Sent by Nichola Stokes
Nottigham 2/6/2020 12:45:00 PM
Based in South West Denton
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hello, my name is Lisa Brady and I am proud to be a Travel Counsellor based in the North East of England, with clients living worldwide.
Having worked in the travel industry for 15+ years before changing to a corporate role, then taking a break to set up a construction company with my husband, whilst also having a three children! I am delighted to be part of this amazing industry.
My career journey has enabled me to have extensive knowledge of not only travel, but corporate requirements, the construction industry, the joys of running your own business and having the right people to take care of the most important things…which takes me back to travel.
Travel for all is my absolute passion. Indeed, I specialise in making travel accessible and inclusive – everywhere and for everyone. Through specialist training, experience and having access to the best suppliers and destination managers in the world, I can organise your perfect trip with considerations to the most accessible hotels, additional equipment, adapted vehicles, whatever it takes to ensure your holiday, wedding, honeymoon, business trip etc. suits your requirements perfectly. So where in the world do you want to go?
Every destination has something new to offer and I have always seen it as my role to fact find the destinations to discover its true potential just for you. From skiing and dune buggies in Dubai, visiting the penguins on a beach in Cape Town to learning to surf in the heart of Northumberland. I haven’t been everywhere (yet) but, it is on my list!
Being a Travel Counsellor gives me the opportunity to be the go to person for a wider range of clients in delivering excellence in service with an impartial, financially backed company. My time is spent creating the perfect travel experience for my clients.
‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sales. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ Mark Twain
Please contact me and let’s start creating your next discovery.
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.
16 August 2020
One of my TC buddies had planned a trip with her daughters and niece and had upgraded to a swim up suite at a brand new hotel. When Michelle shared the countdown I was happily envious but a few days before the trip and the niece could no longer travel. Given the opportunity to experience one of the first flights post pandemic and a change of scenery to an island I had not been to before, I jumped at the opportunity. A quick name change, train to Birmingham and my 2 day countdown began. The airport experience at both Birmingham and Corfu was a breeze. There are few flights this summer, so things are quiet which helps with social distancing. Duty free was open with lots of bargains especially for food and alcohol. Around 50% of the shops were open – everyone wears a mask and it is all extremely clean. Apart from the mask (which you soon get used to), this feels like an upgraded airport experience. Our flight was around ¾ full, I was sat next to a family of 5 in the window seat – no social distancing here. Once the flight takes off you can move to empty seats, you just need to return to your original seat for landing. Masks to be worn throughout the flight, there is a full in-flight service, you can remove your masks for eating and drinking. Duty free bargains on board too – I guess the airports and airlines have some excess stock, a great time to treat yourself! There is no waiting in the aisles and no queuing for the bathroom – minimal differences, main one again is the mask. For Greece, it is mandatory to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 48 hours before arriving. You will be emailed a QR code just after midnight on the morning of your flight which needs to be shown on departure and arrival. Ad hoc Covid-19 screening is also being carried out, although we did not see this. From landing to sitting on our transfer was super-fast and efficient – once again an upgraded experience. Mask wearing is mandatory on buses and within shops. Staff in hotels wear masks, you do not need to. We stayed at the brand new Destino Blue hotel in Sidari, in a swim up suite - a small and friendly, exceptionally well designed hotel around 5 minutes’ walk away from the famous Canal d'Amour and beach. During our week we visited a hotel with a water park, 15 minutes’ walk away and hired a car (arranged by hotel at a great rate) and explored the south of the island. It's so pretty here, you can see mainland Greece, Albania and feel the Italian influence. Whilst in the south we had a day exploring the 5-star family orientated Marbella Corfu, then the adult only 5-star Domes Miramare. Both awesome hotels offering something unique in an outstanding setting. We also took a private boat across to Erikousa, the most stunning island around 40 minutes from Sidari, which could make a great base to explore from or twin centre with Corfu. We participated in some water Msports from Sidari beach, took a 10 minute taxi ride to the outstanding Sunset Beach and 7th Heaven – a must do on the island, I would recommend booking a table for dinner so you get the best sunset spot. If you have not been to Corfu yet, place it on your must travel list. Perhaps you are ready for a return visit – from a package holiday to bespoke island-hopping trip and everything in between – I have lot's I can recommend and would love to help plan your perfect trip.
