with flights, cruises and tours cancelled, hotels closing, and many, many travel and hospitality employees laid off or furloughed. It will certainly be a different travel industry when the ‘bounce back’ begins, and hopefully, most of these services and travel companies will return. Many airlines will cut their routes and flight frequencies, and there will be a demand for more direct routes. Social distancing will be almost certainly be mandatory, leading to longer queues at check-in and security, and airlines possibly ‘blocking out’ middle seats or limiting numbers on board. And just imagine the evil glares you will get when you sneeze or cough! Initially, this will lead to a greater demand for holidays closer to home, especially where you can load up the car, or jump on a train, to reach your destination. Although there is currently a lack of capacity, opportunities will open, and once the hotels and holiday camps can operate again, there will be even more. Importantly, domestic holidays tend to have a lighter economic impact on disposable income for the holidaymaker, boosting the desire for a ‘staycation’, with the bonus of stimulating local businesses which have lain dormant for many weeks Hotels and holiday homes will also need to stress their cleanliness and hygiene practices, and their dedication of their staff and management to look after the guests’ health and safety, as well as their own. If budgets allow, there will be a craving for more private rented accommodation, rather than big hotels and resorts, with special occasions becoming a focus for large groups of friends and family to plan some time away together. Perhaps we will want to stay in more remote locations, avoiding the previous honeypot resorts and destinations as much as possible. Why not stay in those beautiful country cottages in Cornwall to celebrate your ‘big birthday’? Or, that stunning private 6-bedroom villa in Spain? Cruise lines have had to cancel most of their 2020 sailings already but have always shown a resilience to pull through any crises, though I envisage less cruise ships on our oceans in the next few years. Hygiene standards on board, already under the spotlight, will need to be even more visible, and there will need to be clear procedures in place should any illnesses break out again. There will also need to be better arrangements with ports visited for any emergency action needed, and the destinations themselves will benefit from lower visitor numbers with safeguards against over tourism. Venice breathes a sigh of relief. In my opinion, there will be less spontaneous booking of trips, with more thought and time given to researching holiday options, not just in terms of time and cost, but the potential health implications and environmental impacts of the choices made. Caution will be exercised to avoid areas that may have a threat of a fresh virus outbreak, especially if on return you are required to quarantine or self-isolate. Destinations that are currently seen as less affected, like the Caribbean and New Zealand, will become popular choices, if our travel there doesn’t carry an infection risk for that destination. You may therefore need to travel with some sort of proof of immunity as well as your passport Throughout the ‘lockdown’, we have really missed seeing family and friends, so I see visiting friends and relatives as a big growth area. It will be the domestic market that initially opens, and then Europe, but soon enough, the long-haul routes will start to reopen, and people will want to visit friends and families further afield. I envisage booking lots of well-planned trips to Australia, New Zealand and North America, with people investing more time in planning these trips, making sure they are truly magical, memorable and rewarding. “Travel” will become a more valued commodity. The appreciation of using the services of a travel agent, such as myself, can only grow. Searching the websites for that bargain deal, grabbing your credit card and simply clicking a button has almost become the norm. This is great until you need some help. Just look at the problems overseas holidaymakers had getting home at the start of the outbreak, when all they had was an online ‘presence’. When things go wrong you need a Travel Counsellor like me in your corner. I feel in the post-Coronavirus world, a Travel Counsellor’s expertise in planning and providing a personal service, and being a real-life person to assist and reassure you, will be truly valued. In the future, people may travel less but cherish the trips they do make even more than they have in the past and will have a better understanding of the rewards and risks involved. There are many people already booking their future holidays, especially for 2021, and confidence will return and, undoubtedly, we will ALL need a holiday after all this. I am here to help with existing plans, and new exciting adventures for next year and beyond, and look forward to speaking to you soon.

Festive Frolics in Fuerteventura

02 January 2020

I never get over the wonderful sensation of leaving a cold, damp British morning behind and stepping off the aircraft steps into a warming breeze of a sub-tropical evening elsewhere. Arriving for our recent 7-day holiday to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands felt no different, other than the fact…… IT’S CHRIIIISSSSTMAAAAS!! I’d previously only spent one Christmas in my lifetime outside the UK, and that was when we were in the middle of our big, life-changing year’s backpacking around the globe nearly twenty years ago. A day spent on the beach in New Zealand, whilst still stuffing our faces with our ex-pat host’s family turkey, was indeed a strange experience, but one of many we had at that time it did not feel that unusual. This was our first holiday we’ve taken specifically over the Xmas period, so wondered how it compared to being at home for the festivities. The choice was one of the Canary Islands, with it’s almost guaranteed sunshine and warmth, and we headed away with three friends to find out. Firstly, whilst Christmas in Spain is a massive celebration, there was nowhere near the same level of over-the-top decorations, fake snow and endlessly piped ‘Xmas Classics’ blaring over the shop and hotel sound systems as we seem to get in the UK from mid-November. It was quite nice to hear gentle German carols and Spanish choirs playing in the background rather than being blasted by Noddy, Shakey and Cliff every 5 minutes – no offence guys Naturally, it was warm and sunny. Every day in fact. I’ve only ever experienced one ‘white Christmas’ and generally Christmas Day in the UK is mild and a little drizzly, though sometimes a heavy frost can provide a little some sparkle to the scenery. On the Canarian beaches there is not even a small glimmer of a possible Yuletide snowflake. It will not happen. So, you wake up, exchange pleasantries, and head to the breakfast buffet in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. And don’t forget the sun cream as the average temperature hit the mid-20’s. To be fair to the resort we were staying at, all the staff and Animation Team were dressed as Santa’s or elves, wore reindeer antlers and Santa hats, and performed around the beautifully decorated hotel Christmas tree, with perhaps a few extra beads of sweat with the additional layers they were performing in. Even Santa himself paid a visit, handing out gifts to the holidaying children…. but, to be honest, it still did not quite feel like Christmas to me After our breakfast we stuck to a local tradition back in Devon and headed to the beach for a Christmas Day dip on the ocean. Every year, the good folk of Exmouth gather and shiver on Exmouth Beach in the morning, to leg it in to the freezing English Channel, spend 1-2 minutes screaming ‘Why are we doing this’ to each other, then run as fast as they can back to their family and friends for towels, or perhaps a foil blanket and a warming Bovril. In Fuerteventura we were able to casually stroll down to the warm sand, don our choice of fancy dress this year, then gleefully strolled in to the (actually not so warm) waves. But we stayed in longer, and even went in for another dip. And a glass or two of champagne on the beach was a much better refreshment than a hot beef-based beverage So, the weather is better, the sea swim warmer but what of the food? After a “Pool Party”, with games and music, and a bit of a sunbathe, we headed to the Gala Dinner in the main restaurant in the early evening. And the hotel did not disappoint. There was the usual buffet, but with delicious Lamb, Beef and turkey of course. Loads of lovely starters and sweets, various cheeses and very tasty wines to wash it all down with. My only gripe would be where were the Brussel sprouts, pigs-in-blankets and Xmas pud? Minor omissions to be honest. Of course, one of the joys of Christmas is spending time with family and friends, and I must admit I did miss seeing mine, but with the wonders of modern technology, I was able to speak to mum and dad on the phone, send various Text messages to others, and post and read loads of messages and updates on social media. You can take some photos, send them to each other, and they can send some back. You can even talk to everyone ‘face-to-face’ on most phones now. So, the connectivity available today makes that distance feel all the shorter. Overall, having Christmas abroad in a beach resort is something I would totally recommend trying. It’s warm and sunny, people are all there to enjoy themselves and the resorts really make an effort to make Christmas special. And, if you’re a sports fan like myself, you will always find a bar or restaurant showing the big Boxing Day fixtures. I imagine there will even be somewhere showing the joyful Christmas day EastEnders’ special. You won’t miss the cold and damp back home, maybe just a spending time with family and friends, but you can always take some of them with you, and all the fun will follow If this blog makes you crave next year’s festivities overseas, whether that’s sunning yourself on the beach, or winter sporting in Europe or further a-field, please just get in touch, and give you and your family an early Christmas present.

