Sent by Sandra Reay
Based in Isle of Man
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hi! I’m Lizzie Adamson-Brown, your personal travel concierge; part of the multi award-winning Travel Counsellors family.
I’ve worked in travel for 22 years now, over 8 having my own business.
From the outset, I get to know my clients really well, so that I can build a trip that is perfect for their needs.
My strict attention to detail and concierge mentality means I seek ways of enhancing every single trip in special ways: creating unique and unforgettable memories is my goal for every single client.
My absolutely passion and love for travel as well as very strong work ethics mean my successful business has grown purely through getting to know my clients well, and encouraging them to refer their friends, family, colleagues and business associates to me.
During the pandemic, I have worked tirelessly to ensure everyone has the most up to date information and advice.
With 100% financial protection on everything you book with us and 24/7 support, wherever you are in the world, why would you go elsewhere?
For me, it’s more than just creating a holiday, it’s creating your perfect moments that matter.
Explore | Experience | Enrich
Everyones travel wishlist is a little different. I'm here to help those dreams become a reality!
Wherever you are in the world, we're here for you every step of the way. With our 24/7 Duty Office and a financial trust that protects 100% of your monies.
As you very own PERSONAL travel expert, I have all the knowledge to tailor your trip perfectly for you.
I get to know all my clients personally - your likes and your dislikes. You are not a number to me - you are an individual and every single client is a VIP!
Now, more than ever, you need a trusted travel professional who can give you the service and attention that you deserve.
Everything I book is specifically tailored to your own individual needs, using my 21 years of experience and specially selected destination specialist.
With the highest Net Promotor Score in the world and a 5 star rating on Trust Pilot, why would you leave organising your trips to chance?
A fabulous poem written by Mancunian poet, Tony Walsh, especially for Travel Counsellors. Incredibly emotive and definitely gives me goosebumps.
One of the best days of my life. Having always had a love for elephants - this happened!
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.
08 April 2021
As we in the travel industry start to see light at the end of this very long global pandemic tunnel, there is no better time to consider your well-earned escape. Travel has been well documented to help you with your well-being and mental health and with the support of recent studies this is shown to be the case. Here are my top 7 reasons to take out that passport, blow the cobwebs off it and plan that perfect getaway; to escape the tough times we have all experienced in the last 12 months, during this pandemic. 1. Travel gives you opportunities to try new things and meet new people, helping you combat monotony. Travel connects people and provides opportunities to learn about new and different cultures, which can help increase your empathy towards others. It can also help improve your overall tolerance, reduce biases and even decrease frustration. 2. Activities, such as walking, hiking, and skiing; in scenic areas can help you become more hopeful. A 2020 study also found that people who were consciously aware of the vistas and objects around them on a walk reported being more hopeful and upbeat than other walkers. What could be better than enjoying the wonderful scenery of a new destination on a hiking route or while skiing down a beautiful slope? 3. Travel is great for relieving stress and improving your general outlook on life. According to a 2013 study of people aged 25 to 70+, 80% of respondents said travel improves their general mood and outlook on life with 75% of respondents also saying travel helps them reduce stress. Unsurprisingly, the greatest health benefit of taking a holiday is that it dramatically reduces stress. In a recent survey, we found that 55.6% of respondents, return from holidays feeling less stressed. Sometimes a weekend just isn’t enough time to unwind and de-stress, so extended holidays can often be the best medicine that can you just the right time away to help you. Switching off and taking off on a well-deserved holiday will allow you to completely disconnect from everyday life and truly refresh. So, my advice is SWITCH OFF: literally; then you can forget about the influx of emails, meetings and deadlines, and you don’t have to worry about finding the time to do the groceries, go to the gym and cook dinner after work. While on holidays, your hardest decision will be what cocktail to order, meal to choose or what beach or adventure to choose next. 4. Time away from work can increase your energy and productivity at work. A Study at Harvard University conducted on over 400 travellers found that 94% of respondents had as much or more energy after coming back from a good trip. Book that holiday and crush your work goals when you return! Our time away from home allows us to learn new skills, experience places and cultures we never have before and therefore return with a better world view. If you need a reason to convince yourself you need a holiday… this is the one! 5. Taking a trip helps you do good, which helps you and others, feel good. Evidence suggests that helping others can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness. Spending money during your holidays in restaurants, attractions and even on locally made souvenirs, helps support the 330 million people who rely on the sector for their livelihoods. You can also help by volunteering with a reputable local organisation! I have a client who went to Thailand in 2019 to volunteer at an elephant Sanctuary, where she had the most life affirming experience that helped her immensely because she was helping others. I am hosting an exclusive group to Sri Lanka in 2022 to help on a Turtle Conservation Project. Contact me if you would love to be a part of it with me! My tagline on my Social Media Posts is Explore, Experience and Enrich; which says it all really! Travelling reduces stress by taking you away — both physically and mentally — from the pressures of everyday life. Whether you’re sunbathing in Greece, exploring Paris or watching a musical on Broadway, you are distracted from your ordinary commitments and experience less anxiety. 6. A wellness trip can contribute to stronger mental health. On a wellness retreat focused on practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, you can learn skills that you can bring home to help you keep up a regular wellness routine. This routine will be key to maintaining stronger mental health. Can you just imagine yourself learning centuries-old yoga practices on an idyllic beach? I LOVE yoga and plan to run some very much needed wellness retreats in the very near future. So, if you or anyone you know, would like to join me or even host a wellness retreat, feel free to get in touch! I am hosting a Pilates Group Tall Ship Cruise this year, in September 2021! If your mind is emotionally exhausted, you probably won’t be functioning at your best and a global pandemic will certainly contribute to that. Just like when you do work you need to take breaks regularly to remain productive, you also need prolonged breaks where you can properly rest. 7. Doing something you have been meaning to enjoy, trust me! Pull out that travel wish list - you have plenty of journeys to complete yet! See what you still need to check off and let’s get planning. By doing something you enjoy, you perform necessary self-care and contribute to your own happiness. Please also find my Podcast: Mind, Body, Travel;l which focuses on these very aspects of travel, where I chat to suppliers that I work with, who can offer all the mental health, well-being options that will help you find inner peace and total relaxation in this beautiful world. Find my other Social Media and Podcast Episode links here : https://linktr.ee/LizzieAB
07 April 2021
Holidays are about so much more than seeing the sights - they're about the places you stay, the people you meet and the experiences you have along the way - and no style of travel can guarantee so many memorable moments as being on a guided tour. In fact, travelling with a tour leader is like having a friend who can take you straight to the heart of a destination, so all you have to do is focus on having a good time. Fancy skipping the queue to get exclusive, behind-the-scenes access at the Vatican? No problem. Want to eat out in an authentic, family-run restaurant in Rio de Janeiro? Your guide knows the best places to go. Always dreamed of taking a private tour around Sydney's top sights? Off we go. On a tour, the journey is every bit as important as the stops you make along the way. Having a driver means you can sit back and enjoy the scenery, while your tour leader brings the place to life by telling you the stories you simply won't find in the guidebooks. On top of that, they'll take care of all the practicalities, from checking in at the hotel to arranging for your bags to be taken straight to your room, so you can enjoy a hassle-free holiday. With so many benefits, you might think a tour would work out more expensive than going it alone - after all, having a guide, a driver, exclusive access to attractions and the inside track on the best hotels must come at a price? Yet the buying power of a group means it is actually works out cheaper than trying to set up the same holiday by yourself, so you can rest easy knowing you're getting the very best experience at the very best price. That's even more important in light of the pandemic. Touring companies have led the way in establishing safe, socially distanced itineraries, where all the hotels, restaurants and attractions have been carefully vetted to ensure they meet stringent health and safety standards, so you can set off knowing you're in good hands. Working alongside 7 other Travel Counsellors, we haved formed Hosted Holidays with your Travel Counsellor. Every week we take you around the world from the comfort of your own sofa and we have an amazing variety of upcoming trips for later in 2021/2022 and even into 2023. Get in touch for more information. We'd love to see you there!
07 April 2021
Forget Bear Grylls - there's more than one way to have an adventure. My first travel experience was in 1976 when I went on a PGL holiday to the South of France. We canoed the Ardeche, learned to sail, scuba dive, camped in the open air. It was an awakening and I was hooked! Whether you want to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, go rafting along the Colorado River, or cycle from one Loire Valley vineyard to the next, there's a tour that will take you straight to the heart of the action. Yet adventure holidays are about so much more than getting active - they give you the chance to uncover another side to a destination that most tourists never see. Meeting colourful local characters, eating in out-of-the-way restaurants or resting your head in family run B&Bs are all part of the experience on an adventure tour. You'll also be giving back to the local economy with journeys that have been specially designed to make sure the community benefits as much as you do, so you can skip the tourist crowds while knowing you're doing your bit for the areas you visit. The environment gets a look-in too, with many companies offering a transparent approach to their eco-friendly credentials. With small groups of like minded travellers and a friendly guide to lead the way, adventure holidays can be a great way to try out a new activity or challenge yourself to go further than you have before. You'll also take inspiration from your fellow guests as you swap stories of where you've been and what you've done, so expect to come home with a travel wish list that's at least twice as long as when you set off. There are so many new adventure tours to enjoy across the UK, Europe and farther afield that the only trouble will be working out which one to do first! With my team of TC's at Hosted Holidays, we are currently organising 'Zoom around the world sessions' every Wednesday evening, whilst we're in the dreaming phase. We have a massive range of tours then planned for late 2021/2022 and even into 2023. Whatever your age or group make up, there's something for everyone and we would love to host you on one of our fabulous trips. Please do get in touch to find out more. In the light of the pandemic adventure companies have led the way establishing safe, socially distanced itineraries, where all the hotels, restaurants and attractions have been carefully vetted to ensure they meet stringent health and safety standards, so you can set off knowing you're in good hands.
07 April 2021
Seeing the world and sharing new experiences is the very essence of why we love to travel. Watching a pride of lions come to life as dawn light creeps across the savannah, getting your first glimpse of the sparkling domes atop the Taj Mahal, or sitting down to a home-cooked meal on a country estate in Tuscany – these unforgettable moments live on in the memory long after we get home. That's why solo touring is seeing such a boom, as more and more travellers open their eyes to the enriching experiences and incredible characters you come across on a guided holiday. Leave any preconceived ideas at the door – you'll find all ages, all interests and all types of people on a solo trip these days, meaning no matter where you go, you're bound to come across like-minded travellers with a similar sense of adventure. If you've always gone on holiday with friends or family before, a tour is a fantastic way to make your travel experiences even more exciting – without any of the hassle of organising it yourself. A tour manager will take care of all the practicalities, from meeting you at the airport to taking you straight to the very best sights, so you come away with a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the destination. But what really stays with you are the experiences you share with your fellow travellers, always having someone to chat to over dinner about what you've seen that day or getting inspiration for your next adventure by hearing tales of their favourite places. On a solo traveller tour, you can be guaranteed the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace, with free time built in to spend however you like. Plus with no single supplements on many dedicated itineraries, you can enjoy all the advantages of a guided holiday at an unbeatable price. In the light of the pandemic touring companies have led the way establishing safe, socially distanced itineraries, where all the hotels, restaurants and attractions have been carefully vetted to ensure they meet stringent health and safety standards, so you can set off knowing you're in good hands. Get in touch to arrange your next adventure. I'd love to hear from you.
24 September 2020
Do you cut your own hair, or go to a hairdressers? You have a water leak in the heating system, would you call a plumber? You are thinking of selling your house, would choosing an estate agent be at the top of your list? Of course, you could try all of the above yourself. But what could the end result be? Water flooding everywhere, an unsold house and a very questionable haircut! If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the majority of you lovely people out there would stick to dealing with the experts? It’s exactly the same with when booking your travel. Holidays are so important, arguably the one thing people look forward to most in the year. You may have saved up all year for your holiday or even wedding/honeymoon (I've organised over 500 destination weddings). There are some perfect reasons to give, as to hand your hard earned wages over to an expert? These are just a small snapshot of what I can do for you and your family: • Someone who lives and breathes travel will ensure you get the best out of your budget by using their many years of experience. • Someone who knows the child-friendly hotels around the world • Someone who gets to know you as a person, who understands your exact wants and needs, down to the finest detail. • Someone knows the best time to visit the Maldives, or what visas and entry requirements are needed for Turkey, for example • Someone who knows that all the Covid-19 safety compliance precautions have been taken into account. Why spend hours of your valuable time searching for your holiday online, trawling through website after website when you can get us to do all the hard work for you at no extra cost! It’s your time to relax, unwind and spend time with your loved ones. Is it really worth taking the risk by getting it wrong? If a sub-standard hotel, miles from anywhere with a view of a brick wall makes you shudder, then you’re already realising the benefits of booking with an expert! People have said that personal travel agents in this internet booking age aren’t necessary anymore? In fact, you could argue that me as your very own personal travel has never been more relevant, especially at time of writing we are in the throes of a global pandemic, here's why… Saving you time Time is more precious than ever before, especially if you are a corporate traveller. How often do we say "There’s never enough hours in the day?" From searching the web, to reading up reviews, to asking friends for their opinions, before you know it hours have passed and you still haven’t made a decision on where you should go on holiday. We call this 'The Carousel', it just goes around and around, you get on but can't get off! I will save you time and ultimately money, by doing all this for you. Personal Service Once you’ve pressed ‘pay’ or 'confirm' on an online booking site, that's where the service ends, unfortunately. Your holiday should mean more to you than that? It certainly does to me. Someone who can be with you from the start to the very end of your holiday. Nothing beats good old- fashioned personal service. Guess who will be there for you every step of the way ? Yes, me. Expertise It’s a big world out there! So many countries, cities and holiday options to choose from. I have over 20years of knowledge and expertise, working with booking systems and direct contracts, which you may not. I have all the insider tips who can find the perfect holiday to suit all your requirements – and make lots of suggestions you’d never have thought of. I will ensure that the supplier is Covid-19 compliant. Peace of mind You arrive at the airport at 3am and your luggage has been lost. What do you do? Get stuck in a queue on the phone to a call centre? This is when the need for your Personal Travel Counsellor really comes into play. I would be your one point of contact to help you when things go wrong. It’s this kind of service which is invaluable. Also, on top of this I can provide Travel Insurance which now covers Covid-19 issues. Financial protection When booking your holiday it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. Things such as financial protection might not be at the forefront of your mind. Travel Counsellors have made sure that every penny you spend on your is fully protected. So if an airline, supplier goes bust or a hotel shuts down the safety of your money will be in safe hands and never be in doubt. Connections Travel Counsellors have built strong relationships with hotels, airlines and tour operators, giving them access to the best deals in the industry. If there is someone who is going to be able to get you a cheeky upgrade, know an all-inclusive deal or can guarantee a sea-view bedroom, it will be me! For more information on how I can help you through that minefield of booking your precious holiday or lucrative business trip, give me a call for a chat.
29 April 2020
As we roll into Summer 2020 and the world isn’t open for holidays this year, let’s focus on our holidays for 2021! These are available to book now and I’d highly recommend booking early so you can make the most of the early booking prices and availability. Here are some of my personal choices as a guide for your May holiday next year! I’ll give you some options for a short break, 1-week break and a 2-week break for you to think about. Short Break … You may not be in the mood for a trip overseas or to spend time in the airport right now, so why not try a short break in the UK first? If you are a whisky drinking connoisseur, nature lover or amateur historian, the Isle of Skye in Scotland could be for you… SKYE - SCOTLAND Early May is the best time to visit as the dreaded midges haven’t emerged yet and there is fabulous chance of good weather to make those lochs sparkle, mountains blush and the peat moors glow in purple and green. The majestic Cuillin mountain range is a breathtaking sight to behold, in all its atmospheric allure and imposing cliffs. May is said to be one of the driest months so it’s an ideal choice. The sun rises in all its glory at 4am and sets after 11pm making it nice long days to enjoy all that Skye has to offer. Visit the historical Dunvegan Castle, Museums that delve into Scotland’s bloody past and crofting. Why not try a cruise to the fabulous rock formations of Trotternish, spy sea eagles and sip on a Talisker whisky? Sky is connected to the mainland both by Ferry and a road bridge. One Week Break … Castles without crowds, and weeping willows draping the resplendent River Loire, flanked by glorious chateaux and quaint little market towns …. THE LOIRE VALLEY- FRANCE This area is in a class of its own, steeped in history with links to Joan of Arc and Fontevraud Abbey with its royal tombs. Stroll or canoe down the river Loire and sample the markets, abundant with fresh strawberries and asparagus, this is the land of delightful food. May is a great time to visit with an enjoyable, comfortable mild climate and it’s a lot quieter, before the summer crowds descend! My tip would be to stay in the Central Loire between Orleans and Angers, packed with amazing architecture and fabulous eateries and why not stay in a Chateau? Two Week Break… If you are looking for some warm early sun and looking for empty beaches or a perfect pilgrimage, Spain’s northwest province is ideal. A lot greener, due to the damper climate in contrast to the more overbearingly hot, southerly Spanish provinces … GALICIA – SPAIN In May the Galician Hills are alight with blossom and yellow broom. You may get some rain at this time of year, but it will still be warm and empty countryside will be inspiring. Galicia’s beaches are unspoilt and lest developed with fabulous dunes at Playa de la Lanzada and amazing rock formations at Prais das Catedrais. The walking is legendary and the Camino de Santiago which starts at St Jean Pied a Port and finishes at Santiago de Compestella is a Pilgrimage made by many at this time of year and thought to be life affirming for many Christians. To walk it all would take approx. 30 days, but you can drop in anywhere en-route, around Santiago with all facilities open. I would suggest hiring a car and a ‘must do’ is a stay at the Parador de Santiago, heritage hotel overlooking the outstanding cathedral! I hope you have enjoyed these suggestions in this blog, but feel free to contact me for fantastic options for May, within your budget. Lizzie xxx
04 April 2020
Where to go in ….. April So, you have decided that you would like to look forward to an amazing trip in the Spring, when the blossoms are blooming again and nature comes alive again after the dark winters? It’s ‘Sakura’ season in Japan just now and the streets and parks are awash with colour, as the cherry blossoms show off there pink and white blooms, you could connect a trip to Japan with a fabulous cruise? Here are some other amazing suggestions, to help you decide on where to go in April. I’ve given suggestions of different lengths of trip you may like to take. Weekend Break The Lake District – UK Visit now to see poet William Wordsworth’s host of Golden daffodils. He lived in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, which is open to the public. April is a great time to visit as you can book up easier and the summer tourists haven’t descended yet. The campsites, hotels, roads, villages and holiday cottages are not so busy and more affordable. As it’s a hilly part of the world, the weather can be unpredictable but go prepared with suitable clothing and you won’t be disappointed. Base yourself around Windermere or Ambleside and enjoy some fine hikes or mountain biking, topped off with superb local meals and ales. Short Trip Boston – USA Why now, you ask? If you are or are not a sports fan, Boston is a city of sports fanatics and with this you can experience an amazing American Football game at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, which is an experience never to be forgotten. I’ve put Boston down in the category of Short Break because you can add this fantastic city onto a longer stay on the east coast of the USA, where there are so many other fabulous places to see! Imagine hiring a car and driving to some of the most famous east coastal villages and eating the best lobster and crab! One Week Holiday Jordan Bring out your inner Indiana Jones, in the kindest temperatures.Jordan is the complete for ancient wonders, such as the 2000 year old city of Petra, hewn out of solid rock! Experience the city sights of Roman Jerash and the souks of Amman. Or how about camping in the alien-like deserts of Wadi Rum? For Wildlife, explore Dana Nature Reserve or for a trip to the beach and float in the Dead Sea or snorkel in the Red Sea. Jordan can also be very green at this time of year. With temperatures around 20C the central valleys are lush with wildflowers. This is a beautiful time to visit Jordan. Two Week Holiday Hawaii – USA At this time of year, Hawaii’s temperature is a lovely and warm 26—29C and the prices to visit can be very reasonable. It’s a great time for hotel bargains and less crowded beaches. Oahu is a great location for families with the gently sloping Kailuha beach, Dole Pineapple Plantation and Aulani Disney Resort. A must see is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and on Maui hire a car and drive the scenic Hana Highway where you can whale watch from your car as Humpback pass by! Contact me on 0191 432 6570 to plan your perfect trip!
03 December 2019
As someone who understands the time constraints and stresses associated with being an assistant, as well as having a comprehensive knowledge of corporate travel and the ability to save your company time, money and stress, I’d love to help. Prior to coming to Travel Counsellors, I had 8 years’ experience in corporate travel, working for huge companies including Microsoft, Kellogg’s, British Telecom and numerous SME’s. I initially started my own business working as a VA, Positively PA, and I wanted to be able to offer the same corporate travel services to SME’s that I’d previously offered the larger organisations. As my business grew it became clear that I needed focus purely on travel, which is why I joined Travel Counsellors. With over £650 million in purchasing power, we are one of the UK’s top travel management companies and have access to special rates on flights, hotels and other suppliers. Regardless of the size of your organisation, you could benefit from working with us. However, great air fares and hotel rates aren’t everything. Keeping your travellers safe is a vital part of managing travel and, as an assistant booking direct, I often worried about what support I could offer in case of emergencies or changes. However, with Travel Counsellors duty of care is all part of the service and you always have a clear point of contact 24/7, every single day of the year. So, if you are booking travel direct with airlines or hotels, or even already using a travel management company, then I would love to talk to you to explain all the benefits that I can offer. Please do give me a call on 0191 432 6570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
29 October 2019
A few weeks ago, I received an invite to go on a trip to Thailand with one of my very favourite suppliers, Intrepid. They are always my port of call for adventurers and experience seekers, as they have the BEST guides and tour leaders, smaller groups and totally committed to responsible travel through the Intrepid Foundation. I could talk about all the amazing things I seen and visited, but for me the all-encompassing thing was the wonderful experiences I had, when out of my comfort zone. Anyone who knows me, knows I love my home comforts and luxuries, so I was quite apprehensive about the trip. I would be staying in basic accommodation including a homestay with a local family. In the homestay, I’d be sharing a room with 8 other girls who I hadn’t met before the trip, sleeping on a mattress with a mosquito net, very basic washing and toilet facilities. And then I’d be taking the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok – 13 hours on a sleeper train. I can’t lie, I almost cancelled at the last minute……. Which I can admit, would have denied me the most amazing, life changing experiences ever! Our group gelled very quickly. We had a lot in common, not least the love of travelling, exploring new places and meeting new people. We formed an immediate bond – friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I’m a girl who is so OCD about hygiene, has eaten street food and it’s been the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted. As a foodie, the flavour explosions in my mouth meant I didn’t want to swallow the food as I didn’t want to lose the taste; I’ve drunk cold beers in tiny bars where there isn’t room to sit inside, the owner has set up a table outside with random chairs and tables – in the humid climate, the cold beer was just amazing. We were told there’s no regulation on the local beers – it says 5%, but could be anything up to 15%! I stayed in the homestay (staying with a lovely Thai family) and was greeted by the most welcoming, friendly and amazing people. It was a small village, we had no WiFi and only basic facilities, but I didn’t care! The local children came and performed for us, we played card games with the family, we visited the school, I showered outside– and yes, I shared a dorm with a bunch of girls I never knew, but we’d already formed bonds and ended up giggling most of the night. My entire experience was truly life changing. I embraced this beautiful country and particularly the people. They don’t have a lot, but they are so happy, warm, welcoming. We were made to feel part of the community and I will NEVER forget the kindness shown to us. On arrival home, I have a renewed sense of purpose, a need to share this experience with others and encourage them to also go out of their comfort zones. Visit new places but be a part of the community – share with them and give back. You’ll be rewarded in so many ways.
