Based in Brackley
It's Nice To Meet You
I imagine that you have found your way onto my page as a starting point for your next adventure? Maybe you are thinking of a relaxing week on a secluded sandy beach, or a tailor made trip of a lifetime exploring deepest darkest Peru or a stylish city break to New York. Whatever your thoughts and hopes are for your next holiday, I am positive I can help.
Being an independent travel agent, I am passionate about travel and enjoy the whole experience from the early planning stages right the way through to the eventual return home and looking through all of the memories made on the camera. Being able to walk alongside you throughout this process and help you build the holiday of your dreams is quite simply the best job (if I can even call it that, it really doesn’t feel like work).
As a Travel Counsellor, I can offer so much more than the High Street shops or the internet. With me, not only can I create entirely bespoke holidays through my access to thousands of flights, hotels and experiences from every corner of the globe. I also offer exceptional service from beginning to end. With me, you will not have to worry about a thing.
Over the years I have travelled all over the world however with 2 young children my escapades have taken a somewhat different approach! It doesn’t make me love it any less and it is amazing watching my kids experience different countries and cultures. I have found that attention to detail is the key difference between a good holiday and an amazing one, so whether you are travelling with a family, going solo or have any other requirements I will be sure to take note and adapt your trip to make it the best yet.
I have access to industry leading systems and tools that enable me to piece together your unique holiday. I pride myself on my attention to detail and ability to think ahead so any demands or requests that you may have will be catered for.
It is also worth noting that any holidays booked through me are 100% financially protected by either our Travel Counsellor financial trust or by ATOL.
I am available on the phone; via e mail or through Facebook at any time so please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to hear from you.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
16 November 2022
This year I have been focussing my business in on the adventure and touring sector for the simple reason that I love it! There are many misconceptions around about this sector and I am going to break these down for you in the hope that you consider an adventure and touring holiday for your next trip! Here goes… Follow the umbrella! Pretty sure we all know what I mean here and most of us will have encountered a coach load of tourists following a tour leader… all grappling to get to the front to get the information, taking up all the space in museums, taking 2 photos and then getting back on the coach for the next stop! Don’t get me wrong, there are tours like this BUT there are so many more tours that are not and I would 100% recommend trying out a small group tour where numbers are normally around 15 (often less) and you travel around in a swish mini bus. No umbrella’s or marching around… No freedom Every tour supplier I use, prides themselves on their itineraries and experiences available. For many, these experiences are simply not available if you tried yourself- such as museum access after hours or home-hosted meals. The amount of time in each location will depend on your itinerary however if you wanted to spend a bit of extra time taking photos of a sloth in Costa Rica for example, a quick chat with your tour leader will almost certainly allow you to get what you want from the experience. After travelling with Intrepid earlier this year in Morocco, if you did not want to partake in the days activities you didn’t have to. It is your choice however you need to ensure that you are contactable and at the pick up point at the allocated time. These tours are what you make it but these suppliers are pro’s in their field and know how to get the most out of your trip. I won’t like the people travelling on the tour Well this is always a risk regardless of your holiday choice however if you are considering an adventure and touring holiday, you are a particular type of traveller- you are looking for the experience. The other travellers on a tour are the same and you all have a common interest before you have even started. You also do not have to spend all of your time together- meal times are often flexible and you get free time throughout that can be spent how you feel. If you have someone rude on your tour, a quick chat with your tour leader should help alleviate any discomfort- they are all trained to make sure you are having the best time. I have kids, we can’t do that! Yes you can! There are so many suppliers that offer family specific tours. These not only include activities that are specifically family friendly but the accommodation will have rooms big enough and the hotels often have pools to cool off in at the end of the day. I am a solo traveller and don’t fancy sharing a room No need- once again there are tours that allocate you your own room or if you want to share (to reduce the cost), you can. Sometimes solo holidays are perceived to be an extended date but you couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s expensive Adventure and touring holidays offer second to none value for money. Your itinerary will be a tried and tested route through your location of choice, you will experience the very best whilst you are there and will often have options that you simply cannot buy yourself. Your guides will be knowledgeable on the destination (reading the guidebook will not come close to what they know) and your tour often includes various meals, transport and admissions throughout. When you go away on a tour, you will know what has been paid for and what you will need to pay for. There are tours to suit every budget from back packing to luxury and the memories you will make on your adventure are priceless! I hope this covers off some of the myths surrounding this sector of the travel industry. If I have missed something let me know!
15 November 2022
It is no surprise that I love a cruise…I say that but it was a surprise to me initially as I never saw myself as a ‘cruiser’! I had some pre-conceived ideas about it being something you did after you retired…it was boring…you had no freedom…it was super expensive. It is safe to say that not only have I been proven wrong on all of these points but I have found cruising offers so much more! It’s a great solution for anyone with different ideas on what a holiday should be. If you love city breaks and exploring but your partner loves lounging on the beach with a good book and your kids want a pool with slides then a cruise is the perfect solution as you literally get all of these in one place! It offers amazing value for money! Your cruise is full board so your meals are all included and snacks covered. It is a fact that you will never go hungry on a cruise. Depending on your cruise line, you may need to add a drinks package but this can depend on what you drink- if you do not drink alcohol, get the soft drinks package or there are normally a variety of packages including alcohol. Next up, there is enough entertainment onboard to please everyone so if you love a stage show, a disco or maybe you prefer live music- you are covered. BUT the true value comes from your ports- cruising offers you the opportunity to incorporate several ‘city-breaks’ within your 1 holiday- a perfect example would be our med cruise 3 years ago onboard MSC Bellissima. We visited Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Messina, Valletta and Barcelona all within 7 nights. It was brilliant! From our cruise, we enjoyed a taster in each of these destinations and have added Sicily and Malta on our list to go back. There is a cruise for everyone. A key part to my business is to attend ship visits which is as fun as it sounds! I have been lucky to spend time onboard Celebrity, Princess, MSC, Cunard and Norwegian ships amongst others. I have cruised with Cunard, Norwegian and MSC and have loved them all for very different reasons. There are ships perfect for families, for couples, for explorers for luxury seekers, for multi-generational family groups, for solo travellers- you name it! A question I am often asked is whether cruising is suitable for kids. The answer to this is a huge ABSOLUTELY! Not only are the ships fully equipped with facilities that the kids will love but this is just the most amazing way to give your children a little glimpse of the world! I am hoping this blog not only shows you how much I have grown to love cruising but also gives you some food for thought on your next holiday and that you consider a cruise- don’t forget to get in touch and I would love to help you get it planned.
