Based in Newton Abbott

Lucy Bishop

It's Nice To Meet You

Hello, my name is Lucy, travel enthusiast and mother of two. My interest in all things travel is deep rooted, I love the outdoors and I am very excited to be part of the Travel Counsellors family and to be following my passion.

I have travelled far and wide and have many experiences to draw upon when helping you plan your travel arrangements, including the Caribbean, New Zealand, the Middle East, Canada, the USA and Europe. I have experienced campervans, skiing, five star luxury all-inclusive, hiking and the practicalities of holidaying with small children in tow! I can advise you on the best places to go, at the right time of the year, to escape the rain! Be it an all American road trip, a luxury holiday, safari or some sun closer to home, I can deliver it in a timely and organized fashion.

Being independent, I have access to a huge variety of travel options through award winning technology and can tailor-make your travel exactly as you want it. I have the back up and expertise of a global company, together with their unique Travel Counsellors Trust, which gives you 100% financial protection and peace of mind. You can rest assured that I will give you the best possible service as I am available 24/7, not just during office hours and can arrange to come to your home or to meet for a coffee.

So whether it’s a honeymoon you’re after or to climb Kilimanjaro, you can rest assured you are in good hands!
Get in touch and I will respond straight away so we can start planning your next fabulous travel experience.
Thank you for visiting my page and I hope to hear from you soon.



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Family Adventure – USA style!

07 October 2019

Come with me on this journey through Colorado, Wyoming and Utah while I paint you a picture of my family summer holiday! Starting and ending in Denver, our road trip took us to some iconic destinations. Some may say that a three week road trip with a 5 and 7 year old is madness…but I beg to differ and my children had a great experience! The American Midwest is one of my favourite landscapes, the people are so friendly and the bears are not so scary (if kept at a distance)! Our first destination after we picked up our (large to us but small by American standards) SUV was Yellowstone National Park. It is some drive from Denver, around 12 hours, which we covered over 2 days. There is no getting away from it, it’s a long way, miles and miles of empty Wyoming plain dotted with small herds of bison, deer, cows and sheep. But the miles soon pass and we arrived at our log cabin just by the NE entrance to the park, our home for 3 nights. Almost off the grid, with no TV and no WiFi, our cosy cabin was perfectly located to explore Yellowstone. We were even visited one evening by a lone bison! I would like to impress on you the sheer size of Yellowstone National Park. It is vast. It can take 3 hours to drive from one side to the other. Luckily I had prepared for this and divided the park up into 3 manageable days. There is so much to see and the possibilities are endless. There are steaming geysers, stunning rivers, mountains to hike, back country camping, hot rivers to swim in, weird and wonderful geological formations to ogle! And the wildlife…well its amazing. We saw great herds of bison, and got stuck in a few slow-moving ones, 2 bears in the wild, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn to mention a few. West Yellowstone was our second stop in the park, where we went to the Grizzly and Wolf Rescue Centre. After a one-night stop in West Yellowstone we left the park, heading south towards Jackson. On the way stopping off to swim in the stunning Jackson Lake with the Teton mountains as the backdrop. My new favourite place for a wild swim! The famous cowboy town of Jackson is buzzing, with a real upmarket feel, designer shops and renowned restaurants. We stayed in a lovely hotel which had a great swimming pool. If you time it well and are in Jackson on the right night then you can go to the Rodeo. This is an absolute must, it really is. It is a proper Rodeo, not put on for the tourists, and the children loved it! The bull riding, the horse riding, lassoing, it was all incredible. Next time I am in Jackson I would like to get involved in the adventurous activities that are on offer, downhill mountain biking to name one, or skiing if it is Winter. There is also a plethora of hiking trails in the Tetons and they really are beautiful mountains. After a couple of days (which could have easily been a couple of weeks) in Jackson we head further south to Park City near Salt Lake City, Utah. Temperatures are on the rise now, edging 90 degrees. Park City was just a stop off on our way to the desert, but while here we did treat the children to a day at the Mountain Resort where there are mountain coasters, rope courses, chair rides, zip lines, trampolines. There is the Olympic Park here too, which would be more suitable to older children. After a recharge here it was back in the car for the 4/5 hour drive to Moab. Moab is known as a multi-sport Mecca as there is so much to do here! It is located on the Colorado River and next to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, so you can do everything from rafting to 4x4 tours. After the long hot drive we reached Moab and the car told us it was 102 degrees!! Yikes. We were staying for 3 nights, how would we all cope…!? Luckily I had booked us into this amazing little ranch that was literally an oasis in the desert. It had a natural spring which had enabled the owners to carefully landscape an area of trees and pools to keep cool, complete with a swimming pool and hammocks. We took the opportunity one morning to get up early and get into Arches National Park for an explore. This could only really done early, as by 10am it was getting hot again and time to escape back to the little oasis. Red rock, sunsets and relaxation were the order of play in Moab, too hot to do anything else! Oh that, and a little hunting for Native rock art and dinosaur footprints! Then it was back to Colorado, stopping at Glenwood Springs on the way and driving through the mountain resorts of Vail and Breckenridge. Glenwood Springs is well known for its hot springs and there are plenty of opportunities locally to have a dip in the warm waters. Rafting is also big business here and I lost count of the number of rafting trips we saw on our drive through! Back in Denver after two weeks on the road it was starting to feel like home and it was time to journey south to our friends’ cabin in the mountains. Pure fun ensued, driving ATV’s in the hills at night, staring at star filled skies in the silence, taking the children on an ATV adventure, shooting guns (safely) and getting to know the locals! After 4 days we were all covered in dust, the children needing 3 baths to return to clean! Things I loved about this road trip; the varied and beautiful scenery in this part of the USA, there is always something different to look at; the amount of wildlife, just roaming free; the friendly locals; the blue sky weather; the big skies. My overriding impression is of a place where one can be free, where there is no curtailing, where parking is free and nowhere is too busy! You can definitely find a little slice of heaven here, I already miss that cabin in the woods! It was an amazing holiday, one which I hope the children will remember (at least the older one), but I would say its not for the feint hearted. The distances are large but the driving is easy and as long as you prepare then time in the car or RV can be mostly painless, even with younger children. I would 100% recommend it! Get in touch if you want more advice and Enjoy the photos!

