Based in Wivenhoe

Ginny Scott

It's Nice To Meet You

My name is Ginny Scott, and I have worked in the travel industry since 1984.

I hold an HND qualification in Business Studies and Travel & Tourism from Durham college, along with BA fares and ticketing levels 1 and 2, and numerous other travel related accreditations.

I managed a really busy leisure travel shop for a Business Travel Agency in the City of London for 13 years where I had a small team of five looking after the holidays needs of our demanding corporate clients. It was a very happy and very successful part of the business.

After taking redundancy due to relocation, I joined Travel Counsellors in October 2000 and I won the 'Best Newcomer' award the following year having built up a business pretty much from scratch.

In December 2002, I had a much longed for daughter and became very adept at arranging family holidays with a small baby in tow!

In 2003, Travel Counsellors introduced the GOLD status and I have been a Gold Travel Counsellor ever since flying off for celebration weekends annually to places like Cape Town, Barbados, Las Vegas and Dubai.

I have travelled extensively, both on holiday and professionally. Some favourite destinations include Italy, Greece, Egypt, Brazil and Australia as well as much of the Indian Ocean including the Seychelles and Maldives. I had an amazing trip to Fiji - and have also visited much of the Middle East.

Travel Counsellors has enabled me over the years to deliver a superior service to my clients using state of the art technology and an unrivalled range of product. I am adept at putting together tailor-made itineraries and love unusual requests.

I am also Focalpoint trained which means I can book all flights worldwide at the touch of a button, and this is extremely useful when constructing complicated multi centre itineraries.

I love a challenging request, and I look forward to hearing from you!


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

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My Blog

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

A perfect holiday!

20 September 2018

For our summer holiday this year, Lily and I decided we wanted a holiday which offered complete and utter rest and relaxation. We settled on Corsica. I had been to the French island before, but had only flown in to the North, spent a few nights in St Florent, drove down the east coast which is fairly flat and uninteresting, spent a few nights in Porto Vecchio which is stunning, and then driven round the tip and in to the south west for a few nights in lovely Propriano before flying home from Figari. I had always wanted to see the capital of Calvi – a big citadel overlooking the harbour and marina, and 7kms of silver sand beach, backed by mountains high enough to offer winter skiing. We were able to fly from our local airport Stansted with Titan Airways – what a fabulous airline! We had chosen simple French self-catering apartments and after a 20 minutes’ transfer, we had arrived. There were some 60 apartments on site – split between two complexes and in two storey blocks set in lovely gardens. Each complex had a pool – and ours was primarily an adult only section with the number of children very restricted by the owners. The week we were there, there were just four older children of which Lily was one. We were on the second floor – in a studio apartment and we had two balconies on different aspects, both with lovely views of the gardens and pool area. An 8-minute walk took you into the small resort area where there was a fabulous delicatessen and then slightly further on in a back street, a very large supermarket. Across the main road was a small train station and then the beach. A further 8-minute walk along the promenade took you into the old town of Calvi – the harbour and marina – which was backed by beautifully preserved old buildings – most three or four storeys high – and then high on the hill at the end of the bay sits the old medieval citadel. All the ground floor premises of these old buildings had been converted to restaurants and bars – with tables and chairs spilling out on to the pavements of the Quai Landry. After dinner, we would wander into the back streets and enjoy the buzz of the small boutiques and shops, ice cream parlours and yet more restaurants – as people enjoyed their evenings in this stunning little town. There are trips to be done here – there is a huge variety of boat trips for fishing and water sports, plus the narrow gauge Trinicellu railway takes you along the coast where you can stop off at one of several small villages, each with beautiful beaches or continue and have a day out in the mountains for some walking perhaps. We returned very rested – it was so lovely to have a week in such beautiful serene surroundings. AND not to have to fight for a sunbed! There were perhaps 20 sunbeds round out pool and at least half were unused during the day. In fact, Lily and I had the pool to ourselves for two mornings in the week. I could easily have stayed there another week! If this sounds like your sort of holiday, give me a call. It would suit anyone who loves off the beaten track simple Greek style self-catering holidays – but wants to try something different where there aren’t too many Brits, where the scenery is fabulous, and the food and wine is amazing.

GOLD Weekend in Ras!

06 June 2018

Having qualified as a Gold Travel Counsellor again, I was lucky enough to travel out to the UAE for a weekend of luxury at the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah in May this year. It was the first time I had travelled on the A380 and I was hugely impressed. It has to be one of the most comfortable economy flights I have ever been on. Ras al Khaimah is served by Dubai airport, and it is only about an hour’s drive along good empty roads. We arrived during a sand storm, so it took us a little longer! What is noticeable about the area is the complete lack of buildings – there are a few hotels scattered around but not the huge skyscrapers that Dubai is famous for. The Waldorf is a beautiful elegant 5* deluxe hotel and the service we received here was impeccable. It is beachfront – the beach is white crushed shells, so you do need flip flops to get down to the water’s edge, and the sea is like a warm bath! We had a fairly busy schedule for the weekend including a trip out to a Bedouin camp in the desert for dune bashing and a BBQ with entertainment which was good fun. Some people opted to do the zip lining which I have to say was really scary – a staggering 2.83km long which makes it the longest in the world – the first part of which is done head first to a suspended platform! We enjoyed a hosted dinner at the Rixos Bab al Bahr on Marjan Island which was fantastic – what a lovely hotel. Not quite as luxurious as the Waldorf Astoria, but brilliant for families and it offers an all-inclusive plan as well making it great value for that area. We always have a gala dinner on these weekends, and this year it was hosted by the Ritz Carlton. We were taken from the Waldorf down to a small jetty, and then collected by the Ritz Carlton’s small launches. On arrival, there was a sax player on the jetty and beautiful candles all the way up to the bar and pool area where we enjoyed cocktails. The gala dinner was all set out on the beach and it was spectacular. The food and entertainment were awesome too – what a fantastic evening! I have been to the Middle East many times, but this was a special trip really – it was unexpectedly lovely and not very developed which is more my thing. It was also a good 7 or 8 degrees cooler than Dubai which makes summer holidays there much more pleasant. I will be back!

Captivating Italy!

06 November 2017

For this year’s summer holiday, I was going to take my daughter to Canada as it is somewhere we both desperately wanted to go to. However, an almost perfect house popped up on the market and we fell in love with it. So, our holiday budget was somewhat downscaled a bit and we headed off to Sorrento instead! We chose the Grand Hotel Riviera for its proximity to the town – 10 minute stroll – and the fact that it was on the cliff side of the busy coastal road, but in a small side street. At the time of booking, we had the choice to pay an extra £800 or so for a side sea view room, but we decided not to. Flights with Easyjet from Stansted, return private car transfers and an 8 night stay in the hotel on half board – we were ready to go! The Italians have made some vast improvements on the journey from Naples to Sorrento with two tunnels – one of which is very long and very recent so the journey time was about an hour. The Grand Hotel Riviera is in a lovely position right bang next to the luxury hotel Ambasciatori. It is beautiful inside in predominantly white with small accents of colours, and with a traditional twist in the old-fashioned staircases and lifts. We were shown to our room on the 1st floor and were delighted to see that our aspect was over the lovely olive groves to the side of the hotel and a distant view of Vesuvius! Everything was beautifully appointed and spotless. I had pre-booked two trips during our week. The first one to celebrate my birthday was a boat trip over to Capri – a place I had longed to go and see for a long time! We were collected from our hotel and taken down to the harbour where we boarded the catamaran for the 20 minute journey across. Our guide Ugo (everywhere I go, you go) was brilliant and fast tracked us on to various transports to see the sights. Our first port of call was a journey up the hill to Anacapri which is just so picturesque. We had a few hours there so we had a quick lunch, and then Lily and I headed off for the 12 minute chair lift ride up to Monte Solaro. We wandered around enjoying the fantastic views over the small island. Back down in Anacapri, we wandered around the pretty shops, had an ice cream and then we wandered along to the Villa San Michele, home of the Swedish physician Axel Munthe who was famous for his love of animals and birds. Interesting artefacts, beautiful gardens and stunning views make this a place to visit. Ugo then organised us transport back down to Capri Town which is less impressive – the rest of the group stayed here and wandered about, but Lily and I took the funicular down to the harbour and wandered along to the town beach for a lovely swim before re-joining the group for the ferry back to Sorrento. A great day out! Our second day out was a small group tour to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Again a pick up from the hotel by minibus with a great guide and a good walk around Pompeii. The Italians have made massive improvements on the site since I was last there in the 1980’s. After lunch in a nearby restaurant, we headed off to Herculaneum. It is a much smaller site than Pompeii and cannot be excavated further due to its location bang in the town. We were about 20 minutes into our visit there, when my daughter collapsed! Around the corner pops Ugo and he summons help – interestingly they have no first aid centre there and the only help that arrived was a security guard who stood and watched. Fortunately, an amazing stranger (Paul from Halifax) stepped in and helped me half lift / half haul Lily who was drifting in and out of consciousness the mile back to the visitor’s centre where an ambulance was waiting. A quick check of her blood pressure showed 17 over something – not good – and her sugar levels were low – so various drips with various drip stuff – and 45 minutes later we were good to go in the minibus back to the hotel! Teenagers!! The rest of the time we spent in and around the hotel – we wandered into town several times – Lily found an amazing make up shop – we looked at all the little touristy shops down the little lanes off the main square – but to be honest, it was really crowded in August. The hotel has a lovely freshwater pool right on the cliff top – and also has a lift down to the bottom of the cliff where they have a bathing platform in the sea which creates a lovely sea water lagoon to swim in. Both pool areas had plenty of sun beds and a hut for towels and ice creams. The food in the hotel was waiter service and really good – and all the staff we encountered were excellent. I can thoroughly recommend this property. We had a lovely holiday in Italy – we loved the scenery, the trips we did, the food and the people. We will be back!

My Arctic experience!

13 January 2017

I decided just before Christmas to treat myself to a trip over the New Year to see the Northern Lights – something which had been on my wish list for some time! So, on the 29th of December, I set off with Norwegian Airlines to Tromso with a small group of like-minded people to have a bit of an Arctic adventure. After a long day, we arrived at the 3* Scandic Grand hotel for our 4-night stay - tired and excited about the busy days ahead. The hotel was very comfortable and I was allocated a really nice double room. Breakfast was a good buffet, but importantly the hotel was situated right in the centre of town, which made getting out and about really convenient. Our first day was spent sightseeing and we visited the Polar Museum, the beautiful cathedral with its amazing stained glass window, amongst other sights. On our second day, which happened to be New Year’s Eve, we took a long boat trip out to search for humpback whales and we were lucky enough to see quite a few. We were out for about 7 hours in the freezing cold so it was important to have the right clothes. Our guide had also chosen a reputable company to do the excursion with and our boat had an inside lounge with free hot drinks. We actually saw two lots of humpback whales – a really stunning sight – but I wasn’t quite quick enough with the camera and the battery eventually froze! That evening, we headed up the mountain on the cable car for a lovely dinner overlooking Tromso city. It was quite special as we saw the Northern Lights for a short period of time, as well as experiencing blizzard conditions later the same evening – so whilst we were told they were setting off the fireworks to celebrate New Year, we didn’t actually see them!! On New Year’s Day, we set off for our husky adventure, which was brilliant fun. It was snowing again and the temperature started to dip so it was essential to wear the thermal suits and boots we were given. The huskies make such a racket as they get so excited about going out for a run! We enjoyed an amazing ride through the wilderness before returning to camp for a hot soup lunch. What a fabulous way to see in 2017! And that night, we had a spectacular Northern Lights experience again! On our last day – 2nd January – we had free time to explore what we hadn’t seen in Tromso, catch up on a bit of last-minute shopping – before heading back to Tromso airport for the direct flight back to Gatwick. I met some truly lovely people, enjoyed the remarkable hospitality of the Norwegians we met, and did some things I had never done before. Yes, it was an expensive weekend – but worth every penny!

Budapest to Vienna cruise!

31 October 2016

This year’s Gold Conference was on board the luxury Scenic Jewel for a three night cruise between Budapest and Vienna. Having not been to either city before, I decided to have three nights in Budapest at the beginning, and add two nights in Vienna at the end so that I could explore the cities in a bit more depth. Budapest is split into two parts by the Danube, and I had booked a small eclectic 4* boutique hotel called the Milford Suites in the Buda part of the city, just a few streets down from the historic castle district which sits on the top of the hill. A funicular runs up Castle Hill to the Old Town, where the Budapest History Museum traces city life from Roman times onward. Trinity Square is home to 13th-century Matthias Church and the turrets of the Fishermen’s Bastion, which offer sweeping views. I had booked a private walking tour of St Matthias’ church which proved to be excellent, and there was also an organ recital for about 15 minutes when we were there which was very good. The highlight though was an impromptu choral recital in the church entrance by a small boys’ choir – they were obviously on a day out somewhere – and that was quite special. Our second day was spent exploring the flatter Pest area of the city. We walked across the famous Chain Bridge – a suspension bridge built in the 1840’s – and along the embankment to the famous ‘Shoes on the Bridge’ monument. It is comprised of sixty pairs of iron shoes of all sizes, including children’s shoes – in memory of the 3500 people who were shot and thrown into the Danube during World War 2. Walking further along, we came to the famous and quite breathtaking Parliament building where again I had booked a walking tour. Our final morning, and we used the remains of our hop on hop off bus tickets to do a river cruise around Margaret Island which proved to be a relaxing hour, and then we headed off to soak in hot water at the famous Gellert Baths before boarding the river cruiser. We were very lucky as Scenic had one of their 4* Emerald ships docked alongside so we managed a quick inspection of that impressive ship, before locating our own cabins and settling in for three nights. The Scenic Jewel is a very elegant ship and the small cabins are beautifully appointed. Apart from the small number on the lower deck, they all have folding patio doors which open on to a small balcony. The balcony is fully glazed, but at the touch of a button, the top half of the window drops down to waist height - very clever indeed. We enjoyed the food and wine which were of an exceptionally high standard. The staff were brilliant and it created a really nice ambience. We set sail and arrived in Vienna for the second part of the trip. Whilst on board, we enjoyed two excursions: a private evening recital at the Palais Liechtenstein which was a bit special, and also a trip out to the Schonbrunn Palace which was also lovely. On arrival in Vienna, we checked into the Marriott for a two night stay. This hotel was particularly well situated on the ring road which encircles district one and makes all the main parts of the city centre walkable. We walked all day for two days (thank goodness for Per Una Footglove and the Marriott Spa) - we went to the Belvedere Museum to see the Gustav Klimt exhibition which for me was a highlight, to the Leopold museum, the Spanish Riding school, the two Jewish museums and also we enjoyed a walk around St Stephens’ Cathedral right in the centre. Finally our trip was over and we headed home. I enjoyed both cities very much – Budapest was in my opinion probably scenically the prettier of the two as the views from the citadel on the hill were fantastic, but Vienna city centre has so many impressive old buildings, especially in the Jewish quarter and the Klimt art was stunning. I would happily go back to either city very soon!

