Based in Hornchurch

Claire Bottone

It's Nice To Meet You

I look to create bespoke personal itineraries throughout the world. I have the knowledge and the ability to incorporate all variations of travel to give you the best experience of a destination, plus time to relax and enjoy your surroundings at the pace you enjoy.

For just you, you and a friend, you and many friends or for your next corporate incentive trip.

The trip you are looking forward to creating may be a simple beach stay or a short city break. You may want to combine two or more cities together by travelling throughout Italy or possibly Spain. Travel across Europe or the USA, maybe the Far East or Australia? Go island hopping in Thailand, Greece or Croatia perhaps? Or enjoy self-driving the Garden Route of South Africa or the islands of New Zealand. A private or small group tour through India, Japan or China awaits the inquisitive and Costa Rica, Malaysia, Lapland and Iceland the adventurous amongst you.

The Orient Express, The Rocky Mountaineer and many more incredible rail journeys enable you to absorb the sights and scenery around you whilst indulging in luxury. And the many styles of enjoying the oceans and rivers of this beautiful planet, departing from hundreds of ports across the globe; make the combinations of experiences open to you endless.

And because the majority of us can only travel one small part of the world at a time, there are years of magical adventures ahead.

That is why I think that travelling is the most wonderful thing in the world and creating memorable interactions with cultures and cuisines and landscapes is my complete passion.

'To travel is to live’ a phrase often said - I will totally agree with that.

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Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:

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My Videos

The TC Experience

4/7/2021

A bespoke poem for us by the great Tony Walsh - Enjoy!

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.

Good to get away in these times!

13 July 2021

We decided to grab a few days away to grab some sun and celebrate our wedding anniversary. Malta is a country that accepts most double vaccinated visitors without the need to show a negative COVID test, which we thought would be one less thing to do. Whilst I have plenty of times written down the requirements for my clients to travel and realised how daunting it can look on paper , with the NHS Covid Pass and PLF’s , Lateral Flow tests , and Day 2 tests all needed for a Green listed country, this was my first time experiencing it for myself.I can honestly say though, once you are organised, which is made easy with the links we have and the discount codes available, it really was straightforward and painless. We flew British Airways who currently do not have an onboard service in economy , but a TC friend tipped me off to the fact BA allow you to order refreshments in advance to be delivered to your seat, and so I was not without my usual in-flight prosecco ( or two). Heathrow T5 was quiet , not all restaurants were open , but enough were , and there were only short queues through security. If I felt any hassle from these differences to my travelling , it was quickly dispersed by the wonders that the islands of Malta offered us. The weather was glorious, sunny, and hot but with a good breeze. With only 3 full days to explore and with Covid restrictions in place, I had booked restaurants in advance. I would definitely advise booking excursions in advance as well if you can, to be sure of availability. We stayed in Sliema which is a busy town opposite Valletta with a huge harbour area that sees the sightseeing boats and ferries lined up. There are plenty of options to eat and drink: some really lively bars as well as some small intimate ones. There is no beach here, but there are a few beach clubs at an area called Tigne Point that do not disappoint: offering a great atmosphere , good music and great locations where you can access the crystal-clear sea from the rocks. St Julian’s next door with a more sophisticated nightlife , has a small beach and there are further beaches across the island including at the famous Golden Bay collection , all with sunbeds available and shades. We are both ‘foodies’ and Malta has a great selection of fine dining restaurants including Michelin star choices, but they get booked quickly so be sure to book in advance. We enjoyed great hospitality and outstanding cuisine at some fabulous restaurants in Mdina, Sliema and St Julians. To get around there are sightseeing tours by open top bus around the island visiting various key locations including the original capital , the walled city of Mdina, Valletta, the waterfront and the Blue Grotto , or you can take a full day boat tour around the entire island, as well as trips to Gozo and Camino. They use Bolt not Uber or taxis are also easily available. Some attractions are still not open , the San Anton gardens and the Malta Experience for example, so you need to check this with the tour desk for up-to-date information. Malta has so much to offer we really could not see it all in the time we had and so we most definitely need to schedule in a revisit!

Krakow

04 December 2019

Krakow, Poland is often thought of a place to stay so that you can visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum. You can take a full day tour from Krakow and spend a very reflective and informative time learning about the events that took place there. Krakow though should not be overlooked. Stroll through the cobbled streets lined with chocolatiers, patisseries and quaint stores full of local artisan produce that lead to the stunning Main Square. Take a horse and cart ride around the square and try not to be overwhelmed by the choice of eateries. Explore the beautiful Wawel castle and follow the Vistula for a riverside walk. For the hardy walkers , wander through the countryside villages to Kosciuszko Mound and take the circular climb to the top and enjoy the view! Krakow is well worth a visit, the food and drink is well priced, it is easy to get around and there are a wealth of discoveries to be made!

