Sent by Barry Simkins
Minehead 8/24/2021 12:12:00 PM
Based in Minehead
Hello, my name is Natalie Poat. Thank you for visiting my website, I hope you find it useful.
You may be wondering why book with me? As a travel expert with over 35 years in the travel industry and 18 as a Travel Counsellor, I have wealth of knowledge and a fantastic range of destination specialist at my finger tips to help me create an amazing trip just for you and in 2019 I achieved the status of no. 1 in the world for customer satisfaction ahead of over 1900 of my fellow Travel Counsellors.
Why spend all your precious time trawling the internet when I can do it for you, and you have peace of mind knowing everything booked with me is covered by our unique travel trust, and your money is 100% safe. Alongside ATOL protection which covers air holiday packages and charter flights, we operate and provide the Travel Counsellors Trust and airline failure insurance, which protects every other element of your booking including low cost airlines, scheduled flights, accommodation and car hire. No if’s, no buts, every aspect of your booking is financially protected.
Unlike the internet I am a person who will be at the end of the phone to help you if you have any problems, while away or before you travel. I like to think that I offer a high level of customer service and the number of referrals and testimonials I receive from my clients bears testament to this.
I have visited many countries and my travel experience helps me to find your perfect holiday!
My favourite destinations include:
* Australia and New Zealand - I spent four months touring with my family. We swam with dolphins, climbed glaciers, walked the Sydney Harbour Bridge, tasted wine and learnt to dive on the Barrier Reef!
* North, Central America and South America including the USA, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru (Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca) and Mexico plus excursions in Belize and Honduras whilst on a cruise. In 2019 I travelled on the iconic Rocky Mountaineer and in 2013 rode on the back of my husbands motorbike along Route 66.
* Skiing - I have been skiing since 1977 and my husband and I even went skiing for our honeymoon and as a family spent one New Year in an igloo on a Swiss mountain!
* Cruise - my experiences include a cargo ship voyage around French Polynesia, visits to some of the biggest and most luxurious ships int he world. A voyage on board the Royal Clipper - the largest fully-rigged sailing ship in the world, a Norwegian coastal voyage, and a river cruises with Scenic and Riviera.
* The Far East - Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China including the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors.
* Caribbean - Bonaire, Turks and Caicos, St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts & Nevis, Canouan and Barbados
* Middle East - Oman, Dubai, Qatar, Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi.
* The UK - I like nothing more than exploring our own backyard from Lands End to John O'Groats, the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly, staying in hotels, a quaint cottage or cruising the canals on a narrowbooat.
Give me a call or email me today, I look forward to turning your dreams into reality!
There are a number of countries changing within the traffic light system for arrival in to England. Find out who are the winners and losers here..
If you are still planning your next holiday whether it be for 2021 or 2022 this video is a great source of inspiration
The world may have been on hold but we have been busy adding some stunning new hotels to our portfolio.
Amber is the new "green" for fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from 04.00am Monday 19 July. All this and more in my weekly video.
A recent report highlighted that 1 in 5 UK travellers are planning a once in a lifetime trip post pandemic
Relive some travel memories with this great video - my husband said it made the hairs on the back of his arms stand up! Enjoy!
Trusted Travel - our reviews on TrustPilot speak for themselves but this short video highlights 5 good reasons to book your travel with me...
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.
06 January 2021
Most people seem to think that December is all about getting ready for Christmas and it is often overlooked as a month to travel but it can result in a great value trip when resorts are often a little quieter than they are in the summer months. A short break before the festivities start can be just the tonic. I originally wrote this blog for my Facebook page contrasting the two breaks that I took a year apart at the same time of year.. In December 2019 I stayed in the resort of Puerto Mogan in Gran Canaria in a one-bedroom apartment just a short walk from the beach and pretty harbour where there was a great selection of bars and restaurants to choose from. The sun shone and temperatures reached in to the mid to high 20C’s. We took a ferry trip along the coast, went fishing for the day and saw dolphins playing and hired a car for a tour round the island climbing high into the hills and even spending time in the capital Las Palmas. The holiday was actually a twin centre trip as I split my stay between the apartment in Puerto Mogan and a hotel in the Maspalomas - The Seaside Palm Beach - so I got to see two very different resorts as Maspalomas is very much about the beach back by sand dunes. Part of the beach and dunes are popular with naturists so don't make the mistake my husband and I made of going off in search of birds of the feathered variety with the binoculars.... My recent stay in the southern Cornwall village of Mousehole in a delightful one up one down terraced cottage was no less enjoyable. The village is charming and although the Christmas lights for which they are well known were conspicuous by their absence this year we were treated to an outdoor carol service on the harbourside. We took a drive to St Ives for walk on the beach and through the town, took a drive along the coast towards St Just – we did not go as far as Lands End this time or visit the Minack Theatre or the Telegraph Museum at Porthcurno, which my son loved so much when he was small, preferring instead to have a delicious seafood tapas lunch in Newlyn and a walk round the working harbour before heading back to Mousehole for hot chocolate overlooking the sea. Sunday was spent snuggled up in front of the log burner with the papers before heading to the local pub for fabulous roast dinner. Whatever your holiday of choice I'm here to help.
04 May 2021
I guess I should have entitled this blog messing about on the canal, but it does not have the same ring to it. I have been on two narrowboat holidays in my life, and I can't work out why I have not taken more of this type of holiday as on both occasions I have had a fabulous time. Some of my memories of the first time are a little hazy as it was over 25 years ago but I will always remember my mother-in-law running between locks along the towpath, my dad taking about 10 attempts to manoeuvre the boat around a tight bend to take us from the Grand Union Canal back on to the Stratford Ring, catching the back of the boat on a lock gate in the middle of Stratford-upon-Avon being filmed by a number of fascinated Japanese tourists and the stillness of the canal first thing in the morning as the mist rose off the water and only the sound of the birds and the phut phut of engine as we set off on the next leg of our journey. My more recent trip was in 2020 when we picked up a narrowboat in Bradford on Avon. This time my husband and I were joined by his sister and her husband for a 4 night trip that took us along the Kennet & Avon canal to Devizes to the west and back towards Bath to the right of the town. The Devizes leg was the most challenging as we had to navigate Caen Hill Locks - a flight of 29 locks. Of course, having gone up them we had to come back down the following day. We were certainly in need of a stiff drink at the end of those two days! The journey towards Bath was more relaxing but the views just as lovely especially crossing the Avoncliff Aqueduct. Although the boats have a kitchen one of the great attractions of travelling along the canal system is the waterside pubs and cafes. The 2020 trip was a little bit lacking from this perspective as some of the pubs were closed so my tip would be to check the options along your route in advance and when stocking up with supplies add an instant meal just in case - the M&S lasagne we picked up in Devizes certainly came in handy towards then end of our trip. To find out more about this wonderful type of holiday get in touch, I look forward to hearing from you.
09 May 2019
My journey started with an Air Canada flight from Heathrow to Vancouver where we were hosted jointly by the Vancouver Tourist Board and Rocky Mountaineer for a fun 48 hours in this wonderful city. I had last visited in 1992 but apart from some newer buildings and a few extra activities, very little had changed and it was great to go back to Stanley Park, Capilano Suspension Bridge park which now hosts a Treetop walk as well as the world-famous suspension bridge, cruise past the Gastown Steam Clock, through Yaletown and China Town and to spend time exploring Granville Island with its craft shops and food market. I particularly liked the beers I tried in the Granville Island Brewery and FlyOver Canada, a simulated flight over the country from coast to coast. All too soon it was time to head to the Rocky Mountaineer station to board the train. Even the station was fun with a pianist entertaining us before we were treated to the piper signalling it was time to board. We were greeted by our cabin crew and were soon settled in Gold Leaf for our first day on the rails. Gold Leaf is a bi-level glass-done coach with viewing on the top level, meals served in the lower level dining room from which there were still great views and a good-sized outdoor viewing platform. The crew were great keeping us well informed about the format for the day, stories and history about the places we passed as well as feeding and watering us on a regular basis. The scenery was wonderful even before we hit the Rockies. The day sped by all too quickly despite the leisurely speed of the train and we were soon in Kamloops our stop for the night. The service was seamless and we were off the train and in our hotel in no time at all. We were hosted by the Kamloops Tourist Office and they laid on some traditional entertainment and provided us with information about the town which most people only get a small glimpse of passing through. The Travel Counsellors in the group also got to meet up with some of our Australian colleagues and it was great to catch up and swap stories of our adventures. Next morning, it was another early start this time we experienced the Silver Leaf level of service. The coach is only on one level and the outside space could only accommodate a couple of people at a time but the windows are taller than those in Gold Leaf, the seats exactly the same and the food and service continued to be exceptional. The scenery is what made the day though as we made our way in to and though the Rocky Mountains to our final destination Banff where we bid a sad farewell to the train and our great crew. Our home for the next two nights was the Caribou Lodge which is on the main road towards the edge of town but after all the great food on the train it was nice to have the 10/15 minute walk to the centre where there is a great selection of shops, bars and restaurants that cater for both the winter and summer visitors. The town is low rise and full of character being mindful of its national park location. After a good night's sleep we were off and out the next day to visit a still frozen Lake Louise which really lives up to it reputation for being a stunning spot and I even got to walk on the lake. From here our journey took us north up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper and more stunning scenery including more lakes and glaciers until we reach the point where we could board an Ice Explorer to take us out on to one of the glaciers to marvel further at the wonder that is nature before retracing our steps back to Banff. Next morning it was a more leisurely start before taking the Gondola up Sulphur Mountain to marvel at the view over Banff and Lake Minnewanka and surrounding areas. Once back down on the ground we swung past the world famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls, Tunnel Mountain Drive and the Hoodoos (tower like natural structures/ rock needles composed of sedimentary rock) before leaving the Rockies behind us and heading to Calgary for our last night. Calgary surprised me. It is a very clean city, high rise in the downtown area, as you would expect from a city that gets it wealth from oil and gas, but more traditional heading out towards the Stampede grounds. I really enjoyed the view from the Calgary Tower and the commentary supplied by the audio guide. Very compact it was an easy walk through wide streets and there were a good selection of shops, restaurants and interesting sculptures. I was sad to leave and look forward to going back again soon. Thank you Rocky Mountaineer for a wonderful trip!
17 December 2018
When I won a place on this Club Med educational ski trip to Val Thorens I was delighted as it meant I got to ski for a weekend and to find out more about the great product that Club Med offer. We flew to Geneva and it was 2hr 30-minute transfer to the resort. The welcome was warm and well organised with our room keys and lift passes waiting for us. We were escorted to our rooms which were warm and well equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, bottled water and environmentally friendly toiletries. My room had a view across the roof tops to the mountains. There are a range of room options available including suites and interconnecting rooms for families. We were given instructions on obtaining our equipment, where to store it in the individual heated lockers and where we could meet the ski school to discuss our lesson requirements. Ski lessons are included with all Club Med ski holidays (you can choose snowboarding if you prefer) and these cover all levels of ability. Food is plentiful with a buffet restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is a late breakfast option, afternoon tea and lunchtime and early evening canapes - the only meal I did not find was a midnight feast! There is an a la carte restaurant for which reservations are required as tables are limited and a wine tasting room for which there is a small supplement. I must confess it was odd to stop for a full buffet lunch as when I am skiing with my family, we just stop for a quick snack on the slopes but it is definitely something I could get used to. You can even have your lunch in the sister resort in Meribel in the next valley over if you want to take greater advantage of more of the fantastic skiing that the Three Valleys has to offer. The resort is ski in/ski out which is great as you don't waste any time getting on buses or walking to the slopes. The ski school meets just outside, and my group was very international with guests from Spain, Israel, Germany and the USA. Even if you are an experienced skier like me you can always learn something, and it is a great way of getting to know the resort. One afternoon I ended up as the only person in the class as the weather was poor, so I had a private lesson which was fabulous - even if I could not really see where I was going! Away from the slopes the hotel has a climbing wall, a spa (I had a wonderful massage - purely in the interest of research of course), a hammam, a fully equipment gym, an exercise room offering various classes including Pilates and a roof top hot tub. There are two bars offering a comprehensive range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a lounge with a DJ both and a stage where the staff put on some great performances and a second quieter lounge where there is more live entertainment. I highly recommend the Club Med all-inclusive ski product whether for a short break or longer and look forward to going back! Thank you, Clarisse and your team.
25 July 2018
My husband Tim is a keen motorcyclist and has visited the Picos de Europa in northern Spain with his biking buddies on numerous occasions and I decided it was time I found out what all the fuss was about. We took the 25-hour Brittany Ferries crossing from Portsmouth to Santander on the Pont Aven. It is a long sailing but there are plenty of facilities on board including a pool, cinema, lounge, bars and restaurants and live entertainment. There is also the opportunity to look out for whales and dolphins particularly when sailing through the Bay of Biscay and they even give talks on these amazing creatures. From Santander we drove 60km west to San Vicente de la Barquera and the Hotel Faro de San Vicente for our first stop. It is a great little hotel with very fresh looking white décor and the restaurant kitchen stayed open until 11pm which was just as well as the ferry was running late, and we did not arrive until gone 10pm. The tapas were great and the service friendly. The next morning, we had a quick wander round the harbour before heading further west to Cangas De Onis taking a picturesque route along the N-621/AS-114. Cangas is a picturesque town with a stunning bridge which we overlooked whilst eating a tasty lunch. We then took the N625 south along the western edge and gorges of the Picos to the lake side town of Riano before turning north east to our final destination of the day, the town of Potes, which is a great base for exploring the area. Here we stayed on the outskirts of town at the Hotel Infantado. Potes sprawls along the river with many bars and restaurants but our favourite bar was Radical 4/14 which is popular with locals and tourists alike. We spent the next three days riding out and exploring the area but took one day off to take the cable car to the top of the mountain at Fuente De from where we took a stunning 16km walk back downhill to the base station. Tim was hoping to spot an elusive bird called a Wall Creeper but it was not to be, although we did see vultures, eagles and lots of other species plus some great flora. Leaving Potes we started to make our way reluctantly back towards the ferry at Santander. We took the most scenic route possible and found a delightful lunch spot at the Posada Rural Flor Del Nogal where I had the most amazing dish of Nachos - mango sauce, nachos, guacamole, strawberries and fresh anchovies - it sounds disgusting and had I known what I was ordering I would have chosen something else, but it was stunning! After lunch, we rode on to our final stop at the Palacio Torre de Ruesga. Set in yet more beautiful countryside and a room with the biggest jacuzzi bath I have ever seen. We had a lovely night talking to some lovely people and slept well in a very comfortable king size bed. Breakfast was plentiful and tasty, and it set us up for our final circuitous ride back to Santander for the ferry back to the UK. This was only a short trip. Seven nights in total with two on the ferry and five in Spain but it was one of the best trips we have taken. I will let the pictures do the talking.
