Sent by Chris Goulder
Based in Aylesford
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hello; my name’s Claire and I live in Aylesford, Kent.
I know from experience that booking a holiday can sometimes be an almost overwhelming task. There’s so much choice, so many ‘bargains’ and so many operators. That’s why I decided to become a Travel Counsellor, to help people book their perfect holiday, without the stress!
You don’t need to spend hours and hours online or sit in a high street shop all afternoon to get the best deal on your holiday. I can arrange your perfect break to any destination in the world and all you need to do is phone me with your requirements.
Just give me a list of things you like (or don’t like) that makes your ideal holiday and I can arrange a bespoke holiday for you and your family. You don’t even need a firm idea of where you want to go, just have a chat with me and I’ll help you find your ideal destination.
Travel Counsellors has the highest customer satisfaction rating of ANY company in the world! Using Travel Counsellors’ award winning technology I am able to create unique package holidays at competitive prices from hundreds of approved suppliers.
I pride myself on going the extra mile for my clients and my customers know that they can count on me to do everything in my power to ensure their holiday runs smoothly from that first conversation to the final journey home.
Once you’re abroad I will look after you; checking you into flights along the way and dealing with any problems or queries you may have, from having an accident abroad, to concerns over local transport strikes. You can contact me at any time by any means.
I can use my own personal experiences to help you get a great holiday deal, places I have travelled to include:
• Hong Kong
• South Africa
• San Francisco
• Los Angeles
• Las Vegas
• New York
• Gran Canaria
Plus many UK locations and Cities
And many more.
I can also source exclusive cruise offers, cheap flights, short breaks, honeymoons, UK hotels and park holidays, as well as attraction tickets, theatre tickets, car hire, travel insurance or holiday vouchers for birthdays, anniversaries or honeymoons.
During lockdown I wanted a way to keep connected to my customers so I started a live zoom series called 'Wednesday Worldly Wonders' where I invited my trusted travel partners to give presentations on destinations all around the world. The audience were treated to some stunning destinations and we learnt about what you can do there, specific itineraries and inside information from the experts. All the zoom events were recorded, so if you have the time and want to get more insight then please drop me a message for the list of destinations and I can send you the link for the ones that interest you. I have added a snippet of the one on Norway to my page below.
The Travel Counsellors’ unique Financial Trust gives you 100% complete financial protection on every single booking. No questions asked! It's the best financial protection in the travel industry.
If you or someone you know, wants value for money, peace of mind and a hassle free holiday experience then please contact me for a no obligation quotation - I would love to hear from you.
A snippet from my Wednesday Worldly Wonders Live Zoom series during lockdown.
One of the best excursions I have ever done. Sea Karts in Mauritius
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.
06 July 2022
At the end of June 2022 we drove to York for a week. Took 4 hours from Kent. We stayed in Hopgrove Farm Cottages which is a group of converted barns that sleeps 21 in total across the separate properties and only 2 miles from York City centre. It has 2 eight seater hot tubs, a fabulous sauna, a small games room with pool table, air hockey, darts, DVD's and other children's games. All on a shared basis. It has a lovely communal seating area with a purpose built double BBQ plus a laundry room. York as you can imagine, is a large town with lots of shopping. It has the famous Betty's Tea Room plus The Shambles, which is a quirky little area with independent shops and along with the river, Cathedral and of course the history, there's a lot to discover. There is certainly an abundance of tea rooms and other places to eat. I can highly recommend The Pavement Vaults Restaurant in the town, good quality Fish Taco's, burgers and just all round great ingredients. We followed the City Wall walk, which is just under 2 miles, with view points along the way, this took us about 2.5 hours and is an interesting look at York's history. You can have guided tours of the City Walls if you wish or just walk it at your leisure. York Minster Cathedral is stunning. You can walk to the top to get great views of the city or enter to view the inside for a price. You can light candles inside and get a guide to tell you more. But just from the outside it is a magnificent building and you can see it from just about anywhere in York centre. There is also a Hop on hop off bus that tours the city and a great way to get your bearings. You can hire self drive boats on the River Ouse or take a narrated sightseeing cruise, it cost us £12.50 an adult and was a pleasant way to spend an hour. We visited Whitby which is an hour drive from York. Its a typical seaside town, amusements, ice creams, small sandy beaches and shops. We ate at Trenchers for fish and chips and it didn't disappoint. York Moors has a steam train which has a couple routes, one of which takes you to Whitby and there is a also a Pullman Dining carriage which you need to book in advance. We followed the Moors Experience which took us from Pickering to Grosmont through the Yorkshire Moors. You can get off at Goathland, which is famous for being the Hogwarts station in the first Harry Potter film, then walk the 3.5 miles to Grosmont to catch the return train to Pickering, its a great scenic walk and I would highly recommend doing this. The train is a Hop on hop off service at 3 different places but most people do the above. The steam train is amazing, they let you in the engine room where the coal is burning and sit in the drivers seat, its a great experience, not something you see or do very often. This cost approx £31 each for the Moors Experience. There is a lot you can do in the Moors, our holiday was more about the surrounding towns (only because I had a bad knee at the time) but if you want to go hiking, cycling, walking, mountain biking, then you can hire bikes from various places and be as adventurous as you wish. It wouldn't be right to visit York without doing a Ghost walk, we saw a few advertised and we opted for the one at 8pm down by the River outside the Kings Arms which runs every single night, no need to pre-book. We are so pleased we did as the guide was amazing, he is known as Ghostman Pat (Pat is his name). He took us to a few of the most haunted places and his manner was befitting of a ghost tour. Well worth the £7.50. My favourite town that we visited was Knaresborough (approx 45 min drive from York), they have the most amazing picturesque viaduct, 80ft high above the River Nidd. We hired a row boat for £10 per adult for an hour and rowed underneath the bridge and with that backdrop it is awesome. The town is quaint and you can walk up to the castle to get even better views of the Viaduct. The outside castle grounds are free to enter but if you want to visit the dungeons, etc the price is just £3.50 each. There are cycling and walking trails there so there is enough to keep you busy for a day. Wetherby (approx 30 min drive from York) was another quaint town to walk around, with the river, the Weir and the bandstand too. There is a lot to discover around York and a week is certainly not too long. The Yorkshire Moors is an adventurous area and hopefully the above will give you some hints and tips. I can give you prices on the accommodation so please contact me for more info.
06 July 2022
In June 2022, for the Queens Platinum Jubilee, we decided to go to Llandudno, Wales. I was given a Birthday present for the Fforest Coaster in Betsy Coed so I chose Llandudno as its a seaside town approx 25 mins from Zip World, where the Fforest Coaster is and thought it would make a nice base. Snowdonia is approx a 30 min drive away too and the Zip Wire at the slate mine isnt far away either. We stayed right on the Promenade in Llandudno in an independent guest house. The 8 rooms are very smartly decorated and the family who run it are friendly and very accommodating. Breakfasts were amazing with local produce and plenty of food. We were literally steps from the Pier, the Wheel, Punch and Judy shows on the vast Promenade and beach. You can walk a very long way around the curved bay and there are stalls, amusements and eateries on the Pier. There are boat trips to see the Seals and Birds plus round to see the Great Orme, for something a bit more exhilarating you can travel on the speed boat ride. I can recommend The LC Pub for food, the quality was good and so were the portions, following a bad experience with Fish and Chips in town (really poor quality) this made a nice change and the food was great all weekend after that initial meal. We took the Tram up to the Great Orme, we queued for about an hour to get on. Unfortunately you cant prebook, the price was £9.50 per adult return. You can also go up and back via the cable car too. We chose the tram as we have been on many cable cars before so thought we would give it a try. Its a shame they dont collaborate so you can travel up by one method and travel back using another, the way they price the two options would make that really expensive. If you fancy a night out at the cinema, the nearest is about a 15 min drive away at Cineworld, which we did. On another day we visited Conwy Castle, approx 15 min drive ftom Llandudno. The Castle is probably one of the greatest looking castles I have seen. It is just the structure of the walls, there are no state rooms or interior to it, there are turrets and the dividing walls but its lovely to look at and walk around. Its £11 per adult to enter plus Conwy town is nice, cobbled streets, independent shops and tea rooms. Llandudno has links to the Alice in Wonderland books. Apparently Alice Liddell was the inspiration behind the stories and she used to holiday in Llandudno so there are statues all through the town and you can follow the trail, which is about a 5 mile loop. We found 4 of them on our walk about but there are quite a few dotted around. Llandudno is a big and bustling town, or at least it was on the Bank Holiday weekend. They have lots of shows and acts at the local venues so it is worth researching what is showing there before you visit. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to visit and you can easily spend 4 nights there. It took us approx 6.5 hours drive from Kent, so it took a while. If you need any more info, just drop me a line.
24 May 2022
In May 2022, we drove to Northumberland with a couple of friends to stay at Lavender Lodge near Morpeth. The journey took approx 6 hours from Kent with a stop for food and was very straight forward. The lodge was on a private Holiday Park and personally I would say it was an upmarket holiday home rather than a lodge. It was very smartly decorated, had a luxury feel and with a lovely outdoor space with chairs and a very good sunken hot tub. One of the reasons we chose this lodge was that it had 2 double rooms, one en-suite and a main bathroom with shower so for 2 couples you had a bathroom each. There is plenty of storage and each room has a small walk in wardrobe, there are many shelves, draws, hanging space and surfaces, sounds odd to mention this but its nice to be able to put all your belongings somewhere and that small detail has been well thought out. Nice welcome basket on arrival with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sugar and some snacks/biscuits, it had all mod-cons, comfy sofas and lovely beds plus very clean and tidy. There is a Crazy Horse Saloon on site, we arent much for holiday park type entertainment but this had a different feel about it. Probably helps being outside of school holidays and not having very many childrens facilities, its more of a private site. Eating there on our first night was convenient, not the cheapest but the food was very good quality and plentiful and friendly staff. They have a sports area downstairs with pool table, air hockey, darts, table football, etc which I can imagine could be busy with children in school holidays. Great for families. They also have entertainers on a Friday night and we had a good time in the Saloon on the first Friday we arrived. We went to Alnwick Market on Saturday and bought some local goods. Its a nice town which houses Alnwick Castle and a few other landmarks. We had lunch in of the cafes, The Olive Branch, which i can recommend, right by the market square. There are all sorts of shops here too, supermarkets, independents and mainstream. We then went to Alnmouth Beach for a stroll along the sands and an ice cream. This is a large beach and connects to miles of coastline. We went to see Bamburgh Castle, we didnt go in but you can go in to see the state rooms, etc, the town itself is very quaint with a couple of team rooms, pubs, especially the Copper Kettle Tea Room that has been televised a few times, we went in for refreshments! The Castle which is on the sea has a large sandy beach and sand dunes, great for a nice fresh walk. The castle is imposing and an impressive backdrop for the town. Another day we visited Chillingham Castle which is reported to be the most haunted castle in Europe. There are torture rooms, dungeons and stately rooms to view. Lots of artifacts and the gardens are well kept. For £10 entrance fee, we spent quite a few hours there. In the evening you can book Ghost Tours and even stay in the most haunted wing, but there is a 2.5 year wait! Warkworth Beach is another great beach, lovely fine white sand that seems to go on forever, quiet and secluded with a golf course as well. Very relaxing place to sit and watch the waves. One day we went on a boat from the town of Seahouses which took us around the Farne Islands to see the Puffins plus various bird species, it was a 2 hour trip and we saw thousands of birds plus a few seals. There are various different boat trips you can go on and you can book them down by the harbour. Apparently there are approx 70k Puffins on the Islands and we did see quite a few of them. A trip to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne was interesting as you have to watch for the tide times, you can only cross the causeway at low tide so you dont want to get stuck coming back at high tide. You can drive across and visit the old ruins, walk on the beach and visit the museum. It was lovely to finish the day with a visit to Beadnall Beach, a vast expanse of sandy beach with shallow water, lots of dog walkers and just to sit and people watch, especially in the sun. Hadrian's Wall is not too far away in Hexham, we visited the Housestead Roman Fort section, which was interesting to learn about how they built the wall, why and why the Housestead Fort was an important section. There is a small Museum there which would appeal to children with dress up boxes and easy explanations of the history. You can pay £10 an adult to visit the different areas of the fort, but you dont need to pay just to walk along the wall. The views there are stunning, you can just see countryside for miles and miles. There is a lot to do in Northumberland, the lodge was on the main road up to Edinburgh and you could easily do a day trip to there. Its a really picturesque part of the UK and well worth a visit.
24 March 2022
In March 2022, 4 of us celebrated a 21st Birthday on board the British Pullman, which was a Murder Mystery afternoon. The train departs from Victoria and is part of the Belmond brand, the Pullman is the sister train of the Orient Express and heads through the English Medway towns, past Faversham and down to Margate, then comes back via Canterbury, Maidstone and Otford with some other stops along the way. I believe the route can change but that was our journey that day. The morning started with a casual check in at London Victoria Station with a band singing 1940’s music and it was great to see some people dressing up in their finery. As it was a Murder Mystery afternoon we had decided that Sherlock Holmes and Poirot was our theme, so we had moustaches, deerstalker hats, magnifying glasses and pipes. As we were 4 females, this seemed to go down well with the staff and passengers alike! Before we were shown to our seats, the plot was already unfolding with some of the actors on the platform laying down the story, there was a nice buzz to the day and it only got better. We were shown to our private booth for 4, which was a nice surprise and if you can request this (and you are a foursome), this really added to the day, we certainly could not have been as carefree in the open carriage. The train itself was immaculate, very clean, timeless decor, even the toilet had mosaics and nice touches. I can only imagine what the Orient Express must look like. We sat in big armchairs around our table and it was really comfortable. As it was a celebration, we had a bottle of champagne waiting in our booth which again was a nice extra touch. There were canapes on the table and all the china and crockery were laid out ready. On the table were a couple of Pullman pens (nice!) plus the background story for the murder with some useful information. Then the actors come round and introduce themselves throughout the journey and you can get to interrogate them to try and solve the murder. All this is going on while you are served a 5-course menu and other treats. The food is as you would expect, very tasty, some of it is inventive, especially the dessert. I am not a fan of Rhubarb and Custard but it was delicious and not served in a traditional way, I didn’t really know it was Rhubarb and Custard, it was just a very tasty sweet treat. The menu changes regularly but having given our dietary requirements in a few weeks beforehand, they double check everyone is ok with the menu and make any changes where they can if you prefer something else, which they did for us. As part of the price, we had up to £60 for the 4 of us to spend on other drinks, so you can order wine, cocktails, mocktails or other soft drinks. The cocktails were £15 each and mocktails at £5 each. You cannot fault the staff, they are friendly, accommodating, happy in their work. We had some very attentive hosts who made sure we were looked after and even told us a few jokes and stories along the way. We managed to solve the murder, with a few clues along the way from the actors, and ended up winning the prize, which was an amazing end to the train journey. It was a fantastic experience, you can’t fault it, for a celebration, just to have day off from the norm, to go as a group. Its just not something you do every day and it felt like a real treat. I would highly recommend it and with the fantastic relationship I have with the Belmond brand I would love to organise this for you. We finished the day by popping along to a West End Musical, called Six, which is a modern day take on Henry VIII's wives, would highly recommend that also. You can also check out my video of the day on my website.
03 February 2022
For Christmas 2021 we travelled to the Norfolk/Suffolk border to spend Christmas in Maple Lodge at Weybread Lakes. We had stayed on the lakes 5 years ago and loved it so we decided to go back and try a different cabin on the lake. We like to go to East Anglia as the Christmas traffic is good rather than going South West as this can take double the usual time as we have learnt in the past. Maple Lodge feels like a real log cabin, I love the craftsmanship, you cant help but appreciate how its built or maybe thats just me, I love it! This cabin had an extra layer of wow factor, for its layout and furnishings. The Victoria and Albert bath in the bedroom with the spotlights around it and the 4 poster bed is another touch of wowness!! The lodges are immaculate with Italian leather sofas, modern kitchen with a full fridge freezer, dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, in fact everything that you would find in your own kitchen. It has underfloor heating throughout the cabin, the stereo system plays in every room including the bathroom. The bathroom had a walk in shower, twin sinks, bathrobes, towels and slippers supplied. The cabins come with a full size sauna and in this lodge it is outdoors with the hot tub, which flows out from the bedroom doors. It is a very private area, they have high panelled reed fencing and you can choose to open out the large fence panel to look out onto the lake. Even that is private as there are reeds in the lake which distort the view across to the opposing cabin. There is WIFI throughout the cabin and this is something that has been upgraded since our last stay as there is a booster in the lodge which makes watching Amazon Prime, Netflix etc perfect. The signal is very strong. The TV has digital channels, plus a DVD player. The location is quite remote in that there is nowhere really to walk to, only around the lake which took a few minutes, but this is why I love it here. You can hear a pin drop and you are not disturbed at all by the neighbours or the owners. Even though its a fishing lake as well we didnt see anyone, but maybe Christmas is not the best time to fish, fishing is not my area of expertise! Within 2 minute’s drive the town of Harleston can be found. It has a lot of eating places, Indian, Chinese, Fish and Chips plus pubs and shops and a supermarket. It is a small market town where you can have a mooch around. Diss is about a 10 drive with Great Yarmouth about 40 mins away. We normally drive to Norwich (approx 40 min drive) which is a large town for shopping, Cinema and the Panto! We booked an afternoon Tea at Goodies Food Hall, which is 20 mins drive away and I would highly recommend it. It is a Farm Shop where you can make up your own hamper from local produce, a really nice selection of food to choose from. At Christmas the owners put up a real Christmas tree with lights on which is a lovely touch. We loved the lodge so much that within hours of arrival we had booked it again for Christmas 2022 and cannot wait to go back. If this kind of luxury log cabin break appeals to you, then please contact me on 01622 807980 for more information and prices.
27 January 2022
In November 2021, I travelled to Gran Canaria with the Tourist board and 8 other Travel Counsellors. We visited a few hotels in Maspalomas, Meloneras, Playa Del Ingles, Anfi del mar plus Tajeda in the mountains. From the airport we had lunch and a hotel visit at the 5 Star GL Santa Catalina, this is the infamous hotel in Las Palmas City Centre, many celebrities have stayed here, football teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc have stayed here when they come to play on the Island. It has a lovely rooftop pool and is ideally located for a guided walk around the city, there is so much history to Gran Canaria with many countries trying to take it over, it is called Gran Canaria, because although they are small in numbers they have fought off many potential takeovers in the past. After our guided walk in the city we drove to the mountains. I have been to Gran Canaria a few times but never in the mountains, wow, I have been missing out, we stayed at the Parador Cruz de Tejeda and from there you can star gaze, watch the sunrise/sunset, there are plenty of walking trails and its a great area for bird watching. The scenery is amazing, we walked the Camino trail which was about 4km and its not the easiest of trails if you have walking difficulties, the declines are quite steep and in places its uneven, but the views you get are stunning. You can see Mount Teide in Tenerife on a clear day. The property itself has an infinity pool overlooking the mountains, as do the rooms, the view from your balcony is breath taking. We stayed in the renovated rooms which have all the mod cons, everything you need and the food is delicious. Buffet for breakfast and a la carte for dinner. After the Camino Trail we stopped for lunch and wine tasting at the Tirajana Winery, followed by a visit to Aloe Vera Finca. Where they demonstrate how they extract the Aloe Vera from the plant and you can purchase their products. We arrived in the South to Maspalomas and stayed at the Seaside Palm Beach. This was right on the Maspalomas sand dunes on the beach and you can walk along the promenade or walk on the sand and be right by the water. There were plenty of runners and walkers just enjoying the lovely weather. The buffet food is fresh, plentiful and a varied choice, lots to choose from, I cant believe that anyone would go hungry here. The property has a spa, lovely sprawling pool area, it is colourful with its decor. I had a yellow room with multi coloured tiling on the floor and walls, its very vibrant. It was a perfect location for visiting nearby resorts. We drove to Puerto Mogan, this is a very pretty, very Spanish feeling town with a marina, shops and restaurants, quite compact and an ideal place to mooch around. We caught the glass bottom ferry from there and sailed past Amadores, Puerto Rico and we stopped at Anfi del Mar for lunch and a hotel visit at 5* Radisson Blu Artguineguín. This was right on the seafront, very high standard with separate pool areas so gave you a sense of space and a choice where to sit without feeling crowded, really nice hotel, would highly recommend for the high standard of food and the setting. Another resort, Meloneras, has some high end shops as well and the whole resort feels upmarket, so a nice resort to stay or to visit on one of your days out. There is a promenade which is approx 2km long, it’s nice and flat so ideal for walking, running, cycling and joins Meloneras with Maspalomas. We travelled about 10 minutes out of Maspalomas to visit the Salobre Resort and Serenity Property for dinner. We had a drink at the top of the property to watch the sunset. Their buffet dinner consisted of separate sections covering all sorts of cuisine, Italy, Chinese, Seafood, etc. The selling point of this property is that it is high end, remote and has a golf course on site so you can purchase golf and stay packages. Everything you need for golf is here: club hire, buggies, etc Golf is a big sport on the Island with 7 very good golf courses and some are to international tournament standard. There are too many hotels for me to mention each visit but all were 4 or 5 star, the food was incredible, the properties felt spacious and had a lot to offer, you wouldnt be disappointed staying in any of them. I haven't been to Gran Canaria in 15 years and it has really changed. The towns that were quite empty back then are now built upon (in a nice upmarket way) which was needed really. Happy to chat about hotels we visited: 5*GL Santa Catalina Parador Cruz de Tejeda 5* Seaside Palm Beach, Maspalomas 4*Sup Lopesan Costa Meloneras 5* Radisson Blu Artguineguín 5*Lopesan Villa del Conde 5* Bohemia Suites & Spa 5* H10 Playa Meloneras Palace 5*Salobre Hotel Resort and Serenity I always thought of Gran Canaria as just a beach stay, but I would now promote this as a 3 centre holiday, 2 nights Las Palmas, 2 nights in the Mountains and finish off with a beach stay. So for those that want a bit of adventure coupled with relaxation, this is definitely the place.