16 April 2019
SMEs often assume that TMCs are too big or costly for smaller organisations to consider using them, however many TMCs have the services and expertise to help smaller businesses track travel spend, handle duty of care requirements, save time and stress. I work alongside VA’s (Virtual Assistants) too, as they specialise in the SME admin and PA duties, while I have the TMC company and have many years expertise in corporate travel booking. Here are the main reasons, of many, why using a TMC is the best option every time for booking their business travel arrangements … Experience and Skills Would you re-wire your own house instead of hiring a professional electrician? No, because you need to know the work is done correctly, a professional has honed their skills and trained to the highest levels. Along with this and using many years of experience, knowledge and tricks of the trade to ensure you get the outcome you want, safe in the knowledge that you are in safe hands. Tracking travel spend Although SMEs have fewer employees, their organisation may travel frequently – making travel spend as difficult to track as larger businesses. TMCs can provide data, patterns and behavioural analysis around travel spend to ensure that SMEs can control their budgets and get the best value for money. TMCs have access to better rates from airlines and hotels and can identify the right balance between cost savings and flexibility. Save Money Often it is the senior executives and sales people who travel the most. These people are also often the most expensive people on your payroll. So, it will save the company a lot of money if you can take travel booking and associated administration off their hands. I was recently ‘tested’ by a new corporate client to beat a price they had worked out, for 6 staff to travel across the world to many destinations, using the internet. I managed, not only to save the company £14k but ensured they had better flight times and they now have the financial protection and 24/7 support of my company! Saving time and Stress Smaller businesses often think they are better off booking their own travel, assuming this is the more cost-effective option. However, it’s worth taking into account how much time employees are taking to book their own travel, and if their bookings align with the business’s travel policy in terms of spend. Often booking travel is not the main priority for employees who already have a full workload, resulting in bookings made at the last minute which are more expensive than if they’d been booking in advance. What’s more, travel arrangements don’t always go to plan, and this can be extremely stressful for the traveller if they don’t have access to support – and extremely stressful for those left at the office when you have no visibility of where your travellers are or whether they have been caught up in travel disruptions. I will be available during office hours to support you and your staff; offering support when it’s needed and helping you to understand and fulfil your duty of care responsibilities. After hours I am supported by our 24/7 Duty Office – the team there works round the clock to give my travellers early notification of disruption to travel plans and support me and therefore in supporting your staff and, where necessary, making alternative travel arrangements seamlessly and efficiently. Duty of care Duty of care is no longer an option - it’s a requirement for all businesses. When bookings are made by travellers, personal assistants and even in-house travel managers often oversights occur when it comes to the organisation’s duty of care responsibilities. Travel managers may be able to enforce certain duty of care requirements, but unless they have a large team, they can’t provide 24/7 support for travellers, like I do. No matter what size your organisation, or how much travelling you undertake, I can support your business travellers to find the best rates, fulfil your duty of care responsibilities and schedule most effectively. This is backed up with technology; by downloading our MyTC app, your travellers have access to all their travel arrangements and documents, as well as quickly receiving any alerts or notifications. I will get to know you and your team and will take into account your individual travel preferences when making a booking – window seat? aisle seat? vegan meal? – and book accordingly. Your employees are freed up to concentrate on their work – and you don’t have the overhead of a dedicated travel manager. Despite getting all the benefits – and more! Financial Protection You may have heard the news about the regional UK airline Flybmi, which ceased trading recently leaving passengers stranded across Europe? Many of the travellers stranded by Flybmi’s collapse were corporate travellers, returning to and from the UK on European business trips. Despite Flybmi creasing trading on a Saturday evening, as soon as the news broke my support teams ran reports to identify clients affected and set to work to ensure they could continue to enjoy seamless trips wherever possible. Our corporate travellers can always be secure in the knowledge that, whatever the circumstances, they have a me as a 1-1 contact but also a 24-hour support team behind me, to keep them moving onto their next meeting, or safely back home. What’s more, it’s circumstances like this that highlight the issue of financial protection in travel. It can be a complicated issue, which we’ve made very simple by ensuring that all corporate travel bookings made with me– whether that’s flights, hotels, car hire or transfers – are 100% financially protected. It is our duty of care to look after every penny, just as we take pride in looking after every detail of our travellers’ itineraries. This unrivalled level of protection also applies to flight-only bookings, which is a common type of corporate travel requirement that many other travel agents or travel management companies may not offer financial protection on. What’s more, I take the time to do due diligence, nurturing close relationships with our travel suppliers and partners to ensure that the companies we work with on behalf of my corporate travellers share our aim to always have my clients’ best interests at heart. For more information, feel free to give me a call on 0191 432 6570 and we can chat or meet up, to discuss your options.
27 February 2019
“How come I haven’t heard of you before?”. “Where have you been all my life?”. “You are truly a hidden gem!” These are just some of the things I hear from new clients. This is because, in my opinion, I run my business with THE best travel company in the world, deliver THE best service in the world and offer world-beating holiday products. I’m not just saying this; we have an unrivalled Global 96% Net Promoter Score, which means we are rated higher than Apple, Amazon and even BMW! So, why are we so special? Do you want to book with someone who can look after you, on a one-to-one basis? My clients initially come to me not knowing what they are getting into, but they soon realise that they have come to the right place. My customer service in unrivalled in the travel industry, I have over 19 years’ experience and skills, have personally visited many destinations, experienced many types of cruises available and all with fantastic HQ support. They also love the fact that I take my time to get to know my personally and by building a relationship with them I can ascertain what they want from their ideal holiday, their likes and dislikes. I want them to be 100% satisfied with the holiday they book with me and I will spend this time, even at nights or weekends to ensure this, when it’s more convenient for them, not me. They are then so happy with their holidays and the booking procedure with me that they are more than willing to recommend my personal travel services to their friends, family and colleagues. This is why we don’t need to advertise and my business has grown substantially over the last five years. Is state-of-the-art technology your thing? We do not sit on our laurels when it comes to business – we are constantly investing millions into it. With fantastic live booking and airline systems, we are the envy of the trade. We launched our MyTC smartphone travel app a few years back and this is being constantly upgraded. If you haven’t already downloaded the MyTC app, feel free to do it, register and fill in the preference centre, for up-to-date travel, holiday and news updates. Watch MYTC video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTmdYgAcIYM&t=6s You want to know you are fully protected, right? With us, you are financially protected and this is unrivalled in the travel industry, we have even won two Queens Awards because of it - no other travel company has won any! In these days of uncertainty, with airlines and other suppliers going bust, what is one thing that we must be certain of? You can travel safe in the knowledge you will be thoroughly best cared for by us and you won’t be left in the lurch. With us and only us, your hard-earned money that you have paid for your ideal trip with is secure should any element of your holiday fail, you will be reimbursed straight away. Unlike the many other travel companies, you will have to fight to get it back and this could take months and months, that is if you get it back at all? On top of that our amazing duty office, which is manned 24/7, you will have a friendly voice at the end of phone that will be able to assist you with any concerns you may have. We had even sorted out clients’ flights when Monarch recently went bust, before they had even woken up from their slumbers! This is how ‘on the ball’ we are when our client’s needs are paramount. Variety is the spice of life - I don’t know who originally coined this phrase but when it comes to booking with me, it certainly rings true. With many other travel companies out there and high street travel agencies, you are bound to stay in their own properties and use their airlines, but with me, I can offer thousands of options for clients to tweak to ensure that their requirements are fully met. Cruising is now becoming a major seller, with my clients finding that there is definitely a cruise out there; whether it’s across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Caribbean or on gorgeous rivers such as The Danube or The Rhine and even magical experiences such as the Galapagos or Northern Lights cruises, there is something to suit them perfectly. Gone is the misnomer that cruising is something you do when you’ve won the lottery - it is a fabulous cost-effective way to experience more and only unpack once. I’ve had some strange requests, such as heliboarding (jumping out of a helicopter onto a mountain and snowboarding down) to families staying with Vietnamese families, while learning to cook, play football with local kids and getting to know their culture. As I like to say ‘travel is the only thing that makes you richer’. I am finding that yes, I can book your long weekend hot tub break in Cornwall, your ski trip to Vail Colorado, that stereotypical beach holiday but I can also push the boundaries out for you so you can experience some fantastic travel challenges too, like climbing up to Machu Piccu or cruising on a tall ship while doing Yoga, to diving under the ice of Antarctica in a mini sub!
04 November 2018
1. Graz, Austria Graz is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities. With a vibrant mix of Renaissance, contemporary (The Kunsthaus art museum) and futuristic architecture, Graz is a city that lives and breathes history. Wander the winding alleyways in the Altstadt, finding secret courtyards and quirky artisan shops, where you can find chocolate and almond biscuits topped with poppy seeds. From November 23rd you can find 14 Christmas Markets dotted around the old town. The smoked sausages, mountain cheeses and the Styrian ham are a must, then warm up over a Kaffee und Kuchen in a local café sampling the unique to Graz Chocolate truffle spiked with alcohol. 2. Aachen, Germany This rabbit warren city is Germany’s most westerly city with towering cathedrals and dazzling chapels that come alive after dark. Try the tantalising gluhwein in the medieval Christmas markets (Nov, 23rd - Dec 23rd) beneath a canopy of pine and baubles. The gingery biscuits made with a blend of spices spiked with aniseed are delicious. For a savoury meaty treat, try the fabulous beef marinated in gingerbread sauce, before warming up in the geothermal spa at Carolous Thermal Spa 3. Rovaniemi, Lapland The official ‘home’ of Santa Claus and his elves is surrounded by snow-covered pines in this stereotypical winter wonderland. Whizz across the slopes on snowmobiles or even try ice swimming, a typical Finnish pastime! Reindeer is the meat of choice and is traditionally served with root vegetables and lingonberry jam, followed by a slice of ‘bread cheese’ which is similar to halloumi, soaked in milk and cinnamon before being deep fried. To grab a front row Northern Lights treat check out the Arctic Lodge Treehouse, where you can watch the show from the comfort of your own bed! 4. Ljubljana, Slovenia Comparable in looks to Prague, with its red-roofed houses, soaring church spires and enchanting castles, Slovenia's capital is a hidden gem and has one of the best preserved old towns in Europe. Climb up to Neboticnik for THE best view and enjoy a slice of traditional sweet nut roll with a coffee with stunning views over to the castle. Try the Kranjska Klobsa, a speciality sausage, for a super meaty treat. 5. Bled, Slovenia With its fairytale castles, with snow-covered belltowers and a beautiful glistening blue lake and to top it all off, a gorgeous 17th-century church floating in the centre of the lake, Lake Bled is one of Slovenia’s top ‘must sees’. Between November and February Lake Bled is transformed into a sparkly winter wonderland. Skirt around a maze of wooden bridges at Vintgar Gorge, where waterfalls and cascading pools freeze over leaving daggers of ice like tiers of a wedding cake on the frozen water. Refuel with a traditional confectionary square ‘Kremsnita’, filled with vanilla and custard. 6. Sofia, Bulgaria The Bulgarian capital has a fascinating storied history. Given the moniker of ‘Europe’s most affordable capital’ you can peel back the Stalinist architecture to reveal some fabulous golden domed neo-Byzantine buildings. Follow the yellow brick road to discover the ancient Serdica Complex. Home to 2000 year old Roman Ruins, the Alexander Nevski Cathedral is a striking structure adorned with domes, mosaics, onyx and alabaster thrones. Feast on traditional Bulgarian fare of ‘Kapama’, a dish of layered pork, chicken and veal baked in a clay pot and topped with rice. 7. Tromso, Norway In the ‘New Reykjavik’ as it is frequently named, visit the frosty fjords for dazzling Northern Lights displays, whale watching and a snow-topped city festooned in fairy lights. Visit from October to January to raise the odds of catching those spellbinding Northern Lights. Head to Lake Prestvannet a 20-minute walk north from the city centre to increase your luck further. You will find no fresher fish here, consisting of Cod, Coalfish, Halibut and Wolfish. 8. Lucerne, Switzerland Lucerne is an idyllic winter hideaway, with a cobalt blue lake surrounded by mountains, it is famous for its crisp, fresh air, top-notch cheese and chocolate. The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) is the place to be for astounding views across the city roofs to the clock towers and ancient ramparts. To fully appreciate the views, take a two-hour boat ride around the lake, a 30-minute cable car journey up to the Pilatus Massif on the worlds steepest cog railway. 9. Cappadocia, Turkey With an alien landscape straight out of a movie, volcanic eruptions and natural erosions have resulted in fairy chimneys, funnels, pillars, and lunar toadstools soaring 40m are best viewed at sunrise or from a hot air balloon. Sip on ‘Salep’, a milky cinnamon drink, ‘Yaprak Sarma’ rice in vine leaves and ‘Testi’ Kebab cooked in clay for 2 hours, where the pot is cracked open at your table. 10. Budapest, Hungary Winter is, hands down, the most amazing time to visit Budapest. Seeing the Hungarian Parliament surrounded by ice drifts on the Danube, along with fabulous grand cafes, museums, and thermal baths infinitely more welcoming after spending a few chilly hours exploring the city. For all you foodies out there, Budapest is awash with fantastic options, for example try Fisherman’s Soup (HALÁSZLÉ). This delicious spicy soup is usually made from carp caught in the river Danube. The recipe relies on the traditional paprika powder, which gives the soup’s bright red colour. Or that well-known favourite, Goulash (GULYÁS). Goulash is one of the (if not the No. 1) most famous Hungarian dishes. Goulash is a rich stew made of meat and vegetables, and with lots of paprika. Traditionally, it is made from beef, but you can also find goulash made from pork or chicken. I'd love to hear any of your own recommendations.
05 October 2018
I have good reason to be in love with Fuerteventura! I believe that this wonderfully beautiful island was the catalyst to me carrying on living. I was seriously ill in 2000, but I had an amazing consultant surgeon who worked miracles and I was sent to recuperate by my company to assist in the Fuerteventura office (which was code for ‘go away, get better and forget about work’). I instantly fell in love with Fuerteventura and after spending time in the glorious sunshine, relaxing and eating lovely fresh fish with the locals, I was in remission. When I had the chance to revisit again this year with Colin, I couldn’t wait for him to see this wonderful ‘happy place’ of mine and considering it had just been our sixth anniversary, it was a fabulous treat. We stayed in the adults-only part of Atlantis Junior Suites in Corralejo, which is a lovely quaint harbour town in the north of the island. The staff are so friendly and helpful and loved it when Colin tried out his pidgin Spanish! In the Premium Club adults-only area there was a lovely serenity pool with luxury loungers and Balinese beds. It had its own bar and meals area and access to La Scala which is the Premium Club restaurant on site. The property was literally 50 yards from the beach in Corralejo, but it did run a courtesy shuttle to the sand-dunes if you fancied a different beach. We went into town quite a bit and if it was just too hot we would grab a taxi for 3 Euros back to our hotel. Revisiting the harbour area again brought all the emotions back, as we sat at that same restaurant with the same meal that I had loved in 2000. Garlic prawns with Canarian potatoes and Mojo sauce. With a flight of just over 4 hours from Newcastle, this is an excellent, reasonably priced destination to get some well-earned sun and relaxation all year round. This week was all about returning with Colin and ticking some relaxation boxes, which we did in spades!
08 August 2018
This is a spectacular coastal train journey between Seattle and Los Angeles, with detours inland through the Cascade Mountains on the fabulous Amtrak Coast Starlight. The onboard seats are wide, comfortable and almost fully reclining; the fabulous observation lounge has swivelling seats, that provide a fantastic view of the scenery. There is also a café, a lounge for business class passengers (complete with a wine-tasting event) a dining car and an at-seat dinner service. Advance booking for the dining car is advisable. Wi-fi is available on some trains. But a word of caution straightaway, don’t even think about it if you are in a hurry. If you have some time on your hands and a lover of trains, this trip is certainly for you! Seattle to Los Angeles is 1,377 miles by Amtrak, which you would do in bite sized chunks. Inside the trains there are well-padded reclining front-facing seats, ample leg room (crucial for tall passengers like my 6’2” hubby), with big picture windows to watch the world go by, as it travels along at a leisurely speed, giving passengers the opportunity to drink in the splendour of this magnificent adventure. The 187 miles to Portland take about five hours, which was about average. You can view the wide blue waters of Puget Sound to the right and distant mountains to the left with the intermittent spattering of rivers and lakes, one-horse towns and two-horse towns and real towns like Tacoma and Centralia, which the Americans confusingly call cities. Thundering over the Columbia River into the imposing Union Station at Portland, which really is a fabulous city and a great place for beer! Next to stop, the great silver monster – Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, a truly magnificent specimen of locomotive power, clanking wheels and hissing brakes, becomes an imposing force at the platform. Following the route over the valley of the Williamette through Salem and Albany to Eugene. Next stop, Redding. From here why not take a car out to the Lost Coast and the giant redwoods of Humboldt State Park and other attractions? Emeryville is the stop for San Francisco. Why not stop in San Francisco for a few days then hire a car to visit Yosemite, Monterey, the Big Sur and San Simeon; before re-joining this magnificent silver beast train, at San Luis Obispo. This last section to Los Angeles is absolutely astounding. The railway hugs this throbbing, dynamic coastline, with surf pounding one empty beach after another before heralding beautiful Santa Barbara, Oxnard and Santa Monica before arriving into Los Angeles. When I visited California last year, I remember watching this stunning train passing by. It's on my list. If you fancy trying this, or any other rail trips, get in touch.
12 June 2018
Mummy Snowboarder is a very good friend and client of mine. She has kindly sent me this fantastic blog about snowboarding in senior years, so there’s hope for me yet! She has also written a book called ‘Take it all on board’, working through doubt, setbacks, injury and grief, she applies some hard-knock lessons from the slopes to daily life and delivers a unique confidence programme for any woman seeking greater self-esteem. Here is the link to Kate’s book … http://www.takeitallonboard.com/ Written by Mummy Snowboarder aka Kate Mackay Snowboarding is perceived to be a young person’s sport, and having just watched the Winter Olympics, where more than fifty percent of snowboarding medal winners were under 25, you’d be forgiven. In comparison to skiing, snowboarding is a relatively young sport, becoming popular back in the 1980s. Skiing heritage travels back over one hundred years, so it’s relatively common to see those aged over sixty, seventy and beyond cruising the slopes. For snowboarders, who started ‘back in the day’, they are likely to be in their fifties, and it is unusual to see ‘silver’ snowboarders. As I get older, I’ve been asked a few times, “when are you going to stop snowboarding?” which made me think about what is possible when the body ages. Luke Rees, Managing Director of AWE365 introduced me to Jenny Cruse, who learned to ski in her late thirties when accompanying a school ski trip but switched to snowboarding at fifty and continues to do so today, twenty-one years later. As a self-styled grob (grannies on boards) – a term with more than a passing nod to those at the other end of the spectrum, here’s what Jenny had to say when I talked to her. Why did you switch to snowboarding? I thought it was cooler and more challenging, plus my skiing was at a plateau and I felt I would not get better without putting in a lot of effort. I also liked the idea of not wearing those horrible ski boots which always seemed to hurt! What makes you continue snowboarding? I love carving sports, so enjoy the sensation. I also have damaged knees and arthritic hips and I find the forward backward motion of boarding easier on knees and hips. Plus, I love the gear. I’m always in love with my snowboard. I’m currently riding an Arbor Push which is quite an old model, but previously I loved my Tina Basich Pro with a swan graphic, but sadly it got stolen. Do you snowboard at an indoor snow slope or in the mountains? Only in the mountains. What is your favourite resort and why? Auron in the Alpes Maritime [situated in France’s Southern Alps 90km north of Nice] because it is so friendly and ridiculously cheap. When the sun is out, after a dump of snow, it is just delicious. I also love the Provençal Rosé wine! The best plan is to ride mid-week as it gets busy at the weekends with the Niçois, all keen to ski or ride the 135km of pistes. What type of board do you ride? Arbor Push, Burton Fish (which is way too big for me) and an old Burton Custom. With whom do you snowboard, and do they ski or snowboard? My husband and family as well as friends. Our group is usually 50% skiers and 50% snowboarders. The skiers are good and can ride in the powder off-piste, and in February, we had 29 people travel with us for the two weeks we were out in Auron. If you want to see how we got on click here. Did you have snowboarding lessons when you started, and do you still have lessons/ coaching? No, I’ve never had a snowboard lesson; I just learnt by falling lots. I often think about having coaching, but it’s bit late for me. [I say it’s never too late, Jenny!] Although, I would probably add it’s a good idea to have lessons, because nowadays the teaching methods tend to be very physically supportive and will prevent some of those nasty falls I encountered. Do people ever comment on your age when they see you on a snowboard? Um yes, I got stopped a few times at the lifts because I have an OAP pass! I also think someone mentioned me, as well as my hubby, in an online forum about, ‘Who is the oldest snowboarder you know?’, but I’ve no idea who it was. You don’t see many older people snowboarding; why do you think that is? It’s hard work and you have to be very fit. You also have to not mind crashing a few times. My friend Nicky, who is also recently a ‘grob, is very good and super fit, but she is also a personal trainer. To be honest, I think personal fitness and toughness is the key to keep riding when you are older. How do you keep fit between snowboarding trips? Daily yoga, tennis, swimming, and lots of gardening. I don’t do much running because my knees are knackered. What advice do you have for those aged 50+ who want to take up snowboarding? Get a very good helmet, a good set of impact shorts, wrist guards and a big tube of arnica, ibuprofen and paracetamol plus plenty of grit. You will fall lots of times, so you need to be tough.
