Based in Minehead

Natalie Poat

It's Nice To Meet You

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!

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Contact Me

Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:

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My Videos

The traffic lights are changing from 4 am Sunday 8 August

8/5/2021

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..

Inspiration for your next holiday

8/5/2021

If you are still planning your next holiday whether it be for 2021 or 2022 this video is a great source of inspiration

TC New Hotels

7/17/2021

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!

7/16/2021

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.

Taking that trip of a lifetime

6/11/2021

A recent report highlighted that 1 in 5 UK travellers are planning a once in a lifetime trip post pandemic

Postcards

4/30/2021

Relive some travel memories with this great video - my husband said it made the hairs on the back of his arms stand up! Enjoy!

5 Reasons to book your travel with me!

4/30/2021

Trusted Travel - our reviews on TrustPilot speak for themselves but this short video highlights 5 good reasons to book your travel with me...

We create!

4/30/2021

This is what holidaying is all about....

Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados

4/30/2021

Luxury hotel Sandy Lane celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. For more details of their never before seen offers give me a call on 01643 888220

My Blog

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.

A December break - Mousehole or Mogan (Gran Canaria)

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.

Messing about on the River...

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.

The Rocky Mountaineer - Vancouver to Banff

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!

Club Med Val Thorens Sensations

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.

Picos de Europa - a motorbikers dream trip!

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.

Ras Al Khaimah - the new kid on the block!

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.

4 nights, 2 islands!

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...

St. Kitts & Nevis - living the Caribbean dream!

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....

Peru Adventure with Exodus

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.

Jamaica

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!

Antigua

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.

Harmony of The Seas!

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.....

Carnival Dream and Louisiana

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.

Sublime Seychelles

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.

Cancun, Mexico

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....

Surprising Sri Lanka

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….

Universal Orlando

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.

Sensational St Lucia

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...

Riviera Travel - River Cruise - The Danube from Budapest to Vienna

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.

Talking Turkey

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.

San Diego to Chicago including Route 66

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!

Abu Dhabi

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.

Paphos and the Troodos Mountains

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.

Tromso to Trondheim - in search of the Northern Lights!

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!

Mystical Morocco

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.

South African Sojourn

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!

Fiscardo, Kefalonia

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..........

Dazzling Dubai

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!

Lech

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.

Bountiful Bonaire

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!

Las Vegas & beyond!

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!

Courchevel, Les Trois Vallees!

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!

Muscat, Oman

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!

Chinese Cracker!

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!

Awesome Australia

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.............

Tantalizing Tasmania

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.........

Naturally New Zealand

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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Amazing support and exceptional advice and service. I will definitely use Natalie again and have recommended to friends.

Sent by Dawn Willicombe

We gave Natalie a wish list for our visit to Australia (Melbourne), with the possibility of stop overs in Dubai, Singapore & Perth. Also to fly out & back with out stop overs. Not only did she come back with the various options but also costed in hotels, optional city tours & transfers. What I found amazing was that I spoke to her on the Monday evening & all of this was in my in box Wednesday morning. After this service I will always use her plus I will always recommend her.

Sent by Sally Moran

Natalie has helped us plan our next adventure which involves complicated travel, accommodation and sight-seeing trips. She changed arrangements when asked, came back to us quickly with new schedules and advised us on matters associated with travel to several parts of the world. Natalie is attentive as ever to getting us the best deals, checking in with us regularly and updating us on progress and what needs to happen when! We couldn't ask for a better service, thank you Natalie!

Sent by Tina Wilson

An amazing service. Natalie booked an amazing holiday to match my needs. Cared very much about selecting the right destination and the right holiday for me. The service was excellent. Delighted I used Natalie will definitely use her again for all future holidays and have already recommended her to friends. Fabulous service. Fabulous company. Looking forward to The Body Holiday in St Lucia! Where you give them your body and they give you back your mind! Love their slogan!

Sent by Brian Davies

Extremely competent and professional...nothing is a problem and always returns your calls ..we have recommended to our friends and will continue to do so....

Sent by Lucinda Garland

I recommend Natalie to everyone, she is efficient, friendly and so knowledgable and always find me the best deals, prices and seats. I wouldn't travel without her !

Sent by Paul Breach

Natalie was very approachable and professional and was happy to investigate a number of options successfully and continually kept me updated.

Sent by Denis Hird

The most helpful and pleasant: just what one needs when booking a holiday or excursion!

Sent by Jacqueline Churchill

This score reflects a personal travel, service with nothing being too much Trouble. Her splendid response and the approach to our every detail Makes it so much easier to find just the right holiday to suit our needs, Thank you Natalie Poat for helping

Sent by Beverley Trimmings

We have found Natalie to be extremely efficient, very knowledgeable as to what was available re flights and places of interest etc She responds quickly, is friendly & professional and makes the whole experience of booking a holiday a pleasant, stress free one! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Travel Counsellors and would like them to look after our future holiday bookings.

Sent by Victoria Stevens

Excellent service. Natalie goes out of her way to create trips for me that are bespoke, and meet all of my requirements. She is always available to discuss anything, and goes above and beyond with looking after her customers. I would highly recommend.

Sent by Elaine Ford

Natalie has all of the skills to make our holiday booking stress free, she is so friendly and nothing is too much trouble. Keep up the good work Natalie and thank you.

Sent by Alison Darwell

We continue to book our holidays with Natalie. She always gives us excellent advice and now knows our family well enough to know what we are after. Our son is Autistic and Natalie goes out of her way to make sure there are no hiccups. I have recommended Natalie to family and friends before and will continue to do so.

Sent by Nigel Halliday

Consistently helpful and invaluable last year when we had to cancel a holiday for health reasons. It always seems easy with Natalie!

Sent by Anne Osterlind

Natalie has always come up with the goods for our family holiday, she knows just what we like and always delivers, we always have a lovely time! She's very efficient and friendly, every detail of our holiday is covered, and it's such a stress-free way to book a holiday. Thank you Natalie!

Sent by Claire Harrison

Smooth process fight from the beginning , Why we haven’t used Natalie before I don’t know. Thank you Natalie this won’t be our first holiday with you, there will be many more.

Sent by Milly Lewis

Natalie is always at the end of an email or phone call. Absolutly fantastic service and i am always reccomending her to my friends and family: i can always trust she makes me aware of all prices and deals and offers we exactly what we need. Thank you and I cant wait to book some more adventures with you :)

Sent by Lynn Reynolds

Natalie is very approachable and has been more than helpful in sorting out our requirements. We would be more than happy to recommend her to anyone wishing to enquire about a holiday or flights

Sent by Mai Albaek Cudmore

Amazing service as always. Kind, quick and efficient. Thanks again Natalie

Sent by Cynthia Sharpe

Natalie is great. Always cheerful and extremely helpful in doing all the holiday research for us and coming up with a good cross section of holidays for us to look at. Once we’ve decided she’s simply does all the bookings for us. It’s great. Thank you Natalie

Sent by Annabelle Cornelius

Natalie was incredibly helpful, efficient and patient and we can't wait to use her again.

Sent by Rebecca Radford

Nothing is too much trouble for Natalie and she organises some amazing itineraries

Sent by Chris Haw

Natalie has booked many trips for me and my family over the past 15 years - starting with the honeymoon! She has never disappointed and has always provided exceptional, personalised service. I have recommended her to many of my friends and colleagues who have always been very impressed.

Sent by John Batchelor

Natalie made it very easy for us to book what we thought were a complex set of flights, that we adjusted several times too!

Sent by June Harris

Excellent service and everything taken care of for our holidays - we can sit back and relax knowing everything is in order and we don't have to worry about any last minute details we might forget - Natalie has everything done for us.

Sent by Georgia Lay

Fantastic service flexibility and attention to detail

Sent by Stephanie Stone

Nothing is ever too much trouble for Natalie. I’ve never experienced such superb customer care!

Sent by James Auton

Natalie is always extremely helpful especially when we can’t make our minds up! Would certainly recommend.

