Sent by Petra Tagg
Based in Rhoose
I’m passionate about travel and look forward to sharing my passion with you!
I take pride in going the extra mile for my clients to create the perfect itinerary to suit their needs. It makes me very proud that so many of my loyal customers make it their business to recommend my service to their friends and family. My business has grown over the years purely by recommendations so why not take advantage of my service.
Here are 10 great reasons why you should let me organise your trip:
1. COMPETITIVE PRICES: I have instant access to all the best deals - click on ‘offers’ to browse some of the latest special offers
2. EXPERIENCED: I’ve arranged thousands of holidays for hundreds of customers during my long career in travel.
3. FINANCIAL PROTECTION: When you book with me, every penny you spend is safe - no matter what.
4. 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEED: I’m very proud of my customer satisfaction rating. Just take a look at my customer stories - the comments illustrate how pleased my clients have been with my service and knowledge.
5. WELL-TRAVELLED: I’ve travelled extensively in Australia, New Zealand, The Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Laos, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Indonesia, China, Seychelles, Egypt, Dubai, The Caribbean, USA, Canada, Alaska, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and most of Europe. I’ve written a number of travel blogs on many of these fantastic destinations - click on the ‘Blogs’ tab to read some of them.
6. WHATEVER HOLIDAY YOU'RE LOOKING FOR: I can help with any travel enquiry at all, whether that be just a flight, a last-minute holiday, a round-the-world trip, a cruise round the Med, escorted tours, or ski and activity trips.
7. FULLY INDEPENDENT: This allows me to recommend the trip that’s perfect for you. I’ll check the top travel companies, airlines and hotels as well as the suppliers Travel Counsellors have exclusive deals with.
8. CONTACTABLE AROUND THE CLOCK: Unlike other travel agents, I’m here at the end of the phone (or by email) whenever you need me, including evenings and weekends.
9. HONEYMOONS & WEDDINGS OVERSEAS: I got married in Mauritius and I’ve visited all the most popular honeymoon destinations. Ask me about our Honeymoon Gift Registry - it’s a great way to get your honeymoon paid for!
10. FREE BOOKING: My booking service and expertise comes at no extra cost.
If you’re interested in contacting me to discuss your travel plans for the future, or simply need some advice, please don’t hesitate to call, email (email@example.com), text or even Whatsapp me on 07879 621768.
Don’t forget, the world’s your oyster!
The Maldives are proving very popular for 2021 & 2022 - if this Video tempts you just get in touch....
P&O CRUISES New ship - ARVIA - now available to book for winter 2022/2023!
One of the ''Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die'' apparently & Yes I totally agree. See my blog below about our visit.
The past year has taught us many things, including being able to spend quality time with family and friends is so precious - hope you enjoy our film.
How amazing are these sand dunes and only a short flight away - I was there just a couple of years ago and had a great time exploring the dunes.
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.
06 November 2021
Every year when our Wedding anniversary comes around I think I should update my website with our Wedding photos from Mauritius. We got married on the beautiful island of MAURITIUS in November 1998 – back then we did not have the facility to add photos & blogs to our website. So I do apologise for the quality of the photo’s as they are scanned from our wedding album which was made for us by the wedding team on the island. I have many clients who go to Mauritius and fall in love with it just as we did, it caters for couples or families and choosing the right hotel is very important. We stayed in Grand Baie which back then had just a handful or bars & restaurants, it has now grown bigger so has a much wider choice. The people in Mauritius are incredibly friendly, so much so that our witnesses were both waiters at the local Indian restaurant we frequented. As we wanted something a little different for our wedding when we asked if they would like to be our witnesses they were over the moon and offered to wear their uniforms for us. (as you can see from the photo's they looked pretty cool!) Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and faith, this also reflects in the cuisine. Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean and is known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs. The mountainous interior includes Black River Gorges National Park, with rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and wildlife like the flying fox. Port Louis is the capital and has a great market and shopping opportunities. There is also the beautiful Botanical Gardens to visit if something like this is your cup of tea. We took a HELICOPTER ride which took us all over the island, seeing Waterfalls and the famous Seven Earths. The seven Coloured Earths are a geological formation and tourist attraction which is a relatively small area of sand dunes comprising sand of seven distinct colours – amazing to see from above. It’s on our list to return to celebrate our special anniversary……??
08 April 2021
As per my previous Blog on Singapore (see below) - this beautiful country has so much to offer. Having been many times I thought I would share more information you may find useful in case you are planning a trip there. Beyond the likes of the well-known Chinatown and Little India, Singapore is also home to some more ‘off-the-beaten-track’ neighbourhoods which are well worth exploring! Tiong Bahru: the oldest housing estate in Singapore, this quaint community is an eclectic mix of old and new. Steeped in history, its transformation began in the 30’s and some of the landmark buildings from that era still stand today with Streamline Moderne-inspired architecture. In recent years, younger generations have moved in and there are now many trendy cafes to choose from like Forty Hands serving up speciality coffees. There's also independent bookstores such as Books Actually, and fashion boutiques like the quirky Nana & Bird selling international womens, kids and homewear brands. Holland Village: the former home of British Army personnel and their families, the European influence can be seen across this area of Singapore. The main stretch of Lorong Mambong is a bustling street of hip bars and eateries but there’s also modern art galleries and homegrown retail outlets. Head to Chip Bee Gardens, a former military estate, for some beautiful architecture on display. Jalan Besar: on the east side of Singapore, this vibrant neighbourhood is known for its café culture where you can spend the afternoon hopping from one spot to another tucking into hearty brunch plates and modern takes on local cuisine. The district is also making its name in the coffee market - Chye Seng Huat Hardware is well-known for its artisanal brews and The Refinery fuses a mixology bar, design workshop and restaurant all into one space. Joo Chiat/Katong: this colourful neighbourhood is home to Peranakan shophouses and a scattering of colonial bungalows, all just a 10 minute drive from the city centre. With endless culinary choices, traditional shopping opportunities and cool cafes, you’ll need more than a few hours to fully enjoy this vibrant area. Don't miss Rumah Bebe which offers Peranakan food and clothing or Kim Choo serving delicious traditional dumplings. Spend the evening amidst the bright lights and soaring, ultra-modern architecture of the bustling Marina Bay. Grab a seat at Marina Bay Sands’ Event Plaza to watch Spectra, a captivating extravaganza of lasers, lights and water. The nearby Gardens by the Bay is another amazing place to be at nightfall when the spectacular 50-metre-tall structures of the Supertree Grove come to life in a kaleidoscope of colours. For something a little bit different, why not head to Mount Faber where you can spend an unforgettable evening overlooking spectacular views. Half the fun is the cable car ride; with amazing views along the way. Once you reach the top, Faber Peak has trendy bars and restaurants for you to relax with a cocktail while enjoying some of the best views in the country. Singapore’s art scene is a colourful mix of local works made more diverse with internationally renowned artists performing throughout the year. National Gallery Singapore is the region’s newest and largest museum of modern Singapore and Southeast Asian art and the ArtScience Museum is where you can catch world-class touring exhibitions and see the worlds of art and science collide. Whether an avid foodie or an explorer of urban culture, Singapore’s diverse tapestry of experiences is bound to enchant. Inspired by many different religions, culture and communities, Singapore’s architecture is a result of many influences and can be seen across the cityscape. Visit Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore, to see the unique Fujian architecture or for something more modern, head to the Assyafaah Mosque which avoids the use of domes and minarets for an altogether Singaporean identity. Get in touch if you want any further advice or tips for Singapore or would like a trip pricing up.
02 June 2019
We last visited Gran Canaria 23 years ago and again, like my Tenerife blog, we wanted to go back to see how things have changed. We visited in March and the weather was lovely, always warm during the day - but sometimes needed a light jacket in the evening. We stayed in Arguineguín which is more of a Spanish resort and less touristy although it has a great choice or restaurants and bars and a nice beach. Whilst we were there, they had a carnival which made the town extra busy because many people come from Las Palmas to experience the amazing atmosphere. Everyone gets dressed up in fancy dress and there is a huge Parade on the last night along with fireworks in Arguineguin. As regards beaches, you have a choice of the sweeping golden sand dunes of Maspalomas to small pretty bays or more secluded rocky bays. Nothing has changed much on the dunes over the years. From 5-star hotels to self-catering apartments there's something to suit all budgets and depending on what you want from a holiday would determine which resort I would suggest for you. A popular resort with my clients is Puerto Mogan which is nicknamed ‘Little Venice’ and it’s not difficult to see why. With its canals and abundance of floral canopies encompassing the streets, it feels more like being in Venice than it does just off the coast of Africa. Arguineguin is less touristy, but in my opinion is more Spanish with proper Tapa’s bars and hosts the biggest market on the island on a Tuesday – well worth a visit for market lovers. Once again Gran Canaria has a variety of resorts which are all different. If you are considering visiting, get in touch and I will advise the best resort for you.
29 May 2019
We last visited Tenerife 24 years ago, so I thought perhaps it's time to go back and see how things may have changed. I book many clients to Tenerife and they always come back having loved their trip so I wanted to go and see how the resorts have changed over the years. We were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful apartment which one of my clients allowed me to use it was in the resort of Puerto Santiago which is not a very busy tourist resort and actually is more Spanish. We had a car whilst we were there so we explored. I wanted to see Puerto de la Cruz which is on the north part of the island and often experiences different weather from the south of the island. On Christmas Eve, we experienced how the Spanish celebrate, finishing work for Christmas in the beautiful Santa Cruz which is the island’s capital - lots of Christmas decorations and people having lunch and drinks, the atmosphere was great. The resorts do differ quite a lot from very touristy and built-up to more laid-back local and Spanish resorts. If you are considering a holiday to Tenerife and would like to know a resort which will suit you, please get in touch and I will suggest the right place or you. We stayed over Christmas and New Year and the weather was excellent I would highly recommend Tenerife for a Christmas break.