12 January 2022
In September 2020, 4 of us went to the Peak District and it took us approx 4.5 hours to drive from Kent. We stopped at the Bank View Café en route for a cream tea and I can highly recommend it, it is a favourite amongst cyclists looking for refreshments. We stayed at the Charlesworth Lodges in Glossop and it was an ideal base to explore the area. We stayed in a 2 bedroom lodge with private hot tub. It was on a site that only had a handful of lodges so it was really peaceful. The lodges back onto the woods in private grounds and the lodge had everything you needed for a self catering stay and furnished to a really nice standard. From the lodge there is a town within walking distance with a couple of shops and a pub, so you really need a car to visit the nearby towns and mountains. One of the first walks we did was up to the top of Mam Tor, this is not a difficult walk up and they have laid the pathway for the last part with stones to get you to the Summit, not very steep as its quite flat at the top. The view is amazing at the top, 360 degree view of the Peaks, really stunning. Nearby was the town of Matlock bath you can find the Heights of Abraham Cable Car here – the cable car takes you to a Hilltop park, which has cavern tours, walking trails, fossil exhibitions and a cafe. Well worth a visit. We also spent a few hours cycling around Derwent and Ladybower Dams. It felt great to be on a bike again, especially with no traffic. Great scenery and plenty of walking trails too in the area. We just hired bikes from the bike centre on site and there is a trail around the lake to follow. Castleton was another village we went to, this was a pretty village to wander around, we had a cream tea after we walked through and up Winnats Pass which is the opposite side to Mam Tor, more dramatic views and little caves, the Pass itself is awesome to drive through and again the scenery is breath taking. We popped into Bakewell town and visited the tea room at the famous Bakewell Pudding Shop. Lots of choices of cake and of course Bakewell Pudding. Buxton was not too far of a drive away and as it was our last day and a bit drizzly we visited the park which is large and lots to explore. There was a band playing in the Bandstand, there is a train that winds its way through the park. Buxton is large and there is a bit to do here, it has lots of Tea Rooms, Buxtons Mineral baths and we went into the buxton pudding emporium where you can purchase home made cheeses, jams, pickles, teas, honey, etc and then have a cream tea or cake in the small tea room. We were in the Peaks for 7 days but really there is so much to do you could easily spend a couple of weeks there. It is certainly a destination I will go back to. We had a fabulous week with the weather, somehow we picked the best week for the sunshine, which made it even better!
12 January 2022
We decided to return to the Cotswolds following our previous visit in 2017. Last time we stayed for 4 nights, which we didnt feel was enough so we decided to go back again with some friends to show them where we had visited before. The weather was glorious, possibly too hot, we picked one of the only weeks in 2021 that was blistering hot, although I would rather that than raining, however it was difficult to keep cool in our accommodation. If you have never been, it is well worth a visit. You can stay in a central place and visit different towns every day and just meander through the streets to admire the architecture and the scenery and just relax. We stayed in a 2 bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Chipping Campden, in a village called Ebrington, which is a very picturesque small village to stay in. There was a pub in the Village, The Ebrington Arms, but due to Covid it was only open for restaurant bookings on certain days and we couldnt get in to eat as you had to pre-book so it was fully booked for the time we were there. It had excellent reviews so if you are in the area, give it a try. We stayed in a property called The Granary, which was part of a farm and are converted farm houses, there were 3 in a row with private parking plus a B&B Guesthouse at the front so it was nice and peaceful. It had a lot of character, it was a self contained cottage with a terrace, full kitchen and 2 upstairs bedrooms plus a private terrace out the back with garden furniture. It was handy for such a small place to have two ensuite bedrooms plus a downstairs toilet as well, so ideal for 2 couples sharing (although one room was a twin). It was an great location as as base, very near Chipping Campden and within driving distance of the other Cotswolds towns as well. We re-visited Bourton on the Water, which is a very pretty village with the stream running through it and the overhanging trees, the quaint shops. It is always extremely busy being one of the most popular Cotswolds towns. It has some lovely little independent shops where you can buy things a little bit different from. We sat on the grass and had some fish and chips in the shade plus an ice cream - well it was hot! On other days we visited a few towns, namely Broadway, a fairly small town but one of my favourties, a few quirky shops there and a lovely hotel called the Lyggon Arms if you fancy a bit of luxury. Moreton in the Marsh on market day, which is Tuesdays, they sell everything there and is good for a meander. Chipping Campden itself is very picturesque and we ate in an Indian restaurant one evening called The Maharajah, which I can highly recommend, the food is delicious and very reasonably priced. We visited Stow on the Wold and Burford, all are in the same style of Cotswold stone, it really is a beautiful part of the UK and you can just walk through the towns, looking at the quirky shops, grab a cream tea, ice cream, sit on the grass or benches, a really nice place to relax and take your time. Whilst we were in our Cottage, we started watching Jeremy Clarksons The Farm in the evenings, which is in Chipping Norton. So when we went to the town, we drove out to the farm with the intention of going into his farm shop, but it was absolutely heaving, the queues were very long and as the weather was blistering hot we didn't want to queue that long in the heat, so we just did a drive by to take a look but didnt stop. Chipping Norton for me doesnt quite have the same feeling as the other towns so we werent there very long, apart from buying some pies from the pie shop, which are very nice so my friends told me! There are quite a few attractions in various towns, museums, train journeys, etc so you can plan quite a bit if you want to but for us it was just about visiting a few of the towns and having a mooch about! It was lovely going back and seeing the towns again and if you have never been I would highly recommend a visit.
28 January 2022
In June 2021, we stayed in a Hot Tub Lodge in Brecon, Wales. We wanted to be able to go on scenic walks and relax in a quiet village. We did exactly that, the lodge was set on a quiet park called Heronstone Lodges with only a handful of lodges on site. We travelled with friends so we had a 2 bedroom lodge, I have to say the walls are so thin between the bedrooms they may as well not be there but having said that the property worked well for us. We had a private Hot Tub and self catering facilities so it suited our purpose. We had a couple of good weather days, we played golf on a nearby course one day and the next we walked the Pontneddfechan and Ystradfellte Waterfalls Circular. It was nearly a 10 mile loop which was just stunning, there is running water all the way along the trail with waterfalls, tall trees and streams. The trail is not always flat, it had steps, bridges, bit of uphill walking but the amazing scenery was just endless. I would highly recommend it if the weather is nice, you can even take a dip in the water or jump of cliffs into the clear water below. At the start and end of the trail there is a pub called The Angel which serves delicious food and was most welcome after a few hours walking and hiking. On another day we visited Henrhyd Falls, this is really picturesque, here they filmed Batman's lair in the Dark Knight, you can walk behind the Falls, the trees are so tall you feel like you could be in the Amazon! We were within walking distance of a small town, not too much going on there but had a pub, tea room and a short drive away was a supermarket so you can purchase all your food there for convenience if you like. We also visited Aberavan Beach which is a very large sandy beach, it was very quiet there probably because it was overcast, but its still nice to walk on the beach, watch the crabs even if the weather is not so good. Stopped for tea and cake on the beach so a good day all round. We were close to so many walks and trails, if you look on the All Trails app there are a lot to choose from. For a bit of R&R and to be at one with nature, the scenery was out of this world. A very nice part of Wales to go and visit.
08 December 2021
In May 2021 we stayed in a lovely little Cottage in Betley, near Crewe in Cheshire. It was in a perfect position, the location is close to the borders of Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire with North Wales easy to drive to, which is what we did after our stay here. The cottage was part of the owners 17th Century Coach house so had some lovely original features but with all the mod-cons you need, it was furnished to a high standard with its own little courtyard garden, which was a blessing as the week we were there was extremely hot. The property adjoined the farmers field so the cows would come and visit us which was lovely. The cottage was perfectly placed for going on various walks around the area, the cottage had lots of information including of all the different walks and nearby attractions. Within walking distance was a Tea Room, Village Shop and nearby were a few pubs, golf driving range and golf courses. We wanted to visit Chester Zoo which was approx 40 mins drive from the cottage and it didn’t disappoint, we love watching the series on TV, Life at the Zoo, and it’s really well laid out, it is large and you would need all day to see it all, so allow yourself plenty of time. Chester town is really nice, lots of historic buildings, shopping, cafes and restaurants, plus you can get out on the water and hire all sorts of boats, canoes, kayaks on the riverbank and visit the Roman Gardens. We also visited the town of Nantwich, which has some lovely riverside walks, watching the barges moving up and down the river. Nantwich is really quaint, another historic town so well worth a mooch around on a lovely sunny day. Trentham Estate is also nearby which is a garden with lots of different statues, you can go in search of the fairies, you walk around the mile long lake trying to spot all the Fairies along the way. This is a nice way to spend an afternoon and if you fancy a bit more shopping there are shops on-site shopping and tea shops. The cottage is so centrally placed, there are so many places you can visit from here: Nearby attractions include Bridgemere Garden World, 15 minutes away, the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, 20 minutes or Stoke-on-Trent with the famous potteries and the Emma Bridgewater Factory, 20 minutes. The castles of Peckferton and Cholmondeley are around 40 minutes away as is Hawkstone Follies Park. Alton Towers can be reached in around 50 minutes as well. I would highly recommend this property as it’s such a good base from which to explore, we spent a week here and there was plenty to do in that time and also time to relax, it did help that the weather was gorgeous but even if it was raining, there is a lot to visit. If you want any more information, just pop me a message.
22 December 2020
In late September 2020, 6 of us went to Pembrokeshire in Wales, we stayed in a cottage in Stackpole which had a fabulous pub 2 mins walk away called the Stackpole Inn and I can highly recommend the Sunday Roast, probably one of the best roast dinners I have ever had! From our base in Stackpole, we could easily drive to all the lovely beaches in the area and they really are amazing, you could travel all over the world and these beaches are easily the same if not better in some places. The first one we visited was Barafundle Bay, there is a lovely cliff top walk you can take to get to this beach, the views across the water are stunning. Throughout our time in Wales we visited other beaches at Angle, Freshwater West, Broadhaven South Freshwater East, Manorbier, Tenby south & north, Saundersfoot and Wisemans Bridge. Our friend brought their dog with them and he absolutely loved the freedom as the beaches were not busy at all and he was in and out of the water and the caves. Interspersed with plenty of beach walks, were a few walks in the nearby woods and a visit to a couple of nearby towns. We visited Tenby with its colourful houses around the harbour, we also saw the lifeboat launch off to a rescue and amazingly there was a rainbow coming out of the water and back in again, I know how rare it is to see the start or end of a rainbow but we saw both in one go!! We visited a tea room that was on the site of an Alpaca Farm, what a gorgeous setting, floor to ceiling glass windows so you can see the animals, goats, chickens etc with a log burner and the homemade cakes were delicious. I haven’t been to Wales since I was a child but I have to say that part of the world is so scenic, for a week relaxing visiting many beaches, watching the waves and having a cream tea or two and some fish and chips was great. Unfortunately for the most part it rained, as it does, but it didn’t stop us from going out and wandering on the beaches, just take your waterproofs with you. If you are need of a mobile signal then this place could be frustrating (unless you are on EE), the WIFI was not the best either but you can get by on whatsapp/email and other internet based communication, so if this is essential then perhaps Stackpole is not the place for you. You could receive signal when you went to the nearby towns but not in our Stackpole cottage. We were lucky with the lockdown in Wales as it was closing in around us but fortunately we arrived back home before their total lockdown. Spending time with friends was just was what needed after our summer of Covid19 restrictions.
22 December 2020
In September 2020 we took a short trip to Ilkley, Yorkshire, the town where the film Calendar Girls was shot. We stayed in a lovely Victorian Country House which consisted of apartments and cottages, called Westwood Lodge. We had a 2 bedroom apartment (both en-suite with showers) as we travelled with friends, it was very well equipped with every utensil you need in the kitchen, plus WIFI, smart TV, even bath robes provided and all finished to a very nice standard. The views from the apartment from every room, as we were on the top floor, were so picturesque. It had a lovely shared roof terrace as well with tables and chairs so this was a nice outdoor space to relax in and enjoy the views. The accommodation was very well located right next to Ilkley Moors and we spent a lot of time hiking up the moors and enjoying the amazing views across the town. There are walking trails to follow so there is no chance of getting lost. It can be quite steep and uneven in places so if you have any walking difficulties its something to bear in mind to choose your route carefully. On the moors is a plunge pool known as White Wells and its free, you just need to check if its open, so if you are brave enough you can take a very cold quick dip and get a certificate to say you have done it. There is a cafe on the same site where you can enjoy a drink and sit outside. We were only a 10 min walk from Ilkley Spa town which has the famous Bettys Tea Room, which of course, we had to go in and have a cream tea. Due to social distancing they were well organised with the queues outside which were separated whether you were going into the cafe or just browsing in their shop. I have to say their signature Fat Rascal scone was amazing and large. I was quite hungry when I went in and thought I might even order two of them but I am glad I didnt as they were big! Probably one of the best cream teas I have had. Ilkley town has everything you need for a self catering break, supermarkets, shops, restaurants, bars, train station and a nice characteristic feel about it as you walk around. Even though we were self catering and were quite happy eating in, we did eat out one night at a pub called Bar T'at and the food was delicious! We also managed a round of golf at East Morton Golf Club, this was about 40 mins drive away from Ilkley. It wasn't the higher end of golfing, with a cabin for the golf house, but the course was good with lovely, friendly staff where we hired everything we needed at amazing low prices. I really enjoyed getting away for a few days to Ilkley and I would highly recommend the area for a days away in the UK.
15 December 2020
In August 2020 we went to stay in a cottage in Warwick, right in the heart of the town and only a 5 min walk from Warwick Castle entrance and the town centre. What a beautiful place Warwick is, I loved the old buildings, the history and also St Nicholas Park was just amazing. The park is huge with plenty of open space, you can hire boats, kayaks, canoes etc and paddle up and down on the water with views of Warwick Castle. There was a childrens amusement park, playground and what a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon. We visited Warwick Castle, as this was during the summer of 2020 with the social distancing in place, there were less people in the grounds which actually made it a very pleasant experience. The castle is impressive with some lovely views of Warwick once you climb to the top. I would highly recommend the Falconry Show at the Castle. The amount of birds and the size of some of them are incredible, they swoop through the seating areas and across the water and you learn a lot about them. The Castle has a Maze but this was not as exciting as it would have been due to the restrictions but it is very informative and well worth a go. Less than a 2 minute drive away from where we stayed, there was the Warwick Race Track and a golf course. The golf course is cheap and at time of writing, very challenging as its not the best course with narrow fairways, lots of trees (plenty of places to lose balls if you golf like I do!) and the greens don’t exactly run smooth but for a few hours in the fresh air its worth it. From our base in Warwick, we also visited Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare's Town) which was picturesque, with the river walk and promenade, you can hop on a boat, there could be a street artist there and there are plenty of statues around of Shakespeare and his characters. We booked tickets to Tudor World which was a great step back in history, it is small and doesn’t take long to get round but its really interactive and has a lot in there, we managed to fit in the mandatory visit to a tea room and there are plenty of them so you wont go short for an afternoon tea! We also visited Leamington Spa which has plenty of shops if you fancy a bit of shopping. For a UK break, I would highly recommend Warwick, some nice restaurants, plenty to do and some nice properties within walking distance of attractions. We stayed for a week and that was a right amount of time for what we wanted to do.
12 January 2022
In February 2020, eight of us went back to Lapland. We had been the previous year and loved it so much that we went back again. This time we flew from Doncaster, we are happy to fly from any airport that suits our dates. Its about a 4 hour drive from kent, but we go up the night before and stay in an airport hotel, its no big deal to travel anywhere really as the timings of the flights are really good that you miss the traffic in either direction. When you land in Lapland, you just need to be wrapped up warm as you go outside to get your luggage and get on your coach, for the few mins you are outside, it can be cold. The airport transfer is approx 45 mins to an hour to the hotel. The Davvi Arctic Lodge is in a really remote location, which is why I like it so much. No shops (apart from 1 down the hill) and not commericalised at all. The property has such a friendly homely feel to it and the panoramic window in the restaurant is amazing. The meal basis is full board so you get 3 big meals a day, all you have to pay for is your drinks at the bar, which are not overly expensive. The food is wholesome, definitely keeps you full all day and caters for all dietary requirements. I am a Pescatarian and I certainly didnt go hungry. The Davvi Arctic Lodge has hotel rooms in the main hotel, Cabins in the grounds plus Fell Houses which can accommodate larger familiies. The Cabins are really nice as some have underfloor heating, in built saunas and walk in showers, they are obviously more expensive but a real treat. They also build Igloos each year if you want to stay in them for the night, I did this one but I have to admit I wouldnt do it again, it is quite cold. The hotel has a sauna and an outdoor hot tub for use by everyone (the hot tub is only available at certain times of the year and chargeable). The holiday price includes your thermal suit and boots so you just need base layers, hats, goggles, gloves, scarfs, snoods - you really do need to wrap up warm especially in the evenings outside. If I can offer one top tip and that is to purchase 'Little Hotties' to go in your gloves and also in your boots, they really do stay warm for a very long time and they were exactly what I needed every day. The hotel itself is really cosy and warm so you just need normal clothing when in the hotel or your room. The itinerary was exactly the same as before and we couldnt wait to experience it all again, it was just as magical as the other two times and I cant wait to go back again. Included in the holiday price was Husky Sledging, Snowmobiles, Reindeer Camp plus the Northern Lights trek, which is a guided walk up to the tallest point at the hotel. We were blessed again to see the Northern Lights which made an appearance each night we were there, some displays were better than others but it always amazing to see them. When we were out on our Snowmobile excursion we laid on our backs in the snow to see the lights. As if the above wasnt enough, the highllight for us is renting sledges from the hotel (only 5 euros each for the duration of your stay) and find the highest slope in the grounds of the roperty to toboggan down. The Reindeer Camp involves being pulled along by a Reindeer, learning about the animals and a welcome warm break around the fire. The Husky Sledging was also brilliant, you drive and steer your own pack of dogs and they can really move. You get some time to spend with them as well. They absolutely love it and they cant wait to get running! For the snowmobile excursion, you go out in the evening in search of the Northern Lights, you each take turns driving and are out for a good couple of hours across a frozen lake with a pit stop for a warm drink half way through. We went for 3 nights and its just the best sort of holiday, playing in the snow with your friends with all the activities posted on the notice board when you arrive. So its only then that you know what your timings are, the Tour Operator has to plan everyones excursions so your group can stay together. As you are so close to the Swedish border, you can place one foot in Sweden and one in Finland on the nearby border crossing on the bridge. And dont forget the old Church across in Sweden on the edge of the Frozen Lake, it's beautiful. Again we had a fantastic time and I cant wait to go back.
31 December 2019
Last year over Christmas we stayed in a hot tub cottage on the Norfolk broads. Travelling from Kent to East Anglia is much quicker at Christmas time than travelling to the South West so this year we decided to do it again but stay in a different area. We stayed at Head Fen Country Retreat near Ely, Cambridgeshire. They have a few log lodges set around a very peaceful fishing lake. They have private hot tubs overlooking the lake and our cabin had an outside sauna as well. They are furnished to a very high spec with a corner sofa, smart TV with Amazon Prime and Netflix included, everything you need in the kitchen plus an added bonus of Bluetooth speakers in the sauna.Our lodge was 2 bedrooms, one double and one twin with a sofa turning into a bed in the lounge to accommodate 6 people. They also allowed pets as well, although there is no sign any pets had been in there. The lodges have only been built this year (2019) so they are nice and new. The view from the decking, which has a table and chairs too, is just so peaceful. The swans come to see you in the morning and the sunrises were amazing. Ely is just a 10 min drive away and Cambridge approx 30 mins, so you can go and explore should you wish to. We were very comfortable in the lodge and you would be hard pushed to find such luxury at the price and the beautiful peaceful setting, believe me I have looked and it is quite rare to get this combination. If you would like any more information, just let me know and I can help book any breaks in the UK so pop me a message for a no obligation quotation.
31 December 2019
In late November 2019, I travelled with 14 other Travel Counsellors to Val Thorens, France for a ski trip and to stay at the Club Med property. Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe and even going in late November, which is a little early for the ski season, there was plenty of snow and good skiing to be had. Club Med is an all-inclusive property so all food, drinks, ski lessons, ski hire and lift passes are included in the holiday cost. This particular hotel, although accepts children, is not really set up for children, there are no kids facilities or entertainment so if you do have children they would need to entertain themselves. As with all Club Med properties, it is a lively property with day time music and evening entertainment. It is a ski in/out property with all the ski equipment, lockers etc directly in the hotel and the ski lifts come straight into the hotel. The rooms are modern and bright, tea/coffee facilities included and everything you need, hairdryer, safe etc. My room faced the beautiful mountains so the view was amazing. The food is superb, there is so much to choose from and caters to any dietary requirements, you certainly wont go hungry here. The ski instructors are patient and start from absolute beginners to experienced guides. The vibe around the hotel is friendly and the service is great. The town of Val Thorens is small and can be walked around in about 15 mins, it is so picturesque with the mountains in the background. There are restaurants, takeaway places and a bar or two plus an ESF ski school. Val Thorens is approx 2.5 hours from Geneva airport. Chambery Airport is closer but Chambery doesn't always have as many flights as Geneva and their flight schedule doesn't start until later in the season. The transfer from Geneva may seem a long time but the scenery is stunning along the way, especially driving around Lake Annecy. We had some beginners up to very experienced skiers and all were catered for and had a great time. I am happy to provide more information and quote for any type of ski trip, from low budget to high end, so please pop me a message.
