Sent by N Cooper
Based in Windsor
Hello, my name is Nicola Donaldson and I am a personal Travel Counsellor based in Windsor, Berkshire.
I have more than 12 years experience working in the travel industry and have spent seven years living abroad, most recently in Stockholm, Sweden and prior to that, six years in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Of course I love to travel, but what I love more is to share that feeling with others, and see everyone experience and enjoy their adventures, wherever they are in the world. That's the major bonus of being a Travel Counsellor as you are helping people make their travel dreams become a reality.
Over the years, I've been lucky enough to travel to many destinations including the Caribbean, the USA, Canada, The Far East (Thailand, Vietnam, China, Singapore), India, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, North Africa and Kenya and much of Europe and its glorious historical cities as well as the beautiful beaches of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France, to name a few. I've even done a four day road trip from Sweden to England traveling with a cat and dog in the back of the car!
So where else is on my bucket list? I would really like to explore South America. Argentina and Costa Rica spring to mind. We've been lucky enough recently to visit the likes of Cuba, the Rockies in Canada, Jamaica and Iceland to really create some special family memories.
I'm a natural born organiser and have completed many bespoke itineraries to satisfy the tick-lists of myself and my customers, be they complex or more straightforward; luxury or shoestring budget; business or pleasure. It's another reason why I chose to become a Travel Counsellor. Having the knowledge and bespoke personal service that I can provide along with the back-up and support of the Travel Counsellors' team is a unique success formula leading to a lifetime of stress-free travel planning and making wonderful new memories.
Please, don't hesitate to contact me with your requirements for your next trip whether it's business or leisure, UK or abroad. I am available daytime and evenings to discuss your travel needs.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
13 March 2017
So, you and your girlfriends have been handed a pass by the other half to leave him and the kids behind, and head off for a girls’ weekend. But where to go, that ticks all the boxes of glamour, sophistication, sunshine and shopping? Especially, if that ‘pass’ happens to be in the middle of a cold and dreary November. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates is just a seven hour flight from London and is the perfect weekend getaway, offering all the above and more. It’s also safe, impeccably clean, and there’s something to suit all budgets. How to spend 72 hours in Dubai. Day 1. Arrive on your evening flight and head straight to your hotel (taxis from the airport are super cheap and plentiful), Check in, freshen up, and head out for dinner at The Observatory on the 52nd floor at the Marriott Harbour Hotel in Dubai Marina. It has some of the best views of the famous Palm Jumeirah and the marina itself, and is a great place for a few group snaps and selfies! Retire for a nightcap in one of the many drinking holes in and around the Marina such as the Buddha Bar at Grosvenor House, or for something more casual and beachy, Barasti Beach Bar adjacent to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi is good for a bop and reasonably priced drinks (note: most licensed bars are situated within hotel grounds, with a few notable exceptions). Day 2. After a leisurely breakfast, time to head to the pool or beach at your hotel to catch some much needed sun rays. If you want to act like a local, ask a taxi driver to take you to ‘Kite Beach’ one of the only public beaches in Dubai, along Jumeirah Beach Road and gives you a fabulous view of the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. Afterwards, reward yourself with a refreshing cuppa and slice of the famous chocolate brownie at the Lime Tree Café further along the same road, a hotspot for expats and locals alike. Tonight book yourself a table at Bateaux Dubai at the Creek, a floating gastronomic delight which glides along the old shoreline with its trading dhow boats to give you a taste of what old Dubai used to be like. Day 3. If it’s a Friday, then it’s ‘Brunch’ day in Dubai! An institution in the Emirates on Friday (it’s the first day of the weekend), head to one of the many advertised brunches which normally start around 12 noon for a wonderful all you can eat and drink buffet. Budgets vary depending on location and drinks package (everything from Moet & Chandon to house wine and beer or non-alcoholic), but