26 May 2018
When I suggest the resort of Ras Al Khaimah to clients I am often met with the word "where"? Well I can tell you that it is one of the seven Emirates and depending on traffic some 45 minutes from Dubai but in many respects a world away. Ras Al Khaimah is much more laid back than its high rise neighbours focusing more on the beaches and adventure based activities which it is promoting. It still has some way to go and there are a number of building projects in the offing but from my experience it is well on the way to establishing itself as a great alternative to Dubai. The rules surrounding the consumption of alcohol are much the same but there are hotels offering all inclusive which is great news. I stayed at the amazing Waldorf Astoria which was originally built as a palace and the generous rooms sizes reflect this. With the beach one side and the golf course the other and with a new shopping mall a short walk away the hotel is well placed to enjoy all that Ras Al Khaimah has to offer as a beach destination but travel inland and you are greeted by desert and mountains. The mountain range of Jebel Jais offers a myriad of adventure activities including mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking and is home to the longest zipline. At 2.83m long the zipline is not for the faint hearted as you are launched from the starting point in a horizontal position high above the valley below. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take part due to a former neck injury from a rollercoaster ride in Florida so I have to satisfy myself with having only done the second longest zipline in the world but it was great to watch my colleagues. In the desert we watched the sun go down with a glass of fizz and had falconry display followed by an evening of traditional entertainment and food at a Bedouin Oasis camp. If it is culture you are looking for this can be found with a visit to Dhayah Fort a 19th century fortress built on the foundations of much older structures and the only hilltop fort still existing in the UAE. We were hosted for different events at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island which has great facilities for adults and children alike, the Rixos Bab Al Bar an all inclusive resort perfect for families, the Cove Rotana which put on a wonderful lunch in their Mediterranean restaurant Basilico and finally the Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Hamra Beach which put on a spectacular gala dinner on the beach with the most amazing buffet. We also got to look at one of their wonderful tented beach pool villas - a fitting end to a great trip.
26 May 2018
The Maldives have been on my list of must-see destinations for a long time so when I got the chance of a short visit I jumped at the chance. First stop was Atmosphere by Kanifushi an island in the Lhaviyani Atoll just a 30 minute seaplane transfer from Male Airport and what a great way to arrive. The scenic flight afforded great views of the resort as we came into land. The welcome was like nothing I had ever experienced as we were greeted by many of the staff and escorted ashore by drummers in traditional costume. This family friendly premium all inclusive resort has stand alone beach villas along 2 kilometres of turquoise lagoon and you can walk, cycle or hail a golf buggy to take you the length of the island. Our villas was comfortably furnished with king beds and outdoor bathrooms and some even have a private pool. If you don't want to swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean there are two pools to choose from - one an infinity pool solely for adults. Activities include snorkelling and scuba diving as well as a range of motorised and non-motorised water sports, a gym, spa and tennis court, sunset and dolphin watching cruises as well as visits to local community islands and we took advantage of an early morning yoga class. Not only did we see dolphins but even stingrays and a nesting turtle made an appearance which was magical. There are fantastic restaurants including Spice - a buffet restaurant where we had breakfast, Teppanyaki Grill - where we had the most amazing experience with the chef putting on a great show and mouth watering food including the most delicious lobster dish, and Just Veg - a speciality vegetarian restaurant currently rated number 1 in the Maldives on TripAdvisor (I had a stunning potato gnocchi with fresh blueberries, blue cheese mouse and mizuna leaves). Our second stop was the sister resort of Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo a 45 minute luxury speedboat ride from Male - again the welcome was warm and even included a foot massage whilst we were waiting for our room keys. My room was an Earth Villa with pool - a thatched, standalone beach-front room with its own butler, tropical garden and outdoor bathroom. Very stylish and comfortable. Facilities include a spa, water sports centre including dive school, a fitness suite with a view to die for, kids club and a range of excursions including an exclusive submarine experience or sunset fishing trip. I took a yoga class with a difference atop a traditional dhoni and some colleagues went on a snorkelling safari. The food here was equally as good as at Kanifushi with a fabulous buffet at The Palms, a stunning Indian/Sri Lankan meal a Traditions IndoCylon which is open for dinner along with Peking which shares the same overwater space and the grand finale fine dining at M6m the exclusive underwater restaurant where you can watch beautiful underwater views whilst eating delicious seafood. These islands really are a piece of heaven and I can't wait to return for a longer stay...
26 May 2018
My holidays for the last few years have taken on a bit of a Caribbean theme and 2018 was no exception with a last minute trip to Saint Kitts & Nevis. These lovely islands just 10 minutes apart by water taxi could not be more different. St. Kitts with its deep water harbour and Georgian fort and scenic railway long popular with cruise ships seems a world away from sleepy Nevis with its converted sugar plantations and 3 hole golf course! Our first stop was St. Kitts and we split our stay between the simple style Timothy Beach Resort on the beach at the end of "the strip" in Frigate Bay and the recently opened Park Hyatt St. Kitts, Christophe Harbour. At the Timothy Beach we had a mountain view room and a warm welcome at the Dock Bar popular with locals watching the sun go down and a tasty dinner at the Sunset Café. The Park Hyatt was a step up and my husband Tim is still talking about the amazing seafood meal we had in the Fisherman's Village months later. Set on a private beach facing Nevis the rooms all face the sea and many have private pools. There are two pools (one just for adults), a spa and fitness centre, kids club, water sports centre and a choice of bars and restaurants. The staff were some of the friendliest I have ever met and made our stay a dream - and we would love to return. We toured the island in a hire car passing through the colourful capital Basseterre, climbed up to British designed Brimstone Hill Fortress dating from the 17th and 18th centuries with its commanding views of the surrounding countryside and islands, Black Rocks a notable rock formation, had lunch at Arthur's at Dieppe Bay in the north of the island and watch the sun go down at Salt Plage accompanied by live music. We were sad to leave St. Kitts but Nevis was an absolute gem. We arrived by water taxi into Oualie Beach on the leeward coast and it was just a short taxi ride to our hotel the renown Nisbet Planation Beach Club once frequented by Prince Charles and still incredibly popular today and justifiably so. This converted sugar plantation with sweeping views down through the palm tree lined avenue to the sea still has its original Great House which dates back to 1778. The rooms are cottage style and dotted throughout the grounds and we had a lower deluxe junior suite located close to the ocean. We had breakfast overlooking the pool and ocean in Coconuts, lunch at Sea Breeze where we were entertained by a local band on Sunday and dinner in the Great House. The staff greet you as old friends and it is not surprising that many guests have been returning time and again. The very helpful Nevis Tourism Authority arranged a tour of the island by ATV with the wonderfully named Funky Monkey and we visited historic landmarks such as Hamilton Estate, New River & Coconut Walk Estates, the Cottle Church and St Thomas' Lowland Church (the first Anglican church in the Caribbean built in 1643), Golden Rock Inn with its beautiful gardens, Hermitage Plantation Inn which was built around the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean dating from around 1670 and passed the local 3 hole golf course and the drag racing track which must have the best view of any track in the world. we ended the tour at Sunshine's Beach Bar - home of the "Killer Bee" cocktail and one of the liveliest beach restaurants on the island popular with locals and tourists alike. We even took a stroll round the botanical gardens. We indulged ourselves dining out at Bananas which is hidden away above Hamilton Estate and surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the Gin Trap with its 101 gins and the amazing Montpelier Plantation & Beach where we were guests of the hotel. Montpelier is a boutique hotel in a unique location and Restaurant 750 where we dined on the terrace with wine pairing from the knowledgeable sommelier was a delight and I can't thank manager Helen Kidd and her team enough for their hospitality. This is a dream of a hotel and look forward to staying in the future. My husband says he wants to try somewhere different next year but I think I have left my heart in the Caribbean....
19 October 2017
We flew non-stop to Lima with British Airways landing in the early evening. Our first hotel the Antigua Miraflores is a traditional hotel hidden among the high rise buildings, a real gem of a hotel. Day 2 We drove an hour south to Pachacamac for a visit to the museum, pyramids and temples of Inca and pre-Inca civilisations before heading down the coast to Paracas. The San Agustín Paracas hotel was well placed, facing the sea and a short walk to local restaurants. Day 3 We took a 2 hour boat trip out to the Islas Ballestas - guano islands that are home to thousands of birds, sea lions and Humboldt penguins passing the Paracas Candelabra on the way (a curious pre-Inca design on the cliff face). Next it was a short drive to a Pisco Distillery to learn about the making of the liquor and the local wine - some tastings were involved. Lunch was at the Huaccachina Oasis overlooking the lake. Then it was on to Nasca with a stop at the viewing tower. From the tower we could see 4 of the 14 unexplained phenomena which are the Nasca Lines. Day 4 I elected to take a short flight over the Nasca Lines - we were the first flight up and we saw 3 more figures and trapezoids before the weather closed in and we had to turn back. Our 10 hour journey to Arequipa saw us hugging the coast for much of the time before heading inland to Peru's second largest city with just a few brief stops - one at Yalca to buy olives from local farmers. The drive took us through part of the Atacama Desert which is punctuated by river valleys where crops are grown. Day 5 - Arequipa We started with a short walk to the main square with its 15th century cathedral, administrative buildings, shops and restaurants. Then we paid a visit to the Museo Santuarios Andinos where we saw Juanita - a human sacrifice from the pre-Inca time who has been perfectly preserved. We took in the local market and the Alpaca shops. Our half-day tour took us to the outskirts of the city for a view of the three volcanos that dominate the landscape before heading back in to old part of the city for a walking tour which ended at the convent opposite our hotel. Days 6 & 7- Arequipa to Puno and Lake Titicaca The drive from Arequipa to Puno was another long one but the scenery was stunning changing from the desert to the high plains with sightings of Llama, Alpaca and Vicunas. The highest pass was 4400m before we descended lower to stop at Sillustani a pre-Inca burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo before arriving in to Puno. Despite altitude sickness I was determined to make the visit to Lake Titicaca (the largest commercial navigable lake in the world). We took a local boat to Taquile Island. Known for its high standard of hand woven textiles and had lunch overlooking the lake before heading to one of the 17 Uros-Tintos Floating Islands. We were given a traditional welcome before learning how they build their reed islands and boats and their way of life before being invited in to their homes. Day 7. Puno to Cusco The drive from Puno to Cusco was another long one. we stopped enroute at Abra La Raya (4,313m) to view the glacier (one of the sources of the Amazon and also and the watershed and geographical dividing line between the altiplano and the Vilcanota Valley), Raqchi which is the home of a former Incan temple and important food storage facility from those times and the amazing cathedral at Andahuaylillas - one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen with extraordinary gilding. The day ended with our arrival in to Cusco and a night on the town at a great restaurant where I sampled a local delicacy (guinea pig). Day 8. Cusco to the Sacred Valley We started with a tour of the former Incan garrison Sacsayhuaman which unsurprisingly afforded amazing views of the city below and a further insight in to this fascinating culture. Next stop was a textile centre where we saw the whole process from feeding the animals to the gift shop. This was followed by a view point, El Mirador, from where were able to see the whole of the Sacred Valley before descending in to the town of Pisac and time to explore the local market, known for its multi-coloured textiles, food and indigenous clothing. Our penultimate stop was at a Chiceria where learned about the making of Corn Beer (Chica) and played a game of Sapa. Our final stop was Ollantaytambo with its magnificent example of Incan urban living and we climbed to the Temple of the Sun God, learning yet more about these fascinating people and saw a rock formation representing the Inca God Wiracocha. Day 9 - Machu Picchu We took the Peru Rail Expedition service from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientas from where we boarded the bus to make the final climb through the cloud forest to the ruins at Machu Picchu. We had a tour of the archaeological zone taking in the Sun Temple, Temple of the Condor and Intiwatana (solar clock), the urban sector and agricultural zone whilst gazing across at Machu Picchu itself. The site is much bigger than I had realised with its giant walls, terraces and ramps, an amazing creation of the Inca Empire at its height. We returned to the town by bus before taking the Vistadome train back to Ollantaytambo and our bus to Cusco. Both train journeys exceeded expectations in comfort and the views. Days 10 & 11 - Cusco and Lima With the trip coming to an end we had tours of both cities. Cusco was the centre of the Incan empire and examples can be found everywhere particularly in the historic centre. We had a walking tour which took in the Stone of Twelve Angles at the Inca Roca Palace, the Temple of Quoricancha which was the most important temple of the Incan Empire dedicated to the worship of the sun and which remained hidden for many years inside a Catholic monastery until an earthquake in the 1950's. We took in the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by colonial arcades and four churches including the cathedral of Cusco built in the 1600's by the Spanish. Our tour ended in the El Museo de Cafe and free time to explore more of this beautiful city. We then took a short flight back to Lima and dinner overlooking Kennedy Square in the Miraflores district. Our last day started with a drive to the colonial side of Lima with sights such as the Cathedral, Government Palace where we caught some of the changing of the guard. We visited the Monastery of San Francisco, a seventeenth-century complex that houses some wonderful paintings as well as the catacombs which run under the church. We then returned to Miraflores where we finally saw the illusive Paddington Bear and lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean before heading to the airport and our flight home.
22 June 2017
When it was announced last November that one of the choices of destination for our Gold Conference was Jamaica, I jumped at the chance to go. This Caribbean island has long been a favourite with tourists across all sections; from the budget traveller to the great and the good of the music industry and even royalty. We flew in to Montego Bay, just a short transfer from our accommodation at Half Moon. There is also an airport close to the capital Kingston to the south of the island, which works better for reaching the resorts in the east and north east of the island. Half Moon is a sprawling resort offering a mixture of traditional hotel rooms and villas, each with their own private pool and staffed with a cook, housekeeper and butler. Breakfast on the terrace was freshly prepared daily, while lunch and dinner was provided on request, offering a choice ranging from local specialities to a pool side barbecue, along with a bar stocked with drinks of your choosing. We all enjoyed whizzing around on the golf carts provided with each villa. We sampled the restaurants, the beach and communal pools, the conference centre and browsed the shops and some even ventured as far as the gym, tennis courts and golf course! A range of activities were on offer and on our first full day I elected to visit some other hotels, including the Secrets St James and Wild Orchid and the brand new Breathless Resort on the other side of Montego. All three are all inclusive resorts catering for adults only with private beaches, a choice of restaurants and in the case of Breathless, a roof top terrace restaurant and pool with far reaching views. We returned to Secrets later in our stay for a White & Gold night with wonderful food and great entertainment. Our gala dinner was at the ever popular Sandals Montego Bay. who make no apology for their proximity to the airport and make a point of stopping to wave at the planes when they take off (staff and guests). The team at the hotel pulled out all the stops, with a beach side reception followed by a sit down meal with entertainment from a steel band playing many well known tunes, a fire-eater and a great DJ who even had the hotel guests joining in on their balconies above us! My next excursion was to the reputedly haunted Rose Hall Great House, It is a plantation house once owned by the infamous witch Annie Palmer, who is said to have murdered four husbands by varying methods and any number of slaves - a gruesome tale. The great lunch we had afterwards at Scotchies took the edge off with authentic jerk chicken and jerk pork washed down with a beer. My final excursion was to the world famous Dunns River Falls. Climbing the falls was a great experience that I would highly recommend. Our last night was spent at the stunning Round Hill Hotel and Villas. The hotel is a long standing favourite since it opened in 1953, seeing JFK and wife Jackie take their honeymoon here, Rogers and Hammerstein wrote the Sound of Music and Alfred Hitchcock got sunburnt. More recent guests include Prince Harry and Ralph Lauren, with the latter keeping a villa here, and even designed some of the rooms in their recent refurbishment. They are gorgeous and so was the amazing villa where we had our cocktail reception, before heading to the main restaurant for dinner. I seriously did not want to leave! My one regret is that I did not get to the Bob Marley Museum, or any of the other great attractions this wonderful island has to offer, but this just gives me a fantastic excuse to go back!