06 October 2019
Wow...what a truly beautiful destination the Dubrovnik Riviera is… I can see why many people return. We split our holiday and started off with 3 nights in Dubrovnik. DUBROVNIK - Described by George Bernard Shaw as heaven on earth, it is encircled by ancient city walls. Dubrovnik’s stunning Old Town with its cobbled streets and narrow stepped alleyways boasts an 18th century Cathedral, a 14th century Dominican Monastery and the handsome Gothic Renaissance Rector’s Palace, housing the Cultural Historical Museum. It's also perfect for any Game Of Thrones fans - there are many excursions that will incorporate the places used for filming! We sat in a restaurant having dinner which was on the street used for the filming of King’s Landing! There are lots of markets and boutique shops, plus a myriad of dining and nightlife opportunities around the pedestrianised Placa promenade or Stradun. The cable car offers great views over this city and is well worth considering. Our next stop was the lovely island of BRAC – which is a ferry ride from Makarska or Split. We picked up a hire car and drove up the coast to Makarska – enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way. Islands seem to live at their own pace, it’s like stepping back in time when visiting any of Croatian islands. Brac is particularly famous for its olive oil, lamb, sheep cheese, and mandarins and fresh fish to die for! There are many nice resorts on the island but we chose to stay in Bol, which is famous for Zlatni Rat, the best known and the most beautiful beach in Croatia. But as locals like to say, it isn't the only beach here. The entire south side of the island of Brac is dotted with gorgeous pebble beaches. Pebbles here are small, soft to walk on, and perfectly rounded. And the best part is that, apart from Zlatni Rat, other beaches aren't crowded at all, especially as you get out of Bol. The last part of our trip was spent in Cavtat which is near to the airport, it’s a perfectly sized harbour town just 20km South of Dubrovnik. Set in a secluded bay with ocean on either side. There are plenty of harbour-front restaurants, from the harbour you can get boats across to Dubrovnik. Our trip was a good split between city, island and a nice mainland resort - all of which were beautiful.
08 October 2017
We have visited Mallorca several times before and always enjoyed exploring the island, but on this visit, we decided to do a twin centre by staying 4 nights in Palma before heading off for a week in a villa. Palma offers you both a lively evening scene and cultural haven during the day. Whatever you experience here, you’re sure to see a different side to Mallorca. Lively squares both day and night, Palma’s got it all. You’ll see street performers and classic cafés underneath arches, so stopping for a latte’s basically essential. First off, Palma city is a ten-minute taxi transfer time from the airport. If you’re travelling from the UK then it’s also a flight time of about two hours. For times when you need a short break, even for a weekend, it’s doable in Palma as the travel doesn’t eat away at your very valuable tapas time. The early mornings are blissful. Despite being a city, the mornings are like any slow paced Spanish start. They’re clear, drenched in bright sunshine, and give incredible views over the harbour, the port, the sea or the mountains, whichever way your hotel room faces you won’t be disappointed. It offers traditional Spanish culture, at weekends you can spot the dancers in the streets of the historic old town, or underneath the iconic cathedral. Families, adults, children all join in their traditional local dancing and it’s well worth a watch. The giant, gothic Santa Maria Cathedral is another beauty of the city, standing very tall overlooking the bay, the city, and right along the coast. Visible from almost everywhere it’s one of a few grand architectural structures you can seek out in Palma. The main port of Palma is perfect for a stroll in the early evening, if only to admire the yachts and sailing boats that moor there. The restaurants are all incredible. In the main city there’s everything from top end fine dining to traditional Spanish tapas. Try the Padron peppers with sea salt – diving! Or Pa amb oli which is like an open sandwich consisting of various combinations, from jamon y queso to a full on mixed grill, which also comes with Sobrasada which is the local version of chorizo (without the drying process). If time allows on your visit why not consider getting the train up to Soller. The train itself is full of character and comprises antique wooden carriages which are perhaps not the most comfortable way to travel, but the journey time is only a little over an hour and the scenery makes the trip more than worthwhile. The journey gives an interesting insight to the backstreets of the city. It then journeys on out of the city, passing through fields of almond trees, farms and villages. The train began its ascent into the mountains, through several tunnels, before stopping at the scenic overlook, Mirador del Pujol d'En Banya. Once in Soller, the town is very picturesque with historic buildings and a lovely square which is bustling with life. Take a wander through the lovely winding streets and discovered many unusual shops and little places to eat, or you could choose to get the old tram which runs from Soller station to the seaside town of Puerto de Soller. It travels downhill passing orange and lemon groves down to the pretty harbour town. Get off at first tram stop and walk along the length of the lovely promenade which sweeps around the harbour and is lined with many places to enjoy a nice cool drink or some lunch. The beach here is also very nice. You will not be disappointed with this beautiful city – I highly recommend it for a city break or twinned with another part of this lovely island.
08 October 2017
We often do villa holidays in Europe, as we like the flexibility and privacy they offer. They are now becoming so popular with my clients so I thought I would blog about one of my most recent stays in a villa. After spending time in the beautiful city of Palma we headed over to the south-east coast of Mallorca. Our villa was a three-bedroom villa with a private pool set in a lovely garden with clever planting of trees and bushes to keep it mostly private. This particular villa was walkable to bars, restaurants, shops and the beach which is rare with villas as many of them are more secluded and in need of a car. As we had a car and the villa was also close to many other little resorts, most days we headed out to explore and have lunch before returning to the villa to enjoy the late sun. Later in the evening we would head out to the local bars and restaurants. We had a choice of going to the small resort or heading down to a beautiful Marina. Villa holidays give guests so many options – couples who want a complete getaway, families who need the space for the kids to run around, or even large groups who need the flexibility of sleeping and cooking arrangements. If you do hire a villa without a car, it’s worth noting that many of them don’t allow you to check into the villa until 4pm and check out is 10am – so if your flights don’t match you need to organise what to do on your first and last day. Majorca is a wonderful island for a relaxing villa holiday with lovely scenery, great bars and restaurants and some lovely little beaches. Of course, there are also lots of other places worldwide where a villa holiday would be a great choice so if you fancy villa living, please feel free to get in touch.
06 July 2019
Lanzarote is another popular island in the Canaries with my clients. We first went over 20 years ago and thought it was time to re visit – we visited in January for some winter sunshine and were not disappointed. Last time we had stayed in Puerto del Carmen which is a very busy resort. Now being 20 years older we thought we would like to try Playa Blanca as it is more laid back. Playa Blanca is located in the South of the Island and you can see Fuerteventura in the distance. The town has a 5km promenade which runs from the Marina Rubicon at one end to the lighthouse at the other and has several white sand beaches along it including Flamingo Beach and Dorado Beach which are wide and safe to swim. Playa Blanca is picturesque and there are no high buildings. There is a huge choice of restaurants and cuisine and the quality of all the restaurants we ate in was excellent. There is plenty to do and see on the island - one being the Timanfaya National park which is a must do activity when visiting. This volcanic area which was declared a national park in 1968 is an amazing sight. You can have a camel ride here and eat lunch in the El Diablo restaurant which serves food cooked on a cast iron grill placed over a large hole in the ground. We loved the Jameos Del Agua and Cueva de Los Verdes caves in the north of the island. These were spectacular sights and are actually tunnels formed from the lava flowing from the volcanos. Rancho Texas near Puerto del Carmen is a park which is fantastic for families due to the amount of activities available. There is a parrot show, sea-lion show, birds of prey show and lots of other animals to view. A boating lake and children’s adventure playground are also included in the one admission cost. Our favourite by far is the incredible house that´s been created within a series of volcanic bubbles by local born artist and architect, César Manrique, it never fails to blow visitors away. It really is a must see when in Lanzarote - you will get a flavour from my photos. I would recommend Lanzarote for a holiday as its climate means it’s an all-year-round destination pleasantly warm, even in the depths of winter and it’s really convenient to get to. Depending what you want from a holiday would determine which resort I would suggest to you! Get in touch if you would like to discuss any options.
09 October 2016
Having lived in Andalucia, like many people we had only seen Malaga airport before this trip, but we decided to spend a few days in the city before heading off to the beach. We arrived early October but were blessed with blue skies and temperatures around 28 degrees most days. We stayed in the Old Town, near to Plaza de Merced. This was an ideal base for our three night stay being a two minute walk from the Cathedral and the Picasso museum and literally a few feet from the nearest bar and restaurant. We arrived around 9pm and headed off to the nearest tapas bar to get acclimatised. The following day we invested in an open top bus tour to get familiar with the city itself. Our ticket also included entrance to the numerous museums which allowed us to break the tour at various points of interest. We enjoyed the cathedral with its unfinished bell tower and the Picasso museum where paintings were probably worth more than it would cost to finish the tower itself! Also on the tour we headed around to the Pompidou centre near the harbour with the newly created eateries and shopping right on the quayside. We shared this area with two large cruise ships so it was pretty busy but still a very pleasant area to spend a couple of hours. Further around the coast is the Malagueta beach area. This was a lovely long beach with plenty of space and several bars, all within a 15 minute walk of the centre. Having taken in the cultural highlights we spent our last full day in the city checking out the retail scene. Calle Nueva and Calle Larios being the two main shopping streets with the normal range of brands but beyond them, past the Plaza de la Constitucion, the roads narrowed and offered more off-beat shopping with lots of small independent shops. All of these of course interspersed with tapas bars! We collected our hire car from Malaga train station and then headed east along the coast road to our villa between Torox and Nerja. While in this area we spent a few days relaxing before heading off on a couple of visits. One village, Frigliani was especially picturesque and we enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the whitewashed houses perched on the hillside. We also visited Lake Vinuela with its spa hotel and again found a good spot for lunch overlooking the lake. Although quite low after the summer the vibrant blue of the water was striking against the brown and green landscape. We also visited the town of Almunecar, where we had stayed previously for our final bout of retail therapy. In the evenings we either took a local bus into Nerja (€1 each) or drove to Costa Torrox, about 10 minutes away by car. Nerja is a well-developed resort with numerous bars and restaurants including traditional tapas alongside the international opportunities and many shops. We enjoyed a bout of people watching in Plaza de Calzana each evening with a cool sangria. Costa Torrox is a pleasant one mile stretch of pedestrianised promenade interspersed with restaurants and bars. Catering mainly to ex pats, there is a wide choice of international food on offer, including German, Dutch and Scandinavian restaurants as well as some Chiringuito's right on the beach. We particularly enjoyed Mambo, at the western end of the promenade which was also perfect for watching the sunset. Interestingly, a number of bars in this area served draft ‘alcohol free’ beer.....something there should be much more of! Overall we really enjoyed this Two Centre holiday on the Costa Tropical, but were especially pleased to have spent some time in Malaga city. For a short break, only 2.5 hours from the UK, you really can get it all there, culture, shopping, sunshine and beaches all practically on your doorstep. Highly recommended as part of a more traditional beach holiday or as an alternative to Barcelona and Madrid city breaks.