12 July 2020
I have been lucky to sink my toes into some of the finest beaches around the World. I will happily set the alarm for sunrise, join you for sundowners and swim in the sea without a care in the world – or to my family’s horror a thought to what may lurk beneath. Of all the places explored, Northumberland Coast takes number one. Wherever you stay in the NE you are close by (at most a short drive) to every type of beach. We have busy beaches with surfing shops, cafes, arcades and award-winning restaurants. Secluded beaches where you are pretty much guaranteed to have miles of sand to yourself. You can choose the backdrop of world famous castles, the forefront of islands – channel your inner David Attenborough with a visit to the Farne Islands, or seep in history at the island which isn’t always an island taking the breath-taking drive of the causeway to Holy Island. We have circa 40 miles of beach, if you want to experience all its true glory there is the 100km Northumberland Coast Path walk. Here are a few of my favourites which we have visited over the past few weeks... Tynemouth You will find Longsands and King Edwards here separated only by a cliff. Both beaches have been internationally recognised as Blue Flag Beaches. King Edwards is a small bay, surrounded by cliffs and overlooked by a historic Priory and Castle. I have memories of playing in the sand here as a child. Now, this beach is home to a nominated ‘World finest dining experience’ – Riley’s Fish Shack. This tiny shack has won praise from foodies around the World as a perfect eating experience. We have enjoyed surf and turf, lobster, monkfish, kippers, oysters, wraps and the most amazing flatbreads and roast potatoes you can imagine! Expect to queue and be surprised with the menu which changes according to the catch of the day. Sit in their deckchairs enjoy the wait and the view. Longsands is a larger and less secluded beach, again a blue flag outstanding beach – a fab walk at around half a mile long with the wonderful Crusoe’s Café at one side – with very tempting cupcakes. Longsands is one of the region’s more popular beaches in an affluent residential area, there is always space even in the peak of summer, although parking can be a challenge. It is one of the best places to surf in the North East, book into a surf school for a day or hire your kit at one of the surf shops which overlook the beach. Whilst in Tynemouth take a walk to Front Street, you will find an abundance of nice bars (ideal for a night out too), restaurants, cafés and an eclectic mix of shops. If you visit at the weekend be sure to experience the indoor market at the gloriously restored Victorian Station. Places to stay Gull Cottage, Tynemouth. This 1-bedroom cottage is a stone throw from everywhere mentioned above. The View Old Coastguard Cottage. Once belonged by the Queen as a look out for invaders, now a 5-bedroom property sleeping upto 10 people. Beautiful sea views, a great option for a group or family get together. The Village Hotel – around 4 miles from Longsands, the closest large hotel with pool, gym, spa and restaurant in the area. Bamburgh Beach Wonderfully dramatic with miles of soft white sands, high dunes, the iconic Bamburgh Castle always in sight and the Farne Island’s visible from its shores – everywhere you look is breath-taking, easily one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen and that’s before you explore the picturesque village of Bamburgh. Often windy which seems to help encourage other to stay away, you will have plenty space and have perfect conditions for kite surfing, surfing and dune running! Bamburgh is steeped in history, the castle deemed the King of the Castles, a grade 1 listed building now privately owned and open for visitors all year round. Bamburgh was the home to Grace Darling, the famous heroin who lived in her father’s lighthouse and risked her life to rescue other’s in a terrible storm – Grace darling Museum is in the village. We tend to take a picnic and spend most of the time on the beach. For dining visit the Potted Lobster. Or take a drive out to another of our famous castles – Alnwick which is around 30 minutes away and book into the Treehouse for another dining treat. Places to stay The Watch Tower in Waren Mill, near Bamburgh. This penthouse of a converted mill with commanding views over Budle Bay towards Holy Island. Sleeps up to 6 people in 3 bedrooms. The Haven, situated on the fabulous Holy Island, accessed via the tidal causeway. There is something magical about a stay on this island and this fantastic holiday cottage – the perfect seaside retreat. 2 bedrooms, sleeps upto 6 people Druridge Bay Whenever we visit Druridge Bay we take a BBQ picnic, now a Brady tradition, one which I would highly recommend, there is something special about a freshly cooked hot dog here! Druridge Bay is a country park with a lake, woodland, visitors centre and 7-mile-long beach. Fans of water sports can head to the lake or sea for open water swimming – sailing, canoeing and windsurfing, again it is another great surf spot. Horse-riding is encouraged by the council on this beach, all can be arranged locally. Another popular beach with so much on offer but because of its size it never seems busy. We visited at the start of the pandemic when we were first allowed a little more freedom, the car park was busy so we almost turned away - the beach and the dunes are vast so there was never any crowding, just fun to be had in spectacular scenery. Places to stay Cutter Cottage, a short walk away from Druridge Bay. This cosy cottage is just a short walk away from the beach. 2 bedrooms, sleeps upto 4 people. Cresswell Towers, a family focused caravan site situated just 200m from the golden sandy beaches and dunes of Druridge Bay. Creswell Towers was awarded the David Bellamy Gold award for conservation. So, that is my top 3 which we have visited recently. Other favourites well worth a mention and a visit are Beadnell, Creswell, Alnmouth, Low Newton, Craster, Ross Sands, Berwick, Whitley Bay with the beautiful renovated Spanish City – the list goes on, with an abundance of properties from hotels, cottages and lodges to suit your individual needs. We hope you can visit soon!
