Sent by P Lear
Based in Cheltenham
Hi I’m Janet, based in Cheltenham in the heart of the Cotswolds. Having returned to the UK after living abroad for many years, I joined Travel Counsellors in 2002 and haven’t looked back since.
I have been recognized by Travel Counsellors for my high level of sales and have been awarded "Gold status" of which I am extremely proud.
I want to share with you how I have turned my passion for travel into a unique, bespoke travel service.
What do you find most stressful when booking a holiday? There is only so much a website can tell you, a conversation with an expert is essential.
Utilizing both my 40 years experience and award winning technology, I can provide a highly personal and professional service at a time that suits you.
I have also worked for two major airlines and organised group and incentive travel. For more information on the service I can offer my business clients, please see my “Business Travel” page.
I have travelled widely and visited many wonderful destinations around the globe from Australia and Fiji to the Far East, Middle East, USA, Caribbean and most European destinations. In a nutshell, I love travel and in turn, love my job!
I pride myself on exceptional levels of customer service and hopefully you can take a minute to read my customer stories.
I am very proud that so many of my loyal and long standing clients refer me to their friends and family.
I specialise in bespoke itineraries, honeymoons, luxury beach and city breaks. If you have travel plans and don’t want to spend hours searching the internet then pick up the phone or send me an email. With my experience, I can organise anything from a weekend break to a round the world tailor-made itinerary of a life time, at a price that fits your budget.
Working from home enables me to be available at a time to suit you. I look forward to speaking to you and welcoming you as a new customer.
As much as you can
As far as you can
As long as you can
Life's not meant to be lived in one place!
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.
11 May 2019
My first impression - that ship’s big! 2900 passengers but where are they? The ship is spacious and well laid out. I headed to my sea view stateroom on the sixth deck, with plenty of storage, a comfortable bed and adequate bathroom. Visually extra space is created by floor to ceiling windows. There are various suites and staterooms on offer from interior staterooms to 2 bedroom/2 bathroom iconic suites. All suites have access to The Retreat, a luxurious, private space comprising indoor and outdoor areas. Soak up the sunshine on The Retreat Sun Deck, the chic, spacious outdoor area with stylish furniture, a full-sized pool, a hot tub and dedicated pool butlers. Or head for the shade of The Retreat Lounge, available 24/7 and located just off The Retreat Sun Deck. Guests have access to a concierge who can make any arrangements – on board or off. Taking my first tour around the ship, I started on deck 15 at the roof top garden, an amazing tranquil oasis surrounded by plants and trees, just the spot to relax with a cocktail and read a book. Moving down to deck 14, pool area and solarium, sea spa with natural inspired themes designed by Kelly Hoppen, offering various treatments. For dining there is a choice of 29 restaurants and bars catering to all tastes. The food from the main buffet restaurant to the Michelin inspired speciality restaurant is excellent. The Grand Plaza is the heart of a Celebrity Edge cruise and spans three decks with various social and public spaces. The Martini Bar is a great spot for meeting fellow travellers for pre-dinner drinks. For something quieter the Eden deck gives you the chance to visit Paradise with stunning vistas via the huge glass windows located at the aft of the ship. The Magic Carpet which "floats" between decks 2, 5 and 14 is a great place to sit, enjoy a drink and watch the magical views as you sail above the ocean waves. One of my favourite spots. There are plenty of activities on board listed in the daily on-board news. From morning yoga to a well-equipped gym or an afternoon cookery lesson to evening entertainment in the Club or Theatre. Families and children are welcomed on board with a kid’s club from 1 year, however I feel that the ship is more geared towards adults. Singles are also well catered for with social events organised and a great way to meet other like-minded singles. For more information on cruising, please feel free to contact me.