Santorini sunsets

06 September 2016

Santorini was my daughter Lily’s choice of holiday destination for our summer trip. She wanted to go to the part of Greece, famous for its white buildings with blue domed roofs. The first inhabitants on Santorini were there in around 3000 BC, and recent excavations in Akrotiri in the south have revealed two and three storey buildings under a thick layer of ash. Santorini was originally round, but in 1450 BC, there was a terrible volcanic eruption which blew out the centre of the island leaving it in a crescent shape with smaller islands in the bay. The force was so massive, it produced a 100m tidal wave which swept away the palace of Knossos on Crete and wiped out the Minoan civilisation. Fira is on the west coast overlooking the caldera (large volcanic crater) which means you get spectacular sunset views. We opted to stay in a 4* boutique hotel on BB called the El Greco, which is a 10 minute walk from the resort centre. Although it has about 250 rooms, the property is only two storey, and separated into smaller areas each with its own pool, so it does retain that intimate feel. The rooms are lovely and ours had a sunny patio which lead out on to the pool terrace – it was just perfect. The trend is to stay in all-inclusive hotels, but there are so many lovely local restaurants and tavernas in Greece where you can sample the local food. We ate in the hotel the first night as we were tired, but we ate out every other night and the costs were relatively inexpensive with most main courses being between E12-E18 per person. Oia is the super trendy resort about 11kms further along from Fira, and our hotel ran a daily minibus service up there which gave you about 3 hours to enjoy the sunset, a meal and a wander round the narrow streets with the myriad of shops and boutiques. We did this one evening, and it was just lovely. We also decided we wanted to go and see the excavations at Akrotiri, so we hired a car for the day and set off. We probably spent about two hours at Akrotiri – it was truly impressive – followed by a cold drink at a beach side taverna just a few minutes stroll away. We then headed off to Perissa which is one of the beach resorts where we had a swim and lunch. Lily decided she wanted to go to the Tomato Industrial Museum on the way back. Very reluctantly, I agreed and off we set. We paid a few Euros for our tickets, and joined a small group tour of the site. I have to say, the guide was brilliant and within 5 minutes we were riveted. After the hour long tour, there was an hour long video which the museum had put together with as many of the oldest employees and islands’ inhabitants they could find. The film told all their stories and memories of life growing up on the island, and how their lives revolved around their family’s tomato crop. It was an amazing documentary and worth every bit of that afternoon. So, Santorini was a definite hit and we enjoyed the week immensely. The hotel was spot on, we had amazing scenery and a few adventures – we would definitely go back!

The Gambia - coast of smiles!

14 April 2016

On Friday 1st April, Lily (13yrs) and I flew from Gatwick to Banjul (The Gambia) for a twin centre holiday. The flights were with Titan Airways which I have to say must be the best charter flights I have ever flown in my 30 years in travel, and they are considerably better than many scheduled airlines in economy. Outbound we flew Star Class which on the A320 with its configuration of 3-3, has the middle seat in each 3 set up as a fixed table. The legroom must be almost as good as premium economy / world traveller plus. Even on our return flight in standard class, the seat pitch was about 34” which is exceptionally good. Leather seats throughout and really good food make this a fantastic product. They don’t offer seat back TV’s but you can download a free app before you travel which then gives you access to the on board entertainment on your own i-pad or similar. Our first three nights were spent at 9 room boutique hotel Mandina Lodge in the Makasutu Forest. We had booked a jungle lodge which has a main bedroom, separate WC, outside shower and a spiral staircase up to a roof terrace. The meal plan here is half board and the food is very good. The chef comes to see you every day and you choose your evening meal depending on what he was able to buy in the market that day. Winding pathways work their way through the property to each lodge – and they are extremely private. Some are on the river front, some are floating and some like ours are in the jungle. The communal area has an open air lounge, bar area, and restaurant as well as plenty of sunbathing terrace and a free form pool – all in a river front forest setting. You can do excursions here in to the forest – we did a canoe river trip taking in some bird watching, a cultural centre and local craft market and some time on the high viewing tower to take in the scenery. We also did a short walk of about 20m into the forest behind our lodge when it became over run with about 200 baboons – that was good fun as they were literally all around and above us feeding from a fruit tree. We have some amazing video of this. Our time came to leave, and we headed off for a 4 night stay at the 3* Kombo Beach hotel. I chose this because it is on the most spectacular beach, instead of perhaps the better 4* Senegambia or 5* Karaiba hotel which are both beach front, but suffering from beach erosion. The Kombo Beach is an okay hotel – the bathrooms are new, the bedroom was very simple but very clean. The gardens are reasonably well maintained and the pool area is also clean and functional. However, like with Mandina, the staff were fantastic – cheerful and smiling at all times. I think the only downside here was the limited menu in all the restaurants, but we had to remind ourselves several times, that this is West Africa, and what we did eat was well prepared and tasty. All the hotels in this area have resident bird experts and we booked a 2 hour walking tour around the wetlands behind the hotel with Yaya Barry. There are some 650 different species to see. He is an avid birder and he showed us some amazing and colourful birds including Lily’s favourite: the blue bellied roller. We clambered across rough ground, through swampy areas and even across the golf course – seeing many different birds at every turn. Just before we got back, I saw some rustling in a bush just 5ft from where we were standing, and lo and behold there appeared two velvet green monkeys – observing us as they ate from the bush. Wow!! During this 4 night beach stay, I also did a few site inspections with the help of the local Gambian Experience office – and I have visited the Senegambia, Kairaba and Ngala hotels – all of which I have booked clients into before, so that has also been very useful too on this trip. So what are our thoughts? Lily’s comment was: “I can see why this is the smiling coast” as everyone smiles all of the time. She is right! We had an amazing time – we saw some amazing sights – and we met some amazing people. With a flight time of less than 6 hours each way, and stunning weather, we will be back!!

Hebridean Princess: "Spirit of Scotland"

23 March 2016

I was extremely privileged to have been invited by the All Leisure Group to be part of their first ever travel agents trip on board the beautiful ship: Hebridean Princess. So on Friday 18th March, I set off on the long journey from N E Essex up to Campbeltown (Argyll and Bute) to board the ship on day 4 of an 8 day ‘Spirit of Scotland’ cruise, on its way from Greenock to Oban. The ship was in fact a former Caledonian McBrayne ferry, but has been transformed into a luxury small cruise ship accommodating just 50 passengers with a crew of 37. It feels like a small 5* country house hotel, with a restaurant, a lovely lounge/bar area complete with stone fire place, and a number of outside spaces, including open deck areas which are used for summer barbecues, and even a conservatory area for cooler days. There are no lifts so you need to be able to navigate several flights of stairs to get around. The immaculate cabins, like all the public areas, are all beautifully appointed with many Scottish accents such as tartan fabrics and lovely pictures. My bathroom was the largest I have ever had on a cruise ship – and yet this was the smallest cruise ship I had ever been on! This is also the quietest ship I have ever been on. A clue in the title of the cruise ‘Spirit of Scotland’ probably gives you a clue that this was an itinerary including trips to many distilleries!! However there are always a choice of daily trips and in fact, you can just disembark and wander round at your own leisure. We took advantage of the bikes and cycled one glorious sunny day to a lighthouse where we found some fabulous beaches to rival those on the Caribbean! We also visited two distilleries and learnt quite a bit from the guided tours and of course the free tasting sessions! On board ship as well was a renowned whiskey expert who was available to give more information to all the guests, as well as a professional guide to talk us through the areas we were cruising through and escort us on the guided tours ashore. This is a fully inclusive holiday. All meals – and this is fine dining – as well as all drinks including champagne are included in the cost of your holiday. Not only that, but the excursions are also included, as are the refreshments on these trips. The itineraries all vary, and they are able to get into places that the larger ships cannot access. This is a cruise with a difference. We enjoyed a visit to the Bridge where we saw both the old and new technology working together, and that was really interesting. We also enjoyed a visit to the galley which was also really interesting: 5 chefs in a really small space and how they turned out such outstanding cuisine is beyond me. This is a beautiful ship – furnished inside to offer 5* comfort – but there are other factors which make this a fabulous holiday. The staff go over and above in terms of service and form a rapport with the guests that make this experience feel like a large house party. On disembarking the ship, guests were hugging the staff as they bade farewell – and that is a true sign that the service provided was well and truly appreciated. In addition to that, it was the quirky stuff which added to it all. The purser and captain did a bit of entertainment in the lounge one evening which was incredibly amusing, and on the final night which was a gala dinner, one of the passengers stood up and read out a poem which was just a brilliant summation of the week’s events and caused much hilarity! I absolutely loved this trip – thank you Hebridean Princess for the invitation and I can thoroughly recommend it!

Narrow boat adventure in the UK

23 September 2015

In August this year, myself and a friend decided to have a week’s holiday in the UK and do something both of us had always wanted to do – a narrow boat holiday! So we booked a very long 67ft narrow boat from a depot on the South Oxfordshire canal just south of Rugby with the aim of travelling all the way down to Banbury and back through some very pretty scenery, whilst enjoying a few pubs on the way of course! Armed with bags of provisions and a couple of bikes, we picked up our boat and started to head southwards very slowly gaining confidence as we went. We are both fairly familiar with boats – both motor and sailing – but it did take a few days before we were proficient with navigating this very long boat round some very sharp bends and through narrow bridges! Day 3 saw us go through the seven locks at Napton which was a physical challenge for me as they are heavy to manoeuvre – and as we moored up that night, we realised that unless we upped the pace, we weren’t going to reach Banbury. After a quick discussion – we decided that the route was less important than the journey and we focussed instead on including the elements we wanted to do. Looking at the map, we both wanted to do the Braunceston Tunnel because at 2042 yards long, 14ft wide and with a quirky S bend in the middle somewhere, it was certainly going to be a bit different. Boats wider than 7ft have to ring for permission but we were just under. So we headed back and took the detour along the Grand Union Canal to Braunceston. As we entered the tunnel, we could see a speck of light in the distance which we initially took to be the other end – but in fact it was the head light of another boat coming towards us, followed by another two behind it. Even at ‘tick over’ speed, it is impossible not to bump other boats and the sides of the tunnel – quite an experience – and it took us about 25 minutes to get through. We had done several series of locks on this journey – some of my favourite ones were those at Hillmorton which were extremely pretty and I have attached some photos of them. One thing that struck us both was the friendliness and comradeship of the other boat folk: as we went through the locks, we found ourselves helping the boat in front of us, and in turn being helped ourselves by the boat behind. We were also surprised by the number of house boats we saw. Some of the locks were manned – some weren’t – but we were helped with advice from several people which was lovely. The trickiest ones were the double ones – they definitely needed some experience with the throttle to maintain position. With a couple of days to go, we decided to head back up the South Oxfordshire Canal past our depot, and then through Rugby to experience some urban cruising. Once through the city, we enjoyed some really pretty scenery for the last night or two before heading back to Clifton upon Dunsmore to return our lovely boat. So what was the verdict? • There was virtually no mobile phone signal, TV reception or Wi-Fi for the whole week which would be a problem to some – the lack of TV wasn’t a problem to us but the Wi-Fi access could have been better. We even bought a gadget which should have improved it, but it didn’t! • It was fairly cosy even at 67ft, and we did see some families of 8 in similar length boats – so pack only the essentials as storage is minimal. • It is an expensive holiday for 2: great value for 8 though! • If you are over 6ft, then you are unlikely to have a good nights’ sleep if you can fit in the bed at all! • The friendliness of all the people we met was fantastic • The scenery was lovely pretty much everywhere we went and you could moor up wherever you liked which was a great freedom Would we do it again? YES definitely

5* boutique Greece AI

22 September 2015

After a very rainy holiday in Austria last summer – due to the Gulf Stream not being in its normal place – my daughter and I decided to head a bit further south this summer and try out one of the 5* boutique all-inclusive options in Greece. Travel Counsellors has a direct contract at the Ikos hotels on the Halkidiki peninsula, so Lily and I settled on a 10 night holiday at the Ikos Oceania in Nea Moudania. We chose early morning flights with Easyjet from Gatwick instead of the later Ryanair flights from Stansted. The arrival was very well organised with our taxi waiting to take us the 45 minutes to the hotel. The hotel’s arrivals are very well organised – the taxi gave our names to security at the gate, and we were greeted by name as we got out at reception. Very slick. Our rooms weren’t ready so it was suggested we go and have some lunch and pick our keys up afterwards which worked out perfectly. When we collected our key, the bags had already gone to the room which was very efficient. The hotel itself has been extensively refurbished under the new management in soft tones of pale blue and ivory. The public areas are spacious and comfy and our room was no exception. We had paid a bit extra to have a sea view room and that was lovely – especially at sunset! Service at this hotel was excellent everywhere, from the cleaners to reception to the restaurants. The hotel has 4 a la carte restaurants (Italian, Asian, French and Greek) and a desk in reception dedicated to making reservations for the dining. We booked a meal in each of them and managed to secure dates and times to suit with no hassle whatsoever. The food everywhere was excellent and unlike some larger main stream all-inclusive hotels, a lot of effort was given to providing a good range of local cuisine which was lovely to see. The main buffet restaurant was excellent – and as Lily was 12 at the time – we were allowed to eat in the adult only section away from the high chairs and noise which was also really good. There was some form of entertainment on most evenings and the two shows we saw were really very good. There was also entertainment on around the pool in the early evening which was a lovely venue as quite a few people liked to have a drink before dinner so there was a nice ambience there. We didn’t use the children’s clubs, although you can pre-book those in advance. For the first week also, we didn’t try to use any of the sports facilities as it was so hot and there was no wind whatsoever. By the time there was wind to do some sailing or wind surfing, we were so chilled out we didn’t bother! My only reservation about this hotel is that there are a lot of sea urchins in the shallows – the hotel has put sand bags down to form several bridges out and over them but this led us not to use the beach during our stay. We did know this when we booked the holiday so it wasn’t an issue but the pools were so good, that it didn’t affect our holiday at all. Would we go back? Absolutely!