27 January 2020
Thailand has always been a top selling destination of mine, just as I decided that my family were ready to visit – I won a place on a Travel Counsellor exclusive luxury familiarisation trip…bonus! We flew to Phuket (via Istanbul) with Turkish Airlines – currently the largest carrier in the world, flying to more countries than any other airline…who knew? #travelfact. Koh Lanta Our private transfers were ready and waiting at Phuket airport, our first location was the remote but stunningly beautiful island of Koh Lanta. It’s a 5-hour transfer from Phuket (easier to transfer from Krabi) so we stopped for our first traditional Thai meal on route, before arriving at Layana Resort & Spa, an adult only haven set on a spectacular beach where Phi Phi Islands are visible from the shore. Layana has only 57 rooms spread across 7 room categories, it’s important we select you the right one - they are all fabulous. We participated in a Yoga class, took a treatment in their award-winning spa #heavenly, had delightful food by the poolside and at the beachfront restaurant. A highlight here was the sunset cruise which absolutely delivered on the most spectacular sunsets at sea, before dropping us off at Koh Lanta market for a taste of Thailand. Elephant Hills Our next stop was the much-anticipated Elephant Hills, Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp and the only Asian resort to be a National geographic World Legacy Award finalist. Elephant Hills organises the transfers from various airports and resorts in Southern Thailand, from Koh Lanta it was a transfer to Krabi airport for collection by the Elephant Hills transport team, the transfers were seamless and opened another opportunity to see the wonderful Thai countryside. Okay, so I am not the biggest fan of camping so was a little nervous. There are 66 tailormade tents on the main camp which are very comfortable. They are spacious with a great wet room and are well protected from mosquitoes and other possible intruders! The Rainforest Camp is a spectacular location and is well named being overlooked by a huge elephant shaped hill! Sustainability is high on the agenda for Elephant Hills, all guests receive a reusable stainless-steel water bottle to use throughout your stay, the camp runs on solar energy with sustainable products being used throughout. There are a variety of tours available from 1 night to 3-night stays, we were booked into the 4-day, 3-night stay at the main jungle camp. Our first activity after a smooth check in was to sit back and enjoy the breath-taking beauty of Sok River in the Canoe Safari, then after a wonderful lunch (food was outstanding), it was onwards to the Elephant Experience to feed, wash and interact with Asia’s largest land animal. This was incredible! It is important to remember that these are domesticated elephants, mainly rescued from the logging industry which banned the use of elephants. Now an endangered species, ethical centres like Elephant Hills are needed more than ever. The evenings at Elephant Hills are spent being entertained by a dance performance by local schools that are sponsored by the centre, cookery lessons, more wonderful food and an early night in readiness for the next days activities. They do have a well-stocked bar (bar drinks and gift shop are payable by cash only), where drinks are reasonably priced. During the next 3 days we got to self-canoe exploring the mangroves, relax on a Burmese Junk, speed through the channels in a speed boat, explore the local markets at Takhun where we experience a little bit more of Thailand’s rural lifestyle. Another highlight was the arrival and adventure of the Rainforest Camp. The scenery throughout your journey to the camp on a traditional Longtail boat will take your breath away, arriving at one of the only floating tented camps in the world is an unforgettable experience. There are 20 safari tents – identical to the jungle camp tents, you can stay overnight if we book Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp, which is always 3 nights, 2 days. There are a few itinerary options, and all include an experience in the Lake Camp where you have time to explore the spectacular surroundings in your own yellow canoe! The lake is so peaceful and beautiful, this is time to relax and take that digital detox… no Wi-Fi at this camp! Before departing on the final day, you get to take a trek with your guide through the jungle for your final experience before being transferred onwards to your next hotel or airport. Khao Lak Our transfer was onwards to the brand new 5-star, luxurious Devasom Khao Lak…wow, what a contrast to Elephant Hills tents! Between the 10 of us we had an array of room types, all of them meticulously designed and aligned to the whole hotel… beautiful! We were incredibly lucky to be treat to the Ski Villa, a 2-bedroom suite with its own rooftop infinity pool, butler service and well stocked bar – what a treat and perfect for a small group, family or special occasion. During our stay here we had an outstanding Thai massage in their amazing Spa, participated in a wellbeing session and had the most amazing food by the infinity pool and fantastic restaurants. We also took some time to explore the markets and street food of Khao Lak…I can personally recommend the deep-fried bugs! Thailand is known as the country of a thousand smiles, we added a few more smiles and made memories which will last a lifetime. I have promised my family that we will return together and relive some of these experiences, this trip is perfect for families, solo travellers, honeymooners and anyone with a sense of adventure and a lust for travel!