Medieval Mystery, Mountains and Mediterranean

20 September 2019

Medieval Mystery, Mountains and Mediterranean For our late summer holiday this year, we decided we wanted to explore an area that was less than two hours from home, but offered spectacular scenery, lovely beaches and amazing culinary experiences – so where better than the south-west corner of France? From mountains to the Med, the Occitanie region of France is less visited than many others, but is full of history, legend, bustling towns and cities, vineyards, hidden valleys and sandy beaches. There are a variety of arrival points, with international airports at Toulouse, Montpellier and Carcassonne to name a few, as well as the option to arrive by ferry at Santander and travel over the border from Spain, and we had very easy flights from Bristol to Toulouse We would have liked to have explored more, but after a one-night stop in the ‘pink city’ of Toulouse, we drove off for a few nights in the Pyrenees. Initially, trying to understand French road-signs and remembering to drive on the right side of the road in a busy city was a bit of a trial, but we got through okay, and driving around became very comfortable. Heading towards the rising hills gave us an opportunity to sample the glorious fresh mountain air on the French-Spanish border. Basing ourselves near Foix, it really feels like a far distant corner of France, with a mixture of languages and culture, especially if you head high in to the mountains and pop in to Andorra as we did. Visiting the less touristy areas, such as up in the mountains, we soon learnt we had to really dig deep into our memories of “O Level” French studies (Google it kids!) Very little English is spoken, but once our confidence returned, we did manage to get ourselves understood. As it turns out, in the more touristy areas this became less of an issue, but it is always good to at least try and speak a little of the local language, even if you don’t understand the replies. After our relaxing few days in the mountains we set off towards the Mediterranean. On the way, we had an interesting little detour up and up a long, windy road to the tiny village of Rennes-le-Chateau. Apart from the stunning hilltop views towards the Pyrenees, the village is shrouded in mystery. In the 1800’s the parish priest, Berenger Sauniere, suddenly started flaunting a vast wealth around, refurbishing his church and home. Where did he get the money from though? Was it found treasure leading all the way back to the theory that Jesus had stayed here, stories associated with The Da Vinci Code and the Holy Grail? Or was it a little bit of clever marketing to help promote a local hotel? Whatever the answer, it is well worth a detour, with a fascinating museum Rennes-le-Chateau lies at the heart of Cathar country in the Languedoc region, and there are many interesting historic towns and villages to visit. Everywhere we went, everyone seemed to be setting up for, or were in the midst of, festivals and celebrations. They really do seem to enjoy this time of year. Perhaps it’s the thought of getting in the new harvest of grapes for the delicious local wines. All very drinkable. And nothing beats stopping off for a very filling Prix Fixe lunch in a shaded brasserie, for delicious local dishes, washed down with a refreshing glass of local Vin Rose. Our meandering drive (okay we got lost a few times) continued past endless vineyards and pretty villages, eventually dropping us at the coast, at the lovely town of Meze, perched on the banks of an oyster-filled lagoon near Setes, with glorious stretches of golden sand beaches, amazing food and fresh mussels served in all manner of inventive, and tasty, ways. This is the understated and, consequently, less expensive part of the French Mediterranean. With plenty of restaurants and cafes, it was a great little place to relax and unwind for a few days, before heading off to the real jewel in the crown of the region– Carcassonne Nothing prepares you for the sight of this medieval town and castle as you approach and see the castle for the first time, rising majestically out of the landscape. It looks like something Walt Disney would have constructed, but it’s a real, living, breathing town. Staying just below the ramparts was a great idea, as it was easy to climb up to the ramparts, which is great to do at sunrise and sunset, or to dive in to the lovely collection of cafes, restaurants and shops, both in the old town and over the Vieux Bridge in the modern new town, with even more eating and shopping options. Although it is an historic site, the main gates never close, so you can wander in any time. There is an entrance fee for the main castle and museum, but it is great value and very informative. As you clamber around the ramparts you can feel the atmosphere and history oozing out of the high walls. If you only had a few days to spare to visit this area, then Carcassonne would be my recommendation for a base. From here it’s easy to drive out to visit the vineyards, the little villages surrounding dotted around the region, or take a boat ride up the Canal Du Midi, a real masterpiece of transport engineering So, if you have already spent time in Paris, or played around on the Cote d’Azur or Brittany, and wanted to take some time in a different part of France, then I can highly recommend heading down to the south-west of France. There are a multitude of flights available, all year round, offered by EasyJet and Ryanair, so there are great opportunities to grab a cheap air-fare and I will happily put together a travel plan to see some amazing scenery and historic sites, not to mention enjoy some incredible food and wines. Just get in touch now!