07 June 2018
I was introduced to the MS Research and Relief Fund in my local town of Morpeth, due to the fact that Lizzie specialises in accessible travel. Upon finding that they were fundraising for their charity and being a keen cyclist, I signed up for the Coast to Coast (C2C) challenge they were organising, which spans the North East from the Irish Sea at Workington to the North Sea at Tynemouth. A distance of about 140 miles over 3 days, across the high altitude across the Pennines! This is a challenge I have wanted to try for a few years now. It was a supported trip organised by Cycling Generation, a fabulous company based in Morpeth, who took the cyclists, 15 of us, over in a mini bus with the bikes going on ahead in the support vehicle aka ‘The Van’. This vehicle would be in close proximity during the ride, to keep the group supplied with water and snacks, also supplying lunches, as well as giving some riders a rest. Cycling Generation also organised the overnight stays in Penrith and Edmundbyers. Day One I met the rest of the group on a glorious sunny Friday morning and loaded up my bike with overnight bag at 730am, for the transfer to Workington. I was then met by Dan, Hayley and Tania from the charity, with Hayley and Tania doing the challenge too. Arriving at Workington we set off after dipping our rear wheels in the Irish Sea! I had prepared for this ride by doing about 90 miles a week in the lead up to this challenge, but not unsure about how I’ll perform doing approx. 45miles a day for three days in a row. We were given a pep talk by our guide leader from Cycling Generation, Richard Rothwell, who is a competitive cyclist, so we knew that we are in safe hands. We set off at a gentle pace, knowing that we had to stick together as a group and not to leave people behind. It wasn’t long before the group started to chat and cycle along, having a laugh and finding all about each other. The distance that we were facing, did not faze me in any way and I was really looking forward to the challenge and getting to know the group better! After a few miles we hit upon some steep climbs and this is when the group really came into its own, giving a lot of moral support for each other as we dug in up the hills heading towards the van for lunch and a top up of water, Haribos and other energy boosting snacks! Arriving into Penrith, I was glad to get into my room at The George Hotel for a quick shower then food, before heading to bed with very achy legs, a warm fuzzy feeling that this is day one over and sleeping like a baby. Day Two Up at 7am for breakfast then after packing our overnight bags away in the van, we are off again for what will be the toughest day, heading over the Pennines with some big climbs, including Hartside Pass heading for Edmundbyers. The group are all up for the day ahead which is great for morale, as we set off again in high spirits, only to be hit with a very steep hill climb out of Penrith. The views are stunning, on a once more glorious sunny day and we have all slapped on the factor 30 sun protection. I can’t believe how great the weather is considering it tends to be quite wet in the lakes area. Passing through the village of Langwathby the residents are setting up for a Royal Wedding Day Fair with scarecrow versions of Harry and Meghan in attendance. Once again ‘The Van’ was in close attendance with support, those ever popular Haribos and even marshmallows. Marcus and Ben from Cycling Generation were the other two fabulous guides during the trip, who were equally proficient and professional. One would drive the van and the other would ride at the back of the group for safety reasons. Riding through an off-road section at Whinlatter, I suffered my first puncture, but the amazing views through the trees on this sunny day toward Derwentwater, this certainly makes me think positively on this great journey. This is quite a personal challenge for me after suffering a potential life threatening medical incident in 1999 which has reduced lung function for me. In saying that, I am really enjoying this challenge and I think it’s a lot to do with the fantastic welcoming and supportive group of fellow cyclists, the total professionalism and expertise of Cycling Generation and the fact we are all cycling for the great cause which is, the MSRRF! We have all had some great donations made to us and the charity individually, we were even given another £20 this morning from another group cycling the C2C for their charity! With a feeling of massive achievement and full of support for each other, we were all really ready for a well-earned rest once we reached Edmundbyers and a good night’s sleep. Day Three Again, a lovely day awaits our final day, which will be mostly a lot easier to cycle as we head down into the Tyne basin and our final run into Tynemouth! Spirits are again high as we mount our trusty steeds for the final day of this amazing challenge. We are once again hit with a steep climb straight away which caused some mechanical issues to surface, which the Cycling Generation team dealt with on the spot. Cycling along the Derwent Walk Cycle path was pure joy on a flat, well surfaced route, arriving into the throng of civilisation into Gateshead as we passed The Metrocentre. Stopping for a group photograph after crossing the Millennium Bridge in Newcastle we were now on the final run in to Tynemouth! Arriving into Tynemouth we were met by a welcoming committee of friends and family, blowing whistles and cheering, which was quite emotional. Then the cycling group gathered together at the water’s edge to dip our bike’s front wheels into the North Sea, to signify the final act of our amazing C2C challenge! I personally raised 100% of my sponsorship target at £500, but I believe the group as a whole have raised around a magnificent £12k, which is what really makes this challenge all the more worthwhile. I thoroughly recommend the C2C challenge, especially with the support of Cycling Generation, who definitely enhance the whole fantastic experience. I have returned back to my ‘normal’ life now, with some new friends from the challenge and an amazing sense of personal achievement.
17 May 2018
There have been many studies done on how travel can benefit those with mental health issues. Ever feel like you are stuck in a rut? Working too hard? Stressed out because your mind is in a twirl and your capacity to process information is diminished? We have all been in that situation, where we get to that point where we have to get out of the house at a weekend and having a change of scenery, even if it is just a couple of hours down the road, this can work wonders. It has been scientifically proven that travel provides a number of benefits to your mental health. Here are a few reasons, why it may be worth packing your suitcase! Creativity booster Because of the way our brains are wired, it means our brains are sensitive to change, influenced by new environments and experiences. We have many clients including children, who become immersed in the culture in their destination and engage with its local culture. This open-mindedness can help you and your children to embrace different ways of living on your own, in turn influencing your outlook on life. Many of my clients love the experiential type of holiday for them and their families, instead of sitting on a sunbed by the pool, which could be anywhere in the world or even at home. Age Healthily Challenge the brain by travelling to new and different experiences and environments. This can then become a part of life that will promote and enhance brain health and resilience. Also, studies have also shown that those who did not go regularly were more at risk of heart attack or disease. Men who did not go on holiday for several years were actually 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack compared to men who did not take time off. Women who holidayed only once every six years or less were also eight times more likely to develop or suffer from a heart attack or disease compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year. Change your personality If you are travelling to a foreign country and out of your comfort zone, you often have to adapt to those differences. This can make you more open by raising awareness in your personality. This can also make you less emotional and less reactive in day to day challenges back home. Studies have shown that this can help make you more agreeable within your existing social networks too. Relieve Stress Although missing a connecting flight or losing baggage in a foreign airport is sure to boost your anxiety, travelling in general has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels, dramatically. Don’t live your life ‘On repeat’. Escape the daily stresses and commitments of everyday life, by travelling., thus offering novelty and change in the form of new people, sights and experiences. Try new activities and experiences to free up and reset your mind and body and enjoy some stress relief. We have clients who love therapy activities at home but love to take these activities abroad too. Imagine a sunrise Yoga sun salutation on a Californian beach, or a fantastic well-being retreat in a hidden Thailand Spa resort? A study has also found that women who holiday at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than women who holiday less than once every two years. Pre- travel boost The effects of travel aren’t felt only during and after your trip – in fact, even just the anticipation of going on holiday can boost your mood. People are at their happiest when they have a holiday planned. We have a travel APP that our clients use to view their itineraries, which has a countdown to departure on it. My clients love this build-up of raised anticipation levels. Studies have also found that we get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience in comparison to anticipating buying a new possession. I bet you can remember that magical holiday, wedding abroad or perfect honeymoon with more joy than when you bought that last item for your house? It turns out that money can buy you happiness, but just not in the way we expected! Strengthen your relationships Some say that a holiday will make or break a relationship or friendship, but this is just because you aren’t ready or happy to be in that relationship at that point. Sharing travel experiences with your beloved other half can make your relationship with them even stronger, which has a knock-on effect on your own mental wellbeing and self-esteem. Results have shown that not only does travel have long-term effects for couples, such as an increased closeness and perception of shared interests and goals, but also that it helps to maintain relationships, as well as to reignite a romantic spark. Not only do you get to enjoy some quality time together and enjoy new experiences together, but overcoming the tougher elements of travelling together, such as planning the trip and making any compromises, can help bring you closer together and make you a stronger couple. References: Colombia Business School, US Travel Association, Cornell University, University of Surrey, Marshfield Clinic, Global Coalition on Aging.
03 April 2018
As you know, part of my job involves travelling to and exploring new places, so that I can confidently recommend them to you, my fabulous clients. As it has always been my dream to visit South Africa and having the chance to see my beloved elephants, you can imagine my excitement, when I was invited on a familiarisation trip courtesy of TourVest and South African Tourism with fellow Travel Counsellors from around the World. En route from the airport to the hotel, we enjoyed a cultural tour of Maboneng. It was great to see the journey of how Johannesburg grew from a small mining town into becoming the ‘City of Gold’. Our first night was spent at the iconic Sandton Sun. We walked through the mall (attached to the hotel), through Nelson Mandela square for an awesome Thai meal at WangThai. Up early next day for a tour of Soweto, South Africa's largest and most famous township. I toured in a tuk-tuk, which was great fun, but you can take a cycling tour. Along the way, I constantly had my hand out, high fiving the local children and saying ‘yaybo’ meaning ‘hey guys’! We’d taken sweets and colouring pencils with us, and they were so gratefully received. These amazing people don’t have much, but they have such huge smiles on their faces. I felt privileged and honoured to have made this trip and have come home wanting to do so much more. A couple of my fellow Travel Counsellors and myself are looking at doing some fundraising for the orphanage we visited, so watch this space. As someone who went to the Nelson Mandela concert in 1988, it was a bit of a pilgrimage for me to visit Jo'burg and Soweto, as well as Nelson Mandela’s house (we could even hear his great-grandchildren playing in the garden). We had a superb dinner, back at the Sandton Sun, on the ‘San Deck’. The food was fantastic, with an atmosphere so relaxing, firepits all lit, great music and I could have stayed all night. I would highly recommend the Sandton district for my corporate clients. Everything is very close and the hotels are modern, with fabulous facilities including malls selling everything you might need. Next stop was the airport for a short flight to Kruger Mpumalanga airport. This has to be the prettiest airport I’ve ever been in. It’s more like a safari lodge than an airport. There are 3 airports in the Kruger region, making it easy to get to all destinations. The flight is quick and easy, and in my opinion, preferable to driving. After a fabulous wine tasting at Rottcher Wineries – it’s an orange winery as no grapes were available when it was established in 1916. (I may have brought some back with me as it was delicious); we checked into the Country Boutique hotel. What a gem, perched on the outskirts of White River. We had a lovely dinner and, as ever, a superb welcome. The staff just can’t do enough for you – I have to say, to experience South African hospitality is to experience the very best. I’m drawn to huge smiles, so I was in love with this beautiful nation! The amazingly helpful staff at Karongwe Portfolio, Becks Safari Lodge, sang for us after our braai. A short flight to Hoedspruit, takes us to the Makalali private game reserve, based west of Kruger National Park and located close to the mighty Drakensberg mountains. I have been an elephant lover since being a small child, so my binoculars are packed and ready for a very excited Lizzie. After 3 days, we're heading to Hippo Hollow country estate, where we had a tour of some of the most outstanding views I have seen in my life to God’s Window, aptly name as this was heavenly! In the evening, it was a night of Shangaan song and dance. In fact, 2 hippos decided to join us for dinner, which was an unusual event according to our hosts. The following day, I woke up excited knowing I was off on Safari today in Karongwe Reserve, where I was about to come face to face with the most amazingly beautiful and powerful creatures in the world. So exciting to actually see Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Giraffe and of course Elephants up close and personal. In all my excitement I did manage to get a few photos using my phone, so I hope you like them. I know that visiting destinations are knowledge gathering as part of my business, we work really hard and it’s very tiring, but I am very lucky to have this dream come true. I was really very pleasantly surprised to see how affordable this type of holiday is too, with the people being absolutely amazing, fantastic accommodation and very professionally run safaris, which are all about conservation too. Suffice to say, South Africa, I WILL be back with my hubby to savour this amazing experience too! We made a video of our trip, check it out here, ENJOY! https://quik.gopro.com/v/NWRQqVFaY4/
19 March 2018
I got married at Rendezvous in September 2012. As a sister property, I was only too happy to recommend The BodyHoliday to my very special client for her 25th wedding anniversary. She's kindly shared the following and some stunning pictures. Enjoy! St Lucia, The BodyHoliday April 2017 Lizzie created us an awesome 25th wedding anniversary holiday to remember. She found out exactly what we wanted from our holiday - romantic beach setting, healthy eating, pampering, activity choices and on-tap yoga and meditation. Then she organised the holiday in super quick time with great efficiency and always with cheerful calls and emails. Lizzie arranged a birthday and anniversary surprise for us through the hotel which was a lovely touch. She genuinely is really excited to arrange your perfect holiday. The BodyHoliday in St Lucia delivered – we learned to salsa and jive together, had luxurious daily treatments and learned Tai Chi together. Yet we also did activities separately – self-defence, golf and sailing for him and archery, Qi Gong and cooking classes for me. Healthy eating is really important to me as it’s my business as a nutritional therapist, so I wanted 10 days where I could choose from a vast array of healthy dishes that were gluten-free and dairy-free. Fresh fish and vegetables were abundant as were superfood smoothies, so I was really like a kid in my perfect sweet shop! Lizzie has visited here before, so she knew it would suit us perfectly. We came home feeling like we’d had a rest but also had worked our bodies and hadn’t become beach couch potatoes. A real lifestyle choice of holiday – for us a perfect combination to celebrate 25 years of marriage. If you want a special holiday, just call Lizzie and start talking. She’s fab! Jane is a registered nutritional therapist and the founder of Nurturing Nutrition with Jane Barrett. Her areas of special interest are digestive health, food intolerances and living with 'Free From' diets. You can contact her here: www.facebook.com/NurturingNutritionLtd or website www.nurturingnutrition.co.uk
01 February 2018
With January just behind us, don’t leave it much longer to book up your 2018 holiday. Apart from the fact that availability can run out, the prices will only go up as we move through the year. There are a few ‘surprises’ on here, as our customers are favouring more of an experiential type holiday, rather than the stereotypical ‘fly and flop’ style short haul beach holiday. Families have also realised, that kids benefit massively from travelling to destinations that can educate them in different cultures and enjoy experiences that will stay with them forever. Malta Now with Valletta as the 2018 European Capital of Culture, Malta has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance over the past few years with the government trying very hard to attract visitors from all age groups to enjoy its wonderful charms! There will be so much to see and do this year, with the Jazz Festival, Book Festival, Rock festival and many other attractions, what a great time to visit Malta! I have so many great accommodation options to choose from. Costa Rica Last year I had a family with young children who had a fantastic experiential holiday in Costa Rica. They were blown away by the friendliness of the people and their eagerness to make their stay fantastic and creating lifetime memories for them all. According to the Happy Planet Index (yes, this exists) Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest countries! Now many of our clients are seeing the attraction of this amazing diverse country, offering so much for everyone of all ages. Greek Islands There are so many Greek Islands to choose from you will be spoilt for choice and with so many great deals out there at the moment, from Santorini to Cyprus, the Greek Islands are more popular than ever. I have had clients honeymoon on the fabulously famous and stunning Santorini and holidayed on many of the lovely other Greek island. With 227 islands to choose from in the archipelago, you won’t be stuck for a destination that caters for your exact needs and budget. Thailand As I write, I have clients in Thailand who are reporting back to me that this is the best holiday they have ever had and has massively exceeded their expectations! With Newcastle being the airport nearest to me, my clients love the Emirates service that opens up so much of the world for them. Bangkok with its hustle and bustle is a city that attacks all your senses and as Bangkok would be your first point of contact with Thailand most visitors spend a few days here, before venturing deeper into this beautiful country. I have had clients visit the (in)famous bridge over the River Kwai which is a very moving experience, situated North East of Bangkok towards the Myanmar border at Kanchanaburi. Cruise Cruising has moved on massively, from it being of the time when the blue rinse brigade with money to burn, used to be the only ones who could afford cruises. Now, cruising is a fantastic way for all age groups to enjoy, and all budgets. It’s the largest growing sector in tourism and our cruise clients are so fully committed to cruising they will now only choose cruise holidays. From taster mini cruises for those who would like to try a cruise before committing to anything longer, to river cruises, a form of city break holiday afloat. My cruise clients see this type of holiday as a very cost-effective way to see so many places in an all- inclusive way without having to pack and unpack so many times. With so many cruise lines nowadays, with destination itineraries all over the globe, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing that ideal cruise to suit you and your family. Mexico When considering a far-flung exotic holiday destination, Mexico always ranks near the top of the list. It is a favourite destination for wedding/honeymooners, who can get married on a sandy beach and enjoy a lavish luxury holiday in some fantastic resorts. Dubai Again, flying from Newcastle, Dubai is the Emirates airline hub with every flight passing through. So, many of my clients have stayed here as part of a two-centre holiday and some have travelled to Dubai specifically for the magnificence of it all. Dubai has so much to offer its visitors, with world-class dining, incredible infrastructure, fabulous shopping experiences, luxury spas and fabulous hotels and resorts. There are activities to suit all kinds of visitors, no matter what your age. India Once a thriving part of the British Empire, India has a lot British influences throughout the country, least of all the railways and some of its grand architecture. India can frustrate and even madden visitors, but the best way to enjoy it, is with an open mind. Once you have opened your mind to India you be able to enjoy it and even bask in all its glory. Florida My clients just love the USA and especially ‘The Sunshine State’! Choosing the best time of year to visit Florida is something that visitors must consider, as the weather can vary significantly throughout the year. Predominantly most of my clients visiting Florida are families, who are so excited to see the wonders of Disneyland and Universal Resorts. With spectacular and ‘no expense spared’ theme parks and shows it’s a family experience that will live with them forever. New Zealand My clients who have visited New Zealand all say pretty much the same thing, “we just couldn’t believe how beautiful and friendly New Zealand is”. My son, who lives in London, and his girlfriend (who is a Kiwi), travelled there last year and my son said he didn’t want to come home! NZ is not a massive country geographically, but it has some of the best scenic vistas, with magnificent mountains, clean sparkly beaches, fjords and raging white water rivers and sweeping green plains it would be hard not to fall in love. Don’t forget to visit Hobbiton and the film locations from Lord of The Rings! Feel free to give me a call on 0191 432 6570 for a chat and let’s book your 2018 holiday!
08 January 2018
I have worked in the travel industry now for 18 years, having worked extensively in the corporate travel sector. I cut my teeth in corporate travel, working for world renowned American Express, assisting some high-end businesses, such as Microsoft, P&G and BT among others. Until a few years ago, I owned a corporate business travel company dealing with many corporate businesses, nationally. When my corporate travellers were asking me to book their leisure trips, I had to turn them away. This was due to the licensing that is required, so I contacted Travel Counsellors who didn’t hesitate to take me onboard (excuse the pun). I joined Travel Counsellors in 2014 with over 2000 client contacts, (apparently, it’s rare to see anyone join with so many!) Travel Counsellors are a fantastic fit for me and my clients, who love that personal touch and being available on a 1-1 basis. Recently I was referred to as a personal travel concierge. My corporate travellers and I understand that business travel can be a very stressful experience. Unfamiliar surroundings, time and performance pressures, networking in a second or third language, and a confused body clock all contribute to rising stress levels. If you can eliminate the unnecessary niggles that can sometimes accompany travelling, you’re in a much better place to deal with unforeseen stresses, delays or disruptions. The stress levels can begin to rise before they have left the office, because I have found that many companies use a PA or an office employee to book these very important trips, but this can have an adverse effect on the business. This can tie up an employee for hours trying to source that perfect itinerary and they may still not get the best option. I know how to manipulate fares using my state of the art technology systems. Because office PA’s or managers can’t access the same systems, this can cause flight and accommodation spend to rise acutely. I recently saved a company £16k on a trip that they said I wouldn’t be able to beat. We can achieve savings through the optimum combination of routing, schedules and price. My corporate clients love the fact that we never close, I don’t ‘do’ opening hours. We are a 24/7 service that is available when it suits our clients, not the other way around. I have a duty of care which means no client will ever be left stranded or expected to make their own arrangements. My system monitors all my bookings and in the event of an incident or emergency, we can pinpoint and track clients who may be affected, wherever they are in the world. I also provide travel management data. Reports and analysis that show travel patterns, identify savings and monitor compliance. Helping to reduce cost and improve efficiency. Our smart phone travel app ‘myTC’ means we are with you before, during and after your business trip. Meaning we can push important messages to you while you are on the move. If you would like to chat to me about your corporate travel requirements and what I can offer, feel free to give me a ring on 0191 432 6570.
29 December 2017
I travelled the Danube with Tauck last year and absolutely loved it, so I jumped at the chance to experience the gorgeous new AmaWaterways river ship AmaKristina, on the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam, with my husband Colin. Living in the North East of England the easiest way for us to fly to Basel was a 90-minute flight via EasyJet from Edinburgh on the 15th December, which is a quick and easy flight direct to Basel. Our return flight was from Amsterdam on the 23rd back into Edinburgh, again with EasyJet. We spent the night before embarkation in the lovely city of Basel, visiting our first Christmas market and dining on fondue, in one of the market cabins, whilst chatting to two lovely local ladies. Crossing The Rhine the next day, we were greeted by the lovely sight of AmaKristina waiting for us and she is a beauty! The staff were fabulous and met us on arrival with a hot drink, taking our luggage from us and escorted to our amazing cabin. We were in a standard priced cabin but to be honest every single detail was catered for. With high end products in the shower room (which had a heated floor) to the fresh water in the fridge every day. Our cabin also had a state of the art entertainment system with English TV, movies and free internet, which was brilliant as I still had work to do. Before setting sail the following morning, we were given a ‘Daily Cruiser’, which was the next day’s itinerary, including all the tours we could go on and contained very useful information too. These were left daily by our cabin attendant, who would also leave little chocolates, little presents and a rabbit shaped towel presentation! Our Itinerary consisted of Basel, Breisach, Strasbourg, Mannheim, Rudesheim, Cologne and Amsterdam. Arriving into Breisach we had the option of a few tours and decided to visit Riquewihr, which is a gorgeous medieval town in the Alsace region, inspiration as the setting for the film ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Back on board and time to relax before our absolutely amazing evening meal, where all the ladies were presented with a lovely red rose. All the meals, which included wines and soft drinks, were of the highest Michelin star quality were fantastic! Next stop, the adorable city of Strasbourg decked in Christmas finery, which reminded me a lot of Bruges, with its old half-timbered medieval architecture and canals where we wandered the lovely Christmas markets. The tours cater for all passengers with differing levels of abilities, so you could go on a hiking or cycling tour if you were up for it. We loved the fact that we could do as much or as little as we wanted to do. The lit, heated pool on the top deck was fabulous, or just sit in the lounge and relax listening to the amazing onboard pianist. Docking at Mannheim the following morning we decided on visiting Speyer and the Technic Museum, where Colin was in his element as his greatest loves are History and Formula one! The Rudesheim tour in the afternoon to see this lovely town and sample the famous Rudesheim coffee, which had a rather large ‘dash’ of Asbach brandy in the bottom. En route to Cologne we passed through the lovely, rugged Rhine Gorge and even though it was a rainy foggy day, sitting on the top deck wrapped up tight with a hot chocolate, it was truly magical. Our fantastic Cruise Manager, Dejan, gave us a wonderful commentary as we passed through, about the castles and of course the famous Lorelei Rock. Dejan in our opinion is a fantastic asset to AmaWaterways and he, above all, made this a magnificent trip, with his energy and enthusiasm. Visiting the fantastic city of Cologne with its amazingly intricate Gothic cathedral that dominates the city skyline was a highlight, along with our fabulous guide, Marion, we learnt so much. Then we sampled some locally brewed Kolsch Bier and Reibkuchen, which is a potato pancake served with apple sauce, Yum! Our short trip is nearly over now, but we have met some very lovely people onboard from Canada and USA who have invited us to visit them. Arriving in Amsterdam, we head off for a bus tour and canal cruise of the city. We have visited Amsterdam before, but this is a better way to see the city and relax, as we sail along the canals with our very informative guide. The following morning it’s time for us to jump into our taxi, which the receptionist on the ship organised for us to take us to the Airport for our flight home. To summarise, I highly recommend that you consider this trip with AmaWaterways on AmaKristina as it has been the most memorable trip that we will savour forever and can’t thank the staff enough who were all truly magnificent, for making this the most special of holidays. With the cruise being all inclusive, it’s very cost effective way to see so much, whilst only unpacking once!
