Sent by Vernon Collymore
Based in Sheffield
Welcome to my page. My name is Debbie Dent and I am based in Norton, Sheffield.
I have been working in travel for over 30 years and have been a Travel Counsellor for eight of those, which I love because it allows me to create bespoke holidays for people. Prior to joining Travel Counsellors I worked for independent agencies in Manchester and Sheffield. I always strive to provide exceptional service to all my clients, and you can look at the customer stories on this page for evidence of this. I have extensive knowledge of all the major travel destinations, including Europe, Australia, the Far East, the US and Canada and the Caribbean, to ensure the needs of my customers are realised.
I have travelled to most of Europe and have particular soft spots for Greece, Spain and Italy. I have also been fortunate enough to travel to many long haul destinations including Australia, Japan, Thailand, Oman, Maldives, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, America, Canada and many Caribbean Islands. In fact I married my husband Paul on Grand Cayman in the Caribbean.
I am a qualified Aussie and Canada specialist and was a finalist for long-haul consultant of the year which took place around the Caribbean over the course of a week on the four-masted sailing ship the Star Clipper. It was a wonderful experience.
I can access award winning technology to tailor make your holiday to suit your requirements, ensuring that you will receive the best possible booking and holiday experience. I can also take care of all corporate travel arrangements, including tailor made trips, flight only, accommodation and car hire.
Unlike high street travel agencies I am available at times to suit my customers including weekends and evenings so I can provide the highest personal service.
Being an independent Travel Counsellor means that I am not restricted to using only the major holiday companies and I can therefore locate the perfect holiday for you whether it be a UK break, a weekend in Venice, a family holiday in the Mediterranean, a safari in Africa or a honeymoon in the Maldives. The world is your oyster and everything I book is 100% financially protected.
My passion is finding the perfect holiday to match your budget and make your holiday dreams a reality.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
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.
21 March 2022
Keen to escape the cold, we decided on Gran Canaria for some winter sunshine this year. It was a very smooth process at East Midlands. We had completed the mandatory online Spanish Health forms and had our Covid Passes at the ready, but we didn’t need to show them this time. We were asked if we had them though. The flight took around 4 hours and on arrival we had to show our Spanish Health forms. We stayed in the south of the island, between the resorts of Puerto Mogan and Puerto Rico, so had the best of both worlds and were never short of a restaurant to try. Puerto Mogan is a pretty resort with a lovely marina and sandy beach, with colourful bougainvillea growing over balconies and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Puerto Rico is larger and more spread out with accommodation going all the way up the hillside. It is livelier and has a great choice of restaurants, whether in one of the outdoor commercial (shopping) centres, or by the sandy beach. It is a good family resort and has various mini golf places as well as the Angry Birds amusement park and the beach to keep them occupied. We had great weather with lovely warm sunshine every day although there was a cool breeze and at night we needed to wear a jumper, but I’ll take that over our UK weather! After a week of relaxing and reading, I was ready to venture out. Our first stop was the lovely sheltered sandy beach of Amadores, next to and in walking distance to Puerto Rico. There are restaurants and shops along the beach, and accommodation built into the cliffside. We then drove to the Botanical gardens, in the north of the island, close to Las Palmas. They were free to enter, and although there wasn’t lots of colour at that time of year, they were still worth visiting in my opinion. They covered a large area with different sections, including a large cacti area, a waterfall plus a variety of other local plants and trees. We climbed to the upper level and were rewarded with a good view of the gardens below. From the gardens we drove inland to the attractive town of Teror. The centre is fairly compact, and with its Basilica and interesting buildings, I loved wandering round and having lunch here. If you like markets, they have one every Sunday, so that would be the day to visit. Another trip included the sand dunes at Maspalomas. There is a path so that you can walk alongside them, or you can go onto the dunes themselves, which plenty of people were doing. As an aside, I can recommend the ice cream at the shop next to them! Also, if you like golf, there are currently eight golf courses on the island. Restaurants were reasonably priced with a fillet steak costing around £16 and a glass of house wine, about £4, depending on where you ate and drank. There was a good variety as well, including tapas, International, Indian, Greek and Chinese. It was another relaxing holiday, and Gran Canaria was a great place to stay, with something for everyone.
22 September 2021
After twenty long months without setting foot on a plane, the moment finally arrived. I was off to Spain and I couldn’t wait! There was a bit more preparation required this time, but nothing too taxing. I pre-booked a Rapid antigen test with a clinic not far from where we were staying, which we needed to take before our return flight, and pre-ordered our Day 2 tests, so that they arrived before we left home, ready to take when we returned. You need the booking references for the latter, to put on your Passenger Locator Form, before you come home. Being fully vaccinated, meant that we didn’t need to take a test before we went, we just had to fill out an online Spanish Health form to produce at check in, along with our Covid Passes. We flew from East Midlands, and I was glad I paid extra for Fast Track as that allowed us through the express lane at security, so we got through much quicker. On arrival in Malaga, they scanned the QR code on the Spanish Health form and did a forehead temperature check and then we were off. It was a 50 minute drive in our rental car, to the villa we were calling home for the next two weeks, just outside Frigiliana. Staying in a villa was fantastic. No getting up early to reserve a sunbed and it gave us the space and freedom that we wanted. Frigiliana is a pretty white-washed village set in the hills above Nerja, in Andalucia. It has narrow streets meandering through it, and plenty of character. There were enough restaurants to sample the local tapas or more international food for the two weeks that we were there, and some deserved a second or third visit. Wine was incredibly cheap. A glass of the house white was costing between 2 and 3 Euros, which was cheaper than a coke, and tasted better in my opinion! Food was reasonably priced as well, and we were paying less than we would for an equivalent meal in the UK. When we could tear ourselves away from the pool, we took a short 25 minute drive to Torrox, another pretty village, not dissimilar to Frigiliana, and inland from its less attractive coastal counterpart of Torrox Costa. It was lovely to see somewhere different, and it was a great spot for lunch, taking in a view of the instagrammable, colourful umbrellas that they have hanging around the square. We also went to the coastal resort of Nerja, which is busier than Frigiliana, but is still a lovely place to wander around and have a cocktail, a meal or just peruse the shops. The only other thing we had to do was to complete the Passenger Locator forms before we came back and show these at the airport together with our negative test certificates, produced by the clinic. We had a fantastic, relaxing holiday, and I’m going to be planning my next trip very soon! If you have any questions about the area that we visited, or if you want me to check any availability for you, please let me know.
23 December 2019
On our recent holiday to The Gambia, we took the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in Lisbon en route. It’s a city I hadn’t been to before but had heard good things about and with flights from Manchester it felt the ideal time to go. We took a 20 minutes’ taxi ride from the airport to the Dalma Old Town Suites, a small boutique hotel in the Alfama district of Lisbon, which we called home for two nights. It was in a good location and just a short walk to the castle. We stayed self-catering in a studio which was a good size with fridge, kettle and toaster. One tip, either take your own tea bags or buy them from the supermarket across the road as they don’t provide them and ask at reception for a cup. They did leave a complimentary bottle of water and Mateus Rose in the room which was a nice touch. You can pay for continental breakfast which is an extra 8 Euros per person per night and is self-service. Lisbon is a great place to explore, and entry to the castle is currently 10 Euros per person. There is an interesting museum inside with lots of artefacts that they’ve found in the grounds. There are quite a few large squares that are worth seeing, which are in the Baixa district and all with a monument or statue in them. There’s Comercio Square near the river, which was once the location of the Royal Palace until an earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit in the 18th century. Rossio Square which has several cafes around it with outdoor seating and there is a fountain at each end and a monument in the middle. Close by there is Figueira Square with more open-air cafes and a bronze statue of King John I in the centre and also Praca dos Restauradores is nearby with its interesting architecture and tall obelisk. Public transport is easy to use and we bought a 24-hour pass for 6.90 Euros which allowed us to use trams, buses, the metro and funiculars. The vintage number 28 tram is the most popular as it goes through all the main tourist areas and it looks great! We took the number 15 tram to the Belem district, which takes about 25 minutes. There you’ll find an old monastery and church which are spectacular to look at. You can go inside the church, which is free, but you may have to queue. It’s worth wandering round the area where you’ll discover a small park with a fountain, the Discoveries monument on the banks of the Tagus river, the 16th century Belem Tower and a planetarium. We had a nice lunch at an Italian restaurant over the water. Making use of our pass, we took a bus to the Parque das Nacoes (Park of Nations), which is a contemporary area on the Tagus river. There is an oceanarium there which is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe and although we didn’t go in, we enjoyed walking round the area. I wouldn’t recommend the bus particularly though. It took an hour going through a residential area and lots of estates. Much better to get the metro as we did on the return, which took half an hour with one change. Lisbon is a hilly city but living in Sheffield we’re used to that! You can always use the trams or funiculars to get uphill though if you want a rest. The food we had in the restaurants was tasty. It’s famous for its Pastel de Bata, which is like an egg custard. I had four in the short time I was there! Depending on the time of year you visit, it may be worth taking a waterproof. We went in November and were quite lucky with the weather as we arrived just after a torrential downpour of rain and had some sun and only the occasional shower. Temperatures were mild, 16-18°. If you have more time, you can take a train to Sintra which is supposed to be well worth a visit. Next time for me! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Lisbon and if you want to know more or are interested in visiting, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
09 August 2019
Have you got friends, family or colleagues that have told you all about their fantastic cruise and it’s made you wonder if you should experience this popular travel experience for yourself? Well, here’s a guide to cruises to help you decide. Cruising has really taken off in recent years and I think the main reason for this is that the prices have become very competitive, due to there being so many ships and companies to choose from. There are nine new ocean cruise liners due to launch next year alone, as well as three luxury and eight expedition ships. This is great news, whether you want to try a cruise for the first time, or whether you are a seasoned cruiser, because it means that there will be a ship out there that’s just right for you. Cruise ships vary in size, from Star Clipper’s four masted, 170 passenger Tall Ship, to Royal Caribbean’s 5518 passenger Symphony of The Seas. There are informal ships, such as those operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, where you don’t have to wear formal evening wear, and you can dine at any time in a wide choice of restaurants, or more traditional ships, such as Fred Olsen’s, that have early and late sittings for dinner, with at least one formal night during your cruise. Fred Olsen also offer great value if travelling alone, with lower single supplements than most companies. If you prefer to cruise in luxury, then Silversea, Seabourn or Crystal are great choices, offering very high standards, and include beverages and gratuities in their prices. There are lots of possibilities for families too, including Royal Caribbean ships, with their rock-climbing wall, ice skating rink and FlowRider surf simulator. Some others that are great for families are Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruises, Carnival and Princess, to name but a few, with kids’ clubs for various age groups and activities to keep the children entertained. Cruise companies are now realising that some people prefer to have no children around, and so there are some adult only ships on offer as well. You can do as much or as little as you like, but if you are someone that gets bored easily, there will usually be something going on to keep you occupied from early morning until late at night. Depending on which ship you are on, you may be able to take cookery lessons, listen to a lecture by an expert speaker, learn to speak a language or take part in a Zumba class. There is also the option to go on excursions and see the local sights which many people do. They also try to outdo each other year on year, with innovative creations to excite and amaze, from robot bartenders to a sky diving simulator. What will they think of next?! At a time when customers are looking to get good value for money, and something a little different, cruises are a great choice. You can visit lots of different places in one holiday without having to pack and unpack again. You have got meals and entertainment included, and if you don’t like flying, you can take a cruise that sails from the UK. If you want to give cruising a try or if you want to know more, give me a call.