03 May 2017
If you are not familiar with it Antigua (and its sister island Barbuda) are islands in the Caribbean just an 8 hour flight from the UK making it popular with winter sun seekers. With 365 beaches to choose from and steady winds it is a favourite of beach lovers and sailors alike. Families and couples looking for relaxation and a little luxury are well catered for with many beautiful hotels and villas to suit all budgets. My husband Tim and I visited the island for nine nights in March and the sun shone everyday and the temperatures were in the early 30C's although we did get a few tropical showers keeping the island lovely and green. Our first stop was at the Hawksbill by Rex on the west coast not far from the capital St John's. The hotel has 3 beaches (one is the only naturist beach on the island) and many of the other guests we met had been staying at the hotel for many years. During our stay we met up with friends who had rented a villa on the north of the island near Hodges Bay and we met them on a couple of occasions for lunch at two wonderful beach clubs - Coconut Grove and Jackie O's - neither were cheap but the food and the atmosphere were spot on. We also took a look at Darkwood Beach which was popular with cruise passengers from one of the ships at anchor in St John's. Next stop was the stunning Inn at English Harbour - a firm favourite of our best friends who have visited on many occasions and based on our personal experience I am not at all surprised. A boutique hotel with a colonial feel it is just a short boat ride from Nelson's Dockyard - a well preserved Georgian dockyard - and English Harbour where restaurants and bars are in abundance and we took the opportunity to sample a couple of these and thoroughly enjoyed the live music on Saturday lunchtime although we missed the party and barbecue at Shirley Heights. We did take a pre-breakfast walk up and take in the view though. Although we were tempted to stay longer our next hotel was waiting for us and we hired a car for the drive north stopping off at a more reasonably priced bar at Half Moon Bay (the Beach Bum Bar), Nonsuch Bay. We had a quick tour of the wonderful hotel, Devil's Bridge, where my husband tried very hard to get me soaked by the waves and various beaches along the east coast, before we arrived at Ocean Point Resort & Spa. It's an Italian owned and run hotel offering a fantastic buffet and catering particularly well for the vegetarians we met, it offers a range of great day and evening activities. Our final stop was the much lauded Blue Waters Hotel Resort & Spa. Another stunning hotel where we had the great fortune to be upgrade to a Cove Suite - wow! The resort offers wonderful facilities and we sampled the guided snorkelling on the reef which we reached by Hobie Cat - one of the many the hotel have for the use of guests, we gave the tennis courts, children's club and the gym a miss but I did have a great facial in the fabulous spa and we sampled the delights of all four restaurants. We were incredibly sad to leave this incredibly friendly island and I am sure we will be back before too long.
28 May 2016
I am extremely lucky to do the job that I do and the trade launch of the new Royal Caribbean Cruise ship Harmony of the Seas is an great example of this. The best way to give you a flavour of the fantastic things you can do on board the biggest cruise ship in the world is to tell you how I spent my day.... 8am - 10am start the day with a session in the gym or in my case the spa with a Seaweed Wrap (slather in seaweed, wrap in foil, cover with a blanket and bake for 20 minutes whilst having a head massage, rinse and repeat, without the seaweed, whilst having reflexology, rinse again and follow with a full body massage.) Heaven 10am to 11am - meet the girls for coffee in Central Park 12pm - 1pm - wish it was warmer so we could have some fun in one of these great pools 1pm - 2pm what do we fancy for lunch.... Italian at Jamie's, steak at Chops Grill or imaginative cuisine in Wonderland? 2pm - 3pm. Think I need to let lunch go down before tackling The Ultimate Abyss, so maybe some gentle rock climbing or a spin on the carousel. .. 3pm - 4pm. Should we join the kids for playtime or the grown ups and solve the puzzle and "Escape the Rubicon"? 4pm - 5pm. Check out the great cabins including one with a virtual balcony (it plays a live fees of what is going on outside) before a pit stop at the Bionic Bar... 6pm - 11.30pm. Time for dinner and two live performances. . Grease the Musical (sorry no photos) at 6.30pm and 1887 Ice Show at 10.30pm. Midnight. .. just time for a nightcap in the Jazz Bar before bed... what a great day. Wish I could do it all again tomorrow.! All this and amazing ports of call.....
18 April 2016
Having never been on a large cruise ship for more than a night I jumped at joining this great educational on the Carnival Dream. The fact that we had two nights in Louisiana before the cruise was a fantastic start. After flights with Delta through Atlanta (there is no direct flight to New Orleans yet) our first night was in Lafayette at the Homewood Suites which had very large suite style rooms with kitchen facilities although we did not have time to use them as we were off out at 06.30 (the buffet was open for an early coffee so bonus points there). We had a great first day in Louisiana. Boudin for breakfast at a Lafayette institution, a swamp tour (yes we did see Alligators), the Tabasco factory where I tasted Tabasco ice cream amongst other things before we heard to Baton Rouge for a late lunch at the Indigo Hotel. The afternoon was spent touring the highlights of the city including a drive-through Daiquiri Shack - only in Louisiana! Dinner was at Poor Boy Lloyds which had been visited by President Obama only the week before! It was a wonderful start to day two with visits to Houmas House where our hostess Susan gave a great tour and a real insight to the life of a "Southern" lady and Oak Alley Plantation with its slave history and with Mint Julep's and all before 10am. Next we headed to New Orleans for a walking tour. What a fun tour it was - Po-Boys and cocktails with guide Brian from Grayline Tours. The only thing missing was a cemetery tour - on the list for my next visit! I was sad to leave New Orleans but excited to join the ship. Embarkation was surprisingly quick helped by the VIP treatment that many Travel Counsellors’ guests can experience too. The sail away party was fun with the DJ's, live music and Dr Seuss characters all part of the mix. I had an interesting first day at sea. We had a training session in the morning all about the exciting things Carnival Cruises have to offer on board - comedy clubs, live music acts, IMAX theatres, speciality dining, kids clubs and more. A tour of the ship followed then a deck side barbecue lunch. Pre-dinner drinks in Sam's Piano Bar and dinner in Scarlets Restaurant. It was nice to see everyone in their formal night finery. Day two was a relaxing morning in Serenity (adult only area) followed by a pedicure in the Cloud 9 Spa. Movies on deck with fresh popcorn and ThirstyRedFrog beer but I left room for a delicious filet mignon in Chef's Art steakhouse - yum! The next day our first port of call was Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras. We had a morning tour of the island taking in West End, Coxon Hole, Flowers Bay and French Harbour. A chair lift ride to the beach gave great views of the bay and the Carnival Valor who was in port at the same time before a quick look round the duty free shops and a giggle at the Spring Break revellers. Day four and we spend a lovely day ashore in Belize (British Honduras) visiting Xunantunich Mayan Ruins which involved a two hour drive in either direction. Our guides used the time to fill us in about the country including the reason for the long tender ride to the dock (protecting the reef). The ruins were very interesting and we also saw spider monkeys, iguanas and the national flower the black orchid. Lunch was rice and beans with chicken and a bottle of the local beer which went down well in the 85f heat. (I almost envied the lady washing her clothes in the river). Then it was back to the ship which was looking great in the sunshine. Our last port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. I decided on a lazy beach day so caught a cab to Money Bar beach club and restaurant as we were told there was great snorkelling. We were not disappointed and saw lots of colourful reef fish - at one point I was completely surrounded - it was magical, I only wish I had been diving. This cruise route has fantastic ports of call for keen divers and opportunities were offered for all abilities at the shore excursion desk. We were so busy snorkelling that we left no time to sample the vast shopping options at the port - hubby Tim was relieved I'm sure. After dinner in Scarlet's Restaurant I finally found time to see the comedian who was very funny. It is amazing where the time goes! We enjoyed a super last 24 hours. More towel animals, Dr Seuss "green eggs and ham" breakfast with all the characters. A Behind the Fun tour of the bridge (we met the captain), engine control room, backstage area, laundry, galley and crew areas - very interesting. A quick lunch taking in the chocolate buffet, then it was time for bingo - I didn't win the $5000 star prize. Still time left for a show and one last trip to the Steakhouse as the ship makes her way back to New Orleans. On our final day it was time to say goodbye to the Carnival Dream - disembarkation was smooth and even US immigration did not take too long so there was still time to experience New Orleans on Easter Sunday. Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee (a local institution) was worth waiting in the rain for. Thank you to Carnival Cruises and the Louisiana Tourist Office for a memorable trip. I hope to be back on board again soon.
19 October 2015
I have been lucky to visit the beautiful islands of the Seychelles twice and on both occasions the trips have exceeded expectations. The visit was arranged by the Seychelles Tourist Board in conjunction with our local agents and was a great mix of hotel inspections and time getting to know the islands. My first trip was in 1992 and my husband and I did a couple of the excursions that were included in my recent itinerary including a tour of the capital Victoria which featured a visit to the daily produce market and the famous clock tower. This time we also had an authentic creole meal at Restaurante Marie Antoinette which was a real treat. The other was a full day boat trip to the Marine Park where we had time on a semi-submersible to get a view of the coral reef and fish feeding and snorkelling where I saw a myriad of reef fish, a turtle and a sting ray (top tip - wear a t-shirt when snorkelling as even with factor 30 sunscreen I still managed to get sunburnt for the first time in over 20 years! We went ashore at Moyenne Island where we were able to walk round the whole island looking out for the giant tortoises and had some time on the beach too. We experienced four hotels on Mahe - the boutique Hilton Northolme Resort & Spa which is adult only and currently has just 40 sea facing rooms (they are opening their new pool villas in November), the Savoy Resort & Spa which is situated on the beach front at Beau Vallon Bay and well placed to get out and experience local bars and restaurants (although this is no reflection on the food at the hotel which was excellent), the Constance Ephelia - an all-suite hotel with some fantastic family villas with their own pools and a great range of activities, and finally the Kempinski Seychelles. It was the Plantation Club when I stayed there 23 years ago and is still a marvellous place to stay. We took an inter-island flight to Praslin for a stay at the glorious Constance Lemuria - the only hotel in the Seychelles with its own golf course. We also managed a visit to the Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve; a nature park and UNESCO World Heritage Site and took the regular ferry service to the island of La Digue for a tour of the island including a stop a Anse de l'Argent which is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world - well worth a picture with the white sand, pink granite boulders and amazingly blue water. Our last stop was Denis Private Island - a barefoot resort a 30 minute flight from Mahe which has just 29 cottages and one villa. With no phone signal and only limited Wi-Fi the island is a real escape from the modern world. I really hope it is not another 23 years before I get to return to these enchanting islands.
31 May 2015
When my husband Tim heard that the 2015 Gold Conference was to be held in Mexico he decided he would like to join me but refused to go just for the official 4 days so we added on a few extra days in which to explore the are under our own steam. We stayed at the 5 star Secrets the Vine which offers the AM Resorts all inclusive "unlimited luxury" concept. It is a beach front hotel with 4 pools, 6 gourmet restaurants, a spa, free Wi-Fi and 24 hour complimentary room service. The drinks are premium brands and although this does not extend to the wine the offer a good house wine selection with the option of pay for vintage wines at dinner. There is a full entertainment program that included pool side bands and dancers, comedy and music nights, water polo, aquarobics and Pilates and yoga classes to name but a few. We took part in Tequila tasting - there was not a shot glass, salt or a slice of lime in sight and it tastes more akin to scotch than I expected, and wine tasting - who knew Mexico produced such tasty wines! Leaving Tim to enjoy a days deep sea fishing which he found good value and very enjoyable I joined colleagues on a couple of hotel inspections of the new Dreams the Sands, this hotel is in a very central location in the Cancun hotel zone and commands a beautiful beach front with much calmer lagoon style waters than that in front of The Vine, and the boutique Zoetry Villa Rolandi which is on the small Island of Islas Mujeres (the island of women). We arrived at the 35 room property by private catamaran and were treated to a gourmet lunch in the world famous restaurant - both were equally beautiful and the meal delicious and I would love to go back for a longer stay. When my colleagues departed Tim and I filled our days with our own day out to Islas Mujeres taking the public bus and ferry and hiring a golf buggy to tour the length and breadth of the island and at the most easterly point in Mexico - Acantilado del Amanecer (Cliff of the Dawn) we were treat to the rare sight of mating leatherback turtles in the water. We had a days diving with two contrasting dives - one was the Jason de Caires Taylor underwater sculpture museum (Museo Subacuatico de Arte) which was quite something, too new to have much more than algae and coral polyps yet but we did see a green turtle, a large sting ray and an Electric Ray which I had not seen before. The second dive was a drift dive on the Manchones Reef where we saw more turtles, Tarpon, Angel Fish and Barracuda to name but a few. We had an early start for a bird watching trip where we saw several species endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula including Orange Orioles, a Yucatan Jay (blue), a Rose Throated Tanager, a Yucatan Woodpecker and a Ferruginous Pigmy Owl. We hired a boat and captain to take us on a tour of the Cancun Lagoon in the hope of seeing more bird life and were treated to a few marine bird sightings. On our last day we hired a car and drove south along the Riviera Maya passing the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Puerto Moreles to the Mayan ruins at Tulum - this is the only walled Mayan city known to exist on the seashore and a major port-of-call on the Mayan Maritime trade routes. We also popped in to the Dreams Tulum Hotel for a quick tour of this great family hotel and a delicious lunch in their Seaside Grill Restaurant before stopping of a the Dos Ojos (two eyes) Cenote for a swim in one of the freshwater filled sink holes. Tim and I are not shoppers or night clubbers but if you want to take part in theses activities there are several options on offer with everything from designer and duty free shopping malls to local flea markets and clubs such as Coco Bongos which offers and dance and cabaret experience rolled in to one. There are excursion options for all the family and culture vultures can be satisfied too with Coba, Valladolid and Chichen Itza just a bus or car ride away. I think we may have to go back some day....