Austrian adventure

06 July 2015

My daughter and I decided to have a more sporty adventure this summer and we booked a 10 night holiday at the Active and Spa Resort Alpenpark in Seefeld, Austria. Our hotel was a very good 4* but very much aimed at families with small children. They had a really good baby nursery on site but little for the older children to do. However the food and service were very good and our room was spacious and well appointed. Just a shame we didn’t book the weather as the jet stream was unusually positioned right over the Alps for the whole of July and August so in the 10 days we were there, we were only able to use the pool on one day. We ventured out on bikes several times – there were some nice rides in the area – but with the roads so wet, we nearly came a cropper and decided to abandon that idea. There are some good local cable cars and also a funicular railway which will get you up the resort’s surrounding mountains if you don’t feel able to walk, but the walking trails are reasonably well marked and there were plenty of people out walking in their waterproofs. We did this for several days and then decided to venture further afield, so we booked a trip to Lake Achensee which is reputed to be Austria’s most beautiful lake. It is certainly the largest and the deepest. The coach deposited us in Pertisau for the afternoon which is a lovely lakeside town. Pertisau was a favourite hunting area for the rulers of the Tyrol, and the hotel on the lakefront is a former hunting lodge. The mountains behind Pertisau also provided a special type of oil - ichthyol, a type of fossil-oil - used in homeopathic remedies. We had a bite to eat and then booked a round trip on the lake steamer to enjoy the views – albeit in the drizzle. It really was beautiful. A couple of days later, we decided to venture out again and we booked a full day out to see the highest waterfalls in Austria. It was a fairly long drive up the Otz valley and we enjoyed some beautiful high mountain scenery. The valley is characterised by its steep mountains on both sides, and the frequent gorges which separate the climbs from one level to another. The town of Ötz lies on the first level and gives its name to the valley. A climb to the next level brings the villages of Umhausen and Tumpen – and behind Umhausen lie the Stuiben Falls. The coach parked up and we had a 15 minute walk down to the top of the falls – and the noise was pretty deafening. The flow of water was amazing. The valley includes the highest road border crossing in the Alps, as well as the second highest roads in Europe, and is surrounded on all sides by peaks over 3,000 metres in height. We travelled up that highest road – characterised by many hairpin bends and both sides of the coach got frightening views down the sides of the mountain as we climbed ever higher. Eventually we arrived at the lift station for the Rettenbach glacier – and we all gratefully piled into the restaurant for hot chocolate and refreshments. We decided to pay that bit extra and go up the cable car to the glacier and enjoy the view further up – it was definitely worth the extra cost and time to do that. The views from 11,000 feet were amazing. On the way back to Seefeld, we stopped at the beautiful Stams Basilica. We did some things we hadn’t done before such as the glacier experience and also travelling up and down on cable cars. It was a real shame that the weather was so poor, but we did have a great holiday.

Gold Conference - Universal Studios

05 July 2015

This year Travel Counsellors congratulated its top performing ‘Gold Travel Counsellors’ by taking us all to Orlando for a long weekend! The weekend was hosted at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios which is just steps from the two amazing theme parks, plus all the surrounding action. It is a really beautiful and elegant Italian themed hotel modelled on the seaside village of Portofino. The bedrooms, public areas and gardens are all Italian themed with piazzas, cobbled walk ways, outdoor cafes and bars – and the hotel is just a short boat ride from the park. If you are staying at the this hotel, they will automatically upgrade your park pass to the Universal Express pass which allows you to skip the regular lines and also gives you early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. On our first day, we enjoyed a VIP tour of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. This was such a great day as we didn’t have to queue for any rides and we also got taken for a behind the scenes guided walk as well. We enjoyed various rides such as ‘Despicable Me’, ‘Transformers’, and ‘Men in Black’ as well as walked around the new Harry Potter attraction – the rail link on Hogwarts Express is almost ready to open – how exciting! In the evening we returned to the park for drinks and dinner at the Hard Rock Café which welcomed us by putting TRAVEL COUNSELLORS’ name up in lights – the evening was great fun with lots of music memorabilia adorning the walls and a lively atmosphere. Afterwards we were taken to see a live performance of the Blue Man Show which was a unique experience with a lot of audience participation but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea! The following day, I went down to Boggy Creek for a 90 minute airboat ride over the Everglades – something I hadn’t done on my previous two trips to Orlando. It was a fabulous trip and whilst we didn’t see a huge amount of wildlife, I would thoroughly recommend it. That evening we had our gala dinner at the Venetian Ballroom at the Portofino and we had a Motown tribute band as the entertainment. Our final day, and we decided to head to Gatorland to see the big alligators. I am not sure which of my colleagues told me it was a good idea to get in and feed them, but the one behind me started moving very fast! All too quickly and it was time to go home. BA flights were good both ways – the hotel was superb – and the venue was just one of the best Gold conferences we have ever had. I would love to go back and do it all over again!!


02 July 2015

I got the opportunity to visit Bermuda for a four night break as a guest of the Bermudan Tourist Board. This was a destination I knew very little about, and with a clear diary it seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn a bit more about this destination. Many people assume that it sits in the Caribbean, but in fact it is in the Atlantic – sort of level with New York – and therefore enjoys the same seasons as us, though their winters are much milder. BA is the only airline flying direct from the UK, and we were very lucky to be upgraded to business class both ways – happy days!! We stayed at the 3* superior Grotto Bay which is not that far from the airport. This hotel is very popular with the UK market as it is the only all-inclusive option. Our rooms were very much 3* and a little dated, but the setting is really quite lovely with a small sandy beach, nice pool and great views. The main building of this hotel is more of a 4* and we also found the food and service to be really good. Our first day there saw us visiting the Crystal Caves – next to our hotel. They are quite spectacular and were discovered by accident when two little boys playing cricket on the ground above, lost their cricket ball in the grass. On looking further, they realised that it had fallen through a hole in the ground and the discovery of the caves had been made! We then went to the Fairmont Southampton for a site inspection and lunch – this was definitely my favourite hotel. The rooms are very elegant, as are all the public areas and for families and sports enthusiasts, it has lots to offer. I would go back here for my own holiday. After lunch we headed off to see the sister hotel – the Hamilton Fairmont – which was undergoing some major enhancements around the pool area – but is clearly a great property. We then headed off to the Rosedon which is across the road and one of the boutique guest houses which Bermuda is famous for. It is a lovely property – quite colonial and with a really lovely homely feel. The following day, we enjoyed a walking tour of St George’s taking in the perfumery, along the way. Site inspections that day included the luxurious Tucker’s Point, Elbow Beach and another of my favourites – the Reefs. Our 3rd day saw us explore the city of Hamilton, before heading off to the Royal Naval Dockyard and Maritime Museum to take in a bit of history. A map there showed the huge number of ship wrecks around the island which underlined what a great place for diving Bermuda is. We then headed off to Cambridge Beaches for a site inspection before enjoying the quite spectacular Bermuda Boat Parade in the evening. Our final day saw me off to do a bit of horse riding. I haven’t done this before but what a place to learn!! We ambled out of the yard and uphill through the woods before coming down the other side on to a most beautiful beach. Unfortunately my horse took one look at the sea and galloped in for a swim taking me with it! After the riding, I had to go back to the hotel to change before we all went to the famous Swizzle Inn for lunch – where after just 1 rum swizzle, I sadly fell off my chair! What a great end to a fabulous trip – Bermuda was so much more than I expected – and we packed a lot in. There is currently no car hire there but you can hire mopeds. We had a great minivan and driver for the time we were there. I am not sure I would do all-inclusive and to be fair, we only had breakfast at Grotto Bay. The charm of Bermuda is in its myriad of small charming restaurants and eating out is fabulous value for money. There are restaurants to suit all budgets. The island is picture postcard perfect – no factories, eyesores anywhere – just very pretty pastel coloured houses on green hillsides with stunning beaches everywhere you looked. The beaches are rumoured to be pink – they are white sand but where the surf tumbles on to the beach, it does indeed look pink! I would love to go back one day

Stratford-upon-Avon break

02 July 2015

My daughter was studying Shakespeare as a school project, so we decided to combine a short UK break away with a bit of research! I booked a short cottage break from Monday to Friday during the October school half term, and off we headed. The cottage was really easy to find and perfectly located in one of the surrounding villages – just a short 10 minute drive from all the attractions of Stratford-upon-Avon. I bought a multi pass ticket in advance for the main Shakespeare attractions which represented great value on the standard ticket prices. We visited: 1. Anne Hathaway’s cottage 2. Hall’s croft 3. Mary Arden’s House 4. Nash’s house 5. Shakespeare’s birthplace 6. The Holy Trinity Church where the family are buried Helped by fine weather, we spent a really lovely few days exploring and enjoying the lovely local scenery. In one of the houses, they had some street theatre and you could request a short performance from the play of your choice which was great fun. We also enjoyed the living statue in the high street – my daughter wasn’t fooled and had a conversation with him – but a group of other tourists did get a shock when he started moving! We also enjoyed a lovely day out at Warwick Castle where there were various events suitable for children during the day there. Our Friday departure coincided with horrendous gales in the south of England, so instead of heading straight back home, we decided to spend a good part of the day at Charlecote Park. This is a beautiful stately home with gardens designed by Capability Brown and a really lovely tea room! Mid-afternoon, and as the gales in East Anglia subsided, we headed back home. A great short break with lots of activity packed in and a little bit of classroom history brought to life for my daughter.

Sharm: Dolphins and Saturn!

26 June 2015

My daughter and I had such a lovely week at the Club Med Sinai village in 2011 that I decided to book a May half term week in Sharm. I do quite a bit of business down to the Red Sea so I thought I would go and check it out myself! Most of the hotels out there call themselves 5* but probably aren’t! In the end after much perusing, I chose the Sentido Reef Oasis and booked us into the better Senses part of the resort. It is comprised of a 4* part near the beach and a 5* part which sits behind reception just off the main road. It is actually a really good layout. Between the reception area and the road is the hotel’s water park – the sound of the water masks any road noise – very good planning! From reception down to the beach is a gentle 10 minute stroll but in fact you can hop on the shuttle bus which is very frequent and there are a number of shops and restaurants along the route. Our room was lovely - very well appointed and with a beautiful view over the pool. The pool areas in the Senses area are stunning with plenty of space. The pool guy was amazing and for a small tip, he reserved your sun beds and put out fresh towels for you every morning. As Senses guests, we were entitle to eat in any of the restaurants, but we favoured the Senses one which was pretty good. There wasn’t a huge variety of choice but the food was all well prepared and tasty. We also sampled the Italian which was also very good. We did a mixture of beach and pool. The beach is soft golden sand and there is coral in the shallows so you do need jellies. BUT there is also a jetty so you can walk over the coral and swim in deeper water. Again the benefit of being in the Senses part was a cordoned off private beach area which had better sunbeds, more space and was a little more serene. Holidays aren’t all about the beach! We decided to venture a little further afield, and one of the things I had always promised Lily was to take her swimming with the dolphins. There is a dolphin swim encounter in Sharm so we booked, took a taxi there and had an amazing time! You can do either a 15 or 30 minute encounter – we did 30 but in fact had had enough after 15 so I got out. It was very clean, the animals were very well looked after but I appreciate it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Lily however loved it! Our second venture out of the hotel was a stargazing adventure out to the desert. It was quite an ordeal all told, as it started off with a coach pick up at 2pm. The coach then proceeded to pick up at various hotels along the way and we eventually got to the event after 2 hours. I will add that the bus was not air conditioned and the temperature was about 50 degrees. We arrived at the first stop to mount camels for an hour’s ride into the desert – hot and sticky – so do not do what we did which was to ask if we could share one camel – it was not pleasant! An hour later, and all was forgotten as we arrived into the Bedouin camp for cold refreshments and some shade! There were various displays to look at but this took a back seat when my daughter fainted from the heat. This sent several Egyptian guides rushing around in a panic but I poured some cold water on her and she recovered quite quickly. Dinner followed, cooked al fresco and as the sun set, the guides started up some dancing which was lovely with the light from the fire. As darkness fell, they set up some very powerful telescopes and we queued up to see what they had focussed on. To be honest, the name of the first star we looked at has eluded me and in fact, didn’t look that much different through the telescope that it did with the naked eye. However the second viewing was Saturn – oh my goodness – we could see everything so clearly – all the rings – it was amazing! I turned to Lily and we both agreed – the journey to get there including the heat was all worth it for that 5 seconds! It was an amazing trip – we loved every moment and will definitely head back at some point!

Abu Dhabi - GOLD conference

26 June 2015

I have visited a few Middle Eastern destinations but this was my first trip to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Etihad Airways (Middle East’s leading airline 2013) and Fairmont hotels hosted our Gold Conference which gave us an opportunity to network with colleagues and experience the destination. We stayed at the Bab Al Bahr Hotel (part of the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts group): a contemporary hotel with a prime beachfront setting right on the Grand Canal. It has fabulous views across to the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the newly opened Ritz Carlton Hotel. We started our weekend with a guided tour of the Yas Marina Motor Racing Circuit which was completed in 2009. In addition to a tour of the track, we were able to see the circuit’s high-tech facilities, including Race Control, the unique air-conditioned Support Pit garages, the state-of-the-art 500-seat media centre and the exclusive paddock. We then moved on to the beautiful Viceroy hotel where we had a private buffet dinner party in the Skylite- Rooftop lounge. The hotel has a futuristic design which includes an LED canopy: this changes colour and is quite a sight on the skyline. We had a choice of excursions to choose from the following day. Some of my colleagues went to Ferrari World on Yas Island, but not being a fan of either motor sports or extreme rides, I decided to do a ½ day city tour. In the evening we had our gala dinner at the Ritz Carlton which is situated in on the beach along the Grand Canal. It is elegant and beautiful – the food was superb! The following day I spent relaxing around the pool networking with colleagues. In the evening we visited another new hotel – the Park Hyatt on Saadiyat Island which is situated on a pristine beach, ending the evening at the nearby Monte Carlo Beach club for after dinner drinks! On our final morning we drove past the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: the largest in the Emirates and the eighth largest Mosque in the World accommodating 40,000 worshippers. It is a spectacular building featuring 82 white marble domes, some 1,000 columns in the outer area and 96 columns in the main prayer hall. The Middle East offers a lovely winter sun destination – great hotels, climate and something a bit different!

Majorca: villa with pool holiday!

03 May 2013

What could be any lovelier than holidaying with friends and family? To get that great social space, look no further than a holiday villa with your own pool! Villas with private pools come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found in all types of locations, from isolated hill tops to fantastic beachfront spots. You have to be very careful when travelling with very small children as most villa pools are not fenced off nor have pool alarms, except for in France where it is a legal requirement. My family group however was for 4 adults and 3 children aged 9, 9 and 6 so whilst we had to be vigilant, they were old enough to understand the safety issues. I had holidayed in Majorca on two previous occasions and it is a favourite destination for my daughter. It ticked a lot of boxes for us though in terms of a short flight, great beaches, and a really good selection of villas to choose from and plenty of family friendly activities to enjoy. I chose a four bedroomed villa with a large pool situated in-between the old town of Pollensa and the beaches of Alcudia and Ca’n Picafort. It wasn’t particularly luxurious and was furnished with what I would call ‘good solid farmhouse’ furniture but it was very clean, very spacious and it had great views across the fields to the sea at Puerto Pollensa. From the roof terraces, the views were even better, and the goats in the nearby field were happy to eat our left-over fruit and vegetables much to the children’s delight! One of the other key factors in choosing that villa was that it offered a flexible duration and we were able to book a 10 night stay which was fantastic. This area of Majorca is really lovely as it is quite rural and there are many small farms with livestock milling about. In the distance, the spine of mountains makes a lovely back drop and it is an easy 45 minute drive from the airport on really good roads. However, you are just 10 to 15 minutes’ drive from a really good selection of family friendly beaches in one direction, or 5 to 10 minutes’ drive from the old town of Pollensa in the other. Pollensa town offers easy parking, great exploration through a lovely old town and several times a week, a great market with meats, cheeses and fresh produce. We went early one Friday morning and had a wonderful breakfast amidst the hustle and bustle before making our way home laden with fresh pastries from the bakers and beautiful fat juicy peaches. My favourite beach is in the S’Albufera National Park where you can park your car and walk through the sand dunes on to a great soft white sandy beach. It has a small beachfront café which does great reasonably priced lunches as well as the necessary ice creams, and the sea here is safe and brilliantly crystal clear. Even in August it wasn’t too crowded until lunchtime at which point we packed up and returned to the pool! The pool which really was the most important factor on this holiday and provided the three girls the most wonderful playground for this holiday and I am sure they will all remember the diving competitions for many years to come. I would thoroughly recommend this type of holiday for any family who loves to spend good quality time together in the sunshine.

