Sent by Sandra Blackwell
Bognor Regis 10/04/2019
Based in Barnham
Hello! I'm Mike Frank, your local Travel Counsellor, and I am here to ensure your get the best out of your travel experiences, from the initial sourcing and booking stage right through to when you return. Having near-lifelong experience in the travel industry, I know my way around all the tour operators, airlines and accommodation suppliers to pull together and tailor-make the ideal trip for you, whether a business trip or leisure vacation.
So, your save time and stress and receive a great deal on your perfect holiday.
Whether you want a boutique hotel in an exotic location for an unforgettable honeymoon, a shopping trip with friends, a family holiday in the sun, a weekend break away or a round-the-world trip, I know what to do. Cruises and UK breaks are also products I am familiar with....and I have been in travel a long time!
My network of fellow Travel Counsellors lets you tap into unrivalled expertise and travel know-how, setting you free from the contraints limiting ordinary travellers such as tour operators fixed travel dates. My specialist knowledge of the world's airlines means I can secure you excellent fares, streamline tricky connections and get you to out-of-the-way places.
I'd be delighted to share my particular love and in-depth experience of two beautiful and fascinating places - Japan, which I visit every year with my Japanese wife, and the Caribbean, from many personal holidays.
My business is backed up by super support from over 300 staff in my Head Office, who provide all the necessary business know-how and administrative support to ensure I am free to really relate with my clients, not just transact with them.
Call or e-mail today with your travel dreams! I respond quickly!
However you plan to travel, my service is always first class.
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.
12 December 2019
Having recently had clients returning from a Peru trip I booked and giving great feedback, I decided with my wife Peru would be our main holiday destination this year. After treating ourselves to Latam’s business class on their 787 Dreamliner, and after an overnight stay at Lima’s airport hotel, we flew to Cusco, an hour’s flight, to begin our guided tour adventure. First stop was the Incan sites of Moray and Maras, before visiting the Salineras natural salt pans. The first three night were spent at the Casa Andina Sagrado hotel in the Sacred Valley, which came with it’s own pet alpacas grazing on the hotel lawns. After 3 days touring the attractions and Inca sights of the Sacred Valley it was off by train to Aguas Calientas, the town at the foothills of Machu Picchu. Our guide met us at the crack of dawn, as did the rain that morning, so after taking the bus up the winding mountain track to reach Machu Picchu, we waited a while for the rain to cease before being taken around this magnificent sample of Inca architecture. The swirling clouds often coming from well below in the valley added to the mystique of the location. After several hours up at Machu Picchu, it was time to get the bus back down to town and onwards on the train to Poroy, near Cusco, a slow leisurely scenic journey of nearly 4 hours. Our hotel was the colonial Costa del Sol Ramada, very different to the Casa Andina. Our same guide met us next morning for a tour of the city and surrounding Inca ruins in the hills above the city. After a free day, next was a 10 hour bus trip to Puno, which was actually a luxury coach complete with tour guide and hostess which we didn’t expect. The trip stopped at more historical sights and a beautiful Baroque church en route as well as a lovely buffet lunch at a scenic stop at half-way where the people coming the other way on the bus meet. Later, the bus stopped at the highest point on the route, at over 14,200 feet, which didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would. Given the Andean scenery and information from the bus guide, the journey actually passed quicker than can be expected. Puno is the main city on Lake Titicaca and the Casa Andina, a few minutes out of the main city was again our hotel choice. Next day was a full day spent on Lake Titicaca and it’s islands, where it’s inhabitants show their ancient cultures, way of life and display textile techniques and other traditions. After a lunch cooked by traditional underground ovens using hot stones, it was onwards on the boat to the floating islands, where reed bales are made in sufficient numbers to turn into small islands that support the communities that live on them. A very unique way of living for sure. From Puno, our flight back to Lima was from the airport at Juliaca, an hour away, which it has to be said is an unattractive city so thankfully we didn’t stop there. Another guide met us to take us to the Miraflores area of Lima which is the location of Huaca Pucllana pre-Inca temple and it’s Larco Herrera museum. We decided to avoid central Lima and it’s awful traffic and stay in Miraflores, with another excellent Casa Andina hotel stay. It was a trip that all went better than we had expected, with lovely hotels and superb guides escorting us. Our trip was arranged by our ground handlers for South America, so I will be delighted to source your South American holiday through them too.
