Based in Hertfordshire

Nicola Benson

It's Nice To Meet You

I'm Nicola and I live in a small village just outside St. Albans Hertfordshire with my family and two spaniels.

For just over 22 years, I have enjoyed sending my lovely clients to all corners of the globe and they have enjoyed my unique personal travel service.
I take great pride in offering honest, impartial, expert advice based on my years of experience, and being able to offer a 24/7 support service whilst you are away and it makes me so proud when so many customers come back and recommend me to their friends and family.
Travel Counsellors have direct relationships with trusted contacts across the world and I can offer a great choice of holidays from a weekend break in Paris to an around the world private jet experience!
My role is to eliminate the stress of hunting down the ideal option, remove the hassle of ironing out every detail and take responsibility for ensuring your hard-earned money is spent wisely.
You just dream up a destination and allow me to take care of the rest.

Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before – Dalai Lama

signature

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:

Find me on social

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.

Being a TC during Covid-19

07 May 2020

I hope you are all keeping well during this unprecedented time. I just wanted to give you a little update on what I have been doing since Covid-19 became a part of our daily lives and how it is affecting our much-loved travel industry. Back in March when things were starting to become serious and borders began to close, my priority was to get my clients who were abroad back home safely. We were literally getting notifications of flights being cancelled and borders being closed almost hourly at that time. I had clients in various countries who were in need to return to the UK or they risked being stranded. With the support of our amazing Head Office team and particularly our 24/7 Duty Office, they were all returned without any trouble which was a massive relief to both them and me. The next challenge began when the Government announced it was stopping all non-essential travel to anywhere in the world. Despite the enormity of this, and the disappointment for everyone booked to travel over the forthcoming weeks, this gave us the clarity we needed to be able to get on with cancelling and postponing trips. As Travel Counsellors we are used to working from home and therefore have all the necessary systems set up to work remotely but many of our suppliers had to implement new ways of working and implementing new systems to be able to carry on trading from home. This, along with most businesses having to furlough many staff, has had a knock-on effect for procedures in terms of getting refunds and re-bookings actioned. I have kept in touch with all of my clients to discuss the options for their upcoming holidays and have remained contactable by phone or email, something that many other agents have struggled with due to having to shut their shops and offices. I would like to express a massive thank you to all my clients for being so patient and understanding during these difficult times. I appreciate that things are taking much longer than normal to action, but we have an amazing team at Head Office who are working tirelessly to get through the thousands and thousands of refunds and credits and slowly but surely we are getting there. None of us know how long this will go on, but rest assured I am here to answer your questions and help you decide on the best course of action for your future bookings. In many cases, we have managed to delay balance payments to buy some decision time. Most are understandably concerned but also want something to look forward to, so the majority of clients are choosing to re-book for later in the year or next year whilst others are opting for refunds for the time being with a view to re-booking when things become clearer. It is impossible to predict when travel will return to ‘normal’ but the reality is, tourism is a massive part of the world’s economy and there is a wish from many to get things moving as soon as it is safe to do so. This will no doubt take time and I am sure the new ‘normal’ will look very different to how it looked pre-Covid times, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing! The past couple of months have been a struggle for many and a particularly challenging time for the travel industry, however we are staying positive and working hard to make sure we come back better than ever. As always, I am here if you have any questions or just want a chat! Feel free to call anytime. Stay safe and I look forward to speaking to you all soon. Nicola x

Californian Adventure

02 October 2018

To celebrate my daughter Megan's 21st birthday, myself and her Godmother took her on a fantastic trip to the West Coast! First stop San Francisco. It was a tad colder than we expected but we headed straight out to experience a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. This is a buzzing area with plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. The next morning, we bought a two day hop on hop off bus ticket and headed to the famous bridge. Because of its location on the Pacific Coast, San Francisco can suffer with fog and it tends to be clearer for the afternoon. We drove over to Sausalito and you couldn't see very much at all but once we arrived in the little town it was warm and sunny. It's worth spending a few hours wandering around the lovely boutique and art gallery shops as well as enjoying the many coffee houses and restaurants. Our drive back was fantastic as the sun was shining and the bridge was to be seen in its full glory! We then headed to the Japanese Tea Gardens and onto the rest of the tour. An open top bus is a great way of travelling around any city as it gives you a perspective of where everything is, and you can literally hop off and then back on to get to other places of interest. Our highlight was Lombard Street - it was extremely steep to walk up to it and then you had to tackle 250 steps. My tip is to get the Powell & Hyde cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf and to get off at the top! Second stop Yosemite, about a 4-hour drive from San Francisco. We stayed in a lodge 5 minutes’ drive from the entrance to the National Park at El Portal (entrance is $30 for a 7-day pass Sept 2018). We spent two days driving around Yosemite from the Mariposa Grove to the South to Hetch Hetchy in the North and Mono Lake just outside the park to the East. It is simply a stunning area to explore and the views are breath-taking. My advice is to stop off at a supermarket before you head to Yosemite and take some bits for you to have whilst staying there. The National Park is vast and there is quite a distance between food and drink stops. For our last stop on our Californian Adventure we headed to Monterey. Our highlight was a whale watching trip from Moss Landing. We headed out into the Pacific at 9am in thick fog but we were rewarded with seeing over 20 humpback whales over a 3-hour period. We witnessed a 5-whale feeding frenzy, a mother and her cub and a rather friendly whale who decided to surprise us all with an overturn splash right next to our boat! Carmel is another beautiful area worth a visit and of course for any golfing fans, Pebble Beach is a must! We really loved this area of California and enjoyed all the different experiences. It’s a perfect destination for all and has something for everyone!

