Sent by Harold Griffin
Bournemouth, Dorset 22/11/2023
Based in Bournemouth
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hello, I’m Ally, and I would like to thank you for visiting my webpage.
Honesty is missing in so many aspects of our lives and good customer service is rare. If you want an agent and a friend who really cares about every aspect of your holiday including all the finer details, then look no further.
I am very passionate about travel but more so about providing the best service to my customers to ensure that their holiday, no matter how big or small, is the best that it can possibly be. I specialise in bespoke upscale travel arrangements, but I am able to source almost everything. I do not charge for my services and receive commission from what is booked. If you are bargain basement and like to scour the internet, my business may not suit you - but if you like something special and appreciate good service, especially to long haul luxury destinations or a combination of destinations, not easily sourced independently, then I shall be delighted to help you.
Booking with a Travel Counsellor means you get 100% financial protection as well as 24-hour back office support too, so if the unexpected occurs whilst you’re travelling or abroad, there’s always someone on the end of the phone to sort things out. You know you’re booking with complete confidence and reassurance.
Please give me a call now. Thank you.
On our 3 night Lapland trip in January we got the chance to mush the huskies, what an experience!
At Travel Counsellors we believe the holidays should be a time to experience special times with friends and family.
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.
17 August 2023
We decided to experience a city break in Rome in March when the weather was cooler, there were less crowds and the prices were lower. We flew from Heathrow on a late flight with British Airways and arrived in Rome in time for a late-night snack and bed, ready to wake up early the following morning and experience this amazing city. We stayed at a lovely 4* hotel, Marcella Royal Hotel, just out of the main centre. This is one of our top seller hotel, it is in an excellent location with a roof top garden, there are lots of local inexpensive restaurants within walking distance and it is a walk away from all the main attractions or it is really easy to get a taxi from right outside the hotel. On our first morning we headed over to our pre-booked tour of the Colosseum with access to the Gladiator Arena. I would definitely recommending pre-booking a skip the line tour at any time of the year, even if it is quiet, as you do not have to queue. We met our guide just across the road from the Colosseum, this gave us chance to sit in one of the cafes facing the Colosseum and enjoy a cup of coffee with a fantastic view. We avoided the crowds and entered through the back door straight onto the arena floor, this was the most fascinating tour, we learnt all about the history and secrets behind the façade as we followed in the footsteps of those who fought in gladiatorial combat. Our guide was entertaining and engaging as she relayed stories and legends about the various sites. We then explored the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill – it truly was an unmissable experience. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the Trevi Fountain…big mistake!! It was 5pm and it was absolutely packed with tourists all taking selfies….quite entertaining though. If you want to see the Trevi Fountain the best time is very early in the morning, set your alarm and venture down before breakfast and you will have the most wonderful view and be able to take your own selfies in relative peace and quiet. We enjoyed a lovely meal on this first night at a local recommended restaurant close to our hotel. The following day we had a tour booked for the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and the various museums. We walked from our hotel early in the morning towards the Vatican, this took us across the river and into the walled city. We opted for skip the line again and were so pleased because as we rounded the corner to the entrance the queues were very long. We were able to go directly to the Vatican Museum entrance on Viale Vaticano and find our guide. We were all given a headset so that we could hear our guide speak about all the amazing works of art from the Papal collections in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Among the arts are master pieces from Michelangelo, “The Creation of Adam” and “The Last Judgement” in the Sistine Chapel, Rennaissance masters in the Raphael Rooms and Leonardo’s “St Jerome in the Wilderness”….we could have easily spent hours wandering around…but it was so busy! We had lunch just outside the Vatican and then took a walk to Villa Borghese Gardens which is situated north of the main city. You can visit the Villa Borghese Gallery, again using a skip the line, tour, where you will find a famous collection of sculptures and paintings by Caravaggio, Bernini, Titian and other Italian masters. After exploring the gallery, we had a stroll through the tranquil gardens and enjoyed an ice cream whilst appreciating a view of the city from the Pincian terrace. The gardens cover 80 hectares so wear good walking shoes. You can also hire a rowing boat on the lake. This is a great afternoon our if you plan to travel to Rome with children. Walking back from Villa Borghese gardens we stopped at the infamous Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo which is very close by and on the way back towards our hotel. There are 135 steps which lead from the Piazzo di Spagna to the French monastery church Trinita dei Monti which was built between 1502-1587. Bit of information if you plan to go in April……..in late April Rome celebrates its anniversary and the Spanish Steps are transformed into a sea of azalea flowers. We had the most wonderful time in Rome and just loved stopping off at the many pavement cafes and having a coffee and pastry, the food in the restaurants was amazing and every corner you take there is something different to marvel at. I would recommend visiting Rome out of season, we visited late March and the weather was sunny and about 18 degrees and there were vert little crowds, it was absolutely perfect.
30 April 2023
Wow, what an amazing experience. If you think that Lapland is just for children then think again! Myself and Dannie were offered the chance to spend 3 nights in Lapland, courtesy of Transun, to experience all that this magical country has to offer. We travelled to London Gatwick for our early morning flight to Enontekio Airport on a direct charter flight exclusive to Transun. Transun flies from 14 UK airports so there is always a departure local to you. Enontekio is a very small airport and our flight was the only flight of the day. We then took the hour-long transfer to Karesuando, a remote border village that straddles Swedish and Finnish Lapland, located some 300km inside the Arctic Circle. We checked into our hotel, the Davvi Arctic Lodge, a basic but very comfortable room, we were then taken to the store to be fitted with our thermal snow suits and boots, which definitely made you feel so warm in Lapland’s Arctic temperatures. The hotel provides full-board and the meals were very hearty and all that was needed to keep you full and warm. I didn't know but you need to eat a lot more calories in Lapland because of the extreme cold! I didn't need much persuading ha ha! We received a schedule when we arrived for all our planned activities and over the course of the next two days we embarked on numerous activities The first one was a 2-hour Northern Lights Snowmobile Safari, this was an evening excursion when, with the crisp Arctic sky overhead, we took our snowmobiles down to the frozen river, which runs between Finland and Sweden, to a vantage point in the wilderness where we witnessed the amazing Northern Lights. This was the most exhilarating experience and one we will never forget. The following morning we took our bus to do the Call of the Wild Husky Safari, the most amazing hour where you get to mush a team of excited huskies through the spectacular Lapland scenery. The huskies were so excited and could not wait to work with us. I "drove" the sled whilst Dannie relaxed in the back!! When we got back we enjoyed a warm mug of glogg..non-alcoholic! That evening we embarked on a Northern Lights Forest Trek, an hour-guided walk through the forest to a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the border-village of Karesuando. We did not witness the northern lights on this evening but it was still magical. The following morning we went to the Reindeer Camp where we spend 2 hours learning about the importance of reindeer to the people of Lapland on a visit to a traditional kota and herding corral. We then enjoyed a reindeer sleigh ride - a time-old mode of transport in these parts! We also took the time to walk across the bridge into Sweden, it takes about an hour and there is a little cafe just on the border which serves the most delicious chocolate brownies with coffee. You can also see the church where they filmed one of the first Coca Cola adverts. We did pay for an extra experience of a Cross-country ski school....I have never laughed, a fallen over, so much in my life!! We were taken for a 2-hour lesson through spectacular scenery, I spent more time on my bottom than on my feet, but it was such fun and good exercise. There are many extra experiences you can pre-book either before you go or when you get there such as a overnight stay in an igloo or Ice-Fishing. I thoroughly recomment a 3 or 4-night trip to True Lapland, it is a perfect winter holiday for everybody looking to catch a display of the Northern Lights, and also experience a host of once-in-a-lifetime Arctic activities, it is honestly like being in Narnia!
17 December 2022
As a group of 17 we departed Dorset in the early hours of the morning to travel up to Heathrow for our flight on British Airways to Reykjavik. Upon arrival at the airport, we were met by our private driver and transferred to our hotel, Storm Hotel, for check in and a free afternoon. Many of us chose to sightsee around the capital city and have a stroll along the waterfront. On the first night we enjoyed a delicious 3-course meal at Fjallkonan Restaurant, a restaurant in the heart of Reykjavík which is lively and casual and great for drinks and delicious food. At 9pm we strolled around to the harbour for our Northern Lights Cruise where we would maximise our chances of sightings on our search for Aurora Borealis away from the city lights as Northern Lights are best displayed under dark, clear skies. As we set sail out of Reykjavik there was a slight breeze, but it looked as though we may have a fairly clear sky. Very quickly we could see a green hue. This was only visible by cameras. As the night progressed thankfully the clouds moved, this allowed us to have a fantastic view of the night sky. We could see Mars, Jupiter and so many stars! The green hue we could previously see started to fade and with it so did peoples hopes of a great show. They were proved wrong! The northern lights put on a fantastic show for all of us. We could see green and purple lights that were constantly moving and changing shapes. Everyone was overjoyed and people could tick this amazing spectacle off their bucket lists. The following morning started at 8am when we were picked up from our hotel for our South Coast & Ice Cave Katla tour. Our small group headed south, through the ever-changing scenery towards the breath-taking south coast. Our first stop is Hvolsvöllur for some coffee and snacks for the day. The next stop was Vik, where we met up with our Ice Cave Guide s and climbed into our super jeeps and took an exhilarating ride through the private back roads to reach the glacier area. The first stop is at the front of Kötlujökull – the Katla outlet glacier. Kötlujökull is actually part of the famous Mýrdalsjökull glacier – the fourth largest glacier in Iceland. From here, we had a fun 10 to 15-minute glacier hike across the ice to explore our first ice cave! We marvelled at the magnificent colours and textures inside the ice cave, and the crazy shapes and crystal ice. Our amazing guides shared with us the history of the Iceland ice cave and explained how it was formed and also how the volcanic eruptions of the Katla volcano caused the ash and sand to combine with the ice, to form the incredible shades of black and blue that appear almost like ‘dragon glass’. After some time in the main cave, we then took another short glacier walk to hunt for hidden glacier canyons. After our ice caving adventure, we headed to our next destination: a private black sand beach. Finally, our jeep took an exciting detour through the wild terrain and we drove through the actual film set from Star Wars Rogue One. From here, we headed back to Reykjavik with a few stops enroute, one at the thundering Skógafoss waterfall and the second at Seljalandsfoss, a truly magnificent and picturesque waterfall, and one that you can even walk behind during the summer months. Before heading back to the hotel, we enjoyed black crust pizzas at a fantastic pizza restaurant in Vik. This evening we headed out to Matarkjallarinn Food Cellar, a Grill & Cocktail bar, situated in a 160-year-old building in the centre of Reykjavík to enjoy a three-course meal consisting of Icelandic brasserie style of food. Sunday morning began with a leisurely breakfast before making our way to the infamous Blue Lagoon where we enjoyed a 2-course lunch at the Lava Restaurant which is built into an 800-year-old lava cliff on the west bank of the Blue Lagoon. We then entered the Blue Lagoon, an otherworldly wonder in the heart of a volcanic landscape, geothermal seawater is 70% ocean water and 30% freshwater, enriched with silica, algae, and minerals. We received a silica and algae mask each at the in-water mask bar, hoping for healthy, luminous and ageless skin! This evening we dined at Grillmarket restaurant, a restaurant who put a lot of work into co-operating with the country's farmers and this is reflected in their menu. After a great nights sleep we were met the following morning by our super jeep & expert guide to embark on our final day’s adventures around the Golden Circle Our trip consisted of seeing three equally stunning locations in southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. Thingvellir National Park is an amazing site, steeped in history and folklore and surrounded by incredible geology. It has the honour of being the first of Iceland’s three national parks to be established. It is also the only one that has been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. It is a place where dramatic geology meets a millennium of fascinating history. Our second stop was the Geysir Geothermal Area, located within the Haukadalur Valley. As we drove here we could see the earth’s volcanic activity grow more intense. Steaming vents and chimneys are visible along the way and notably concentrated in the village of Laugarvatn, located halfway between Thingvellir and Geysir. This settlement has a spa that is heated by hot water currents beneath the ground’s surface. Its steam rooms sit on top of bubbling hot pots, which reach a sweltering 60°C (140°F). Our final stop was one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss waterfall. The waterfall was less than ten minutes down the road from Geysir and is located in a plunging, ancient valley and tumbles down two drops, from an overall height of 32 meters (105 ft). For lunch we stopped at Fridheimar where they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses. We had an amazing lunch of tomato soup and home baked bread. After lunch, my highlight of the holiday was to snowmobile on Langjokull, we spent over an hour on the snow at the top of the glacier. After arriving back at the hotel, we headed out to Sushi Social for another amazing meal. This restaurant offers a unique fusion of Japanese and South American cuisine combined with the freshness of Icelandic. This truly was a magical trip and one I will never forget.