16 July 2015
After a wonderful safari experience and a couple of nights in Johannesburg (see previous blog) I flew on the early morning, 4 hour flight from Johannesburg to Mauritius. Mauritius is a logical choice for adding in a few nights rest and relaxation after a safari. Beachcomber Hotels are well known in Mauritius and represent 17% of the total rooms available on the island. They have 8 luxury properties in Mauritius of which we were lucky enough to stay at 3; Shandrani, Dinarobin and Trou Aux Biches and visited the others. Each property was unique but in common was the plethora of land and water sports on offer, superb choice of dining options and excellent facilities for families. At Beachcomber Hotels, the “child” packages apply to adolescents up to the age of 17, there is good family accommodation (villas, 2 bedroom apartments or inter connecting family rooms) on offer and a complimentary Bob Marlin Kids club for children from 3 to 12. Babysitting is available upon request. I have sold Mauritius to many clients in the past for honeymoons, couples and family holidays so this was a good chance to see what the island has to offer. Mauritius has long been known for its amazing natural beauty, so much so that Mark Twain the famous author put it well when he said "You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius". I am often asked about the weather, best time of the year to visit and which part of the island to stay. This really depends on your preferences. In general I found the beaches on the East coast to be the best, however the East Coast can be slightly cooler, windier and receive more rainfall. Beaches on the West coast were also stunning however the nearer you get to the North Western part of the island the beaches became rocky. Summer in Mauritius is from November to May with hot, wet and humid weather. The central plateau in the heart of the island sees temperatures that are slightly cooler than on the coast, which makes it a great region for hiking and exploring the once volcanically active region. Winter is from May through until November when the climate is warm and dry. Late afternoons and evenings can get chilly. This makes Mauritius an ideal family destination for a summer holiday and with competitive prices and an excellent range of child friendly hotels, a good alternative to a European summer holiday. For information on any of the Beachcomber hotels or a tailor made holiday to Mauritius, please feel free to contact me.
14 July 2015
Together with a small group of colleagues, I was excited to receive an invite from Africa Collection to visit South Africa. We flew into Johannesburg on a direct, 9 ½ hour flight with Virgin Atlantic. Once we had quickly cleared customs, I removed a small holdall from my main luggage as we needed to travel light (max 20 kilos in a soft sided bag) and headed for our private chartered light aircraft to Madikwe. Main luggage was transferred to our hotel in Johannesburg. The flight takes around 50 minutes and costs approximately £280 per person one way. After a long haul flight it’s a great way to start a safari and a real “Out of Africa” experience. The road trip from Johannesburg to Madikwe takes around 4 – 5 hours, so unless you're staying in the city; I would definitely recommend taking a private charter. We circled over the Madikwe East Airstrip several times as there were giraffe on the runway! To experience the various accommodations on offer in Madikwe, we stayed in 3 different lodges. Madikwe Hills Game Reserve, Tuningi Safari Lodge and lastly Thakadu River Camp all very different. Madikwe Game Reserve is currently the fifth largest game reserve and is also one of the lesser- known parks in South Africa. This makes it a hidden- gem as it is regarded as one of the best conservation areas in Africa and offers the Big 5 in a 680 km2 park (750 km2 including newly incorporated privately owned land). The park is a Malaria- free zone. We were greeted at the airstrip by our guide and driver and taken to our first lodge Madikwe Hills. Set on a hilltop amongst huge boulders this lodge breathes exclusive luxury. 10 luxurious suites with private verandah and plunge pools and also for larger families; Little Madikwe offering a 2 bedroom private villa with its own land rover and private game drives. Time for a quick shower and then off on our first game drive. All meals and 2 daily game drives (6.30- 9am and 3.30 – 6.30 pm) are included at the lodges. The early morning game drives can be very cold and although blankets and hot water bottles are provided, thermal vests and a fleece are a must! Dress is generally casual, even in the evenings when sitting around a boma (fire pit) enjoying the fantastic hospitality and the culinary delights on offer. Tuningi Safari Lodge was a short 1 hour drive from Madikwe Hills and I fell in love with not only the lodge but its friendly and attentive staff. It’s particularly geared to families with an educative programme for children (treasure hunts, waterhole track identification etc.) and baby sitting on offer. The lodge accommodates 16 guest in 4 luxury and 2 family suites. Also perfect for couples or honeymooners the thatched lodge made me feel welcome the minute I arrived There is a wonderful boma overlooking the water hole. I was sad to say goodbye. Then onto Thakadu River Camp situated on the Marico River in the Eastern part of the reserve. The camp comprises of 12 luxury tented suites each with their own deck overlooking the river. This was a truly authentic experience in a wholly owned community based camp. At night, snuggled in my pre heated bed, I could hear the roar of lions and other wild life and at breakfast we were surprised by monkeys who knew exactly what to “steal” from the breakfast buffet. During our 3 night stay and our various game drives we saw the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino) but lots of other wildlife including the rare African wild dogs (even our guide got excited), giraffe, zebra, antelope and so many exotic birds. Leaving Madikwe we drove back to Johannesburg, stopping enroute at the 5* De Hoek Country House Hotel in Magaliesburg for lunch and then onto Johannesburg. In Johannesburg we stayed for 2 nights at the Protea Fire and Ice Hotel. This is an edgy, funky hotel famous for its milk shakes and Hollywood glamour. Located in the Melrose Arch area north of downtown Johannesburg, it’s close to many restaurants, bars and shops, a good choice for a couple of nights. During our short stay in Johannesburg we firstly visited the Apartheid Museum. We only had a short stop here which was not enough time to do it justice but a definite must do. Following lunch at the elegant and stylish Four Seasons Hotel we stepped into another world and took a Soweto Cycle tour led by the Soweto born and bred Lebo. This was for me a highlight of our stay with a visit to Nelson Mandela’s and Desmond Tutu’s homes. Having looked at the itinerary my initial reaction was “is this safe”, nothing could have been further from the truth, we were made to feel extremely welcome, positive vibe and extremely friendly people. Lastly a walking tour of downtown Johannesburg led by Jo, a graffiti art expert. Finally, the next day our early morning 4 hour flight to Mauritius. See further blog on my 5 night stay in Mauritius.