January to June Where to go and when

29 March 2017

Where to go and when Jan - June January For Culture Bangkok, Thailand – Famous for its temples and shopping! Don’t miss Chatuchak Weekend Market which is huge and sells everything. Take a tour of Rattanakosin, the royal city quarter and home to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. For Unforgettable Journeys The Ghan Railway, Australia – From the top of the country to the bottom by rail. This is the ultimate railway journey from Darwin to Adelaide. For Luxury & Romance Maldives – Over a thousand beautiful islands surrounded by turquoise sea. Snorkel the crystal waters and wind down at a relaxing spa. For Active Adventures Jackson Hole, USA – For skilful skiers this is big thrill territory. Jackson Hole is a small friendly town where real cowboys live! This is good skiing with huge descents. February For Natural Wonders Uganda & Rwanda - See a silverback gorilla up close. Trek through the jungle and see firsthand these magnificent creatures. For Luxury Dubai – Super luxury but also good value for money. The malls are like palaces and shopping is big here! Enjoy a sand dune adventure or simply sit on the gorgeous beaches. For Family Getaways Florida – fine weather and a magical world awaits. Take advantage of the parks at a less busy time of the year. Visit the Florida Keys and swim with the bottle nose dolphins. Snorkel or dive in Key Largo. For Festivals Salvador, Brazil – A carnival where you will also take part in the parades and the music and partying are second to none. Explore the Pelourinho quarter and the Convent of Sao Francisco. March For Romance Marrakesh – An intoxicating mix of spices, bazaars, the Atlas Mountains and sumptuous riads. A beautiful city where you can golf, shop, zipwire and ski! You have to experience Jamaa El Fna to believe it. For Sport Bermuda – Gorgeous pink sandy beaches and a higher proportion of golf courses here than anywhere else in the world. For Culture Mexico – Great beaches, water cave systems, jungle and the Mayan ancient pyramids. Perfect for nature lovers and divers. For a Weekend Break Valencia, Spain – Climb the tower of the Gothic cathedral for a great view of the town. Enjoy the Fine Arts Museum or visit the City of Arts and Sciences and walk though glass tunnels in the aquarium or marvel at the stars in the planetarium. April For Natural Wonders Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – made up of a group of volcanic islands with unique flora and fauna. April is the best month to see the giant sea tortoises and sea turtles, baby sea lions and the islands flowers. For Unforgettable Journeys Norway – Watch the dramatic Norwegian coastline go by whilst aboard a cruise. The fjords are natural wonders of the world. April is early spring in Norway and there are millions of seabirds and Atlantic puffins. For a Weekend away Paris – springtime in Paris is a wonderful time to see the city and enjoy top notch food, wine and art. Stroll amongst the Montmartre painters and see blossom all over. Climb to the top of the Notre-Dame and then take a cruise along the River Seine. For Active Adventure Cinque Terre, Italy – This stretch of coastline is a World Heritage Site and there are many hiking trails with fantastic views. You can also mountain bike, take a boat trip or dive. Fish, seafood and pasta are the regions specialities. May For Festivals West Coast of Scotland – In May lots of festivals take place around West Scotland. Enjoy the beautiful views around Loch Lomond and take the ‘Hogwarts Express’ from Fort William to Mallaig. The Isle of Skye is worth a trip on the ferry. For Natural Wonders Vancouver Island, Canada - May is the perfect time to whale watch in the Pacific Rim National Park. Killer, minke and migrating grey whales are all seen off the west coast . For Romantic Bali, Indonesia – With lush scenery, luxury spas and sandy beaches, this island is the perfect honeymoon destination. Visit Ubud and browse the markets for handicrafts or relax having a body massage at a riverside spa. For a Family Getaway Crete, Greece – Crete’s summer begins in May with daytime temperatures around 25 degrees. Relax at the picturesque resort of Elounda and the children will enjoy exploring the nearby fortress island of Spinalonga. June For Festivals and Culture Nashville & Memphis USA – Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame then stop in the Wildhorse Saloon for some live music. Tour Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion and then stop off at Beale Street at BB King’s Club and the Rum Boogie Café. For Natural Wonders Reykjavik, Iceland- June is the perfect month to visit Iceland to experience the round the clock daylight. Take the Golden Circle Tour to see the Gullfoss waterfall, watch the geysers at Geysir and walk around Pingvellir. Soak in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon and enjoy some fabulous seafood in one of the many lovely restaurants. For a Weekend Break Rome, Italy – So much to see and do – visit the Collosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Climb Gianicolo Hill for the best views and then have one of Dar Poeta’s famous pizzas. Take a seat in elegant Piazza Navona to admire Bernini’s fountains while you enjoy an ice cream. For an Unforgettable Journey Dalmatian Coast, Croatia – Island hopping and mainland you can visit so many places. Cavtat with its beautiful beaches, Dubrovnik for its ramparts and architecture, Korcula with its medieval town, Hvar buzzing with luxury yachts.