25 September 2016
Dubai is a great destination that I would recommend to all! I have been many times and stayed in different hotels each time, it is so diverse and has so much to offer for all ages! The hotels range in price and there are so many, you can choose from a hotel that offers a Waterpark, great choice of restaurants, shopping and a stunning aquarium! Or a hotel with a difference that has a layout designed to resemble an Arabian Town. Amongst the many new hotels in Dubai are some budget hotels – Holiday Inn Express, Ibis etc. which now makes Dubai affordable to a wider community of potential visitors. I have been lucky enough to have a tour around the iconic 7-star Burj al Arab hotel a couple of times – it is quite breath-taking but I would never stay there, one because I could never afford it and two because it was not relaxed enough for me. You can take a drink in the rooftop bar and dine in the underwater restaurant – but you have to make a reservation and have a healthy wallet! One of the most popular things to do in Dubai is to visit the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. Take the lift to the observatory deck (124 floors up) the views are amazing! You could also consider the Sundowner desert safari for an evening of authentic Arabian entertainment including dinner, camel rides, and sand dunes in a Jeep. The Dubai Mall is one of the world's largest shopping malls with many shops, although it’s not just shops; it is home to a luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens and dozens of restaurants and cafes - here you will also find the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. One of my favourites was cruising along the Creek on a Dhow, you can do this during the day or take a Dinner Cruise to watch the world go by. Dubai has so much choice in terms of hotels, call me if you need help deciding where to stay as getting the right location in Dubai makes all the difference. If you don’t fancy Dubai itself I have also visited other areas which are worth considering to see something more authentic.
13 July 2015
We arrived at Athens airport and collected our car for the 3 hour journey to Volos and the start of our Argonautical journey. About 90 minutes into the journey we pulled off the motorway and called into the small resort of Kamena Vourla for a light lunch. We arrived at Volos and took our first stroll down along the seafront with its numerous cafes and bars where we had dinner of fresh sardines and watched the yachts bobbing up and down. We identified Ermou Street as the main shopping strip so headed off in that direction. Many shops later we found that Ermou Street ended up near to the City beach, so stopped in what became our favourite bar, Mon Café, for a frappe. We then continued the walk past the beach to the small church buried in the hillside at the end of town. Walking back we detoured into Mon Café again and spent a lazy few hours drinking cool beer and enjoying the complimentary tapas on offer! Next day we decided to see the World Heritage site of Meteora and its precarious monasteries perched high on the top of the rocks. It took almost two hours to get there, but was well worth the trip. The views were stunning, even if the paintings and the collection of skulls in the main church were a bit gruesome! We followed up with lunch right at the base of the massive stone pillars in Kastraki village. We made a slight detour on the way back and drove close by Mount Olympus – and were rewarded with clear views of the summit! We also visited some of the more local Pelion villages. En route we passed a statue of a Centaur, which is in reference to this area being their ancient home. The first village was Portaria, which had several fine examples of typical Pelion mansions which are reminiscent of Swiss mountain homes! We then moved onto our favourite little village of Makrinitsa. This was full of quaint little shops selling local produce and a fantastic little church shaded under massive trees. From here you had spectacular views down towards Volos and the Pagasitikos Gulf. From Volos we headed to our second stop of the trip, a villa in Milies further down the Pelion peninsula. On the way we called into Kala Nera for a midday coffee. Kala Nera has a number of beachfront tavernas and bars as well as numerous smaller accommodation options. We headed inland to our villa, and having settled in, went for a wander around the village. It is best known for the regular mountain train that comes into the village from the coast. Once you get there you have a choice of restaurants and bars to relax in as well as some cute shops! Our favourites were the “Panorama” Taverna and the rooftop bar near the town square! From the villa we did a couple of trips down and across the peninsula. We found that we really liked the south of the Pelion, and found some fantastic little fishing harbours with waterfront tavernas. We particularly liked Aghios Kiriaki and Kottes, both being especially picturesque. On the way south we also called into Milina which has a lovely beach, numerous seafront tavernas and a particularly good boutique! If you want a more dramatic scene, head north east to the other side of Mount Pelion. Here you will find deep valleys and winding roads down to secluded beaches, as well as some hair raising mountain roads clinging to the sides of the mountain. The third part of our trip meant us heading off on a four hour journey to the island of Evia. We stopped off at one of Kamena Vourla’s seafront cafes for a coffee after about two hours. Once we reached Chalkida we crossed over the new bridge and onto our new accommodation in Nea Artaki. We had rented a small apartment right opposite the harbour, in easy reach of bars and restaurants and right opposite the local beach. That afternoon we had lunch at the nearest taverna and then later on walked round to Vista bar for a sunset beer. Once the sun went down we walked around to the other side of the harbour and had shrimp saganaki in a fish taverna! Breakfast was enjoyed overlooking the harbour in a small cafe before we headed out to explore the beaches further up the Evian coastline. We eventually decided on stopping at Politika’s long shingly beach, about 25 minutes north of Nea Artaki. We took two sunbeds near to a taverna and almost straight away were treated to a swim past by some dolphins! Fantastic! The next day we went to Zefiros beach. Like a lot of the beach clubs, the sunbeds are free as long as you buy drinks. We spent a nice few hours here in the sun and had a few frappes to keep the bar owner happy. To Summarise….. VOLOS is a great city – ideal for a few nights before heading off to a beach. THE PELION – a beautiful peninsular with some amazing scenery – ideal for anyone wanting off the beaten track Greece. EVIA is a very big island but not very well known to British Tourists, many of the menus have no English translations, so you need to know what you want to order – I wouldn't suggest Evia to first time visitors to Greece. This is our third Greek Road trip, if you need help deciding where to go in Greece that is different get in touch I would be delighted to discuss options.
25 January 2015
Thailand is a very special place to us, as we lived there for 12 months and have visited nearly all the beautiful islands this country has to offer. We have also been to Bangkok on numerous occasions and it really is one of our favourite cities, we even have our own ‘taxi driver’ now who collects us from the airport. We decided to spend the Festive period in Thailand once again – this time after starting and finishing in Bangkok we went to the beautiful island of Koh Samet. First of all we wanted to experience New Year in Bangkok, which was amazing – the hotels on the river sure put on a brilliant display of fireworks, which seemed to go on for ages. As well as the fireworks all the Dinner Cruise ships paraded up and down making the river an array of colours. After New Year we left Bangkok to head to Koh Samet for a week of relaxation. Koh Samet is around a 2.5hr drive from Bangkok, then you need to get a boat to the island which takes around 15 to 20 minutes depending which part of the island you choose to stay. The island, which since 1981 has been classified as national park, has a nightlife that can be described as limited, but not completely absent. What distinguishes this limited nightlife from Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui is the lack of go-go bars and discos. If you want an island with nightlife & lots of places to venture out to then this is not the place to go. We wanted a nice relaxing week and it suited us perfectly. The island has some of Thailand's whitest beaches, which have talcum powder type sand and together with the clear blue sea makes it perfect for beautiful photos. A limited road network free of heavy traffic makes the island ideal for visitors seeking relaxation in a hammock, in a cozy restaurant, or on the beach. We had the most amazing week, relaxing in what we think is one of the best hotels in Thailand. Before we headed home we spent a further few nights in Bangkok, as we were so chilled we felt we had to gear ourselves up to return home. We always stay at the same hotel right on the river, it's so handy for catching the Skytrain into the Centre for shopping and river life both during the day and in the evening is so entertaining we would never stay anywhere else. As well as Bangkok and Koh Samet, we've also visited Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Chaam, Hua Hin, Koh Chang, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai - plus many of the more smaller islands. If you are thinking of going to Thailand let me know as I am always happy to talk about one of my favourite countries.
05 October 2014
We wanted to take advantage of the range of flights into Athens, but having done the city highlights we wanted to visit somewhere new, but still accessible. After some research we decided to head south from the airport and look for one of the closer Cyclades Islands. We picked up our car at the airport and headed south towards Lavrion and then onto our evening stopover in Cape Sounio. We called into the ferry terminal at Lavrion to collect our ferry tickets and check the boarding process. We always find a little preparation makes for a much less fraught travelling experience. Whilst in Lavrion we found a café near the small harbour and sat down for our first (of many) frappes! There are a number of tavernas along the harbour front which we earmarked for when we make the return journey! We then continued onto Cape Sounio for our overnight stop. The following morning we made the 20 minute journey to the port and embarked on our ferry across to Kea. The ferry left at 8.30am and an hour later we arrived onto the small Cycladic Island of Kea (or Tzia as it is known locally). Our accommodation was about 10 minutes from the main harbour of Korissia along the coast. Our luxury pool villa had tremendous views across to the mainland and its own virtually private beach which was ideal for snorkelling. Korissia itself has numerous eateries along the harbour side and is popular with the yachting crowd. We actually found a small gyros restaurant just behind the local beach that became our favourite eatery here. The town beach itself is brown sand and, as we were here late in the season (although still up to 33 degrees), it was generally deserted, but does offer interesting viewing as the numerous ferries came and went. Kea itself is a fairly small island with basically one major road taking in all the main towns and beaches. The capital is up in the hills in the centre of the Island and is called Loulis. The town is precariously built onto the side of the hill and so no cars can get into the centre. There are a couple of car parks either above or below the town, but be prepared to take on some steps wherever you park. (Unless you go by taxi and get him to drop you off at the top and meet you at the bottom!) The town is a maze of narrow streets but as long as you orient yourself to the two large churches you shouldn’t go too far wrong. We had lunch near the Town Hall with great views down to the coast and over the rooftops. This was probably the most laid back capital we have ever visited so don’t expect many shops – Korissia seems to be the commercial centre of the Island. When we could tear ourselves from the villa we enjoyed visiting the neighbouring harbour of Vourkari. This is also very popular with the yacht crowds, and if anything is a little bit more up market than the busier Korissia. We went several times and had lovely fresh seafood or enjoyed the laid back vibe of Breezes Bar for frappe and “Greek finger food”! Our favourite beach was at Gialiskari, which has a great little beach bar and gently shelving sands. You can also get up close to the mainland ferries which come into the harbour right in front of you! Our villa had great views to the west, and as such offered fantastic sunset viewing, ideal with a few sundowners next to the pool. This generally meant that we ate in the villa so we can’t really comment on the nightlife but we think it safe to assume that it will be in character with the rest of the laid back ambience. That said, it does get busier at weekends with lots of people from Athens heading across for a short break so things may ramp up then. We returned to Cape Sounio for our last two nights, primarily to break up the journey back to the airport and to allow us to see something of this part of Attica. It also meant that we could enjoy our final day with only a 50 minute drive to Athens Airport. We headed up the coast towards Athens from our hotel and came past many deserted beaches, all just off the main road. We also came through a number of small resorts, each with their fair share of tavernas and bars. Our favourite was Palaia Fokaia. There is a small harbour here and a number of tavernas right on the water’s edge. We chose “Porto” and had a great lunch of calamari, skoudalia and saganaki while listening to the water lapping onto the beach! We really enjoyed our visit to this area and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys “off the beaten track” Greece, but who don’t fancy lengthy ferry crossings or long drives. We certainly managed to find everything we wanted, and all with a maximum of one hour travelling times. Finally, on our last day in Cape Sounio, we managed to visit the Temple of Poseidon that we saw at the beginning of our trip – and having enjoyed living right next to his domain for the previous week or so, we felt that was a fitting place to say our thanks – until the next time!