16 October 2014
It’s always a difficult choice deciding on my own holiday destination. Wishing to refresh my knowledge of Western USA, my 19 year old son and I embarked on a tour that commenced in Arizona, passing through Nevada and onto California - a drive of 2500 miles in 3 ½ weeks. We flew into Phoenix, Arizona, there are direct flights from the UK and collected our hire car. I would always recommend spending the first night at the airport before commencing the drive up to the Grand Canyon. We travelled via Flagstaff, a scenic drive of about 5 hours (with stops). We stayed 2 nights at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Our hotel was situated about ½ hour from the rim, however it’s also possible to book lodges within the Park. These lodges need to be booked well in advance of arrival. For a first time visitor to the Grand Canyon it really is an amazing sight and no photo can do it justice. From the Grand Canyon we headed to Las Vegas stopping at the Hoover Dam; named one of the top 10 construction achievements of the 20th Century, located in the Black Canyon and close to Las Vegas. Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, is in my opinion like Marmite - you either love or hate it. We stayed at the Aria Resort and Casino right on the world-famous Strip. With 4004 rooms, 16 restaurants, 7 lounges/bars and 4 outdoor pools it was a shock to the system after the tranquillity of the Grand Canyon. This is glitz with a capital G! From every form of gambling, renowned world class shows, first class shopping and top restaurants, Las Vegas has it all. My 19 year old loved it! Leaving Las Vegas we headed towards Death Valley and the quiet and extreme environment it offers. Before driving we checked the car and stocked up on extra bottles of water as we had been warned about the temperatures. Whilst driving the temperature gage outside steadily climbed to 115F and signs advised us to switch off the AC in case our car overheated. For much of the journey we also had no sat nav or phone signal. A good map is therefore a must! Arriving at Furnace Creek Ranch, I have never been so pleased to see a pool and really wondered where all those guests had come from. After the “glitz” of Las Vegas, Furnace Creek ranch seemed rustic and basic, but the staff were so welcoming we really enjoyed our short stay here. From Death Valley we headed north and ascending into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the alpine resort of Mammoth Lakes. The scenery here is probably some of the best of our trip. Great shopping in the outlet stores, superb restaurants and somewhere we would want to return in the winter for the superior skiing and beautiful mountain vistas. From Mammoth Lakes we firstly drove the scenic loop around the lakes, which is a 15 minute drive from the town. We then drove the Tioga Pass high into the Sierra Mountains and the wonderland of the Yosemite National Park. A permit is required to enter the National Parks, and these can be purchased at the gate for $20 per car. The pass is also closed from October to May on the Eastern side of the park. Looking at the map, the journey is deceptive as the pass is narrow and can get busy in high season. We also stopped around every corner for another photo or swim in a lake, the scenery was majestic. It took us 6 hours and many stops once entering the National Park to arrive at our next hotel stop in Oakhurst outside the East gate of the park. From Oakhurst we continued our journey onto San Francisco for 3 nights. Staying near China town in the Fairmont Hotel, our car was not needed and hence I had pre booked multi storey parking nearby. We were lucky to be in San Francisco for Independence Day and were able to view the firework celebrations over the harbour. We loved San Francisco, so much to see and do in our 3 short days. Highlights of our stay included a visit to Alcatraz (pre book and take the early morning trip before it gets busy), walking over the Golden Gate Bridge, taking a tram (expect to queue), Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and Lombard Street. Heading south from San Francisco with my son's surfboard in the car, we now started chasing the Californian surf and as a keen surfer, the part of the holiday that he was really excited about. Driving south we stopped in Santa Cruz (about 1 ½ hours’ drive from San Francisco) then along Highway 1 with breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast seascapes as we made our way down to the Bay and Monterey. We travelled in July and at this time of the year you can experience sea fog and mist. After a short stop in Monterey with the option of visiting the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row we continued our journey to Carmel for another 1 night stop. Carmel, with its charming downtown shopping district, art galleries, beautiful beaches and historic mission was another of our favourite stops. Driving south again via Point Lobos we continued our journey for another 1 night stop in Santa Barbara. The entire coastline south of Carmel to just north of San Simeon is considered Big Sur country. As it snakes