July to December Where to go and when

29 March 2017

July Festivals and Culture Calgary, Canada – the home of the Stampede! An action packed rodeo with a flavour of the Wild West, the drama and skills on display will be fun and excitement for the whole family. Enjoy a fairground ride or a trip up the Calgary Tower. Luxury & Romance Cape Cod, USA – Golden beaches, quiet islands and charming historic villages. Something for everyone from chic, celebrity filled Martha’s vineyard to the whaling town of Nantucket and the wide open spaces of the Cape. Family Getaways Wales, UK – the south coast has an imposing line of castles set amid soft rolling hills and beautiful national parks. July is the perfect month to visit as the days are long and the countryside lush. Ideal for families, no trip is complete with a visit to a Mining Museum and the beaches at the Mumbles. Active Adventures Greenland – A unique landscape at the very top of the world. Take a tent into the wilderness with a dog sled, search for musk ox and polar bears, or take a boat trip to Disko Bay and visit Inuin villages. August Festivals and Culture Kandy, Sri Lanka – July is the month for colourful festivals and dancing at the Festival of the Tooth. Kandy’s elephants are dressed in impressive finery and torchlight parades light up the pretty city. Visit Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage and feed the babies. Explore the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya. Unforgettable Journeys Russia – Trans Siberian: not just a railway but a spectacular experience. The definitive train ride lasts approx 10 days over 8,000 miles of Russia, Mongolia and China Romance & Luxury Sierra De Gredos, Spain – Delicious summer evenings in green mountain valleys. One of Spain’s secrets, these steep mountains contain castles and convents, beautiful old villages and lovely hotels in superb locations. Sport Queenstown, New Zealand – The ultimate action and adventure holiday destination. If adrenaline thrills are what you after, this is where you should be heading for skiing, white water rafting, jet boating, bungy jumping and more! September Family Getaways Provence, France – Inspiration to artists & historians. Explore Roman monuments, enjoy Renaissance architecture and get lost in amongst the vineyards and hills with a well provisioned picnic. Visit Cannes and wander the famous Boulevard de la Croisette and take tea in the Carlton Hotel. Natural Wonders Hermanus, South Africa – the worlds capital for whale watchers. Every year whales come to Walker Bay in amazing numbers to calve, and thousands of people meet up on the cliffs to see them . Take a trip to the winelands and have a wine tasting session or an afternoon tea. Active Adventure Borneo, Southeast Asia – The biggest adventure is seeing an orang-utan. Borneo’s amazing array of habitats are ideal for taking part in many active adventures – and seeing a great variety of flora and fauna. Envisage a lush dripping landscape, peat swamp forests, and traditional villages with bamboo longhouses resting on stilts. Unforgettable Journeys The Rhine, Germany – Relax on a cruise down Europe’s greatest river. Boats cruise through Germany, from Switzerland to Holland, past historic towns, wine villages, and the treacherous Lorelei rock. October Luxury & Romance Tuscany, Italy - Feast your senses on architecture, art and exquisite cuisine. Tuscany is a prime destination for lovers of refinement and beauty and october is harvest time for grapes and olives. Florence to Siena is the classic Chianti trail and there are some beautiful towns enroute. Natural Wonders Cornwall, England – home to the Eden Project. A whole world of nature all in one place. A fascinating range of the world’s natural environments, all recreated in biomes and an exciting range of events. Culture Lhasa, China – Tibet is a spiritual place that is literally on a higher plane. Against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountains, Lhasa has long been secluded by its location in the world’s highest area. Take a trip out by 4WD vechicle out of town to see the remote monasteries and the deep azure-blue of Namtso Lake. Unforgettable Journeys Canada – Coast to Coast. A legendary train ride east to west over the mountains whilst taking in a land of wide vistas with amazing scenery to enjoy. From Halifax to Vancouver, you will delight in glaciers and national parks. November Culture Vietnam, Asia – Enjoy the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, dawdling on the calm Mekong river, fun packed beaches and ancient traditions. Vietnam delivers adventure and sensory overload. A scattering of conical straw hats dot a patchwork of emerald rice fields – there is something here for everyone. Luxury & Romance India – Take the sumptuous train and see the great forts and palaces of the one mighty Mughals. Enjoy tiger sanctuaries, game parks and the beautiful and serene Taj Mahal. You will be treated like royalty onboard the Palace on Wheels which is ranked as one of the top ten luxury train journeys in the world Active Adventure Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – Experience a moonscape in the High Andes. This huge space is the world’s largest salt desert, high in the Andes – driving across its vast flatness is bizarrely disorientating. Family Getaways Kuranda, Australia – The rain forest made accessible. Travel by cable car up to this town in Queensland’s forest for a dazzling look at a landscape alive with birds, flowers and butterflies. December Culture Vienna, Austria – Christmas in a refined capital in the heart of Europe. Christmas markets bustle with shoppers enjoying mulled wine and gingerbread buying hand crafted gifts. In the evening enjoy an opera at the world famous Staatsoper. Natural Wonders Falkland Islands, South America – Many thousand more penguins than people. Albatross, giant petrels, elephant seals and five kinds of penguin all breed on the islands at this time in giant noisy colonies. Romance and Luxury Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean – Leave your cares behind on this paradise island. Simply enjoy the soft sand between your toes, crystal clear waters perfect for swimming, freshly caught seafood and potent cocktails Family Getaways Lapland, Finland - Visit Santa’s homeland for some old fashioned snow fun. The kids will love Santa’s workshop and reindeer and will be able to skate, ski and join a dogsledding safari into remote forests in their search for Santa.

myTC App

25 March 2017

I’m always here to help with your travel plans and now I’m available wherever you are in the world at the touch of a button! I’m really excited to announce that our new free app, myTC, is available to customers who’ve booked a holiday with me. How does myTC work? With myTC you can access your itinerary, travel documentation, contact me at the touch of a button, and more! Contact me and I will be able to give you a link to explore myTC and see how you can use it on your next holiday. If you’ve already booked a holiday with me and would like to use the app, get in touch today!

A weekend in Somerset

15 March 2017

If you fancy a weekend away with friends or family, I can not recommend Windmill Retreat highly enough. Set in the lovely village of Middlezoy, our beautiful home had four double bedrooms and three bathrooms on the ground floor, and a stunning living area on the first floor with a balcony overlooking the surrounding countryside. And to top it all off a hot tub in the garden! We visited Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury and Bath, shopped, ate and relaxed! It was a really lovely weekend. Bristol, Wells (one of the UK's smallest cities) and Taunton are all within easy reach and Burnham on Sea is only half an hour's drive away. Surrounded by the Somerset Levels this really is a stunning location to explore. If you would like information on this or another short break in the UK please let me know, there really are some beautiful lodges to stay in.