05 December 2019
We visited Dubai for 3 nights at the end of our Mauritius holiday. It is only a 6 hour flight from Mauritius and back to the UK so its an ideal mid way stop off point to break the journey up. We stayed in apartments called Jannah Place which were just behind the Marina. The apartment was big and basic with good kitchen facilities. The bathroom was the smallest bathroom I have ever seen but for 3 nights it was adequate. The location was excellent, within a 2 min walk you can access the Marina with its 2 mile long boardwalk with boats, stunning buildings (especially at night all lit up). There are many restaurants, bars, stalls, children's playgrounds and the Marina shopping mall. Because the Marina is pedestrianised there were lots of people running, cycling (dedicated lanes) and it was really safe to walk at night. The buildings look great and at night when they are all lit up, it does look amazing! During the day we did a Hop on Hop Off bus as these are a great way to see the city and get your bearings. They take you to the Atlantis on the Palm, Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab, the beach, the Marina, Media City, to be honest everywhere you want to go. Its hard to do all this in a day as different buses do different routes, so if you have time take a 2 day pass. I know Dubai is expensive to eat and drink but we don't drink alcohol and around the Marina were some reasonably priced eating places so we didn't spend an awful lot of money on eating out. We had breakfast each morning at a place called Feta, which was adjacent to the sister property of the Jannah Place Apartments and it had a great view of the Marina. The price was only £12 for all you can eat full English buffet and pastries, egg station and drinks. On our second day we took a taxi to Abu Dhabi. The prices are all on a meter, there are plenty of taxis available, we tended to stick with the beige coloured taxis as there were lots of them around. The taxi cost was approx £50 one way. The reason for going to Abu Dhabi was to visit Ferrari World so we could ride the fastest roller coaster in the world. The park is completely undercover apart from a couple of rides which travel outside the building so you can keep nice and cool for the most part. They wont allow you to take any food or drink past the security entrance so you have to purchase a locker at the entrance if you have any consumables on you. You can take small bags into the park (without food or drink) and free lockers are available to use whilst you go on the rides. It is quieter to visit the park in the morning and it was really quiet when we went, no need for fast passes as there were no queues. When we left at 3pm it was starting to get really busy as people tend to go in the evenings. There are a couple of extreme rides, as well as the fastest, they had the tallest loop in the world on the Flying Aces ride. Also lots of places to eat, not too expensive either. We were there 4 hours and did everything we wanted to. There were also plenty of taxis outside to get back to Dubai. Dubai is huge and there are lots of things to do, safari desert visits with 4 wheeled drives, camel rides, speedboat rides around the Palm, boat trips, dinner cruises, water park at the Atlantis. There are many tall buildings which look great at night and the Marina was a nice place to stroll around at night, I would highly recommend this area as a base to stay. I know a lot of people like to be on the Palm, but it is quite isolating, there is no where to really walk to, whereas by the Marina, you can stroll to restaurants, bars, shopping, etc. The people were friendly and welcoming, everywhere was spotlessly clean but there are building works everywhere going on day and night. I cant even imagine how many builders must be working there right now. The weather in early October was very hot but not overbearing, it was quite humid, definitely shorts/skirts and t-shirt weather all day and night. Personally I think you only need a few days in Dubai, unless you just want to spend time relaxing at the hotel and on the beach then you could easily stay there longer with some very nice weather.
05 December 2019
In September 2019 we stayed at the 5 star Beachcomber Trou Aux Biches Hotel on the North West Coast of Mauritius. September weather was lovely, nice temperatures without being too hot and humid and very comfortable sun bathing weather. As the holiday went into October, some clouds started appearing but still nice and warm. Yes we had some rain and boy does it rain, but this happened during the night with just the odd light shower during a couple of the days. Trou Aux Biches hotel was amazing, the food, the staff, the setting, the pools, you cant fault it. It is a large resort but the one thing that struck me about this hotel is you cant see the rooms. They are hidden, so you just see the good stuff, the beach, pool and restaurants. The hotel isn’t within walking distance of shops or a town so you do need to grab a taxi to go into town, which is about a 10 min ride away but you can organise excursions from there and there is a lot to do in Mauritius. We did a South West Island Tour where we saw the 7 coloured earth, waterfalls, gin tasting factory and a temple on a Lake. You can do boat trips, booze cruises, zip wires, there is quite a bit you can do. We stayed 4 nights in Troux aux Biches and then moved onto another hotel called Veranda Grand Baie. This was still in the North West (they say West is Best in Mauritius for the less windy part of the island). The hotel was in the town of Grand Baie so you had somewhere to walk too if you wished, usual Caribbean touristy town, clothes shops, market, public beach, supermarkets, couple of eating places and a couple of bars. It is not large so you can cover it in a couple of hours. The Veranda Grand Baie was a 3 star plus property and it was lovely, the room was great, had a beach hut type feel and had everything you wanted, we stayed in a Superior room and the all inclusive included water, soft drinks and beer in the mini-fridge. The food was OK, nothing to get too excited about, it was basic and some strange combinations of things not quite to our taste. The service was fine, If you want a more cost effective option then this is a great choice. It had 2 pools, one with jacuzzi jets, its own private little beach with free watersports and it was nice being in a small resort where the reception, gym, restaurant are just a short walk from your room. They had evening entertainment each night and a nice lounge area. We enjoyed it at the hotel, we organised probably one of the best excursions we have ever done and that is the Mauritius Sea Karts, used to be Jet Ski engines made into these small fast boats. This was in the West of the Island (approx 1.5hour drive away). I would definitely recommend 2 hours as I think an hour wouldn’t be enough. You zip along and they want you to have fun, you can skip over the water twisting and turning and you get a chance to stop and swim in the water too, all the way you are hosted by the guide boat who take pictures of you. I would recommend all inclusive in Mauritius, I am not a drinker but drinks can be pricey, bottle of wine can cost up to £30 and for the most part, you are based around the hotel so having your food and drink included is very convenient. The flight is 13 hours direct from London and you can split the journey up nicely at the half way point in Dubai, it was actually nice getting off the plane to walk around and then get back on a couple of hours later. It is only 4 hours time difference (ahead of us) so no major jet lag. I really liked Mauritius, nice and relaxed, amazing scenery, very mountainous, beautiful sandy beaches with shallow waters. It is one of those Caribbean islands that you can visit during our summer months, so July and August and still have lovely weather. I visited a few hotels in Mauritius whilst I was there so happy to answer any questions.
02 May 2019
In March 2019, we spent 12 nights in Orlando and 2 nights in Miami. As we have been to Orlando before we had a rough plan of what we wanted to do and that was to visit the attractions and parks that were new since we were last there and visit some old favourites. We stayed at the Celebration Suites in Old Town Kissimmee, we really liked staying here as we were within walking distance of the Old Town with bars, restaurants and their Theme Park, which I have to say had some of the most extreme rides for a small area, we had a lot of fun here. Celebration Suites was basic and we stayed in a large 2 bedroom apartment with full kitchen and lounge with a pool so it suited our needs. The location was excellent and close to all the Disney Parks, Universal, International Drive and right on the Freeway which gives you access to everywhere you want to go. We visited Disney Springs which has Disney Shops, Rainforest Café, Cinema and lots and lots of shops, restaurants and bars. This was a great way to just ease ourselves into the holiday after a long first day travelling and spend the first day relaxing, the parking is free here. As we had a 13 year old with us we didn’t do the Disney parks this time apart from Animal Kingdom as we wanted to experience the new Avatar Ride and I must say it was amazing but you have to get there early, we were queuing outside the park at 7.30am and ran to the ride when it opened so we didn’t have to wait at all but as soon as we finished the ride, there was a 3 hour wait time already. We also met with Mickey and Minnie Mouse – well you have to – don’t you! As well as the theme parks, we went to a place called Wild Florida (45 min drive from Kissimmee) to do an Alligator Air boat ride and we spent a whole day there as they have lots of animals to see, we really enjoyed ourselves here with the Alligator shows as well. The Universal parks are a favourite of ours so we spent a lot of time here, we used the fast pass system which really helps. Of course it comes at a cost ($139 for unlimited rides across both parks on one day) but we felt it was worth it. In all of the parks you can take your own food and drink, the only park that were stricter on this was Aquatica, but we packed our food at the bottom of the bag as they didnt look too hard and when my friend was questioned, hers were gluten free so that was fine. The best ride for us was Mako in SeaWorld, it is a hyper coaster so don’t miss this one if you go to SeaWorld! And if you do stay in Old Town Kissimmee you have to go on Mineblower - this was immense! There is Free WIFI in all the parks, parking costs $25 per car for the day (unless you have a ticket that includes parking), you have to pay for lockers in each of the parks as they don’t allow any bags or loose articles on any of the attractions. It is worth researching this before you go, if you know where the lockers are and how much they cost, it can save you a lot of time and hassle on the day. We also visited Cocoa Beach (1 hr 15 mins away) and we were lucky enough to see a rocket launch on our way back past the Kennedy Space Centre! For our last 2 nights, we drove down to Miami (on a good day approx 4 -5 hours) and stayed at the Ocean reef Suites on Collins Avenue, South Beach. It really is the place to be as you are right in the heart of it and within walking distance to Lincoln Road. So a 5 min walk to the beach or the shops. The four of us stayed in a one room Suite which was fine for 2 nights, they offered a complimentary continental breakfast, we had a kitchenette and the location was superb. We took a tour around the islands of the homes of the rich and famous which is always interesting and great to get out on the water. We were in Miami during Spring Break so it was really busy (we caught the tail end in the Universal parks in Orlando as well and the park was heaving, even with the fast pass ticket) so best to avoid mid to end of March to avoid the crowds). South Beach is amazing though, white sand, large beach, our hotel room included a sun bed and towels on the beach which was handy. Miami has definitely become more expensive and eating out can be expensive, especially on Ocean Drive itself.
02 May 2019
In March 2019, six of us went to Lapland. I had been waiting for 5 years to go back and although we did exactly the same thing as we did before, it was just as magical and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Last time the Northern Lights didn't come out for us but this time, well, wow! I don't think I will see a display like that again in my lifetime, it was incredible, just how you imagine it to be and how you see in the pictures! We did Husky Sledging, Snowmobiles, Reindeer Camp and hired sledges from the hotel (only 5 euros each for the duration of your stay) and found the tallest slope in the grounds to toboggan down. We flew from Newcastle to the local airport in Sweden, then took the coach to The Davvi Arctic Hotel in Karesuando, Finland. The staff were friendly and the location was remote and idyllic. The hotel has such a homely feel to it and the panoramic window in the restaurant is amazing. The meal basis is full board so you get 3 big meals a day, all you have to pay for is your drinks at the bar. The food is great, definitely keeps you full all day and caters for all dietary requirements. We stayed in a double room which had big glass windows so you could see the snow and the landscape, the room came with tea and coffee facilities. The hotel has been renovated since our last stay and now has a sauna and an outdoor hot tub (the hot tub is only available at certain times of the year and chargeable). The holiday price includes your thermal suit and boots so you just need base layers, hats, goggles, gloves, scarfs, snoods - you really do need to wrap up warm especially in the evenings outside. The hotel itself is really cosy and warm. The Reindeer Camp involved being pulled along by a Reindeer, learning about the animals and a welcome warm break around the fire. The Husky Sledging was also brilliant, you drive and steer your own pack of dogs and they can really move. For the snowmobile excursion, you go out in the evening in search of the Northern Lights, you each take turns driving and are out for a good couple of hours across a frozen lake with a pit stop for a warm drink half way through. In 3 nights you get a fun packed few days with the excursions all carefully timed by the tour operator staff which are posted on the notice board when you arrive. The Aurora Borealis came out every night so we were very lucky, the first night was just amazing, we took ourselves up to the top of the hill at the hotel and just watched in awe. As part of the three nights you have a guided trip to the top of the hotel grounds, but you are always welcome to go exploring yourself, which is what we did the first night when we saw that awesome lights display. The hotel hire out toboggans for just 5 euros for your whole stay which you keep in your room so you can go sledging whenever you like and they have some big hills in the hotel grounds. Again we had a fantastic time and I cant wait to go back.
28 November 2018
In September 2018 I travelled to Bali and stayed 3 nights in Ubud and 7 nights in Seminyak. The journey time from the UK was approx. 16 hours as there are no direct flights, so you have to connect along the way. When we arrived in Bali at midnight the immigration queue was so long it took 1.5 hours to get through so worth factoring that in if you pre-book transfers. We were grateful to our pre-arranged taxi driver who waited for us as when you go through to the arrival’s hall, there are endless amounts of taxi drivers waiting for your business and I would have felt uneasy just jumping in one of those. It took approx. 1 hour to drive to Ubud where we stayed at the Inata Monkey Forest Hotel. This was in an ideal location with the Monkey Forest just at the end of the road and the property was right in the heart of bars, restaurants and shops plus within walking distance of Ubud Market. The excursion companies pick up from the hotel, you can do white-water rafting, visit the rice fields, go on a giant swing surrounded by lush greenery and visit temples, all of which I would highly recommend. There is a quite a lot to do in Ubud, it is a city destination with no beach and the town is very big, but it will keep you entertained for a while. I would recommend 3 or 4 days at least. Our hotel was small with only a few rooms, a swimming pool and breakfast room. The room had all the amenities you need and was a large size, it included free Wi-Fi and it was clean and the staff were friendly. We then moved to Tony’s Villas in Seminyak which was to be our beach base for a week. It took about 1.5 hours in traffic to get there. Bali doesn’t have any public transport, so it is really busy with motorbikes and cars, much busier than I was expecting, as everyone needs to get from A to B the roads are always congested. Seminyak was another large town and Tony's Villas was right in the heart of it. It is a stunning property and had the wow factor. Our room was huge with all the modern amenities including tea/coffee facilities and free Wi-Fi, the staff were friendly, but I felt the evening meal was under par. The quality didn’t live up to the standard of the property, so we ate out in the town. The food in Seminyak was amazing, it was fresh, large portions and it was well cooked and not expensive at all for the standard of it. We were a 10 minute stroll to the beach which had dark sand and was very wide and long. The sea was a little rough when we went but it made for good fun. You pay for sunbeds and umbrellas but it was worth bartering, you can get it for half the starting price if you haggle. We hired a private taxi for the day and visited Sanur, Nusa Dua, Kuta and Tanah Lot, this only cost £45 and the driver took us where we wanted to go. Our favourite was Nusa Dua as it was smaller, quieter and it had more of an upmarket feel than the other areas due to a few 5-star properties in the area. The town has manicured lawns with palm trees and statues - almost like a perfect picture! Kuta catered for the surfers, the beach was large with lovely golden sand and had excellent waves for surfing. Sanur had a lovely beachfront walk with bars, restaurants and shops. We visited Tanah Lot Temple at sunset and despite the thousands of other people doing the same thing, it was still stunning to witness, and we were so pleased to catch it. Tanah Lot is very commercialised with its own market stalls, shops and restaurants, you could spend hours there. It was only about £2.50 to enter as well. Worth mentioning that it takes about a 10-15-minute walk to get from the entrance to the temple itself which is set on the water’s edge. We liked Bali, the people were friendly, the food was cheap and good quality and there is a lot to do. If you need any more advice, then please do drop me a line.
25 April 2018
In April 2018 we travelled to Cape Town for four nights and stayed at the three-star Protea Breakwater Lodge. The location is fantastic, it's only a five-minute walk to V&A waterfront, 20 minutes’ drive from the airport and all excursions pick up from this hotel. It really is a different type of hotel. It was a former prison and has lots of original features which makes it quite unique. It is now a working business college and hotel and whilst it has a spa for treatments (massages etc), there is no pool or sauna facilities. Our room was a Business double which was huge with king bed and sofa with a large bathroom. Tip: you need a three prong South African plug adapter and there was only one socket in the room, so you need to bring an extension lead from home. You can see Table Mountain from the restaurant and the food at the hotel was amazing. There was everything you could ask for at breakfast including an egg station and the evening dinner was superb and quite cheap for the quality. In your room is a voucher booklet which amongst other discounts and offers, including one free entry to the comedy club which is in the V&A Watershed (a five-minute walk from the hotel). The comedy club is well worth a visit. Even though April is considered their winter, the weather was good with cloudy/sunny days and only one afternoon of rain. I would say the average temperature was around 20 Celsius. The V&A Waterfront has endless shops, restaurants, a Ferris wheel, excursion companies, an amphitheatre and food markets. This is definitely the place to base yourself. We never had a bad meal; the food is top quality and most of it was much cheaper than the UK. It is also a very safe place to walk around during the day and night. On our first full day we visited Cape of Good Hope which is the southernmost point of Africa and Cape Point. You can walk up to the lighthouse where you can take in some fantastic views of mountains and beaches. We also visited Boulders Beach which is where the African penguins live. It was breeding season, so all the penguins were nesting and protecting their eggs. You can’t actually walk on the beach so viewing platforms are provided. We also went to Seal Island on the boat and there are so many seals, either lazing around or swimming and jumping around in the water. All of these sights were part of a day excursion and a great way to see them as part of a small group tour. On another day we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and we were lucky to have a lovely sunny day for viewing the whole area. Tip 1: Don’t pre-book tickets for a certain day as the weather can change within minutes and the cable car could close or there might be mist covering the mountain, so you would have no view. Check the weather that day, then purchase your cable car ticket or hike up if that is your preference. Tip 2: buy your cable car tickets at your hotel, otherwise you could be queuing for 30 minutes to two hours at the foot of the mountain itself just for entrance tickets. By purchasing them at your hotel you skip these queues. There is a South Africa Museum which exhibits replicas of animals, rocks, whales etc which gives you a great insight into how these creatures evolved – fantastic for kids. Robben Island is another must do in Cape Town. Travelling by Catamaran or ferry which takes between 30 - 60 minutes, the trip starts with a 45-minute coach ride around the island with a tour guide explaining the history. The second part of the tour in on foot and an actual political prisoner takes you around and gives you more detail. This was truly humbling. This is not just a guide but somebody who was held prisoner there and is now a guide explaining his story and why he was imprisoned. Cape Town and especially being by the V&A Waterfront is a fantastic city. You can stay in Cape Town itself but it is not recommended you travel out at night in the city itself due to the crime rate. However, the waterfront area is fine, and we felt very safe walking around at night. The majority of people are friendly and helpful and make your visit memorable. We travelled overnight from Heathrow to Johannesburg (11 hours), then took a connecting flight to Cape Town (three hours). Although the journey is a long one, the time difference is only one hour so you don't have to worry about getting over jet lag - you can hit the ground running when you arrive. I would highly recommend a visit to this fantastic city.
25 April 2018
In April 2018 we travelled to South Africa to go on safari. We stayed in a private game reserve about an hour from Kruger National Park called Elandela Private Game Lodge. It is a very private property with only a few rooms and it has its own game animals on its land. It doesn’t have the Big 5 as it is missing the elephants, due to the amount of land they need, but what they do have is white lions which is very rare. Only two game reserves have these, so this is a real bonus for them and their guests. We stayed in a deluxe double room, which has a four-poster queen bed, a view of the lake and some nice amenities, such as sherry in the room, fridge, tea and coffee and being well positioned for the dining area. The property has a lake and swimming pool (which overlooks the lake) and if you are lucky the hippo, crocodile and other animals can be seen from the pool. The safari rangers are excellent, you have two game drives a day at 6am and 3.30pm and you have the chance of doing an extra night safari, which we did, and it was excellent. You can see what goes on with the animals at night and it was our favourite experience. They also swap one of your games drives for a morning at Kruger National Park, so you get the chance to see elephants (among other animals) so you can say you saw the Big 5. On every game drive they take you to another part of the reserve and try to get you to see every type of animal. Of course, this cannot be guaranteed as it is not a controlled environment, all the animals are completely wild but the rangers are looking out for footprints and listening to the sounds to take you to the right spots. Elandela is large, although not as large as other private lodges, but this is fine as you are more likely to see the animals. On site is a whole host of animals such as, zebra, giraffe, impala, rhino, white lions, normal lions, leopards (although they are so elusive we didn’t see them), buffalo and bush bucks, monkeys and so much more, too many to list here. The meal basis at Elandela is full board and consists of a set menu at lunch and dinner. Personally, I found this is a little limiting as I don’t eat meat, so I only had one choice, but they are very accommodating and will make sure you are catered for. Breakfast is great, and you have your choice of eggs, cereals, pastries and the usual extras. You also get two bottles of water included daily. Tipping on check out is requested and you decide who receives how much. The lodge is only a 20-minute drive from Eastgate Airport and transfers to and from the property are included. We flew in from Cape Town to Eastgate, but for our return we took a road transfer from the lodge to Johannesburg Airport. The road trip took around 7.5 hours so quite a long way in front of an 11-hour flight. I wanted to experience this for myself but for my clients I would recommend flying back from Eastgate Airport as this was a bit too far really. We loved Elandela, it was quiet, serene, friendly, the safaris were excellent, and it was all planned very well. It was a fantastic experience for our first safari and now we have the bug we want to do it again.