16 November 2022
Rome is the city breaks of all city breaks, so much history in one place! This is the first place I visited with my husband when we were dating many moons ago and since then, Italy has been one of our favourite countries to visit. This time though, we took the kids and went as an extended family with my parents and siblings. For one week, at the end of August we soaked up not just the sun but a whole heap of history, pasta and Aperol spritz! Rome has a lot to offer and you can fill it with as much, or as little as you like. Travelling with our 6 and 10 year old we decided to visit the main attractions and added on a day at the beach for a bit of ‘rest’. Here are my tips on visiting this amazing city with kids: Use the metro. I love using trains abroad but it can be intimidating, no need to worry in Rome though. There are 2 lines, all very easy to use and offers great value. Book skip the line tickets for the Vatican City. We decided against joining a tour for the Vatican which I am pleased about. It was a hot day and suited us to wander through the museums at our own pace. Book in as early a slot as you can to try and avoid the crowds- this is not always possible as it is such a huge attraction but the queues getting into the standard entrance were insane. Regular gelato stops- obviously entirely for the kids (ahem) Go exploring but have a rough plan. The Spanish steps is a great place to start with so many amazing sights nearby including Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Campo de’Fiori… to name a few. This day was a highlight for the kids- they loved not knowing what we would find around each corner (and there really is so much around every corner!). The narrow streets also provided some much needed shade! Take re-usable drinking bottles with you. Did you know that you can drink the water from the fountains in Rome! The water comes directly from the mountains above the city and is piped into Rome by an aqueduct originally created by the Romans centuries ago! It is completely safe and free! Get a skip the line ticket for the Colosseum. We actually booked a tour as we wanted to get onto the arena floor however the kids were a bit too hot to listen to it all so we ducked out after we left the arena floor. It was still worth it though as this building is a sight to behold. The scale of it and information available to bring its history to life is fascinating! We loved it! After visiting again, Rome has proven to still be one of my favourite cities to visit and I am sure we will go back and love it just as much!
16 November 2022
The Algarve is famed for its beaches, caves and fab weather. All of these are perfect reasons to visit this region in Portugal but there are so many more! I was lucky to receive an invite from the Algarve tourist board to visit and explore the adventurous side to the Algarve and my goodness, it was fun! The adventure started as soon as the plane landed where I was collected from the airport and taken straight to Pedras d’el Rei, a resort made up of apartments close to Santa Luzia and Tavira. What makes this noteworthy is not only the affordable and convenient accommodation but a little bridge over the lagoon takes you to a small railway that leads to a beautiful sandy beach! This little piece of heaven has a great restaurant serving delicious seafood and cold white wine- perfect for the sunny afternoon! After re-fuelling we headed to our accommodation for our trip; Quinta Do Marco. A rural hotel, surrounded by nature. It was the perfect base for our trip. Our first adventure was a hike along the Via Algarvinia. This long distance walk spans the Algarve from East to West. In total it is 300km long but has been split into sections allowing you to visit local establishments along the way for refreshments or a nights stay. With time of the essence we only walked around 7km but it was beautiful. Our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable on the flora and fauna in the area and I loved learning how the Cork Oak is the national tree for Portugal! Next up was an activity I had been looking forward to since reading the itinerary- kayaking on Ria Formosa. Ria Formosa is a unique coastal lagoon and is noted as one of the 7 natural wonders of Portugal! It is a haven for wildlife and offers beautiful views from its many islands. We all set off to explore in kayaks that you can hire for tours from Faro. So much fun although I have to say, I am not a natural at it but to be honest that doesn’t matter! We paddled out and around one of the islands off the coast and explored the area before heading back in and getting back to the hotel for a rest and a glass of wine! The next day, our adventures continued with a solar boat trip along the coast line from Portimao. I am sure you will be familiar with the golden coast of the Algarve with caves and sandy beaches galore. What I loved were the ‘secret beaches’ where you can only get to them from the sea- this would be amazing during peak summer! Our solar boat is the only 1 of its kind in the Algarve, and offered us a chance to get close to some of the caves along our route. This included the famous Benagil cave with its hole in the top and sandy beach within. This was very busy with boats, paddleboards, sea kayaks and small boats but was stunning nonetheless. After a morning on the boat we headed back for an afternoon mountain biking! This was another activity that I was particularly looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint. Our guide met us with bikes and lots of drinking water (lovely sunny day) before taking us off along a 10km route through Lagoa dos Salgados. This is a coastal lagoon with wooden walkways and sandy tracks, nothing too tough to navigate. We cycled to a beautiful beach and back. If you are a keen cyclist, the Algarve is a great destination for both road cycling and off-road routes! I am sure when we head back we will be hiring bikes and exploring the area a bit more on 2 wheels. Our day concluded with a spot of bird watching. I have unfortunately realised that this is not my forte and although I enjoyed a sit down after a busy few days, my eyes are not the best at spotting anything that’s not a seagull or a sparrow! Thankfully our guides were so knowledgeable and helped to locate some fascinating wildlife along the lagoon! Our final activity before heading home was a different kind of adventure in the beautiful town of Olhao where we enjoyed a walking foodie tour. The narrow streets, murals, brightly painted houses and amazing seafood completely stole my heart on this last evening before heading home! So next time you are thinking of a holiday and don’t want to travel far, the Algarve is a natural choice. Regular 2.5 hour flights from Birmingham keep it convenient and the distances to travel within this destination are manageable. All I would ask is that you don’t just head straight to the beach- be a bit adventurous!