03 November 2017
Short Break (2-5 days) Athens & Evia Steeped in history with some fabulous sites such as the Acropolis, Parthenon and Temple of Zeus. Why not satiate your tour history appetite and spend a few days in Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world, where the first Marathon was run? I’m not saying you run a marathon - this is the spiritual home of the event and it’s a great place to see with temperatures a comfortable 10-18°C which is ideal for wandering around the sites. Then head down to the beautiful Aegean island of Evia for some glittering beaches, mountains and fabulous food. A fantastic relaxing end to your short stay. Evia is linked to the mainland by two bridges and a ferry service, so, it can be easily accessed by hire car from Athens and then back for your flight home! At this time of year, this is generally a cheaper time to visit as it’s out of season. Medium Break (7-10 days) Valletta, Malta Malta has the most marvellous Mediterranean climate this time of year with temperatures still hovering around the 21°C mark. Again, this is out of season and with a resurgence of visitors to Malta, deals are to be had with Valletta and its surrounding areas much more in demand. Valetta, with Baroque palaces, churches, narrow lanes and beefy fortifications there is so much to see and do. Why not stay in a converted palazzo and hire a car to visit St Pauls Bay, The Blue Grotto, Marsaxlokk for great seafood, medieval Mdina and the Dingli cliffs. All washed down with a ferry trip across to the beautiful beaches of Gozo, which of course in November will be less crowded! Long Break (14 days plus) Costa Rica We have many clients and their families travelling to Costa Rica at the moment to experience the amazing sights, sounds and culture that this beautiful country has to offer. November is the end of the rainy season, although I would still suggest packing a light waterproof jacket, so the land looks lush and green with waterfalls in full flow. There is so much to see and do, it would take me forever to list them all, but here’s a quick guide. Often, a good first step is to choose one or two destinations, and then complementary locations can be found based on time constraints, proximity, and interest. Many travellers choose three or four destinations to visit in a 7-10 day period, with a relaxing beach break thrown in for your last few days. There are currently two international airports in Costa Rica. The largest, Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) in Alajuela, is located within the Central Valley region north of San Jose. The other airport, Daniel Oduber Airport (LIR) in Liberia, facilitates access to destinations in the Northwestern Guanacaste region. Visitors enjoy a wide range of activities and accommodations and are captivated by the unique natural landscape and habitat, as well as the developed tourism infrastructure with tours, nightlife, and restaurant options. I would say that the Guanacaste region and Marino Las Baulas National Park is one of the most important nesting sites for leather-back turtles. Staying in the North, one of Costa Rica's most notable natural features is the Arenal Volcano. This fantastic sight rises above the rainforest that surrounds its base. Arenal frames the skyline with near perfect symmetry. The immediate area hosts a wealth of activities – including white-water rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking and canopy tours – as well as the friendly town of La Fortuna. Whatever your choice, you are spoilt, with adventure activities such as Hiking, Rafting, Zip Lining or more sedate activities like, Bird Watching, Catamaran trips, Cable cars, Hot Springs or just relaxing, Costa Rica has it all! Talking of which, the stunning beaches on either the Pacific or Caribbean side of Costa Rica from Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side to the beautiful Tamarindo on Manual Antonio on the Pacific, there are 300 spectacular beaches to choose from! Contact me on 0191 432 6570 to enquire about these magnificent destinations, or for more info.
09 October 2017
A few months ago, I was honoured to be chosen to attend this educational trip to Canada and could not wait for the time to arrive! Excitement just doesn’t cover it! At long last the day arrived and off I flew to Heathrow from Newcastle to meet up with some of the others before heading to Ottawa on an Air Canada flight, which included an upgrade to business class, how fantastic is that? Ottawa After booking into the Ottawa Marriott, which is a short stroll from Parliament Hill, we were met by our local tour director, who walked us over to D’Arcy McGee’s Irish Pub. What an amazing atmosphere here. I met some fellow travelling buddies from different travel companies throughout the world. In the morning we were off, after a hearty but healthy breakfast to the fabulous Museum of Nature to see some of Canada’s finest from dinosaur fossils to an enormous blue whale skeleton. What a time to be in Canada, there is so much going on with its 150th Anniversary and the weather is stunning, not a cloud in the sky! For lunch, we experienced the awesome Lone Star restaurant which is famous for its chips and salsa, BBQ ribs, fajitas and steak. The table was groaning with food and the staff kept bringing more! Everything is just so tasty! After this amazing lunch, it was time to work it off, with a cycle along the Rideau Canal, a World Heritage site. What an amazing experience! No rest for the wicked, not that I’m not complaining. I’m loving it here and can’t wait to get onboard a boat that will cruise along the Ottawa River, offering us fabulous views of the city. Back on dry land we head up to Bier Markt Ottawa, offering a European style inspired market dedicated to the art of brewing, with 150 beers from 30 countries and fantastic food to match (I didn't taste them all, by the way). Breakfast the next day is in the stunning Fairmont Chateau, which is an ideal place to stay, especially being so close to the Parliament buildings, which is where we headed to next to visit Parliamentary precinct. With our lovely guide, Margo, we saw the Cenotaph and Houses of Parliament. We had lovely lunch in the Lord Elgin Hotel. We then transferred to the 1000 islands region boat cruise, taking us through some stunning scenery and visiting Rockport along the way. Next stop Gananoque, which is a beautiful waterfront colonial style town in the heart of 1000 islands. With breath-taking views from all angles only matched by the warmth and friendliness of its residents. We stayed her overnight. Day three and we are heading off to the 1000 islands helicopter tours for a short flight, taking in the amazing views from up on high. From here we were off to Kingston. This was once Canada’s original capital city and I just loved it here! It’s a very vibrant but hip and constantly evolving city that is also steeped in history, with 20 museums and the awesome Penitentiary and Fort Henry. Fort Henry was built in 1812 at the time of the war between Great Britain and Canada. We had an amazing visit here with people dressed in authentic period clothing and guards to keep us in check! The Penitentiary visit gave us a rare and unique insight behind the walls of Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum-security prison. Closed in 2013, I was so glad I only had a visitor’s pass! Afterwards we jumped on a trolley bus and had a tour, guided by the enigmatic Bryan, around the lovely city of Kingston. Our dinner tonight was at the Atomica Pizza and Wine bar. Fabulous food in a vibrant atmosphere. Day 4 and we arrived at the most amazing place: Elmhirst Resort, on the shores of Rice Lake. We had a fabulous tour by horse and carriage. Elmhirst’s Resort offers accommodation in the most spectacular setting, in fully equipped private lakeside cottages. This 240-acre resort is family owner operated and breeds its own cattle, chickens, grows its own vegetables and herbs, perfect for the dining rooms. So much to see and do here, at all times of the year, it’s definitely on my tick list to came back and stay! Did I mention I had the best ever Thanksgiving Dinner here! Next stop, Toronto! We book into the Chelsea Hotel, where we have some spare time, before the Toronto leg of our trip starts with a vengeance tomorrow. Day 5 and we had a fantastic tour around Toronto which is just stunning. This city is more cosmopolitan than Ottawa in my opinion, but everyone is just so friendly. This will be my overriding impression of Canada; the Canadian people are just so warm. I even seen friendly road rage! In the evening we paid a visit to Toronto’s iconic CN Tower where I managed to walk over the glass floor, looking down on the ‘ants’ of people 2000ft below! We had an amazing dining experience in CN Tower’s fabulous revolving restaurant at the very top. The views from here are spectacular! I don’t want to leave! After breakfast is a seminar where we meet all the other travellers and chat to the suppliers before we leave for the airport, with a heavy heart! My overall impression of Canada, for the short time I was here, is amazing! I have had one of the best experiences in my life. I was in California last year where I felt I was home, but Canada and especially Kingston, is in the mix now too!
09 October 2017
City Break (2 - 3days) Lyon, France Lyon is France’s second city and there are more restaurants here per square metre than anywhere else in the world! Where the Saone and Rhone rivers meet, this fantastic city is perfect to visit this time of year with ancient medieval streets and architecture. Those fantastic restaurants with elite chefs, chocolatiers, fantastic markets and having the Rhone valley vineyards within striking distance and its fabulous vineyards, it’s a perfect central base to discover all the best France has to offer. Why not hire a car and visit Geneva, which is only 90miles away, or even Paris which is 2hrs away by TGV? Short Break (7 - 10 days) Porto and The Douro, Portugal The best way to see this lovely area this time of year is on a Douro River Cruise. There are many excellent River Cruise specialists that cater for this amazing experience. Fly into Porto, Portugal’s second city and spend a few days there, before setting sail on the beautiful Douro, home of wine production (I’m sure you’ll taste some along the away) basking on the beauty of the rolling scenery in all its autumnal finery. Sailing all the way down to the Spanish border at Vega de Terron this is a fantastic way to see as much of this amazing area of Portugal, while relaxing as you sail along. Long Break (+14 days) Vietnam What can I say about Vietnam? I have had a few clients visit lately and have come back raving about their experiences! As Vietnam has quite a ‘quirky’ climate it can be difficult to judge the best time to visit, but October seems to tick that box to be the best for clear weather, that isn’t too hot and sticky. So much to see and do, it’s difficult for me to fill it all in, but must do’s are Halong Bay and/or Bai Long Bay where you can have a cruise around the bay. Why not head south via train visiting those historic sites of Hue and Hoi An. Head down to bustling Saigon, visit the Cu Chi tunnels dug out by the VietCong during the Vietnam War, visit the Mekong delta and for a fantastic beach finale, Phu Quoc. Even nip over to Cambodia or Laos on the same trip but remember to apply for a multi-entry visa.
29 September 2017
A few weekends ago I was very excited at the chance to try out a Hoseasons Lodge Break in Derbyshire, which is also fantastic because I spent a lot of my childhood years in that area around Ashover. This gave me the opportunity not only to try out one of these fabulous lodges but to show my Husband, Colin, around the area in which I used to live. We were booked into a two bedroomed Lodge (with Hot Tub) at the Landal Darwin Forest Park just outside Matlock. We arrived a little early for check in, which was 4 pm, but the lovely receptionist Adele, managed to get us in early. We were given a comprehensive guide to the park, wifi codes etc, as I did have to finish off some work I was busy with. We were even given a complimentary pint of milk to enable us to get a cuppa as soon as we unpacked. There were some tea and coffee making facilities already in the lodge. On site there is a shop, café, pub and leisure facilities. You can even hire bikes to cycle though the forest. We were very surprised at the actual size of the lodge inside, it was more than sufficient to accommodate 4 adults or a family of four quite adequately. The bedrooms had built in hanging space, with bedside units and storage drawers too, with a double bedroom and the twin bedroom equally well appointed. Before I say anything else, I do have to say that the double bed we slept in was SO comfortable with a lovely duvet and heavenly pillows. It was the best two nights sleep I had in ages! The Living room had a great flat screen TV and DVD facilities. It was possible to exchange board games and hire DVD’s from reception if you fancied. The kitchen had a halogen hob, which Colin used for the breakfasts, microwave, fridge/freezer and even a dishwasher! There are strict noise restriction rules on the park, which suited us as we were a bit concerned but there were no problems whatsoever on that score. As for the hot tub, it was just bliss! It was checked by staff first thing in the morning for its chemical levels and all filter are new on your arrival. I was sitting in the hot tub in the rain even, whilst Colin watched the F1 on TV! We did spend many hours languishing in the tub, drinking prosecco, generally relaxing and staring at the stars in the dark! The price of a lodge was comparable, depending on season, in price to spending a night in reasonably priced hotel, but having the luxury of the hot tub and the chance to relax without disruption. We are now lodge/hot tub raving fans and can’t wait to book our next one!
12 September 2017
Short Break (7 days) Costa Brava, Spain While stretches of the Spanish south coast have surrendered to the ‘fly and flop’ brigade, the dramatic shoreline northeast of Barcelona has retained its Catalonian soul. For the smaller resorts, Llafranc and Tamariu are gorgeous quieter spots with beaches sloping gently down to the beautiful turquoise Mediterranean. In September, it will be generally quieter and therefore cheaper due to being out of school holiday season, with the weather being still warm and balmy. If you like more than beaches, there are Greco-Roman remains at Empuries, Medieval Begur. So much to see and do! Why not hire a car and nip down to Barcelona for the Festes de la Merce on the 24th? Flights can be taken into beautiful Girona, which itself is worthy of a visit. City Break (3 – 4 days) Munich Beer Fest (Oktoberfest) Make a pilgrimage to the (in)famous world beer festival, Oktoberfest, which runs for 16 days from mid-September until the first Sunday in October. With ceremonies, evening concerts, traditional Bavarian music and a big procession, it’s a colourful attack on the senses and worth a visit to tick that box! There are plenty of lovely Bavarian culinary delights to soak up the suds and plenty of family activities too. As you’d imagine Munich is very busy at this time, so make sure you have all your travel and accommodation arrangements including your Beer Fest tickets well in place before you go. Long Break (14 days) Vermont, USA Now is that time to be dazzled by the fiery autumnal colours, with gold, red, orange and various other hues, Vermont’s hill will be flaming with colour. Driving tours are very popular but you can also resort to pedal power for some amazing visits to the beautiful colonial towns and villages, such as Brandon, Middlebury and the fabulous Lake Champlain. It would take about three days to complete this triangular cycle to these three towns. Here, try out the craft beers, artisan cheeses and of course America’s finest maple syrup! The weather is still warm, but make sure to take a cardigan! Flying into Boston, you could catch an internal flight to Rutland Airport which is convenient for the Champlain Valley. Boston itself is fantastic and worth a good five days to visit in your Itinerary.
14 August 2017
This week I learnt at a training day that Oman is not all about sand and camels! This country has everything for everyone and I have had my eyes well and truly opened! The government are making their country very accessible and attractive to cater for all visitors, with a huge selection of quality resorts and attractions for everyone, including children. I discovered that Oman is a country of contrasting landscapes, with the beautiful white sandy beaches contrasting with the spectacular mountains of greenery. Summer months in Oman can see temperatures of 40°C or more inland, with the mountain and coastal areas being a lot cooler. Spring and Autumn holidays here would be an ideal time to visit (also, being out of school times, this would be a cheaper option). Like I said, there’s something for everyone, with a wealth of coastal activities for the more energetic of you, such as Scuba Diving to some of the world famous diving sites, Sailing, parasailing and kite surfing. For the less energetic or more relaxing, take a trip on a turtle cruise, dolphin watching trip or just relax on the beach or by your hotel pool. Inland, where the fantastic scenery is green with stunning mountains, try rock climbing, hiking on fabulous trails, camel trekking or how about a 4 wheel drive experience through a dried river bed, called ‘Wadi Bashing’? Things I also learnt . . . the price of petrol in Oman is 36p per litre, so taxis are cheap and plentiful; alcohol is available in selected hotels and restaurants but you can’t buy it from shops without a licence - you can, however, consume duty-free in your hotel room. In public, women are expected, to dress appropriately by covering arms and legs with clothing that is not too tight or sheer. This does not apply to private hotels where you swim and sunbathe as you would anywhere in the world. Being from a wedding planning background myself, I can see and picture many gorgeous honeymoons in Oman, with so many fantastic and beautiful resorts to choose from. Give me a call on 0191 432 6570 for more info on Oman and the fabulous choices it offers. Lizzie x
03 August 2017
This was supposed to be our annual walk for Reuben’s Retreat across Morecambe Bay on Saturday 29th July but was cancelled the night before due to high water in the bay, even when the tide was out. Our guide, Cedric, who is the official queen’s guide for Morecambe Bay only managed to get his tractor across, through deep water. Obviously this meant that a lot of people had sponsored our walk with many of my colleagues from Travel Counsellors raising quite a lot of money to do it. Therefore, the following morning, as we are a resilient bunch, we decided to walk inland around the area of Arnside, a pretty little coastal village in itself and up a steep hill called The Arnside Knott. This route would be a comparable distance to the original Bay walk of 10 km, the bay being flat this walk was now heading to an elevation of 500 ft. With a few dogs and children in the party, we all met at the promenade in Arnside at 09:15 hrs, ready for the challenge ahead. The weather was overcast but dry overall, but we were dressed for rain, being the British summer we weren’t taking any chances! As the walk progressed, people just laughed and chatted as we went along, wearing our Reuben’s Retreat tabards. As we got to The Knott, we started a steady climb on reasonably easy going paths, and as the National Trust own this land, it is very well tended with a few benches sprinkled around at timely stops for a breather and to take in the magnificent views over the estuary to Grange over Sands in the distance. Also on the walk, was the lovely actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, of Coronation Street and Broadchurch fame, who is a patron of Reuben’s Retreat. At the top of The Knott, we all casually chatted and took the odd photograph with Julie, then we all set off again along with Julie’s daughter also along to accompany her, we all had a good craic as we continued our walk. The walk downhill from the top of The Knott was a lot easier and at the bottom, back at the estuary we stopped for coffees, cake and some even had ice cream! (I may have been one of them). After this we headed back to Arnside WI where we had a post walk catch up and a fabulous buffet and drinks to look forward to! All this was laid on by some fantastic Travel Counsellor colleagues of mine and with some extra food kindly given by a local café, which was a very kind gesture. Up to now, we are so proud to have raised over £7k, with a lot of off-line donations still to come in! Well done to every single walker and their sponsors for this brilliant effort! We are all looking forward to the 2018 Charity Walk across the Bay. Laet’s hope it is ok to walk across the bay next year? Reuben’s Retreat: http://www.reubensretreat.org/
27 July 2017
Example 7 day break - Umbria, Italy: Pick a secret hideaway in central Italy’s gorgeous region and immerse yourself in the rolling hills, medieval walled towns, artistic gems, and amazing food (wow, the food) and of course the wine. A full blown Italian experience awaits with many self-catering accommodation options, including apartments or even working farms with pools. Visit Roman historical sites and try the famous Perugian chocolates. Fly here via many international flights into Perugia and hire a car to get the most out of your Italian adventure. Must visits are, Assisi, Florence and Orvieto, with the usual temperature at this time of the year reaching a comfortable 29 °C. Example City Break (3 days) - Berlin, Germany: This now reunified city is probably the coolest and friendliest capitals, with fantastic bars and over 2500 parks and gardens, making it a very green city. The biggest park being Tiergarten, its stretches from Brandenburg Gate all the way to the Zoo. The many parks in Berlin are where you will find most of the summer buzz, with buskers, fleamarkets and even open air karaoke! Hire a car and visit some sights nearby such as Potsdam, the German Versailles, Oranienburg, Museum at a former Concentration camp and Rheinsburg, which is a magnificent Renaissance castle. All types of accommodation budgets are catered for, so you shouldn't’t be at a loss for somewhere to stay, but plan in advance to be sure. Flights here are into two airports, Schonefeld, which is 30 minutes away by train or Tegel, which is a 30 minute bus ride. Both these airports are well serviced by many airlines. A ‘must visit’ is to the new Reichstag with its outstanding views over Berlin from its dome. August temperatures are normally a pleasant 23°C. Example Two Week Break - Koh Samui, Thailand: Koh Samui is a bit of an oxymoron! In august while most of Thailand is being rained on, Koh Samui isn’t! This is due to the strange micro climates that feature around the Gulf of Thailand and this island seems to find itself bathed in sunshine with swaying palm trees and the softest of sand. With a fantastic choice of food and a wide range of accommodation available, it is a stereotypical fantasy paradise island! Of course, you can find the nightlife if you wish or the peace and quiet if you don’t. It can be very hot at around 32°C, but this makes it the ideal beach style holiday. Day trips to Ang Thong Park offer an amazing and snorkelling and kayaking experience in this dream like area of crystal clear emerald sea. Flights to Koh Samui are with connections from Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. You could catch the ferry from the mainland at Don Sak, Simply choose a coast and pick your beach!
14 July 2017
I recently joined a ladies networking group in my local area, called ‘The Coffee Lounge’ and I thought what a great idea this would be for a Facebook post! I posted a generic post on by business Facebook page about The Coffee Lounge and the reach went bonkers. Everybody, it seems loves to talk about their coffee drinking experiences! So I thought this a blog right there? There were many who commented on the Facebook post about their coffee experiences around the world, so here is a selection: Vietnam A Vietnamese filter, is coffee (optionally with chicory), and condensed milk. The coffee used generally contains chicory, otherwise it wouldn't be the stereotypical Vietnamese. This is served using a small filter that fits on top of your cup, where the hot water runs through the coffee into the cup already holding about 1/3 of an inch of condensed milk in the bottom. Some people mix the milk through the coffee or it can be left until the end. Morocco Moroccans love a coffee with a blend of spice, black pepper and nutmeg and sesame seeds, which are mixed with coffee beans and ground, to create a fragrant and potent brew. Spain An espresso with sweet condensed milk. If you want a mix of half normal milk and half sweetened condensed milk, then it's a 'leche y leche'. Italy Espresso served with a slice of lemon. The lemon is rubbed on the rim of the cup, the idea being that the sourness of the lemon enhances the flavour of the coffee. Australia and New Zealand The infamous ‘Flat White’ is like a condensed latte, with one or two shots of espresso, and 180 ml of milk (a latte has over 220ml of milk). Indonesian Islands Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee is altogether something that you may or may not wish to try? This refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian Palm Civet, a rodent like animal. Germany Pharisäer is Coffee made with rum and whipped cream, it’s totally gorgeous and very moreish! If you’re interested in the latest travel news, ideas and inspiration, please pop along and follow my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LizzieABTravelCounsellor/
29 June 2017
Example - 7 day break Austrian Alps: With fresh mountain air and a very comfortable 25C, why not visit the glorious mountains instead of that typical beach break and dare to be different? Try a bit of light climbing or a trip in a cable car, the views will be stupendous. How about Zip-lining or canyoning and swimming in crystal clear mountain pools. Austrian Ski resorts cater enormously for the summer visitors too, where you can hike on the winter skiing pistes. There may be some great deals to be had! For the more adventurous why not stay in one of the network of huts to sleep in the middle of the mountains! Don’t forget to throw in a visit to the beautiful cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol for some sightseeing and shopping as well as sampling the Austrian Culture. Example, City Break (3 days) Copenhagen, Denmark: Copenhagen is a busy, buzzy city in July! After what is usually a harsh, cold winter the city residents flock to the parks and pavement cafes to make hay while the sun shines, with average temperatures of around 20C. Visit Tivoli Gardens and have a go on the rides, check out the street-food market at Paper Island. Try a traditional ‘gammeldags’ ice cream with whipped cream, jam and choc covered marshmallows at the local Amager Beach. Remember to visit the sights too at Slotholmen and Nyhavn harbours. Also the shopping experience at Torvehallerne market and Strogert is not to be missed. Example Two Week Break Dordogne, France: Glorious summers await here in this adorable area of southwest France, with temperatures vying between 25-30C. Hire a car and see as much of this amazing area as you can! Drive down meandering roads passed fine turreted châteaux, seek out ancient cave art and find some fantastic mouth-watering markets as you go. Early July is the best time to visit, to avoid the French School holidays. Stay in a rustic Gite and wile away summer evenings in the pool and have a BBQ with locally bought produce, not forgetting the wine of course! A must see, is the rock art of Lascaux and Font-de Gaume, but book tickets in advance to avoid queues. Perigord Noir is the place to be for outstanding Castles, Caves and villages. Perigord Pourpe is where you will find Bergerac and other fantastic medieval bastide towns. Give me a call. It's not too late to book your 2017 summer break xxx
25 June 2017
It all started with a phone call in my office on a Thursday afternoon, “Hello, is that Lizzie? I’d like to welcome you to Archerfield House for you birthday tomorrow” says the soft spoken Scots lad on the other end. “But it’s not my birthday until Saturday,” I replied, not even registering the Archerfield House bit! “My name is Calum, from Archerfield House and your husband, Colin has booked you a Spa Break at our lovely location” he goes on to say. Now I’m just gobsmacked, “He’s what? Oh my god that's fantastic,” says I, holding back the tears, “Ooooh I’m so excited now, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” I did know about this amazing place from a customer of mine who had stayed there for a Spa Weekend too and had raved about it. So now I’m just hyper and dancing around the office, I just wanted to hug and kiss my lovely hubby! Anyway, I’m glad I knew early enough to be able to plan outfits etc. Early on Friday we set off on a 2 hour drive up to Dirleton which is just past North Berwick. We did detour a little, so we could have a leisurely drive up the coast. We didn’t arrive until nearly 2pm, but when we turned into the estate you could tell we were in a high-end place and parked up outside the “big house”. It turns out you check in at the Clubhouse which is further down the estate beside the golf course, where Michelle and Kirstie were fantastic. I was booked in for a ‘Signature’ treatment at Fletchers Spa at 4:30 pm and Colin was having his neck and shoulders massaged at the same time. It was a case of picking up our keys for our accommodation, unpack and then head down to the spa. When we saw our ‘Pavilion’ room it was like having our own one bedroomed flat which was absolutely fantastic and pure quality! It even had a complimentary, fully stocked fridge of wine and beers as well as chocolate and other snacks. The spa which is set in mature woodland with a walled garden and absolutely stunning; was a short drive down the lane or a lovely walk if the weather is nice, which it was but we were in a bit of a hurry. The spa staff were so friendly and helpful, to the extent that nothing at all was a problem and they were only too willing to help! Sarah was my Therapist and Hannah was Colin’s. The spa treatments were out of this world, and Colin who hasn’t had many massages said he felt fabulous. Afterward we were given fruit and a small cup of fruit smoothie and lazed in the sumptuous lounge area . . . pure heaven! We had booked our evening meal in the Clubhouse for 8 pm so we just relaxed before heading back to our suite to change for dinner. We were offered a lift from our suite in an estate vehicle which is complimentary and very thoughtful. The clubhouse is enormous inside, full of fluffy sofas and a large dining area. Once again the customer service was awesome and Jess looked after us impeccably. The food was outstanding, great quality and fabulous value. We could have asked for the transfer back to our suite but as it was a lovely night we walked back, past the amazing Lodges that can be hired. Next day after breakfast, we headed back to the spa for our ‘Rasul Mud’ treatment which was for both of us. Again, we had THE best time and stayed relaxing in Salt Room which is a room built Himalayan salt bricks which made the air so fresh and relaxing. We stayed just chilling, walking around the walled gardens for ages in our gowns and slippers, then decided to have a cream tea outside, pure decadence and so delicious. We left Archerfield House with heavy hearts, wanting more and can’t recommend this place enough! With the facilities, accommodation and ALL the staff, Archerfield House is world class! I’m already planning a return visit with a group of friends. They have a fabulous offer of a day in the spa with afternoon tea – just what the Doctor ordered!