17 January 2018
We had such a great time in Iceland over New Year in 2016 that we went again for New Year 2017 and it didn’t disappoint. Iceland is such an amazing country with lots to see and so for this visit we did a few different things from last time. We stayed at the same hotel as before – the Fron, as the location is excellent, right in the heart of town and walking distance to shops, bars, restaurants and the Hallgrímskirkja Church. You can enter the church and walk to the viewing tower at the top to get some great views of the city. The hotel staff are friendly, they provide a breakfast and will help with confirming tours and transfer arrangements. We stayed in a studio deluxe apartment, so you get kitchen facilities as well as a larger room and sofa bed. Tip: Iceland can be an expensive place to eat so having a studio apartment gives you a microwave where you can heat up soups, etc and you can take a flask out with you. We visited the Secret Lagoon, which is not so secret anymore, however it is a natural geothermal spring with spouting geysers as opposed to the man-made Blue Lagoon. If you want more of an authentic encounter this is it. The Blue Lagoon is amazing though, it is much bigger, and the milky blue waters offer a different experience. Included with our Secret Lagoon excursion was a buffet meal at a nearby restaurant, which was excellent, good quality food and friendly staff. After this we went on a Northern Lights hunt, unfortunately the weather wasn’t right for us to see a display this time. On another day we hired quad bikes and went up into the Reykjavik mountains. The scenery on this tour is breath-taking, you can see frozen lakes where light aircraft actually land and people ice-fishing. You can view Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains and also tackle some rough terrain which gets the adrenalin pumping. I also always wanted to walk on a glacier, so this is another adventure we had. They kit you out with crampons, helmets, ice picks and safety harnesses and they lead you out onto the glacier where the guides tell you how they are formed and show you the crevasses, etc. The weather was kind to us, so we had a good two hours or so on the ice before heading back in. As part of this tour on the south coast we also visited the Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls (this is the one you can walk behind although not in the winter as its too dangerous). The waterfalls really are something and at the Skogafoss waterfall, you can walk up to the top and look down on it. If you don’t mind quite a few steps to the top, then this is well worth doing. New Year’s Eve is a massive party in Reykjavik and we have a favourite spot that we go to which is much less crowded than in the town itself, it is approx. a 35-minute walk from town but to see the fireworks all around you and across the bay is something you won’t forget. If you do go on New Year’s Eve, then be prepared for some restaurants and shops to close in the evenings as this is their family time and on New Year’s Day, there are not too many shops open. I am now looking forward to visiting Iceland in the summer for different experiences so watch out for that blog in the future.
02 August 2017
Cotswolds – wow what a stunning place! No wonder it is as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If you have never been, it is well worth a visit. You can stay in a central place and go and visit different towns every day and just meander through the streets to admire the architecture and the scenery and just relax. We stayed at the Bluewood Lodges in Kingham, the lodges come with their own hot tub and sauna. Most of the hot tubs are private but there were just a couple which weren’t so private so worth bearing that in mind when booking. There were 30 lodges on the site so nice and quiet and not too big. They do have a restaurant on site which apparently has won lots of awards, but in my opinion it was overpriced for not much food and not that great quality – perhaps it was a bad day. You can ride horses there, go fishing and the staff were friendly and helpful. We stayed in Blenheim Lodge and I would recommend it, not the most luxurious I have stayed in but a nice home from home type place. The location was ideal as you are in the middle of so many little towns, we visited Bourton on the Water, which was a very pretty village with the stream running through it and the overhanging trees, the quaint shops and of course cream teas and pub lunches. Other towns we visited included Broadway, Moreton in Marsh (you must eat in the Yellow Brick Café, amazing food!!), Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold, Burford and they were all in the same style and very picturesque, Chipping Norton was the closest town to where we were based but there is not too much to see here. On our last day we visited Witney (more mainstream shopping rather than historical place) and then onto Oxford which as you may imagine is a huge town. We took a Sightseeing bus as we had limited time and this was ideal to get to know more about the history of their education system and visit areas of Oxford that we wouldn’t have seen on foot. We were very lucky with the weather as it was early July and the sun was shining every day. It certainly is a stunning part of the country, we have some beautiful places in the UK, we just need to get the weather to match!
25 May 2017
We visited Paris in spring time and stayed in the 6th Arr. at a hotel called Le Littre, it is a 4 star hotel with fabulous Metro connections. Within a 5 min walk, the nearest Metro stations connect you to nearly every line so you can reach the major tourist attractions very easily. Tip: We bought a book of 10 tickets which allows you to use the Metro or the buses and this was sufficient for our 3 days there. They cost 14.50 euros (May 2017) for 10 tickets so really good value. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a Junior Suite which had a very spacious bathroom, its own entrance area and large bedroom. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly and everywhere was clean and tidy. They have a sauna, a small bar and an outdoor patio area where you can relax. Paris is a stunning city, the architecture and the layout make it easy to get from one attraction to another, it is a very sociable place, along the River Seine you can see friends just dangling their legs over the edge with drinks and picnics, just a place to hang out and relax for the evening. The Place de la Concorde connects the Louvre to the Tuilerie Gardens to the Champs Elysees. The Tuilerie Gardens is another place to stop, take a break, have a coffee or do a spot of people watching. The garden has plenty of chairs, benches and a fountain where you can sit round and enjoy the view. On our first evening we took a coach tour around the city followed by a river cruise along the Seine just to get our bearings and take in a few sights from the water. It took us past Notre Dame which was great as we didn’t manage to get back to visit this in our short time so at least we saw the building and it gives us an excuse to return to do a full visit. The next morning we visited the Louvre which houses the famous Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. The Louvre is huge and you will never get to see everything in one visit as it would take all day to make your way around all the different sections. It is well worth a bit of research beforehand to make sure you get to see what you want. We had an audio tour so we could learn a little bit about the history of the paintings, etc. In the evening we went to the Moulin Rouge. The surrounding area had lots of places to eat and drink and was quite vibrant. I didn’t know what to expect of the show and I won't give away any spoilers but just to say it’s worth a visit as it is so iconic. You can choose to eat there as well although we just went in for the show itself which comes with a bottle of Champagne for 2 people. On our last day, we had pre-booked a tour of the Eiffel Tower to reach the summit, it was great having a tour because our guide gave us the history and all the insights of the Tower. It is a great view from top and you can see the whole of Paris and he pointed out all the different landmarks. I would highly recommend visiting in the morning as the queues in the afternoon are really long, especially when trying to get back down in the lifts. You may also be interested to know on the first floor, they have glass floor panels where you can step on to see the ground beneath you. We then took the metro to the Arc De Triomphe and you can walk the subway underneath to get into the middle of the monument which is in the middle of the large roundabout. We walked down the Champs Elysees, some would say it is the most expensive street in the world and it does have a lot of shops, cafes, restaurants and if you want to drive a Ferrari for an hour, you can do it from here. It took about 40 minutes to walk the Champs Elysees to the big ferris wheel at La Place de la Concorde so it was a nice stroll after lunch. We only had 2.5 days in Paris, which is definitely not long enough. There is so much to do, I would recommend 4 days at least just to slow the pace down a little. The Eurostar is amazing in that it connects the UK to Paris in just 2 hours and you don’t have all that airport queuing and long check in times to contend with. We are now thinking where else can we visit on the Eurostar as it is just so easy. We travelled in Standard Premier class which is great because you don’t have to worry about getting food before you travel and you can just relax once on board as they serve the meal at your table. The only downside is there is only one choice for Vegetarians (which was quiche on our journey) which was fine for me but not great if you have paid the extra and don’t like the meal. You do get alcohol as well and soft drinks thrown in. We definitely want to go back to Paris and will do so in the future, it has a nice feel about it with all the café stops and the social side of the city and the architecture was just beautiful.
06 January 2017
This year I wanted to go to Iceland to celebrate New Year's Eve, as Icelandic people are well known for their love of New Year, so we flew out on 28th December for a 4-night stay. THE HOTEL I chose to stay at the 3 star Hotel Fron, it is in an excellent location, right in the heart of the city centre and within walking distance of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and the harbour. We stayed in a studio apartment which was large with a kitchenette, the decor was wooden and beamed so it had a very cosy feel to it. The continental breakfast was quite basic but enough to get you up and running. The staff are friendly, they keep you informed of cancelled excursions, rebooking them and re-confirming other arrangements. Due to the changing weather conditions, you have to expect a little work on your part; to check excursions are running and rearrange if necessary. Keflavik Airport is 45 mins from Reykjavik city centre but the transfer can take longer if you use the usual shuttle type service. Note: the shuttles depart approx 40 mins after flights land so if you are first on board the bus, expect to wait a while until the bus is full before it departs. Also, there may be a change of vehicle once in Reykjavik at the bus depot to smaller coaches, ready for the hotel drop offs. GETTING AROUND REYKJAVIK Reykjavik centre is quite compact and easily walkable, if travelling in winter be sure to wear thermal layers, sturdy boots and warm outer clothing. We wore salopettes for the excursions and these were perfect. Otherwise walking around with thermal layers, jeans and coats were fine. Definitely need hats, gloves, scarfs and snood if you have one. EXCURSIONS Visiting the tectonic plates… Our first excursion was on a Superjeep out to see the tectonic plates, this is where the continents of North America and Europe meet and pull apart, unfortunately, this was the worst day for weather plus it was dark when we visited (11 am) so we couldn't see too much and we didn’t have time to explore the area as it was a quick stop off. You need a bit of time here to take in the enormity of what you are seeing so I would love to go back and do this in the daylight. Strokkur Geysir… The next stop was the Strokkur Geysir, this was the main hot spring which spouts water high up into the air every few minutes, great to see and if you stand close enough you will get wet! Gullfoss Waterfall… We also visited the Gullfoss waterfall, now this is incredible, it's powerful, large and the scenery is beautiful, definitely not one to miss. We stopped at the Kerio crater which is 6,500 years old, the colours were stunning, you look down in this crater which had frozen water in the middle and red rock on the surrounding sides and it was just visually amazing. You can walk right down to the water's edge and look up too. In the summer when the ice is melted, the lake is a lovely blue colour. Part of this trip was a visit to the Glaciers but unfortunately, this was called off due to the bad weather with no visibility on the glacier. This was really disappointing but gives me an excuse to go back! Blue Lagoon… The next day we visited the Blue Lagoon, which is a man-made attraction but one of the must do things in Iceland. As this is near the airport, many people do this trip either after they land or on their last day. Personally, I didn't want to feel rushed for time so I chose to do it on a free day. I have to say unless you are really pushed for time this is what I would recommend doing. You can stay in the Lagoon for as long as you like, there is a restaurant on site, you can upgrade your package to include spa treatments and if you took advantage of all of this, you could be in there for 4-5 hours. Tip: towels are not included so take your own if you don't want to pay to rent them, approx £4 each. Lockers are free. There is a chargeable bar in the lagoon itself (limited drinks per wristband due to dehydration) and free face mud mask station. We loved it here and spent 2 hours relaxing in the lagoon. The water is 38 degrees so you never get cold even if it starts snowing/sleeting when you are there, which it did! Northern Lights… The next trip was a boat to see the Northern Lights. We booked the boat for the first night we arrived but it was cancelled due to bad weather at sea plus no chance of seeing the lights. We were advised at the time that Friday was meant to be a good night to see the lights so we rebooked for then. On the Friday, the boat left the harbour at 9 pm and they provide you with all in one suits to put over your clothing. You really need to wrap up warm if you want to stay outside so just wear everything! Just as the forecast had predicted out the lights came! Now they were faint and they were not all singing and dancing pictures you see but you could see the green trail across the sky. Amazing! Mission accomplished and I have to say I was really excited by it. NEW YEARS’ EVE The next day was New Year's Eve and this was our first free day to explore the town centre. We hadn't seen the town in daylight yet as the sun doesn't come up until around 11:30 and goes down around 4 pm and as we had been out on excursions it was always dark when we left and returned to the hotel. It is worth mentioning that Iceland is expensive to eat and drink, you can pretty much double the price of what we pay in the UK and more in some places. Well, what can I say about New Year's Eve! I have never seen anything like it before. We went on an excursion at 8pm on a coach, the Aurora Borealis made another appearance! It was a brighter display than the night before on the boat and again very exciting. Our guide took us to a spot which gave us a 360-degree view of the fireworks. You have never seen anything like it, thousands of fireworks going off all around us. I loved Iceland at New Year, they really embrace this celebration and with the proceeds of firework sales going towards the Iceland Search and Rescue team, it is all in a good cause too. I will definitely be going back to go hiking on a glacier and to see those tectonic plates so watch this space!
20 December 2016
In late November I travelled to California with a group of Travel Counsellors on an educational visit. We travelled with Air New Zealand and many of the group were upgraded to sky couch seats. This is three seats which are made up into a bed so one or two people can purchase and share this. You get pillows and a duvet and you can put your feet up which makes all the difference to a long flight. This is a fraction of the cost of a business class ticket and well worth doing. As we were doing a self-drive, we rented cars at the airport, but it is worth mentioning that the car rental desks are off-airport and this can take 40 minutes or more to get to the car depots as you are waiting for the shuttle bus and getting through the busy airport traffic. We drove to the Hollywood Loews Hotel for a one night stay, which is literally next door to the Chinese Theatre. The location is incredible, right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you couldn’t be closer. From our room, you could see the famous Hollywood sign. The hotel was clean, contemporary, the rooms were spacious and had one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in! In this area you can do excursions like Hollywood walking tours, celebrity houses tours, Universal Studios and plenty more. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is only a 25 minute drive from the hotel and you can park for free in Beverly Hills for a couple of hours so definitely worth a visit. We then travelled to Santa Barbara, which is a couple of hours by road from LA, so a good place to pit-stop if you are travelling the California coastline. I would recommend only travelling a couple of hours at a time if you are doing the coastal route, there are lots of lanes and lots of traffic and you don't want to spend too much time driving. Tip: Travel from San Francisco down as then you will have the coast on your side of the road. We stayed at the Harbour View Inn and my room was an Ocean View Room, these rooms are spacious, traditionally decorated and have beach and ocean views (across the road from the beach with uninterrupted views). I loved this hotel. It was small, friendly, very comfortable beds and ideally located right next to the Santa Barbara Pier with the town set behind it within walking distance. The town had a Mexican type feel to it. As we visited on Thanksgiving, unfortunately the shops were closed but something I learned is that there are 30 wine tasting venues in the town so you have plenty to choose from! I loved Santa Barbara, there is not too much to do apart from cycle rides along the promenade and shopping but that is why I liked it, it has a lovely relaxed feel to it and is very calming. An ideal place to stop off along the coast for a couple of nights. Our next stop was Santa Monica driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, again a couple of hour’s drive, en route we stopped off at Paradise Cove in Malibu, which is where the celebs hang out. Santa Monica is only 20 minutes from Hollywood and with the new Metro connecting the two, it is any easy journey to make. We stayed at the Le Meridien Delfina which is further back from the beach and more in the shopping district. If you wanted to be on the beach front, the Lowes Hotel would be a great place to stay. The Le Meridien had large bedrooms, all modern amenities and again comfortable beds, I know I keep saying this but all the hotels were amazing in this department! Now Santa Monica is the exact opposite of Santa Barbara, it is much busier, larger, much more to see and do. Santa Monica Beach runs into Venice Beach with its famous outside gym on the beach (a highlight for me). There is a cycle/walk/run/rollerblading path that runs the length of the beach, we had a guided cycle tour to learn more about the area which was a great way to spend an hour or two. Santa Monica has the famous pier with the Ferris wheel and also marks the end of Route 66. We were lucky enough to get a table at the Hotel Erwin to watch the sunset over the beach. If you can get a table, you can go up to the roof top, have a drink and just admire the view. Along the beach there are lots of tourist shops and stalls selling all sorts of wares so you can go and have a stroll along and watch the street artists perform and take a look at the murals on the walls. From Santa Monica we drove to Palm Springs, this took about 2.5 hours. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Indian Wells, a large resort with its own golf course and spa facilities. This is really where you come to relax for a few nights before travelling on again. Palm Springs has its own airport, plenty of designer shopping at the outlets and it is very peaceful with lots of space and quite manicured so all the palm trees and scenery look perfect. We went for a visit at the Living Desert which is a conservation park for animals and you can get up close to the giraffes from their feeding platform and observe the cheetah run amongst other things. Well worth a visit if you have a spare few hours. We took the cable car ride up into the mountains. The cable car floor rotates so you can get great views without having to fight for a spot, on the day we went up, the visibility was zero unfortunately but it was amazing to see it snowing quite heavily once at the top. There is a big restaurant at the top so you have plenty of shelter if you didn’t want to venture outside. During the summer you can do mountain walks and go and spot the wildlife that lives on the top. The weather in late November was glorious, we were in shorts and t-shirts, until we got to Palm Springs where it was colder and we just hit a bad couple of days apparently. California has 325 days of sunshine a year so there really isn’t a bad time to visit. So what are you waiting for?
28 October 2016
We visited Rome in late September and the weather was glorious. Not a cloud in the sky and it was definitely shorts and t-shirts weather. We stayed in a three star hotel in a central location, under a 10 minute walk to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps and not far from the main train station. The hotel was clean and the staff were really friendly. I would describe it as a guest house rather than a hotel, there were no airs or graces but it was ideal for a short stay on a budget. There was a small roof terrace where they served a continental breakfast which was sufficient enough to start your morning. The roof terrace was open 24 hours so you could go up there in the evening if you wished, there was no view to speak of but it was a nice space to relax. As you can imagine in Rome, every tourist spot was jam packed with visitors. The Trevi Fountain was amazing and is a definite must see. It is situated amongst restaurants and shops and it didn't disappoint, it is very well maintained and I have to say, I was in awe of it a little, I just loved the architecture. The Spanish Steps are across the road from The Trevi Fountain and visitors are sat around on the steps just enjoying the moment. My favourite visit was the one to the Colosseum. As you would expect, it is a huge arena and has changed usage over time. What once was the Gladiator arena changed into dwellings later on and the floor of the Colosseum no longer remains so you see the underground vaults and chambers. It really is a fantastic place and you get a real sense of what went on in there. Outside the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. This is the original Rome and it takes you on a journey on how the city was built and rebuilt when new Emperors came into power. The museum explains how it evolved over time and you can walk around the ruins at your leisure. To do both of these things in one day could take you about four hours and the mornings are really busy in the Colosseum so my tip would be to visit in the afternoon and do the Roman Forum in the morning. We pre-purchased a 48 hour hop on hop off bus ticket which included skip the line tickets to the Colosseum and Vatican. Skip the line tickets are a must, otherwise you will be queuing for hours just to get in. Even if you don't do the hop on hop off bus I would recommend buying a skip the line ticket from the many sellers outside the attractions. They all seem to work for the official operators and are really friendly and helpful. Tip: if doing the hop on hop off sightseeing buses, don't just board at the nearest stop to you as this could take you ages to get to your desired stop. Study the map and get on at the best bus stop in the direction you want to go. Even if this means walking an extra 15 minutes, it could save you an hour of sitting and stopping on the bus. We visited the Vatican and Sistine Chapel on the same day and you can also go into the Basilica. Again allow a good few hours here to get round, the sheer amount of people slows things down and there is a lot to take in along the way. The paintings, murals and sculptures are incredible to see and so vibrant. I would say you would need three or four days to see most of what Rome has to offer, there are some beautiful buildings and a personal guided tour would give you that insight into the city's history. As for food prices, they are generally higher than the UK unless you stick to pizza and basic pasta dishes. They serve their meals differently than in the UK in so much as you order a main ingredient like meat or fish, then you also order vegetables and potatoes to go with it. The side dishes alone can cost around £8 each and that's on top of approximately £15-20 for the meat or fish, these prices are for the general restaurants so top restaurants would be a lot higher. I was surprised at how cheap the tourist shops were and also how cheap the goods were on the stalls around the attractions. I was expecting those places to exploit the hordes of tourists but the prices were consistent around the city. Rome is very big and busy with traffic, driving would not be for the fainthearted. They have a great bus and metro system, there are taxis everywhere (approximately €45 from the airport to a city centre hotel) and the journey takes around 40 minutes. Rome has so much history and with only a 2.5 hour flight time from London, it makes a great short city break plus with fabulous weather from April to October you would have plenty of opportunity to get there. I look forward to returning one day and exploring more.
12 October 2017
If you thought Prague was all about stag and hen do's then think again. What a beautiful and historic city it is. It is much bigger than I had expected and there are so many shops, bars, restaurants and museums. We stayed at the four star Century hotel in the old town which was in a great location for catching a tram or a short walk to the old town square where the Astronomical Clock Tower is. There are plenty of shops and eating places and a great place to stroll around. There were some market stalls near the hotel and a large shopping mall was just a couple of steps from the hotel entrance. We stayed in a standard double room and it was on the small side, not much room around the bed itself but how much room do you need? It had tea and coffee facilities, TV (only news channels for the English market) and quite a small bathroom. Having said that it was clean, comfortable and set in a very nice building. The staff were friendly and accommodating and inside the hotel was a restaurant and a bar. We didn’t eat in the hotel but chose to go outside and eat in the local restaurants. In the Old Town and on the hour the Astronomical Clock chimes and a short show starts, the crowd gathers early so get your spot and wait for it to begin. As well as telling the time, it shows the position of the sun and the stars and has many other symbolic statues. We had pre-booked a ‘One Day in Prague’ tour which consisted of a coach tour of the city, then a walking tour and a boat ride. The guide was really good and told us all about the history of the city, including the troubles of the Nazi regime. It included a three course lunch in a charming location with spectacular views and very good quality food. I didn’t realise how beautiful Prague was, the buildings are quite colourful, and a lot of the streets are cobbled which adds to its charm and the buildings date back to the 14th century so the architecture ranges from old to modern. Prague has a historic bridge called Charles Bridge, finished in the 15th century. It is like an outdoor museum with 30 statues mounted on it. The bridge is always bustling with people, they have stalls selling all sorts of wares, my tip would be to visit very early in the morning or late at night when it is lit up to avoid the crowds. The food and drink is cheaper in Prague than the UK but not overly so. I was expecting it to be a lot cheaper and perhaps it is away from the centre where you will find these prices but of course you spend most of your time in the centre. There were some restaurants which charged a lot for the amount of food you received so it wasn’t always good value for money. Just pick your restaurants wisely as you would in any tourist town centre. We did see large organised pub crawls for the youngsters but we never experienced any rowdiness or drunken behaviour, it would seem to me that they kept this away from the tourists. But then again we were never out until the early hours of the morning so perhaps we just didn’t see it. They still have trams that connect you to the main sites and coupled with a metro system you can travel easily anywhere. We bought a 24 hour ticket for 110 Koruna (approximately £3.50) and you hop on and off the metro and tram for this. It even gives you free travel on the funicular train to the top of the Petrin Hill. The Petrin has different gardens you can walk around, it has an observation deck (approximately £3) where you can walk up a spiral staircase of 300 steps to see some stunning views of the city with its red roof tops, river and bridges. There is a lift option too so you don’t have to walk. We went to Prague in mid-July and for the most part the weather was glorious. Shorts and t-shirts was enough but we did have one day of full on rain and a few spots of rain on other days. The city has a lovely vibe, you can just meander the streets, from one coffee shop to another, do a bit of tourist shopping or shop in the large malls. You can hop on and off trams, buses or trains or sit and watch the world go by. I would say three nights/four days is a good duration to cover most things to do. One thing we didn’t have to time to do was to visit the Terezin Concentration camp which is approximately a six hour tour, so we should have thought about that earlier. It is only a 1hr 40min flight from London so a great city break destination. I would highly recommend it.