15 November 2022
Morocco is known for many things- it is a truly beautiful country full of colour, style, the friendliest people and delicious food! I love the food so much, I am dedicating this whole blog to it! The Moroccan culture and its food is fascinating with a mixture of Imazighen, Arab, Spanish, Jewish and French influences (and so much more!). When you think about the flavours and smells or Morocco you may think of the spices of Ras al Hanout, the tang of preserved lemons, fresh mint. All of these conjure up the sights and sounds of this amazing country for me and I would love to share my favourite meals with you from my trip with Intrepid travel this year: Harira. This is a warming, hug-in-a-bowl soup. It is a thick consistency with a warmth that is just enough. Full of vegetables and chickpeas, it is filling and is often served with dates. Seems an odd pairing but the sweetness of the dates mixed with the warming spices of the soup is perfect! Tagine. This is a typical dish that most of us have heard of. It is a lovely, filling stew available in a variety of flavours. Beef or chicken are the most common and are served with lots of veg and chickpeas. I am not a huge fan of cous cous but love the flat bread served with most meals and it works a treat when mopping up the juices. Chicken pastilla. This is a treat but not to everyone’s taste as it is an interesting mix between sweet and savoury. It is essentially a chicken pie, encased in a fine filo pastry. The chicken is often mixed with almonds and the decoration on the pie is created with icing sugar… I am not sure if it’s a sweet main course or a savoury desert, regardless, its delicious! Mint tea. This is the tea to drink whilst in Morocco. Made with black tea, fresh mint and a fair amount of sugar it is fragrant, thirst quenching and you will see everyone enjoying it on your travels. Try it- you will like it! Olives… if you love olives, be sure to visit the olive markets in the souks. You will not be disappointed. Juicy, flavoursome and plentiful. I could spend all day tasting them! My list of ‘Moroccan food I love’ could go on and on but you shouldn’t take my word for it, go and taste it for yourself!
02 April 2022
Morocco, a country full of vibrant colours, friendly people, magical sights and delicious food. It is close enough on a flight to be convenient (around 3 hours), but when you step off the plane you feel like you are a million miles from home. For this trip I travelled with Intrepid Travel, a fantastic purpose-led adventure travel company with a BIG heart. They pride themselves on giving back to the local communities and offering travellers a truly immersive experience and on all of these counts they really delivered! On our first evening we were met at our quirky, luxury hotel by Adil our leader for the trip. He instantly took control of our excitable group and explained what we would be doing- maps and all. I should add at this point that the trip was a new ‘Premium Morocco Highlights’ tour, this lasts 8 days starting in Casablanca before moving onto Meknes via Rabat and then onto Fes, Bin-el-Ouidane and finishing in Marrakech. There is certainly a lot of Morocco crammed into this great adventure! The Intrepid Premium tours are different to the other tours offered in that they take care of every detail (from drinking water to your luggage being transferred to your rooms), the accommodation throughout is ‘premium’. This doesn’t necessarily mean luxury but every hotel and riad was carefully selected for its style, history and authenticity. You also have lots of activities included and some special ones that give a true insight into Moroccan life. This trip was pretty full on and there are so many highlights… here are a few: Casablanca- Hassan II Mosque This mosque is out-of-this-world! It is the 2nd largest mosque in Africa. It is half over land and half over water, 25,000 worshippers can fit inside! It is immense! You cannot visit the mosque during prayer however at set times during the day you can have a tour and I would highly recommend it! Rabat- Kasbah This area is currently under development and will be painted completely white! It is exactly as you would imagine, lots of small, cobbled lanes with plants and beautiful doors. There is a great terrace area that opens up to the beach… also highly recommend stopping for a mint tea and a few Moroccan pastries! Meknes This city really is under-construction, but my highlight was the fact that Intrepid still visit regardless of the building work around every corner. Intrepid do this to ensure that the local guides are still able to work. This city has so much to offer and will be a stunning stop once completed but for the meantime, it is important to see past the scaffolding and understand that by visiting you are truly supporting someone’s livelihood. Our local guide also looked like an older Ryan Reynolds so it really was win win! Volubilis This was a fantastic lunch stop en route to Fes from Meknes and one that I would not have even known about if I had planned my own trip. Volubilis is a huge Roman ruin with so much to walk around. The mosaics are out of this world and if you love history, this is a must! Fes- Dinner with a local family and the feature stay I will hold my hands up and say that I was initially worried about this- would dinner with a local family feel a bit contrived? Will it be uncomfortable? The short answer to all of these is ‘no’. It was such fun! The local family were super friendly and they enjoyed spending time with us as much as we did them. They also made lovely chicken pastilla which was delicious! Our feature stay in Fes left me lost for words! It was a luxury oasis within the old city walls of Fes. The décor and details throughout were just beautiful and the staff were friendly and attentive. I could have easily spent several days here! Bin-el-Ouidane- Hotel Widiane This peaceful little spot in the middle Atlas was dreamy. The hotel was luxurious and peaceful with plenty of facilities to warrant a longer stay however for the 1 evening spent here it was also a perfect. A particular highlight was listening to the call to prayer from the local mosque whilst the sun faded. Marrakech- Djemma el Fna For anyone that has been to Marrakech before, I am sure they will agree with me when I say it is hectic but so so exciting! This square is a hive of activity no matter what the time of day is but from around 4pm onwards it becomes a huge open air dining venue with food stalls, street entertainers and market sellers. I love the hustle and bustle and noise of this place. … these are just some of my favourite parts of the trip, there are so many more! If you are thinking of exploring Morocco, I urge you to go! You will not be disappointed and Intrepid have really shown their passion and love for getting under the skin of a destination. I feel like I have been on a true adventure, and I am already planning the next one!