Outstanding Kanifushi

01 July 2016

From the arrival at Male airport our Kanifushi experience began. We were personally greeted in arrivals and swiftly but courteously escorted to our sea plane check in before being whisked away to the private lounge at Terminal A to await our seaplane departure. After a cold towel and a refreshing drink, a chance to check in at home via the free Wi-Fi! Just over an hour later we were on our way. Being the last drop it gave us a chance to nose at other resorts and how they greeted their guests. This just made the fantastic greeting at Kanifushi all the more outstanding. Personally greeted by the staff and the beating of the Bodu Beru we soon became a parade slowly making our way to the reception area and a welcome glass of champagne. After a short guided tour by golf cart from our personal concierge 'Maxy' we arrived at our room. It was luxurious with tasteful but traditional decor, ample space and amenities as I've never seen. They really think of everything here. Overlooking the beach and the Indian Ocean, our room was perfect with one of the best views 'from your bed' I've experienced. The personal service here is outstanding and you are made to feel that nothing is too much trouble - ask anything. Regardless of who you encounter, the guy who drives the buggy, the guy who serves the pool bar or fills your mini bar or cleans your room, the smile is genuine and the offer of help sincere. There are a choice of restaurants for dinner and lunch. The main restaurant 'Spice' offers beautiful selections buffet style and an a la carte menu on various nights during low season. The food is no less than excellent. The setting over the ocean and exquisite menu at 'Just Veg' allows you to enjoy the local sea life whilst sampling some of the islands finest dishes. The romantic Sunset restaurant overlooks the white sands and gently lapping waves and continues the excellent and personal service shown throughout this resort as well as again a fabulous menu. There are further options with the Tepinyaki restaurant and a dinner for two on the beach. At breakfast you can sit with the Maldivian breeze cooling you and the gentle sound of a flute playing. Marvel at the fishermen as they speedily throw their lines from the back of a passing boat and watch the Indian Ocean crash against the breakers to provide a gentle and calm pool beneath you frequented by fish, eels and even the odd baby shark. If this setting does not relax you while you sip on your morning coffee and orange juice I'm not sure what will. There is a Spa, a gym, kids club, dive centre, activity centre, and daily excursions and at 'The Liquid' you can take in some late night tunes if all that relaxing hasn't worn you out. To be honest we never made it that late! This place really has something for everyone and I will thoroughly recommend it. Well done Kanifushi and well done Atmosphere. I look forward to the imminent opening of Atmosphere's newest member 'Ozen' in July 2016.

We can do it all!

04 June 2015

So we all know how the 'Holiday' conversation starts at the dinner table .. 'So where shall we go for our holiday next year kids?' Having spent the last few years at a luxury All Inclusive hotel in Turkey that really did tick all of the boxes , I had braced myself for ' Lets go back' But it never came. Instead an array of requests started to emerge from my children's mouths and soon my husband joined in : *I want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower *I fancy somewhere simple on the beach - Greece maybe, with restaurants to walk out to of an evening *I want to go to Disneyland ! *Italy - Tuscany really, those rolling hills and vineyards *I have always wanted to go to Florence *Rome , Definitely Rome - We could see where the gladiators fought ! Now in an average household this may have erupted into a major family argument with each member defending their suggestion. But in this case I found myself literally straightening in the chair as if to physically rise to the challenge. 'No problem' I said 'We can do that - We can do them all!' And we did! And what a marvelous time we had! Firstly we took the morning Eurostar to Paris linked onto the metro to our wonderful hotel for a 2 nights stay in Notre Dame Des Champs. We ate lunch on the first floor of the Eiffel tower and explored Paris by open air bus, looked for Quasimodo at Notre Dame and tied a lock to the bridge at Ponts Des Arts. Watched the world go by in a Parisian square and found the best 'Pommes Frites' in the world apparently (According to my youngest son) The next day we took the RER to Marne La Vallee for Disneyland - A very simple trip that took just over an hour. We ate at Chez Remys, took in the parades and shows and rollercoasters and all that is the wonder of Disneyland. We flew to Bologna the morning after. A small town in northern Italy famed for its Bolognese sauce. We certainly acclimatized ourselves quickly enough with the Italian food and a couple of relaxing days with long lunches and exploring the churches and squares this charming town has to offer was a welcome wind down. We wish we had stayed longer in Florence our next stop, we took the train from Bologna and we were there for lunch. Our simple but central hotel was perfect. The kids loved climbing the Duomo, and we went through the Tuscan hillsides to a Vineyard for lunch. We visited the magical town of Siena and stopped by the Leaning Tower of Pisa where everyone filled their social media pages with the tower in their pocket, in an ice cream cone, pushing it over etc. From Florence to Rome, again by train, again simple fast and punctual. And Rome was amazing for us all! The icing on the cake was the VIP tour of the Colosseum with access to the third tier and underground tunnels all that was missing was Russell Crowe (Or maybe that was just me?) After 10 days of excitement it was time to hit the beach and we were all ready for some real relaxation. Our early flight to Santorini was forgiven as soon as we arrived at our hotel by the sea, where Yiannis the owner offered us a very cold Mythos beer and a swim in the inviting pool. Santorini is a place everybody should visit and will remain very special I think in all of our family's hearts. There are not many places left where you can wander out of an evening to a wealth of restaurants serving traditional Greek food that still retain the laid back atmosphere of simple Greece. The trip to Fira and the Caldera offered us views that are beyond words and the boat trip to the centre of the volcano and a swim in the hot springs will never be forgotten. It was with sad faces that we left Santorini after a week of blissful family time. The holiday was simply perfect. I had pre booked all of our excursions, our transfers, our train tickets, I had made dinner reservations where possible - especially for Eiffel Tower and in Rome and Florence which meant that everything went smoothly and our holiday was exactly that - A holiday .. as the planning had all been done. So if your family holiday conversation goes something like mine did - Then give me a call - You actually can 'Do it all' Happy Holidays!

Once you go - You know !

04 June 2015

'Once you go - You know' .. This is the slogan that the Jamaican Tourist board used for this year. I have to say it is true .. You do ! I was excited to see what Jamaica could offer and I was thrilled with what I found. Some beautiful luxury hotels where royalty have stayed and some more simple All Inclusive properties where tree high rooms welcome you as well as many other hotel types offering their unique charms. All on an island with some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. When you are bored of flat Caribbean Sea and white sand then a catamaran cruise with reef snorkeling is a must and many more exciting adventures besides. I went ghost hunting at the Haunted House of Rose Hall. I climbed the gushing waters of Dunns River Falls. I high sped in a bob sleigh ride in memory of the Jamaican bob sleigh team from the top of Mystic Mountain. I rode a camel, stroked a sting ray and swam with a dolphin. I watched fellow travelers (No I did not have the courage) jump from the heights of Ricks Café and I sipped a cocktail at Margaretville! All in all I found Jamaica a great destination with hotel resorts to suit all ages, for couples and for families - there is something for everyone! Give me a call for more details - Once you go, you know!

