Sent by Sean Potter
Based in Huddersfield
I have a genuine passion for travel and have been fortunate enough to travel extensively from the Arctic Circle to Zanzibar!
2023 has been another amazing year of travels! Starting with Iceland in March when I hosted my first ever group trip with 9 of my clients joining me. It was an incredible 3 nights and we even saw the Northern Lights! In April I headed to Tunisia with my family and had a blissful week in the sun. We enjoyed it that much we are heading back in May next year. I set to sea in Oceania’s brand-new luxury cruise ship, Vista and ticked off a bucket list experience sailing from Southampton to New York. I also cruised on MSC Virtuosa twice on two completely different itineraries and enjoyed a luxury week discovering Antigua. The year was rounded off by my second hosted group trip when I went on my first river cruise. This was a German Christmas Markets river cruise, and it was simply fantastic. I was joined by 18 clients and the feedback was that good, most have booked again for next December when we are sailing on the beautiful Danube. We shall enjoy the Christmas Markets in Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna. I am also hosting an artic 3-night experience in February 2025 to Finland. Please let me know if you would like any further information on either of these as I would love you to join me!
Previous holiday highlights include an amazing three weeks in South Africa where we went shark diving, walked with penguins, washed down elephants, ate amazing food, and finished with a fabulous safari. I have also experienced a safari in Kenya, beach bliss in Zanzibar and spent Christmas skiing in Canada and also visiting Father Christmas in Lapland, Finland. I was also fortunate to visit Brazil, an amazing country that did not disappoint.
Now having two young boys my holidays have changed slightly but we love experiencing new cultures and discovering new destinations. We are all hooked on cruising after doing our first as a family 8 years ago, even the thirteen and ten-year-old members of my family! I have been on many different ships and love to talk and advice those who are new to cruise, and who have cruised before on the differences each cruise line/ship will give you. Not to mention the amazing adventures and itineraries available.
My focus is to get you the right holiday totally tailored to your requirements. I can provide flexibility to speak outside of normal working hours giving you the opportunity to discuss and look at your travel plans at a time that suits you and fits into your life. I am here as your personal contact from your initial enquiry to when you return home from your holiday and beyond.
I can assist with all areas of travel from corporate trips to UK breaks and weekends away to flight only, city breaks, villas, long haul, weddings, cruise, ski, groups as well as tailor-made itineraries, once in a lifetime trips and package holidays.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Fancy following in my footsteps? I can bring your dream adventure to life. Take a look at some of the places I’ve visited over the years.
These are just a few pictures of the amazing food we had onboard MS Oscar Wilde on the German Christmas Markets River-cruise. Every meal was fabulous!
I can not say enough positive things about the time I have just had onboard my German Christmas Markets river-cruise!
We’ve missed exploring the world with the people that mean the most to us and as we look forward, I’ll keep your wellbeing at the heart of everything I do.
The Favager boys being interviewed on how they have found home schooling the 2nd time around. To add my youngest has never been called a pony!
The Favagers enjoying a magical trip to Lapland where we combined a weeks skiing with a husky & reindeer experience as well as a visit to Father Christmas!
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
17 December 2023
I can not say enough positive things about the time I have just had onboard my German Christmas Markets river-cruise. I was joined onboard by 18 of my wonderful clients, and the feedback has been the same from everyone (so much so, I launched my next group trip onboard). This is on the Danube sailing on the 6th December 2024. We will be enjoying the festivities in Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna. The team onboard has been so attentive, probably the most personal I have experienced on any cruise, and nothing is too much trouble. The food sublime (I did a post dedicated to this on my social media pages, it was that good). The German Christmas Markets are something else, and I am so glad I've experienced them for myself as being honest, I love being around them in the UK but am not overly impressed with the produce avaialble to buy. The authentic markets are something else and I was really surprised with how good the food and drink prices are too. . I sailed on the MS Oscar Wilde which is classed as a 5* ship on a River Cruise on the Rhine. We arrived in to Cologne after a very early start and got onboard at lunchtime. Cologne has three Christmas markets, the prettiest of them I think is the one with the ice rink. The cathedral is worth a visit as well. The ship was decked out in all it’s festive finery with an amazing gingerbread village as a central feature in the main bar. It was my first time sailing on a River Cruise, and I loved it! The ship has everything you need, including two dining locations bar/lounge area. Gym, spa, small library, access to 24/7 tea and coffee, a hot tub, ample sun deck space, and a putting green! We stayed in a standard Ruby Suite, which is on the middle deck, and I was very impressed. There is plenty of storage space and a floor to ceiling window to make the most of the scenery as you glide by. On our first morning on the Rhine was glided through the Loreley Rock. It is a stunning part of te river and is often used in the brochures to show how beautiful the Rhine is. There were castles everywhere and we were been blessed with a gorgeous mornings weather Our second Christmas market was Rüdesheim and all I can say is wow! I had such a magical afternoon exploring this beautiful small town on our included walking tour with Edwin, our fantastic guide. We then headed off to sample some of the wonderful array of food and drink on offer, and of course enjoy some shopping. We also went up the mountain on the gondola, but it stopped half way up (not the most pleasurable of experiences) as the winds were really picking up. Eventually we got up to the top but decided to walk back down as the winds had continued. I do recommend doing this as it is only 10 euros round trip but not when it is windy!! This market is beautiful. It felt authentic, and the prices were amazing and was my most favourite of all the locations we experienced. Rüdesheim is known for winemaking, especially Riesling wine, and the centre is full of cobbled streets and so much character. I will visit here again. Highly recommended! We also stopped at the cities of Koblenz and Bonn. Both have so much history. The markets in Koblenz were spread out over the many different town squares that make up the city and these were much more food focused compared to Rüdesheim. I was very impressed with Bonn! What a beautiful city and one that has never been on my radar before. I only had a few hours this morning to explore but it is a city steeped in history. I want to come back and spend more time here as we only had a morning. As you can most likely tell, I loved this experience and am already excited for December 2024. If you would like to know more about how easy a river cruise is, or want more information on my Danube trip next December please do not hesitate to get in touch!
27 July 2023
On the 14th July I boarded the elegant cruise ship, Cunards Queen Mary 2 in Southampton. I am still pinching myself that I experienced such an iconic sailing as we did the transatlantic to New York! First impressions were just as I imagined. We were greeted by the Bellboys in all their finery and a string quartet was playing in the Grand Lobby, a really “fine” welcome onboard. Our cabins were ready for us to settle into straight away (this is a first for me as normally you have to wait a good few hours to be able to go down) so it was fabulous to be able to quickly unpack before heading up to Kings Court (the 24/7 buffet restaurant) for a bite to eat and a mandatory glass of bubbles! I stayed in a sheltered balcony cabin which I was really pleased to experience. I often recommend this cabin type for transatlantic cruises as it offers more shelter if needed. It is so deep as well. We did have rain on our journey but I was still able to step out onto the balcony and enjoy the fresh air without getting drenched due to the protection it offered. We were on deck 4 and were sandwiched by cabins above and below us so had very minimal noise. There was plenty of storage space for two ladies sharing! I visited the Princess and Grill Suites and have pictures to share and recommendations so please let me know if you would like more detail on all they have to offer. The food I enjoyed throughout the cruise was amazing! This includes the main dining restaurant where I did not have one disappointing course, never mind a meal. When you have several glorious sea days ahead of you, it provides ample time to experience the different dining options and we all definitely made the most if it. From King's Court (the informal dining option that’s open 24 hours a day), to pub food in the Golden Lion (this is a very popular location as major sporting events are shown too), to quick grab light bites in the Carinthia lounge (my favourite for breakfast and often lunch!) to the Britannia main dining room, every meal has been sublime. The menu was also very varied in Britannia with a completely different menu everyday. The speciality restaurants of Steakhouse at The Verandah, La Pizza, located in Kings Court (elevated Italian Cuisine) and Bamboo (Pan-Asian theme), each were worth every penny. And….do not forget the quintessential afternoon tea which is served daily in the Queens Room. Complete with Cunard White Line service it must be experienced at least once (and get there early to grab a table as it is popular….everyday!). This is also included in the cost of your cruise and the sandwiches and cakes were delightful. Plus, the scone was still warm! I elected to pay add a glass of champagne to my experience to really finish it off (the champagne cost was extra but always worth it!). Plus, if you ever find that you are still hungry you can avail of the complimentary room service, it is a foodie heaven. There is also plenty of choice for those with specific dietary requirements, vegetarians, and vegans. Princess Grill and Queens Grill suite guests also have beautiful, dedicated dining rooms that provide an even further elevated dining experience. Since my return I was asked if I was bored spending so long at sea and the simple answer is definitely not! I have included pictures as an example of the daily programme. One thing you will never be onboard is stuck with nothing to do. There really is something for everyone. It is a great opportunity to try something different, such as fencing, golf, or learning how to play shuffle board. Plus, there are wonderful singers, bands, and classic performers to sit back and enjoy. Plus some amazing Insight speakers! I spent a few “tough hours” one day in The Commodore Club doing the Signature Cocktail tasting. It is 46 dollars including service charge for 7 half size signature cocktails. In my opinion it is amazing value and I highly recommend you do it when onboard. I also made use of the beautiful Mareel Spa where there are so many different treatment options available. I also recommend getting a pass for the Aqua Therapy Centre (this can be purchased for multiple days or a few hours). It is a blissful location to unwind and enjoy the various heat and steam rooms, sensory showers and hydro pool. Queen Mary 2’s library is the largest at sea with more than 8,000 hardbacks, 500 paperbacks, and 200 audio books! Plus, when guests finish their book on board, they can donate it to the library for the next person (one of mine is now part of this collection). There are also Internet computer stations if you need to catch up on your emails. It is such a beautiful space and a must visit whilst onboard! I also loved going to “promenade” everyday which was popular by all and it was great doing a good mile walk on deck 7 around the ship.
27 July 2023
A common comment that often comes up when I suggest a Cunard cruise is that it will be very formal and purely focused on an older clientele. The truth is anything but! I took a video whilst onboard of the Queens Room one evening to really highlight this. The Queens Room is stunning and has the largest dance floor at sea and the night I took the video was big band night. Just to add, this location is used for Zumba classes, Line Dancing, Introduction to fencing (yes, you can learn to fence onboard) and various ballroom dance classes throughout the day. The dance floor was full of lovely people ballroom dancing and enjoying the live band. Behind is Queens Room is G32, the nightclub where the silent disco was taking place. Both were very popular (the silent disco filled up after I took the video). In fact, many who had been ballroom dancing to the band came and joined the silent disco later. All ages, couples, friends, young, older, all had an amazing night! This was the same on most evenings. I really enjoyed watching the dancing in Queens Room then going for a boogie in the night club. If you are a ballroom dancer, or would like to learn but may not have friends who enjoy the same, dance leaders are onboard each cruise and are wonderful at making sure you have a truly lovely time. Plus, it is a very social area and Cunard host regular solo cruise meet ups. If like me you also thought that Cunard wasn’t really for you because it is too formal and you don’t want to really dress up for dinner every evening, then I can assure this is not the case. Cunard isn’t “too formal”, in fact we had two gala evenings (black and white theme and a masquerade ball theme which was great fun). These were the only two formal evenings out of 7 (and even then, if dressing for dinner wasn’t my thing, I’d have been quite comfortable in more casual clothes enjoying my meal in the pub or Kings Grill instead!). I have included some descriptions of the “suggested” dress codes in the pictures but I really must stress that none of us ever felt over or underdressed and those that wanted to wear tiaras and sequins were very much embraced too! Queen Mary 2 has to be one of the most relaxed and friendly ships I have ever sailed on. From the minute I stepped onboard there was no rushing around, no first day “buffet madness” that I normally experience on every cruise and I spoke to so many interesting people. All ages, all different backgrounds and all having a marvellous time! The 4.30am alarm call on our last morning was completely worth it to see the Statue of Liberty as we sailed into New York (forgive the mist on the pictures, there was a thunder storm taking place in the distance). Arriving with no jet lag is another major bonus. It felt strange to be back on land after 7 glorious days at sea onboard Cunard Queen Mary 2 and I 100% understand why so many people do both the East and West Transatlantic. To summarise, I will definitely do this crossing again and will take my family. There were many children onboard and there are children’s clubs which are age appropriately kitted out. I got talking to two teenage girls one day and asked if they had got bored and they gave a resounding “not at all” they were really enjoying themselves too. The prices at the moment across all Cunard sailings are excellent. This includes not only the iconic transatlantic sailing but also the Med, Alaska, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, USA & Canada or the British Isles. Queen Anne the new ship who launches next year is already selling very well. The 400th Transatlantic sailing takes place in August next year and this will also sell out quickly. So, if you would like to find out more about Cunard, or experience one of the amazing Queens for yourself please get in touch and let me tell you more! 01484 490026 firstname.lastname@example.org
27 July 2023
I sailed on MSC Virtuosa in June calling at La Coruna, Bilbao and La Rochelle and am sailing on her again with my family to the Norwegian Fjords in August. MSC Virtuosa is a large ship, and when I was onboard in June, she was sailing at capacity. However, we had no issues being served and as we have the Aurea package took full advantage of the exclusive sun deck (complete with an S shaped jacuzzi over looking the main pool) so we were always able to get a sunbed. People do tend to reserve sunbeds around the main pool so do be aware of that if you want to be in that area. However, there are bags of sunbeds right through the outside deck space and some lovely tranquil areas down the sides. There are four pools on board (one of which is exclusive to Yacht Club guests) and lots more Jacuzzis dotted around. The tropical pool is under cover, so it is a great retreat if the weather is not too favourable. The main restaurants all have the same menu and we enjoyed all our meals every evening. A highlight was Hola, which is the speciality Mexican restaurant. It was totally worth the £17.99 cover charge. Breakfast in the main dining room was a lovely alternative to the main buffet. It is a lively ship with a jam-packed schedule if you want to be kept busy! For those who prefer quieter areas, the Sky Lounge is adults only ?? The children's clubs cater for babies through to teens. Opening times vary depending on whether it is a sea or port day and the times are displayed in the main children’s area. In fact, the teen club seems to always be the most popular! The fun pass is worth considering if you want to go bowling, enjoy the virtual reality area or the 3D cinema. This is loaded onto one cruise card, and you tap it for each person. It is possible to put a daily spending limit on the fun pass. You pay £75 for 1 x fun pass and it is loaded with 140 euros of credit. There always seemed to be sports games going on in the sportsplex (I do not believe sports balls are available at all times so I recommend taking some along if you know your children will want to play in this area), there are basket ball and football nets out at most times when it is not being used by the entertainment team. The waterslides are included as well as, of course, as the various pools and Jacuzzis. There are also table tennis tables and table football upstairs in the tropical pool area. I highly recommend going to see Rob, the robot, who makes some delicious cocktails. There is a charge for this but you get a souvenir cup to remember that experience. On the Aurea package we had anytime dining included. For those booked on Bella and Fantastica packages you can request early (first sitting 5.30, then 7.45pm) or late (late sitting is 9.30 – 9.45pm). If the ship is full you may not be able to change but my tip is to head straight to the restaurant as soon as you get onboard (not guest services) to ask if you can amend your time. Others went to their assigned restaurant at the earlier times and did get seated as not everyone goes every day. Some people will go to the buffet and others will be enjoying speciality dining. On most 7 night + cruises there will be a Gala night (where you are encouraged to get glammed up) a white party (take along some glow sticks) and a Tropical (beach style) themed evenings. All are good fun but again, there is so much more to enjoy if this is not for you. These are some of my top tips; Pre book parking as soon as possible which I can help with. There are 5 ships sailing from Southampton every week at the moment so it does get booked up very quicky. If the main car parks are full take a look at West Quay and get a taxi/uber. It takes circa 10 minutes. As mentioned, the ports are busy so allow plenty of time. The Buffet can get very busy. Head to the back of the buffet area as it is much quieter and you can order drinks from your table. The Buffet includes free tea and coffee and juices. The Atmosphere bar by the main pool has lemon and orange water and you can use this to refill your water bottles. The Sky Bar (adults only) has complimentary snacks including sweet and savoury bites as well as crisps. Additional Aurea benefits include the Top 19 sundeck and the thermal spa (worth a visit even if you do not have it included as it is fabulous). Top 19 sundeck is a lovely part of the ship and has a great jacuzzi overlooking the main pool. Yacht club looked lovely (unfortunately I could not sneak in) and has many additional benefits such as an exclusive pool, restaurant and lounge. Your cruise card also gives priority on the lifts. The shows do get booked up but again it is worth going along people book and then decide against going. You book shows via the information screens dotted around the ship. Feedback on the paid for shows was excellent. We did not do these as we enjoyed the ones included in the cruise price but as mentioned, feedback on the paid ones was really good. Butchers Cut speciality dining (cover charge applies) had rave reviews from everyone I met who had eaten there. We had a great meal at Hola the speciality Mexican restaurant. Download moves to watch in your cabin if you do not want to pay as there is a charge for all the options on the MSC channels. There are USB charging points next to your beds and remember your travel adapters. There are 2 x US sockets and 2 x European sockets! Where shuttle buses are needed to get into port a charge of £13 per adult return and £11 per child applies or you can use local taxi (this was for Spain and France and may change for other destinations). Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about MSC and the different experiences avaialble on board. There are some wonderful cruises at excellent prices available at the moment!