31 May 2022
On 10th May, we travelled to Santorini, Greece for 8 nights. It was incredible and definitely one of our new favourite destinations. We flew from Stansted Airport with Jet2 and they were absolutely amazing. When booking our holiday, we looked at lots of options all around the island. The most famous areas being Thira and Oia which are well known for the white and blue buildings and the incredible sunset. However, because these areas are so popular, they came with the price and we realised that staying outside of here would mean that we could get more for our money. We ended up staying in a wonderful area of the island called Perissa, famous for their black sandy beaches. It is on the opposite side of the island which means we saw the sunrise instead of the sunsets, it also meant there were not crowds and that the restaurants there were half the price as they are in Oia and Thira. The whole island is only 35km, so it is really easy to get around, whether that is from hiring a car or quad bike or taxis. You can therefore, go into Thira and Oia to experience it without having to splash the cash by staying there. The hotel we stayed in was Kouros Village Hotel. This hotel is adults only and like many hotels in Greece, only offered a bed and breakfast service. We would recommend this hotel to all couples, older families or friends looking for a relaxing holiday, it was really amazing. For a couple of days of our holiday, we just sat and relaxed by the pool and had lunch from their pool bar which was excellent value and very tasty. Around the area of the hotel, it was a 300m walk to the beach where you could go swimming in the sea. The beaches in Santorini are black sand because it is a volcanic island that erupted hundreds of years ago, leaving high cliff fronts on one side and volcanic beaches on the other. The sea is completely clear and beautiful. Along the sea front it lines with restaurants, beach clubs and other hotels. There are so many places to choose from with most meals ranging from €10-€15. If we walked in the opposite direction from the beach, roughly 500m, there was a street filled with shops where you can buy water and snacks for your trip and more restaurants which tend to be a lot cheaper than the beach front. Oia and Thira are absolutely beautiful but their beauty comes with the high price of crowds during peak season and expensive restaurants. One taxi man told us that in the peak of the summer, a taxi drive just between Oia and Thira could take 2 hours because of the traffic. The hotels are also smaller as they are on the cliff face and are perfect for a honeymoon or anniversary holiday. Things to Do Hire a Quad Bike – Hiring a quad bike is definitely the best thing to do if you are wanting to explore the island. We paid €40 for 24hour hire on a 310cc quad bike, you could hire them for three days for a cheaper deal. We used around €10 of petrol for the entire day and it was a wonderful experience. We decided we just wanted to stay on the south of the island, we got recommendations of where to go from the lady that worked in our hotel and off, we went. We would recommend these places on the South: • Caldera Café: This café was a random spot that we found on our way to Akitiri. It was high up and overlooked the caldera. It would be the perfect spot for a sunset viewing. • Akitiri and the lighthouse: Akitiri is a small town and you can drive toward the lighthouse which is based right on the end of the island. It has incredible views and would also be another great spot for the sunset. • Kambia Beach: This was another random place we spotted. You had to travel about 1km down a gravel track which was fun on a quad bike, and you ended up at this beautiful, secluded beach which was surrounded by the large rocks of the island. • Other beaches along the coast (Red beach and White beach): There are several other beaches along the coast. We briefly stopped at the red beach and white beach on our catamaran cruise (read on for more information). • Pyrogos and the airbase: Pyrogos is probably one of my favourite towns in Santorini, it is small with cobbled roads and it is very Greek and pretty. From Pyrogos you can travel to the highest point of the island up to the airbase. When you get up there it is an incredible view, you can see the whole island from top to bottom. Catamaran Sunset Cruise – This was my favourite activity that we did in Santorini. We used a company called Spiridakos Sailing Cruises who were amazing. They were so kind and accommodating. The cruise was €120pp for the standard cruise, €150pp for the premium cruise and €180pp on the luxury cruise. We went on the standard cruise which included 3 stops, unlimited wine and a buffet for dinner. We stopped for a jump into the sea where the white beach was (the only part of the island that was untouched from the volcanic eruption), we then stopped at the hot springs on the volcano island. They were stinky and not extremely hot but still a wonderful experience. Our final spot was the other side of the volcano island where we jumped in and did snorkelling with the fish. After this we stayed and looked at the incredible view whilst digging into our delicious Greek buffet. The return back to port was the view of the sunset behind us. All round a wonderful experience. The premium cruise included unlimited beer as well as wine and the luxury cruise had a BBQ dinner, cocktails, beer and wine and they made an extra stop in Oia for the sunset. Hike from Thira to Oia – If you fancy a bit of exercise on one day of your holiday then this hike will be perfect for you, it is 100% worth the exhaustion. Overall, it is around 10km and can take anywhere between 3-5 hours. I would recommend going early in the morning if it is a hot day or go on a cloudy day because it can get a bit sweaty. Catch the bus into Thira (depending on where you are staying), it is €2 per person. Once you get into Thira, have a walk around and enjoy the beautiful views and cobbled streets. You then will start you are hike to Oia, the whole way you are spoilt with incredible views and the site of Oia in front of you seems so far away. It is an easy route to follow, however, we used this guide to help us: https://www.suewherewhywhat.com/hike-from-fira-to-oia/ Overall, Santorini was incredible, and it can be achieved both on a budget or in luxury. The whole island was beautiful and there was so much to see and perfect weather.
02 March 2022
I flew out to Finland with my mum on Feb 6th 2022 for a holiday of a life time. We arrived at Entontekio airport on the Sunday afternoon, the views as we flew into land were amazing and the temperature was -6. The airport is tiny, so it took no time to collect our luggage, be met by our Trans sun rep Jamie and get shown to our coach. On route to the hotel, we were given a brief precis of what to expect; the journey was only 15 mins but we stopped on route to collect snow suits and boots which were provided for all the excursions. We arrived at Hotel Jussantupa in the village of Hetta. The hotel is a small family run hotel and was open just for the guest on our trip. Check in was very straight forwards and in no time, we were in our room unpacking. The week itself was very well organised, everything was explained on the first evening after dinner. There was a timetable on the hotel notice board with the exact details of each day’s excursion as groups were broken down into 2 or 3 to incorporate everyone. Aswell as the excursions included in the holiday there were numerous ones that you could book independently through Trans Sun. The people on the holiday were lovely, aged from mid 20s through to late 70s. There were couples, friends and several people travelling alone who were soon made welcome and joined in with others. We soon got to know each other and formed a what’s app group to share photographs mainly of the northern lights. We also put stickers on our door if we were happy to be woken late at night/early hours if the northern lights made an appearance. The excursions included within the holiday were: A visit to the local Hetta museum. Huskey dog sled ride An evening trek into the local hills with an informative talk An introduction to walking in snow shoes A visit to a local Ice -hotel An evening Snow mobile ride A reindeer sleigh ride. All the excursions were superb. The huskey dog ride was my highlight, it was very informative and a real buzz physically controlling the dogs/sled yourself. It was done in pairs so you both get to have a go. You need to be a reasonable level of fitness to complete some of the activities, namely the snowshoe walking and the trek into the hills. The snow was very deep in places and it was easy to lose your footing. There was plenty of time to relax in between, my mum and I did a lot of walking and exploring covering 5/6 miles each day. It was so nice just to be out walking in the snow and seeing the fields of reindeers that residents owned. We were also only minutes away from an enormous frozen lake which was out of this world and great to walk along. The weather when we first arrived was -6 and it was very overcast so we did not initially experience the northern lights. On the Wednesday we had a 4am knock at the door, piled on our snow suits and ran outside into -15 conditions and were luck enough to see some northern lights. From that day on the weather got colder, the sun got brighter and the displays of the lights just got more and more magnificent. The temperature by Saturday was -30 but that evening around 10pm we really did get lucky and the lights were absolutely out of this world, with different colours and not just the usual greens. Those that had rooms out of the back of the hotel looking into the mountains were able to enjoy the display into the early hours of the morning. The hotel itself was lovely, the food was buffet style but there was plenty of it. If you have a big appetite you were able to have 3, 3 course meals every day! The village of Hetta was small but we found some lovely little coffee type shops so enjoyed local delicacies aswell. Alcohol in the hotel was very expensive, 17 euros for 2 beers and the bar closed at 8pm on the dot every evening. Not every supermarket is licensed so sell alcohol in fact they are very limited ones that do. We had one opposite the hotel so manged to get a nice bottle of wine for around 10 euros which we had to drink in our room; this was encouraged by the rep! Spirits etc… were very expensive it would be advisable to get a bottle at duty free to pop in your hip flask or have in your room! The snow gear and boots provided were brilliant but quite heavy; it’s not essential but I took my own snow jacket/trousers and snow boots to wear in between the excursions as it was more comfortable. I would advise layers, a definite snood or balaclava, thermals including socks and a really good pair of thermal gloves as my fingers were the first things to go as it got cold. I cannot recommend this holiday enough, memories that will last forever with my beautiful mum; we both loved every minute and would go back in a heartbeat. This is not the first holiday I have booked through Ally, and as always she was extremely helpful especially with the extra difficulties surrounding the COVID rules.