Family luxury, Algarve style!

24 April 2019

My Easter holiday this year was spent in part in the Algarve, a destination I love, due to its laid-back feel, fabulous beaches and great food! I often get requests from clients looking for that something special or luxurious, so while I was there I took the opportunity to scope out 4 lovely luxury hotels and see what they have to offer. Here follows my impressions of each hotel! First visit was to the Hilton Vilamoura Cascatas Golf Resort and Spa. It is located on the outskirts of Vilamoura but this is not a problem as they have their own train to run you down to the Marina and private beach area! A lovely 4-star property with a lagoon style pool and stylish rooms/apartments. The pool is great for children as it has a beach-like profile with a large shallow end for splashing about it. Rooms are great with spacious bathrooms and views out to the golf course or to the swimming pool. There really is something for everyone here with its new spa and golf course next door. Absolutely the best feature of the hotel is the kids club, it’s the best I have ever seen. It is huge and set mostly outdoors with lots of lovely shading from trees, lots of wooden climbing frames, slides, a zipline and a swimming pool! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel. Next up, the Anantara in Vilamoura, a stunning 5-star hotel which focuses on the customer experience. The staff were very welcoming and knowledgeable and can organise anything you desire. From the moment you step into the beautiful atrium it is bliss and you are treated to a welcome of freshly squeezed orange juice and local snacks. They have so much to enhance your experience, from a wine cellar where you can do wine tasting to a garden where you can go with the chef and help select ingredients to use in the cooking. You could also accompany the chef to the local food market to learn about local ingredients and Portuguese food. They even have their own tuk-tuk tours of Vilamoura and a private beach club in the Marina at the Tivoli hotel. Next door is the world-renowned Victoria Golf Course, the hotel is well set up for golfers with golf lockers, a golfers lounge and they will book all the tee times for you. No doubt it would be a luxury experience staying here! My third visit was to the 5-star Vila Vita Parc. Honestly, I would give it more stars if I could, it is sensationally beautiful. Gold dolphins at the front of the hotel give a hint at what is to come as you enter into an opulent reception area and get a glimpse through to the grounds and ocean beyond. The low-rise white buildings dotted around the immaculate grounds, perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea. The suites and villas, decorated in subtle hues of Algarve colours, greens and blues of the sea, bathrooms with typically Algarve tiling. I would describe the rooms as sumptuous, with scatter cushions and beautiful chairs and sofas to relax on. The beautiful infinity pool and state of the art spa, need I say more. A stunning array of gastronomic choice, 11 restaurants all offering delicious food. There is a Japanese restaurant, a Teppanyaki restaurant, Grill, Beach restaurant to name a few. The top drawer choice though is the 2 Michelin Star Ocean restaurant with sea views that would be difficult to match! I would live here if I could! Finally I visited Pine Cliffs Resort, a 5-star resort spread out over 70 something hectares and with over 700 units. It is large, but it is peaceful, walking around you would think just a few guests were staying. It is set in the loveliest and best keep grounds, you can take a botanical tour to find out all about the different trees, plants and flowers! 7 swimming pools, a 9 hole golf course on the cliffs and with a focus on health and well-being it is just fabulous. Very high standards prevail at this mostly self-catering luxury resort, the rooms, villas and townhouses all similarly decorated in typical Algarve colours, soft greens and blue. You can pre-order your food shopping so it is there when you arrive, there is even an elevator down to the beach! Highly recommended for those after a self-catering option within a luxury resort. If that has piqued your interest or you want to find out more, just get in touch!