a few noteworthy ones include: Bubbalicious at the Westin, which includes fine food and entertainment, Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, consistently voted one of the best, and Saffron, Atlantis the Palm with free entry into Atlantis’ nightclub for the post-brunch after party. The unwritten rule for most brunches though, is ‘dress to impress’. If your agenda for post brunch is more sedate, it’s a nice time to relax and unwind at one of the many spas, or, if you’re not inebriated, head out to the sand dunes for a desert safari in a 4x4 or to Skydive Dubai and jump out of a plane over the Palm for a once in a lifetime experience! Day 4. Before catching your evening flight home, it’s time for some shopping! Your direction is Dubai Mall, but make sure you pick up a map from one of the many information stands and plan your shopping to save very achy feet from the miles of retail avenues. Everything from Armani to Zara is inside this mall, oh, and that’s not to mention the giant aquarium, amazing indoor waterfall and ice rink it also includes! When your bags are too heavy to carry anymore, head to one of the outdoor cafes by the fountains such as Wafi Gourmet for a ringside seat to watch the magnificent choreographed to music fountains when they come to life from 6pm (and then every 30 minutes after). Alternatively, head to Karama in the old part of Dubai, where you can’t help but be lured into the many shops offering fake designer goods. Even if you have no intention of buying from the persistent salesmen who waft very ‘real’ looking Chanel handbags in your path, it’s certainly worth going for the entertainment. From here it’s not far to jump into a cab to the old spice souk for a taste of authentic Middle Eastern fare. As someone very wise once said, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. For a huge choice of diamonds and other precious stones, gold, silver and everything in between, head to the Gold and Diamond Park situated next to Mall of the Emirates on Sheikh Zayed Road. A favourite haunt of local expats and tourists alike is Cara, offering stunning pieces perfect for every occasion at great value for money, with exceptional service. If your feet are aching from all that shopping head to one of Dubai’s hundreds of beauty salons for a quick indulgent pedicure, or combine it with a mani too for around 100Dirhams (about £22). You’ll be in and out the door in an hour. My recommendation: Tips & Toes, multiple locations. You can even request a therapist giving you an in-chair head and shoulder massage at the same time, so you’ll be relaxed, refreshed and ready for your overnight flight home, after one of the best weekends you and your girlfriends could ask for! Good to know: Holidaying in Dubai is no different to any other popular sun spot in Europe or the Western world. You can sunbathe, go to a bar or club as you would anywhere. However, as the UAE is a Muslim country, visitors should be respectful of customs reflecting this way of life. Visitors should dress modestly in public areas such as shopping malls and near mosques and different festivals are celebrated throughout the year which may have an impact in some way on visits to the UAE. Ask me for more details.
12 April 2016
Love it or hate it, the O2, or as it was originally christened, the Millennium Dome, is a fantastic concert / live event venue. But it can be a pain to get to and from. Now as the crow flies, I live only about 35 miles away from its site perched on the edge of Greenwich and Canary Wharf in London's Docklands area. But a swift check of a journey planner tells me the quickest route to get there is by driving almost 70 miles (around the M25), and at best it will take me 1 hour 20 minutes - with no other cars on the road I presume! Public transport fares even worse with the journey taking almost three hours. I guess I just live on the wrong side of London. But with two concerts booked to attend in the space of ten days (I know!) I decided to let the hotels take the strain of my journeys, and allow me and my family some extra time to enjoy a part of London we had never properly explored. The first concert was the magnificent Adele, and it was our first experience of 'O2'ing' my husband and I booked into the brand new Intercontinental Hotel which is situated right next to the arena. I mean, we were practically rubbing shoulders with Adele in her dressing room! It was our first weekend away for ages and we decided to push the boat out by booking this five star hotel and treating ourselves. Now, we weren't counting on some Australian friends ringing us the week before and gatecrashing our party but hey, that's all part of the fun tapestry of life! I did have to promise the hubs an extra