One night in Bangkok? Never Enough!

08 April 2019

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the beautiful country of Thailand several times, and, though my main purpose is usually to get to one of the beautiful islands or beach resorts for some relaxation, no trip is ever complete without a few days in Bangkok. So, if a holiday to Thailand is on your horizon, here are my tips to make the most of a Bangkok stopover. The “City of Angels” is undeniably a lively, vibrant and colourful city, but its little pockets of culture, calm and peacefulness, make it an unmissable destination. Most flights will take you in to the capital city as your first point of entry and, in my opinion, it is well worth a 2 or 3 day stay before your beach time, or perhaps a stop on the return leg to fill your case with bargains galore. As you leave the confines of the airport you will be hit by the heat and humidity. Don’t worry though, the official taxis and very modern transport system are all air-conditioned. For this reason, I would recommend staying at one of the fantastic hotels situated by the Chao Phraya river, where the air feels a little fresher. You’ll immediately experience the legendary Thai hospitality. The Thais have a natural friendliness, happiness and sense of fun. Language is rarely a problem as English is generally spoken in the tourist areas, but it is worth learning a few phrases – a “sawadee kha” (hello), or “koop kun khrap” (thank you) and a smile will get you everywhere. Once unpacked go out and explore the local area. Bangkok is a melting pot for Asian cultures. The streets are filled with clothing stalls, flower markets, and hawker stands, offering all kinds of exotic fare, from a delicious Pad Thai or spicy curry, to coconut ice-cream and the ubiquitous banana pancakes. Lovely! An advantage of staying by the river, is that you can easily use my favourite way to get around – the Chao Phraya Express boats. It looks chaotic watching these colourful boats come flying in to the piers, shouting and whistling at you, but it’s a safe, cheap and convenient way to visit some of the major sites and areas of the capital. We have spent a day hopping on and off, visiting floating markets, historic monuments and, of course, the numerous stunning temples that lie on or near the river. The most visited attraction in the city is the Grand Palace and Wat Pra Keow, with its revered Temple of the Emerald Bhudda. The Palace is a serene complex of beautiful buildings, temples and gardens and is best visited early in the morning or late afternoon hopefully avoiding the hordes of tourist buses that arrive and rather spoiling the peace. Nearby is the Wat Pho temple with its famous reclining Buddha, again set in beautiful landscaped gardens. Finally, jump on a shuttle ferry to the other side of the river and visit the distinctive Wat Arun. For all the temple visits remember to respect the dress code, and there will always be a stall offering stylish ‘elephant trousers’ to cover up. In the late afternoon it is well worth crossing back over the river to watch a spectacular sunset behind Wat Arun, which then lights up for the evening, the drop into one of the many riverside bars and restaurants to quench your thirst. Finish your day high above the hustle and bustle of the streets of Bangkok at one of the many “sky bars” and restaurants scattered around the city, with their 360-degree panoramic views? Enjoy delicious cocktails and canapes before settling in to food prepared by some of the best chefs in the country. Do a bit of research and you should always be able to find a Happy Hour, but make sure you book a table in advance. My personal favourites are Red Sky at the Centara Grand, Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree, and Sky Bar at the Lebua, that took a starring role in the film Hangover 2. And so to bed….. If you have another full day in the city, spend the next morning visiting the Jim Thompson House, to learn about the history of Thai silk, or perhaps the spectacular Vimanmek Mansion, the world’s largest teak building, and once a royal residence. To get there, and for a bit of adventure, flag down a tuk-tuk in the street, driven at speed by real local characters. It’s essentially a rikshaw with a small engine, and although not the most practical way of getting around, offers a great experience. Just make sure you haggle a good fare before getting aboard. And then there is the shopping. From traditional markets like the weekend market at Chatuchak to the gleaming, glitzy modern high-end shopping at Siam Paragon, you will find anything you desire in this shopper’s paradise Finally, if you still have the energy, grab some dinner at one of the numerous eateries in Chinatown and then explore Bangkok’s famous (and notorious) nightlife. It can be very ‘adult-themed’ in places like Soi Cowboy and Patpong, and may not suit everyone’s taste, but it is yet another fascinating string to the Bangkok bow. To me, this great city offers a little bit of everything, and I have some great ideas to put together for your perfect city and beach holiday, get in touch so I arrange a holiday to remember Bangkok? Well worth more than one night

All Aboard!!