06 September 2016
I was extremely lucky to go to St Lucia for an educational trip with Travel Counsellors in July 2016. We flew Business Class from Gatwick with BA and of course having a lay down bed for the eight hour journey and the in-flight entertainment make it a really enjoyable trip. You can choose your meals from the a la carte menu plus alcohol and soft drinks. We stayed in three hotels to see varying standards and each of them were fantastic in their own right. BodyHoliday Resort: There cannot be too many hotels in the world that achieve what this hotel does. They have exercise classes running 11 hours a day and spa treatments as and when you want. It is an amazing concept, they have weight management programmes and early morning walks. You can pre-plan all your classes and treatments months in advance so you can plan your stay. You can choose to either join in or just relax as you would do on a normal holiday. The hotel is located in the very tip of the North of the Island in Castries which is approximately 1.5 hours by road from the airport, which is located in the south. I stayed in a Luxury Ocean View room and you can hear the waves crashing from your veranda. Very relaxing! You have an iPad at your disposal, tea and coffee facilities and the bed is tall and large and extremely comfortable. They have a great single traveller programme, such as communal tables for dining, and they have single rooms so single travellers don’t have to pay single supplements. In September they have a special week where they have added extras such as a sunset cruise, hosted dinners and a few more activities for single travellers. No under 12’s are allowed at the hotel. Rendezvous (located in the north just down from the BodyHoliday resort) is an all-inclusive adult’s only couple’s hotel. It is very much geared towards couples in that there are no twin room options. The property is open fronted so there are no windows or doors in your view as you look towards the beach, it is completely open which gives you a lovely sense of space. This was quite a wow factor when you arrived. This is where the buffet meals are served plus where the evening entertainment takes place too. There is an a la carte restaurant which is part of the all-inclusive too. It is wise to pre-book as it is a small intimate restaurant and the food is delicious and well presented. The hotel has a secluded lazy river with some private couples’ sunbeds, plus the rooms are spacious and have all the mod-cons with docking stations, tea and coffee facilities and marbled bathrooms. There is a spa at the hotel and a couple of swimming pools if you fancy a change from the beach. This hotel has a friendly laid back atmosphere and you are very warmly greeted. The last hotel we stayed in was the Sugar Beach Resort, which can be found in the south west part of the island and closer to the international airport. This was our last stop and I was lucky enough to stay in a Beachfront Bungalow. As the name suggests this was right on the beach and the Bungalows are stand-alone properties which are very private. They have their own private Jacuzzi, outside shower, pop up TV, hammocks and butler service. This is where many celebrities stay and I was in Bungalow 18, which was a little more private than others as there was some foliage slightly blocking the view to the sea. Other beach front bungalows had a clear view to the sea so I would suggest requesting which level of privacy you want depending upon your personal preference. You had the use of mobile phones to talk to your partner or the butler, an iPad and the furnishings were very contemporary, the room even included your own kitchenette plus an oval stand-alone bath. You don’t have to go all-inclusive at this hotel, they offer B&B, however I would say that as you are a little isolated from visiting outside as it is such a sprawling property that all-inclusive is the best option when staying here. The breakfasts at all properties were ample, had lots of choice, cooked or continental choices and egg stations. The Sugar Beach was the only property where it was cooked to order. There is a sense of space in all areas and the view from the beach and the swimming pool was simply stunning with the Twin Pitons as the backdrop. You can climb one of the Piton’s with a guide for only $30 and this takes 4-5 hours if you can tear yourself away from the beach. I have to say this property was of a standard I hadn’t experienced before, the staff somehow knew you by name, even ones you hadn’t met yet! Some of the accommodation at the top of this resort was simply amazing, with infinity pools and views across the beach and the Pitons, it was a slice of paradise. The beaches were as you would expect from St Lucia, white powder sand, idyllic and beautiful. I would recommend upgrading to a helicopter transfer for those hotels in the north of the island. The island is only 27 miles long but all the roads wind round and round and it takes quite a while to get there. Plus if you get travel sickness it can affect some people quite badly. The hotels in St Lucia certainly live up to their high price tag, but I found the surrounding towns a little unkempt to be honest. If you want beautiful looking towns then Bermuda certainly has the wow factor, but staying in a hotel on St Lucia is certainly a cut above. I would definitely recommend a visit to St Lucia for the charming hospitality, the food, beaches and of course the weather. You won’t be disappointed.
23 June 2016
I thought I would spend a couple of days in Belfast to visit the Titanic Centre and enjoy the city. I stayed at the Hilton in Lanyon Place which is set in a really great location, its a 5 min walk to the town and sits on the Waterfront so it has some great views, especially at breakfast with the large glass windows looking out onto the river. The staff are friendly, the hotel is clean and has some great facilities, such as a bar, restaurant, and gym. The concierge is willing to offer suggestions of things to see and do and one of them was to take a Black Cab Tour of the city. As it was a quiet time of year we rang them on the day and they turned up at our hotel after breakfast. Many of the drivers have lived through the troubles of the segregation and the IRA so they have the first-hand experience of what is was like to live through the turmoil. I would definitely recommend this tour, we were out for 2 hours in our own cab and it only cost £30. We were given a full history, shown around all the places where events took place which are now etched in history and we saw so many murals which depict the conflict that used to exist. It was definitely an eye-opener. Our main purpose of travelling to Belfast though was to visit the Titanic Centre, what an amazing building! The architecture, the materials the building is made of, the internal workings, just everything about it is based on the ship. Even the benches outside are arranged in the morse code used on the ship. They said to allow 2-3 hours for the visit but somehow we spent 7 hours there. I would recommend pre-booking the White Star Premium Pass at £25. This gives you a guided tour, access to the SS Nomadic (the tender boat for the Titanic), free souvenir photo and the self-guided tour of the history of the ship. It also gives you discounts in the Titanic Shop and restaurant. It was well worth the £25. The city has some lovely walkways around the waterfront, it is easy to walk to the Titanic Building, there is a cinema and entertainment complex just in front of this. They are building up the Titanic Quarter with cafes, shops etc and it is an on-going development, which looks great. The town has plenty of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants which surround the city hall. The people are really friendly and helpful and it is well worth a quick hop across from the UK, next time we shall visit the Giants Causeway during the summer months, the flight is only just over an hour from the UK so you don't spend too long travelling. A taxi from the International Airport to the city takes around 30 minutes and costs approx. £30. You can also fly into the City Airport which is only 10 mins away from the City itself. I am already looking forward to returning someday soon.
31 May 2016
I visited Hong Kong in mid-May and stayed at the Cordis Hotel in Mongkok. The hotel was incredible, the rooms were spacious, the king bed was comfortable, it had a roof top swimming pool, sauna and spa. We took a Tai Chi lesson around the swimming pool with a very animated instructor, definitely worth it just for him. The hotel also offer free walking tours around the area so it's a good idea to get yourself on one of those to get your bearings. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly and the food in the hotel was the best food we had in our time there. The weather was a little cloudy with some sun, it was humid but not unbearable. It rained one evening, the humidity in the evenings was still high so there were no sudden drops in temperature during the night. We stayed in Mongkok, Kowloon which is approx a 40 minute drive from the international airport (flight time from the UK is 12 hours). Kowloon sits opposite Hong Kong Island and you can visit the Sky100 observatory to see great views across to the Island. We went to the Ritz Carlton which is set in the same skyscraper as the Sky100 and up to the 105th floor to have a coffee in their restaurant and admire the views. After 5pm you can go up to their Ozone Restaurant on the 118th floor and have a meal whilst watching the Island light up, the view is amazing. There is a lot happening in Mongkok, with lots of food markets plus the Ladies Market where you can shop for anything and everything. Hong Kong have a MTR underground system is easy to use and will get you to most of the tourist attractions. You can buy various day passes to suit the duration of your holiday and have unlimited journeys. You can also travel on the MTR to get to the cable cars which go across to Lantau Island. You must pre-book to use the cable cars to skip the queues, otherwise expect a 2 hour wait to get on! You can just book on-line the day you visit if you haven't managed to do so in advance. In Mongkok, there are no shortages of shops if this is how you want to spend some time. Either on the street markets or in shopping malls. Langham Place shopping mall is attached to the Cordis Hotel and has one of the longest escalators in the world! Its an easy place to get lost in! We went on a trek to Dragons Back Trail, if you get the opportunity to do this and you don't mind a half day walk, then I would definitely recommend it. It is not the smoothest of terrains so it is not the easiest of walks (we were glad it hadn't rained as it would make it quite difficult) and you will need some mosquito repellant but the views from the top of the mountain of Hong Kong and the Islands/beaches are incredible. Another excursion you can do is to visit the Peak by tram which takes you up to a fantastic viewing spot where you can look down on the city below. I would pre-book tickets for this one as you could be waiting in the queue for hours in busy times to get a tram ticket. There are a couple of fantastic restaurants i could recommend which is the Grand Harbour Hotel and Hutong Restaurant. Both have fantastic views of the Hong Kong Island skyline and at the Hutong, the Symphony of Lights Laser and Music show is in full view there. The star ferry will take you from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island in 5 minutes and costs about 20p, the taxis are also inexpensive so getting around is cheap and easy. You don't need a visa or jabs for Hong Kong, if you planned on going to mainland China during your stay then you would need a visa. I found everyone to be helpful and friendly and the prices of food and drink were on a par with the UK. If you want any further info, then just drop me a line.
23 February 2016
We travelled to Suffolk on Christmas Eve 2015 and I left home early because I thought the Christmas traffic would be bad. I had travelled to the West Country many times around Christmas and the journey always took double the amount of time, however travelling up the country from Kent is obviously the much better direction as there was absolutely no traffic at all. We booked an early check in at Weybread Lakes, which is on the border of Norfolk/Suffolk and set on a private lake with 3 other Log Cabins. Our cabin was called Willow Lodge and you could smell the wood as soon as you opened the door, it definitely had the wow factor! The lodges are immaculate with Italian leather sofas, modern kitchen with a full fridge freezer, dishwasher, washing machine, microwave, in fact everything that you would find in your own kitchen. It has underfloor heating throughout the cabin, the stereo system plays in every room including the bathroom and the sauna. The bathroom was modern with bathrobes, towels and slippers supplied. The cabins come with a full size sauna and an outdoor hot tub which was bliss during the winter and extremely relaxing, they even supply plastic champagne flutes so you can drink whilst sitting in the jacuzzi. There is WIFI throughout the cabin but because of the location, there is not a good enough connection for streaming videos. Although there was nowhere really to walk to, only around the lake which took a few minutes, this was definitely part of its charm, all you can hear is the sound of the ducks on the lake and you can fish there too if you wish. Within 5 minute’s drive there is a local supermarket where you could get all your groceries plus a village pub. Diss is about a 10 drive with Great Yarmouth about 30 mins away. It was extremely peaceful in the cabin, the owners greet you on your first day but then you don’t hear from them unless you need to. They check the hot tub daily but they never encroach on your privacy. The cabins only sleep 2 adults each and some are newer than others. I liked Willow Lodge because of the specialist way it was built and would prefer that look over the newer one. It has a large veranda that runs the length of the cabin with wooden sunbeds and a table of chairs, which must be lovely in the summer. The fence opens out so you can see the lake from the hot tub area, but remains closed in the winter to give you privacy. The TV has Freesat so it has some digital channels, plus a DVD player. At Christmas the owners had put up a real Christmas tree with lights on which was a lovely touch. It really was a home away from home and I didn’t want to leave, it was furnished to a high spec, peaceful, relaxing and I will definitely be back. If this kind of luxury log cabin break appeals to you, then please contact me on 01622 807980 for more information and prices.
03 November 2015
I was lucky enough to go on an educational visit with 17 other Travel Counsellors to Istanbul. Our hosts were Turkish Airlines and Karavan Travel, who are a Turkish Destination Management Company. Istanbul is a very busy and large city, there is endless traffic and short journeys can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the time of day. The least busy day is a Sunday as not many people drive so if you are getting a taxi back to the airport I would advise travelling back on a Sunday so as not to incur any delays getting your flights. We stayed in The Gulsoy Hotel which was approximately 20 minutes walking distance from the Blue Mosque or there is a bus/tram stop right outside the hotel so you can hop on this if you prefer. The hotel itself was opposite another mosque and the call to prayer happened at 06:20 each morning, so prepare yourself for an early morning wake-up call (although I slept through it for two mornings which is unheard of for me). The hotel was clean and the beds were really comfortable, it had an indoor spa with swimming pool, Turkish bath and Sauna. There are also great views from the outdoor swimming pool on the roof top and had it not been raining the entire time we were there I am sure we would have taken some time to enjoy the roof terrace. We did have time to use the indoor spa facilities and I would highly recommend the Turkish Bath, it was extremely relaxing. The only thing that let the hotel down was the restaurant, it was down in the basement and was a different style to the rest of the hotel, and we all agreed the food was not to the English palate. I would advise sticking to B&B or room only and eat out in the local restaurants. As part of our sightseeing trip we visited the Spice Market, which was colourful and vibrant. It not only sells spices but all sorts of electrical goods, clothes, food and is a quite a large but narrow market which sits alongside the Bosphorus. From there we took a cruise along the Bosphorus River taking in the fantastic architecture along the way, I do enjoy a bit of a jaunt on a river and there are some stunning buildings along here and you get to learn the history behind them. The next day we visited the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia plus we spent some time in the Grand Bazaar. There is much to learn about Topkapi Palace and the interesting way that the Harems and the Concubines lived together in the palace. Unfortunately due to the wet weather the group decided not to enter The Blue Mosque as it meant a queue in more rain and it was a very long wait to enter, so hopefully I can re-visit one day to see inside. I did enter another Mosque (called Nuruosmaniye) which was free to get in and the architecture and the size of it was amazing, this Mosque was just outside the entrance to the Grand Bazaar but just remember to remove your shoes before entering and women must wear a head scarf to cover their head and shoulders. Hagia Sophia is an amazing building and was constructed in the year 537, it has since changed from a church to a mosque and is now a museum. These buildings are situated in one area called Sultanahmet so it is easy to walk from one to another and in the area there are many shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Sultanahmet would be the ideal place to stay to have everything on your doorstep. You can catch a hop on/hop off bus here which will take you around the sites and even over the Bosphorus River to the Asian side of the river. This would be a great way to get your bearings on the first day of your trip and they give you some great maps to use around the city. Our next stop was the Grand Bazaar, which is well worth a visit, this is a place where you can haggle for everything. They sell delicious Turkish Delight, not the normal style you see in the UK but endless amounts of flavours and shapes and sizes. This is a bustling indoor Bazaar selling jewellery, handbags, leather, sports clothing, food, electronics, lighting, ceramics and much more. It was raining and it was packed with people but you could spend hours in here picking up some bargains or just enjoying the hustle and bustle by walking around the many corridors. With a flight time from the UK of just under four hours, I would highly recommend Istanbul for a city break and I think three nights would allow you enough time to see everything the city has to offer.
09 October 2015
We arrived into Philadelphia on the Amtrak Train from Boston. The journey took 5 hours on a direct service and actually went quite quickly. Business class seats give you a bit more space and a slight recline and the key is to book early to get the best prices. The Amtrak states basic free wifi but be warned, it is not that great, you cant stream videos so cant watch movies and it does cut in and out along the way, so download a couple before you depart. We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton on South Broad Street, otherwise known as the Avenue of the Arts, it was in the heart of everything and everywhere was within walking distance but they also have a great bus and train or trolley service if you don't fancy the walk some days. We were given a corner room which gave us great views along each side of the avenue and especially up to the City Hall Monument which had the statue of William Penn on top, one of the best city views I have ever had (room 1603). Because it was a corner room, it was large and had all the usual amenities. The beds were comfortable (2 queen beds) and there were coffee and tea making facilities. The hotel has no free wifi but there is a business centre that gives you access to a computer and printer and also a computer on the front desk so you can look things up should you need to. The hotel is surrounded by shops, restaurants, bars and cafes, so you don't have too walk far for anything. There are designer shops plus the usual Macy's, Walgreens, etc plus a Market Square full of takeaway food outlets, retailers selling local produce and sweets galore! There is a lot to do in Philadelphia and plus if your timings are right you can take in an Ice Hockey game, American Football or Baseball, all the stadiums are at the Sports Complex, which is a direct train from right outside the hotel. We saw the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team at the Wells Fargo Centre and it is a great family atmosphere and tickets can start from as little as $20 each. One of the highlights for me was running up the steps from the film Rocky and seeing the Rocky statue, such an iconic moment from the film and doing it myself was just fantastic. This is at the end of Benjamin Franklin Parkway which also links Fairmont Park, The Boat House (which is quiet and a lovely walk if the weather is kind), the Museum of Arts and the Franklin Institute. We arrived one day after the Pope's visit so there was a lot of traffic control measures still in place whilst the city was getting back to normality. I would highly recommend a visit to the Benjamin Franklin Institute, the Museum is so interactive but definitely allow a good 5-6 hours to get round it all. We took a cruise on the Delaware River in the evening, we were the only 2 on it and that actually made our trip as we were in with the Captain as he gave us a private narrated tour along the way. To be honest, Philadelphia doesn't have much of a view from the River at night and there isn't much to see apart from the Benjamin Franklin bridge which looked lovely lit up and some huge navy boats aircraft hanger, so I would recommend doing this during the day. Another highlight of the trip was being able to see the Liberty Bell. We had learnt a lot about the history of the Declaration of Independence in Boston, so to finish the story off by being able to see the Bell up close (at ground level) was amazing. Also going into Independence Hall and having a narrated tour where you get to visit the different rooms and chambers of how the Constitution was drawn up was fascinating. We also visited the Constitution Centre, which holds the Bill of Rights and also how the Constitution evolved to include ALL people, so there are sections on LGBT rights, women's rights, how slavery was abolished. There is a lot to visit which covers every aspect of this time in history and it is really interesting how they broke away from British Rule and the British Monarchy to form their own Independence. If you like Mexican food there is a great restaurant called El Vez which is on the corner of 13th and Sansom Street, (one block from the hotel) they do great tacos with top quality ingredients. We loved Philadelphia, it has a relaxed feel to it, there are lots of young people around as there are so many Art Academy's in the vicinity, everyone is helpful and friendly. I would say 3 or 4 nights is enough to do the main attractions but another night or two would slow the pace down a little plus there are a few more Museums and the US Mint to visit if this is of interest. It was great to do Boston and Philadelphia in one trip as both cities completed the full history of America's Independence and I thoroughly enjoyed being there. Loved it!
14 October 2015
We visited Boston in early fall, however because they had a later summer, the temperatures were around 24 Celsius, so the autumn leaves weren't abundant in colour at the end of September. We stayed at The Taj Hotel in Boston and the hotel was on the corner of Newbury Street and right opposite the Public Garden which leads to Boston Common. Newbury Street is famous for its designer shopping and some restaurants. This is the high end side of Boston and our hotel actually had the Tiffany store inside it. Although the Taj has an Indian background and has an Indian restaurant on site, it feels and looks quite British. It is one of the most upmarket hotels in Boston and the service and the staff are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. You can even pay to have your bath run for you if you are too tired! The basic rooms are a good size with all the usual amenities plus complimentary water every day. The location is faultless, right on Newbury Street, five minutes’ walk from Boston Common, 10 minutes to Theatre District and China Town and 20 minutes from Quincy Market. The Arlington Train station is right on the corner and it only takes about 30 minutes to walk to Fenway Park, where Boston Red Sox play. We bought tickets to see a baseball game and it was fabulous, although it seems people are more interested in eating and shopping than watching the game. We loved it! You can spend a good few hours at Quincy Market, there are endless take away food places selling fresh sea food and every cuisine under the sun, all top quality too. There are stalls where you can buy anything from trinkets to clothing plus a shop selling 'Cheers' memorabilia from the TV show. The actual bar no longer exists but there is a flag outside the building to show where it once was. At Quincy Market there is Faneuil Hall which has a few more shops plus information on the Freedom Trail and the history behind it. Boston doesn't have as many high rise buildings as other American cities and feels more British in its architecture, which is probably down to USA being under British Rule originally. I would highly recommend doing the Boston Tea Party, this is a fascinating and interactive account of how USA became independent hundreds of years ago. They have a fantastic gift shop and a tea room, where of course, you can select from a variety of teas and scones. There is a Freedom Trail which runs through the city, this is marked on the pavement by red bricks and you can follow this and walk around all the major sights that were instrumental in the USA becoming independent. The trail takes you over to Charlestown to Bunker Hill which is the monument erected to honour the patriots who died in battle, the museum is free to enter and you can even climb to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. If you can manage the 294 steps to the top, which we did, you can then get some great views across Boston. Charlestown is lovely, there isn't too much there but it was great to visit and to see the quaint houses and enjoy the sleepy atmosphere, this is how I imagined Boston to be. Of course, when in Boston you must do some whale watching. We caught a 10am catamaran out to Stellenwagen where whales can usually be spotted and we were not disappointed. We saw Humpbacks and Minke's plus a mother and its calf side by side as they were feeding, it was amazing to see and the on-board marine biologists keep you informed all the way. The trip lasts 3-4 hours with the majority of the time getting there and back so if you don't have good sea legs, then a sea sickness tablet may help if you suffer as it can get bumpy. I would highly recommend a bite to eat afterwards at the 'Legal Seafood' restaurant at the harbour side. The food is so fresh and delicious but it is a busy place so expect to wait 20 minutes or so for a table. We visited Harvard University in nearby Cambridge. The campus is huge and there are free maps you can pick up outside the train station so you can find your way around. You could join an escorted tour also if you prefer. The Campus is open until 5pm to the public and you can also visit the library and the official Harvard Clothing Store in the town, there are endless amounts of souvenirs plus clothing to buy but be warned, it comes at a price! You can buy Harvard clothing anywhere in Boston at cheaper prices. We travelled a few times on the trains which was not too difficult to follow, you can purchase a 1 day travel card which allows you to hop on and off for 24 hours for $12. The people were friendly and helpful, especially when they can see if you are not too familiar with your surroundings and they are more than happy to point you in the right direction. Everywhere we ate in Boston the food was good quality and I would say prices are on a par with England, if not slightly more, but you do get good sized portions. Boston is very easy to walk and travel around, there are endless places to eat and shop and it is steeped in history, I learnt a lot about the Independence of the USA from here. I would think four nights is a minimum if you want to visit everything that's nearby and there are many hotels to choose from that put you right in the heart of the city. If you were thinking of visiting Cape Cod or Maine from here, you would probably need more time. There is a lot to do in Boston and also it's a great town to relax in with the parks and public areas, so with a seven hour flight time from the UK, it's not a long flight to learn some fascinating history.