21 October 2021
Compiling a wish list of your must-see destinations is harder than you might think. It is easy to get over-excited (if there really is such a thing when it comes to travel), and you end up writing every country in the world down and in the end your ‘to-see’ list is as long as your arm and feels a bit unfathomable… which one comes first?.. where do I start?... which is the easiest? I personally think a bucket list is a great plan to have when it comes to exploring the world- it gives you a goal, a purpose and when those long days at the office feel a bit of a struggle you know you are working towards your next bucket list item and fundamentally it will all be worth the effort. So here are some handy tips on getting your list together: - Get all of your ideas down on paper- be prepared for a big list! - Pick out your top 10 and order them with 1 being the absolute top choice. - Don’t just write down destinations- include experiences as well. - Elaborate on each choice- why do you want to visit this place? What experience do you want? Is there anyone you want to share this experience with? After you have done this, you should have a very special list that is personal to you. It might not be in an order that you can go straight away but it will give you a starting point to work on. Now is the fun part- make a plan! Set yourself a goal and start ticking these special events off of your list! Give yourself a 5-10 year window and pencil in some time scales for your dreams to become a reality and of course get in touch with me and I can add further detail in helping to bring your plans to life! Now I am sure you will have plenty of ideas for your bucket list already but below are some of my favourites that I have helped arrange and some from my own list: - Watch the Northern Lights from a snuggly bed in a glass igloo - Climb to Everest Base Camp - See the Milky Way - Walk the Great Wall of China - See a live volcano - Road trip across America in an RV - Go on safari in Africa and see the Big 5 - Attend the Olympics - Scuba dive and see basking sharks - See grizzly bears in Canada - Take a gondola ride around the Venice canals - Ride a mountain coaster in Switzerland - Learn to surf in Hawaii - See elephants in the wild - See the Taj Mahal at sunrise - Visit the Amazon rainforest - Visit Rio de Janeiro for the carnival - Cruise Halong Bay, Vietnam
21 October 2021
My recent experiences with Norwegian Cruise Line were truly Epic by name and Epic by nature! It was not only the first time I have cruised with NCL but it marked the first time I have left the country since the pandemic. Getting on the plane was an emotional occasion and not just for me but for everyone- there was a real buzz and excitement about going away and that feeling of heat when we reached Barcelona was divine! I can’t tell you how much I have missed that first step off of the plane and into an unknown place. The excitement mounted as our NCL transfer drove us to the port to meet the ship… On arrival at the port, we stored our luggage and started the process of getting onboard. NCL have a full vaccination policy but you must also test negative before stepping foot onboard. This was a smooth and easy process and it gave me peace of mind that cruising with NCL is safe. We tested again onboard before we flew home which was super slick and easy to do as well. Once onboard we headed straight for our stateroom- a balcony cabin located on deck 12. The décor was stylish and there was ample room to be comfortable. The size of the balcony was perfect for sitting and enjoying the view. One of my personal highlights of this cruise were the crew- you could see just how pleased they were to have passengers back on board and although you couldn’t see the smiles behind the mask, you could sense it. Epic has a well-established team and many were onboard when Covid was spreading around the world last year, it was fascinating hearing their perspective and just made it even more special to be back onboard. Anyone that has cruised Norwegian before will tell you about the food and oh-boy was it good! I had the pleasure of enjoying 2 of the speciality dining restaurants- Teppanyaki and Moderno Churrascaria. The food was just incredible and the service impeccable. Highly recommend both restaurants- especially if you love meat, the steak in Moderno was so good! Whilst onboard you must also head to O’Sheehans pub for chicken wings and the pretzel bites with beer cheese fondue is also delicious! Another jewel in Epic’s crown is the entertainment. We loved ‘Howl at the Moon’; a duelling piano bar with live music. Great fun after dinner! At the back of the ship, H20 offers an adult only area and most evenings the pool is covered over and becomes a dance floor- there is something magical about dancing under the stars in the middle of the sea! There was also a range of shows onboard and on our final night we watched the opening night for Priscilla Queen of the Desert- wow wow wow! What a show, what a set… could’ve been on at the west end, it really was that good! Overall verdict on Epic was a huge thumbs up! We had a ball and certainly enjoyed the best that the ship had to offer. Would I cruise with Norwegian again- 100% yes! Prima is launching next year and she looks pretty special!