Lapland - 10 top tips for booking the family trip they will never forget!

07 November 2018

Yes, it’s expensive and a bit chilly, but it is most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the whole family will love and never forget! In this short blog I have hopefully addressed some of your burning questions! Can I book all the elements myself or should I use a tour operator? It is much easier and much safer to use a reputable tour operator for this kind of trip, as they are the experts. I use three main companies who are tried and tested and highly recommended. It’s not worth the few pounds that may be saved by booking the elements yourself and exposing your money and holiday to the risk! How inclusive are the trips? This varies by tour operator. As a base level, you can expect the tour to include flights, transfers, accommodation, at least half board meals, thermal clothing and boots and some kind of Lapland based activity. The operators I use all include a PRIVATE meeting with the Big Man too. Then after this, some operators will include a variety of excursions like husky sledding and snow-mobiling and others will off this to book as an extra. It’s up to you how flexible you want to be! What is the accommodation like? You can book into a log cabin in the woods, a room in a hotel or even an apartment. Again, it varies by supplier. It’s worth noting that the cabins can be a short walk from the main hotels through the snow, making it necessary to put all the thermals on to go to dinner! The standard of accommodation is generally basic but good, warm and with everything you need for a few days in the snow. There is so much to do you won’t be in the rooms much! What are the locations like? This depends which trip you plump for, but there is choice! There are larger towns which, by their very nature, will be a bit busier, livelier and have the benefit of a few more activities on offer. In these kinds of resorts, you would be on half-board or self-catering and you would find small supermarkets and a range of restaurants and bars. The included excursions would be fewer and this leaves you free to choose and book your own. Lots of people enjoy this flexibility. At the other end of the scale are the more remote places with very little in terms of amenities, so these tend to be the more inclusive tours and are very magical as you are surrounded by the snowy wilderness! What is the food like? The food is simple, but filling! Even fussy children can find something they like at mealtimes! The hotels will also cater for any dietary requirements you may have. It’s a good idea to take some snacks in your luggage that you can stuff in everyone’s pockets for during the daytime, just in case hunger strikes! You have a full luggage allowance on the flights so no worries about space. Will the other half be grimacing at all the elves trying to get you to sing along? Not at all, I have never had a bad report from any of my clients! In fact, most parents agree that it is really very magical and that the entertainment is carefully planned to build the excitement levels, not get in your face! What ages are the trips most suitable for? Technically speaking, they do allow children two and under to go on the trips, but in all reality, it is not suitable for babies and very young children. It can be very cold, down to minus 30 degrees and little ones can’t move that well in the big suits, so they get cold and nobody wants a cold child on their hands! I would recommend that it is a trip best suited to children aged between 5 and 12. Older children will enjoy all the snow-based activities, so you don’t need to worry if you have older ones too! What is the best time to book? There are limited spaces on these trips, especially if you want to go near to Christmas so it’s best to get in early. The tour operators go on sale around 13-14 months in advance, so you can book now for December 2019. The earlier you book the more choice you will have of hotel, room and date, as well as departure airport. That said, if you did decide to go last minute it is always worth checking. There are still some spaces left for tours this Winter. Is there a way to spread the cost? There is no getting away from it, this is not a cheap holiday, but there are a couple of ways to lessen the impact! If you have decided that this is the trip you want to take, then get it booked a year in advance. You put down a non-refundable deposit and then have a year to pay off the balance, which my clients can do with me through an easy to use app! Always make sure you have adequate travel insurance in place when you book, just in case you do have to cancel for any reason. Where can you fly from? It depends which tour operator you go with. There are a high number of tours departing from London Gatwick, but also some regional departures (for example, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster and Exeter). I hope this blog has been helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to email me if you have further questions or queries that I can help with!