Sent by Michael Smith

Used Natalie for years now, always exceptional service guaranteed

Sent by Jacqueline Jasper

Natalie was brilliant, from the beginning she was so knowledgeable and thought of things we hadn't even considered in our planning of taking an RV across the Canadian Rockies. We felt really confident with her booking everything and are really looking forward to our holiday. It was lovely to have someone constantly cheerful to talk to, especially when dates had to be changed. Thank you Natalie.

Sent by Elaine Thorne

Natalie has organised a few holidays for us now. She is so helpful and really good at what she does. I would recommend Natalie and TC to anyone. Thank you.

Sent by Elaine Thorne

I have complete peace of mind when using Natalie as she is so helpful and pleasant to deal with.

Sent by Rosalind Chidgey

I have complete peace of mind when using Natalie as she is so helpful and pleasant to deal with.

Sent by Doreen Matthews

Having dealt with Natalie for many years booking several trips with her we have never had any complaints in the way she has handled our bookings. Any future bookings I will always contact Natalie to handle for me. Many thanks for all your expertise and help during the past years.

Sent by Emma Redman

Natalie listen to my requirements and worked around me keeping it a secret from my husband. I am very grateful for her knowledge and help in finding the right holiday for me. I will definitely be back!

Sent by Susan Macaskill

Natalie was very helpful and kind. Nothing was too much trouble. I will definitely use her services again.

Sent by Michele Webber

We always find Natalie extremely helpful when booking our holidays , she’s always friendly and easy to talk to and nothing is too much trouble

Sent by Amanda Temple

Natalie always goes the extra mile. She takes the stress out of planning and booking a trip. I can not recommend her services more highly. In the day and age of online choice, booking a trip abroad can feel overwhelming (certainly for me!). Thank you to Natalie for making it a pleasure!

Sent by Alvin King

Natalie makes everything so easy for us; just pick up the phone and it's sorted.

Sent by Marie Green

Natalie is amazing 100 would be a better score. I don't worry about anything once I've booked

Sent by Kim Gover

Natalie always goes the extra mile to help us book the holiday that is best for us.

Sent by Carole Fawcett

The service Natalie provides is truly personal. During the whole planning and booking process, I feel like I’m her only client but of course she is also dealing with many other clients too.

Sent by Patricia Petrie

Natalie was very quick to respond to our initial request and provided very comprehensive options which covered all our wishes, from which we made our final choice. She is always warm and friendly on the phone and happy to give us all the time we needed to make our decision and to answer any questions.

Sent by Christine Burnell

Always recommend Natalie. Always professional, very knowledgeable and easy to talk to. 10/10

Sent by Kay Male

Always there to help no matter how hopeless we are and always patient and caring.

Sent by Patricia Helyer

Natalie is a first class Travel Counsellor, nothing is ever too much trouble for her to research. She is polite and cheerful and always at the end of the phone or email so a very quick response is always given. She is excellent!

Sent by Susan Hosegood

There is absolutely nobody else we would turn to. Additionally, Natalie has put us in contact with your medical wing that has made travel insurance so much easier and very comprehensive.

Sent by David Flack

Once again Natalie came up with 5 star service. From initial enquiry to booking and even post holiday, she was available for help and assistance. With her vast experience of the industry she saved not only my time, but was able to source the right flights at the right price.

Sent by Trevor Clarke

I have used Natalie from Travel Counsellors for the last eleven years and have always been very satisfied with the service. I have also recommended her on many occasions.

Sent by William Peters

Natalie is great! She comes up trump's for all our travel plans - and she is lovely to deal with.

Sent by Lalya Merson

Natalie was extremely helpful to us in finding our special holiday and trying her very best to keep the cost down as much as possible ! she also explained everything to us well and reassured us that she would help us with any queries that we may have, such as visa's etc..

Sent by Patricia Kennedy

The service Natalie gave me whilst arranging a family holiday was professional and informative. She dealt with all my questions and there were many, in a friendly manner. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble. I would not hesitate to recommend Natalie. In fact Natalie was recommended to me by two friends. After all a word of mouth recommendation takes some beating.

Sent by Gillian Lloyd

It is wonderful that everything was is arranged so efficiently and quickly. Have found that doing it oneself is possible but a nightmare.

Sent by Julie Greenwood

Natalie was really helpful and super responsive even out of hours. We were only looking for help with flights so a relatively low ticket item but I felt that Natalie gave us the same excellent service and quick response as she would have done if we were booking a £20,000 holiday.

Sent by Diane Luton

Nothing was too much trouble for Natalie, she made the arranging of my trip to Canada seamless and I will certainly recommend her services to as many people as I can and will use her expertise again without hesitation. Thank you so much Natalie

Sent by Ross Mackay

Natalie really listens to what a customer wants and her attention to detail is second to none. Always experience outstanding customer service from Natalie, and am quick to recommend.

Sent by Kirsten Foord

Excellent service, will book all our holidays through Natalie going forward and will happily share her contact details with friends and family.

Sent by Mary Randle

Natalie is always, happy, friendly, efficient and reassuring

Sent by Karen Williams

You took the effort and stress out of finding and booking holiday and were so efficient. I also appreciate the fact that you did a lot of this work outside normal hours. I have already passed your details to a friend who is a frequent long distance traveller and hope that she gets in touch.

Sent by Alison Courtney

Really professional and very prompt in dealing with our requests. Very confident in recommending Natalie.

Sent by Mary Taylor

We have already recommended Natalie to many friends. and will continue to do so. The quality of service is outstanding, She is always very prompt and efficient and understands our requirements and needs, she has totally taken the hastle out of planning and booking our travel arrangements

Sent by Robert Peto

Always very responsive and looking for solutions not problems

Sent by Sharron Taylor

Natalie provides an excellent service; knowledgeable, friendly and super efficient. I always use her for travel arrangements and have recommended her to friends and family.

Sent by Stephen Boggie

Excellent service with good sound advice

Sent by Deborah Hall

I have now booked two holidays with Natalie and would certainly recommend family and friends. All the work put in to finding just what I was looking for is excellent. I hope to book more in the future.

Sent by Marlene Richards

We always use Natalie because she is very professional and gives us a personal touch

Sent by Jennifer Vickery

Brilliant support & organisation of all my requirements every time, I always use Natalie because she’s so helpful & very good at minimalising all the stressful worrying parts of my travels since my illness. All I can say is she’s totally reassuring in every aspect of traveling no matter the distance. With a great personality too.

Sent by Helen Harrison

I’d be lost without Natalie looking after my business travel plans. She’s always there to sort things out when last minute travel plans change and gets it all sorted out and rearranged for me.

Sent by Sheila Keeling

Nothing is too much trouble catering for ever changing minds - always keeping me informed and such great support when overseas

Sent by Maria Braide

Natalie my Travel Counsellor has alaways been highly professional, non pressurising, and has always found me the right holiday. Highly recommended

Sent by Denise Chaffey

I was recommended Natalie by a friend and I was impressed by her friendly professional approach to organizing my trip. She is very knowledgeable in her field and was prompt in replying to my emails and questions. I have already recommended her to other friends

Sent by Andrew Waller

Natalie is friendly, professional and takes all the stress and hassle out of booking a holiday. The holiday starts with Natalie! Thank you

Sent by James Webster

Natalie is one of the most personable and efficient people I have ever dealt with. It is always a pleasure to chat with her. She has been looking after my holidays for many years and never put a foot wrong.

Sent by Audrey Price

Natalie was fantastic, one phone call to her from the cruise we are currently on and our next cruise, flights , transfers and hotels have been sorted before we get home from our current cruise! What a great feeling having nothing to worry about and sort out for ourselves, Natalie has taken care of everything. A huge thank you to her.

Sent by Caroline Towells

I always recommend Natalie to friends or work colleagues, etc. We now never go anywhere else to book our holidays - Absolutely first class service every time - Natalie always goes "above and beyond", is so helpful and full of the best hints and tips for wherever we are going to travel, nothing is ever too much trouble and she constantly exceeds our expectations!

Sent by Leslie Edwards

Natalie always manages to deal with our travel requirements quickly and efficiently in a most friendly and professional way. A great service to have on tap!

Sent by Jack Claydon

Excellent service, couldn’t recommend Natalie enough! Thank you, I will most definitely be booking with you again.