22 May 2017
I have to admit, visiting the Middle East on a trip with my business wasn’t on top of my tick list. I don’t really know why? Was I expecting it to be culture restrictive? I can’t really put my finger on it! Anyway, I decided I would give Qatar the benefit of the doubt and putting on my professional Travel Counsellor business owner hat, I travelled to Edinburgh to stay overnight before my early flight the next day. Our flight departed from Edinburgh on Qatar Airlines for Doha at 0810, arriving at 17:05. At Doha airport I was pleasantly surprised to see how lovely and clean and fresh it is, with the added comfort of air conditioning which was most welcome. We were met by representatives of Qatar tourism who transferred us to our hotel, The InterContinental Doha The City. Stylish and modern, this Doha hotel is impressive in every detail, from the hotel lobby atrium to the open-air rooftop pool. This Doha hotel is ideally located for leisure and business stays in the exclusive West Bay area and is close to Doha Golf Club, the City Centre Shopping Mall, and the more traditional Souq Waqif. After settling in to my room which was magnificent, with fantastic views over Doha, to the sea. I could see that Doha is a city undergoing some development which promises to be a popular destination, as Dubai is in the UAE. We then enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Doha followed by a hotel inspection. Ritz-Carlton, Doha is one of the most elegant hotels in Qatar with a world class Spa and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. It has recently undergone a no-expense spared renovation of its rooms. Next morning we had breakfast at Shangri-La, another fabulous hotel, we were shown around by our lovely hotel representative. Shangri-La is located in the heart of the city and is home to Doha’s first non-smoking lounge. Following this, we headed off on a long drive to the historical Al Zubarah Fort, built in 1938, is Qatar’s only UNESCO world heritage site. Which in the main archaeological area of Qatar and is now a museum. This site shows the exceptional archaeological remains from this trading town, dating back to the 1760’s Back in Doha, we inspect Sharq Village Resort and Spa, followed by lunch. A luxury waterfront Doha resort, located 15 mins from the airport and is on 350m of private coastline. My favourite feature was the award winning ‘Sixth Senses’ spa, which evokes a traditional Qatari setting, creating the ambience of a true Middle Eastern village. A perfect destination for spa and yoga trips! Following on from this we were given a guided tour of Museum of Islamic Art, showing a magnificent collection covering 14 centuries of the finest art and artefacts from across the Islamic World. Returning to my hotel I had some free time before dinner, so why not sample a swim in the top floor swimming pool and steam room, all in the name of business! Time for dinner, and what an experience this was! We set sail in this lovely port and estuary in the Arabian on-board a traditional Dhow for a private BBQ. This is a great way to experience Doha from the water. We took in Doha’s glittery skyline. I would definitely advise any visitor to take this cruise in an evening, to watch the spectacular sunset. Our breakfast next morning was at Sheraton Doha. Situated on the shores of the Arabian gulf, this is a landmark hotel that was recently restored to its former glory. After our site inspection of this fabulous hotel, we travelled 60km into the desert from Doha to the ‘Inland Sea’ or ‘Khor Al Adaid’, which is a UNESCO recognised natural reserve with its own ecosystem. Then on a jeep dune safari the adrenaline rush was fabulous and we didn’t stop laughing the whole time. It was great to actually see one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Half way through our jeep journey through the rolling dunes, we stopped to view Saudi Arabia in the distance over the gulf. Back in Doha in the afternoon, we took a stroll down the bustling alleys of Souq Waqif. The maze of small shops offers a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies to perfumes, jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and a treasure trove of souvenir bargains. Traditional music, art and cultural shows added to the ambience and we enjoyed soaking up the vitality and atmosphere of this vibrant place. For dinner, we visited the InterContinental Doha, which is beside the beach, hosted a lovely BBQ in the evening. The outdoor space is superb and perfect for any parties, celebrations as it’s directly on the beach. After a very busy trip, I kicked off my shoes and went for a paddle in the sea. All too soon, it was time to come home (sad face) on our flight back to Edinburgh. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved Qatar. It’s a perfect stopover destination and you’re missing a trick if you don’t take advantage of this fabulous place. The people are lovely and we weren’t bogged down by customs and cultures. With lots of ongoing developments and work on the infrastructure, meaning that it’s going to be even more popular as Qatar leads up to hosting the 2022 World Cup. Go on, try Qatar, You won’t be disappointed!
07 March 2017
I recently celebrated my 3rd Anniversary with Travel Counsellors and I'd love to share a little bit of my story with you. Travel was my passion from a very young age but I was academic at school and decided to pursue a career in education - I went to university and became a secondary school teacher. After a very serious health scare in 2000, I decided life was too short and to reach for my dream. 17 years later, here I am - running my own successful travel business and living my dream. People often ask what drives me and my answer is my boys. They're both grown up and we haven't had the easiest time. I want to earn enough to make sure they never struggle like I did. My youngest son is autistic and I want to make sure that whatever happens to me, he has a safe home of his own. A massive thanks to my wonderful hubby Colin Bongo Brown - he is there, right by my side every step of the way. Travel Counsellors was one of many companies I could have become affiliated to, but they stood out head and shoulders above the rest. In my three years with them, they have only served to prove me right! They are the best! I want to thank you all for being fabulous supporters and sharing my details. It means so much. I love having that first conversation with you and finding out more about you, your likes and your dislikes. Please always remember, it takes a bit of 'to-ing' and 'fro-ing' to get your holiday just right. That's what I'm here for! We go through your first options and then tweak them to make them perfect for you and your family and friends. If something isn't quite right - tell me! We'll make it perfect together. Thank you massively to everyone for sharing my details. We're all in this together. We only live once - let's enjoy it! Much love to you all and thank you for reading to the end. Lizzie xx
12 February 2017
Prior to joining Travel Counsellors, I worked overseas as a Wedding Co-Ordinator in Paphos, Cyprus, where I was organising 5 weddings per day, which was a bit of a logistical challenge! After returning back to the UK, I worked as a Wedding Planner at Linden Hall in Northumberland, where I organised a more manageable 1-2 weddings per week. In 2012, I organised my own dream wedding in St Lucia. Here are 5 of the best tips for planning your wedding abroad, that I have learned in this time: 1. When should I start planning my wedding abroad? The simple answer to this is, the sooner the better. This gives you time to organise your budget, documentation and also ensures you get the destination you want. 2. How do I stay organised? If you’re planning your wedding as a couple, then whoever is more organised should keep track of the bookings. This person doesn’t have to do all the work, but they should organise all the information you need for your honeymoon. Staying organised will help reduce the stress because information will be where you need it, when you need it. 3. Do I have to set a budget? The number one cause of wedding related stress is money. Don’t rack up credit card debt to have your perfect destination wedding. If you plan carefully, you won’t have to stress. 4. Use a Wedding Registry service. If money is a concern for your wedding and if you would just prefer the most memorable experience to a kitchen full of duplicate appliances you’ll never use, or even more linen, sign up to a Wedding Registry. The way I explain it to your friends and family is, “We would love to have the wedding of our lifetime and would love if you could contribute to making THE best memories for us”. This way your friends and relatives can contribute to this, helping your budget, to help you realise that perfect destination wedding. 5. Why should I use a professional destination wedding planner, I’ve booked holidays before? This is the biggest of all special occasions and there are many pitfalls that can be encountered. The legalities vary among destinations and you can’t afford for this to go wrong. I have done this for a long time and with the support of my company we have come across every single question and problem that a couple could come across. Nothing is a too big a problem to sort. All my clients are VIPs to me so you know everyone gets the very same level of service and knowledge! If you'd like an informal chat, please get in touch. Tel: 0191 432 6570 Mobile: 07760885954 Email: email@example.com
18 January 2017
Following on from our few days in New York we embarked seamlessly onto QM2 at 12:30 on 3rd January. Our luggage was picked up at the dock and mysteriously reappeared outside our cabin on deck 12 - just amazing.We had an inside cabin for the 7 day crossing and I have to say, as it was dark and the ship would gently rock as we slept, it was the best night’s sleep we had for ages! It had been a rainy few days in New York but today was dry albeit a bit misty. This meant that as we drew closer to embarkation at 16:30 the Manhattan skyline and the statue of Liberty were shrouded in mist making some of our photographs not as good as we had liked. That being said it was an amazing experience to stand on deck at the ‘Sail away party’ with a glass of champagne in hand and watch as we sailed down the Hudson River and out into the Atlantic, never to see land again for 7 days, which was a strange thought, the ships horn blasting as we left. The QM2 is a fabulous ship and has recently had a major overhaul, with some of the regular ‘Cunarders’ commenting that she was now resplendent in Art Deco magnificence. If you are a lover of Art Deco you will adore this ship! As we were on the flagship Cunard ship you could see that everything was catered for, down to the minute detail, including cheery staff looking magnificent in their flamboyant red outfits with white gloves. If you someone who loves to be pampered and to feel extra special, this is the cruise for you. The food was of very high quality and with fantastic choices in buffet style Kings Court and in The Britannia Restaurant where we were allocated a table to share with two other couples, which was great to meet other people, was divine. With an amazing choice of food that you would normally find in a Michelin starred restaurant, all part of your fare. During the night there was a Daily Programme posted at our cabin to inform us of all the activities that would be available for you to think about the next day and I have to say, you would never be bored. But, if you wanted to swim in the many pools or visit the Canyon Spa for a massage or just relax in one of the many lounges, you are spoilt for choice. In the evening there were two formal dress nights where Colin wore his Tux and I wore my best evening dress. What a fabulous excuse to dress up an dine - everybody looked amazing. The other nights were informal nights where gents can wear an open shirt and jacket with smart trousers and I wore smart casual evening wear. My husband, Colin, loved the talks in Illuminations Theatre, as there were some great presenters on, from The New York Times. One chap, Phil Shenon, talked about the JFK assassination, 9/11 theories and the Trump effect, during different days on the trip. Illuminations is also the home of the Planetarium which lowers from the ceiling giving the viewers a 360 degree view of the fantastic twice daily shows of our universe, literally out of this world! I tried my hand at line dancing lessons in the Queens Room Ballroom and loved every minute! (Colin would nip away at this point to the golf simulator) The daily announcements were short and sweet, would let you know our location in the Atlantic and informed us all of the exact time we would sail over co-ordinates 41o43'35" N, 49o56'54" W, which is the location of The Titanic disaster. Many people stood on deck in silence as a mark of respect, with heads bowed. This was a very emotional feeling as we remembered those who had perished that dreadful night. We bought a soft drinks package for the trip as the prices at the bar can add up on your cabin card, which doubles as your cabin key and your debit card, where drinks are added to your final bill. Credit or debit card details are taken when you embark for these bills to be charged to. Our Soft drinks package was £100 for the 7 days for the two of us, but considering it was nearly £3 a drink it was well worth it. I needed to work for some time while I was on board and for this reason, I bought a WiFi package of 135 minutes for approx. £40. I suppose if you want to get away from it all, you wouldn’t need Wifi but as January is my busiest time, I had to check in now and again. The trip was quite choppy at times, but this fine lady managed to soften out the bumps with ease and the sensation of travelling was akin to a flight, I thought anyway. We arrived in Southampton at 06:30 on 10th January and as we left her majesty, we said goodbye to her and to many of the friends we had made en route. I have to say, I am a certainly a cruiser now after sampling this amazing experience, on this superb and stylish lady of the seas, Cunard’s QM2.
13 January 2017
I had been to New York many years ago, but I was really looking forward visiting again with my husband, Colin, for a few days prior to embarking on our Transatlantic Queen Mary 2 voyage (this will be covered on another blog). We had only a few nights and one whole day to cram as much in as we could, which is why we booked our accommodation in the RIU Plaza Times Square, which is a lovely new property in a very central location in the Theatre district. As we had flown into New York on 1st January 2017, the craziness of New Year’s Eve was over and the prices were considerably better, for flights and accommodation. The following day, the 2nd January, we headed off early into the city using an itinerary drawn up by my husband Colin, of a comprehensive list of places to visit, using a street map along with online maps to work out walking distances, which turned out to be very accurate. First of all, breakfast! This we had predetermined would be at the famous Brooklyn Diner, which was a 15-minute walk away. We didn’t have to queue and were met by a lovely waiter who wished us Happy New Year and showed us to our table. In the diner, there are small metal plaques fixed to the wall of the booths, these show names of famous people who had sat in those booths. I spotted the plates of Rick Moranis, Alec Baldwin and Kathleen Turner among others! After our lovely, filling breakfast we headed back out and toward South Central Park which was only 5 minutes' walk away. Here we met a lovely Turkish guy, ‘Ray’, who offered to cycle us around Central Park with his PediCycle, which is basically a trike with a canopy. As it was quite rainy and we wouldn’t get to see as much on foot , we took Ray up on his offer and decided to go with him. This was $80 well spent as he was fantastic, guiding us around and explaining how the park was formed as well as pointing out some of the apartments overlooking Central Park and how some of them are worth $20m! Does anyone recognise the fountain in the picture on the right, from a very well known US sitcom? We, or should I say, Ray, cycled up to the famous Wollman Ice Rink, famous for many movie scenes, then on to Strawberry Field and the ‘Imagine’ mosaic, in memory to John Lennon who was assassinated outside his apartment building, Yoko Ono, now 83 years old, still lives in that same apartment at the top of the Dakota Building, which is just across from Strawberry Fields. After this we visited Bloomingdales, which was only 10 minutes' walk from South Central Park as we were on a mission to buy our friends from home, the famous ‘Little Brown Bag’. In the restroom, I spotted an elderly lady wearing a red 1920’s-style hat (I have a thing for hats) and commented to her how lovely it was, to which she replied “thank you so much”. Then it hit me, this was Yoko Ono herself! (I didn’t say to her that I had recognised her and I got the impression from her she was happy with that. I am still shocked!) From there we walked past Tiffany’s jewellers (I couldn’t force my husband to go in), which has Trump Tower attached and on to see the Rockefeller Centre, Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station, 20 minutes' walk from Bloomindales. We didn’t visit the ‘Top of The Rock’ due to zero visibility (it's $34 each) so make sure the visibility is good before you go up. After freshening up at our hotel we went for dinner, which consisted of pizza from a street vendor at Times Square, which is all part of the experience! The following day we were leaving New York at 12:30 from Brooklyn Cruise Terminal so we decided to visit the World Trade Centre via subway after checking out from our hotel. It was really easy to use the subway with two large cases and it took only 10 minutes from our hotel to the World Trade Centre and at $3 each a cheaper alternative to taxi, which would have cost $30 and taken 30 minutes. We had a short walk from the subway to World Trade Centre itself , where we found the whole experience very moving. We bought some momentos to bring back from ground zero, which goes toward the NYC 9/11 fund. We didn’t visit the memorial museum as the queues were too long and we didn’t have time to wait before jumping in a taxi to the cruise terminal for the next part of our trip . . .
30 November 2016
One of the biggest perks of running my own travel business is getting to see the destination first hand. I am completely in love – it’s official! Since I was 17 years old, I have wanted to return here. To say I was completely blown away is an understatement. The stunningly beautiful state of California has something to offer everyone. Our first day was spent exploring Hollywood and learning its history. We visited the Walk of Fame and walked down Hollywood Boulevard. The next day, we drove down Highway 101 to Santa Barbara and experienced a fabulous local wine tasting on the magnificent pier. For any of you out there who like your wine, I’d highly recommend the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Join the locals and taste some of the finest wines produced in Santa Barbara County, all within blocks of downtown and the beach. This gorgeous State continued to fuel my passion. If you're headed this way, you really need to experience the Land Shark. You have a tour of Santa Barbara on land before the Land Shark enters the ocean. We were fortunate to be in the USA on Thanksgiving. It was lovely to see all the families at sunrise setting up for beach barbecues. The town was buzzing and welcoming. For the first time in my extensive travels, a place really hit me like a thunderbolt. Santa Barbara is my forever home – I just need to figure out how to get a visa to make this dream come true. I lived the dream next day, taking a Mustang down the Pacific Highway! We went on the famous Ferris wheel on Santa Monica pier, then a 4-mile bike ride along the beach. This may sound energetic, but you can go at your own pace and truly enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the area whilst enjoying the breeze in your hair and the warmth of the sun on your skin. Big shout out here to Rusty’s Surf Ranch on Santa Monica pier – great atmosphere and awesome food! Highly recommended! Had a few drinkies and watched the sunset from the rooftop bar of the Erwin hotel. This is a must visit. The views from here are simply awesome! I’ve never seen a sunset like it. Moving on from Santa Monica, we drove to Beverly Hills, California and recreated scenes from Pretty Woman; the singing might have been a little off-key in places, but it still earned us a round of applause. One place you have to visit is Sprinkles Cupcake ATM - Beverly Hills. You can go into the shop, or you can go to an ATM, similar to a bank ATM and order your bespoke cake! Great fun and the most delicious cakes ever. Our final leg of the trip was to Palm Springs. A great place to go and relax, have a spa or, as we did, visit the Living Desert, where you can take a tour through the deserts of the world and see some beautiful animals. You go to California for the sunshine, right? If you take the aerial tramway, with its rotating cable cars, you can ride to the top of the mountain and see snow! Yes, that’s right – snow! In California. Our final day was spent shopping. There are numerous outlets in the whole state selling lots of goodies to take home at some bargain prices. If you buy too much, don’t worry – just buy an extra case to store them. California – I’m coming back – if possible, to stay! A true love affair has been ignited and I want more! If you want to find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01914326570/07760885954. The best call you could ever make!