My first cruise out into the water!

20 September 2012

Cruising can be scary.. They use funny words for things, and I have always thought there was a special code of conduct that only those ‘in the know’ adhered to and anyone else was prey for their amusement. This has always put me off a bit, but in recent years my clients have repeatedly told me to go and I would love it! I have been very fortunate as a travel agent to have visited many ships, to see their layout and the standards of staterooms (cabins). I have always visited for lunch so that I have sampled the type of cuisine they offer, and I always get a great feel for the ship and meet many passengers as they embark ( get on) and disembark ( get off) . This varies throughout the different cruise operators so it has paid to know my stuff, so that I book my clients to sail with other passengers that enjoy the same atmosphere and standards as they do! I have always gathered as much information as possible, so that I am a wealth of knowledge for those that I book. Once, I even stayed overnight on a cruise ship! and so I sampled the bed, bathroom, balcony, restaurant and all of the entertainment (Well as much as one can in one night!) But I had never actually moved out of dock... Until this Saturday just passed, I had never ventured out into the open water. This was my very first actual, proper cruise! Well, sort of! ~ I cheated a little. I booked a 3 night cruise from Southampton, perfect as a taster, I thought. We had a balcony stateroom on Lido deck (Deck 15) and it was perfect. The White Company toiletries, good size bathroom, plenty of hanging space (I can still pack it in for 3 nights!) very comfy bed, good TV channels and plenty of information. The balcony was worth it to me as I appreciated sitting out and watching the waves, catching a little sun and relaxing. We woke one morning for sunrise which was beautiful. (We went back to sleep after) Now it has to be said, and I think long time cruisers forget this, that the first part of your cruise is spent map reading and cursing, walking forwards and backwards, up and down stairs and lifts and scratching your head. We were on the P&O Azura which is no small ship and it took a while to get our bearings. Soon enough though you get the hang of it and wonder how you ever got lost! I was a little daunted by the fact that not long after boarding, we had to grab our life jackets from our rooms and head for our nearest ‘Muster station’ for a safety drill, … But it was all done in such good humour which made it fun and I was impressed that the staff ensured that each and every passenger were happy with fitting their own life jacket! I also discovered that sitting in a seat with a life jacket on is actually rather comfortable… But maybe that is another story … So to the bar on the top deck for a champagne sail away party … where under sunny skies we said goodbye to Southampton in a party like atmosphere along with most of the other passengers. ‘Away we go!’ We were happy to play along for a while, but soon we headed for one of the quieter more sophisticated bars, to sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset through floor to ceiling windows, as we moved out into the open sea. We had chosen to dine at the second sitting. Our table details had been left in our room, however we preferred a different table so that we could sit with our friends. The restaurant manager organised this for us with no problem, and that evening we enjoyed a lovely meal, with good wine. We took a wander around after dinner and sat for a while enjoying the band in one of the lounges before retiring to a comfy bed and falling asleep to the sounds of the sea. It seems that there are different types of cruisers; Ones that are up and out at it with breakfasts full in their tummies by 8am and ready to embark on their pre booked full day excursion ashore (We had docked at Zeebrugge, Belgium) And those that begrudgingly leave their pillows, lazily get ready, saunter to breakfast, and then think about what they will do for the day. Luckily for us (Being of the latter description) cruising caters for both types. A great day was had enjoying the canals and pretty streets of Bruges, tasting the local beer with mussels and chips followed by beautiful Belgian chocolate! We were back in time to grab a sunbed around the pool and enjoy the last of the sun, as we set sail for the Channel Islands. A formal night for our second night, a chance to dress up and see the men in their finest suits and black ties! We made the very best of this night and found a fantastic wine bar, very contemporary that suited us perfectly for our pre-dinner drinks. Another great menu to choose from at dinner, and after we enjoyed a Neil Diamond Tribute act, followed by dancing until the small hours in the disco bar. We popped in to see the Casino, and had a short listen to those giving it a good try at the Karaoke bar along the way. So as you can imagine, Guernsey by tender (A boat that takes you to shore from the ship anchored rather than being docked) was a mid-morning departure after our busy night, and we enjoyed a fabulous day at Castle Cornet, well worth a visit with great views and museums of the history of the Guernsey Militia, as well as the treat of the blast of the noon gun! (That cleared away the cobwebs!!) We enjoyed some shopping and a walk around the town then returned to our ship for a rest before dinner. The sun was blazing and my reclining chair on my balcony was my best friend for the next hour! Our last night aboard was a quieter affair and we wrestled with going to see the comedian after dinner or grabbing a blanket and watching a film out on deck under the stars. In the end the comedian won and it was good to retire with a smile on our face and memories of a lovely weekend! Disembarkation the next morning after breakfast was extremely well organised and parking at Southampton had been straight forward and easy, collection was just as good… Before long we were heading home and the Azura would be welcoming more passengers on board to enjoy all that she has to offer. Would I cruise again? Most definitely! .. A longer cruise will give me more time to explore and enjoy the ship.. You never know I may even become one of those ‘up early and ashore ‘type of cruisers! After all, there’s a whole world out there to see …. And what a great way to see it!

Monaco Magic!