09 October 2015
If you've never visited Chicago, then get yourself there, pronto! It has it all: amazing Skyscrapers, designer shopping, fantastic food, friendly people, Lake Michigan, sandy beaches and everywhere was spotlessly clean. We went in mid September and the sun was shining everyday, although that may not always be the norm for that time of year. The city has a lot of open spaces so you don't feel suffocated by the tall buildings. We stayed at The Thompson hotel, which is a chic, trendy, happening place located amongst various restaurants and within walking distance of many of the city's attractions. It only takes 30-40 mins drive from the airport and taxis cost around $40 each way. The on site dining is pricey but there are plenty of other choices within the vicinity of the hotel. I was very impressed with this hotel, its super modern, has friendly and helpful staff, large bedrooms, very clean, large selection in the mini bar and walk in shower. The city has a couple of well known observatory points, the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Centre. You may wish to visit both but we decided on the John Hancock Centre for 2 reasons 1) the views take in the shoreline and the city plus 2) the building has a 'Tilt' which is a few windows on the 94th floor that tilt 30 degrees out of the building and you tilt with it looking at the streets below! I did this and I have to say its pretty scary, but definitely an experience I wont forget. The Willis Tower is probably more well known which can lead to more crowds and lends itself to more of a city view plus it has a glass ledge that you can step out of the building about 100 floors up and look below you. The city is vast and there is so much to see, we stayed for 4 nights but could have easily done with 6 or 7 nights in order to see everything, or maybe take in a baseball game at Wrigley Fields, spend time in the No 1 rated museum in the world, the Art Museum and if you like shopping, you could spend a good few days in and out of the shops from Top Shop to Tiffany's along the famous Magnificient Mile. The Millenium Park has the cloud gate sculpture by the British Artist Anish Kapoor which locals call the 'Bean' due to its shape, it reflects the city's skyline and looks fantastic. Grant Park has a large fountain with a great backdrop and a great cafe that serves delicious ice cream, we also took the 'EL' train to Lincoln Park, where you will find a History Museum and the Zoo. The train is an easy way to get around the city if you don't fancy walking all the time and you can purchase day passes which allow you to hop on and off the train. The EL train led us to Chicago's Chinatown which is the USA's second largest Chinese community and had lunch in one of their many restaurants. The food was fresh, tasty, plentiful and at a very reasonable price. You can also hire bicycles all around the city and pick up and drop off in different locations. There is a pedestrian zone running alongside Lake Michigan where you can cycle, run, walk, rollerblade, whatever takes your fancy along the 12.5 mile trail. Navy Pier is well worth a visit, it has an Imax cinema, Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant (you may know this from the Forest Gump film) with all the references to the film in the restaurant. There are plenty of places to eat here with great views across the lake to the skyscrapers. There are some great tourist shops and market stalls with a ferris wheel and amusement rides. I would recommend a Boat cruise as this takes you through the waterways where the guide informs you of the history of the city and the architecture behind the buildings. You can also go on a Movie tour and learn where hundreds of movies were filmed. There is a website called onlocationvacations.com and you may be able to go and see a film or TV series being filmed live in the city. I have to say the food throughout was very good quality, we never had a bad meal, the prices are on a par with London however you do get more food. If you are not big eaters then consider sharing a meal or snack as the portions are large. Our favourite eating place in the mornings was the Corner Bakery, scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado for breakfasts, all lunches etc are pretty healthy and low prices too. I absolutely loved Chicago, it has become my favourite US city, it has a relaxed feel with plenty to do and also space to chill out as well. It has something for everyone, so what are you waiting for?
07 October 2015
Wow, where do I start with describing Bermuda. Idyllic, paradise, upmarket, expensive, friendly, stunning beaches and coastlines. Even the airport is surrounded by water and the take off and landings are picturesque. We stayed in the Southampton Parish at the Reefs Hotel, which is a 35 min taxi ride from the airport. It is a 40 min bus ride from the Royal Naval Dockyard and a 1hr 30 min bus ride from the Crystal Caves. The hotel's view was stunning, I have yet to stay in a room with such an idyllic view. A clear view out to sea and the beach, you can hear the waves lapping onto the shore. The beach itself is as you would expect, soft sand with speckles of pink sand too. The water is crystal clear with sand underfoot, it can get deep not too far out so not ideal for young children. The hotel is mainly couples or groups, it doesn't have a great deal of children's entertainment, it does have kayaks and paddle boarding but that would be the extent of their activities. The hotel has a Club section which affords you some exclusive areas but the main part of the hotel has an infinity pool plus hot jacuzzi both overlooking the beach and fantastic sea views. The breakfast is delicious and plentiful with an egg station, cooked buffet, along with pastries and cereals, but also offers waiter service too if you prefer, The hotel has 2 different places to eat plus an a la carte restaurant, called Aqua Terra. The food was very good throughout but without transport you are confined to the hotel somewhat, the only thing outside the hotel was a restaurant called Henry VIII, which was about a 5-10 min walk, no pavements and dark at night, but no problem walking there. The food was top quality though with plenty of choice and about 2 times cheaper than the a la carte at the hotel. Opposite Henry VIII is Horseshoe Bay, which has been voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world. You can kayak round from The Reefs to relax on this beautiful beach. We travelled in September, which can be a little rainy and whilst it did rain and was a bit cloudy, the weather was still warm and we spent time on the beach and around the pool. For guaranteed sunshine though I would recommend travelling between April to early September. In our limited time of 3 days we visited the Royal Naval Dockyard which has lots to do here. Fun golf, Rum Cake factory, shopping stalls, museum, cinema and much more. The bus ride to the Dockyard was $9 return from the hotel and the bus stop is right outside. We also spent half a day at Crystal Caves, the cost is $22 for just the Crystal Caves entrance or $30 to also enter the Fantasy caves. This place is fascinating and well worth a visit. To see the stalagmites and stalactites that have been there for over 1.8 million years and to learn how the caves were discovered is amazing. The cost of the bus is $9 and requires a change of bus in the capital of Hamilton. The journey can take 1.5 hrs with the change of bus so it will take up a fair amount of your day. As it is illegal for visitors to rent cars in Bermuda you have 3 choices: bus, taxi or hire a moped. The taxis are pricey and if you don't fancy taking your chances on a moped then bus is the best option. Not that the roads are dangerous, which they aren't with a 20mph speed limit plus they drive on the same side as the UK, but it may not be your thing. Bermuda is spotless, I didn't see one piece of rubbish anywhere, the houses are immaculate, the greenery is lush and there are no shacks or outbuildings. It really oozes class and they obviously take pride in their country. I would say that everything comes at a price, food, drink, shopping is more expensive than in the UK. They have more golf courses per square mile than any other country including the PGA course and they look in pristine condition, I believe the green fees for the PGA course is $250. You can also swim with Dolphins in Bermuda. There is zero unemployment and the crime rate is extremely low, everyone knows everyone and like the UK, police do not carry guns. With Bermuda only being under a 7 hour flight from London, plus a 2 hour flight from New York or Boston and 3 hours from Miami, it is a great stop en route to the USA or just to make it a single centre holiday. To have paradise practically on your door step, it's one place that should be on your bucket list.
28 July 2015
We stayed at the 4 star NH Amsterdam Centre Hotel and I have to say the location is perfect. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly and made a complete fuss of our wedding anniversary, with room upgrades, free gifts, room decorations and a free breakfast (and at £30 for 2 of us, that was well worth it as we made lunch out of it too!) The hotel is modern, clean, it has a gym, bar and spa facilities (chargeable), it is directly opposite the Leidseplein with its many bars, restaurants and shops, some designer. I would say the prices for food and drink in Leidseplein were probably about the same as London. The hotel was a 5 min walk away from the Museum Quarter, which hosts a few attractions including the Van Gogh Museum and a lovely grass area with cafes and little tourist shops. Vondelpark was a 2 min walk from the hotel and we had a lazy last afternoon there in the sunshine. They allow BBQ’s and you can walk (or cycle) around the park which is really relaxing, it’s amazing that such a large park is in the middle of the City. You can catch trams to Dam Square and also to the zoo, both of which are only 10-15 minute tram rides away. The Zoo (http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo/) is really well laid out, it has natural surroundings for the animals, some of which are not caged at all, the historical building that is housed in makes for a different Zoo experience and the healthy food in the café made a nice difference to the usual attraction type food. I would highly recommend it and you probably need all day there. The Micropia Exhibition (http://www.micropia.nl/en/) next to the Zoo is fascinating, all the organisms, bacteria you can’t see and where it exists in your life! The hotel is also directly opposite the canal, where you can go on a canal cruise and hire your own boats or canal bikes (pedalo) to explore the area yourself. Even though we got completely lost, I would recommend taking your own detailed map as the ones they give you don’t really correlate to the street names – or maybe that was just our excuse! I would highly recommend a walking tour of the Red Light District as the insight the guides give you really brings the industry to life and you learn an awful lot about the history and how it all works which is something you wouldn't’t know if you just wandered around. The subject can be a little graphic so not to be done if you are easily offended. We bought a 48 hour Amsterdam City pass whilst we were there which cost 59 euros each and I have to say it was more cost effective that way, it gave you fast track entrances to some museums, free transport and discounts for many more attractions. Before buying, it is worth adding up if it would work for you for what you want to see but it did work in our favour and saved quite a few pennies. We were going to hire a bike but we chickened out when we got there and saw how many there were. You really have to concentrate every time you cross a road as there are bikes everywhere and they don’t stop or abide by their own traffic laws. We saw a couple of near accidents and decided there was too much concentration needed for our relaxing city break. There is so much to do in Amsterdam and the people were so friendly and helpful, they are accepting of anything and I can’t wait to go back, loved Amsterdam!
18 May 2015
After our gentle time in Khaolak, Patong was the complete opposite! We stayed in a very contemporary hotel located in the heart of the 'strip’ called Bangla Road. It was also a very short walk to beach and shops and approx 30 mins drive from the airport. If you are looking to fall out of a club and into your hotel, this is the place, it was ideally located. The hotel had some great features like a rooftop terrace and cocktail bar with live music. Swimming pool with swim up bar, sunbeds, free pool/beach towels. A totally open front reception and it has a gym, pool table and table football. We stayed in a deluxe pool view room. There was a full sized fridge for own use, no mini bar, the rooms were big and included a day bed and a balcony (ours was overlooking the pool). The room has an open plan bathroom but does have sliding doors for privacy. It included a lovely stand alone bath and a separate rain shower. Patong is a very busy and lively resort, even in low season in April. It is full of bars, nightclubs, ping pong shows, girlie shows, shops and beach sellers plus of course plenty of restaurants and food outlets. You can do excursions for many things from here, one of them is Muay Thai boxing which is heavily advertised in vans that drive along the streets. Drinks are not as cheap here as other Thai resorts, I would say the same price as England and watch out for extortionate prices in the adult only shows, charging £24 for one alcoholic drink! Patong beach is also busy, lots of peddlers trying to sell their wares every few seconds and of course you can do all the usual watersports. The beach is wide and long, the sand is soft and white but is so busy with watersports and people that it is not what you would call a paradise beach. The water is cool and shallow, with soft sand under your feet. It has all amenities such as a shower, toilet, somewhere to get food and drink and you can put your own towel down for free or purchase two mattresses (no beds) and umbrella for £4 for 2 people (2015 prices). If you are looking for peace and quiet you are in the wrong resort. This is the busy and raucous side to Thailand. It is like Marmite - you will either love it or hate it!
07 May 2015
We travelled from Bangkok to Khaolak, which is a plane to Phuket and then approx. a 1.5 hour drive from Phuket. Khaolak is one of my favourite places ever, it is not very busy so you can just spend the time relaxing, they have a smallish town with souvenir shops where you can buy some fabulous wooden traditional Thai goods plus clothes and the usual tourist gifts. It is also a great base for excursions - you can go on elephant rides, day trips to Phuket, James Bond Island, Phi Phi Islands and the list goes on, so your break can be as busy as you want it to be but in a peaceful environment. The Thai people here just have a peacefulness which is hard to find. I have a previous blog on this resort which you can find on http://www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/claire.summers/Profile-Blog/MultiCentreThailandandtheLovelyElephants As for the hotel we stayed in, the decor was in an oriental style and is very serene and beautiful. This hotel was devastated by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 and rebuilt in a new style and finished in 2007. The grounds are well spread out, very well connected by walkways and bridges, lots of stand-alone villas and also beachfront bungalows. It has a private beachfront. The beach sunbeds are on a raised platform and not actually on the beach as the tide comes in too far. All the beds and towels are free with a permanent umbrella. The swimming pool is split into 3 sections, the front one being an infinity pool. The hotel had free popcorn, homemade cookies, sweets and a few treats which all the guests were welcome to. The sea is golden sand and very shallow, great for kids, there can be some waves a little further out which is fun. You can walk along the beach and look at other beachfront properties and there is a beach bar not far along. I have some more detailed information on this hotel if you would like more information. The hotel is right in the town, you can walk outside the hotel and have a choice of restaurants, bars and lots of touristy type shopping on your doorstep. We spent 5 nights here and I was actually sad to leave as I am not sure when I'll be back.
07 May 2015
Saweedeka (Hello in Thai) Our holiday this year was back to Thailand as I was lucky enough to win a prize of 6 nights in Khaolak and Phuket. So I decided to bolt on Bangkok this time around. The Khaolak and Phuket travel journeys can be found on my webpage too. We stayed in a modern 4 star hotel in the Sukhumvit area, it had a swimming pool, fitness centre, spa facilities and spacious well designed bedrooms, the location was fantastic, within walking distance of the Sukhumvit Road which is full of bars, restaurants and the adult only area with more bars and nightclubs. The Sky train station was only a 5 min walk from the hotel. The Sky train is a simple monorail system designed to get you up above the traffic and it is cheap and easy to get about. You can buy a day pass for £3 per day. You can also use the Metro to get about as well but the Sky train covers the main tourist spots. I would definitely recommend catching an evening of Muay Thai boxing at Bangkok’s oldest stadium (Rajadamnern Stadium), tourists pay £40ish each for ringside seats for 4 hours of boxing but you can arrive and leave when you like if you don’t fancy being there that long. Drinks are not expensive and there is a great atmosphere with locals noisily betting on the fights. For attractions in the city you can visit the Grand Temple (Wat Arun) and the Grand Palace, but women need to cover their shoulders otherwise they won’t be allowed in. You can also visit the largest Reclining Buddha at Wat Po (they are not so fussed about how you dress). All these places can be reached by going to the Central Pier and using the water boats, so you get a great trip up the river. Central Pier is easily reached by the Sky Train. I would recommend taking the blue tourist boats (£3 per day) and you can get on and off any pier along the route. The blue tourist boats are called Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, there are cheaper ways to travel on the river but as a tourist this makes your first journey less complicated. There are yellow and orange boats but you need to have researched your way around this to understand it plus you can also hire private longboats too. Thailand celebrates its New Year on 13th-15th April (they call it Songkran), which is their water festival so everyone has a water pistol and everyone gets soaked. The traditional water pouring is meant as a symbol of washing away all of their sins and bad luck. You can’t go anywhere without getting wet so either join in or avoid those dates! Bangkok has a great energy, it is a very busy city, it is a shopping mecca, there is nothing you can’t buy which ranges from cheap to high end and it is easy to get around using the transport options, the food is great and the city has a real buzz about it. I would say 3 nights is enough to visit the attractions and get a feel for the place. The airport is approx 40 mins from the city with good no traffic but can be double this if congested, so it is worth bearing in mind when you have flights to catch.
23 December 2014
I was very lucky to be part of an educational trip to Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis with a group of 8 other Travel Counsellors, which was hosted by the respective Tourist Boards for these destinations in November 2014. The trip included hotel site visits to gain first hand knowledge of the hotels, meet the owners and managers plus experience some of the excursions, beaches and towns. We were lucky enough to receive flight upgrades to Business Class, which is definitely the way to travel. It didn’t even feel like you were on a plane, the comfortable lay down beds make all the difference as you arrive feeling refreshed and ready to go. Antigua is very unspoilt, it is what you would class as a typical Caribbean island. There is hardly any traffic on the roads and dotted around are very colourful houses for the locals and it is not over developed with hotels. The English Harbour area is extremely pretty and with hotels within walking distance, this would make an ideal base if you wanted somewhere to wander to for an evening meal and to soak up the atmosphere. St Kitts is slightly smaller than Antigua and is steeped in history. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus, originally called St Christopher and shortened in recent years. There were battles with the French to own the island and Brimstone Hill is a great place to visit to see the fortress and the army base. The views are simply stunning up high and you can learn so much about how the Island was invaded and fought for. St Kitts is a 15 min flight from Antigua so makes for a quick transition when flying from London. There is a train that takes you around the whole island which will pass through all the sights which takes approx 2 hours. The Island of Nevis is smaller again but the scenery doesn’t disappoint, classed as the more expensive and exclusive of the three islands, the beaches and the seclusion will have you feeling relaxed the moment you arrive. You can reach Nevis by speedboat from St Kitts, which only takes about 5 mins or the ferry which is 45 mins. Nevis is home to the Hot Springs where you can relax and enjoy its therapeutic benefits in peaceful surroundings. I have to say the food is outstanding, good old fashioned home cooked meals with plenty of flavour. Lobsters are in abundance and all the fish dishes were superb. Caribbean food has become my favourite food! Meal costs vary depending on if you are eating in hotels or around the local towns, from being very cheap to around an average of £20-£30 each for an evening meal, you can drink the local beer for just a few pounds. Branded drinks can cost a little more and cocktails are around £6 each. As for excursions, there are lots of things to see and do. You can take catamaran trips, enjoy some scuba diving, horse-back riding and plenty of tennis in the hotels. One of the excursions I did in Antigua was to go to the Stingray Centre, you take a short 5 min boat ride out into the Ocean where you can feed and interact with the Stingrays. Of course, you are wary of their sting but even though they are strong and powerful, they are harmless and gentle creatures. With only a 7 hour flight to Antigua from the UK, this is a great alternative to the Canaries and Egypt for some winter sun. It shouldn’t be dismissed during July and August either, despite the islands being written off as the supposed hurricane season they haven’t had a hurricane since 2001 and there is barely any rain during those summer months. With some hotel prices decreasing by 50% it should definitely be considered. On all the islands there are two distinct sides, the Atlantic Ocean where the seas are a little rougher and brings in seaweed in November and the Caribbean side which is calmer, great for kids and no current bringing the seaweed in. The seaweed is not a problem in other months but definitely something to think about if holidaying in November. I would definitely recommend Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis to anyone looking for a relaxing break in peaceful surroundings. Of all the hotels we visited - and most of them were 95% full - you didn't see lots of people everywhere, you would think the hotels were empty as people are out exploring or just relaxing in their accommodation, no one area was ever crowded so it had a very spacious feel. The people are friendly, warm and hospitable, nothing is too much trouble and they know how to provide top customer service. The one thing that really came across is that they know the beauty of their islands and they are in awe of the scenery that surrounds them on a daily basis. It’s quite amazing to witness and their pride about their islands is definitely felt.