Mystical Marrakech

13 December 2016

In November I was invited on a trip to take in the sights of Marrakech. With only a three hour flight from London, this is an ideal short break destination but as I soon found out, there is also plenty to do for a longer stay. The snow-capped Atlas Mountains are a stunning backdrop for this buzzing sprawling city. The walled Medina houses the Jemaa El-Fnaa Souks. A maze of colour, noise and smells that you could easily get lost in, or for those who are less adventurous you can always book a guide! There are stunning displays of leather goods, glassware, clothing and metal works and locals desperate to barter with you. Outside in the main square are varieties of fruit, vegetables and local dishes to sample, along with entertainers with snakes and monkeys. Do not take photos unless you are prepared to tip them for the privilege. If shopping is not your thing, you can always head to the Atlas Mountains to Terres d’Armanar. Zip – wiring, E biking, running, trekking, horse riding are just some of the activities on offer. We all had the pleasure of the zip-wiring. I say pleasure but first off we had to negotiate a suspended bridge with planks a stride apart hovering over a sheer drop! With several people on the bridge at any one time, it bounced and swayed and was not easy to navigate! With that done, we then had to zip down four different wires strung high above the valleys. Travelling at great speed we worked our way over each one, the adrenaline rush is amazing and I am so glad I did it. Food in Marrakech is an art. We ate in some lovely hotels including the Riad Kniza which is a beautiful traditional Riad in the city centre. You enter through an impressive front door into a calm space with stunning architecture. This is a must for anyone wanting to sample true Moroccan hospitality. Our dinner of lamb and vegetables was served in hot tagines and it was lovely. We also visited Dar Moha which was an experience. We had lots of smaller courses all served in mini tagines and it was so colourful and well-presented and all washed down with local wine which is very good. Nightlife in Marrakech is varied. There are lots of bars, restaurants and hotels all offering an array of entertainment. My favourite was the Jad Mahal – live music and a packed crowd make this a great atmospheric evening. It’s not for everyone as it is more traditional and very small but well worth the effort to get in. If you prefer something more contemporary try the So Lounge at the Sofitel. Amazing live singers and a DJ that was like no other I have ever experienced. He had us up and dancing until the early hours! We visited many hotels in Marrakech but my top two were the Beachcomber Royal Palm Hotel and La Mamounia. If you want to stay within a short walk to the Medina then La Mamounia is the place for you. It is quite simply stunning and offers traditional Moroccan architecture set in beautiful grounds with a gorgeous pool all with superb views of the Atlas Mountains. Winston Churchill lived here and you can see why he loved it. Rich dark woods and décor, an impressive spa and luxury branded shops. Beachcombers Royal Palm is a resort style hotel approximately 20 minutes’ drive from the Medina. Perfect for families or couples it offers so many facilities and a view to die for. This really is a hotel that will wow you. The rooms are stunning and the bathrooms even more impressive. There is a Clarins Spa, a sports centre with not only a gym but a 25m pool! The crèche and children’s centre are second to none and offer a mini pool, play area, and their very own chef! The 18-hole golf course wraps around and is set beneath the Atlas Mountains in the distance. There are various restaurants and bars all offering a high level of service. All in all Marrakech surprised me. It is a place that can be explored quickly for a weekend break and yet there is so much to see and do, a week would not be too long. It will appeal to couples and families and really does offer something for everyone. An ideal Easter or October half term break with the kids as the weather will be perfect. Definitely somewhere I will revisit.

A golfing paradise in Scotland

21 March 2017

Scotland is renowned for many things; bagpipes, castles, beautiful scenery, serene lochs, and of course being the home of golf! In fact there are over 500 golf courses in Scotland so it would take you a few years to play them all! We spent a week in St Andrews whilst my son took part in a golf competition, and when he was on the fairways we visited the surrounding areas. St Andrews itself is a lovely part of the world. It is not a stereotypical tourist town at all and it is steeped in history. It is also home to Scotland's oldest university where Prince William attended. The centre of the town has cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and some lovely cafes, ice cream parlours and shops. You can explore the castle, the now ruined cathedral and the adjacent church of St Regulus, where you can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the 108 ft tower for magnificent views of the town and its surroundings. There are two beautiful beaches, a Sea Life Centre and the Museum of Golf, with plenty of other places to visit all within a short drive. We found a wonderful place to eat just on the outside of the town called the Steak Barn - we sat on benches with sand underfoot and watched our steaks being cooked and it was delicious! I would recommend St Andrews to anyone, not just golf lovers. It is a beautiful part of the world and one we will be returning to again in 2017!

Magical Mauritius

07 July 2016

In May 2016, I was very lucky to be part of a team of Travel Counsellors that travelled to Mauritius and stay at the beautiful Beachcomber Paradis Hotel. We flew out with Emirates Airlines and were lucky enough to experience business class on the A380 out of LGW. We were treated so well, and I would really recommend Emirates Airlines. Paradis Hotel is one of 8 Beachcomber properties in Mauritius. It is set on the Le Morne peninsula alongside Dinarobin Hotel and set beautifully on the beach with an 18 hole golf course enjoying some spectacular views and with the backdrop of the iconic Le Morne mountain. Mauritius has a lot to offer everyone, from honeymooners to families to groups of friends. You can choose to just relax in the resort or explore some of the wonderful sights Mauritius has to offer. We travelled to Port Louis for the day and shopped in the local markets as well as the lovely little stores and craft market. We enjoyed lunch at a local brewery and I have to say the light beer was much needed on such a hot day. We were also lucky to be able to take part in Zip-wiring at Casela National Park - something I would definitely recommend, it was an awesome experience. You can as an alternative take part in quad biking here which some of our group chose to do instead. On our first evening we were treated to a Sunset Catamaran Cruise to watch the sun go down. The stars in the southern hemisphere really are something else and I will never forget that evening! Paradis Hotel was simply gorgeous - there are various different room options as well as private villas on the beach, all set within stunning grounds. You can choose between four restaurants to dine and also use the facilities at the Dinarobin next door. We stayed in Junior suites overlooking the ocean and the balconies were almost as big as the rooms! Now for the golf! An 18-hole, par 72, beautiful course which winds its way under the shadow of the mountain around to the sea! Spectacular views the whole way around and some very interesting trees and water features! I was lucky enough to play (I use the term loosely) 9 holes compliments of the management and totally enjoyed the morning out there. Our last evening we had dinner on the terrace in one of the private villas. It really was a magical and these villas are just perfect for those who may need a little more space and some privacy. The perfect end to a perfect trip. We all had such an amazing time and have some fantastic memories to treasure. If you think Mauritius may be somewhere you would like to holiday, please get in touch and I can give you some more information.