05 April 2012

To Monaco for a long weekend with friends in the spring! An early morning start to Nice and helicopter transfers to Monaco. Our hotel concierge had maps and plenty of information, and the ‘Monaco Passport’ had vouchers for plenty of sightseeing. Near to the Columbus (our hotel) is a stop for the sightseeing bus which has 12 stops around Monaco. It is the perfect way to travel around; it is hop on hop off all day for 17 euros! This is what we did: Our first afternoon we walked to the commercial centre – there is a huge Carrefour that houses some other outlets under its roof – not fantastic shopping – but ideal for stocking up on water etc. for the room. There is also a small bakery/café type shop here that sells some great sandwiches and a nice glass of wine (what a civilised way to visit the supermarket!), which we stopped at for a late lunch… not very luxurious – but a nice lunch all the same! Up the escalators is the car collection of Prince Rainier III. The Monaco Passport has a free entrance voucher – it is definitely worth the look around, which we did for 40 minutes or so. You can also visit the museum of stamps and coins and the naval museum here – but we did not go in there. That evening we dined at a restaurant called ‘La Bamba’ which is a nice and simple restaurant – not dressy at all – lovely food, just off of the Rue Grimaldi - an easy walk. There are plenty of other options in this area, down the side streets that lead from the Rue Grimaldi to the marina. Saturday we took the all-day bus and visited – Café de Paris, the casino and the gardens, The Princes Palace and the Musee oceanographique (vouchers in the passport)! There are little shops up by the Princes Palace and a few little restaurants to stop at for lunch! We ate that night at a restaurant at the front of the Marina (race track side - level with the swimming pool) called the Explorers Pub - gorgeous food! Lovely atmosphere - well-dressed gastro pub! The following day we decided to do things by foot armed with a map and it was definitely worth it! We went to the market in the town square (top of Rue Grimaldi) and then walked up the pedestrianised path to the Princes Palace where we had been the day before, we went to the Chapel of La Visitation – beautiful paintings! And another little church along one of the side streets and lit a candle... peaceful and beautiful! If you want to see the Monaco Film, which is near the palace next to the Aquarium (Musee oceanographique) it is only on at certain times and you will need to check. Generally they are 1000hrs 1100hrs and 1400hrs but these are subject to change. We went back down to the Marina and walked out as far as we could and then took a little boat bus to the other side (1 euro) and then walked back down the other side and stopped at one of the little cafes on the front for lunch. Although I do have to say that it is worth going to one of the bakeries and choosing a sandwich etc. and eating it on a bench at the quay side! We then headed for Les Jardins Exotique – which is reached via steps and lifts. Not for those that are infirm or in ill health! But the gardens were lovely and the views great. You can visit the caves but they finish the tours at 2pm - so a little organisation is needed! We ate near to the square after sitting down at 5pm in a café for a much needed glass of wine – and not leaving until 10pm, we had every intention of making it to an Italian called Vechia Firenze which had been recommended to us , but the chef offered us food and we were glad of it! Overall we had a fantastic time. It’s a lovely destination with almost a 'toytown' feel. Our weekend was finished off with a visit from Prince Albert very near to our hotel just before we left for our helicopter to Nice - perfect!

Sweet Sweet Sorrento!

21 November 2011

A cheeky little three nights away in the beautiful Sorrento! The perfect place for a short break. We flew from Stansted in the afternoon, had a private transfer from Naples and were in Piazzo Tasso sipping a glass of wine watching the hustle and bustle of the square in the evening! Sorrento is a great place…bustling in the main square with avenues of little shops off of it, a large Marina and a smaller one where Sorrento sits overlooking the bay of Naples. There are fabulous views of the bay wherever you go! There are a couple of hotels that sit on the edge of the cliff face where you can wake up to this magnificent view and there are hotels to suit all budgets. Sorrento has plenty of places to eat, and a great atmosphere of an evening. As it is so close to Naples, a must do is to visit Pompeii and Vesuvius on a day trip - a fantastic day out and a place you will never forget! You can take an open top bus tour from outside the mainline station in Sorrento and see more of the bay of Naples and all along its coastline, visiting small typical Italian villages along the way…fabulous! You can also visit Capri from the Grand Harbour, and take a cruise along the Amalfi coast for the day! Excellent destination -- Would definitely recommend it!

Turkey Family Holiday

21 November 2011

I always say that it really pays to think things through…sit down and work out what you want from a holiday and what will suit all members of your family. This year we went to an All Inclusive family hotel in Belek , and we were all blown away by what the hotel could offer and the cleanliness and standard of its facilities! My family of five travelled with our friends who are also a family of five, with children ranging from six years old to 14 years old…and every child had a super time (meaning that us adults were able to enjoy the hotels full facilities as well!) Belek has a small town that has some shops and a market…not a fantastic range, but well worth a visit for the morning! There is a small 'mini train' that runs to and from the hotels along the main road, which makes the idea of shopping a little more exciting for the children! There are a number of good quality hotels in this area that all sit on the beach and offer great entertainment, water slides , a choice of pools, good sporting activities and bathing piers out in the sea. They have a great selection of restaurants, a spa and gym, so really there is not much need to venture out. We did have a great day out on a boat though, which was really good to see the coast and have a swim in the deep blue sea! Great destination, great hotel - we shall definitely return!