21 September 2020
It probably goes without saying that covid has drastically impacted my business and the way I work. At the beginning of 2020 I was executing my plans and succeeding in having my best year yet as a Travel Counsellor and then over the course of a few weeks, the enormity of coronavirus really started to dawn on me and everyone within the travel industry. The initial months of lockdown felt nothing short of savage with holiday cancellations, border closures, refunds as well as 2 kids at home and a shortage of loo roll (of all things). BUT the optimist that I am, I have tried to use the time to reflect and review. In a round-about way, it was a blessing to be shoved off of the daily grind as it has given me the opportunities to improve my business and my overall outlook. There are a couple of points that I would love to share with you: - I am a lot pickier on my suppliers! It is the tough times that really show the companies that will go above and beyond and those that quite frankly couldn’t care less. Throughout the cancellations and re-bookings that I have done I have found the vast majority of my suppliers to be incredibly supportive and helpful however I have also found a few that haven’t at all. Some have in fact behaved in a way that is not acceptable in any circumstances and subsequently I have chosen to not use these suppliers until they change their approach. I will not risk my client’s money or plans with a supplier that doesn’t respect them as I do. - Stay connected We have all mastered the art of Zoom calls and they have at times been a lifeline for many. Pre-covid I ran drop ins at the Fire Station Café, would meet clients for coffee, home visits etc. I loved meeting you all face to face but that’s not possible all of the time nowadays so I have embraced technology and have been scheduling zoom calls with new and existing clients. It has been a great way to connect and to have a general chat about holidays! I have also been talking a lot more about myTC app that is super easy to use and is a great way to stay connected with me! - Keep it flexible As a general rule, the inflexible rates for hotels and flights are cheaper but there is the obvious risk that you may not be able to cancel and re book. With this in mind, I am only booking flexible rates. It is so important to me that we keep any holiday plans as stress-free as possible for you and that may mean paying a little bit more for the hotel but it then means that should we need to move your trip- it is easy! It has never been clearer that covid has changed the way that we all live our lives and certainly the way that we will travel for the foreseeable future however I am confident that the time to use a personal travel consultant has never been more important than now. The time for personal service and accountability has never been more understood and that when it comes to booking your next holiday, don’t book with a faceless online company. Call me!
17 September 2020
Costa Rica is where it all started for me- my travel obsession. My love for exploring and need to see as much of the world as I can! I was a young 17 year old given an opportunity at school with a charity to travel to Costa Rica for 4 weeks of adventure, community work and hard slogs. I certainly came back a different person to the one who left Brackley… and with a new love for coffee! We started in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. To be honest this was fairly unremarkable as a 17 year old with a group of friends, we used the time to acclimatise and to make plans for the first adventure- Monteverde Cloud Forest. Monteverde Cloud Forest is just one of Costa Rica’s gems. A protected jungle paradise, situated at a high altitude that it literally feels like you are in the clouds with the ‘haze’ that settles all around you. Here we trekked trails and enjoyed the nature around us. Constantly surrounded by the tweats and shrieks from rare birds and the calls of the howler monkeys. I will never forget a guide showing me an unassuming hole in the side of a mud wall on a night trek only for a tarantula to pop out!.. that had me squirming for the rest of the night! The cloud forest not only had some ground treks but you could also explore from the canopy with some very high bridges and for the more daring; zip wires. The next leg of our trip, involved a long and very muddy hike towards Volcan Arenal, thank goodness for the guides who not only made sure we took the correct route but also took care of our bags- honestly, I have never seen mud like it! We were exhausted by the time we reached the boat that took us over lake Arenal where we caught our first sight of the majestic volcano. This was a huge highlight for me and a big bucket list tick! Volcan Arenal is a live volcano and at night you can catch a glimpse of lava bursting out of the top. The sound of the volcano was a constant low rumble and I was in awe! That night, we spent the evening in the hot springs, perfect end to a long day! After the volcano, we made our way to a small village where we supported a local charity with some community work at a new school. Staying with local families, it really made me realise how lucky we are in the UK to have all that we have. The villagers were so friendly and I loved getting a glimpse of their lives. Surrounded by coffee plantations this is where my love for coffee started to emerge! After making lots of new friends and enjoying some rest, we embarked on our biggest challenge! To climb Mount Chirripo! Mount Chirripo is the highest mountain in Costa Rica standing at 3821m and I can tell you that I felt every cm of that mountain! The trek up took a couple of days with a night camping and a night in a hostel before the final ascent at the crack of dawn. On a clear day, you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean from the peak and I am thankful that on the morning that we reached the peak- we caught a glimpse of both. Thank God for that as it was freezing!! I trained for the climb but I was not expecting the journey back down to be as hard as it was- my poor legs used muscles that they didn’t know existed. Our Costa Rican adventure was sadly coming to an end but not before we caught a bus to Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. You know when you picture a Caribbean paradise with the palm trees and golden sands- this is it! Such a beautiful beach and the R&R was just what I needed. Another highlight here was spotting a sloth in one of the trees by the beach, how can an animal be so ugly and cute all at once?!? Looking back on my photos of my first adventure without the comfort of Mum and Dad, I am reminded about how much I fell in love with Costa Rica and I will definitely be taking my kids there so that I can fall in love with it all over again!