31 May 2023
Earlier this month I stepped aboard the brand new, premium luxury cruise ship, Oceania Vista! This is the first ship Oceania have launched in over 10 years so to say I was excited to be getting onboard is an under statement. During our 3 nights we called at Livorno and Monte Carlo before we disembarking in Rome, ready for her maiden voyage! Oceania Vista ensures you will enjoy exceptionally personalised service. There are two staff members for every three guests – 1,200 guests served by 800 crew members! My impressions straight away is that Vista is a stunning ship with modern, light, elegant furnishings that leaves you feeling calm the minute you step onboard. She boasts so much outdoor deck space (perfect for sunny days like today) with hot tubs and a good size pool to enjoy. The art work is beautiful with gems found all over the ship! Subtle but they really stand out. This includes everything from the pictures on the stairs to the pieces placed around the social areas. There is also a resident artist onboard (found on all Oceania cruise ships in the artist loft) who you can meet and speak to about their work. We were fortunate to be upgraded to a Penthouse Suite. This meant that not only did we have a large suite measuring 440 square feet (it is the most storage space I have experienced onboard a cruise ship) we had his and her sinks in the bathroom and our own Butler. Penthouse guests also have unlimited use of the sublime Aquamar Spa Terrace along with keycard access to the suites-only Executive Lounge with a dedicated Concierge! Other privileges plus other wonderful extras. I cannot sail on an Oceania cruise and not talk a lot about the food! My pictures and this blog will never do the quality of the food you will enjoy onboard Oceania Vista justice. There is a very good reason Oceania Cruises trade marked "Finest Cuisine At Sea" and I 100% agree with them! With a total of 11 culinary venues onboard Oceania Vista (which is unprecedented for a ship the size of Vista) which include Oceania favourites, The Grand Dining Room, Polo Grill, Red Ginger and Toscana as well as the new specialty restaurant Ember. At the Aquamar Kitchen, you can enjoy a fresh perspective on the pursuit of wellness by enjoying tempting and indulgent dishes, in (as they describe) a guilt-free manner. Waves is the chef served buffet restaurant and Waves Grill was table served, serving up freshly cooked quick bites. I ordered the same breakfast via room service for in suite dining as I had enjoyed the previous day in the Grand Dining room. The quality was just as fantastic which I have never experienced when having a room service breakfast! The truffle mac n cheese in Polo Grill was sublime and I would have been happy with a bowl of that although my filet mignon was amazing too. I could go on and on about the quality of food onboard. Oceania is a fantastic cruise line and ideal for you foodies! As a quick overview on our ports of call. I have been to Monaco& Monte Carlo previously but it was even better this time around! The Formula E were in town for the weekends race and gave me an insight into what the F1 race week will be like.] Due Oceania Vistas size it meant we could dock in Monaco harbour meaning no tenders and the freedom as explore as you like. I highly recommend the hop on, hop off bus tour. 23 euros takes you all around the major sites including the castle, fabulous aquarium and Prince Albert Of Monaco's impressive car collection. We had a lovely drink at Cafè De Paris with an obligatory ogle in the casino. I also spotted my next car! The following day we docked (again no tender) in Livorno where can head off to Pisa, Florence or Cinque Terre. We elected to visit beautiful Lucca and then go wine tasting in the Tuscan hills. I visited Lucca a few years ago and it was fabulous going back to wonder the gorgeous walled town. We then headed to a family ran farm where they produce their own wines and olive oil. It was a perfect way to spend a few hours and I highly recommend it if you do not want to have a longer day's excursion visiting Pisa and Florence from Livorno. I highly recommend Oceania and have may clients that love sailing with them due to the intimacy of the service and the fabulous food. Vista takes them to another level and one I know my regular client will enjoy experiencing for themselves. There are some amazing offers on at the moment so please get in touch if you would like to find out more!
28 April 2023
I was invited, alongside my family to go an experience Tunisia courtesy of the Tunisian tourist board over the Easter holidays. Tunisia was traditionally a very popular destination for us brits but flights to the country dwindled and with it, the countries popularity. Now, Easyjet have regular flights it is most definitely on the up and is proving very popular with my clients who have also been out there recently. We stayed at the stunning 5* Les Orangers Gardens and Villas. The feeling of calm that envelops you as you enter the hotel runs through every inch of its perfect grounds. In fact, the manicured grounds are some of the most impressive I have stayed in. The sand on the beach is the softest sand I have ever put my feet on it is more like a powder than a grain and is just lovely. The service is attentive without being intrusive (I love beach and pool service ) and every single member of staff you meet is friendly and happy. We enjoyed time in the two outdoor pools (one is a fabulous infinity pool overlooking the beach) as well as the heated indoor pool in the wellness centre. Each adult gets a complimentary massage which was another nice touch to really get you into the relaxed holiday vibe! The food we enjoyed whilst here was, simply put delicious!!! The main buffet restaurant is one of the best I have ever experienced. There are live cooking stations offering something different every day. Breakfast offered everything you could want and more including freshly made crepes, pancakes, waffles, (my two boys were in heaven!) as well as made to order eggs. Lunch and Dinner always had wonderful fresh fish and there were always lots of other choices including freshly made noodles, sushi, pasta, and salads. The list goes on. The pizza was unbelievable and highly recommended and you could order any combination you wanted. Again, this was made to order so super tasty. We could also order from the A La Carte menu and choose from traditional Tunisian food which we all enjoyed trying, as well as Mediterranean or Italian. Plus....the main bar is open 24/7 and you can order anything you would like from here, anytime of day. My eldest had a burger from here whilst he was chilling by the pool and said it was one of the best he'd ever had. One thing for sure is you will not go hungry! The food really was amazing. At the beautiful 5* Les Orangers Garden Villas & Bungalows everything is super chilled, but if you need a little more going on then the 4* Les Orangers Beach Resort next door is just a stones throw away. It has more things to do if that’s what you’d like and is open to all guests from the 5* resort, including a shop, kids club, lively evening entertainment, tennis, ping pong, archery, salsa dancing, pool aerobics etc, and pétanque! You can also avail of the food choices here as well. This also has a food van offering paninis and sub sandwiches as well as more pizza!! We all enjoyed horse rising on the beach, so much so that we did it twice (stables behind the Beach Resort) and camel riding high in the hills. There is so much to experience in this region and there is a lot of history including fascinating Carthage which is circa one hour away. We also went haggling in the Hammamet Medina. It is a labyrinth of shops selling everything from beautiful leather bags, gold, incense and replica designer goods plus so much more! I'm not sure I'm any good at bartering (too British?) but my boys enjoyed watching it all happen. It is very clean and we all felt totally safe As well as standard hotel rooms Les Orangers Garden Villas & Bungalows also offers villas & bungalows in the grounds. These two story units have large terraces and roof top space, with their own private shared pool area and pool bar. Some of the villas are beach front and some have their own private pools. Perfect for families or a longer stay The Bungalows have a private restaurant keeping with the more secluded, private experience they provide. As you have most likely gathered we all had an absolutely amazing time. The team who work here are all so friendly and nothing is too much trouble. No, it is a word they definitely do not want to use. Tunisia is not somewhere that was really ever on my radar, but boy has that changed! The days we enjoyed out of the hotel gave us a glimpse into local life. Whilst they are keen to get you into their shops in the Medina, they are not aggressive but be prepared for some good haggling (remember this is part of their culture). Not once, at any point of the holiday, did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and my children felt the same too. In short, this will not be our last time in Tunisia. There is so much more history and culture for us to experience, and it offers an excellent alternative for some winter sunshine or a fabulous summer break! Get in touch and let me find you your own perfect adventure to Tunisia!
16 March 2023
Earlier this month I co-hosted my first group of lovely Travel Counsellor clients and after the unbelievable 3 nights/4 days I spent in Iceland, I know it will be the first of many visits! We talk a lot about 'making memories' in this job, and also about 'bucket list adventures'. I have to say, this adventure was just that, I made 100s of those magic memories. You can pack a lot into 4 days in the land of fire and ice: Iceland - a fascinating country, full of amazing places to visit and experience wonderful adventure. I have been to three destinations in my life where the Northern Lights can be seen, but unfortunately, they have never made an appearance. On our first evening we headed out on our Northern Lights cruise (getting out to sea is definitely the best place to see them), the chances of seeing them are graded 0 – 9 with 9 being “you will see them”. Our guide explained that the readings were showing the classification as a 2. We still sat eagerly searching the skies as it is not unusual for them to make an appearance, even with a low grading. Unfortunately they did not appear. One of the benefits of the Northern Lights cruise we book is that you can go back a second time if sightings were not successful. We all got back on board on night number two, again full of positive thoughts that they would make an appearance to be told again that the reading was once again 2. However, it just goes to show that what they say is right. After around 30 minutes, the sky started to change, the clouds parted and there they were and what an amazing display we witnessed!! It is a huge "must experience" tick for me, and all my clients who were onboard were also equally thrilled! At one point, we had a Northern Lights rainbow going right over our heads (unfortunately, video does not pick them up). It was stunning On day I and 8 of our group headed out to sea, Whale Watching. This part of the world has great marine life all year round and Whales can often be spotted in the harbour. You can often see porpoises, dolphins Humpback whales and Minke whales. It is, of course, never guaranteed you will see any as they are wild animals, but we were so fortunate! 4 different Minke Whales, which were the first to be seen this year. After a quick lunch stop of traditional soup in a bread bowl washed down with a pint of Gull (which was delicious) we all headed off to one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is actually much bigger than I thought and it did not disappoint. There was so much space to spread out (some of the areas were very hot where the thermal springs come in) and it was great fun slapping on a silica mask and sipping some surprisingly nice sparking white wine! We spent a good 2 hours in there and to be honest, I think we could have all stayed longer, it was so relaxing. The shower and changing facilities are excellent, no need to take things with you as everything is provided and the comfort experience is definitely worth paying for. Day three was a full day out enjoying the stunning sights and scenery around us. We all felt like VIPs in the £130k (!) super jeeps, swanning around the Golden Circle like celebrities! The Golden Circle tour is a popular experience when visiting Reykjavik. However, travelling by Super Jeep takes it to a whole new level. Coaches and hire cars are not allowed past where the geysers are due to the terrain and unpredictability of the weather. Being able to travel to the Glacier was amazing and we went high into the mountains. I have always recommend this elevated experience to my clients, and now, having done it myself, I know how much better it is! We started at the stunning Thingvellir UNESCO World Heritage site where you are between American and Pan Asia-European tectonic plates. You are actually walking on a fault line in this area and it is a beautiful. It is somewhere in the summer where you could pack a picnic and disappear off away from the main footpaths. The fact that the majestic Gullfoss Falls was not frozen (as it normally is at this time of year) was a bonus as we saw the sheer power of the water. It is fascinating to watch the Geysers bubbling and blowing knowing all this energy is coming from under the ground you are stood on and then the stunning blue sky from the top of the glacier as we zipped along on snow mobiles was something I will never forget It is hard to sum up what an amazing trip this was. Hallgrímskirkja (the large church) is even more impressive than I imagined and the city is so easy to navigate on foot. The rainbow-road didn't disappoint with the sunshine making the colours even brighter Undoubtedly, food and drinks are expensive but we found some quirky places to eat and never had a bad meal. All the group had a great time and as above, I will definitely be hosting another group trip to this beautiful part of the world in the near future so please let me know if you would like to come along!
13 January 2023
Sustainable Travel! I’ve got some BIG news to share with you… In 2022 we made a Treemendous impact, planting over 1,270 trees together! Thanks to you, my amazing clients, we have made a fantastic contribution to nature across the world, with 10 trees being planted for every booking we make which I started in July. As I continue to make unforgettable experiences for you, I’m aware that we may have an impact on the word around us. That’s why I’m conscious that we try to see the world in the most sustainable way possible. Planting trees and making flights Carbon Neutral are just two ways in which we can help. Keep posted throughout the year as I share more ways to travel kindly and minimise our carbon footprints together Xx
07 December 2022
Welcome to my 2022 end of year newsletter that I have recently shared with all those registered to be in my database of contacts. If you would like to be kept up to date with travel inspiration and my travels, please let me know and I can get you added with pleasure. I hope you enjoy reading it! Welcome to my 2022 end of year newsletter. I cannot believe I am sending this already, it only seems like five minutes since I sent last year's and what a year it has been! I do not want to dwell on the previous 2.5 years, we all know how hellish it was and how travel was stopped in it’s tracks but 2022 has been the year of the bucket list and I have been fortunate to have made so many dream holidays a reality. There is still a lot of disruption in the travel world with strikes in the airports, trains and taxis causing issues on a weekly basis as well as erupting volcanoes, storms, so many missing items of luggage and cancelled flights but we can still get out and see the world and for that I can (just about) deal with the disruption this makes. Where Have I travelled This Year? This year started with a holiday to Finland (Lapland) where along with my family we spent a wonderful week hitting the ski slopes. Finland might not be top of your list as a ski destination, but it has some amazing runs and is perfect for beginners and intermediates. Not only did we spend time on the slopes, but we once again went out with the huskies, something that will always be a highlight for me. It is the third time I have skied in this region, and it won’t be the last. Most recently I spent 2 nights in Derry alongside Visit Derry and enjoyed 4 separate staycations! I attended the CLIA River Cruise conference in Budapest where I learnt so much about the world of River Cruises & the different style of ships and suppliers ensuring I can match the right one to meet each client's specific requirements. I also spent a week on P&O cruises newest cruise ship, Iona in the Norwegian Fjords. Had the most amazing three weeks in South Africa. We went Shark diving, washed down elephants, walked alongside penguins & loved every second of being on safari! I have written blogs on my experiences, and all can be found on this page. Hosted Small Group Tour To Iceland This year I am hosting a small group trip to Iceland. 15 of us are heading over to Reykjavik for 3 nights. I am so excited as this has been on my "must experience" list for sometime and I get to experience it alongside my clients! We are going to enjoy a Northern lights cruise, Whale Watching, a visit to the Blue Lagoon and are then doing the Golden Circle by Super Jeep and riding Snow mobiles on the Langjokull Glacier! Reducing My Carbon Footprint Climate change is in the news everyday and in June I committed to help reduce the environmental impact of our travels – helping you to see the world, with as low a carbon footprint as possible. As part of this commitment I now plant 10 trees for every booking I make and as a result we’ve slowly been reducing our footprint together. I have currently planted over 900 tress and the aim is to be at 1000 by the end of the year! I Retained My Gold Travel Counsellor Status Earlier this year I achieved & the retained Gold status! This is the biggest achievement of my career to date. Gold - this means I am recognised by Travel Counsellors as one of the top performing businesses in the company, it’s the pinnacle for any travel business. I am incredibly grateful & proud of what we have built from scratch, starting with no bookings and zero clients to now having my fabulous, thriving business. THANK YOU! Xx
14 December 2022
I put together this list of hints and tips after I visited Lapland with my family for the firs time 5 years ago. I have been back twice since and cannot tell you how much I love this part of the world. I hope you find them useful and please get in touch if you would like more information or to plan your prefect Lapland adventure! 1 – Invest in snow boots for the children – these can be purchased cheaply on amazon or Sports Direct and are so much warmer than wellies. Most children on the flight had snow boots 2 – Pack and wear layers, lots of thin layers. Think thermals, fleeces and hoodies. A winter coat is good for your arrival and if you’re doing the walk to the restaurant for breakfast/ evening meal without getting your full thermal suit on. Don’t put too many layers of socks on as this will really hurt your feet, they need to breathe and air to circulate. The socks and boots provided are more than adequate, don’t panic layer 3 – For children I recommend a fleece balaclava or a hat that ties up under the chin. For adults a snood and winter hat 4 - Take plenty of snacks for the flight and even lunch if possible. The day starts very early and only snacks and drinks are served on the 3.5-hour flight. You won’t arrive until after lunch (Finland are 2 hours ahead of us) and by the time you are checked in and kitted out you’ll be really hungry 5 – Invest in gloves that allow you to use your mobile phone! You’ll want to capture every moment and your fingers will feel like dropping off if you are having to take off your gloves to activate your phone. Mittens are great for children and it is worth investing in a quality pair. 6 – Take it in turns taking pictures. It is such a magical holiday and if you have two adults both trying to capture the moments, you might miss the little details and children can get fed up having to pose over and over. It also helps to stop the freezing fingers! 6 – If you like a glass of wine on an evening take a bottle or 2 in your hold luggage, alcohol is very expensive, and the children are exhausted after long days. Its nice to relax in the comfort of your own cabin/room. 7 – Take something to watch a movie on, on an evening. As above, children can be tired after a long day so it is nice to snuggle down and maybe watch a Christmas favourite! 8 – Allow plenty of time to get dressed in your kit! Layering up and getting the suits on is very time consuming, do not under estimate how long 9 – Pack and take plenty of snacks on your search for Santa day (if this is applicable on your trip). There are biscuits and hot drinks but they are not always to children’s taste. A favourite chocolate bar is always welcome when the children start flagging and I recommend taking snacks that can be eaten with gloves/mittens on. I also recommend taking some snacks for your room as well, pit noodles are handy for a quick pick me up as you have a kettle you can use as well as cup a soups etc. 10 – Do not put pressure on yourselves to see and do everything on the search for Santa day, keeping warm and enjoying the experience is much more important. I recommend a visit to the warming huts after every experience. Queues tend to be longer to meet Santa at the end of the day so doing it early means you can relax and enjoy everything else. 10 – If you are travelling as a family/group and you do find yourself in a queue take it in turns to stand in line and let the little ones stay warm until it’s your families turn (mobile phone is a must) 11 – Invest in hand/feet warmers – the temperature really does drop once it starts to get dark and these are life savers to cold and weary little people. These are very cheap in Sports Direct/Halfords, Amazon etc. 12 – Do not worry about packing anything “posh” for the evenings. They are a very casual affair and Christmas jumpers are a popular choice on the Gala night. 13 – Take a bag for life that you can collect all gloves, hats, scarves in once entering the breakfast/ dinner room. They’re taken off, decarded and end up being left everywhere. Also pack spares just in case.... 14 – Take enough spending money for the fabulous souvenirs and allow the children time in resort to simply enjoy the snow. Enjoy the experience!