Fabulous family half term!

02 October 2018

May half term is my new favourite time to grab a relaxing week in the sun with the family and I will tell you why! It can work out quite a bit cheaper to go for some early summer sun in Europe then, than wait until the summer holidays. It is also the start of the summer season. You feel like a butterfly emerging into the warmth and light, so it’s great to get that sun and Vitamin D in your winter bodies! It's hopefully the perfect time to set yourselves up for the oncoming long and glorious summer in the UK! I chose a lovely 5-star hotel in south-east Majorca in a little harbour called Portopetro. The hotel is the Blau Priviledge Resort and Spa. It looked interesting and had good reviews and is located in the picturesque south-east part of Majorca, somewhere I had not been before. I had hired a car, for about £25 for the week, so we drove the shortish 50 minutes from the airport to arrive at the low-rise sprawling hotel. Greeted with Prosecco I was happy and even happier when we saw that they transported people around in golf buggies! Needless to say, the kids loved it! Scooting along to our rooms, we had been upgraded to interconnecting rooms (the joy), I noticed how clean the resort looked (and how quiet). We had fabulous views from our humungous rooms, overlooking one of the 3 pools and one small inlet and beach. The sea water was crystal clear loveliness. There were 3 pools at the hotel, one of which was adults only. They were all really nice, clean and clear with a good supply of loungers. We based ourselves at the one by our room, it was a very deep pool at one end, so great for the kids to practice their diving skills. A small railing cordoned off a shallow area for the very small children too. There was also a poolside bar, which served great lunches and cocktails, so you really didn't have to go far if you didn't want to. The beach here was small but nice enough and the water was lovely for swimming. One day we prized ourselves off the loungers and dragged the kids out of the pool to explore along the coast in our Fiat 500 and stumbled upon one of many stunning coves. Bliss. We had booked half board at the hotel, I have never done this before, always preferring to cater for was a bit apprehensive as to what the buffet restaurant would offer. I needn't have been concerned as the food was fabulous, so much choice and it was all so fresh and tasty! The children were adventurous with their choices too, once they realized they could choose any dessert they fancied after! I was thoroughly impressed by the food, and I do like my food! Other facilities at the hotel include a gym and indoor swimming pool (which was great with water jets and a Jacuzzi), a kid’s club which was well run and offered a choice of activities, they have bikes to take out and they did have evening entertainment, albeit of the more relaxed variety! I would highly recommend this hotel for a lovely, relaxing week, with or without the children! Hmm, I might go back one day (and this is strictly against my 'never go back to the same place' rule)!

Local travel agent explores Regent Seven Seas!

21 June 2018

I pushed the boat out last week after taking the opportunity to peek behind the scenes of Explorer, a breath-taking cruise ship from world renowned luxury cruising company Regent Seven Seas. I was one of a group of 60 fellow Travel Counsellors who took advantage of an exclusive invite to go on board Explorer while she was docked in Southampton, and experience first-hand all that this impressive ship has to offer for luxury cruising. Officially welcomed to the Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ fleet in 2016 and christened by Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco, Seven Seas Explorer boasts all-inclusive luxury from stern to bow, with 375 all-suite balcony rooms and speciality restaurants, including Parisian themed fine-dining and Pan-Asian gastronomic experiences. The Explorer is an absolutely stunning ship and I feel very privileged to experience an all-inclusive Regent Seven Seas cruise for myself. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to my customers who I know will love everything this ship has to offer. Throughout the summer months, Regent Seven Seas Explorer will be setting sail from Southampton to visit a host of Scandinavian ports, as well as the Mediterranean and South Africa later this year.