23 November 2019
I was fortunate to be chosen to travel to The Gambia and Senegal with Gambian Experience and experience these amazing countries. I have had many customers experience this destination and now it was my time! The Gambia is known as the “Smiling Coast of West Africa” and offers so much more that glorious weather and amazing beaches. There is a myriad of exotic wildlife, cultural experience, excellent restaurants and friendly locals. The Gambia enjoys year-round average temperatures of 32 degrees, and it is very affordable when you are there with a three-course meal with drinks from approximately £20 per person. The flight down to the Gambia was only 5½ hours long and we travelled with Titan Airways direct from London Gatwick, Gambian Experience charter flights with Titan Airways and it was probably one of the best charter flights I have been on, leather seats, plenty of leg room and meals are included. We arrived into Banjul at 4pm and with no time difference to the UK and weather at 32 degrees it truly is the ideal winter sun destination. We were swiftly met by our transfer guide and taken on a short transfer to Mandina Lodges – another wow factor. Hidden away in the African Bush on a mangrove-lined tributary of the River Gambia this must be the most peaceful place I have ever stayed. There are only nine beautifully designed lodges built on and off the river and I was very fortunate to be allocated a floating lodge. We had a lovely dinner before retiring to bed, I slept soundly and could only hear the birds and baboons in the background. We rose early the next morning and embarked on a canoe ride to see a vast array of birdlife, baboons and reptiles. After lunch we left Mandina and travelled north for our ferry over to Senegal. The ferry across to Senegal was a short drive and then a 30-45-minute ferry crossing, we were picked up by our Senegal guide on the other side and taken to Fathala Wildlife Reserve – another amazing experience. Set in 2000-hectares of a 6000-hectare natural reserve Fathala allows guests to experience a wide selection of Africa’s superb wildlife. The first animal we encountered was “Kevin” the rhino! This first evening we enjoyed a sunset cruise and a glass of champagne before heading back and enjoying dinner on the terrace whilst watching the animals at the watering hole. The following morning, we were up very early for a game drive where we encountered zebra, giraffes, buffalo, warthogs, monkeys and antelopes. The best surprise of all was being able to see the orphaned lion cubs – what an experience. After a very healthy breakfast we were picked up and made our way back over to The Gambia and spent the day looking at other hotels in the area including Sunbeach Hotel, Ocean Bay Hotel, Ngala Lodge before being dropped off to spend the next two nights at a favourite hotel with my clients, Kombo Beach Hotel. The following day we were up early for a kayaking tour along the river to spot all the amazing wildlife. Despite being Africa’s smallest mainland country, the Gambia provides great opportunities for bird-watching and is home to a huge variety of habitats which support over 540 species of bird. The knowledge of our guides throughout this trip was outstanding. After kayaking we were off again for hotel visits at White Horse Residence, Coco Ocean Resort & Spa where we had lunch, Kairaba Beach Hotel, Senegambia Hotel and lastly my favourite out of them all African Princess Beach Hotel. After returning to our hotel and getting changed for dinner we had the most amazing time at Ngala Lodge. People drive for miles to have dinner at this hotel and I can see why, fantastic food, wonderful staff and we finished off the evening dancing to the live band. The following morning, we had a couple of hours free relaxing on the beach before our homeward bound flight which departed The Gambia at 4pm arriving back into the UK at 10pm. We were very lucky to travel home in Star Class with Titan which, in my opinion, is well worth the money and includes a separate area at the front of the aircraft, extra room with a 2-2 seat configuration, access to No 1 Lounge at Gatwick Lounge at Banjul Airport, dedicated check in desks, increased hold luggage of 30kgs and enhanced meal service and complimentary drinks on board. Sunbeach Hotel – 4* all inclusive hotel which enjoys a fabulous location right on the beach at Cape Point. This hotel is an ideal choice for families and couples and is quite lively. Ocean Bay Hotel – 4* hotel with a beachfront location and a very large pool which is the focal point for many activities and evening entertainment, another excellent hotel for families. Ngala Lodge – 5* hotel and one of my favourites, perched high above a quiet and scenic cove overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This is a small boutique hotel for adults only with only 24 suites so is perfect for a romantic break. Kombo Beach – 3* hotel and one of the popular hotels in The Gambia due to being on one of the best beaches and having an infectious atmosphere with friendly staff and excellent entertainment programme. White Horse Residence – a beautiful home from home, with only 8 rooms this hotel is tranquil with stunning sunsets and is excellent for couples who are looking for an intimate, romantic, hotel experience. Coco Ocean Resort & Spa – Luxury Boutique Hotel offers a tranquil oasis whereby you can enjoy the green lawns, 3-tiered swimming pool, a superb spa and a fantastic stretch of beach. Prince Charles and Camilla recently stayed here in the Presidential Villa on their recent state visit to the Gambia. Kairaba Beach Hotel – Another one of The Gambia’s popular hotels this 4½* hotel offers a quiet and tranquil haven between the beach and Kololi’s busy nightlife “strip”. The hotel has wonderful gardens which boast incredible wildlife. Senegambia Hotel – a 3½* hotel located next to the Kairaba Beach Hotel in the heard of the bustling resort of Kololi is suitable for families and groups. African Princess Beach Hotel. – Located on a beautiful stretch of beach this new hotel is 4½* and offers ground floor rooms with direct pool access. Why the Gambia? There are too many reasons for me to list but with the perfect climate, only a 6 hour flight, no time difference = no jet lag, English is the official language and the people are so friendly combined with an abundance of wildlife and glorious beaches I cannot find an excuse not to go!
10 August 2019
For many reasons, my hubby and I decided on a staycation this summer to Cornwall. I used to visit Devon and Cornwall every year when I was growing up and had not been back since! I wanted to go back and revisit my childhood haunts and reminisce. We drove down early on a Friday morning, taking lots of stops for Bertie the Cockapoo to have a stretch and run-around, arriving at our lodge for the week. We chose Avallon Lodges, which was approximately 13 miles inland from Bude. I booked our lodge through Hoseasons and it was one of six lodges on a working farm right in the middle of the country - absolute blissfully peaceful and quiet. The lodge consisted of 2 bedrooms, lounge/kitchen and bathroom and had a balcony with a hammock! Our first full day took us to Tintagel and Boscastle. Tintagel is famous for its cliff-edge castle, long associated with the legend of King Arthur, and offers a day out that is as rich in adventure as it is in history. The castle straddles both the mainland and a weather-worn headland jutting out to sea, unfortunately at our time of visiting the access to the castle was shut due for the construction of a new footbridge, due to open mid-August. They are hoping that this will alleviate queuing time during the summer months. We did have a walk down onto the beach with Bertie who loved all the little rock pools. Boscastle is a tiny port with a beautiful natural harbour and quaint white-washed cottages. Before the railways, Boscastle was a thriving port, serving much of North Cornwall and is well known from all the news in summer of 2004 when it survived some terrible floods. We followed the footpath to the left of the quayside which took us to the Lookout, one of the most wonderful vantage points from which to see the rugged coastline. Much of the land in and around Boscastle is owned by the National Trust. Boat trips can be taken from Boscastle Harbour, down the coast as far as Long Island. During the breeding season you may be lucky to see razorbills, guillemots, and puffins. There are also seals in these waters. Sunday was stay at the lodge day as we had the men’s Wimbledon tennis final, Cricket World Cup final and the Grand Prix! A great day relaxing with a beer and a BBQ! On our third day we headed down into Bude, a seaside resort famous for its long stretches of sandy dunes and great beaches. We decided to head over the cliff top to Northcott Mouth, a beautiful walk taking in the scenery, once there we walked down onto the beach and back towards Bude all along the beaches with their many rockpools and rugged cliff faces This was a beautiful walk although we were lucky with the tide! Bude itself is a quaint little town with a good range of shops, restaurants and bars. We had a lovely brunch at Morwenna Cafe Bar at the top of the high street - thoroughly recommend. The next day we visited Widemouth Bay and had another lovely walk along the north Cornwall coastline. For many years we stayed at Widemouth Bay Caravan and Camping Park and we took a walk up there to see if it still existed and it did! Widemouth Bay is very long open bay popular with families and surfers and at low tide there are hundreds of rock pools to explore. Situated just 3 miles south of Bude and accessible along the South West coast path, Widemouth Bay offers fantastic conditions to learn surfing or bodyboarding, which is why many of the local surf schools are based there. It has also received the Blue Flag Beach Award 2019. Viewing areas with free car parking are located at both the north and south end of the bay so you can enjoy the fantastic panorama without getting your feet sandy! Surfers will experience a variety peaks from the north to the south end of the beach, breaking on sand or reef, producing spilling or heavy barrelling waves. You'll also spot the Black Rock landmark. The North beach is the only beach you can walk a dog. We did venture back to Bude and had a walk along the canal. A visit to Bude canal has plenty to do and a walk or paddle along the historic Bude canal is a must for any visitor. Parking is easy right next to the friendly Tourist Information Centre which is also an excellent first stop before you explore the canal for yourself. Several features along its length are unique in British canal history, a unique waterway, it was originally created for transporting lime rich sand to local farms. Today it is a place for fun rather than industry. Canoes, kayaks, pedaloes and bikes can all be hired easily. A really great day out. Our trip to Cornwall was very successful, the weather was very kind to us, and we came back feeling refreshed and well-rested. If you would like any details of holidays within the UK from staying in hotels, lodges with hot tubs, caravans or cottages please do get in contact - I do not just sell holidays abroad!
13 June 2019
Cruises are an absolutely fantastic alternative to a family holiday with the main benefit being that they are so easy! Cruising brings everyone together all in one place and still ticks all the boxes for every generation – even the fussy ones! They are great for multi-generational holidays with heaps of entertainment and activities to keep children of all ages happy, adult only areas for relaxation and show and shore excursions for everybody to enjoy together. You can even start your holiday from day one with exciting no fly cruises from Southampton, this means no lengthy car journeys to the airport, no tired children before you've even arrived at your destination, no airport delays etc plus you get to take over 90kg luggage per person! There are currently two ships sailing from Southampton in the Summer of 2019 and 2020 and they are Explorer of the Seas and Independence of the Seas in the Summer of 2019 and next year Anthem of the Seas will be here on her own. Cruises from Southampton enjoy fabulous destinations in Europe and the Baltic including Norway, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain including the Canary Islands, Portugal and Italy. At Royal Caribbean Cruises, family comes first. There are slides, pools and splash parks, a carousel, rock climbing, ice skating, surfing, ziplining, video games, bumper cars and so much more. That will keep Granny and Grandad happy! At the award-winning Adventure Ocean® Kids Club, the fun never stops. From babies to teens, anyone between 6 months and 17 years is welcome – giving you some time to kick back and relax. There are playgroups for toddlers, parades for kids and teen-only hangouts. The areas for different age groups are located closely – making it easier for siblings to be near each other if they prefer. From 6-36 months you can bring them along for a 45-minute interactive playgroup whereby they can enjoy all kinds of extraordinary music, fun & games. If you want to relay at the spa or explore on shore, then you can drop your little ones off at the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery (fees apply). From 3-11 years Royal offer three groups; Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years), Voyagers (9-11 years), all of which enjoy heaps of activities from sports and backstage tours to a heap of other activities which have been cleverly created for these age groups. Your teenagers can enjoy Young Teens (12-14 years) who can go active and test their strength on the Rock-Climbing Wall, then unwind with a movie. Older Teens (15-17 years) can make lifelong friends at pool parties and karaoke. There is also a teen-only hangout area with a disco for late night fun. Royal Caribbean are also embracing autism at sea and offer an autism friendly initiative for families living with autism, Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. This includes sensory friendly films and toys, dietary menu options, and overall autism friendly training for Adventure Ocean staff and more. Services include priority check-in, boarding and departure and special dietary accommodations including gluten and dairy-free. With almost everything included in the one price they are also very good value for money. From lunch at Johnny Rockets to dinner in the main Dining Room, family dining is fun and tasty for everyone. The main dining area, Windjammers offers a buffet style which is great for children with lots of variety or you can eat in the Main Dining Room where your every requirement will be taken care of by your very own waiter who will be with you for the duration of your cruise. If you have family members with any allergies or just picky eaters, then just let me know and Royal Caribbean will make sure that nobody goes hungry! When it comes to staterooms all ships have rooms to suit every type of family and budget from comfy interior rooms or luxurious family suites. If you’ve a child with special needs, the accessible rooms come equipped with all the little helpful extras for a comfortable and relaxing stay. Family rooms are set up with families in mind with plenty of storage, safe and a fridge or mini bar. Cots are available on request as well as bed railings. If you have a larger family or you want a mix of family time and personal space, then a family connecting suite is the one for you. With private bedrooms and bathrooms and a shared communal space, you get the best of both worlds. For an extra special fun-filled stay on Symphony of the Seas book the Ultimate Family Suite. This out-of-this-world suite has a games table, chalkboard wall, play area and hot tub but best of all there is a slide from the top bedroom down to the communal area! So, what are the best ships for families within the Royal Caribbean fleet? The newest and biggest ships of the Royal Caribbean fleet are Symphony and Harmony of the Seas, both have an impressive selection of family-friendly activities and entertainment – including four fantastic pools, 10 hot tubs, a 3D theatre, rock climbing walls, ice skating rink, two FlowRider surf simulators and a zipline. Anthem of the Seas also offers many amazing activities for the family and sails out of Southampton in Summer 2020. Every day onboard Anthem of the Seas is like embarking on a whole new adventure from roller skating at SeaPlex, bumper cars or circus school or FlowRider and North Star, the list is endless. If you want any information or quotation for a cruise on Royal Caribbean please do not hesitate to contact me.