30 November 2022
Being a huge fan of The Derry Girls I was absolutely delighted to be given an opportunity to hop over the water and spent 3 amazing days in Derry alongside Visit Derry as part of the Derry Girls Fam trip and I was not disappointed! After our transfer from Belfast Airport to Derry (this currently takes circa 1 hour 20 minutes but when the new motorway opens in March, this will reduce to circa 1 hour we flew from Manchester to Belfast International but there is a direct flight from Liverpool to Derry City airport cutting the transfer time to circa 15 minutes), we enjoyed a hearty lunch in Badgers Bar (I went for traditional beef and Guinness casserole with champ) which was delicious. We also had chance to admire the Derry Girls Mural! We then had an afternoon workshop at the wonderful Millennium Forum Theatre and Conference Centre meeting local hoteliers and experience suppliers. There is so much to enjoy not only in Derry but also within a 40-minute drive. This includes outdoor experiences such as horse riding on the beaches, hover craft racing, plentiful golf courses, beachside towns as well as the famed Giants Causeway. It really was so beneficial to me, and I learnt so much about what this part of the world has to offer but also the range of different hotels you can enjoy! We stayed at the Bishop's Gate Hotel and it was stunning! A fellow travel professional on the trip described it perfectly, it is like getting a big hug when you walk in, it just has that lovely vibe. It was dressed for Christmas and felt so cozy with impeccable service! We then dined at the phenomenal Artis Restaurant in Derry’s picturesque Craft Village, all ingredients are locally produced or foraged by the Great British Menu chef Phelim O’Hagan, who came out from his kitchen to tell us about his story so far. Watch this space for a Michelin Star coming his way soon! The next day we headed out into a blustery Derry day and did a wonderful, insightful walking tour of the City of Derry & the walls with the brilliant blue badge guide Charlene McCrossan from Martin Mc Crossan City Tours. Derry is the last remaining City in the UK to have fully intact city walls and one of the last in Europe. The history dates back 1000s of years and I recommend anyone who comes to this amazing city does the same tour! We then set off on another tour, this time it was The Derry Girls food tour which a must for any Derry Girls fan! We even made our own Cream Horns!! Spending time at the Museum of Free Derry is an essential part of a visit to the city. The small museum is in Bogside in the heart of where the events of Bloody Sunday took place, surrounded by murals depicting the Civil Rights Movement. Family members of those killed on Bloody Sunday are there in person to tell their own stories of how their lives were changed by the events that took place. A poignant reminder of terrible things that have happened in our very recent history. Thankfully we did do a lot of walking as we then enjoyed a Derry Girls Afternoon Tea at The Everglades Hotel including all the usual afternoon tea delights but with the addition of Tayto Cheese & Onion crisp sandwiches (delicious), chips, sausage rolls in baps (a new one on me but very popular in Northern Ireland), and a Derry Girls duck! The day finished with a scenic walk over the Peace Bridge across the River Foyle for another wonderful meal at the Walled City Brewery where we dined in the newly opened Taproom. The Walled City Brewery serve their unique craft beers which are brewed on site and an excellent selection of cocktails. The Ebrington Square area is developing into a vibrant hub with a new luxury hotel The Ebrington Hotel opening next year, and lots more restaurants and bars coming soon. All just a short walk from the city centre Our final day finished with a tour of the beautiful Derry Guildhall, learning a little of its history and checking out all the different event spaces including the Council Chambers. We enjoyed a lovely bucks fizz reception in the ornate Main Hall with its stained glass windows and impressive pipe organ (it was hosting an artisan craft fair whilst we were there). Very soon the Guildhall will have on display all three of John Hume’s peace prizes together in one place, loaned to the city permanently by his family. John Hume is the only person in the world to have been awarded all three of these prizes which include the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, the Martin Luther King Jnr Non-Violent Award in 1999 and the International Gandhi Peace Prize in 2001. Derry exceeded my expectations, and I will definitely return to this beautiful part of the world and spend even more time enjoying the city and the surrounding area. Please do get in touch if you would like more information, I would love to tailor an adventure to you suggesting interesting places to stay and amazing experiences to enjoy!
23 August 2022
This holiday has been two years in the planning, and it did not disappoint! Check in with Qatar at Manchester airport was super quick and we had two very good flights over to Cape Town. We started with 5 nights in a stunning two bedroomed apartment in Camps Bay. It is circa 15 minutes by taxi from Cape Town. The area has a really laid-back beach vibe with lots of beachside bars and restaurants, (and some fabulous villas/houses) so was perfect for us to have some chill time whilst still being able to enjoy all Cape Town has to offer. We all loved the hop on hop off bus tour that we jumped on in Camps Bay which took us along the coast from Camps Bay to Clifton, Bantry Bay and Sea Point. All are beautiful seaside towns with stunning villas and so easy to combine city and beach. We then headed into Cape Town and spent time exploring the main city centre as well as heading up Table Mountain. There were no queues for the cable cars and we even got a table in the restaurant at the top straight away! Table Mountain is now classed as one of the New 7 Wonders Of Nature. It is the first time I have ever seen a Dassie which live on the rocks up the mountain and at the top. I personally think they’re very cute! One thing to be aware of is that there is daily “load shedding” in South Africa and this is where all electricity is turned off for an hour or two; so a torch is handy. The restaurants and hotels tend to have generators but we were caught out on the first night and it gets very dark. The blackout times change daily and you can view them online. We quickly learnt to adapt our day around them and it did not cause any problems. One thing we did get told before was that the food in South Africa is excellent and so are the prices. We took advantage of this and highly recommend Aubergine to anyone heading to Cape Town soon. Michelin quality without the price tags! If you love seafood, anywhere on the coast offers the most amazing platters. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a lot bigger than I expected and we had a chilled afternoon there. It is full of bars, shops and restaurants and is so clean! Food and drink value is also amazing. It was also good to see so many of the hotels I have recommended to my clients are ideal for turning left into the city or right to the Waterfront. We also had a great touristy experience at the African Drumming night. We all found our rhythm and I recommend everyone does it as you will enjoy a really fun night with food from all over Africa. Another first for me is shark diving! It has to be one of the best things I have ever experienced! We encountered "swim bys" by 7 sharks (most on multiple occasions) including the Sevengill shark and Copper shark. I have so many videos and pictures. Another AWESOME ethical experience ran by a company who work closely with the conservation organisations! We also saw a full pod of dolphins a bucket list experience ticked off. Especially for my children. I was not planning on going in so am very proud that I did as I will have always regretted it! Boulders Bay is the traditional place most visitors go to see the penguins, but we headed down the coast to Betty’s Bay visiting Stoney Point where there is a nature reserve and a thriving penguin colony. It was so quiet and we were able to walk with the penguins! Another wonderful experience. Many had babies and were happy in their nests. We also saw more Dassie’s, which are now a firm favourite of my youngest. We took the coastal route back to Camps Bay stopping at Gordon's Bay for a late lunch. This coastal drive is stunning and I highly recommend that anyone visiting this part of the world does it! We then headed off to the Winelands which are only circa 1 hour from Cape Town and stayed on the Boschendal Estate. It is in Groot Drakenstein which is between the regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The estate dates back to 1685 and it is one of the largest farms left in South Africa. It is absolutely stunning set over 2000 ha and has stayed true to its roots as a farm. The wine, food and service is 5* all the way and everyone is so friendly. They employ over 600 people and when lockdown happened and all the staff were sent home (as they had to) the estate paid every single one full wages!! If you are not staying here it is also an option to visit if you are doing the wine tram from Groot Drakenstein. This is the route that takes in some of the older, historic Estates. We loved our wine tasting! It is very family friendly with a bike “pump track” and adventure playground. They also offer children’s experiences that they go off to do, whilst the adults enjoy the wine tasting. The boys did South African survival skills which they loved, and my husband and I enjoyed the wine tasting! We also went on a fabulous horse ride around the estate and a 10km bike ride. The scenery is just beautiful. We finished off with dining Al Fresco cooking our own steaks bought from the farm shop on the fire pit outside of our lodge. We reluctantly left Boschendal and had a quick visit to Stellenbosch and a coffee stop in Franschhoek. Stellenbosch has a lively centre full of great shopping, bars and restaurants. Franschhoek has a more relaxed feel with pavement cafés, boutique shops and lovely restaurants. I had a favourite but my recommendation would be tailored to you and what you enjoy as both have so much to offer. We then headed off to stop number 3. This was designed to be somewhere to break up our journey as we head towards our safari but once we saw Schoone Oordt in Swellendam we knew it would be a fantastic house to stay in and the family who run it could not have been more welcoming. The owner’s parents’ are even from Halifax which was a complete surprise and Huddersfield is named on the very old Grandfather clock that sits in reception! The scenery on our drive here was again stunning and my pictures will never do it justice. We moved on from a blissful night at Schoone Oordt to Oudtshoorn, travelling 3 hours along the famous route 62. Once again the drive was so easy and the scenery stunning. We spotted baboons and lots of ostrich on the way. The boys voted for a visit to the Cango Caves rather than an ostrich farm and we were not disappointed. Another tip if you are driving longer distances is to keep an eye on your fuel and be aware of toilet breaks. There can be a very long distance between service areas!
23 August 2022
Two hours easy drive on from Oudtshoorn the next day and we arrived at our home for the next 2 nights in Plettenberg Bay. Whilst there we had the most amazing experience at an elephant sanctuary. We got to feed the elephants and rub them down before their bed time. All are rescued and providing all continues to go well, all will be released back into private game reserves. Walking trunk in hand is recognised as a way to continue developing the elephants’ skills of holding onto each other’s tails. Something that is critical to elephants when crossing rivers and walking up steep inclines. It was AMAZING!! Such beautiful, gentle animals. One last stop before we reached our safari was in the Tsitsikamma National Park; staying at the The Fernery Lodge. The lodge is stunning with magnificent views and so much to do. When (not if) we go back I will be booking us in for 4 nights so we can go off rafting, quad biking plus the other activities available in the park. It was then safari time and Pumba truly is 5* luxury. I loved stopping for sun downers on our evening drives whilst out with the animals as well as coffees and nibbles on a morning. Our rooms surpass the pictures on the website. Pumba offer many other activities aside from the traditional game drives so we also enjoyed a spot of archery as well as fishing in the main lake. We had hippos (at a distance!) for company which was rather surreal. Pumba has beautiful white lions! On our first day we saw the end of a kill on an adult giraffe. It was heart breaking to witness but also amazing seeing how they work together. The giraffe did not go to waste, and we had the benefit of seeing the lions every day and the circle of life in action. The kill was only about 2 football pitches from our lodge and we could hear them warning other animals (especially the jackals) to stay away from their food during the night. You do not just hear them, you feel it. It is an incredible sound as it carries on the night air. Other animals we encountered include 3 x Bull Elephants as well as the main herd, cheetah, rhino, impala, wildebeest, blesbuck, cape buffalo, warthogs, meerkats, vervet monkeys, baboons, zebras, giraffe and many many different birds including spectacular birds of prey. The list goes on, we saw so much. We reluctantly left Pumba and headed to the Port Elizabeth beach area for the afternoon before we caught a late flight back to Cape Town. I had no idea how lovely this part of the city is. The boardwalk area near Shark Rock is fab for people watching and there are some lovely hotels along the boardwalk! Our last night was spent in Cape Town centre where the following day we wandered back down to the V&A and had an afternoon enjoying the pool and sunshine before heading home. We were very fortunate to fly back Business class on both flights. I understand why Qatar are consistently voted the best business class airline by Skytrax. Their Q Class suites are out of this world. As a tip, if you have a long layover in Doha or want an excellent lounge experience, the Doa Al Majaran lounge is the one to choose. Showers can be booked in advance to freshen up. There is a huge family section as well as relaxed areas and 2 x restaurants. I think I could write about our trip forever, it really is a dream adventure! Please feel free to get in touch if you would like more information. I would absolutely love to talk to you about it!
08 May 2022
I have been fortunate to have cruised to the Norwegian Fjords twice before and it is one of my favourite places on earth. When the opportunity arose for me to experience it again on P&Os latest cruise ship, Iona I jumped at the opportunity!. It also had the added benefit of calling at Alesund and Haugesund, two towns I had never visited before. Iona is perfect for the Fjords. The atrium is stunning with three stories of glass maximising the views as you sail along this beautiful part of the world. The firm favourite with P&O cruises, Glass House is in the atrium as well as Keel & Cow (a steak restaurant that carries a cover charge) as well as the coffee shop which is open most of the day. Seating areas are located throughout the atrium allowing lots of space to relax and watch the world pass by. It was very popular with a good buzz throughout the whole cruise. We had a corner balcony cabin located on deck 14 with a huge balcony. These cabins always go very quickly, and it is "fastest finger first" when the cruises go on sale. This is due to additional space you have without paying a supplement! It is worth noting that cabins located on Promenade deck (deck 8) are overlooked balconies. This is where numerous infinity whirlpools are based and a full ship walking area. It is not one for those wanting privacy as everyone taking a stroll can see into your cabin. Some of the new Conservatory Cabins are located on this deck so if you want to avoid this, please speak to me and we can go through the deck plan together. The Sky Dome is a first for Iona. It has an indoor pool, hot tubs, bar, Taste (pizzas, hot dogs etc) as well as the Gelato. It is perfect for cooler days when the other infinity pools are a little too cold! On an evening it transforms to an entertainment venue. Sometimes with the pool being covered to provide an additional stage area. We watched a few shows here and it was a welcome change to a traditional auditorium setting. The entertainment on board was very varied from acoustic bands, the resident band Pulse (who are very good) and performed with a different "theme" every night to the theatre shows. We struggled to see all the different acts as there was so much choice each evening. We pre-paid a drinks package which included all drinks to the price of £6.75 which included most wines, beers, and cocktails. It also included ice cream from the main Gelato and speciality coffees. This is currently priced at £39.95 per person per day. I have to be honest and say the food and service in the main dining room was disappointing. As a result, we made the most of the spcialiy dining venues on offer. Epicurean was sublime (I enjoyed the best lobster I have ever had) as was Sindhu the Indian restaurant. I recommend booking these in advance of your cruise as they get booked up quickly onboard and it also works out slightly cheaper. We also dined at the Olive Grove which is a Mediterranean restaurant that carries a £7.50 per person cover charge. There are additional costs payable dependant on the meals you choose but most are included. We ate here twice as the food was excellent and would have booked again if we could have got in! Beach House is a Mexican restaurant that also carries the same charges. The food was also really good and we dined here three times. As well as Horizon, the buffet restaurant, there is also the Quays. This is self service from street style food areas. There was traditional fish and chips, Oriental as well as burgers. It is a good place for lunch and on a morning offers waffles, pancakes, made to order omelettes as well as a smaller buffet area. The food here was delicious and it was excellent to have somewhere to grab a quick bite as opposed to going to the buffet every time. As a summary, I loved Iona as a ship but there are some top tips if you are sailing on her; 1. Ensure you know where your cabin is located to avoid more public ones unless you love people watching! 2. Pre book your speciality restaurants such as Epicurean and Sindhu and once onboard get others such as Olive Grove and Beach House confirmed before they get booked up 3. Order your drinks with your meals in the main dining areas. We waited for the wine waiter (as per previous cruises) to be told we should have ordered with our meals 4. Be aware that once onboard, to pre book extras the best way is via myholiday.pocruises.com There is no app and we saw a lot of people struggling with this. The app does not let you know if you have a dinner clash (important if you are paying). 5. Some entertainment venues also require you to pre book them in advance, especially in the 710 Club and the main theatre. 6. Remember your masks! These are still mandatory in Southampton cruise terminal. I loved my week onboard Iona and would go back on her. I would just be more organised with dinner reservations as we managed to eat very well each evening but we spoke to a few people who were regular P&O cruise customers and they were disappointed.
