Sent by Darren Warnock
County Tyrone 17/07/2019
Based in Cookstown
I have been in the travel industry for over 20 years with specialist experience in long haul First and Business Class travel. My passion is to provide expert advice on both luxury and business travel with the aim of making all my clients travel experiences as enjoyable and seamless as they should be. My clients travel needs are my number one priority.
With extensive knowledge of the world’s most exceptional hotels, resorts and airlines, combined with vast experience in the luxury and economy travel sectors, I pride myself on saving you time and effort by advising, recommending and providing results based on your personal requirements.
As a professional Travel Counsellor, I’m available at a time that best suits your needs - 7 days a week. My commitment to all of my clients begins long before they travel and continues after they’ve arrived home.
I am able to provide you with the opportunity of selecting your holiday in the comfort of your home, office or any other location convenient to you.
I really love what I do and my passion for travel has taken me to all continents around the world including my personal favourite South Africa, with 30 visits so far (honest!) enhancing my experience and knowledge in this amazing country.
Travel Counsellors’ award winning reputation allows me to deliver the great service my clients deserve, so to start planning your next trip please contact me anytime by phone or email.
As the indomitable 'Red' Adair was quoted as saying "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur".
I hope to hear from you soon.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
16 November 2018
A quick week away to Mexico was a great immersion in the country for my first trip a little while back. Whether you connect via the US or fly direct from a European hub, there is no escaping the gargantuan size of the capital – Mexico City. On approach in the evening, the lights of the city below seem to appear so long before your actual touchdown. This is additional reinforcement of the 9 million inhabitants who call this metropolis home (6 million in the whole of Ireland by way of comparison – north and south) A welcome break from the mania outside was found in the upscale Polanco district. Close by my ‘Habita’ design hotel is the Chapultepec Park and at 1700 acres is the 2nd largest urban park in the whole of Central America. Originally a retreat for the Aztec rulers and later the residence for Mexican heads of state, it has a staggering 250,000 visitors – daily! An unmissable day trip here is a short 40km trip to the 2000-year-old Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. It’s well preserved pyramids, monuments and murals are famous images of the country itself. A notable stop on the 400km drive south to the coast is the town of Cuernavaca. Located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains, the static climate of 21-25°C has attracted royalty and nobles since Aztec times. Acapulco has long been a destination of merit for North America as a whole and dating from the 1950’s, the iconic ‘Las Brisas’ hotel and its casitas (42 of which have private pool) Characterised as ‘the Pink Palace’, it’s hillside location has outstanding views of Acapulco Bay, not to mention that it still attracts a healthy portion of Hollywood ‘A’ listers. A great wind down day was a jet ski navigating Acapulco Bay, with the dolphins jostling for position with the multi-million-dollar yachts. Another essential in the city is the famous La Quebrada Cliff Divers. The professional divers launching themselves from the 30-40 high stone outcrops has now grown into daily shows with lunch & dinners served on the opposite cliff for an unrivalled vantage point. Flying homeward from Acapulco airport was with a heavy heart having had what felt like full immersion experience in a trip lasting less than 7 days.
26 June 2018
Selected to represent Travel Counsellors on a trip organised by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitors Bureau, I flew direct from London Gatwick into Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL), one of a growing number of US destinations offered by this new carrier shaking up the transatlantic market. Probably best described as a ‘low cost/long haul’ operator, Norwegian operate the state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. Nothing more to be said here, other than this is arguably the most advanced aircraft in the sky today. Standard economy seats to match all rivals. No business class offering on this carrier, with their ‘front of the bus’ seats being labelled under ‘premium economy’. Forgetting this term, you would be taken aback by the space and size of the chair (compared to the equivalent offering by BA or Virgin). I would liken it to a standard business class cradle seat 10 years ago, before the flat bed requirements took over. Having arrived/departed/transited nearby Miami Airport many times over the years, FLL was a revelation! A much more compact airport, it has a fraction of the crowds of MIA as it has relatively few international arrivals. This trip was to showcase the best of what Fort Lauderdale has to offer, offering clients an alternative to the default choice of Miami (less than an hour south). Our first