05 May 2019
Expedition cruising is about as different to a traditional holiday at sea as is possible. On normal cruises, shore excursions consist of walking around cathedrals and museums, visiting beautiful islands in the Caribbean or visiting quaint Greek villages. Outings when expedition cruising mean visits to glaciers and waterfalls, fishing for piranha fish, tiptoeing through basking iguanas, learning about penguins and whales or watching out for polar bears. Another difference is general life on board is very casual. Dress codes are almost unheard of and jeans and t-shirts are more appropriate than dinner jackets and cocktail dresses. Rather than production shows, there are lectures about the environment and wildlife that passengers will encounter from teams of biologists, geologists, historians, marine scientists and other experts. There are expedition teams onboard who also guide trips ashore such as kayaking or camping in Antarctica and hosting zodiac cruises up close to glaciers, rainforests and wildlife. Expedition ships are also a lot smaller, holding anything from 200 to 500 passengers meaning they can navigate into little bays and convey passengers ashore by tender quickly and efficiently. In Antarctica, only ships with 500 passengers or fewer are allowed to offer landings and then only 100 people can be ashore at any one time. Many cruise lines limit passenger numbers to 200 and allow just an hour ashore, ensuring a smooth landing operation with the minimum waiting time. In the Galapagos, ships are not allowed to carry any more than 100 people and itineraries are carefully planned so there is only ever one vessel at each of the landing sites to ensure the wildlife is not disturbed. WHERE TO GO? Antarctica is top of the list for adventure cruises. It’s a long way to travel but visitors are rewarded with icebergs the size of houses, hundreds of whales and millions of penguins. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and most remote place on earth; a frozen world almost 60 times the size of Britain that spends half the year in total darkness and is cut off from civilisation by the Drake Passage - 1,000km of one of the most feared sea crossings in the world. Once Antarctica is done, it’s time to swap penguins for polar bears on a cruise to the Arctic. There’s lots of choice in the Arctic, with cruises around Spitsbergen, the nearest most vessels can get to the North Pole, and voyages along the coast of Greenland and through the Northwest Passage, the icy waterway between Greenland and Canada. A new must-do itinerary, the Northeast Passage, takes passengers across the top of Russia on a journey from Alaska to Norway. Those who prefer warmer climes can get close to wildlife in the Galapagos, where the animals have no fear of humans. The islands, part of Ecuador but some 600 miles off the coast of South America and ships of all sizes and quality sail around the archipelago, from small yachts to luxury craft, but none is allowed to hold more than 100 passengers. Most will visit two islands a day during a seven-night cruise, each time taking folk ashore in small tenders or inflatable Zodiacs to see the wonderful wildlife which has no predators and therefore no fear of humans. Or why not see gushing waterfalls, coral reefs and crocodiles in the Kimberley, a remote area in Northern Australia that’s the size of England but with a population of just over 40,000 people and a couple of roads that become almost impassable in the wet, between November and April, when up to 50 inches of rain falls. Only a handful of cruise lines sail here offering different and unique experiences every day that travellers with a sense of adventure will love. The Amazon rises in the Andes Mountains and flows 4,000 miles through nine countries in South America before emptying into the Atlantic. The river is so big that ocean-going ships can sail nearly 650 miles upriver from the Atlantic to Manaus, taking passengers on a real getaway-from-it-all adventure. You’ll trek through jungle that’s home to sloths, howler monkeys and colourful parrots, meet indigenous people, maybe kayak along narrow tributaries, and see piranha fish and caiman up close. The Mergui Archipelago is a scattering of 800 islands off the southern coast of Myanmar in the Andaman Sea. You can expect to see monkeys and tropical birds ashore, and whales and dolphins at sea. WHEN TO GO Antarctica cruises run between November and March, when much of the sea ice has melted. In November the continent is at its most pristine (but it will likely also be much colder); December and January is the time to see the most plentiful wildlife; mid-February to early March is the best time to spot whales. Cruises to the Arctic (that’s Spitsbergen, Greenland, the Northwest and Northeast Passage) run between June and September. In June and July, the days are long as the sun never sets. Galapagos cruises operate year-round. The hottest weather is January to May, when it is most likely to rain. June to December is dry and a bit cooler. The Amazon is warm and humid year-round (between 21 °C and 31 °C). High water season is December to May, low water from June to November, but this is rainforest so you should expect precipitation anytime. Ocean-going cruise ships are there in winter between December and March. Cruise lines sail in the Kimberley in the dry season, April to October, when temperatures average 30 °C. During the wet, November to March, temperatures top 40 °C and roads become impassable due to flooding. IS EXPEDITION CRUISING FOR ME? • Perfect for those with a sense of adventure keen to see places away from the tourist haunts. • Ideal for those who have cruised the Med, Caribbean and Baltic and want to do something different but not miss out on a few weeks at sea. • A ball for baby boomers who missed out on a gap year and fancy some soft adventure without having to rough it. • Spot on for those interested in seeing and learning about wildlife, nature and the environment. • Brilliant for teenagers who do not need constant entertaining. It’s not a cheap holiday, but an experience they will never forget. • Expedition Cruising is still not totally suitable for disabled passengers although the new generation of expedition ships might be more suitable than the older vessels still in operation but getting ashore will always be a problem. If you would like any more information then please call me on 01202 375180
07 April 2019
I was lucky to be invited to one of the launch days of MSC’s brand new ship Bellissima, sister ship to Meraviglia. The ship was christened by Sophia Loren in Southampton in March 2019 and I was fortunate to spend a night on board to see what the ship has to offer my customers. The ship accommodates 4488 passengers but with over 33,000 square meters of space for public areas, the ship is generously designed. We were welcomed onto the ship and were straight onto the indoor promenade which spans two decks and houses many great places to eat, drink and ship. This is very much the social hub of the ship illuminated by a dazzling 260ft long LED sky dome which displays atmospheric visuals and digital magic. In the evening this promenade came to life with street party vibes and a lively community spirit. On board there are a variety of different cabins and suites with options and budgets to suit everybody including family options for interconnecting cabins or cabins with bunk beds for the children. Furthermore, there are the duplex maisonette suites with private whirlpool on board as well as an extended MSC Yacht Club with numerous solariums, Jacuzzis and a separate member-only restaurant. One of her fantastic features is ZOE, the in-cabin, voice-activated cruise assistant. Simply say 'OK Zoe', and follow up with just about any question about your cruise and the equipment will deliver up your answer. MSC has forged a relationship with several big-name chefs, including renowned French chocolatier, Jean-Philippe Maury, who has his own chocolate shop along the Promenade, or Galleria Bellissima. Spanish Michelin-starred chef Ramon Freixa, who has his own restaurant, Ocean Cay, on sister ship Seaview; has a new-to-the-line, for-fee tapas bar onboard Bellissima, Hola! Tapas, on the main promenade. Specialty dining options include Kaito Sushi Bar and the Kaito Teppanyaki Restaurant serving sushi during the day and in the evening and offering a traditional Teppanyaki experience in the evenings. An American-style steakhouse Butcher's Cut, which has specialty meats from around the world and from Seaside and Seaview, popular French restaurant, Bistrot Atelier, makes its debut on Bellissima, again in the main promenade, replacing Eataly. The main dining room is divided in two by a corridor which features a stunning mirror and glass-encased wine cellar. The Marketplace Buffet is open 20 hours a day and will serve Mediterranean specialties and international cuisines - including world food, cuisine based on where the ship is and healthy options. On board there is a huge entertainment area which features a huge water park as well as a sports area, the Sportplex. Here, you can do sports during the day and during the night, the Sportplex will be changed to a disco. At the F1 simulator you can take part in exciting races and challenge the other travellers. At the bowling alley onboard, you can find out who is the best in throwing "strikes". Another highlight is the new and unique cooperation with Cirque du Soleil. Six nights a week, the artists of Cirque du Soleil will perform two unique performances for about 413 guests each. The main Pool Deck will feature a 25-metre pool and will have one of the most generous poolside spaces at sea (along with its sister). At night, the pool will be illuminated with special lighting. There is a 10-meter indoor pool with a dome that can be opened when the ship is in port or when the sun is out. The Aft Pool on Deck 16 will be an amphitheatre-type space with tiered seating surrounding it in a semi-circle; at night it is transformed into a dance space. The ship also has a large outdoor water splash park for kids. In my opinion Bellissima would suit multi-generational families as there is so much to do and with the option to interlink “cluster cabins” for family groups which can accommodation up to as many as 10 passengers this would be ideal for those larger families and groups. If you would like more information, please get in contact with me.
12 December 2018
My mother-in-law approached me earlier this year to enquire about taking my nephew and niece to Lapland. I booked them a 2-night stay in Saariselkä, Finland with Santa's Lapland and this is their story. “Thank you Ally for booking our amazing weekend in Santa’s Lapland Finland. We stayed at the Santa’s holiday Club, Saariselka, Finland. Nanna, Granddad, Mum, Dad and 10-year-old Charlie and 7 year old Ruby enjoyed every single minute and cannot praise the whole trip enough from arriving in Bournemouth airport to landing in Finland - the organisation was excellent. We all arrived on the Saturday lunchtime and were met by Santa’s helpers who entertained the children while the adults collected the luggage. We were then allocated our coach for the short journey to our hotel, stopping off on the way to collect our snow suits, gloves, boots and socks for our time in the snow. It literally took minutes to get the whole coach kitted out and back on our way to the hotel. On arrival we were given our room keys and set off to unpack and get kitted out in our snow gear ready for the toboggan slopes. We had a quick meeting with our Santa's helper and off we went. Sunday was our trip to find Santa, our time for the coach was 9.15 am and it was an amazing full day. We enjoyed a Husky ride, Reindeer ride, a show in an igloo, ice fishing and hockey and the children rode the skidoos. We enjoyed hot berry juice, pancakes and biscuits whenever we wanted to warm up, also a tasty and very welcome lunch was provided. Then our time arrived to find Santa. We were picked up in a snowmobile and set off into the forest and found his cabin. It was truly magical, and the children enjoyed every second and came away with such happy memories and a gift of a cuddly husky toy. That evening we put on our Christmas jumpers and enjoyed a gala evening with a Christmas dinner and entertainment. The Monday was our day to go home but we still managed to do a bit more tobogganing and enjoy the hotel's swimming pool. Thank you once again Ally and thank you for the reassuring e-mails when the possibility of no snow was highlighted in the media, we needn’t have worried it was just right. Maggie Case x
30 August 2018
I flew into Heraklion Airport on the Greek Island of Crete with EasyJet landing at 11 pm at night. Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, it was my 3rd time visiting the island which has always been a favourite. The island has two main airports, Chania on the West and Heraklion on the East. The East side of Crete is the most popular with many tourists flooding into popular destinations such as Malia, Gouves and Elounda. After a short 30-minute transfer I was safely tucked up in my bed at a small bed & breakfast family-run hotel in Anissaras. Anissaras is located 24kms east of Heraklion, 1km west of the bustling resort of Hersonissos and adjoined to the small village of Analipsi. It’s neither a village nor a town, just a place where several 5* all-inclusive hotels have been built including Tui’s Sensatori Atlantica, Mitsis Laguna Resort & Spa and Lyttos Beach. There are a few bars and restaurants but mainly hotels. Analipsi is a typical Greek Village with a population of just over 1000 people and here you will find a wider choice of bars and restaurants, this is where the Tui Sensatori Atlantica is situated. I spent many days lazing by the pool or down on the beach but also took the bus and travelled into Hersonissos and on to Agios Nikolaos. Agios Nikolaos is a medium-sized town with lots to offer. I spent the day walking around the different waterfronts as the town has three faces to the sea: the lake and port, Kitroplatia beach and the Marina. It has a unique feature called the “lake” which is a body of water connected to the sea by a narrow inlet, surrounded by cafes and restaurants. I spent a pleasant couple of hours here having lunch. There is lots of shopping in Agios Nikolaos and I found a lot to do with my time here. It is very easy to travel around Crete, I would recommend hiring a car and exploring this wonderful island which is home to 650 miles of coastline and many Blue Flag beaches.
