Based in Daventry

Tracie Cooke

It's Nice To Meet You

Welcome to my webpage and thank you for visiting.

I’m Tracie and I live in the small market town of Daventry in Northamptonshire with my partner and son. I have worked in the travel industry for a very long time; both in retail and commercial travel. I'm passionate about delivering great customer service and strive to exceed expectations. I'm a Fellow of the Institute of Travel and Tourism, so you can be assured that I have an in-depth knowledge of both the travel industry itself and the products and services available therein.

I have been fortunate to travel extensively across the globe, helping me to gain a vast amount of travel knowledge and experience. From exotic destinations such as Dubai and Mauritius and faraway places including Australia, Canada, the USA and Japan; to those much closer to home, Greece, Norway, Italy and Portugal to name a few and yet there are still many destinations on my ‘to do’ list! I am a self-confessed travel geek!

Travel isn't a 'job' for me, it is my pleasure and privilege to be tasked with organising your travel arrangements, whatever they may be. Everything from weekends away to bespoke global adventures and all things in between. No request is too big or too small. I can assure you that you will receive the best attention and advice, coupled with the security and reassurance of 100% financial protection. Quite simply, my aim is to ensure that you have the best experience from the outset and the holiday that you hoped for.

Working completely independently as a Travel Counsellor, I can offer you more freedom and flexibility to create memorable holidays and adventures of your own. Using bespoke, state of the art, award winning technology, allows me to search vast numbers of suppliers, helping to tailor individual itineraries and adventures and to bring your holiday to life. The world is waiting for you to explore it.

I look forward to hearing from you soon and together we can turn your travel dreams into reality.

To travel is to live – Hans Christian Anderson

Travelling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller – Ibn Battuta


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

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My Videos

Winter Wonderland


At the top of many holiday wish lists, the fabulous Aurora Borealis; absolutely magical....

Get the Edge On Your Next Holiday


Luxury takes many different shapes and forms and when it comes to holidays, you are really spoilt for choice....

Heavenly Hotel in Mykonos


You don't have to travel too far to find somewhere truly special. This beautiful, boutique hotel is creating quite a stir......

Your myTC app overview


Make sure you download our myTC app and bring your trip to life....

Elephant Hills in Thailand


One of our top selling destinations that never disappoints. Take a look and see for yourself...

Dare to Dream


Escape, unwind and relax......

TC Teds Adventures


TC Ted loves to travel, take a look at some of his adventures.....

Making Memories in Lapland


If you believe in Santa Claus, take a peek into his magical world....

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.

Seven Days, Seven Sunsets

25 October 2021

Like many, I often wondered if this trip would actually happen! What an absolutely joyous week we had on the sun blessed shores of the Algarve in Southern Portugal. This is not a new destination for us, we've been visiting for over twenty five years and it has become our 'go to' destination for a late summer holiday. Without wishing to deter anyone, it's not for everyone at this time of year; the weather can be mixed and we've experienced wind, rain and sunshine on this rugged outcrop of western Europe. That said, it's probably one of the best places to view the sunset on the entire continent! With uninterrupted views across the rugged coastline and Atlantic Ocean, if you're a keen photographer, you'll be glad you paid a visit. We are not avid sunbathers; we like to get out and explore and we never tire of the scenery; there are plenty of coastal walks for all abilities and most beaches are now backed by wooden boardwalks, making the views accessible to all. With the gradual opening of the motorway (actually a dual carriageway); the western Algarve has become far easier to access. Gone are the three to four hour transfers and now we can make the journey in under an hour! The little village of Alvor has around 6000 local inhabitants; this swells dramatically over the peak summer months; yet the vast 3.5km sands have space aplenty and you will always find your 'place in the sun'. The town is also blessed with some great bars and restaurants and if food is important, you won't be disappointed. Our personal favourites are Arco Da Velha, where I tend to order monkfish; the Adega d'Alvor, whose almond crusted pork with red berries is delicious and the Green Door, a hidden gem that doesn't even have a sign on it! The fish here is fabulous, my favourite is golden bream. The cataplana here is also excellent. Our go to for a steak is the O Touro; again not on the main street but when you know, you know! Many of the best restaurants are very simply furnished, don't let that put you off; they are usually the ones you should visit. You can eat well for as little as 8-10 euros per person. We usually spend between 15-30 euros per person including drinks. Our choice of accommodation for the past few years has been either the Alvor Praia or the South Beach, as both are located directly on the beach and have uninterrupted views of the sea. The former is a more traditional style hotel with plenty of space both inside and out and a range of facilities for the whole family to enjoy. A sea view is well worth paying for here and the balconies are large. The latter is a quirky, modern and minimal alternative; a little closer to town. What it lacks in facilities, it makes up for with style. Check-in includes a welcome drink at the bar and the rooms are very modern with many artistic touches. We’ve stayed in a number of different room types and this year it was a top floor duplex with a huge open plan bathroom and a bed in the centre of the room, taking full advantage of the sea view from its floor to ceiling windows. It’s certainly not a traditional place to stay and wouldn’t appeal to everyone but that is what makes it stand out, it is one of a kind. There are a number of alternative accommodation options; including all inclusive hotels, although many of these tend to be quite some distance from the beach. There are also lots of self catering options. My personal favourites are Alvormar, set right in the centre of the village and recently upgraded; along with Alvor Park, where even the small apartments are huge compared to others in the area. I’d highly recommend just staying on a bed and breakfast or self-catering basis, as there are so many fabulous places to eat out. There are a number of food stores and a supermarket that is well stocked and with local wine from under two euros a bottle, you can’t go too far wrong. There are also plenty of tourist shops and cashpoints along with bureau de change; although beware, these are closed at weekends. If you arrive at the weekend, take enough cash for a few days. For those travelling with families, the beach here is hugely popular; with 3.5kms of sand, you’ll always find your ‘place in the sun’ whatever time of year you visit. Our favourite beach is right at the end of the bay; Praia Dos Tres Irmaos; it’s stunning! Most of it can only be accessed on foot when the tide is out, so plan your visit accordingly. It’s like walking in to an Algarve postcard! Beach loungers and umbrellas are readily available and will cost around fifteen euros for a day, including two beds and a parasol. You can also purchase sun umbrellas from local stores and sit on the sand as you choose. This is a good option with smaller children, as you can sit closer to the water for paddling. There is plenty of space for sun-shade tents to be pitched too. You’ll find plenty to do in the area; take a trip on one of the little boats that the traverse the waters and visit the larger town of Lagos situated across the estuary or the stunning blue grotto caves that are dotted along the coastline. Lagos is also home to the Algarve Zoo. For an active fun-filled day, head to the nearby waterpark in Lagoa or swim with dolphins at Zoomarine. Public transport is readily available if you choose not to drive. For most of the summer, you can also enjoy the sandcastle sculpture park at Armacao de Pera. There is a ruined castle at Silves, where you can take a walk around the old ramparts and see for miles on a clear day or take a trip into the mountains at Monchique, where there is a natural Spa. There are also a number of small wineries and vineyards where tastings are available and these can be fun and educational too. This region is home to the Algarve racing circuit, which hosts a number of Grand Prix events throughout the year. The vintage Grand Prix is particularly popular and if you are a car enthusiast, I’d recommend a visit. It usually takes place mid-end October each year. Golf is also popular here and there are a number of prestigious courses that can be easily reached. Pestana Golf have a number of courses in this area and are less expensive than those courses closer to Faro itself. This is a year round destination and probably one of the best kept secrets in Europe; why not discover it for yourself; It's an area I know well, do get in touch if you have any questions or want to find out more…