31 March 2022
I have recently returned from a fantastic 4 days in Budapest where I attended the CLIA River Cruise conference. The theme of the conference was "Rediscover River" and we really did! With 10 different ships moored up waiting for us to explore, I also slept on 3 very different ships giving me a real taste of all they have to offer. A River cruise enables you to get into the heart of your port of call. Whether it is stepping off and being in the centre of Budapest in minutes or exploring a local vineyard you can experience your location via an organised tour, jump on one of the many bikes most cruise lines have onboard or going off alone, the choice is yours but the convenience is fantastic. This is a brief overview of each ship I had the pleasure of exploring and the inclusions you will enjoy. A-Rosa; A-Rosa have been cruising the Rivers for 20 years! Their new ship A-Rosa Sena coming in May is an absolute game changer for families. I am already looking into our holiday for next year. She looks incredible. Families are very much welcomed on her and they are one of the only ships I know that have family cabins for up to five people. The A-ROSA Kids Club has its own dedicated rooms on board which is also a first. Parents can take a dip in the 23 sq m pool and kids will love their separate children’s pool on deck. There is a variety of leisure activities onboard as well as a spa and wellness area. Do not be put off if you are not travelling with children, there is so much on offer on all of A-Rosa ships and given how long they have been doing this for, and the level of repeat custom they enjoy they are definitely doing something right! A-Rosa are a Premium All Inclusive product and have bags of outside space including dining areas. They also include transfers to and from the ship and children under the age of 15 travel for free! Scenic Amber; Scenic call their river cruise ships Space-Ships due to the level of technology and innovation onboard. My expectations were very high and she did not disappoint. Wonderful food, comfy beds, a shower with so many different settings. Fully inclusive including champagne, the list goes on! She really is amazing and you can tell she is a 5*+ ship the minute you arrive. I had the pleasure of staying onboard Scenic Amber and stayed in one of the Balcony Suites. They are stylishly decorated and feature a full-length outdoor balcony with the exclusive Scenic Sun Lounge. With the sun shining in, the suite felt huge as a result of the sun lounge feature and really airy. Scenic provide an ultra all inclusive offering from home to airport transfers to the signature and exclusive experiences you can enjoy in port. Emerald Sun; She is contemporary and sleek. I loved the pool, bright and airy staterooms and the food looked fabulous. The pool roof opens giving an outside in experience and on an evening turns into a cinema room! Emerald are the sister brand to Scenic offering a 4* experience (although to be honest, to me she was 5*) and you can see a lot of similarities in the décor and style of the ships. Emerald offer an extensive range of inclusive packages including dining, gratuities, selected drinks, most shore excursions and a host of additional extras. Most ships have some type of activity on the upper deck and I love that Emerald Sun has giant noughts and crosses! AMA Waterways AMAVerde; AMAVerde is a twin balcony river ship and she is full of bold artwork and light. The packages include: All meals on board (I ate onboard and the food was delicious) Comfortable accommodations Ocean transportation Entertainment and daily activities Port charges Europe Cruises Coffee, tea & complimentary bottled water Avalon Envision; One of the things I loved about Avalon Envision is the fact that the beds face out of the windows so you can enjoy the magnificent views without having to move! The bicycles are free to use and you can go off and explore the areas around you independently. Most river cruise ships offer this and often you can cycle along next to the rivers and join the ship at the next docking areas. They offer some stunning suites with wall to wall, floor to ceiling panoramic windows that open out to a unique open air balcony. Avalon Waterways include a number of luxurious inclusions, as well as dining and drinks, VIP private home pick-up service – with a personal chauffeur service transferring you between your airport or station and the ship. She really is a stunning ship. APT Travel Marvel; APT Travel Marvel Vega. She was due to set sail in 2020 but due to the pandemic, her first sailing was the day after we were onboard. We are first onboard! Vega is a 4* ship that feels 5*! I will definitely be recommending her to you. Due to the fact she sits lower in the water, you will benefit from the sun deck being open as you sail under the small bridges on some of the rivers. Not all ships can do this She is a stunning, contemporary ship! They offer many inclusions such as House wine, local beer and soft drink served with lunch and dinner on board, Comprehensive range of guided tours and sightseeing excursions Insider Experiences offering local insights and memorable meals and overseas airport transfers on the first and last day of your tour to name but a few. Uniworld S.S Beatrice; S.S Beatrice is one of Uniworlds Super ships. Her décor is more yacht style and I have to say, she had some of my favourite lounges/ship areas. She felt, modern and airy and she also seemed to have a wider choice of areas to sit and watch the magnificent scenery go by or enjoy the onboard entertainment. I had the pleasure of staying onboard and had an amazing breakfast and a very restful nights sleep! Each Uniworld ship is decorated to reflect he river she is ailing on so everyone is different. Each boasts original pieces of artwork from Picasso, Alexander Calder and Pino Signoretto. Uniworld fares are all-inclusive. Once onboard you should have no other key expenditure, other than items you buy on shore. It covers food, drinks, excursions, gratuities, talks and Wi-Fi. I also went onboard CroisiEurope Vivaldi and TUI Skyla. Both have some really attractive elements I would love to share with you if you are interested in finding out more. I am definitely a River Cruise convert and will be experiencing one for myself in full soon. Please do get in touch if this is on your radar and I can guide you through he different options!
29 December 2021
Welcome to my end of year Newsletter. Firstly, I hope you and your loved ones have had a wonderful, healthy Christmas and are looking forward to a travel filled 2022! It has been another "interesting" year in the world of travel but thankfully, 2021 was much more positive than 2020. 2022, although I am sure will present it's own challenges looks like it will be better again as the world takes a more uniformed approach to travel including testing, entry requirements and working to the same list of "red countries". I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued support over the last 12 months. The referrals and wonderful testimonials that I have received have kept me going, especially when the government decide to change UK entry requirements at 10pm on a Saturday evening! Where have you been travelling to? I have had the privilege of sending over 180 clients on holiday this year. Adventures have ranged from UK hotels, cottages as well as UK cruises, something that has never really been on the radar before. As well as those venturing further afield to destinations such as Barbados, Mexico and Mauritius. Plus, so many children finally got to meet the real Father Christmas in Lapland this year after having to postpone their trip last year. Where have I travelled to? 2021 has definitely been the year of cruises for me! I have been a big cruise fan for many years and this year I have been fortunate enough to go on 3 different cruises. 2 around the Uk onboard the fun filled Royal Caribbean, Anthem Of the Seas and the regal, Princess Cruises, Sky Princess. More recently I flew to Miami to board Virgin Voyages new cruise ship cruising to 2 x Islands in the Bahamas (bliss). I also got to Crete with my family! Lets get social! One thing that has not changed this year is that entry requirements for both the UK as well as overseas have and can change with little or no notice. If you are on social media, please follow my Facebook and or Instagram pages. I share regular travel updates on there as well as future holiday inspiration and offers. For Facebook use; https://www.facebook.com/GemmaFavager.TravelCounsellors and Instagram; https://www.facebook.com/GemmaFavager.TravelCounsellors Our performance since Covid hit..... It is no secret that travel was decimated when Covid hit in March 2020. However, one thing that I and all at Travel Counsellors are justifiably proud of is the feedback we have had from you on the way we managed the pandemic. We credited 11,003 customers for future bookings, rebooked 13,790 and processed 48,410 refunds! Travel Counsellors also came top 3 times in a row on Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert poll for how we managed your refunds. Thank you for reading my newsletter and I would like to wish you and your family a very happy and prosperous New Year! Xx
13 December 2021
Having returned from the epic trip onboard the Adults Only Virgin Voyages, Scarlet Lady, I wanted to share a post dedicated purely to her. I must admit I was a little wary of Virgin Voyages as they have heavily advertised that they are focused on attracting those individuals who have not/do not want to cruise. I love cruising so was worried it would be a bit too “out there”. How wrong I was!! The vibe onboard is very laid back. During the day there are activities going on but they are not advertised in a daily patter, you stumble across them as you work your way around the ship, similar to day out in your local town/city. This can be anything from acoustic sessions, board games (they were so popular with the Americans) to make up classes and so many health and well being choices. Around the pool, the vibe was chilled with low level music being played until the pool party kicked off and the tempo was turned up. This was the same on an evening, most dining venues also have a bar and the entertainment in each was so different. You could do a pub crawl around the ship and have a wonderful night out just seeing who was playing where. Plus the pop up entertainment like the magicians who will just appear next to you was great. The shows I saw were brilliant. So different to anything I have seen before and the entertainment team seemed to genuinely enjoy “hanging out” with Joe Public after their shows. I loved the 80s show complete with hula hoops and lots of neon clothing! Another thing I loved was the deck layout. You can get your bearings on Scarlet Lady quickly with none of the “have to go up a floor to reach that venue” situations going on that you get on most ships. You could walk in a straight line and pretty much get from the front to the back of the ship on all floors. We stayed in a Sea Terrace (balcony) cabin which was turned into a twin. It was spacious with a good size balcony that comes with a hammock (made in Thailand from recycled materials) although the bathroom was small. However, I genuinely do not think I have been on any other ship where I spent so little time in my room. There was too much to enjoy to be hanging around in there. Virgin Voyages do not offer a traditional drinks package and instead you can purchase a bar tab. This allows you to buy any drink you want with nothing not included. It is surprising how far the bar tab went as all soft drinks, water and drip tea & coffee are included in the cost of your cruise. As is WIFI and all gratuities. The prices were reasonable with most drinks ranging from $9 to $14 for cocktails. This ship is 100% one for foodies. With all speciality dining included we enjoyed experimental food with paired wines in the Test Kitchen, Korean BBQ food and Soju drinking games in Gunbae, stylish Mexican flavours in Pink Agave, fine fish & steak dining in The Wake, and a bottomless Prosecco brunch in there too & brunch with a twist in Razzle Dazzle. This is on top of The Galley food market, low key pizza, hot dogs & tapas options and a truly fabulous ice cream parlour (to reiterate, this is all included, I do not think I have ever eaten as well on a cruise ship!). There was also lots more we didn’t get to experience as there was no way we could have got around all the eateries during our short stay, but we tried! As part of this amazing experience I got to swim with Pigs in the Bahamas, visit Virgin Voyages own beach club on the exclusive island of Bimini in the Bahamas and also see the alligators in the Everglades. Plus, we spent a wonderful evening on South beach Miami and visited the chilled Bayside area of Miami. I really did fall in love with Scarlet Lady (as well as Miami and the Bahamas!!) and would 100% go back on her tomorrow if I could! Scarlet Lady's sister ship, Valiant Lady is sailing around the Med in the Summer and has some amazing itineraries including overnight stays in Ibiza and Mykonos! Get in touch and let me tell you more about this great cruise line and the wonderful itineraries available! Xx
16 June 2021
Check out my top picks for some serious city shopping and start planning your next adventure today! Which would you choose? I have been fortunate and have experienced New York twice, Dubai and Las Vegas so for me, Singapore is next! Bangkok - MBK Center and CentralWorld are a shopper's paradise, not to mention the night markets - be sure to leave room in your suitcase Las Vegas - on top of the mega casinos and out of this world entertainment, Las Vegas boasts great shopping including The Miracle Mile under Planet Hollywood, The Shops at Crystals and Las Vegas North & South Premium Outlets - the perfect spots to bag a bargain! Singapore – shop ‘til you drop in the super malls of Orchard Road, browse the street markets of China Town and for a little luxury head to the designer boutiques of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands New York - From Bloomingdales to Barneys to Fifth Avenue, this has to be the most iconic shopping spot of them all! Dubai - Top spots include The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and of course, the local souks These are just a few of the tried and tested favourites, but also worth a mention are Hong Kong, Florida and Tokyo. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of the flight sales available next year so get in touch, and lets plan your next shopping adventure! 01484 490026
16 December 2020
I hope you enjoy reading my newsletter that I shared with those registered in my Marketing List. If you would like to be added, please just let me know. I shall lots of inspiration travel content and also keep my customers informed with changes to travel regulations. I think that we have all been affected in some way or another during the past 9 months, whether it be losing a loved one, losing a business or just feeling rubbish because, life as we know it, has severely changed, I would just like you all to know that my thoughts are with you. Back in March I was on course for my best year ever so would like to take this time to thank everybody who had a holiday booked and has been so patient with me and trusting me to do what is right for you and all of you who have supported me over the last 3 years. A lot of my customers had amazing holidays booked for 2020 including a tour of China, a family trip to Vietnam, multi centre trips to Thailand, a road trip across America and many more. When the country went into lockdown on the 16th March, to see all those holidays cancelled was absolutely devastating. But I said then and still say it now, Covid will not sack me from a job I love! When is the best time to book for 2021 and beyond? This is a question I’m getting asked on a regular basis. The quick answer is now. Lots of people have rebooked their 2020 holidays to 2021 which means availability at peak times like school holidays are already limited. If you’re flexible with your dates then there are some great offers to be had and I’ve already booked people holidays at greatly reduced prices, compared to the prices that they were originally paying for their 2020 holiday. And finally, to give you something to look forward to! Brexit (I really am sorry); Brexit, I am sorry (although it does make a change to be talking about this again rather than just Covid)! As the UK Government is still in ongoing negotiations when it comes to travel policies, it is important to stay up to date as new legislation is announced. The main changes apply to Passport validity and exclusions, driving permits and Insurance. Read our blog here for further information; https://www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/gb/leisure/travel-advice/brexit-on-travel/ My Zoom Discovery Evenings; Whilst we were all in lockdown in June I launched my live “zoom discovery evenings” to keep us dreaming about destinations that may be on our travel wish list, or perhaps ones we have never thought about. I invite experts from around the world to tell us more about their country and get a deeper insight into what you can do and experience. I have hosted evenings on Iceland, Tanzania, The Rocky Mountaineer, Lapland, Adventure Travel as well as Vietnam. The next event is on the 19th January and it is on Cambodia & Laos. Please let me know if you would like to come along and I will send you the login details. Travel Going Forward; We recently launched our Ultimate Flexible Promise which will allow you to book a holiday and be able to amend, cancel & refund a range of selected holidays up until 15 days before departure due to airlines cancelling flights, restrictions in force or passenger testing positive for Covid-19 before travel. Destinations covered include Dubai & the Maldives and are for all new bookings to travel up until the 31st March 2021! I have access to the latest FCOD advice so am on hand to guide you through the ever-changing country requirements. And to end, another Thank You; I say it a lot on my social media posts, but my customers are the best! I have received some lovely gifts (never expected but very much appreciated) from bunches of flowers, to gin and gift vouchers. They have all had the same theme, thanking me for looking after them whilst their travel plans have been rearranged, refunds fought for as well as simply being at the end of the phone whenever they have a question. I pray 2021 is a smoother ride but the level of care I give to you will not change! Thank you again Xx
26 September 2020
The elusive Northern Lights! Without a doubt the most common question I get whenever a customer is thinking of visiting Iceland is "when is the best time to see the Northern Lights"? This question is a tricky one, and one where I can give my expertise whilst remembering that this is a natural phenomena so it's all just guessing…or is it? Here I share with you some Northern Lights wisdom! For some reason somebody, at one time said that February was the best month, which is something that baffles our Partner supplier that lives in Iceland. February isn't necessarily better than November, or March for that matter. So FORGET anything you've heard about a specific month being better than another. The Northern Lights season in Iceland is very simply from the 1st September until the 15th April. This is the season that we run the scheduled Northern Lights tours. Any day during this entire season you can simply be lucky or unlucky. It's that simple - BUT there are other things you may want to consider when thinking of visiting Iceland and seeing the breath taking Northern Lights: Overall enjoyment of your holiday. Remember that the Norther Lights are a BONUS to your holiday, try to focus on all the other amazing things your holiday to Iceland will give you, and if you see the lights it'll be an incredible bonus. I can give you my promise that when booking a trip with me and having our on the ground partners looking after you, they will to do their absolute best to enable you to experience the Northern Lights. Join a cruise or coach tour on the first evening and if you don't see them, come again for free. This means we multiply your chances of seeing them. We will also let you know if there is no chance of seeing them so you can spend your evening differently (the technology used in to track the lights is amazing and they will not take you out on an evening if they know in advance the cloud cover is too thick etc), and rebook you automatically for tomorrow. They monitor their great forecasts every hour of the day. September, October, March and April are very good "shoulder months". These months are milder than the harshest winter, meaning more daylight hours and typically milder weather. November - February is peak winter. This means less daylight hours and more likely to encounter snowstorms or harsh weather conditions. Don't worry we will always take care of you, and turn around your program if needs be, but be prepared for colder, darker days. The darker the better for Northern Lights, certainly, but don't forget your excursions during the day which may be more enjoyable in the milder months. If there are ANY guideline you'd want in regards to Northern Lights, the only real guide is to come within the season (obviously) and try to avoid full moon (top tip). A full moon really brightens up the sky and may jeopardize the magnitude of the Northern Lights sight. In early 2021 Northern Lights season full moons fall on the 28th January, 27th February and the 28th March I can tailor any adventure to Iceland complete with unbelievable experiences! Get in touch and have something amazing to look forward to it 2021!