30 August 2018
I’d won a trip to Disney World in Florida! I could not believe it and then the reality set in – Disney World in Florida with older teenagers, would it work? Do teenagers still want to go to Disney? We spoke as a family and decided that we would all love to go to Florida and experience Disney so on 26th July 2018 myself, hubby, Dannie and her 17-year-old bestie boarded our Norwegian Airways flight to Orlando for 11 nights in Florida. The flight on Norwegian Airways was fantastic, a brand-new Dreamliner equipped with a service we could not fault. We had pre-booked our seats and meals in advance, so we had nothing else to pay for onboard unless we wanted an extra drink or snack, the meals and snacks provided were excellent. 7 hours later and we arrived at Orlando Airport, the queues during the summer holidays were busy as expected but we were out of the airport and onto our Disney Express bus within 90 minutes. We arrived at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, checked in and were given our keys to our 2-bedroom family apartment which was situated in the “Cars” block. At Art of Animation, they have various themed blocks of rooms such as the Little Mermaid, Cars and Lion King (great for the children). We can’t say that it impressed two 17-year-old girls although they did blag the main bedroom with the ensuite bathroom, so they were happy! We had already booked our fast-passes for all the rides in the parks during the week and had a plan sorted. There is so much to do and see in Disney World that you do need to plan your park days, rides and where you plan to eat as during school holidays it can get very busy. The great thing about staying in a Disney hotel is that the buses run to all the parks and Disney Springs regularly, from early morning to late night, so you can quite easily do 2 parks in a day. Over the course of the week, we went to all the parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, both Water Parks and Disney Springs for a lovely dinner in Planet Hollywood. My favourite rides were Avatar and Soarin’, and my worst one which made me a bit green was Mission Space! After 7 busy, fun-filled days we packed our bags and headed over to the Car Centre in Disney to pick up a hire car to take us on the 100-mile drive to Clearwater Beach. We chose to stay in Barefoot Beach Resort in Indian Shores, a 2-bedroom condo which was perfect for the 4 of us. It was right on The Narrows strip of water which allowed us to us to fish during the evenings and watch the Dolphins swim past. The beach was on the opposite side of the road and was very quiet. We did venture to Clearwater Beach and spend the day there embarking on a Dolphin Watch cruise. We also drove down to St Petersburg beach and came across a fantastic area called Pass-A-Grille. It was a wonderful area which reminded me of Sandbanks in Dorset back home, perfect for a lazy Sunday outing. After the busy fun-packed days of Disney, we enjoyed 5 days of rest and recuperation on the beach - we had a perfect holiday!
18 June 2018
I was very lucky to win a place on a 7-night trip to Riviera Maya in Mexico. We departed from Manchester on a Thomas Cook flight and were lucky to be travelling in Premium Class. I was impressed and would recommend that you upgrade if flying Thomas Cook even if it is in one direction as all your food and unlimited drinks are included plus premium movies. We landed in Cancun and were whisked through customs very quickly and into our awaiting transfer to our first hotel, Dreams Riviera Maya which was a 20-25 minute transfer from the airport. We arrived at Dreams Riviera Maya and were allocated a Preferred Club Ocean View room overlooking the beautiful beach. The rooms were fantastic, with fully stocked minibar and amenities. We had the afternoon at leisure whereby we sat on our balcony and watched a wedding taking place. We dined at the Himitsu restaurant on our first evening which specialised in Asian food. The following morning I took a walk along with beach and had a look at two neighbouring hotels from the AM Resorts Collection: Excellence Riviera Cancun and Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun. Both were absolutely excellent and highly recommended. After a site inspection of the hotel and all that it has to offer we checked out and made our way to our second hotel, Occidental at Xcaret. We checked in and had our second site visit of the day around this vast complex. The Occidental Xcaret nestles in 200 acres of verdant jungle within an ecological and historical preserve once home of the Maya. We were given single basic rooms, but they were still very lovely and perfectly suitable for both couples and families. After our site inspection we spent a leisurely afternoon around by the pool. Our evening meal was at the a la carte restaurant which was situated in the Royal Level - this was absolutely excellent. The following day we spent most of the day at the Eco Park which is situated next to the hotel. You can either walk to the park or catch a little boat from within the reception area of the main hotel. The park is very large and as the weather is hot I would recommend having an inclusive park ticket included with your hotel stay and spending a couple of hours each day or every other day at the park. Here you can see many shows, swim with dolphins and Manatees and experience a wealth of natural wonders and eco activities as you delve into the mysteries of the Mayan world. After returning from the park we spent a leisurely afternoon down by the beach which is a man-made cove with gentle shallow water, ideal for families with small children. Our next hotel was a further 50 minutes down the coast to Akumal. We checked into the 5* adults only AM Resort of Secrets Akumal and first impressions were "wow". We were allocated the basic room and even these had the wow factor. As soon as we arrived we had a site inspection. The grounds of this hotel are quite narrow leading down to the beach but the way the hotel is set out would appeal to almost everybody. At the back of the resort is the reception area with many of the restaurants and bars plus spa and gymnasium. There are three pools, the first one you come across is at the back of the resort and is quiet and calming with very relaxing spa music playing. There is the middle pool and then finally the pool down on the beachfront which can be lively with activities throughout the day and live music, plus more importantly a swim-up bar. The hotel has a myriad of restaurants including French, Mexican, Asian and seafood cuisine. You have unlimited access to all the gourmet a la carte dining restaurants without reservation, unlimited international top-shelf spirits plus every other drink you can think of, 24-hour room and concierge services, pool and beach waiter service, daily refreshed mini-bar and endless activities and live nightly entertainment and also not forgetting free Wi-Fi! I absolutely loved this hotel! On the first night we dined at El Patio Mexican Restaurant and on the following night at Oceana Seafood Restaurant and I can honestly say that I could not fault anything about the food or service at all. On the second day we left the hotel at 9am in the morning and enjoyed a lovely morning visiting the Tulum Ruins which was about 15 minutes car ride from the hotel. If you are interested in Mayan history, then this is a must but the best time to visit is first thing in the morning before the sun gets too hot. We arrived back at the hotel just before lunch and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon by the pool. We also hired snorkels and masks for 45 minutes to swim with the turtles in the sea - a must for any holiday here! We left Secrets Akumal early the next morning to head to our last hotel - Grand Velas. Wow - this hotel was set in the jungle and consisted of three different areas. The Grand area is luxury on every level for adults only and a must if you're intent on spoiling yourself with the most amazing spacious suites with private plunge pool and stunning ocean views along with your own concierge/butler. The Ambassador level is beachfront and is conveniently located around the main pool and is suitable for both couples and families. Lastly the Zen area is situated in the jungle, less than a mile to the beach and again is suitable for families and couples as it is the ideal treat for peace and serenity. Families can be accommodated in family rooms which can accommodate up to 8 people and they also have access to a family pack which consists of stroller, highchair, tent, highchair, bottle steriliser etc. Amazing attention to detail. The kid’s clubs are absolutely amazing, offering lots of activities. The hotel has many restaurants and we were lucky to dine in Frida on our first night which is a world-class Mexican restaurant and Piaf on our last night which is an award winning French restaurant. There are lots of different activities to do within the resort and we were lucky to experience a mixology class, eco tour and eco-bites class. The weather wasn’t great during our stay, so we also experienced the spa and enjoyed our last morning with a Water Ceremony. This is usually $80 but it is included if you pre-book a spa treatment. Again, very well worth the money. I would thoroughly recommend this hotel to anybody who requires an award-winning world class hotel which offers the ultimate luxurious all-inclusive holiday.
07 November 2017
When I gave my 16 year old daughter the choice of where we would spend 4 nights in October half term I was not expecting Marbella! I had not visited mainland Spain before and my only experience was watching the The Only Way is Essex cast and Life in Marbs living the high life in one endless round of parties. We left Bournemouth at 9 o'clock in the morning on Ryan Air and within 2 hours had landed at Malaga Airport. With no transfer booked we headed out of departures to try and find the kiosk to book the coach for the 45 minute trip to Marbella. It was so simple, we purchased our tickets for 6.15 euros and after a quick coffee were on our way. We were staying at the 4* NH Marbella Hotel which on arrival was more than adequate for our needs. Lovely decorated and comfortable room, restaurant, bar and outside swimming pool. The weather was a lovely 22 degrees, and after dropping our bags and changing, we headed out to explore. The hotel is about a 5 minute walk to the beach and promenade, if you turn left you will reach Marbella and the old town in about 20 minutes, and if you turn right you will have a longer walk, albeit lovely all along the promenade, into Puerto Banus. We walked to Puerto Banus on our 2nd day and it took us about 90 minutes. On our walk into Marbella we passed the 5* Gran Melia Don Pepe which is absolutely fantastic with sea views and the ideal location. As we continued walking we passed lots of beach side restaurants and cafes until we reached Marbella Marina. Turning inland at the Marina and walking approximately another 5 minutes we reached Marbella Old Town which is steeped in history and typically Spanish. On one of our nights we ventured up here and experienced authentic Spanish Tapas with a class of Rioja! The following day we ventured into Puerto Banus with a leisurely 90 minute walk all along the promenade, passing many runners and walkers on the way. Puerto Banus has a marina full of expensive yachts, Ferraris are parked in abundance in the street, and the cafes and bars are full tourists watching the world go by. To drink and eat in Puerto Banus is a lot more expensive than Marbella due to the location and captive audience. We enjoyed strolling around but much preferred Marbella. Our four nights were excellent and I would definitely not hesitate to recommend this wonderful place to all types of customers, couples, families, hen weekends etc - there is something for everybody.
02 September 2017
We had just spent 3 weeks exploring Vietnam and myself and Danielle, my 16 year old daughter, decided to stop in Dubai to experience the destination and complete 12 hotel site inspections. We had an absolute ball and loved Dubai, totally different from Vietnam but they do share a similarity in the level of customer service and food are second to none. We stayed at JA Ocean View which is situated in a perfect position right on Dubai Marina, within walking distance of lots of shops and restaurants and the perfect beach. If you do use the beach though there is quite a steep charge to use any of the sunbeds or parasols. The hotel is a very good 4* standard with a lovely restaurant and rooftop pool overlooks the marina and Jumeirah Palm. A good choice for those who are on a limited budget but still want to be near to the beach and marina. Our first hotel inspection was at the Grosvenor House Hotel followed by sister hotel Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa. Again both of these hotels are situated on Dubai Marina and within walking distance of lots of restaurants and shops and the lovely beach. The Grosvenor House stands tall in two towers with a roof top pool and Le Royal Meridien has a prime position right on the beach with beautifully landscaped gardens, multiple swimming pools and direct access to a private beach. Both hotels feature a spa and award winning restaurants. The following morning we ventured over to the Palm to visit 5* Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, wow, what a fantastic property nestled on the quiet west crescent of the Palm. As a sister hotel of all the other Jumeirah hotels, you are able to have full use of all the restaurants if on a Half Board basis plus access to Wadi Wadi Waterpark. I would definitely recommend upgrading to a Club Room at this property along with Half Board basis. We then spend the remainder of the day at the Ritz Carlton lazing by one of the free-form swimming pools, the hotel again has a prime position with direct access to a private beach within the Marina area. In the evening we dined at Palm Grill restaurant which is situated on the beach - a fantastic experience and one I would definitely recommend. Again I would definitely recommend half board basis at this hotel with an upgrade to a Club Room so that you can take advantage of the Ritz Carlton Club Lounge. Two inspections on Jumeirah Palm followed the next day with a quick informal inspection at Anantara The Palm, a 5* property offering pool access rooms and rooms large enough to take families in 2-bedrooms suites. The rest of the morning and afternoon spent at the iconic Atlantic The Palm hotel and water park. This hotel really does have the wow factor, we turned up to find no less than 6 Ferraris parked outside the hotel, the hotel inspection was equally impressive with a full range of rooms catering to all customers and budgets. If staying at the hotel then all guests have free unlimited access to the waterpark on site. On our penultimate day, we drove off to the airport to see Jumeirah Creekside, an airport hotel owned by the Jumeirah group, a fantastic option for customers on a short stopover. We then proceeded to Jumeirah Beach Resort, a fantastic hotel situated right on Jumeirah Beach with fantastic views of Burj al Arab Hotel and Jumeirah Marina. Again this is a fantastic 5* hotel and I would definitely recommend half board basis with an upgrade to Club Room if budget allows as this will give you access to all the Jumeirah properties, 2 of which are within walking distance to this hotel. Our final day saw us back on the Palm at The One & Only the Palm - what can I say.....this hotel is for customers who like complete privacy, located on a private peninsula of Palm Island with a stunning secluded beach and privileged views of the Dubai skyline. It really is the ultimate luxury. We finished our stay in Dubai with a tour on the Yellow Boats, for 90 minutes we were taken around the Marina, the Jumeirah Palm, Buri Al Arab, and Dubai skyline - a fantastic end to a memorable 5 days in Dubai.