25 August 2014
Our road trip through Greece this year was up in Halkidiki, we started our trip by staying in Thessaloniki for 2 nights which is a great city located on The Thermaic Gulf. Because of its location there are many waterfront bars and restaurants. The city is the 2nd largest city in Greece, we actually preferred it to Athens, there are many squares to stop and relax in whilst watching the world go by, along with lots of shops and places of interest making 2 or 3 days in the city an ideal duration for a city break. For our 2nd stop we headed to a beautiful island just off the 3rd peninsular of Halkidiki – the island (Amouliani) which is mainly frequented by Greek tourists but we were lucky to have the use of a Villa owned by some of our Greek friends for a week. The island is very laid back with just a handful of bars and restaurants – but well worth a visit for anyone wanting to get off the beaten track. From the island we visited Ouranapolis, which is located right at the bottom of the peninsular – it is a lovely resort with some nice hotels and apartments to rent. The small town itself has an abundance of bars and restaurants most of them located with great sea views. We also visited Olympiada, which is the birthplace of Aristotle – a nice small town with a small centre with a variety of local shops. There is a good variety of bars and restaurants again all located with great sea views. After a week in Amouliana we headed back to the first peninsular, on the 2 hour trip across we experienced beautiful scenery and amazing beaches that could have been in the Caribbean. This part of Greece is one of the prettiest I have ever seen! The 3rd place we stayed was Afitos on the peninsular called Kassandra – this peninsular has some lovely resorts dotted all around – amazing beaches once again and a must for anyone wanting to experience terrific scenery in Greece. Afitos itself has a rich history which dates back thousands of years. The village has a preservation order on buildings and future developments so the charm of this village will never be lost. There are many cobbled streets of an old-world village, set on a hillside above a white sand bay. The beaches are made up of fine sand, and though there's a fairly steep path in between, there are tavernas and a beach bar down by the gently shelving shore. Afitos in the evenings are low key – focused on the few bars and traditional tavernas. I have to say some of the eateries have the most amazing views over to the middle peninsular. We loved Afitos as we don’t like anything too touristy – but there are other resorts on this peninsular to suit people who like a bit more nightlife. We have visited Greece many times and have seen many of the Greek islands and I have to say ‘Halkidiki’ is one of the prettiest parts of this beautiful country. I have so many photo’s I would love to share with you, but I am restricted to putting just 10 on here – I wish I could share more – Halkidiki really is so BEAUTIFUL and well worth a visit :)
15 March 2014
We spent a few days in Luang Prabang over the New Year period as part of a multi-centre trip around South East Asia. The first thing to say is that the weather is quite changeable at this time of year and temperatures can vary from up to 30c during the day to 10c in the evenings! The good news is that the enormous night market that starts about 5pm each evening in the town centre sells all manner of scarves, jumpers and jackets for the chilly evenings. Like all markets it is expected to negotiate and we normally started at about one third of the asking price and end up paying around half. The market itself actually closes the main route through town, so getting to the restaurants can be quite a challenge, especially later on as it gets busy. You can go down onto the riverside though if you want to avoid it, and tuk tuks are cheap and easily available if you don’t fancy the extra walk. The town itself is especially picturesque at the Nam Khan river end, near to the religious buildings that house the monks’ seminary. It is from here that the monks set out at 5am to collect alms for their daily meal. It is quite a sight to see over 200 orange clad monks walking in single file past crowds of people waiting to give donations. Well worth the early start. Another good trip is along the Mekong River for either a lunch or sunset dinner cruise. Not only do you get to see the daily activity of the river but you also have a couple of interesting stops along the way. We went for lunch and our trip included a stop at a village that makes Lao Lao, the local fire water, complete with ubiquitous dead snake or insect in the bottle! The trip then moved onto the Pak Ou caves to see the 1000+ Buddha statues in the cave temples, and then lunch was served as we cruised back to town with a cool Beer Lao! The highlight of our trip though was the Kwang Si waterfalls. You must do this, they are simply gorgeous. Everything you could wish for in a waterfall: jungle setting, blue water, swimming lagoons and an impressively tall cascade at the head of the falls. We got there about lunchtime which was before the afternoon crowds, but also in time for the temperature to warm up. (We passed on swimming though - maybe in the summer months!) To add to this trip there is an Asiatic bear sanctuary at the entrance to the falls. Here, bears that have been rescued from the appalling bile farms are nursed back to health and cared for. If you want to see some activity go around 12.30, which is feeding time at “Free the Bears”, but do check this beforehand. It is definitely worth spending a little time here to support this worthwhile cause. Overall we spent four days in Luang Prabang and generally felt that was enough for us to experience the highlights of the area. If you're more into outdoor pursuits then there are a host of trekking and rafting tours available to justify longer here. And in case you need any further incentive to visit this area, the French legacy of delicious pastries will not disappoint you! To save you looking it up, thank you (very much) in Laos is khop jai (lai lai) - [pronounced kop jeye lie lie].
02 February 2014
We spent several days in Siem Reap during December. This was a catch up visit to see Angkor Wat, something we had missed on previous visits to Cambodia. We chose a boutique hotel which was a 5 minute walk from the main night market and entertainment area. Even so, it was still only $1 dollar for the local tuk tuk to bring us home. Most transactions in Cambodia are in US$, although you can pay in local riels as well. 4000 riels = $1, irrespective of actual exchange rates! The entertainment area centres around Pub Street. As the name implies it has lots and lots of bars and restaurants, many open into the small hours. You'll also find lots of massage shops here with foot massage from $1 for 10 minutes, although $15 per hour is the accepted rate. You'll also find the night markets and arts and crafts shops in this area with some nice local designer shops along with the normal tourist memorabilia! As for the main event, the whole area around Siem Reap is crammed with temples and palaces. It is worth doing some research before you arrive to make sure you see everything you want. Park tickets have to be purchased and come in 1,3 or 7 day passes. We went for the lightweight single day pass and chose just 3 of the main temples. The day started off with us joining a very long queue of traffic heading towards the ticket booth. Thankfully our driver managed to ignore most of the normal traffic rules to get us to the front of the line pretty quickly. We then went to the booth and had our picture taken which was then printed onto our entrance ticket. We were now on our way to the first temple with our knowledgeable guide. We wouldn't recommend going without a guide as they add so much more to the visit, not just information, but also by making the visit much less stressful. Avoiding the worst of the crowds is almost as important as the information. Our first temple was Thom Prau, featured in the Tomb Raider movie. It is known as the jungle temple as they have left a lot of the trees in place, growing in, on and through the temple stonework. We found the force of nature with the religious imagery a beautiful combination. This became our favourite site! From here we drove for about 5 minutes to our next temple, Bayon. This is renowned for the many faces of Buddha on each of its towers. The books say 216, but our guide assured us there was 220. We didn't count them but probably got that many photos!! For lunch we went to a restaurant near Angkor Wat before the crowds arrived. It worked as we were the only people in there. We got served nice and quickly and then headed to see Angkor Wat (AW) as all the crowds headed in the opposite direction for their lunch :-) As we headed towards AW, we passed by a pool of water that gave a perfect reflection of the temples outline. The best picture of the day. The temple itself was interesting, with massive carved frescos on the walls showing Hindu mythology all around the ground floor. You then climb up to the top of the temple via 48 (very steep) steps. From the top you get great views around all 4 sides. After leaving the historical Angkor area we headed off to Tonle Sap lake. It's only about a 20minute ride from the temples so can easily be done either as part of a day tour, or from Siem Reap itself. On arrival we bought our ticket for the boat ride out to the floating village. These people are mostly Vietnamese and they have a fully functional village moored at the edge of the lake, including schools, shops, a church and even a hairdressers! Passing beyond the village you head out into the lake itself and it is quite a shock to realise you can't see the other side! Following a relaxing foot massage back in town we headed across to Kings Road, a new development of restaurants across the river from Pub Street. It was nice and calm here and we enjoyed khmer food in a riverside setting. We loved Siem Reap and were surprised by the vibrant nightlife which complemented the cultural feast we expected. Both are good, but together they make this part of Cambodia not to be missed.