Fun in the Forest

25 October 2021

With a few days to fill, thanks to a cancelled overseas trip, we headed south to one of our favourite spots, the New Forest in Hampshire. Our base was in Lyndhurst, a buzzing little town with enough bars and restaurants to ensure that we wouldn't starve and didn't need to drive if we chose not to. Having stayed in the area a number of times, we already had the days mapped out to maximise our time. We stayed at Forest Lodge on a bed and breakfast basis, as we wanted to eat out and not be tied to the hotel. Our room had a fabulous view of the forest and one of the most comfortable beds I've ever slept in. While the usual additions of tea/coffee etc were removed due to Covid restrictions, this didn't detract from our enjoyment and we were very impressed with the protocols in place to keep guests safe during their stay. Breakfast was served at your table rather than buffet and although this didn't please everyone, it made for a calmer, quieter restaurant and we had no complaints. The hotel also offered a takeaway breakfast option for those guests wanting to completely social distance, which I thought was a great idea and was well received by those using it. The hotel has a small indoor pool which families seemed to enjoy, this opened out onto a garden terrace. There is a well stocked bar and the service was very good throughout our stay. Our first venture into the forest was to follow one of the circular walks; there are hundreds to choose from throughout the forest and I'd highly recommend them. We saw plenty of the famed New Forest Ponies and also Donkeys on our travels. There are also some great places to view Deer throughout the forest but you'll need to get up early or stay until twilight for the best sightings. Viewing areas are well marked and it's worth being patient as seeing these animals up close in their natural habitat is a very special experience. Lyndhurst has a couple of food stores where you can gather a picnic lunch and there are plenty of forest pubs to stop off at too, as you traverse the trails. With visitor numbers higher than usual, we opted to pre-book our evening restaurants and this worked well; it also avoided that conversation about what we each preferred to eat every evening. The village has a great choice of both takeaway and eat in restaurants which should appeal to most tastes and budgets. Our hotel was situated a pleasant fifteen minute stroll out of the centre. There are some quirky shops and cafes and a popular Ferrari dealership with both new and vintage models that you are welcome to take a look at. If you don't want to use your car during your stay, this is the perfect location. We certainly packed a lot in to a few days; including a visit to Hengistbury Head and a walk around the headland before some time spent on the beach, which is backed by colourful beach huts. We even managed a swim in the 'English Ocean'! There is a novelty ice cream boat that calls into the bay here; which was a big hit with the children. Nearby is Lymington; a popular and pretty town and always high on our list of places to visit. Visit on a Saturday when the lively street market takes place but my top tip is to arrive early as parking can be a little tricky! From here you can take a coastal walk all the way to the ferry point for Hearst Castle. This is a walk I'd like to do but we were short of time and so drove between the two and took the ferry out to the castle. In fact, it isn't really a castle, more a fortification with an interesting story and well worth a visit. Our next stop was to Lepe, set in a Country Park and really just a huge sand and pebble spit. It's a great spot for sun-worshippers that want to avoid the crowds and a popular picnic spot too. The water here is clear and shallow making it pleasantly (and surprisingly) warm. There is a bar and restaurant here at the main parking area, along with ice cream sellers but you're best advised to take what you need with you if you plan to stay a while. It offers a great balance of country park and seaside and is perfect if you have mixed interests. There is so much to do in and around the forest itself, that you could stay for much longer than a few days and if you haven't visited this region, I'd highly recommend it. Having previously stayed in other areas of the forest, Lyndhurst certainly affords the visitor more flexibility due to the array of amenities on offer. If you'd like to discover this region yourself, please get in touch to find out more.....

Portugal is Open!

17 May 2021

Portugal is officially OPEN! It is no secret that Portugal is one of my favourite destinations to visit. I've covered the country from North to South; explored the border area with Spain and the wild and rugged coastline that stretches from the tip of the western Algarve as far north as the capital itself. I've been visiting Portugal regularly for over three decades, it's a habit I'm finding difficult to break and I'm delighted that the borders have now re-opened. Lisbon may be the beating heart of the nation but there is much to see across the entire country....... Starting in the north, you'll discover Porto and the Douro River; this is the homeland of the port wine industry and the scenery along the river is dramatic. It's a great place for a laid back city stay and is the starting point for many river cruise vessels. It's hilly here, so make sure you pack comfortable shoes! Make sure you try the local Pasteis de Nata, they are delicious and don't miss the beautiful railway station, decorated with traditional ceramics. This is one of the most popular regions for river cruising in all of Europe and will delight and surprise you. Porto is next on my personal wish list. Heading south towards the Silver Coast; an area popular with both golfers and surfers. If you are keen to combine uncrowded beaches with some great sightseeing opportunities, this region is ideal. Head to the UNESCO listed town of Sintra or take a trip to the nearby National Park. For golfers, the Penha Longa course is one of the best in Europe with some spectacular scenery too! For surfers, head to Praia de Caparica to catch some of the biggest and best waves. The hinterland is wild and rugged and sparsely populated; there are a number of Agriturismo properties offering simple accommodation or if you prefer a little more luxury, try the Pousadas of Portugal. These properties offer unique experiences to visitors and are highly recommended. They are hugely popular and early enquiries are recommended. Lisbon, the most westerly city in continental Europe; is the perfect city for combining culture and cuisine with a cosmopolitan twist. Set atop seven hills and with many cobbled streets, it's packed with colour and character. Sightseeing by tram is inexpensive and fun; linking all the main areas of the city. Don't miss historical Alfama or Belem, where you'll find the Monastery and Monument to the Discoveries. You'll notice Abril Bridge, similar to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and the statue of Christ the King, looking across the city. It's a (relatively) small city which makes it ideal for a few days away or to perhaps combine with a longer holiday. With over 800kms of coastline, you're assured of your own 'place in the sun'. The Algarve is the most visited region of Portugal and home to a wide range of holiday accommodation that includes private villas, apartments, many world class hotels and golf resorts. There really is something to suit all tastes. There are endless beaches and even an annual sand sculpture exhibition. This region is suited to exploring; take a trip to the Spa village at Monchique and the Castle ruins at Silves. Don't miss a trip to Faro itself and discover the hidden Chapel of the Bones within the old city walls. Head to the far western tip of the Algarve and watch the sun set at Cape St Vincent or spend some time at the Marina in Vilamoura and marvel at the yachts, whilst enjoying some designer shopping. The western region is more remote and less developed; explore the sea caves via kayak or walk along the cliff pathways for some dramatic views of the coastline. Head east for a flatter landscape and more cosmopolitan resorts. Golfers will be in their element here, with many courses to choose from. Of course, there is so much more to see and do but I hope this provides an overview of what you might expect from a visit to Portugal. If you'd like to go or have any questions at all, please get in touch.

96 Hours in Cornwall

27 April 2021

96 Hours in Cornwall…. The prospect of a few days away after such a long period of being unable to travel certainly had us feeling very excited! Expectations were high, spirits were lifted and we set off in bright sunshine with a car jam packed for all weathers! Cornwall has so much to offer; from it's pirate legacy to mining history; stunning beaches and quirky shops; there is something for everyone. Our journey was un-hindered and we arrived in good time to enjoy some late afternoon sunshine and a walk around the beautifully manicured grounds of our home for the next four nights, Clowance Estate. We had booked our luxury lodge many months ago and were impressed with the quality of the accommodation. Furnished in contemporary style and with its own private hot tub and large outside terrace, it was a thing of beauty! Lodges on the site are quite spread out with plenty of personal space and there are a range of different sizes and styles to choose from, including a fabulous tree house! At the centre of the estate is a beautiful mansion house, which houses the main reception, gym, spa and restaurant. You’ll find tennis courts, outdoor chess and a range of activities that are available during the peak summer months. There are a number of walking trails, both woodland and lakeside within the grounds. Due to Covid restrictions, check in/check out was remote and worked seamlessly. The restaurant offered a delivery service via Golf Buggy direct to your lodge if you didn’t want to cook or dine on the restaurant terrace. Self Catering facilities are excellent; however, the nearest supermarket is around fifteen minutes drive away; hence better to arrive stocked up with what you need. There is a small convenience store in the village a mile away from the site. The hot tubs are spacious and ideal for relaxing after a busy day sightseeing. The estate is peaceful and perfect if you just want to unwind and escape for a few days. Our first full day took us to the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno and Lands End. If you’ve never been to Minack, it is an absolute ‘must see’. You'll also discover the Telegraph Museum just behind the beach at Portcurno and where you'll be able to take a tour of the underground defence tunnels from WWII. From here (and fuelled by a Cornish Pasty) we walked the coastal path to Sennen Cove; there are some great views along the route including that of a ship wreck and of the Scilly Isles in the distance. Sennen is a great spot for body boarding and surfing with some quirky cafes too. After lunch we climbed the hill and walked back to Lands End. You can opt for the road route which is shorter but the cliff path is highly recommended. This landscape is dotted with the remains of old tin mines and you'll be able to visit Geevor, one of the largest preserved mine sites in the country. Day two took us east to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It isn’t very far but the journey takes about hour due to the very scenic route. We arrived early and were able to experience the stunning Jungle Gardens before it became busy. From here we took the forest pathway to the more traditional gardens. Allow a minimum of four hours for these two areas and longer if you wish to walk any of the more extensive trails. We took a picnic and made the most of the good weather. After lunch we headed for the pretty harbourside village of Mevagissey; you'll find plenty of places to eat and drink and some quirky shops if you require some retail therapy. Travelling back we took in the village of Coverack, made famous from the view of the Earths Crust, midway along the beach and the tiny hamlet of Mullion Cove. The coastline here is wild and rugged and lies within a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. It is in stark contrast to the broad sandy beaches found elsewhere along the coastline. On our third day we headed for St Ives; the jewel in the crown of South Cornwall. It’s a favourite spot and we’ve visited many times, including a stay at Tregenna Castle overlooking the town itself. There are some great beaches within walking distance of the centre; quirky shops, plenty of bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets and the famous Tate Gallery. The headland walk here offers some fabulous views back across the town. If you have time, take the train from St Erth to St Ives instead of driving; it follows the coast and is a really pretty journey, taking about 15 mins. Parking in St Ives can be difficult and costly, the train runs at least twice an hour even in low season and goes directly to the harbour itself. Following our morning here, we headed for Marazion; home to a number of small artisan shops and art galleries and gateway to St Michaels Mount. At low tide you can walk across the causeway; at high tide, you’ll need to take the little boat that ferries people back and forth throughout the day. As Penzance is nearby, you may want to take a dip in the UK’s largest geothermal pool; you’ll find it directly on the seafront promenade. Our final stop was the beautiful sands at Godrevy and home to the National Trust. This was probably our favourite spot, where the real highlight is the seal colony that has made its home here; sit quietly and watch them basking on the beach and playing in the sea. You can literally walk for miles either along the cliff pathways or directly on the trio of beaches that link to make this one of the longest stretches of uninterrupted sand walkway on the coast. The walk from Godrevy to Hell’s Mouth is exhilarating! Heading home we visited the ruins of Tintagel Castle; the ascent is steep and uneven but worth it for the views. We followed this with a final (essential) Cornish Pasty, delicious pastries and coffee al fresco! If you think four nights isn’t enough, you’d be surprised what you can pack in. My advice is to have a plan and try and stick to it. For information; our tickets to Minack and the Lost Gardens of Heligan were booked prior to leaving home and our entry to Tintagel Castle was reserved during our stay. Due to Covid regulations, timed entry for most attractions must be pre-booked to guarantee admittance. Take plenty of change for car parks or download relevant parking apps before setting off. Most shops, takeaways, restaurants etc., were only accepting card payments. This did not detract from our enjoyment; it just requires a little thought and planning before you set off. If you’d like to find out more or have any questions, please get in touch…