21 August 2019
For my wife's 60th birthday in July, we decided on a Prague city break as neither of us had been there before. EasyJet took us there, and the airport in Prague is overdue a modernisation refit - arriving and departing passengers all mingling in the piers! The lovely Grand Bohemia hotel was our choice - really central but in a quieter sector. A bonus was that with the deluxe room we booked, they provide guests with a daily transport pass for the underground, tram and bus network. However, many of the attractions of Prague are walk-able, and as it thankfully wasn't too hot during our time there, (mid July) walk we did. It has to be said that Prague was absolutely heaving with visitors! The array and colours of the historic buildings around every corner was amazing, clearly one of the major attractions. A great relaxing way to see many are with a cruise boat along the Vltava river. We attended 3 concerts in all, very reasonably priced, one lunchtime one up in the castle area and two held in churches around the town squares. After a great three-night stay we left by train for Berlin, which I have to say was a bit of a disappointing experience. It isn't just the UK rail network that needs major investment! The train left half an hour late despite being at the platform, the carriage was hot and much confusion rained over the passengers seat allocations - and this was in First Class! The trip itself was unremarkable, mostly rural countryside and much of it following the Elbe river valley. I have relatives in Berlin hence our visit there, and it was a family occasion for my auntie's 90th birthday weekend.
02 April 2019
A friend of mine retired to Bangkok and now runs a business taking people to lake fishing venues around the city. He invited me to come along for a few days, so in early March 2019, I did just that. I flew out on Thai Airways' big A380 superjumbo to arrive into 34C sunshine. We met up and I stayed at his apartment conveniently close to the new airport. A variety of waterways was explored and fished in, the pretty colourful tropical fish caught in contrast to the murky green waters they came from in one particular location visited! Perhaps the most memorable day was spent at Bungsaram fishing park, a purpose-built large lake that had been stocked with huge Mekong catfish and enormous carp-like specimens and several were caught during my day there. Naturally, we spent some time in the city as well especially the evenings, which was easy to reach via the new airport train service. A local night market was close by which proved perfect for Thai street food whilst having the spectacle of landing aircraft right above you! Bangkok isn't the most obvious of locations for a fishing holiday but given the amount of different waterways around the area anyone intending to do some fishing will not be disappointed. I will be delighted to help with travel arrangements and assist with my contact there to escort you to the interesting fishing venues around.
02 May 2017
Marrakech and Essaouira visit 22 – 26 March 2017 I was one of 40 Travel Counsellors hosted by the Moroccan Tourist Board to a fam trip here, my first time anywhere in Morocco. Our trip started in an unfortunate way with easyJet having to switch aircraft at Gatwick once we had already boarded, but after a two hour delay we were on our way and three and a bit hours later landed at Marrakech’s smart new Manara airport. That Marrakech is known as the red city is immediately apparent from the buildings around the airport and the drive into the city. Our base for the first three nights was the Movenpick Hotel, located centrally by one of the nice wide boulevards in the city. After a late lunch and familiarising ourselves with the hotel layout, it was off to the famous Marrakesh souk. Fortunately we had an expert guide with us who knew every alleyway there, otherwise it would be so easy to get lost in the maze. The sights and smells of all the local produce being sold is amazing and all the small shops and stalls seemed crammed with stock. At sunset, our group were taking to the roof terrace of the Riad Almaha for drinks and this overlooks the famous Jamaa El Fna square where Marrakesh’s street vendors and entertainers come and ply their