07 September 2014
We based ourselves in the beautiful city of Madrid, because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid has warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is the capital of Spain but tourists seem to regard it as the little brother of Barcelona. I'm not sure why as Madrid has a lively night life, the largest museum, even more cosy squares and is a well-known shopping city. Madrid is also a fascinating city, with stately boulevards, beautiful squares, beautiful and imposing buildings, working-class neighbourhoods with winding streets full of traditional taverns and typical shops, open-air markets and of course the Prado. One of the best ways to see the city is aboard the open-top double-decker bus tours. There are two tours covering all of the city's highlights, from historical sites and monuments to the modern Madrid of skyscrapers and cosmopolitan architecture, and of course it's 2 famous football stadia, the Bernabeau of Real Madrid and the Vicente Calderon of Atletico. Back in the centre of the City, the stately Plaza Mayor was one of my favourite places to chill and have a drink or two. If people watching isn't enough, have a look at the plaza’s epic history which is told in pictures, through the carvings on the circular seats beneath the lamp posts. It's also well worth visiting the Palace and do make sure you have a coffee or lunch in Plaza Oriente. Gran Vía is the large shopping street and the major road in the centre of the city and is one of the most popular shopping areas. It is a very busy street, so keep this in mind as you select a hotel. We stayed near the Plaza del Sol and found this to be an ideal location, especially as our hotel had its own tapas bar! Ideal after a hard days sightseeing. After spending a few days in Madrid we went off to visit 3 other lovely cities. We collected our car in downtown Madrid and headed south east to Toledo, stopping off in Aranjuez on the way. Aranjuez is home to an 18th century palace of the Spanish Royal Family and is a lovely place for a visit. We actually played Rodrigo's Concerto d'Aranjuez on the way there and found that really created the exact mood for our visit. About half an hour further on we arrived into Toledo. This old walled city is located on a mountaintop with a 150 degree view, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River and contains many historical sites, including the Alcazar, the cathedral and the Zocodover, a central market place. We stayed just outside the city but this gave us great views of the walls and magnificent buildings once they were all lit up at night. The Cathedral here is stunning and surrounded by small alleyways, full of atmospheric bars and restaurants. We found a great cafe at the top of town, just next to the Alcazar with fantastic views, well worth the walk! Our final stop was in the ancient city of Segovia – about an hour's drive to the North East of Madrid. Segovia is Spain and Castile at its best, with twisting alleyways, the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe, pedestrian streets where no cars are allowed, the aroma of roast suckling pig around every corner - all surrounded by the city's medieval wall which itself is bordered by two rivers and an extensive green-belt park with miles of shaded walks. The first thing you see when entering Segovia is the impressive Roman aqueduct, with its 118 arches arranged in two tiers, which looks like it was built 20 years ago, not 2000! To make it easier to look up at it there are plenty of cafe's near here to sit down and enjoy the view over your coffee cup! The Cathedral here is also on a grand scale and reminded me of a wedding cake for some reason. Finally, the Alcazar which looks like something out of a Walt Disney film, has some beautifully decorated rooms and a small museum to look at before attempting the 152 steps up to the top of the Tower! We made it and were rewarded with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside. We love Spain for its culture, climate and laid back attitude – visiting these beautiful places also adds a sense of the fantastic history and wealth of the country for good measure. A very photogenic trip!
30 June 2013
Past visits to Greece have taken us to Athens, Corfu, Kefalonia, Zante, Samos, Kos, Thassos, Santorini, Lesbos, Lefkas, Rhodes, Crete & Mykonos. On our recent visit, this time we wanted more culture along with a more authentic experience. We flew into Athens for our trip to the far side of the Pelopponese. On the way we stopped off at the magnificent Corinth canal. It really is amazing to consider the work that went into creating this feat of engineering in the late 1870's. We found a small cafe overlooking the canal that served the best Souvlaki we have ever tasted!! We continued across to Kyparissia and our base for the next few days. Initially we spent a day exploring the town and its hilltop castle before enjoying dinner near the quiet harbour. Kyparisia is also an excellent base for several great trips. One of our favourites was Ancient Olympia, which is just an hour drive away. It was amazing to see the stadium site which held 45,000 in its day! From here we also visited Ancient Mithoni with its magnificent amphitheatre and also visited the lovely coastal towns of Pilos, Marathopolis and Finikounda. After Kyparissia we moved into the middle leg of the Pelopponese and headed towards the area known as the Mani. Here we had a Luxury Private Villa with a pool, perched on the side of the mountains overlooking the villages of Stoupa and Aghios Nikolaos. We enjoyed the laid back vibe of Ag Nik and its waterfront tavernas. Stoupa also had a good selection of beachfront eateries and bars although this was more like the normal Greek seaside resort that is popular with Brits. One of the main trips from here is to the Viros Gorge with its views of the Tarygetus mountains. Overall the Mani is blessed with magnificent scenery that reminded us of Madeira and has some lovely villages both on the coast and in the mountains. Be warned though, it is definitely a relaxing place and you'll find it hard to leave. We certainly did. From here we drove across to the Attica region on our way back towards Athens. We stopped off in Sparta, mostly to say hello to King Leonidas, of "300 Spartans" fame. We also found the town to be a nice place for a cold frappe. After Sparta we visited Greece's first capital, Navplion. This has a fantastic Venetian castle and lovely waterfront. We only stopped off briefly but wish we could have stayed longer to explore properly. We'll definitely come back here next time. We actually stayed in Porto Heli for a couple of nights. This is a very popular resort with the Athenians and many of them bring their boats for the weekend. This gives the resort a lively vibe and gave us a nice look at all the swish yachts! From here it is also possible to visit the little Island of Spetse. This is another upmarket resort for the Greeks and is easily reached by a 10 minute ferry from the nearby town of Kosta. It costs all of €2 each way, and the ferries (water taxi really) goes every 20 minutes or so. On the way back to the hotel we found a lovely secluded beach and had some relaxing beach time. Rather than drive back on the day of our flight home we came back to the Athens area the day before and spent a night in the affluent Vouliagmeni. It was a public holiday when we were there so the beaches were packed with locals but the nearby beach club was still worth a visit. That night our hotel pool area transformed itself into an Arabian Nights style lounge so we finished the holiday off with a well-earned cocktail or two (you must try the "Bounty" ....mmm). We found the variety between the rural solitude of the Mani and the local holiday flavours of Porto Heli to be an interesting and different experience from our previous Greek experiences. We have definitely had an insight into Greek life that you don't normally get from a Greek Island package.
26 January 2013
From Fiji we moved onto Samoa via a short flight to Apia. Samoa is actually made up of ten islands with the main ones being Upolu and Savaii. Upolu is the more developed of the islands. That said the pace of life on either island is relaxed! Last year Samoa crossed the date line to move closer to its main trading partners in New Zealand and Australia, as a result we had to contend with a +13hour time difference to the UK! You certainly need to give yourself time to adjust with a trip here! Samoa had been badly affected by cyclone Evan but you couldn’t tell from the smiling locals we encountered everywhere! There is a very strong culture of family and religion in Samoa and this is reflected in the warm welcome that you get, even in the local shops, and always in English. That said the local greeting of “Talofa” is always welcomed! We stayed on the south coast and had an Ocean View Suite, literally metres from the beach. Once again it really is a challenge leaving the resort but in the interests of research we went on a tour of the east coast. Upolu is quite a small island so the distances aren’t that challenging and we managed to see the highlights in about five hours. That said, if you want to stop on one of the best beaches in the world (according to Lonely Planet) you may want to take longer! The beach at Lalumanu is simply stunning and the snorkelling is excellent. Add to this, small beach fale’s and you may not want to leave! Also recommended is the To Sua Ocean Trench swimming pool, although the (very) steep ladder into it may deter the more nervous amongst you! We also visited Apia town and it’s colourful flea market before heading to the famous and historic Aggie Grey’s resort for a local Vailima beer before heading back on the Cross Island Road seeing several waterfalls and some stunning viewpoints in the Island’s central hills. We didn’t have time to visit Savaii but it is only a one hour ferry trip from Apia and, if it’s possible, it is even more laid back and relaxed than Upolu. Definitely one for us to try on our next trip this way! With Samoa, you are on a small island which has naturally maintained its laid back and friendly feel. The resorts here aren’t as well developed as somewhere like Fiji but they maintain a rustic and natural charm. Whichever you choose, you will come back with fantastic memories of warm and friendly people, beautiful islands and you will be refreshingly chilled out. Just make sure you give yourself time to wind back up again before going back to work!
26 January 2013
Fiji is made up of 322 Islands with Viti Levu and Vanua Levu being the two major ones. Beyond that you have the island groups of the Yasawa’s and the Mamanuca’s. These island groups contain many single resort islands and are generally accessible via Denarau Marina on Viti Levu, which is about 20 minutes from the main Fijian airport at Nadi. Our plans in Fiji had to be hastily rearranged due to cyclone Evan passing nearby shortly before we were due to arrive. Our original plan was to stay for one night near to Denarau Marina so we could have a short transfer to our Captain Cook Cruise which was to take us around the Mamanuca Islands. The resort of Denarau itself in my opinion isn’t your typical South Pacific resort, consisting of a range of upmarket properties and several major hotel chains including the Westin, Radisson and the Hilton. Around the marina there are numerous restaurants, bars and shops. We went to Nadina’s which did authentic Fijian food. It is also from here that you pick up the myriad boats and ferries that head out for day trips around the smaller islands, including Bounty Island, Castaway and Treasure Islands. I would recommend Denarau as an ideal starting point in Fiji, but would then suggest moving on to either the islands or the Coral Coast for a more authentic Fijian experience. We actually decided to move to the Coral Coast as cyclone Evan had passed right over the top of the Yasawa and Mamanuca islands so our cruise never took place as the boat got badly damaged! We stayed at a lovely hotel which was about 45 minutes from the airport. We chose a lagoon view suite which was extremely private and allowed us to enjoy the large day bed and bath on the balcony! The hotel had nightly Polynesian shows and “survivor” type torch lighting ceremonies which really got you into the South Pacific mood, even though we couldn’t do the dance moves! From here you can do trips into the volcanic island interior, snorkelling trips out to the hotel’s house reef or scuba trips further afield. We decided to hit the Capital, Nadi, for some retail therapy and enjoyed the local flavours of “Tappoo City” the Fijian version of Harrods. Apart from that the resort was far too nice to leave and we enjoyed further leisurely days just watching the reef fish and the stunning sunsets. Fiji is quite well developed as a tourist destination and is very popular with Australian families due to the short flight from Sydney and Melbourne. It is certainly worth having a clear idea of what sort of resort you want in Fiji before booking as whilst the South Pacific conjures up romantic images to us far off Europeans, it can fade pretty quickly if you end up in a family resort by mistake!
