Based in Wokingham

Ben Burgess

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How many people can say they have their own personal travel consultant 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year that finds no request too big or too small and is able to be contacted any way that’s convenient to you?

Welcome to Travel Counsellors, and thank you for stopping by my webpage.

I’m Ben, I live in Finchampstead, just out of Wokingham in Berkshire and have over 15 years’ experience working in the travel and tourism industry so you can rest assured you are in good hands when booking your perfect holiday.

Originally from Cairns, Australia and now in the UK I have been fortunate to travel to some of the most amazing places the world has to offer.

I have travelled Australia extensively including everything from diving the Great Barrier Reef to exploring the outback, touring the wine regions, sailing the Whitsunday Islands and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. There is very little in Australia I haven’t done myself.

But my experience does not stop there. To date I have visited New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA (Hawaii, California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Washington DC, New York), UAE (Dubai & Abu Dhabi), Netherlands, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Israel, Turkey, Malta, Puerto Rico, St Thomas, St Maarten, Antigua, Barbados, St Lucia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. The list goes on and is forever growing.

At Travel Counsellors we have access to thousands of suppliers and the best available flights, car hire, tailor made holidays, weekend getaways, cruises, all inclusive holiday packages and travel insurance policies you will find. All perfectly matched not only to your budget, but also to your dream holiday.

When it comes to booking your holiday (or mine), I believe the journey is just as important as the destination. Whether it be a transfer from your home to the airport, a comfortable pre-flight airport lounge, a stopover for shopping or some advice on day trips and excursions. I will do all of the research and take all of the hard work out of it for you.

I am far more than just a travel consultant, I am YOUR Travel Counsellor. I am here to provide expert advice, confirm all of your arrangements and to make sure that everything from the planning stages of your holiday right through to the time you return back home is entirely stress free and exceed all of your expectations along the way.


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My Blog

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

36 Hours In Guangzhao

09 December 2019

Recently I decided to dash home to Australia to celebrate a milestone birthday with my family. Until recently flying with a Chinese Airline was almost an impossible task as you needed to organise transit visas with the Chinese Embassy and honestly, who needed all that extra effort? However, China have relaxed their immigration law allowing tourists enjoy their major cities for up to six days on a fee free ‘transit’ visa. Couple this with an unbelievable return Sydney flight £475, I would be mad not to take it right! After five days in Australia I boarded my 5th flight in as many days, onwards to Guangzhou, the third largest city in China and most commonly know as the manufacturing capital of the world. I arrived at 5pm, breezed through immigration, jumped in a car and started the 50-minute peak hour traffic drive to the Shangri-La Guangzhou hotel. A beautifully appointed hotel which had a resort feeling while being in the middle of the city. By this point I am tired having been travelling for what feels like forever. However with my limited time I know I must make the most of every minute which made me venture out. I took a short walk along Zhujiang River to ‘Party Pier’, a purpose-built space with clubs, restaurants, roof top bars and shopping overlooking the impressive skyline of Guangzhou. It was here I enjoyed a few drinks, live music and thought if I was with friends I could see myself having a great night in this lively area. I decide on an early night and catch a very cheap taxi back to the hotel for some much-needed rest. Breakfast and a coffee is served in Shangri-La's Horizon Club overlooking the river, whilst the city comes to life with the millions of people coming and going. First on my adventure is check out Shamian Island and it didn't disappoint, it was truly beautiful, a little island within the heart of the city dotted with colonial style buildings, green space and Thai Chi. With it being Halloween week, lanterns decorated the green space and gave it a real charming feeling. Next stop on my whirlwind trip around Guangzhao was the pedestrianised streets of Beijing Road. These were absolutely buzzing with people. Food markets, electronics stores, clothing shops and hawkers trying to sell fake watches and jewellery lined the streets. The food markets were an absolute delight filled with fruits, deserts, meats on sticks, insects, turtles and many things I couldn’t identify! One of the coolest things along these streets were the ruins dating back to the 1368-1644 A.D and a model of what Guangzhou looked like back then was really impressive. If only we could arrange time travel! After my day of exploring, I decided to head back to the hotel to enjoy the afternoon in the sun and a swim in the pool, that was until I discovered that swimming in the hotel pool required a mandatory swimming cap to be worn at all times... something I don't own or probably would ever pack for a trip to China. As the day came to an end, I ventured to a more local area and further from the city centre, where there was an abundance of restaurants serving amazing Chinese soups, Dim Sum and many varieties of meat. I sat down and enjoyed some Chinese Tea and Dim Sum before walking around, taking in all the sights, smells and sounds of these amazing food halls. My very brief time in Guangzhou was very enjoyable. Flying China Southern, something I’d put off in the past, was actually great. Their entertainment system was better than some of the more popular airlines I have flown was probably the biggest and pleasant surprise. I will absolutely be returning to China with China Southern again. Next time I will take some extra time to venture further afield into the Countryside and include a day in Macau, all easily done from Guangzhou.