03 January 2019

It’s early January and train fares have gone up again!! It’s always an annoying headline at this time of year, but it also made me think how enjoyable train journeys are, and how lucky I have been to experience different rail experiences everywhere I’ve visited. Ranging from the means to get around a country to top-end, dress-to-the-nines luxury experiences, trains are always worth thinking about as part of your travel plans. Here are a few I’ve travelled on, and some I have high on my Bucket List: Asia If you have the time, then traveling by train in Asia is a wonderful experience. When I say you need time, this is no understatement as the trains tend to run slowly, usually overnight whilst you sleep, but they are generally cheap and open-up a world of new experiences, giving all your senses a really good work out. Whether it’s a train from Beijing to Xi’an to visit the Terracotta Army, or travelling down the length of Malaysia to Singapore, train journeys in this fascinating region live long in my memory. Load up with snacks, pot noodles, tea (and obligatory flask), and perhaps a comfy pillow, and look forward to hours of chatting with locals and fellow travellers, enjoying an everchanging landscape gliding gloriously past your window. One astounding journey is aboard the Reunification Express, which rumbles its way up the spine of Vietnam from Saigon to Hanoi, with some awesome stops to visit along the way. It’s a great way to visit different parts of this once-torn country, serving as a timely reminder of the vital lifeline it provided during the war with America. Staying in South East Asia, why not experience the ultimate luxury on board the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express, which travels between Singapore and Bangkok. True luxury travel from the same company as the Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Elegant, colonial opulence on wheels. In India, you could opt to join the locals cramming on to overcrowded carriages or board the luxurious Maharaja Express, which takes up to 8 days to travel between ‘must see’ sights, such as the Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Delhi. You kick back and relax, with your own private butler tending to your every need, whilst an array of ever-changing landscapes passes your window Australia In Australia I’ve been lucky enough to dip my toes in to the world of luxury travel, with a journey on the Sunlander train (now known as the Spirit of Queensland) from Brisbane to Cairns in Far North Queensland. A two-day journey past Pacific beaches, rugged hinterland and sugar cane fields, whilst dining on sumptuous 5 course haute-cuisine, washed down with some of Australia’s finest wines. It is great to dress up for dinner, mingle with the other guests, whilst being entertained by a pianist, before returning to your private cabin to be rocked asleep by the travelling train. Two iconic rail trips are also available in Australia and are well worth experiencing if visiting down under. The Ghan travels from Adelaide in the far south, right the way through the Red Centre of Australia, finishing off in Darwin at the tropical Top End, arriving 3 days later. It’s an extraordinary journey, where you can hop off in crazy Cooby Pedy, historic Alice Springs or dramatic Katherine. If you have less time, why not travel one section, say from Darwin to Alice Springs, spend a few days touring the Red Centre, visiting Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon, then take a flight on to your next destination. The Indian Pacific travels from Sydney in the east to Perth in the very far west, a truly epic transcontinental crossing. Travel through mountains, arid deserts, rocky valleys and goldfields before arriving at the beautiful Pacific coast. An adventure within an adventure. North America Then there’s North America with the Amtrak services criss-crossing the USA to connect all the great cities, or Canada, where you can take the train from Toronto in the east, travel through the expansive plains, prairies and rocky mountains, before arriving 4 days later in Vancouver on the west coast. If just wanting to visit the west, why not fly to Calgary in the Rockies, pootle up to Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper, then climb on board the famous Rocky Mountaineer for one the great railway journeys of the world. Take in the breath-taking views from the comfort of your seat or the Goldleaf Dome carriage, as the train winds itself through the Canadian Rockies. There are so many amazing train journeys worth considering – too many to detail here. I haven’t even mentioned the luxurious Blue Train which runs between Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, the Copper Canyon Railroad in Mexico, the Andean Explorer which crosses the Alto Plano between Cusco and Puno in Peru. What about the Trans-Siberian railway, all the way from Moscow to Beijing, via Mongolia with many an adventure on the way. And of course, there are the many fantastic journeys you can embark on in Europe, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Japan………. Train journeys are a brilliant way to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and countries. You chat, share stories and travel tips, devour extraordinary food and drink, and all the while the views out of your window continually change. Never a dull moment “Trains are wonderful…to travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers – in fact, to see life” (Agatha Christie) So, if you are considering any of these train expeditions, or many more that are available, please get in touch. I can certainly help set you up on th

California Here I Come

05 October 2018

If it’s incredible scenery you are after, stunning beaches and majestic mountains, matched with superb food, wines, modern cultural icons and fascinating history, then spend a fortnight like we did in California. If you’ve never done a USA road trip before, then this is the perfect place to dip your toes in to the world of self-drive holidays. To begin with, getting there could not be easier, with direct flights from London to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. It is just as easy to include an ‘open jaw’ option, allowing you to fly in to one airport and back out of another, giving you great flexibility for your plans. A couple of years back, myself and my wife headed off to experience what this great state has to offer. We began with a few nights in one of my favourite cities in the world, the ‘city by the bay’, San Francisco. With its magnificent hilly setting around on the northern Californian coast, this city is a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs. From Little Italy, through China Town to the eclectic neighbourhood of Nob Hill, there is so much to take in here. And then there are the views, especially on days when the fog rolls in from the Pacific under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Was three days going to enough? The highlight for us was hiring bikes in Fisherman’s Wharf, cycling over the bridge to Sausalito, sampling a clam chowder washed down with a craft beer, and then hauling our bikes on to the ferry back across to the city. A blissful day. From San Francisco it’s an easy 4-hour drive to the magnificence of the Yosemite National Park. To save a bit of money it is worth staying outside the park gates and driving in to the park to view the stunning mountains and rock formations, such as the Half Dome or the daunting El Capitan. The fun way to see the park is to leave the car in the car park and hire one of the peculiar old-fashioned rental push-bikes. There are loads of walking and biking trails, and again, a couple of days is never quite enough. After a couple of days there, however, the Pacific coast was calling us, so we headed back west, to Monterey. This area is famous for breath-taking ocean views, fantastic restaurants, especially seafood, and Cannery Row, a redeveloped collection of fish canneries, and the setting for John Steinbeck’s eponymous literary classic. This is now home to museums, a superb aquarium and yet more great eateries. And whilst we had a car we had to visit nearby artsy Carmel, whose mayor was once Clint Eastwood, and the beautiful 17mile drive around Pebble Beach. Stunning! We now really start our big drive down the legendary Highway 1, also known as the Big Sur. There is so much to see and do on this long, meandering tarmacked icon. You could make the journey between Monterey and Santa Barbara in one day, but if time allows, go a little slower and have an overnight stay somewhere, allowing time to take in the scenic beaches, cliffs and rocky outcrops. Accommodation along Highway 1 ranges from cheap chain motels, welcoming guest houses and cosy inns, through to large resorts and top-end luxury hotels, like the Post Ranch Inn high up on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. This windy road has loads of convenient pull-over points to stop and stare. There’s the extraordinary Elephant Seal colony at Piedras Blancas, the amazing wines to sample in the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous by the 2004 Sideways, and if you stop, like we did, in San Luis Obispo, then a must-see is Hearst Castle, the former home of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. It’s an amazing collection of 165 rooms, terraced gardens and over-the-top swimming pools. Well worth a look. Finally, we arrived at the elegant city of Santa Barbara, with its distinctly Mediterranean atmosphere and Spanish colonial buildings. It’s a perfect setting to unwind, with a lovely beach, and excellent shops and restaurants. A great place to re-charge to batteries before hitting the action-packed city of Los Angeles and all that La-La Land has to offer. It’s a big place LA, and it can be confusing. We chose to stay near Universal Studios, but there many other options. If the beach is your preference, then there are plenty of hotels and motels around the Santa Monica and Venice Beach area. Stay in the Hollywood area and visit the homes of the stars, Sunset Boulevard and take photos of the iconic Hollywood sign high up on the hills. If budget allows, stay in upmarket Beverley Hills. And if fun and games is your thing, then why not stay at Anaheim and spend a day or two at the original Disneyland. There really is so much to see and do in this vast area, you could never be bored. Our highlight was the Universal Studios Tours, which I had experienced previously when just a teenager. Somehow, I still get surprised when Jaws comes out of the water and attacks the tour bus. Finishing that off with a great evening enjoying the entertainment on the Universal Boardwalk, was perfect. A few days in LA and you feel like you need another holiday. It’s a full-on experience, so I would recommend driving an hour south and chilling out for a few days in San Diego, but our great adventure was over, and it was time to fly home from Los Angeles overnight back to London. California has a great climate all year round, so any time is a good time to visit. You may want to avoid Yosemite in the winter months, but then again, if winter sports are your thing, then why not visit then? Two weeks is enough, but not enough really. There are so many other places to visit, I could never list them here. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this area three times and can give some great tips and advice on when, where and how to visit incredible part of the world, so please get in touch and California here you come!