through Big Sur, Highway 1 is one of the world’s most spectacular drives. Following the surf we continued to Huntington Beach our home for the next 4 nights and some rest and relaxation on the Californian beaches. Preparations were being made for the US Open of Surfing, the world's largest surf competition and lifestyle festival. Offering the authentic surf lifestyle, coupled with 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline, Huntington Beach can truly be called Surf City USA. Leaving Huntington Beach we continued down the coast via Newport Beach and Laguna Beach to San Diego. Depending on traffic this can take anything from 1 – 2 hours. Blessed with a wonderful year round climate this city is modern California at its best. Besides boasting 5 of California’s leading attractions there is also fantastic shopping, the historic Gaslamp Quarter and the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum. Our favourite Californian beach was also here, La Jolla - an upscale casual vibe with, in our opinion, the best surfing of the entire Californian coastline. Our last 3 nights were spent in Santa Monica giving us the opportunity to visit downtown LA, Hollywood, Beverley Hills, Venice Beach and an unforgettable day at Universal Studios. We splashed out on Front of Line passes at Universal and felt like VIPs as we skipped the lines. Our flight home was again direct from Los Angeles to Heathrow. Should you be considering a similar trip please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to share my experiences and top tips of this fantastic fly drive holiday.
11 August 2014
On our way to tour the West Coast USA, we decided to make a short 3 night stopover in Miami. Easily accessible with a direct 9 hour flight from the UK, Miami is a city with many influences. It’s impossible to see everything in Miami on such a short visit. With attractions both man-made and natural, beaches galore, shopping, nightlife and a dizzying array of arts and culture, limited time in Miami can leave you feeling pulled in too many directions. Planning your days is therefore key. South Beach also named SoBe has to be the liveliest part of Miami, with Caribbean and South American influences. The most iconic neighbourhood in Greater Miami, South Beach encompasses the area south of 21st Street. Seeing the gorgeous pastel buildings of Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District is something no first-time visitor should miss. Take a self-guided audio tour or regularly scheduled walking tour of one of the world’s greatest concentrations of 1930’s architecture. Beaches here are stunning and the reality is that when almost anywhere on the east side of Miami Beach, you are never more than a stone’s throw from the beach, with each one as spectacular as the next. However, there is more to Miami than SoBe. If you’re interested in escaping the crowds in SoBe, then head to North Beach (70th street and above). Communities like Surfside, Bal Harbour, Sunny Isles and Aventura. For shopping head over to Lincoln Road Mall situated between Alton Road and Washington Avenue. This is the place to see and be seen. The pedestrianised Mall offers unique shopping, sidewalk cafes, bars, galleries, and fine dining. Bal Harbour is another luxury shopping mall. Potter around the excellent ethnic enclaves of Little Haiti or Little Havana before dining in the trendy Design District. Downtown Miami is the city’s international financial and banking centre, but also boasts new condos and high rise luxury hotels in the area known as Brickell. We opted to stay in Brickell Key at the Mandarin Oriental, a wonderfully private, yet convenient, location with its own private beach and fantastic views over the Bay of Miami. Just a 15 minute taxi ride from the airport, this was a perfect location for our early morning departure to Atlanta and also easily accessible using public transport to South Beach, Downtown, Design District and Coconut Grove. Metrobus and Metrorail provide low-cost alternatives to taxis and rental cars. Metromover, a 4.4-mile tram that loops around Downtown Miami, interconnects with Metrorail and Metrobus. Cars run every few minutes and stop every few blocks, and the service is free. Halt is situated a 10 minute walk from the hotel. There are countless excursion on offer, bike rentals, harbour cruises, helicopter tours, Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Boat Tours. Our favourite was the Thriller Miami speedboat ride. The Tour departs from Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami. The tour provides the ultimate sightseeing experience in true "Miami Vice Style". We loved it. High season to Miami is January to March when the winter weather in South Florida is dry and sunny. We visited in June, low season and yes it’s hot but the sea breezes are cooling and we only had one sharp shower. Whatever the time of year, Miami has something for everyone, we loved our stay and our regret is that we only had 3 nights. For further information on Miami or a tailor made itinerary to the USA, please feel free to contact me. I would love to share my experiences with you.