13 January 2013
We recently spent three days in Shanghai and were glad that we had given ourselves the full 72 hours that the new visa exemption allowed us. We basically split our time into three different areas of focus. We decided to take advantage of the hop-on hop-off bus tours to get around the city. On day one we explored the famous promenade known as the Bund, with its fantastic views over to the financial centre on the opposite bank and its own fantastic gothic buildings. It is also here that you can pick up the river cruises, either during the day or the evening dinner cruises. We’d recommend both, as your bus ticket includes a day time river cruise, but you must see the Bund when it’s illuminated at night as well. Our second day was focused on the retail therapy necessary in any great commercial centre. The main shopping road is the Nanjing Road which runs from the Bund all the way into the city, with large parts of it pedestrianised. Other areas worth visiting for shopping include the hugely picturesque Yu Gardens which isn’t too far from the cruise terminal and also the nice area of Xin Tian Di. On the last day of our stay we wrapped up the cultural aspects of the city with a visit to the Jade Temple and also to the Shanghai Museum and Contemporary Art Gallery. As you’d expect there are numerous restaurants and eateries to explore in the city. Other than the dinner cruise, we decided to eat in the Xin Tian Di area which has numerous bars and restaurants, including one owned by Jackie Chan! Our last evening was spent with the famous acrobats of the Era Showtime performance which is similar in concept to the Cirque du Soleil. This was followed by a quick visit to the famous Jazz Club at the Peace Hotel, back on the Bund. All in all we spent a very full three days in the city and were glad that we did. It is a fascinating city with a lot of interesting recent history, from its “Paris of the East” days in the 1920’s up to its modern major commercial trading role! A fascinating place to visit!
17 September 2012
We decided on a short break to Mallorca during September for 5 days and decided to base ourselves near the pretty harbour town of Porto Cristo. We had an apartment that had a roof terrace so were able to avoid any need for trips to the beach or poolside sunbeds! We were also conscious of trying to avoid the all inclusive and party animal areas of the Island and managed to find numerous lovely low key areas to enjoy the warm autumn weather and fantastic views and fabulous yachts! Porto Cristo itself has a lovely harbour surrounded by low cliffs and a sandy beach with a large swimming area. To us it had a local feel and we found that most of the bars were occupied by young locals. There are also many restaurants to choose from but we found one with great sea views half way up the main road out of town which did great sardines. Another lovely harbour is right up in the North at Puerto Pollenca. This also has the benefit of having a nice inland neighbour as well in the town of Pollenca itself. Both were hugely photogenic, the port with its lovely promenade and some stunning villas and the town with its historic centre. If you're feeling energetic take a climb to the top of the steps for a great view of the town and surrounding countryside. If you go past Puerto Pollenca and take the Formentor road you will be treated to some fabulous views and dramatic cliff top photo opportunities. This was actually one of our highlights of the whole trip!! We then went to the capitol Palma for a day. We arrived early to make sure we got the full benefit of the shopping areas before the afternoon siesta! There are some great areas for shopping around and behind the cathedral which are worth a look at and numerous tapas bars in the old town. We also went to the Placa Major which had a craft market selling fantastic jewellery pieces. Our final call was to the magnificent Cathedral for some respite to the mid afternoon heat. We then decided to go down to Port d'Andratx. As soon as you arrive here you can feel that it is an affluent resort and is definitely for the well heeled. Dining prices could be expensive right on the sea front but prices did moderate as you moved further back from the sea. That said the atmosphere was lovely here and we happily spent a couple of hours watching the flash boats (and flashier cars) cruising up and down. Probably the one message we got from our trip is that Mallorca is a lot more than the all inclusive party Island. Whilst it does have that side in certain areas and can be a bit like Blackpool in others, there are classy little areas that can be found quite easily. Just make sure that your travel agent knows the difference!!!
17 July 2012
The first thing to say about Madeira is that the airport is cut into the side of a hill and the approach to it is quite interesting! That dramatic approach set the tone for the entire stay and the hilly terrain was actually the highlight of the trip. We picked up our hire car for the week and set off to our villa in the West of the Island. The journey there is made much easier now that the tunnels go virtually all the way along the south coast. Our Villa was beautiful with uninterrupted views of the Atlantic Ocean and a 5 minute drive from the beach and marina at Calheta. We decided to split the Island into manageable chunks to make sure we saw as much as possible. We started off visiting Funchal, the Capitol city of Madeira. The city is built into a valley but fortunately there is a cable car all the way from the picturesque Old Town to Monte (at the top). Here you have the choice of a return trip on the cable car or take the toboggans down to Livramento (about ½ way!). We chose the cable car as we had an appointment for afternoon tea at Reids Palace – the grand old dame of Madeira. If you get chance this is a must, and even better if you can stay here. It really is a stunning hotel full of old world charm. It's also not too far from the delicious Madeiran wine company of Blandy's. We spent a happy couple of hours here seeing how the product is made and, of course, tasting the products!! Our favourite was the Malmsey, a beautifully sweet aperitif! Having “done” the city we headed up into the central area, known as Paul de Serra. This is the flattest part of the Island and reminds you of British moorland. From this plateau we dropped back into the rugged terrain and enjoyed the views from Boca da Encumeada, virtually the middle of the Island. We then went to the North coast via Sao Vicente and headed west along the infamous ER101. It used to be possible to leave the new road and follow the precarious old road right around the cliffs, (un)fortunately these have now been closed but the route is still a bit hairy in places, especially around the pretty town of Seixal. From there it is a short drive to Porto Moniz and it's rock pools! Great if you want to experience the Atlantic swell in the safety of a swimming pool as they are formed out of rock pools and regularly get waves coming over the walls. We hadn't heard about the Madeiran levadas until we got there, but quickly decided that we needed to go and do a “Levada walk” at some point. These irrigation channels offer a variety of walks all across the Island and range from vertigo inducing to quite genteel, so be careful which one you pick. We chose to follow a levada from Ribeiro Frio to Balcoes and were rewarded with fantastic views of the rugged terrain at the end! There's also a cafe half way in case you need it. From here you're not far from the Pico Ruivo, Madeira's highest point if you need some more exercise, or the picturesque (and driveable) “Nuns Valley”. Our final trip took us through the spectacular Ribeira Brava gorge which almost cuts the Island in half. We had to keep stopping to enjoy the views of the towering hills on either side of the road! We then stopped and had dinner near the beach at the town of Ribeira Brava itself. We were also surprised at the varying climates across the Island. We could be sunny and warm in the west, but by the time you got to Funchal it could be cloudy. We would certainly recommend getting out and about, not only to see the fantastic scenery, but it's usually possible to avoid any cloudy conditions somewhere on the Island. Overall we loved Madeira, and were blown away by the scenery and dramatic landscapes at virtually every turn. Add to this the wild flowers that are everywhere on the Island and you really do have a photogenic little gem in the Atlantic. Don't be put off by it's somewhat staid image, get out there and explore it and like us, you'll be wanting to come back again! After all, it's only 3 ½ hours from the UK!
05 February 2012
Our first experience of the Cape Verde Islands was on Sal, which is probably the most developed in terms of tourism. Virtually all of the tourist action in Sal is based around the town of Santa Maria in the south of the island, and approximately 20 minutes from the airport. Around the town you have the choice of a number of traditional 3 and 4 star properties or if you prefer all inclusive options there are a number of larger hotels on the outskirts. The Island is popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders due to the constant breeze during the winter months. If you’re not into watersports, then the beach looks just as good from the comfort of your sunbed. At Santa Maria Beach you have lovely white sand and a gently shelving water which makes it ideal for families. Further north and the beaches tend to be much rockier, and there was even a difference between the town beach and the one near the all inclusive resorts around the corner. The smaller hotels are all within easy walking distance (5 or 10 minutes) of the centre of town and a large selection of restaurants and bars. The main cuisine seems to be Italian at the moment and we found that Leonardo’s was the best for that type of food. There are a number of restaurants serving Cape Verdean specialities, especially the Chupchapa, which is a rice and lentil stew with either seafood or meat, or often both! (If you like it a bit spicy, don’t forget to ask for the “Piri Piri” sauce.) Angela’s on the beach is a real local eatery that we liked. If you like watching sunsets, we found the best bar was at the Oljos D’Agua hotel, or if you like mixing with the surfer dudes, try Angulo’s at the far end of town. As for activities, the Island doesn’t have a wealth of sightseeing opportunities, but there are a couple of places that are worth visiting. We decided to hire a car, but follow the main Island tour route (mostly because at least a ¼ of the route was completely off road!) On this tour you can visit a number of local villages, including the small port of Palmeira. From there it is off-road up to Brancona to see the lagoon, and jump in if you are feeling brave! Then more off road to the capital city of Espargos. This is the commercial centre and is a nice place to wander round for an hour or two, watching the locals going about their daily business. After Espargos, it is off to Pedro De Lume and the Salinas (or Salt Works). There are a number of salty lagoons that offer the same experience as the Dead Sea. There is also a restaurant and spa that make the hike up and down the hill worthwhile. Most people do this as an excursion and normally in the back of a pick up on bench seats – you have been warned! Back on the coast and you have all manner of excursions available including snorkelling and diving trips, glass bottom boats and all the other watersports you would expect. Boat trips to the nearest Island of Boavista can also be arranged at Santa Maria, but all the other Islands are also available to visit with short flights available most days. On the whole we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Sal and Santa Maria in particular. There’s not masses to do here, but if you want a winter break that is a change from the Canaries, which offers warm weather, nice beaches and a couple of interesting days out, but with only a 6 hour flight and only 1 hour time difference then this is ideal – or if you’re into wind powered watersports, this is possibly heaven!!