Neon lights in an adults playground

07 November 2018

Wow, Las Vegas truly is the city that never sleeps, and I can first hand agree with their self-proclaimed title as ‘the entertainment capital of the world’. Las Vegas is a city which does not apologise for being what it is. It’s bright, it’s loud, it’s big and it’s in your face! The mere size of the hotels and themes they replicate is surprising! If you’re going to walk along the strip and take it all in, do plan for most of the day. Not only are the hotel complexes large but you will find amazing little places to stop, eat and drink along the way! Some of the cool new and exciting places I have discovered during my visits is the trendy and upbeat Cosmopolitan Hotel, which you will come to call Cosmo. It has vibrant bars around a multi floor crystal chandelier draping all around you, distinguished food outlets, the first one that pops to mind being Californian chain breakfast takeaway restaurant, Egg Slut. My top tip for Egg Slut though is to rise early for breakfast for this gem and be prepared to queue for at least thirty minutes but the potato mash and egg, their signature item, is honestly worth the wait. Pool parties! If I asked you to pen some thoughts on Las Vegas, I am certain this would make an appearance and let me say you are justified with the likes of Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay, Wet Republic at MGM, and Wynn Hotel Beach Club. These venues are attracting the hottest DJ’s and thousands of revellers to enjoy sun, pools, cocktails and incredible tunes. However, don’t be fooled, if you prefer a more elegant and sophisticated holiday, Las Vegas has you covered. The city is dotted with amazing Cirque-Du-Soleil shows, renowned artists have held residencies: Elton John, Cher, Celine Dion to name an amazing few while Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have just signed on to make Las Vegas their home for 2019. You will find Michelin star restaurants dotted along the strip whilst designer and boutique shopping never far when you consider Crystals Shopping Mall and The Forum Shops at Caesars. And when you’re finally ready to kick back and retreat to your hotel, my personal favourite, Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (previously the Mandarin Oriental). This elegant hotel in the heart of the city centre offers a non-gaming hotel, 300 hotel rooms and suites and the service standards you would expect at such a hotel. I have always found that the Las Vegas strip is so overwhelming it is easy to lose yourself amongst it and before you know it you’re leaving with so much to explore still. I always find it essential to choose one thing at least to do off strip and make the effort to enjoy. I have done a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon and let me say, when the helicopter flew into the canyon and I could see the sheer rock walls either side of the helicopter it truly puts this natural wonder size into perspective. One evening, I always take a short cab ride into Downtown Las Vegas and enjoy the bright lights and entertainment, the birthplace of Las Vegas as we know it today. Hiring a car is another adventure with fashion outlets on the outskirts of the strip or going to see towering brightly coloured rocks, an art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondione. This project was five years in the making and privately funded at $3.5million for completion. A few miles west of Las Vegas you will find Red Rock Canyon which encompasses 195,819 acres within the Mojave Desert and includes a scenic 13-mile drive through the canyon for those days where the desert sun is sweltering down on you or perhaps the night before calls for an easier day. This drive allows exploration of the highs and lows of the canyon from the comfort of an air-conditioned car. I truly am a firm believer that Las Vegas is a destination that is built to cater for everyone, the gamers, the partiers, those luxury city breaks and, surprisingly families can also enjoy this city. I will continue to visit Vegas as every year it changes, and I will continue to discover something amazingly unique about this city which continues to draw me in like many others back to this adult playground in the middle of the desert!