11 August 2014
This was my 2nd visit to the Gambia and so rather than just relax in the sun I decided to combine the beach with a stay in Makasutu Forest at the Mandina Floating Lodges. The Gambia is a perfect winter sun destination with uninterrupted sunshine and virtually no rain in high season (November to June). Direct 6 hour flights with short transfers to the hotels, outside the Euro zone, so offering good value for money, same time zone so no jet lag, English speaking and a wide range of accommodation and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. It is a destination that both I and many of my clients have visited and love. However, the Gambia isn’t right for everyone and it’s important to know what to expect and to choose the right location. It can be quite a culture shock and is still a developing country. I therefore always discuss the pros and cons of this destination before recommending to my clients. Our first 3 nights were spent at Mandina Lodges. Situated just 30 kms from the coastal resorts on a tributary of the River Gambia, this is the place for peace, tranquillity and wildlife. Bird watching is especially popular. Guides are provided free of charge to explore the forest and mangrove on foot or by dugout canoe. The floating lodges are rustic but comfortable and clean. The hosts Lawrence and Linda make you feel part of the family and as it’s a small resort, guests quickly interact especially around the camp fire at night. Again this is not for everyone. Food was prepared daily using local ingredients and the choices were discussed with the chef. If you like fast food this is not the place for you! Our beach stay was at the Kairaba Beach Hotel a firm favourite. Rooms are located in 2 storey buildings amidst extensive gardens and the hotel is perfectly situated to the many bars and restaurants of Kololi. The beach at the Kairaba has seen considerable erosion in the past years and is not the best. The sea can be rough with undercurrents, however the pool and gardens make up for this. There are no pool games or loud music. Breakfast at the hotel is excellent and I would suggest dining out in the many fantastic local restaurants. There is a huge choice of cuisine from home cooked Gambian to Lebanese, Italian Indian and Chinese. Fine dining at Ngala Lodge is also recommended. Another firm favourite is the Cocoa Ocean Resort and Spa set on a stunning, unspoilt beach just a short taxi ride from the restaurants and nightlife in Kololi. The hotel has a Moroccan inspired architecture and the spa is excellent with quality treatments at an African price tag! Whilst in the Gambia I spent a day home cooking with Ida. I was dressed in traditional Gambian attire and then Ida took me to the local market to shop. A busy market, full of colour, sounds and smells. We returned to prepare and eat a Gambian meal.
25 May 2014
I was lucky enough to receive an invitation from Cathay Pacific Airways, the Macau Government Tourist Office and the Hong Kong Tourism Board to experience first-hand what these fascinating destinations have to offer. The direct 12 hour Heathrow to Hong Kong flight with Cathay Pacific was punctual and I was fortunate to get an extra leg room seat in economy. There was good seat width with a 3/3/3 configuration and excellent on demand entertainment providing a good choice of recent films, music, TV and games. Excellent menu choice and in between meals, self-service snacks (would have preferred a few more healthy options) and drinks were available. For clients in the north of England, Cathay Pacific is launching a new direct service from Manchester to Hong Kong, four times a week from December 2014. Upon arrival in Hong Kong we remained airside and our bags were automatically transferred to the Sea Express Ferry to Macau. Lying 65 kilometres to the west of Hong Kong the express ferry takes about 1 hour. The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge is an ongoing construction project which consists of a series of bridges and tunnels that will connect Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, three major cities on the Pearl River Delta. The bridge is due for completion in 2015 and will open in 2016. I knew very little about Macau before my visit, it’s a city of duality. Its fortresses, churches and the food (Macanese cuisine) of its former Portuguese colonial masters speak to a uniquely Mediterranean style on the China coast, intermixed with alleys, temples and shrines. We visited the Macau Tower for a fantastic lunch and watched as people jumped from the world’s highest bungee jump. Macau, on the other hand, is also the ‘Vegas of the East’ – the Special Administrative Region of Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal. We visited the ‘strip’ which has similar hotel brands to Las Vegas such as MGM and the Venetian. We visited the City of Dreams and were spellbound by the show “The House of Dancing Water” very similar to the shows by Cirque-Du-Soleil in Las Vegas. Gambling tourism is Macau's biggest source of revenue, making up about 50% of the economy. Visitors are made up largely of Chinese nationals from the mainland and Hong Kong. Besides gambling, Macau has so much more to offer and it’s a great add on to Hong Kong for a few days or can be visited as a day trip from Hong Kong. The climate in Macau is fairly warm and tropical and humidity is high. Rainfall is mostly during the summer months and a good time to visit is autumn when days are sunny and the humidity is lower. Returning by the fast ferry to Hong Kong, you need to pay for your bags (this is only into Hong Kong) which was about HK$ 30 (about £3). Arriving into Hong Kong we were whisked off to an afternoon of horse racing at Sha Tin Racecourse. This is one of two race courses in Hong Kong and managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It was an exciting afternoon of flat racing and a bonus that we had our own box. The average stay for a visit to Hong Kong is four nights and there is so much to see and do that we had a jam packed schedule. Hong Kong is a vibrant, cosmopolitan and trendsetting city comprising of three main areas, to the north Kowloon, Victoria Harbour and South Hong Kong Island. A shopper’s paradise with night markets and designer shops and over 11,000 restaurants. We were given a city map and MTR tickets and spent the day exploring Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The MTR was easy to navigate and is fast, clean and efficient. The first stop was the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island followed by a trip on the peak tram to the peak with fantastic views over Hong Kong. It’s advisable to do this early morning or late at night as its gets very busy and we queued for nearly two hours. Our second day in Hong Kong was spent travelling to Lantau Island and a visit to the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery with a cable car ride back from Tung Chung. This was a fantastic day trip and comes highly recommended. Hong Kong has a similar climate to Macau. Should you wish any further information on either Macau or Hong Kong please feel free to contact me.