Sent by Jennifer Brooks

It nice to be able to talk to someone instead of a machine and let them do the work for you

Sent by Helen Donnor

Natalie has been amazing. The little touches - recommend card and guide have added the wow moment. Thankyou

Sent by Trevor Clarke

I have had used Travel Counsellors for many years and have always found them to be the most helpful and have succeeded in meeting my needs.

Sent by Andrew Swallow

What more can i say, the service Natalie provides is second to none! Emails get answered, phone calls get made it is just so easy booking your holiday this way.

Sent by Angela Baker

Natalie has always been, and continues to be, so considerate and helpful when putting together our holiday plans. She is clearly passionate about her work and this is evident in the thought she gives to the little details which go to make a holiday really special.

Sent by David Draper

Natalie has been extremely helpful, polite, friendly, and has gone out of her way to make sure our holidays are perfect. Well done Natalie keep up the good work.

Sent by Anthony Dinwiddy

Excellent service. We have recommended Natalie to several of our friends who have found her very helpful.

Sent by Delyth Allen

Natalie has been booking our holidays for several years as well as business trips for my husband and we have always found her to be most efficient, helpful and quick to respond. She is always accessible to sort out any issues during the holiday and deal with any change of plans. Friends and colleagues have also had her to book holidays on our recommendation and have been impressed with her

Sent by Jacqueline White

Fantastic service Natalie really listens to what you tell her about the sort of holiday you want and the price bracket you give and comes back with great suggestions very promptly. Would definitely recommend to friends.

Sent by Caroline Price

Natalie is always amazingly knowledgeable and helpful. I trust her implicitly to find us the right deal.

Sent by Lucinda Garland

Always reliable and totally helpful, the best Travel Counsellor ever.

Sent by James Archer

Prompt, friendly, helpful service. Clearly with a wide knowledge of destinations. Grateful thanks

Sent by Gregory Southgate

Natalie has been very helpful and knowledgeable in relation to our needs. She has arranged several holidays and far flung trips for us both to the USA and Australia. She is always very flexible and willing to help with whatever we have needed. She will arrange all or any part of the trip. We would have no hesitaion in using her skills and services again.

Sent by Peter Lancaster

Attention to detail, and fantastic customer service. What more could you want

Sent by Stephanie Stone

Superb service tailored exactly to our requirements and exceeding our aspirations completely!

Sent by Cherie Southgate

Natalie is always so helpful and tries really hard to accommodate our whims and fancies. We always appreciate her advice and so far she’s been able to find us unexpected pleasures

Sent by Susan Roberts

Very helpful and responsive to emails, even over the weekend. Does Natalie ever have any time off? Thank you Natalie, you provide a great service and I would always recommend you to my friends and family.

Sent by Rachel TReloar

Natalie has been an absolute superstar organising our honeymoon. She has provided excellent advice and recommendations, accommodated changes to our initial ideas and made us both so excited for our dream honeymoon. Thank you Natalie!

Sent by Julie Taylor

Natalie is brilliant! Cant thank her enough for all her help. Makes arranging our holidays and flights so easy. Thank you!

Sent by Helen Pritchard

Natalie has been the best travel advisor - listening. suggesting. organising. revising, and, most importantly, understanding!

Sent by Philip Comer

Excellent service and a confirmed booking made very quickly. I have already recommended Natalie to friends.

Sent by Susan Ellis

Natalie always goes that bit extra to ensure the holiday is what I'm looking for and provides helpful suggestions when I'm looking for options. She is also very good at remembering requirements and ensures that all the group are well especially those with special dietary requirements.

Sent by Alison Darwell

I have used Natalie a number of times before to arrange my holidays, she always goes above and beyond to make everything run smoothly (also sorting anything that may go pear shaped!) my son is autistic and she always checks out any worries or concerns. I have already recommended friend to use her and some even ask who arranged our holiday.

Sent by David Houghton

Natalie is always cheerful and great to do business with, her professionalism is second to none.

Sent by Elaine Thorne

Excellent service from Natalie Poat. I always let Natalie arrange my special holidays because I know I won't be disappointed.

Sent by Helen Seymour

Natalie Poat has been really helpful with booking our first cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Nothing has been too much trouble despite changing my mind with a few things. Our telephone conversations have been lovely and I feel Natalie has really cared about giving us the best service, obtaining the holiday requested with all the wants and wishes additionally she has been interested in achieving a good experience for myself and my husband. I would have no hesitation in recommending Natalie and would definitely book a holiday with travel counselors through her for next year. It has been so easy with added peace of mind. Thank you.

Sent by Alan Bissell

Natalie was excellent in researching our requirements with speedy responses

Sent by Milly Lewis

Absolutly fantastic lady, can always rely on Natalie to help with my flights, planning in adavanced and same day! Also for help with anything while away as well, Thankyou

Sent by Julie Greenwood

Natalie is always positive, helpful and goes the extra mile - even replying on Sunday's!

Sent by Trevor Short

Natalie was so helpful, friendly and made it a very personal experience to suit our requirements, even when they changed it was never too much trouble

Sent by Andrew Waller

Natalie is so helpful, friendly and professional and takes all the hassle and stress away when booking a holiday or flight. Thank you Natalie

Sent by Sharron Taylor

First class friendly service from Natalie as always. Love working with her.

Sent by Angela Durbacz

Fabulous service - have already recommended to a friend

Sent by Aaron Biggs

Natalie was fantastic from start to finish. We had a very complex flight issue and it took ages to short out but she was calm helpful and patient all the way through, a dream to work with.

Sent by David Gillespie

Excellent service - couldn't fault it! Natalie's a find - might not recommend to others, 'cos then everyone will want to use her... (only kidding!)

Sent by Patricia Hackett

Just to say that Natalie (Poat) has been most helpful in arranging a special birthday mini- break for my daughter. Her advice has been invaluable. She has such a nice friendly manner.

Sent by Norman Starling

A lovely lady, very efficient and friendly. No detail missed, Very professional.

Sent by David Gaydon

We would use nobody else. Always there to sort our holidays. The complete one stop shopping experience. Five star treatment. Thanks Natalie

Sent by Joanna Dewhirst

We can't fault the service we have had and the attention to detail that Natalie gives. The notes to say thank you for booking are a nice touch too!

Sent by Sharon Gillanders

Natalie has always sorted out our holidays to a very high standard. We can travel anywhere and know if we encounter any problems she is on the end of the phone or E-Mail. She takes into account your needs and budget therefore enabling you to have a wonderful holiday. I would like to thank her very much.

Sent by Mary Taylor

We would recommend Natalie without hesitation. Her knowledge and efficiency are excellent. She now knows the type of accommodation we like and her recommendations are always good. TC takes all the hassle out of organising travel. Recently a flight was cancelled due to snow, Natalie was abroad, her replacement contact with TC organised rebooking within an hour of our contacting her.

Sent by Joanne George

Natalie has been amazing organising two holidays now for me, I can’t imagine booking a holiday without her now.

Sent by Delyth Allen

Natalie is always prompt and efficient in dealing with travel queries and she has provided us with excellent service over several years.

Sent by David Flack

Natalie is always willing to assist with any questions and her vast knowledge of the travel industry ensures confidence in every part of the travel arrangements she provides.

Sent by Jayne Lethaby

Natalie is always helpful, informative and delivers a great service.

Sent by Jessica Shipton

Natalie arranged my wedding in Fiji, a holiday to the Azores which were both brilliant! She is now arranging my 40th birthday celebrations to Dubai!

Sent by Georgina King

Natalie is very caring and thorough, also very helpful when I'm booking our holidays, nothing is too much trouble. Thank you Nat.

Sent by David Williams

Excellent service - listened to our wants, gave us sensible options, and communicated clearly and quickly at all stages. Again.

Sent by Robert Dickinson

Friendly and professional service, prompt communication plus most helpful.

Sent by John Allen

Natalie is superb. So conscientious and friendly.

Sent by Susan Hosegood

Over the years we have recommended Natalie to several friends - speaks for itself!

Sent by Lucinda Garland

Natalie Poat is amazing and she organised everything beautifully. I cant recommend her or travel counsellors more.

Sent by Patricia Helyer

Excellent service every time we have booked through you.