First time cruiser, brand new ship!

21 June 2018

As a first-time cruiser I was dubious about whether I would enjoy any time onboard a huge cruise ship! In my mind it would be impersonal, crowded and tedious! What I actually discovered is a new-found love of cruising and a desire to shout about it! I was invited, along with many of my travel colleagues, to experience the brand new Carnival Horizon for two nights in April. I would join the ship in Naples and sail to Livorno via Rome. I couldn't pass up this opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. Initially (and still now) I was taken aback by the sheer size of this vessel as she idled in port, Vesuvius and Naples old town in the background. How could it possibly float? I was unsure if I would sleep well whilst we were sailing to Rome overnight. Making my way to my stateroom I was impressed by the décor. Being new it was contemporary and funky, not a swirly carpet or dark green drape in sight. Our cabin was lovely, an outside stateroom with two bathrooms! It was nice to have the natural light from the window and the beds were comfy and the towels were soft and fluffy. So far it was ticking the boxes! There was so much to do onboard, it would keep most people entertained for hours! From the skyride, to basketball, to the waterpark, there is lots to do. My children would love it. Swimming pools are fab and plentiful, with adults only areas too. My favourite part was the main pool deck, where I found myself lazing in the sun enjoying a few (too many) cocktails and watching The Greatest Showman on the big screen. Fab! The food was great and there was lots of choice. Two of my favourites were the eateries on the main pool deck, where you could source a great burger or a spicy burrito! Happy days. The main restaurant had lots of choice and the buffet serves all the time, so there is no shortage of food. I was surprised that the ship felt so quiet despite the fact that there were over 4200 onboard! Where were they? They weren't all in Rome! I must admit I was sad when we docked in Livorno after a lovely few days. I think cruising has its place and I would now recommend it, hopefully one day I will get to take my family off into the sunset on one of these amazing ships!