Diverse Dubai

01 April 2009

A whistle stop tour of Dubai - and did I see a lot! I stayed near to the Marina - which is developing at such a fast rate - it will be finished in no time! There is already Marina walk with cafes and restaurants, and more areas are planned which will be fantastic! Added to this when Dubailand and Universal are up and running this will be a destination to be reckoned with! The Burj Dubai which opens 9th September 2009 will be the highest building in the world, and will house various types of establishments including the first Georgio Armani Hotel! The building is surrounded by a lake and features a huge fountain that displays to music and lights - belittling others of its kind! There are hotels around here that have restaurants over looking the fountain and up to the Burj Dubai - fabulous! Everything here is five star - they think of the finest of details - communication masts for example sitting on the roofs of buildings are disguised by a huge dome - that looks rather like a golf ball, and those on the Palm are disguised as palm trees! The beaches - especially those along the Jumeirah area are lovely white sand and the water is clear and gentle. If your hotel does not have its own beach club - then there are private beaches where you can pay to visit, that have washroom facilities etc. or there are public beaches that you can use - but there are no facilities here. Most of the beach hotels have their own private stretch of beach. I visited the Aquaventure park (Not that I am much of a dare devil!) on the Palm. There are some good rides here though - especially 'Shark attack' and 'Leap of Faith' (Apparently just as many get to the top and don't go down as do!) There are a couple of pool areas and good areas for small children. There is also beach access and a chance to have a dolphin encounter at 'Dolphin Bay' There are loads of staff and overall the organisation is great. You can get lockers here and towels. And if one water park isn't enough you can go for more fun at ‘Wild Wadi' water park - Jumeirah Beach. So I went from the 5 star luxury hotels on Jumeirah beach to the hustle and bustle of the boats crossing the creek to the souks of Gold and Spice - small chugging boats cramming people on each side, full of the loud noises of chatter laughter and wood against wood as boats tussled for their space along the pier! Definitely an experience to be had! The souks themselves are something to behold - especially the gold souk - I have never seen so much gold. It was draped over everything made into large belts and necklaces I am sure no one has the strength to wear! The people were so friendly wherever we went - and I felt very safe! There are bus tours of the city that will take you to the souks and to the Dubai Museum - or you can arrange in advance through Arabian Adventures or similar excursion companies. I loved the Dubai Museum - it gave me a real sense and understanding of how Dubai has come about and what it aims to be! This really is a unique place. A shopper I am not, but if you are then in Dubai you can shop till you drop! The Dubai Mall, The Emirates Mall to name just two give you London shopping and more! And on top of that in the Emirates Mall you can ski! Yes ... Ski! There is an indoor ski run with chair lifts, drag lifts and ski instructors, as well as a toboggan run and a sledge run for the kids - a great day out to escape the heat for a day! To end our trip we jumped in the back of 4x4's and hit the dunes! A wild and hair raising ride but very funny! We were taken to a camp in the middle of the desert for a fantastic barbeque with belly dancers and music, henna tattoos and bongs! A great excursion, and a great way to see the sun set over the Arabian desert. I really enjoyed Dubai -a great place for a luxury and romantic short break, a perfect family holiday, or a fun time with friends.

Winter weekend Marbella

25 November 2008

Another 5 star rating! Marbella in the winter - WOW! The weather was beautiful. Really warm, and sunny too! I spoke to some people who lived there and they said that rarely do they need to put on more than a sweater, and shorts are the norm until beginning of November! I stayed just outside Marbella old town. Nice little area fairly quiet but with shops and restaurants nearby, and there is a promenade now that runs from Marbella through to Puerto Banus. The Puerto Banus end is still in finishing stages, but at this time of year it was lovely and quiet, a lot of the restaurants etc. were closed but there were more than enough open, and we didn't have to contend with people beckoning you into their establishment or fighting through the crowds either. The golf is great here, plenty of courses to choose from, and it starts to get dark around 5pm - so you can still play all day - and there are a number of hotels with spa facilities - so it makes for the perfect weekend away for couples. There are activities nearby where you can do mountain biking, horse riding or you can just relax in the sun with a good book! A lot of the hotels have great rates at this time of year - so it proves to be good value for money too. I stayed at The Guadalpin Marbella and the rooms were spacious - the family suites are two bedrooms, two bathrooms with a kitchenette and living area, double deck terrace with a jacuzzi (heated) - so it is worth upgrading to this! - the service good standard and friendly. I also went to visit the Westin La Quinta, The Guadalpin Puerto Banus and The Park Plaza hotel and suites - all very good accommodations with different values to offer. I found getting around by taxi is easy - they are plentiful and prompt! The bus service is regular - but you can't beat a stroll by the sea! Overall - if the misery of cold days and the onset of Christmas shopping is getting you down - I would certainly recommend the short hop to the Costa del Sol for some peaceful sunny relaxation!

London Show and stay weekend

01 April 2009

Just returned from a ladies' weekend in London. Living in Greater London, the city has always been more of a functional place rather than a holiday destination for me personally - but with friends visiting from Belfast and Bath, and actually on recommendation from a client, we booked a 'show and stay' weekend. The show we booked to see was 'Never Forget' and booking it on a theatre break, as opposed to seperately - always works out fabulous for seating - we were 3 rows from the front! - and the show was fantastic! There are various hotels available to choose from - and we stayed at The Rathbone which is located in Rathbone Street, near to Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Great Location - nothing too far away! The hotel had good service, the rooms were a good size and comfortable with TV, tea and coffee making facilities, bottled water, 24 hour room service, comfy beds and huge soft bath towels!! We had continental breakfast included, although we could pay extra for a full English breakfast - but to be honest the continental - with plenty of fruit choice, cold meats and cheese, pastries, cereals, yoghurts, hot toast and preserves (they even had a pot of marmite when I asked!!) and obviously juices and tea and coffee was more than ample to start our day. You have to state a time you will be at breakfast if the hotel is full - and this only added to the good service as our table for six was ready for us each morning. We had a pre theatre dinner at a restaurant called 'The Bistro' near the Strand, really good meal and a bargain! £10.95 for three courses! They kind of rushed you in and out a bit, but this is actually what we wanted, something to eat, a few glasses of wine and then a stroll to the theatre! We purchased a two day 'Big Bus' tour ticket the next day - they have two routes - a red and a blue route. There are about 5 stops from where you can get your ticket - or else you can book it for them online. The two day ticket is £24 and you get a free river cruise as well - really well worth it with great light hearted commentary! You can decide to whiz around both routes consecutively or get off at places you would like to visit. We got off at the tower - and then took the boat along the river - again good commentary. We went up to Westminster and then joined the bus again! The red tour goes to Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Westminster, the London Eye (they also sell tickets for this), Trafalgar Square, St Pauls, Oxford St - we got to see the lot!!! It even stops outside Hard Rock Cafe for lunch!!!! The blue route takes you further afield to Knightsbridge, Kensington and Notting Hill. A really good way of getting around and combining a tour. We managed to get last minute cheap tickets to see the Jersey Boys on the Saturday evening as the weather was very bad - we thought we would opt for an indoor activity - and again the show was great! Overall the weekend was thoroughly enjoyable, and we didn't see half as much as we could have - so it won't be too long before we go back! Thoroughly recommend The Rathbone - fantastic value for money!! We had great theatre seats and the weekend was a snip at just £187 including show tickets and bed and breakfast! - Definitely worth it!! Happy Travels!!