22 January 2020
Before I started my business as a Travel Counsellor, the thought of a cruise hadn’t even hit my consciousness. My adventures had always been overland and I had made some (incorrect) assumptions and deemed a cruise to not be ‘my cup of tea’. That was until a colleague said to me ‘you wait, once you step on a ship you will get it’… and boy was that true! The first ship I visited was on the launch for the MSC Bellissima in Southampton. As soon as I set eyes on her, I was in awe and I knew I was going to love every moment spent on board. I loved her so much in fact that I booked our family holiday just 4 days after getting back home. Fast forward 6 months, with our suitcases packed and the kids in tow we set off on our first ever cruise from Marseille. We decided not to tell the kids before-hand, I wanted to watch their reaction and it was magical. So, instead of telling you all about the ship, I thought I would let my family tell you, what they loved: Don (husband of 5 years, partner in crime for many more): What did you love about our cruise? I loved that we visited 6 different places in 1 week without feeling stressed or hassled. The food and drink was great and we had the freedom to do as we pleased. When we got off, it felt like we had been away for a lot longer and I really felt relaxed. What was your favourite port? Valletta, Malta. I knew I would love this place but watching the sun rise over the city as we docked was a memory that I will hold. It gave a great taster and I am certain we will go back. Louie (7 year old Lego fiend): What did you love about our cruise? I loved that we could have salami every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I also loved the Lego wall at the kid’s club and the water slides. What was your favourite port? I loved visiting Pompeii (Naples). Sophia (3 year old bundle of fun) What did you love about our cruise? I loved the water park with the sprinklers and the strawberry ice cream. I also like the sparkly stairs and want to sleep on the top bunk next time. What was your favourite port? I liked Barcelona as there was a man making big bubbles. Thankfully, cruising was a big hit for our family and I know that this will not be our last!
11 August 2019
‘It is not the destination but the journey that counts’ and boy is this is true on a Transatlantic crossing on board the Cunard Queen Mary 2! As you would expect Cunard are a well-oiled machine with the embarkation process being quick and painless. Before we had a chance to think about it, we were being welcomed on board and we started exploring the ship that would carry us home. First stop was our balcony cabin- number 4183 to be exact. Our cabin was pristine and by luck we had a fabulous view of New York from our balcony- what a treat! I often struggle to sleep when I am away from home but after a busy couple of days in New York the comfy bed and extra fluffy pillows were a welcome sight. Sail-away is a great occasion on most ships however sailing past Lady Liberty and watching New York disappear was extra special. After looking through the daily schedule that is delivered every evening, we decided to try out line dancing on our first full day onboard- it is safe to say that neither my husband or I have any coordination and just about managed some heel scuff moves… but we had fun which is all that matters! We were also very lucky to start our voyage with some gorgeous weather so we relaxed by the pool drinking cocktails which was divine (I can highly recommend the Cunard Cooler!). The views out across the ocean were blissful and the colour of the water was out of this world, I could have stared at it all day! We also found the board games corridor of the ship which turned into a daily game of Rummikub, unlike line dancing, it turns out I am quite good at this game, much to my husband’s dismay! Day 3 involved more exploring, the weather was still beautiful however having caught the sun the day before, we spent time exploring the ship. Queen Mary 2 boasts the largest library at sea and it is certainly impressive. What I enjoyed the most were the seats that directly looked out over the ocean so that you have a view whilst reading your book. I also loved the plethora of travel books on offer! We found the Bridge Observation Deck which was fascinating to see the Captain at work. There is a scenic lift that is worth a quick ride and offers an outside view as you travel back down. The entertainment options are boundless and there is something for all tastes. My personal favourite was the Commodore lounge up on deck 9. Great views from the front of the ship and beautiful cocktails! A very classy place to sit, talk and listen to the pianist of an evening. The Golden Lion pub down on deck 2 was also a great spot with pub quizzes, bingo and a fab karaoke night! We went to a couple of shows whilst onboard as well, the best being the Barricade Boys. Made up of cast from the Broadway hit Les Mis, you can imagine the vocal talents and they not only performed some classic songs but some rock and roll and pop numbers as well. The comedy night is also a must. It was on the evening of day 4 that we let our hair down and after spending some time watching the beautiful ballroom dancing in the Queens Room, we visited G32’s, the club! It has been many years since I have visited a club, let alone stayed up until the early hours but it was very hard to leave! The evening started with the band Purple Haze who are amazing and ended with the DJ playing great floor fillers. We danced our socks off and loved every minute! Day 5 saw a change in the weather, it was very grey and a little rainy but we had force 8 gales. I will be honest, you could feel some motion within the ship but it was fine. I did wear SeaBands just in case but I have to say, I felt very safe and un-phased but more importantly I didn’t feel unwell at all. We loved watching the waves whilst playing board games. There is one major element of our cruise that I haven’t mentioned yet and that is the food. Now I had eaten on board before during a cruise conference that I attended however that did not stop me from being constantly surprised and impressed at the quality, choice and taste of every meal that we ate. In general we ate in the Kings Court buffet for breakfast. There is everything you might want for breakfast available from kedgeree to the full English and an abundance of fresh fruit which I made the most of knowing what was ahead of me for the day. Our best lunch was in the pub- the fish and chips rivalled those from our best chippy here in Brackley! Dinner in the Britannia restaurant was consistently fantastic and the menu offered a variety of options for every taste. My favourite meal was the broiled lobster tail with sesame crusted jumbo shrimp! The best pudding was the lemon soufflé which was so light and fluffy and perfectly complimented by the limoncello sauce that our waiter poured into the middle. The afternoon tea in the Queens Room is also a must whilst travelling and there is something so charming and lovely about eating cucumber sandwiches with a cup of Earl Grey. Whilst on board, it is worth keeping an eye for the ‘Chocolate and Ice buffet’ on the daily schedule in the Kings Court. If you have a sweet tooth, you will be in heaven. From individual chocolates, to gateaux’s, cakes, mousses, deserts, cake pops… if it has chocolate it will most likely be here surrounded by some immense ice sculptures! After 7 nights on board we arrived back in Southampton. Waking early I caught a beautiful sun rise over Southampton and I drank in the views of ‘land’. The Transatlantic crossing was fantastic from beginning to end and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a luxurious, leisurely journey full of the finer things in life. Here are some top tips! - There is a launderette on board that is free so no need to over pack - If you get a clear night, look up! The stars are magical and if you are lucky you may spot some shooting stars! - Keep an eye out for flying fish- whilst on deck one afternoon we spotted them popping out of the waves created by the ship and literally flying across the water before diving back in! Fascinating!