hotel was the anti-thesis of that metropolis to the south. Pompano on the northern district of Fort Lauderdale is quintessential harbour town, with any amount of access to local water sports or fishing charters, sure to keep you busy when the lure of the (empty) beaches is fading. The following morning’s trip on the Jungle Queen riverboat is a proper way to experience the ‘Venice of America’ with its myriad of canals. The trip itself takes in some of the most stunning waterfront homes and super yachts of the wealthy who make this corner of the US their home. Possibly the biggest surprise of the entire trip was a trip later that afternoon to Bonnet House. Approaching 100 years old, this is an historic property in a truest sense of the word. In a world preoccupied with buy/sell, it’s truly refreshing to see a 35-acre wooded estate in (central) Fort Lauderdale, with beachfront access. The house/museum is operated as a non-profit organisation with volunteer guides offering enthusiasm unrivalled my entire trip. The eclectic collection of architectural and artistic items really is an enjoyable experience considering the preservation efforts that have been undertaken. I was surprised to learn that Florida has an indigenous Seminole Indian Tribe, with researchers saying their first contact with European settlers being in 1510. Undoubtedly, the most dramatic experience of my trip was visit to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, with its new 36 story annex being constructed in the shape of a guitar. Dividing opinion in equal measure, it certainly will be an iconic addition to the landscape on the Seminole tribal land. Much subtler was a hosted dinner at the hotel’s Kuro restaurant. This artisan Japanese sharing style presentation had us raving about the food into the small hours. No trip to Florida can really be complete without a trip to the Everglades. Sawgrass Recreation Park is less than an hour from the coast, set up primarily for adoption and rescue of the local fauna (eg. alligators caught in swimming pools!) A trip out in the ‘Glades proper by the ubiquitous airboat was great fun and the information that they can operate at speed at water depth of an inch! A relocation to Hollywood (Florida!) exposed me to a whole other aspect, of what you might have assumed was a ‘beach break’ trip. This regenerated suburb has a burgeoning population of boutique shops and social eateries, still only 15 minutes from the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach. Trips taken as diverse as a Segway tour of Hollywood, a tour of the murals gracing many buildings in a compact area of this artists enclave. I was left in no doubt, when people talk of a city & beach break in South Florida – there is a new sheriff in town!
12 October 2017
A long overdue visit to Canada’s British Columbia province was everything I always hoped it would have been. Beginning in Vancouver city with a great hotel location in Yaletown which had any number of dining options within a short distance. This most walkable of cities initially had us at the central Canada Place from where the ‘FlyOver Canada’ experience is located. We entered not knowing what to expect and this is the only way – suffice to say it is a jaw dropping sensory experience, seeing Canada from an aerial perspective from its eastern shores all the way over to the western fringes – unmissable! From there we headed north a short journey to the Kia’palano (Capilano) suspension bridge, over 70m over the river below. In the days that followed we visited the 167m Vancouver Lookout Tower, a nature walking tour of the central Stanley Park, visited the adjacent Vancouver Aquarium. Activities moved to Foodie Tours on Vancouver’s culinary hub, Granville Island Public Market and it was rude to not include a brewery tour to finish the day out. An early departure day brought us to Horseshoe Bay north of the city and some R&R was welcome on the 2 hour ferry sailing over to Vancouver Island as a further 3 hour road transfer took us to Tofino on the far west coast. This small town punches above its weight with activities as diverse as whale watching, Pacific ocean surfing, bear viewing by boat, First Nation museums and art galleries, craft food manufacture and the ubiquitous craft beer breweries. Having never been shy of my luxury accommodations worldwide, the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino rates as highly as any of my luxury experiences to date. The ‘extra’ season here is to experience Storm Watching – forget the flip flops and bikini, and replace them instead with full gore-tex overalls, waterproof boots whilst you walk the beaches as the fury of the winter Pacific storms crash into the island. An equally popular version would be the view from your bath-tub, wine in hand while the lightning strikes illuminate the coastline. Departing Tofino for the east coast (“Wild to the Mild” as per our guide) gives you mirror smooth warm waters, gentle tidal movements and sea views looking out and over to the high Rockies, back over on the mainland. The same departure point of Nanaimo took us instead to the more southern ferry port of Tsawwassen, leaving a much shorter transfer to Vancouver International airport for our flight home. A truly exceptional experience and one that I will repeat – no doubt.