Busting the myths of cruising

13 September 2018

Up until a couple of years ago, I did not believe I would ever want to go on a cruise, cruise holidays just weren’t for me. Now I have had the recent pleasure of two very different cruises, one on the luxurious Silversea Silver Wind in the Adriatic, and the other on the larger Crown Princess down to Spain. I thought it would be a good time to dispel some common myths about this great way to see the world: 1) “Cruises are expensive” This may have been true once but with more competition in the cruise market, cruise lines have had to dramatically reduce their prices. They now offer unbelievable value, and remember the cost of your cruise includes: • Your travel to all the different ports of call • Gourmet dining with competitively priced drinks packages and All-Inclusive options • Luxurious accommodation • Fantastic world-class entertainment and an extensive range of activities and sports And if you take a cruise from a UK port, you do not even have to think about the extra cost of international flights. Just drive down, park up and off you go! 2) “I’ll be bored” How can you be bored when nearly every day you pull back the curtains and there is a new exciting destination to explore? Onboard cruise ships there is always something going on. The bigger cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, offer rock climbing, miniature golf, or even a Flow-Rider surf simulator. On smaller ships there will always be activities arranged, gyms to work out in, spa treatments and interesting educational lectures and classes to absorb yourself in. Azamara offer cruises built around the destinations they visit. Their ‘Cruise Global, Eat Local’ initiative takes you to the restaurants where the locals eat, and then on to some amazing nocturnal treats. What's better than listening to a performance by three Italian tenors whilst relaxing in Tuscany? Why not sail on a Hurtigruten cruise up and down the Norwegian coastline, where you will stop at isolated towns and villages, with the breath-taking backdrop of the fjords and the possibility of a sighting of the Northern Lights. At night you can experience amazing entertainment options, from robots serving your cocktails, to circus-style dinner theatres, evening parties, Broadway shows and chart-topping singers. We loved a nightly sing-a-long with Robbie Williams tribute Tony Lewis on board the Crown Princess. 3) “Cruises are not for young people, family and children” In the last few years, cruise lines have totally revamped their ships to offer amazing family-friendly holidays. Ships now have everything, from water parks, ice-rinks, zip-lines and sky-diving, to children’s parades and parties. And whilst the children play, the parents are free to go off and pursue their own activities. Most cruise ships now offer babysitting services, a range of clubs and programmes aimed at the different age groups. Disney Cruise Line for example has Disney characters on board and Disney-themed productions whilst offering adults-exclusive areas. Royal Caribbean include a fantastic range of both onboard and off-board activities aimed at all the family, such as DJ classes, hiking, kayaking and snorkelling. From the family fun cruises mentioned above, to romantic honeymooners enjoying the luxury vibe on Celebrity, to those with a sense of adventure and exploration heading to the South Pole or Arctic Circle. There is something for every age group on a cruise, catering for all sorts of tastes and desires. And you get to meet all kinds of people from different countries, cultures and age-groups. On my cruises, I’ve laughed the evening away with newly-weds, exchanged stories with people who had remarkable life-changing experiences, and even had dinner with the man who wrote the TV show, Cagney and Lacey! 4) “I’ll always have to dress up for dinner” Cruise lines have moved with the times to attract more guests, and ‘freestyle cruising’ has grown in popularity, offering more casual cruising including what to wear for dinner. NCL, for example, have optional formal nights and no strict dress codes. Even on the more traditional cruise lines, like Cunard and Silversea, the dress-codes have become more relaxed allowing men to wear a casual suit, and the ladies less-formal cocktail dresses. And most ships, even on formal nights, will have somewhere to grab a dressed-down casual bite to eat. Saying that, it is quite nice to get dressed up like James Bond or a Hollywood film-star every now and again, so never say never. 5) “It’ll feel claustrophobic” Okay, some ships can take over 5,000 guests at any one time, but when the same ship has over 20 decks, dozens of restaurants, bars, shops, swimming pools, sports areas and entertainment facilities, you will not notice any crowds. If you really want some peace and quiet, there are adult-only pools, libraries and always your own spacious stateroom to relax and kick-back in. Fundamentally, I believe there is a cruise experience out there for everyone. I went on board for the first time and doubted that it would be my kind of holiday, but it was. I have visited ports and destinations that I had never been to, gorged on superb food and wine, relaxed and had countless enjoyable experiences and adventures, from wine tasting in Bordeaux to white-water rafting in Croatia. The best thing to do, if still unsure, is to try a short-break cruise out of a UK port such as Southampton. Here you can experience the many elements of a longer voyage without blowing your wallet. For example, in May 2019 these cruises are available: P&O Cruise on board Arcadia – 2 nights to Guernsey from Southampton – from £259 per person Celebrity Silhouette – 3 nights to Amsterdam from Southampton – from £349 per person Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas – 3 nights to Cork from Southampton – from £439 per person There are many, many more ways to enjoy this great way to holiday, so please get in touch and I’ll help you sail away!