2 Weeks, 3 Countries, alot of sun (and Pizza)!

19 February 2018

My young children and enduring partner are getting used to the fact that I love a good adventure. So when I told them that we were going to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia for our summer holiday, there was only minor eye rolling and sighing! When I showed the children some pictures the excitement started to build. I had built the itinerary carefully, choosing different locations, but not too many and importantly, not too far apart so that it turned into a mega road trip (which I am saving for them in the future). The children were most excited about going on the 'orange plane' that they see frequently flying over our house, the littlest one not quite understanding that it wasn't the exact same plane that we would be going on! So off we trundled to the airport for a tea time flight to Venice. Little did we know, we would be sat on the aircraft for two hours while numerous official people counted, and re-counted (and counted again) how many passengers were on board. This meant that we were late to pick up our hire car. Thank goodness the kind lady at the hire place waited for us, it was after midnight when we eventually found the rental desk. Venice airport car rental area is not easy to navigate around at all! A short drive from the airport brought us to our first hotel, the Novotel in Mestre. Mestre is a suburb of Venice on the mainland and much easier to reach by car, yet only 20 minutes from Venice too, so a bit more convenient! The staff were fantastic here, very helpful and friendly. The room was functional but spacious for four of us and plenty good enough for the two nights we were to stay here. One extra bonus was the small pool outside, which was a godsend as it was 42 degrees! We decided to drive into Venice for our one day there, mostly because of the heat. We didn't want to be stuck on potentially hot public transport with hot children so we found a multi-story and it was all pretty easy actually. We purchased two tickets for the water taxis and off we went. I had no real plan for Venice, we only had one day there, I just wanted to get a feel for the place and see if it is somewhere I'd like to re-visit. I can definitely say yes, I will visit again, just us grown-ups! It really is beautiful; the buildings, the narrow alleys, the plentiful squares. Restaurants serving tantalizing food and the best ice-cream parlour I have ever been to (see picture)! It would be fantastic for a weekend of culture, eating and drinking, watching the world go by! Our next stop was about a 45-minute drive from Venice, along the coast near a town called Caorle. I had booked usthree3 nights at Portofelice holiday park. I've never been to one of these kinds of places before and again, wanted to experience it for myself. It does exactly what it says on the tin! Sun and fun! It was still unbearably hot, so we were very glad of the air conditioning in our van, even if it was struggling itself to keep the heat down! The van was one of their basic ones, quite small but had everything we needed for three nights. If I was going for longer I would have chosen one of the more luxurious cabins. The grounds were lovely, it is a really well-kept park, very clean and well organized with staff always buzzing around doing things! The beach was a five-minute walk through the trees, again it was very clean and lovely. Excellent facilities in the form of three large swimming pools, a supermarket and a couple of restaurants. All in all, a big tick from me! My excitement started to rise as we headed into Slovenia! The total driving time to our next hotel would have been three hours but it took us best part of a day, because we kept stopping to gasp in awe at this beautiful little country. It is definitely my new favourite place and I couldn't recommend it highly enough. We drove up towards our hotel (Hotel Resje, near Bohinj) along the Soca River, famous for its blue water and stunning scenery. We found ourselves driving over a bridge, I glanced down and saw people swimming in one of the best river swim spots I've ever seen (see picture). We grabbed our swimming stuff and climbed down to join them. The kids and us jumping off into this lovely refreshing river, floating downstream - pure bliss! Hotel Resje was lovely, a big clean room for us and a balcony to admire the mountains. About a 10-minute drive to the nearest town, then a further 10-minute drive to Lake Bohinj, largest lake in Slovenia. I actually can't describe the beauty of this place, everyone should go there. It's an outdoor lover’s paradise, so much to do and the scenery to do it in! Swimming in this lake is the highlight of the holiday, it is crystal clear and warm! We had three nights here, but I should have booked more. A visit to the Triglav National Park would not be complete without a visit to world famous Lake Bled (although Bohinj was better), where we got a luge down the mountain! Bled is lovely too but a lot busier, as it's very accessible from the capital, Ljubljana. Sad to leave Slovenia, but excited for the last six nights of our adventure, to be spent on the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia, in Porec. I'd booked us a two-bedroom apartment at a Valamar hotel. Valamar has a chain of properties to suit all budgets, dotted along the Croatian coast and again I can highly recommend. We were at the Diamant Residence and it was a little gem. Self-catering, but with access to all the hotel facilities including their kid's club and amazing pool complex. A short five-minute walk through the shade to the 'beach' and the crystal-clear sea, ready for jumping into! Actual beaches are hard to come by in this part of Croatia, but it was lovely still, jumping off the concrete platforms into the deep, clear water. There’s lots to do here and I'd recommend it for families. It’s a 20-minute walk into Porec, with its lovely marina and lots of boat trips to choose from. Again, much to do in Istria, lots of tasty food (the fish platters looked amazing) and plenty of Aperol Spritz to wash it down! After six nights in Croatia, it was time to head back to Venice (about three hours) for our flight home and time to reflect on an amazing adventure for us and the little ones! Let's hope they remember some of it and can one day pronounce Slovenia correctly!

Kids first ski trip!