11 June 2019
Looking for the ultimate family holiday? I completely relate to the challenge of keeping all members of the family happy. With 3 children of my own, 2 of which are teenagers (please send help, or gin) and sometimes grandparents who join us - finding holiday options to keep all happy can be quite a challenge. Children of varying ages who have different likes (probably more dislikes, parents of teenagers will understand), keeping different age groups happy whilst creating memories with some thrills and some chills – it soon becomes quite a tick list…challenge accepted! When searching for the ultimate family holiday for myself and clients, we tend to create tick lists of things we want to achieve – I love a list! The holiday type which ticks every element is cruise. For those who are yet to discover a cruise and have lots of questions I thought a blog might help to explain why this could be your Ultimate Family Holiday. Destinations Cruise is a fabulous way to discover cities, coasts, countries, continents – hey you could opt for a world cruise! The core reason people cruise is to reach and explore land-based product. With the possibility of waking up in different place every day, only ever needing to unpack once and sailing onboard the most amazing vessels. Now cruise lines own their own private islands and create unique experiences on land as well as at sea. Royal Caribbean have recently launched Perfect Day at Coco Cay, clients are choosing cruise itineraries with dream destinations and specific experiences in mind. Weather that be to search for Northern Lights, star gazing or the ultimate thrills and chills of an island designed with you in mind. Facilities Cruise ships all differ, my job is to match the sailing to the client’s needs. The list of facilities is endless, how many resorts on land could you choose from waterslides, theatres, outdoor and indoor cinemas, dodgems, zip lines, rock climbing, mini golf, fencing, roller skating, bowling alleys, basketball, dance lessons, VR rides, ice skating and so much more. Some entire countries don’t have the facilities that one cruise ship can offer, something for everyone. Cabin choice From solo cabins, interconnecting options, balcony staterooms, suites, accessible cabins, villas and family suites sleeping up to 8 people. There is a cabin option and space which is right for every family and budget. That’s my job to find the one that’s just right for you. Dining Food plays a major part in any holiday, whether you are looking to discover something new, excited by speciality dining, have specific dietary requirements or a picky eater you will find cruise ships cater for all. Full board is included as standard on all cruises. Some offer all inclusive, or upgrades to include drinks packages and speciality dining. Rest assured there will be lots of restaurants and café choices, from 24-hour pizza outlets to some of the most talented chefs in the world, you will make culinary memories from the food onboard. Safety at Sea Is it safe? Is a frequently asked question and one we all take very seriously. It is impossible to fall off a ship, all balconies and barriers are at least 4-foot-high and made with toughened safety glass. Cruise ships have medical areas, hospitals on board with qualified medical staff, trained to deal with every eventually. Cruise lines priority is your safety, there are a variety of communication methods including electronic wristbands to determine location of children, monitored CCTV, walkie talkies and children cannot leave this ship without you. Accessibility Cruise ships can be the most incredible option for clients with accessible requirements. As an accessible travel expert, I am well versed with selecting the right line, ship and sailing to match your needs. Some ships have pool hoists, ramped access throughout, accessible tendering processes etc. All ships have adapted cabins and medical centres. There are autism friendly ships with programmes where crew are trained to ensure every member of the family has the best time possible, starting before your cruise with a cruise passport to take you through every aspect of what to expect. Dress Code From formal nights including dinner with the captain to very casual, again there is an option here for everyone. You do not have to dress up for dinner if you choose not to, there will always be an alternative option to the formal dining rooms on where you can eat. Some cruise ships are formal, some are always casual, most offer choices. It may be that one generation opts for formal night at where they can dress in their finest attire, one for smart casual at a speciality dining restaurant, whilst the kids enjoy the most spectacular burger and ice cream at sea. Whatever keeps everyone happy. Cruise is about choice. As a travel expert, I am very passionate about all things cruise, introducing clients who have never cruised before, or who are seasoned cruisers to a new company, cruise ship or itinerary and gathering the feedback of how awesome the holiday was is a job well done. I genuinely believe there is a cruise for everyone and for families is truly is the ultimate family holiday! Hopefully I have answered some cruise uncertainties you may have had above, as always please feel free to ask me any questions.
23 May 2019
Ready for an adventure? Looking to explore some of the most spectacular scenery in the world? Then let’s talk expedition cruise. If you like the idea of following in the footsteps of legendary explorers, finding hidden gems and cultural treasures or discovering somewhere remote, mysterious and extreme. Then Expedition Cruise is perfect for you. Expedition cruise ships and itineraries are designed for visiting off the beaten track destinations, encountering the rarest wildlife and scenery – giving you a truly immersive experience of a unique destination, whether that be Alaska, Antarctica, the Galapagos, Costa Rica or Iceland etc. You may have a destination or activity which is high on your must-travel list – like the mesmerizing light show, Aurora Borealis, or a discussion with me about your interests may inspire an opportunity, whether it be astronomy, cuisine, geology, marine biology, history etc. For any cruise holiday it is important that we match you the client to the right cruise-line, ship and itinerary. There is a cruise out there for everyone, it’s my job to make sure you get the right one and have an amazing time. I have many suppliers for expedition cruising – Ponant, Celebrity, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, G Adventures to name a few, all offering something unique (this is where the clients matching comes in!). For the purpose of this blog I will focus on a cruise line with 126 years of maritime history, a world leader in exploration travel giving them a unique position of leading the way of expedition travel and corporate responsibility. I give you - Hurtigruten. When you embark on a Hurtigruten Expedition voyage you benefit from the all the expertise of a world leader in exploration travel, backed by over 126 years of experience and pioneering heritage. On a Hurtigruten Expedition voyage, guests don’t just cruise past stunning scenery they take part in exciting landings designed to offer the ultimate experience. Sustainable travel is at the forefront of Hurtigruten’s core, they are the first operator to ban the use of polluting and toxic heavy fuel oil on its ships and are campaigning for a full international ban. By 2021 Hurtigruten’s entire fleet will be hybrid ships, they were the first major travel company to remove single use plastics and aim to educate the guests, creating ambassadors for every destination through actively engaging guests in the culture, ecosystems and consequences of climate change – wherever they explore. We live on a truly beautiful planet, if you are ready to explore it up close and personal then expedition cruising is perfect for you.