29 October 2011
We were lucky enough to be invited to spend time onboard Crystal Serenity for a Mediterranean cruise. Crystal Cruises offer a 6 star service and although they have one formal night per week the rest of the time the dress code is ‘smart casual’ and has a very informal atmosphere – we were allocated a veranda cabin which was very spacious and well equipped. We embarked in Rome, however because we had been to Rome before we chose to get straight onboard and experience the ships facilities whilst most of the guests were off visiting the city of Rome. There is plenty to do onboard; we took advantage of the gym, spa and the pool, then we had to decide which of the many restaurants to choose for lunch...such a tough life! Throughout the cruise a daily programme is delivered to your stateroom each evening to help you plan for the next day. In the evening there is a good variety of bars and restaurants to choose from as well as the casino and the shows. At 9pm we set sail for Sorrento, arriving early the next morning. In Sorrento she was tendered, which means you have to get a small boat to the port - easy enough and very well organised by the staff. We spent the day in Sorrento looking around the shops and spending time in pavement cafe to indulge in the odd glass of vino! We then spent a day at sea whilst sailing across to Kusadasi in Turkey. The weather was beautiful so it was nice to sit around the pool on deck and dip in the jacuzzi now and then. The next day we arrived in Kusadasi and once again spent time looking around the bazaar’s – there are also excursions that can be booked if you want to travel further afield whilst in any of the ports being visited. The highlight of the trip for us was visiting the island of Mykonos, it’s such a small beautiful island – so typically Greek with white and blue buildings. We spent time browsing the beautiful little shops and then had a drink or two in some cute little waterside tavernas. After a lovely day we sadly had to leave and sail overnight across to Athens. After breakfast we disembarked in Athens and chose to spend a further 2 nights in the city centre. We stayed at the Athens Hilton which is a short walk from the centre and has amazing views across the city to the Acropolis. The Acropolis and the Parthenon dominate Athens - even if there were no Parthenon, the Acropolis is worth the visit just for the magnificent view of Athens and the surrounding temples below. At the Acropolis, you can join a tour group organised by language, though there may be a short wait while a full group is gathered. These tours are led by licensed guides and usually cost about 12 euros in addition to the entrance fee. If you prefer, you can also book an organised tour ahead of time which will generally include transportation from your hotel. Constitution Square is the heart of Athens in many ways. It's a large, open square which often hosts holiday events, it's the location of several of Athens' most renowned luxury hotels, it's an intense public transportation hub, and it actually has the Parliament Building along one side of the square. Pedestrian-only Ermou Street leads off of it, providing access to some of Athens' better upscale shopping. The Plaka is the area of winding streets around the Acropolis. It's renowned for its small shops, restaurants, and some good examples of local domestic architecture. It's very touristy, but it's still interesting to see and experience. My tip is to stop somewhere for a frappe (iced instant coffee) every few hundred feet, especially in summer. After visiting so many of the Greek Islands it was nice to visit the capital city eventually. We enjoyed both parts of this trip and I would highly recommend Athens as a city break and Crystal Cruises for anyone who likes quality along with six star service!
16 September 2011
As a special birthday celebration my husband treated me to a trip to Reims in France to go CHAMPAGNE tasting! We travelled by Eurostar in Leisure Select from London to Paris then had to change stations to catch our train onto Reims. We stayed in a lovely hotel right in the centre of Reims and had a nice room overlooking the courtyard. Reims is a lovely city and has plenty to offer, many bars, restaurants and excellent for shopping. It also has a lovely cathedral with an array of stained glass windows. However the main reason for the trip was to visit the Champagne houses to sample the different varieties of Champagne, I learnt so much about this wonderful drink whilst also seeing how it’s made and where its stored……Brut, Sec or Demi-Sec anyone? We chose to visit Pommery, Tatinger, Mumm and a local French one called Martel, four was enough as they are all similar, but it is very interesting to see the caves/cellars and how they differ slightly. A tip is to wear something warm when visiting the cellars as they have to keep them at a constant 10c to enable the ‘Champers’ to age correctly and ensure the right amount of bubbles. Something else I learnt was that when you store your champagne you should lay it flat and it keep it at a temperature of 10c ideally. Also it does not improve with age and should be drunk immediately – honest!!
19 July 2011
Kefalonia was the last of the Ionian Islands we have visited, but it is definitely a firm favourite of ours now. The scenery is fantastic all the way around the island. We started our trip in Katelios. Katelios itself is a small quiet resort, with a number of seafront tavernas and a couple of music bars, but not what you would call a lively resort by any means. As we had a hire car for the whole trip we managed to visit all of the islands main resorts and found a fair few hidden gems! Our first trip took us to Skala, the more developed resort on this part of the coast along a nice sea front road. There are a number of small coves along here, ideal for snorkelling. Skala itself has a nice range of bars and restaurants. From Skala, it isn’t too far to the harbour town of Poros. Whilst not as touristy as its southerly neighbours, it still has a number of nice sea front restaurants. There is one near where the ferry docks, built into the rocks, whilst over the hill there are a number of restaurants overlooking the beach. We then continued up the east coast and arrived in Sami. Even the drive here from Katelios was lovely, with lush green valleys at every turn! Sami has a lovely y harbour area with a range of restaurants right on the harbour side. Just over the headland is Antisami beach, which, whilst pebbly was still good for swimming. (You may recognise this as the location of the Italian camp in the film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”.) We then went up the west coast, starting at Lourdas, which has some very windy roads down to a long beach. We also visited Trapezaki, which has a nice sandy beach, which gently shelves away - ideal for families. There is also a nice taverna right at the beach. We then travelled to Spartia, which is a large village. Here we stayed in a lovely villa for two, which is available to rent through one of our suppliers (ask for details). There are about five tavernas within a five minute drive of the villa, with one right above the nice sandy beach. From here we visited the capitol Argostoli, this was only fifteen minutes from Spartia. It is a pretty city and its appearance is helped by the building restriction on the island, meaning that no properties are higher than three storeys, which came in following the 1953 earthquake! It has a good pedestrianised shopping area and a main square surrounded by restaurants. It also has a working harbour and a number of tavernas right by the water. It is also here that the big cruise ships come in and where the loggerhead turtles come to feed off the fishing boats! Very near is the resort on the Island Lassi, which has nice, but busy beaches and contains most of the islands nightlife! While in Argostoli, do take the frequent ferry across to Lixouri, its only 20 minutes and costs 2.50€ per person and 3.60€ for the car. This is a smaller version of the capitol, but still offers nice shopping and eating options. From here you can explore the red sand beaches of Xi, which are ideal for families. Alternatively head up to either Petani Beach which is similar to Myrtos in appearance, or try Atheras beach, which is very low key, but extremely photogenic and has a seriously cute taverna. The longest trip was up to the pretty fishing harbour of Fiskardo right in the north. There are miles of dramatic coastal scenery on the way and you also pass by Kefalonias most photographed beach at Myrtos. Assos is worth a visit, another beautiful harbour and a very pleasant place to while away an afternoon watching the world go by. In Fiskardo, it is fun watching the yachts jostling for space in the small harbour. We took the alternative route back and called into Agia Effimia for a nice cold frappe on the way. The route across the centre of the island also took us past the Robola co-operative winery. Good wines on offer for tasting along with a tour of the winery. We loved it so much we aim to go back soon. For more photo's fllow the link and visit my facebook page! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Trish-Griffiths-Travel-Counsellors-Melton-Mowbray-UK/138387982895965
17 February 2011
We went to Gambia for Xmas and New Year, the 6 hour flight from the UK and the “almost” guaranteed weather along with no time difference being the main attractions. We stayed in 2 places, firstly at Bijilo, which is at the southern end of the tourist areas, and then onto Cape Point, which was at the opposite end, although they are only about half an hour apart, in Southern Gambia. There are many excursions to occupy you in The Gambia, with most concentrating on the wildlife in the area, specifically the 500+ species of birds seen in the country. There are also trips which highlight the terrible history of the slave trade, specifically based upon the Roots book by Alex Haley, who traced his roots back to this area. A lot of the Gambia River, certainly near the coast, is made up of mangrove forests and there are numerous operators that offer tours around this interesting habitat. The slow pace of these tours allow ample time to enjoy the sunshine and keep a look out for the local wildlife. If you don’t fancy a boat trip, then we would recommend a visit to Lamin Lodge. It is a small rustic restaurant, right in the middle of the mangroves, and, despite the bumpy ride to get there, offered a very relaxing place to have lunch and soak up the peace and quiet. One of our favourite trips was to Tanji, to watch the fish being brought in for sale straight off the boats. It was a riot of colour, noise and smells and a fascinating glimpse of a Gambian way of life that appears little changed over the years. The boys bring the fish straight from the boats to the barrows, which are then lined up and the local women then start the bartering process to buy them. Others are bought by the smoking houses, and are taken straight in to be smoked. We had a brief tour of one of these, and saw how they prepared and smoked the fish, which are exported to other West African countries. Gambia has a number of quality restaurants in this area, and a wide choice of cuisines. We tried Indian, Mexican, as well as delicious Gambian food, and international cuisine. Our favourite was the Domada, which is a peanut sauce, and also the Benachin, which is normally served with spicy red rice. Delicious!! The main “action” is at the Sengambia strip, which is basically a collection of bars and restaurants adjacent to the Senegambia and Kairaba hotels. There is a wide range of restaurants here, but our favourite was Love 2, which served up delicious steaks. Taxi’s are outside every hotel, but in fairness the road worthiness of some of them leave something to be desired. Our advice is that if you find a good driver, with a good car, stick with him. They will be more than happy to collect you, wait for you to finish your evening and then take you back again. We used Omar, who spoke good English and was very helpful and knowledgeable about the area. We used Omar for our trips to Lamin Lodge and Tanji, and will be happy to pass on his details. Whilst up at Cape Point we found a lovely restaurant called ‘’Calypso’’ – it was right next to the beach and a small lake. In the lake were 4 crocodiles that could often be seen basking in the sun. The place itself was very low key, with a nice ambience and very, very relaxing. We went for lunch most days and sat relaxing watching the birds and crocodiles in our thatched cabana. The best time to visit Gambia is November to February when the temperatures are more moderate and it’s the drier season. The rainy season is June – October when it becomes extremely hot.