18 October 2014
Sri Lanka had been high on my wish list after I had an educational visit cancelled in 2005 so I was really looking forward to my visit. It was great to arrive and depart in style with Business Class flights courtesy of British Airways. The flights to Colombo make a quick touchdown on Male in the Maldives in both directions which makes for interesting viewing during landing and take-off. On arrival it was a short transfer to the Jetwing Beach Hotel, a super hotel on a nice looking beach within easy reach of the modest town of Negombo - which has a good selection of restaurants and an interesting old quarter. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit but we managed to squeeze in a tour of the sister hotel, the Jetwing Blue, next door. The next morning it was an early start for our journey north to Anuradhapura with a stop en route at the Pinnawela elephant orphanage to watch the elephants bathe in the river (we had the opportunity to give one of the younger elephants a scrub behind the ears) before following them across the road to see the very young ones being bottle fed. It was a late arrival at our hotel for the evening, the stunning Ulagalla Wallawwa Resort which has just 20 “chalets” (stilted villas set amongst the rice paddies). The surroundings, food and service were outstanding and waking in the morning to look out of the window and see a range of birds and animals including a whole troop of monkeys made a great start to the day. Day 3 was spent visiting the ancient city of Anuradhapura where we were lucky to see a once a year event – that of Great Stupa being wrapped in the Buddhist flag. The flag is carried by hundreds of locals and it is wrapped round three times and left in place until it disintegrates and is replaced again. We also took the opportunity to be blessed at the Bo Tree Temple – said to be the offspring of the tree where Buddha found enlightenment. Our afternoon experience was very different as we took a jeep safari into the Minneriya wildlife sanctuary where we saw plenty of animals and reptiles but the elusive leopards kept out of sight on this occasion although they had been seen earlier that morning. That evening we spent at The Heritance Kandalama Dambulla, a hotel built in to the rock face with stunning views over the reservoir to the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress which we had the opportunity to climb early the following morning. I must confess to only getting part way as my fear of heights was put to test so I explored the lower reaches and the interesting cave paintings whilst my colleague reached the top (I have no regrets!). More climbing took us to the Dambulla Cave Temples and I did manage to see all of these with their beautiful statues and decorations before heading south to Kandy for our next stop. Kandy is a delightful hill station, once the capital of the Singhalese Kingdom and the cultural centre of Sri Lanka. We settled in to our hotel for the night, the Cinnamon Citadel where we had time to sample the swimming pool overlooking the river before heading off to see a Kandyan dance performance and fire walking before a visit to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. This is a very beautiful temple and also the sight of the surrender of Sri Lanka to the British in 1815. Another early start the following morning gave us time to visit a word carving factory, the Gem Museum and a batik shop where we all dressed up in local costume before continuing our journey to Kegalle and the unique Rosyth Estate House - a colonial tea and rubber plantation with just 7 rooms, where we experienced the wonderful hospitality of the owners Neil and Farzana Dobbs and their team. The day featured delicious local cuisine and impromptu cooking lesson from the chef, a visit to the tea factory and a walk through the tea and rubber trees, all topped off with drinks on the verandah overlooking the surrounding hillside watching the fireflies play. Another early start saw us heading further south to Koggala and another stunning boutique property, The Fortress Resort & Spa where we arrived in time for a delicious lunch and some relaxation time by the pool and in the spa – a real treat after our hectic schedule of the past few days. Dinner was another treat with half board at the hotel extending to the almost the whole of the a la carte menu. Our last full day included a tour of the brand new Cape Weligama Hotel which was set to open shortly after our visit. The hotel is in a spectacular location and has some 13 pools for guests to enjoy. With the business element of the day dealt with we travelled along the coast road to Galle passing the stilt fishermen along the way. In Galle we had a short time to explore the famous Dutch ramparts in Galle Fort, Dutch church, colonial style buildings and old lighthouse. They say the world is a very small place and whilst stopping for an ice cream in one of the back streets we struck up a conversation with owner who asked if we knew Exmoor and Styles Ice Cream – I said yes, the owners are friends of mine and it turns out they had been there the year before and he gave me some local tea to take home to thank them for the ice cream scoop they had sent him in the post – an amazing coincidence! By late afternoon we had arrived in our last stop of the trip, Bentota, and the Centara Ceysands Resort & Spa. A family friendly hotel positioned on a small island and reached by the hotels own ferry and offering a great selection of water sports. Bentota is a popular resort just 100 km south of the airport and the calm seas from November to April make it ideal for snorkelling, diving, sailing, wind surfing, water-skiing and deep sea fishing on a traditional outrigger canoe. We had a super last night with a band playing at the hotel and were sad to say our goodbyes the next day to our excellent drivers and guide. I am sure I will be back….
07 June 2014
Ok, so I have to put my hands up and say that this was a trip that I was dreading as I am not someone who is great when it comes to crowds and have never been a great fan of rides and theme parks. But I have to be honest and say that I actually enjoyed myself. I guess part of this came from staying in the delightful Loews Portofino Bay Hotel which is one of the onsite hotels at Universal. The property is a recreation of the town of Portofino in northern Italy and a lot of attention has been paid to the little details, even down to the paint used on the external walls. The villa room I shared with my colleague Shirley Smith was a great size with a wonderfully comfortable bed and a lovely view of the adult only pool and the beautiful gardens. There is a free water taxi to Universal City walk (the entertainment and restaurant area of the complex where hotel guests get priority restaurant seating when they show their key card) and from there on to Universal Islands of Adventure. This is divided into different themes including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which will soon be linked to a second area (Diagon Alley) in Universal Studios - the first time the two parks have been joined. I decided to enter into the spirit of things and joined a VIP tour of the two parks. The tour enabled us to bypass all the queues (even the Xpress Pass queues which hotel guests receive on a complimentary basis and reduce queues to just 15 minutes). The guide who escorted us tailored it to our likes and dislikes and gave us a lot of insight into the parks. We started with Despicable Me - a simulator - before tackling the scariest rollercoaster I have ever been on or am likely to go on called The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I decided that as I am celebrating a significant birthday this year that I should step out of my comfort zone and join in the "fun". Hmmm enough said! Other experiences included Transformers, The Simpsons, ET, Jurassic Park, The Hulk, Duelling Dragons and Harry Potter. I had to sit most of these out but my colleagues had great fun. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and various food and beverage packages are available to help with financial budgeting. Other daytime activities on offer to us included a trip to Wet 'n' Wild water park, air boat rides, hot air balloon rides, golf (there are 147 golf courses in the Orlando area), free time for shopping with some amazing bargains to be had in the regular shopping malls and the outlet malls where the goods are hugely reduced in price. Along with a little shopping I chose a day trip to Kennedy Space Centre which is around an hour from Orlando and the launch site for many NASA space missions and the final resting place of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. I had a fabulous day that included meeting Terry White, one of the engineers on the Space Shuttle, lunch with astronaut Bruce Melnick, not quite as intimate as I had hoped as there were around 200 of us but still interesting and I got to shake his hand, and getting up close to Atlantis and Saturn V. We were hoping to see a rocket launch but weather conditions delayed this so it was postponed. Evening activities included the Blue Man Group which I thoroughly enjoyed followed by Duelling Pianos at Pat O’Brien’s in City Walk, drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe which included time in the John Lennon VIP Room and joining the crowds for the Mardi Gras and a concert by The Wanted on Saturday night. Whilst I don't think I will be rushing back immediately I would not rule out going again and that has to be a start! Thank you to our hosts and sponsors including Universal and Dosomethingdifferent.
12 April 2014
When we visited St Lucia in early March 2014 the island had been on my "to do" list for a while as it seemed to have so much to offer. We were not disappointed. We flew from Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic and took a short helicopter transfer to Castries which afforded a great view of the island. Our hotel, the 5* Capella Marigot Bay (formerly Discovery), was a short drive from the airport on the Caribbean side of the island. Marigot Bay is a steep sided bay with a marina that offers great facilities for sailors and land visitors alike and was the setting for the film Dr Doolittle featuring Rex Harrison. There is a small shopping mall, chandlers, port office, a number of waterfront restaurants, dive centre and two hotels including ours. There is also a small beach area, with wooden shacks selling cold drinks, snacks and souvenirs, which is reached by water taxis. The Capella Marigot is fronted by the marina and the restaurants, bars, spa, pools and rooms are built up the hillside with great views of the bay. We had a one bedroom bay view suite which had great facilities including a full kitchen which was under-used as we were on all-inclusive. Even though the hotel was undergoing refurbishment during our stay it did not detract from our enjoyment and the staff could not have been more helpful or friendly - it would be great to go back when everything is finished later in the summer as we would then be able to make use of a new restaurant and spa garden. Despite being on all-inclusive, we sampled a couple of restaurants in the bay including the Rainforest Hideaway rated one of the top restaurants in the Caribbean and Doolittle’s both of which we enjoyed enormously. Venturing away from the bay was not difficult as we hired a local water taxi, Shashamane, and went south to Soufriere one day calling in at Anse Couchon and Anse Chastenet on the way and had great views of the Pitons from the sea. Another day we went north to Rodney Bay and Pidgeon Point where we climbed up to the ruined garrison and had lunch in Gros Islet. Other excursions included scuba diving - we dived on a wreck just off Anse Couchon which was spectacular, if a little scary when my husband suddenly gave me the out of air sign. We went to Des Cartiers for a walk through the rainforest and on another excursion bird watching at Millet where we caught sight of the St Lucia Parrot. On Friday evening we went to "jump up" in Anse La Raye - this is not as famous as the street party in Gros Islet as it is more low key. On our way back to the airport at the end of our stay we called in at the stunning botanical gardens in Soufriere, had lunch at Ladera (fabulous food and stunning views) and also had a quick tour of the Boutique Boucan Hotel Chocolat & Spa which is set in a cocoa plantation. There was so much more we could have done including the sulphur springs, a drive through the volcano, zip lines or a cable car ride through the rainforest canopy, or a climb up Gros Piton but I guess this means we will have to go back...
23 November 2013
Having been on a number of different styles of cruises I jumped at the chance to take a river cruise. Riviera are market leaders in the river cruise market with a range of 4 and 5* ships sailing on the Rhine, Moselle, Main, Elbe, Rhone and Seine as well as the Danube. I sailed on the 5* Lord Byron and she was delightful - if a ship can be described this way! At 110 metres long she carries a maximum of 140 passengers in 74 cabins and suites spread over 3 air-conditioned decks topped off with a spacious Sun Deck. I had a Ruby Deck Cabin with floor to ceiling sliding doors, a French Balcony and the bed was very comfortable plus the bathroom was very tastefully styled. The complimentary tea and coffee facilities were a lovely touch. Very much what you would expect from a top hotel. The whole ship is beautifully furnished with a marble floored reception and all hardwoods, wrought iron, polished brass and copper, soft leather furnishings - very chic. The main restaurant served a range of buffet and a la carte meals that were all delicious and for a less formal experience there is the smaller Lido Restaurant at the stern of the boat offering a light lunch and breakfast and an a la carte dinner with doors opening on to the deck for an outside dining experience in good weather. There is a small deck top whirlpool splash pool, putting green and giant chess and in the spa area a sauna and steam room or you can also employ the services of the on board hairdresser. There are also board games, cards and books to entertain in the day and in the evening a pianist in on hand in the lounge bar for a gentle dance on the purpose-designed dance floor. In Vienna we were also treated to a string quartet which were tremendous. The travel experience was good with flights in to Budapest and transfer on arrival to the ship. A late buffet dinner was available to those of us arriving on a late flight. The next morning after breakfast we were treated to a guided tour of the city, partly by coach and partly walking with free time to explore the castle area in the Buda area of the city by ourselves. The guide was excellent and kept our attention with fun facts and information, especially about the past rulers whose statues are the main feature of Heroes Square on the Pest side of the city. Both sides of the city are equally attractive and joined by the beautiful Chain Bridge which is overlooked by the imposing castle. After the tour it was back to the ship for lunch followed by a safety briefing and an overview of the rest of the cruise with specific attention to our next stop Vienna. We sailed through the afternoon, evening and the next morning giving us all chance to get to know our fellow passengers and to spend time watching the world go by from the comfort of the lounge or sun decks. Only being on the cruise for a short time we only experienced one lock and this was much more technical than any I had experienced in the UK with all the gates being controlled centrally from a control tower. It was also quite a shock for me as The Bridge dropped in to the deck to allow us access alongside a working barge. We arrived in Vienna in the early afternoon and had a coach and walking tour of the city with another knowledgeable guide. Vienna is another stunning city and very rich feeling both in culture and architecture with 92 museums to choose from. The ship had to berth on the outskirts of the city so the following morning a free shuttle was provided for those who wanted to spend more time in the city and I took the opportunity to visit the Spanish Riding school to watch a rehearsal - an amazing experience to see these amazing horses and riders perform. Before our flight home we had a little more free time to explore and to indulge ourselves in some of the wonderful coffee houses (there are over 2300 in the city). It was a real shame to leave the Lord Byron and her friendly and efficient staff. I can highly recommend Riviera Travel, The Lord Byron and river cruising.
23 October 2013
I have been very lucky and visited Turkey twice in the last two years. In June 2012 I did a week long gulet cruise with a group of friends and family. The cruise took us from the pretty marina of Gocek as far as Olu Deniz and Fethiye calling at deserted islands and beaches along the way often in the company of dolphins. The cabins were very comfortable and the crew very friendly and efficient - they weren't bad cooks either with mean barbecue skills. The days were very lazy starting with a relaxed breakfast before setting sail to an island or beach where we could go ashore to explore or swim, snorkel or kayak (there were windsurfers and motorised water sports available too). Then it was lunch before we set sail again for more time reading and relaxing or in our case impromptu pilates classes and games. We would anchor in a quiet bay at night with more time for swimming etc. before a tasty dinner. One night we stayed in the harbour in Fethiye giving everyone chance to shop, explore the town or visit the Turkish baths for a traditional Hammam. In October 2013 we took an equally relaxed trip to Kalkan where the weather was unusually hot for the time of year with temperatures in the low 40's (we were expecting low 30's). We stayed at the adult only Lykia Residence Hotel & Spa set on the hillside allowing for stunning sea views but within walking distance of the harbour and village centre. Days were lazy spending time at the beach club swimming and snorkelling or hiring a car and exploring the neighbouring resort of Kas and the stunning beach and ruins at Patara. Diving was also an option with some interesting dive sites but we missed out this time. Evenings were spent exploring the winding streets of Kalkan with the most difficult decision being which of the 164 restaurants we wanted to eat in that night. Many of the restaurants have roof top terraces with far reaching views out over the harbour and the sea - great for watching the sunset. There was no shortage of shopping opportunities either so there is something for everyone.