Gold conference 2012: Mauritius

03 May 2013

In May 2012, I was lucky enough to enjoy my second visit to the wonderful island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was the venue for our annual Gold Travel Counsellors conference! Delegates were joining the conference from our offices worldwide, but I flew from Gatwick with British Airways on what turned out to be a very comfortable and efficient service. The conference was split across the sister hotels of Dinarobin and Le Paradis, part of the Beachcomber hotel group. I spent four nights at Dinarobin and it is truly a wonderful 5* hotel. The main reception area is extremely spacious with many seating areas, a sunken bar area and surrounded by beautifully landscaped pools and gardens. Like most Beachcomber hotels, Dinarobin’s rooms are set out in crescents of three storey thatched pavilions which all face towards the sea. You can see the sea from most of them but the lush vegetation gives those rooms further away a lesser view. Decked pathways lead along the beach through the grounds, with seating areas under the trees where you can enjoy a coffee, lunch or even a cocktail with great sea views. The beach here is soft white sand and like most hotels on the island, you will find coral in the shallows. You can also see the off shore reef which almost entirely circles the island. For those of you who like to walk along the beach, you have a good long stretch of beach which if you follow it will take you all the way along to the Paradis hotel. The rooms are spacious with huge bathrooms – all furnished in lovely natural colours and materials. Each one has a covered patio or balcony outside which is extremely private and useful for those unexpected ‘fat rain’ downpours which you do get in the tropics. For families with children, it is lovely to have a ground floor one as these lead directly on to the large lawns – easy for playing outside. When I go on one of these business trips, I often make the time to visit other hotels and I did have the opportunity of spending some time at Le Paradis. It has quite a spectacular pool area dominated by the iconic Le Morne Mountain, and a fantastic beach. It also has its own 18 hole championship course and golfing academy. The bonus of staying at either of these hotels is that you get to enjoy both with golf cart shuttles between the two and exchange dining and privileges as well. The food at both hotels was superb. The other hotel I went to see was Beachcomber’s Shandrani which is their only all-inclusive option. With its close proximity just 15 minutes from the airport, you will get 747’s flying overhead several times a day, and from personal experience they are quite low! But after seeing several of them, you do actually ignore them. It is classed as a 5* but we felt it wasn’t quite as luxurious in the public areas as Dinarobin and was probably more of a 4* superior accommodation overall. The rooms however have all been recently refurbished in off white and natural woods with splashes of vibrant accent colours. It has been done with great style and the family suite accommodation is spacious and would work well for any large family unit. The hotel has three beaches – the main beach, the water sports beach and the wild beach where you can just enjoy the natural beauty of a beach with no resort facilities such as beach chairs, umbrellas or a restaurant. We enjoyed a lovely lunch here with the sales director and the food and service were impeccable. I certainly would come back here for a holiday with my daughter with no hesitation at all. I saw quite a bit of the island on my previous trip, but this time I got to go on a boat trip where we did see wild dolphins, which was lovely! I also went to the rum distillery where we watched the staff working away and it was an interesting experience. And all too soon I was on my BA flight home to my family. It was another fantastic experience in Mauritius and I hope that it isn’t my last.


10 May 2012

I have always wanted to visit Marrakech – even the name sounds exotic – so it was with some excitement that I boarded my early morning flight from Gatwick. It is just over 3 hours by air and yet a world away from Europe in terms of sights, sounds and culture. With temperatures in the high 20’s and clear sunny days it was also a welcome respite from the torrential rain back home! I spent the first night at the Es Saadi hotel which whilst officially graded as a five star, was perhaps more of a four star; the adjacent Es Saadi Palace was beautiful and very deserving of its five star classification. This part of the hotel has room combinations large enough to accommodate 8 people, some with private pools and some with patio doors leading to the gardens/pool area - brilliant for families with young children. The main pool is the largest in Marrakech and was stunning. The city has many much smaller boutique style hotels called Riads, and we saw quite a number of them. Most are hidden away in the maze of streets, down small alleyways – and the very nature of the buildings mean that there are no external windows. They were built to keep the heat out, and have instead central courtyards with gardens and fountains to keep the property cool in the African sun. Therefore many of the bedrooms have no windows or outside space, but instead are accessed via small courtyards paved with beautiful mosaic tiles. Ornate woodwork and amazingly intricate hand sculptured plasterwork provide detail. Some of the doors we saw must have been hundreds of years old, yet still in use. Small narrow staircases lead up on to roof top terraces where you can find sun loungers to relax, or indeed enjoy a cocktail or a meal. Our last morning in the city was spent enjoying a sunrise breakfast on the roof terrace whilst watching the storks perched in nests on the nearby rooftops, feeding their young. Many Riads have created small swimming pools in larger courtyards, which provide cooling relaxation after wandering around the city in the heat. Most also have spas. On our second full day in the city, we left the hectic hustle and bustle of the city and drove out towards Asni, which is in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The drive was wonderful and we passed through many Berber villages including one which was hosting a weekly market. Many of the Berber villages are still off the beaten track so the transport system is a donkey of which we saw plenty. School is mandatory and yet many children have no access as the walk is just too far for them. It truly is a different world to our own. Our first stop in the mountains was the Branson owned 28 roomed Kasbah Tamadot which I knew would be one of the highlights of my trip. For anyone wanting to escape the hustle and bustle not only of Marrakech but even 21st century life in general, this property is truly superb. The setting is just amazing perched high on the hill with a river winding through the valley below, and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in the back drop. The building itself has been lovingly restored retaining its Moroccan roots. The gardens are stunning with small seating areas and of course the wonderful heated pool playing centre stage. We enjoyed a fabulous meal high on the terrace overlooking the entire property. There are various room types but the most amazing one has to be the traditional (yet luxuriously appointed) Berber tent complete with deck and plunge pool overlooking the valley. If you want the experience at less than half the cost, the nearby Kasbah Angour ticks a lot of boxes. We stopped here for a typical Berber tea on the way back to the city. The owner of this property showed us around this amazing hotel which he has lovingly built again on a hillside overlooking the valley. Built in local red sandstone and with amazing attention to detail, this property has been completely furnished using traditional and locally crafted materials. This area is a walker’s paradise with many guided walks and you can even do a 2 day excursion to climb a nearby mountain. Our final full day in the city was spent visiting two world class but very different hotels. Firstly the 209 room La Mamounia, which is as iconic in Marrakech as Raffles is in Singapore. It reopened a few years ago after a massive refurbishment and it is absolutely stunning – extremely opulent furnishings in the public areas and beautiful bedrooms. We had a great poolside lunch here and the service was exceptional. The medina walls form part of the boundary to this hotel so it is well located to explore the city. Our final stop was at the new Four Seasons, which ticks all the boxes if you want 21st century modern contemporary accommodation with superb facilities. It doesn’t have the Moroccan charm of the Riads or the traditional elegance of La Mamounia but it is a world class hotel. I packed a lot into 4 days. We did some of the sights of the city – we visited the El Bahia Palais which is the only palace open to the public in the country. It is an amazing building yet is still in need of much restoration. We also wandered the streets and enjoyed the hubbub of Djemaa el-Fna square with the many market stalls and traders. The city traffic is horrendous and you do have to take care when crossing the roads – there is noise and people are keen to sell you their wares – but we met many wonderful local people and found them to be utterly charming. The best time to explore the city is early morning when there are so few people around and you can enjoy the beautiful buildings. I was also surprised to see so many flowers – roses, geraniums, and even pansies bloom in abundance. It was an amazing short break and I thoroughly recommend it as a destination!

Bula Fiji!

13 October 2011

Bula! Well that means ‘greetings’ though you will find it used for many things in this fantastic country. What did I expect before I arrived in Fiji? Well I guess a couple of small islands with palm fringed beaches, lots of coconuts and a place perfect for a few nights stopover on the way to Australasia. How wrong could I be? The country is much larger than I had anticipated with some 1000 islands, only 333 of which are above water at high tide so we were warned not to buy land when the tide is out! The two main islands are an hour’s flight apart and then you have a myriad of smaller islands dotted about which are accessed by boat or seaplane. Viti Levu is the largest island and has the international airport (Nadi), and Savusavu is the main town on the second island of Vanua Levu. Vanua Levu as we discovered is very unspoilt and very lush. We stayed two nights here in two quite different hotels: one a small guesthouse and one a more established beach resort both of which were really lovely. What did strike me is the natural beauty of the surroundings here and the jungle comes right down to meet the beaches. The diving and snorkelling like everywhere in Fiji is fabulous and this is where you would head to enjoy unspoilt natural beauty. Back on Viti Levu, we took a private water taxi from the nearby Port Denerau out to the Mamanuca islands. If you are looking for a short stopover, you can either stay in one of the well-established international branded hotels around Port Denerau and I saw quite a few of them, or you can head out straightaway to this group of islands as they are just 30 minutes away by boat or seaplane. Like the Maldives, the islands are quite different in size, facilities and ambience and we saw quite a variety from the backpacker charm of Matamanoa, to the lovely, elegant five star Tokoriki, and the luxury hideaway resort of Tadrai with just five rooms. Mana Island resort is more suited to families, but one of my favourite hotels here was Likuliku which again is a five star hotel for couples and this is the only Fijian hotel with overwater bungalows. This group of islands really has hotels to suit anyone. Back on Viti Levu, we enjoyed a fabulous drive along the scenic Coral Coast which has many large bays, interspersed with small villages and backed by hills and rainforests. You can see the reef from the road exposed in the shallows: this is the second largest reef in the world and offers spectacular diving. We then took a private boat for the one hour journey south to what was definitely my favourite hotel of the trip: Royal Davui. Everything about this hotel was perfect for couples. You can walk around the island in about ten minutes, it has a lovely beachfront pool and the villas are so private high up on the hill, each with a deck and plunge pool with the most amazing views. Apart from that the food and company were sublime here and I could have easily stayed for two months! All routes seem to lead back to Nadi and nearby Port Denerau. We saw quite a few of the hotels here and you could easily make this area a main holiday as there are just so many activities on offer. The hotels are extremely different in style. The Intercontinental is awesome and immaculate with clean lines, fabulous service and one of the nicest main pool areas we saw BUT it isn’t particularly Fijian. At most hotels, we enjoyed the traditional welcome and goodbye songs which was a wonderful experience but not here: this has more of a corporate feel about it. The Sofitel is a good five star hotel but my vote probably goes to the Outrigger if you want everything laid on for you. This has a main building with very lovely rooms, and also if you want more of a traditional bure, they have those too in the grounds. In the evening the hotel comes to life with entertainment, and a wide variety of dining options, all set in thatched low rise buildings in the wonderful gardens. It has a real ambience and the food was excellent. I would go back to this hotel for a quality family holiday. I have come back a complete and utter Fiji convert. Everything was just so different from what I expected. The scenery just took my breath away – I never expected it to be so varied and I loved our time in the north. Waking up in the guesthouse at 6am and watching the wildlife wake up from my deck overlooking the mangroves was just amazing. The beaches are pretty good and some are completely awesome. We motored out to a sand bar which only appears at low tide and had a Robinson Crusoe experience there for a few moments: honeymooners can book a champagne breakfast on these sand bars which is a wonderful experience. The wildlife is everywhere: I found a couple of snakes on my doorstep one evening, and saw spiders the size of a clenched fist. Paddling in the shallows, we saw baby black tipped reef sharks, puffer fish, parrot fish and bright blue starfish. On the fruit tree by the pool at one hotel, we found the most amazing iridescent blue and green beetles all clustered together. Children would love this aspect of the country and whilst some hotels do not accept children, there are several family friendly ones which do. The diving is world class and all hotels offer this. Most have spas as well and we enjoyed a fair few treatments along the way, all of which were fabulous. We did fourteen hotels in seven nights, and apart from the four long international flights to get there, we also did four small domestic flights, thirteen boat trips and no less than sixteen road transfers, so a fair bit of travelling. Even after that, I would definitely recommend that any visitor to this amazing country does not spend all their time in one place. Get out and about and travel around and enjoy the variety that is Fiji. The people are just so welcoming, happy and lovely! We travelled via Los Angeles and immigration was an awful experience. The best and quickest route would be via Hong Kong which would make for a fabulous contrast or via Seoul which is a bit cheaper. If you are staying for two weeks, stay in three different places, or for ten days split it across two. There is so much variety there and you can even include a short cruise! It was an absolutely amazing experience and thank you to all the amazing Fijian people for making it possible. I have my trip notes and itinerary if you wish to have a copy.