A weekend in Budapest

07 July 2016

Budapest! The home to some incredible buildings, a beautiful river and chimney cake! I went with a group of friends to celebrate a big birthday. The weather in April was lovely and we were surprised to find 't-shirt' weather. When we arrived, we checked in and then headed straight out to do an open top bus tour. I always find this helps to get your bearings and is a great way to check out where all the major sights are you want to see. Budapest really is a mixture of old and new and personally I much preferred the Buda side. Our first evening was spent on a lovely dinner cruise along the Danube. The city is stunning at night all lit up and a cruise is a perfect way to see it. I would recommend pre booking a table as it is very popular. The food was amazing and a it was a 'special' birthday they greeted us with a glass of champagne each (worth mentioning at time of booking) Our next day we visited the 'Buda' side of the city and ventured up the Fenicular to Castle Hill, an Unesco World Heritage Site. There are some amazing churches, government buildings and the Royal Palace to explore as well as thermal springs and The Hospital in the Rock. Budapest is host to some lovely restaurants and bars and the city has quite a 'buzz' about it. No visit would be complete without trying one of the local dishes - goulash. It is on offer in most restaurants and is delicious. I would also personally recommend the local cafes and trying 'chimney' cake, various flavours but cinnamon the most popular! There are plenty of private and public spas around, something that Budapest is very well known for. The concierge are great to point out the nearest ones and generally one should be within walking distance. A lovey way to relax on the morning of our journey home! We stayed at the Marriott Executive Suites in a two bedroom two bathroom suite that slept up to five. It was the prefect location between the main shops and the river and offered continental self service breakfast. A great few days in a really lovely city, I was surprised by Budapest and would recommend it to couples, families and friends! It will appeal to all.

Indian Odyssey

07 April 2015

Along with five friends I flew to Delhi where we spent two nights and days exploring this fascinating city of two halves. We visited the famous Red Fort in the heart of Old Delhi which once was the most opulent fort of the Mughal Empire, the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the world and The Raj Ghat which is the location of Gandhi's cremation. New Delhi was built in true colonial style with tree-lined avenues, colonial bungalows, the Parliament House, the War Memorial Arch and the Viceregal Palace, now the official residence of the President of India. During our tour, we visited the India Gate, the President's Palace, the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, and the pre-Mughal monuments including Iltutmish's tomb, Qutb Minar and the tomb of Isa Khan. With Delhi explored we headed to the station to board the luxury train, Deccan Odyssey. Our cabins were all ensuite and although small, perfectly formed. I have to admit I really was unsure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised and the staff, food and whole ambience was traditionally Indian and beyond expectation. Our first day took us to Ranthambore to go on safari in search of the tigers. Unfortunately for us, they were all in hiding but we saw plenty of other animals and birds and an unforgettable sunrise over the hills. The seventh wonder of the world the Taj Mahal was our destination for day two. Built by Shah Jehan as a mausoleum for his favourite queen, Mumtaz. The Taj is constructed entirely out of white marble, it is an architectural masterpiece with beautiful inlay work and marble screens. It was breathtaking. After lunch we visited the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah. Often referred to as the 'baby Taj', the tomb was built by the Empress Noor Jahan in memory of her father. We then continued to visit the 16th-century Agra Fort, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The citadel consists of marble palaces, ornate alcoves and terrace pavilions. Day three saw us arrive in the beautiful city of Jaipur, the vibrant capital city of the Royal State of Rajasthan. Also known as the Pink City, historical Jaipur is home to amazing palaces, forts and much more. During the afternoon we walked through the local colourful bazaars before stopping off to shop for some clothes! After travelling again through the night, we arrived in the Blue City, Jodhpur. We spent the day wandering around the well-known Old market of Jodhpur before taking a ‘tuk tuk’ ride up to the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, placed 400 feet above the city level, offering an amazing view of the surrounding area and the blue houses below. Day six and the train reached Udaipur, famous for being one of India's most romantic cities. We toured the City Palace, and later Fateh Prakash Palace, known for housing the stunning Crystal Gallery. On our 7th day, we arrived in Vadodara, the city of the Gaekwads. Our city tour was followed by a folk dance performance at the Laxmi Vilas Palace and then a traditional afternoon tea. We were surprised on our last night onboard with a Bollywood celebration and all dressed in local outfits. Our train journey was one we will never forget. It was a fantastic experience and an economical way of touring such a beautiful country as travelling was all done overnight. I would definitely recommend a trip to India. It is so colourful, completely chaotic and totally charming. I will be returning again at some time in the future for sure.