02 September 2017
After a long journey by coach from Bournemouth to Tilbury Docks via Victoria Coach station I eventually boarded Columbus at 4 pm on Friday 25th August. I was given my cabin key where I met my fellow cabin buddy for the next 3 nights and set off to complete the safety drill which is mandatory on all cruise ships before exploring the ship for the 1st time. CMV Columbus is a 3.5* ship but I was really impressed with the facilities on board. The ship carries 1400 guests and is classed as a small to mid size cruise liner by today's standards. The ship was refitted in August 2015 with further upgrading completed in April 2017. Columbus is very well suited to those who prefer small ship benefits and a more traditional experience. A group of 20 Travel Counsellors was on board to experience Columbus and all that it has to offer. We first met as a group at 6 pm for a Sailaway Cocktail Reception at The Dome which was located on Deck 14 followed by pre-dinner drinks in Tavernas and then dinner in the Waterfront Restaurant located on Deck 7. Dinner was a fantastic 5-course with many choices and as much as you could eat. After a long day, the majority of us retired to our cabins as we knew we had a busy few days. Up at 9 am for breakfast in the A La Carte Waterfront Restaurant, we had the morning at the leisure of which I decided to try out the gym whilst others took to the spa or pool areas. At 12 pm we disembarked for our pre-arranged Amsterdam City Tour and Canal Cruise. Amsterdam was fantastic, I have visited on many occasions but will never bore of this beautiful city. We met that evening at 6.30pm for pre-show drinks before making our way to the Palladium Show Lounge for "Back to the 80's" show. This was followed by Dinner in Fusion, an Indian restaurant located on Deck 12 - this truly was one of the best meals I have ever had and well worth the additional £14.99 cover charge. In true Travel Counsellors fashion, we all danced the night away in the nightclub eventually retiring about 2.30am!! The following morning breakfast was at leisure at the Plantation Restaurant, a buffet style restaurant located on deck 12. We then had free time to explore Antwerp before meeting at 3 pm for our tour on the Antwerp Beer Train. I loved Antwerp and will definitely return to spend longer in this cultural city which is full of historical buildings and lots of beer! We met a 7 pm for a Farewell Cocktail Party in Raffles before having our last dinner back at the Waterfront Restaurant. Again this evening we joined all the ship staff for a farewell dance in the Atrium before hitting the dance floor again until 1 pm. We docked the following morning at 6 am and after a hearty breakfast disembarked at 9 am. I can honestly say that I can thoroughly recommend this ship and cruise, fantastic for groups, couples or anybody who would like to get away for a weekend to see two fabulous cities without spending a lot of money.
16 August 2017
Travelling Through Vietnam This year’s family holiday was spent travelling through the unique and diverse country of Vietnam for three weeks followed by a stop off in Dubai on the way back. Our trip started with a lovely stay in the No 1 Lounge at London Gatwick North Terminal, a luxury I would wholly recommend! We then embarked on a 12-hour flight to Hanoi on Emirates via Dubai. The flight was excellent aboard one of Emirates new A380’s, we had seats 62ABC and they had lots of legroom and a widescreen TV, take off was smooth and it was very quiet! We arrived into Hanoi and joined the visa queue - we had not pre-arranged our visas before we left the UK and had gone down the route of obtaining a “letter of authorisation”, you must join the queue on the right-hand side first to give in your forms and passports and then wait for your name to be called on the left-hand side to get your visa – very straightforward and took approximately 30 minutes. TIP: we got off the aircraft and to the visa counter very quickly so we were near the front of the queue but there was a long queue behind us! Our luggage came through very quickly and we were soon out of the airport and into our private transfer to our first hotel – The Impressive Hotel in Hanoi. During this car journey, we quickly got to grips with the Vietnamese life-style by seeing and experiencing how busy the roads were with motorcycles coming at you from every direction. We arrived at our hotel which was situated in the old Quarter of Hanoi and were welcomed with drinks and fruit, we dropped off our bags and headed straight out to explore the unique streets of Hanoi’s old quarter. We spent the afternoon walking around the Hoan Kiem lake which was amazing, as it was the weekend all the roads were closed so we wandered around and watched all the street performers etc. Overall our two days in Hanoi were busy and hectic, we visited the war museum, a plight of Vietnam to the present day, a prison where prisoners were detained during the French Revolution and American POWs during the Vietnam war and the women’s museum which showcased Vietnamese women throughout the ages. It was very interesting and fascinating to learn about Vietnam's history and experience the restaurants in Hanoi and see the many places where you can eat very good typical Vietnamese food. Our next destination was Halong Bay, it was a four-hour drive from Hanoi which meant we got to see more of the country side and experience a little bit more of Vietnam. Our 24-hour trip on Halong Bay, travelling by boat (Paloma Cruises) through the mountainous stacks and stumps, was short but sweet and very full on with plenty of activities completed in the short amount of time we had. The food provided was absolutely amazing and it was our first experience of tasting all the different Vietnamese food and realising that it did live up to its name as some of the best food in the world. Activities that we experienced included exploring caves in one specific stack that was surrounded by a beautiful beach, kayaking (during a thunder storm!) squid fishing, Tai Chi, visiting a floating village and a cooking class. Once we’d got back to Hanoi we just had time to have a lovely dinner and then it was time for us to indulge in a new experience, an overnight train ride to Hué. We had booked a 4-berth sleeper for the four of us so we had a nice private cabin but the air-conditioning was on full blast all night so it was very cold and noisy and we didn’t really get much sleep. TIP – take warm clothing, take snacks and be prepared for little or no sleep! We arrived into Hué the next morning, at first glance it seemed a much quieter city than Hanoi and everything was more spread out so a lot more walking was needed to see all the famous landmarks. We visited the famous Citadel which is a large area where the various Vietnamese Emperors lived although a lot of the buildings had been destroyed in the Vietnam-American war. Our hotel in Hué had a lovely but extremely affordable spa where we had some amazing Vietnamese massages. Hué was interesting to visit and a must on a first-time vacation to Vietnam. The next stop was An Bang Beach in Hoi An, we were picked up by private car transfer and drove via the famous Hai Van Pass as featured on Top Gear Vietnam! On our way, we stopped off at three various places, a lagoon, top of a mountain and Marble Mountain where we went into caves and got to see ancient Buddhas. After a fantastic 3-hour drive, a definite must if you are travelling between Due and Hoi An, we arrived at our lovely home for the next 6 nights – The Life Beach Villa on An Bang. We spent these six days relaxing and recuperating whilst getting a tan in the beautiful Vietnamese sun. There are lots of different restaurants within walking distance of our villa and we ate some beautiful Vietnamese food. After 6 nights, we moved into the city of Hoi An and spent another four nights in at Banana Garden Villa which was closer to the town and allowed us to explore Hoi An. We used these four days to get some amazing new clothes made at a local tailor and eat yummy food at a small local restaurant which was within walking distance from our villa – a two course meal with beer for the 3 of us was coming in around £10! It was now time for us to move on again so we took another over night train to Hoi Chi Minh City, luckily this time it wasn’t as cold and we got a bit more sleep than last time. We arrived into Ho Chi Minh city 5 hours later than scheduled due to a delay but apparently this is to be expected on the Vietnamese railways and we were quite lucky that only one of trains was delayed. We checked into our hotel, Saigon Prince, and went straight out again on a private tour to Cu Chi Tunnels. Throughout our journey our local guide, Jackie, told us all about the history of the Vietnamese war and the way of life for the Vietnamese people during their 100+ years of war. On our way, we stopped off at a place where people who had deformities from the chemicals used during the war were employed making bowls, pictures and other beautiful objects with egg shell, Mother of Pearl and paint – most of the profits they make here go back to the workers. The Cu Chi tunnels were amazing; we got to go down tiny tunnels and went 100m through a tunnel that was used during the war, we also saw some of the machines that the Vietnamese used to trap the Americans. Overall it was a wonderful experience and we all learnt lots about the war and the history of Vietnam. After spending the evening in Ho Chi Minh our next adventure took us to the Mekong Delta by a local bus. We spent 3 hours travelling through the Vietnamese country side on the local bus with various stops at “service stations” and eventually arrived in the Mekong to be met by three motorcyclists ready and waiting to take us to our final destination. We had 24 hours at a homestay, Jardin du Mekong, near the Mekong River with activities including; travelling by mopeds, cycling through the Mekong Delta, cooking classes, foot massages, river boating and exploring markets. Once our 24-hours were up we headed back to Hoi Chi Minh City to spend our last day of our three-week holiday in Vietnam there. We visited a statue of Hoi Chi Minh, went to the Hoi Chi Minh Museum, visited the War museum and looked round some shops. Overall Hoi Chi Minh was a very different city to the rest of the country as it was more cosmopolitan and filled with high rise buildings and expensive shops, it was almost like being in a different country all together. The next stop was Dubai.
05 October 2016
My journey started with a Business Class flight on British Airways from London Heathrow to Rome. The flight was very busy but I was very impressed with the service and staff. We arrived into Rome and were transferred directly onto Regent Seven Seas brand new 6* ship Explorer. Wow, wow, wow what an absolutely amazing experience. We spend a good few hours touring the ship and straight away could see that the ship offered an inclusive and completely luxurious experience. Carrying a maximum of 750 passengers, all the cabins are suites and feature some of the largest balconies in the industry. At the very top is the luxurious Regent Suite, a two-bedroom, two and a half bathroom cabin that is absolutely out of this world. Then there is the dining – the food on board is outstanding no matter where you dine, but there are speciality restaurants which are included in the price. These include the signature steakhouse, Prime 7; Chartreuse, a Parisian experience at sea; Pacific Rim, a Pan-Asian speciality restaurant and the main dining options, Compass Rose and La Veranda. The ship features more than an acre of granite and an acre of marble, almost 2,500 pieces of art including work from Picasso and almost 500 chandeliers. Canyon Ranch Spa Club is situated on deck five and offers a selection of ultra-luxurious treatments. There are eight fully equipped treatment rooms and a private outdoor deck which surrounds the infinity edge plunge pool. My total experience on Explorer was one of total amazement and I could definitely see myself completing a world cruise on here! On day two we were transported back to the Cruise Port to spend our second day on the sister ship Navigator, a small ship carrying up to 490 guests. A very elegant and contemporary feel awaits you as you board the ship with a much more intimate feel. Navigator has had a major refurbishment this year with highlights including a brand new library, Coffee Connection self-service drink and snack bar; completely refurbished Compass Rose restaurant and La Verandah. All cabins on Navigator are suites with 90% having balconies. What stood out about Nagivator was its size. The ship was very intimate which makes it an ideal ship for destination-intensive exploration. Everything on board is close at hand and there is just enough dining and entertainment areas to keep you busy and interested. Regent Seven Seas is one of only a few truly all-inclusive cruise lines so absolutely hassle free when trying to work out how much extra money you will need to take with you. All premium alcohol, wine, spirits, soda, all gratuities, entertainment, dining, unlimited Wi-Fi, unlimited shore excursions and airfare are all included in the total price. I would totally recommend this cruise line to all.