Sent by Pamela Stevens

We use Natalie Poat for all but out simplest holidays. She is experienced, informed, efficient, and usually comes in under budget. Outstanding service as ever!

Sent by Marlene Richards

Natalie is the best, she always goes that extra mile to find the holiday we are looking for.

Sent by Carole Fawcett

Natalie responded brilliantly to our brief, giving excellent advice and everything was done professionally and efficiently. She was great to deal with, making the process simple and enjoyable.

Sent by Georgia Lay

Fantastically efficient and reliable service as always.

Sent by Jane Richardson-Bunbury

I would recommend Natalie Poat to anyone - she gives excellent and quick service.

Sent by Alex Caraffi

Natalie's service as normal was absolutely first class.

Sent by Julian Taylor

We have only had phone and email contact with Natalie. She has always been able to organize the breaks that. we want, tailoring our needs to what is available. She is instantly responsive, committed and gives us value for money. We have recommended her to several other people. Julian & Mary Taylor

Sent by Ann Spence

I have found Natalie warm, friendly, efficient and intelligent in all our dealings. We will definitely use her again and recommend her to others

Sent by Kim Gover

Excellent personal service. Natalie has really got to know what we look for in a holiday.

Sent by Siobhan Hutchings

Natalie, as always has been very patient and helpful with our bookings and always seems to find what we want, despite the fact that sometimes our needs can be challenging. We would always book with Natalie as she provides great service and is very efficient. Thank you Natalie:-)

Sent by Evelyn Little

Natalie has helped me with my travel plans for the past three years or so. Her service is second to none, in my experience, and I have in fact already recommended her to friends and family. I recently renewed my travel insurance with her (in fact I wouldn't have known this was due for renewal if she hadn't telephoned me to alert me!) and after the insurance certificate was finalised, she sent me a small thank-you card via the post! It's touches like this that make people like Natalie and her colleagues worth their weight in gold. She is most helpful with every aspect of arranging and booking a holiday and her friendly manner is greatly appreciated.

Sent by Katie Ellis

Natalie was fantastic. She was really patient and always quick to respond. We would definitely recommend her to all of our friends.

Sent by Christine Burnell

BRILLIANT! Nothing is too much trouble. Natalie always goes the extra mile to ensure we get just what we're looking for

Sent by Teresa-Ann Dugdale

I would most certainly recommend Natalie. She is so professional and nothing is any trouble. Well done Natalie.. If I could I would rate her much higher !

Sent by Vanessa Treloar

I've recommended Natalie to several of our family and friends and now they are all benefitting from her knowledge, experience and patience. Wouldn't use anyone else!

Sent by Elizabeth Burnett

Always exceptional service from Natalie. She always treats us as friends even after long periods between bookings. Such a lovely, helpful person and nothing is too much trouble.

Sent by Sarah Walsh

We have used Natalie Poat for the last 12 years , booking holidays to Australia , Thailand , Ski-ing , lots of sunny holidays & She is fantastic , thank you Natalie!!

Sent by Ian Daniels

Nothing is too much for Natalie. I have used Natalie in the past and her service has been second to none. I will not go anywhere else in the future

Sent by Lucinda Garland

Natalie Poat is so efficient, knowledgeable, totally capable. I don't know how I managed without her.

Sent by Martin Maule

As ever Natalie has efficiently guided us through booking our cruise with great care and helpful advice.

Sent by Robert Greyling

Holidays are fantastic, sourcing and booking holidays are boring and frustrating. Natalie makes the latter as easy and pleasant as the former. I no longer dread booking holidays, I look forward to going on them!

Sent by Neil Mattinson

Natalie is a very rare individual who consistently provides a very high quality service and always with a warm and comforting manner. Almost under promises but always exceeds in delivery.

Sent by David Gaydon

Natalie takes the hassle out of booking a holiday. Nothing is too much trouble for her and will sort everything out for you. What more do you need?

Sent by Jennifer Gratton

Natalie is helpful, efficient and speedy as well as always being happy and friendly. I would always use her to sort out my holidays because I know I can rely on her to attend to everything down to the very smallest detail and I have complete confidence in leaving all arrangements to her.

Sent by Shiamala Comer

Natalie is exceptional. Takes all the hassle out of my travel arrangements. Is courteous efficient and patient.

Sent by David Gillespie

Natalie delivered on our brief and guided us in the areas we weren't sure about. Her communication was always clear and she responded quickly to our questions. Where we had specific requests, e.g. use of air-miles etc., she successfully navigated the complexities on our behalf to get us a favourable deal. No hesitation is recommending Natalie's services to anyone seeking assistance to arrange their holiday itinerary - at our stage (booking completed, looking forward to departure), everything has been to our entire satisfaction.

Sent by Lynda Rostron

Always listens, helpful constructive suggestions and pleasure to talk to and deal with. People I have recommended to use Natalie have had the same experiences.

Sent by Cora Miles

Natalie Poat is so helpful and friendly and gives me a lot of confidence that my holiday arrangements will go as smoothly as possible.

Sent by Hilary May

Natalie is fantastic, nothing is too much trouble, she is so great to work with and we feel safe in her hands . Our trips are planned, organised and she does everything except pack my case !

Sent by Stephanie Stone

Superb customised service, mapped to my needs and requests. Natalie gets it right every time!

Sent by Ronald Platt

Natalie went way beyond the expected service levels for our Iceland trip. Superb customer service.

Sent by Edward Medlicott

We have booked our holidays with Natalie Poat several times and always receive super-friendly, top quality, fantastic advice and efficient service. Thank you, Natalie. We look forward to speaking to you again soon! I am also recommending you to friends and family all the time.

Sent by Paula Turner

Very pleased with the service from Natalie - makes you feel happy, very friendly and approachable

Sent by James Auton

Excellent help as always and quick to respond to questions. Would recommend to anyone.

Sent by Kathryn Lock

As usual Natalie put together a brilliant holiday! It was a complicated trip with continual changes and questions but Natalie always makes it uncomplicated my end and sorts everything out quickly and efficiently. She's a star!!

Sent by Elizabeth Cinnamon

Natalie has been so responsive throughout the process of us working out our big trip to New Zealand, and Isis also able to answer al our queries knowledgeably, as she has personal experience of travelling in New Zealand herself. Overall, it has been an excellent service so far - let's hope that the holiday lives up to expectations!

Sent by Percival Norton

As always the service received from Natalie is exceptional I always recommend the service you provide

Sent by Siobhan Hutchings

Natalie works really hard for us. We have certain requirements for our family holiday due to disability and Natalie takes the time to fulfil each and every one of them. We would not book with anyone else. I would always recommend her. Keep up the good work Natalie! :-)

Sent by Kevin Prescott

Great service. As a busy working family we just didn't have the time to search all the different booking options. It was important to get it right as our holiday will be a one off and have saved and looked forward to it for many years.

Sent by Julian Taylor

A good experience with Natalie. Always looks after our interests. A number of very successful vacations.

Sent by Jayne Williams

As always the service is excellent, fast and efficient, giving great choices taking account of the needs and wishes of your customers.

Sent by Robert Peto

Charming, efficient and above all patient!

Sent by Janet Ferguson

Natalie always offers a well researched and incredibly efficient service saving us hours of time in lengthy internet searches.

Sent by Angela Baker

Natalie is just brilliant. I can't recommend her highly enough!

Sent by Caroline Towells

Absolutely First Class service provided by Natalie, as always. Whether it's something "last minute", or planning further ahead, Natalie never fails to deliver and is always willing and able to provide answers to any of my (usually many!!) questions! I wouldn't book with anyone else and always recommend Natalie to my friends and colleagues (as my family already uses her services as well!). Well done again and thank you for all your help.

Sent by Donald Pettit

Such a pleasure to have an efficient and cheerful person to speak to whenever the need arises.... for the second year running.

Sent by Teresa Dugdale

Fantastic service and no effort needed on my part. Natalie is not my travel advisor.. I feel like she is a friend I have always known I give 10... I would give 20 ! Thank you Natalie and well done again .

Sent by Ben Tucker

Really quick to get back to my initial email, found my flights at great value in a no time at all and was super helpful, friendly and proffesional throughout which made it extremely easy for me. Thank you!