South Africa Fly Drive - Beaches, Battlefields and Bobotie

23 August 2018

South Africa is one of my favourite countries to visit, but for our most recent trip we decided to try somewhere different and visit the region of Kwa Zulu Natal in the east. This area is steeped in history, culture and natural wonders, with the stunning Drakensberg Mountains, the battlefields from the Zulu and Boer wars, and the modern city of Durban with its spectacular coastline on the Dolphin Coast. Going in late November we took a little gamble with the weather, but other than a couple of rainy days on the coast, it was a great time to visit this region. Flying with British Airways via Jo'burg in to Durban, it was very easy to pick up our hire car at the airport, and with South Africans driving on the left, it was a leisurely short drive to our first stop. We spent a couple of nights in the upmarket suburb of Umhlanga Rocks, a great location for a day trip to Durban and offering a lovely choice of night-time restaurants and bars. A visit to the iconic Oyster Box Hotel should be on everybody's itinerary, where you can sample their legendary High Tea, or perhaps opt for the all-you-can-eat Indian buffet (our preferred option). If it's just a snack you're looking for then head to the many restaurants serving up the South African Cape Malay dish of Bobotie, curried meat and fruit topped with a creamy golden topping - my personal favourite dish. And so, the big drive began. Our first destination was the area known as the Midlands Meander, a hill-climb out of Durban and a region famous for its arts, crafts, galleries, artisan foods and boutique breweries. And boy did we sample the lot! Staying in the quaint Granny Mouse Country House as a base, you pick up a map and then explore away, with self-guided maps highlighting all that this region has to offer. And if that wasn't enough, finishing the day with a 7-course tasting menu at the hotel, with delicious matching wines. Having filled ourselves with various chocolates, cheeses, bread, meat and wine, where better to burn it all off than the stunning Drakensberg Mountains? It only takes a few hours’ drive and you arrive in this truly awe-inspiring region. The views from our resort hotel were incredible, basing ourselves near the Giant's Castle Game Reserve, a magnet for walkers, ramblers and enthusiastic mountain climbers. The helpful information centre provided informative maps for different walks available, varying in distance and difficulty. It's a stunning area to visit with some incredible views over the deep valleys. It was a well-earned cold beer taken in the micro-brewery on the way back to the hotel. After our exertions in the Drakensberg, a 3-hour drive took us east towards the town of Ladysmith, a great base to visit the famous battlefields of the region. A good option is to book an organised tour to make sure you see as much as possible of the main historical sites. With limited time, we decided to drive ourselves, though in hindsight, having a guide would have given us much more information and insight at the locations we visited. We had chosen to visit two of the most famous - the site of the Battle of Spion Kop, fought in 1900 during the Boer War, and Rorkes Drift, the legendary site of one of the British Army's bravest battles, where 140 soldiers fought off 4000 Zulu warriors for over 11 hours in 1879. It was made famous in the film Zulu, though I did at least resist the temptation to attempt my Michael Caine impression. Both sites offered up a lot of information, with moving monuments and gravestones high up on the plateau at Spion Kop, and at the re-built Mission Station at Rorkes Drift, a very informative museum and Interpretation Centre, with some very moving stories of the heroics and tragedies of these two battles. All in all, visiting this area is a must for any history buffs out there. It was also here that we experienced just how wild and powerful the weather can be in Africa. Roasting away at 37 Celsius in the afternoon, the area was hit with a spectacular hailstorm of biblical proportions in the evening. Taking shelter in a restaurant it sounded like the Gods were taking it in turn to drum out a beat on the roof. When we returned to our hotel, our room had been deluged and our car was covered in hailstone sized dents, despite being parked under an awning. In true South African hospitality, our hosts re-housed us and washed our soaked clothes. Also, a good lesson was taken on board with the car hire - taking out worry-free nil excess hire avoided any penalty for the car damage. The next day it was back to sunshine and 30+ degrees! If we had had more time, we would have extended our stay in this region with a visit to one of the fantastic game reserves available in the region. A safari in KZN delivers stunning mountain backdrops, as well as the chance to encounter the Big 5 and the thousands of different endemic birds. My choice would either be a stay at the Thanda Private Game Reserve, or perhaps a visit to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, one of the oldest game reserves in Africa. Our trip though, finished with 2 more nights back on the coast at the lovely seaside resort of Ballito. Here we did encounter some poor weather, but the beaches were beautiful and great for a stroll, and there is a good collection of restaurants in the town, offering delicious fresh fish dishes, hearty meats and of course, South Africa's incredibly tasty wines - just wish they would ship a bit more of it over to the UK. All in all, as much as I love Cape Town and the spectacular Garden Route, this area of South Africa should not be overlooked and is well worth a visit. It truly reflects the astounding diversity of this country, offers terrific value for money, and has some of the friendliest people on the planet. A magical country.