Family Holiday - All Inclusive

13 August 2008

We headed to Fueteventura for our family hols this year - being a family of five, with three active boys - we thought we would try Fueteventura, Costa Caleta, or Caleta de Fuste as it is formerly known! The hotel we stayed at was the 'Elba San Jorge', the hotel was quite large with three buildings making up the whole complex. You can choose to stay self catering, half board or all inclusive here. There are 3 pools and it is a pleasant 10 minute stroll to the beach. The views of the sea crashing against the rocks directly outside the hotel were amazing! I liked the resort of Costa Caleta - the bay was small, partly man made, and the breakwater built into the sea made the sea calm, and ideal for children. The Island is very windy though, and sunbathing can on some days be somewhat of an exfoliation treatment!! The resort comes back from the bay up to the main coastal road, and some hotels are past this, and more inland. Although there are enough bars and restaurants in the town and a few supermarkets, it is very purpose built, and therefore lacked any real character! There is a great bar called 'Pieros' that is in the middle of a few bars that puts on entertainment every night - including X factor nights and hypnotists! They also show all the major sporting events here, and it is 'The place to meet' There are a couple of crazy golf courses, and the hotels have their own bars and restaurants you can visit. At the Marina we visited the 'Floating shop' and paid 1 euro to feed the fish - which the kids loved, and we did it nearly everyday. There was a good choice of watersports considering the size of the bay; jet skis, pedalos and windsurfing, and also these motorised pedalos called 'baby whales' which to be honest is probably the extent of my extreme sports! We also went on a submarine designed boat called the 'ocean explorer' that toured the bay to show us the fish, and then came back to the marine conservation area for a talk on the fish and marine life they have - my 5 year old stroked an eagle ray - he was very impressed! They have a resident Sea lion called Harvey who although he is free to go wherever, lives in the bay, and performs tricks after you have been on the ocean explorer - he is adorable! You can also book to have a 'Trainers experience' A lady we met up with did this, and she loved it. We hired a car and took a one day whistle stop tour of the Island, the dunes of Corralejo are a must - even just to jump off them! The small harbour of El Cotillo was lovely and the restaurant there does a fine paella. The mountain roads provide fantastic views and the beaches of Jandia have the best waves for body boarding (or just jumping over! - again my extent of extreme sports!) There is a water park at Corralejo and Oasis Park zoo with animal encounters and camel rides near to Jandia at Costa Calma. Nowhere really is too far away and you can either get a car or bus or go on organised excursions. I prefer our own car! After two weeks here I was relaxed but ready to come home! I really enjoyed myself, and so did all the family - the weather was lovely, always a breeze, and there was not a mosquito in sight! I loved sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash in, and chipmunks running around gathering the nuts passers by threw them! If I went back I would go self catering, as the all inclusive was almost imprisoning, and not all the hotels' restaurants were included on the all inclusive deal - I found this frustrating!

My first trip to Venice

13 August 2008

I travelled in June, for a weekend break to the beautiful 'world' of Venice. From the moment I saw Venice from the plane I was blown away! We pre booked a water taxi transfer, and I had made sure we had booked a hotel with it's own pier! Arriving by water into the lagoon of the city is simply magical. As you approach the Grand Canal and see magnificent buildings rising from the water, the sight is what postcards are made of! We stayed in a 3 star hotel very near to St Marks square. The hotel was the perfect location, everything was easily accessible and within walking distance. We ate at a typical Pizzeria in a side street our first night , and then strolled to St. Marks Square for 'Belllinis' ( A cocktail of champagne and peach originating in Harrys Bar - Venice) and listened to the band playing under the stars! - very very expensive!, but nevertheless an experience I will never forget! We took a walking tour the next day from a very good tour company, the guide was full of passion and she gave us a real insight into the history of Venice - fascinating! Once we had taken the tour we were aware much more of our surroundings and headed back away to one of the peaceful squares for a long Italian lunch. In the evening we took the water bus to the colourful and charming island of Burano and ate at a lovely restaurant called the 'Il Romano' - a quality seafood restaurant - fish caught just an hour before, and typical italian dishes, fine wines and desserts, and of course the opportunity to buy fine Burano lace, still hand made in some of the shops! The Water Bus brought us back to the lights of the Grand Canal and a short walk over thoughtfully lit bridges and narrrow streets to our hotel! Our Last day we spent exploring the shops and seeing places in more detail before taking a Grand Canal tour which showed us all around the areas we had not seen - including Elton John's house! A quick trip up to the top of Campanile tower for a panoramic view of the whole of Venice, and then we were back to our hotel getting ready to board a water taxi to Accademia - we ate at a fantastic restaurant in this artist's region of Venice called the 'San Traverso', it had it's own secluded courtyard - the service was fantastic and the food delicious ( you may want to share - the portions were huge!) Reasonably priced too! We left on Monday morning, our water taxi collected us from the private pier I had sipped champagne on the night before! As we left the Grand Canal for the airport we were all sad to say Goodbye to Venice, but I am sure it will not be long before we return. The whole time we were in Venice we felt like we were part of a film set - the 70 squares all boasting a church, linked by hundreds of bridges, over canals that reflected the colourful houses. As you walked through the quaint streets and through the cobbled squares it was not the sound of cars and crowds you heard, but the gentle paddling of a gondoliers oars and the sounds of an accordion! The very important thing that made our trip so special was planning - we made the most of our time in Venice - pre booking restaurants, and we pre booked our trips. Our hotel, The All'Angelo, a 3 star, had the most helpful staff, and was in the perfect location, so we were relaxed and just enjoyed what the city had to offer without having to hassle with the crowds. I would recommend Venice to anyone looking for a relaxing but enjoyable break away from the noise and traffic. It is expensive to eat out - but it's worth it! - I am Venice hooked!!