trade. A fascinating mix of local cultural activities to say the least ! For dinner we were hosted to the Salama restaurant for our first experience of Morocco’s mezze food. And very nice it was too. The restaurant was very busy apart from our group, and yes, came with belly dancers as entertainment. A sunny but chilly morning greeted us next day for our visit to the Royal Palm hotel, which is around 15 minutes outside the city. The hotel has a superb gold course, set with the snow-topped Atlas mountains in the background, and also features private villas, and excellent leisure facilities for a relaxing break away from the city centre. After a tour of the various room categories it was off next to the incredible Royal Mansour hotel, featured in the recent TV series on the world’s most desirable hotels. This property is a series of two storey Riad’s, each coming with a private courtyard surrounded by luxurious rooms. Not surprisingly, heads of state and Middle Eastern dignitary make up the majority of the guests. A superb lunch was laid out by the newly redesigned pool and garden area, but was hastily moved to the main indoor restaurant due to the cool weather. Our time spent at the hotel was simply awesome. The afternoon saw our group having a choice of activities – either a Moroccan cooking class or a trip to a local karting track. I opted for the karting, something I’ve never done before. Whilst I enjoy driving generally, I quickly found out I’m no Lewis Hamilton in the making round a tight karting course. We reconvened at our hotel and were taken for dinner at the superb Le Palace restaurant, again a lively affair made all the livelier but our group in high spirits and the music being played. Another bright cool morning greeted us next day, and today it was a visit to the Ouirgane valley in the foothills of the high Atlas mountains. Marrakesh’s superb dual carriageway roads leading out of the city gave way to more twisting roads as it snaked it’s way up a valley until at around 1000 metres up we arrived at a track that leads to the hideaway boutique L’Amandier hotel and villas. Chill-out hotels and locations don’t come much better than this, with just 6 rooms and 9 villas, divided by scented gardens and paths lined with orange and lemon bushes. The closeness of the mountains, with the snow line at around 1800 metres, provides a dramatic backdrop. The utter peace and quiet here was astounding, the only other man-made sounds was the distant hum of exited children from a small school down the valley and a call to prayer from a mosque some distance away in the hills. We felt privileged to experience and be hosted by such a property in such a location. All too soon it was back the hour and a half to Marrakesh and dinner this time at the superb Jad Mahal restaurant. Next morning our group checked-out of the excellent Movenpick hotel for the trip down to Essaouria on the Atlantic coast, some two and a half hours away. En route, we saw the famous goats grazing in argan oil nut bushes, some balancing on seemingly impossibly thin branches to access the nuts. Further along the road, we stopped at an Argan oil cooperative and were shown how the oil is extracted from the seeds and processed into all manner of cosmetics and soaps etc. As the drive towards Essaouira continued, the countryside became noticeably more fertile and greener, and soon the Atlantic came into view and the city of Essaouira. Our hotel for our last night was the Atlas, right across from the wide beach and around half a mile from the medina and souk in the city centre. After a visit and hosted late lunch at the Sofitel hotel & spa, a couple of miles outside the city, we had time for a visit to Essaouira’s medina and beach area, before our Atlas hotel treated us to a sunset party at their beachclub annex. Our last night’s dinner was at the lovely L’heure Blue restaurant where the time came to thank our brilliant Moroccan Tourist Board hosts for a wonderful trip. It was a pre-dawn start next morning for the trip back to Marrakesh airport and our this time on-time flight home. It was a fantastic trip very well put together to sample the best of the best in the area. I’d thoroughly recommend Marrakesh and the hotels & restaurants we visited.