Spotlight on Sardinia

02 April 2021

Are you looking for somewhere special for your 2022 holiday but don't want to travel too far? Sardinia is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea and is just a short flight from the UK. The Costa Smerelda on the North East Coast is considered to be the most exclusive and glamourous on the island. Direct flights operate to a number of airports on the island and take under 3 hours, making it an ideal escape for a few days or a longer stay. If you are seeking under-stated elegance, white sand beaches and crystal clear water; this is the place for you! The island landscape varies between coasts, they are quite different in character; the east coast is dotted with pretty coves and a mix of white sandy beaches and pebbly bays. On the west coast you are more likely to encounter rolling waves and beaches more typical of the Mediterranean. In the south, you’ll find large resort style hotels with plenty of facilities; this area is generally less developed. Porto Cervo is one of the most exclusive resorts in Europe; it has one of the largest marinas in Sardinia; high quality restaurants; designer shopping and some exclusive nightspots. Beaches are found on the outskirts of the resort and many hotels provide shuttle services. I stayed at Le Palme hotel which is situated just a short distance from the centre of the town. It's a really pretty property with wooden balconies and painted fresco's; think Tuscan Villa! It's elegant and understated with a large garden, swimming pool and direct access to a private beach. It's the perfect place to escape and unwind and a great base to explore from too. We stayed on Half Board and the food was excellent, with a creative menu that would please even the most discerning palette. Rooms here have vaulted ceilings, beautiful painted furniture and original (often uneven) floors. The hotel is packed with character and feels very traditional, yet it has all of the facilities you would expect from a luxury boutique property. The island is worth exploring from this area and it's easy to get out and about. Just north of Porto Cervo you’ll find the Baia Sardinia; a string of three resorts with wide sandy beaches and a small waterpark. This area is great for families. Further along the coast is the pretty town of Palau. From here, you can take the short ferry trip to the nearby Maddalena Islands; a small archipelago of seven tiny islands. There is a really relaxed and unhurried atmosphere here, like time has stood still. We loved it and visited twice during our stay. Continue along the coast and you’ll discover the old walled town of Alghero; it is possible to fly direct here if you choose the north western area for your holiday. The old walled town is well worth a visit and the cobbled streets are home to a myriad of shops, bars and restaurants. Look out for the famous Elephant Rock (Roccia dell’Elefante) on the drive here! Nearby beach resorts include Isola Rossa; a pretty fishing village where you’ll see spectacular sunsets that light up the landscape. A favourite of ours for body boarding was Badesi Mare; 8kms of white sandy beach and a typical laidback seaside vibe. Quite different to the resorts on the eastern side of the island. Travelling inland, there is a wonderful rail journey aboard the Trenino Verde (Little Green Train); a great example of eco-tourism and a fun few hours travelling through the hinterland. One of my favourite days out was spent in Orgosolo; high in the mountains. The town was once the home of bandits and is now known for the murals that decorate many of the buildings. Much of the artwork has a political reference and details periods of history. It is a fascinating place to wander the streets and discover the islands history in a different form. Sardinia was a surprise and a delight; from a stunning coastline with warm, clear waters that resemble those of the Caribbean to it’s history, art and culture. There is something to appeal to most tastes. It is a little more expensive than some European destinations but absolutely worth visiting.

Family Holiday Inspiration

16 December 2020

Getting together with family has never had more appeal! After this year’s lockdowns, working from home and home-schooling, we all need something to look forward to. The new year brings a renewed sense of positivity and fresh hope. Whether you are looking for an escapist paradise, an active adventure or a hotel with facilities that all the family can enjoy; now is the time to secure your place in the sun for 2021! We are all seeking places where we can re-connect with our loved ones; the long-awaited promise of having some quality time together, fills us with joy; what better way is there to re-unite than by taking a trip somewhere special. 2020 has afforded us the chance to re-evaluate our priorities; for many, these include those long planned trips, that we would more usually take for special birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. So what makes the ideal family holiday? It’s important that we select the right arrangements to suit the needs of all family members. It’s sometimes the smallest elements of your holiday that can make the biggest differences; being seated together on the aircraft is high on the priority list and private resort transfers are also popular. A more laid back option could include a villa; often in quieter locations, they are ideal for multi-generational families. Those with older children may prefer larger all inclusive resorts offering plenty of activities to keep everyone busy. These are great options if your teen is bringing a friend along, as they can enjoy time away from any younger siblings and some freedom from parental supervision. With no concerns about them spending lots of money; as all food and drinks are included. Many resorts have room types suitable for families. Something different? Cruise holidays offer a mix of relaxation and education. With a vast array of entertainment and activities, you’ll never be short of things to do. Cruise lines operate both children’s and teens clubs too, where young travellers can have fun with new friends. While away your time on a sun-lounger, keep fit in the gym, learn new skills or discover a new hobby; you'll be spoilt for choice. Ashore, you can explore at your leisure or join an organised excursion. Do as much or as little as you please. For young children; the recipe for success is sun, sea and buckets full of sand! Oh and a short flight can be high on the agenda too! Choose a prime seaside location; direct access to the beach can be a huge benefit when travelling with young children. Choose self-catering and set your own agenda with flexible meal times or opt for a hotel and have your every need taken care of. Popular destinations include, Greece, Portugal and the Balearic Islands. If adventure is for you or you're considering the trip of a lifetime; choose a multi activity option; including walking, cycling and kayaking. Cycle in the Lake District, zip wire in the Pyrenees, hike in the Himalayas or sail the Greek Islands. Iconic Elephant Hills in Thailand and African Safari holidays are both drawing crowds for 2021. If your holiday is about unique experiences and family adventures, now is the time. Staying active, why not try skiing? Heaps of fun for the whole family and a great way to enjoy the outdoors during winter. The mountains provide the perfect escape from everyday life. Lessons are available in all resorts and can be taken in groups or privately. Take a day away from the slopes and enjoy a sleigh ride or go tobogganing, followed by a hot chocolate and a cake. It’s the perfect way to re-connect, have fun and spend quality time together. Speaking of snowy vistas; it would be wrong not to include the absolute ‘top of the list’ family holiday destination – Lapland! This winter wonderland that provides us with just a few precious weeks each year, what I call ‘Santa Season’. This really is the pinnacle of children’s fantasies (and plenty of adults too); the chance to see Santa Claus in his homeland is a very special treat. To experience the real magic of Christmas and to create a lasting memory that will stay forever in the hearts and minds of every family member that visits. The post Christmas season delivers the most magical of winter holidays too; enjoy snowmobiling, sleigh rides, husky adventures and of course, the chance to see the spectacular Northern Lights. Lapland is always a popular choice, book early to avoid disappointment. If holidaying independently appeals; opt for a Fly Drive; Motorhome holidays in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are particularly popular and a great way to re-connect and spend time together exploring new destinations. Itineraries can be tailored to suit your own interests or you are free to choose your route as you go. Here in the UK; family holidays can be remote and tranquil; from treehouses to converted railway carriages. Stay in luxury lodges complete with your own hot tub or take a canal boat or cruiser on the waterways and slow down the pace of life. If you prefer something a little busier with plenty of entertainment for the children, there is a great choice of holiday parks both in the countryside and in coastal locations. If you are only able to manage a few days away, the bright lights of big cities are always in demand. Hot spots for 2021 include New York and Dubai. New York is the quintessential city destination and has much to offer visitors; it’s grid system makes it easy to navigate and explore and with no language barrier using public transport is inexpensive and fun. Dubai, is just a short flight time from the UK and its combination of city, beach and culture is proving popular; with many families returning annually. Many hotels now include meals, with some now offering all inclusive. There are some great deals around for those that are able to book now. Closer to home, Monte Carlo is a great choice; easy to navigate and a great public transport system. Yes, it’s hilly but the buses are clean and the drivers are friendly. The traditions of changing the guard at the palace can be regularly enjoyed. There is a large aquarium and a museum collection of cars. Along the waterfront, you’ll find a ‘walk of fame’ and there are even hotels with private beaches! Whatever is on your wish list, I’ll be happy to make some suggestions; this may include places that you’ve already thought about or it may include some ‘wild card’ alternatives. Get in touch and let’s start talking about your family travel plans