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Claire is a fantastic travel agent - we have used her before - she always goes the extra mile and makes choosing a holiday so stress free and fun. She is so efficient and really does know her stuff! I don't know what we would do without our own personal travel agent!

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I do recommend Travel Counsellors to my friends and work colleges. I have been dealing with Claire for about 4 years so I can honestly say I have had no reason to complain about any holiday that she has arranged for us. Claire does a good job on remembering what you like and makes sure to the best of her ability that when she books you a holiday everything is included.

Sent by Elizabeth Slatter

Claire booked our "trip of a lifetime" last year and it was perfect in every way - from our initial conversations about what we wanted to do, to planning, booking and the actual holiday itself, Claire was fantastic……since then we have booked a couple of mini trips and are now starting to plan our next "trip of a lifetime" and we wouldn't trust anyone else with our travel arrangements now!

Sent by Keely Woods

This was the quickest holiday booking I have ever made. I emailed Claire with my requirements and Claire came back with exactly what I wanted and in budget. I was talking to a friend about her holiday and she was moaning that she couldn't get what she wanted. I didn't hesitate to give her Claire's details. Well done Claire.

Sent by Kerry RiceOxley

Claire was great, listened to what we wanted and came back with what (hopefully) will be a spot on recommendation. I'm not sure what I did before having someone advise me, and would strongly recommend it to anyone browsing holidays.

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Sent by Nick Pidgeon

Always an excellent comprehensive service provided by Claire at Travel counsellors. Claire saves me so much time by narrowing down hotels and resorts, being able to provide recommendations specific to budgets and travellors needs. The prices achieved are nearly always cheaper than advertised away, and if not, highly competetive. You also get the added benefit of personally dealing with Claire, rather than dealing with a website.

Sent by Andrea Omer

Claire has organised and booked many holidays for me over the past few years. I absolutely love going on holiday be it a short weekend break or a longer holiday but just don't have the time to trawl through websites looking for the best deal and don't want to leave the suitability of hotels/destinations to chance. Claire takes the stress away from all these decisions. I simply tell her what I'm looking for and she always comes up trumps, with choice if requested and is patient and helpful if plans change mid-way through the process. It’s also great having peace of mind knowing she is at the end of a phone should there be a need for this once abroad. I have recommended Claire to many friends and many have used her services, with which they have always been very happy. She recently organised my Son's honeymoon which was a brilliant success. Why would I ever go anywhere else to book a holiday??

Sent by Ann Nelson

This is the second holiday that Claire has booked for us. She is extremely efficient and personable. She strives to get the best possible holiday for her clients. I cannot recommend her highly enough.

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Claire is extremely helpful, no request or question asked is too much trouble, once she knows which country we would like to visit she always researches on our behalf what is the best location for us knowing our requirements. Her recommendations have always been excellent. I would not hesitate in recommending her to family, friends and colleagues.

Sent by Deborah Turner

Claire was quick, efficient and covered all my requests on a tight budget after I had been struggling. Really pleased with the personal service. I’ve never used a Travel Counsellor before but I am positive I won’t book anything again myself. I have also recommended Claire to my friends and family. I wish I had thought of this before.

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Absolutely fantastic. Very accommodating in sorting out a group booking. The whole party was very impressed with her knowledge and will definitely recommend and hopefully book again.

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Claire has booked a number of my holiday and friends and has always been very helpful. She has always picked the right hotel and package for me and my family. I am very pleased with her and all the advice she has given me for my holidays.

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Claire was fantastic, really knowledgeable, and completely stress free for me. Very very pleased.

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Another superb holiday organised by Claire Bottone! Her attention to detail and total willingness to cover your every need, however big or small, leaves you wanting to never holiday without her. Excellent service is always delivered - thank you Claire.

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This is the second time we have used Claire and she has, once again, been absolutely wonderful. Claire does everything possible to ensure that our holiday plans suit our specific needs and we have already "spread the word" about her to friends, family and colleagues. Thank you Claire.

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Great service - knows exactly what we are looking for when booking our short breaks or holidays.

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I recommend Claire to my friends and family all the time. We have booked several holidays through Claire and are always happy with the outcome and the amount of effort she puts in to find us exactly what we're after.

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I would like to say a big thank you to Claire Bottone. Claire has been arranging our holidays for a few years now and I have to say every one has been as good as the last. Claire understands our needs and makes sure they are taken care of with great detail every time. I do recommend Claire to all my friends and family.

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I never hesitate to recommend booking holidays through Claire to my friends and family. Claire offers a great personal service and nothing is ever too much trouble. I have been booking my holidays including weekend breaks with Claire now for more than five years and she knows the kind of resorts/hotels that I will like, her recommendations are always spot on. It is very reassuring knowing my holiday plans are in the hands of a professional who offers me a personal service. Thank you Claire.

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I have always found Claire to be extremely helpful and cheerful - nothing is too much trouble. I would have no hesitation recommending Claire to family, friends and colleagues.

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Claire was very helpful and patient and would definitely use her again

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Super service as usual!

Sent by Peter Dosad

This is not the first time we have booked with Claire Bottone at Travel Counsellors and we are never disappointed with the level of service we receive. Claire is helpful, responsive and very professional and always comes up with a deal that suits our needs at a competitive price. Claire will continue to be our first point of call when we need a holiday!

Sent by Christine Pidgeon

Claire has been very helpful and friendly - looking for the best deals.

Sent by Valerie Maloney

This is our third holiday booked by Claire. She is always really helpfull, even on her day off!