27 March 2019
It was back to Thailand for our March holiday this year, but wanting to try a different area, we decided on Khao Lak, staying at The Sarojin hotel, which is a 1.5 hour drive north from Phuket airport. The history of the hotel is written in a book that is provided in each room for guests to be able to read at their leisure. It’s an interesting story about an English couple who had an ambition to build and open a hotel and their struggles to do so, with the tsunami hitting and devastating parts of the hotel in 2004, just as they were within days of opening. Fortunately, most of the staff were at home that day as it was Boxing Day. We stayed in a Garden Residence room for most of our stay but were kindly upgraded to a recently renovated Spa Suite for our last night and what a wow factor that room has! All the rooms are large with a big individual bathtub for couples and two showers. The Spa Suites also have an outdoor jacuzzi and are more luxurious. The hotel itself is geared towards couples, not accepting children under the age of 10. It has 56 rooms, lovely gardens, a large lily pond and a peaceful pool area, where we never had any trouble finding sunbeds in the shade. If you prefer the beach to the pool, you won’t be disappointed. There are more sunbeds there and it’s a beautiful beach which stretches for miles, so if you want to stretch your legs it’s ideal. It’s in a quiet location, some 20 minutes’ drive from Khao Lak itself but that’s a plus for me, and there were enough places to eat along the beach, at very reasonable prices, to keep us well fed for the two weeks. A meal for two of us with a drink each was coming to around £15, which was a lot cheaper than eating in the hotel. The restaurants in the hotel were good though and if you don’t fancy walking on the sand then they are an option. Breakfast was included in the hotel price and was excellent. You can choose from an extensive menu and can eat it at any time throughout the day, up until 6pm. If you’re going to a beach restaurant, you need to keep an eye on the tides because one night when the tide was coming in, we had to come back from a restaurant at a much quicker walk than we normally would have, and had to time our little spurts around jutting out branches, to when the waves had gone out! The hotel provides a shuttle bus, at certain times at a cost of 100 Baht per person each way (approx. £2.50) into Khao Lak and Bang Niang. The latter has a market selling mainly tourist items such as swimwear and flip flops of which I managed to avail them of a few. There are also more restaurants to choose from if you want a change of scenery. You can book excursions, which are mainly by boat and include visiting other islands and there are complimentary bikes at the hotel. We cycled one morning to a nearby waterfall, which we had to ourselves until we were ready to leave, when a tour group arrived, so we timed that well! We had a fantastic relaxing holiday, at a lovely hotel with friendly staff and perfect weather. What more could you want? If you would like any more information about the hotel or area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
15 November 2018
Ever wondered what I get up to in a typical day? Here’s a day in my life as a Travel Counsellor, not that there is a typical day as no two are ever the same! One thing I love is working from home and not having to do the daily commute, especially during those snowy days and cold, icy mornings when the car windscreen needs scraping. Brrrr! 0845-0900 I look at my diary to see what I need to do that day and if there is anything that needs doing straight away. For instance, I might need to contact a company in Asia that is coming to the end of their working day, or I may have pre-arranged a phone call with a customer at 9am. 0900-0930 I check and respond to any emails that have come in with a much-needed cup of tea! If one has come in overnight from a customer wanting to book, I’ll give them a call to get all the names and other necessary information for the booking. 0930-1230 Start working on the enquiries I have which could be anything from a UK hotel or family holiday to Spain, to a round the world trip or a wedding party of thirty to the Caribbean. This time includes researching to find that perfect trip. 1230-1315 Take a break for lunch and walk in the local park with my husband Paul, who also works from home. I always feel better for getting some fresh air, even if I take a bit of persuading to get out sometimes! I take my phone with me and divert my calls so people can still reach me. 1315-1530 Carry on with enquiries and let people know what I have found, which can then result in me booking their trip. 1530-1545 Deal with any flight re-schedules I have received by notifying customers and updating my back office system. 1545-1645 Admin time – write welcome home and thank you for booking cards for customers, check in online and email boarding passes, phone customers that have recently returned to see if everything went well, email a hotel with special requests, fill out luggage labels to save my customers the job and enter passport details into the airline’s booking system. 1645-1700 Social Media – Put something on my Facebook business page. This isn’t an everyday occurrence, but I do it when I can. 1700-1730 Finish enquiries off, look at the diary for tomorrow. 1730-2130 Check emails throughout the evening on my phone and respond if I can. I also take calls throughout the day with new enquiries and questions on existing bookings. Then it all starts again tomorrow and I love it!
27 September 2018
My September holiday this year took me to the lovely island of Crete. I had been before, but it was many years ago, so it was definitely time to return. After a four-hour flight from East Midlands, we picked up our pre-booked hire car and were soon on our way to the quiet resort of Panormos, which is about an hour west from Heraklion airport. It’s a lovely, seaside village with cobbled streets and has three small sandy beaches to choose from as well as some shops, a bakery, supermarkets and about half a dozen restaurants, serving the traditional Greek favourites including lamb chops, souvlaki and kleftiko. Prices were reasonable, with a main course costing about 10 Euros and a half litre of house wine priced at 4 Euros. One of our trips out in the car took us to the popular town of Rethymnon, which is a 30-minute drive west of Panormos. It has a long sandy beach, a Venetian harbour and a pleasant old town, filled with narrow streets, boutiques and tavernas. Bali (not the Indonesian one), is a shorter journey in the other direction. It’s quite spread out, with plenty of tavernas, several beaches (some small) and a port. Something to note if you have walking difficulties is it is fairly hilly. We also visited Kournas Lake, which is surrounded by hills. You can have fun hiring a pedalo for an hour, which is what we did and then relax on a sun lounger on the beach (included in the cost of the pedalo). If you want to take a dip to cool down, you can do. There are tavernas nearby as well for a drink or a spot of lunch. It was another lovely holiday, and I have returned relaxed and rejuvenated! If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
29 June 2018
Our latest holiday took us to Lake Garda, Italy, staying in the resort of Garda. I had never been to Lake Garda so was keen to see for myself the area that everyone speaks so highly of. It is the largest lake in Italy and the nearest airport is Verona. Once we had landed, our private transfer took 35 minutes to get us to our hotel in Garda, which is on the south east of the lake. This is one of the shorter transfers and if travelling to one of the other resorts on the lake, it is likely to take longer. On our first full day we walked along the promenade from Garda to Bardolino. It is a flat 3km walk (just under 2 miles) but there are places to stop on the way for a refreshing drink if you want to. Known for its red wine, Bardolino is a lovely town to wander round and its traffic-free centre is home to numerous bars, restaurants and smart shops. Like Garda, it is also well served by the ferries that take you to other places along the lake. On subsequent days, we made full use of the ferries. It’s best to pick up a timetable from one of the ticket offices to make sure you are not waiting around too long, and you need to buy tickets before you get on. There are reductions for seniors but on occasion they will ask for ID to allocate the discount. A supplement applies if you take one of the high-speed services. Our boat trips took us to various towns along the lake including Sirmione with its medieval castle, Desenzano, Limone and Malcesine where we walked to the top of the castle for some great views and could have taken a cable car up to Monte Baldo for more wonderful views and hiking, but we ran out of time. Our last day out was to Gardone Riviera, where we visited some lovely botanical gardens with quirky sculptures. There is a mini train that runs to a schedule and takes you around the area for a small charge, and as some of the attractions are at the top of a hill, it is worth taking. One of these is Vittoriale degli Italiani, which was the home of an Italian poet and has lots of unusual things that he collected over the years as well as large gardens with a battleship in them! The surrounding area is also nice to wander round with a few restaurants and shops. All the towns are picturesque and if you visit Lake Garda you won’t be short of things to see and do. As well as visiting other towns, there is also Gardaland, an amusement park with rides and rollercoasters if you want to do something different or you can take trips to Verona and/or Venice. We had a great time and I’m sure we’ll be back. If you need any more information or would like me to look into a suitable Lake Garda holiday for you, please get in touch.