4* Lanzarote fun

12 September 2011

The last time I went to Lanzarote was about twenty two years ago, and as I sell this destination a lot for spring and autumn breaks, I felt it would be a good time to go back and revisit it. My daughter was also keen to see the volcanoes and the cacti plus we also wanted some down time together in the sun. So off we headed for an 11 night stay at the Los Jameos Playa hotel in Playa de los Pocillos. It is a large hotel with some 567 rooms, but it has great feedback from our clients which is why I chose it. First impressions are of a large typically Spanish holiday hotel with a massive lobby, white washed walls and terracotta floor tiles. However in various places around the hotel are the most beautiful small typically Spanish blue and white tiles offering a lovely contrast. The rooms are smart and clean, but a little dated in furnishings though I do believe they are updating them gradually. Ours had a great sea view and we consequently used the balcony a lot. Food at the hotel is exceptionally good. It was very well cooked and the carvery was excellent. The only downside of this hotel I felt was the lack of dress code in the restaurant. There is a sign up detailing the dress code but no one takes any notice and that lends the restaurant a rather down market feel which is a shame. The staff here worked extremely hard and were very efficient. We mentioned a faulty shower and light bulb on the way to breakfast, and when we got back to the room the faults had been fixed. The pool is fine, and there are sufficient sunbeds for everyone, but you do get the early birds going down to put their towels out on the front row which was a shame really. There is a spa which we didn’t use, and there are tennis courts, mini golf and table tennis which we did use, plus a number of other facilities including a children’s club and entertainment. The entertainment was okay but we have had better. Location wise, it is spot on for a peaceful holiday. A five minute stroll through the gardens and down on to the promenade takes you to a volcanic rocky outcrop, either side of which there are good beaches. The beaches are large with a mixture of soft and hard sand, brilliant for sitting on or making sand castles. A word of caution though, there is a safety officer patrolling the beaches but no lifeguard so you need to be careful here as the waves can be quite big and strong. There were quite a few people out with surfboards trying their luck too! Along the promenade are some typically tacky tourist shops, a handful of bars and restaurants but nothing grand. You are only minutes from the lights of Playa del Carmen for a better choice of eateries and nightlife. We hired a car and did a trip around the island. The roads are pretty good and well signposted which I remember from before. We headed off for the Timanfaya National Park which has the volcanoes in. The scenery is quite spectacular: black volcanic lava fields as far as you can see and volcanoes dotted along the horizon. We had intended on doing the ‘route of the volcanoes’ which is a drive through the protected areas – now done by bus – but there was a 2 hour queue for this so we opted to pass that by. We called in at the visitor’s centre and then headed off further north. Not realising that we had ascended so high, we came out on the top of a cliff to some spectacular views, followed by a 30 minute drive of hair pin bends downhill which was quite thrilling. After 6 hours of adventure, Lily got a really good feel for the island and we headed off back to the hotel. It was definitely worth doing, but since my last visit, the island has had much more development and the long queues for the ‘route of the volcanoes’ and also the caves in the north were somewhat disappointing. Did we have a good time? Yes we surely did – I think the highlight was the surfing which Lily and I had a go at. The hotel is very good and the food was surprisingly good, but there were a couple of aspects which I understand from the hotel are being looked at. It is a lovely island – quite unique really in appearance and with a huge variety of accommodation to suit different needs. I would urge you get out and about in a hire car, but I was told the queues for the main sights are horrendous in August so maybe organised excursions are better at that time. All in all we had a really good holiday.

Club Med Sinai - family fun!

11 June 2011

The last time I went on a Club Med holiday, you had to use plastic beads for currency. Now was it two red and a blue for a gin and tonic or three yellow and a pink? Whatever it was, after several drinks it became more difficult to remember! So 16 years on, in May half term, I decided to take my daughter Lily aged 8 to test out their newest resort – Club Med Sinai – located on the Gulf of Aqaba. A 5 hour flight to Taba and a 30 minute private taxi transfer later saw us at the hotel. We had just the standard club room with a view of the resort but we were well located only a short hop from the main pool and restaurant area so this suited us just fine. The hotel is situated on its own in a beautiful bay, with a huge golden sandy beach leading into the shallow warm sea. There are some sharp stones at the water’s edge so jellies are an advantage here. The hotel itself has design features from ancient Egyptian buildings, and comes in earth colours which complement the surrounding rocky hills. There are superb on site sports facilities including a golf course, tennis courts, football pitch as well as sailing, kayaking and windsurfing and other sports such as archery and table tennis. There is also a Club Med dive centre right on the beach and I understand that the equipment is top of the range. We spent our first day chilling out enjoying the pool area and just acclimatising to the 35 degrees of heat. On the second day, Lily ventured into the children’s club area which was really well laid out and staffed by very enthusiastic GO’s (Cub Med staff) who organise various activities for the children. Lily stayed and did archery and then kayaking in the sea which she loved. BUT for the rest of the holiday, she wanted some quality time with me so that was just fine! So we did kayaking, and table tennis and swimming – and we tried to master snorkelling and we did just have fun. Having done a Club Med trip years ago, I knew about the lunchtime activities which announce that the restaurant is open for lunch, and also the other whacky things which go on. I did try to explain this to Lily before we went but I am not overly sure she understood what I was saying. So when all the GO’s dressed up as pirates and had a major battle around the pool one lunch time, she stood and watched with her mouth open. She did the same when a GO dressed up as an ancient Egyptian and jumped out from behind the columns in the restaurant spraying people with water from a pistol. And again when the entrance to the restaurant was transformed into the entrance to a pyramid, she stood there amazed. It was only on about day 4, that she told me earnestly that French people are all crazy! I cannot tell you how much energy and imagination the 60 or so GO’s put into creating a really good fun atmosphere and entertainment – we laughed many times over the week at the antics and it was really good family fun. The GO’s are brilliant at involving everyone and they go out of their way to include you, talk to you and ensure that you are getting the most out of your holiday. I think my only regret was that it was just too windy to get Lily on the beginner sailing course. We did try, but the team said the waves were too big. As they said this, I looked out at the bay and it was like a mill pond. So I went out in a hobie cat with one of the instructors and it was only as we came out of the shelter of the bay that you appreciated the sound advice. We literally came straight into 9 foot waves and even as a fairly experienced sailor it isn’t an experience I wish to repeat any time soon! I was quite pleased Lily was back on the beach. The food was pretty good. It was always extremely well prepared, and there was enough choice for a week’s holiday. However this place is fairly isolated so there isn’t a huge variety and it isn’t a place for foodies. I can thoroughly recommend the beef tagine – that was excellent, and there was always a really extensive salad buffet. There is an excursion office on site and there are trips out and about, but most involve some lengthy road trips which on this holiday Lily and I didn’t want to do. BUT we had a superb holiday and we loved every minute of it. You can do as much or as little as you like on this sort of holiday and everything was included. It won’t take much persuasion for us to go on another Club Med holiday – in fact we cannot wait!

Gold conference to Dubai

11 June 2011

This year’s Travel Counsellor’s GOLD conference was hosted by the Westin Mena Seyahi Hotel in Dubai. Having not been to Dubai for some six years, it was going to be interesting to see how much it had changed. The last time I was there, the Palm project was just rising above sea level and there were literally thousands of cranes on the horizon. The drive from the airport was very quick and it was noticeable how much the transport infrastructure had been improved with new roads. There was also a distinct lack of cranes – most of the building work has been completed or almost completed. The Westin is a superb hotel – big and modern but classy inside. The bedrooms are really big and the beds are just divine. We arrived early on the Friday morning, and with our rooms not quite yet ready, we headed up to the presidential suite for coffee and to enjoy the view from the balcony. We were then lucky enough to enjoy the renowned Friday brunch – Bubbalicious – with free flowing champagne, lobster, caviar and lots of other treats. Yum! That evening we headed to the Armani hotel which is at the base of the Burj Khalifa, for cocktails and canape’s marking the end of a lovely first day. The following day, a number of us headed out to the Atlantis hotel to enjoy the water park and spend some time on the beach. It is quite awesome and very hot – The sun beds come with individual covers to protect you from the sun. That evening we headed for a Bedouin feast at the Bab al Shams hotel in the desert. The venue was quite authentic and beautifully laid out like an Arabian market with cooking stations and the food was really excellent. It was a really good evening. The next day, a small group of us headed out to the luxurious Al Maha hotel in the desert for a site inspection and lunch. I knew this was going to be a real treat and it didn’t disappoint. The hotel is about an hour out of the city and is the only hotel within the vast Dubai Desert conservation area. The lead in room type here is a Bedouin suite which comes with private plunge pool. The usual rate is about £300 per room night – consider then that this is full board with two included activities and it makes it a very reasonable option to combine with a beach stay. We then headed out in the land cruisers for a short game drive. The scenery is mainly dunes with the occasional water hole, and sporadic trees. Midday isn’t the best time to spot game but we did manage to see Oryx and gazelle. After a superb lunch, we headed down to the main pool which is awesome for a quick dip before heading back to the city. This hotel and the location is awesome. All too soon, it was our last evening and we headed first to the One and Only hotel for cocktails, before heading out to the Atlantis for our gala dinner. The restaurant was beautiful and the food was awesome. After dinner, we managed a quick walk around. This hotel sits very firmly in the 5* bracket. The main attraction is the water park and it would be brilliant for a short break for a family with older children. I have sold it as an add-on to a Middle East cruise for clients looking to swim with the dolphins, and to families looking for a fabulous water park in the winter with guaranteed sun. Dubai has changed – However I still think it is one of those places that you have to experience at least once in your life! I have been lucky to see it twice!!

Short break in Norfolk

16 November 2010

Children are only young once, and to make sure I got some quality time with my 7yr old daughter during October half term, I booked a 4 night break away on the Norfolk Broads with Hoseasons holidays. We stayed at the Peninsula Cottages in Wroxham for 4 nights for the bargain sum of about £250. I booked the smallest unit which is a 2 bedroom house sleeping up to 4 people, and we were really lucky with the house which we were allocated. It certainly wasn't the best furnished, but we had the best position. The site is also exceptionally well managed, and they stored our bikes safely away for us. Peninsula cottages are as central as you can expect to be in the lovely town of Wroxham. It is a short 5 minute stroll from the town centre, and the cottages are river front so you can enjoy lovely views. Our cottage was by far the best located and we enjoyed river views from every window. In addition to that, we were only about 10 foot from the river and the sun warmed our patio every morning. Perfect location for that early morning coffee! Why Wroxham? Well it is only a 2 hour drive from home so location wise, it is very convenient. We had visited Bewilderwood before and my daughter wanted to go back. We also planned to do some cycling and take a trip on the Broads. Simple family fun. We met up with some friends for the day and enjoyed a day out at Bewilderwood which is great outdoors fun. We went to Blickling Hall with the bikes on the back of the car, and had fun cycling about. There are some amazing trees in the huge park there so we played at dens! We took one of the boat trips on the Broads and enjoyed watching out for wildlife. We also spent a morning visiting friends in the lovely town of Aylsham And that was the short break gone! Was it worth it? For sure it was and I am not sure we would have spent any less money had we stayed at home. Lily loved the adventure of staying in a holiday home and we had some great laughs. We were also reasonably lucky with the weather too. This is the second time we have done a holiday home through Hoseasons and we have enjoyed it both times. I am looking forward to our next UK adventure!

Family fun in Rhodes

13 August 2010

This was my first summer holiday on my own with Lily who is 7, so I thought I would be cautious and stay in one of the all inclusive family holiday villages which are springing up throughout the Med. First Choice advertised a brand new 5* one in Rhodes, and after having a look at the activities on offer, I booked for a fortnight’s stay. I opted for the Royal Deluxe area, as the accommodation was better and more peaceful too. The rooms are junior suite style with a partition dividing the main double bed from the two children’s beds. Patio doors, lead on to a balcony and a view over the pool. I was really pleased with the accommodation and the flat screen TV / DVD combo meant we could watch a DVD during our respite from the sun in the middle of the day. Our lagoon pool area was massive and peaceful. It is perfect for children as Lily could just about stand on her tiptoes in the deep end and it had plenty of shallow areas for little ones. Staying in the Royal Deluxe area, meant breakfast and main meals could be taken in the club house restaurant which was very nice. A wider choice of menu could be taken in the main buffet restaurant which was extremely busy, somewhat chaotic and a little noisy. The food choice here was extensive and very well cooked, but caters to the British market with roast dinners, shepherd’s pie and a variety of Indian, Chinese and other dishes. There was little if any typically Greek food which was a real shame. The water park area was excellent: divided into two separate parts for young children and older ones, it had six water slides, plus splash-park and a lazy river with rings. To the side there were also high wires and trampolines. The children’s club house has a playground and a pool which they used for canoeing and lifeguard training. The entertainment team were excellent and every evening, there was some sort of show for the youngsters followed by a show for the adults. How they managed to perform in the heat is beyond me. We were lucky as we enjoyed about 32 degrees daily with a nice breeze whilst we were there, but the previous fortnight the temperature had regularly been upwards of 42 degrees. Lily’s favourite show had to be the ABBA tribute and it was superb. We went down to Kolymbia beach a few times but you need beach shoes as it is stony. It has lovely clear waters and a variety of water sports on offer. In an effort to show Lily some more traditional Greece,, we decided to hire a car and venture out. £45 got us a small Fiat from Rodos Cars, but on the day, they had upgraded us twice to something Astra size so that was a nice treat! We headed away down the coastal road south of Kolymbia towards Lindos. The views of Lindos are quite awesome from the road, but we decided to head a bit further on and spend the day on the beach at Pefkos. It has a nice narrow sandy beach with beds and umbrellas, and a great beachfront taverna with local food. The sea is really clear here and we saw lots of small fish which Lily tried unsuccessfully to catch. It was really nice to see the scenery of this island: small villages dotted along the road, houses with small holdings and the fields of olive groves everywhere. It isn’t as lush as the Ionian Islands, but it does have a rugged charm. Lily particularly enjoyed seeing the little goats everywhere and the fruit trees with their trunks painted white, and has got a much clearer picture of the way of life out there. We felt we had been away much longer than our two weeks as we headed back to the airport. We had a really great time and some great fun together. I think in hindsight, this probably wasn’t our type of holiday – I prefer more local cuisine and I felt the main restaurant was just too busy and noisy. Lily also didn’t want to use the children’s club facilities, preferring to play in the pool, and we certainly didn’t get value from the all inclusive meal plan. However the rooms, the pools and the staff were all superb, and we had an excellent holiday as a result!

Viva Las Vegas!