Captivating Corfu

07 September 2020

There was a huge sense of yearning to get away in our house; we have worked throughout the pandemic and really needed to escape for a few days. Corfu was a natural choice for a late escape; we have visited many times and it is a firm favourite. Just a short flight from the UK, it suited us perfectly for the six days that we could squeeze in. We opted to stay in one of the Grecotels properties, as we wanted to be directly on the beach and in a location close to Corfu Town itself. We chose the Lux Me Daphnila Bay; set in a beautiful location on the Kommeno peninsula and directly overlooking the Ionian Sea. The hotel is nestled in a lush forest that spills down the hillside to its private Blue Flag beach. At the top of the hill you'll find the main building and reception, three of the restaurants and the freshwater swimming pool. The views from here are far reaching with the most spectacular views across Dassia Bay. Arriving during a pandemic, things are a little different and check in is completed via an ipad facility, whilst you enjoy a drink on the terrace overlooking the pool and coast beyond; far nicer than standing at a desk and a lot more relaxing too. We sat for a while and enjoyed the view. Room choices here are extensive; standard rooms are at the front of the hotel overlooking the gardens and if you like a sunny balcony in the afternoons, then these are for you. The rear of the hotel faces east across the bay and whilst you are afforded fabulous views, the sun has shifted by late afternoon. Rooms and bungalows on this side of the hotel carry a premium. All main building rooms have sea views; whilst the bungalows are dotted across the hillside and amongst the palm trees and some have garden or partial sea views, whilst others are directly opposite the beach itself. Room cleaning during your stay is optional with restrictions in place to maintain the safety of both guests and staff. All rooms are fitted with a seal, to clearly identify them as sanitised. We opted to take room cleaning and the system worked very well, with two cleans during our stay. All staff wear face masks and guests are requested to wear them inside the hotel building. Guests are not required to wear masks in dining venues. Porterage is to/from the outside of your room; porters do not enter guest rooms. We stayed in a Daphnila Bungalow with a Sea View; these are recently renovated and packed with character. With stone floors and curved ceilings, they are reminiscent of old caves but with very modern appliances. In-room fridges are stocked with water and a few soft drinks on arrival only. You are free to re-stock at your own expense. The colour palette is muted and creates a restful ambience. The styling is quite different to the rooms in the main building and the location is best suited to those that are happy and able to walk up and down the hills and pathways that make up the resort. There are different sizes and configurations in the bungalows that make them very suitable for families. Not all facilities were available during our stay; children's clubs were not operating; the indoor pool was closed and entertainment was low key. This did not impact our stay in any way. There is a water-sports facility at the hotel, offering non-motorised activities, including pedal-boats, kayaks and paddle-boards. All of these are complimentary to guests and can be pre-booked. All equipment is well maintained and instruction is provided before use. We made good use of these during our stay and were very impressed with the system in place. All equipment is sanitised between users. A life guard is on duty throughout the day and beach loungers and parasols are free of charge. The hotel has a shop which caters for most essential needs; including drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Speed boat rental is available and is competitively priced. Most boats were new and all were very well maintained. We regularly rent boats and these were some of the best we have hired. The service provided was excellent and highly recommended. Instruction is available for all users and there are small engine cruisers suitable for those new to boat rental. The hotel tumbles down the wooded hillside to the beach; if you don’t want to walk, you can call on the hotels shuttle service to take you down or just back up at the end of the day. Whatever you need can be arranged via the concierge service; easily accessible via WhatsApp, through the hotels own portal. or simply dialling '0' from your room. Nothing was too much trouble. It is rare to find a hotel where every member of staff seems to have a relaxed yet efficient approach to taking care of your needs. We found it here at Daphnila Bay. The calm and unhurried nature of this resort quickly rubs off on you and you relax and unwind in a short space of time. Reservations were required for both breakfast and dinner and could be pre-booked from your day of arrival for the duration of your stay. This may not suit everybody but allowed the restaurant to maintain social distancing and a high level of personal service. We actually found this far better than the traditional buffet alternative. Restaurants were calm and ordered and having a pre-assigned time felt much more like we were going out for dinner, rather than visiting the hotel dining room. It also avoided the need to queue. All dining was open-air. Guests are permitted a complimentary visit the a la carte restaurant during their stay and the food here was far beyond our expectations. Had we stayed longer, this would have been a favourite haunt and well worth the extra expense. In the daytime, the restaurant serves as a lunch venue, where diners can come and go as they please. In the evening it is transformed and becomes a hot lava stone dining venue. The food is sublime and the view across the bay in the evening is pretty special too. The hotel provides an All Inclusive service; with all meals, snacks and drinks provided. This is a premium service, with well known brands of drinks and an extensive wine list. Restaurant wine can be ordered to your taste and by the bottle. Speciality teas and coffees are included. There is a gelataria serving ice cream and crepes throughout the day. Add to this a choice of four a la carte restaurants and you are spoilt for choice. Absolutely faultless!

Your invitation to explore the world again!

22 June 2020

As the world begins to open up and airlines, tour operators and hoteliers open their doors to welcome us all back; I wonder what your travel plans will be and where you are most looking forward to visiting? I know that many of your travel plans have been thwarted this year and have been postponed; decisions to close borders and implement travel embargo's are never taken lightly and are always done so with our best interests at heart. Equally, the time to lift the travel 'ban' is measured and considered. Many aspects of travelling will have changed and many new procedures are being rolled out to ensure our well-being. It's important that we allow ourselves time to adjust and that we wholeheartedly embrace these changes in order to progress; the wider world is constantly evolving and therefore changes are inevitable. Our industry will take a while to fully recover from this global crisis and travel choices may initially be less than you expect; don't let any of this deter you. There are so many fantastic places to discover that you may not have previously considered. My first post lock-down trip is likely to be back to my favourite place on the western Algarve in Portugal; it holds many special memories for my family and we have visited almost every year for as long as I can remember. We have watched the village grow and thrive over the years; it's a place where the locals embrace the loyal holidaymakers that return year after year. I'm looking forward to catching up with friends and acquaintances; to visiting some favourite restaurants, most of all for some of the freshest fish you'll ever eat and it goes without saying, a long walk on the beach; the Algarve has some of the best beaches in all of Europe and the backdrop to many is nothing short of spectacular. I'll never tire of the sunsets on the western cape peninsula; this is a place of simple pleasures and a great place to escape to. My immediate thoughts are that I cannot wait to visit and will comply with any necessary requirements in order to get there! Once I've placed another tick in the Algarve box, I'll be heading for Dubai; a trip that was cancelled due to the global pandemic. I haven't been for many years and it has changed a lot in that time. The Middle East is constantly re-inventing itself and is a fantastic example of how to embrace change in a positive way. I once worried about its environmental footprint and this has since been addressed with sustainable tourism high on the agenda. I'm excited to get there and discover all that is new about this fabulous destination. Do you have a favourite travel destination? When do you next plan to visit? As Summer progresses, many of us look forward to our family holiday; it breaks up the long school recess and provides an incentive for us to work hard to treat ourselves whilst we are away. The sense of excitement begins to build as soon as we change the clocks and I know from talking to many of you that the thought of not going away has brought huge disappointment. Thankfully, we are now in the midst of change and we can all dust off our passports, in preparation for some new adventures. Our travel dreams remain, they may have been altered a little but they are still intact. For many, lock-down has simply reinforced a love of travel and adventure and to have it stifled has only increased our desire to explore as soon as we are able. That we don't take our travel opportunities for granted and no longer put off those 'big ticket' trips that previously we waited many years to take. There is certainly an upturn in requests for celebratory trips. Whether your desire is to travel near or far, we are here to help and can offer the assurance that you are in very capable hands. How has being locked down and unable to travel made you feel? Are you planning your next adventure? Many people are asking the question 'What if?' In the event that circumstances change, you can rest assured that we have your best interests at heart. Not only is your money 100% financially protected but you'll have the benefit of access to our 24hr Duty Office, wherever you are in the world. Should it be necessary to alter or cancel your travel plans, we will ensure that this is done with the least amount of stress and anxiety and we will always keep you informed. We cannot predict the future but we can be here to help and guide you through any events that may arise. In the worst case scenario, we are here to help, by your side, whatever happens. There is no better time than right now to secure your next adventure, whatever that entails and wherever it may take you. Whether you plan to travel later this year or in 2021; get in touch and let's start talking....