11 November 2016
I hear a lot about running your business and how wonderful it is. Yes it is great, in a way, allowing you to become master or mistress of your own destiny, being your own boss and making you self-accountable, it’s got to be awesome hasn’t it, or has it? My wife Lizzie runs her own travel agency as a personal travel agent with Travel Counsellors and she has worked in the travel industry for over 16 years. What I really mean is, she has been married to the travel industry for that time and as she has only been married to me for four years, I know my place as a house husband to my other mistress: Lizzie’s passion for her travel agency business. I left my ‘proper’ job in 2005 as a Plant Operative in the nuclear industry in 2005 but knew it was too early for me, as I had loads of lucrative employment years left. I turned down a megabucks chance to work on decommissioning Russian subs in Murmansk to move to Cyprus with Lizzie to help in her role as wedding co-ordinator. What this really meant, of course, I was throwing in my lot to help Lizzie in her passion to help others at their most important time of life, their wedding! Fast forward to 2014 when Lizzie joined Travel Counsellors. Now, with the backing of this amazing company Lizzie can truly immerse herself in the business of making her clients happy, which as it turns out is a drug to her! She works all hours and even on downtime that blooming iPad is never out of her hand, while she answers clients’ emails at ungodly hours and wonders why they are expecting her to reply at midnight. She even takes the iPad to bed! Her title is Personal Travel Counsellor and my does she not utilise that word personal to its utmost. She makes herself available to clients at all times including weekends which can impact on our time together and socialising with friends. I’ve become a ‘partner’ in her business which helps her with some of the day to day running of her business, but also includes all the back office household tasks including making meals, washing, ironing and shopping etc. I think my testosterone levels are now non-existent. I also have to be a counsellor myself when she becomes stressed by a potential client that has picked her brains for many hours, only to head online. Every day is a business day to Lizzie. Even when we do manage to socialise, her business brain is only dormant; it will switch on fully when someone happens to mention the trigger word, ‘holidays’. I help her out with breakfast networking because she says doesn’t like to 'sell' herself, as she puts it, but I think it’s because she has been up during the night doing an online check-in or other stuff for clients and has hardly slept. Being married to a home based travel agent does come with its perks, even though she is the one who travels regularly to far flung places on Fam (familiarisation) trips, I do have the benefit of having in-house, up to the minute travel information and a wife that will always work to get us the best deal. She has made some great contacts that can source us the best rates for our own personal holidays, so there is a major plus side to being married to a travel agent passionate about her work. All in all we are a team that works well together and having a supportive HQ team always on hand in a crisis makes for a healthy balanced business. So that’s it from me, the chief cook and bottle washer, marketing and social media expert, laundry specialist and stress counsellor. Now, can anyone suggest a good HR advisor? I need advice on my working conditions! Colin Brown, husband of Lizzie Adamson-Brown, Travel Counsellors
26 September 2016
As someone relatively new to cruise and already completely hooked, I was delighted to be invited on board the newly remastered Queen Mary 2 for training at sea, last week. It was my first experience of the Cunard brand and Queen Mary 2 has recently undergone a major, multi million pound refurbishment - I was totally blown away. She is stunning. Our first experience of the renowned Cunard 'White Star Service' began the moment we stepped on board when the white-gloved officers and crew greeted us with a smile and warm welcome. My immediate impressions were of the sheer spaciousness and elegance. I was taken back to a bygone era where you would dress for dinner, listening to some fabulous jazz music before taking to the dancefloor. I was appointed an outside stateroom and you can see from my photo that it was lovely and had everything you need. Our first day was spent taking part in a treasure hunt! We had such a giggle, but it was a great way of getting to know this stunning ship and finding out some little nuggets of information including finding Homer Simpson discretely hidden in one of the panels. Cruises are well known for the fabulous food and again, Queen Mary did not disappoint. We had the opportunity to eat at a variety of restaurants and the food was simply superb - top quality, accompanied again, by the fabulous 'White Star Service'. If you do get the opportunity, take advantage of the speciality dining at the Verandah and Kings Court - you won't regret it. A wide range of entertainment awaits you, but my favourite had to be the dance lessons. I learned to Cha Cha Cha and line dance - later on in the cruise, we had the opportunity to showcase our new dancing skills. I was lucky to have two clients on board who are the most amazing dancers. I watched in awe at their chemistry and sheer elegance. Next time, that'll be me and my husband - with lots of practice, anyway. We had two ports of call and I had a fabulous time on both. Whether you like something formal and planned, or just want to go and explore yourself, you choose - it's your trip. The first trip was to Bruges. The last time I visited Bruges was in 1984 (how can that be when I'm only 27 you might ask!) We had a fabulous guide who gave us lots of information and background to Bruges before letting us loose on the chocolate shops. OK, Bruges is more than chocolate shops, but this is me - the chocolate called! What a vibrant place with so many amazing places to visit. We took a canal boat ride - it was a fabulous way of seeing Bruges from an alternative view. Be warned - some of those bridges are low - remember to duck. Guernsey was our second trip. What a stunning island. My tip is to take the bus service that takes you around the island for £1 each! Yes, £1! It's full of little alleyways with local shops and if you're into World War Two history, you will find evidence of the German's occupation of the island. The Cunard team were so welcoming, knowledgeable and approachable. Nothing is too much trouble for them. All you have to do is ask. If you would like to experience a bygone era, get dressed up in your best clothes for formal night and dance to some fabulous music, whilst eating amazing food, mixing with like-minded travellers and making new friends - Cunard is for you! A mini cruise really is a fabulous way of trying out a cruise to see if it's for you. If you've cruised before, it's a great way of trying a new cruise line. Or even, just a great excuse for a few days R&R, away from the stresses of life, being completely pampered and having special time together. Always more than happy to help you find the perfect cruise for you. Just give me a call on 0191 432 6570 or email email@example.com
11 September 2016
One of the biggest perks of running my own travel business is getting to see the destinations first hand. I have just returned from a fabulous trip to the Bahamas, courtesy of AMG. Upon arrival in the Bahamas, we transferred to the spectacular Atlantis Paradise Island hotel, where we stayed in the Royal Towers. The hotel boasts the amazing Aquaventure water park, as well as a huge choice of restaurants and bars, multiple swimming pools and leisure facilities and even a casino. You certainly won’t get bored here! There’s something for everyone and then some! After a site inspection of the Atlantis, we had the afternoon to take advantage of Aquaventure and experience more of the hotels’ facilities. The questions is, did I dare to take on the legendary Leap of Faith slide, with its near vertical drop? What I loved was swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cay. I was very interested to hear how a number of the dolphins had been rescued from New Orleans and lovingly cared for in the resort here. The experience was superb and the trainers had a great manner with these beautiful creatures. You can’t help but smile from ear to ear at the antics! That evening, we had dinner at the British Colonial Hilton; a striking building in downtown Nassau with direct beach access and a great view of the busy cruise port. I was so excited for our next trip. We visited Rose Island on the famous Sandy Toes excursion. This is one of the most popular and best loved day trips in the Bahamas and I can see why. A short boat trip took us to this beautiful island with the most amazing beaches. If you're looking for a taste of the ‘real’ Caribbean, this is for you. This was the perfect antidote to my sore feet from all the walking yesterday. I covered myself in sun cream and just bobbed around in the warm Caribbean Sea, glass of beer/cocktail/water in hand and relaxed! I wonder if we could persuade the NHS to prescribe this. After the most wonderful, peaceful, relaxed day, we checked into the Melia Hotel, Nassau Beach. I really liked this hotel. It’s modern, fresh and contemporary, situated on the lovely Cable Beach. The next day we visited some fabulous hotels: Firstly, the Graycliff – a legendary mansion built by the feared pirate, Captain John Howard Graysmith, who was master of the notorious schooner Graywolf. As soon as you walk in the door, the history hits you – you feel as though you’ve gone back in time. We transferred to the Warwick Hotel. Newly renovated, there were no guests, but it’s going to be popular with the young, trendy set as it’s adults only and very contemporary, set right on the beach. I could not wait for our next visit, to the ‘One and Only’ Ocean Club – it took my breath away. You know a hotel is going to be good, when it was the backdrop to a James Bond movie, as this was for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. We enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea. I have to say, our Junkanoo Educulture tour next day was great fun. Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance, and costumes of Igbo origin in many towns across the Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day. We made our own seashells and cowbells covered in coloured paper and ornaments before putting together our own band. We played drums, whistles, cowbells and just laughed and laughed. The experience is led by Arlene, who is so passionate and proud of her heritage. I really would recommend this as a morning out when visiting Nassau. In the afternoon, we had a Bahamian Food tour. We walked around Nassau visiting restaurants and places of interesting, testing and sampling traditional Bahamian food, whilst learning of the islands past and its multi-cultural heritage. Our final day was a day for chilling and relaxing. I love going on these trips as I get to meet some really interesting people who become friends. We share photos and experiences, as well as business cards. The Bahamas is often referred to as a ‘bucket list’ destination and is renowned for white sand beaches and sunny climate. This is definitely true, but there’s so much more to the Bahamas than chilling on a beach. Explore a little and you’ll find some hidden gems in the form of friendly, welcoming locals, a fabulous cultural heritage and some stunning architecture; alongside all the mod cons of new resorts such as the Atlantis with its waterparks and jam packed programme of entertainment. Bahamas – I’ll be back!
22 August 2016
Everyone knows Venice is a unique city-break destination with global appeal, but what are the ten top tips which allows you to maximise your time experiencing the authentic Venice? My lovely client Kate and her husband Gordon, travelled to Italy in May 2016. Spending four nights in the city gave them some couple-time away from domesticity and work. 1. Use the public water buses rather than a private taxi: they are frequent, easy to use and are a great way to see the city from the water. An unlimited three day pass cost €40. Much cheaper than a private taxi and certainly less than a gondola. 2. Stay somewhere quiet to get away from the hustle and bustle of city-life: at times the sheer number of tourists was overwhelming, so book somewhere which offers calm and tranquillity. The Ca’ Nigra Lagoon Resort hotel (near the train station at the opposite end of the Grand Canal to St Mark’s Square) is steeped in history (it was built in the 18th Century) and its gardens offered space away from the crowds. The rooms displayed a faded grandeur of a bygone era but with modern facilities. 3. Visit Scuola Grande di San Rocco: with long queues for many of the tourist hotspots we opted for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which displays over 50 Tintoretto paintings, the largest collection anywhere in the world. The entrance fee was €10. 4. Climb the Bovolo Staircase: Bovolo means snail in Venetian and reflects the spiral nature of the climb to the top. It was hard to locate but well worth it for the uncrowded space to view the Venetian rooftop vista. And it only cost €10 per person to access the staircase. 5. Visit the islands in the Venice Lagoon: this offers a different perspective when spending time on Murrano (glass factories abound); Burrano famous for its painted houses and leaning tower; and the quiet Torcello, the home-place of Marco Polo and original seat of Venetian power. 6. Bring comfortable walking shoes: Venice is comparatively small so getting around on foot is viable and healthy. Exploring is part of the Venetian experience and is to be embraced wholeheartedly. 7. Visit the Jewish Quarter: this area of Venice is 500 years old in 2016 and has its own distinctive flavour. Did you know the word ‘ghetto’ originated in Venice? 8. Try an orange-coloured Aperol Spritzer: this Venetian alcoholic beverage will make you feel like a local. 9. Buying Murrano glass and leather: if you are considering buying either beware of cheap imitations and Chinese imports. If you want the real deal look hard and ask questions. 10. Make use of hotel staff’s knowledge: the staff at the Ca’ Nigra were knowledgeable, offering great tips of places to go and restaurants to eat. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Venice and will return in the future. A huge thank you to Lizzie Adamson-Brown for her organisational skills and good advice. Kate writes the most incredible blog: https://mummysnowboarder.com/ If you're a keen snowboarder, pop along and follow her blog for the best top tips ever! I'm not a snowboarder and I love it!
16 June 2016
I’ve just returned from the most amazing time in St Lucia, courtesy of Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort. I was keen to return to St Lucia, as I got married there in 2012 at the Rendezvous; but it was strange returning without my hubby. A huge thanks to British Airways for our complimentary upgrade to Club class. It meant we could work on flight on the way over and sleep on the way back. It’s going to be difficult flying economy again after this fabulous experience. We landed at St Lucia Hewanorra Airport to be met by representatives of Windjammer. They were waiting with fresh, cold cloths to cool down and a much welcomed bottle of ice cold water. The journey to the North of St Lucia takes you through some lovely spots and our driver stopped at the lookout point so we could take some photos. The welcome by Sherani and the rest of the staff was absolutely fabulous. They were so smiley and welcoming – and incredibly FUNNY (Sherani really should be on the stage lol). After a swift, smooth check in, I was taken to my villa. You could hear the squeals of delight from my fellow travellers. WOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!! I shared a 3 bedroomed island villa with private plunge pool. It really was a home from home with everything you could need and more. Decoration was incredibly tasteful, neutral and top quality, designed to perfection. After a long day travelling, we had a lovely evening at the Upper Deck restaurant, hosted by Mark and Linda Ozawa (MD and his wife) with a few members of staff. This is a lovely restaurant, set on multi levels, overlooking the beautiful bay. Perfect for a romantic night out, tucked away in peace; or a meal for the whole family. I spent the next day meeting with staff to talk about what they offer my clients. They are so welcoming and want to do all they can to make this extra special for you. This was great, as it aligns perfectly with my philosophy that every client is a VIP. I particularly wanted to chat about weddings. Destination weddings are increasingly popular. Having organised well over 500 destination weddings, I had a LOT of questions. The wedding planners are absolutely superb. The resort promises total exclusivity – only 1 wedding per day. If you’re looking to get married overseas, get in touch – the Windjammer could be your perfect venue, whether it’s an intimate wedding for 2, or you’re travelling with a large group of family and friends. Dinner that evening was at Papa Don’s taverna, a traditional pizza and pasta restaurant. After chatting to the new Head of Food and Beverage, I’m very excited about future plans for the resort. Next day, after a scrummy breakfast at the Dragonfly, we met for an inspection with the Directors and management team to see the upgrades and future plans for Windjammer. Their vision is superb and will take Windjammer up another notch in terms of luxury accommodation. We had a meeting in the afternoon, where feedback and suggestions were welcome. I was so impressed by their attention to detail and need to know how they can continuously improve to provide the best service to their clients. A great team – very open and welcoming of ideas. That evening, we were treated to a spectacular Catamaran Cruise. We set sail from the Water Sports Centre and headed North to Rodney Bay. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous. It was lovely to sit, with the breeze in my hair, drinking a rum cocktail or a Piton beer (local beer) and just relax. They did hold a dance competition which was hilarious. I have sea legs, but certainly not good enough to dance, so I watched and cheered! Lol The Saturday had to be my favourite day! We were treated to the Spa’s signature massage! Oh my goodness!!!!! I came out feeling like a floppy ragdoll. The spa and wellness centre is superb. It’s new, fresh and welcoming, with fabulously attentive staff who are so skilled. I have to say, this was the best massage I have ever had!!!! Windjammer has had their own range of products perfectly blended using local ingredients and sources. I’m going to be making a shipping order soon. After a fabulous, relaxing day, we headed to Gros Islet Street Party. ‘Jump ups’, as they’re called in the Caribbean, usually take place on a Friday, but the St Lucia Tourist Board put on an extra one for the Saturday. The smell of street food and welcoming locals greeted us with some fabulous live bands. We danced until we dropped and laughed until our sides ached. To start our final day, we went horseback riding with the International Pony school of St Lucia. What an adventure. We trotted along the edge of the sea and then had a briefing before trotting into the sea on our horses; bareback and barefoot. The instructors were fabulous and always conscious of our safety whilst ensuring that we enjoyed every minute. What a truly amazing experience. Sadly, we had to leave and wave goodbye, but I’ll be back! I adore St Lucia – I have such happy memories of my wedding day and now additional happy memories of the stunning Windjammer Landing and lots of new friends. Thanks so much to you for your incredible hospitality! xxxx
26 May 2016
I spent last week attending the fabulous annual Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) conference in Southampton. CLIA is an independent organisation who bring together cruise lines, travel agents, associated travel partners and are dedicated to the expansion of ocean and river cruise holidays. 2 years ago, I hadn’t cruised and couldn’t see me cruising – I thought it wasn’t for me, it was for old people, I would get fat with all the food, I’d get seasick – all the usual excuses. As part of my Continuous Professional Development, I undertook the fabulous array of courses CLIA have designed and am delighted to say that I have achieved the highest qualification of Cruise Master. As part of this training, I went on numerous ship visits, training days, mini cruises and cruises on ocean and river ships. I’m HOOKED!!!!! I don’t say that lightly – I was quite adamant cruising wasn’t for me, and now I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t cruise. There’s a cruise line and ship out there for everyone. It’s a case of matching you to the right line and ship and I can confidently say I can do that now. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Cruise Revolution’. I decided to arrive a day early to attend a Masterclass on board MSC Splendida. She’s a Fantasia-class cruise ship. I wasn’t sure what to expect and had a pleasant surprise. She’s very much Mediterranean in style and the service is second to none. I adored the sparkly gold Swarovski crystal staircase. Next day was the opening ceremony held by our very own ‘Ant and Dec’, Andy Harmer, VP CLIA UK and Ireland and Lucy Huxley, Editor in Chief, Travel Weekly. They certainly know how to work the room and hold the interest with fascinating stats and updates in the Cruise Industry. Our ship visit today was the gorgeous P&O Ventura. We played a game to make the ship visit more fun and I was delighted to win a prize of a free 2 night cruise with P&O. Having said that, my highlight had to be meeting the awesome Marco Pierre White. Marco works closely with P&O, and brings his expertise to the gala night menus in the main restaurants, Café Jardin on board Oceana, and the Ocean Grill on board Arcadia. He’s not as scary as you would imagine, but shhh – don’t tell him I said that! ;-) That evening was a Trade Fair and Street Party at the Mayflower Terminal in Southampton. It was a great opportunity to meet all the suppliers, make new contacts and find out more about the latest developments in the cruise industry. Penultimate day was the official conference, with some top notch keynote speakers. I was particularly enamoured with Larry Pimentel (or Luxury Larry) from Azamara cruises who gave brief details of some fabulous research they’ve undertaken. The cruise industry is just growing and growing and customer feedback is second to none. Arnold Donald, Chief Executive of the Carnival Corporation had us raptured; so much so that we voted him for next US President. All the speakers were absolutely superb and I have come home feeling more motivated and energised than ever – and I’m a motivated, energised person already! The evening gala dinner was superb and we were treated to entertainment by Princess Cruises, holding the final of the ‘Voice of the Ocean’ competition. Final day – and what a finale! We were the first agents to board the gorgeous Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas. She took our breath away. If you read my previous blog, you can find out much more about her. This is definitely an annual pilgrimage for me. There are so many professionals in this industry who are passionate about what they do. We are all pulling in the same direction in that we want you, our clients to have the most amazing time and to be so in love with this form of travel that we can’t wait to get home and book our next trip (NB: You can actually book your next trip on board and get some amazing deals). If you’re interested in hearing more, please do get in touch. I’m always happy to have a chat and help you find your perfect cruise! Love, Lizzie xx
26 May 2016
I was so lucky to be invited on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas last week. We were the first clients to step foot on her and she did not disappoint. Harmony is the world’s largest cruise ship to date, so before embarking, I made a sneaky visit to City Terminal to have a sneak peek before the crowds arrived and she certainly has the WOW factor! Embarkation was so well organised and I headed up my first escalator on a ship to meet my fellow Travel Professionals. Like other Oasis Class ships, Harmony of the Seas has 7 unique ‘neighbourhoods’. You can take a leisurely stroll along the lush avenues of Central Park, enjoy all the fun of the seaside at the Boardwalk, or do some window-shopping in the designer boutiques of the Royal Promenade. It’s easy to forget you are actually on a ship when you are sat in a coffee bar looking out at real trees and plants and watching the work go by! One of my personal favorites is the interactive screen on every floor. No more getting lost – just a few taps on the screen and you can find your way around this enormous ship, no problem. Anyone who knows me will know exactly why this impresses me so much. Lol I could go on all day, but I’ll just give you a few tempting morsels to whet your appetite: Watch robots mix your cocktail at the incredible Bionic Bar, or delight your taste buds with an amazing choice of dining experiences. Harmony has most slides at sea including the Ultimate Abyss (the tallest slide at sea with a 10 storey drop); take a whirl down The Perfect Storm waterslides, Supercell, Typhoon and Cyclone - which features a champagne bowl swirling you around as you descend towards your final big splash! Yes, the features and gadgets are great, but you’ll also be exploring some stunning locations. It’s time to start getting excited! Soak up Barcelona’s awe-inspiring atmosphere, walk along a beautiful golden beach in Palma de Mallorca, wander through the vibrant city of Rome, or escape from it all to snorkel in the crystal clear waters of Cozumel, Mexico. After all the excitement end your day by snuggling up in the largest, most luxurious rooms ever. Whatever you do, there’ll be an adventure waiting for you around every corner! Before disembarkation, we were treated to a portion of the hit show ‘Grease’! The first time ever performed at sea, I know every word and sang along - I was just sad I wasn’t staying on board for more fun! I’ll be back though!!!!!! No question! There’s so much more I could tell you about this amazing ship so if you want to know more just get in touch! Harmony is a perfect way for multi-generational families to travel together, enjoy their own type of holiday and have the opportunity to meet up, all at the same time! There’s a cruise line and ship that’s perfect for everyone. Give me a call and we can chat about what you are looking for and we’ll create a perfect match made in heaven for your fabulous cruise experience!
16 March 2016
I was so lucky to be invited as a guest of the Singapore Tourist Board and Holland America/Seabourn in February. After a fabulous flight with Singapore Airlines, we arrived into Changi Airport and transferred to the Pan Pacific Orchard to freshen up before our busy day. This five-star hotel is located along the famous Orchard Road and is an excellent base for both business and leisure travellers. Our first stop was Singapore’s Chinatown, which evolved around 1821 when the first Chinese junk arrived from Xiamen, Fujian province in China. Not all parts of Chinatown are Chinese though. The Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple in the centre of China Town lay witness to the harmonious racial and religious atmosphere in Singapore. We then proceeded to take a tour of Kampong Glam. The name of this historical district of Singapore originates from the Gelam tree, which once grew abundantly in this historical city for its use in building ships. In 1822, the land in Kampong Glam was officially allocated to the Malays and others in the Muslim community, including a small but successful community of Arab traders. Kampong Glam is a gem of Singapore’s history and culture. An amazing place to experience the hospitality of the Malay people. Haji Lane, a tiny lane, hidden away in the heart of the Arab Street, is a fashionistas paradise. Moving swiftly on, we then visited Little India. Traditionally the home of Singapore's Indian community, Serangoon Road and its neighbouring side streets are still today a bustling hive of sights, sounds and intriguing aromas. A rainbow of colours greets you as you wind your way through the streets. Here, one can find handicrafts from Kashmir silk to peacock feathers and flower garlands. Glittering silk-threaded saris, brassware and Indian designed jewellery are particularly good buys. After a long flight and busy day, I had a lovely relaxing night at the Pan Pacific Orchard. I was so excited the next day as we were to visit the Singapore Cruise Centre and tour the gorgeous 6* Seabourn Sojourn. Seabourn is a small-ship cruise line with intimate ships holding no more than 300 suites. Sojourn herself has 225 luxury suites, 4 dining venues, 6 bars and lounges and a stunning spa. She is simply awesome – I could have stayed for a few weeks. ;-) We then visited the Singapore Botanic Gardens. With more than 150 years of history, the 74 hectare Singapore Botanic Gardens has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is also the first in Asia and the third botanic gardens inscribed in the world. There are a number of trails and so much to see. My particular favourite was the National Orchid Garden. We then took a scenic tour down the Singapore River on board a vintage bumboat, much like the ones that many of Singapore’s early immigrants depended on for their livelihoods. The relaxing river cruise took us on a journey through time, offering views of the iconic Merlion, the Esplanade, century-old godowns and shop houses, colonial-style government buildings and grand bridges with their quaint light fixtures, as well as the modern skyscrapers that now dominate the city’s skyline. Dinner was at Satay by the Bay. From classic chargrilled satays to succulent seafood and refreshing desserts, they have it all. Select whatever you like and then sit with friends by the beautiful waterfront, surrounded by lush greenery. I’d highly recommend the Satay. After filling our boots at Satay by the Bay, we attended the Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay. We lay on the ground, looking up at these magnificent Supertrees, enjoying an ‘Evening of Musical Theatre’ light and sound show. I’ve never experienced anything like it. This show is free and is shown twice nightly. Do not miss this when visiting Singapore – you’ll be blown away. The next day we visited Sentosa Island. Sentosa is Singapore’s premier island resort getaway with multi-faceted appeal, teeming with events all year round. Just 15 minutes from the city, it is a unique blend of leisure and recreational facilities including family attractions, sea sports, golf as well as hotel accommodation and retreats. Offering a variety of experiences for all ages, Sentosa is a must-visit destination for tourists and a popular recreational playground for local residents. We enjoyed the luge and skyride and then zipwired through the trees on the mega zipwire before dipping our toes in the South China Sea. A lovely dinner was enjoyed aboard the lovely MS Volendam, a cruise ship belonging to Holland America Line. There are ten decks, with passenger cabins spread across five of them. The ship has eight bars, two swimming pools, two hot tubs, a spa, and a show lounge. The theme aboard Volendam is flowers and fresh displays are located in abundance on board the ship; décor throughout the ship also emphasise floral patterns. She sails out of Australia, Asia and conducts cruises of the Inside Passage traversing British Columbia and Alaska. On our final day, we visited Gardens By The Bay. This sprawling garden in the city provides mesmerising waterfront views across three gardens, spanning over 101 hectares of reclaimed land. Adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, the park consists of three waterfront gardens: Gardens by the Bay is filled with wonders from every continent except Antarctica. We explored diverse plant life from around the world displayed in its spectacular Cooled Conservatories and again, marvelled at the Supertrees – towering vertical gardens that extend into the sky. I will return to Singapore. It is such a friendly, safe place with so much to do. What REALLY stood out to me more than anything else is the friendliness and awesome welcome you receive.