13 June 2013
At our annual Travel Counsellors conference I won a top prize; a 7 night stay for myself and a friend to Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort in St Lucia. The problem was who to take on this wonderful trip! My son was the lucky person to accompany me, so we took to the skies with Virgin Atlantic on their direct 8 hour flight from Gatwick to St Lucia on the 24th May 2013. Arriving in St Lucia from a cold and wet UK, we cleared customs quickly and were soon whisked away in our private car en route to Sugar Beach. Transfer to Sugar Beach is about 50 minutes and is located in the South Western part of St Lucia about 3 miles from Soufriere. Peak season for St Lucia runs from mid-December to April. In these months, accommodation rates are generally significantly higher than at other times of the year, but the weather is usually at its best. Rates are cheaper in the summer and autumn months, when it's stickier and wetter - and note that St Lucia gets more rain than other less mountainous Caribbean islands such as Barbados or Antigua. Also bear in mind that the hurricane season runs from June to November, with September and October statistically the likeliest months for major storms. Taking into account prices and weather, May is a good month to visit. Upon arrival, we were shown our luxury Grand Villa by our personal butler who would look after our every need for the next 7 days. There are 59 luxury villas, 8 new luxury beach front bungalows and 11 fully renovated Luxury Sugar Mill rooms. All villas have a private plunge pool and decor was elegant with white four-poster beds draped with mosquito nets, white-painted and white-cotton-covered wooden furniture and white shutters. The views from our terrace over the majestic valley of the Pitons were spectacular. The resort is spread across more than 100 acres of tropical rainforest and has the only white sand beach (manmade) in the area. Snorkelling is available directly from the beach and there was plenty in the way of activities with complimentary water and land sports. The hotel seems to cater for mostly couples, however as we were there in the school holidays there were also several families (mostly British) with younger children. Dining options included the informal Bayside restaurant and the formal Great Room. Close to Sugar Beach by boat is the romantic hideaway of Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain. These properties offer a classic Caribbean charm without the mod cons of air conditioning, cable TV or telephone. They offer an “away from it all” experience with no newspapers or media, no children under 6 at Anse Chastanet and non under 16 at Jade Mountain. Set in 600 acres of tropical rain forest with 2 black sand beaches they offer a completely different experience to Sugar Beach. The staff were extremely welcoming and the Assistant Manager, Peter not only knew the names of all guests staying, but also how many times each had re visited the resort as they receive many repeat guests - the highest being 31 times. Need I say more! Here it is all about an environmentally conscious resort with 4th walls open to the stunning vistas, yet are completely private. We were sorry to leave. Dragging ourselves away from the wonderful beach and pool area at Sugar Beach (we didn't use the plunge pool once) we hired a driver for the day and toured the island. This can be costly as Sugar Beach is rather isolated but that again adds to the charm and means there are no or few "hawkers" on the beach, all of which are public in St Lucia. The natural landscape of unspoiled rainforest, waterfalls and breath taking views around every corner were stunning. The majestic twin peaks of the Pitons dominate the south and the soaring mountains descend as far underwater as they rise above it, making the area particularly interesting for diving and snorkelling. We loved this beautiful island and hope to return soon.