15 July 2013
We started with a couple of days in San Diego sampling the delights of this great city with an Old Town Trolley Bus Tour, Seal and Dolphin Tour and a lovely walk along Mission Beach to stretch our legs. We then took the Pacific Surfliner (Amtrak) to Port Huneme just north of Los Angeles to collect our bike. On day 1 we were joined by Tim's cousin Stuart and his wife Julia and headed down the Malibu Coast to Santa Monica and the official start/finish of Route 66. Our first stop was the historic Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino before heading out across the Mojave Desert to Laughlin. Day 2 took us through Oatman and over the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas and a night in the fabulous Mandalay Bay Hotel. Day 3 was a real stunner taking a detour from the route to visit Lake Mead, Zion and Bryce National Parks. Day 4 took us from Kanab through Marble Canyon to the Grand Canyon - we have been before but it still took my breath away. Day 5 saw us leaving the Grand Canyon and heading off through Monument Valley and Mexican Hat to Chinle in the Navajo Reservation before re-joining Route 66 in Gallup. Having only ridden 100 miles on the back of a motorbike before the last 1500 miles were a baptism of fire but worth every minute. Day 6 my travels took me from Gallup and the Eagle Cafe - the oldest restaurant on the "route" - through Albuquerque to Santa Fe where we took a day off to enjoy the sights. Day 8 we went through Apache Canyon and over Glorieta Pass to Amarillo. Day 9 involved going across the Texas Panhandle. We stopped at two Route 66 museums. In Oklahoma City we even managed to catch a Baseball game between the OKC Redhawks and the Iowa Cubs. Day 10 we went on to Carthage and the historic Boots Motel where Cary Grant stayed in the 1950's. Then we headed over the picturesque box bridge at Devil's Elbow and past the giant rocking chair at Fanning before arriving in St Louis. We stayed at the stunning Missouri Athletic Club which was had a great view of the Gateway Arch! Day 11 and the last leg of the journey we followed the 1926 - 1930 version of the "route". It meandered through numerous small towns until it hit Chicago. The end of the route at the junction on Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue was marked by a surprisingly small sign! We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Chicago. It is a great city with some stunning architecture and we took a walk along the shores of Lake Michigan before taking a river cruise to see as many of the sights as we could before my flight home. A fitting end to a memorable trip! If you want any hints or tips on recreating our trip please just get in touch!
28 May 2013
I have been lucky enough to visit Abu Dhabi twice in the last nine years - firstly back in 2004 on an educational trip where I really only saw the hotels we were checking out and more recently on the Gold Travel Counsellors Conference where I got to experience a lot more. Abu Dhabi is a great destination in its own right or as a stopover when flying with the award winning national airline Etihad before flying on to the Far East, Indian Ocean or Australia. More culturally appealing than little brother Dubai, the Emirate is developing into one of the must visit countries with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in July 2013 and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the not too distance future. The capital of the UAE already plays host to a number of major world events including the Formula 1 Grand Prix held on Yas Island. We were fortunate enough to have a tour of the track and even got to stand on the winner’s podium. Tim also got to have a drive on the go-cart track before we headed off to the Skybar at the Viceroy Hotel. For a great fun night out try the 80's night held every Friday. Yas Island is also home to Ferrari World the largest indoor theme park in the world and the fastest roller coaster which reaches 240km per hour in an eye watering 4.9 seconds! We certainly had fun the day we visited. Our base for the weekend was the wonderful Fairmont Bab al Bahr on Abu Dhabi Creek with views across the creek to the Grand Mosque. The upgrade to a sea view room with floor to ceiling windows is worth every penny! As well as the great location, the hotel has a host of great facilities and dining venues including Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse & Grill and Frankie's Italian Restaurant & Bar. Almost directly opposite the hotel, across the Creek from the Fairmont, is the new Ritz Carlton which was the venue for our gala dinner. This is a stunning hotel and they were generous hosts. I also got to visit the more Arabic styled Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri and its sister hotel the Traders which are separated by the Souk but linked by an internal waterway serviced by traditional Abra's. The hotels offer a great range of room styles, dining and entertainment options. The Emirates Palace by Kempinski was altogether more palatial. In a beach front location on the Corniche close to the marina, Presidential Palace, Marina Mall and conference and business facilities, the hotel is ideally placed and I was greatly impressed by its subtle opulence. The ever popular Hilton Abu Dhabi was also on the list and still looking fresh despite its claim to fame as the first hotel in the city. Saadiyat Island is the location of the new Louvre Abu Dhabi and also the new Park Hyatt. Set on a 9km stretch of environmentally protected beach and adjacent to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club it has already received accolades from Conde Nast. Our final venue before our flight home was the Monte Carlo Beach Club. Also on Saadiyat Island, the private beach club has a very relaxed atmosphere with a selection of bars and lounges and I certainly enjoyed our evening in the Sea Lounge with its comfortable seating and chilled out tunes - I might have to visit more beach clubs in future. This is a great destination with lots to offer.
27 April 2013
In April 2013 I was able to visit the wonderful island of Cyprus for the second time (my first was with my family in 1990). The trip was hosted by Aegean Airlines, The Cyprus Tourism Organisation and Constantinou Bros Hotels and I would like to say a big thank you to all concerned for their wonderful generosity and hospitality to myself and 18 colleagues. We flew from Gatwick and the Aegean flight was very comfortable, the staff friendly and helpful and the free meal and drinks service very refreshing. We stayed in the 4* Athena Beach Hotel and I must say that the hotel has the most comfortable beds I think I have ever slept in - we all wanted to bring them home with us! The hotel is beach front and around 15 - 20 minutes’ walk along the coastal path to the centre of Paphos and the harbour area. They offer a great range of facilities including three outdoor and one indoor swimming pools, a spa, kids club, a well-equipped fitness centre and spa, tennis court, indoor and outdoor bowls greens (yes, we did have a match), shuffleboard, mini golf, dance hall (with sprung floor) and bridge room. During the winter months the hotel has bowls and dance coordinators to help guests make the most of the facilities. There are a good selection of bars and restaurants and we were treated to a cookery lesson and a cocktail making session - Brandy Sour is the local drink. The food was excellent and the service outstanding. We also visited the sister hotels the 4* Athena Royal Beach (which is adjacent to the Athena Beach and gives a great feeling of space), the 4* Pioneer Beach and the 5* Asimina suites which are further along the coastal path away from the harbour but still within a 40 minute walk - all three properties are adult only. The Asimina Suites Hotel is an all-suite property, some of which have their own private pools and the style is much more contemporary than the other hotels. Again the service and attention to detail is noticeable. All the hotels offer a range of room types. We were able to sample the delights of a number of the bars and restaurants throughout all four hotels during our stay and all demonstrated a very high standard. As well as sampling the delights of the hotels and all they had to offer we also spent a day in the Troodos Mountains where we visited the beautiful village of Omodos with its delightful square and monastery and the Lambouri Winery for wine tasting and a history of wine making in Cyprus - it has a much longer history than I was aware of. I would recommend taking time to travel to one of the many wine routes that Cyprus Tourism has put together. We had lunch in a local taverna before spending time at the world famous Kykkos Monastary with its stunning Iconosos. On the way back to Paphos we took a drive pass Aphrodite’s Rock which has significance in Greek mythology. In Paphos itself we were treated to a tour of the ancient mosaics at the House of Dionysos close to the harbour and the Tombs of the Kings both of which are Unesco World Heritage sites and definitely worth a visit - they were fascinating. The whole area and Cyprus in general is steeped in history and mythology. Paphos harbour has some great restaurants and we had dinner at Theo's Seafood Restaurant where the seafood was excellent - I struggled to eat all the courses we were served which included calamari, ink fish, mullet and sea bream and were all delicious. Cyprus has a lot to offer and the local people are amongst the most welcoming you will ever meet. I hope it will not be so long before I get the chance to visit again.
27 May 2013
Our first stop on arrival in Tromso was the Rica Grand Hotel overlooking the waterfront so we could drop our bags off before a quick ship visit to the Midnatsol, the sister ship to the Trollfjord which we were to join later. The ships are identical apart from the colour scheme with Midnatsol using yellows and reds and the Trollfjord more muted in greens and blues. The ships have a selection of cabins including inside and outside – with a range of outlooks and suites which were all very comfortable. Our outside cabin had two port holes and an L-shaped bed configuration which gave a good feeling of space. The ships have a full restaurant which offers buffet breakfast and lunch and a set, waiter service dinner, a café for sandwiches, snacks and drinks, a main bar with evening pianist and a further smaller one on the top deck. The food was excellent. There are several lounges offering panoramic views, a library, and an information area/tours desk, internet area and conference theatre. There is a small but well equipped gym, his and hers glass sided saunas and two deck-top Jacuzzis – I tried these both north and south of the Arctic Circle. After our ship visit we were whisked off for a dog sledging excursion where we had the opportunity to be either a passenger or a musher – we were kitted out in thermal suits and boots which we needed as the temperature was low under the clear skies. It was a magical experience and we were given a talk all about the dogs in the dog yard and got to meet some new arrivals before heading in to a traditional Sami tent for a meal of reindeer stew and chocolate cake! We then headed back to the hotel for a quick drink in the bar as we waited for our ship to come in – quite a sight all lit up at night. After a good night’s sleep we were soon off the ship again for a popular excursion,“a taste of Vesteralen” which took us from Harstad to Sortland and took in some dramatic and stunning scenery. There was a church service and museum visit as well as a ferry trip where we sampled some local delicacies. Because the excursion was so popular there was not enough room for us all on the same ferry so we had an added bonus of visiting a local garrison which is home to some famous big guns and had a tour of the bunker and the inside of one of the guns – quite fascinating. During the afternoon we sailed through some more amazing scenery and entered the mouth of the famous Trollfjord – quite a highlight with its sheer sides. There was the opportunity to buy a mug to commemorate the occasion. The real highlight of the evening was our first sighting of the “Northern Lights”. There are messages put out over the PA as soon as there is a sighting so that everyone can enjoy them. Our next day was a full ship visit including a visit to the car deck and a seminar with a quick trip out on deck to mark the crossing of the Arctic Circle. We has a spoonful of cod liver oil washed down with a tot of Cloudberry wine – you get to keep the spoon too! Later that day we also had the opportunity to visit the Hurtigruten museum in Stokmarknes which was very interesting. We also saw the Finnmarken that was taken out of service in the mid 1990’s. With further opportunities to hop off the boat at its various ports of call it was a great day. We saw the northern lights again that night which was incredibly lucky. Our voyage ended in Trondheim where we said goodbye to Trollfjord and headed back to the airport for our flight back to Gatwick. A great trip!
15 July 2013
In need of a break after a busy couple of months, Tim and I decided to jet off to Morocco for a few nights of winter sun and we were not disappointed. Instead of the regular city break to Marrakech or a beach stay in Marrakech we opted to split our four night stay equally between Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains as neither of us are really what I would call "city people" and this was a great combination for us. We flew from Gatwick with Easyjet to Marrakech Airport and it was a short ride in to the city. We had booked into a Riad (a traditional house with an interior courtyard) called the Darhani in the heart of the Medina. We were dropped off by our driver at the end of a cobbled street and walked to the Darhani down narrow passage ways in places almost tunnel like as the houses spanned the walkway over our heads. Being over six foot tall Tim had to duck on numerous occasions. Our walk brought us to an unprepossessing entrance but this opened into a delightful courtyard complete with small heated swimming pool. The Darhani has four rooms on two floors, lounge areas, a dining room and a roof top terrace where we had breakfast in the sunshine overlooking the city. It was just a short walk to the Jemaa el Fna square which during the day is home to snake charmers, travelling dentists (these were a little gruesome for me), henna tattoo artists, acrobats, storytellers, magicians and orange juice sellers and the like. At night it is transformed by the arrival of dozens of food stalls. The narrow streets leading from the square take you into the souk selling everything from carpets, silver jewellery and leather goods, to exotic spices, fish meat and live animals. It was great to wander through the streets window shopping and bargaining with the shopkeepers for the best price, just watch out for the locals on their mopeds and small motorbikes as they whiz through the streets amongst the shoppers. We also took time to walk to the Jardin Majorelle created by Louis Majorelle and latterly owned by Yves St Laurent whose ashes were scatted in the gardens. We caught a horse and carriage to the Jardin de la Koutoubia and the commanding Mosque which dominates the area. I also managed to fit in visits to the Riad Zohar, Riad Kniza and the boutique hotel La Maison Arabe all of which were delightful - I would be happy to stay in any of them. Leaving Marrakech we headed in to the Atlas Mountains and the Kasbah Samra in the village of Tamartet overlooking the Toubkal National Park. The approach to the traditional guesthouse is interesting as the Berber villages do not have the sort of pavements we are used to in the UK and our final approach was by mule which was great fun! The Kasbah Samra has only a few rooms all uniquely decorated and as we were staying early in the year and close to the snow line, heated by open fires which the staff lit at night whilst we were at dinner and thoughtfully added hot water bottles to our beds too. Meals were taken communally and were a great way of getting to know your fellow guests with their tales of where they were coming from and heading to and the days walking experiences. We had a day’s guided walk to a frozen waterfall with our guide Hussain being perfectly happy to walk at our slow pace and to answer all my questions about the area and his life. He prepared a delicious meal before we headed back down to his village and tea in his house, passing the highest football pitch in Morocco if not the one with the smoothest pitch, on the way. The food at the Kasbah was delicious and all the local people we met were very friendly. Tim was pleased to see several types of birds he had not seen before and I enjoyed the stunning scenery. All in all - a great holiday to be recommended.
05 June 2012
Our trip began at the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town where our room overlooked both the Marina and Table Mountain. The hotel is a short walk to the V&A Waterfront, a great place for shopping, eating or watching the world go by. The city sightseeing bus set off from just outside our hotel and took in all the major sights, while offering interesting commentary. We took in Table Mountain, taking a ride on the revolving cable car to the top for amazing views. Back on the bus we headed down for dinner at Mama Africa's, which is great for African food and live music. The next day we took a scenic drive along the coast before heading inland along Chapman's Peak Drive and then on to Cape Point Lighthouse. You can take the funicular railway up the hill for some beautiful views and then either take the rail back, or enjoy the scenic walk down. We stayed for 2 nights at the Franschhoek Country House – a beautiful little hotel where you can tour vineyards and taste delicious local wine and cheeses. We enjoyed one night at the charming Rosenhof Country House before heading to the coast and to Plettenburg. The view from the rooms at the Plettenburg Hotel is just stunning and we stayed 2 nights at this beautiful, friendly hotel. Dinner on our first night was at the Lookout Deck and I would definitely recommend the seafood platter, it was delicious! The Robberg Peninusula is a national monument as well as a nature reserve and we opted for a guided walk of this stunning area, which is great if you want to take in some stunning views. At Jeffrey's Bay, where we stayed with family, there is the opportunity to try your hand at surfing. It might be a bit much for beginners but, if you are a bit more experienced, it’s a fabulous opportunity! We then moved on to Bukela Lodge in the Amakhala Reserve where there are just four thatched suites for the ultimate in peaceful luxury! The lodge has welcoming lounges and a plunge pool from which it has been known for the elephants to come in and drink (the lodge is unfenced). Amakhala is a private game reserve on 7,500 hectares and has a varied wildlife which you can see while on a game drive or river trip. Our second game reserve was Shamwari, which has five lodges in 24,500 hectares. We stayed at Long Lee Manor, set among lawns, pools, ponds and terraces, where we had a beautiful suite with views across the lawns. We also stayed at Eagles Crag Lodge, surrounded by imposing cliffs and boasting 9 detached suites each with their own private plunge pool - very cold in winter but delightful in summer. All in all this was a wonderful trip and one that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for something a little bit different!