19 February 2018

Christmas was approaching, thoughts were turning to Turkey, crackers and who's family we were going to be with on the big day! My travel-experience-seeking brain started to scheme about getting away and the possibility of reaching the Alpine slopes began to become a reality! Naturally, I didn't want to take the easy way and book us onto (very expensive) flights to the French Alps but thought that driving all the way there from Bristol would be fun. And cheaper. So, I started to plan our route. We decided to opt for self-catered accommodation on the slopes, as there are some lovely apartments which are very good value. I booked snow chains, ski passes, ski school and equipment hire and off we went. We set off the Friday before Christmas, the car brimming with essentials. Three and a half hours later we boarded the cross-channel ferry for the short crossing to Calais, a good opportunity to stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat before a long drive the other side. I had booked us into a quirky bed and breakfast at Aube, about three and a half hours from Calais. As we pulled up, I found myself looking at an imposing old chateau set back from the road. The lady who answered the door spoke little English, and I little French, but using a combination of signals and smiles we got through and up to our lovely bedroom! What a gem of a place! We all slept so well! After a lovely traditional breakfast, we were off on the final leg of the journey, racking up those miles on the French motorway. Now, I love a good road trip, but even I have to admit that the drive down from Calais to Lyon is a tad dull. There is not much to look at, so much so we were even struggling to play I-spy! Thankfully we did eventually arrive in Plagne 1800, having stopped at a supermarket on the way to cram more food and drink into the car. The apartment was a winner, it was spacious and well-equipped. It was also conveniently right by the ski lifts, right by the ski hire shop and best of all it was right by the ESF ski school. We could take the children to their lessons in the morning and then be on the lift for a couple of hours skiing across the large La Plagne area. The skiing was great, a fab resort for families with lots of blue runs. We also hired a couple of two-man sledges to use after the pistes were free of skiers. This was great fun and the kids loved it! We also took them swimming in an open-air pool, with the snow falling on our heads, what an experience! The best part was the opportunity to take our children skiing in the afternoons, and wow they learn quickly! The eldest one was bombing down by the end of the week, me behind her, yelling 'slow down'. The youngest took a bit more encouragement (in the form of chocolat chaud) but did get there and did a good amount of independent snow ploughing by the end! Skiing on Christmas Day was special, and I booked a lovely restaurant for lunch, then subsequently ate too much cheese fondue! We found that it was beneficial to go back to our apartment for lunch most days, it was good to get all the kit off and warm up, before heading out in the afternoon. Dinners were easy too, with a SPAR shop in the village that was well stocked. Then came departure day and it was all going so well. We had managed to clean the apartment, put the chains on the car and were ready. It had snowed a considerable amount for the previous 24 hours, so I was very glad we had the chains, and as we headed out of the garage we realized why you need them. The roads were piled high with snow and tractors everywhere trying to get them clear, as this was changeover day in resort! We gingerly made our way down the road, very slowly as we were skidding and sliding all over the place! Down the main road off the mountain we went, joining other cars making the same journey. We got near the bottom of the mountain when it all went wrong, and we found ourselves stuck in traffic that just wasn't moving. The snow had caused such a problem and could not be cleared quickly enough. It took us six hours to do the next 10 miles. I'll say no more. Except that I am glad we had no flight booked, we would never have made it! The journey in reverse was long, but the miles do pass, as does the time, and we made it to the accommodation I had booked for the way home at around 10pm that evening, having set off 12 hours earlier! Another lovely property and just the right amount of comfort, we slept like babies. Next day to the ferry (which was delayed) and then home was in our sights and I have to say I was glad to pull up outside our house! All in all, a success. I'd drive again. Bring on next season!

A Brace of Welsh Staycations - Part Two!

30 July 2017

The second part to my Welsh Adventure was an entirely different kettle of fish...camping with the children! No adult time, no leisurely meals and bottles of wine. More hastily drunk cans of G&T while the kids run riot! Still, I loved it, they loved it, camping rules! The destination was the Gower, less than 2 hours from Bristol to Three Cliffs Bay campsite. What a lovely campsite it was too, not too big, only 2 fields, and lots of space between tents (essential). The facilities are excellent, with individual shower/toilet rooms with under floor heating! They were kept clean most of the time so it was a pleasure to have a shower! The only drawback is no separate loos so if all the rooms were being used for showers it was a bit of a pain, but this only happened once so let's not worry about that! A great onsite shop for all the essentials too. About a 20 minute stroll from the campsite brought up to the lovely Three Cliffs Bay on the first day, which you can only get to by walking and therefore this keeps the crowds away! The children really loved the sea and running in the sparkling shallow water. The next day brought wall to wall sunshine and a day trip to Oxwich Bay which was much busier, however if you walk along the dunes a bit you can find your own space on the lovely sand. Cockles and razor clams were to be found at low tide, little explorers love it. Then it was business as usual and after a windy and rainy night in the tent I was greeted by a wall of rain when I opened up the zip in the morning! No fear, we carried on...well, we cheated and went to the cinema! Rock-pooling was the order of the afternoon, where there was the odd shrimp, and a few crab shells...the children didn't seem to notice! Our final day took us to Worms Head for more rock-pooling and a brisk walk along the headland (more rain), a car picnic (due to the rain) and then it was over to Llangennith for a spot of bodysurfing! Wetsuits on and battling the wind to get to the sea, luckily it was warm! Phew what a busy week and a successful camping trip, although I did not drink enough Gin.....

A Brace of Welsh Staycations - Part One!