19 December 2015
After my awesome trip with Tauck, cruising down the Danube, I'm hooked on River Cruising, so I thought I'd share my top 10 moments with you: 1. Step out of the bathroom without having shut the curtains! Well……hello! 2. Sipping an aperol spritz, gluhwein or hot chocolate wrapped in a blanket on the top deck, whilst gliding past fairy-tale castles and picture-book village. 3. Checking out your moves on the river boat dance floor accompanied by a local band. 4. Laughing till your ribs hurt with your new found friends on the ship - and crying when you have to leave them (and exchanging contact details to meet on your next river cruise). 5. Always finding room for cake – even when you have had more than enough – and then some! 6. Staring longingly into our guide Steve McQueens eyes and thanking the Gods for the technology provided, so you know what’s going on. 7. Sneaking into the Jacuzzi on the top deck when no-ones looking; champagne in hand and gazing at the stars. 8. Feeling like a princess in your own private castle, accompanied by the attention of amazing staff who are there to pander to your every need. 9. Dining like royalty and dancing to Mozart in the Grand Hall of a stunning palace 10. Docking so close to the city centre, you can disembark and get on your way; finding off the beaten track places you never knew existed – and have now become your favourite! I'm so proud that CLIA (Cruise Lines International Assocation) shared my tips on their site with their members. If you are looking for independent advice on any aspects of cruising, please join here: http://cruiseexperts.org/new-to-cruise/ If you are looking for a cruise specialist, I have achieved the highest status of Master and would be more than happy to help. To find me, just type in my postcode: NE65 0HZ Happy Cruising! :-) xxx
10 November 2015
I was over the moon to be invited on board the MS Treasures for the 2015 Tauck Academy. I’ve also wanted to try River Cruising and this was the perfect opportunity, as well as gaining professional accreditation. As a child, I was a dancer and imagined dancing the waltz with my beloved grandfather in a Viennese palace with live music. I couldn’t take grandad, but knew he’d be with me in spirit all the way. Budapest I flew into Budapest the night before and stayed at the Hotel Zenit. Just a short walk along the beautiful Danube riverside to the pier, this is a stunning hotel. I was met by lovely staff who took my cases and greeted me with a refreshing cocktail and a light lunch. MS Treasures is absolutely stunning. It’s a Jewel Class ship holding no more than 118 guests. Similar sized riverboats with other companies hold up to 160 passengers, so you can see how much extra space you’re getting and extra attention from already fabulous staff. We picked up our ‘Vox’ and met for a tour of Budapest. The Vox is a terrific idea. You tune into the relevant channel to listen to your tour commentary. It was great for me, as I could wander around looking for fabulous photo opportunities and still hear the guide sharing their extensive knowledge of the area. Prior to 1872, two settlements, Buda and Pest, lay on either side of the river. It’s easy to see the difference between the 2. The Buda side is very hilly, whereas Pest is very flat and set off by the spectacular Parliament Building. Budapest is a spa city with over 100 thermal and mineral springs dating back to the 1500s. It is full of wide boulevards and plazas, surrounding by stunning architectural marvels. I really enjoyed the walk back to the boat. It provided amazing views and some fabulous photographic opportunities (and also worked up an appetite for dinner!) Before dinner, we gathered on deck as we sailed away from this beautiful city, with commentary from the wheelhouse. Bratislava In the morning, we entered the Gabcikovo Lock. It was simply awesome to experience the magnificent MS Treasures being lifted 65 feet! WOW! After a morning studying, we departed for a walking tour of Bratislava. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful courtyards and variety of architectural styles. The evening entertainment was from ‘The Funny Fellows’, a local band playing music from the 1920s – 1940s. My cheeks ached from laughing and singing. Durnstein and the Wachau Valley The Wachau valley is absolutely stunning and so picturesque. The morning mist cleared to reveal a beautiful landscape and we slowly sailed by, accompanied by commentary from the wheelhouse. It was a wee bit chilly on the top deck, so staff brought blankets and hot chocolate. It’s an experience I’ll always remember. The fresh Danube air, relaxing in comfort and warmth in a beautiful part of Europe. We disembarked for a walk to the beautiful town of Durnstein, well known for its wineries and a popular stop in the Wachau Valley. It’s also renowned for its apricots and the friendly shops sell a variety of goodies using this popular ingredient. After a fun wine tasting, we returned to MS Treasures for a lively and absolutely hilarious game of ‘The Liars Club’, led by the Cruise Directors. Vienna One thing on my tick list has always been to have Sachertorte in Vienna, so I was rather excited about today. We had a coach tour first, followed by a tour of the Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg Palace. I was fascinated by the story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Emperor Franz Joseph. So much so, that I was straight onto Google on arrival back at the ship. After the tour, I headed straight to the Sacher café and enjoyed a yummy slice of the original Sachertorte with a cup of Sacher coffee. It did not disappoint. What an absolutely beautiful city. I could have stayed much longer and intend to return. Palais Pallavicini Tauck’s difference is that they take you to places other companies cannot. We were incredibly privileged and lucky to have dinner at the elegant Palais Pallavicini. We were greeted by Prince Eduardo himself before enjoying a lovely dinner accompanied by beautiful ball gowns and a musical performance celebrating the legacy of Mozart Back on MS Treasures Earlier in the day, we sat our final exam, so tonight was the awards ceremony and celebration. I received a fabulous trophy for the office and it’s now sitting here with pride. We danced the night away, and I can quite honestly, hand on heart, say I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Final Day What fabulous organisation. We disembarked smoothly and swiftly. Every single thing was planned to perfection. I was quietly hoping that it wouldn’t and I’d be able to stay on the boat a few more days. ;-) Lots of new friends to keep in contact with. I’m not someone who cries easily, but I was rather tearful on the way home. I’ll be back! Summary If you are interested in hearing more about Tauck and the fabulous trips on offer, they don’t just offer river cruises, they have a massive portfolio. What you CAN expect on every trip is 100% commitment from every member of staff, who ensure you enjoy every single moment – and then some! You don’t have to put your hand in your pocket for anything as it’s entirely all-inclusive. The only thing you’ll pay for is souvenirs to take home. Give me a call on 0191 432 6570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like me to book you on this amazing experience.
18 September 2015
I received the surprise of my life in December 2009, when my (now) husband and I went on a trip to Las Vegas. I've let him tell the story in his own words - read on! :-) In the September of 2009 my wife Lizzie who is a whizz at booking holidays, said to me, “how do you fancy a trip to the sun for a few a days?” I, of course agreed, but left her to deal with the challenge of finding something ideally within our budget. I had been thinking for a while that Lizzie and I have been together for 7 years, and I’d been thinking about popping THAT question for quite a while. So when Lizzie mentioned a holiday my mind was already whirring to the potential of popping of THAT question somewhere hot and romantic. After a few days, Lizzie came rushing through to the living room, “I’ve been looking at all the options for a short break around the Canaries, but this one has come in cheaper and the hotel is amazing” “Ok” I said “Where to?” “How do you fancy Las Vegas?” she said excitedly I just blustered something like “Vegas, really, how come?” “I can get Las Vegas in a 5 star condo hotel for 8 days, cheaper than a week in Tenerife!” Well if there’s anywhere on your bucket list, that should be in the top 10, then it’s Las Vegas. So, it was booked and we started to look forward to it immensely and did some research on the things to do and see. Now I had to think about popping THAT question . . . . . but where? Fast forward to December, We stay overnight in Manchester and fly out to Vegas with a change at Philadelphia. I was just excited by the fact I was going there too, even though we never left Philadelphia International! Flying into Las Vegas McCarran International in the dark, over the strip and the shadow of the Spring Mountains in the background was absolutely fantastic. We jumped into a taxi and headed off to our amazing hotel, The Signature at MGM Grand. This is a condo hotel attached to the MGM grand itself, which can be accessed without passing through the MGM casino, which is typical of most hotels in L.V. We were booked into The Penthouse suite as Lizzie, using her travel nous had managed to get us an upgrade! To say this was a stunning suite was an understatement! The whole Las Vegas experience is a huge blow to your senses, all the sights and sounds are just totally intense. We visited every hotel on the strip, which is like having a day out at a theme park for every style you can imagine, from Medieval England, days of the Knights of the Round Table (Excalibur) to the great Pyramid of Egypt (Luxor) there is a hotel for everyone. Also, it is within driving distance to The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, for a great day out away from the glitz and bright lights, which we did midweek. Now back to the story of THAT question . . . . All the time I was there I was thinking of how I could manipulate a situation where I could pop THAT question. I thought about looking for a romantic spot, like the Las Vegas sign or on top of The Paris hotel with its Eiffel tower? But my moment arrived when we visited The Venetian Hotel, on the penultimate day of our trip, with its Italian Palazzo themed style. We had a romantic ride on a Gondola on the canal, inside the hotel. Where, the Gondolier sang 'O Sole Mio' while he punted us around. This was my chance and I took it with both hands, I looked straight into Lizzie’s eyes, held her hand and asked her to marry me! (THAT question). I daren’t risk wobbling the Gondola by attempting the one knee thing. I didn’t have an Engagement ring with me so it was a case of using a ‘substitute’ ring, then when we got home I had a local jeweller make an engagement ring to our specifications. We arrived back to ‘shore’ where the Gondolier announced what I had done, the crowd started to cheer and the attached photo was taken! I asked the concierge in our hotel, how much it would be to hire a stretch limo, with a driver for a few hours, with Champagne and roses, I’m thinking this would be a lovely treat for Lizzie for our engagement. “$80 dollars”, was the reply. How amazingly reasonable is this? So, I got Lizzie into the foyer of the hotel just as the Limo turned up. The driver came in and said “Limo, for the future Mrs Brown” Well, Lizzie’s chin just hit the floor, the driver opened the door for us, and off we went, quaffing the champagne, with Lizzie all tearful. We were entertained by some of the most amazing acts. Lizzie has a ‘thing’ for Elvis, so here she is having her photo taken with 'him'. A trip over the Grand Canyon is a ‘must do’ whilst you are so close! We bought our trip ticket in Las Vegas, which was a short trip up to the airstrip at Boulder then we jumped on a light aircraft that flew us over this amazing, awe-inspiring sight! We loved every second of this magical trip to Las Vegas, we gambled once with $20 and won $50, that was all the gambling we did. I know the title is we went to Las Vegas by mistake, but that is tongue in cheek, because we had the most fabulous time and even though we aren’t gamblers, there is loads to see and do there. You won’t be disappointed, we definitely weren’t, best mistake ever!
27 July 2015
I had a great meeting with a lovely couple this weekend, to help them plan their destination wedding and they asked me how many weddings I’d actually planned... I hadn’t even thought of this, so when I got home, I got out my ‘special’ suitcase. It’s a case full of thank you cards, letters, photos and postcards from weddings I’d planned. I calculated that I have actually planned over 500 weddings! It really doesn’t feel that many, considering that every single one was an absolute pleasure. From intimate beachside weddings for a couple, to elaborate premier league footballer events with over 1000 guests, every single wedding I organise is special to me and wonderful in its own individual way. I’ve laughed until I’ve cried at fabulous speeches, the antics of tiny page boys and bridesmaids; cried at a bride’s emotional speech, asking everyone to enjoy her wedding day and not be sad for the aggressive cancer she was fighting. When you organise your wedding with me, you don’t just get me, you get a whole team working to ensure every single minute is special: we have a team at Travel Counsellors Head Office, the co-ordinator in resort and the hotel team. My only requirement of you is that you enjoy every single minute of your special day and leave all the stress of organising it to me. I know I’ve said it before, but this isn’t a job for me, it’s my passion. I even have been invited to their wedding as a guest and many of my clients have become good friends. I’ve followed their life journey through to their first anniversary, the birth of their beautiful babies and even arranged renewal of vows a few years down the line. Here are my top 5 FAQ’s asked by couples who want to arrange their perfect destination wedding: 1. When should I start planning my Destination Wedding? The simple answer to this is, the sooner the better. This gives you time to organise your budget, documentation and also ensures you get the destination and venue you want. 2. How do I stay organised? If you're planning your Destination Wedding as a couple, then whoever is more organized should keep track of the bookings. This person doesn't have to do all the work, but he or she should organize all the information you need for your wedding. Staying organized will help reduce the stress because information will be where you need it, when you need it. 3. Do I have to set a budget? The number one cause of wedding related stress is money. Don't rack up credit card debt to have your perfect destination wedding. If you plan carefully, you won't have to stress. 4. What is a Wedding/Honeymoon Registry? If money is a concern for your Wedding/Honeymoon and if you would just prefer the most memorable experience to a kitchen full of duplicate appliances you'll never use, or even more linen, sign up to this Registry. Friends and relatives can contribute to this and this will help your budget to find that perfect destination wedding. 5. Why should I use a professional destination wedding planner? I’ve booked holidays before! This is the biggest of all special occasions and there are many pitfalls that can be encountered. I have done this for a long time and with the support of my company we have come across every single question and problem that a couple could come across. Nothing is a too big a problem to sort. All my clients are VIP’s to me so you everyone gets the very same level of service and knowledge. If you're looking to plan your destination wedding, or know someone who is, please feel free to refer them to me in confidence. I'll look after them as if it was my own wedding. :-)
21 July 2015
This June, I was incredibly privileged to be invited onto the AM Resorts agent trip in Mexico. In the past I’ve shied away from All Inclusive holidays, having terrible memories of a bun fight at the buffet that was always the same, day in day out. I’m a bit of a foodie and ‘brown’, bland food just doesn’t cut it. We visited Zoetry, Secrets, Dreams and Now properties and after experiencing the ‘unlimited luxury’, I am an all-inclusive convert. You can eat a different meal each night, whether it’s traditional Mexican cuisine, French, Seafood, Italian, Mediterranean, Pan Asian – each restaurant is beautifully designed to reflect the country with an ambience to match. The food is fresh, of the highest quality and always served with the highest standards of service and huge smiles (this welcome radiated throughout every resort). If you don’t want a huge meal, you have the option of a yummy snack at the Barefoot Grill by the pool, and one of my favourites was the Coco Café. Every morning, I had an early morning walk and treated myself to a fresh coffee served with a smile (and a pastry/cake if I was feeling particularly naughty). If you have any allergies or special requirements – that’s not a problem. You most certainly won’t go hungry. Gone are the days of vegetarians having an option of omelette - you’re spoiled for choice. I enjoyed some delicious cocktails – alcoholic and non alcoholic. Again, nothing is too much trouble. Glasses are cleared and service is on hand at all times – always with a smile. If all this still isn’t enough for you, you have the option of wine tasting or tequila tasting. We also had a couple of cookery lessons. None of these were boring and staid. We had a lot of fun and learned some skills along the way (who can ever get bored of fresh guacamole?). Since coming back to the UK, I’ve already booked 3 honeymoons and a destination wedding, with a number of others in the pipeline. I just have one dilemma – which property to return to next year. Thank you so much to AM Resorts for a fabulous experience of a lifetime. Like Arnie – I will be back! ;-)
01 July 2015
Keeping your property safe when you are away is very important, but so are your belongings. You may have fancy CCTV and security systems at home, but have you ever considered that your car could be holding information that could put your home at risk of being burgled and damaged? As a travel company we have come across stories where travellers have left their cars at an airport long stay car park, to find that they have been burgled while they are away. This is horrifying to know, so please follow the tips below... If you have a portable sat nav that sticks to your windscreen, (not applicable to inbuilt Satnav systems): A. Do not attach it to the screen, because it leaves a tell-tale ring mark on the glass, indicating to potential thieves that a sat nav may be present in the vehicle (even if it’s hidden). B. Do not have your ‘Home’ address loaded into the sat nav. Thieves don’t just steal the sat nav for the technology it is the informaton too. C. Delete the history of places visited regularly. These may be friends of yours who may be away with you? D. Keep your sat nav out of your vehicle altogether, use it when required, then remove it again after your trip. On one occasion an airport employee saw a car being broken into in its long stay car park. They quickly attended to find that the car window was smashed but the thieves were long gone. The staff had the foresight to quickly phone the police and informed them of the car owner’s address, the police turned up at the address to find it in the process being burgled. The airport staff made the car watertight and the police secured the property prior to the owner returning. The thieves had stolen the sat nav from the car and interrogated it to find the Home address of the owners, who were away on holiday. Fortunately, there was only minor damage to the car and to the house and because the airport staff and police had responded quickly there was nothing stolen from the house and the burglars were caught in the act. This all came about because of a portable sat nav being left in a car, in an airport car park, with a ‘Home’ address loaded into it. Please think about the safety of your information and your belongings whilst you are away!
12 May 2015
At this time of year many of us are dreaming of winter sun, booking festival tickets or making plans for an eagerly awaited summer holiday. This can all be very exciting, and the preparation is often a big part of the fun, but it’s important that measures are also taken to keep yourself and your home safe while you’re away. * * * * AT HOME * * * * When you leave for your trip, do a final check to make sure that all doors and windows are locked (including those of sheds and outbuildings), and that your burglar alarm system is set. This may sound obvious, but it can be easy to forget to do this in the midst all of your final travel preparations. Turn off any utilities that you won’t need while you’re gone. Cutting out your gas, electricity, water etc will not only save you money on utility bills, but will also limit the possibility of electrical fires, explosions and burst pipes inflicting your home while you’re away. Check with your insurer that you’re covered for events that occur when you’re away from the home. In most policies this will be the case, but there are sometimes limitations on the length of time that you’re covered for, so it’s always worth double checking. Don’t post your plans on social media sites like Facebook or twitter! As tempting as it might be, social media can be used by burglars to pick out the easiest and most fruitful homes to target. If your alarm system is monitored, make sure you contact your security company and inform them of any changes that need to be made to your key-holder contact list while you’re away. It’s not the best receiving a phone call to say that you’ve been burgled, but it’s even worse when you’re on the other side of the world and can’t make it back quickly! Ask a neighbour to park on your drive occasionally while you’re gone to help create the illusion that the home is occupied. This is enough to make a burglar think twice before targeting your home. Make sure that any valuables are out of view from passers by, and consider registering them on Immobilise, the UK National Property Register. Remember; if you’ve logged it you’e got a better chance of getting it back. * * * * WHILE YOU'RE AWAY * * * * On holiday, all you want to do is relax, unwind and forget about your usual worries. It’s especially easy to do this when you’ve taken a few precautions to protect yourself and your belongings! Before you go, make a note of serial numbers on any insurance policies, travellers’ cheques and even your unique passport number. Keep this information separate from the corresponding items in case they are lost or stolen. Try not to flaunt any expensive possessions, and keep them in your hotel safe - along with your passport and travel documents- when they aren't on your person. Never hang bags or jackets on the back of your chair where they are out of view. Doing this creates easy targets for pick-pockets and petty thieves. Don’t store all of your money in one pocket/bag. Spread your money between different sections of your bag and pockets to minimise the potential impact of being robbed. A massive thanks to Bethany Jackson of Tyneside Security for this invaluable information. If you’d like help with making your home more secure please contact Chris Pattinson on 0191 270 0808. http://www.tynesidesecurity.co.uk/contact/
02 December 2014
Are you looking to go skiing or snowboarding with the family this season? This is a fabulous blog by my friend Kate and well worth a follow. This month's blog is all about child friendly resorts in Europe and North America. Well worth a follow and if you have any questions, she's the girl in the know: http://mummysnowboarder.com/ #snowboarding #childfriendlyresorts So you’ve finally taken the plunge and you’re going to take the kids away for a holiday on the snow but where do you go? You may already have some ideas, but the resort you remember fondly from your twenties, which had a great après scene, may not be the best option with babies, toddlers or young kids in tow! Priorities with children will centre around making your life, and theirs, as easy as possible. So questions you may want to ask are: •How far are the nursery slopes from the main accommodation in the resort? •What other activities, apart from skiing or snowboarding, are available? •What childcare options do we have? •What is the transfer time from the nearest accessible airport to the resort? •How near is everything? Will I have a long walk or drive between the slopes, childcare pick up and the chalet/ apartment/ hotel? Some of the above will need more consideration than others depending upon the age of your children. Really young ones will need a nursery whilst the teenagers are likely to want a park with jumps and rails. There are number of places that list family-friendly resorts such as those listed in The Telegraph and Guardian newspapers. But beware, as some of these are more geared up for skiers than snowboarders. Below are a few I have highlighted. Good family resorts in Europe include: Avoriaz, France: a traffic free centre with good, accessible ski schools and a newly built indoor water park. Plus if you want the little ones to snowboard MINT Snowboard school specialises in teaching the little ‘uns. Avoriaz won the World Snow Awards for most improved family resort in 2012 and is welcoming to snowboarders with several snow parks. Les Gets, France: has a compact centre with all accommodation close to the slopes. It is also close to Geneva airport (50km) so has a short transfer time. There is a dedicated children-only area of the mountain and mostly blue and red runs for them to progress to. However, there is a snow park and an area the other side of Les Gets called Mont Chery, which has mostly black and red runs for the more adventurous members of the party. La Rosiere, France: despite marketing itself to families, and there a number of family tour operators based here such as Esprit, Crystal, Inghams and Thomson, La Rosiere is one of the resorts more attuned to skiers. Saas Fee, Switzerland: traffic free centre but geared in winter towards families who ski. In summer, due to its high altitude glacier, summer freestyle parks, pipes and boardercross course, freestyle snowboarders abound. But it is not really a place for families wanting to snowboard in the winter. Laax, Switzerland: a real snowboard orientated resort with great parks for the teenagers and gentle tree-lined pistes for beginners to progress to. Laax hosts several freestyle snowboard competitions including The Brits and is probably best avoided by families with young children when the comps are in town. Selva Val Gardena, Italy: The Dolomites enjoy a relatively short transfer time from Innsbruck (under two hours) and a pretty, traditional village. Childcare can be limited unless you are travelling with a specialist tour operator as Italian families tend to take grandparents along for child minding duties. Despite a plethora of skiers making up 90-95% of slope users we had a great family holiday here with Italy providing delicious food and good value. Good family resorts in North America include: Tremblant, Canada: a long way to travel with small children but Tremblant has a good reputation for being child-friendly with ski in and ski out accommodation and other non-snow activities such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and a water park. The Kid’s Zone for those aged 3-12 is being launched this season helping children to get to grips with snow sports through play. Smugglers Notch, USA: another long-haul destination but this resort in Vermont is consistently mentioned in various company Top 10 resorts for family friendly resorts and has won many awards. There is the dedicated Burton Riglet Park which has a ‘treehouse’ designed for 3-6 year olds. As well as the kids you also need to consider the adults in your party as their priorities and desires will need to be taken into account. After all it is their and your holiday too, so have fun researching and happy hunting for your perfect family resort. Ta ta for now, Kate.