27 March 2019
MSC’s brand new flagship, Bellissima (the largest ship to have been launched in the UK to date), docked in Southampton for the weekend and I was lucky to be part of the festivities before her inaugural sailing. There were a host of celebrities and celebrations over the weekend, which was incredible but lets focus on the ship and the experience for you. Bellissima is the sister ship to Meraviglia, she is huge with a capacity of 5714 passengers. With size comes lots of options – 12 international dining venues, 20 bars including a British style pub, a Cirque du Soleil show, desert themed water park, full size bowling alley, kids’ clubs (for all ages), amusement park, F1 Simulators…the list goes on! The hub of the ship is the 96m long promenade filled with boutiques, restaurants and areas for relaxing, eating and socializing. The rooftop to the promenade is the ever-changing LED rooftop and leading to this the very Instagrammable (is that a real word yet?) Swarovski crystal staircase, absolute staircase goals but at $10k per step I’ll save my pennies for a cruise. I took a whistle stop tour of the cabins, to me these were even more impressive than the staircase – that’s a tall order. With 10 different cabin types - from studio cabins for the solo traveller to interconnecting family cabins sleeping up to 10 people – perfect for multi-generation or a group celebration (also perfect for my family of 5 to fit in 1 cabin with some privacy). I was impressed by the accessible bathrooms, spacious and perfectly planned but thought the actual accessible cabin was small and access around the bed in a wheelchair could be tight – it would have been great to see an auto door opening system here too, plus a distinct lack of pool hoists on the decks- slight redemption with some of the equipment in the state of the art gym being wheelchair friendly – the rest of the ship is fully accessible, such a shame about those pool hoists! I also got to spend some time in the Yacht club, for those who could be put off by the vastness of Bellissima then Yacht Club is perfect. The exclusivity of the area enables a small ship within a mega ship feel, with only 80 suites, 15 inside cabins, a 24-hour butler, private restaurant and lounge, plus a private pool and solarium on the top deck – this really does give a feel of an exclusive yacht club – aptly named then! Plus, you get the rest of the ship to explore at leisure, so this really is the best of both world and in my opinion well worth the extra spend if it’s affordable for you. All in all, a great experience on a beautiful ship which truly has something for everyone. Bellissima will spend her inaugural season sailing the Mediterranean, before heading off to the Emirates and India for the winter, then sailing onwards to Asia – the itineraries are beautiful, prices for introductory offers are fantastic and the ship is awesome. Let’s talk cruise!
19 June 2018
In June 2018 I was extremely fortunate to win a trip to explore Mexico. The itinerary we received sounded fabulous, including 4 hotels, excursions, site visits and our favourite statement - time at leisure! Our flights from Manchester with Thomas Cook were upgraded so we could experience their Premium Class product. Premium seats with extra space, adjustable head rest, upgraded in-flight entertainment, premium meals, complimentary drinks, increased luggage allowance and a faster check in process. In comparison to the return journey in economy I would wholeheartedly recommended this as an upgrade! Our first hotel stay was the Dreams Riviera Maya, a fab location only 30 minutes transfer from Cancun Airport and situated on a beautiful white sandy beach. Dreams is a modern, family friendly resort with great rooms which are mostly all sea views. We were upgraded to Club Rooms which are all ocean view and upgrades to private plunge pool rooms are also available. This is a lively resort with lots happening, great for families of all ages. We witnessed a wedding in resort which was extremely well organised and in a lovely location with views out to the Caribbean Sea. The resort is all-inclusive with a well-stocked mini bar, speciality dining options and premium drinks all included. Next stop was Occidental Xcarat. Now owned by the Barceló group all 765 rooms have been refurbished to a very high standard. This was the largest resort we visited and as an added bonus is located a short walk away from the Xcarat Eco Park. The hotel has 7 swimming pools (foam party every Saturday), 11 restaurants and 10 bars. For those looking for a little more luxury I would recommend an upgrade to Royal Level. Wi-Fi is free for Royal guests, the service more personal and there are dedicated areas including a lovely seafront restaurant. The area around the hotel is lush, you really feel like you're in the jungle with spider monkeys, iguanas, flamingos and wildlife everywhere - along with mosquitos so be prepared with sprays etc. Head to the beachfront cove for breakfast with a spectacular view. Before we had too much time to settle we were off to our next hotel - Secrets Akumal (Akumal translates to place of the turtle). This is an adult only resort in the heart of Riviera Maya on one of the most famous beaches in Mexico. This is a spectacular hotel! The design of every element of this hotel is outstanding, from the reception area to the room décor, the incredible spa to the choices of pools - a personal favourite was the beach front cocktail bar with swinging seats! We dined at the El Patio for authentic Mexican cuisine - try the flaming Mexican coffee! Market Café and Oceana Seafood restaurant have the best coconut shrimp I have ever tasted! We had time to swim with turtles in the ocean and spent the morning exploring the Mayan Ruins at Tulum. Our guide was fab and turned this experience into a real highlight! A great hotel for a romantic break, or to escape from children. I will be back! Our final stop was Grand Velas Riviera Maya. The saying 'keep the best until last', could certainly be true about this hotel. Described as beyond all-inclusive and with an upgrade to a Grand Class suite I could not wait to explore. The Grand Class Suites are adult only, they are huge, with Caribbean Sea views and your own private plunge pool - we were shown to our suite by our concierge who was available 24hours for anything we might need. All of the Grand Velas Staff were attentive and the food here is exceptional with 7 a la carte restaurants and the most incredible buffet restaurant imaginable. For families this hotel has the best children's facilities I have experienced. The family rooms (2-bedroom family suite) has a baby concierge, strollers, baby carriers, bottle warmers, cribs etc. The kid’s clubs are outstanding, the staff will even take your children for dinner, so you can enjoy a peaceful meal or perhaps rooms service. Amongst lots of other treats we were invited on an Eco Walk, where we were blessed by a Mayan Priest/Shaman, took a mixology class, made some energy bites and as an extra special treat participated in the water ceremony in their spa - winner of the World Luxury Spa Award 2017. For facilities, location and for food fans I don't think you could find a finer hotel. Named one of the finest all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, it's not just me who thinks that - Grand Velas has a serious trophy cabinet of awards! After 7 days of luxury and fun times with a great group of Travel Counsellors it was time to head home. Mexico is a fabulous year-round destination, busiest in the winter with an incredible history, culture beautiful beaches, people and food. I can't wait to return, can you?