Sri Lanka – the pearl of the Indian Ocean

07 October 2014

After a very comfortable 13 hour flight we landed in Colombo. We took a short transfer to the 4 star Jetwing Blue Hotel in the beach resort of Negombo. After a good night’s sleep we headed to Anuradhapura, en route visiting Pinnawela elephant orphanage. It was fascinating watching these magnificent animals being washed in the river and then seeing the babies being fed with bottles. For a small fee you can buy tickets to do this locally. Our accommodation for the night was the beautiful 5 star Ulagalla Wallawwa Resort. This hotel is one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, featuring 20 private ecologically built stilted chalets set within a 58 acre estate. The four poster bed and plunge pool make this a perfect romantic getaway where you can enjoy private dining, a leisurely bike ride, or a dip in the beautiful infinity pool. It is a unique boutique hotel and one I would definitely recommend. We visited the ancient ruined city of Anuradhapura which was the first chronicled capital of ancient Ceylon. There are many temples and Sthupa to visit and the sacred Bo Tree where we were blessed. Later on in the afternoon we were treated to a jeep safari at Minneriya wildlife sanctuary. If you love elephants and birds, this is the place to visit. The views were outstanding. On arrival in Dambulla, our hotel for the night was the 4 star Heritance Kandalama. This hotel is an architectural masterpiece by Geoffrey Bawa, built overlooking the rock fortress of Sigiriya. The hotel sits at the heart of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, close to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Monkeys climb the balconies, so keep the doors closed! The next day, we were to climb Sigiriya Rock. Considered the eigth wonder of the world, Sigiriya was built in the 5th century. Over 600 feet high and 1200 steps, oh how my legs ached once we arrived at the top, but the views were amazing and worth every step! During the afternoon we visited Dambulla cave temples. Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are five caves one of which is home to 150 life size statues of gods. The ceilings are covered with frescoes and depict great events in the life of Buddha. We then set off for the picturesque drive to Kandy, which is a peaceful haven to retire to and enjoy the cooler climate. Kandy is the cultural centre of Sri Lanka, dominated by its lake and the nearby Temple of the Tooth which houses Sri Lanka’s most sacred relic. Our stay here was at the 5 star Cinnamon Citadel. A lovely modern hotel offering lovely food and simply the best desserts housed in their very own room! Next stop, Kegalle to experience the low country tea estate and traditional planter’s life of a bygone era. We stayed at the 5 star Rosyth Estate House and we fell in love with it the moment we arrived! Here you can visit a traditional tea factory, have a fascinating traditional cookery lesson and take walks around the local area to see tea picking and how the locals live. For the last two days of our trip we headed to the Southern Coast and Galle. We visited the famous Dutch ramparts in the Galle Fort and colonial style buildings. Our next hotel was my personal favourite, The Fortress Koggala. The rooms here are just divine! Lie in bed, open the balcony doors and hear and watch the ocean waves crashing on the shore. A luxury resort to recharge your batteries. Finally for our last stop we headed along the coastal road for our final stay at the Centara Ceysands in Bentota. A hotel located on a peninsula so for us only reached by boat! To sum up our taste of Sri Lanka, beautiful beaches, plenty of culture, superb food, the most welcoming people and the best tea I have ever had whilst abroad! I have left a piece of my heart in this lovely country and will definitely return again. For more information or a quote please contact me on 01582 809640.

A South African Adventure

02 April 2014

I have recently returned from South Africa on an educational of a lifetime. I joined seven other Travel Counsellors and David from African Pride on an adventure that took us to the wine lands, Cape Town and then onto Kruger National Park. Our first night was in Franschhoek, which is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town and we stayed at the stunning La Residence. It is truly a beautiful hotel, set in a 30 acre estate with stunning views of the mountains beyond and has a unique style of its own. The food and wine were excellent and the staff charming. There are only eleven suites and five villas, so expect very personal service. Whilst in the wine lands we visited Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in the region for a tour of the beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens and also Steenberg Winery for some wine tasting. This is a fantastic value for money experience in a lovely setting. For the next two nights the Queen Victoria Hotel next to the Cape Town V&A Waterfront was our home. This is a 35 room boutique hotel in a contemporary style and it is worth paying a little extra for a corner or Table Mountain view room. This property is part of three hotels, the Dock House Boutique Hotel and the Victoria & Alfred Hotel which allow you to use the facilities of all three. Very friendly staff and food to compare with the best restaurants of Cape Town, plus it has a great location. Finally we headed off to one of the private game reserves bordering the Kruger National Park in the Mapulanga Region, the world renowned Mala Mala private game reserve in the Sabi Sands area for a couple of nights. On arrival we had time for a quick change and a cup of tea before heading off for our late afternoon/evening game drive. We saw leopard, giraffe and elephants all within an hour! Back to camp for dinner in the Boma set around the fire pit where we were serenaded by the staff with traditional songs. We wandered back to our rooms complete with our rangers for safety, to be greeted by a wild elephant who had decided to wander in and eat some of the foliage outside our rooms. The following day we moved to Mala Mala's other lodge, Rattray's and what an experience that was! We were housed in our very own villa’s with an extensive bedroom, his and hers bathrooms, lengthy terrace complete with plunge pool and sun lounges. It was amazing! We had several game drives whilst at Mala Mala and everyone was very impressed with all that we saw. For our last night in South Africa we stayed at Pretoriuskop Rest Camp under canvas. The camp is enclosed by a fence so although you can hear wildlife like the hippos outside we were free of the bigger dangers disturbing our sleep, just the odd snorer to contend with. Our game drive here was in a larger vehicle and unlike in the private game reserves, all cars must stick to the roads. My South African venture, although a whistle stop tour, will remain one of my favourite trips. This country has completely captured my heart. I will definitely be returning in the near future and look forward to exploring so many other areas of this beautiful country.

A Tuscany Experience

30 October 2012

I recently travelled to Tuscany where we stayed in the 3* Hotel Villa Ricci in Chianciano Terme. This is a great location to use as a base for exploring the area. We visited Montepulciano, which is famous for being used as a location in the 'Twilight' films. It is a beautiful city and well worth a visit for its lovely little shops and restaurants, palaces and churches. We also had the opportunity to visit Florence, somewhere I have always wanted to travel to. The buildings and churches are lovely, particularly the Duomo and Santa Croce Church. The city really is beautiful. The following day we visited two hilltop towns, Siena and San Gimignano. Siena was my favourite place overall, the medieval town centre Piazza del Campo is the heart of the town and is the home of the famous horse race known as Il Palio. It really was stunning and there are lots of little, very hilly alleyways to explore! San Gimignano, famous for its ice creams, is known as the 'town of the beautiful towers' and is another lovely medieval town that should not be missed on a Tuscan tour. We spent our final day was in Rome where we enjoyed a short walk with a guide through the city. We took in the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Vatican City. This is definitely a city I would recommend for a weekend break (you need more than a day to appreciate everything it has to offer) and I will be revisiting at some point in the future. Overall I would recommend Tuscany as a fantastic area to visit and explore. There is so much to see and do, plus of course the food and wine really is exquisite! I would recommend either doing an organised tour or maybe combining a few areas and hiring a car.