Sent by Julian Gostling

Natalie is simply great, we book all our flights through her for private and business alike. great service

Sent by Evelyn Little

This is the second time I've used Natalie Poat of Travel Counsellors. She has done the most amazing job for me on both occasions, in a most friendly and helpful and efficient way. She has emailed me, and/or phoned, whenever I've had a query regarding my plans and this personal touch is worth its weight in gold. I couldn't have planned either trip without her help. She even sent me a small personal "Thank You" card for giving her the business. What a nice touch!!!

Sent by Jan Saunders-Singer

Always pain free as we sometimes have some complicated bookings that are otherwise extremely difficult with online booking sites.

Sent by Peter Anyan

Fantastic service and advice to help achieve the perfect holiday!

Sent by Julian Oaten

Have already recommended Natalie and I would score her 11 out of 10 if I could. She was brilliant.

Sent by Barry Simkins

As always, Natalie goes above and beyond to ensure everything is as smooth as possible. And when you have a memory like mine! Her assistance is invaluable.

Sent by Shaun Harris

I and several of my family and friends have used Natalie for many trips and flights/ Natalie has always been incredibly prompt and makes the process easy by offering advice on all aspects of the trip. In this day and age where talking to a human is almost impossible she adds a personal touch that you simply can't get from a computer and her prices are always competitive. 10 out of 10 without a thought.

Sent by Raymond Waterman

We can always and I mean always rely on her for first class service. and that is why we keep coming back to her. We have passed her name on to other people and they have been very happy with the service they received.

Sent by Janet Leyshon

Going through Travel Councillors for our travel arrangements means our sense of holiday starts the day we hand over our wish list to our local agent Natalie, every detail is carefully planned, documents all completed, all we have to do is turn up, it just does not get any better than that. After you have booked once Natalie has everything on file so next time is even easier.

Sent by Lynn Spence

You just won't find anyone better - Natalie is the one who goes the 'extra mile' to make sure that she understand exactly what you want, whether its by email, telephone conversations or whatever, and then gets you 'exactly what you want'..........

Sent by Simon Penny

I have already recommended Natalie Poat to many of my friends and relatives. She provides an excellent service with efficiency, courtesy, professionalism and much more. She goes beyond the call of duty. I cant understand why people would go elsewhere.

Sent by Collette Stadler

Fabulous and personalised travel counsellor, and a jolly nice lady!

Sent by Susan Perks

Natalie takes all the stress out of booking and I feel reassured that with her I'm Getting the best for me. Also really encouraging that you have a 24 hour help line!

Sent by Janet Auton

Natalie has been outstanding, nothing is too much trouble. She listens and I'm sure would move mountains for you if she could :) Fantastic service and very friendly.

Sent by Michael Vale

As always, Natalie at Travel Counsellors responded to my somewhat late holiday booking request quickly, efficiently, and provided a holiday matching exactly our requirements, Thanks.

Sent by Simon Caraffi

Natalie always responds quickly and with great insight, grasping what we are looking for immediately and producing brilliant options - especially when we're not entirely clear what we are looking for! I'd recommend Natalie to anyone and have recommended her to many.

Sent by John Anderton

We do often recommend Natalie to family and friends alike. Before I recently retired, the company would use her wherever possible. Natalie always makes herself available and goes the extra mile. She is keen to please and looks for special deals. She is always our first choice when considering any holiday.

Sent by Andrew Dodd

Natalie has always been most helpful and even now although we live in South Australia she continues so to be

Sent by Margaret Hobbs

Natalie worked hard under a lot of pressure and mind changing, with no complaints!! She had to change some of our arrangements but it's all done with a smile and everything is now I booked and we have written confirmation of all our schedules. Everything she has planned for us looks amazing and we are looking forward to our trip in September/October.

Sent by Paul Fullbrook

Natalie provides a fantastic service from start to finish, with nothing being too much trouble, and has the answers to all the questions I ask or was thinking of asking!

Sent by Peter Lancaster

We have used our Travel Counsellor on previous occasions, and everything is just perfect.

Sent by Mary Randle

Natalie is always helpful, knowledgeable, friendly and you can have confidence in booking through her.

Sent by Sarah Williams

Natalie always goes out of her way to find exactly what you want from a holiday, nothing is ever too much trouble. Travel Counsellors offer an excellent personal service.

Sent by Joanne Ross

Natalie is lovely, very helpful, easy to talk to and understood our needs. We will certainly use Natalie again and will recommend her to our friends. She found our holiday at the time we wanted and the right price and kept us updated all through.

Sent by Joyce Phippen

Natalie has always been extremely helpful and has tailor-made our holidays. We are looking forward to our Canadian trip, which she has organised brilliantly.

Sent by Susan Arnold

Natalie has been absolutely brilliant. Thank you for taking all the worry away from us.

Sent by Laura Passmore

Natalie is amazing at what she does makes life so easy for us to book our holidays! Always gets everything spot on!

Sent by Paula Passmore

Brilliant service offering different price options.

Sent by John Humphries

I have found Natalie most helpful in every way. Nothing is too much trouble. Natalie has just booked my annual trip to Australia and she also obtained my visa. Words can't explain my regards for her and Travel Counsellors for the way Natalie conducts her business. Don't know what I would do without her. Well done Natalie.

Sent by Denise Passmore

Natalie always goes that extra mile to make sure you'll have a lovely holiday!

Sent by Aaron Biggs

Great service...friendly, quick and helpful, what more can I ask for, thank you!

Sent by Valerie Vicary

We always receive helpful and friendly service from Natalie and recommend her to people we meet both home and away.

Sent by Siobhan Hutchings

I'd score Natalie 20/10 with the amount of effort and time she puts in to arranging our family holidays. I know how hard she works and all her efforts are very much appreciated. One of the biggest things, is receiving the luggage tags with the flight details already completed. Without this "simple" task done, I've stood at check-in before now in the queue filling these out. Natalie's attention to detail is second to none. Well done Natalie. :-)

Sent by Margaret Jones

Natalie gave us so much help and advice on booking our flights, nothing is too much trouble ., and Natalie is always very cheerful and reassuring . I cant speak of her highly enough. Thank you Natalie.

Sent by Janet Ferguson

Natalie has so much subject knowledge and is incredibly efficient. And she is lovely to deal with too of course!

Sent by Percival Norton

Listens to what you are looking for in the holiday (which in this day and age is a great asset to the client) and goes to great length to achieve your requirements.

Sent by Janet Waterman

We have alway dealt with Natalie and found that she is brilliant. She goes beyond what is expected and always willing to help. We're on holiday at the moment in a hotel she recommend and it's great.

Sent by Julian Taylor

Natalie was able to effectively charm two prevaricating retired people and deal with their never ending questions. This was real customer service.

Sent by Michele Paviour

Natalie is always so happy to help and nothing is too much trouble for her. It is peace of mind for us booking with Travel Counsellors as we know everything is done and sorted for us.

Sent by Amy Hamlett

Natalie has been so helpful delivering a fast efficient professional service, even though we have been hard customers to deal with - changing our minds about dates and destinations she has come up with suggestions to suit every time!

Sent by Alison Darwell

I have used Natalie before and have already recommended her to friends and family! She is very thorough and patient. My son is autistic and she is always very obliging with looking into the best options for us.

Sent by Mary Grayer

The service Natalie Poat has given me has been outstanding. Prompt reply to my initial email and from then onwards she has been very professional but at the same time approachable and I am looking forward to everything she has booked for me. It all happened within the week, quotation, booking and payment. Excellent.

Sent by Michael Uppington

Natalie Poat has arranged our holidays for a number of years. I have found her cheerful, very helpful and very efficient. When I was employed as a middle manager, I found that women were usually good at "multi tasking" and Natalie excels at this. Her attention to detail is first class and over the years I have recommended her to various people. I consider Travel Counsellors to be very fortunate.

Sent by Jennifer Vickery

Natalie is absolutely wonderful and so helpful our family love her to bits and wouldn't be without her. Our trips are now much more relaxed, we have total reassurance with Natalie taking care of everything for us. Thank you Natalie:-)) & Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell people :-)) Yours truly Jenny

Sent by John Anderton

Natalie always goes the extra mile and seems to work extremely long hours to satisfy our needs. She is very friendly as wel as businesslike at the same time. Nothing is too much trouble for her. I use her for both personal and business requirements and recommend her to friends and family alike.