10 April 2018
The Caribbean is one of our favourite parts of the world, and as we hadn’t been to St Lucia in 11 years, it was time to go back. We flew with British Airways from Gatwick which took 8 hours 40 minutes, once they had de-iced the plane at Gatwick! What a contrast in temperature when we walked down the aircraft steps in St Lucia. Off with the coat and on with the sunglasses! We had pre-booked a car and collected it at the airport, the drive taking just over an hour to Marigot Bay, which was where we stayed for the next two weeks. It has a pretty bay with a laid-back feel, where people moor their yachts and catamarans, and is great for people watching. There are half a dozen restaurants, some of which you need to get a boat across the bay to, which is free as long as you use the restaurant, and all adds to the charm. A meal for two of us, consisting of a main course each, a glass of wine and a coke, would come to about £60 on average. We took an enjoyable sunset cruise, as far as The Pitons, which are two green volcanic peaks that come out of the sea. On another day we drove to the Millet Bird sanctuary, but as we got lost on the way (took the scenic route you might say), we ended up being there close to midday when the birds were having a siesta! It was an enjoyable walk none the less, through the rainforest with a guide, and we did see a few birds, plus the guide showed the herbs that were growing there and talked about their medicinal uses. I would recommend if you do go, to either book a driver/taxi to take you there and pick you up again as they will know where they are going or ask the locals for directions sooner rather than later! We also drove to Rodney Bay in the north of the island, which is where we stayed last time we went, as we wanted to go back to The Big Chef Steakhouse which was a favourite restaurant of ours. It was still just as good, luckily. There is a nice beach in the resort, and it has a good selection of restaurants and bars, including at the marina nearby. The rest of our holiday was taken up with relaxing in the warm temperatures, as we toured the island extensively the first time we visited. It’s hard work but somebody has to do it. On our last day we stopped for lunch at Dasheene restaurant at The Ladera Resort hotel, on our way to the airport. We remembered it from last time as it has stunning views of the Pitons from the restaurant, so if you want lunch with a view, I can definitely recommend it. We treated ourselves to flying back in business class, as it was our wedding anniversary, and all that that entailed, including the champagne when you get on, the food being served on china plates, and most importantly the flat bed, were fabulous. Overall, we had a great time in St Lucia, and I’m sure we will be back. If you would like any information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
05 October 2017
Having left Banff, (see separate blog) we drove to Jasper for a 3 night stay at the Marmot Lodge. Normally a 3.5 to 4-hour drive without stops, but as there are plenty of things to see on the way including Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake viewpoint, Columbia Icefield area, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls, it took a bit longer! It is also a stunning drive along the Icefield Parkway, with mountain after mountain, and as there had been snow while we were there, we had the added bonus of them being snow-capped. I think it’s worth mentioning at this stage that if you are driving to or in any National Park in Canada, including Banff, Jasper and Yoho, you will require a Parks Canada Discovery Pass and need it displayed on your rear-view mirror. As 2017 is a year that Canada is celebrating its 150-year Anniversary, they are offering complimentary passes, but any other year there is a charge. While in Jasper we went to Maligne Lake, which was absolutely stunning with its mountain peaks. We took a boat trip there that had a knowledgeable guide onboard, and cruised to Spirit Island where you can get off, walk around and take lots of picturesque photos. Another worthwhile activity, if you are lucky with the weather as we were, is to go up the Jasper Sky Tram. It started out cloudy when we left the bottom, but we went above the cloud to reveal absolutely incredible views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Robson. Moments later the clouds dispersed totally and we had a clear blue sky. Fantastic. We also drove to Mount Edith Cavell mountain, where you currently need to obtain a free pass from the Jasper Information Centre, as there are restrictions on the number of cars allowed in one day. I know that wildlife can sometimes be seen on the road in, so we kept our eyes peeled and lo and behold an adult lynx appeared in front of us with its kitten. The kitten scarpered into the woods pretty quickly, but we did manage to take video of the adult, I’m pleased to say. Once at Mount Edith Cavell, we walked along the footpath to the viewing point where there are great views of the glacier and mountains. Jasper is smaller than Banff, but an equally nice town to stay in, and we saw the famous Rocky Mountaineer train while we were there, which is another way of seeing the Rockies without having to drive. There are also tours that can be arranged if you prefer to have everything organised for you. From Jasper we headed back the same way we came, to experience the Icefield Parkway in reverse, so another chance to drive between the imposing mountains. After an overnight stay in Canmore, it was time to catch a flight to the bright lights of Las Vegas, which you can read about in my next blog.
05 October 2017
After our fantastic stay in Canada (see other blogs for details) we took a 2.5 hour flight from Calgary to Las Vegas, where we had a 6 nights stay at The Signature at MGM Grand, one night of which we spent at the Grand Canyon. Although we bought a couple of monorail passes during our time there, we still ended up doing a lot of walking. It’s a place where everything looks close, you can see the hotel you want to go to, but you walk for a while, and it hasn’t got any closer! We needed to walk though, to try and work off some of the huge portions they serve. We looked at various hotels to look at their star attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower at The Paris hotel, the gondolas and canals at The Venetian, and the Statue of Liberty at the New York New York. Then there are the fountains to music, at the Bellagio and the Wynn. We had an evening meal at the Bellagio overlooking the fountains, which was great. They also have a conservatory in the hotel with great displays using flowers that they change throughout the year. Outside the Mirage hotel they have an erupting volcano, which goes off twice a night in the week, with an extra show on Friday and Saturday, so there are lots of things to see without having to pay a penny. We saw a show at the MGM while we were there, which was Cirque du Soleil – Ka. This was the most amazing production, with speakers incorporated at ear level in every seat, providing surround sound music and effects. There is also a 360° rotating stage which alternates between being horizontal and vertical which ensures the show is out of the ordinary. With the incredible acrobatics, especially on the ‘Wheel of death’ it was quite a spectacle. There are so many shows to choose from and there are often famous singers on throughout the year, so it’s worth looking to see what’s on before you go. As I mentioned at the beginning, we spent one night at the Grand Canyon (South Rim) during our stay, by picking up a car in Las Vegas and driving there. It took just under 7 hours, with a stop to look at Hoover Dam and then another stop for lunch, closer to the Canyon. It’s difficult to get to grips with the size of the Grand Canyon. It is 277 miles long, and at the South Rim it is said to be a vertical mile from the rim to the river, and 10 miles wide, although it is wider in other parts. You don’t really get that perspective seeing it up close, but it certainly looked vast and spectacular. There are free buses that take you to various viewing points along the Canyon, which we used to watch the sunset. We were up early the next day for the sunrise and it didn’t disappoint. Then it was back to Vegas for a bit of a flutter. I didn’t win but it was worth a go! Overall we had a fantastic time, with great experiences and lasting memories. If you would like any more information about Las Vegas or the Grand Canyon, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
05 October 2017
For a change from our usual type of holiday, we decided to be active for once, combining two places we have wanted to go to for some time - the Canadian Rockies and Las Vegas. Not your usual combination, I know, but it was certainly an enjoyable one. I have split the trip into three separate blogs, Banff, Jasper and Las Vegas (with the Grand Canyon). We flew to Calgary which took around 8.5 hours. On arrival we picked up our pre-booked hire car and headed for Banff, where we were staying at The Moose hotel for our next four nights. One thing you quickly find out about Banff is that the roads (and hotel in our case) are named after animals. There’s otter, elk, wolf, lynx and squirrel streets, to name but a few! Speaking of animals, it was rutting season for the elks, so we were forewarned by locals not to get too close to the males, or between the male and females, as they don’t always respond too well. We saw them a few times, mainly from a distance, until we took a walk along the Bow river one morning, and one appeared in the bushes. Then the deliberations started, do we turn back, do we carry on (not an option I was keen on). We decided in the end to take a wide berth, and walked well away from it, although then we came across the females but it was too late by then to turn back. There were locals watching it from the other side, who said we did the right thing, so that was OK. Despite the slight concern, it was fantastic to see them. It was a 7am start to get to Moraine lake by 8am, as I know parking gets full early. Unfortunately, we were told it had been full since 7:15 so we carried on up the road to Lake Louise, where we parked. Lake Louise was beautiful, with its turquoise water and mountain back drop. I think the morning is a great time of day to visit for taking photographs, before the sun gets too high and affects the lighting. Many photos were taken! We hiked up to Lake Agnes Tea House, which is approximately 4.5 miles round trip. It’s a steady climb and efforts are rewarded with a café that serves tea, scones and other snacks. Back at the bottom, we caught a bus to Moraine lake, smaller than Lake Louise, but still very pretty. There are trails there and we did the short walk up to the top of the rock pile to get the best views. Next stop was the Lake Louise gondola. There was a choice of an enclosed cable car or an open chairlift so your legs are dangling as you go up the mountain. We chose the latter, as it was better for taking photos and nice to be in the fresh air. There is a chance you can see bears down below, but we weren’t so lucky. There are great views from the top however, so it was still worth doing. We visited a couple of canyons from Banff, one was Johnston Canyon and the other Marble Canyon, both have trails with viewpoints along the way, including waterfalls and looking down into the deep creeks below. Other trips that we did included going up the Sulphur Mountain gondola – this was an enclosed cable car with great views of Banff and its surrounds from the top, and a drive to Lake Minnewanka, not far from Banff and worth going to, (we did a boat trip there as well). If you don’t mind driving a little further, there’s Yoho National Park which has the impressive Takakkaw Falls together with a natural bridge and Emerald lake. We really enjoyed the town of Banff, with a great choice of restaurants and a great base to explore the surrounding areas. Then it was onwards to Jasper, which you can read all about in my next blog.