Boston & Stowe

29 December 2011

November 2011 and an educational to Boston & Stowe. Boston is lovely - a beautiful city and small enough to walk around easily. We stayed at the Taj Hotel, overlooking the Common. We visited the Fairmont Copley Plaza and the Boston Harbour Hotel too. One of the highlights for me was the Duck Tour of the city. It took in all the main attractions plus a cruise along the river too for a totally different aspect and view of the skyline. The Wrentham Shopping Outlet was well worth a visit for some great bargains! After 2 nights we travelled by road to Stowe where we headed up the mountain into the snow and to the Stowe Mountain Lodge. It was simply stunning! We stayed in two bedroom suite and it was amazing! Our wrap around balcony gave us a perfect view over the heated pool and over to the ski slopes. Stowe was beautiful! We visited the Top Notch Spa Hotel and the Trapp Family Lodge, a hotel built by Maria and the Baron from the famous film, The Sound of Music. They moved here many years ago and we were shown around by their Grandson. I really enjoyed this educational and is an area of the US I would definitely like to revisit with my family.

Barbados Experience

25 October 2011

I have just returned from a brilliant trip to the Caribbean Island of Barbados. Barbados offers something for everyone, from fantastic restaurants to beautiful beaches. The highlight of the week for me was taking a 4 x 4 safari around the island, taking in Edge Cliff, Bathsheba & Joe's River Forest - on and off road! We had the opportunity to take surfing lessons at DaAction Surf Shak, managed some karaoke with the locals at Holetown and enjoyed swimming with turtles on a catamaran cruise. There are some fantastic restaurants and eating experiences. No Friday night would be complete without a visit to Oisten's Fish market and if it is more upmarket you are looking for, look no further than Daphnes Restaurant at The House Hotel. During our week, we visited the lovely Elegant Hotels - Turtle Bay, Crystal Cove, The Colony Club, The House and Tamarind Cove where we stayed. Barbados is a beautiful island and one I would definitely recommend.

A weekend in Bruges

05 July 2010

Bruges is the perfect weekend destination. We travelled from London St Pancras by Eurostar to Brussels, with a connecting train to Bruges. The journey took approx 3 hours. It is a beautiful city that is easily explored by foot over 2 days. The historic centre of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000 and Bruges' most famous landmark is The Belfry on the main square. We climbed the 366 steps to the top & the views were well worth it! We rewarded ourselves with hot chocolate and a Belgium waffle which I have to say was the best I have tasted anywhere! Belgium is also renowned for its lace, beer and chocolate. There are a number of ways to see the city, horse drawn carriage, by bike or a boat trip along the many canals. The restaurants offer a great choice of local traditional dishes as well as European. The main square restaurants tend to be a bit more pricey, however it is a great place to people watch. There are many back street restaurants and bars, some have terraces overlooking the canals. On our return journey we stopped off in Brussels for a few hours and did an open top bus tour before travelling back on the Eurostar. Brussels is a vibrant city and the Grand Place was simply stunning. Bruges is a gem of a find and I will definitely return.

Chicago Educational

06 March 2009

A group of Travel Counsellors and I visited Chicago on an educational visit in February. Despite the bitterly cold weather, it was a wonderful city break and a worthy alternative to New York. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, this city is crammed with things to do, yet the atmosphere is not frantic or claustrophobic. The impressive architecture is best appreciated from a trolley tour, a 2 hour hop-on, hop-off bus tour around the main city areas. Or between May and November you can enjoy a tour along the river. The best vantage point to see the many sights has to be the Sears Tower; the second tallest building in the world, where you must visit the Skydeck on the 99th floor! Or to take in the views of the city and across the lake at a more leisurely pace, enjoy a dinner in the Signature Room at the John Hancock Centre. For family entertainment, Navy Pier has it all. Home to the IMAX theatre and Chicago Children’s Museum, it also boasts a 150 feet high Ferris Wheel! The Magnificent Mile is the place to shop and the name says it all. Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Tiffany and NikeLand; the shops and the many bargains I brought home were truly magnificent! If you prefer the arts, this city has music, theatre and museums. In fact, this city has it all!

New York

01 September 2008

New York is an amazing city to visit, not only for the great sights, museums and shopping but also for the incredible, indescribable buzz that hits you the minute you arrive! I’d been to NY before but I wanted to share a girlie weekend there with my Mum and my daughter Megan to celebrate her birthday. We started with an open-top bus tour which you can hop on and off as often as you like. It’s a great way to establish the geography of this vast city and takes in many of the major sights. Then we took the Staton Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty close up and to get that classic view of the Manhattan skyline that is best seen from the rear of the boat as you leave. After a horse-drawn carriage around Central Park, we went to the top of the Empire State Building to take in the breathtaking views and, of course, we did plenty of shopping! Our Sheraton Towers Hotel was in a great position for shows, restaurants and shopping, being just a short walk from the fantastic atmosphere of Times Square and Central Park. For an extra-special trip, take a limousine transfer! A fantastic break in an unbelieveable city!

Florida

02 September 2008

There’s good reason why Florida is referred to as the ‘fun capital of the world', it has a host of theme parks and attractions for kids of all ages! Our family of 4 spent a fortnight at a villa in Emerald Island, Kissimee to enjoy the whole Disney experience. We headed for the parks early each morning to beat the queues, allowing us time to recharge our batteries with a swim back at the villa before returning for the spectacular evening firework displays. To recover from the non-stop thrills, I’d recommend a few days rest or you run the risk of needing a holiday to recover! You could try a trip to the coast for a change of scenery and tempo. We really appreciated a chilled out day at Clearwater with its beautiful white sandy beaches and cool blue sea. There are many Disney alternatives including Seaworld, Daytona International Speedway, Kennedy Space Centre and of course the numerous shopping malls! Here are my top tips for your Disney dream holiday; We found that to reduce queuing time take full advantage of Disney's free Fastpass system, and for a special occasion try eating at the beautiful Cinderella's Castle. For the best view of the fireworks over the lake, check out the Rose & Crown pub at Epcot. Disney has everything you could possibly want and my family loved every single minute of it. We cannot wait to return!