Cruising around the Caribbean

29 October 2018

Cruises, one of those holidays which always strikes a response of positiveness or apprehension, followed by a ‘it’s not for me’. It was two years ago when I was invited down to Southampton for a ship inspection aboard Celebrity Silhouette. A typical ship inspection includes a walk around a selection of room types; inside rooms right through to penthouses, a glimpse in the restaurants with one restaurant usually providing a delicious meal, same as a guest would experience and the chance to see first-hand all the facilities onboard which include bars, art gallery, shopping district, pools, spa, fitness area and a large entertainment hall to name a few. It is without saying each ship company caters for a different demographic and as a result the facilities vary to meet the demands of passengers. It was this experience that prompted me to book my first Celebrity cruise, a seven-day Caribbean cruise during December (some winter sun) and the second was a little closer to home taking in the Western Mediterranean. During a cruise, the great thing is you get to sample a little from each port of call, it’s a glimpse into the destination, perhaps taking in some main tourist sites or kick back and enjoy a now empty ship to yourself. I thought instead of talking about each destination, I would highlight the great features I enjoy about Celebrity Cruises which keeps me returning. One of the most impressive features of Celebrity Cruises which truly captivates me is the glass elevators which provide access to all the floors mid ship and provides an atrium from level three through to the glass ceiling on level 15. The journey itself reveals tiny coves to escape with a book and curl up for some needed personal relaxation time. Another excellent advantage I find on Celebrity Cruises is the renowned dining options from their complementary dining options to the additional purchase of specialty dining options, you honestly find something that truly impress. The main dining room is a great option if you enjoy the social aspect of cruising, dining on amazing food where menu changes daily and better still, the same people will be seated with you each night, making for some lasting friendships. For those special occasions, I have been into a few of the specialty dining restaurants and Qsine must be my most memorable. Where else do you order spring rolls, which are served in springs, the Indian tasting board is served in a towering wooden grid, sushi lollipops are quite literally lollipops! The moment you walk into Qsine, the décor reveals you are in for a quirky and mesmerising experience which is quickly reconfirmed when you are ordered a tablet to place all your order, but warned you keep clicking on food and it will keep coming. Let me warn you, plan to eat big, it all sounds so amazingly good, it’s worth an extra inch on your waistline, even if it’s just to see how it is presented!! One of the great things about being onboard a cruise ship, after dinner, it’s a quick dash back to your stateroom for a quick outfit change and before you know it your sitting in the theatre watching some spectacular entertainment, be it a Broadway style show, perhaps a comedian or a remarkable band for the night. Whatever the night, you can be certain there will be some great entertainment. Strangely, sea days are amongst my favourite, don’t get me wrong, I love exploring new destinations, but nothing beats sleeping in, eating breakfast on the deck and gazing over the untamed blue ocean for as far as the eye can see. It truly puts into perspective how small we truly are. These sea days are perfect to utilise the pool deck and partake in poolside activities hosted by the enthusiastic and energetic entertainment crew. Perhaps a more relaxing day is in order make use of the Canyon Ranch spa onboard for some pampering. However, you choose to spend your sea day, this is your day to enjoy! When I return home from my cruise, I know am I already counting down until my next cruise, 475 days to be exact, and I will be embarking with Celebrity Cruises exploring the South American coast taking in Rio for Carnival.