25 June 2010

Every year, Travel Counsellors take an elite group of GOLD Travel Counsellors away on a conference somewhere overseas, and this year the venue was Las Vegas! I have been to Las Vegas before but it was some 18 or so years ago when the pyramid shape of the Luxor hotel was the largest building on the horizon, but I was very interested to go back and see how much the city had changed. We stayed in the 5* Encore which is an all suite hotel, attached to its sister hotel the Wynn. The rooms I have to say are the largest ‘standard’ rooms I have ever stayed in and are probably as large as the ground floor of my 4 bedroom house! The property is huge and you need a map to orientate yourself or trust me you will get lost! It is situated on the Strip so well located for all that Las Vegas has to offer. It also has a golf course, several swimming pools, theatres, restaurants and entertainment venues so is a mini resort in itself. One of the main reasons for wanting to go back to Las Vegas was to take a trip over the Grand Canyon, but for someone with a touch of claustrophobia, this was going to be a bit of a challenge! However at 6am one morning, we set off as a small group for Henderson airport where we were all weighed, checked in and allocated seats on a very small plane. Fortunately the sky was blue, there was no wind and we had an amazing 90 minute flight over Lake Powell, the Hoover dam and the Grand Canyon. My camera has an aerial photography setting which I had never used before and I got some amazing shots. Another key reason for going back to Las Vegas was to see some of the shows. Tickets can be expensive out there, but the shows are outstanding. I managed to see two amazing performances: Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Viva Elvis’ at the Aria Resort and Casino which was really excellent and more of a tribute history, and ‘Le Reve’ at the Wynn theatre which was really superb with some amazing effects. Most shows cost from about £80 per ticket but you can get discounted tickets on the day from several outlets in the city. Our visit to Las Vegas coincided perfectly with England’s match against the USA in the world cup, so where else would we watch it but at the Venetian/Palazzo’s very own sports bar – Lagasse’s stadium. What a great venue! We enjoyed excellent private dining surrounded by countless large television screens, and an upper gallery of US fans! It was probably just as well it was a draw! Amongst all the fun, we did get to do some work. We did a few hotel inspections, and I managed to see the Bellagio, Venetian and the Palazzo. My favourite was probably the Bellagio in all honesty: I think the rooms were more my style, although they are small compared to those at the Encore. I also liked the public areas and the pool area was beautiful. However Las Vegas is one of those places where you can stay in one hotel, but visit many for dining and entertainment. The key is to get out and about and experience lots of what the city has to offer. I haven’t mentioned the gambling here but it is everywhere and you can opt to take part in it or not. It is more obvious in some hotels rather than others, and the stakes can be high. However this is not all Las Vegas has to offer. I was in a small group of travel counsellors who flew BA from Heathrow, and the flights both ways were on time, the aircraft was brand new, clean and the crew were quietly efficient. I think the only issue was that they are still struggling with getting the catering on track so we only had two choices of main meal, but overall an excellent experience. I also like Terminal 5: This was my first experience here and the valet parking which I used was superb. Just ask me for details. This was just a short break of 4 nights and we managed to squash a lot in. It is an amazing place and can be combined with anywhere else in the US, so make a plan to include it in your future American holiday itinerary!


26 November 2009

Well what a lucky person I am! I was invited to jet off to Mauritius at fairly short notice, spending 6 nights checking out 5* deluxe hotels!! Over the years I have sold a lot of holidays to this island and it was in my top three of ‘must do’ destinations so there was no hesitation in accepting this trip at all! We flew economy with Air Mauritius on the 12 hour overnight flight and it was fine. Of course landing in bright sunshine instantly restored our spirits! Mauritius was named after the renowned trader Prince Maurice of Orange and Nassau by Dutch explorers in 1598, following which Dutch settlers arrived in 1638. Unfortunately their ships also brought rats, which together with the seaman hunting them for food, were responsible over time for the demise of the famous Dodo! We drove right round the island’s coastline during the week, and what I hadn’t realised before was that Mauritius is almost completely surrounded by a coral reef which you can see a couple of hundred meters off shore. 70% of the island is given over to sugar cane plantations and these along with the backbone of hills dominate the landscape. Small villages are dotted everywhere and we saw many of the local people working their allotments or free holdings. There are three main towns on the island. We visited modern Port Louis in the North West for a couple of hours: it has a busy harbour front, bustling centre with several markets and some great but expensive shopping! We drove through Grande Baie which is a little further along the NW coast: it has a great beach front backed by traditional bars, restaurants, some lively night life and shops. And then you had the inland town of Curepipe, pronounced Q-pipe, where there is duty free shopping nearby! There is only one main road and that crosses the island from the airport in the South East to Grande Baie which takes just over an hour. We visited some 12 hotels in the week, so spent a lot of time travelling the smaller single lane roads of the island. Traffic generally flows well but if you get stuck behind a truck, then progress can be very slow indeed. We stayed in the following hotels; Dinarobin, The Oberoi, The Residence and The Four Seasons. Aside from these hotels, we also inspected a further 9 other hotels, either for just a site inspection, or better still a site inspection and a meal. I do have a précis of what I saw and thought which is available via email from me on request. All in all, I found the accommodation to be of a really high standard. Each hotel has its own signature style, but they were all fantastic with great pools and great beach front locations. The sea of course is tidal and at low tide, the coral is exposed. This would affect the water sports availability, unless like the St Geran or Le Tousserok, you have access to deeper water in a lagoon area. The golf courses we saw are stunning: tee off at Le Paradis just 20m from reception! At le Tousserok, we toured the course via buggy and there really are just the most amazing views from the course out to sea. It is absolutely beautiful. We were really spoilt by our hosts as we were treated to 5* gourmet cuisine lunches and dinners all week so nothing to complain about for sure. The champagne flowed and the wine was poured!! There are some beautiful botanical gardens on the island: there is also the Chamarel Cascade (100ft waterfall) and the Coloured Earth which is quite spectacular in the south west of the island. But there are of course the more traditional family excursions such as the boat trips and submarine adventures. And you also have activities for the more adventurous such as the river kayaking, hiking or trekking and for the adrenaline junkies, there are the zip lines. There are several of these across the island. All in all, I loved the natural wilderness beauty of the island, and I loved the hotels we had the fortune of visiting. This island has indeed got something for everyone and I would love to go back and explore further.

5* family holiday in Borneo

19 August 2009

Borneo was a little different to Majorca last year, but it definitely provided the WOW factor and a 5* family holiday with a difference. It is only a 2 ½ hour hop from Hong Kong and just 40 minutes from the airport so relatively easy to get to from most Asian cities. We didn’t want to be too adventurous and settled for a 10 night stay at the Shangri La Rasa Ria, Kota Kinabalu. I booked a premier ocean wing room which is huge, and comes with a massive terrace/balcony with large day bed and outside bath! These rooms also have a separate reception area, separate pool and enjoy breakfast in the a la carte restaurant ‘Coast’. This hotel is situated on an absolutely huge beach which is completely unspoilt by sun loungers and most days it was deserted. The first few days were a little over cast and we witnessed some amazing thunderstorms in the evenings, but the rest of our holiday was glorious sunshine with the odd shower. In fact temperatures here were about 30 degrees in the main, and cool in the evening so a real pleasant change from Hong Kong. We spent our time in and around the pool which was usually pretty empty. Lily made some lovely friends and played quite happily with them or us. We didn’t use the ‘kids club’ as this was important family time for us, but there is a little club house with some nice facilities for younger children. There is also a nice playground with slides in the main pool suitable for the under 8’s and open to all guests. One of the reasons to visit Borneo was to see the Orang-utans. This hotel has a nature reserve where they currently look after six baby orang-utans aged 3-5 years old. You can pay a small amount to walk up into the jungle to see them come down out of the trees for food. They were so close to us and it was such an amazing experience, we did it a couple of times. Dining in this hotel is pretty good and there are varied options open to everyone. ‘Coast’ provided a la carte and was excellent though not a huge choice of menu. ‘Tepi Laut’ was really good fun and comprised a sort of ‘market’ with various stalls where you could pick and choose buffet style with things cooked to order. This was the only place we got stung by sand flies so apply the deet! There are also speciality Japanese and Indian restaurants and also a main buffet restaurant too. Prices are very reasonable considering this is a 5* hotel. Entertainment is low key but the weekly tribal dance show was superb. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we almost quite forgot about going on any trips, and it was only on the last day that we ventured out. There are four travel offices in this hotel offering a huge variety of trips. We booked a ½ day boat trip up the Mengkabong River which took us through the mangrove swamps and past several water villages. We were greeted at one of the water villages by a lovely chap who showed us into the community hall, where we enjoyed an afternoon tea provided by the local ladies. The cakes were truly scrumptious. He also invited us into his home which was as neat as a pin, but obviously so different from ours and gave us an insight into local life. This trip was a complete eye opener for Lily (6) as she really had never seen anything like it at all and is a definite must for any family with children. We did some fishing on the way back and pulled out various creatures such as many coloured crabs and a baby puffer fish which thrilled the children! The staff here are fantastic. They called our daughter ‘Princess Lily’ after she wore a glittery dress to dinner one evening which of course she loved. When we left, there were many staff members there to wave us off and we shared hugs and kisses: we felt very much like we were leaving friends. Summary? The best family holiday we have had and definitely worth the long flight to get there. Stay a minimum of 7 nights and go for the premium ocean wing rooms if you can. Request ground floor!

Hong Kong - a tale of two cities!

02 September 2009

This strangely was my first step into Asia, and we did it in two parts. We stayed in Kowloon for three nights at the beginning of our holiday and on Hong Kong Island on the way back. Our first hotel was the 5* Langham which is nicely placed in Kowloon, a short stroll from the Star Ferry and in an area surrounded by other 5* hotels. It is a lovely hotel with a suitable amount of wow factor but being opposite a tall office building meant the room had cotton blinds obstructing any natural daylight. It has a small roof top pool which we used, and several good restaurants which provided great food. The service was excellent all round. Our first day heralded a trip out to Disney which was expensive and also slightly disappointing because we hadn’t realised it was so small: only three lands and few rides but our little one loved it, especially the water play area. Our second day was extremely rainy so we used my back up plan and I took Lily to the nearby science museum which was fantastic and a must for families with children under 12. After our onward trip to Borneo, we returned to Hong Kong for a 3 night stay at the Mandarin Oriental. This is definitely 5* deluxe and has a very definite oriental feel. Our room was on the 19th floor and had a harbour view. Currently there is a land reclamation project in between the hotel and the star ferry terminal but this is for the creation of a Feng Shui park which I am sure will be super when it is finished. So a different part of Hong Kong and a distinctly different feel: this is Central and the main financial district where you will find the glass and chrome tower blocks, alongside the designer shops. Not wanting to waste any time shopping, off we set on our first day for Ocean Park which at half the cost of Disney was about ten times better, and also has several rides for the thrill seekers too! I wanted to see the Pandas here so badly, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. Other highlights included the goldfish exhibition (some are really ugly), the fun water area, and the awesome street dancing troupe. It is a split site park with an incredible cable car ride to the other part of the park. It’s a fantastic day out. Our last day in Hong Kong saw us stroll from the Mandarin Oriental to the Star Ferry terminal and board a small traditional style boat for a two hour harbour cruise from where we also saw the noon day gun. We thought our hotel was very tall, as we were on the 19th floor (there are 25) but looking back at it from the boat, we realised it is only a quarter of the size of some of its neighbours! Two hours took us along Causeway Bay and past some of the older areas of Hong Kong with their old house boats and junks, so it was a nice experience to see the two side by side. We then took a taxi from the ferry terminal to the Peak tram station which is incredibly small and was incredibly packed. 10 minutes on, an old wooden tram saw us up at Victoria Peak which of course every tourist to Hong Kong must do. You can buy a slightly better combination ticket which takes you up to the highest viewing platform which we did. A slight haze meant we probably didn’t get the clearest view but it was awesome. There is a shopping village up there alongside many bars and cafes so it has a bit of a buzz. It was a nice afternoon out. And that marks the end of our stay here. The weather as expected was incredibly hot and humid, and we did experience some rain showers, prolonged at times, due to the close proximity of a couple of tropical storms. We certainly had a lovely time here and feel that we packed a fair bit in. The Mandarin Oriental gave us the 'wow' factor and was a brilliant end to our holiday in Asia. Top tip is to plan what you want to see before you arrive here!

Oh man - OMAN!

09 June 2009

I was given the opportunity to jet off to Oman for a long weekend to have a look at some hotels and experience what this country had to offer! This sultanate is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the UAE, and is home to a population of just 2.5M people, of which a third are expatriates from overseas. It has an incredible history dating back some 10,000 years and has four UNESCO world heritage sites. Oman also has a diverse topography with mountains and fjords, sand dunes and salt flats as well as lush green hills, desert and a 3100km coastline. A long weekend doesn’t give you much time to explore but we did manage to fit in a city tour incorporating the museum, the Grand Palace and the spectacular Grand Mosque which can accommodate 20,000 people at one time! The Omani culture is very much Islamic and you will see many beautiful mosques with their ornate golden domes throughout the city. You won’t find the sky scrapers and huge office blocks which dominate Dubai’s sky line: buildings are generally 4 storeys high and white with beautiful arches and a very Arabic look. Roads are excellent and traffic flows freely. There is evidence of building works but it is very low key. Visitors to this country are expected to show respect to the local customs, and we ensured that we covered shoulders and knees whenever we travelled out of the hotel. Care should also be taken when taking photographs. I stayed at the Al Bustan Palace hotel (Intercontinental) which is very luxurious and about 45 minutes out of the centre on a good beach, backed by mountains. It has a superb pool with plenty of space in the beautiful gardens. The rooms are beautiful and the beds were just wonderful! It offers great food and great service too. I also visited the Chedi hotel for lunch: it is very modern and has very clean lines in its design. The grounds are lovely and it is more conveniently located being only 15 minutes from the city centre. This is definitely a hotel for couples as they don’t welcome children, and the highlight here is the fabulous main restaurant with its show kitchens. Awesome! I also enjoyed a visit to the Grand Hyatt which was my favourite hotel: several elements in its design definitely give it the WOW factor including the huge stained glass window, the Bedouin tented areas throughout the hotel and the choice of restaurants and entertainment venues. Although the Al Bustan has by far the best pool area, this is a hotel I would definitely return to! One last meal out and I had that at the huge Shangri-La hotel which is three hotels in one. The Al Waha for families, the Al Bandar which is aimed at couples and was where I ate, and the 6* Al Husn which is extremely luxurious. The public areas and rooms at this hotel are indeed luxurious and the setting is fabulous too. I am keen to get back to this hotel and experience a stay here as what I saw on my brief visit looked amazing! Oman has more to offer than just the beaches though and I have picked up some great contacts for adventure experiences. I can offer all sorts of boat trips, trips out to see the countryside including wadis, forts, and mountain villages, as well as chances for more extreme sports such as sand vipers, dune bashing and off road motor biking! Diving is big here with an impressive coral reef and lots of ship wrecks. Traditional water sports such as sailing and fishing, as well as land sports are also available. Oman is also renowned for its turtles: some 20,000 of them come ashore every year to breed and I can arrange for you to witness this. It was hot when I was there – the temperature was in the 30’s but I didn’t find it too unbearable as it was a very dry heat. We flew with Oman Air: it is just 7 hours away and a time difference of just 4 hours. Oman Air was excellent with a seat pitch of 34” in economy and good food. They have new planes on order and will be extending their network to fly to Colombo and Male so great twin centres with Sri Lanka and the Maldives will be available soon. To sum up: this was a fabulous experience and I can’t wait to go back!

Maldives has the WOW factor!