29 April 2018
I organise a lot of cruises and have clients who love to cruise. When I was offered the opportunity to attend a conference on the newly launched Carnival Horizon ship, I jumped at it! The cruise was set to sail from Naples, cruise overnight to Rome then we would disembark in Livorno. Travelling with some fellow Travel Counsellors we decided to travel to Naples a day early and spend 24hours in Sorrento, far too short a time to visit the incredible place and cut even shorter by a 3hour flight delay but it was absolutely worth the visit! There's a few ways to transfer from Naples to Sorrento, we decided to try the train. First tip - never get the train from Naples to Sorrento unless you are a very confident traveller. It's not pretty or easy and takes too long (longer than the flight) - see pictures for the train. I recommend a private airport transfer or head to the port and use the hydrofoil service, we did this to get us back to Naples and it worked like a dream. The Hydrofoils take around 40 minutes to get to Naples port and the cost for one way is €6.50. Sorrento is spectacular. There are lemon and orange trees growing everywhere so the scent is captivating. It's a stunning place to walk around - catch the small train around to gain your bearings. We had a gorgeous authentic Italian meal at the 'Garden' restaurant, the best pizza ever! Treat yourself to a bottle of locally produced Limoncello, its divine. A hidden gem with spectacular views is the Foreigners Club, a wedding venue which will welcome you for a coffee or lunch and the views from this venue are incredible. Sorrento is a great place to explore the Amalfi Coast - take a trip to Pompeii, Capri, Mount Vesuvius. Take the hydrofoil or brave the train! Our hydrofoil was timed perfectly and delivered us next door to our home for the next two days, Carnival's newest ship - Horizon. The ship is huge with its own Dr Seuss themed waterpark, Imax cinema, basketball court, spa, adults only zone...the list goes on! Carnival are party ships and cater for every type of customer - it is loud, proud and is extremely popular with our American friends. After a heavy night sampling the Cuban Cocktails (honest it was hard work), then conference the next day the easiest thing would have been sampling the spa, waterpark and Jacuzzi, but when in Rome! So, with my fellow Travel Counsellors we took a speed three-hour tour of Rome and saw almost everything - Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps etc. We had just enough time for a Gelato (pistachio and lemon...delicious!), before our transfer back to the Horizon. Next day was debarkation day at Livorno and another day of exploration waited for myself and fellow Travel Counsellors as we had hired a car to explore Tuscany before our evening flight home from Pisa. The roads were fab, no crazy drivers and spectacular scenery everywhere. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was basking in sunlight and looked so much brighter than when I visited in December! The highlight for me was an afternoon in Lucca, a destination in itself - truly bellisimo, this town hidden behind imposing city walls has beautiful cobbled streets, stunning architecture, shady promenades and the most amazing Calzone, especially when washed down with an Aperol Spritz. An afternoon strolling this beautiful place makes you feel like you have stepped back in time and are a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Time to return our lovely hire car and fly home, but what amazing memories we made. Ciao Bella!