02 October 2014
I have never been to Turkey and my clients and friends always seem to enjoy their holidays there so I thought I would have a relaxing break in the sun and I chose Olu Deniz as my first visit. The transfer from the airport is approx 1 hour 40 mins as you drop other people off at their hotels so a private transfer would reduce this by about 30 mins or so. Olu Deniz is a bustling compact resort, it has a pedestrian shopping area, a nice beachfront promenade where paragliders land after jumping from the mountains and lots of good seafront restaurants. The resort is packed full of restaurants, bars, shops and is really aimed at the British holidaymaker - there aren’t any big night clubs so it doesn’t really attract the 18-30 crowd. The prices in resort were approx £2-£3 for a large beer and evening meals started from £5, the food and drink is relatively cheap and you can see why people go self-catering or B&B. The accommodation we stayed in was a 3 star hotel and we were lucky enough to be put in one of their best rooms which had a sea view from the balcony and had been completely refurbished this year (2014). It had a walk in shower, flat screen TV and the furnishings were completely new. The hotel does have free WIFI but it has its limitations to around the reception area. The hotel is under a 10 min walk to the shops and sea front so it was an ideal location. We stayed on a Bed and Breakfast basis and I have to say the breakfast was quite limited. I do not eat meat so my only choice was boiled eggs or omelettes as the cheeses and salad didn’t look that appealing. For meat eaters, the only other choice was these small sausage type things. I would recommend room only here or eat breakfast at one of the many cafes, they only charge around £3 for a full English breakfast. Olu Deniz is famous for its Blue Lagoon, which is a 15 min walk from the main beach. There is an entrance fee to pay, £1.50, as it is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The food on site was quite limited so we tended to stay on the main beach so we had more of a choice for lunch. Sunbeds and Parasols are £2 each in any part of Olu Deniz. The sea on the main beach can be quite rough and gets deep quickly whereas the water at the Blue Lagoon is calmer but it is still deep, you didn’t see many children being able to play in the water but perhaps it is different at different times of the year. We went in late September with temperatures of 32c plus and the sea temperatures were perfect for swimming and cooling off. The bus services to surrounding towns is really good, they run every 5 minutes and start around 7am and finish at 1am, you can get anywhere really for a £1 or under a trip. There are many excursions you can do, such as boat trips to the Blue Caves, cruises around the Island, sea kayaking amongst many others plus the Fethiye Market every Tuesday. We went there and it is huge, selling everything from fruit/veg to T-shirts. We bought 3 bags worth of fruit consisting of plums, apples, bananas, nectarines and it didn’t even come to £3 and the quality was amazing. One of other things we did was Paragliding, you see them every day, sometimes up to 60 in the air at one time. You drive 2000m up the mountain which takes about 40 minutes, then your instructor and you literally run off the top of the mountain and float in mid-air. The coastline from up high is an incredible sight and looks really beautiful, you can then have a go at steering yourself and making some manoeuvres before the instructor sets you down on the ground. It is a nice cheap week away and with only a 3.5 hour flight time from Gatwick, it is an ideal destination to get some late summer sun.
01 September 2014
I went on a P&O adult-only two night cruise as part of a 70 strong wedding anniversary celebration. The two night cruises work really well for any sort of celebration; we saw hen parties, birthday celebrations and family groups which you don’t always see on the longer durations. We embarked from Southampton on a Friday afternoon and we were able to enjoy the ship and the facilities plus a buffet lunch before we set sail. After a mandatory emergency drill, the ship started to make its way to Guernsey. We took advantage of the fantastic spa facilities, with steam rooms, sauna, hydrotherapy pool and hot beds. The first evening was a black tie event so everyone on the ship was smartly dressed and made their way to dinner. Dinner consisted of a seven course menu where there was plenty of choice and the food was delicious. There are lots of entertainment choices on board with music, magicians, quizzes, tribute acts and much more. In your cabin daily, you are given an information sheet of the daily schedule so you can plan your day and evening. We had an inside cabin on deck 7, which was a good size with tea and coffee making facilities. One plug socket in this day and age was a bit of a struggle, but no major dramas in that area. There was plenty of cupboard space so for those travelling for a week or two this would be sufficient. In the morning we used the gym which had fantastic facilities including free weights, kettle bells and a yoga area. We could see Guernsey in the distance and headed off to breakfast after out workout. As the ship is too large to moor up in the port, you have to purchase a tender ticket. This means that life rafts ferry you to and from the boat to the Guernsey dockside. The life rafts can hold approximately 120 so you wait until your number is called and board the craft. You can spend all day in Guernsey which is a pretty town and they have a main market square where you can enjoy lunch, do some shopping or just sit and do a bit of people watching whilst having a coffee or an ice cream. There is a castle you can visit if you wish and I understand you can spend £2 on a bus ride that takes you round the whole island. For the second evening on the ship, it was a more casual affair and again a 7 course sit down meal, we found our way after dinner to one of the bars where you can sit and have a drink. In the morning we tucked into breakfast, where the choice is endless and you can eat as much as you like before disembarking. A word of advice; the queues to get off the boat are quite long, either leave early or leave late. There is no rush so you can enjoy breakfast and take your time before you need to disembark. If you hadn’t thought of doing a cruise before then a two night duration will give you the experience of life on board an ocean cruise liner. The price was just over £200 and considering that is 2 nights’ accommodation, 24 hour food is available and a day in Guernsey, it is amazing value for money. If you think you might like to give it a try, then please do not hesitate to contact me on 01622 807980.
23 January 2018
IIn April 2014, I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams which was to interact with elephants. I did this by staying in part of the rainforest in Koh Sok (Thailand) at an elephant conservation camp. I had the opportunity to wash them, prepare their food and feed them. The experience was amazing, and we even saw the two-year-old baby called Ha-Ha. We stayed in luxury tents with an en suite bathroom and we were surrounded by the trees and the mountains. Our food was prepared every day with fresh ingredients. The stay also included various activities including canoeing down the Sok River to explore any wildlife that happened to be around, a jungle safari and a day was spent at Cheow Larn Lake where you could kayak, jump in the water, rest and sunbathe on the floating camp. If you wanted, you could stay the night in the floating tents on the lake. This was one of the most tranquil places I have ever visited and was one of the highlights of the holiday. The staff at the camp were excellent, providing you with refreshments after your day out and I would highly recommend a stay here for two or three days. As part of our holiday we also stayed in Khao Lak, which was the area devastated by the tsunami. You wouldn’t know it though; the town and hotels are completely re-built, and it was our favourite place to relax. The beaches have nice white sand and they were quiet (in April) with shallow waters. We stayed in a four-star hotel about 10 minutes’ drive from the resort centre, so it was nice and peaceful, and you could use the hotel shuttle bus or a taxi to get in and out of the centre if you wished. We stayed in a villa within the hotel grounds which was modern and clean. The hotel itself had a great selection of food and drinks and the quality of food was exceptional. On average to eat out at a restaurant the price is about half you would pay in the UK. They offer different types of massages right on the fringes of the beach and they were approximately £10 each, depending on which type you went for. We then moved on to Koh Samui where we stayed in the resort of Bo Phut in a four-star beachfront hotel within walking distance of the lively Fisherman’s Village. We stayed in a standalone Deluxe Bungalow which meant we were closer to the restaurant and the beach, so it was an ideal place to be in the grounds and the bungalow was a great size with patio and chairs. It was lovely to eat breakfast overlooking the beach and even more so of an evening watching the sun set whilst eating dinner sitting on beanbags. More comfortable and relaxing than you would think! The towels and sunbeds were free for guests in every hotel we stayed in and in Bo Phut, there were beach peddlers who were selling their wares. The quality was very good, so I purchased a few bikinis. They were very polite and in no way were they pushy or rude. You could get lunch from the boat sellers that pulled up at the water’s edge which was good quality, very tasty and cheaply priced. Fisherman Village was about a 10-minute walk away which was vibrant with numerous shops, restaurants and bars. We did an excursion kayaking around some national trust areas and upgraded to the speedboat, so the journey wasn’t as long and it was well worth the extra supplement. Just remember to haggle for goods politely and never pay more than half of the first price offered to you. We found the people of Thailand to be by far the friendliest people we have come across and are very helpful and can't do enough for you. They certainly made our holiday special and as mentioned, we are going back next year. If you want any more information on this holiday, then please give me a call on 01622 807980.
11 March 2014
In February 2014 I went in search of the Northern Lights in Lapland. Well, to be honest I went for the Husky Sledging, Snowmobiles, Reindeer Camp, spending a night in an Igloo and if the Lights came out it would be a bonus! We flew from Gatwick to Sweden, then took the coach to Finland to a beautiful 3 star property in Karesuando, Finland. The staff were friendly and the location was remote and idyllic. There was so much snow, that there was no other colour than white. The trees, buildings, roads all covered in snow! The tour operator we booked with was running a special offer of £419pp for 4 days and I don’t know how they did it to be honest. All the excursions, apart from the Igloo, the flights, transfers, the thermal suit and boots and the food were all included. The hotel we stayed in catered for everybody’s dietary requirements. I don’t eat meat and one night there was no main meal for me, however the chef cooked me an omelette which was most appreciated. We were lucky enough to stay in the Aurora House part of the hotel, which is one of the modern cabins in the grounds. It had underfloor heating in the bathroom, its own sauna and a walk in shower and full bath. Those rooms have tea and coffee facilities plus a real wood burning fire. I would definitely recommend the upgraded rooms. You can hire out plastic sledges from the hotel at 5 euros per day and find a nice quiet steep hill in the grounds of the hotel to go sledging. The snowmobiles was the highlight for me, driving full speed across a frozen lake, late at night was awesome. If you go to the Reindeer Camp, make sure you wrap up warm as it is very cold there. We were lucky when we travelled as it was around -11c, a few days before it had been -40c! The Reindeer Camp involved a Reindeer ride, learning about the animals and a welcome warm break around the fire. The Husky Sledging was also brilliant, you drive and steer your own pack of dogs who are all chomping at the bit to get going. They are very well cared for, even after their sledging days are over, they are kept on site and all treated amazingly well. We swapped one of our hotel nights to stay in an Igloo. It had a bed made of ice and is surprisingly very comfortable with the mattresses and Reindeer hide for warmth. It has its own camp fire and I would recommend taking a flask of coffee or hot chocolate with you so you can enjoy a drink around the fire. Apparently the temperature never falls below -5c in the Igloo, there are warm cabins on site if you feel you get too cold. You can see where the kids come at Christmas time to have a meeting with Father Christmas and search for presents. The place is magical and they must absolutely love it. As the thermal suit and boots are included, you don’t have to take any large jackets, salapettes or boots with you as the gear is all supplied. You just need base layers, hats, goggles and gloves and this saves you a lot of money before you go. For 3 nights you get a fun packed few days with the excursions all carefully timed by the tour operator staff. My customers who travelled after me all saw the lights and even the people we meet there had seen the lights in the last couple of days. Unfortunately it was too cloudy for the Lights to appear in the 4 days we were there but it gives us a great excuse to go back and do it all again. It was the most fun packed 3 nights I have ever had and I will definitely be straight back if that offer comes out again!
11 March 2014
Over Christmas 2013 I went on a coach tour to Austria. I wanted to spend Christmas in the snow and see some beautiful scenery. The hotel I stayed in was a lovely 4 star property in Kirchberg. The food was plentiful, the spa was amazing with all sorts of saunas and chill out rooms. It had a great swimming pool and fitness room and I would highly recommend some time spent relaxing in the saunas. A few minutes’ walk away from the hotel was a ski run and a toboggan run. We did some late night tobogganing on Boxing Day, whilst it was snowing, down a 2 mile natural ski run, absolutely hilarious and not crowded at all. We visited the Christmas Market at Salzburg on Christmas Eve, there were endless stalls selling Christmas decorations, gifts and as usual plenty of mulled wine and snacks. They also had an outdoor skating rink, a fresh vegetable market and the narrow streets in the town full of shops made it feel very quaint. From there we went to the village of Mondsee to visit the cathedral, where the wedding in the Sound of Music was filmed. The cathedral was amazing, I have been to the Basilica in Venice and I have to say I was more impressed with this one. It was immaculate, there is no fee to enter and the paintings and the interior was stunning. Every day there was an excursion included or you could add optional ones, taking a cable car ride 3 miles up a mountain is an experience! Mayrhofen, we had a few hours in this ski resort and it was nice and bustling with plenty of shops and some great restaurants. I had one of the best meals here, King Prawns and spaghetti. There is plenty of skiing to be done here and you can pick and choose which activity you want to take part in. Kitzbuhel is classed as an upmarket ski resort with its old town centre and medieval buildings. We watched some great skiing here and there were lots of ski classes happening, especially for the toddlers. On Christmas Day we visited Zell am See which is a pretty town with plenty of shops and restaurants, yet another great ski resort with a beautiful lake with the mountains as a back drop. As this was a coach holiday, I felt there was a lot of time spent inside a coach and not something I would personally repeat over Christmas. However the other coach passengers who had done it before loved the camaraderie, loved the fact the days are planned for you and you really don’t have to think about anything as everything is organised for you. The prices are surprising low for a 7 day trip, especially over Christmas, so if you feel this would interest you at all, please give me a call and we can talk more.
16 May 2013
My clients who have visited here have all said how romantic it is and I can see why. Our 4 star hotel was set just back off the main square, so it was an ideal position to be within walking distance of all the sights. The hotel staff were very friendly and helpful and the hotel was very clean and comfortable, it also had free WiFi. The Chocolate Museum is a great place to visit, you get to see how chocolate is made and have a little nibble too! We took a horse and cart ride which takes you around the quaint little back streets and this gives you a good bearing on the city. By the train station there was a fantastic Ice Sculpture exhibition which was amazing, lots of statues of warlocks, princesses, castles, it was very impressive, they even had an ice slide which you could go down, so we did. It is worth going behind the main square to eat as the prices can be very expensive and the food quality is not that great either. It is best to find some nice restaurants and cafés in the back streets at half the price and with better service. Bruges is another place that surprised me with the amount of shops and people were Christmas Shopping in their droves. I have to say I was not particularly impressed with the Christmas markets, they were not open in the evening, which you would think they would be and we walked around them both in about 20 minutes. There is a large Ice Rink that they construct in the middle of the square, so I did rent some skates and have a go. I thought I would be better than I was, but the ice is not forgiving, but at least I didn’t fall over! I would recommend Bruges for a 2 or 3 day break as it is not too far to go for a change of scenery.
16 May 2013
As part of our multi centre Italian honeymoon we stayed in a 4 star hotel in Gardone, which is on the west side of the Lake. It was an ideal location as you can take ferries to different towns around the lakes and the ferry pick up point was a two minute walk from our hotel. You can also visit the Theme Park Gardaland which was about 40 minutes’ drive away. Although we love our theme parks, we didn’t visit on this occasion. We opted for a Lake View Room with a balcony and the views were breath-taking. We had tea and coffee facilities in the room which we love, can’t beat a cup of tea! Also the room was very large, clean and comfortable. I had contacted the hotel beforehand to say we were celebrating our honeymoon and they were very kind and laid out a bottle of Champagne in our room, which was extremely welcomed. The hotel staff were friendly and helpful with information and directions. Also they advised when the best time is to get a parking space at the hotel as there are only a few free spaces. We took their advice were grateful for finding a space as the parking prices were quite high. The hotel had some great facilities including a gym, sauna, Jacuzzi and spa treatments, to which I treated myself to a fantastic massage. Strangely enough we didn’t take advantage of the hotel swimming pool as we found ourselves visiting other towns every day. One of the trips we went on was at Malcesine on the Monte Baldo Cable Car. This was an experience! You hop in one of the pods which hold about 100 people and work your way up the mountains, whilst slowly spinning! The views of the lake and mountains below were amazing, however we were not prepared at all for how cold it was at the top of the mountain. All these sensible people in coats and we still had our summer clothes on, so there’s a tip for you, take another layer with you. Also, allow yourself plenty of time to get up and down the mountain as it does take a while with the change of pods half way up and the queue to get back down. I would recommend visiting the other towns as there are castles and monuments which vary from town to town, but above all, you won’t go hungry anywhere. The one thing that is in abundance is restaurants and coffee shops; the food is wonderful and be prepared to pay a little more for your food in Italy. I would highly recommend Lake Garda for couples; it is not a great beach destination and I would say that there is not too much for children, due to the lack of sandy beaches and entertainment. This place is more for couples and friends in my opinion who want more of a relaxed holiday or people that like to explore.
16 May 2013
We visited Verona after our train journey from Venice. Verona is definitely a place you can shop; there are hundreds of shops with side streets and main shopping areas covering all sort of clothes, gifts and household goods (if you wished). It is a large town and I would imagine you could spend all day shopping if that’s what takes your fancy. Of course in town, you have to see the Opera House, the Arena Verona. This is where they host the summer Operas. Although we didn’t attend one, the area around the Arena is buzzing. There are cafes, street artists and you can purchase souvenirs. You can take a tour bus around the streets of Verona quite cheaply and they will guide you around the sights. In one of the back streets of Verona you will find the house of Juliet (Romeo and Juliet). You can have your picture taken on the famous balcony and the walls are scribbled with messages of love. You will find a statue of Juliet in the small courtyard and as you can imagine this is a very popular tourist spot. We spent the afternoon here before we picked up a hire car to whisk ourselves off to Lake Garda under the guidance of our trusty sat nav (Italian map downloaded from home), which is about an hour’s drive.
16 May 2013
We arrived into Venice airport to be greeted by a representative who walked us to the private water taxi transfer, which was only about a 10 minute walk from the airport. Once we were in the boat, the holiday well and truly started with an exhilarating speed boat ride into the heart of Venice. We stayed in a four star hotel which was set just behind the Grand Canal, so we were within walking distance of St Mark’s Square and everything the city had to offer. The hotel itself had a fabulous roof terrace where you could sunbathe during the day and have a few cocktails at night. The view across the tops of the buildings was amazing. The hotel staff were friendly and were happy to look after our bags on the day of arrival until check in time. The rooms were lovely and elegant with marble furnishings and we had a canal view room. Most rooms in Venice do not offer balconies so the roof top terrace was a great place to relax during the day. Of course, we took the obligatory Gondola Ride; it has to be done. There are plenty of them to choose from but ours was part of an excursion which we pre-booked, coupled with a walking tour of Venice. The tour took us around the back streets of Venice and our guide gave us the history of the city. As part of the tour we visited St Marks Basilica, a magnificent building. In Venice, there are endless amounts of shops. The streets are narrow and quaint and filled with designer clothes or market stalls and of course, there is plenty of souvenir shopping to be had. Even though the city is busy, it has a very romantic feel to it. The architecture is stunning and the food was lovely with plenty of pizzas as you can imagine and they certainly know how to cook pasta. If you have never been, then it is a must do. I personally don't like to return to many places as I like to explore new destinations. However, Venice is definitely on my list to visit again.
04 February 2012
We stayed in the Newby Bridge Hotel in the Lake District in January on a wet and windy weekend but were greeted with a friendly welcome on reception and as we were early we ordered a fabulous meal in the hotel bar. The food throughout the weekend was amazing. The breakfasts, bar menu and evening meals were top notch and we couldn't fault it. I have been in higher star ratings of hotels and the food was better than those. The chef is willing to get whatever you need, if you are gluten free or vegetarian, they will ensure they have the right food in for you. We were lucky enough to stay in the new Rotunda Room. The Rotunda is a stand alone building and the bathroom has a double rain shower and has a really modern look to it. The room itself is large and is decorated in a Roman theme with mood lighting, drop down TV from the ceiling, tea and coffee facilities and both the bathroom and main room has underfloor heating. It also has an Ipod Docking area which plays music in the main room and the bathroom and heated towel rail. I believe the Rotunda is used as a Honeymoon Suite and the exterior is a circular building with columns and cherubs just like a Roman style building, it has its own private driveway. The hotel is right opposite Lake Windermere where you can take Lake Cruises. Newby Bridge is a 10 min drive from Ulverston town centre and only about 20 minutes away from the zoo, which is well worth a visit. There are plenty of attractions around the area, adventure parks, quad bikes, clay pigeon shooting, riffle shooting, zip wires and lost more, the reception area has lots of leaflets and they are willing to recommend places. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending this hotel to visit the Lake District, it has a friendly feel to it and nothing is too much trouble for the staff. I would say that you need a car to get around though as it is not within walking distance of the town or nearby areas. Room Tip: The best room in the hotel is the Rotunda, its new, fresh and there is no-one else around you, so its nice and quiet.
22 October 2011
In September 2011 we stayed in one of the PortAventura Theme Park Hotels for 3 nights and we had fantastic adrenalin filled 4 days at PortAventura Theme Park in Salou. As the park is only an hour away from Barcelona, we flew into Barcelona and hired a car and drove to the city of Barcelona, which is only 20 minutes from the airport. We spent a day walking up and down La Ramblas being entertained by the street artists and we also visited the food market which is massive, before driving about an hour and a half down to Salou. We didn’t have time to visit the Nou Camp so we have saved that for another visit! There are two hotels attached to the theme park and another two which are within walking distance (which is where we stayed) and they all give added benefits such unlimited entrance into the theme park and 65% of the price of a fast pass, exclusive early entrance to the park on certain days, entrance to the park on your last day (even after you have checked out of the hotel) and they also offer a free shuttle bus to and from the parks. The theme park kept us amused for 3 days solid, we kept going back in and re-visiting the extreme rides and one of the rides called Stampede has a red side and a blue side and they compete against each other. We kept switching cars until we finally won on our 5th attempt! There are lots of good restaurants in the park as well as Wild West shows and cartoon characters putting on shows for the kids. There is a fantastic new kid’s area called Sesamo Adventuro and the attractions in there are fun and are designed to make families work together, which is great. Toddlers can go on slow trains or tractors as well as slides and ball pools. I wanted to go some of their rides, they were great! Next to the PortAventura theme park is the aqua park, we went on all the water slides and also the ones where you can use single, double or group rubber rings – great fun! But we have decided we do not like the completely enclosed water slides, we also managed to chill out and have a well earned sunbath and a swim in the wave area. The resort of Salou is large and has a long stretch of beach with a lovely promenade, there are plenty of places to eat and there are lots of bars and shops. There is also a shuttle bus from Salou to the theme park with quite a few drop-off points in Salou. If you are looking for an alternative to Disneyland Paris and don’t have the time to go to Orlando, then PortAventura in Spain is an ideal alternative. I have visited plenty of theme parks in different countries and PortAventura is easy to walk around, it has distinctive areas and follows a natural path around the park. It also hosts some of the top rides in the world. You have got to give it a go!!