Monaco

02 September 2008

To celebrate my husbands 40th birthday, I organised an unforgettable surprise weekend with a couple of our friends to the luxurious principality of Monaco. Monaco lies between France and Italy and benefits from a micro climate boasting an average 300 sunny days a year. Even our October weather was fantastic! So bathed in sunshine, we walked through the tunnel along the Formula One Grand Prix race track, visited Princess Grace’s Rose Garden, and had a coffee at the Café de Paris. The marina boasts the most amazing yachts and the roads are crammed with prestigious cars. Of course no trip to Monaco would be complete without a visit to the world famous Monte Carlo Casino. Perhaps to finance that dream car! A highlight of our weekend was an amazing helicopter trip. We swept along the coast to the Italian border and took in views that had us holding our breaths for the entire 12 minutes! Alternatively, you can arrange a 10-minute helicopter transfer from Nice airport. My husband certainly celebrated his 40th in style and we have some fantastic memories of a truly wonderful trip in Monaco.

My customer stories

Sent by Ruth and Dean H

We can't thank Nicola enough for finding us the most amazing holiday. We wanted a dream holiday to be travelling in 7 weeks time from booking which I am sure wasn't easy. Nicola quickly sent us through lots of choices and options all clearly drawn out, a wide variety of destinations all suited to what we wanted. It was the first time we had used Nicola from Travel Counsellors, she had come highly recommended to us by a good friend. She really understood our requirements and the holiday we finally chose in the Maldives was perfect. It was 2 weeks of bliss with every expectation fulfilled. We would definitely recommend Nicola's service, she was so patient with us and we look toward to making another booking with her in the future

Sent by Eric Fernie

I have always had excellent service from Nicola Benson as a Travel Counsellor. This was particularly the case with my last outing, which was to France and which got caught up in the rail strikes.

Sent by Susan Smith

Nicola organised this holiday for me at a time when life has been challenging for the last 5 years and I could not find the brain space to arrange a break by myself. Nicola listened to my needs, understood them and got it sorted with no fuss.

Sent by Alan Lambert

Nicola is very efficient and wants to meet the expectations of her clients, goes the extra mile/ nothing is to much trouble & in today's world she is a real treasure.

Sent by K Caswell

Responsive to our needs and very flexible to accommodate our requirements. Would highly recommend as Nicola had been recommended to me .

Sent by Amanda Knaggs

Nicola was the perfect person to liaises with over my family holiday plans. Initially, I was keen to seek her expertise to arrange a bespoke tour, Nicola listened carefully to our preferences and ideas and came back with a near perfect itinerary. Nicola was patient and so efficient in making a few tweaks to encompass all the different experiences we've dreamed of doing for 2 separate trips, one touring around Italy and a second exploring Sri Lanka. I've no hesitation in highly recommending Nicola and Travel Counsellors - I can't imagine we'll use anyone else in the future.

Sent by Kirsty Stickland

I have been using Nicola to book my holidays for 11 years now, and she always comes up with a great holiday for us. She is very patient whilst we consider all the options. I highly recommend her!

Sent by Elaine Diviney

We have just come back from a fantastic Caribbean Cruise over Christmas and New Year on the Celebrity Eclipse with my family and its all thanks to Nicola's guidance.  As we had never been on a cruise before, I was a little concerned but after I discussed everything with Nicola and with her knowledge and expertise I became excited for the holiday ahead.  Nicola gave me many options to fit our price range and any recommendations she suggested we included those into our holiday.  Everything was hassle free, from our flights, transfers, the ship, ports and excursions everything ran smoothly.  We have come back feeling relaxed and looking forward to booking another cruise with Nicola and we have 5 other family members wanting to experience a cruise with us. I cannot recommend Nicola highly enough, she is a lovely lady who is very professional and will do her very best to ensure you have a great holiday.

Sent by Yvonne McCormack

Nicola has always been very helpful, always puts your mind at rest and delivered tailmade fantastic holidays.

Sent by Debbie Dennis

Nicola, thank you so much for planning and booking our USA trip this year. The hotels we stayed in were excellent choices, really well positioned and just what we wanted. And thank you for asssiting us during our stay! I wouldn't hesitate to call on you on another occasion to help us book in the future. Many thanks.

Sent by Kirsty Light

I just wanted to say a massive thank you for organising our amazing holiday of a lifetime. We had the best time and everything went so smoothly. Our villa was fantastic and in a great area and the hire in Clearwater was perfect. I'm so impressed with how well you understood what we wanted and what we would enjoy. Everything we did was brilliant and thanks to your fab organisation it was all really easy. It's the best holiday we have ever had and also the easiest for us! I would happily recommend you to anyone. Many thanks again and we will be in touch when we have saved enough to go on our next holiday!

Sent by Ciara Murphy

Nicola was great. We had two different date spans to work with the begin with. She found great hotels and then together we pieced together what myself and my fiance have for our honeymoon together. I could not have done it myself as would not have known where to start and have the level of protection that we do now. Thank you.

Sent by Carol Hood

Hi Nicola - just to let you know we are back safe and sound. Everything you organised was perfect and came together so well. If Peter and I do another holiday which needs putting together we will certainly be asking you to do it as we can't think of anyone better who put time and effort in to making it possible and for a reasonable price. Thank you.

Sent by Beverley Szczech

Niicola was so helpful, even though I wasn't booking a holiday I was recommended to her for airport parking/meet and greet. When I looked on line there were so many options so slightly confusing. Nicola was more than helpful and sourced the best option for me as I was travelling out of one terminal and back to another. I would thoroughly recommend Nicola for her wonderful manner, efficiency and communication.

Sent by Julie Creamer

Will definitely use Nicola again to book my trips business or pleasure.

Sent by Jennifer Bishop

Nicola has a lovely bubbly personality which comes over whenever you speak to her on the telephone. She always looks into whatever your asking her and comes back to you with a prompt reply. Which gives you a great confidence in her. She has arranged many wonderful holidays for us. We would definitely recommend her.

Sent by Samantha Gray

Nicola had the patience of a saint and we were very pleased to finally be able to book our holiday in the summer with her

Sent by Hayley Capstick

Excellent, really helpful, really quick to respond, have already recommended!