A Visit to Captain Correlli country

17 July 2018

Having been captivated by the book and the (slightly cheesy) Nicholas Cage film, we had always wanted to visit the beautiful island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. So, armed with a headful of cinematic images, we headed there in late May. The 4-hour flight from Gatwick landed us at the small, but expanding, airport at Argostoli, and arrivals, luggage collection and car hire pick up was quick and painless, though getting used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road through tiny Greek villages took a little longer. The island has not yet succumbed to mass tourism and overdevelopment, and is a wonderful mix of wild landscapes, pine forests and lovely beaches. Usually, at that time of year the Greek island holiday season is just starting, so the weather can be a little unpredictable. Luckily not for us! Every one of our nine days was a blissful hot day, with blue skies and warm sunshine. For some of the locals it was apparently too warm - and they are used to it! We split our stay between two parts of the island. The first 6 nights in the south of the island, at Skala, and then a few nights at the end near the main city of the island, Argostoli, staying in Lassi. We chose well for both our accommodations. At Skala, we booked a split-level apartment at Natalie's Apartment Hotel, towards the top of the town, but great for an easy walk to the main street, with its multitude of restaurants, shops and bars. Very modern, with attentive staff, Natalie's gave us a spacious room, looking towards the sea, with a great balcony for thirst-quenching sundowners. As we were leaving, we sadly missed being able to use their newly opening swimming pool, with pool-side bar, which is a fantastic addition to this property. Our stay in Lassi, was at the bigger and more spread-out Silo Apartments, with a large, inviting swimming pool, with plenty of loungers and much-needed umbrellas to allow occasional shelter from the scorching rays. With an on-site restaurant, and easy access to the popular Makris Gialos beach, this was a great spot. Just a 10-minute walk took you to the main street with a fantastic choice of restaurants, serving everything from traditional Greek food- you must try the Kefalonia pies – to burgers and chips. And I can never get enough calamari. The beaches of Kefalonia are stunning; clearly no cinematography tricks were needed in the film. Crystal clear sea and golden sand all around the island, with the highlight for me being the beach at Antisamos. This was used as the setting for the Italian army camp in the film and is close to the re-built town of Sami, which became the location for most of film shots, with quite a bit of set designing to recreate 1940's Kefalonia. This does bring me to the only downside of a visit to Kefalonia. The devastating earthquake of 1953 destroyed nearly every building on the island, so most of the architecture of Kefalonia is 1950’s onwards. So, if it’s classic Greek buildings and historic temples you are looking for, this would not be the place to come. However, the warmth of the people, the amazing beaches and delicious food more than makes up for the missing monuments. There is one town that did survive the earthquake largely intact. A lovely boat cruise up from Skala took us to the far northern tip of the island, and the pretty fishing village of Fiskado. Here you can still feel the authentic atmosphere of an island that made it’s living from fishing. The village is still predominately made up of Venetian style houses, quirky narrow streets, and of course, some delightful restaurants lining the harbour. Well worth the diversion. To sum up, without the large resorts and big hotel developments and their necessary accompaniments, Kefalonia would probably not suit the holidaymaker looking for hedonism and parties, but with its stunning beaches, breath-taking mountains and valleys, great restaurants and friendly warm locals, it offers a variety of activities and holiday options for everyone; from couple looking for romance and serenity, to families who want to just laze by the pool or on the beach, or enjoy all the usual water sports. If you are looking for that special Greek experience, get yourself to Kefalonia before everyone else discovers it.

My customer stories

Sent by Amanda Randall

Adrian is a great travel counsellor and we use him for every trip we make. He spends time discussing our requirements and always comes back with options that are relevant and within our scope.

Sent by Marie Prior

Adrian, has been incredibly helpful and patient and efficient, no question was too bothersome, and his response time to answer queries and concerns, was immediate. I would certainly recommend Adrian, he is truly a Professional in his field. Marie.

Sent by Nigel Goodwin

Adrian is in our opinion superb at what he does. We recommend him to all in our area. He is very personable as well as being efficient ,quick to reply to requests and knowledgeable in his field.

Sent by Ann Moody

Excellent service from Adrian and I will certainly recommend him to my friends when the occasion arises.

Sent by Shonagh King

Adrian is extremely knowledgeable and efficient. I have no worries at all when my holiday is in his hands.

Sent by Sarah Starkey

Excellent service, will recommend to all family & friends

Sent by Tracey Campion

Superb service Adrian has been amazing and very patient with me. Thanks

Sent by Louise Carpenter

Adrian is always extremely helpful even when I go back time and time again for different options! He is very knowledgeable about the industry and I trust his recommendations 100%. I really appreciate the peace of mind and security that booking with Adrian and TC gives me and can’t imagine using anyone else.

Sent by Jacqueline Murray

Adrian is always helpful and knowledgeable about where we want to go. We have the utmost confidence that he will book us exactly what we want. He provides a great service under difficult circumstances.

Sent by Susan Willoughby

Adrian has been super at finding us a perfect family holiday. He listened to our requirements and nothing was too much hassle for him. He comes highly recommended.

Sent by Amanda Pardoe

Adrian was really helpful to us when planning our holiday to Croatia. He gave us advice on the areas to visit, how to get around the country and booked it all including a couple of day trips. I've always booked directly with hotels and airlines before but this was so much easier and stress free. A very good service.

Sent by Gloria Bristowe

To Adrian. Meeting with you and planning our holiday with our friends was very good and you reassured us when we asked lots of questions. lt was nicer to be able to meet you in one of our homes then a busy travel agents . Thank you

Sent by Margaret Cleverton

Adrian Walters has helped me in every way to arrange my visit to America. I feel l can travel with complete confidence and security, knowing help is just a phone call away.

Sent by Shonagh King

Adrian delivered such a fabulous holiday last year complete with 10 accommodations and various trips/activities. It all ran so smoothly we have booked with him again for next year. I recommended him to a friend who also booked with Adrian and said he did a fantastic job for her too.