21 June 2017
We decided on Majorca for a sneaky week away in June this year. It was an island I had never been to but had often thought about going to, and with a short two hour flight from our local airport and good weather likely, the time was right! We picked up a car at the airport and drove forty minutes to our villa, in Pollensa. After a couple of days of relaxation by the pool, it was time to go out and explore. First stop was Cala San Vicente, a small seaside resort close to Pollensa in the north of the island. With a handful of restaurants and three small beaches, it would suit those looking for a quiet, relaxing place to stay. We then travelled on a long windy road to Cap de Formentor, with its lighthouse and viewing point, at the north eastern tip of Majorca. There was quite a queue of cars to drive up to the car park at the top, as you had to wait for people to leave before another vehicle could go up. It took us around twenty minutes from arriving to getting parked, and although it was a lovely view of the sea, I don’t think I would do it again. In my opinion there is a better viewing point leading up to Cap de Formentor, without the queues! I was told by a local though that they are planning to reduce traffic and parking problems by not allowing cars up to Cap de Formentor. Instead they intend to have coaches taking people from certain points which should improve the situation. On another day we visited Alcudia old town, which was a lovely area to wander round, especially early morning when it was quiet. With narrow streets and enclosed by a medieval wall, it is probably a place that a lot of tourists aren’t aware of, as it is a bit of a drive inland from the main holiday resort of Alcudia, which is where we headed next. The Port d’Alcudia end is a pleasant area with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants, and a lovely long beach. For more of a commercialised British feel, there is the other end of the resort, with fast food outlets, plenty going on for kids, numerous shops, restaurants and bars, and again an excellent beach. From Alcudia we drove to Capdepera, a small, historical town on the east side of the island, and a good spot for a welcome drink. It was a hot day, around 35° in the shade, but that didn’t stop us climbing lots of steps to get to the castle, and we were rewarded with fantastic views from the top. It was built in the 14th century and originally had a fortified village within the castle walls to protect from pirate attacks. After Capdepera it was a short drive to the small but attractive town of Arta, where we had lunch. We were ready for a sit down by then! Refreshed and ready to go, we then climbed more steps to get to the walled fortress and church that overlook the town. I was surprised at how few people there were at the top, but then again it was a bit on the warm side for walking up steep hills. As an aside, we saw plenty of cyclists while we were out, that seemed to enjoy the challenging hills and mountain roads, and there are companies that offer cycling holidays there too. Let me know if you would like to know more. The rest of our holiday consisted of wandering around the lovely town of Pollensa, with its narrow streets and main square, it has a traditional Spanish feel. It has plenty of restaurants, many serving tapas and paella, as well as international food. Beyond the main square, there is also something called the Calvari, which has 365 steps leading to a great viewing point at the top. I don’t know what it was about steps on this holiday, but whenever we saw them, we couldn’t resist climbing them to admire the views. We also spent some evenings in Puerto Pollensa on the coast, which was about fifteen minutes’ drive away. This also has a main square, a great choice of restaurants, pavement cafes and shops, a lovely long sandy beach and a marina. What’s not to like? There is a range of accommodation, including self catering apartments or villas, and boutique or larger hotels. It was a hot, sunny week, with great food, the odd sangria, in a lovely part of Majorca. Will we go back? Absolutely. If you are interested in going to Majorca and would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
28 March 2017
It was back to The Far East for the March holiday this year, and Malaysia was the place we decided on for a two-week break, to escape the cold. We flew from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur on a 13-hour journey, and then connected onto a one hour flight to the island of Langkawi, where the sun was out to greet us on arrival. After a short transfer, we arrived at the Casa del Mar Hotel, where we were staying on Bed & Breakfast basis, which as the name suggests, is like a home by the sea. It is a small property with 34 rooms in various categories. We were fortunate enough to be upgraded to a Sea View Junior Suite. It was a lovely room with a separate lounge area, a TV in both the bedroom and the lounge, and a double sink in the bathroom. I also looked at the category of room below ours, and that was very nice as well. Complimentary bottled water is provided in all the rooms. Additionally, the staff would bring a jug of iced water to your sunlounger each morning, and fruit skewers in the afternoon followed by a Bellini or some other bubbly fruit drink, later in the day, which were nice touches. Langkawi is an archipelago made up of lots of islands off the north western coast of Malaysia. Our hotel was in the main resort of Pantai Cenang, which has a good selection of restaurants, mainly offering Malaysian and Indian food, but also Thai, Italian and Mexican. It also has plenty of beach wear shops, a lovely wide sandy beach, and watersports are offered, including jet skis, parasailing and banana boats. We hired a car for one day thinking that would be long enough to see the island, but we only managed half of it! We spent a lot of time at Langkawi Skycab, which is an amazing cable car that you take on a steep journey to Langkawi’s second highest peak, Mt Machinchang, but if you are afraid of heights, it might not be the thing for you! There are fantastic views of the surrounding islands from the top. We also paid extra to go on the SkyBridge which you can access nearby. It is a curved bridge, about a hundred metres above the ground. Again, great views, but we did have to queue for a long time to get the elevator type cabin to and from it. You can choose to walk instead though, if you’re feeling fit. We then went into the 3D Art gallery which was included in the admission, and that was fun as well. You can take pictures, in all kinds of painted settings and scenarios that are on the walls and floor, so that it looks like you are part of the action. There was more on the complex as well, including an F1 simulator, ‘Skydome’ which has ten minute shows, and an adventure park. We did go out on another occasion as well, and following on from my bird watching tour in The Gambia last year, decided to do another one in Langkawi, and we weren’t disappointed. We saw over 30 different types of birds, including Kingfishers and various Hornbills. You can hear the latter before you see them, when they fly overhead. It’s apparently due to the amount of air passing through the Hornbills wings as they have less layers of feathers than other birds. Something like that anyway! I have never heard a Pterodactyl flying, but that’s the whooshing noise I imagine its wings would have made! Other than the two days out, there was plenty of relaxing time, so I am now fully rested. To sum up, another great holiday was had by all!
27 September 2018
Whether you have been inspired by recent television programmes, or want to experience a different type of holiday, and perhaps a trip of a lifetime, then an iconic rail journey could be just the thing. When travelling by train, your journey is an integral and delightful part of your holiday experience. What you see from your seat is as much a part of the holiday as arriving at the destination. With quite a few to choose from in various parts of the world, it is an ideal option and can be combined with a stay on land at either, or both sides of the journey. Starting with the Rocky Mountaineer, based in Canada, it operates from April to October, with the most popular route travelling through the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Vancouver or vice versa. It is a two-day journey and only travels through the day so that you don’t miss out on any of the scenery, and you can keep an eye out for wildlife. There is no accommodation on board, so one night is spent in a hotel in Kamloops. There are two classes of service, GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf. GoldLeaf Service has a two-level glass domed coach with full-length windows, and its own restaurant where as Silverleaf has a single glass domed coach with oversized windows, and you are served food at your seat. Both include breakfast, lunch and complimentary drinks. The legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express needs no introduction. Travelling in private cabins impeccably restored to their former splendour, passengers are assured of a truly unique travel experience complemented by the very best personal service. Meals are included with continental breakfast and afternoon tea served in your cabin, while lunch and dinner are served in one of the beautiful restaurant cars. The most popular journey is from Paris to Venice, which can be booked in conjunction with a British Pullman train from London to Paris and operates from March to November. It can also be booked as part of a tour, to include a stay in Paris and Milan, or as part of a bespoke holiday. India’s Palace on Wheels is a luxury train that has also been beautifully restored to its earlier glory. Each passenger cabin is embellished with elegant furnishing, silk drapes, and beautifully carved wood panelling. The en-suite modern bathroom adds more comfort to each journey. Dining is included in one of two opulent restaurant cars, the Maharaja and Maharini, serving Indian, International and Chinese cuisine. There is also a comfortable lounge car and bar. It operates from New Delhi once a week between September and April, and after travelling through the majestic cities and towns of Rajasthan concludes its week-long journey in Delhi itself. Australia has two famous trains, The Ghan that runs between Adelaide and Darwin, via Alice Springs, and the Indian Pacific that travels between Sydney and Perth, Adelaide and Sydney or Adelaide and Perth. The Ghan journey takes two nights/three days and the longer of the trips on the Indian Pacific, from Sydney to Perth, takes three nights/four days. On either train, if booked in Platinum or Gold Service, off-train excursions are included as well as meals and drinks, which are served in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. If you are on a tighter budget, then there is the Red Service, which instead of sleeper cabins, you have a reclining seat with plenty of legroom, and food and drinks can be purchased from the café. The Blue Train in South Africa offers passengers a luxurious experience from Pretoria to Cape Town or vice versa. The fully air-conditioned train accommodates up to eighty guests and each coach has a butler on call to attend to your needs. The journey itself takes twenty-seven hours, travelling nearly one thousand miles, with an excursion stop en route, and operates year-round. There is a lounge car where you can meet for drinks and have high tea and a dining car where you can experience fine dining with fresh local ingredients, presented in crystal or fine china. With Deluxe suites and Luxury suites to choose from, you can’t go wrong. I know there are other wonderful rail journeys that I haven’t mentioned, but I hope that gives a flavour of what you can do if you want the trip of a lifetime.