12 June 2015
In May 2015, I was one of four Travel Counsellors granted a place on a Holland America cruise experience from Venice to Istanbul on board the Nieuw Amsterdam. After an early morning flight from Gatwick on a BA A320, I met up with Holland America's sales team on arrival at Venice and a quick transfer to the ship followed. Check-in at the Venice cruise terminal seemed a little laborious but I have experienced that at other cruise terminals too. The ship looked magnificent docked outside, and once on board, looked magnificent inside too. After settling into my standard balcony cabin and a lovely lunch, watching the huge ship manoeuvre out of its berth and proceed down the Venice channel was quite a sight, and a guide talked over the ship's intercom about the sights of Venice visible from the top deck. I had earlier this year been fortunate enough to experience two other new cruise ships, and the standard balcony cabin I had on the Nieuw Amsterdam was noticeably larger than the equivalent on the other ships, especially the bathroom. A day at sea followed during which our group were formally shown around the ship and attended a sales seminar. In essence, the Nieuw Amsterdam is a premium-rated ship without the high-tech features the latest superliners have and makes for a wonderful relaxing cruise that clearly appeals to cruisers worldwide, given the number of Chinese and Australian guests during my stay. As with other large modern cruise ships, dining options are considerable and the food fantastic. The ship has a large spa and beauty salon and a big gym, facing forward above the bridge for those great sea views. The ship's décor and paintings reflect Holland America's maritime history, and follows in the tradition of other Holland America ships. The small port of Katakolon in Greece was our first stop, from where excursions to Mount Olympus can be taken. There seemed ample opportunities to visit Mt Olympus independently, so I opted for a stroll around the town and a fresh fish lunch at the quayside. Pireaus by Athens was our stop next day, I joined several of our group on an open-top hop-on hop-off bus tour around Athens ending up at the Acropolis which seemed heaving with tourists. The next day was spent scenic cruising up the Dardanelles straights on our way to a mid-afternoon arrival into Istanbul. Again, expert guides were giving commentary on what we were seeing as the ship came closer to port, and gave good tips on where to go in the city. The ship docked in time to catch a taxi to the last hour of trading at the Grand Bazaar followed by a visit to the famous Blue Mosque, although being a Friday evening I couldn't get to see the inside. Several members of our group then decided upon a lively evening sampling the life around Taksim Square, and I willingly joined to get a feel for Istanbul's nightlife on a busy Friday evening. A late-night stroll took us back down to the ship along some very uneven pavements for our last night on board. After breakfast the next morning it was time to thank our Holland America hosts and say farewell to my colleagues and other travel agent participants as we dispersed to airports or onward arrangements. It was a hugely enjoyable few days on a truly excellent comfortable ship and I feel privileged to have experienced the Nieuw Amsterdam first hand. I stayed on in Istanbul for another two nights at the Radisson Blu airport hotel as I wanted to study Turkish Airlines' ever expanding operations, being keen on airline and airport operational matters. Had a great flight back to Gatwick on one of their new A321s which I was surprised even had a chef on board as part of the crew. As it happened the flight routing took us close to Venice, which I could clearly make out from my window seat, and from where my trip began. A very fitting ending to a memorable week.
16 February 2012
In May 2011, I attended a travel trade function run by a Caribbean hotel association marketing company and met with the general manager from the exclusive Curtain Bluff hotel in Antigua. It was a fantastic opportunity to experience his hotel first hand. We flew with Virgin Atlantic and their flights both ways were almost fully booked, The transfer from the airport was approx 30 minutes or so across the island to the Curtain Bluff hotel. It truly is a fabulous property, built on a headland with a calm bay to one side and open sea to the other, every room having a sea view of one or the other. The hotel is owned and run by an eccentric American lady who lives in an enormous villa at the end of the property, and she is very hands on with meeting and greeting guests during dinner and other times, and pays maticulous attention to detail. Staff are mainly sourced from the local village and become part of the family of which the owner is at the helm. The Curtain Bluff is the most all-inclusive of any all-inclusive hotels I have been to, by that I mean they include activities like deep-sea fishing, snorkelling trips and other watersports as part of daily life. Many guests we spoke to have come back there year after year, in fact one couple said it was their 19th visit. A testimonial in itself if ever there was one. After 5 nights of sheer paradise, it was time to sample another property in the form of the popular St James Club, This is around 20 minutes from the Curtain Bluff past English Harbour, and is again set on a headland. This is a much bigger property with both villa and a hotel to choose accommodation from, many of the villas are in private or timeshare hands. The St James Club is a nice enough hotel, but naturally lacks the sheer quality and exclusive feeling of somewhere like the Curtain Bluff so it is unfair to compare the two. Antigua itself is still fairly undeveloped. sign posting virtually non-existant and in some areas wild goats wonder aimlessly around totally oblivious to traffic. If you are interested in maritime history, a visit to Nelsons Dockyard is a must. For shopping, head to the capital St Johns, where the cruise ships arrive daily so shopping becomes a serious occupation. Antiguans know how to party and none is better than the Friday evening gathering at Shirley Heights, a sunset lookout point with great views down to English Harbour and venue for a barbeque and knees-up till late. One other unique experience I sampled was the Stingray City visit, where you can swim with and handfeed stingrays and learn all about these strange fish. As with most holidays, my third trip to Antigua was over too soon, and I hope to go back there again to sample a few more of their famous 365 beaches. !