28 July 2021
New York is a popular choice for a city break and one which I have been to several times. It really is a city that never sleeps and one where the energy is like nowhere I have been to before! I have also had the pleasure of enjoying the Big Apple in both Summer and Winter, both seasons have their attractions but here are some of my favourites: Winter - Festive lights and the shop windows are magical and a perfect way to get into the spirit of the season. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are all big events for this city! - Ice skating in Central Park. As experiences go, this is a special one. Gliding (well I maybe wasn’t quite as graceful to be honest) around on the ice whilst the towering sky scrapers soar overhead, it is a fun way to pass a few hours! - Snow! It can get super cold during the winter months and if you are lucky, you might get snow, making the city more twinkly than normal Summer - Central Park comes alive with lots of locals enjoying the space. Take a walk to the heart of the park where you will find the lake. Simply enjoy the view or you could even hire a row boat! Either way, pack a picnic and enjoy the sounds of people having fun! - Rooftop Bars offer the perfect sanctuary from the heat and sightseeing - Going to see Lady Liberty whilst the sun shone was a real highlight- as was the breeze onboard the Staten Island Ferry! Must see attractions - Get up and get the view. The Empire State is the iconic way to get up high for the view but if you fancy seeing the skyline from a different perspective then you can always travel the to the Top of the Rock. - Open top bus tours. These are a great way to get your bearings in any city but perfect here as there is something to see around every corner. - Statue of Liberty- you may want to get up close and personal with a trip to Liberty Island but you can have an equally breath-taking view onboard the Staten Island ferry which is free! - Visit the 9/11 memorial site. We all remember where we were when we saw the news that the Twin Towers had been hit but only when you stand where they once were can you feel the true scale of devastation. The memorial site is a sobering reminder of the lives lost. There is also a museum should you want to explore a bit more. - Go grab a drink or a bite to eat a Fraunces Tavern- the old watering hole where many of the Founding Fathers use to meet! Full of atmosphere and often has live music. New York is a fab city for a long weekend or longer but if you have some time to spend on your journey, I can highly recommend a Trans-Atlantic crossing onboard Cunard Queen Mary 2 - check out my blogs for my experience onboard!
27 June 2019
Time was certainly of the essence on my recent jaunt to San Francisco! Why so short, I hear you ask? One of my brothers works as cabin crew and I tagged along with him so whilst he worked the 10 hours and 25-minute flight, I worked my way through 3 movies and had a nap (for anyone with a hectic lifestyle, I am sure you can appreciate what a luxury this was). I am a self-confessed ‘planner’ so before we even departed I knew what we would be doing. Our first stop was our Hop on/ Hop off bus tour. Such a great way to get your bearings when visiting a new city. I tapped into the commentary at various points on the trip and we jumped off as and when the mood took us. I had also thought about the food I wanted to eat- clam chowder out of a bread bowl was at the top of this list but alas, I hadn’t considered that it would be a baking hot day and that the last thing I would want to eat was a bowl of hot soup! Instead I opted for a cocktail… tough call. The Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute must. In the end, I went back and forth 4 times (not planned that way, but loved it all the same). You can get some great pictures on either side of the bridge as well, so definitely worth getting off the bus and walking around. I had a small glimpse of Haight and Ashbury and when I go back, this is my first stop. I would have loved to have had more time mooching around this gorgeous area with its hippy vibe and thrift shops. Perfect place to people watch! Castro is also a must! Decked out in the rainbow flag it has a really fun party atmosphere. Public nudity is legal in this district and it is embraced! I caught the ‘Harvey Milk Car’ to Castro from Pier 39. A slow ride but a great way to watch street performers on the journey. If you can, time your visit to Castro with Happy Hour as there are many fun cocktail bars! We ended our trip with a massive dinner in Chinatown. Renowned for its Dim Sum, it would have been rude not to fill our plates and it did not disappoint! It was at this point, with a full tummy, sore feet and a very happy heart that we left and went back to our hotel in San Jose. It is safe to say that I fell a little bit in love with San Francisco and I am looking forward to my next visit already!