City Break : Amsterdam

29 October 2018

Amsterdam is a city which I believe has two very distinct personas. The first being the one that hits you upon arrival and built a global reputation: the red-light district, the café shops with the aroma, we will say of marijuana and the number of bars and clubs to support the ever-growing number of weekend getaways. The second and less obvious, but if you’re able to look beyond first looks is a beautiful European city, built around quaint canals with a charm like none-other, a city steeped in history and surrounded by countryside rich with natural beauty. My very first visit to Amsterdam was on a Contiki tour as I saw Europe for the very first time as young and keen traveller in my early 20’s. Amsterdam did not disappoint and my fellow Contiki travellers were treated to a backpacker style hotel on the outskirts of the city, a guided tour through the red-light district which is like nothing else I’d experienced before, followed by those who wanted to experience a coffee shop allowed to wander off whilst the rest of us enjoyed a local ‘authentic dinner’ Chinese at Sea Palace, which still stands today very central and prominent by the Amsterdam station. Sadly, for us, only one night in Amsterdam as the following morning was an early departure heading further into continental Europe. Since living in London, and Amsterdam a short 45-minute flight from most London airports I have been a couple more times to really embrace and Amsterdam. Upon my first return I stayed at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, which is a collection of six 17th century canal palaces on the Herengracht. First impressions really do leave with in awe of the décor, the service and little touches, which for me was to choose my scent I would like in my room after turndown. You choose your favourite scent presented under a cloche upon check-in. This level of service did not stop there, an elegant evening in the vault bar saw the cocktail maker ask what cocktails me and my partner liked, quizzed us on our favourite flavours and spirits and before we knew it were sipping on some truly delightful concoctions. The following day, he remembered us and continued to serve us in the same manner. The following morning, I sat in the lobby, known as Peacock Alley. I ordered an English Breakfast to accompany me whilst I read the newspaper. I will never forget this as when it was served, loose leaf, so the server knew when it has enough time to infuse the flavour, she delicately placed a sand time on my table and promptly returned as the last grain dropped. I was impressed and a true fan to the brand, Waldorf Astoria. During my most recent visit to Amsterdam, I stayed at a new hotel located in the heart of Amsterdam, The Dam Square. Hotel TwentySeven. This property is opulent, out of the ordinary, elegant. This all-suite hotel has been designed to impress, from the moment of arrival you are greeted with champagne and ‘welcome home’ this the one intention to make you feel as if you are at home. Upon entering the suite, the effort gone into the hotel small detail is evident. Each room has a separate sitting room and the most comfortable king bed I have slept in for a long time whilst staying in a hotel. The bathroom was divine, with an oversized cleopatra bath, steam shower, automatic toilet seat and changeable light colours to match your mood. The entire suite is controlled by iPad strategically placed around the suite. I was introduced to my butler should I have any requirements during my stay. Later the housekeeping manager knocked and introduced herself, again asked should I need anything extra to please reach out. Beyond this after leaving I was contacted by the hotel to ensure everything was in order during my stay and they look forward to welcoming me home soon. I mentioned earlier, Amsterdam is a beautiful, history rich city built along picturesque canals, and this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Both visits I have borrowed bicycles from the hotel and like a true local cycled the streets to take in the little back streets and found beautiful, independent cafés for a cappuccino and quick bite to eat before heading onwards to the bigger and well-known sites of Amsterdam. I have explored Anne Frank’s house, a story many know from the stories of hope during World War II; been fascinated by the arts and history of Amsterdam at the Rijksmuseum; The Van Gogh Museum dedicated to the works of Van Gough (rightly so) which is found in museum square where you can readily access the Stedelijik Museum and the Concergebouw both of which are on my itinerary for my next visit. Lastly, to lighten the visiting from all the history and culture, a visit to both the Heineken Experience and House of Bols cocktail and Genever Experience are a personal favourite along with a stop in at the Amsterdam Dungeon. As I mentioned, Amsterdam is truly open for all to enjoy in the manner most suited to you. I will most absolutely be returning, and I suspect it will remain a European city break as a hot pick with is easy access and abundance of activities amongst a beautiful back drop.

A gem in the middle of the desert

25 October 2018

Whilst planning a trip through California, I had a few days between being in Las Vegas and needing to be in LA for an onwards flight. Knowing the drive between Vegas and LA didn’t have a great deal to offer which I hadn’t experienced already I looked further afield and what a gem I discovered! La Quinta, California, is a beautiful small town nestled within the Coachella Valley with the Santa Rosa mountains creating the most incredible backdrop. To further my excitement, La Quinta Resort and Spa is truly inspiring drawing from the landscape surrounding the resort. A Hollywood royalty history stretching back to the 1920’s offering a tranquil escape to the celebrities, today it includes a Tom Fazio designed golf course (ranked within the top 100 US golf courses). The hotel offers unique classic styled casitas ranging from garden casitas and starlight casitas to beautiful casita suites with private courtyards. Each casita carries the heritage and design showcasing the history of the property and perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. This property is truly an escape I have now made my go to place whenever I find a spare few days I am in southern California. After a few days soaking up the charm of the resort, which I should mention is a ‘Waldorf Astoria’ managed resort, you will be ready to explore beyond the borders of the resort property. Within the town of La Quinta itself you will find ‘Old Town’ where there are some great little independent restaurants to dine and a vibrant and bustling coffee culture for those mornings when you want to be amongst the locals, if not only to people watch. A short drive away, and I would strongly recommend a car when staying in La Quinta, is Palm Springs (about 20 miles). Palm Springs is a cultural oasis within the desert. There is always something going in Palm Springs to spark interest. Again, Palm Springs is steeped with Hollywood legacy, a collection of Native American heritage amidst a collection of mid-century modern architect. Whether it be culture, entertainment, local shopping or dining, Palm Springs will deliver! My personal favourites have been two local hikes. The first and most interesting included breath-taking views over Palm Springs and surrounds whilst taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to Mt San Jacinto. Upon reaching the peak of the tram, you feel you have been swept from Palm Springs and the desert surrounds with lush and tall forests and a hint of cool in the air. I wish I packed a jacket! The second was the Andreas Canyon trail which is an easy two-mile loop along a quiet stream with ledges used by the Cahuilla women. Southern California must be a favourite destination of mine when I visit the United States, and upon discovering La Quinta and Palm Springs, I can honestly say I found a place I will recommend to those seeking somewhere to travel differently yet still feel the charms of a small town welcoming all. I know I will return to La Quinta Resort and Spa when the time comes to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities offer.