09 December 2008

I had the opportunity to travel to this part of the world which I freely admit I knew little about! Anyway off I set on the new direct service with Sri Lankan airlines from Heathrow – yes it’s a long way – 11 hours to be exact but nothing prepared me for the incredible aqua blue seascape of small coral islands, sand banks and reefs as we came into land. Our first stop was at Olhuveli island staying in a beach villa: what can possibly be nicer than opening your patio doors and stepping straight out on to the beach? The open air bathroom was huge and featured a rain shower as well as his and hers sinks, bath tub and covered shower in the event of inclement weather. For a 4* hotel, this accommodation with its beautiful fabrics was far better than I expected. Breakfast and evening meals in the main buffet restaurant were very good, but the restaurant was so huge, it wouldn’t suit those looking for romantic ambience. All in all a very enjoyable stay and it offers all inclusive which some people favour. Our second stop was the 5* Taj Exotica. This we were sure was going to be a real treat and we weren’t disappointed. They very kindly (!!) gave me a water bungalow with plunge pool which oh my had the wow factor in abundance. This island is just so totally beautiful – it’s a small narrow strip of sand bank, parts of which are just 10 ft across so as you walk along, the sea is almost lapping away either side of your feet. They have been really careful to preserve the natural habitation of the island and most of the accommodation is water bungalows because of this. This island has the largest lagoon in Maldives and you can see from the photos that it is surrounded by the most aqua of seas. All the water bungalows have plunge pools and they are just sublime. From my water bungalow, you could see the sea breaking out over the reef in the distance – some islands offer kite surfing and other water sports on their surf if they have some. There was also a small sand bank which you could walk out to for a romantic moment if you wanted! The accommodation was fantastic – contemporary modern with beautiful wood and fabrics. I love my food and the food here was awesome with service unrivalled to anywhere I have been before. It truly was barefoot paradise! Our last island stay was on Baros which we were also looking forward too as it is one of the truly good 5* hotels. Baros is much lusher than the Taj Exotica, and the beaches around one side of the island are quite narrow but they are again the most beautiful soft coral sand. This is very much the island where you take your shoes off on arrival, and the reception staff remind you to put them on again when you leave. Lots of cool design statements make this quite a funky place to stay. We ate at several places here: both the main restaurant and also ‘Lime’ for breakfast and lunch. All the food we had here was superb, and if you book Bed &Breakfast, the prices aren’t too bad. BUT for the totally romantic amongst you, they offer island dining and you can have your evening meal served anywhere you choose – they set the table up and you can enjoy the view whilst you eat! There is quite a funky bar for meeting new friends but this is an island which is serene, romantic and really quite cool! On our last day in the Maldives, we went to Huvafen Fushi for lunch – as you do! Huvafen Fushi is one of the very elite 5* hotels and they very kindly sent transport which transpired to be a mega luxurious speedboat staffed by 5* pirates complete in costume! Huvafen Fushi is just sublime in its luxury and my over riding memory is of lots of immaculate decking and white linen. This island is so clean and tidy and minimalistic that the sheer natural beauty of it was magnified as a result. For those who love their spas, this one has the ONLY underwater treatment room which is really quite amazing. The spa itself is a series of water bungalows, as is the gym. Truly outstanding. In fact my trip was truly outstanding from start to finish; amazing scenery, food, hotels and wonderful people!

Family fun in Majorca

08 December 2008

For the second summer in a row, we have had our main summer holiday in Majorca. Travelling with a 5yr old means short flights, a guarantee of sunshine and great accommodation are essential as is the proximity to sandy beaches when carrying all her plastic buckets, spades and inflatable paraphernalia!! The North East part of Majorca is really quite pretty with great sandy beaches and pine forests all backed by a series of mountains. Even the one hour drive from the airport is really quite lovely, with beautiful shrubs lining the carriageway. Ca’n Picafort isn’t perhaps the world’s prettiest resort with its array of typical tourist shops, bars and fast food venues but the beach is soft clean golden sand and the clear blue sea offers shallow safe bathing with gentle waves on a windy day. The Grupotel Gran Vista in Ca’n Picafort really met all our needs. It has both typical hotel rooms and also two blocks of one bedroom apartments which sleep up to 4 people. The accommodation is really quite good and definitely of a 4* holiday standard. Having the one bedroom apartment gave us two separate sleeping areas, two great sized balconies, kitchen and dining area. Having a dining table too is a fantastic asset for parents of a 5yr old who is determined to be an artist when she grows up! Food is a really emotive factor for families and because the local area was fairly limited in offering mainly fast food, we needed a hotel with a good standard half board option. Buffets are great for children as they can pick and choose and try different things knowing they can get more or something different if they don’t like it. Our daughter loved having fresh fish off the grill and she adored the Gilthead fish. We didn’t use the children’s club and I think because the English are in the minority, this may be a problem if we had wanted too. The most fantastic thing about this property is the pool area, or should I say pools. There was one fitness pool where they offer lessons, and then several freeform pools in the pine tree shaded gardens, two of which are fantastic for children. Not only that but reserving sun beds is forbidden and quite honestly even when you went down to the pool at 11am, you would be able to find sun beds somewhere. We went out to explore nearby beaches, Alcudia which is a short drive away as is Pollensa, as well as places such as Porto Cristo and Cala Ratjada which are a bit further away. Driving is really easy out there, and having an air conditioned car is a must. It is also imperative to pre-book your vehicle as we did: the queues at the airport were long, troublesome and we got an exceptional rate by booking early. There are loads of activities to do locally including hiking, mountain biking as well as the various island excursions which were on offer. In summary we had lovely holidays both times, and enjoyed the quiet efficiency of this property. I don’t normally travel back to the same place twice but it really delivered a good quality holiday. I would recommend this holiday!

Wilbur Smith country!

08 December 2008

A short break in Africa? Yes well even my mother thought I was mad but you know, life is too short and sometimes you just have to seize the opportunities when they come, so when I was offered the chance to spend three nights in Cape Town, I jumped at the chance. Off I flew with a group of friends for a weekend of luxury in the 5* Table Bay hotel, situated on the vibrant waterfront of this exciting city. We arrived in glorious sunshine early in the morning, and after a short 20 minute taxi ride, we were at the hotel. This hotel has an amazing location as from reception, you can either walk out to the waterfront area with its cafes, bars and street musicians, or you can take the escalator up in to the adjacent shopping centre which has loads of shops. We couldn’t have our rooms straightaway, so we wandered down to the waterfront for a fabulous and very cheap lunch. Seizing the moment, we then decided to take advantage of the sunshine to visit Table Mountain. It’s only 20 minutes in a taxi from central Cape Town, and the cable car takes about 10-15 minutes to take you to the top. It’s probably not an experience for those who suffer from vertigo! When you get to the top, there are three signposted walks around the top which is basically rocky ground with knee high shrubs. The walks vary from 20 – 40 minutes and aren’t challenging at all. Beware though that some of the walls around the top are literally just a foot high so toddlers need to be on reins and small children kept hold of very firmly. From the top the views are amazing. You can see the Indian and Atlantic oceans and the stunning location of Cape Town itself. You need to go on a sunny day for sure, and the cable car only operates in good calm weather. The next day, we set off for wine country. The Village at Spier offers something for the whole family and is just about 45 minutes outside Cape Town so perfect for a half day trip. We experienced the cheetah outreach programme here: it is an educational and conservation project which aims to protect cheetahs for the future. We were able to stroke the two cheetahs they have there, which are part of the project - quite an experience. They also have an eagle encounter which has to be the best and most informative wild bird demonstration I have ever seen. Except for the moment one of the larger ones landed on my head! We then wandered around the onsite shops and looked at the traditional handicrafts before heading on to Moyo, their signature restaurant for a fabulous meal. Moyo is a massive tented enclosure with great atmosphere. Seats come with blankets which when we were there was needed as though it was sunny, it was freezing. Lunch was barbequed kudu, ostrich, and various other meats which I didn’t wish to have identified! Lovely though!! We had traditional musical accompaniment and it was a fabulous experience. The next day it rained, and I spent the day wandering around the art gallery and the museum. Living within easy access of London, you tend to be a bit blasé about the fantastic art we have such easy access to. The art gallery had a few notable names, but we also ate at the Mount Nelson hotel, and they had more substantial art on their dining room walls than in the city’s gallery! The national museum was more impressive and is worth an hour’s visit. It would also suit children too. They have an impressive display of san rock art which was really interesting, as well as the normal suspects found in any natural history museum. One place definitely worth a trip if travelling with children is the aquarium which has the most amazing spider crabs: some of them a meter across as well as a living kelp tank which was something to see! All in all, this city is definitely worth a longer stay: due to the inclement weather we had at the end of our stay, we were unable to get to Robben Island and also down to Cape Point. I must go back one day ...................

My customer stories

Sent by David Kay

Ginny, Just returned from a good winter break in Austria, As with previous holidays organised by Ginny, her advice on accommodation and arrangements was good and everything went smoothly without any problems and we all had a good time. Plain skiing all the way! David

Sent by Andrew Bawn

Thank you so very much for the wonderful tailor made holiday you arranged for us in South Africa. You listened and understood what we were looking for, and added value by including suggestions we hadn't thought about. Whenever we have contacted you, you responded promptly and enthusiastically, and when appropriate referred to your contacts across the sector. The holiday went very smoothly, the arrangements and choices of accommodation and trips were excellent. We strongly recommend you to anyone wanting a holiday, and seeking advice and help with arrangements. Andrew & Elizabeth

Sent by Jane Mulvee

We have known Ginny for many years and she has helped us plan numerous different and varied holidays. She is extremely efficient and friendly; we would always use her to help us plan holidays. In particular Ginny spent many hours helping us customise a trekking trip to Nepal via Istanbul. She put considerable time into planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia to fit in everything on our wish list. We use Ginny to book trips with companies like Exodus and Explore because she provides extra back up and help. We would thoroughly recommend Ginny to our friends and family, and have done previously.

Sent by Ian Stead

We have always found that Ginny has always worked on our behalf with incredible passion and integrity irrespective of us looking for a two week family summer holiday or a weekend break. As the name suggests she is a true travel counsellor and offers so much more than a traditional travel agent as she always works to our brief and budget and goes the extra mile to make our holiday experiences hassle free. For us she is worth her weight in GOLD

Sent by Karen Everett

Thank you so much for all your help booking our Christmas and New Year holiday It is great having your advice and knowledge to help us decide where to go - and knowing our booking is secure is a big plus The service you provide is very thorough, and as a busy working mum, much appreciated - tickets hand delivered and transfers organised, we just have to pack and go!! I look forward to booking more exciting trips with you Karen

Sent by Brian Gordon

We have young family in New Zealand and go there most years. We have used Ginny Scott and Travel Counsellors for the past eight years. We have had wonderful service with several different routes and stopovers,sometimes via America and mostly via Asia. All have worked out perfectly as planned, including visas and hotel stays. On one occasion, when a critically ill child needed us to go out earlier than the bookings, she took care of all the last-minute changes and saw to it that we had stress-free journeys to and from New Zealand. We recommend Ginny Scott without reservation.

Sent by James Maitland

For October 2019, Ginny was able to arrange the most comfortable and organised business trip for 9 of us to visit the Douro Valley. Three perfect hotels were all in great locations to visit Porto, Gaia and the vineyards. Transfers & taxis were always on time; the drivers had spotless vehicles and gave a very friendly service. Ginny communicated, consulted and confirmed incredibly quickly and professionally. And when I thought all done & dusted, travel packs and extra notes were provided to ensure our trip went as well as if Ginny was actually with us…it was a fabulous service. Thank you Ginny!

Sent by Belinda Warburton

Have booked several holidays through Ginny all very lovely. The personal service given is why she is so successful, she listens to your needs, likes, dislikes and budget. She will always be honest but always finds us the holidays to suit our requirements. It helps that she has visited lots of the destinations and accommodation on offer. A holiday is a big purchase for us so we want to make sure its a really enjoyable experience if you feel the same Ginny is your lady.

Sent by Quintin Brazier

We have known Ginny for many years now and she is always our first port of call when we want to book a holiday. Whether complicated or straight forward she has always given excellent service and has been prepared to go that one step further to make sure we get the best experience. I am very pleased to recommend her to my friends and rely on her knowledge which is always up-to-date and excellent. A very definite 5 star rating from us.

Sent by Kat White

Ginny is the only person I would trust to plan our holidays! She planned the holiday that I got engaged on and our honeymoon and both were holidays of a lifetime. She goes to such lengths to ensure everything is sorted and provides such a personal and caring experience. Would recommend her to everyone!

Sent by Alexandra Cunningham

We have received an excellent service from you over the past decade, with trips specially tailored for our needs. Many thanks for all your help, and all good wishes for a Very Happy New Year. Alex (Cunningham)

Sent by Barry Smith

We have had excellent service from Ginny over several holidays. With her vast experience she is able to help with holiday suggestions. Always willing to go above and beyond to make the travel experience as easy as possible for you. Would definitely recommend her services. Lyn and Barry Smith

Sent by Derek Day

I have been fortunate indeed to have been lucky enough to have received Ginny's help and expertise over many years when booking and planning my holidays. Ginny gets to know her clients well so that she can provide exactly for their needs and expectations -almost as a friend. Well done and thank you. Derek J Day

Sent by Jennifer Emmerson

Ginny Scott is a travel counsellor extraordinaire. She has customised several brilliant holidays for us. Ginny listens to her clients and arranges trips to suit a budget and personal preferences/foibles. This year she arranged a quite late booking to Ibiza for my husband and I to celebrate my 70th birthday and so we could meet up with my niece, her baby and partner and our daughter who lives and works on the island. The flights for the times I needed were a bit tricky so Ginny was able to ‘call in a favour’ from one of her contacts and we were able to go and return on the dates I had hoped for. Ginny’s knowledge of destinations is extremely wide ranging which helps her to find the perfect holiday for her clients, Than you Ginny. We look forward to you arranging more adventures for us!

Sent by Jacqueline Gibby

On recommendation we contacted Ginny to book an extended trip to Australia and Malaysia. She is very knowledgable and helpful and made the whole booking experience easy and exciting. During our 8 week trip everything went like clockwork. We travelled in full confidence that all our travel arrangements were confirmed. We arranged for Ginny to organise another trip to Australia in early 2019 which resulted in a stress free,worry free experience. Highly recommended. Best regards Jackie and Ken Gibby

Sent by Glenn Widgery

Thank you ever so much for handling our trip to Marrakech. The four of us enjoyed our long weekend immensely. We really appreciated the tailored service that you provided, which made the whole experience hassle and stress free. We will definatly keep using your services in the future. Kind regards Glenn Widgery

Sent by Nigel Cuming

Marion and I thank you for your kind wishes, and we take this opportunity to wish you and Lily a happy and successful 2020. As ever we are always more than happy to book our holidays via yourself and Travel Counsellors, and will always recommend the excellent service you provide to our friends and family. Kind regards. Nigel and Marion Cuming.

Sent by James Spencer-Gray

My wife and I have always found Ginny to be extremely pro active and helpful, she is especially good an creating bespoke travel arrangements and as such I would highly recommend her services.

Sent by Ray Turner

Excellent, friendly and efficient service.

Sent by Jean Johnson

It gives me great pleasure in thanking you for the great service you have given us over the past years you know exactly what we like. when we take our cruise you always step up to the mark and make sure its as good as it can get we have introduced you to our friends they are equally impressed with the service you provide. Hopefully we can continue to enjoy cruises. Without doubt you will be our 1st choice travel counsellor Best wishes for 2020 Jean & Colin Johnson

Sent by John Tilling

“Ginny has given me exemplary service in excess of some 30 years or more in respect of both personal and business trips. She has never let me down and her comprehensive knowledge of location and accommodation is unlimited. I cannot recommend Ginny high enough.”