26 March 2012
In late May 2011, I sampled the new extention to the Japanese bullet train network that runs down to Kagoshima in the south of Kyushu Island in Western Japan. The route is covered by the Japan Rail pass that can be purchased for travel on the JR rail system in weekly durations. On arrival at the smart new rail terminal in Kagoshima, a local train was used to get to the resort town of Ibusuki Onsen and our stay at the Ibusuki Iwasaki Resort Hotel, for a 2 night seaside stay. The resort is in a volcanic area of Japan and a highlight of staying here is to experience a natural sandbath, where you can lie in hot sand heated naturally by volcanic activity below. The hotel itself and the dark sand beach were quiet during our midweek stay. A local guide was hired for the day next day to take us around the area, which borders Yaku National Park. The countryside is extremely fertile, given the volcanic soil, high rainfall and warm temperatures, with tobacco being grown in fields along with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Our guide took us to Lake Ikeda, a mysterious circular crater lake home to giant eels, so probably not much else then. I didn't see any other life on the lake, put it this way. A 2 night stay in Kagoshima followed, Kagoshima is a big modern port city and gateway to the many islands off the Japanese south-west coast. Located in the bay a few miles out is the volcano of Sakurajima, active constantly since 1955, and an island until 1914 when lava flow from a massive eruption cemented the island to the mainland, on which a highway has been built connecting the island to Kyushu itself. A constant stream of ferries run from Kagoshima taking 15 minutes across the bay to reach Sakurajima, which saves the long drive right around the bay otherwise. A visit to the volcano observatory was made, along with a circuit of the island stopping a various points of interest. Back in Kagoshima, a good overview of the city centre area can had from a ride on the huge London-eye style ferris wheel, which is located at the central station entertainment complex. Kagoshima also has a aquarium worth visiting. All in all, an interesting part of Japan and an area not often visited by overseas residents. And a fabulous train ride to get there.
16 February 2012
Over Christmas 2008, my wife & I spent a week on the Pacific island of Guam, a destination seldom featured in UK tour operators products. The island is in the far western Pacific, which sounds like taking an eternity to reach, but is actually slightly less flying time than Hawaii is by going via Japan. Tokyo - Guam is just over 3hrs, and flights connect with the overnight direct flights from London. So why choose Guam over, say, Indian Ocean or Caribbean destinations ? Air fares and hotel rates over Christmas don't rocket to the extent they do to many destinations was one attraction, Guam's peak is more over New Year than Christmas itself, and we left there on 29 December. Most of the internationally recognised brand of hotel chains have resort hotels on Guam, we choose the Westin Resort and upgraded to a club room on the 20th floor. The Westin is on Tumon Bay with other resort hotels nearby, Tumon is one of two lovely bays some mile or so long, reef protected from the open ocean and great for swimming and snorkelling. Guam is the holiday playground for the Japanese and Koreans, especially in winter, and this is reflected in the restaurants and shops in the area of Tumon, with recognised American brands vying for your dollars with Oriental products and food. Guam is US territory, customs and immigration is like anywhere else entering the US. Tumon is only around 15 minutes from Guam's modern airport, so no long transfer times. We took a day out from the beach with a guide to drive us around the island to show us the colonial historical side of Guam. Guam was in Spanish hands from being discovered in the 16th century until 1898, and evidence of Spanish influence is preserved today. World War 2 saw Guam in Japanese hands, and was liberated again in July 1944 by the US. Since then, and due to it's strategic position, a considerable US Air Force and Navy base has built up, occupying a fair proportion of the overall island. Our guide drove us around the southern tip of the island, which save for a few local villages isn't developed much for tourism. This is the Pacific side, and the sea here drops into the vastness of the Marianas Trench, the rough water having a menacing dark blue colour to it, so it's understandable no tourist hotels have sprung up in this area. With regular stop-offs at points of interest, it was about 4 hours around the island and well worth doing. Guam has a typically tropical climate like the Caribbean, so no problem to go there in our winter, but beware of rainy seasons during summer. All in all, an interesting, different island and one easily combinable with any trip to Japan.
Bognor Regis 10/04/2019
West Sussex 25/01/2013
Lisvane, Cardiff 24/06/2009