18 September 2020
I booked out Italian adventure in January and in truth, once this awful pandemic struck I thought we had no chance of getting there this year. I am incredibly grateful that we did and had a truly phenomenal Italian Escape! Manchester Airport was like when I flew to Majorca when lock down was first lifted earlier this summer although there were more people which was great for me to see. However, security was just as quick, 5 minutes and we were through and pretty much everything was open, including the Executive Lounges which we made the most of. My Six-year-old was fine wearing his mask (he did not complain once) whilst we walked around the terminal building, but it is always nice to take it off once you are seated having something to eat and drink. We started this adventure with 4 nights in Rome. It is 13 years since I last visited Rome and I loved it just as much as I did the first time around. St Peters wowed me once again (exploring the tombs with the boys was much more interesting then when Neil and I did it on our own), being able to take a clear picture of the Trevi Fountains is just unheard of and we pretty much just walked into the Pantheon. Socially distanced queuing was in place at all public buildings and temperature checks were completed on everyone entering one of these amazing buildings. Masks are compulsory in all enclosed spaces but even when walking down the smaller streets, once it became more difficult to maintain a metre distance, the locals naturally put on their face masks so we followed suit. I honestly felt more comfortable in Italy than I do in the UK! My eldest loves all things Roman and he simply loved the Colosseum. We pre-booked tickets just for ease and even though things are much quieter than usual, I would still recommend that you do this. Another major highlight for my boys was Gladiator school! If you have anyone in your family that has a fascination with Roman history and gladiators then this is a must, even I enjoyed it. Get in touch with me for more information on this fun afternoon which provides something completely different to a typical Rome experience! Our hotel (which was excellent) had regular reminders such as 3 people maximum or just 1 family in the lifts, breakfast was pre-plated behind screens and the hot food was chef served. You could get your own fruit juice which was different to when I went to Majorca earlier in the summer when everything was chef/waiter served. A selection of breads was delivered to the table in pre-made up paper bags and there was lots of hand sanitising stations everywhere. I was very impressed with the pool set up. The lifeguard would not allow anyone to sit on a sun bed that had been previously used until he had sprayed it down and the spacing was excellent. One tip, if you are contemplating doing a similar holiday and you have children, book a hotel with a pool (they are not easy to find in Rome) and I am so glad we did as it made such a difference having a splash around at the end of a days sightseeing.
18 September 2020
We then collected our car and drove up to a little village South of Siena in the Tuscan hills where we spent 8 nights in a beautiful converted Farm House. Tuscany is just as I imaged after seeing pictures over the years. Fields full of olive trees and vine yards and beautiful buildings everywhere. The farmhouse was stunning. It had 5 apartments and an onsite restaurant which was a major hit with the locals, it does not depend on residents which is always a bonus (we could not get a table on our first night as it was booked up). As it was so quiet with other guests staying in the apartments, we had the pool completely to ourselves for most of our stay and my boys had a blast. Our apartment which was on the ground floor with our own little courtyard was spotless and had everything we needed to cook evening meals and give us space and tranquillity after 4 nights in the capital city. They even had a resident Donkey (I absolutely love donkeys, so this was a major bonus for me??) Siena was beautiful and worth a visit (I know this is a general well-known tip but make sure you step back from the main square for the restaurants, there are some great quirky places to eat away from the main drag) but for me Montepulciano tipped it. Maybe it was the delicious red wine that did it! We had had major storms overnight but even in the rain it is a beautiful town and one I would love to spend more time exploring. It is somewhere I will now recommend for a weekend break. You could happily spend all afternoon sampling the local wine offered in pretty much all shops/restaurants and enjoying the meat samples. The views are breath taking! We also have had a Favager first, a day spent in some natural thermal pools. There are many thermal pools in Tuscany and a lot have been purchased and taken over by private companies. You can book full “spa” days with full facilities and treatments available. However, we decided to do as the locals do and experience a fully “natural one”. We decided on Bagni Di San Fillip Terma Pools and they were fantastic! We walked down the river for circa 20 minutes and had 3 pools all to ourselves. Do not be put off by the colour of the water in my pictures, it is like that because we had been playing in the mud which is said to have healing powers. It was like stepping into a warm bath. The natural waterfalls coming down from the hills were bordering on being hot! It was such a wonderful experience and something I highly recommend and will do again. After 8 nights in our Farmhouse we reluctantly said goodbye. There were tears from my boys as they did not want to leave, it was that idyllic and I must admit, we were a very subdued car as we drove away and headed to Florence to spend out last night in a hotel there. If you spend any time in Florence and have a car, make sure you have a hotel that has parking. We were fortunate that ours did but the hotelier remarked that typically in the height of summer you really do struggle to get any as most are reserved for residents inside the towns walls. Florence is beautiful, and I am so glad we decided to spend a night there rather than just a day. Seeing the Cathedral of Florence, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore during the day and then lit up in the evening was fabulous and there was a great family vibe as we walked around after our evening meal. Our flight was not due to leave Pisa until 10.30pm on our last day and I was worried that it would end up being a day of clock watching and wishing the hours away. How wrong I was. We spent most of our last day in Lucca. Another stunning city that really impressed me. Hire a bike and cycle the castle walls. It was brilliant to see the locals out enjoying their Saturday and we got a quad bike which was great fun. The streets are like a labyrinth so make sure you take note of where you are parked as you can easily become disorientated. Another gorgeous Galetto was consumed before we headed to Pisa to take “that photo” before heading to the airport. There is not much to do in Pisa apart from visit the Leaning Tower, so I would never recommend spending a significant amount of time there, especially when there are so many other stunning towns and cities to visit nearby. However, you must go and see the Tower if you have not done before as the area where it is lovely. We once again benefited from minimal crowds and had no problem getting the shot of us holding the tower up. The car was dropped off with no issue, check in and we were on our way home. A perfect end to a perfect holiday and I am once again faced with the task of trying to find something next year that is equally as good. So far, I am drawing a blank! Please get in touch if you would like any further information on our Italian Escape or would like to plan your own adventure x
15 July 2020
I made the decision to travel to Majorca with two fellow Travel Counsellors and my son to go and test for myself what the “new normal” feels like in the world of travel. I will be honest and say I was nervous beforehand, especially taking my 9-year-old as I had no idea how he would cope having to wear a mask for such a long time and whether I was making the right decision to travel at all. However, me being me needed to experience this myself to confidently be able to talk you my customers through the process and truthfully answer questions on how it is. Masks are compulsory throughout the airport and on planes now, but each airline have different policies in place for children. For example, children under 12 years old flying with Ryan Air are exempt from wearing them whereas EasyJet and Jet2 require all children over the age of 6 to wear them. Those with breathing difficulties are also exempt but please be aware, you may be required to show medical documentation to cabin crew and airline staff. The airport was quiet, naturally but security was amazing, 5 minutes and we were through! I did take advantage of booking a free 15-minute security slot but to be honest as the airport was so quiet I did not need to use it. However, I would still recommend taking advantage of this as more flights commence over the summer period. There were no specific distancing markers in place, but regular announcements reminded everyone and to be honest, a general common sense approach was being applied by my fellow travellers. Once through security, spacing signs are seen at regular intervals and there is an abundance of hand sanitisers to use. These are situated close to the lifts, food areas etc, generally where there are high touch points. We flew from terminal 3 which had only opened this week (all flights prior to this point had departed from Terminal 1) and Duty Free, WHSmiths, Boots and the bar were all in operation and there was a lovely buzz in the air. Terminal 2 is due to open this week although please check which terminal you are flying from as some airlines have moved to T1 so it is still unclear whether it will be operational. Many countries are now asking for additional information prior to you arriving in their country. Spain for example now require you to register your details 48 hours in advance of your arrival as part of their Track & Trace system and each member of your party are given a unique QR code. This must be presented upon arrival alongside your passport. I am staying in regular contact with my customers due to fly out in the next month and I highly recommend anyone who is due to travel to make regular checks on the FCO website as requirements can change without warning. The taxi from Palma to our hotel was quick and simple and every taxi has a clear glass window between you and the driver giving passengers additional peace of mind. In our hotel, and I know it is similar for all the major hotel chains, there is socially distanced queuing at check-in & hand sanitiser dispensers are everywhere, especially by the lifts, and only people staying together are allowed in the lift at one time. The main area where everyone gathers, the restaurant, is well managed and does take a bit longer to enter as you must wait in a socially distanced queue to be seated. Then there is a spaced-out queue for the buffet, which is chef served to minimise contact with the serving utensils. All the usual food is available, salads & desserts pre-prepared in little individual pots, cooking stations, tapas and fresh locally caught Mallorcan fish. Masks to be worn at all times around the restaurant apart from when seated at your table and everyone complies, and it is easy to get used to. After the first time in the restaurant getting used to the procedure it just feels normal and, dare I say it, even a more pleasant experience to enjoy your meal (once seated with mask off!) In the outdoor areas around the pools and the beach, the experience is no different from normal, no special rules above general distancing guidelines. Everyone was happy, chilled and respecting personal space, even in the swimming pools and that included the children. Our hotel was operating at their now “full capacity” which was circa 70% to what they can normally accommodate and there was plenty of space for all to enjoy the facilities as normal. The rules have changed slightly now in Spain from this Monday and masks are mandatory whenever you are in any public area including when you are walking to the beach etc. Once there you can remove it and enjoy your time as usual, you can also remove it once seated at your table to enjoy your food and drink. The resort of Playa De Palma where we were was busy enough to have that “holiday resort feel” but much quieter than normal when the beaches are packed. I loved this, and it is definitely how I prefer my holiday experience. Another great addition now is that rather than having menus, most bars and restaurants have QR codes so you are not having to pick something up that has been used previously and it downloads the menus straight to your phone. Waiter service is offered pretty much everywhere, and we witnessed regular cleaning in the resort establishments. I must be honest and say it really felt no different (apart from it being quieter than normal) if I had been there 6 months ago. None of the new measures including wearing a mask on the flight or whilst we were out and about phased my 9-year-old. In fact, he had to remind me sometimes to put it on. I had the most wonderful two nights (I wish it had been longer) and it has made me look forward to our holiday to Italy at the end of August even more! If anyone has any specific questions about the hotel or airport experience, please just let me know
18 June 2020
If you've tried Greece and Italy, you might want to consider Malta! It is bursting with history and sights to see, as well as attracting a much younger crowd these days who are drawn to the island's many highlights. The small, sparkling island of Malta packs a big punch! 7,000 years of human activity can be traced by history lovers. Explore the 16th-century, St John's Cathedral and Casa Rocca Piccola, a grand palazzo and explore fascinating cultural museums and palaces. There is so much more to Malta though. Marvel at abundant natural wonders; from the Blue Grotto caverns to the Blue Lagoon on the tiny island of Comino, there are hilltop villages and chic fishing harbours just waiting to be visited. Comino is a great place to stop by for some quiet time. This tiny island has no cars or built-up areas and is a haven for snorkelers, walkers and photographers. Why not stop for a seafood platter or try some local dishes with a mix of Middle Eastern and Sicilian flavours on your holiday to Malta? For lovers of Game of Thrones, Mdina Gate in the old Capital is the very gate is the very gate to Kings Landing! Holidays to Malta are ideally suited to couples and families alike. Just a 3 hour flight from the UK. Something not many consider is a holiday at the waters edge on the less trod island of Gozo? The capital city, Valetta hosts many 5* hotels, perfect for a city break. Or, clamour for glamour in St George's Bay, at a resort with cascading pools and a private lido? The coastline is perfect for enjoying relaxing days in the Maltese sun. Rugged, with a good mix of rocky coves and sandy shores. Head to Bugibba or Qawra which have lovely flat rocks for sunbathing, or Mellieha Bay for its gorgeous, long stretch of sandy beach. The diving and snorkelling in Malta is excellent and Sport Diver Magazine has named Malta as the third best diving destination behind the Maldives and Egypt! Malta is a foodies paradise. Being an island surrounded by many countries, Malta's food is a fusion of European and Middle Eastern influences. The traditional fare is rustic and based on seasonality. Why not try Pastizza a traditional snack of flaky pastry filled either with ricotta cheese or mushy peas? Available in bars and street kiosks. Bragioli is a thin slice of beef wrapped around breadcrumbs, chopped bacon, egg and parsley before being braised in red wine. The favourite dish in Malta, however, is Fenek which is rabbit cooked in garlic and wine. The local cheese is called Gbejniet. Made from unpasteurised sheep or goat's milk, it is hard and white and is often served in seasoned olive oil. Local crafts produce excellent souvenirs; look out for lacework, glassware, silver and gold items. In the main resorts' market stalls and shops you will find a wide variety of suitable mementoes to pop in your suitcase, too. Holidays to Malta are as relaxing or as vibrant as you want them to be. The club scene has grown over the last few years with the main action located in Paceville in the coast near St. Julians. But if you'd much prefer to relax over a few drinks and watch the world go by there are a multitude of cafes and bars perfectly placed for quiet and tranquil evenings.
04 June 2020
Why should the magical island of Zanzibar be on your travel wish list? I have been and it really should be on there if it is not! White sands and turquoise sea Gorgeous tropical climate Excellent snorkelling & diving Local tradition & culture Fun & interesting excursions International airport Zanzibar has it all! It is easy to reach this tropical island from mainland Tanzania, either by boat or plane making it an excellent choice for a Safari 2 (or 3 or 4) stop Tanzanian adventure holiday. The Zanzibari hotel is one I highly recommend as the perfect place to either begin or end a safari tour in Tanzania. With delicious food, fun entertainment, warm hospitality & a stunning beachfront setting....I wish I was there right now. Laze on a hammock overlooking the Indian Ocean or share safari tales over a cocktail by the pool, it is simply a stunning island to unwind and recharge. Zanzibar is also ideal for those looking for the barefoot beach experience and many properties promote this relaxed way of life, whilst still offering first class service. Sunshine will follow the rain Get in touch and let me tell you more about this stunning part of the world!
15 May 2020
Lockdown may have you dreaming of distant sandy shores, but the UK has some spectacular beaches of its own. Here are six ideas for a sandy staycation. Mwnt, Wales Perfectly cut-out from the Ceredigion cliffs, the secluded cove of Mwnt is owned by the National Trust. The sheltered bay is a favourite for dolphins and seals, which are often spotted playing in the turquoise waters. The surrounding hilly cliffs create a natural wind-break for beach-bums while more active types can enjoy picturesque walks along the coastline, passing the charming 14th century Church of the Holy Cross. Luskentyre, Scotland Visit on a rare clear day and you could be forgiven for confusing Luskentyre for a beach in the Caribbean. Found on the Isle of Harris, off the west coast of Scotland, the bright white sand, emerald water and a natural backdrop of hilly terrain has resulted in Luskentyre being named one of the UK’s best beaches in the TripAdvisor Traveller Awards. Visit during the spring months to see the grassy slopes ablaze with seasonal blooms. Port Isaac, Cornwall Eagle-eyed fans may recognise this quaint fishing village in North Cornwall as the setting of TV series Doc Martin. The pretty village remains true to its humble Cornish roots with sea-battered fishing boats bobbing in the harbour and narrow streets lined with cosy and characterful cottages. Although a popular tourist spot during peak season, the crowded, pedestrian-only streets are still charming and every Friday during summer the Fisherman’s Friends male singing group put on a free gig on the beach – best watched with fish and chips in hand. Studland Bay, Dorset It’s no wonder this four-mile stretch of pale, fine sand is so loved by locals. Backed by soft, rolling dunes and natural heathland, it’s located in Dorset’s Purbeck region, with its northern tip at the entrance to Poole Harbour looking across to one of the UK’s post exclusive postcodes – Sandbanks. Sandy Studland has its own slice of luxury though – The Pig on the Beach. This shabby-chic-styled hotel is one of a chain of unique properties – all famous for their locally-sourced food. Holkham, Norfolk Reached by a walk through fragrant pine forest, this vast expanse of golden sand is backed by dunes and visited by capricious tides. Behind the shoreline lies a basin, which at high tides fills to form a spectacular shallow lagoon. It’s been featured in many films, including the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love, where Gwyneth Paltrow is shipwrecked on its shore. Nearby is Holkham Hall, an 18th century Palladian house home to the Earl of Leicester and surrounded by a 25,000 acre estate of rolling parkland. Bamburgh, Northumberland Overlooked by the romantic turrets of Bamburgh Castle, this length of wild sandy coast is backed by waving dunes and rolling green fields. It looks over to Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands – once a haven for monks and still one for puffins and other rare sea birds. A windswept walk along the beach takes in rock pools and a small lighthouse - the most northerly of its kind in mainland England. A castle is known to have stood above the beach since the 6th century and the oldest part of the present structure was built in the 12th century. Please feel to get in touch if you are looking for some staycation inspiration! I can book everything from log cabins, tucked away cottages, large houses sleeping 20+ people, quirky properties as well as those on larger seaside parks. I can also book boating holidays if you are dreaming of taking to the waters!