05 January 2017
In need of some winter sun, and not wanting to fly as far as The Caribbean this time, The Gambia, in West Africa, was the ideal destination for us. It was only a six-hour flight from Manchester, and with no time difference it meant that there was no jet lag. With a short transfer from the airport, we arrived at our hotel, Leo’s Beach, and we were sat out in the 32° warmth in no time. A bit different to the 4° we had left behind! The hotel is a small adult-only property, with five standard rooms and a suite, ensuring that peace and tranquillity are the order of the day. It has a lovely pool and gardens, and from its elevated position, offers views to the ocean. There are steps down to the beautiful beach, which we walked along a few times. We saw a couple of monkeys wandering through the grounds most days, and there were a variety of birds that perched and sang from the surrounding trees and shrubs. The Gambia is renowned for its birdwatching, and as I enjoy watching them, I booked a half day private birdwatching trip for Paul and myself. It was a 7 am start to catch the birds while they were active before the heat of the day set in, and with binoculars in hand, we set off to Brufut Woods, which was a short drive from the hotel. We had two guides with us, and without them, we wouldn’t have seen half the birds that they spotted, which included lots that I had never heard of, such as a Red-cheeked cordon bleu, a green pigeon, and a yellow-crowned Gonolek, which was my favourite! After four hours in Brufut Woods, we went to Tanji Bird Reserve, which is a large area on the coast. Within the reserve, there are a variety of habitats, and we were able to see kingfishers, from a distance I might add! The roads in The Gambia are probably worth a little mention. The main roads are good, but once you go onto a side road, the chances are it will be unpaved, sandy and bumpy. This all adds to the Africa experience, though. Our hotel was in a quiet location, which suited us, with not a lot in the immediate vicinity, so when we wanted to eat out, we took a ten to fifteen minute taxi ride to Kololi, which is one of the livelier areas of The Gambia, with a good choice of restaurants and bars. The hotel provides guests with a mobile phone with credit, and some pre-programmed numbers to call for a taxi, phone reception etc, which was very useful. We were on Bed & Breakfast basis, but still ate a lot of meals in the hotel, which were of a very high standard. Price wise, the main course of chicken or fish would cost approximately £10, and a glass of wine, between £3 and £4. To sum up, it was another great holiday, and with the weather being around 32° through the winter, The Gambia is a great choice to escape the cold.
25 October 2016
Japan is becoming one of the in places to go at the moment, and with its unique culture and diversity, it should come as no surprise. It is such an interesting country where you can visit futuristic cities with skyscrapers one day and traditional villages with wooden buildings another day. The size of Japan can come as a surprise. It ranges over 3000 kilometres across 6,000 islands, from Hokkaido on the northern tip, where Siberian winds bring in heavy snow in winter, to the sub-tropical islands of Okinawa in the south. Three quarters of the land is mountainous and includes one tenth of the world’s active volcanoes. No trip to Japan would be complete without a stay in Tokyo. Whether it’s as a standalone city break, a stopover on the way to somewhere further afield like Australia, as I did, or part of a tour. It is the capital and although a large city made up of 23 districts, it is easy to get around using the subway. I stayed in the Shinjuku district which was great for restaurants, bright neon lights, sightseeing and access to public transport. It didn’t cost as much as I thought it would in Tokyo, with some attractions costing nothing such as the Metropolitan Government building which has an observation deck with great views, Yoyogi Park or Imperial Palace East garden. Actually the gardens and parks in Tokyo are fantastic. Many have lovely ponds to go with the archetypical Japanese landscaped gardens and are quite a contrast to the skyscrapers in the background. There are temples and shrines to visit, and you can take a day trip to Mount Fuji and Hakone, coming back on the Shinkansen (bullet train) as I did. If you like gadgets, head for the Akihabara district where there are some enormous electronic shops. Elsewhere in Japan, Kyoto, the capital of Japanese history and culture is also a must see, if you have time. You could stay in a ryokan which is a traditional Japanese style inn. There are various things that you can do, including experiencing a tea ceremony and having drinks with a Geisha. There are lovely gardens that you can walk through, and the Kiyomizudera Temple and Golden Pavilion are not to be missed. From Kyoto you can do day trips to Himeji Castle, which is considered to be the best castle in Japan or to Nara, which was the first permanent capital. It has a giant Buddha statue and friendly sacred deer roaming around. Takayama, in the mountains of Japan, has narrow streets in the old town to explore with traditional wooden buildings, shops and sake breweries. There are also arts and crafts, museums, morning farmers markets and nice pine tree lined paths to walk along. From here you can take a day trip to Shirakawa-go, which is a World Heritage Site and is surrounded by natural beauty and is known for its unique buildings/farmhouses of which only 150 remain of their kind in Japan. There are so many places to see in Japan depending on what interests you have. A good idea and offering good value if you want to travel independently, is to buy a rail pass for either 7, 14 or 21 days. Alternatively you can travel as part of a tour where everything is taken care of. Popular times to travel are in spring (March/April) when the cherry blossom is out or in the autumn (October/November) when the leaves are turning and temperatures are mild and not too humid. Booking early is highly recommended for these times of year. Japan is a fantastic destination for everyone, whether for a honeymoon, a family holiday, someone that enjoys walking, or loves going round gardens. For a country like nowhere else, go to Japan, you won’t regret it! For more information on Japan, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
26 September 2016
We fancied trying somewhere different for our September holiday this year, so the French speaking island of Corsica was our destination of choice. Just a two hour flight from Manchester to Calvi, and a short 20 minute drive on arrival to the town in our pre-booked hire car, made for a very easy journey. Calvi is a lovely, small town on the North West coast of Corsica. With a 13th century citadel offering fantastic views of the marina and town below, and a good selection of restaurants both in the citadel and in the town, what’s not to like! It also has a long stretch of beach for those lazy days in the sun. The majority of tourists that stay in Calvi are French and Italian, so although there are some menus in English as well as French, there are others that are in French only. My basic French, learnt in school thirty years ago, came in handy! Popular dishes on the menus included pasta, fish, lamb and wild boar. Local wine was available at all restaurants and if drinking the house wine in particular, it became good value. We made use of the car on a couple of occasions, and went on trips to L’Ile Rousse, Algajola, Parc de Saleccia and Sant’Antonio. L’Ile Rousse is a seaside town, about 40 minutes’ drive from Calvi. It has a sandy beach and the town is very pleasant to walk around with lots of cafes (serving very nice ice cream according to my husband!), restaurants and shops, as well as a square where you can watch the locals play petanque. Algajola was quieter, smaller and more laid back, with a citadel, a sandy beach and a smattering of restaurants. Perfect. We also went back here one night and had a lovely meal. There is also a train that runs from Calvi to L’Ile Rousse in the day time, with stops at different points along the coast, including Algajola, if you don’t want to drive. Parc de Saleccia is just past L’Ile Rousse and is landscaped gardens that you pay to enter and walk round – €9 per person when we went. It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or two, and it has a café where you can get a bite to eat or a drink at the end. Sant’Antonio is the oldest inhabited village in Corsica, is perched on top of a hill, and looks spectacular as you approach. Once there, it is just as pretty and is mainly pedestrianised due to its cobbled streets and archways. There are steps or steepish cobbled slopes to get to the top, but its well worth it. There are great views to be had from the selection of restaurants at the top. Speaking of views, sitting above Calvi, there is the Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Serra, which we drove to, but if you don’t mind walking up hill, then that’s an option. From this church there are spectacular views of Calvi. As far as accommodation is concerned, there are hotels, apartments and villas, so something for everyone. We had a fantastic time and I can definitely recommend staying in Calvi or the other places we visited along the coast. If you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
22 June 2016