More than just an all-inclusive package destination

22 October 2018

I was recently fortunate to be selected as one of a small handful of UK travel agents to take part in a trip to Dominican Republic, hosted by the Dominican Republic Tourist Board. If, like me, the moment someone mentions Dominican Republic you instantly think of all-inclusive package holidays and Brits abroad - think again! Dominican Republic has so much more to offer than I had ever imagined. Our trip started off with a night at Casa De Campo, this property is huge! 7000 acres of resort, villas, restaurants, shops, marina and even a cinema. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, this hotel did not disappoint. Every room in the hotel is provided a resort map and its very own motorized golf buggy parked outside the room to get around. Within the property the activities are endless and include horseback riding, tennis, shooting, kayaking and wold class golfing (just to name a few). Dining on the beach at their newly built beach club restaurant was sensational. With the sound of the waves in the background the feeling you get in the restaurant is perfect, with a brilliant menu to match. The next morning, we travelled out to Puerto Plata in the north. Although a reasonably long journey by road (easily accessible by plane also), it was well worth the trip. Puerto Plata is very laid back, relaxed and provides hotels and resorts for all budgets. We were extremely lucky and were able to stay at Casa Colonial Beach & Spa and again, we were not disappointed. Casa Colonial is the perfect representation of what it means to be a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. From the beautiful scents the moment you walk in the front door to the spacious and well-appointed rooms and suites -this place has it all for that perfect, romantic trip away. This boutique hotel resort is located along a beautiful stretch of sandy beach and with so few rooms in the hotel it truly felt like we had the beach all to ourselves. If a pool is more appealing, the rooftop infinity pool and jacuzzi tubs all serviced by a fantastic pool cocktail bar overlooking the ocean is a must. From Puerto Plata to Samana we went, this time checking into the Sublime Samana Hotel & Residences. Another of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Sublime is truly something different. It’s the perfect location to truly escape and be alone while not being all that far away from the nearest town, restaurants and nightlife. This all suite property has 1 and 2-bedroom suites as well as 2 and 3-bedroom casitas. All beautifully decorated and well equipped with everything you could possibly need. All the rooms surround the large resort pools as well as being located only a few steps from the beach. A short drive from the Sublime Hotel is the town of Las Terrenas. With restaurants and bars galore, you can definitely have a fantastic meal and a great night (and continue on until early hours the next morning). The capital city, Santo Domingo, was our next stop on our whirlwind tour our Dominican Republic and into a couple of amazing hotels. Located in the centre of the colonial zone is Hotel Billini, I loved this hotel for its mix of modern décor and old-world charm with internal courtyards and lovely rooftop bar and pool. Every destination I travel to I am always on the lookout for that standout property, the one I cannot fault, with impeccable service and striving to be perfect in every way. In Dominican Republic, it was the Casas Del XVI. This property is so much more than a hotel. Made up of a collection of 16th Century houses within the colonial District, Casas Del XVI has a truly authentic look and feel about it. Either booked as a single room within the ‘houses’ or as an entire house, Casas Del XVI has everything you would look for in a luxury getaway including on call butlers, maids, private chefs etc. The list goes on. From professional cooking classes and private pools to downtime in the house reading rooms and lounges there is always something to do or the perfect little nook to hideaway from everyone and everything. This place is perfectly suited to the most discerning traveller as well as those looking for that something extra special. For the final part of our trip we made our way to Punta Cana, visiting several different resorts in the area including the Hard Rock Hotel, Now Larimar and Secrets Royal Beach. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana is an all-inclusive resort and the largest in the area with nine different specialty restaurants and 23 bars you are never too far away from a bite to eat or a cocktail. Every room in the resort is huge and almost all feature a hydro spa tub. Although the largest resort in the area, Hard Rock is very well spread out and includes a lot of activities, pools, beach club, Las Vegas style casino and nightly entertainment. So even at almost full occupancy, it doesn’t feel like you are in with the masses. In contrast to the huge Hard Rock Resort, we also spent time at AM Resorts’ three properties, the Now Larimar, Now Garden and Secrets Royal Beach. All the AM Resorts are all inclusive resorts and are built next to each other. However, they are all very different. Both Now resorts share their restaurant and entertainment areas and are perfectly suited to families, couples, groups etc whereas Secrets Royal Beach is an Adults Only property and features more intimate dining options. I am a huge fan of the AM Resorts’ all-inclusive offerings as they are so different to many other similar options. There are no limitations to the number of times you can dine in any of their a-la-carte restaurants, no restrictions to the drinks and cocktails you can order at the bar and best of all… no wristbands! With ample sun loungers, beautiful beaches and endless food and drink options there is no reason not to love these resorts and with three different resorts in Punta Cana there is one for all ages and budgets. Although I did find myself in some all-inclusive resorts in Dominican Republic, it was amazing to see that there are all kinds of other options as well and there is far more to do in this country than initially expected as being just a ‘fly and flop’ destination. Plus, the resorts we visited that were all inclusive, they were not the rowdy all you can drink resorts we see on tv, these had class, sophistication and amazing service to match. When I have been on these kinds of trips I always get asked If I would go back. In short, yes, I definitely would!