29 April 2020
Firstly, I hope this finds you all well? The past two months have without question been a challenging time not just for those in the travel industry but the world as a whole. I wanted to take this opportunity to get in touch with everyone to let you know what I have been doing. The impact of Covid-19 was starting to really impact travel by the end of February and as we got towards the end of March, more and more countries had closed their borders and the FCO travel advice changed hourly. Not only the standard entry requirements but Visa restrictions and isolation rules. My immediate concern and focus was with those who were overseas and being immediately impacted by this. Working with Travel Counsellors 24/7 duty office to get these customers home as soon as possible. I never thought getting my customers home from Spain and the Canaries would be an issue but due to the numbers involved, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my last customers returned home, safe and well. This also included getting people back early from Las Vegas as well as Thailand. My attention then turned to those due to depart at the end of March and into April. I have spent many hours speaking to my customers and advising them of all the different possible scenarios as well as continuing to provide up to date and accurate travel advice. The ongoing advice from the FCO of not to travel has meant that there has been great disappointment for many, especially those due to travel over the Easter period. To add further impact, many suppliers (companies) have changed their policies. Bending the “normal rules and regulations”, using creative wording to suit their own terms as well as blatantly throwing them “out of the window” which has caused frustration for many. Some airlines even flew empty planes at the start of the travel ban to avoid cancelling flights and therefore having to pay refunds. I have had numerous phone calls as these policies have changed with not only my own customers but also those that have not booked with me and are struggling to get answers from companies they have booked through, whether that be online or through other agencies. For me, my working day has not changed dramatically (apart from now having to fit home schooling a 6 and 9 year old into my day and if you are juggling work and this, I do not have to explain the challenges in any more detail!) as I work from home anyway am able to continue to be available to my customers as usual. There have been many articles written and I have seen segments on various TV shows over the last few weeks including the BBC news with individuals justifiably getting in touch with them to vent their anger at not being able to get answers. They are just getting recorded voicemail calls which cut off or are simply being ignored. I take pride in the fact that I am here to speak to you and I am still happy to provide any advice to those that are struggling to contact their providers and do the very best I can for them. For my customers who still have bookings for this year, I am doing all I can to work with them and once again cover off the different scenarios available to get the best outcome for them. This can be extending their payment dates, moving their holiday to next year to ensure they do not lose any money if they decide to cancel or have been impacted financially themselves as a result of the lock down. I also continue to work with those whose travel plans have now been cancelled to get their money back, or a credit note if they prefer as quickly as possible. It is fair to say that nothing has impacted the travel industry like this has but there are positives! I am getting more and more enquires now for next year, especially those that have had milestone plans such as “Big” Birthdays, Anniversary’s, Weddings/Honeymoons etc impacted by this as well as those wanting to ensure their celebrations or dream trip happens next year. I am grateful for the understanding and support shown by my customers. Most importantly, I hope you and your family stay safe and well and I hope to speak to you in the very near future. We will fly and sail again! Gemma
14 April 2020
We can't help ourselves from thinking of what we are going to do once quarantine is lifted, see friends, go out for dinner or watch football at the pub but for many of us who are stuck home with kids.. It’s a holiday!! A well-deserved holiday, where you don't have to cook, clean or force your kids to do their school work. So it is no surprise that I have started to get enquiries for October half term. The Maldives is an ideal destination for an October half term holiday. Given the current uncertainty suppliers and hotels are offering reduced cancellation policies and free amendments to protect you and you can look forward to an amazing adventure! Why October Is a Great Time in The Maldives Weather Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t rain as much in the Monsoon months anymore, and when it does it is short sharp bursts and the rain quickly passes due to the low-lying nature of the islands. Half the Price! Maldives is an expensive destination, especially if you are travelling with a family. However, from the months from May to November all the hotels lower their rates and have extremely generous offers from free meal plan upgrades, free transfers, kids stay for free and free room upgrade. You can make savings of 60% on some deals and it’s a great option for a couple, group of friends or a family. Surfing It is still surfing season! A bit of wind and you get some of the best beach breaks in the world. Hotels like Six Senses Laamu, Anantara Dhigu, Niyama and Adaaran Hudhuranfushi are great places for even beginners to try surfing for the first time. Family Friendly Maldives is family friendly all year round, but in the summer months, it is exceptionally affordable. Almost all hotels come with a kids club and a kids and teens program to keep the little ones engaged from cooking classes to treasure hunts! Manta Rays and Whale Sharks It is the best time to see Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. You can see up to 200 Manta Rays at Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll during the feeding frenzy! The whale sharks in Ari Atoll are also more frequently spotted! Get in touch and lets plan your ultimate island adventure!
27 February 2020
Virgin launched the hotly anticipated Scarlet Lady with the promise that she would be very different to other cruise ships and would appeal to those that have dubbed cruising as “not for them”. First impressions, she is definitely different! From the DJ playing in the roundabout which is where you would typically find an atrium to the fact that in the standard cabins, your bed folds down into a sofa during the day and each balcony has a hammock! The vibe on board on entering was Ibiza Beach Club. You will not find a tattoo parlour or record shop on any other cruise ship as well as a Mac shop! Being adults only the entertainment is contemporary, and the nightclub looked amazing with the mirrored walls as you walk in. Unfortunately, I did not get an opportunity to experience it fully as I was on a day visit. She boasts 20 restaurants all offering a different experience, you will never be stuck for choice. The added benefit that all restaurants are included in the price you pay. My favourites were The Kitchen where you are given a menu with 6 ingredients and the chef provides dishes to showcase them. It is like a food laboratory, they are designed to delight, and all have a quirky twist, lots of surprises! The Wave at the aft of the ship serves seafood and steaks with a gorgeous panorama of the wake you are leaving behind. You will not find a typical buffet restaurant found on all other cruise ships, instead The Galley has “live” cooking stations where food is prepared as required. This is also reducing the amount of food waste on board. The Red Room entertainment venue once again offers something different compared to regular shows found on board cruise ships. The stage can be transformed into a run way and the shows are contemporary. Deck 16 is a full Al Fresco space with a real focus on health and well being. There is a boxing ring, Gym & Tonic Bar, Yoga Studio and an outdoor work out areas as well as some of the largest hot tubs found at sea. The “Band” wearable device not only enables you to enter your cabin without the need for a key card, order drinks etc from wherever you are but it will also learn what mood you like your cabin to be in. For example, the ideal temperature during the day, when to close your blinds on an evening etc! The spa is sublime and an area I would spend a lot of time in. This is included for those staying in one of the bright, airy suites but anyone can book to enjoy. Offering Elemis treatments as well as salt rooms, saunas, hot beds you can easily while away a few hours. A Virgin cruise is not for everyone, but I was left impressed with all Scarlet Lady has to offer. The food I tasted was excellent, the vibe on board was relaxed, and I would have loved to have spent more time on board! Another plus point is that WiFi/Tips/Sodas/Tea & Coffee/Yoga/Spin Classes - are all included in the price you pay. She is very instagrammable with plenty of areas to take a good selfie. Scarlet Lady is based out of Miami and her sister ship, Valiant Lady will be based in the Mediterranean next year offering 7 night itineraries including overnight stays in Ibiza. Get in touch and let me tell you so much more. There are excellent offers available now including on board credit and early booking offers.
25 November 2019
If it’s your first time on a skiing holiday, you’re probably excited to get to the beautiful mountainous surroundings of your ski resort. There’s no feeling like heading out on the slopes to experience the thrill of the wind whirling past you as you glide across the powdery white snow. Skiing is an extreme sport, however, so before you go, check out our top tips for first-time skiers to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Invest in good ski gear Before you go make sure that you buy some good quality skiing gear. It might seem a little pricey at the time and there may be cheaper options available, but remember, it’s an investment. There’s nothing worse than being out on the slopes when you’re cold and wet, so it’s best to get a jacket and salopettes that are going to keep you warm and dry. Workout before you go to build up some fitness In the weeks before you go, try to get to the gym and build up your fitness levels. Skiing can be pretty exerting (it’s not all sliding downhill) and your muscles will be given a hard workout, so it’s advisable to build up a tolerance for it. Save the pain of ‘ski legs’ and make the most of your time in resort! Take a waterproof backpack; Despite being surrounded by snow, when you’re out skiing you can get very warm and you might want to remove a couple of layers. Take a small backpack with you that you can pop them into. This will also be useful as you can pop a water bottle and some high protein snacks in there too to keep you fuelled throughout the day. Wear layers As your mum always used to tell you: “make sure you layer up when it’s cold outside” - and it’s no different with skiing. There are constant periods of activity and inactivity throughout the day and this, paired with the weather, will mean that you need to wear layers to allow you to adjust accordingly. Take some lessons before you go Your time in resort is special, and unfortunately limited, so it’s best to arrive with a few skills in your locker so that you can make the most of the excellent facilities you find there. In the UK, we now have a few dry ski slopes and indoor snow centres so get down to your local one even if its just for a few hours to cover the basics. Warm up before and cool down after skiing As with any physical exercise, it’s important to warm up before and cool down after you’ve skied to make sure that you stay injury free and feeling fresh for the next day. If you have the time, try to incorporate some stretches into your post skiing routine, especially focusing on your legs. Don’t ski alone When you first head out skiing, try to go with a friend - ideally someone with a little experience. This will allow you to ask for tips and will make sure you’ve got someone watching over you to keep you safe. Don’t overdo it on your first time A full day on the slopes is a long time so just remember it’s a marathon not a sprint. Don’t spend hours and hours on the snow on your first day skiing, because you can easily become exhausted and lose motivation, leaving you feeling worn-out come day two. Take things nice and easy and build yourself up. You will fall, so do it properly Falling in skiing is pretty much unavoidable, even for the most seasoned professionals, so you should do it safely to ensure you don’t get hurt. If you feel yourself falling, try to fall backwards to your left or right and don’t put your hands out to break your fall as you may jar your wrist. Don’t get disheartened by the occasional fall; as you get better they will become few and far between. Excitement is everywhere on a ski holiday You don’t just have to ski, as many resorts offer a whole host of other winter attractions and activities. Travel to St Moritz in Switzerland and wander through premium brand stores and boutiques at Via Serlas, Europe’s highest shopping street. Taste delicious treats at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Stowe, Vermont; snowboard in France’s Alpine Chamonix resort or take a dip in the ‘onsen’ hot springs in Niseko – Japan’s number one ski resort. When night falls, there’s always a chance to let your hair down at one of the après parties… and skiers certainly know how to party! To book your first skiing holiday, give me a call today and take advantage of a personal service and exclusive benefits including full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.
15 October 2019
Cruise & Maritime normally operate their cruises as adults only but a few times a year then open them up as “Multi Generation cruises” where all ages are welcome. We cruised the Norwegian Fjords 3 years ago and having fallen in love with the breath-taking scenery and amazing Norwegian people we decided to go back. Sailing from Liverpool was another major draw as it meant we avoided the longer drive to Southampton. Embarkation was quick and easy and within an hour of arriving at the port we were on board. Our bags had already been delivered to our cabin, so it was a quick unpack and we went to explore. Magellan the ship we were on is very different to other cruise ships I have experienced. They are classed as 3* ships and are smaller than a lot other cruise lines but she had everything we needed. As they are traditionally adults only the facilities onboard for children are limited. However, this was a bonus for us as during our last cruise the children just wanted to be in the kids’ club and we never had dinner together on an evening as they wanted to be off with their friends. The focus area for them on this cruise was the table tennis table where they spent many hours playing various games with the other children onboard. The staff did put on a few activities aimed at them such as treasure hunts, the famous “egg drop” competition etc but they were content just “hanging out”. Out first port of call was Dublin, a city I had lived in for 6 months, so it was fantastic to revisit our favourite restaurant and spend some time back in the famous Temple Bar area and enjoyed a Guinness at the Guinness museum. From here we had a day at sea before arriving into Lerwick. Lerwick was as a I expected, a beautiful town that feels relatively untouched but is gaining in popularity due to the Shetlands programme. We didn’t book any tours and simply enjoyed having a wonder round and taking in the stunning coastline. From Lerwick we sailed North and arrived at our first Norwegian port, Bergen. As Magellan is a smaller ship we were docked much closer to the city centre meaning the walk was not as long as we had done on our last visit. Bergen is a city that must be experienced. It has a real mix of old and new and it isn’t hard to understand why is a World Heritage City. The world heritage site consists of the old Hanseatic wharf and buildings that are all built in wood and are fascinating. You can easily spend a good hour here just wondering though the small walk ways and exploring the labyrinth of floors that make up the buildings. The Town Square seems to always have a fish market on (or at least it has been there on both of my visits) where you can buy local delicacies and ogle at the gigantic crabs and colourful seafood on offer. Most stalls also sell street food at relatively cheap prices compared to restaurant dining in Norway. Next, we arrived in Olden, and here we took our only pre-booked excursion of the whole cruise to Briksdal Glacier. We did the same trip 3 years ago and loved it even more the second time around. The walk takes circa one hour to get to the Glacier and the scenery and majestic waterfalls on the walk are simply stunning. My boys loved getting drenched by the spray as the waterfall gushed down the hillside. The colours in the Glacier are hard to describe, the bluest of blue. It is an experience I would recommend to anyone, especially with the depressing fact that the Glacier will not last forever. It has unfortunately already shrunk a lot since our last visit. The next day we arrived in Geiranger which is a small town and offers a variety of trips up into the mountains. We just pottered around and enjoyed the lovely weather back on the ship. Our next stop was the resort of Flam with it’s famous railway. In hindsight we should have pre-booked a trip on the train as it gets very busy and is of course very popular. Instead we decided to take a little local train around the area that took us out into the countryside and enabled us to learn more about how the local people live, especially before the area became a hub for cruise ships. We then cruised the Eidjford, this is another area we hadn’t experienced before and have to say it was an unexpected highlight. The weather was amazing and canoeing or taking a rib on the fjord is a must. It is hard to find words to explain just how beautiful the Fjords are but Eidjford and sailing out of the Fjords that night under a stunning sunset was a perfect way to end our time before we arrived at the more commercialised town of Stavanger. Whilst in Stavanger visit the old town, it is full of quaint independent shops set along beautiful flower and tree lined cobbled streets with many bars and cafes to enjoy. A great way to finish our cruise before our final day at sea. The food on board was excellent, and we dined in one of the two main restaurants most evenings. There is a buffet restaurant you can also opt for if you want something a little less formal. However, whilst we did have two formal evenings on board (a wonderful opportunity for us all to glam up) the dress code is mainly casual which made a nice change to other cruises I have done. The crew were incredibly friendly and adored my boys as they do not often see children with it mainly being an adult only ship. Drinks are very reasonably priced, but my two boys loved working their way through the mocktails list! The drinks package we purchased included bottled water, speciality teas and coffees as well as all the soft and alcoholic selections available. We had a wonderful time exploring the Fjords again and a brilliant time on board Magellan and I will definitely sail with Cruise & Maritime again. They offer amazing value for money and a less formal environment. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like further information on this or any other cruise. It truly is one of the best ways to see the world!