It’s enjoyable just to get away for a few days sometimes, so my recent trip to Prague for a long weekend was just the job. The flight from East Midlands arrived within two hours and from the airport it took around thirty minutes by taxi to get to our hotel. Perfect! Once we had eaten lunch, we started to explore on foot. The Old Town square is beautiful and dates back to the 12th century. It has buildings of varying styles including Baroque and Gothic that have been constructed through the years. I would say one of the biggest crowd pleasers is the 15th century Astronomical Clock, which has a special presentation on the hour, where a small door opens and the Twelve Apostles pass by one by one, while a small skeleton of death tolls a bell. We had a wander across historic Charles Bridge, which links the Old Town with the Lesser Town, and has the Vltava River flowing beneath it. It has many statues along it, great views, and some performing musicians and street artists to keep you entertained. While walking around the city, we came across a rotating mechanical head sculpture. Not something you see every day, but interesting to watch. We also walked to Wenceslas Square, which is not so much a square, but more a tree lined avenue with designer shops, hotels and restaurants. We bought a 24 hour pass which gave us unlimited travel on the buses, trams and metro and was very easy to use. This allowed us to rest our feet for a bit, as we went to the Prague Castle complex, which has the largest medieval castle in Europe. We still had to walk up the hill to the castle though! You can walk round the area without a charge but if you want to go into the buildings or wander down Golden Lane, then you need to buy a ticket from the ticket office. You can also visit as part of a guided tour. The complex comprises of the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, which is eye catching from many parts of the city, churches, palaces, museums and Golden Lane, which is a quaint street with historic houses, and inside them are representations of a bygone era. The complex is a must see area in my opinion, for anyone staying in Prague. There are also tiered gardens below the castle which are pleasant to walk around. Also worth doing is a river cruise. We were lucky with the weather, and the sun was shining as we sat out on the top deck admiring the views. You can sit inside though if the weather isn’t as good. Our journey lasted forty minutes but you can also do longer cruises including lunch or dinner. An interesting part of the city is the Jewish Quarter. Fortunately, most of the significant historical buildings were saved from destruction and today they remain a testimony to the history of the Jews in Prague. They form the best preserved complex of historical Jewish monuments in the whole of Europe, including the Old Jewish Cemetery and six synagogues. For great views, there are many options for vantage points including the Old Town Hall Tower for views over the Old Town Square, Petrin Hill Observation Tower, near to the Castle, and St Nicholas Church to name but a few. We opted for the TV Tower, which is perhaps not the prettiest of towers from the outside, and has sculptures of babies crawling up and down it. Yes it’s as strange as it sounds, but the views from inside are great! We also went to Vitkov Park, and after walking up a hill and some steps, we came across the National Monument including the large equestrian statue of Jan Zizka. From here there is a viewing platform you can go up and get some fantastic 360 degree views of the city (open in the daytime but closed in bad weather). On our last day we took a tour in an open top vintage car. It was a relaxing way to end our stay in this lovely city, and although we had seen most things by this time, the driver told us interesting stories of what we were seeing. There is certainly a lot to see and do in Prague, and that combined with a picturesque old town makes it an ideal place to visit.
16 May 2016
If you are planning to get married in the not too distant future, one thing that may have crossed your mind, is whether to get married abroad or not. Of course, it’s personal choice, but for me, tying the knot in the Caribbean was the best decision I could have made. As well as being cost effective, with an instant honeymoon included, the weather was perfect, and all the stress of planning was taken away. I was snorkelling up until two hours before my wedding! There are plenty of countries that you can get married in, and some where you are not allowed, so it’s important to have the correct information before the planning begins. Often there is a minimum number of days that you need to spend in resort before you can get married, which varies from country to country. There are various wedding options you can choose from, including flowers, wedding cake, photography, DVD’s and much more. There will often be a choice for your wedding location, between on the beach, in the hotel grounds or in a chapel. There will also be a wedding coordinator on hand to help with the arrangements when you are there. One important thing to consider when you are planning a destination for a wedding or honeymoon abroad, is the weather. The time of year you are getting married will determine where the best places are to go to avoid the chance of hurricanes or the rainy season. Here are some honeymoon destinations by month, when it is generally a good time to travel. January – Sydney, Sri Lanka, Thailand February – South Africa, Maldives, New Zealand March – Caribbean, Argentina, India April – Las Vegas, Hawaii, Mexico May – Croatia, Greek Islands, Rome June – Italy, Corsica, Alaska July – Bali, Kenya, Seychelles August – Iceland, Malaysia, California September – Canadian Rockies, Cyprus, Turkey October – Dubai, Japan, New York November – Marrakech, Canary Islands, Goa December – Lapland, Vienna, Dominican Republic
06 April 2016
Our welcome holiday this time took us to Curacao, which is a Dutch Caribbean island, just North of Venezuela. It’s a little off the beaten track for us Brits, with no direct flights, meaning that we had to fly from Manchester via Amsterdam. The journey time including the stop in Amsterdam was about 12 hours, so not bad at all. We collected a car at the airport and headed to Cas Abou on the West coast of the island, our home in the sun for the next two weeks. Starting with the beaches, we discovered three lovely sandy ones by car. Cas Abou itself has a great beach, with good snorkelling from the shore. You pay a small entry fee to get to the beach, and the equivalent of a couple of Pounds for a sunlounger which includes access to the showers and changing rooms. There is also a restaurant serving snacks and drinks, together with a watersports centre. The other beaches were further North on the West coast and we went snorkelling again at one of them and saw a good variety of fish. The average sea temperature is 80 degrees, so even I could go straight in without sharp intakes of breath! We had a few trips out in the car to see more of the island. One place we visited was Willemstad, which is the capital, and has pretty pastel coloured buildings overlooking the water. There is an interesting swinging pedestrian bridge, called the Queen Emma, which spans St Anna Bay and connects the Punda and Otrobanda areas of the Capital. It is hinged and opens to let boats pass through, but if your timing is out, and you can’t cross because of this, you can always catch the free ferry to take you across the water. In the North of the island are a couple of National Parks, Christoffel and Shete Boka. The former is the larger of the two and you can choose to either drive round or follow some of the hiking trails. If you are feeling energetic you can also climb Mount Christoffel, which is the highest point on the island, but you are only allowed to do this before 11am due to the heat. We drove! For me, Shete Boka is the more spectacular of the two, because you are by the sea and on the day we went, the waves were really crashing in against the rocks. There are viewing platforms in strategic locations, offering great views and where you can feel the spray from the ocean. A particular highlight for me was seeing some of the wildlife which included Flamingos, Parakeets, Humming Birds, and the national bird of Curacao, the Troupial with its striking orange colouring. On the occasional morning when I managed to wake up before 7am, it was great to open the windows and listen to the sounds of the tropics. As far as eating out is concerned, Willemstad has the majority of restaurants within close proximity of each other, including a collection in what was a fort, built in the 1800s. Other good restaurants are scattered around the island, with some being nicely located at former plantation houses. Another great holiday was had by myself and Mr D! So if you’re looking for somewhere a little different because of its Dutch influence that most people haven’t heard of, Curacao could be the place for you. If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
21 December 2015
We have been fortunate enough to go to Barbados a few times now. With a convenient flight from Manchester and some guaranteed winter sun, it’s hard to resist. With a strong tail wind, the flight only took 7 hours 30, arriving just in time for an evening meal and a cocktail! We stayed at the Sugar Cane Club in the north west of the island, somewhere we haven’t stayed before. It is an all-inclusive, adult only property, and five minutes by courtesy bus to a lovely beach if you like the sea and sand. We were more than happy staying within the hotel’s well-kept gardens with access to the pool, and occasionally spotting the monkeys that would appear within the grounds. The hotel has two restaurants, La Salsa is open every night and offers buffet or a la carte, depending which night it is. The other restaurant, Sandy’s, opens a few nights a week except for Fridays, when it offers meals to hotel residents and Almond Beach Club hotel guests, its sister hotel. There is entertainment with live music on a couple of the buffet nights. With just 42 apartments, it is quiet and not like some of the larger hotels you will find in the Caribbean. It is easy to get to know the staff and to chat with other guests if you want to. We had an Ocean View room which I can definitely recommend, as watching the sunset from the balcony was a great way to end the day. One day we hired a car to venture round the island. Driving is on the left which makes it easier. A couple of highlights from the day were going over to the east coast to Bathsheba, where we had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where there were surfers trying to stay upright on the rolling waves. There is quite a contrast between the west and east coast, so definitely worth a visit in my opinion. After lunch we went to the Flower Forest which is inland from Bathsheba, and that was fantastic. It was very peaceful, we were the only ones there! You can walk around at your leisure, looking at the different trees and flowers, with a couple of amazing views along the way, and we saw a monkey which inconsiderately ran off when the camera came out. Another morning, we took the hotel up on their free glass bottom boat trip. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, watching the fish through the glass, followed by the opportunity to swim with turtles and then admiring the lovely houses and beaches along the coast. Perfect! It was a very relaxing holiday, and one that I can recommend to anyone looking for a quiet and friendly hotel. If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