weekend away though, which I've just booked and will be blogging about in a few weeks. So, another room was quickly booked, a Facebook plea sent out for extra tickets for the gig and within 12 hours we were sorted. I had not realized that the hotel was so new. Like, 'new new'. Parts of it were not yet opened,like the covered walkway that takes you directly into the O2, and the stores. But we were delighted when we got to our rooms and realized we were probably the first people sleeping in the beds. Even more delighted when room service appeared with a bottle of red and some sweet canapés following a brief misunderstanding in reception! Although one of my Aussie mates complained the bed was a bit too hard, other than that, the hotel, it's restaurant (order the pheasant, yum!) , and oh, the ahhhhmaaazzzing roof top bar with great views across the skyline, was faultless. We would have gone back and stayed again for our return visit this time to see Dynamo, the magician. But with two teenagers in tow, and the fact it was Easter hols and a late booking, the rates were nudging our budget into the uncomfortable range. After a search of nearby hotels, I booked us at the Hilton Canary Wharf into a family room. This time, we took the train and tube and packing only bare essentials for the one night stay, decided to do a bit more 'touristy stuff' as we had the kids with us. With a 15 and 16 year old, sightseeing is always going to be a challenge ("why?" it's boring" etc) with us, we decided to head straight for Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, just a couple of stops along the Jubilee line from Canary Wharf. Pleased them no end and I got an hour's shopping to myself! Hurrah! A quick fuel stop at the kid's favourite, Shake Shack (extremely expensive but extremely good milkshake concoctions, and admittedly, great chips) we headed to the Hilton to check in and get ready for the show. I think I was expecting the lobby to be bustling with 1980's yuppies wearing slick suits and saying 'yah' a lot, but it was a lot more casual, and dare I say it, even had a homely feel to it. The receptionist, all smiley and welcoming, wanted to know where we had been and what we were doing. At the same time she was cunningly upgrading us to a larger family room, and even threw in a free movie and free popcorn whenever we fancied it if we would just care to ring room service to order at our leisure. This blew the kids away. Hilton Canary Wharf already on top spot of their hotels top ten. It must have taken us only ten minutes door to door via the tube to get to the O2 and the same coming back (and that wasn't by the magical powers of Dynamo, who was very good, by the way). So much easier than the almost three hour journey we could have faced to get home. Housekeeping had been in while we were out making up the extra beds and whilst hubby and I had a cheeky last drink in the downstairs bar, the teens were all over the ordering of movies and popcorn. As we were 'room only', the following morning we checked out, happy with our stay, and headed off a couple of stops along the Jubilee Line to London Bridge and walked straight into the magnificent gastronomic delight that is Borough Market. After feasting our eyes on the available gourmet options we had brekkie, perused the stalls, smelt the cheese, ate copious samples, took photos, purchased freshly made all-natural granola and then headed of to, errrr, lunch! Ages ago we had made a reservation at the Hard Rock Café as a treat for the kids, so it would be rude not to go now, right? It was over 20 years since my last visit, and it didn't disappoint, with everyone suitably belly bursting following the mountains of food it is famed for. And who can moan about being sat underneath Mick Jagger's purple velour jacket from the 70's?! Covent Garden beckoned next, a quick walk around, shops, street entertainers, more refreshments, but not for much longer. We had officially tired them out! So with our bags on our back, and an extra one to accommodate the purchases from my sneaky hour in Westfield, we headed off back to Waterloo and back home. Happy that we had crammed so much fun stuff into 24 hours, and happy to have a whole bunch of new memories in the bank. A small selection of other attractions we also could have visited: * Crossed the Thames on the Emirates Air Line * Visited the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park * Taken in the View at The Shard * The London Eye, the London Dungeons, Madame Tussauds, the Aquarium....the list is endless and I've run out of space! All words and pictures copyright Nicola Donaldson
Windlesham, Surrey 08/05/2017
Chiswick, London 04/08/2016
Abu Dhabi, UAE 01/04/2016
Richmond Upon Thames 01/04/2016
Essex, UK 01/04/2016