04 August 2017
First time to Canada after more than a dozen times to the US and I certainly was not disappointed. Using the Air Canada Rouge direct flight from Dublin to Toronto (Vancouver also in the summer season) was seamless. Pitched as a ‘low cost’ carrier I certainly didn’t feel that corners had been cut excessively. No seat back TV’s initially throws people, but with their notice to have the Air Canada app downloaded to your phone or tablet, with the onboard wi-fi streaming all the programmes, movies, news and music you’ll need directly to your device. It’s a first for me and a real forward thinking step I think. Charging ports at every seat also helps in this age of ‘low battery’ warning! For a nominal $12, the UP Express train will drop you to central Union Station, from where it was a short walk to our hotel in ‘Old Toronto’ along avenues with stunning older properties dating before 1904 (buildings that had survived the ‘Great Toronto Fire’ of that same year) – Yes there are high rise but so many older preserved properties was a real surprise. Frowned upon by locals, but we had to dine on our arrival night at the CN Tower. The world’s tallest tower when completed in 1974, it might have been beaten for the record now but it still dwarfs mostly everything else in the city. The ‘360’ revolving restaurant is a real novelty at its 350m elevation and with a full revolution every hour the evolving scenery does keep the conversation interesting. An exploratory visit to the historic St Lawrence Market, dating from the early 1800’s, presents you with the world’s top food market (* ranked by National Geographic) Nearby, the 47 restored Victorian buildings of the Gooderham & Worts Distillery has now become ‘The Distillery Historical District’, a haven for unique shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes & theatres. Re. the 'Hogtown' moniker - the most plausible reasons concerns the stockyards of William Davies Company, which was once one of Canada's largest meat packers. Davies died, ironically, after being kicked by a goat aged 90 With advice from friend living locally, we were advised to avoid the tourist hoards doing the 130km bus tour to Niagara Falls. Instead she had advised taking transport to the little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Off on the radar of the tourist coaches coming from Toronto (whose only aim is the Falls) Perched right on the shore of Lake Ontario, this tree-lined old town is known locally for its wineries and summer festivals. The 19th century buildings again were a fantastic surprise. The 25 minute drive to the Falls themselves has to be done when in the vicinity, but it’s great to be on your own time and not under the tour time constraints.
04 August 2017
I experienced some new amazing places I'd heard of and revisited some of my favourites on my milestone 30th trip to South Africa recently. I flew over with British Airways who operate their new Airbus A380 aircraft to Johannesburg and this experience really was a step forward in quality, space and service. Recovering from the 10 hour flight from London was made much easier by a short stay at the Montecasino complex in the upmarket suburb of Sandton in Johannesburg. The entertainment facilities on offer in and around the Palazzo Hotel where I stayed were fantastic ranging from award winning shows, family entertainment and it’s just the best place in Johannesburg to laze by the pool. With a 600km drive to the coastal city of Durban, we took a break with a detour into the 'Valley of 1000 Hills' - the historical homeland of the Zulu people. This unspoilt nature area (1 hours’ drive inland from Durban) has magnificent scenery with warm country hospitality on offer at every turn. The area is named after the thousands of hills around the Umgeni River, as it flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains on route to the Indian Ocean. By way of celebration also for this trip, I stayed at the iconic Oyster Box Hotel on the Umhlanga coastal promenade. This wonderful hotel has origins dating back as far as 1863 but a relatively recent purchase and full refurbishment by Red Carnation Hotels has restored many of its original features including its famed terrazzo tiles, wrought-iron balconies and innumerable pieces of original art relating to the hotel and the area. To break the journey on the drive back to Johannesburg, I revisited the incomparable Hartford House. Dating back over 130 years, this wonderful property is within easy reach of the Highmoor and other neighbouring areas of the Drakensberg Mountain range. A confident continual investment in the property has now seen an expansion with 4 Lakeside Suites. Each has been constructed and decorated in their own unique way. In order to keep my own family happy also, we went on a tour of the established Summerhill Stud, with a history of producing world class racehorses since the 1930's. This province is certainly the surprise package for anyone visiting South Africa and may only be familiar with and aware of Cape Town and the adjoining Garden Route.