Experience Edinburgh

18 December 2019

A day trip to Edinburgh? Is that a good idea? I can tell you, with confidence, it is an absolutely brilliant idea! Having received an invitation from Loganair and East Midlands Airport to spend a fun-filled, festive day in Edinburgh, I awaited my trip with eager anticipation. We were celebrating the launch of the new Loganair route from East Midlands Airport; it would not disappoint! On arrival at the airport, we were met and taken to the new Proof 65 bar and restaurant; where we were served a delicious complimentary breakfast! This chic bar/restaurant is modern and contemporary and has a creative and sophisticated menu. This is not 'regular' airport food, the menu will delight and surprise you. It's a bright, comfortable space and if you're a gin lover like me, there are at least 15 to choose from! The bar is open from 3am most mornings, so if you'd like your breakfast to look more like art on a plate, this place is for you. Once onboard the new Loganair service direct to Edinburgh, we were surprised at the amount of space on this relatively small aircraft. Taking 51 passengers, in a 2-1 configuration; plenty of legroom, sufficient storage and complimentary tea/coffee or soft drinks with a choice of biscuits. Cabin staff wearing tartan adds a slightly theatrical touch to things and is in keeping with the carriers Scottish heritage. The aircraft is surprisingly quiet and will win over most travellers used to flying on turbo-prop aircraft on this route. Flight time is around 50 minutes, making it perfect for those who wish to maximise their time on the ground. It will certainly attract the business community but should prove popular with other travellers too. I would have no hesitation in recommending you try it. On arrival in Edinburgh, we tested out the tram service into the city. Its clean, quiet and takes you direct to the very centre of the city in 15-20 minutes. Absolutely brilliant! We walked up to the Old Town, where we were met by our very own Musical Minstrel, Tour Guide. This is a walking tour with a difference; not only are you entertained with history, tales and anecdotes, you’ll delight in some traditional folk music, odes to modern music and a brief interlude in a local, hidden, watering hole! The tour takes about 90 minutes and provides some unique and quirky insight to the city. Totally engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. Following our tour of the Old Town, we headed to the Festive Market; culture of a different kind! Situated directly between the Old Town and Princes Street, it’s easy to locate. Heading directly to the food area, we feasted on Bratwurst and potatoes, washed down with warm Gluwein. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly with plenty of places to eat and drink; a huge Santaland for families to visit, a small funfair and hundreds of stalls selling all things Christmassy! Personally, I’m not a big fan of markets but you couldn’t fail to be impressed and the stalls looked spectacular with their fabulous displays of goods. This is a market that you would want to wander around. Our final stop was at the famous Dome Bar. Not only is the exterior of the building impressive but the inside is spectacular! The drinks menu here is extensive but you’ll be more wowed by the architecture and decoration. From the mosaic floor to the chandeliers and all things in-between; it sparkles and shines! Simply, the most beautiful and dazzling bar you’ll ever go to and the perfect place to end an incredible day in this beautiful city. Returning to the airport by tram, which stops just outside the terminal building, our final treat was to try out the new Aspire Lounge, (not to be confused with the ‘old’ Aspire Lounge – there are two!). This lounge is more like a Club Lounge in style and décor with a good selection of hot and cold food and a full bar service. Its situated upstairs, above the main concourse, so much quieter and for plane spotters, a good view of the runway too. Our time here was all too brief and before long, we were airborne once more and heading back to East Midlands. If you ever thought it was too far to go for a day trip; it really isn’t! Loganair have several flights, so you can really maximise your time. Add on the lounges at each end and you don’t have to worry about spending too much time sitting in restaurants. It also passes the airport waiting time in the best way possible. If you prefer to linger a little longer, I would wholeheartedly recommend it. Get in touch if you’d like to go and explore Edinburgh for yourself.

Escape to the Lake District

05 September 2019

This beautiful part of England should be on all 'to do' lists! 912 square miles of picturesque patchwork countryside, with more than 150 high peaks and 16 lakes; enough to keep even the most adventurous visitor amused. Set in Ambleside and just a short walk from Lake Windemere, was our holiday base. Equipped with everything you would expect in a 4* hotel but with more space and freedom. What it lacked in leisure facilities, it made up for in charm and comfort. The owners have gone to great lengths to ensure a comfortable stay; the cottage has a Hive heating system, Wi-Fi and a power shower; you'll find a hairdryer and hair straighteners, along with cosy throws and even books and games to keep you amused. There is a welcome manual telling you about the area and all kitchen appliance instructions are available. They really have thought of everything. There is a small patio garden with some outdoor furniture, perfect for al fresco dining and a pre-dinner drink. There is a useful car parking pass too; a little tricky to find a space, but only £5 per day if you can't. Most car parks are just a few minutes’ walk from the cottage. Ambleside is packed full of quirky shops, bars and restaurants and it's fairly easy to navigate from the cottage, making evenings out very enjoyable with an easy stroll back after dinner. Restaurant choices are vast, and we found the overall quality to be good and reasonably priced. You'll find everything from traditional English pub fayre, Italian, Indian, Vegetarian and Chinese; not to mention an array of coffee shops, sandwich shops and takeaways too. You can pick up supplies from a handful of supermarkets if you prefer to eat in; all within easy walking distance of the cottage. Ambleside is home to 17th century Bridge House, allegedly the smallest house in England and one that is now looked after by the National Trust. It was once home to six people! It is certainly a crowd pleaser with the traffic slowing down as it passes this tiny structure, straddling Stock Ghyll. Look across the road and you will see an old water mill and wheel at the bottom of a pretty cascade. Close by you'll also find Cumbria University campus at Ambleside, the only UK university situated within a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Having a student community certainly gives Ambleside a vibrant and eclectic ambiance. This little town has a unique charm and character and whilst not situated directly on the lake front, shouldn't be dismissed. At Waterhead you’ll find a lakeside café that serves a unique chocolate dipped ice cream, highly recommended! You’ll also be able to rent your own small motor cruiser to take an independent trip across the lake. If you’re looking for a more active break, try the water-sports centre between Ambleside and Windemere; here you’ll find everything from Paddle Boarding and Windsurfing to Sailing and Water-Skiing. There is also a high ropes course in the vicinity. If you're in need of some relaxation, there are some excellent Spa facilities in the area, many of which are open to non-residents for a daily fee. Particularly good are the Salutation in Ambleside and the Macdonald Old England in Bowness. During busy periods, it is better to book in advance. A public transport network links each of the main towns and villages in the Lake District. This has been cleverly implemented to discourage car use; you can purchase an unlimited rover ticket for 24hrs. The local Tourist Board are actively encouraging visitors to make use of this service, particularly during the peak summer months, when traffic congestion and parking can be problematic One of the benefits of staying in Ambleside is that you really don't need a car at all. We parked ours on arrival and didn't use it again until the day we came home! The ferry boats run at regular intervals from Waterhead, from early morning until around 6pm and tickets are valid on all services. The purpose of our visit was to get out and walk and despite the very mixed weather, we made the most of it. Following a trail through the woods directly above Ambleside, passing waterfalls and with fabulous viewpoints, we headed for Troutbeck. A tiny hamlet with a great little café, that was once the village Post office, for a lunch stop and the perfect place to pick up some supplies to keep you going, as the walk gets tougher beyond this point. We headed up Wansfell Pike; now this is not for the faint hearted and is a bit of a struggle in parts. With some steep and uneven terrain going up and even worse beyond the summit coming back down! The views are spectacular on a clear day, looking over Lake Windemere, Kirkstone Pass and Ambleside itself. The route is around eight miles with an elevation of approximately 2000 feet. Worth the effort and the reward of coffee and cake when you get back down. Our next outing was to take the lake cruiser to Bowness on Windemere, this calls at Wray Castle on the western side of the lake and where you can disembark to visit the Castle itself and take the four-mile walk to Ferry House. This lakeside walk is easy to navigate for the whole family. You then pick up the cross lakes ferry to Bowness; where there are lots of places to eat and drink for a lunch stop. You'll also find the World of Beatrix Potter attraction here, popular with families. The beautiful Belsfield Hotel is also situated here, overlooking the lake from high on the hillside. With interiors designed by the team at Laura Ashley, this is the perfect place to take afternoon tea. Our final day took us slightly north to Grasmere; this postcard pretty village once home to William Wordworth and immortalised in his own words ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’ is set along the banks of the River Rothay and close to Grasmere lake, from which it takes its name. Most of the walking trails here are relatively flat and ideal for families. Grasmere is also the home of Sarah Nelsons famous original gingerbread. Housed in what was once the village school; it’s easy to locate as there is nearly always a queue outside! Step inside and step back in time. After taking one of the riverside walks here it is easy to justify your purchase from what has to be one of the smallest shops in England! You’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants hidden in some beautiful 19th century buildings, in what is probably one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District. We packed a lot into a few days, I'm sure you can too....