24 September 2015
As a big fan of Greece and its quieter islands, I decided Skopelos was next on my list. I love trying new places and couldn’t wait to get there. It doesn’t have its own airport, which was another draw, as it retains its charm and hasn’t been developed like some other islands. We flew into Skiathos, and from there caught a sixty minute ferry to Skopelos, where a rental car, that I had pre-booked, was waiting for us. There are two main ports on Skopelos - Loutraki and Skopelos Town, and it may depend on what time your flight arrives in as to which ferry from Skiathos you are booked on. We stayed just outside Skopelos Town, which we went into most evenings to experience the wide choice of tavernas and their traditional Greek food. Nearly all had the delicious spiral shaped Skopelos cheese pie, which we found hard to resist as a starter, and the Greek staples of Kleftiko (slow roasted lamb, wrapped in parchment paper with potatoes, garlic and vegetables), Souvlaki (grilled pieces of meat on a skewer), and Greek Salad, to name but a few. Prices were reasonable, and on average, a meal for two, with one starter and two main courses, plus a drink each, was coming to around thirty Euros. Skopelos Town is a great place to wander round, with its steep streets, meandering up the hillside from the harbour, and its waterfront promenade, where the majority of bars and restaurants are found. You can take various boat trips from here, including to Alonissos Island or Skiathos. There are a few souvenir shops, but more importantly lots of cake shops! Afternoon tea became a bit of a ritual, with orange cake being a firm favourite. Glossa, inland and about a thirty minute drive from Skopelos Town, is even more authentic, with its whitewashed houses, even steeper slopes and a few tavernas. Agnondas is another place worth a visit. It is a pretty little port with three tavernas. I also couldn’t go to Skopelos, the island where most of Mamma Mia was filmed, without going to the Agios Ioannis chapel, where the wedding scene was shot. It’s a stunning location, built on a 100 metre promontory, with lots of steps to get to the top. I don’t know how the film crew managed to carry all their equipment up there! There are various trips you can take to other Mamma Mia set locations, if you are a big fan. Accommodation varies from self catering to hotels, so something for everyone. We had a lovely time and can recommend Skopelos, if you like somewhere a little off the beaten track, with a good choice of tavernas, and friendly locals. If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
24 March 2015
We visited Thailand a few years ago, where we had a great time in Bangkok and Koh Samui. This time we thought we’d try somewhere different, so we missed out Bangkok and had two weeks on the island of Koh Lanta. We flew with Emirates from Manchester, via Dubai to Bangkok, and then caught an onward flight to Krabi with Bangkok Airways. We were met at the airport by representatives from the Layana Resort, where we were staying, and were whisked away for a 50 minute journey by private car to the pier, and then a 20 minute speedboat transfer to the resort. It was a great way to arrive, and it was lovely to be greeted by the staff as we stepped onto the beach. We stayed in a Garden Pavilion room, which was spacious, and had everything you could ask for, and more. There are 51 rooms altogether, so it has a small hotel feel. There are plans to add a handful of rooms in the summer as well as an additional pool, but I don’t think this will affect the ambience too much. It’s such a relaxing place to stay, quiet, adult only and set on a beautiful 3km beach, which tempted many people, including myself to walk along the water’s edge. The sea was lovely and warm too. For spectacular sunsets, Happy Hour at the bar was a great place to be, especially with the colours reflecting in the pool. I managed to tear myself away from the sun lounger a couple of times, once to have a Thai cooking lesson, and another time to have a massage in the Spa. As I say, it’s very relaxing. If you are looking to do more, there are activities/excursions organised by the hotel, with the main focus being on boat trips, including a sundowner cruise where you can see the monkeys in the mangrove forests, as well as snorkelling trips and visiting other islands, such as Ko Phi Phi. If you are feeling even more energetic, you can cycle on one of the bikes provided by the hotel. Each year, in March, there is a 3 day festival in Lanta Old Town, which our visit coincided with. It was set out with stalls, offering mainly food, including crickets and cockroaches! I had chicken on a skewer though, which was very tasty. I’m not that brave! There were a couple of stages where they had traditional live music and all in all there was a great atmosphere. The service and attention to detail at the hotel is second to none. They brought out complimentary iced water throughout the day, cold towels and fresh fruit each morning, and there was always somebody on hand if you needed them. There are restaurants within walking distance, offering Thai and some Western food, all very reasonably priced. On average we were paying about £10 for two of us, including a couple of drinks. For a further selection, there is the small town of Saladan, which is about 10 minutes away by taxi. I say taxi, it’s more like a pick-up truck! It costs about £2, and once in Saladan, there are shops and stalls, selling ‘designer’ sunglasses, bags, and clothes etc. for you to peruse or purchase. After 2 weeks of bliss, it was time to come home. If you are looking for somewhere to unwind with a great beach, excellent service, close to restaurants, then I can thoroughly recommend the Layana Resort in Koh Lanta. If you would like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
30 December 2014
Having last visited Lanzarote 19 years ago, it was time to pay this Canary Island another visit, and what better time than in winter, when the nights in the UK draw in and temperatures plummet. So off hubby and I went for some sunshine and relaxation. The flight took 4 hours 20 from East Midlands. I pre-booked a car, which we picked up on arrival, and then off we went for our 40 minute drive to Playa Blanca, in the south of the island, where we spent the next 10 nights. One thing that was apparent from the drive was the volcanic landscape, which had an almost lunar look to it. The resort itself has a great variety of restaurants, including tapas, Indian, Chinese, and Italian, so we didn’t go hungry. Many overlooked the sea too. Prices were reasonable, although they did vary from restaurant to restaurant, and most places did sangria, which went down well with me! There are 3 sandy beaches, and a marina, the latter having a good selection of eating places and shops, if you want a change from the main tourist area. There is also a promenade along the front which runs for miles, which was popular for a morning stroll with us and other holidaymakers. We went out on bikes a couple of times as well, and there is a local shop where you can hire them from. There is a great range of accommodation to suit all budgets, including self-catering in apartments or villas, or being looked after in a hotel, ranging from 3 to 5 Star. If you like to explore, you can either book an organised excursion, or hire a car as we did. Timanfaya National Park or Fire Mountain as it is also known, is probably the most popular place to visit. It was formed by volcanic eruptions that happened between 1730 and 1736, and you can witness demonstrations of how hot the area is just beneath the surface by water being poured into a hole and erupting like a mini geyser. We went to various places, and somewhere that I enjoyed was the village of Teguise, which was the ancient capital of Lanzarote. It’s fairly compact but nice to wander round the streets. There is also a popular market there on a Sunday. Whether you want to relax or explore, Lanzarote is a great choice, and we had a lovely time there. If you would like any more details about the island or its accommodation, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.
07 October 2014
If you like your holiday to offer good restaurants and a charming, laid back resort with plenty of sunshine, then Kalkan in Turkey could be the place for you. I have recently returned from a fabulous holiday there, with my husband and parents. We flew from Manchester to Dalaman, but flights also operate from other UK airports. We then picked up a hire car and drove to the resort, taking about 1.5 hours. Transfers can also easily be arranged, if you don’t want to hire a car. For me the highlight of Kalkan is the amazing choice of restaurants, whether on the rooftops in the town, or by the marina. They offer mainly Turkish food, such as mezes, slow cooked lamb, various casseroles, chicken or lamb shish (kebabs) etc. You will also find steaks, pizza and pasta on many menus, so there is something for everyone. The thing I like as well is that there are no restaurants offering you typical British fare, like egg and chips and Sunday roasts, which you can get in some of the busier Turkish resorts. Accommodation here varies to suit all budgets, from 3 star to 5 star hotels and luxury villas, with your own pool. Something to be aware of is that the town is quite hilly, so for people that have difficulty walking it is worth considering whether it is a suitable resort. A car isn’t necessary if you are staying in the resort, unless you want to sightsee independently at nearby points of interest. There are many Lycian sites along this coast, and we visited the ancient remains of Myra, which was about a two hour drive from Kalkan. It has the largest amphitheatre in Lycia, which was very impressive, along with the rock tombs which were carved into the cliff. It was very hot though, so make sure you take a hat! If ruins are not your thing then you can take a trip to Saklikent Gorge, which is the second largest gorge in Europe at 20km in length. One of the highlights is walking through it, if you don’t mind getting wet! We travelled in the last two weeks of September and I am pleased to say we had sunshine all day, every day. June and September are the most popular times to travel to Kalkan, so if it is somewhere you like the sounds of, book early to avoid disappointment! Please contact me if you would like any more information about the resort.