Sent by Audrey Price

Natalie, as always, was brilliant she is so knowledgeable and always willing to go that extra mile to ensure the holiday is the best it can be. She takes the worry out of having to get it right yourself!

Sent by John Gratton

We think of Natalie as a friend. She is helpful, knowledgeable and sorts out our holidays and any queries we may have in double quick time. We know she is always on hand to help - we wouldn't be without her.

Sent by Alvin King

Whatever you ask Natalie to do is done professionally.

Sent by Ruth Jones

We've already recommended Natalie to several friends and family as she is always friendly and knowledgeable and quickly finds us a good deal on the holiday we're looking for.

Sent by Hannah Slade

Natalie is brilliant and was very efficient and thoughtful when considering the needs of our first family holiday abroad.

Sent by Patricia Petrie

Nothing ever seems too much trouble - always impressed by her friendly and professional manner.

Sent by Teresa-ann Dugdale

I would score higher if I could. Natalie gives a personal service for sure and nothing is impossible for her to deliver... Well done! I will recommend her to any of my friends because I know the service she will give will be over and beyond her duties.

Sent by Valerie Vicary

Excellent service as usual. Promptly dealt with all queries. Suggested a holiday that could be the highlight of the year.

Sent by Lyn Edwardson

Really lovely experience. We're not the easiest of customers but Natalie found us exactly what we asked for and was never unhappy about our being high maintenance. We will definitely use Natalie's services again.

Sent by Sarah Walsh

Natalie is fantastic, we have used her for the last 10 years, from sunny holidays to skiing, to long hauls, never had any hiccups. All accommodation recommended has been first class. We would highly recommend Natalie, and have put many people her way.

Sent by Paul Morgan

Natalie provides excellent bespoke service. Always has an eye for attention to detail, knowledgeable and provides us with good communication on whatever plans we are looking at. Why would you want to go anywhere else?

Sent by Lynda Rostron

Yet again a really friendly helpful service from Natalie. She feels more like a friend.

Sent by Caroline Towells

I cannot rate the service I've received from Natalie Poat highly enough! Her expertise, knowledge and fast, efficient service have been absolutely invaluable to book my MD's forthcoming business trips to China and India. Nothing has been too much trouble, even when changes were made at the last minute. I couldn't have organised these trips without her! I'll certainly be using her services again in the future and will not hesitate to recommend her to others.

Sent by Kathryn Lock

Natalie is an amazing travel agent! She is so kind, friendly and patient as we are always throwing her complicated trips and change the criteria all the time! Her holidays are always so well planned and when you book lots of things in one trip that's such a relief. She is full of good ideas and advice. We use her for everything and I have already recommend her to friends.

Sent by Caroline Bosley

Natalie Poat has always provided us with a very person centred service. She has never failed to deliver for us, we have recommended her with absolute confidence to any of our freinds, family and work colleagues who are planning a holiday.

Sent by Paula Sowerbutts

Natalie has been a delight to work with from start to finish, very professional, very keen to help and sort out a holiday that will suit our family. Nothing has been too much trouble despite my endless questions and requests!

Sent by Jennifer Lang

Booking with Natalie gives me so much peace of mind! Nothing is too much trouble for her and we know that she is always willing to answer any questions we have and be there for us if there are problems. I recommend her to all my friends!

Sent by Julian Bloys

Natalie is the ultimate professional and I wouldn't go anywhere else, she knows more about what the customer wants than the customer does! You always get more for your dollar.

Sent by Nicole Hawkins

Natalie was amazing, so fast and efficient. She has taken all the stress of booking a holiday quickly away from me. Can't wait to book my next holiday with her. Can't recommend her enough to everybody.

Sent by Louisa Medlicott

Natalie is amazing! She is super efficient and always organises the best holidays for us. She takes the hassle out of everything and finds great deals. I love the special touches such as fiilling in our luggage labels. I have already recommended her to lots of friends and family and will continue to do so!

Sent by Mandy Haw

As usual Natalie has always given LDA Design a first class service. She is extremely efficient and very helpful when giving advice on various flights, hotels and car parking. We are always confident in leaving things with Natalie to book and confirm and nothing is too much trouble for her.

Sent by Adrian Bowden

Natalie has been extremely helpful, she was recommended by a family member and we will be passing the recommendation on to others.

Sent by Barbara Dymmock

Natalie is a wonderful person to deal with, this is the second time she has helped me with bookings to new Zealand. Natalie is a real asset to your company.

Sent by Helen Lye

Natalie has terrific knowledge of so many varied holiday destinations. She is always interested and up beat, ready with suggestions and amendments. Nothing is too much trouble.

Sent by Michele Paviour

Natalie is always at the other end of the phone for us. She's so helpful and such a lovely friendly person.

Sent by Lynda Rostron

We travel as a group but each year a different member will undertake to arrange the trip. Using Natalie each time gives everyone confidence in the organisation of the trip. This makes the whole process easy and stress free.

Sent by David Mortimer

You give her a sketch of what you are trying to achieve and she paints a masterpiece!

Sent by Sally Moran

Natalie consistently provides an excellent service. She has helped me with my travel arrangements for several years and I have recommended her to friends who are also delighted with the service she provides. Natalie is consistently cheerful in her approach which is uplifting for the client! She is very patient dealing with my queries about possibilities for flights and other integrated parts of holidays and travel arrangements. I will continue using Natalie's services for the foreseeable future. Thank you Natalie!

Sent by Peter Lancaster

Natalie has done us proud again, her attention to detail is second to none, I would not have any hesitation in recommending her to my friends or colleagues.

Sent by Tina Board

I am so impressed with Natalie and the service she provides, I will definitely be using her again!

Sent by Helen Haddon

I always recommend Natalie to friends. She has just arranged travel for a work colleague who is truly astounded at the level of service and customer care she has received.

Sent by David Patterson

Natalie has been fantastic again. We repeatedly recommend her to friends for booking holidays and the insight she gives.

Sent by Rollo Clifford

Natalie Poat is thoughtful, diligent, patient and excellent value: I would and recommend her to all my friends.

Sent by Kate Atkins

Natalie has been absolutely excellent. Her knowledge is very evident and she has been able to offer much guidance and information. I am sure we have not been the easiest customers as it has been quite hard to get all the family to agree so there has been lots of tweaking to what we want / need. I would definitely recommend her to anyone.

Sent by Trevor Clarke

I have used Travel Counsellors (Natalie) for many holidays and always found them very good and professional.

Sent by Derek Bowden

Natalie has been very patient in sorting out my wife's special birthday weekend in London. Natalie has been very attentive in finding hotels, restaurants and a show. I thank Natalie for the hard work she has put in and will not hesitate to use Travel Counsellors again.

Sent by Victoria Armitage

Nothing is a problem for Natalie. She is very patient and listens to what you want and tailor's your holiday to suit you. We have used Natalie for 9 years and have always recommended her.

Sent by Helen Whyte

Natalie is absolutely amazing. We have booked so many holidays with her help over the last few years and they just get better! We have recommended so many of our friends to her and only today we heard that she has booked some friends on a fantastic South African adventure and they leave next Thursday! That takes some doing! Looking forward to our next adventure on Tioman island next month and I am sure it will be as fantastic as ever. Thank you Natalie.

Sent by Katherine Lock

Natalie comes up with the ideal holiday solutions for us every time. We have no hesitation in recommending Natalie to others and have done so already. Our friends are also delighted with her excellent service. By far the best travel service we have experienced anywhere.

Sent by Angela Baker

I cannot recommend Natalie highly enough. She goes above and beyond any other travel consultant we have used (and we've used a few!) Nothing is too much trouble and we really appreciate the token of thanks she sends to us for booking with her. These things are important and will certainly ensure our continued custom with her, as well as our strongest recommendation of her to our family and friends.

Sent by Raymond Churchill

Having never spoken to Natalie before, she feels like an instant friend who offered the best of advice and speediest of assistance in booking our holiday arrangements.