Paralia - Gateway to the Olympus Riviera

19 June 2019

We found the Olympus Riviera a few years ago and quite by accident, whilst visiting Halkidiki. We rented a car and decided to take the long drive south west to visit Mount Olympus. It didn't disappoint and we promised ourselves that we would return! Paralia is found approximately 70kms south of Thessaloniki, it is the gateway to the Olympus Riviera and one of the closest beach resorts to the Mount Olympus National Park, which is within clear view of the hotel and creates a spectacular backdrop. Visiting in early summer meant that there was still snow on the mountain tops and we couldn't wait to explore. This area of Greece is not well known to British tourists and retains a more traditional feel to it, I sense that may change in the coming years. Visit now before the developers arrive, it's a beautiful part of Greece and not to be missed. On arrival at our base for the week, the 5* Mediterranean Village, we were greeted with cooling face cloths and directed to a beautiful lounge for drinks. The guest concierge spoke to us about the hotel and organised a very relaxed and smooth check-in process for everyone, directly from the lounge. The hotel is fabulous! Every inch of it is spotlessly clean and the service throughout our stay was understated and efficient. The management here are very visible and are constantly monitoring processes to ensure a quality of service that doesn't disappoint. The hotel is only two storeys tall and has eighteen small accommodation blocks of approximately ten rooms each. There are several swimming pools, including a livelier Beach Club, that plays great music throughout the day. The hotel occupies a 2km stretch of private Blue Flag white sand beach, gently shelving into the clear blue Aegean Sea, where you can swim with the fish as they come close to the shore. We were staying in an Executive Swim Up Room, located in a quiet part of the resort (not that it is at all noisy). The décor was contemporary, and the colour palette was in restful shades of blue. There was tea and coffee in the room and a generous supply of toiletries, bathrobes and slippers were provided and a fridge for personal use too. There were several pieces of art, porcelain and artefacts that made the room feel very welcoming. The hotel has three a la carte restaurants, each offering different menus and all excellent quality and value for money. We ate in all of them either for lunch or dinner and the service was very good. There is also a shop and boutique on site for daily essentials and a beautiful spa with indoor pool, sauna and steam room. Prices for treatments were excellent value for a 5* property. The beach here seems to go on forever and there is space for everyone. The sunbeds and umbrellas are complimentary and there are private beach cabanas with butler service for just a few euros. They accommodate up to four people and your fee includes water. Drinks and food can be ordered for the standard hotel rates. We ordered a small pizza, which would easily feed four for lunch and it cost just 7 euros. After spending our first day on the beautiful beach, we headed into the little town of Paralia. It is just a 20-30 minute (flat) walk along the beachfront pavement. There is a very pretty church at the centre of the resort and there are lots of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. Walk a little further and you come to the traditional harbour with a couple of fresh fish restaurants too. The locals were warm and friendly and everywhere was very clean and neat. We stopped for an iced coffee and a light meal and got change from 10 euros! The cost of living here is low compared to elsewhere in Greece. After a couple of days, we rented a car and took to the hills, that was the primary reason for being here after all; we headed to Litochoro, the gateway to Mount Olympus and just a thirty-minute drive from the hotel. After stopping at the visitor centre to gain advice regarding the weather and the best walking trails, we set off for the final drive higher into the hills, until we reached the highest parking area. Our first trail took us to a monastery and an open cave with a little church inside it. This walk was strenuous; narrow and steep and very uneven under foot. It is high altitude and not for the faint hearted. Our second trail climbed higher and yet we thought this one was easier; following a glacial river with stunning waterfalls, where we drank from the streams and paddled in the icy waters. The scenery is totally unspoilt, and the park is well maintained without appearing 'touristy'. If you are a serious walker, you can base yourself in Litochoro, which resembles an Alpine village and has all the same charm about it. Following our time at Mount Olympus, we explored the hinterland a little more, discovering (by accident), the pretty village of Old Pantaleimon and then a 10th Century Castle on the coast. Our final day with the hire car took us to Ancient Dion, to view the ruins and the museum. There are numerous great beaches along the coast, each with its own character and charm and plenty of seaside villages where you can stop for a while. For those that don't want to explore independently, there are several excursions available; including a train trip to Thessaloniki, a tour of Litochoro and Olympus, trips to both Meteora and Ancient Dion and even a boat trip to Skiathos. After another day on the stunning beach at our hotel, we rented some bicycles and took to the cycle ways. The hotel provides cycle maps for guests with guidance on gradients and distance, along with an idea of how long you should allow for your journey. It was very easy to follow the routes and we found some great local eateries along the way. This is an ideal activity for families and a fun way to do your sightseeing. Sadly, all good things must come to an end; our trip surpassed our expectations and proved beyond doubt that you don't have to travel too far to find fabulous beaches, great hotels and a certain amount of je ne sais quoi. We are already planning our next visit!

Perfect Weekend City Stay

01 April 2019

Often overlooked by its near neighbour York; Leeds is a city worthy of a visit in its own right. Having spent quite a lot of time in the city over recent years and having stayed in several hotels, my personal favourite must be the Doubletree by Hilton at Granary Wharf. Located a short walk from the city centre, it has a canal-side setting and gives the feel of being much closer to the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, despite its central location. Granary Wharf is an area of redevelopment and restoration, where the railway arches are now home to vibrant bars, bistros and coffee shops. It is urban chic and stylish and has been cleverly developed to really improve and enhance the local area. Doubletree by Hilton is minimal in style with uncomplicated fixtures and fittings. The public areas have a modern warehouse appeal to them, whilst still being comfortable. The bedrooms are contemporary, and many have great views. It is worth upgrading to a room with a view! The hotel is stylish without trying too hard to impress. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the restaurant offers great value for money; not over-priced, as many hotel restaurants often are. The canal-side dining area, The Lock, is bright and spacious. Stylish yet informal, it has an outside terrace complete with sofas for relaxing in the sunshine. Even on a cooler day, you can still enjoy the outdoors here, wrapped up in a hotel blanket and warmed by a patio heater. Sunday Lunch here is extremely good and recommended! My favourite feature of the hotel is the Sky Lounge, 13 storeys above the city and with sweeping views across the canal and beyond. Not only is this the perfect place for Afternoon Tea (book ahead if this is for you); at night it is the ideal venue for both pre and post dinner drinks. At weekends there is a live DJ and the bar staff will create any cocktail your heart desires, whilst they introduce you to a few of their own creations too! It is sophisticated without being too formal and must be visited. There is an outside rooftop terrace, complete with patio heaters to keep away the evening chill whilst you enjoy a drink and take in the illuminated city vista. It's probably my main reason for staying here! If you are arriving by train, it is just a three-minute walk from the station. By car, the hotel has private on-site parking. The city of Leeds is a hidden gem in Yorkshire’s crown. It is young and vibrant, casual yet sophisticated. If you are shopping here, you will be spoilt for choice. The Victorian Quarter is home to every designer store you could wish for and the Trinity Centre houses all the familiar high street favourites. There are also a vast number of independent boutiques and specialist stores too; most of which are found in the restored Victorian Arcades that link the city’s main shopping streets. The city is a treasure trove of restored architecture, which is a surprise to many visitors. Look up as you walk, the buildings are beautiful! Above the Trinity Centre, you will find a handful of restaurants with outside terraces too. I particularly like Angelica but Crafthouse and The Alchemist are excellent too. Indoors, The Ivy in the Victorian Quarter is a quirky and modern brasserie and an ideal place to eat or drink at any time of day. 'The Light' is home to several popular restaurants and a cinema. In fact, you are spoilt for dining choice, everything from pavement cafes to fine dining restaurants are at your disposal. If you visit Leeds at Christmas time, there is a German Market to explore too! Just outside the city centre, you can visit the TV Studio setting for Emmerdale. A little further out is Kirkstall Abbey. There are parks and gardens galore with Roundhay Park being one of the most popular. If you have time, follow one of the walking trails here. The First Direct Arena hosts many major concerts and events throughout the year and the sympathetically restored Grand Theatre takes care of everything else. Leeds is an artistic and creative city, on the streets you will come across several entertainers from dancers to musicians; stop for a while and enjoy their shows, there is a lot of talent to be seen here. Leeds is fast becoming one of the most visited cities outside of London and worthy of the recognition it is beginning to receive. It has a thriving student community, thanks to its three universities and a lively nightlife. Both young and old will feel welcome here and I'm certain you will want to return again and again.