13 September 2019
Travelling whilst pregnant can be a daunting prospect especially for first-time parents but it should not put you off. Below I have listed some of my best places to travel while pregnant; The Costa Del Sol; With 325 days of sunshine a year, 126 sandy beaches (many Blue Flag), a clutch of lively seaside resorts and a vast choice of hotels, including both luxury and all-inclusive options, the Costa del Sol is a justifiably popular year-round destination within just a couple hours’ flight time of the UK. One of Europe’s best-known holiday hotspots, as well as the home to a large expat community, the 160km ‘Coast of the Sun’ – part of the Andalucía region – includes the province of Málaga, the city of Málaga and famous seaside resorts including Benalmádena, Torremolinos and Marbella. The Costa del Sol has eight Michelin-starred restaurants, four of them in Marbella, as well as the foodie pilgrimage site of Benahavís village. If you are feeling active, the beautiful towns of Rhonda and Granada are very easy to get to and car hire is recommended. Malaga, often overlooked as an airport town is stunning and is very popular now as a city break. Boasting a quaint Old Town, lovely long promenade as well as a beach all within easy walking distance it is a great choice for a mini-moon. Ras Al Khaimah; Offering a quieter pace to its neighbour Dubai. Ras Al Khaimah is perfect for those wanting to travel a little further afield, or want guaranteed winter sunshine whilst still enjoying the luxury associated with the UAE. Many hotels here offer excellent All-Inclusive inclusions and most have their own private beach giving you time to relax and kickback. Literally translated as ‘top of the tent’ due to its location at the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Ras Al Khaimah offers something for everyone to enjoy. Home to a unique combination of dreamy beaches, soaring mountains, stunning terracotta deserts, luxurious resorts and lovely year-round sunshine, enchanting Ras Al Khaimah offers the ideal setting for both relaxation and adventure. If your other half is a thrill seeker then this destination is perfect. The majestic mountain range of Jebel Jais offers myriads of adventure activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking. Standing as the UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Jais is also home to the world’s longest zip line – the Jebel Jais Flight, where you will reach speeds of between 120- 150kph over its 2.8-kilometre course. For a quieter pace, the Suwaidi Pearl Farm if well worth a visit. Here you will glimpse into the emirate’s incredible era of pearling. It is the only pearl farm in the region that offers an insight into this unique tradition. Located at the foot of the majestic Al Hajar mountain range in the northern town of Al Rams, your excursion starts as you board a traditional pearling boat to reach the pearl farm itself. The undoubted highlight of your tour though will be the array of immersive activities that are on offer, including an oyster opening experience, a fascinating mangrove tour and a traditional lunch in the village. You can even enjoy an underwater dive to find and keep your very own pearl. Cruising; Taking a cruise is an excellent choice for parents to be. Whether it is a fly-cruise where you sail from an overseas port or take advantage of the many cruises that now depart from the UK, a cruise will give you the option to do as little, or as much as you like. You will get the opportunity to visit destinations that you might not have thought possible whilst pregnant but on your terms. Just because you are on a cruise, it does not mean you have to get off at every port, nor are you obliged to book the cruise ship excursions. Many cruise ports offer easy access to the main city enabling you to decide how active you want to be that day and you can simply go and explore yourself. If you do pre-book a trip, you will be taken from the port to your destination and back again leaving you to simply sit back and relax. Onboard there are many different restaurants for you to enjoy and if the menu is not right for you on that day, the chefs are amazing and will do everything they can to accommodate your wishes. Many cruise lines offer West-End style shows plus comedians, singers, live music bars, a casino, basically if you can think of a way to be entertained, I am sure you will find it onboard. However, there are always quieter areas of the ship where you can relax with a book and watch the ocean go by. It really is one of the most relaxing ways to see the world. Each cruise line also has its own doctor on board who is on hand should anyone need any medical assistance. Gran Canaria; Known as the ‘miniature continent’, where no two landscapes are the same, Gran Canaria is the ideal place for your next luxury getaway. From soothing spas and rolling golf greens to golden sandy beaches and vibrant city streets, this sun-kissed island paradise offers a variety of unique experiences to impress even the most discerning of travellers. Delve into the vibrant outdoor living culture of the colourful capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Home to the wonderful Las Canteras beach and a beautiful historic quarter boasting pretty cobbled streets and a variety of architectural styles from late Gothic to Renaissance, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is not to be missed. Gran Canaria offers sophisticated and delightful gastronomy, with dishes based on traditional recipes and locally-sourced, natural ingredients; all with modern twists to awaken the senses. The tantalising taste adventure that Gran Canaria serves up is embodied by its range of markets, featuring fresh food and restaurants converted from traditional stalls, as well as local delicacies such as honey rum and salted fish Gran Canaria offers a fantastic choice of luxury 5* resort hotels, offering amazing pools, gourmet restaurants and great entertainment. New boutique hotels are popping up all over the island, bringing out cutting-edge design and high-tech features. What’s more, if you are planning a winter getaway, it is ideal for getting some winter sun without having to fly further afield. Get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the above destinations or would like more ideas on other best places to travel while pregnant!”
01 July 2019
I work alongside a team of wedding experts who are based at Travel Counsellors Head Office in Manchester to ensure couples get the very best wedding possible. I can draw upon my previous weddings I have booked and their wealth of knowledge on where to go and why. The most popular destinations listed below for weddings and the reasons why may just give you some ideas for planning your own! • CYPRUS- A variety of hotels and venues on offer to suit all types of budgets. There are a lot of all-inclusive hotels available which are popular for couples and guests alike. Some even let the wedding party use the all-inclusive drinks package for the wedding day! There is accommodation to suit all budgets, ages and tastes so can cater for all guests budgets. Nice and easy legalities here! • PORTUGAL- In Portugal they offer stunning high quality hotels with a high standard of food and great venues on site to choose from, Many with lovely views. Portugal is a great family destination with great beaches. Again Portugal has lots of different accommodation to suit all budgets. Portugal is great for large wedding parties. Low cost flights on offer! • ITALY - Italy has some of the most stunning views to offer whilst our couples say their vows, Italy can offer very unique and wow venues, a lot of the venues are very rustic and beautiful so not much decoration is needed here couples can keep it nice and simple! Italy can offer weekend stays for guests so they don’t have to commit to a week’s holiday. It is a nice short flight over and low cost flights on offer. Italy also offers some great food. • MAURITIUS –Mauritius offers some of the most gorgeous beaches in the Indian Ocean so feet on the sand weddings is a must here! We have some great luxury hotels to offer here with low price wedding packages. Mauritius is ideal for smaller wedding parties or just the couple themselves and perfect for a nice laid back high quality ceremony. Mauritius also offers easy legalities. • MEXICO- Mexico offers great beaches, lots of Luxury hotels to choose from. Our hotels offer low price wedding packages and special offers. Great night life on offer if guests want this from their stay. • ST LUCIA- Great sandy beaches, luxury hotels on offer for weddings , great for feet on the sand weddings. St Lucia offers very easy legalities so if you have a last minute wedding to arrange and you want it abroad St Lucia can cater for this! • SANTORINI – Santorini offers stunning white washed hotels and Venus with breath taking views of the Caldera, Santorini offers stunning sunsets which is a great photograph opportunity! • ZANTE- Zante is great for couples who don’t want to spend a great amount of money on their wedding abroad, it offers some very laid back style venues such as a casual beach ceremony with a BBQ and meze style reception to follow. Zante is great for families and there is a good choice of accommodation to suit all budgets • MALTA- Malta offers some unique and wow factor venues, great value wedding packages to offer here. Malta is great for church weddings. Malta is Ideal for families and great for large wedding parties • BARBADOS- Barbados offers some stunning hotels and beaches, feet on the sand weddings is a must here! There are Luxury family or adult only hotels to choose from. Very easy legalities. The locals are extremely friendly and with Barbados being such a small island you can explore the whole island over a couple of days. Night life available outside the hotels if some of the guests want this from their stay • CROATIA- Croatia offers some stunning hotels/venues with fantastic views, very good alternative to Italy, great for families. • RHODES- Rhodes has a variety of hotels and venues to offer for all budgets. Rhodes can offer All Inclusive hotels and there is accommodation to suit all budgets, ages and tastes. Rhodes can offer weddings for couples on a budget if needed as not too expensive. • ANTIGUA – Antigua offers some of the most gorgeous beaches and luxury hotels. We have low price wedding packages to offer here and Antigua is ideal for smaller wedding parties or just the couple themselves • NEW YORK - A city wedding ideal for smaller wedding parties or just the couple themselves. Couples who go here tend to want a no fuss wedding ceremony and reception set in this famous city. New York offers nice and simple legalities. Great photo opportunities here! • THAILAND- Thailand offers stunning beaches so feet on the sand weddings is most popular here, great food and a great place to exchange your vows. Thailand can offer Western or Thai wedding ceremonies, so the couple can have a traditional Buddhist ceremony if they want something a little different to the western ceremony. If you’re thinking about having your very own destination wedding please feel free to get in touch and I will be more than happy to discuss all the amazing options available for you!
04 June 2019
GoldenEye has a history dating back to 1939 when Ian Fleming was recruited by Her Majesty’s British Naval Intelligence to be a formal commander during the war. This title was the reason he found himself on the island when enemy boats sailed the Caribbean seas. Officially, GoldenEye itself was around in 1942 although not as a hotel, as a navel operation leading to Ian falling in love with Jamaica, and an awe-inspiring future was set to inspire the world. Fast forward eight years, a house was built surrounded by trees on all sides except one, where the sea meets the shore. In more recent years, Chris Blackwell opens the doors of GoldenEye in 2011 to the public as ‘Caribbean’s Number One New Boutique Hotel’. Stay: Comprising of villas, lagoon cottages and the new beach huts, this gorgeous hotel is at one with nature and each room is in a world of its own. Imagine rainfall showers, standalone baths lazing in private outdoor space, swaying hammocks and views of the mountains and lush tropical gardens. For guests choosing the Lagoon Cottages, each have king size beds positioned to face Santa Maria Island and are all located steps away from the Low Cay Beach, not to mention direct access into the lagoon and additional use of kayaks, just for fun. Eat: GoldenEye has six dining options to choose from including in-room and outdoor dining, low key barbeque bars and an international cuisine tree house namely The Gazebo. Jamaican Jerk is served in the Bamboo Bar with sand underfoot and the local fishermen delivering their catch of the day. Breakfast and lunch are served in Bizot Bar, with fresh salads, delicious burgers and pasta dishes and of course, serving Jamaican specialty food overlooking the blue sea and fresh-water swimming pool. Field Spa: A true retreat style resort would be nothing without a natural, calming spa. GoldenEye’s FieldSpa is surrounded by plants, trees and water and of course, is intensely restorative. Guests can succumb to relaxation with a hot stone massage, or release stress energy with deep muscle therapy from intuitive therapist Lyndale. Unusual to some, FeildSpa hosts vibrational sound healing and healing water baths along with more well-known treatments including manicures, facials and body wraps.
23 May 2019
When you think back to your last family holiday, what memories spring to mind? Did you get the time to relax and recharge? Were mealtimes chilled and everyone really enjoyed their food, even the children? Did the children get an opportunity to experience a different culture? Was there a great range of activities on offer both during the day and on an evening that everyone enjoyed? Or was this the reality? The book you took to read still looks brand new as you spent your entire holiday rescuing inflatables. Meals were stressful as you either had the same food every evening from the same buffet and watching your children eat chips for the 7th night running was starting to drive you crazy. Meals were over in 30 minutes….on a good day. You did not leave the hotel/resort as the excursions on offer were not suitable for families? Whilst you enjoyed your glass of wine on an evening, if you heard “that song” again you might lose your mind? The answer….a family cruise! Why? Family cruise ships offer everything you will find in a typical 5* hotel plus so much more, especially when you look at Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class ships. The facilities offered to all are unparalled. There are children’s clubs for all ages from 6 months to 17 years, Adventure On The Ocean that offer an unbelievable range of experiences. These also include educational activities to keep even the most active children entertained and engaged. Parents of children aged 3-5 will be given a pager so you are kept informed on how your child is doing always, giving you the perfect opportunity to read that book! With the H2O Water Zone and Splashaway Bay onboard offering water cannons, tipping buckets as well as the Ultimate Abyss, the world’s tallest slide at sea (you literally plummet 10 stories) water babies as well as thrill seekers are catered for. Where else would you find a Flo Ryder (they promise anyone can do it, even us parents), a Rockwall that spans 30 feet (get to the top and ring the bell!), Zipcord which is a sky diving capsule, Skypad which gives a bungee/trampoline experience and the Oasis Class ships even have Zip Lines. Remember this is only a taste of what is available outside! Inside you will find the Seaplex which is a multi-functional area changing from a full-size basketball court to an ice-skating rink to bumper cars. The flying trapeze is a hit with everyone, they have had 80+ year olds performing amazing acrobatics in the air. Wi-Fi connected games consoles are great for stopping the teens feeling they are cut off from their friends. Meals times are a delight for all and the younger members of your family can go for an early dinner where fresh cooked meals are always served (table or buffet style), drop them off to have a fabulous time at their club and you choose which of the 20+ dining venues you are going to enjoy. There are so many different entertainment venues for you to enjoy the hardest thing will be deciding which one to go to. There is even a Bionic Bar where you are served by Biotic Bar Tenders. With Broadway Shows, Comedians, Movies under the stars, Singers, the casino, you get the idea, there is so much on offer. These ships are not floating hotels, they are floating resorts! If you sail from Southampton, there is the added benefit of no airport ques or luggage allowance. Your children can take as many teddies as they wish, no one needs to be left behind! The thing I absolutely love about cruising with my children is also the sense of adventure. When else will you be able to unpack once, travel through the night and wake up in a different place to explore every morning? You do not have to take pre-planned trips. Many ports enable you to walk straight into a city discover at your own pace. It really is unique! Please feel free to get in touch and let me help you plan your perfect family adventure!
04 May 2019
Visiting destinations that are not easily accessible such as the Antarctic, Artic and the Galapagos islands are rapidly moving up individuals bucket lists and cruising is one of the only ways to truly get into these areas. One of the best things about these cruises is that they are perfectly suited to those that may not have cruised before and Hurtigruten are really leading the way. They are pioneers in sustainability and are the first cruise line to ban single use plastic and their goal is to become the world’s first plastic free shipping company which they are well on their way to becoming. Their new ships will reduce fuel consumption by up to 20% and for the first time, fully electric propulsion on a passenger ship will be possible! They are not like a normal cruise operator in the sense that their focus is on the destination. You will spend your time with like minded adventurers and will not find waterslides or a dress code. What you will find is excellent food, a relaxed atmosphere and everything you need to truly explore and experience your destination. Every cruise has an expert on board. These experts are the key to unlocking these amazing places. They provide expert knowledge on geography, history, wildlife and more. The new expedition ships which are launching over the next two years boast large observation platforms on several decks for guests to get up close to nature and wildlife. Six out of ten cabins will have their own balcony, and two out of every ten will be suites. The vessels will have three restaurants with menus reflecting local flavors and destinations. A special pool deck will include infinity pools, hot tubs, and cocktail bars so you can still enjoy the finer things in life. Not only this, but they will also have the tallest LED screen at sea. However, these will not be showing the latest block buster but beaming back images that the underwater drones are taking, enabling guests to fully immerse themselves in not just the scenery but what is happening underneath them. Cruises are on sale up to 2021 with many already showing limited availability so get in touch and let me guide you through the different options available. 01484 490026 email@example.com
04 April 2019
Are you an active family? Do your children love to try something new? Cruising? Cruise ships are now so popular with families and once you have ventured onboard, it is hard to go back to a land based holiday. Part of this is down to the amazing facilities on board the ships but also the real travel experiences it gives every member of your family, regardless of their age. Cruising also works amazingly well for multi-generational family holidays as everyone can do as little or a much as they like and can easily build their holiday to suit them but with the added benefit of all being able to get together to discuss your days adventures. Taking Norwegian Cruise Lines cruise ship Norwegian Encore as an example. It has children’s clubs with different activities constantly on offer from the Guppies Programme (6 months up to 3 years) right through to the Entourage Club for the teens (up to 17 years) You can also go on the stomach churning plunge slide, zoom around hairpin turns as you race for the checkered flag on the largest race track at sea, enjoy the futuristic laser tag centre which is the largest open air laser tag venue at sea or get lost in a virtual reality maze! Such a varied activity programme is normally only found in larger Caribbean resorts where as you can enjoy all of this without having to get to get on a plane. There are many sailings that now depart from Southampton and what’s more, with these sailings you have no luggage allowance, so your children can take as many teddies as they like! Whilst the kids are off expending their energy you can relax in the spa, take a swim, enjoy a coffee and that book you have been meaning to read for ages or sip on a cocktail as you watch your last port of call slip into the sunset. If you have a larger family, then a cruise can solve all your problems of finding accommodation that accommodates everyone. Many ships now have suites/cabins that sleep more than 4, Norwegian Encore have suites that sleep 8. Taking your family on a cruise holiday is like no other holiday you will have experienced. With a huge range of bars and restaurants to choose from, world class entertainment to fabulous destinations all without having to unpack! Having done our first family cruise 2 years ago, I cannot recommend it enough especially if you like resorts with lots going on. Please get in touch and let me talk to you about the different options available and put together your perfect family holiday experience.