03 March 2014
What an amazing trip this was! A safari in the Serengeti, Tanzania, followed by a relaxing beach on the island of Zanzibar. It all started with an eight and a half hour flight to Nairobi, followed by a short connecting flight to Kilimanjaro. Amazingly, the pilot took us over Mount Kilimanjaro for spectacular views of the snow-capped summit. On arrival, we were met by our guide/driver who we spent the next four days with. Our first venture into animal spotting was at Lake Manyara, which was en route to our overnight accommodation at Ngorongoro farmhouse, near the Ngorongoro Conservation area. Here we saw various types of birds, as well as monkeys, baboons, tree lions, and giraffe. The Farmhouse was a relaxing overnight stop, although we didn’t get to spend much time there because we set off early the next morning as the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti awaited. The Ngorongoro Crater is an incredible place. It is a large volcanic caldera that was formed when a large volcano exploded and the crater collapsed in on itself, two to three million years ago. To give an idea of scale, the crater has an area of about one hundred square miles and contains a large diversity of animals. We saw lots of zebras, wildebeest, jackals playing, gazelles, buffalo, warthog and some elephants before heading on to the star of the show, the Serengeti. We were based in Southern Serengeti for three nights in a camp where tents had flushing toilets and showers. It was a great experience at night. We were escorted to our tent after dinner, as it was pitch black, by somebody with a torch to lead the way and there were occasions when the torch light flashed on zebras, giraffe and hyena outside our tent! It was amazing trying to sleep, hearing the zebras and wildebeest grazing on the grass outside or galloping past, and hearing lions and other animal noises very close by. We had morning and late afternoon game drives each day, and the amount of animals we saw was just incredible. We were there during the great migration of wildebeest and zebras, so they were particularly plentiful and nearly every one of them had just given birth to calves. The wildebeest wait for the rains to come before they all give birth within a 2-3 week period, normally in February. Other young animals we saw were cheetah cubs, elephant calves, baby giraffe and so much more. We also managed to get very close to lions, a family of elephants drinking, numerous giraffe, cheetahs, warthogs and a honey badger, which although smaller than all the other animals, was the only aggressive one we came across, trying to bite the tyre of the vehicle and chasing us up the track! Another fantastic experience we had was going up in a hot air balloon over the Serengeti. We were up in the balloon for over an hour, and it gave a great overview of the vastness of the plains of the Serengeti. It was in some ways sad to leave the animals of the Serengeti behind, but needs must, and a beautiful beach and a sunlounger with my name on it were calling me. We took a light aircraft from a local Serengeti air strip to Arusha and then boarded another plane to Zanzibar. We stayed ten nights at the Pongwe Beach Hotel on the east coast, which is a 3* property set on a glorious white sand beach, complete with sunbeds and hammocks. We had an extremely relaxing stay and although we saw most people come and go, as they were only staying for a few nights, ten nights was a good duration for us. Each bungalow has a shaded terrace with comfortable beds, which is where we spent most of our time. Pongwe was a place where the tide went right out each day, so being the energetic people we are, we tore ourselves away from our sunbeds and walked out a few hundred metres to see what was left behind in the pools of water that still remained, then back to the sunbeds to relax! When the tide was in, we went in the sea, where the water temperature was around eighty degrees, the warmest sea I have ever been in. At the hotel itself, the food was generally good and the staff were very friendly. We had a fantastic holiday experience and highly recommend the combination of safari and beach that we did.
23 December 2013
I have recently returned from a two week holiday in Mexico, with my husband, and wanted to share my experiences of this great destination. It is a 10 hour flight from Manchester but only 8 and a half hours coming back, due to the tailwind. We stayed on the Riviera Maya, where there are a variety of hotels to choose from and there is sure to be one to suit you. Our hotel was an All Inclusive, adult only property with a wide selection of restaurants to dine at, premium brand drinks included, swim up bars and a friendly iguana who liked to sun himself on the sunbed next to ours! If you want to be pampered there is a spa and you can also dine on the beach in a romantic setting, for an extra charge. We didn’t really need to leave the resort, but we wanted to see the Mayan ruins of Tulum, so we took a half day trip and were rewarded with a very good English speaking guide, who told us what the ruins were and how they would have looked in their original form, which really helped to build a picture of how it would have been. If you prefer to be out and about, there are plenty of other things to do as well, such as going on a catamaran trip, taking a day trip to Chichen Itza, which is a mystical archaeological site of the ancient Mayan civilization and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There are also trips to Xcaret which is Riviera Maya’s famous ecological park, with sandy beaches, gardens, aquariums, underground rivers, snorkelling and a place where you can swim with dolphins. An easy and cheap way of travelling, if you want to go to further along the coast, for example to the nearby resort of Playa Del Carmen, is by Collectivo. There are many of these travelling up and down the main road, and they are a local bus service, in the form of a minivan, which will stop for you on the side of the road. You pay a set fee of around £1.50 for any length of journey and most of them are air conditioned. We found everybody very friendly and whether you are looking for an active or relaxing holiday, I can recommend Mexico as a holiday destination because there is something for everyone.
24 September 2013
Having recently returned from the beautiful, unspoilt Greek Island of Meganissi, I thought I would share my experiences of this lovely destination. To get there, you fly into Preveza on the Greek mainland. From there it’s a 45 minute transfer to Nidri in Lefkas, then you’ll need to board a ferry for the 30-40 minute crossing which will take you to Meganissi. My husband and I had booked car hire in advance, so it was all surprisingly easy and stress free. The ferry journey is great as it’s a chance to take in some fantastic views as you’ll pass various small islands including Skorpios, formerly owned by the Onassis family. Once on Meganissi, we stayed in Spilia which has two popular tavernas where we sat and enjoyed watching the yachts moor at the port. To stretch our legs, we took a 15 minute walk from Spilia, up some steps, to the larger town of Spartohori. From here we had a great vantage point to admire the stunning vista. It is definitely worth a visit, with its narrow lanes and whitewashed houses, you can wander round and immerse yourself in the Greek way of life. There are also a few tavernas here and places where you can just relax and have a coffee. It is easy to get around the island by car, as it is only 12 square miles. However, you don’t have to hire a car as there is a local bus service and walking around the island is lovely. The other main port of Vathi is just 4 miles from Spilia, so you can get there in just over 5 minutes by car. Alternatively you can walk, but it takes about an hour. Vathi has around half a dozen tavernas to choose from and you can watch the boats come and go or you can just sit, relax, and people watch! If you want to go in search of your own private cove, you can easily hire a motorboat from the port. The beaches are mainly pebble. However, they are beautiful as the water is a striking blue-green colour and crystal clear. It is so inviting on those hot, sunny days. Meganissi is a very green island with cypress and pine trees all around and I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a quiet island, off the beaten track.
14 July 2013
Seventeen years after meeting my now husband, we re-visited the island of Kefalonia where we first met. Kefalonia is the largest Ionian island located off the west coast of Greece to the south of Corfu. Its flight time from the UK is approximately 3hrs 40mins, with the airport located in the south of the island. The Island has a very varied landscape from dramatic rocky coastline and mountainous regions to remote picturesque coves and beaches. We stayed in the far north of the island in a secluded villa just outside the pretty harbour town of Fiskardo, which was approximately 1¾ hours transfer from the airport. Fiskardo is an excellent example of a typical Greek harbour, with excellent tavernas around the water’s edge, which by night looks wonderful as the lights twinkle in the water. As we were eating, we joined in with everyone else by watching the competency (or not) of captains mooring their boats for the night. It’s also the place to be seen if you are a celebrity visiting the Greek Islands on your yacht, and a taverna was host to Roman Abramovich one evening while we were there. The island has many secluded coves and bays, where we could snorkel or just relax, and also boasts one of the most photographed beaches in Greece, Myrtos Beach, which lies down a windy road (and Kefalonia has many of those) and has the most spectacular blue crystal clear water. The coastline on the west of the island is rugged with cliff hugging roads, and the sight of the town of Assos nestling at the water’s edge at the bottom of the cliff is one of those places you will never forget seeing for the first time. From Fiskardo you can hire many types of boats and explore the remote coves that are truly the jewels of the Ionian. The clear blue waters and secluded bays are ideal for snorkelling and getting away to your own private hideaway. As with all parts of the Mediterranean there are many historic sights to visit from the Roman villa ruins at Skala, to the Acropolis at Sami, also the Melissani cave, which is accessed via boat, is a popular excursion. There are many traditional tavernas along the roads and in the small villages, and if you want the authentic Greek experience of eating somewhere that has no menu, but requires a visit to the kitchen to look at what’s cooking, then take a trip to Jerusalem beach. You can even watch the sunset while eating at the taverna. Accommodation on the island is available from 5 star hotels to self-catering studios and villas and whatever you choose the easy going Greek culture will have you relaxed and enjoying your holiday from the minute you arrive. For a typical relaxing Greek holiday without discos and loud music bars Kefalonia with its beautiful classic towns and villages is a dream destination.
14 July 2013
If you are looking for a relaxing Caribbean island off the beaten track, then look no further than Nevis. With its mix of forest reaching to the top of Nevis peak and gorgeous white sandy beaches it is a wonderful destination. My husband and I spent a very enjoyable two weeks there in April 2013. We arrived into St Kitts and transferred to Nevis by boat in less than an hour, meaning if you want to during the holiday you can take the daily ferries and explore St Kitts with ease. Nevis boasts excellent restaurants including one eclectic venue in the jungle, half way up Nevis peak. Also worth a visit for lunch or dinner are the plantation hotels. We had a car which allowed us to explore the island, which you can drive around in just 40 minutes! Places we enjoyed visiting include the botanical gardens, plantation houses and deserted sandy beaches. For the active members of the family, scuba diving, hiking trails and golf are available, but we preferred to just relax most of the time with a good book. Wherever we went the locals were friendly, and the whole island was peaceful, even the monkeys walked past quietly so they did not disturb us, and with no evidence of hawkers on the beaches we had a totally stress free and relaxing time. Accommodation in Nevis ranges from a 5 star resort hotel to plantation inns and villas. This is definitely a place we intend to return to.
Bognor Regis 24/07/2018
Hayling Island 06/05/2015