09 August 2011
I was invited to a wedding in Edinburgh so I took the opportunity to have a mini-break and visit the city as I had never been to Scotland before. It’s incredible to think it’s so close and yet I’ve never been! The architecture in the city is beautiful and unlike other cities where the pretty buildings are few and far between, in Edinburgh it is endless – in a good way! It’s good to see the newer buildings are being built, which complement the older buildings. The Royal Mile is bustling with cafes, bars, restaurants, tourist shops and street entertainers so it can keep you amused for hours. At the end of the Royal Mile is the impressive Edinburgh Castle, which is well worth a visit to learn more about Scottish history and has great views across the city. We flew to Scotland for as it is very quick and I didn’t fancy the long drive! On the first night we took a tour of the underground city of Edinburgh by taking a Double Dead Tour which visited the underground vaults, the Greyfriars graveyard and the Covenanters Prison. We visited some of the most haunted places but we didn’t see any poltergeist activity – although they did make it quite jumpy, which added to the fun! On the following day we took a tour of the Highlands and the Lochs, we saw plenty of stunning mountains including Ben Nevis and many vast Lochs, we then then we made our way to the famous Loch Ness. We took a boat out onto Loch Ness in search of the monster, but strangely enough we didn’t see it! As I said before the views are stunning in the Highlands and you wouldn’t even know that it existed if you didn’t get out of the city. It is a definite must do. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Edinburgh for a short break and it did help that the weather was glorious sunshine for four days.
05 July 2011
Las Vegas is buzzing and is definitely a playground for young and old alike. Whatever you want to do in Vegas is entirely up to you – anything goes 24/7! Every hotel (apart from Trump Tower) has its own in-house casino and the food is plentiful and varied. Whatever you want to eat you can normally get in your hotel or you can visit any hotel to have a sumptuous meal, perhaps the French restaurant at the Eiffel Hotel. There are world famous acts and shows to go and see, plus of course who could go to Vegas and not visit the Grand Canyon. We bought an Explorer V Pass before we arrived, which meant we could go and see a show, have a meal and see two other attractions, which was amazing value for money. We saw the Bodies Exhibition in the Luxor Hotel and the Variety Show in the V Theatre, which consisted of magic, trapeze acts, gymnasts -they were top class performers! We also saw the Mentalist, with his mind games and tricks. Our trip to the Grand Canyon was by a light aircraft, which is an experience in itself; we didn’t want to spend all day travelling by coach so we chose to fly as this is only a forty minute journey. We then boarded a coach and made our way to a couple of breathtaking spots by the south rim. During the summer months of June, July and August, its actually rainy season, which can make the airplane journey quite bumpy, but people seem to like that experience! Also as this is the most popular months to visit, the coach journey can turn into a two hour queue just to get into Grand Canyon National Park, so if you go in these months you may want to alter your method of transport to avoid the queues. I would definitely recommend a helicopter ride through the canyon as to be in the canyon looking up would be extremely impressive. The Las Vegas strip is always busy with plenty of people walking around. The hotels are so impressive; they are massive hotels and anyone can wander around in them. The fountains outside the Bellagio are the central point of the strip and there are always crowds outside waiting for the water fountain display. You can then take a walk inside the hotel as the reception area is an attraction in itself. We also went for a Gondola Ride through the inside waterway in the Venetian hotel, we were serenaded in our private Gondola, which was an experience! You can stay at the north end of the strip to keep the hotel costs down and catch the Deuce bus down into the south end where most of the action is. This takes about 25 minutes with all the stops en route. The Deuce runs up and down the strip and you can get on and off as often as you like with an all-day ticket. The Planet Hollywood Resort is the heart of the strip, opposite the Bellagio and houses its own shopping mall with designer stores, casino, the V Theatre and plenty of choices to eat. If you want to stay in the heart of the action, then this is the area to be in. The weather in May was perfect, there was no rain and the temperatures were nice and hot and although it was busy, it was not as busy as the summer months.
28 June 2011
Well, what can I say about San Francisco, it is beautiful and I left my heart there. It is everything you expect and more and being by the water gives you that real holiday feeling. We drove up from Los Angeles on the I5 and dropped the car off at Union Square, you wont need a car in SF as Fishermans Wharf and Union Square, which are the main tourist areas, are only about 10 minutes away from each other. We stayed in Fishermans Wharf in a 3 star plus hotel, which was set back about five minutes walk from Pier 39, which was an ideal location for catching the tram at the end of the road. It had free internet access and complimentary breakfasts, free coffee and tea in the morning and free wine at their evening reception. I would definitely recommend this hotel for your stay as it is only thirty minutes from the airport. Pier 39 is the busiest pier as it has plenty of shops, restaurants and even an aquarium. At Pier 33 you can catch the boat over to Alcatraz, a trip that I would definitely recommend. Take the cell house audio tour to get a feel for what life was like for the inmates. The Port Terminal for the cruise lines is situated at Pier 33, so if you are taking a cruise, the excursions would go from here. The one thing I was looking forward to was the food and I wasn’t disappointed, go to Pier 47 to Nicks Restaurant where you can try their famous Dungeness crab, lobster and of course the clam chowder. The quality of the food was amazing everywhere in San Francisco! Straddling the San Francisco bay are the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay bridges, both are stunning. We rented out bicycles and rode across the Golden Gate Bridge – it was just magical! It was busy with people running, walking and cycling across. We took a day trip to Yosemite National Park, the round trip was 14 hours by coach, but it really was worth it. As we were visiting in May, the waterfalls in the park were free-flowing as the snow was melting on top of the mountains. The scenery was breathtaking but unfortunately we didn’t get to see the giant Sequoias as there had been too much snow and the road was closed. If you like to shop then Union Square is the place to be. From designer shops to retail outlets, you could spend a fortune here with the top quality goods on offer. We of course rode the cable cars and what an experience; hanging off the side of the car to see the steep hills of San Francisco and the SF Bay as the backdrop was so much fun! There is a high rise financial district to the city but in the main the buildings and residential houses are low rise and very pretty. If you are thinking of visiting San Francisco, don’t delay, it is beautiful. The people are lovely, the food is amazing and there is plenty to keep you busy. It also has a couple of beaches, where you can relax - I will definitely be going back! I would recommend pre-booking your tours before leaving the UK as Alcatraz in particular can be booked up for a week in advance and if you are only in town for a few days, you could miss out.
16 June 2011
We visited Los Angeles just to do the Hollywood thing and as this was part of a multi-centre itinerary we didn’t have time to do the beaches too. But we will be going back as I loved Los Angeles and would love to visit the beaches and have some time to relax and soak up the atmosphere. We flew in from New York and arrived at our hotel and were greeted by some lovely staff and treated to a free room upgrade. The hotel was fantastic, the weather was even better so this was an opportunity to get the shorts out of the suitcase! The hotel we stayed in was 5 minutes from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, Sunset Boulevard and all the celebrity houses. It was only 5 minutes from Universal Studios and had a complimentary shuttle bus running to and from the park. This part of the trip was included because my partner is a real movie buff, so we only stayed for two days do the celebrity houses tour before moving on to our next city. The next morning we were taken round all the celebrity houses to see who lived where and what kind of house they lived in, we even caught sight of the famous Hollywood Sign. We went down Rodeo Drive and on to Farmers Market, which has lots of fresh meat and seafood stalls and plenty of shops if you fancied a stroll. We stopped at the Chinese Theatre and saw the stars in the pavement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, of which there are 3,500! In the afternoon we sunbathed around the pool in the blistering heat and took the opportunity to grab some much needed rest from our previous stop in New York. The hotel was spotless and had a modern gym, the staff were friendly and the food was amazing! It ranked with us well above its 3.5 star rating! We both love Theme Parks so we took an excursion to the Six Flags Magic Mountain Park, which was about a 20 minute drive from our hotel. We bought ourselves a Platinum flash pass which meant we went straight on the rides without queuing and I have to say that of all the Theme Parks I have been to, there are two rides here called X2 and Déjà Vu, which were the best I have ever been on! If you find the time to spend a day at this park, you won’t be disappointed. In the evening we went to Sunset Boulevard and revisited the Hollywood Walk of Fame to do a bit of souvenir shopping before our drive to San Francisco in the morning. I liked Los Angeles, the people were friendly and as I said I will go back and visit the coast, such as Santa Monica and relax in the sunshine!
16 June 2011
I have sold the destination many times but nothing beats getting first-hand experience, so I decided it was time to see New York for myself so I jetted off on a Continental flight towards the big apple for my first New York adventure! The plane and service was excellent, the on demand video entertainment in the back of the seat was the best I have experienced. We flew into Newark which is only a 30-40 min drive into Manhattan, but I wanted to experience how easy it would be to catch the train to avoid all the queues of traffic. I think if you don’t have any heavy luggage, it is a great way to get to your hotel, but as New York was part of a multi-centre itinerary we had heavy cases and the subway doesn’t cater for this very well. So I would recommend to get a taxi or pre-arrange your transfer if you have a lot of luggage. We stayed in a 3 star hotel in midtown Manhattan, which was close to Central Park and Times Square. Most of the main attractions were within walking distance so nothing is too far away. The hotel room was large and it had a great café where you can grab some very quick breakfast and the prices were some of the cheapest in Manhattan. The hotel also had a restaurant if you fancied staying in for your evening meal. Manhattan is really busy and there are people everywhere, Times Square is particularly colourful with the electronic billboards and is certainly the centre of the hustle and bustle. It is here that you can find actors treading the boards down on Broadway, we went to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Colourful costumes and fabulous actors - what an experience, truly amazing! I would definitely recommend it. During the day we took a sightseeing coach which lasted all day and took us around the whole of New York City taking in all the suburbs and the attractions such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre and Ground Zero. It also included lunch in Little Italy and a boat trip around the Statue of Liberty – as the sun was shining this was a highlight of the day. Central Park was amazing; to have that area of peace and tranquillity in amongst the high rise buildings, the hordes of people and the traffic must be like a piece of heaven for the New Yorkers. There is a boating lake, a castle, baseball fields and lots of grass areas to relax and unwind. Everyone is running, cycling and power walking, along with the horse and cart rides if you fancied someone else doing the leg work! We visited 5th Avenue and did a bit of window shopping in a few of the many designer shops and boutiques. We also visited the FAO Schwarz Toy shop and of course, we jumped around on the ‘Big’ piano, it’s impossible to play a tune, but it was fun all the same! I bought some fabulous jeans in Macy’s, the shop is huge and definitely worth a visit. I can’t say my jeans were a bargain but they are lovely and fit like a glove! Grand Central Terminal is a lovely building and it was nice to have a bit more of a traditional English architectural type building as opposed to the many office blocks and high rise buildings. The weather was lovely in May, I think we were lucky as April was freezing but it warmed up just in time for us. It was jeans and t-shirt weather during the day, apart from one day when it didn’t stop raining but we didn’t let the rain spoil our fun! One massive tip – get yourself some comfortable shoes so you are prepared for all the walking you will be doing! You have to see New York for yourself to believe it, some of my clients go back year after year for the buzz, the great food and the entertainment. I might just be joining them!
07 October 2010
Coral Bay, Cyprus 2010 Wedding In August 2010, I booked my clients a two week honeymoon and wedding at the Coral Beach Hotel & Resort in Coral Bay, Cyprus and I also attended the wedding. The hotel is one of the best on the island and has some fantastic venues in which to get married. The hotel advised of the best location for their privacy and size of wedding party as there was more than one wedding taking place on the same day. The couple had a few meetings with the wedding co-ordinator and the hotel events manager before their wedding day, where her hair and make up consultations were booked in and all the details of the wedding were finalised, such as bows for the chairs, timing of the music, colour of flowers and table decorations. Many of the hotel’s wedding venues provide shade from the sun, however the couple were being married in the Ampitheatre and whilst this is a beautiful and traditional setting, it doesn’t provide any natural shade. The wedding took place at 16:30 and the temperature was 43 celsius, so previous discussions about how to protect the couple and guests from the sun resulted in a large wedding umbrella being situated over the wedding table and guest chairs. The ceremony itself was short and sweet and the photographer took some brilliant photos of the couple with family, friends in front of the beautiful backdrop of the stone stairs. The bride and groom decided to have their wedding reception away from the hotel and booked a private catamaran for three hours, which took all the guests out to sea for food, dancing and a dip in the water. This really was the perfect way to end the day, the music was exactly what you would expect at a wedding party and there was a good mix of food to suit all tastes and drink was plentiful. If you would like any more information, then please do not hesitate to contact me as I attended the wedding myself and can answer any questions. I can book the wedding/honeymoon for you and advise on all the documentation needed to get married abroad.
15 July 2010
In May 2010, I went on holiday to Orlando along with a few friends and family members. We stayed in a good value for money hotel along International Drive, which had very big rooms, twin sinks, a fridge (which became a necessity for us to store cold drinks and make a few sandwiches!), 2 double beds and best of all it was attached to the YMCA Fitness centre with a massive gym and Olympic size swimming pool. We were in the middle of all the parks so it was in an ideal location. We flew into Orlando airport which is only a 25 minute drive from I-Drive and collecting the car was easy from inside the terminal building. I have been to Orlando before and knew that when travelling in a group it’s wise to plan your holiday in advance. Taking time to think about which parks to visit and on what days is essential to ensure you purchase the right attraction tickets beforehand – and you need to build in rest days, as it can be hard work walking around the parks all day. With our previous knowledge we knew which parks were of interest to us and as we had a 4 year old with us, we made sure she met as many Disney characters as possible, this was her most memorable experience and she filled up her autograph book. She loved some rides such as Buzz Lightyear at Magic Kingdom and ET at Universal Studios, as you can imagine there was plenty to keep her amused. My top tip for travelling to the parks with young kids is to have some sandwiches handy so they can eat on the go and keep their energy levels up – and yours. We pre-purchased a ‘kids eat free’ card which can be redeemed at many places along I-Drive which provides amazing savings when part of a family. We ate at many different places along I-Drive and there is something for everyone. I am a vegetarian and Orlando doesn’t really cater for non meat-eaters, but you can find fish restaurants and there is plenty of Pasta on offer or even Chinese and Indian. The parks are just amazing and if you’re thinking ‘I don’t enjoy roller coasters’, then think again as it’s not all about the big rides. Those that want to go thrill-seeking will certainly not be disappointed but there are more attractions and experiences in Orlando that the whole family can enjoy. We had an absolutely brilliant time, and for me personally I have always been scared of the big rides, but I went on one against my better judgement and actually enjoyed it (whilst screaming all the way round). I got a taste for it and then finally become a thrill chaser – I can’t believe it – all those years I was too afraid and now you can’t stop me. As you can gather – Orlando is not just for kids! May was an ideal time to visit Orlando as the parks are less busy and the amount of time queuing for the rides is minimal compared to school holiday times. Another tip is to check out when the American schools break up for holidays as this may differ slightly from the UK, this can make the parks very busy. So what are you waiting for, get yourself a good pair of walking shoes and prepare to have some fun!
21 May 2009
We travelled to Egypt for the first time in June 2008 as we had always wanted to visit the Pyramids. From the moment we booked, during and after our holiday we were totally looked after. We were greeted in the airport by a representative who sorted out our visas, took our bags off the carousel and escorted us to our hotel, whilst giving us a guided tour along the way. After stopping off for refreshments we arrived at the hotel in Cairo and our greeter checked us into the hotel while we relaxed in reception. The tour operator we booked with was absolutely fantastic; we had never experienced that level of customer service before and at such an affordable price! We were talked through the itinerary of our entire holiday so we knew where we had to be and at what time. Obviously by this time we had totally switched off but we had the paperwork to fall back on! Our hotel balcony overlooked the swimming pool and right in front of us - was the Pyramids – when we walked into our hotel room we were speechless (that doesn’t happen very often!). It was a hectic first week with a few early mornings, but it was well worth it. In the first 3 days we visited the Pyramids, Sphinx and The Egyptian Museum, our private guide was extremely knowledgeable and he also took us to the Papyrus factory and a couple of Bizarre’s and every day dropped off us back at the hotel whenever we were ready. We flew from Cairo to Luxor to stay in a hotel right on The Nile, which was our base while we travelled to the East and West Bank Temples and the Valley of Kings and Queens, and we even saw the Mummy of Tutankhamen. Again the next private guide was equally as good as the first and knew everything about Egyptian history. For our last week we chilled out in a 5 star hotel in El Gouna. We travelled there in a private transfer by road which took about 4 hours in a massive convoy of coaches, taxis and other private transfers. Finally we could relax on the hotel’s private beach for 7 lovely days; the food was plentiful and there were a couple of a la carte restaurants including a fish restaurant overlooking the Red Sea. The first week was all about getting up early in the morning to visit the sights and then chilling around the pool in the afternoon. The second week was a complete wind down with the beach on our doorstep. Overall it was a totally memorable experience and by far our best holiday yet. To learn about Egyptian history in such great detail was something I wasn’t expecting. I knew we would see all that Egypt has to offer but to that level of detail and one-to-one representatives, guides and drivers was something else. If this kind of experience is for you, then just give me a call and we can make this happen for you. Believe me, you will not forget it!
21 May 2009
Miami is definitely the place where the beautiful people go! We stayed in a low key hotel right on South Beach. It was one of a few hotels that provided breakfast which was just enough to sort you out until lunchtime. I say it was low key as it was not one of the top notch hotels on that strip which were amazing, but the bedroom was huge and as we had a corner room we had views of the beach which was right in front of us and a side view, where we could see the main street. The hotel had a roof top terrace with spectacular views and as is synonymous with Miami, all the buildings are art-deco in style. As we travelled in July, the weather was hot every day and you could set your clock by the thunderstorm every day at 9.30am. This only took about 10 mins to clear up which left the rest of the day in glorious sunshine. With our hotel room right on the beach front, we watched the endless amounts of joggers, roller-bladders, power walkers, mums and newborns running with their prams along the promenade. If you have a gym body then Miami is the place for you – or if you just want to watch, it’s interesting too! Miami is definitely for the health conscious - we were amazed at how healthy the food was in comparison with Orlando. You can have your omelettes with only 1 yolk or even no yolks! The food is fresh and made to order and is the best food I have experienced on holiday. We often ate and wandered down Lincoln Road, which is where you may spot the rich and famous, although we didn’t see any during our stay, this is great for watching the world go by while you sit and eat your dinner. We did sign up for a few excursions, one of which was to Orlando to visit the Universal Studios. It is a long coach journey starting very early in the morning, but was great fun. As you only had 6 hours in the park, we purchased fasttrack tickets and hardly queued for any ride. I would recommend the fast pass if you do this trip otherwise you would only get on a couple of attractions. We went on The Mummy ride 3 times in a row, which shouldn’t really be allowed but somehow we got away with it! We also signed up to the Duck Tour which was a bit of fun. You get a guided tour round the streets of Miami, going past Versace’s doorstep, the hotel where they filmed La Cages Aux Folles (Birdcage) and Gloria Estefan’s hotel, of course the vehicle then enters the water to take you round the homes of the rich and famous. Some of the properties are mind-blowing and the price tags are even more staggering. The beach itself was lovely golden sand and was huge; the sea was shallow and just the right temperature to cool off, which you really do need as you can get exposed without an umbrella. Most people just take their own towel and lay on that, but I would recommend buying an umbrella as you do need the shade from time to time. You can rent sun beds and umbrellas at the beach but at around £12 per day for two, this would work out expensive. In Miami everything goes and it really is the place to party, nothing seems to faze the locals or the tourists, so do your best!
21 May 2009
Mexico is a fantastic destination – especially during a World Cup! After a stressful house move, we decided to treat ourselves to two weeks in Cancun, just what we needed. We stayed in an Adults only all inclusive complex where the food was fabulous with plenty of variety and choice and on tap 24 hours a day. The hotel was quite a large complex with lots of facilities – gym, beauty salon, spa, sports and the activities around the pool looked quite energetic – you wouldn’t normally see those if kids were around! The hotel had a private beach and a large pool with a swim up bar. The World Cup was on at the time which made for great banter as the Mexicans were enjoying a good run until they met Argentina and even then they should have won that game. As it was our first two week break for a couple of years we decided we would go on all the trips we could. I will save the best for last but in our first few days we went to Xel-Ha, which is a national park where you can go into the Dolphin pools. We jumped off high ledges into large lagoons and snorkelled in the open lake, which was an amazing experience. We were having a whale of a time until we tried Snuba diving, yes Snuba. It’s different from Scuba in that four of you share a tank that floats on top of the water, well we both tried it and didn’t like it, after about 10 minutes of trying to get used to it, we gave up deciding that we didn’t need that sort of stress on holiday – there was plenty more to do! Xel-Ha is well worth a visit as it has various animals and attractions to keep you busy. The Jungle Tour is great fun where you have your own little speed boat and follow a convoy of 6 boats through the mangroves and out to a snorkelling spot. We made sure we were at the back on the way out and the way back and were jumping over the waves the other boats were making and zig-zagging about! By far the best excursion was to the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park where we signed up to the ‘Trainer for a day’, this was to spend a whole day with the Dolphin’s, learning about their feeding patterns and their way of life. The Dolphins are in large enclosures in the sea which is the other side of the water park, they have different enclosures for different stages of their lives and you are able to go in all of them. The day is broken up by lunch (which is included in the price) which is a welcome retreat from the heat. Near the end of the day, you can choose for the Dolphins to push your feet along by their noses so you rise out of the water or if you’re not feeling brave enough, you can hold onto their fins – we did the feet push, you must try it! The whole day is filmed and you can buy the DVD, which I thoroughly recommend as it provides some lasting memories. There is a little surprise at the end which I will keep a secret in case you find yourself on the trip. There are a few night clubs in Cancun and the most famous is Coco Bongo’s which is based on the film ‘The Mask’. All throughout the evening the music stops for the many tribute acts and scenes from the film and also trapeze artists appearing from the ceiling. Cancun has plenty to do and see, but if you want to relax, you can soak up the sun on one of their many beautiful beaches as the weather is gorgeous in the summer.
Bexleyheath, Kent 29/06/2017
Woodford Green 12/04/2016