19 October 2012
Morocco is a country that I have always wanted to visit and I would suggest either a guided tour or a 7 night fly drive. Marrakech is also a popular city break destination and with the advent of low cost flights, it’s a great choice. We flew via Casablanca to Marrakech but there are nonstop flights available and from the UK it’s about a 3 ½ flight. Morocco is at its best in spring (mid-March to May), when the country is lush and green, followed by autumn (September to November), when the heat of summer has eased. At other times, don’t underestimate the extremes of summer heat and winter, particularly in the High Atlas. If you are travelling in winter, head for the south, although be prepared for bitterly cold nights. The north coast and the Rif Mountains are frequently wet and cloudy in winter and early spring. Also, the timing of Ramadan (the traditional Muslim month of fasting and) is another important consideration as some restaurants and cafes close during the day and general business hours are reduced. Our first 2 nights were spent in Marrakech and we stayed in a traditional riad; a house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. Like many North African towns, Marrakech is divided into two distinct parts, the Gueliz (the modern French built city) and the Medina (the Old City). Our riad, the Aladdin, was close to the Medina but once inside its doors, the riad was a haven of tranquillity. There are countless riad’s in Marrakech to suit all tastes and budgets. Food in the riads is generally excellent and some have small pools and most a roof terrace for dining or sun bathing. The city’s heart is the spectacular Djemma-el-Fna square which comes into its own at night with musicians, jugglers, acrobats, snake charmers and clowns. A guided walking tour is a must and there is plenty to see and do for a 3 or 4 night break from shopping in the colourful souks to sitting at one of the local cafes sampling the wonderful food or visiting the historic sites. From Marrakech we drove south towards Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, about a 1 ½ hour drive. En route we visited Kasbah Tamadot, Sir Richard Branson’s Moroccan Retreat. Relaxation is certainly on the agenda when visiting this stunning property, with just 27 bedrooms and suites including nine luxury Berber Tents; some of which have private plunge pools. All are individually decorated using traditional Moroccan furnishings and antiques. Our accommodation for the night was the riad Douar Samra in Tamatert. If you are looking for a traditional Berber retreat this is it. It’s the perfect place to relax after a day’s trekking in the mountains, although I wouldn’t advise it for those who are less mobile or those seeking luxury. Our hosts were extremely welcoming and the food wonderful. Accommodation was basic but it was an experience not to be missed. Leaving the Atlas Mountains we headed to the coastal resort of Essaouira, about a 4 hour drive. Popular with hippies in the 1970’s, one of the resort’s most famous visitors was Jimi Hendrix, whose photos still adorn several local bars! There’s a small museum and the busy fish markets are well worth a visit. Needless to say, the seafood here is excellent and there are numerous restaurants to try. We stayed at the riad Al Madina which has a great location in the Medina and is within walking distance of the beach. Our last night was spent back in Marrakech at the 5* Hotel Kenzi Farah, a taxi ride away from the Medina. Although this was a stunning hotel with all the mod cons, I would definitely recommend choosing a traditional riad for your stay in Morocco to fully experience this wonderful culture!
27 May 2012
An invitation arrived on my desk from the Colorado Tourist Board to showcase what this stunning state has to offer. Having looked at the 7 night action packed itinerary, I decided that there may be a few activities on offer that might be beyond me. However, I am pleased to say, that I did it all!!! A challenge but a trip that I shall remember for a long time. Colorado is well connected to the rest of the USA and there are direct flights into Denver from the UK. We flew with AA via Dallas FW, a smooth connection and an easy airport to transfer. Our itinerary commenced in Denver and we had the following day to explore the museums and sights of this cosmopolitan city. The Denver Art Museum and History Colorado Centre are two musts. The city is easy to walk or bike around and there is a free shuttle bus that runs down the 16th Street shopping Mall. Having left Denver, we headed out to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Visitor Centre, a naturally formed world famous outdoor venue that has hosted many famous names in the music world. From Denver onto Granby for an overnight stay at the C Lazy U Ranch - a luxury dude ranch perfect for both couples and families. Here you can experience the traditions of the American West. Besides horseback riding in the 8000+ acres there is a host of activities to keep all the family busy. Glenwood Springs was our next stop, famous for its Hot Springs and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park with its famous swing out over the canyon. The park is reached by a beautiful gondola ride up the side of Iron Mountain with panoramic views out over the canyon. Here, as in all parts of Colorado, were just so many activities to keep all the family entertained. From mountain biking to kayaking, rock climbing, rafting, hiking, fishing, four wheeling, hunting and even zip lining over the Colorado River. Not to forget all the wonderful winter activities that this state has to offer. From Glenwood Springs another scenic drive to Grand Junction, Colorado's wine country for more fun filled activities and the best Italian meal I have ever eaten. An early morning picnic breakfast at the Colorado National Monument, one of the top 10 best places for solitude