Sent by Vanessa Treloar

Natalie Poat is fantastic and so patient with us when we are unsure where in the world we would like to go. We recommend her all of the time to friends and family.

Sent by Cherie Southgate

Natalie has been most helpful for 2 trips now, neither of them have been entirely simple and she's been very helpful, informative, organised, determined to get us good deals. I'm pretty sure we'll be using her again and we'll be recommending her services to our friends.

Sent by Ann Green

I can only say that Natalie goes far beyond the normal call of duty. She is fantastic and shows what a good company Travel Counsellor is.

Sent by Kenneth Edwards

We often recommend Natalie Poat to friends, family and people we meet if they are about to book a trip. Nothing is too much trouble, the service is amazing. She's an award winner every time!

Sent by Sarah Williams

Natalie is a great Travel Counsellor, she knows exactly what you expect from your holiday booking and goes out of her way to get it right.

Sent by Paula Turner

Natalie is extremely helpful and happy and manages to give you numerous options for your holiday request.

Sent by Elisabeth Halliday

Natalie always gives a superb service, she is both highly competent, sympathetic to my family's needs and is always friendly.

Sent by Kenneth Rowland

Natalie is the most understanding woman I know. We changed our travel plans several times, got quotes on numerous variations and she never huffed or puffed. I would recommend her without question.

Sent by Annie Candeland

Very happy and always recommend when talking about holidays to friends and acquaintances. Definitely a personal service, efficient, helpful and very good value for money. Have been delighted with all the holidays booked via Travel Counsellors.

Sent by Mandy Haw

I find Natalie very efficient and extremely helpful when making bookings. I make a lot of bookings for flights to Doha and Natalie always delivers a first class service.

Sent by Philip Bowden

I have dealt with Natalie in the past and have already recommended her to several people. Some of which have already booked holidays.

Sent by Peter Anyan

Natalie carefully listens to your requirements and provides the best solutions to meet your individual needs.

Sent by Lyn Seldon

Natalie is so kind, committed, understands our needs and requirements plus she always has a lovely, cheery manner. It's like she books our holidays as if it's for herself - she puts so much care and consideration into sorting everything out.

Sent by Kathryn Lock

I would not hesitate to recommend Natalie, she has been fantastic for our travel needs! She always goes above and beyond!

Sent by David Gaydon

Natalie takes all the stress away and leaves you looking forward to your vacation much quicker. We are always recommending her to our friends when holidays are the topic of conversation. I would always give a 10 because every time we want to book a holiday we get the same high quality service.

Sent by Bryan Leaker

You need to find a way to clone Natalie. Having achieved this you will rapidly become the only holiday operators. Natalie is excellent in every aspect of her work, the consummate professional.

Sent by Ruth Bulpin

Natalie worked very hard to help us choose our honeymoon. She was very prompt with emails and very knowledgeable and helped us book such an important holiday. She gave us confidence also having never travelled long-haul or planned such an important holiday.

Sent by Terry Norton

I will always use Natalie for all my holidays. Personal time in very important to me so I want the best. I give Natalie all my requirements and she always delivers no matter how big or small they are. She is a credit you your business and I recommend her to all my friends wishing to book holidays.

Sent by Robert Hardwick

I was given the most excellent service. Although I changed my requirements Natalie coped and concluded all business to my complete satisfaction. It was a real pleasure to have in my corner, so to speak. She has my highest recommendation.

Sent by Gwendoline Bradley

Natalie could not do enough to help us and managed to keep the costs to a minimum but provided some of the best accommodation she could for our budget. I would have no hesitation recommending Natalie to any of my friends and family, helpful is too small a word to describe her.

Sent by Fiona Wilkes

Natalie is extremely helpful. She listens carefully, is always cheerful and upbeat. She is very knowledgeable and has a great, "can do" attitude.

Sent by Clare Lloyd

It is always a pleasure to speak to Natalie. Nothing is too much trouble and everything always go to plan. She provides a 5 * service.

Sent by William Cudmore

Natalie always does a great job. Superb attention to detail and really good at making relevant suggestions which may enhance your travel experience! She is a joy to 'work with'. I can't recommend her highly enough.

Sent by Joanna Bridges

Natalie was incredibly helpful, friendly and efficient. I would definitely recommend her.

Sent by Gillian Growden

Natalie is very friendly and knows her stuff. Thank you! I will be passing her card to friends and family.

Sent by Helen Whyte

Natalie goes over and above her role as our Travel Counsellor. We have been using her skills for years now and she has come up trumps every time. We have recommended so many of our friends to make use of the excellent service she offers. Without exception they have all been thrilled with their holidays and all the help she has given them.

Sent by Ben Brearley

We always feel that Natalie is getting the very best price for us. To have that trust in a travel agent is priceless. Natalie always listens to the customer’s needs.

Sent by John Humphries

I am more than satisfied with the service I get from Natalie. Nothing is too much trouble for her. I have booked numerous trips and flights over the past 20 years and I will continue to do so.

Sent by Charles Hale

Natalie is fantastic and I have now recommended her to at least 10 friends!!

Sent by Barbara Joseph

Natalie has been wonderful, this is the second holiday I have booked with her. I was widowed last year, and before that happened my husband took care of all our travel arrangements, so I was somewhat naive when it came to organising a long haul holiday. I found Natalie so approachable and friendly, nothing was too much trouble. She has given me the confidence to do it again - I am going to India in February. Thanks to Natalie, I would highly recommend her.

Sent by Adrian & Kathy Holmes

We had a small window of opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands at fairly short notice. There were loads of advertisements on the web, but the trouble was, which one to pick, and was it going to be all it claimed it to be? It felt a bit like pinning a tail on a donkey while blindfolded. We turned to Natalie for some insider advice and recommendations, and ended up with a superb holiday comprising a day in Guayaquil, 7 nights onboard an extremely well appointed "yacht" and a final 2 days in Quito. Natalie took the guesswork out of the equation for us and we set off in full, well founded confidence that we were in for a terrific holiday.

Sent by Stuart Arnott

I could give loads of examples of how Natalie has helped with family holidays and planning buisness trips, but I can sum her help and advice up in five words. 'Nothing is too much trouble!' It is a refreshing change to get brilliant customer service everytime.

Sent by Janet Ferguson

Natalie is extremely efficient and I think probably saved me weeks of time researching quite a complex trip, which I am sure saved us money in the process. I highly recommend taking advantage of Natalie's breadth of experience and I will now save myself the bother of sorting out independent travel arrangements, which is what we normally do and hand the problem over to Natalie!

Sent by S Hutchings

Nothing is ever too much trouble, no matter how big or small the request. "Leave it with me" are words I hear Natalie say and I know I can. We are not a straight forward family and have extra needs. Natalie takes care of all these in a very professional and efficient manner and just leaves me looking forward to a much needed break.

Sent by Sue Baker

Natalie has been my family's travel agent for the last 15 years. She is fantastic and nothing is ever too much trouble for her - she always goes more than the extra mile. She is very helpful, knowledgeable and efficient - all in all a great pleasure to deal with. I can highly recommend Natalie's services.

Sent by Richard and Chris Burnell

Will continue to book through Natalie as she always goes that 'extra mile'. Even thinking ahead - for instance, finding out coach times and cost even though I hadn't enquired when I was looking for a flight. Thoroughly recommended!

Sent by Alan and Alison Brewer

We have known Natalie for a number of years and have valued her knowledge and experience of the travel industry. When we need advice she always provides the help we are looking for.We also know we can trust her and she understands the type of holiday we are looking for.

Sent by Gary Dewhirst

Natalie Poat was recommended to me by a friend, and I cannot speak highly enough regarding the service she has offered. My husband and I have used Natalie to book several long haul trips, including airport parking etc. For the last two years every detail has been sorted in an extremely efficient and totally hassle free way. With everyone choosing to use the internet and find “deals” I would tell them all not to bother and just ring Natalie! Everything that would take me hours looking into, she seems to do in record time and is no more costly. The peace of mind I get is also invaluable as I do not have to worry about all the separate details of flights/transfers and hotels. The true test of a fantastic service is always when there is a problem. When we found ourselves at a hotel that did not match the standard we expected, we called Natalie and the situation was resolved within 24 hours, with the minimum of fuss. If we had booked that holiday by ourselves, I am sure the outcome would not have been as successful. I am looking forward to booking our next holiday with Natalie shortly.