California Dreamin'

22 January 2019

This was not a holiday, it was an adventure! Our journey began in San Francisco and ended in Monterey. Between these two points we would cover over 3300 miles and visit a whole host of well-known cities and attractions. First stop, San Francisco, where we stayed at Pier 2620, a quirky hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf. We took the ferry to Alcatraz, joined a city tour and visited Sausalito and of course the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street. We rode the trams and used the local buses to make the most of our stay. The locals here couldn't be more helpful, and this will always be one of my favourite US cities. We collected our car and drove south down the Pacific Coast Highway via Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara and Malibu to our next stop in Santa Monica. We were keen to avoid the freeways as we wanted the journey to be as much a part of our trip as the stopping points were. We also decided that we would undertake this trip using only road maps and atlases, no Sat Nav required! Only time would tell if this was a good idea. We arrived in Santa Monica to our hotel the Courtyard by Marriott, a brand-new hotel with a very individual style in a great location. The service here was first class and the rooms were huge, we couldn't fault it. It was here that we enjoyed the 4th July celebrations, it was such a great atmosphere! Santa Monica is a beautiful city by a very long and wide sandy beach and well worth the extra cost of your stay. We hired motorised scooters and travelled on the beach promenade to Marina del Rey, highly recommended. We took the time to explore Los Angeles, taking in Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Sunset Boulevard, the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign and ended our stay with a fabulous meal at the celebrity restaurant, Pump. The next day took us out to the Grand Canyon. It was a long day in the car, but we made several stops and included a deviation via the original Route 66, which proved to be a real highlight of our journey and one that should not be missed. We spent two nights at the El Tovar hotel, which is situated on the rim of the canyon itself, you really can't get any closer! It has an old-world charm about it and you feel like you have stepped into a piece of history. It was from here that we took a Mule Trek into the canyon, this was a 'Bucket List' to do and it did not disappoint. There is complimentary shuttle transport to take you to all the best viewing points if you don't want to hike. We got up at 4am to drive to Grandview Point, the sunrise didn't disappoint and the view of the Colorado River from here is quite something. In the evening, we took the shuttle to Hermits Rest and marvelled at the spectacular colours that the sunset on the rocks creates. For me, the Grand Canyon is simply breath-taking. After the relative peace and tranquillity of the canyon, we moved on to Las Vegas via Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam is a magnificent feat of engineering, you can't fail to be impressed by the sheer scale of it. Arriving in Las Vegas for our 48 hours of living like Rock Stars; we checked into the Bellagio, where we had a Fountain View High Floor Room. From our room we could see the entire strip in all its glory and watch the fountains as they danced to the music. it was spectacular! During our stay we reserved luxury loungers at the Cypress Pool, this was a real treat and offers access to a private adult only pool and all-day VIP service. We followed this with a trip to Cirque du Soleil, Love (The Beatles) at the nearby Mirage. It was a fantastic show, full of energy and humour and I would happily see it again. On our final morning we dined in the Conservatory restaurant, pancakes the size of which, we have never seen before! a fitting end to our luxury stay. Our journey onwards took us to Sequoia National Park, where we spent two nights at Wuksachi Lodge. Situated right at the top of the park, its elevation provides some stunning views of the landscape. Sequoia is like a real-life Jurassic Park, everything is huge! To see the Redwoods in real life was quite spectacular. We walked the Big Trees Trail to view the General Sherman and saw huge waterfalls During our stay here we climbed Moro Rock, which is a little tricky to navigate but worth the effort when you get to the top. We even drove through a Redwood Tree! The views are incredible, and we all agreed that Sequoia was our favourite National Park. Leaving Sequoia, we travelled via Kings Canyon National Park, a brief stop to see the famous General Grant tree and onwards to Yosemite. Our arrival in Yosemite and stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge by the Falls was impacted by a forest fire. The site of the blackened trees on the way in gave us some insight into how devastating these fires can be. The lodge is modern, yet rustic and our room was in one of the blocks closest to the Falls, it was just a five-minute walk! Our time here was spent visiting all the main sites, which can be done easily using shuttle buses, walking or bicycle hire. We saw Bridlalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome, El Capitan, Half Dome and of course Yosemite Falls. The park is postcard pretty, with rivers and streams galore and far more to see than you imagine. There are even beaches here! It’s a little touristy and our only disappointment here was the quality of available food. After an all too brief stay in Yosemite, we headed to our final stop on the coast at Monterey. Monterey is a pretty seaside town located to the south of San Jose and San Francisco. It is now known for its whale watching tours, but its history lies in port services. The original Customs House, the oldest building in the state, has been preserved and sits immediately next to the pier. The towns Spanish/Mexican heritage has been preserved and the local people have embraced the tourist industry. Our hotel, The Portola, was just a two-minute walk from the pier, with its array of restaurants, bars and shops; perfect for our early morning departure to see the wildlife. The hotel is vast and is nautically themed. The rooms were beautiful with pretty balconies and the service was first class. The Whale Watching trip did not disappoint, we saw plenty of sea lions and dolphins and a few whales too. Seeing them in their natural habitat and learning about their behaviour from the experts onboard made out trip really memorable. From here we visited Pebble Beach for lunch and ended our stay with a famous Ghiradelli ice cream on Cannery Row.

What Shade of Blue are You?

28 January 2019

Visiting the western Algarve has become a habit that we are unable to break! I've lost count of the precise number of times that we have stayed in the pretty village of Alvor, it must be at least fifteen, perhaps as many as twenty! Our favourite time of year to visit is October, although we have been in Spring and Summer too. Late summer in Alvor is less crowded, you can always get a table in your favourite restaurant and the beach is empty! The weather can be a little unpredictable but the moody skies and crashing waves are all part of the appeal. I am a keen photographer and the light is perfect at this time of year. The sunsets at Cape St Vincent can be quite spectacular, although somewhat unpredictable too! This time we stayed at the Pestana South Beach Hotel. It has a quirky Miami Beach vibe to it and is decorated in a bright nautical themed way, including lots of surf boards and seaside artefacts. The staff are young and vibrant and there’s a laid-back feel to the whole place. It’s not for everyone, but we loved it. You are welcomed at check-in with a shaken Gin and Tonic, a treat after your flight and transfer. We stayed in a Deluxe Ocean View Room with a balcony (not all rooms here have balconies). The hotel is so close to the beach that you are virtually on the sand! Breakfast at the hotel is informal and buffet style, where you help yourself from the bright orange fridge and pour your own Prosecco from the bar. Snacks and light meals are available at the bar and there is a seafood beach restaurant too. Things are done a little differently here, everything is understated and there is none of the stuffiness that you sometimes get in 4/5* hotels. We always stay on a B&B basis as the village has so many fabulous places to eat. A particular favourite of ours is The Adega, its quite old fashioned but the food and service are excellent. We also like El Torro, a tiny restaurant fashioned from the front room of a house with only a handful of tables inside. Look past the decor and focus on the food, it’s incredible, their steak is the best we have eaten. You must book here, it’s very popular! Over the years we must have done virtually every excursion on offer, albeit usually by self-drive hire car. Everything from the Chapel of the Bones in Faro to the spa town of Monchique, where on a clear day you can see the coast for miles. Silves Castle, Cliff Richard’s Vineyard and Zoomarine (where you can even swim with dolphins) have all kept us amused. We have travelled to Lisbon and the Atlantic Coast and even across into Spain. It’s so easy to get around and there is always something to see, although Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal, so you need to change your watch as you go across the border. There are several waterparks on the Algarve with Slide and Splash being closest to the resort; it’s a fun day out if you have children. The annual sand sculpture festival is also popular at Armacao do Pera, a short drive away. At nearby Lagos, there is a small zoo, which is a pleasant distraction when the sun gets too hot. You will also find the race circuit here; home of the Historic Grand Prix and Motor GP. If you like motorsports, be sure to visit when these are taking place. Walking is a popular pastime here and there are several marked routes along the cliffs and across the lagoon boardwalks. You will also see a lot of people walking the length of the beach and running, particularly at this time of year. In nearby Praia da Rocha you can even cycle along the beach if you want to. There are several boat trips and kayak adventures, although these are probably best done earlier in the summer when the sea is calmer. Water sports are available in the high summer months. The cost of living here is a little less than in the UK and in restaurants your money buys you fine quality food for a lot less. There is a good network of taxis for getting around and these are inexpensive and reliable. The resort has grown over the years that we have been visiting and yet still retains a fishing village charm and atmosphere. The locals are reserved, yet friendly and English is widely spoken. There are some late-night bars and restaurants with live music, there is certainly enough to keep you entertained. I've suggested this resort to a number of friends and customers over the years and everyone seems to enjoy themselves, many return for a second or third visit. It really does seem to offer something for everyone, and I don't imagine this will be our last visit!