Marbella - Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa

26 August 2016

Set back from the beach, the Puente Romano is equidistance (for walking) between Puerto Banus and Marbella town. Its location is a gem. The hotel offers the perfect blend of tranquillity and isolation to bask in, with the option to step into the nightlife or go sightseeing. If you are looking for escape and relaxation you can get it by basking in the setting’s replicated architecture of an Andalusian village. It is an unusual feast of loveliness, sanitised in all its glory (the cleanliness is a marvel). The ideal option for those wanting a stress free, indulgent, no need to move week away. The ease of having a door to door airport to hotel pick up will allow you to dispense with car hire immediately, and give you a chance to change your mind set to which book to reach for next to the sun lounger. The start to the day at breakfast is a pleasurable affair that is worthy of the hotels five star rating alone. In fact the dining options are varied and comprehensive. With the added bonus of a truly impressive two star Michelin restaurant from chef Dani Garcia. A fairy tale of a dining setting, with its ambient intimacy of greenery and low lighting coupled with the vista of an open kitchen to view and explore. Dani Garcia offers both a tasting menu and à la carte. The addition of a gluten free café Celicioso is a bonus for coeliac or people choosing to go gluten free. However it may not be helpful to pop into the gorgeous Les Deux if you are watching your waistline! The ability to sample a variety of eating options only adds to the relaxation of the location because it allows you to bask in your surrounds. This is the perfect opportunity to utilise your location if, recharging your wellbeing and resetting the calm button, is a key factor of your holiday. It’s likely then the most stressful option could be booking a spa treatment. The next most taxing moment might be choosing between pool or beach side for lounging. The hotel has three pools to choose from with an additional children’s pool. The beach facilities are set across from the promenade, which stretches the length of the areas coastline, seventeen kilometres in total along the Costa del Sol. Towels are provided for the beds in a specific area, although it is a public beach. If it is a clear day there is an incredible view of the tip of Andalucía and Gibraltar with the added sight of the distance haze of Morocco, which is only eight nautical miles across from the strait of Gibraltar. The combination of location and weather add to the significant factor of Puente Romano being a fabulous destination for the discerning traveller. As much as it offers relaxation, the hotel facilities are a boon for families with the hotel’s free Kids Club for guests. It is an excellent location for tennis players, with its own tennis club developed by tennis legend Bjorn Borg, and perfectly placed for enjoying golf. The hotel also offers complimentary yoga lessons with a very talented Kundalini yoga teacher, Natalia. With a wide selection of rooms from double, suites, villas and specific family rooms there is plenty to delight for a good nights sleep at the Puente Romano Beach Resort.