24 January 2018
It's top of most children's travel lists, but in my family, I am the biggest child of all! I had been to Florida pre-children and have organised lots of holidays for my clients. As you can imagine, it took little convincing when I suggested Florida as our main family holiday. The excitement levels rocketed, and the countdown was our most exciting one yet, all helped my our amazing myTC app. We opted to stay on site at Disney for most of our stay then end the holiday with a few epic days at Universal. We booked just in time to qualify for free Disney Dining which was a huge bonus for us. I estimate this saved us around £4-5k compared to how much we would have spent on food and soft drinks. We had to explain the snack, meal system to the teenagers a few times as they were treating it like an all-inclusive resort! We chose to stay at Disney’s Old Key West which has great accommodation options ranging from studios to two-bedroom villas. We opted for a one-bedroom bungalow for the five of us – very spacious with a full-size kitchen and laundry room. It suited us perfectly. The accommodation was a boat ride away from Disney Springs and there’s regular Disney transportation to all the parks. We loved the ease of having everything so close by and cashless makes everything easier with a family. Make use of the bookable fast passes and plan Disney Dining in advance if you can. There’s plenty of availability on the day for lots of rides and venues but the most popular ones like ‘Be Our Guest’, need to be booked quickly. Our favourites were 50’s Prime Time Café in Hollywood Studios, and Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, a great character dining experience. The newly opened Flight of Passage and Everest, both in Animal Kingdom were the Brady Bunches favourite rides, that is until we visited Universal! Our children are 16, 13 and 9. I’m a huge Harry Potter Fan and the boys love Marvel. Universal was perfect for us, when we return we would spend more time here. It was too cold (in Florida, I know) for the newly opened Volcano Bay and we simply ran out of time. We stayed at the Loews Sapphire and were incredibly lucky to be upgraded to a huge suite with VIP status and unlimited fast passes. This is not standard at the Loews Sapphire so we were incredibly blessed as our stay was short. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, was reason enough for us to visit. It is spectacular to see, with the rides, interactive elements and characters. You are there in the book and can imagine Harry, Ron and Hermione passing you by. I could have spent days revisiting just this part. We braved Hulk and Rip Ride Rocket, escaped from Gringotts, played at being a Transformer, created Mayhem with the Minions and took an out of the world race through New York with Jimmy Fallon, then finished off with a must do meal at the Hard Rock Café. We used Uber for our transport between Disney to Universal and back to the airport. As we travelled to Newcastle via Dublin to Orlando, US immigration was completed in Dublin far quicker than in the US. Florida was amazing, next time we will stay for longer with a revisit to Universal, Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Centre, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Gatorland, Clearwater, Anna Maria Island, Florida Keys and Miami. I just need to convince Mr B first!
03 January 2018
Rolling Tuscan countryside, terracotta houses, tall thin cypress trees, beautiful palatial hotels and villas with thermal spas – what an amazing four days I’ve had visiting three different hotels in Italy that would make a perfect relaxing break. Beautiful weather as well - mist, fresh mornings turning into lovely warm sunny days around 16 degrees. Hotel Fonte Verde 5* A city break in Rome or Florence and then transfer to the Fonte Verde within one hour thirty minutes for a luxury, tranquil experience. This palatial hotel is set in the hills of the rolling Tuscan countryside with amazing panoramic views and an outdoor thermal spa. There are seven pools including a pool for dogs and a cold-water pool (May-Oct). What I loved in this spa and the other spas that we visited were the heated wardrobes for your bath robes and slippers – putting on a warm robe makes such a difference when you are in and out of the thermal waters outside. Treatments are also available here. There are standard rooms, Junior Suites, accessible rooms, pet-friendly rooms located in the 17th Century Medici building or the new building (slightly larger rooms) with lovely views. The higher priced rooms having their own coffee machines. This hotel offers a fabulous buffet breakfast in the La Corte Restaurant, lunch served on the outdoor terrace and dinner in the more formal Ferdinando restaurant offering Tuscan and Mediterranean dishes complemented by a fine wine list. I found the food here fantastic. There was such a wonderful choice at breakfast and lunch and the dinner was delicious – baked cheese in a very thin pastry, spaghetti ragu, veal, tiramisu and coffee. The aperitifs that we had in the lounge area were also lovely. Enjoy morning walks with a guide through the valley, cycling, hiking, horse riding, truffle hunting, vineyard tours or hire a classic car and explore the surrounding villages and countryside. If you’re looking for a total escape into the hills for two to three nights, peace and quiet, panoramic views, luxury and be very well looked after, this is the hotel for you. Hotel Grotta Giusti 4* This hotel used to be a grand residential villa and is set in the Tuscan countryside between Pisa, Lucca and Florence. This elegant 19th century property boasts a charming historical ambiance and a natural spa with a unique thousand-year old underground cave and hot springs. The underground thermal cave with its natural steam and distinct areas named Heaven, Purgatory and Hell is an amazing 50 minutes experience. Inside the cave you can also have a floating experience or diving experience (need a diving licence). Once you’re out of the cave there are also two outdoor thermal pools to relax in, one of which is 750m2 as well as a cold water outdoor pool open in the Summer. Treatments are also available here, including a mud bath. I found this to be more of a medicinal Spa retreat – great for respiratory problems. Various categories of rooms from the comfort to the junior suite in the historical and new building, with views of either the front parkland or the mountains. This hotel offers lots of late check out rooms for guests. The Veranda restaurant features an array of Tuscan specialities, La Pergola is ideal for al fresco dining and the poolside Bioaquam café tempts with a selection of light meals. In the main restaurant, The Veranda, we had a lovely buffet meal consisting of fish, pasta, meat dishes, lovely choice of salad, fruits, cheeses and desserts. At