in the USA, with 11 canyons, 20,000 acres of arched windows, rock spires and natural monoliths. Could the views get any better... from here onto Black Canyon National Park for picnic lunch and views of Pulpit Rock, Chasm View and Painted Wall (the highest cliff in Colorado). We then had a late afternoon arrival into Salida, located in central Colorado in the Upper Arkansas River Valley. Again Salida embodies the outdoor Colorado lifestyle with year round activities. There are also many art galleries and Salida is also the place to find balance, you can relax in one of the areas hot springs after an invigorating hike up one of the dozen fourteen-thousand-foot tall mountain peaks. Departing Salida we head to Colorado Springs and a visit to the Garden of the Gods, for hundreds of years a home to the Ute Indians and other Native American Tribes. The park is one of America's top 10 Great Public spaces with a landscape of sandstone rock formations against a backdrop of snow-capped Pikes Peak and brilliant blue skies. Just time to explore the historic town of Manitou Springs with its galleries, shopping and boutiques before heading off to dinner at the award winning Broadmoor Hotel. After a good night’s rest we took an early morning breathtaking ride on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway to the summit of Pikes Peak at 4,032 metres. From the top it’s possible to see four States and having acclimatised to the altitude, we then mountain biked down the mountain taking in the wonderful scenery and experiencing the five different life zones. Leaving this fantastic state behind, I reflected that it really does have it all... stunning scenery, activities galore for the adrenalin junkie to the relaxation of the therapeutic hot springs, gourmet dining, wineries, luxurious hotels and lodges to suit all tastes and budgets, shopping, arts and culture, historic sites and cosmopolitan cities. For more information on this fantastic destination, feel free to call or e-mail me.
03 November 2011
I was lucky enough to be invited to visit this stunning island by the Grenada Tourist Board. Checked in at Gatwick smoothly to be informed that we were flying BA Club class. If budget allows, this is the way to travel and I arrived well rested after a good sleep. Grenada lived up to all my expectations; a small island (about the size of the Isle of Wight) situated in the southernmost of the Windward Islands and comprising of Grenada and her sister islands; Carriacou and Petite Martinique. The island is stunning, white sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, waterfalls, coral reefs, swaying palm trees and turquoise waters. Grenada’s many sheltered bays makes it one of the main yachting centres in the Eastern Caribbean and its coral reefs with more than 50 great drift, reef and wreck dives makes it a perfect destination for snorkelling or diving. For cultural and historical sites there is plenty to see, 3 military forts offering magnificent views of the harbour, St Georges the capital and the Grenada National Museum. For thrill-seekers, we went on a Grenada Seafaris power boat tour to snorkel at the Underwater Sculpture Park, laughed as we span and swirled down the Balthazar River on river tubes and relaxed on a beautiful sunset sailing cruise whilst we were served champagne on the Shadow Fax. As the island is small, the people incredibly friendly and the scenery stunning, I would recommend to rent a car and possibly consider a 2 centre holiday. There is accommodation available to suit all tastes and budgets and I visited many different properties on the island from large all inclusive resorts, self catering apartments, luxury villas, beachside cottages and small intimate boutique style properties ideal for honeymoons. The native Grenadian cuisine is delicious and we dined in both local restaurants and top hotels. I can especially recommend the Gary Rhodes restaurant at the Calabash Hotel, the food and surroundings were just perfect for a special occasion. Grenada has retained its Caribbean charm and I loved it. If you have travel plans and are yet undecided where to holiday, please give me a call and I will be happy to share my experiences with you.
02 November 2011
Having been a travel agent for over 30 years, I have to admit I have never visited Antigua. It was therefore with excitement that I boarded the Virgin flight on the 24th March heading for a 7 day inspection trip to Antigua. They say that Antigua has a beach for every day of the year and in all my travels I have never seen such beautiful, pristine beaches and to my surprise many of which, were deserted. Besides the crystal clear, azure seas and pink sands this small island has much more to offer. We visited hotels ranging from good value, family 3* all inclusive to the exclusive resort of Jumby Bay on Long Island, so an island for all budgets and tastes. For the history buffs a visit to Nelsons ‘Dockyard is a must and a stay overnight at the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel, an unique 18th Century restored property boasting many authentic antiques and period pieces. For adventure seekers try the zip line experience through the rainforest canopy or swim with stingrays (I don't think that I have ever laughed so much!) and for seclusion a trip to Barbuda and the Frigate bird sanctuary. Culinary delights are offered at all the top hotels but if you want to experience the pure magic and friendliness of this island then a trip to Shirley Heights on a Sunday is highly recommended with spectacular views over English Harbour, a great BBQ and wonderful atmosphere. All in all a fantastic trip giving a good insight into what Antigua & Barbuda has to offer. I visited many different hotels on my visit and will be happy to make recommendations for your forthcoming holiday or honeymoon to this beautiful island.
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