Sent by Theresa Mitchell

Fantastic personalised service. Tailored to our needs and budget. Adrian is very professional and works hard to ensure his customers are satisfied

Sent by M Perks

We've just returned from a wonderful life time trip organised by Adrian. Orient Express to Venice then 4 nights in hotel, followed by 3 nights in Florence and fly back from Pisa. So why use Adrian and not just pop into a local travel agents to sort? I'd found the basics of most of the trip in the usual travel agents brochure but it didn't quite meet our expectations. So my 5 travelling companions agreed to let Adrian see what he could do. Easy brief!! We want the Pullman train from London, to enjoy lunch. Over to France and then board the Orient Express. Private water taxi to a 5 star hotel, rooms overlooking the Grand Canal, then 4 nights in Florence again 5 star quality hotel, then brief visit to Pisa before flying back to Bristol. Did he deliver? You decide. From the moment we boarded the train at Victoria, we were treated as VIP's. Luggage was all handled by porters or the concierges throughout. Complimentary champagne on the train, private water taxi with personal guide on board. First class hotels with outstanding front line views of the Grand Canal, and complimentary champagne and wine. Vehicle transfers were luxury Mercedes people carriers. To us Adrian, and in this case Kirker travel, who Adrian used, exceeded our expectations. The extras which weren't mentioned when we booked added to our enjoyment and gave the whole trip an unexpected lasting pleasure. Could we have done it cheaper by sorting it ourselves and for what was provided throughout? No I don't believe so. Yes he delivered.

Sent by Shonagh King

Thank you to Adrian for organising such a fabulous trip to Eastern Canada. We all had a wonderful time in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with many memorable moments. The Tidal bore rafting was a huge highlight in the Bay of Fundy and was probably our favourite experience. Hopewell Rocks near Alma were absolutely stunning as was the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton. Kejimkujik NP was beautiful and peaceful and a lovely place to canoe while a drive around Fundy NP taking a few of the walking trails was also a relaxing a beautiful day. The Fundy tides are a true phenomenon and I will never forget watching the tide change direction and rise and fall by 25ft. Seeing minky whales, dolphins and porpoises as well as bald eagles was such a treat too. Niagara Falls was also great in a totally different way - from the stunning Falls View room we stayed in to the firework cruise in front of the falls and ziplining down the falls - all truly memorable but another highlight for all of us was changing the colour of the Falls. We were the only 3 on the trip and Gene allowed us to have a quick go on his personal consul - not just the one for tourists!!! We made football team colours, red teardrops, country flags etc. It was a very special evening. Thanks Adrian for organising it all and for making it all go so smoothly - you did a brilliant job!

Sent by Bill Harvey

Adrian has been doing my long distance travel for 10 years now, starting with a previous employer. The fact that I moved with him is an indication of the quality of service.

Sent by Gillian Goodwin

Adrian has been very helpful in planning our family holiday in France. We value his wide experience of travel and appreciate having the many details involved in our trip taken care of so professionally.

Sent by Tracy Knight

Adrian has an ability to work out you as a person (s) and immediately gets what you want. Ever patient to moving goalposts, manages ones expectations mostly to do with your budget! He has huge knowledge about wherever you want to go and if he doesn't know he knows someone who does. We have recommended him to many of our friends and family and will continue to do so.

Sent by Joanne Haigh

We decided to go to the Seychelles. Not knowing much about it we thought we would involve the man that would. From the moment we made contact, Adrian was prompt in replying to us. He ensured he understood our requirements, then delivered on his promise of providing us with quotes within the hour. It was never to much trouble, even when we asked for additional hotels to be quoted. His professionalism, friendliness and knowledge is second to none. Totally re-assured we have booked our dream trip. Thank you so much Adrian.

Sent by Alec Murray

We have found that Adrian will always go that extra mile for you

Sent by Karen Gallagher

We would also like to say a big thankyou to Adrian Walters who put this brilliant trip together. Would highly recommend anyone planning a big trip.

Sent by Mark Randall

It was an absolute pleasure dealing with Adrian. I explained what we were looking for and he came back to me with the perfect holiday. It was what we were looking for and more! This process has been completely stress free and we will be using Adrian for our future trips.

Sent by Anthony Diggins

Quite apart from being a pleasant and competent individual, Adrian has brought a wealth of experience with him and I look forward to dealing with him for all my travel as I did in his previous role.

Sent by Steve Gallagher

Having booked a holiday through Adrian for a our trip to the USA in 2019, I can only congratulate him on his organisational skills, calmness and efficiency on ensuring that our complex journey plans were achieved with thought, cost effectiveness and enjoyment in mind. Certainly the stress levels that can occur in any holiday planning were removed, and he went out of his way to offer us all the potential services we needed such as certain documentation. Nothing was too much trouble and I would fully recommend him to anybody wishing to book a holiday of any kind to whatever destination being planned in people's world journeys. Thank You Adrian

Sent by louise summers

We had to book a very last minute trip to Norway for medical treatment and working with Adrian took out all the stress of booking flights and car hire. Adrian even managed to deliver our travel documents and boarding passes so we were ready to go in within 48 hours. I was always very skeptical about using third parties to book travel but this is the second time I have used Travel Counsellors and it's completely changes my perspective. We will definitely be using Adrian for our next trip. Many thanks

Sent by Warren OCallaghan

Thanks Adrian for all your help in booking my trip to Thailand for me and my two daughters. Adrian was extremely knowledgeable about all of the areas we were looking at and made some excellent recommendations to cut down on travel and cost. I wouldn’t hestitate in recommending him to anyone. He is extremely knowledgeable and professional in all my dealings with him. Will be back soon to plan the next adventure.

Sent by Louise Pett

We've just booked our honeymoon with Adrian and we could not be more excited! Excellent service, great communication, but above all - Adrian took our requirements, had a chat and then found us a holiday that exceeded all our expectations, in budget and handled all the paperwork. We will definitely use him again - would recommend!

Sent by Kenneth Williamson

Very happy with the service. Excellent knowledge base of all the areas we considered visiting and came up with exactly the holiday we were looking for, fitting both our criteria and budget. Will be recommending Adrian to our friends.