19 March 2019
I love travel! I love adventure! I love exploring new places off the beaten track! I love eating new food! I love it all! I also love travelling with my kids (and husband, mustn't forget him... he is very good at pushing the suitcase trolley)! I had a very lucky childhood with regular trips over to Cairo to stay with my Grandparents who lived there. I never fully appreciated the experiences this gave me and eventually how it helped me to become the person I am today; with my own travel business. Since having children, I am always looking for ways to open their eyes to the world in the hope that they will fall in love with her as well although that is not the hard part really... the hard part can be the logistics! Getting from A to B with a stroppy toddler can be... let me find a positive frame for this…. character building?! Ok, it can be stressful, and I have had many a conversation with clients around concerns they have when travelling with children. I have travelled long and short haul with my little angels and I have found a formula that so far has worked well for us, so I thought I would share 5 handy tips to hopefully make your lives a little easier: 1- Exhaust them Going on holiday is pretty exciting for an adult right? Even more so for a kid! The whole experience can be pretty overwhelming for them and all of that energy needs a bit of an outlet. If you have the time, head off to the airport a little earlier and stop at a soft play/playground before you park up and check in. Some of the larger airports even have facilities in the terminal where they can run off a bit of energy, these are definitely worth a pit stop! A slightly tired excited child will appreciate the inflight movie a lot more, believe me! 2- Food, food, food Pack snacks. My kids are hungry all the time (at least that's how it feels). Try to pack a range of snacks and not all sweets and crisps. I found cereal bars/ flapjack a great go-to on our last trip to South Africa and I stocked up on some fresh fruit from the shops in the terminal. Pitta breads also travel pretty well and make a good alternative to bread for a sandwich. I do always pack some sweets though... a bit of bribery isn't a bad thing 30,000 feet in the air... needs must and all that 3- Pack spare clothes in your hand luggage Self-explanatory, kids get dirty and will doubtless spill something down their top. Most importantly however, pack spare clothes for yourself. I have been at the end of a leaky nappy on a flight...it wasn't cool, but I was very thankful for the spare clothes I had packed! 4- Entertainment Before our first long haul flight, I scoured the internet for tips on entertaining kids and I came across a blog that mentions packing 1 'new' thing for every hour of the flight. It should be something that the child hasn't seen before or for a while at least. The logic is that every time they start to get a bit bored, you whip a treat out of the bag to keep them entertained. This does take a bit of planning but to date has worked for us. Treats to include may be colouring books, puzzles, Lego, craft activities, stickers, card games, travel games, Where's Wally.... the list is endless 5- Relax This is probably the most important of all my tips. If your kids see you relax, they will relax (in theory). Go and get that glass of wine, sit back and enjoy the start of your holiday! I hope this helps to give you some ideas for travelling with your little treasures. And of course if you would like to start planning your next family adventure, please don't hesitate to get in touch!
17 September 2020
It isn’t often that Belmond invite you onboard in a professional capacity to experience the fantastic British Pullman whilst she traverses the Kent countryside on her ‘Golden Age of Travel’ trip and of course I jumped at the chance and loved every minute! A luxurious brand with a reputation to match I was looking forward to putting one of my favourite frocks on and exploring the train and all she offers. And what can I say- it did not disappoint. Arriving at Victoria Station, London; it was easy to navigate and find your platform. It really is here that you start the Belmond experience with smartly dressed porters directing you to your carriage and a cold glass of bubbly once you reach your comfortable seat. The carriage I was on was called Ibis and she was stunning. The art deco décor added grandeur and it was clear that this was a special train. The tables were all decked out in crisp, white linens and the cutlery gave a small glimpse into the lunch that I would be enjoying! As we set off from the station, I settled in with a nice glass of wine and enjoyed the views as we left London for the coast. The food started to arrive with hor d'oeuvres and a further 4 courses all of which were sublime. Amazing really that the chefs onboard could create and present food of this quality on a moving train! We stopped at Broadstairs which was around half way through the trip and I was delighted to find a brass brand in candy striped jackets on the platform. Porters offered fresh oysters and cool lemonade whilst we all stretched our legs and enjoyed a bit of fresh air. The journey back towards London was accompanied with fresh coffee and chocolates (I know more food!) where we sadly disembarked and all headed off home. I am sure this will not be my last trip onboard the British Pullman or indeed with Belmond (the Orient Express is on my bucket list!) If you love a train, I would highly recommend considering a trip- you will not be disappointed.
01 May 2020
I find describing South Africa as a holiday destination hard, not because it is dull or boring, oh no… but because it is everything. Quite honestly there is nothing this country cannot offer you as a holiday destination (well maybe apart from skiing?). If you love the beach- go to South Africa If you love nature- go to South Africa If you love food and drink- go to South Africa If you love travelling off the beaten track... or the mountains- go to South Africa …I think you get my point. In this blog, I am going to cover off Cape Town. This is South Africa’s gem of a city situated on the South-West coast. Straight off, fly direct if you can. There are regular overnight flights from Heathrow and you can really make the most of the minimal time difference. It is a long flight but 100% worth it. When you arrive into Cape Town, drop your bags into your hotel and head straight up Table Mountain! Only head up if the weather is clear though otherwise you won’t get the view. I have enjoyed the cable car many times but if you fancy more of an adventure, take a hike up. Once you reach the top- lap it up. It is a truly iconic view. Keep an eye out for the dassie’s as well- these are the closest relative to the elephant did you know! Some other must-see’s in Cape Town include Robben Island. This is a sobering trip to be honest but one worth taking as you visit the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in prison. These tours not only give you an insight into life on the island but you also get some amazing views of Cape Town and get to enjoy the seals on the boat trip over. On your arrival back onto the mainland, be sure to enjoy the V&A waterfront where you can find all sorts of eateries and bars around the marina. One of my absolute favourite places in Cape Town is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. They are beautiful. Why not pick up a pre-packed picnic and find a perfect spot to relax. If you are lucky, you might even catch a sunset outdoor concert within the grounds. Cape Town is host to stunning beaches as well and you really must take a stroll along the shore for a paddle… the water can be a bit chilly though as you are dipping your toes in the Atlantic. If you have the time, Boulders Bay needs to be on your list of places to visit. It is around an hour’s drive from the city. Here you can encounter the African penguins! Their nesting sites are protected but you can observe them from walkways. There is the most amazing beach here with huge boulders and crystal-clear water. Penguins do swim around so if you are lucky, you might find yourself chilling with these fascinating birds. This part of the coast is also famous for its Great White Sharks. Now I am a total wimp when it comes to sharks but should you want to take a boat trip out or do a cage dive, this is where you want to be! From Cape Town, there are countless options for your onward journey through this stunning country. Keep an eye out for my next blog where I will tell you all about the joys of the Garden Route.