Olive Oil Tasting in Marbella

26 August 2016

Cold pressed olive oil. Remember when you hunted it down? Looked frantically to get it for that recipe! Smugly nodded, yes it is cold pressed. Well, it seems we were all sold a pup. Apparently, according to good authority, it was a method last used by the then Arabs in 711. Yes that’s right the Gregorian 8th century. My good authority is the owner, David Gallarado of D.Olivia, a beautiful specialist olive oil shop in Marbella town. As I perch on a stool with an array of dishes with oil in front of me, I feel slightly cheated. It isn’t wine! Mind you given it was 11am on a Saturday morning so this is probably a good thing. My fellow olive oil tasters probably thought the same. Not knowing what to expect David cleverly asked questions to engage us in his talk on olive oil. The most surprising piece of information is the fact Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil. A staggering 55% of production compared to the 9% produced by Italy. Interestingly Italy is the major purchaser of Spain’s olive oil. Suddenly, it dawned on me, like the cold press scam, the marketing of olive oil is more dynamic than our real understanding or appreciation of it. The next known fact to be firmly dispelled is the notion that there is any issue when cooking with olive oil. A view supported by this article here from the Huffington Post. As David explained, olive oil is juice extracted from the olive. It is very stable, has good properties and can be used 4 to 5 times when cooking with it. No need to pour excess down the sink instead put it in to a jar or container to reuse. By now, I’m feeling fully equipped to be an olive oil expert, an excellent recycler and a champion supporter of the water companies. Then we really get down to the business of grading detail and taste. Whilst the grading of olive oil is straightforward; there are three qualities of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. Extra virgin is the best grade due to an acidity level under 0.8 degrees. This means there is the minimum level of fruitiness in this grade of oil. Virgin falls in between 0.8 to 2 degrees implying it is not so bad in taste that it require refining; but plain old olive oil is the stuff that is over 2 degrees and is not allowed for consumption, unless it is refined. It then gets about 15% of virgin olive oil combined with it to give it some colour and smell. Back to the tasting of the oils in front of us. In this respect our novice approach is obvious, ‘fruity’ is our best offering on anything when asked to describe the taste. Which fruit? Um, pretty stumped. However, the nose and the palate begins to improve and before you know it we are tasting some olive oils to die for and can tell which vegetables and fruit might have influence the taste or our nose. After the hard core method of sipping and slurping, the mood is relaxed with bread. The olive oil and bread combination hits the divine button! Tasting olive oil is a wonderful way to engage with something probably taken for granted, and we can now make wiser choices, in our selection of oils, when food shopping. Afterwards we enjoyed browsing the shop which has so many delightful little touches and great products to buy. D.Olivia is an incredible find in Marbella and well worth a visit. It was thanks to good local knowledge that it was discovered and it is a reminder to always get recommendations when staying at a good hotel. Olivia Posca and Ben Burgess, Travel Counsellors were guests at D.Olivia in Marbella town.

My customer stories

Sent by Enotria C

Ben has been of great value to my family, friends and business … Sincerely, Enotria

Sent by Maxine P

Always a relief to have my holidays booked by Ben. Fantastic service, tolerance for my ever changing mind, great ideas which align to me and family, seeing choices and options which are within our budget but most importantly, exactly what we want! Such brilliant service and nothing is ever too much.

Sent by Michael Moran

What an amazing service from Ben, we gave him the requirements and budget for our family holiday and he did the rest. He thought of things that i haddnt even considered and made traveling with a young child a breeze. The pack we received before we went with all the info was amazing and to top it off we were checked in with boarding cards printed. First class service that i will be using from now on. Cant thank you enough ben

Sent by Maxine Pitchford

Amazing service as always, can never do enough to help make finding the perfect holiday seamless and easy. Will be returning that's for sure.

Sent by Charlotte Keech

It's quite simple - bookings are always made accurately and most cost-effectively, and no ensuing issue which can, and sometimes does, arise due to schedule changes and just, well, life! is a problem for my Travel Counsellor Ben. He is always available and able to sort it out and I am so grateful for both his degree of in-depth, up-to-date travel knowledge and his eagerness for it to be used to our benefit.

Sent by C Chidgey

Ben is excellent with advice on anything and he is most pleasant to talk to on the phone.

Sent by Sarah Murdoch

Ben is the most patient and helpful travel agent ever.

Sent by D Ohm

Speedy, personable, efficient, accurate service!

Sent by Andy Pike

Ben is amazing! The best Travel Counsellor ever! Caring and very responsive.