19 September 2011
I don't know anyone who has ever had a bad word to say about Kefalonia so when we were deciding on a destination for a last minute holiday before Alistair disappeared off to university it seemed like the ideal choice. We certainly were not disappointed. Fiscardo, our chosen resort, was picture perfect being one of the few areas largely unaffected by the earthquake that hit the island in the 1950's and even new buildings have been kept in the Venetian style that dominates the harbour. The harbour is popular with sailors and one night there were over 100 yachts and cruisers at anchor - in the height of summer this can rise to around 500 - 600 when any number of flotillas makes use of the facilities. The harbour side is lined with excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. There are four or five mini markets, a couple of bakeries, a chandlers, a post office, souvenir shops and galleries and a couple of ATM's (no bank or pharmacy at present). As usual we managed a few dives and the water was as clear I we have experienced anywhere with visibility as much as 40 metres. The dives were varied including a well in to a cave dive with the most amazing colours in the plant life on the walls, a wreck dive - the vessel had only been down about 3.5 years and some of the sections were still moving, a wall dive with good contrast in the marine life at different depths and a fairly shallow dive with great geological formations. We had missed the turtles and seahorses but did see moray eels, groupers, schools of bass, parrot fish, bream, wrasse and scorpion fish amongst others. One day we took out a motor boat and visited beaches along the coast swimming and fishing - it was magical, on another we walked to the next bay, Emplysi, stopping off to the visit the ruined and new lighthouses and the Panorama Taverna for a great lunch. Our apartment was directly on the waterfront with its own platform for swimming and sunbathing which was perfect. It had two bedrooms, a twin and a double, a well equipped kitchen, a sitting area and a small balcony and was just a five minute walk from the centre of town. The week went far too quickly and there were many things we did not get chance to do including visits to the island of Ithaca, the small resort and Venetian Fortress at Assos, Myrtos (Mirtos) Beach which was made famous by the film Captain Corelli's Mandolin and recently voted one of the top beaches in the world or the capital Argostoli. We would also have liked to do more diving, have hired the boat again and to have taken out a yacht with a skipper so maybe we will have to go back..........
26 May 2018
I have been lucky enough to visit Dubai on many occasions. My first visit was in 2004 when I went on an educational visit that also included Abu Dhabi and Qatar and at the time it was like nowhere else I had ever been before and much has changed between then and my latest visit in 2018. We saw a lot of hotels some of which no longer exist but we still managed to get a real feel for the place. We enjoyed a meal in a local restaurant, the food was great but no alcohol was served, a day at Wild Wadi Waterpark in 55C heat so I was glad of the cool water to jump into, a dune bashing trip out into the desert stopping to sip champagne as we watched the sun go down before being whisked off to experience a desert camp complete with camels and traditional entertainment and a visit to the 7 star Burj Al Arab hotel which was stunning! We also travelled through Sharjah with its harbour full of traditional dhow ships to Fujairah with its great beaches and less developed than Dubai. The second visit was in 2005 and even so soon after my first trip I could see the difference with a large amount of building work well underway including the Palm Jumeirah. Hotels that I had seen the previous year had been finished and we were lucky enough to stay at the Al Qsar, part of the Madinat Jumeirah and famous for its waterways with traditional Abras ferrying guests to different parts of the resort. It has its own Souk but we ventured out to Bur Dubai for the Spice and Gold Souks. The former was exactly as I had expected with exotic scents and winding alleyways but the Gold Souk was in an uninspiring building full of small shops which was in complete contrast to the dazzling contents! We took a Dhow cruise along the Creek and over to the modern Deira area and the shops along the Sheikh Zayed Road. My third visit in May 2011 was different again and I saw a massive change in the city with the majority of the building work finished or stalled due to the current economic climate. The Palm Jumeirah was finished and the Atlantis the Palm had been open to guests for a year or so now adding another water park Aquaventure and the opportunity to swim with dolphins. The Kempinksi with its slope side lodges allow skiers and snowboarders to indulge their passion whilst the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall satisfy the most avid shopper, golfers and naturalists are well catered for and the Burj Khalifa gives those not scared of heights a bird's eye view over the whole city. The sun was still hot with temperatures reaching 46C but the sea was cooler and the swimming pools more refreshing still. This time we sampled Bubbalicious the Friday brunch at our hotel the Westin Mina Seyahi. The meal is a fabulous buffet with over 10 live cooking stations and all the hotels’ restaurants open to sample everything from traditional breakfast to steaks, seafood and stunning deserts all accompanied by unlimited champagne or wine and live music. At night the city comes alive with clubs and restaurants and the fountain show at Dubai Mall is magical. I opted for the Seawings Experience - a float plane trip from Jebel Ali Marina that took us down the coast to Dubai Creek and over the Palms Jumeirah and Jebel Ali, the World and the whole city which offered a spectacular perspective. No trip would be complete without a trip in to the desert and this time I had two. One was an evening trip to the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa for an evening of traditional food and entertainment and the second was to the Al Maha, a Luxury Collection, Desert Resort & Spa which sits inside the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve home to the Arabian Oryx. The resort is designed to resemble an ancient Bedouin encampment and is one of the most relaxing places I have ever been. From the moment we arrived the stress just fell away and the wonderful rooms, food and service added to the experience. We managed a wildlife drive and a visit with the Arabian Eagle Owls and Falcons. In the evening they offer a sundowner camel ride and private desert picnics - we just wished we could have stayed longer! Dubai has something for everyone!
03 January 2011
Despite having been a skier for over 20 years my husband had never been to Austria so I decided that it was time to rectify this and Lech was chosen. Lech has been described to me a as the resort the Courchevel aspires to be but never will be, and as Tim has been to the Three Valleys on numerous occasions it seemed a sensible choice. The only draw back was that as we wanted to stay in a Chalet Hotel to give Alistair the greatest chance of meeting other people his age it meant flying from Gatwick. We drove up the night before and stayed at the Mercure which is well placed with frequent shuttle buses to the terminals. It was the weekend that the snow hit the UK badly, but we got out with just a 2 hour delay! We flew with Monarch and paid for extra legroom seats that were well worth the £15.00 extra each way as even Tim who is 6'6" had plenty of room and sat by the window for the first time in years. The landing in to Innsbruck was a little bouncy and there were many oohs and aahs from the passengers. Innsbruck is a small airport but due to recent improvements is reasonably well served both air and land side and we were soon on our way. The transfer to Lech is short at just 1hr 45mins. Lech is a beautiful resort both by day and night with traditional style buildings. The resort is linked to Oberlech, Zurs and Zug both by the frequent free bus service and through the ski runs including Der Weise Ring (The White Ring) - a ski circuit connecting Lech, Zurs, Oberlech and Zug over which a timed race is completed every year. St Anton and St Christoph are reached by the free bus service and by off piste runs which should only to be attempted with the assistance of a ski guide. St Anton and St Christoph have blue, red and black runs but in Lech and Zurs they have blue and red runs and ski routes which are marked runs which are not groomed or patrolled and these are graded medium or extreme. We did not see many snowboarders in Lech although there were noticably more in St Anton. All the runs are well served by a good number of lifts which are mainly chairlift's and most of these are heated which was a real treat. The ski school is well thought of with a large number of English speaking instructors although we did not have any lessons this time. There are also a good selection of slope side restaurants and bars which include a Frozen Ice Bar but I think my favourites were the Kriegeralpe and the Balmalp in Lech and the Hospiz Alm in St Christoph which is full of celebrity guest photographs and has a slide down to the bathroom (don't worry there are stairs to get back up again). In the town many of the hotels have bars outside which are good fun and heated with some great patio heaters that made it feel even more festive. There are a good selection of hotel and independent restaurants and many are award winning and one or two even have Michelin stars! On our night off we tried the S'Rivier at the Elizabeth Hotel and had the most amazing Ox Steaks that were perfectly cooked (Alistair enjoyed his Pike too). The resort also has a few night clubs (Alistair tried Archiv which he liked as the drinks were reasonably priced) and several hotels offer entertainment - either traditional music or other live bands or pianists. There are many well placed hotels and I managed to visit several including the Arlberg (a favourite of Princess Diana when she was alive), the Krone, the Berghof, the Gasthof Post, and the Monzabon to name a few. Our Chalet Hotel Alexandra offered large comfortable rooms, good food and a wellness area. Other activities include shopping, sleigh rides, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, winter hiking, bowling, ice skating, curling, sports centre, museums, Icefall Climbing, toboggan run, snowtubing and game feeding/watching. Until April 2012 the Antony Gormley "Horizon Field" installation is in Lech with 100 life size, solid cast iron figures of the human body spread over 150sq km forming a horizontal line at 2,039m above sea level is in the Voralberg - we played spot the statue from the chairlift! I am sure we will be back.
04 December 2010
I think it would be safe to say the biggest reaction I had from people when I told them I was going to Bonaire on holiday was "Where?" Well it is in the Dutch Caribbean (formerly the Netherlands Antilles) around 70 miles off the coast of Venezuela. With its sister islands Aruba and Curacao it makes up the ABC Islands and from January 2011 will be solely using the US Dollar. We flew from Bristol via Amsterdam with KLM direct to Bonaire and many other local departure airports are served this way. Bonaire is probably best known for scuba diving and snorkelling and with 86 dives sites it is easy to see why. The diving on the East Coast is by reached by boat and you can expect to see Rays, Shark and the like. 25 of the dive sites are on Klein Bonaire and again these are reach by boat but the remainder are shore dives and as you drive round the island in your hired pick-up truck with your cylinders in the back you will see the sites are cleared marked by yellow painted boulders. I think what struck me most was the sheer volume of fish and we saw a huge range of reef fish, Angel Fish, turtles, octopus, squid, eel, shrimps including pistol shrimp, crinoid and flamingo tongue, sea horses, barracuda, tuna, snapper and tarpon to name but a few along with a great selection of creatures, coral and sponges - the coral were spawning which made the night dives extra special. There are also a few wrecks for those that are interested. But Bonaire is not just for divers we spent a lovely morning bird watching with a guide and saw the island symbol the Flamingo, Yellow Shouldered Parrots, parakeets, hummingbirds, a range of sandpipers, kingfishers, frigate birds, osprey, herons, sora and Caracara to name but a few. You can cycle, take a tour of the island on a Harley Davidson, horse ride, go deep sea fishing, bone fishing, sail, windsurf, climb, play tennis, visit a spa, kayak through mangroves, see the underwater world from a glass bottomed boat, chance your luck at a casino or just sit and soak up the sun! We visited the Washington-Slagbaai national park which covers a fifth of the island and has salt pans, fresh water lakes, hills, desert, blow holes and beaches. We also visited the Red Slave and White Slave Houses, Lac Bay on the windward side of the island which the island centre for windsurfing and also one of two wetland sites, Willemstoren lighthouse and the Indian Cave Drawings. There are accommodations to suit all pockets on the island ranging from simple self catering apartments to larger resorts with a selection of restaurants and even one with a casino. Night life centres around the restaurants and waterfront bars but there are music venues and the island hosts an annual Jazz festival. We stayed at the Harbour Village Resort just outside the capital Kralendijk (called as 'Playa' by the locals) which meant we could walk in to town in the evening to sample all the restaurants which included a french bistro, an Argentian Steak House, an Italian with an award winning wine cellar, Indonesian and local cuisine - we were spoilt for choice. The Harbour Village has its own bar and restaurant and each morning we share our breakfast with the resident iguanas and bananaquits watching dolphins swim by and frigate birds dive for fish and in the evening we watch the Tarpo feeding by the lights at the end of the jetty. The resort has a marina, spa, tennis courts and a fantastic dive and watersports and you can include a daily boat dive and unlimited shore dives in your package. Our one bedroom beachfront suite was well placed to walk along the beach to both the bar and the dive centre and even had its own hammock - heavenly! There are 44 rooms ranging from courtyard and marina view rooms up to 3 bedroom suites which are great for families or groups of friends. It is certainly a popular resort and during our first week I think we were the only ones that had not stayed at the hotel before and many were on their second visit of the year which speaks volumes! I am sure we will be back too!
21 July 2010
In June 2010 I was privileged to attend the Gold Travel Counsellors Conference in Las Vegas staying at the Encore at the Wynn. I must confess that not being much of a gambler or a city person I was not as excited as you might expect but I was very pleasantly surprised. Las Vegas was not as tacky as I had expected and in fact the hotels and shopping were something that needs to be seen to be believed. The Encore is an amazing hotel with fantastic use of natural light in the casino area which you don't see often and the Resort Suite (room) we were allocated was very large with floor to ceiling windows and a great view towards to airport and golf course one way and the Wynn hotel and "the Strip" the other way. Tim, my husband, discovered that if he played on even the lowest stake machine the casino hostesses would come round and offer him a drink of his choice free of charge which he thought was just great! The hotel has a beach club (no beach just a day time nightclub with pool), nightclubs, bars, restaurants, shops, golf course, spa and Ferrari dealership so everyone is catered for. Opposite the hotel is the Fashion Show shopping mall that contains several large department stores and smaller retail outlets and most of the larger hotels have their own shopping areas including the Forum at Caesars Palace and Tim's favourite the Grand Canal at the Venetian which has recreated St Mark's Square and the Grand Canal inside complete with Gondaleers singing and street entertainers. If you are a qualified diver you should take divers cards with you so you can dive with the sharks in the Shark Reef Aquarium at the Mandalay Bay! We were lucky enough to see two shows - Le Reve at the Wynn which was water based and like nothing I have seen before, the acrobatics and music were amazing and Viva Elvis at the Aria which is a Cirque du Soleil show about Elvis's life and music and great fun! We also spent a day at the Grand Canyon taking a drive out to a local ranch, via the Hoover Dam, for wagon rides, horse riding and gun fights before taking a helicopter flight through the Grand Canyon which was stunning! Tim and I added a few days on to our trip hiring a Ford Mustang convertible for a bit of a road trip that took us through Death Valley, 119 degrees heat and 191ft below sea level. The drive and scenery were amazing, very different from anything we had seen before and a real contrast to the Owens Valley which we followed along to Mammoth Lakes, 2 degrees heat and 9,000ft above sea level - we stopped off in Bishop to visit the Mountain Light Gallery! On leaving Mammoth Lakes we headed for Lee Vining and Mona Lake (if it is open Mona Cone does great ice cream) before taking the Tioga Pass over the Mountains to Yosemite - the pass had only been open a week and there was snow on the ground and some lakes were still frozen - it was breathtaking! All the waterfalls were at full strength and spectacular in Yosemite Valley and we also saw 3 Black Bears! From Yosemite it was across country past miles of orchards to San Francisco. We stayed in little hotel in Sausalito and caught the ferry across to Fishermans Wharf passing Alcatraz on the way before spending time walking and taking cables cars to see as much of the city as possible in the limited time we had. We drove out of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge and down Pacific Highway 1 (PH1) hugging the coast until we reached Monterey where we stayed near the Aquarium and had a fabulous steak dinner. Then it was on down the coast with stops along the Big Sur and lunch at Nepenthe (great views and wine - glad I was not driving) passing Elephant Seals and Sea Otters before hitting Pismo Beach in time for the Classic Califormia Car Show, we did not recognise many of the models of car but the noise and the spectacle made up for it. Next day we managed lunch in Santa Barbara before heading back in land again to Barstow on the old Route 66 and our return to Las Vegas for the flight home! Our only regret that the trip was not longer!