07 March 2019
I was fortunate enough to be on the MSC Bellissima launch this week and she is a ship I will be recommending to many customers! I was so impressed with the range of facilities on offer and her innovation really stood out. Starting with families and those looking for an active break MSC Bellissima has so much to offer. There are spacious pool areas with a choice of multiple outdoor as well as an indoor pool available, the Aquapark with a brilliant selection of full slides, 5 fun children’s clubs covering all ages from babies to teens complete with a sports hall, a great virtual reality interactive area with F1 Simulator (I had a go on this and could not stop spinning, Lewis Hamilton I will never be) the Virtual Reality Maze and brilliant virtual reality Cinema, full size bowling alley and an ice cream parlour! The facilities on onboard MSC Bellissima outshine the vast majority of 5* European hotels. For those adults that like to keep fit whilst away, there is also a huge Technogym as well as a 328-metre Power Walking track. MSC Bellissima has been tagged as one of the most innovative at sea. From the easy to navigate mobile app that lets you check in online and view your ports of call, book excursions, and view activities available prior to embarkation to the innovative Zoe (she is the world’s First Artificial Intelligence cruise assistant) who is there to look after you in your cabin. From advising on the weather, activities on board, specific children’s clubs, to turning on your television, Zoe will personalise the way you get cruise information. I absolutely loved the central Promenade which is lit by a changing LED roof. At a magnificent 96 m this airy central promenade is filled with boutiques, restaurants and tranquil spots for shopping, eating and relaxing. On an evening it is also used as a central area for entertainment. Not to mention the 20 restaurants and 12 bars, you can have a different experience daily! I was particularly impressed with the Yacht Club that will be relevant to those who want to have the choice of using the different restaurants, bars and entertainment facilities but also like luxury and having a dedicated area that offers an opportunity to unwind in a quieter area. The cabins have a more luxurious feel. You have complimentary access to the stunning Aurea Spa, your own private dining room, bar, 24-hour butler service as well as private outdoor deck space and pool only available to those in the Yacht Club category. It really does give you a luxury cruise within a cruise option. It is also great for those wanting to do a multi-generational cruise whereby some members of the party like to have an area to retreat to! Boasting 2 unique Cirque du Soleil shows, a huge casino, theatre lounges, numerous bars including a British Pub and Champagne bar you will never be stuck for something to do of an evening. I was able to sample various food in the speciality restaurants and the quality was excellent. Favourites for me were Kaito Teppanyaki (complete with show cooking from the chef) and Kaito Sushi. However, dinner in the main restaurant was excellent. I nipped into the buffet restaurant at breakfast and it had everything you could wish for. MSC Bellissima surpassed my expectations and I am truly impressed with all she has to offer. Please feel free to get in touch with me and let me tell you more! She is sailing around the Med this summer before moving to Arabia for the winter and there are some amazing deals available. These are a few to give you an idea; sailing on the 07th December from Dubai around the Emirates from £1149 per person including the Premium Drinks package (and flights from Manchester) Or, enjoy Christmas in the Sun from £1699 including the Premium Drinks Package sailing on the 21st December!
31 December 2018
What a week in Lapland! Having booked numerous families to Lapland I decided this year is the year the Favagers will also experience it for ourselves. My husband and I have both skied twice before and given the fact that our boys are now 8 and 5 we felt it would be a great time to introduce them to something we both love so much. Due to this, we came to Lapland for a week to combine the hunt for the big man himself with some skiing. What an amazing week we have had! I often get asked whether Lapland is worth the expense as let’s be honest, it is never going to be a cheap holiday. The answer is categorically yes! From the minute you tell them they are going, you are in a magical bubble. Even checking in at the airport is an experience as everyone is full of festive cheer and seeing the boys faces as they stepped off the plane to snow was wonderful. The boys have never skied before so we booked them private lessons to make the most of our time here, but the ski school is excellent and I did not spot any child who wasn’t at least on the long button lift runs by the end of the week. Mine totally loved it and are now competent skiers who not only went down several blue runs but were also equally happy on the red. They have already left me behind! Ruka the resort we stayed in must be one of the best for beginner skiers in Finland as there are so many different runs for them to do and experience 5 different types of ski lifts! The slopes are incredibly well maintained, and all the instructors are very friendly. The most we had to wait for a lift was the gondola and that was 5 minutes maximum. Many none skiers use this as a way of seeing both sides of the valley and a new one is currently being built to further improve the experience. Our apartments were 400m walk from the main village with beautiful views. The village has everything you need from a variety of eating establishments and bars as well as a super market. If you are looking for lively nightlife it would probably be a little too quiet but for us it was perfect, and families are very welcome everywhere. Even though we came for the week we still experienced the activities you associate with a trip to Lapland. Visiting Santa Claus in his Secret Cottage did not disappoint. He was fabulous and took the time to explain to the children with the help of his map where his post office is (Rovaniemi), the work shop (hidden away in a remote part of Lapland, where not even the local children can get to as it is so remote and located in a cave) and the reason he and Mrs Claus made the decision to move from the North Pole. Watching the dawning realisation that the letters Mr and Mrs Claus were holding were my boys own handwritten letters is something I will never forget. It was a relaxed experience and it was lovely to watch the children go off and look around, then come back and ask Santa Claus questions repeatedly meant they got more time with him than they would in a more traditional meeting. Visiting the Reindeer farm was lovely, and we had the opportunity to go on a sleigh ride as well as feed them. I wanted to take a reindeer home myself but had to settle for buying my youngest a fluffy reindeer teddy. The final activity we had was the huskies! I have been on a husky ride previously and really enjoyed meeting the dogs and being pulled along. This time was even better! My husband and I both got to drive our own pack of 5 dogs, each with a child in the sleigh. Every one of us stated that this was the best experience of the whole holiday! The sheer power from the 5 dogs was something I will never forget, even when I had both feet on the breaks, they were still pulling my son and I along the snow. We did a 25km safari with them and the huskies were in their element. We all want to do this again. The laughter we shared on this holiday was immense. We all belly laughed repeatedly! I honestly cannot recommend a Lapland trip enough. I have had the pleasure of booking several families on different experiences throughout the end of November and December (these include 2- and 3-night trips) and everyone has said the same, it was the trip of a lifetime and they wished they’d had more time there. We had a week, and I would have happily stayed for longer.
22 November 2018
Brazil is a country that offers so many different experiences and I was fortunate to visit three different regions during my work “fam trip” this October. After a brief layover in Lisbon, we were on our way to Rio De Janeiro! Rio airport is huge (so much so that the cleaning staff wear roller blades) but incredibly efficient. We were out of the terminal and on our way within 30 minutes of leaving the plane. It is the first time I have ever got off an international flight to find our bags already on the carousel. Our first hotel was right on Copacabana Beach (yes, I was singing the song constantly!) There are an abundance of bars and restaurants on the seafront and it is very clean. There are also incredible sand sculptures to enjoy. One thing that struck me is how much sport is played on the beach. Due to jetlag, I was up at 5am and there were already teams of people playing various sports and running. Our hotel, the Rio Pestana Atlantica was in a prime location and incredibly comfortable. The beds were huge, something I know now is very common with this hotel chain and it offers a beautiful panoramic view of the beach and Sugar Loaf Mountain from its rooftop terrace and pool. On day two we headed straight to Sugar Loaf Mountain. Do not be put off visiting this amazing landmark if you do not like heights. Whilst it is very high, the cable cars are huge and even in wind, hardly move at all. The views are breath-taking. Advance timed tickets are not available, so a top tip would always be to get there as early as you can. In the peak season, the queues can be very long. After a wonderful meal in a Churrascaria (I have never seen an accompanying buffet like it) we headed to The Carnival Factory. I knew Rio Carnival was huge, but I didn’t understand the competitiveness that exists between the Samba schools or the origins of the different slave cultures that brought Samba to life. We were very fortunate to go inside a Samba school and see how this year’s floats are developing. The final floats are not revealed until Carnival day, so no pictures were allowed. The Carnival judges will then decide who will be the winning Samba school, a huge accolade. If you want to be in Rio during Carnival, always book well in advance. Most hotels have a minimum of a four-night stay. We can even arrange for you to take part in the actual Carnival! The last stop of the day was Christ The Redeemer. This iconic monument has been on my bucket list for years and I still pinch myself that I stood right in front of it. When we arrived, I was in a bit of a panic as the clouds had really closed in and nothing was visible. Then they parted, and he was revealed in spectacular glory. The fact that the monument kept clearing and then disappearing further added to the majesty and experience. You can pre-book an allocated time to visit Christ The Redeemer and I recommend you do this. Also, take the funicular up rather than the coach, the views of Rio below and the favelas (which are completely fascinating) are once again fabulous. Day three we spent time exploring more of Rio and it really is a city that can offer so many different experiences. Highlights include Escadaria Selarón Mosaic Steps (Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams filmed the video for "Beautiful" here). The intricate artwork on the steps covers every area of the world and is magnificent. The street art in general around Rio is stunning, I constantly took pictures, they are that good. We also enjoyed a stop off at Rio Cathedral and shopping in downtown Rio. It is much cheaper than Copacabana Beach and if you love flipflops, you can buy genuine Havaianas for around £5-9 per pair! An enjoyable last evening in Rio was spent at a Samba club where a few caipirinhas were enjoyed! Salvador A quick and efficient two-hour flight to Salvador with Avienca and we arrived at the Pestana Convento de Carmo in Salvador. This hotel is a converted convent and is full of so much character. Salvador is the former capital of Brazil and I do not think I have been anywhere that has so much passion for its cultural heritage and history. It is alive with music, from the different street bars to the Olodum that practice in the streets. Michael Jackson was so taken with the beat these drums make that he filmed “They don’t care about us” in the historic district. Over the next two days we explored so much, from the church that took over 300 years to build by the slaves to the beautiful beaches and hotels on the seafront to zip lining. We enjoyed an amazing show that showcased the different gods the various slave nationalities believe in and the intense Capoeira. How the men that do this breath-taking martial arts/dance do not kill each other is beyond me. I can totally understand why it baffled the guards that kept them captive. The Sand Dune Reserve offered a totally different experience and was so tranquil, the conversation work they are doing here is vital to conserve this natural area. I loved Rio, but Salvador gave me a totally different perspective of Brazil and all that has made it the country it is today. Also, the carnival here is just as big as Rio but more accessible as it is not as commercialised. Our final stop was Praia Do Forte which is a beautiful seaside resort. It offers the perfect place to kick back and relax after exploring two amazing cities. Imbassi has a great collection of beachside restaurants and bars and you can take a wonderful boat ride down the estuary to the sea. Praia Do Forte again has a variety of wonderful eateries and wonderful quirky Pousadas. The turtle conversation project is worth a visit as well! I left Brazil feeling as though I had opened the curtains a little and peeked in. It is so diverse and has so much to offer every traveller. I will return and cannot wait to see even more of this fabulous country. Please get in touch if you want any further information on this magnificent country. I dined in some fabulous restaurants, boutique luxurious hotels (that had the feel of a private villa), contemporary and quirky hotels to more mainstream establishments and have so many recommendations to suit every style of holiday as well as being able to totally tailor the holiday to you!
21 September 2018
My eldest has been nagging us for some time that he was desperate to go to Loch Ness as it was the first holiday he went on at six weeks old and really wanted to see whether he could be the one to find the elusive Nessie! The decision was made after we spent a wonderful Spring Bank Holiday in Loch Lomond that this year we would have a “staycation”. Given the fact that Loch Ness is a good 7 hours+ drive from us we decided to combine a week in Loch Ness with experiencing other areas of the Highlands that we have never discovered before. We arrived at our fabulous cottage on the outskirts of Oban which shared a courtyard and garden space with six other cottages. The facilities for children were excellent with table tennis, badminton, swing ball and lots of space for running around and playing hide and seek. The sun was also shining! If you ever visit Oban and like seafood you must eat at the seafood hut which is next door to the ferry terminal. It literally is a hut at the side of the harbour with long wooden tables and chairs for you to sit and enjoy your delights alongside other diners. Our first experience was at 10.30am when we were going to pick up or ferry tickets to get across to Staffa. My 4-year-old is a huge fan of mussels and seeing them ready cook decided it was the perfect time of the day to sample them. How can you say no to a request for mussels? Marshal my 7-year-old plumped for the smoked salmon. Both were delicious and literally seemed to melt in your mouth! We went again the second day where more mussels and a seafood platter were devoured. The whole meal cost under £20 and given the fact that our seafood platter included huge Langoustines, crab legs, king prawns, mussels, squid and salmon really was excellent value for money! Fingal’s Cave on Staffa was fascinating, and I found it hard to believe that the perfectly formed Hexagons were not man made. It was a sight I will never forget, and I am so pleased we went to see it and enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of Staffa and the Isle of Mull. We also saw many seals with their pups and the majestic Sea Eagles. The Isle of Skye was next, and we stayed on the stunning Isle of Rassay (google it, we were literally on a dot in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean). As we had no plans to do anything on Rassay but enjoy the island we decided to leave the car on the Isle of Skye. The boys loved taking their own back packs and the feeling that we were on a real adventure. Rassay did not disappoint and the scenery was once again stunning. It is teaming with wildlife and we were so fortunate to see red deer running across the fields, seal eagles, and Oyster Catchers shouting at twilight. Before making our way back to mainland Scotland we made a quick detour to see the Fairy Pools. It was the only day we had real rain (yes, I am taking about Scotland in August, the weather has been amazing) and the heavens opened just as were enjoying the falls. The drenching was worth it though and if we had had more time it would have been brilliant to walk to the next falls and really get into the mountains. We arrived at Loch Ness, nine nights into our Scotland adventure very happy and relaxed, ready to see what the next seven nights had to offer. As we were staying at Loch Ness for seven nights we made sure our cabin had a private hot tub and what a view we had from it! We spent many hours looking for Nessie and drinking in the scenery. We had the most amazing week at Loch Ness and the weather was so kind to us. My recommendations include; Taking a RIB (ridged inflatable boat) on Loch Ness. Zipping along was a fabulous way to explore the Loch from the actual water and a real highlight for my boys. If you decide to go to Dores, taking the route on the opposite side of Loch Ness (the B862) is a must do. The scenery is unbelievable and whilst I am not a big bird fan, even I was impressed when we spotted an elusive Osprey just chilling out in one of the trees. Dores is only a small village but the Dores Inn is very welcoming (the food that was being served looked good and was the typical Scottish style portions i.e. large). The beach had a spectacular view of the Loch and we also got to meet the longest serving Nessie hunter! Steve Feltham has been searching for Nessie since 1991 and has set up home in a convertible mobile library on the shores. I really enjoyed reading about how he has adapted his life to cope with life on the banks of Loch Ness and the adventures he has had along the way whilst searching for Nessie. If you are a Harry Potter fan you will be familiar with the famous viaduct that is always shown when Harry and co are on their way to Hogwarts. The return Jacobite train from Fort William to Mallig follows this route. We booked the first class “Harry Potter experience” which means you have your own private compartment. We spent a good hour playing the “Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean Challenge” which we have played before and I yet again ended up with the disgusting “Vomit” flavour sweet. We ended our holiday with two nights in Sterling and spent a day at the amazing Edinburgh Zoo that is only 50 minutes’ drive away. A real highlight was seeing a Giant Panda (I explained how unlikely this was to the boys and referenced the old KitKat advert), it really was amazing! On the way home we made a quick stop to see the Falkirk Wheel. I am clearly not an engineer, but it really is something to see. We really were so blessed on this holiday as there were two boats ready to be transported so we got to see the wheel in operation. It would have been nice to have had more time at the park as there is an excellent playground, lovely walks and boats to hire (not to take on the Wheel though!) We then finished the holiday by having a coffee and ice cream at the Kelpies. Truly majestic and next time I want to go on an evening and see them lit up! I must be honest and say that this holiday is something my husband has wanted to do for years and I have always pushed it back. Having done it, I am now wondering what we can do next year! We have all had such a memorable time, fabulous food, breath taking scenery and memories to last a life time! I could write so much more so please get in touch if you would like any more information.
09 August 2018
Guadeloupe, where most of the Death in Paradise series is filmed, is an amazing Caribbean Island. I have recently worked on an enquiry for a big fan of the programme, but Guadeloupe has something for everyone, whether you love the show or not. It truly offers a fabulous holiday experience. From snorkelling and diving in the breath-taking Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve, to rum tasting, exploring Banana Plantations, hiking and trekking by the majestic La Soufrière volcano, visiting the Carbet Falls (Les Chutes du Carbet), and island hopping. These are just a few of the array of activities on offer. Not to mention the beautiful beaches! Spending a few hours wondering around the food market in Basse-Terre is well recommended, you might even be taught how the make their famous recipe of Chicken Columbo! Bars and restaurants are plentiful, and the island is very easy to drive around so car hire is recommended. It is French owned and is part of the EU so if you want to stay connected you can still use your normal mobile without incurring extra charges!
St Helens 23/03/2022
East Morton 27/09/2019