06 September 2016
I have just returned from a wonderful family holiday on the Greek Island of Lesvos. Lesvos is the third largest of the Greek Island after Crete and Evia and is situated in the northern Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. The capital city is Mytilini and it is famous for its Ouzo. Lesvos is virtually unaffected by mass tourism of many other Greek Islands and is the perfect place for people to visit who want to experience the real Greece. We started our journey travelling on Thomas Cook from Gatwick at 6.40am on Saturday 20th August, the flight was excellent and after three hours we landed in Mytilini Airport. We had booked to stay at the Hotel Anaxos in the small village of Anaxos on the north-eastern coast. The transfer journey took an hour, travelling over the lush green mountains to arrive at our destination. Anaxos is a small seaside resort which is ideal for holidaymakers wishing to stay in a tiny resort. There are several Greek style tavernas and bars and also places to hire cars and motorcycles. The Hotel Anaxos is absolutely superb and highly recommended in the heart of Anaxos. We were welcomed by family owners Efi and Paul and their sons Tony and Frank. We were allocated a lovely room overlooking the pool. All the rooms are large and airy with a small kitchenette including a kettle! The hotel also provides a cocktail bar, lounge and restaurant which serves Greek traditional cuisine and local fish. We tried a few other restaurants in the area and you cannot beat the food and service at Hotel Anaxos! Many days were spend lazing by the pool relaxing although we did venture out to try the many water sports on Anaxos beach, a mere two minute walk away! Anaxos is also close to the town of Petra which has many shops, bars and restaurants and is either a short ride in a taxi costing €5 or a pleasant 45 minute walk. From Petra you can also catch the land train and venture a bit further to the stunning town of Molyvos. Molyvos is the tourist capital of Lesvos and definitely worth a visit. A taxi from Anaxos cost us just €11. The town is situated on a small mountain topped by the impressive Castle of Mithymna. The town is built of stone houses and shops which surround the castle and follow the coast to one of the most scenic harbours in Greece. It is a fully working fishing harbour and if you sit in one of the cafes or restaurants in the morning your will see all the fishing boats arriving in and watch as they unload boxes of sardines, mackerel, tuna etc. We visited Molyvos during the day to visit the castle and then again in the evening to have dinner at the harbour. I would recommend this island to anybody who wants to experience a real Greek holiday. There is an abundance of activities including castles and ancient sites, spas and thermal baths, traditional villages, birdwatching, monasteries and churches and for the more active cycling and hiking trails. Lesvos was hard hit by the migrant crisis back in the summer of 2015 and the island is still trying to recover. The people of Lesvos helped the refugees, rescuing many from the sea, giving them warm clothes and food and assisting them on their onward journey through northern Europe. The refugees have stopped coming but Lesvos has been badly affected by all the negative media hype. Even the cruise companies have abandoned the island. Please come to Lesvos and visit what I think is the most beautiful island in Greece, I promise you will not be disappointed.
06 September 2016
I was very fortunate to be chosen to visit Paris and experience two nights on Avalon Tapestry II River Boat up the River Seine. After an early start on a British Airways flight to Paris we were met by a representative from Avalon and transferred onto the waiting ship in Rouen. We spent two magical nights aboard before docking in Paris. Avalon Tapestry II was launched in 2015 and offers two full decks of unrivalled Panorama Suites each with 200 square feet and featuring wall to wall panoramic windows that transformed our stateroom into a unique open air balcony. There is a spacious sky deck with premium lounge chairs, shade system and whirlpool, two lounges, spacious open-seating dining room with full panoramic viewing, an outside viewing deck and observation lounge, fitness centre, self-service hot drinks centre with complimentary drinks and free Wi-Fi access. With Avalon cruises everything is included in the price including flights, all meals including beer, soft drinks and wine with lunch and dinner, excursions, gratuities and all transfers. On day two I chose to take one of the included day trips at Conflans to Napolean and Josephine's Chateau de Malmaison which was a half day trip with a fully guided tour around the house and grounds. This was the highlight of my trip. We docked early in the evening in Paris and after a luxurious dinner were able to go out and see the sights of Paris before spending another comfortable night aboard the ship. This was a memorable trip and one I would highly recommend.
17 October 2015
I arrived at London Heathrow for my 0840 flight to Zurich courtesy of Swiss Air. I had already checked in online so just needed to drop my bag and I was free to explore London Heathrow Terminal 2. I had the privilege of travelling Business Class on my outbound flight so with priority boarding we were on the flight with our complimentary small bar of Swiss chocolate in hand, all seated and ready for take off at 8.30, after a small delay we were air bound within 15 minutes. The service on board was excellent, a lovely breakfast consisting of bacon, scrambled eggs, tomato and hash brown, plus fruit yogurt and croissants and a choice of two delicious Swiss cheeses all washed down with two cups of tea from a China mug! The one hour 15 minute flight passes quickly with the help of the informative I flight magazine and free Sunday Mail newspaper. We touched down at Zurich airport at 11.25 local time. We then proceeded onto the Swiss rail system which was very easy and one of the cleanest I had ever encountered. We had to get from Zurich Airport to the city in order to change finally arriving into Andermatt at 3pm where we were met by a chauffeur from the 5* Chedi Hotel who transported our cases to the hotel, whilst we walked the short distance of 100m to the hotel. Upon arrival we were welcomed into the hotel by Sven with a champagne reception and then a tour of this splendid establishment. After a quick change we spent a leisurely night at the hotel restaurant with a mouth-watering Asian dinner, retiring to the lounge for after dinner cocktails. We met the following morning for an hour guided tour of Andermatt, this was absolutely fascinating, Andermatt is a very typical Swiss ski village with little chocolate box houses and hotels and lots of fascinating history stories. After our tour we checked out of the hotel and were all very excited for the next leg of our journey on the Glacier Express from Andermatt to St Moritz. This wonderful 5 hour journey meanders its way across the Alps passing lakes, over viaducts, through tunnels, the scenery is absolutely breath-taking. We travelled 1st class and enjoyed a sumptuous 3 course meal and wine. We arrived into St Moritz at 5pm where our transfer was waiting to transport us to 5* Hotel Walhaus in Sils Maria, a 15 minute transfer from the station. This hotel really has the wow factor, built in 1908, this family run establishment, currently being managed by the 5th generation, is truly a hotel with a difference. From the mountain side setting over-looking the lake to the traditional decor which spans the whole hotel. We were met by Patrick and Claudio Deitreich, the two brothers who are the currently manage the hotel. After a tour of the hotel which included the hotels private museum with artefact dating back to 1908, to the impressive wine cellar we retired to our rooms to prepare to dinner. This evening we were treated to a five course dinner in the hotels dining room, it was absolutely superb. After dinner we retired to the lounge for after dinner drinks in the company of the in house pianist. The following morning we were transported back down into St Moritz to await the Bernina Express, a rail journey which enjoys the scenery along the world-heritage Bernina Line. We disembarked at Bernina Diavolezza and took the cable car to the top of the mountain. Here we enjoyed a traditional Swiss fare to the Graubunden Region. There was a lot of snow at the top of the mountain but unfortunately the cloud was very low so we were unable to take in the spectacular views that we could only see on the many photos hanging around the restaurant. We were shown the many rooms which are available to book at the top of the mountain including the private hot tub which is available to pre-book. After descending the mountain we took the train back to St Moritz and a transfer back to the hotel where we enjoyed a few leisurely hours in the hotels spa. After another sumptuous buffet dinner consisting of local game we again retired to the lounge for after dinner drinks. The following morning I opened the curtains to snow! What an absolute delight, this totally transformed the landscape in a winter wonderland. We enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Val Fex, stopping along the way to take in the magnificent scenery of this part of the region. An afternoon transfer took us back to St Moritz for our train journey back to Zurich and our flight home. All I can say is that I was totally blown away with this country, not much bigger than Wales but with so much to see and do. I would recommend it to absolutely everybody - cyclists, walkers, winter sports, train enthusiasts etc. A must on anybody's bucket list!
19 March 2015
In early March, during one of the coldest snaps the city has every experienced, I was fortunate enough to be able to take my daughter for her 14th Birthday for an exciting 3 night “girly weekend” to New York City. Arriving on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow at lunchtime on Friday we hit the floor running and did not stop until our return flight on Monday evening. Staying in a relatively inexpensive hotel directly on Broadway, in a room overlooking the Empire State Building, and all within a 10 minute walk of Macy’s and Times Square we knew that we were going to have a fantastic weekend. In ‘the city that never sleeps’, tourists have the best in food and entertainment at their fingertips. The largest city in the U.S. is also one of the world’s most energetic. From a night in a museum to a street-food festival, this metropolis has it all. Home to more than one-and-a-half million residents, Manhattan is the heart and soul of New York. The street pulse is electric – everyone seems to run on high-octane energy and you’ll find yourself synchronising in no time. With no time to waste we headed to Times Square and onto the Rockefeller Center, where we soared 70 floors to the “Top of the Rock” Observation Floor for unobstructed 360° city views of the New York skyline at sunset. Unforgettable! With our 72-hour Hop On-Hop Off bus tickets in hand early on Saturday morning we ventured downtown (south of 14th Street). Quintessential Manhattan views abound – skyscrapers, water towers, cast-iron buildings – as do a plethora of boutiques, hip and eclectic eateries, and offbeat, intimate bars. We took in the sights of Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty. After a spot of lunch a trip to SoHo was on the agenda, home to boutique hotels, designer stores once found exclusively in the Upper East Side, and major clothing chains along Broadway (Zara, Top Shop, Uniqlo, etc). On the eastern fringe of SoHo, Nolita (from “North of Little Italy”) has a quaint, relaxed feel, with a healthy smattering of jewel-box boutiques and cosy bohemian cafés. Mott Street is the best for browsing, followed by Mulberry and Elizabeth. On Sunday morning we took a tour of the Midtown East and the Upper East Side home to Madison and 5th Avenue. This is museum territory, home to numerous entrances to Central Park (every New Yorker’s backyard) and seriously decadent shopping. Museum Mile is featured along a section of Fifth Avenue running from 82nd to 104th Streets, anchoring ten cultural institutions alone. Absolute musts include Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. We broke up our tour for a visit into Central Park where many New Yorkers spend their weekends. The Bethesda Fountain is the perfect base for people-watching. We ended this part of our tour with a visit to Grand Central Terminal visiting its magnificent marbled main concourse with its vaulted astronomy-themed ceiling (featured in a zillion movies) – a hive of activity at peak times. Monday morning saw us back on the bus for a tour of Harlem and the Bronx followed by a River Cruise along the Hudson River giving us another chance to take in all the sights and last-minute photography opportunities. No trip would be complete without a visit to the iconic Empire State Building, the queues were long but we were up on the observation floor within an hour before we finally said goodbye to New York. No doubt we will be back again before long!