04 November 2014
A journey full of highs and lows, a nerve racking commitment but so very worth it - a description of a trek to Machu Picchu, or a marriage?! I undertook the challenge to fund raise for charity, but for any intrepid couple looking for a honeymoon with a difference, I can’t imagine a more memorable experience than trekking along a remote Inca trail 4,000 metres up in the Andes. And if you did it for a charity maybe you could even get your guests to contribute to your chosen one as a wedding gift. The first challenge on my trip was on arrival into Cusco, getting used to the high altitude. This means you have less oxygen, which means even climbing up half a dozen stairs can leave you breathless and dizzy. Cusco is a pretty mix of traditional Inca and Spanish influence, easy to get around, friendly and full of fabulous restaurants, cafes and markets. It’s a great place to spend a couple of days before leaving modern comforts behind. The four hour bus journey to our trekking starting point in the Andes was an experience in itself, on a steeply climbing road that quickly turned into a narrow track with hair pin bends. If you dare look out of the window the views are amazing! Many people refer to ‘the’ Inca Trail - the most popular one, which is so busy that passes to go along it have now been restricted. But there are others, less well known, so less busy, but equally if not more stunning and challenging, which I preferred to do. We were trekking the Lares Valley route for four days, reaching heights of 4600 metres in a remote area, seeing nobody else but the Andean people who live in the mountains. Their way of life has changed little in hundreds of years, they are self sufficient with no modern amenities and still speak only Quechan. We met many of the mountain people along the way, they were about half our size and twice as fast. Brightly coloured dots on the horizon would suddenly appear and quickly pass us, wearing traditional hand woven outfits, carrying full loads on their backs, in blankets. Reaching camp in late afternoon we would find a group of women and children waiting for us, blankets spread out with an eclectic mix from alpaca wool socks and hand knitted hats to bottles of Inca Kola for sale. Ah yes, camping on a remote Inca Trail. If you’re a seasoned camper or trekker, used to no toilets, hot water, showers, electricity, or any mod cons at all, then you won’t even flinch. But I wasn’t and initially was particularly worried about the lack of toilets. Most of the time we were so high the environment was barren - no trees, bushes or rocks to go behind. But it was surprising just how quickly I got used to the ‘squat and go’. Helped by being in an all female group, you were never alone either and there’d usually be a line of us, chatting away. No privacy and nowhere to hide, this trek really will make you share everything! After four days of trekking, coping with all weather from hail stones to scorching sunshine, altitude sickness, dodgy stomachs, and injuries, we finally reached the Sun Gate. This is the ancient entrance to Machu Picchu which looks down onto the iconic view so often used in photographs. I walked through to be greeted by white clouds. The sight was totally obliterated – but they soon cleared, and when they did the view was breath taking. You can get to Machu Picchu without doing the trek but there was something very satisfying about it, feeling like we’d really earned the right to be there. The journey, as they say, was definitely as crucial to the experience as the end point. But there is no getting away from how awe inspiring the ancient city itself is. Machu Picchu is every bit as magical and mysterious as the pictures and stories suggest – and more. Built over 400 years ago, with only the most basic equipment, many of the 200 buildings are almost intact. Up close it is even bigger and more impressive than I expected, swirling clouds add to the mystique. So much remains unknown as the Incas didn’t use writing or drawing to record anything, but one of the main theories is that Machu Picchu was built because its location was of importance to the spiritual Incas who worshipped the Sun and Pachamama – or Mother Earth. We celebrated our achievement at the end of the trek with a night out that combined the traditional – pan pipers, roast guinea pig – with the modern – drunken dancing and a disco. A trek to Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime experience – and what a great way to start your lifetime together than an unforgettable adventure like this. If you want to find out more about what it’s like trekking to Machu Picchu, warts (and lack of toilets) and all, I’ve published a book ‘On Foot to Machu Picchu, a duff trekker’s adventure along an Inca trail’. A donation from sales of the book is going to Breast Cancer Care. You can get On Foot to Machu Picchu on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-foot-Machu-Picchu-adventure-ebook/dp/B00OGW1NGS Or iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/on-foot-to-machu-picchu/id929284650?ls=1&mt=11
04 September 2014
As an ambassador for Maiden Voyage and also with my business as a personal Travel Counsellor, I sometimes send customers into potentially volatile areas in pursuit of business and that elusive perfect deal. I keep my business travel and leisure customers up to date with FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advice on volatile or flashpoint areas around the world, as well as giving them hints and tips of how to stay safe on any trip. Here are some very useful tips, gleaned from colleagues and customers: It is very important to understand the local customs, culture and etiquette, as much as possible, before you go. This will make all the difference in keeping you safe. Also, keeping you one step of the competition when trying to secure that lucrative contract! When you leave home, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit. Good resources are the library, your travel agent, embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit and online research. Keep track of what is being reported in the media and the FCO about recent developments in the countries you are visiting and ones you may be passing through. Understand local cultures, rules, laws, crime rates, weather conditions, attitudes, etiquette, price of things and similar information. Don’t get bogged down with this too much, just the basics! Make sure you understand local gestures and body language. You may be inadvertently offending someone or breaking the law. Learn some basic language skills. If you are hoping to clinch that deal, it would be wise to have some small conversational knowledge of the country you are visiting. This will go down well with your hosts. Your local UKTI can help you with language courses and these and can be free! We had a customer who completed a basic Mandarin course and it helped him enormously on his business trip to China. Find out which local areas of your destination are considered safe and which are considered unsafe. This will allow you to plan your transfers/taxis more confidently. Read up on common scams and crimes in your destination area. Keep your family up to date at all times of where you are. Even if it’s just using the ‘Check in’ facility on Facebook. Take copies of your itinerary and leave them with family and friends at home. Whenever you move to a different locality or register in a new hotel, message the contact numbers and contact people’s names to your family. I highly suggest that if you are a female traveller, register with www.maiden-voyage.com for free. This will give you access to the website for hints, tips and female friendly hotels as well as having the opportunity to meet up with for meals and network with other ‘Maiden Voyagers’.
10 June 2014
We left the Alex Johnson early after breakfast and caught a flight from Rapid City to Austin via Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with American Airlines. First stop in Austin was the Formula 1 track, Circuit of the Americas! This made my husband incredibly jealous as he is a mad F1 fan. It's a huge venue with a viewing tower. At the top of the tower was a glass floor, not for the faint hearted, but I managed it. The view over the track and the surrounding area was fabulous! I would love to go back one day to see a concert or for an F1 race (better take the hubby though)! After leaving the track we headed to The Hilton Austin to check in. I found chocolate covered strawberries had been placed in my room, a nice touch! We got changed into our finest, for the festivities that were planned for tonight at the W Hotel. Arrived at the W Hotel for the final night and the Grand Finale! This was an evening of dinner and presentations, bringing together all the other six groups that were in the USA as part of this trip! Following all the formalities, we were treated by our hosts to a concert by the Gypsy Kings in a venue next door to the hotel. They were fabulous! What a lovely surprise. A trip down 4th Street afterwards was brilliant and we experienced the wonderful nightlife, true Austin style! I love live music, so I was in my element, where every bar had live music of different genres. Now I know why Austin is known as the ‘live music capital of the world! Early morning after the night before! We came across a rooftop party playing live music until the early hours - what a way to finish the week! We had our breakfast at the Stephen F Intercontinental with all seven groups from the trip and were entertained again with live music - what a place! A chance to take lots of group photos. After breakfast we headed for a shopping trip to 'The Domain', which is an amazing open air, park style, shopping experience. If you are a big shopper, this is the place for you, as well as some fabulous restaurants to sample. There are even three hotels onsite! I loved the next part of our visit, where we went to the Food Trailer Park. You can try every type of food in the world here, from Thai to BBQ on a trailer, which are all licensed and monitored for health and safety by the state. I tried some rib eye steak and some homemade ice cream, which was awesome! Finally, it was time to head for the airport with our new found friends, to head for home! What I must say is, this has been the most awesome trip of my life - I didn't want it to end. I have visited and experienced some fabulous places, but the icing on the cake was the absolutely warm welcome we received from the people everywhere we went, including the native Americans, who are so keen to share their history and their passion. I am already planning another trip very soon, I might even bring hubby! I have learned so much from my experiences that my customers will benefit hugely from this too, as I will be able to pass on information I have picked up and thus ‘paint real pictures’ for them, as well as giving tips on new places to visit in the USA and tours off the beaten track. They’ll find some absolute gems! I promise! For me, this is the ‘real’ USA! A massive thank you too all our hosts, guides, hotels and to the American people in general!
10 June 2014
After breakfast in Loveland, Colorado, we set off for a new state – Nebraska! We arrived in the Scottsbluff/Gering Area and picked up a fabulous packed lunch at the friendly Emporium Coffeehouse & Café in Scottsbluff before heading to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Scottsbluff is a truly majestic landmark used by Americans Indians, fur trappers, pioneers and modern travellers, when making their way along the famous Oregon Trail - original wagon train ruts are still visible! The guide told us that a lot of people had perished along the trail and had just been buried alongside it. It was fascinating to hear about the thousands of people that WALKED the 2000 miles from Central America to Oregon in the mid 1800's, taking them 6 months to walk, while carrying all their worldly possessions in a rickety old wagon. America may be a relatively young country but the history is vast! I found the museum and visitor site enthralling. We travelled by coach through tunnels in Scottsbluff itself, followed by a relatively easy walk to the summit. There is a spectacular view over the North Platte Valley from here, a great photo opportunity. I had my lovely packed lunch here taking in these wonderful views. After leaving Scottsbluff we headed for the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, which is in a lovely, picturesque setting. There were on display some of the most unique flora and fauna exhibits of the Wildcat Hills area, in this interactive nature centre. It was a great chance to have a walk around and relax, to be able to see some indigenous plants and animals of this region We then set off for Chimney Rock, which is a National Historic Site. This is a spectacular sight, rising 300ft into the air, it is the most recognised landmark along the Oregon Trail. Today an interpretive centre pays tribute to those who travelled the trails and features original maps from Captain John C. Fremont’s exploration of the Oregon Trail in 1842-43. Later, we headed for dinner in Scottsbluff at Rosita’s, which is one of many Mexican restaurants in the area that prepare the most delicious authentic homemade Mexican dishes, prepared from scratch. Try their famous Panchos: homemade chips topped with frijoles, melted cheese, guacamole and jalapeños. They’re one-of-a-kind! That night we stayed in Monument Inn and Suites in Gering which had free Wifi - an opportunity for me to catch up with family at home! The next morning we left Scottsbluff/Gering picking up my Gering Breakfast Box on the way. It had fresh fruit, delicious homemade breakfast burritos from Sandy’s Burritos, and tasty doughnuts from the Gering Bakery. Our first stop was the fantastic Fort Robinson and State Park. My granddad used to tell me about places like this US Army fort on a Saturday afternoon whilst watching his cowboy films. I thought of him a lot on this trip and how much he would have loved it. This is the place where Crazy Horse, the Sioux chief surrendered and where the ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ were stationed The Fort Robinson museum houses some very impressive exhibits too. It was absolutely amazing to see Bison, namely Buffalo, roaming alongside Bighorn sheep, Elk and Antelope on 22,000 acres. It would be amazing to be here when they hold the little big horn festival here, in the state park to recreate historical events. We then picked up a yummy lunch at Bean Broker Coffee House in Chadron. I thoroughly recommend the tuna salad made with artichokes & sweet red pepper, & romaine lettuce on whole grain bread! In the afternoon we headed across the border into South Dakota for a tour of Badlands National Park and I have to say I was mesmerised! The scale of this place is just mind blowing, with amazing rock shapes that have formed over millions of years and with vibrant colours too! I could rave on forever about this fabulous experience! My bed for the night was in the fabulous Cedar Park Lodge, where I stayed in a luxury log cabin! The lovely Oglala Lakota people came along to show us some traditional Native American singing and dancing, as well as teaching us some of their traditions. A cowboy sang some classic western songs while we enjoyed a gorgeous meal of buffalo, elk, pheasant and game. We met a young Rodeo family who told us all about their amazing lives of bull riding. Still pinching myself!
10 June 2014
Sunrise at the Badlands! Definitely worth the 5:00am wakeup call! The colours are more vibrant, the outlines sharper and the atmosphere calmer – a truly magical experience! As the sun rises, it’s a very humbling and special feeling, as I watched the tips start to glow and draw long shadows across the formations, to paint the most impressive landscape on the ground. After having our breakfast at Cedar Pass lodge we departed for Rapid City. I wonder what treasures I will encounter today? Arriving in Rapid City I visited the Journey Museum. This was an incredible trek through time, from the formation of the mystical Black Hills over 2.5 billion years ago up to modern times. Inside is the Sioux Indian Museum, with the most amazing original artefacts from the American Indian society, even a holograph of a Native American elder. After my incredible journey visiting here, I now understand the legacy of this land and its people. Can it get any better? Oh yes, I’m now at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone. These 60ft sculptures of the 4 presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are even more impressive in real life! We did our best with 4 members of the group to recreate the monument, but some may say it was a monumental fail! We arrived at Crazy Horse Memorial, which is the world’s largest mountain carving in progress. I loved the visit to Mount Rushmore, which was extremely impressive, but personally I loved the story of the Crazy Horse monument, which is going to be a lot bigger when finished. An elder from the Lakota tribe, of which crazy horse was, commissioned this masterpiece as a lasting memory to the great chief. I was blown away by this true example of hard work and commitment that will take many years to complete. There are controversies surrounding what could be the world’s largest sculpture, but it will be magnificent. At Custer State Park you get a true sense of the enormity of the USA. It is the second largest state park in the United States and home to one of America’s largest bison herds. This 71,000 acre park features scenic drives, fishing, swimming, hiking, camping and 4 outstanding resorts in a must-see setting. Oh my goodness, the wildlife loop is an amazing drive not to be missed! I made sure I had plenty of battery in my camera and plenty of memory card space, with wildlife everywhere, such as bison, pronghorn antelope (known affectionately as fluffy butts), deer, prairie dogs and even donkeys! Then we headed for a stop off in downtown Rapid City, which I found is a lovely and friendly small town with some gorgeous colonial architecture. We visited the Prairie Edge Trading Co. & Galleries, a wonderful store that features collections of Native American art, crafts, books and music. The store features regional American Indian artists, as well as a few Non-Native American artists. I found an amazing collection of everything from ceremonial drums to buffalo hide robes and some beautiful native art. We walked through Main Street Square, a newly-created centrepiece which holds hundreds of events through the year including live music. The City of Presidents is a collection of bronze statues of each of America’s past presidents dispersed throughout the downtown area. It was then time for dinner! We went to the Adoba Hotel for a lovely meal, in this very eco-friendly and chic hotel. We are staying tonight in the prestigious Hotel Alex Johnson. It is a most imposing, lovely building of German architecture. It even has swastika symbols in the floor, that I found out were a native American symbol for the ‘four corners of the earth’, well every day is a school day, as my hubby would say! Many American presidents have stayed there. We heard it was haunted so we settled onto the rooftop terrace and enjoyed a few drinks around the fire pit. I believe the spooks are mainly on the 8th floor, so I’ll be ok on the 4th, won’t I?
08 June 2014
After saying a fond farewell to Denver, we travelled to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Is this really happening? I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming! We checked in at the YMCA and had a brief guided tour. The YMCA of the Rockies is the largest YMCA facility in the nation with over 800 square miles of land. It’s in a fabulous location and has a plethora of activities. It even has a sculpture of four children doing the ‘YMCA’ dance outside (we may have had a little bit of fun with this?) We grabbed our backpacks, boarded the bus and headed to the east end of Rocky Mountain National Park for a sunset hike and gourmet picnic on the Gem Lake Trail. Sadly, the weather had other ideas, but that didn’t dampen anything. We had our picnic on the coach and stopped for a pint of the local ale at the Rock Inn Mountain Tavern. I highly recommend this classic mountain bar and eatery, the Rock Inn is a local hot spot with great Colorado beer on tap and live bluegrass music. Back on the coach next day, we headed off for a tour of popular sites and scenic treks in Rocky Mountain National Park with a very informative guide. She told us about the history of the early settlers having to cross the Rockies long before winter set in or they wouldn’t make it over. Some employed mountain guides to see them safely over, but many turned back or perished! What an amazing day! I can see why this gem of nature was dedicated in 1915 as a national park! This is a trip I will remember for the rest of my life, with glorious forests, meadows and rocky cliffs. I saw some amazing wildlife, including elk, big horn sheep and moose! I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a bear but they were obviously camera shy today. We stopped high up at a point called ‘top of the world’ which still had 10 foot snow drifts at the side of the road, even though the sun was shining brightly. After our tour of the Rocky Mountain National Park, we were met by a representative from the Stanley Hotel for a brief tour of the famous hotel and adjoining buildings. In an absolutely glorious setting, this outstandingly beautiful building is known for its history and spirits, with a whisky bar that boasts the largest selection in Colorado. In addition to those spirits, the hotel has attracted a lot of attention for being haunted and if you pick room 217 this comes with a complimentary ghostly maid, seemingly! It was the inspiration for the book ‘The Shining’ after Stephen King spent the spookiest night of his life here and encountered a few more spirits than the 700 whiskies behind the bar! I have to say, this is a fabulous place to stay and I would love to come back to visit and spend at least one night in the Stanley Hotel, even if it’s got a few spooks!
08 June 2014
Before checking in at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch we visited the wonderful outlets at Loveland. After some of the group had ‘shopped until they dropped’ (not me, honestly) we had a photo stop at Benson Sculpture Park. Loveland is home to the largest outdoor sculpture show in the U.S. Benson Sculpture Park has one of the largest collections of sculpture on display in the country. Over 139 sculptures on permanent display. We checked in at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, where we changed into our jeans and boots and prepared to discover our inner cowboy, as we set off on a riding adventure through the beautiful foothills of historic 3200 acre working dude ranch! We were presented with honorary cowboy hats, met at the fence line and I saddled up my horse, JR (Jolly Rancher, not THE JR from Dallas) for a one hour trail ride through the foothills of picturesque Loveland, Colorado. The staff here are absolutely amazing and I can’t say enough how brilliant they have been! We then trekked off over the beautiful countryside in the sun for a good few miles, where we enjoyed the pure air and the absolute peace and tranquillity of it was fabulous! This is the way to de-stress. Back at the Ranch, we were immersed into the cowboy culture with our cowboy hosts, as we dined on local BBQ (a rack of ribs, the best corn on the cob I have ever had and homemade ‘slaw). We tasted spirits and beers from local breweries and distilleries, while sitting around a campfire enjoying the music of a real cowboy singer, where we joined in; a true western photo opportunity. Any BBQ in the USA always has to have ‘S’mores’ for dessert. These are simply the biggest marshmallows you have ever seen, roasted over the open fire. I think I got more down my chin than I ate, but it was great fun! Then, I put my gloves on for a roping lesson and played some horseshoe tossing, which I was surprisingly good at! Then after saying our fond farewells we moseyed back to the bus pardner. YEEHAA! This ranch is an amazing family run Guest Ranch where the utmost love and attention to detail has not been spared. From their horses to their cabins everything is so well cared for! I will definitely be back to sit around that campfire again, thank you guys! I remember leaving the ranch with a heavy heart. We later arrived at The Embassy Suites Loveland Hotel, Spa and Conference Centre for a well-earned rest! The hotel was recently ranked the #1 Embassy Suites in the World.
07 June 2014
In May 2014, I was very honoured to be chosen to visit the USA with Brand USA. I've visited the major tourist areas of the USA before, including Las Vegas, Florida and New York. I was delighted to be accepted on the ‘Meet the Mountains’ itinerary. This trip would include some of the amazing areas that I have only seen in Hollywood films. This wonderful experience has given me an insight into different states of the USA so that I am now able to help my clients discover parts they may not even have considered before. Our first stop was Denver, known as the 'Mile High City', due to its official height being 5,280 feet above sea level. We checked in at ‘The Curtis’ hotel: a fun, modern, boutique hotel. Each of the guest room floors has a themed personality all of its own. What a treat after a long flight. I had the most awesome salad at ‘The Corner Office Restaurant + Martini Bar’. The restaurant is your answer to all things food and drink while staying at the Curtis. A short ride down the elevator and you will enter this Denver restaurant with endless character, retro décor and tantalising flavours. Yes, I tried a couple of the martinis and they didn’t disappoint. ;-) Next day, we had an early start to visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This is a naturally formed, world-famous outdoor venue just 15 miles west of Denver and is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world. From Sting, The Beatles, U2 and opera stars; every artist aspires to play on this magical, spiritual and emotional stage. It was a beautiful day and the red rock looked like it was on fire! This is a must visit on this trip. I’m now keeping an eye on forthcoming gigs (not that I need an excuse to return). We returned to Denver for a tour of this spectacular city. First was a photo stop at - "The Big Blue Bear". This delightful 40-foot sculpture peers curiously into the Colorado Convention Centre from the pavement outside, injecting a sense of fun and playfulness. Denver Art Museum was a trip well worth making. The contemporary building is a work of art itself, with its sharp wedge shaped lines. I saw some of the most amazing and famous collections of Native American and bold art. The Photograph collections of the old west were a joy to behold. Another new sharp contemporary building is the History Colorado Centre, which includes exhibits and programs that tell the stories of Colorado and engage you in the past, present and future of this magnificent state! You can have a virtual ride in a real Model T, try your ski jumping technique out on a ski-jump simulator and set off some (virtual) dynamite in an 1880’s hard-rock mine. There’s even a Time Machine that kids of all ages would love! Denver’s Union Station has just undergone a massive restoration and re-development. If you are into architecture this will fill you with glee! The 1881 Beaux Arts station will become a hub for transportation with dining, shopping and entertainment in July 2014. Once complete, this beautiful building will be the envy of any city! The 'Tattered Cover Book Store' is an independent community bookstore, serving Denver's readers for over 40 years. There have been many celebs through these doors such as Jimmy Carter and Yoko Ono. It’s a lovely place to relax for a while. My son is a real bookworm and would have loved it. Yeehaa! The 'Rockmount Ranch Wear Store' is a fabulous shopping experience for all things Cowboy and Cowgirl, and is in a lovely, iconic building built in 1909. I was amazed at the choice of clothing available, belts, buckles, cowboy hats and even Native American Indian blankets! Just to be in the same place as Elvis, Bruce Springsteen & Nicolas Cage bought their distinctive cowboy clothing was amazing! Denver’s urban shopping and dining district, Larimer Square is the city’s oldest and most historic block. It's a fabulous shopping experience and comes complete with glittering lights strung over the entire block. The area is charming and elegant, where Victorian buildings house specialty boutiques and unique restaurants. Lunch at Rioja in Larimer Square was delicious. I had the house salad with arugula, dates, gorgonzola and almond vinaigrette, followed by Colorado lamb burger with homemade mozzarella, spicy aioli and arugula salad; then key lime semifreddo for dessert. Time for a walk methinks?
Newcastle upon Tyne 30/04/2021
Higham Dykes 08/03/2021
Newcastle Upon Tyne 26/06/2020
Newcastle Upon Tyne 26/06/2020
Newcastle Upon Tyne 26/06/2020
Darras Hall 10/01/2020
Newcastle upon Tyne 02/01/2020
West Monkseaton 10/09/2019
Rowlands Gill 11/07/2019
Bishop Auckland 08/07/2019
Heaton, Newcastle 22/03/2019
South Shields 11/03/2019
Lesbury, Alnwick 20/02/2019
West Monkseaton 05/02/2019
Darras Hall 04/02/2019
Chatton, Alnwick 20/08/2018
Bognor Regis 30/07/2018
Low Fell 19/06/2018
Esh Winning 08/04/2018
Newcastle upon Tyne 11/01/2018
High Peak 11/12/2017
South Shields 17/10/2017
Berwick upon Tweed 25/09/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 15/09/2017
Beddington Croydon 12/09/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 12/09/2017
Lowick, BERWICK-UPON-TWEED 12/09/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 11/09/2017
West Monkseaton 01/09/2017
Rowlands Gill 01/09/2017
East Boldon 20/08/2017
Whitley Bay 13/08/2017
Rowlands Gill 26/06/2017
South Shields 25/06/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 11/04/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 11/04/2017
Wimbledon, London 04/03/2017
Esh Winning, Durham 05/02/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 26/01/2017
Beddington Croydon 12/01/2017
Whitley bay 11/01/2017
Newcastle upon Tyne 11/01/2017
Wallington, Surrey 11/01/2017
Seaton Delaval 29/09/2016
Whitley Bay 29/08/2016
Seaton Delaval 21/08/2016
Newcastle -upon-Tyne 17/08/2016
Wallington, Surrey 15/08/2016
Whitley Bay 09/08/2016
Newcastle upon Tyne 17/07/2016
Blaydon on Tyne 18/05/2016
Seaton Burn 04/05/2016
Lower Bartle 29/01/2016
Redrow, Northumberland 25/01/2016
Auckland, New Zealand 20/01/2016
West Monkseaton 24/06/2015
South Shields 10/02/2015
Whitley Bay 05/02/2015
Crook, County Durham 29/01/2015
Newcastle upon Tyne 21/01/2015
Washington, Tyne & Wear 10/12/2014
Low Fell 02/07/2014
Newcastle upon Tyne 13/02/2014
New York 13/02/2014