Sent by Louise Walsh

Ginny has been helping our family for over ten years with our holiday plans and has always provided first rate service. Always efficient and resourceful she manages to find the perfect break for us time after time. I never hesitate to recommend her to family and friends as I have every confidence in her ability to research the optimum holiday and excursions.. Thank you Ginny you're the best!!!

Sent by Terence Blissett

We are delighted to forward this testimonial for Ginny Scott at Travel Counsellors. Earlier this year Ginny planned, organised and recommended a splendid holiday to the Maldives. Absolutely memorable and every detail was covered with professional and personal attention. Ginny has handled our forthcoming visit to Lake Como in Italy and look forward to another success story. We would thoroughly recommend Ginny and Travel Counsellors for an excellent travel service.

Sent by Jenny Upson

Ginny planned a surprise holiday for my partner's birthday for me to visit the D Day Landings which was amazing. Everything was excellent and Ginny sent over some lovely details to wrap up as a present including a toy soldier. I then recommended her to my son who was very pleased with the holiday she organised for him and his fiance.

Sent by Sean Warburton

Ginny takes time to get to know you and your likes and dislikes, so she can guide you to make the right holiday decisions. Having travelled to lots of destinations herself her knowledge is really invaluable. A lovely lady providing a personal service at very competitive prices - we have never been disappointed!

Sent by Enid Heslop

We have used the service of Ginny Scott a number of times and always found her very efficient. She is friendly and very helpful and always goes a little further than what is absolutely necessary. I would gladly recommend her.

Sent by Linda Ledwidge

Ginny was brilliant and put together exactly what we wanted even though my sister and her partner wanted to spend 3 nights in a different camp in Kenya. She did not stop putting forward options until we were all totally happy with what we had. We are looking forward to our September safari. Thank you Ginny

Sent by John Tilling

Ginny is priceless. She brings to the transaction a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience, which is invaluable. Polite, helpful and nothing is too much trouble, particularly changes in plans. I would recommend Ginny to any of my friends.

Sent by Elizabeth Langley

We have used Ginny's services several times over the last few years. She is extremely efficient and has a great deal of knowledge. She provides a personal service which is greatly appreciated. We would have no hesitation in recommending Ginny.

Sent by Jenny Judge

The first time we used Ginny was when we wanted a really ‘special’ holiday to celebrate our 65th and 60th birthdays. Ginny found the ideal resort that fulfilled all our requirements in Mauritius. Unfortunately our departure coincided with airport closures due to snow and our holiday was abandoned. We were so pleased that we had booked with Ginny because she kept us regularly updated of the changing situation and arranged a complete refund of all our expenses within a week of cancellation. We have re-booked our holiday with her again this December and have complete confidence in her willingness and ability to sort out any problems.

Sent by Donna Wood

I have dealt with Ginny over the last 16 years on business and leisure travel. The service I have received is of a high standard; quick responses, professional, thorough and all options open to you, not only what you have asked for. Ginny is very approachable and friendly and it is very comforting to know she is on the end of the phone if needed when things go wrong. I have recommended her to a number of people over the years who still book their holidays through her.

Sent by Chris Hardwick

Over the past few years Ginny has organised our family holidays, one son's wedding in Cyprus and my first long haul flight with accommodation in Australia for our other son's wedding. We value her advice and have recommended her to several of our friends who have also been impressed with her expertise. Her Gold Status is certainly well deserved!

Sent by Zoe De Grussa

Excellent and professional service, her personal experiences of holiday destinations is also a fantastic plus when making those difficult decisions!

Sent by Judith Lavender

My husband and I have used Ginny for our frequent holiday arrangements for about 10 years. We have had brilliant service from her. Sometimes we've wanted something 'cheap & cheerful', sometimes a specific destination on a tight budget and others we've wanted to push the 'boat out' for something really special; somehow she has always managed to hit the right note at a more than competitive price. In our experience Ginny always goes that extra mile. Recently I had to cancel a cruise just before departure because of a friend's serious illness and Ginny could not have been more helpful in getting refunds where possible and helping with the insurance claim. I just cannot believe any other travel agent would have done as much to help us as she did. She is a veritable 'treasure'!

Sent by Nigel Chamberlain

I have used Ginny for my business and recreational travel for many years and have found her to be helpful, friendly, imaginative and extremely efficient in all her work. The advice that she has given has been enormously helpful and I have recommended her to others who have without exception been delighted with her work

Sent by Michael Davies

Ginny Scott has been our Travel Counsellor during the last 12 years. We have nothing but admiration for her services and for her genuine interest in providing client satisfaction. She endeavours to research and obtain the best flights, accommodation and prices available and executes a follow-up to ensure that clients are satisfied. We would have no hesitation in recommending Ginny.

Sent by John Steers

Ginny delivered! My local travel agent was not responsive to my needs and time was running out to book the last places for a family holiday to Dubai. A work colleague recommended Ginny. I called her on my way to City airport to catch the 4pm to New York. By the time I arrived in Shannon for fuel & clearing US passport check, Ginny had organised the hotel, held some of the last airplane seats on our preferred dates and negotiated a discount. I just had to check the details with my wife and provide her with passport details and payment, which I did before my flight resumed from Shannon. What great service!

Sent by Maurice Page

Ginny is very positive and gives lots of information on the places that you are interested in visiting. She always gives plenty of choices on accommodation. If she doesn't know quite enough about a certain topic she immediately finds out and gets back to you in a jiffy! Very user friendly. 10/10!!

Sent by Annabel Chater Davies

Ginny has never been anything other that first class and efficient with all our various travel requirements, both business and pleasure.

Sent by Jean & Colin Johnson

It was our pleasure to have met Ginny she is both friendly & knowledgeable over the years she as looked after our travel arrangements she as got to know what we like and without a doubt we trust her judgement we have gone onto enjoy every holiday she as arranged A BIG THANK YOU Ginny P.S we look forward to our cruise on the Queen Elizabeth in September 2011

Sent by Tom Hankinson

Ginny has always been extremely well informed, helpful and imaginative. We would recommend her services to anyone who needs a high level of professional help, whether for holiday or business travel.

Sent by Teresa Simons

Ginny's advice and service for our trip to Amercia could not be faulted. Everything worked out well just as Ginny had said it would

Sent by Len Jarman

Ginny has been responsible for booking a number of holidays for me over the years. The service provided has always been first class, the advice given to me and other family members absolutely 'spot on' for various destinations together with an always friendly response. Cannot think of one complaint.

Sent by Lucy Lavender

I cannot recommend Ginny enough! For the past 10 years she has researched and organised the most wonderful family holidays for my husband, myself and two sons. They have ranged in budget, style and adventure from a simple holiday in Greece, to a travelling holiday across the entire of Canada! During the Iceland Ash crisis Ginny was on the phone to us at all hours of the day and night, working out various itineraries, flights and overland routes to get us home from Egypt. Ginny is the ultimate personal travel counsellor/agent and always goes the extra mile to ensure that we are happy. Given that holidays are exceptionally important to us, we can rest easy in the knowledge that Ginny has organised it for us.

Sent by Stephanie Bonner

Ginny Scott has organised several trips for me and my family.She is extremely efficient and knowledgeable.Nothing is ever too much trouble- even if at the last minute you need to change something! All her holidays have been superb and I would not hesitate to recommend her to all my friends and family.I also hope I will be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to book many more trips through Ginny in the future.

Sent by Ron Beards

We have used Ginny for a number of years and have recommended her to our friends who also use her on a regular basis. She has plotted us on our round the world tour and many other holidays, both package and individually planned. She has saved us £100's of pounds with her great knowledge of the travel industry. She is quietly efficient and enthusiastic in her dealings. She is a neighbour of a friend of ours friend . We have met her and been very impressed with her attitude and attention to detail. We support her 100%.

Sent by Alok Ruia

From 1987, when Ginny organised our honeymoon in Southern Italy to numerous family holidays since, Ginny's care and attention to the finest details have always impressed, and we constantly recommend her to our friends and family.

Sent by Stanley Cooper

Over the past four to five years Ginny has always kept me in touch with travel information,which shows to me her willingness to be as helpful as possible with all my travel needs. Stanley Cooper.

Sent by Patrick Gilham

I have utilised the services of Ginny for several years and have on at least two occassions recommended her to colleagues who have been as impressed as I in the quality and timeliness of the delivery of the service. There are never any dramas and sensible pro active advice is the order of the day. It is difficlt to see how the service could be improved

Sent by Caroline Hobbs

Whenever I wish to travel, I go straight to Ginny because she provides an efficient, personal service that ensures I get value for money. Ginny takes away many of the anxieties associated with travel and whether it is business or pleasure she makes sure you will have a great time.

Sent by Gloria and David Jeans

We have just returned from a wonderful cruise holiday departing from Harwich (so easy to check in) to St Petersburgh, Russia. Thanks to Ginny we knew we could do our own thing at all the ports apart from St Petersburg, using Royal Caribbean shuttle bus service or local Hop On - Hop Off buses to see the main attractions. We used Royal Caribbean two-day package to see all the main sights in St Petersburg which was excellent and did not involve us in obtaining personal visas needed in Russia. Thanks Ginny, nothing was too much trouble in checking out the port facilities ahead of our trip.


I have always had EXCELLENT service from Ginny throughout a number of years. Mostly booking my long haul flights and overnight stopovers to Australia, but Ginny has also done other bookings for me to Eurpoe in the past. I would highly recommend her services - she is always willing to help out at all times and extremely efficient.

Sent by Kim Moore

I was referred to Ginny by a friend last year. She helped me book tickets to fly back home to Canada. She saved me a fair amount of money on the tickets. She also told me about the lounge that I could book access to at the airport. Travelling alone with kids can be a handful, but the lounge made it very relaxing. For that I am grateful and I will be asking her to help me out again this year. "

Sent by Marian Harvey

Ginny has arranged two holidays for me am has given me extremely good service nothing is too much trouble and I feel confident in going back to her each time. The first holiday was in The Seychelles which was perfect as it was a dream holiday. The second is a flight to Australia to visit family with overnight stops in Singapore. Well done Ginny

Sent by Derek Day

I look on Ginny more as a friend. I have been using her expert services for many,many years and have been lucky enough to travel a lot the World with her guidance. Although I generally know what I want from my travel booking , Ginny will enhance and improve it.Her knowledge of destinations and who best to use to organise the appropriate holiday is next to none. Sorry Ginny , but you must never retire !!!!-Thank you .

Sent by Bonnie Hill

Ginny is a real star when it comes to finding what is needed when booking a holiday. I have used her several times now and having outlined requirements she always finds exactly the right resort, flights and transfer arrangements. The individual service that she provides ensures that each trip is tailor made and as such, has been for our family, right every time. I have no reservations in recommedning Ginny to those wishing to travel the world.

Sent by Elaine Bauer

My husband and I have been booking our holidays with Ginny for many years and we have been very pleased with the service she provides us. Ginny takes all the time required to provide us with the best deals, thus making our trip worry-free, and makes us going back to her for her service.Many thanks Ginny, keep up the good work. Sincerely,Elaine.

Sent by Pauline Rendall

I would recommend Ginny to anyone. The two holidays she sorted out for us - one in Gozo and another in Amalfi - couldn't be faulted. They were exactly what we were looking for and at a good price too.

Sent by John Sullivan

It so refreshing these days to receive a personal service rather than an automated robotic response; in that regard, Ginny is a breath of fresh air. I have dealt with Ginny for many years now and have yet to be disappointed. I've enjoyed many holidays through Travel Counsellors in all parts of the world, both in luxury aaccommodation and budget holidays and have invariably received 'value for money'. It is comforting to know that bespoke holidays can still be organised by such an efficient, friendly and conscientious individual. Many thanks, Ginny for adding so much to our holiday enjoyment and memories.

Sent by Esther Dadswell

Ginny is fantastic, my husband is very fussy on what he wants from a holiday and Ginny always manages to find some wonderful places. On our last holiday we decided to upgrade our flight home whilst away, and Ginny arranged this all while we lay on the beach.From our first booking with Travel Counsellors, Ginny has always looked after us to make sure that our holiday is the best, and then she surpasses that for the next one.

Sent by Lucy Lavender

Dear Ginny Thank you so much for all the exceptional support and help you offered us whilst we were stranded in Egypt. We were incredibly grateful for your patience, research and commitment to helping us find a way home. The service you offered was way and above what anyone could reasonably expect and I was gobsmacked when I heard you were setting your alarm to get up at 1am on a Sunday morning to reserve flights for us! Thank you so much - it was really comforting to know that we had you there, fighting our corner on the airline booking systems, working out different routes and giving us updates on just what was happening across the globe. It shouldn't have come as a surprise as you have always offered us wonderful service, but I think it's only at times like this that you realise just what true customer service is all about. Thank you. Best wishes Lucy and Dan

Sent by Louise Walsh

Ginny rose to the challenge last year of organising our once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world trip with our two teenage kids. Her service was definitely above and beyond the call of duty - even putting together a great set of cryptic clues for our very surprised children last Christmas. We had the most amazing experience in a great selection of destinations - which Ginny helped us to determine based on her experience and our requirements. I have recommended Ginny to many friends and will always come back for more of her excellent advice - thanks Ginny for your patience and providing us with the perfect family holiday.

Sent by Paul Nunny

We have sought Ginny’s advice on a number of our holidays around the world and she has always come up trumps. We recommend her to all our friends. She takes the hassle out of booking the holiday and even on the trip if you have any problems you know she is there to help. Congratulations on the award. Very well deserved. Paul

Sent by Derek Day

I first met Ginny Scott when she was a manageress for a travel firm in London, some 13 or 14 years ago. She was then made redundant and became an Independent Travel Counsellor. Since that time, she has assisted in organising some amazing journeys for me around the world. These are not just ‘holidays’ , they are ‘travel experiences’. Ginny takes personal interest in each client’s particular tastes, needs and requirements. She has told me more than once that my suggested hotel or destination was not ‘me’ and suggested a better, more apt alternative. I like to think of myself as a ‘discerning traveller’, but like value for money and this is something Ginny recognises. Not only do I get this service for long- haul , but also for short, weekend breaks too. On one occasion I was told it would be cheaper to book a flight on the Internet myself, as Ginny would need to add on commission!! – this shows true interest in the client's welfare. All I need to do is email Ginny with an outline brief of what I think I would like, she then works her magic to come up with the ideal itinerary!! She knows the specialists for any particular destination, this has been particularly apparent in my many trips to the African continent . It certainly takes out the stress factor in booking and organising trips. I hope to continue this successful relationship for many years , credit crunch allowing !! Thank you Ginny !! Cheers, Derek.