03 January 2013
We were in desperate need of some winter sun so decided to head for the sun guaranteed resort of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt for a relaxing two weeks of bliss! After a flight just over five hours long with Easyjet we arrived safely into Sharm Airport. Our hotel was only a quick ten minute transfer from the airport so we were safely checked in and in our room within an hour of touchdown. We stayed in Shark's Bay which is a laid-back, relaxed area with stunning views of Tiran Island and is ideal for divers, snorkelers and swimmers alike. There is also an abundance of activities and entertainment in both the hotels and Shark's Bay shopping area. Even though our hotel was all-inclusive, which is very common in Sharm, we still ventured out on many an evening to enjoy the entertainment in "downtown" Shark's Bay, a short five to ten minute walk from our hotel. We embarked on a couple of day trips, the most memorable being Abu Galoum and The Blue Hole. We were picked up from our hotel early in the morning for a jeep safari across the picturesque area of Abu Galum where we stopped at a Bedouin camp to enjoy a traditional Bedouin tea whilst learning all about the Bedouin life. We then enjoyed a camel ride before lunch which was an experience but the camels all behaved impeccably with no spitting! After lunch we snorkelled in the amazing Blue Hole for a good hour or so - this was amazing. On the way home there was a stop in the unspoilt town of Dehab for some shopping. It’s a great day out with amazing sightseeing. The main shopping area of Sharm el Sheikh is Naama Bay which offers an array of shops, bars and restaurants. Most hotels in Shark's Bay offer a regular transfer into Naama Bay should you wish to visit. You can also take a day trip out to Cairo and the pyramids although it is advisable to fly rather than take the very long, long coach journey which I would not recommend especially if you are only away for a week. I would definitely go back to Sharm; it is a good holiday if you need to relax with guaranteed weather and a very reasonable price.
03 January 2013
What an amazing holiday! My husband was asked to be best man at his friends’ wedding which was to take place at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Did we need asking twice? No! We decided to stay with the happy couple in Disney and chose Sarasota Springs Resort & Spa which is a lakeside equestrian-themed hotel near the Downtown Disney area. We flew into Orlando and because we had booked a Disney hotel, had our transfers included with the Disney transfer bus. The whole seven days of our holiday was action-packed and as our package had included a 14 Day Ultimate Ticket with unlimited entry to four theme parks and two water parks. We didn't stop from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night, visiting a different park each day and sometimes up to three in a day! My daughter, who was nine at the time, absolutely loved it. She was tall enough to go on all the rides including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom, Soarin' at Epcot and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Best of all was the Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom. We left the last day to experience Blizzard Beach but only my husband was brave enough to try Summit Plummet; a 120 foot high water slide! Our friends were married on the third day of our holiday at the beautiful Polynesian Resort which provided a tropical paradise setting featuring lush vegetation, koi ponds and white sand lake beaches which provided a spectacular setting for their wedding photos. We couldn't come to Florida without experiencing one of the many shopping malls and it didn't disappoint us. We came away with a suitcase full of clothes, sunglasses and trainers, all a fraction of the price we pay in the UK.
03 January 2013
I have travelled extensively all around Australia but I think that if I had to pick a favourite, Darwin and the Top End would come extremely close. We flew from Adelaide to Darwin on a cold, crisp winter’s day in July, arriving into Darwin to a beautiful 30 degrees of pure blue sky. May to October is the perfect time to visit as it is the dry season and the majority of days are dry with clear blue skies and regular 29/30 degrees heat. On arrival we picked up our campervan and proceeded to our first holiday park in Darwin's city centre. Darwin has an abundance of things to do; we visited Aboriginal art galleries, the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Market and the chic Cullen Bay Marina and wharf. My husband ventured on a deep sea fishing trip returning home jubilant with his many catches much to the amusement of all our fellow campers - they had to help us eat all the fish! Upon leaving Darwin we set off for the Adelaide River where we took a cruise to see the acrobatic jumping crocodiles. We proceeded into Kakadu National Park, 250 kilometres east of Darwin, which is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art. We visited Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr Rock to view various examples of art. We also hiked to the top of Gunlom Falls, made famous in the movie Crocodile Dundee and onto Maguk (Barramundi Gorge), where a hike was rewarded with a swim in the plunge pools. Kakadu changes dramatically with the seasons and needs to be visited more than once to truly appreciate its dramatically different seasons. We based ourselves at a central holiday park in Jabiru whilst exploring this diverse landscape. Our next stop was Katherine Gorge (Nitmiluk) which is part of the Nitmiluk National Park. We enjoyed a leisurely cruise through the gorge having to get on and off different boats due to the low water levels common in the dry season. Our final stop before heading back to Darwin was Lichfield National Park which features an abundance of waterfalls, walking tracks and intriguing magnetic termite mounds. We spent many hours in the many waterfalls and plunge pools. Sadly our time in Australia had come to an end and it was time to return our campervan to Darwin and head back home. I would not hesitate to recommend this beautiful area of Australia; it has plenty to offer any age group or ability with options of self-drive through to fully escorted tours.
Bournemouth, Dorset 22/11/2023
Blandford Forum, Dorset 30/10/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 12/10/2023
Ferndown, Dorset 18/09/2023
Poole, Dorset 08/09/2023
Ringwood, Hampshire 28/07/2023
Weymouth, Dorset 27/07/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 18/07/2023
Preston, Yorkshire 14/06/2023
Sittingbourne, Kent 13/06/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 06/06/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 19/05/2023
Blandford Forum, Dorset 02/05/2023
Lymington, Hampshire 02/05/2023
Christchurch, Dorset 07/04/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 23/03/2023
Wareham, Dorset 16/03/2023
Dorchester, Dorset 14/03/2023
Wimborne, Dorset 14/03/2023
Poole, Dorset 09/03/2023
Ferndown, Dorset 02/03/2023
Wimborne, Dorset 20/02/2023
Ringwood, Hampshire 11/02/2023
Christchurch, Dorset 06/02/2023
Poole, Dorset 31/01/2023
Leyland, Lancashire 23/01/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 18/01/2023
Upton, Dorset 17/01/2023
Ringwood, Hampshire 12/01/2023
Bournemouth, Dorset 23/12/2022
Weymouth, Dorset 14/11/2022
Bournemouth, Dorset 14/11/2022
Verwood, Dorset 28/10/2022
Ferndown, Dorset 12/10/2022
Luton, Bedfordshire 30/09/2022
Poole, Dorset 12/09/2022
Cardiff, Wales 11/09/2022
Bournemouth, Dorset 20/08/2022
Poole, Dorset 14/07/2022
Blandford Forum 27/05/2022
Weymouth, Dorset 21/05/2022
Christchurch, Dorset 18/04/2022
Malmesbury, Wiltshire 09/04/2022
Blandford Forum, Dorset 25/03/2022
Bournemouth, Dorset 21/03/2022
Poole, Dorset 21/03/2022
Blandford Forum, Dorset 19/03/2022
Verwood, Dorset 07/03/2022
Bournemouth, Dorset 17/02/2022
Poole, Dorset 20/12/2021
Poole, Dorset 18/11/2021
Bournemouth, Dorset 12/11/2021
Blandford Forum, Dorset 09/11/2021
Blackpool, Lancashire 06/11/2021
Bournemouth, Dorset 27/10/2021
Poole, Dorset 06/10/2021
Holt, Dorset 24/09/2021
Christchurch, Dorset 14/09/2021
Verwood, Dorset 02/09/2021
Christchurch, Dorset 14/04/2021
Poole, Dorset 10/02/2020
Rayleigh, Essex 07/02/2020
Abu Dhabi, UAE 22/12/2019
Ringwood, Hampshire 08/12/2019
Poole, Dorset 06/12/2019
Chorley, Lancashire 19/11/2019
Alderholt, Dorset 22/10/2019
Blandford Forum 16/10/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 14/10/2019
Poole, Dorset 06/10/2019
Southend-on-Sea, Essex 27/09/2019
Christchurch, Dorset 23/08/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 23/07/2019
Poole, Dorset 23/07/2019
Poole, Dorset 23/07/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 30/05/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 17/05/2019
Ringwood, Hampshire 04/05/2019
Preston, Lancashire 12/04/2019
Verwood, Dorset 05/04/2019
Verwood, Dorset 02/04/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 25/03/2019
Bournemouth, Dorset 12/03/2019
Ferndown, Dorset 25/02/2019
Blandford Forum, Dorset 11/01/2019
Southampton, Hampshire 21/11/2018
Weymouth, Dorset 18/09/2018
Wimborne, Dorset 13/09/2018
Bournemouth, Dorset 03/09/2018
Basingstoke, Hants 13/08/2018
Bournemouth, Dorset 21/06/2018
Bournemouth, Dorset 11/06/2018
Bournemouth, Dorsey 11/06/2018
Ferndown, Dorset 06/06/2018
Sturminster Newton, Dorset 25/05/2018
Poole, Dorset 18/05/2018
Poole, Dorset 04/05/2018
Lymington, Hampshire 19/04/2018
Bournemouth, Dorset 05/04/2018
Poole, Dorset 29/03/2018
Christchurch, Dorset 26/03/2018
Wimborne, Dorset 27/02/2018
Bournemouth, Dorset 11/01/2018
Ringwood. Hampshire 29/12/2017
Poole, Dorset 13/09/2017
Poole, Dorset 03/09/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 02/09/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 29/08/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 29/07/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 23/06/2017
Christchurch, Dorset 16/06/2017
Weymouth, Dorset 07/06/2017
Blandford Forum, Dorset 02/05/2017
Blandford Forum, Dorset 24/04/2017
Christchurch, Dorset 13/04/2017
Ringwood, Hampshire 27/03/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 26/03/2017
Abu Dhabi, UAE 09/03/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 09/03/2017
Wimborne, Dorset 07/03/2017
Malmesbury, Wiltshire 03/03/2017
Blandford Forum, Dorset 23/02/2017
Bournemouth, Dorset 21/02/2017
Blandford Forum, Dorset 03/02/2017
Poole, Dorset 02/02/2017
Andover, Hampshire 18/01/2017
Aldershot, Hampshire 02/12/2016
Bournemouth, Dorset 15/11/2016
Preston, Lancashire 28/10/2016
Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh 29/09/2016
Corfe Mullen, Poole, Dorset 20/09/2016
Brixham, Devon 13/09/2016
Bournemouth, Dorset 04/09/2016
Blandford Forum, Dorset 20/07/2016
Poole, Dorset 01/07/2016
Ormskirk, Lancashire 17/06/2016
Wimborne, Dorset 10/05/2016
Blandford Forum, Dorset 07/05/2016
Ferndown, Dorset 10/04/2016
Chandlers Ford, Hampshire 09/03/2016
Bournemouth, Dorset 09/02/2016
Bournemouth, Dorset 02/02/2016
Dorchester, Dorset 30/01/2016
Christchurch, Dorset 28/12/2015
St Leonards, Bournemouth, Dorset 07/12/2015
Poole, Dorset 10/11/2015
Bournemouth, Dorset 15/10/2015
Bournemouth, Dorset 03/09/2015
Bournemouth, Dorset 03/09/2015
Ormskirk, Lancashire 20/07/2015
Poole, Dorset 07/07/2015
Ringwood, Hampshire 23/04/2015
Ringwood, Hampshire 06/04/2015
Ferndown, Dorset 20/11/2014
Bournemouth, Dorset 20/11/2014
Christchurch, Dorset 02/09/2014
Wareham, Dorset 29/08/2014
Bournemouth, Dorset 06/08/2014
Poole, Dorset 05/08/2014
Christchurch, Dorset 05/08/2014
Poole, Dorset 04/06/2014
Bournemouth, Dorset 22/05/2014
Poole, Dorset 24/04/2014
Blandford Forum 27/12/2013
Perth, Western Australia 22/10/2013
Ferndown, Dorset 10/07/2013
Christchurch, Dorset 03/07/2013
Bournemouth, Dorset 03/06/2013
Blandford Forum, Dorset 29/04/2013
Fordingbridge, Hampshire 10/04/2013
Blandford Forum 01/03/2013
Winchester, Hampshire 19/02/2013
Andover, Hampshire 01/02/2013
Weymouth, Dorset 22/01/2013
Blandford Forum 23/10/2012