31 May 2015
I have been lucky enough to have been to Courchevel a number of times as my husband's cousin has an apartment on the outskirts of Courchevel 1650 where we can virtually ski in/ ski out which is great but at Christmas we decided to opt for a chalet hotel where we would be in the company of others. The chalet hotel is a great concept with all the advantages of a chalet - a hearty breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with wine or soft drinks - but with the size of a small hotel and ensuite rooms and the opportunity to meet other people without being in each others pockets. Ours was a little basic but the food was great and so was the company and my son Alistair made some great friends which is what it was really all about. We were close to the slopes and we were lucky with the snow conditions which can often be unreliable at Christmas even in some higher resorts but the week before we arrived it had snowed and the temperatures were very low so by the time we arrived the conditions were great and a couple of top ups during the week helped to keep the pistes topped up and the off piste interesting in the accessible areas. The Three Valleys is a massive area and could almost be called the four valleys with the new links across to Orelle from Val Thorens and covers Courchevel (divided in to several resort areas at different heights), Meribel, with links up from Brides Les Bain,and Mottaret to Val Thorens and Les Menuires so there is skiing suitable for all abilities over the 600kms of piste. Each resort has its own character with Courchevel 1850 being particularly popular with celebrities as well us ordinary folk as it is host to five or six of France's twenty six 5* hotels and a selection of Michelin star restaurants. It does not have to be expensive and there are a selection of affordable self catering apartments with supermarkets and delis to provide for them. There is an ice rink, ten pin bowling alley, climbing wall and cinema and a proliferation of bars, restaurants and nightclubs to suit all tastes. My personal favourites include Le Refuge bar which is popular on Thursday nights when many of the chalet staff have their night off and live music can be heard. In Courchevel 1650 the Bubble is the place to go and Katie is a great hostess! On the piste we love to stop off at Le Pilatus to watch the planes taking off from the Altiport and the best Vin Chaud in the three valleys - say hello to Mattieu for me! To brush up on our technique my son Alistair and I had a private lesson each from New Generation Ski School who are based in Courchevel 1650. My English instructor Andy put me through my paces concentrating on my turns which had become too relaxed and Alistair had great fun off piste and playing in the terrain park with a mad Italian called Marco. I think I can safely say we both improved in confidence from our great lessons - even after 30 years of skiing you can still benefit from a lesson now and again! We never tire of skiing in Courchevel and I know we will be back before too long!
24 November 2009
I have been lucky enough to visit Oman twice this year, once on the Gold Travel Counsellors Conference in June and again with my family over the October half term holiday, and had a marvellous time on both occasions. In June we stayed at the Al Bastan Palace Intercontinental just out side Muscat at Al Bustan. It is a very impressive hotel located on a lovely beach and I would have considered returning in October, but the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort suited our needs better on this occasion as they have a dive centre on site. The conference stay included hotel visits to the Chedi and the Grand Hyatt (both very different hotels but each delightful in their own way), a city tour with visits to the Grand Mosque, the national museum and the Sultans Palace and Forts in Muscat. We also ventured further afield to Jebel Aktar (Green Mountain) which was a long drive but well worth it for the cooler air and the stunning scenery! It was a real insight in to the way the locals live outside the city. The temperatures in June reached as high as 50C during our stay and the sea was like a bath! In October the air temperature was closer to 36C which was much more comfortable. In October our family holiday was more sports based as we wanted to take advantage of the fantastic scuba diving - I wanted to see a whale shark as it was still migration season but I had to satisfy myself with Sting Rays, Electric Rays, Honeycomb Moray Eels, Hawksbill Turtles, Cuttle Fish, Spiny Lobsters and the most glorious reef fish and corals. Tim and Alistair also had two mornings deep sea fishing and had a marvellous time returning will tales of their catches - Mahi Mahi, Tuna and Benito – they were two happy boys even if they did not get the Sail Fish they were hoping for. Although we did see one Sail Fish in Muscat at the Fish Market - we hired a car and a driver for the morning and had a private tour of the fish market, fruit and vegetable market and the Mutrah Souk. Our guide, Issa, was great at negotiating prices for us. He also took us to the Aquarium which was a little disappointing after the open ocean and to his village and home for Omani Coffee with his family, which was really special! We did manage some relaxation round the pools and the 500m lazy river and I had a morning in the Chi Spa at the hotel (massage, facial and pedicure) which was wonderful. We also took full advantage of all the great bars and restaurants at the hotel including Tapas, Italian, Fish and Moroccan restaurants, Piano Bar and Long Bar for great cocktails at 2.80 Rials! With daily direct flights from the UK I would definitely recommend Oman!
14 July 2009
Having visited many areas of the Far East, China has always been high on my list of countries to visit and I was delighted when I was awarded a place on an educational trip to the country. We had four days in Beijing which allowed us to visit many of the sights including the Temple of Heaven - I loved the grounds the best, as groups of local people gather to sing songs together and play unusual instruments, whilst others play cards or danced. Other sights included Tiananmen Square which is the biggest public square in the world and was full of people making their way to the Forbidden City or queuing to enter Chairman Mao's Tomb. Our guide gave us a good insight in to the history of the Forbidden City and the lives of the Emperors that lived there - it was fascinating. Our next adventure was a pedi-cab ride through the narrow lanes of the Hutongs - these were created by the closely built quadrangular homes in the city's inner city areas built in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. We had a delicious lunch with a local family and discovered more about their lives. We also managed a visit to the "Birds Nest" stadium and "Water Cube" which were two of the main venues of the Summer Olympics in 2008. We had a longer visit to the Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing, which was the Imperial Family lakeside retreat. One of the highlights was the marble boat on the north shore which is a folly built by the Empress Dowager with misappropriated funds from the Chinese navy! As well as these historical sights we also managed some shopping in the pedestrianised Wanjuang shopping area, a visit to the night food market where scorpions and beetles were on offer to tempt us and a visit to a local restaurant where we sampled the local speciality, Peking Duck! No trip to Beijing would be complete without a trip out to see the Great Wall of China. We drove three hours out of the city to Jinshanling Pass which is less crowded and developed than many areas of the Wall and we virtually had the wall to ourselves as far as the eye could see. It was a magical experience seeing the collection of watchtowers and ramparts as the wall snakes its way across the skyline. We flew to Xian, known for being the closest city to the Terracotta Warriors. This ancient walled city is interesting as it was once the capital of China with Bell and Drum Towers and a beautiful mosque, which we reached by walking through the Muslim quarter of the city. I was blown away by the Terracotta Warriors - the story behind them and the sheer number of them. It is unsurprising that they took 38 years to make. It is a shame that they were all smashed within 4 years of the Emperors death and that the archaeologists have not yet found a way to preserve the fabulous colours! We flew south to Guilin, often called the "city in the painting", as it is one of the most beautiful parts of China. The surrounding countryside of rice paddies and limestone karst hills around the Li River is straight out of a Chinese landscape painting. Our cruise down the river was just magical as we meandered between the limestone peaks and bamboo fishing villages. The cruise ended in Yangshuo where we bartered at the market stalls. The day ended with a demonstration of the traditional practice of cormorant fishing. Our final stop was Shanghai - a city of the future with its many skyscrapers, yet still full of history and great places to visit including the Shaghai museum. We took the Maglev train in to the city from the airport and travelled at an astonishing 431km per hour! During our stay we took a night tour with a cruise on the Bund, a walking tour through Xiantiandi and topped it off with a trip to Partyworld for Karaoke - a very popular past time. I don't really have enough words to do the country justice and we only had a short time at the sights but it was a great snapshot of the country and I will definitely be going back!
13 June 2011
I have been lucky enough to visit Australia twice in my life so far. The trips were very different as the first one back in 1987 was on my own and I spent time with friends and family mixed in with some time on my own exploring. I started my trip with a stay in Perth with old friends of the family and they showed me around Perth and accompanied me on days out to Rottnest Island, Freemantle, Margaret River and Bunbury. We went to the beaches, tasted wine at the Leeuwin Estate, took in the Jewel Cave and Karri Forest, watched Aussi Rules Football at the WAKA, had ice cream at Papa Luigi's and tried our luck in the casino before I headed off to the Red Centre. I flew to Alice Springs were I explored the town before getting on a bus for the 4 hour journey to what was then Ayers Rock but is now known by the Aboriginal name Uluru. I only managed to climb the "chicken run" - the first 100 yards - but it was still a great experience. Then it was off to Brisbane to visit some distance relatives who lived just outside Surfers Paradise. I hired a small car and spent time driving up and down the coast visiting Dreamworld and Seaworld amongst other things. Next came Sydney and the Opera House, Captain Cook harbour cruises and the shopping and nightlife before a short flight to Melbourne from where I took fellow youth hostellers to the gold fields at Sovereign Hill and Ballarat. I did not manage to find any nuggets but it was still fun panning for gold and exploring the traditional gold mining town. Finally I took another bus from Melbourne back to Perth across the Nullabor (tree less plain) - a whopping 3420km! My second trip was with my husband Tim and son Alistair and started in Sydney as we decided we wanted to take in an Ashes game at the SCG. I know Engalnd got well and truly beaten but it was still a great experience - at least we saw England beat New Zealand at a day/night game at the Gabba in Brisbane. We explored the city visiting the Aquarium, The Oz Walk, Maritime Museum and Botanical Gardens. We climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and took the bus out to Bondi Beach and walked the coast path to Coogee. The fireworks over Sydney Harbour on New Years Eve were spectacular! This time our trip took in Adelaide and tram rides out to Glenelg, wine tasting in the Barossa Valley and a 4 day drive along the Great Ocean Road - I loved out time at Robe particularly. We also enjoyed rock concerts in Melbourne, chill out time in a lovely apartment at Rye on the Mornington Peninsular, a visit to friends at Wilsons Prom, a long drive up the Pacific Coast from Sydney to Brisbane and beyond as far as Noosa and Fraser Island with many stops en route for the boys to fish. Tim and Alistair would have quite happily lived in Noosa in the house we rented over looking a salt water inlet. Watching the Pelicans over the inlet at The Entrance still brings a smile to my face today as does learning to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef on Lady Elliot Island - an eco resort and bird reserve with a resident population of Manta Rays. I have great memories of Alistair guiding baby turtles in to the ocean to safety with a torch after we found them floundering outside our cabin, and him scrubbing the backs of adult turtles when he was diving. I know the boys still recall their time fishing on the 2km long pier at Hervey Bay where they saw a man carrying a Queen Fish almost as large as himself - they were not quite as successful but still had a great time!! From having to avoid Kangaroos on the golf course to seeing the salt water crocs at Steve Irwins Zoo outside Brisbane, the whole trip was a series of experiences I am sure we will never forget and inspires us to go back for more.............
13 June 2011
I was lucky enough to spend just over a week in Tasmania with my family (husband Tim and son Alistair) as part of our round the world trip in January 2007 and to be honest the eight days we had there was just not long enough to do the island justice. We landed in Hobart where we picked up our hire car and headed straight out towards Port Arthur which is famous for its convict settlement. This is a historic site dating from about 1830 and they have done much to retain the character of the original settlement and offer interpretive guides and talks that really give you a sense of what it must have been like in its heyday. During our time in Tasmania we mostly stayed in cabins on various campsites and these worked out extremely good value and gave us the option of cooking our own meals or eating out and we were able to use the loyalty cards we signed up to in New Zealand at some of the sites which was even better. From Port Arthur we headed north up the east coast taking in the Freycinet National Park and famous Wineglass Bay - we hiked to Wineglass Bay lookout and it really is that shape! Our first sighting of a kangaroo was in the car park which was a treat. Bicheno was our overnight stop and we took time out to visit the amazing Blow Hole which put on a great show for us. Bicheno is an attractive resort and we found a nice fishing spot for the boys. Tim & Alistair fished at every opportunity we got, not always successfully but we all enjoyed it all the same and spent time on some great beaches. Our next stop was St Helens for more fishing and a bit of hiking - I really liked St Helens; a friendly town on a stunning bay with great beaches and lots of pelicans although not as many as we were to see later in our trip on the mainland! It was then across country to Launceston where we took a drive along the Tamar River and wished we had more time to visit some of the local vineyards as the wines we tasted were lovely! We did manage to take a cruise up the Cataract Gorge on the 1890's style Lady Launceston which was magical and very reasonable. Then we were off again this time to Cradle Mountain where we walked round Lake St Clair and did a spot of bird watching - another of Tim's hobbies - it is a great excuse for a good walk! With no time to spare we were off again this time to the coastal town of Strahan where we booked a trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway, an historic and scenic rail journey which is part steam hauled and uses a unique rack and pinion system which fascinated the boys. The journey from Strahan to Queenstown is 35km long and it is a major feat of engineering - how it ever got built is amazing as it runs through some deeply forested areas and used to serve the mines. We did it in supreme comfort and were wined and dined on local produce - a great day out! From Strahan it was a mad dash across country to National Park and the National Park Hotel where we spent the night before walking to Russell Falls. We kept hoping to see Tasmanian Devils but it was not meant to be although we did see plenty of birds, echidnas, wallabies. Then we headed back towards Hobart detouring through the Huon Valley to visit the Tahune Forest AirWalk - a 597m walk through the trees suspended between 20 - 48m above the ground. In Hobart we explored the city centre waterfront and shopped in the weekly Salamanca Market - over 300 stalls surrounded by a great selection of permanent shops and restaurants - a great way to spend a Saturday - just wish we had more time.........