the hotel there is a gymnasium, synthetic grass tennis court and many golf courses located nearby, making it a perfect base for a golfing break. The hotel offers a transfer service to the golf courses at an extra charge as well as a shuttle to the train station and shopping area. Other activities include bird watching by day and listening to the birds by night with a guide, bike rental (professional bikes to rent) and personal trainers. We went on a lovely morning walk into the hills, past olive groves which took around 30 minutes and included various stops with signs indicating an activity to do for example squats, deep breathing, stretching which was a perfect way to start the day! The Grotta Giusti is perfect for groups, couples and families who want to explore the cities of Lucca, Florence and Pisa, golfing breaks and those who like to relax in a spa but also like to be active. A minimum of four nights would be recommended. Hotel Bagni di Pisa 5* Originally built as a majestic spa residence in 1743 for the grand duke of Tuscany, and becoming the destination of choice as a relaxing retreat for royalties, dignitaries and celebrities over the centuries, the Bagni di Pisa has been lovingly restored. This hotel is only 10 minutes by car or train from Pisa and from some of the rooms you have a view over the city. The beautiful city of Lucca is only 12km away so easily accessible. There is a simply wonderful spa with a range of thermal pools fed by the natural hot springs, a steam room set in a cave, unique treatments and an outdoor thermal pool. I really enjoyed the salt treatment here where I had to lie on a bed of warm salt, wrapped up in a white muslin cloth and had warm salt crystals poured over my body, bliss. The indoor thermal salt pool was also fantastic as you could literally float and relax there. There are 61 rooms ranging from standard comfort to larger suite. All rooms are beautifully decorated, suites with frescoes and boast separate living room and luxurious marble bathrooms. The Byron Lounge on the second floor is lovely for aperitifs and in the elegant restaurant on the third floor we had a delicious buffet breakfast and evening meal – mozzarella and tomato salad, seafood pasta, seabass in a lovely tomato and vegetable sauce, tiramisu and coffee. This hotel also offers a morning guided walk into the Tuscan hills to explore more of the surrounding area. As the train station is so close, you can easily explore the surrounding villages and cities. The Bagni di Pisa is perfect for couples, groups or families who would like a few days relaxing as well as sightseeing in the beautiful cities of Lucca and Pisa and the Tuscan hills. Please contact me for further information on these leading hotels as well as other hotels and spa breaks worldwide.
25 September 2017
Early September 17, I was privileged to be invited on an educational visit to the beautiful city of Amsterdam. With a relaxed itinerary which included a walking tour, dinner river cruise and fabulous visit on Holland Americas newest ship - MS Koningsdam, we had lots of free time to familiarise ourselves with the best that this beautiful city has to offer. Flights to Amsterdam make this city so accessible. In less than 1.5 hours you arrive in another country with a different climate and culture - I love that! Transport to Amsterdam Central Station is a breeze using the direct railway line from Schipol Airport. Trains are every 10 minutes from Platforms 1 and 2 in the main arrival plaza and tickets cost approx. €4.50 per person. We were staying at the Movenpick Amsterdam City Centre, the perfect location if you are off on a cruise, out of the way with nothing around it. If you are planning on seeing Amsterdam, an ideal hotel location is on or around Dam Square area. A walking tour (which I can of course arrange), is the perfect way to familiarise yourself with the city. The expert tour guides are always so knowledgeable, giving you a real insight into the history, architecture and layout of the area. One of the highlights of this trip for me was the dinner river cruise which departed from Pier Prins Hendrik and showed us the fabulous canals with their canal boats - again our tour guide was extremely insightful. Did you know that some of the canal boat pitches alone are worth over €1 million?! This was the first time I've seen canal boats which are two stories high with huge flat screen TV’s. The food was fabulous and the wine kept flowing, another excursion I would highly recommend. The next day we were very lucky to experience a morning on the huge and luxurious Koningsdam before it set sail for the Baltic Seas. The ship has a musical theme with every possible need for its guests well thought out to make a memorable trip, wherever it takes you. Definitely opt for a Veranda Cabin to appreciate the views, the cabin spec is superb. My top tips for Amsterdam would be to incorporate a walking tour at the start of your trip. Soak in the views with a cocktail at the Hilton's roof top bar, visit the flower market to top up on tulips and cheese, explore the canals with a dinner cruise and make sure you take some time out to appreciate the tastes of the city with some café culture. Amsterdam, I will return. Thanks to our hosts SuperBreak and Holland America.
08 July 2017
In March 2018 I was very delighted to be offered a space on an educational trip hosted by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. The itinerary was jam packed with all of the gems which Cyprus has to offer, providing an in depth tour of Agia Napa, Larnaca, Limassol, Omodos Village, Pathos and what was to become my personal favorite - Tochni Village. Luckily for me the theme of this trip was discovering the destination, our aim was to understand the real Cyprus, the parts not everyone gets to see. I have holidayed with family here but as a guest of the CTO it was amazing to gain a real insight for my clients into this year round destination. With the most amazing food (who knew Cyprus Potatoes were so special?), a local vineyard with wine tasting, where to make and buy the best local bread, visits to the many archeological sites, monasteries, museums, caves, secluded beaches, legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, did I mention the amazing food? I now can consider Cyprus as one of my many specialist destination subjects. Whether you are looking for a relaxing break in the sun with relatively short flights, a large or small Wedding/Honeymoon destination, a sports focused trip, Yoga retreat, an educational trip for food, drinks or history - Cyprus is an ideal destination for all. Contact me for information on a holiday, hotels, restaurants or details of any of the experiences I can organise to make it the perfect trip for you. Thanks to our hosts Stelios and Mirka.
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