Sent by Denise Norris

I'm very impressed by the fantastic service Claire provides. We'll definitely use her again.

Sent by Jo Tumbridge

Claire offers an outstanding service when booking your holiday through her; I will definitely be using her again!

Sent by Martin King

Claire provides a full holiday service from start to finish. The only thing I have to do is pack my case and go on holiday. Cheers.

Sent by Geraldine Russell

Claire was so helpful and nothing was too much trouble. I would recommend her to all of my family and friends.

Sent by Laura O'Hanlan

Claire was friendly and polite. She dealt with all my queries promptly. She communicated regularly so I knew what was happening. I found her very helpful.

Sent by Clare Davies

I always recommend Claire Bottone to friends. She has great advice and always goes the extra mile ensuring we have the perfect holiday every time.

Sent by Emma Burchell

Myself and friends always use Claire Bottone to arrange our holidays for us. Claire is extremely helpful and nothing is too much trouble for her. I would recommend her and the service she provides to everyone.

Sent by Michelle Pugh

Claire is fab; a class service!

Sent by A Northeast

Helpful, efficient and cheerful.

Sent by Debbie Rivers

Claire was brilliant and patient, I would definitely recommend her.

Sent by Simon Purslow

Claire is very helpful and knowledgeable and I would definitely recommend her.

Sent by Andrea Omer

Claire is always very helpful and I often recommend her to friends. I can request my requirements for a trip and she always comes back with helpful, informative choices. This makes planning a holiday or short break as much a part of the enjoyable holiday process as actually going away! Thank you Claire!

Sent by Sally Moore

I have recommended two people already! Thanks Claire you are fab!

Sent by Peter Dosad

Claire is extremely helpful and always willing and able to deal with my questions and queries. I would highly recommend her to any prospective customers.

Sent by Susan Taylor

She helped us find a suitable holiday when we really needed a specific type. More than happy with the service from our Travel Counsellor therefore.

Sent by Susan Reeve

Claire was very helpful and we are very much looking forward to the holiday she found for us.

Sent by Bradley Miles

We have always found Claire Bottone to be extremely helpful, professional, and friendly, and would strongly recommend her, as I do to people we know.

Sent by Monica Bachmann

I would like to thank Claire Bottone for her very kind assistance. She is very professional in her work and went out of her way to try and help me with my enquiry. I will certainly recommend her to friends and family in the future.

Sent by James Bachmann

Claire was extremely helpful and honest. I will be using her services again and will reccomend the same to any friends and family.

Sent by Sandra Lyons

10 is not enough. 100 would be more appropriate and I have already recommended Claire to several of my friends and will continue to do so. In fact I am going to mail my whole address book! Thank You!

Sent by Michelle Canty

The service and attention to detail were second to none.

Sent by Sheryl Riches

You made booking my holiday stress free! Thank you Claire.

Sent by Kayleigh Bowyer

I went to Claire by recommendation anyway and was really pleased with the service I received. She was always prompt with responses and answered my never ending questions professionally and enthusiastically. Will definitely be coming back. Thanks.

Sent by Martin King

I always recommend Claire to friends and family.

Sent by Andrew Slatter

Claire has been amazing right from my initial phone call - she totally understood the type of holiday we wanted, including the cost, and put together an amazing package.She continues to go the extra mile, recommending blogs to read, trips to book and no doubt we will be speaking many times more before our trip next summer! I have every intention of telling anyone who wants to book a holiday to go through Claire!

Sent by John Denby

The service was very efficient and nothing seemed too much to ask.

Sent by Valerie Maloney

Very helpful. Always explains everything and very pleasant.

Sent by Maria Ketley

Claire is so helpful and freindly. Any problems you have, she will sort out straight away and she will go that one step more. Thanks Claire, you're a star.

Sent by Linda Fox

Claire was recommended to us by our daughter. Our daughter was right, Claire has been very helpful and has given us the perfect holiday to look forward to in 2013.

Sent by Andrea Omer

Claire is my travel angel! Wherever I want to go, whenever I want to go, no matter how much notice I give and even if I don't quite know where to go, Claire has the answer! Although Claire has booked a couple of long haul holidays for me/my husband/family/friends, I go on lots of short breaks and nothing is ever too much trouble. I recommend her to everybody I know!

Sent by Ann Eldridge

Claire booked our cruise for us this year and last. Its always nice to hear Claire's cheery voice at the end of the phone and she is always willing to help in whatever way she can to make the holiday arrangements stress free. Claire has also arranged our flights to Dallas and booked a car upon arrival at a very good price. I would definitely recommend her to my friends and family.

Sent by Gary Butler

I have booked several Holidays over the past few years through travel counsellors all via Claire. She has always been very helpful, managing to accomodate my requests. She is always seemingly available via the phone or e mail, and if you miss her, she will promptly return your call. the pesonal touch she provides doesnt seem to incur expense to the customer, as the trips she arranges are always very competitive. I will continue to use the service she provides. Highly recommended...

Sent by Andrea Omer

I am absolutely delighted with the booking you have made for me and my family to travel to California this coming summer. Your price has saved us nearly two thousand pounds in total on the original quote I received! As there are six of us travelling and I will be paying for four of us, this is a massive saving - in fact I could not have booked the holiday had I not got such a great price. Your recommendations on locations/accommodation were very welcome and most helpful. I have found the service you have provided excellent and have recommended you to anybody that wants to book, in particular, a long haul holiday. I know one other friend who also booked her holiday to Florida with you. Without doubt I will come back to you again - hopefully many times in the coming years!

Sent by Karen Presland

My Fiancé and I have been so grateful for the way Claire has consistently and efficiently helped us with the booking of our honeymoon. We are so impressed with the way Claire spent a lot of time and effort in making sure our honeymoon so special. Anything we requested or needed to know Claire acted straight away. We will highly recommend her to our friends and families.