13 June 2011
I was lucky enough to spend two whole months touring New Zealand with my family (husband Tim and son Alistair) during November and December 2006. We covered most of the major sights on both the North and South Islands during this time and have some amazing memories. We started our adventure in Auckland staying in the very centre of the city and spent a few days exploring the city including the Sky Tower, Victoria Market, Queens Street shopping and took the bus and the train out to the suburbs and walked part of the harbour area. We then collected a camper van which was our home for the next 56 days - yes we did go a little stir crazy at times and had to sneak in a couple of nights in a house on Stewart Island and a lodge in Abel Tasman! Having said that the camper was very comfortable with its own shower and toilet and it certainly gave us plenty of flexibility. We mainly stayed on campsites which were well equipped with the usual facilities - shower and toilet blocks, kitchens, barbecue areas and laundry facilities. If like us you are touring for a long period of time it is definitely worth joining one of the campsite loyalty schemes as this gave us some great savings on the nightly rates and discounts at restaurants and places of interest for just a few dollars joining fee. The driving is easy and fuel was cheap. We headed out of Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsular and the fascinating Hot Water Beach - dig in the sand and the water is in places too hot to stand but in others like a glorious natural bath. One of my favourite spots was Hahai and a marvellous coastal walk to Cathedral Beach the site of a fantastic stone arch! Our route took us in land to Rotorua with its famous geysers and sulphur pools although we decided to visit Okariki, the Hidden Valley, which is a cave and Thermal Park between Rotorua and Taupo and the geysers put on a great show for us! From Taupo we then headed back out to the coast to the art deco town of Napier and Mission Estate, the oldest vineyard in New Zealand. Then it was south stopping off at Mount Bruce and our only sighting of live Kiwi's - in captivity unfortunately but the pair were mating at the time much to the embarrassment of the keeper! Wellington was the next stop before taking the Interislander Ferry to Picton. Our stops in the South Island included Kaikoura where we swam with wild dolphins, hand fed albatross and went whale watching in a helicopter; Mount John and a tour of the observatory; Twizel; Hamner Springs; Christchurch - tram rides, Antarctic and RAF museums; the Akaroa Peninsular - there was definitely a French influence here; Omaru - lots of penguins; Dunedin - the Speights Brewery was a definite hit with the boys; Stewart Island - lots of bird watching but the Kiwi's were illusive; Invercargil; Doubtful Sound - one of the wettest places on earth but it stayed dry for us; Queenstown - jet boating, white-water rafting and canyon swings were the order of the day. Wanaka was more restful before Fox Glacier and a fantastic guided walk on the glacier before heading north along the coast to Abel Tasman National Park where we spent a few days walking the coast tracks. Back on the North Island it was up the west coast before heading in land to Tongariro National Park and the Tongariro Crossing - New Zealand’s best one day hike - it took me a week to recover! Christmas saw us north of Auckland at Pahia in the Bay of Islands where we went King Fishing, Catamaran sailing and enjoying this stunning area! I have so many wonderful memories of our time in this stunning country and not enough space to mention it all but I would recommend it to anyone and would go back tomorrow given the opportunity!
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Dulverton 6/20/2019 9:09:00 AM
London 6/18/2019 9:01:00 AM
Bristol 6/18/2019 8:53:00 AM
Exeter 6/17/2019 9:50:00 AM
Warwick 6/12/2019 5:00:00 PM
Minehead 6/12/2019 4:59:00 PM
Chew Stoke 6/12/2019 4:56:00 PM
Sheffield 5/25/2019 10:01:00 AM
Bridgwater 5/20/2019 12:45:00 PM
Chester 5/17/2019 10:43:00 AM
Warminster 5/14/2019 2:50:00 PM
Watchet 5/9/2019 10:03:00 AM
Watchet 5/9/2019 10:02:00 AM
Watchet 5/9/2019 10:01:00 AM
Fareham 5/9/2019 10:00:00 AM
Dunster 5/9/2019 9:59:00 AM
West Wickham 5/9/2019 9:58:00 AM
Minehead 4/12/2019 9:04:00 AM
Aisholt 4/8/2019 9:31:00 AM
Crediton 4/8/2019 9:29:00 AM
Minehead 4/3/2019 6:44:00 PM
Minehead 4/3/2019 6:44:00 PM
Bicknoller 3/23/2019 12:00:00 AM
Arbroath 3/23/2019 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 3/23/2019 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 3/23/2019 12:00:00 AM
Little Langford 3/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Williton 3/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Bridgwater 3/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Bangkok & Exeter 3/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Carhampton 2/21/2019 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 2/16/2019 12:00:00 AM
Crowcombe 2/14/2019 12:00:00 AM
Leominster 2/14/2019 12:00:00 AM
Cheltenham 2/14/2019 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 2/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Edinburgh 2/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
Bristol 2/7/2019 12:00:00 AM
West Quantoxhead 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Bristol 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Williton 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Fordgate 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Baltonsborough 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Sheffield 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Wallasey 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/31/2019 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 12/22/2018 12:00:00 AM
Star Hydraulics, Tewksbury 12/15/2018 12:00:00 AM
Eccleshaw 12/15/2018 12:00:00 AM
Illminster 12/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 12/9/2018 12:00:00 AM
Luxborough 11/27/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bickington 11/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/8/2018 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 11/3/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bedford 10/29/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 10/25/2018 12:00:00 AM
Carhampton 10/25/2018 12:00:00 AM
Hilton, Derbyshire 10/1/2018 12:00:00 AM
Exeter 9/21/2018 12:00:00 AM
Roadwater 9/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 9/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Porlock 9/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bury St Edmunds 9/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Painswick 9/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 9/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 9/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
Broomfield 8/4/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/23/2018 12:00:00 AM
Southam 7/21/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Sheffield 7/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Southam 7/14/2018 12:00:00 AM
Wallasey 7/14/2018 12:00:00 AM
Clevedon 7/7/2018 12:00:00 AM
Banbury 7/7/2018 12:00:00 AM
Southport 6/14/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bicknoller 6/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
Wallasey 6/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
Long Ashton 6/6/2018 12:00:00 AM
Holford 6/2/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 5/29/2018 12:00:00 AM
North Petherton 5/23/2018 12:00:00 AM
West Quantoxhead 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Tiverton 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Cheltenham 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Luxborough 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Sheffield 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Baltonsborough 5/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Reading 4/30/2018 12:00:00 AM
Witham 4/27/2018 12:00:00 AM
Crewkerne 4/21/2018 12:00:00 AM
Blue Anchor 4/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 4/17/2018 12:00:00 AM
Pontrilas 4/14/2018 12:00:00 AM
Broomfield 3/27/2018 12:00:00 AM
Fordgate 3/24/2018 12:00:00 AM
Exeter 3/19/2018 12:00:00 AM
Painswick 3/10/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bridgwater 3/10/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 3/9/2018 12:00:00 AM
Bristol 3/9/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 2/26/2018 12:00:00 AM
Sydenham 2/22/2018 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 2/22/2018 12:00:00 AM
Painswick 2/13/2018 12:00:00 AM
Williton 2/8/2018 12:00:00 AM
Broomfield 2/5/2018 12:00:00 AM
Little Langford 2/3/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/23/2018 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/20/2018 12:00:00 AM
Leighland 1/20/2018 12:00:00 AM
Chew Stoke 1/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
Crowcombe 1/2/2018 12:00:00 AM
Edinburgh 12/7/2017 12:00:00 AM
Fordgate 12/4/2017 12:00:00 AM
Porlock 11/29/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/28/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/3/2017 12:00:00 AM
Stirling 9/4/2017 12:00:00 AM
Eccles 9/2/2017 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 9/2/2017 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 9/2/2017 12:00:00 AM
Burnham-on-Sea 9/2/2017 12:00:00 AM
Bilbrook 8/22/2017 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 8/10/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/26/2017 12:00:00 AM
Broomfield, Bridgwater 7/18/2017 12:00:00 AM
Williton 6/20/2017 12:00:00 AM
Penarth 5/22/2017 12:00:00 AM
Banbury 5/10/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 5/4/2017 12:00:00 AM
Timberscombe 4/28/2017 12:00:00 AM
Exford 4/28/2017 12:00:00 AM
Witham 4/20/2017 12:00:00 AM
Wirral 4/18/2017 12:00:00 AM
Hungerford 4/6/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 3/11/2017 12:00:00 AM
Sheffield 3/7/2017 12:00:00 AM
Sidmouth 3/4/2017 12:00:00 AM
Baltonborough 2/15/2017 12:00:00 AM
Northwich 2/3/2017 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 2/3/2017 12:00:00 AM
London 1/31/2017 12:00:00 AM
Church Stretton 1/16/2017 12:00:00 AM
Totnes 1/16/2017 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/14/2017 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 1/6/2017 12:00:00 AM
Fordgate 1/5/2017 12:00:00 AM
Sydenham 12/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Baltonsborough 12/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Church Stretton 12/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Orchard Portman 12/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 9/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Sampford Brett 9/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 9/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Cullompton 9/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Vellow 9/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Stirling 9/2/2016 12:00:00 AM
Singer Instruments, Roadwater 8/17/2016 12:00:00 AM
Ashford 8/11/2016 12:00:00 AM
Ilminster 8/6/2016 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 8/6/2016 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 7/1/2016 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 6/29/2016 12:00:00 AM
East Quantoxhead 5/5/2016 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 4/27/2016 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 4/15/2016 12:00:00 AM
Cambridge 3/17/2016 12:00:00 AM
Tewkesbury 3/14/2016 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 3/10/2016 12:00:00 AM
Portishead 3/8/2016 12:00:00 AM
Glastonbury 3/8/2016 12:00:00 AM
Hucclecote 3/8/2016 12:00:00 AM
Adelaide, South Australia 1/21/2016 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/21/2016 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
West Quantoxhead 1/19/2016 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/9/2016 12:00:00 AM
Allerford 12/31/2015 12:00:00 AM
Winsford 12/14/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Berkshire 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
MInehead 11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 10/5/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 10/5/2015 12:00:00 AM
All Stretton 9/28/2015 12:00:00 AM
Totnes 9/2/2015 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 9/2/2015 12:00:00 AM
Fordgate 8/27/2015 12:00:00 AM
Dunster 7/21/2015 12:00:00 AM
Street 7/21/2015 12:00:00 AM
Bristol 7/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
Chulmleigh 7/9/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 6/19/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 6/4/2015 12:00:00 AM
Gloucester 5/7/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 5/1/2015 12:00:00 AM
Timberscombe 4/28/2015 12:00:00 AM
Crediton 4/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 4/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 4/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
Arbroath 4/16/2015 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 4/15/2015 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 4/14/2015 12:00:00 AM
Exmouth 4/9/2015 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 4/9/2015 12:00:00 AM
Carhampton 4/9/2015 12:00:00 AM
Wirral 4/9/2015 12:00:00 AM
Williton 1/23/2015 12:00:00 AM
London 12/5/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 8/6/2014 12:00:00 AM
Chard 8/2/2014 12:00:00 AM
Timberscombe 7/11/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/5/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 6/20/2014 12:00:00 AM
Glastonbury 6/19/2014 12:00:00 AM
LDA Design, Peterborough 6/12/2014 12:00:00 AM
Redhill 6/11/2014 12:00:00 AM
Tiverton 6/11/2014 12:00:00 AM
Kidderminster 5/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
Dunster 5/20/2014 12:00:00 AM
Wirral 4/24/2014 12:00:00 AM
Stretham 4/17/2014 12:00:00 AM
Clatworthy 4/11/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 4/9/2014 12:00:00 AM
Crewkerne 4/8/2014 12:00:00 AM
Hinckley 3/18/2014 12:00:00 AM
St Leonards-On-Sea 3/14/2014 12:00:00 AM
Porlock 3/13/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 3/13/2014 12:00:00 AM
Bangkok & Worthing 3/13/2014 12:00:00 AM
Taunton 2/25/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 2/17/2014 12:00:00 AM
Glastonbury 2/14/2014 12:00:00 AM
Creech St Michael 2/12/2014 12:00:00 AM
Orchard Portman 2/12/2014 12:00:00 AM
Lewes 2/3/2014 12:00:00 AM
Carhampton 1/28/2014 12:00:00 AM
Fenny Compton 1/22/2014 12:00:00 AM
Porlock 1/21/2014 12:00:00 AM
Cullompton 1/15/2014 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 1/15/2014 12:00:00 AM
Northwich, Cheshire 1/14/2014 12:00:00 AM
Wheddon Cross 12/30/2013 12:00:00 AM
Weacombe, Somerset 12/30/2013 12:00:00 AM
Stafford 12/6/2013 12:00:00 AM
LDA Desig, Peterborough 11/28/2013 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 11/25/2013 12:00:00 AM
Ashford 11/23/2013 12:00:00 AM
Watchet 11/23/2013 12:00:00 AM
London 11/11/2013 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 10/5/2013 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 9/26/2013 12:00:00 AM
Minehead, Somerset 9/17/2013 12:00:00 AM
PWLLHELI 9/10/2013 12:00:00 AM
Swansea 8/21/2013 12:00:00 AM
Yeovil, Somerset 8/15/2013 12:00:00 AM
Dollar, Clackmannanshire 8/15/2013 12:00:00 AM
Marchamley, Shrewsbury 8/5/2013 12:00:00 AM
Wheddon Cross, Somerset 8/5/2013 12:00:00 AM
Dollar, Clackmannanshire 7/26/2013 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/19/2013 12:00:00 AM
Glastonbury 7/12/2013 12:00:00 AM
Milton Keynes 7/9/2013 12:00:00 AM
Minehead 7/3/2013 12:00:00 AM
London 6/19/2013 12:00:00 AM
Shillingstone, Dorset 12/7/2011 4:55:00 PM
Worcester 11/17/2011 6:59:00 PM
London 11/4/2011 1:26:00 PM
All Stretton 11/3/2011 10:35:00 AM
Minehead 10/31/2011 3:23:00 PM
Minehead 10/30/2011 10:47:00 PM
Watchet 10/27/2011 6:38:00 PM
Taunton 10/26/2011 5:03:00 PM
Minehead, Somerset 10/26/2011 3:32:00 PM
Minehead 10/25/2011 7:49:00 PM
London 10/25/2011 10:02:00 AM
Adelaide South Australia 10/25/2011 8:16:00 AM
Portsmouth 10/24/2011 8:27:00 PM
Minehead 10/24/2011 8:25:00 PM
Nailsea 10/24/2011 6:40:00 PM
Dunster 10/24/2011 5:24:00 PM
Carhampton 10/24/2011 4:41:00 PM
Minehead 10/24/2011 12:52:00 PM
Minehead 10/24/2011 11:10:00 AM
Painswick Stroud 7/4/2011 4:49:00 PM
Minehead 6/8/2011 5:25:00 PM
minehead 6/1/2011 7:33:00 PM
Stafford 5/31/2011 7:16:00 PM
Weston-Super-Mare 5/31/2011 9:22:00 AM
Watchet 5/31/2011 7:50:00 AM
carhampton 5/30/2011 6:48:00 PM
London 9/6/2010 12:18:00 PM
Bromborough, Wirral 2/6/2010 1:21:00 PM
Minehead 12/26/2009 10:51:00 AM
minehead 12/23/2009 6:34:00 PM
Taunton 12/14/2009 7:58:00 PM
Butleigh 12/11/2009 4:21:00 PM
Crowthorne 12/11/2009 1:19:00 PM
Plymouth 12/11/2009 12:36:00 PM
Minehead 12/10/2009 8:24:00 PM
Timberscombe, Minehead, Somerset 12/10/2009 5:42:00 PM
Sheffield 11/28/2008 11:31:00 AM