Sent by Adrian Dyer

The service supplied prior to the point of confirmation was extensive and covered all of the identified requirements. The advantage of the service offered by Natalie is that you can keep reviewing options put forward until your ideal holiday is found and then you just sit back whilst someone else does the hard work of making all the arrangements and I mean all.

Sent by Ian Price

My family have been booking their holidays through Natalie for over 10 years now, and we have never been disappointed with the results. Natalie takes away the troubles of organising your vacation, by offering you a complete service from the time you first make contact with her to the when you get back through the front door! Every angle is covered to ensure that you get the maximum from your holiday, whatever your requirements may be.

Sent by Libby Dean

Natalie has been helping us with our holidays for 8 years. She understands what type of holiday we want and what kind of accommodation we like. We have never been disappointed with any of our holidays booked with Natalie and we continue to use her services even though we have moved to Australia. Love her!

Sent by Rob Arnott

Natalie is fantastic, couldn't put in to words how helpful, patient and knowledgeable she is. I would recommend her to anyone and have been! I will be booking with her in future for sure.Thanks again Natalie.

Sent by Stephen Plenty

I recently have booked a trip for next year with Natalie and although I had a general idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, after speaking with Natalie and the information she gave me, she ensured that my trip was tailored to my personal needs. She has also given me all the information, and more, on available excursions whilst I am away. Now all I have to do is choose the ones that best suit me.

Sent by Benjamin Emms

Natalie handles everything you ask for perfectly. Her attention to detail, hunting for the best deal and coming up with clever suggestions is unparelled. Travelling or holidaying is that bit easier when she is dealing with it for you.

Sent by Michele Paviour

Natalie has been organising our holiday for several years now. She is just the loviest person and nothing is ever too much trouble for her. She always comes up trumps with our holidays and we always feel relaxed when we book through her. We know that if we were to ever have a problem she would always be on the other end of the phone to help. She is very caring and we always look forward to the postcard she sends us on our return. We wouldn't book with anyone else!

Sent by Bill Peters

Natalie has arranged a couple of holidays for us - the first one being a round the world trip with a difficult itinerary that I hadn't been able to organise by myself, but Natalie did! She found us flights and hotels, she managed to get us upgraded seats on a couple of long-haul flights and she even managed to save us quite a lot of money against published prices. I don't know how she did it. This year she organised a trip to Madeira for us where we had great flights and a superb hotel. We even had fantastic weather and we wonder if she had something to do with that as well! Thanks Natalie.

Sent by Lesley Struck

Natalie has arranged our holiday for several years now. It is a great service and takes the pressure and stress out of booking and research. I know that I can contact Natalie if we need help when away, which had to do a couple of years ago, and she will be on the case immediately. I would recommend her service to anyone looking at booking a holiday.

Sent by Vanessa Treloar

Natalie is an outstanding travel agent and her attention to detail is fantastic. Nothing is too much trouble for Natalie and her kind and caring manner make her the best travel agent we have ever dealt with. I would have no hesitation in recommending Natalie to everyone we know as she has been fortunate to have travelled the world and can pass on her knowledge. Natalie also sent us a message to say 'have a good holiday' before we went, contacted us to see how our trip went,after our return, and also sent me a birthday card for my birthday yesterday! I do not think anyone could ever beat this very charming attention to detail. Thank you Natalie, our trip was all the better for you arranging it.

Sent by John Allen

“Natalie’s personal care and service make organizing a break or holiday really easy and she combines this with great attention to detail. Her patience is a definite virtue!”

Sent by Diane Brewer

I seriously doubt that I and my husband would undertake a foreign holiday if Natalie was not there to organise and make all the arrangements that would need to be done for us. As pensioners we need that little bit extra to remove all the worry's and make it possible to enjoy our annual break. She is a complete professional and lovely as well

Sent by niall bowley

Natalie is the best, nothing is to much trouble, no matter what holiday you book, you"ll be in very safe hands,

Sent by Sheila and Simon Keeling

Natalie has used her experience to get us exactly the right holiday this year. Wanting a good value holiday in Algarve somewhere quiet but accessible without the need for a car. Natalie obliged and found just the right destination and apartments close to shops and amenities but not on top of everything situated in a semi rural area close to the sea. Atttention to detail great. Thanks again

Sent by Malcolm Gray

Natalie. May I just thank you for finding for me the most perfect hotel in Rome. More than that however, I would like to put on record that I find your interest in and ability to meet my overall vacation needs is at a standard that I have not experienced before. Your service makes me smile and I look forward to arranging many more vacations through you. Regards Malcolm Gray

Sent by Dave Spence

Nat provided me with all the assistance that I required and in a very profrssional and prompt manner. Nothing was too much trouble for her even when I kept adding certain requirements for my holiday! I cannot recommed Natalie highly enough. It is always a pleasure doing business with her.

Sent by rebecca jane

I use Natalie for all my holidays. you receive the best value holiday and the best service I have ever received when booking a holiday. Everything is taken care off and you have no worries about anything, even the tickets for your luggage are filled out for you. I would well recommand her service to anyone. Bec

Sent by Helen Power

Natalie, a note to say thanks a million for arranging a truly once in a life time trip to Las Vegas. Yes, indeed the highlight was most definitely the Helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon - just awesome! The DVD of the trip is a must to purchase, Mum loved her birthday treat! Once again thanks a million and I would have no doubt in booking with you again. Kind regards Helen Power.

Sent by Susan Ellis

I have arranged ski trips for 18+ years (groups of 6 to 24). I first used Natalie in 2006, when you find a good thing you stay with it. She always provides an excellent service, good advice/recommendations. The changes you get with big groups she takes in her stride, removing the anguish I used to have. I recommended Natalie to several friends, with last minute disasters; she resolved them all.

Sent by Mary Randle

Natalie has arranged many holidays for us. We are most grateful for her excellent planning, cheerful reassuring phone calls and emails...we wouldn't go anywhere else now!

Sent by michele webber

Natalie has always given her full attention to every detail of any holiday that I have enquired about and the service you receive makes you feel special.

Sent by Martin Lock

Natalie has been great again, researching the best options to suit our demanding expectations and needs for our ski holiday this winter. We very much appreciate the attention to detail and high communication and customer care standards that Natalie consistently and reassuringly provides for us.

Sent by Helen Whyte

Natalie has booked many holidays for us over the past few years and each one has been a complete success, thanks to her expert knowledge and efficiency. The service she offers to us and to the many friends who we have recommended has been nothing short of exceptional. She takes the frustration out of organising what can sometimes be quite complex requirements and we are able to relax and enjoy!

Sent by Sue Munslow

Natalie is amazing! We book all our holidays through her as she always provides a first class, hassle free service. If ever there are any issues with hotels or flights she is always there to sort things out for us, enabling us to continue enjoying our holiday. Natalie is also very knowledgeable about holiday destinations across the world and has introduced us to many new spectacular places.

Sent by Denise Tregillis

We have booked several holidays with Natalie, she has always been very professional giving us as many options as possible. Nothing is ever too much trouble. I am always recommending Natalie to my friends.

Sent by hilary May

Natalie has the ability to make you feel special - as if your trip is the only one that matters to her when you know that she is probably dealing with hundreds of customers! She gives excellent information, gets you the best deals, is always there when you need her and her attention to detail is second to none. She is always positive and cheerful and always phones back when she says will. A real asset!

Sent by Frank Cummings

Natalie has arranged many transatlantic flights for us. We travelled to the US in November, to see our new great-grand-daughter. As usual, Natalie's arrangements for flights and accommodation were perfect. As age catches up with us, we are getting a little more anxious about travelling, but Natalie is always there with reassurances and research so that there are no nasty surprises.

Sent by Sharron Taylor

Thank you for providing a really excellent service - and its not often that I'm moved to say that as I have such high standards! It's always a challenge to do this stuff - the stuff that we know we should, but never seem to get around to! Will certainly come back to you in the future. (I forgot to add that I shall also be recommending you to friends)!