Sent by Anita A

Just wanted to say a big thanks to you for arranging our flights and hotel for the recent trip down under. We had a great time and the hotel in Sydney you booked us was great, especially the view of the Harbour Bridge. Just trying to get over the jet lag now we are back home together with coping with the miserable British winter weather. Take care and thanks again.

Sent by J Goodman

Very helpful and superbly efficient and lovely to talk to. A real bonus for my globe trotting.

Sent by M Pitchford

Absolutely. Great bespoke service, extremely helpful and patient (as I am a complete novice). Everything was timely and the booking was spot on to what we wanted. Very excited about my fabulous holiday in September and will be recommending Ben for sure.

Sent by Carol Chidgey

Ben Burgess has been absolutely wonderful helping me choose my trip and explaining things I wasn't sure about. I have peace of mind with all his help. I would certainly have Ben choose any more future trips.

Sent by Michael Taylor

As always very professional and most helpful.

Sent by J Pearson

Extremely helpful. I wouldn't use anyone else. Ben always responds to any questions or concerns straight away. Wonderful service.

Sent by Maria McNamee

Ben is excellent! Nothing is too much trouble. He takes the time to find out what you want and then moves mountains to make sure he get's it for you. I have recommended Ben to friends, associates and family members.

Sent by Charlotte Keech

I continue to be amazed at the breadth and depth of Ben's knowledge all around travel, his speed and efficiency at delivering whatever request I have thrown at him and his constantly calm and friendly manner in doing so. I have complete confidence that Ben always gets the best travel solutions for me. His willingness to work whenever needed is also noteworthy and has been very helpful on occasions.

Sent by Mei-Yun Valdivia a l'Onions

I was grateful that you took the time to look into all the options for our flights. And your lovely friendly service. Thanks Mei-yun

Sent by Lyndy Lifford

We already do recommend you - service is personal and brilliant. Congratulations Ben.

Sent by Malcolm Rash

Ben always goes the extra mile.

Sent by Maddie Potts

Ben was extremely helpful and made the entire process of booking flights soooooo easy for me! I would definitely be quick to recommend him to any friends or family who are travelling!

Sent by Maria McNamee

I was absolutely delighted with the service provided by Ben Burgess and would not hesitate to recommend him to friends and family. I will be using him again!

Sent by Maureen Clackett

Ben is always helpful, comes up with good alternatives when needed and really gives us peace of mind!

Sent by Bev B

Thank you so much for arranging my holiday. It was a pleasure having you help me. I will definitely be recommending you to people when planning a holiday.

Sent by Clive Halliwell

I find my Travel Counselor Ben Burgess competent at what he does. This is not the first time I have used him to find my vacation and it will not be the last.

Sent by Brian Cottam

Ben is superb to deal with and goes the extra mile. His advice and recommendations are excellent.

Sent by Stuart Armstrong

Ben was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I would recommend him to others.

Sent by Helen Prebble

Absolutely amazing and efficient at all times. Great service and speed which is exactly what I need when trying to do so many other things at once. Dealing with Ben is a god send as I know be will get it done for me and also very knowledgeable about destinations which is a great help too. Very impressed and I will be recommending you to friends and family.

Sent by Rose Bishop

Ben is absolutely brilliant! I have come to rely on him to help me over the years with my trips both in the UK and to Australia. He always makes time to come and visit me so we can sit down and work out the best flights for me. I have been to other agencies in the past and none of them even come close to his friendliness and professional service and none of them do it with a smile like he does. I now look forward to booking my holidays. Thanks Ben!

Sent by Maureen Clackett

Always found Ben to be so helpful & patient. A pleasure to do business with him!

Sent by Clive Halliwell

1. Quick to realize what the customer is looking for. 2. Has good diction and so is easy to understand. 3. Gives the punter confidence and security.

Sent by Alisha Sahota

Ben is the most efficient Travel Counsellor I have ever booked with. I first booked with him when he worked for dial a flight and thankfully found him again. He is always there when you need him and gives you sound service and help. I will always book with him and have told friends and family to also. Thanks ben, you’re a star..

Sent by Ruth Melvine

Ben has been booking my holidays for the last couple of years and I'm not sure what I enjoy more, calling him for a chat or the holiday itself. As always...exceptional!

Sent by Jessica Pratt

Another fantastic holiday! I truly cannot thank you enough. Everything was perfect.