04 August 2017
If I had a penny for everyone who had the idea of driving Route 66… I have done it myself and for the most part I was unimpressed, in comparison to a drive I did before then. I fine-tuned my plan and ended up with the following route: https://goo.gl/maps/Mysu3 Flying into the ‘Mile High City’ of Denver, Colorado was to be my start point. An easy night there to recuperate before heading the 200 miles to Gunnison. The nearby winter ski town of Crested Butte turns into an outdoor biking/hiking centre during the snowless months. Perhaps more surprisingly, the Black Canyon is on your way to the next stop and is free of tourism whilst offering a kind of miniature Grand Canyon experience… if 800m chasm depths can be described as such. My first time in the next spot was by pure chance but my second time there cemented my view that this is my favourite place on the entire continent. Telluride is at the end of a box canyon in the middle of the San Juan Mountains in south western Colorado. The laid back views on everything here make this just a perfect spot to kick back. The dubious claim to fame here is the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery back in 1889. There is so much to see on this route that each drive to the next spot is never just a mundane drive. On route to the Najavo lands in Utah, we come across the Mesa Verde National Park with its 600+ cave dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people who resided here up until 700 years ago (and for 700 years before then.) A more modern type of monument is located at Four Corners. As the only spot in the USA where 4 state lines meet (Colorado/New Mexico/Arizona/Utah) this is a worthy photo opportunity. A return to the Navajo Indian reservation located at Monument Valley is an essential stop for anyone interested in the life of the ‘Old West’, not to mention the approaching road gracing many an album cover and the iconic ‘Mittens’ formations starring in too many westerns to count. Revisiting the Grand Canyon also sees a return to anything approaching population. Nothing to say here that has not already been said, suffice to say that it will take your breath away at the first view! From a return to population, we move into bedlam incarnate with Las Vegas. There is nothing like the comparison of a small Colorado town and ‘Sin City’. On my multiple trips there, I have always loved it from my first trip – the best hotels, entertainment, food & arguably shopping in the country – what’s not to love?! Leaving Nevada to enter my final state on this trip – California. Death Valley also has had more written about it that you would believe. ‘Hottest place on the continent’ certainly was borne out with July temperatures approaching 45 degrees centigrade on this trip. Should you be enticed, they also offer the world’s lowest golf course! Heading north into the Sierra Nevada Mountains we found ourselves stopping to watch the jets from the ‘Top Gun’ Air Force Bases at Nellis & Edwards. This lengthened my journey but thankfully I had chosen an earlier stop point at Mammoth Lakes which was a prudent move to keep the daily miles down. Possibly the biggest surprise on this trip, despite my research, was a stop at Bodie State Historic Park. 10,000 people at its pinnacle during the Gold Rush of the 1870’s, it’s numbers now less than a dozen park rangers. The ‘boom’ turned to ‘bust’ here almost overnight as you can see by the preservation of most things what they call ‘arrested decay’ – unmissable if you are anywhere nearby. From Bodie, a back track over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. A word of caution here is that the pass being so high over 3000m can often be snowed in and closed from November through to as late as July. Pictures do tell a thousand words when it comes to one of the oldest National Parks in the country, Yosemite. Indeed, I’ll do all the driving necessary and never tire of seeing Inspiration Point, Glacier Point or the view up to El Capitan from the valley floor. The 4 hour drive back to San Francisco really cemented the view that you’re back in civilisation, but I had just seen a huge amount of the best scenery on offer in the country. =
04 August 2017
A lifelong awaited trip to Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Arguably the world’s most remote inhabited island, it can be reached from the Chilean capital Santiago on LAN’s thrice weekly flight (or coming westbound from Tahiti). Famous above all for the 800+ stone statues (or Moai) scattered throughout, Easter Island is now declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Bodies carved from the solidified volcanic stone from a single quarry, eyes of white coral and occasional hats hewn from rock high in iron to give the red tinge. The Moai were for me the primary reason for travelling. What I found also were the underground caves and the pristine beach at Anakena. Te Pitoote Hanua is the local word for 'Navel of the World' (I'm pictured in the epicentre of the world there!) The ongoing mysteries of who carved the statues (and why?) along with how they were transported by a civilization with no knowledge of the wheel. National Geographic has recently cemented its views of an island of clans, who went to war, toppling each other’s Moai statues (representing the ancestors) The lack of trees on the island are mostly apparent now that a chopped tree was the preferred method of movement, although how is still up for debate. Aside from the obvious draws, I heard of the reason that this island had one of the longest airport runways in the southern hemisphere. It had been flagged as a TAL (Transoceanic Abort Landing site) by the USA for the space shuttle. In providing funds for maintenance, etc. this would have avoided any 'diplomatic incident' should the space shuttle need somewhere to land. With no other landmass within 2000km, this was a perfect spot! The stuff of kids dreams – mine anyway!
County Tyrone 17/07/2019
County Fermanagh 17/07/2019
Coogee, Australia 01/08/2018
Isle of Man 01/08/2018
County Tyrone 10/01/2018
Cape Town, South Africa 16/08/2017
Global Irish Acts 03/08/2017
Marina del Ray, CA 03/08/2017