My customer stories

Sent by Dee White

Tracie is absolutely fantastic. Knowing so much about the Travel Industry, she takes all of the stress out of planning a holiday with small children.

Sent by Robert Evans

Great experience - as always - understood the requirement exactly and proposed really good solutions. Will definitely use again.

Sent by Diane Pinches

So easy to book with Tracie, she is very knowledgeable and provided a perfect holiday for us without hours searching. Looking forward to the holiday now :)

Sent by James Brown

Lovely lady and nothing was too much trouble. Fabulous service and would definitely recommend!

Sent by Rachel McGrath

Tracie has been fabulous in her work to plan and book our honeymoon. She understood what type of hotel and location we were looking for, was knowledgeable about the locations and offered invaluable advice. I would definitely book through Tracie again and recommend her to others.

Sent by Graham Barnwell

I have made numerous bookings with Tracie; she is my 'go to' for all my travel requirements from booking domestic flights, business travel, family holidays and even a long haul business incentive trip. Tracie gives you the confidence that everything is taken care of even, in these difficult times for international travel.

Sent by Graham Crook

Tracie is the most thoughtful , helpful ,considerate and friendly person that my wife and I have ever dealt with.

Sent by Alison Marlow

Tracie is superb! She is so knowledgeable about so many destinations and worked so hard in our behalf to sort out our two holidays cancelled due to Covid with only minimal losses. She's also put together a new dream California holiday for us for next year. We're hoping it's third time lucky!

Sent by Debbie Hill-Cousins

Tracie organised a trip for my husband and I in February this year (just before lockdown). It was absolutely AMAZING!!! I would strongly recommend going to Lapland and would definitely ask Tracie to organise it - She was brilliant!!

Sent by Jane Hunter

John and I just wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU to Tracie; As with most people we all look forward to our summer holiday , with what’s happened these last few months, our holiday has been rearranged for next year, this holiday was a celebration of our 20yr wedding anniversary . We didn’t have to worry about anything , Tracie took care of absolutely everything. As well as Bali Tracie has managed to add a two night stay in Singapore with complimentary tickets to Bay Gardens, and also a Sunset cruise in Bali. Tracie went that extra mile, off her own back to give us a truly amazing holiday. If you are looking for a holiday , I cannot recommend Tracie at Travel Counsellors enough, nothing is too much, once again Thank you Tracie we cannot wait

Sent by Katie Thomas

Amazing as always xxx

Sent by Uel Kane

I've never met Tracie other than talking to her on the phone but she has a good bubbly personality a good knowledge of her job in the travel business.

Sent by Jane Hunter

John and I wanted to say a big thank you to Tracie from Travel Counsellors. As with most people, we look forward to our summer holiday. With what's happened these last few months, our holiday has been rearranged for next year; this holiday was a celebration of our 20 year wedding anniversary. We didn't have to worry about anything, Tracie took care of absolutely everything! As well as Bali, Tracie has managed to add a two night stay in Singapore with complimentary tickets to the Bay Gardens and also a Sunset Dinner Cruise in Bali. Tracie went the extra mile off her own back to give us a truly amazing holiday. If you are looking for a holiday, I cannot recommend Tracie at Travel Counsellors enough, nothing is too much. Once again thank you Tracie, we cannot wait!

Sent by Kellie Hodgett

Still as fabulous! Tracie Cooke can always find lots of lovely holidays - give her a message and like her page....the customer service she gives is second to none. She has been working tirelessly in these unprecedented times for all her clients, big well done. I like knowing I'm in safe hands with someone I know and trust.

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A great service and very friendly

Sent by Michael Eardly

Tracie's help and assistance was fantastic and much appreciated

Sent by Debbie Hill-Cousins

Tracie is the utmost professional, who goes out of her way to find you the holiday you are looking for. She is very knowledgeable and persistent when finding you the right package for the right price. She is a lovely lady providing a brilliant service and I have already recommended her to friends and family. Thank you

Sent by Donna Cumbers

Tracie gave excellent service, attention to detail and patience :)

Sent by Tina Munns

Tracie was very helpful and patient as we were backwards and forwards, cancelling and adding people and also changing hotels. Big thanks to Tracie

Sent by Kevin Pryce

Great service from Tracie who is adept at emptying my account to pay for some awesome holidays.

Sent by Lynda Cooke

Tracie goes the extra mile to make sure everything is in place for the perfect holiday

Sent by Marie Fieldhouse

Booking holidays can be stressful, Tracie took all the angst out of the process.

Sent by Aisha Gallant

Tracie was fabulous. So helpful and very quick with responses.

Sent by Vivien Bott

Tracie is very knowledgable helpful friendly. She knows what I need from my holidays. She has booked many holidays for me and I will always go to her.

Sent by Jane Hunter

Exceptional service, was so eager to please all my requests and requirements. I will always now use this service xxxxxxx

Sent by Graham Barnwell

My experience from Travel Counsellors and more particularly Tracie Cooke was exemplary. As with many people, I am time poor and passing over my travel requirements to Tracie with various options for travel from a limited brief gave me the confidence to go ahead with my booking. Tracie provides a first class service and I will be recommending her services to all colleagues and friends.

Sent by Leah Carver

Great service lovely person

Sent by Alison Marlow

I wholeheartedly would recommend Tracie. She is well travelled and very knowledgeable about so many locations, hotels and resorts. She's come up with an amazing holiday for my family to enjoy next summer with some lovely Travel Counsellors extras which make it great value too.

Sent by Alison Marlow

I wholeheartedly would recommend Tracie. She is well travelled and very knowledgeable about so many locations, hotels and resorts. She's come up with an amazing holiday for my family to enjoy next summer with some lovely Travel Counsellors extras which make it great value too.

Sent by Jenny Ponder

ALREADY HAVE!!! Seriously, why wouldn't you? Its like having your very own personal shopper for a holiday - she is FANTASTIC!

Sent by Richard Bott

Tracie has been very good organising our holiday. Very quick to response to all emails and with the options and prices. Highly recommend.

Sent by Andrew Townsend

Tracie gave us more than we were looking for!

Sent by Rene Millard

Hi Tracie forgot to mention we were surprised on the flight from Birmingham to Male on the actual day of our Anniversary. The staff on board the flight presented us with a glass of champagne each and two luxury pieces of cake. They also took a photo and gave it to us. Ian and I would like to thank you so much for all you have done for us and when we are ready to go again I will be contacting you.

Sent by Katrina Trapp

Tracie was so incredibly helpful, we changed our mind a couple of times regarding our holiday and it never felt that this was a ‘nuisance’ which allowed us the freedom to ensure we had the holiday we wanted. Tracie’s responses to our questions were always quick and friendly. I will definitely be using Tracie’s services again.

Sent by Harry Griffiths

Very helpful and persisted until she found a suitable holiday for me

Sent by Vivien Bott

Tracie is very helpful , polite and knowledgeable, I would definitely recommend her

Sent by Diane Pinches

Very helpful. All details and tickets received well in advance. Fantastic service!

Sent by Rene Millard

Tracie is very good at what she does. When I told her where we wanted to go to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary she worked very hard to find a perfect location for us which we are now looking forward to our holiday.

Sent by Graham Barnwell

Tracie made the whole booking experience very easy and straightforward, her industry knowledge and experience helped me make the right choice. I will be recommending without hesitation.

Sent by Joshua Brown

Tracie is very friendly, hard working and always looking what’s best for her clients. She’s easy to work with and always looking to help find the best holiday! Thanks Tracie.

Sent by Katie Thomas

Fantastic at what she does!