30 July 2017

The British Staycation is a growing trend, with rising holiday costs and squeezed budgets. During July I did the Welsh double, a mini-break (adults only) to Snowdonia and a family camping trip to the Gower! The first thing to mention is the weather, it was most unlike Wales and treated us to lots of good, warm sunshine! This was a very good start! I love a good mini-break and so you can imagine my delight when my mother arrived at our doorstep one Wednesday teatime to look after the children for a few days so we could escape! Off we raced, 3 hours up to Betws-y-coed, a small town in the heart of Snowdonia. I had booked us in to a B and B called Afon View, which had good reviews and billed itself as a Guest House with a Hotel feel. The location couldn't have been better, right on the main drag through the town, so we could achieve the all important walk to the pub of an evening. The hosts were lovely, an English couple who always had a smile and an update on the weather! Our room was great too, nicely decorated, contemporary and the best bit was a small seating area so we didn't have to lie on the bed to watch Wimbledon! I've always loved a good hike and so on the first day of the two we had off we went to Snowdon. Of course this was after eating my own bodyweight in bacon, sausage and egg! Collecting supplies for lunch on the way we made our way to Pen-y-pass, to find a very full carpark. Luckily there is a bigger carpark down the road about 3 miles away where you can park and get a bus back up to Pen-y-pass. It just adds to the adventure! Suncream on, swig of water and we are off. Now I thought we were going to stroll up the mountain, stopping lots to take in the view and enjoy the sun. What really occurred is that we raced up to the top as quickly as we could, overtaking other walkers young and old and the odd dog! We took the Pyg Track which is one of the more tricky routes and one hour and 40 minutes later we hit the summit. It was just as beautiful as the last time I was there, the view off the back was epic, we could see for miles around. It was also flippin' cold up there so we put our layers on and went for a quick hot chocolate! You see, there is now a café at the top, for those that have taken the train to the summit from Llanberis. The train is only small but is a great way to get up if you are less mobile, although it's about £35 for a return journey. The chilly wind up there meant no hanging around, just time for a photo and a high five, then off back down the Miners Track (which is a lot flatter for longer), stopping for lunch on the way back to the carpark. We passed a lot of people struggling up the mountain and I was very glad that we were on the way back down as the knees had started to creak by then! Back down to the welcome car and back to Betws-y-coed for a lovely dinner of pizza and wine in Hangin' Pizzeria. It was really good food, I can highly recommend it! The second of our two day adventure brought more good weather, well no rain at least so I was happy! The activity of the day was chosen, Canyoning it was! I called George who runs Snowdonia Adventure Activites and he had space for us on his Canyoning Extreme trip that day. With the little rain that had fallen recently I was dubious about how 'extreme' it was going to be but I need not have worried, there was plenty to get the adrenaline flowing! It was 3 hours of sliding, abseiling, jumping and swimming our way down a stunning gorge. The 'extreme' part was sliding off a waterfall into a deep pool and then climbing up the side and jumping in, the highest available jump being around 40ft...eek! A big enough drop to know you're falling! That evening saw two very hungry and tired Bristolians scoffing burgers in the local pub and sleeping very soundly. In the morning we said goodbye to friends we had made at the bed and breakfast and Snowdonia, farewell until next time!

St Ives

17 May 2017

Beautiful, rugged, dramatic and relaxing! All words I would use to describe St Ives on our most recent trip there to see the family. There is no doubt that the sea air certainly makes the children sleep well, it has the same effect on the grown-ups too! I just love to stand on the beach, drinking in the fresh air, tasting the salt on my tongue and listening to the children playing in the sand. And I mean, IN the sand! Something comes over them when we finally plonk ourselves on the lovely soft sand, they roll around in it, they splash in the (freezing cold) Atlantic water and they chase the seagulls! Of course, they never get close! St Ives and the surrounding West Cornwall coast is beautiful, with its many small coves, some easy to reach, others need a bit more effort. You can take your own picnic, just beware of the swooping gulls, they will have your food if they see it! In St Ives, you can enjoy the beach all day, in and out of the sea, fishing in the rock-pools, climbing over the rocks, and building sand castles. Then you can retire to the town for an ice-cream or a cream tea, or even a nice cold rattler (that's cider, yum)! Then back down to the harbor later to have your fish and chips by the sea. It's just perfect. I'm already looking forward to my next trip in a couple of weeks!

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