12 December 2010
Our trip to Bruges to see the Xmas Markets started with a very pleasant journey on Eurostar from St Pancras - there are 3 classes of travel on Eurostar - Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier. We chose to travel Standard Premier which allows you bigger seats and a light meal with drinks (including wine). You need to change trains in Brussels for your onward journey to Bruges. The whole journey depending on your train connections takes about 3.5-4hrs. It’s easy to see why Bruges is known as the ‘’Venice of the North’’, this splendid medieval city is one of Belgium’s crown jewels. No other European city has the feel and the look of medieval times…. It ranks, even today, among the important cities of Belgium. It is also the capital of the Belgian province of West-Flanders. A lot of people take day-trips from Brussels to Bruges, but there is too much to see here to fill only 1 day. The best way to visit Bruges is to spend at least one night in one of the many beautiful and cozy hotels. We stayed for 2 nights and chose to stay at the Martins Hotel which is in a fantastic location, right behind the Market Square. We were lucky with the weather, as it was snowing when we arrived, but the next day it was dry and had a lovely feel of Xmas. However I can imagine Bruges is always beautiful, in the summer time as well as in the winter time. The main market square had an ice-rink which allowed children (and adults) to test their skills of ice-skating. Around the perimeter of the ice-rink were lots of wooden huts selling their Xmas wares as well as hot food and drinks – I am now addicted to mulled wine. Away from the Market square strolling through the tiny medieval streets can be an enchanting experience….nearly every street is worth a photo….the Medieval buildings, the canals, even the displays in the shops are very photogenic. Of course a visit to Bruges wouldn’t be complete without a canal or carriage ride, sampling the chocolates and waffles, shopping for craft work including Bruges famous lace, visiting art galleries, climbing the belfry or trying several of the more than 350 available Belgian beers. My husband managed to find a well known beer café he had read about and of course we had to try a beer or two! Phil had a beer called KWAK and I had a glass of ‘Raspberry Beer’ which I am now a fan of.... as well as Baileys and Hot Chocolate which is an ideal drink to warm you up during your afternoon walks!!
25 May 2011
We have been to Singapore a few times now as it is one of our favourite cities. Every time we visit we seem to find something different to do. It is also an ideal stopover choice on the way to Australia, or as a twin centre with other Asian destinations. We normally stay at the Fairmont which is right opposite the famous RAFFLES Hotel, where it is practically obligatory to visit the Long Bar and sample the Singapore Sling, and fling your nuts around the room! Another advantage is that the bus that takes you across to Sentosa Island stops just outside. Sentosa is well worth visiting to see the beach and Universal Studios, amongst many other attractions!! Also connected to the Fairmont is the Raffles City Mall – head to the basement for a wide choice of reasonably priced food options. One of my husband’s favourites is the ‘Toast Box’ – where you can have a ‘local breakfast’ consisting of Toast with Pork Floss and semi boiled eggs (yuk! – I hate the look of it….) – although the local coffee known as KOPI is delicious!! Outside of the shopping centres Singapore in general is a multi cultural food paradise…..You will find Indian, Chinese, Malay, Eurasian, French, Indonesian and many other types of food in food courts or hawker centres. A must try dish is Chilli Crab, especially down on either Clarke Quay or Boat Quay. In both of these areas there are many restaurants serving excellent food and you can take a boat trip around the area. We think Boat Quay is the more original area whereas Clarke Quay is a specially developed entertainment area – Boat Quay seems more popular with the locals rather than tourists, especially the after-work crowd! A must is a visit to Singapore’s busiest and famous shopping area, Orchard Road, which is heaven for style aficionado’s and luxury brand fanatics!! Alternatively go to Chinatown and Little India for cheap, quality goods while enjoying the cultural shopping experience, it’s also one of the best place to buy electronic goods. All the shopping centres are clean, very modern and air conditioned. This A/C is vital, especially as its virtually always hot and humid (and can rain at anytime) and when it is sunny it is very hot! The sun is very strong here as it is so close to the Equator, so wear plenty of protection. If you can move from the shopping centres or restaurants the public transport system here is among the best in the world. Options include public buses, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or Light Rapid Transit (LRT) which take you to almost every corner of Singapore. The MRT is very clean, cheap and gets you round the city a lot quicker than waiting for buses or sitting in traffic. We did a small tour on the MRT, and it is fascinating to see the parts of the City State outside of the commercial areas. Finally, don’t forget the Singapore Flyer, the largest observation wheel in the world, and Marina Bay, a fantastic entertainment complex, which even has a rooftop pool (57 storeys up!) People have said Singapore is too “clinical”? If by “clinical” they are referring to the safe, clean, reliable, efficient, well organised and orderly nature of society in the City, then we’re happy to admit - we like clinical!
03 January 2010
We went to Egypt to visit the other main centres following our Nile Cruise many years ago. Our visit started in Sharm El Sheikh to see what the Red Sea resort had to offer. We stayed at the Grand Rotana Hotel in Sharks Bay. We chose this hotel as it is has its own “house reef”, and the snorkelling certainly didn’t disappoint. Like a lot of the reefs in this area, they run out from the beach for about 30 – 50 m and then drop sharply away. Most hotels have jetties that allow you to walk out to the reef edge, and then snorkel in the deeper waters. At this hotel, there were several small paddling areas in the sea, but serious swimming had to be out past the reef. There were ample sunbeds spread over a wide area of sea frontage, so it was never a problem finding a sunbed, even over the Christmas period when we were there. The regular offer of cool towels was also appreciated even in the Sharm “winter” – where it was still clear and sunny and about 28c. The sea temperature was still about 24c, so there was no need for any wetsuits – at surface level anyway. This hotel also has the biggest pool in the area, equivalent to 3 Olympic pools, in a free form style! The water was quite nippy though, and it only had a small heated area. Again, there were plenty of sunbeds available around the pool. We only took lunch in the hotel, at the sea front bar, overlooking the reef, preferring instead to go into Naama Bay at night. The hotel offered 3 free shuttles per day, at 10am, 4pm and 10pm returning at 2pm, 7pm and 12pm respectively. (If you miss the bus, taxis cost 55 Egyptian pounds [LE], about £7 at the time of writing) there are many, many bars and restaurants in Naama Bay, serving virtually every type of cuisine. (Our favourite was the roof top at the Camel bar – great for people watching.) From Sharm we went up to Cairo, where we stayed at the Grand Hyatt, overlooking the Nile River. Although some of the external bars were “dry”, alcohol was served in the lounge on the 40th floor, which also gave great views over the Nile, Cairo, and even out to the pyramids at Giza. We had decided to pre-book all of our transfers and tours simply to avoid the hassle and requests for “baksheesh” at every turn! We had 2 main priorities whilst there; to see the pyramids and Sphinx, and to visit the Egyptian museum, although retail therapy was also available at every turn!! We took our 1st private tour to Giza, and got up close and personal with Cheops’ and Co’s masterpieces. We also went back in the evening for the sound and light show. (Wee tip here, at the back of the seating area is a cafe, which has a raised seating area, giving clear views and a warm drink – as the evenings can get cool in December.) On our final day we visited the Egyptian Museum. Our 2 main objectives here were to see the artefacts from Tutankhamen and the Rosetta stone. The former was as stunning as we thought it would be, especially the headpiece! Unfortunately the latter was somewhat hidden away due to refurbishment and didn’t even have any label on it (a bit of a shame for something described as the “cornerstone of Egyptology”!) We had about 1 ½ hours in there, and that was sufficient for us, as anything more would have been too long. Overall, a very enjoyable winter break combining sun sand and snorkelling with a cultural and jam-packed city break.
04 December 2009
After visiting Bangkok many times we decided to venture to Northern Thailand, which is famous for hill tribes, handicrafts, elephants and the biggest night market in the whole of Asia. It's much greener than other parts of the country, and is often referred to as 'The Rose of the North'. Our first stop was Chaing Mai where we stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel, which is in the centre of the city, right next to the night market. The market is huge, selling designer clothes, watches, perfumes, jewellery and anything you can think of, all fake, so do not pay high prices. As well as the market stalls there are many ‘massage’ shops open till late, offering anything from a foot massage to a full body massage, average price for a 1 hour foot massage is 300Thb (around £5.00). There are also many restaurants to choose from but many of the locals all eat in the food halls where you buy food vouchers from the kiosk as you go in. There are pictures of the dishes they make, so you can point to what you want and give them the coupons. A meal with drinks for 2 people comes to about £5.00, incredibly cheap and good food – and then if you have any coupons left over you can cash them in at the kiosk. Overlooking the city on the sacred mountain is Wat Soi Duthep. This temple houses relics of the Buddha. Everyone goes here so it can get very busy and hot in the afternoon, so it’s better to go in the morning. There are temples everywhere, especially in the old town, with some dating back to the 1100's. We also visited the Zoo, just outside the city mainly to see the 2 Giant Pandas which were donated from China. When we were there, a baby Panda had just been born. We hired a car and drove ourselves up to Chiang Rai which is even more beautiful (in my opinion) – we stayed at the DUSIT ISLAND resort which was a 10min taxi ride to the centre of town, the hotel is located on an island and the views from the rooms across the countryside and up to Burma are amazing. Chiang Mai also has a night market but nowhere near as good as the one in Chaing Mai. From here we did our trip to the see the Hill Tribes, but we drove ourselves and hired a guide to come with us for 2 days. There are many different tribes in this area so it pays to take local knowledge with you. We visited several villages and met the people, but the most interesting were the Karen (“Long Neck”) tribes. At the village, all the girls from the age of five have a ring put around there neck and one is added each year after that. We thought the rings were hollow but they were solid brass, very heavy and they even sleep in them. The only exception is for pregnant women. At Yapha village, the women are famous for wearing very large hoops in their ears, creating a large gap in the earlobe, ouch! After visiting the hill tribes we drove on to Mae Sai, the most Northerly point in Thailand, and the border point with Myanmar. For a small fee, you are able to cross over the border and visit the market there. The goods are much cheaper than in Thailand, but you couldn’t be too sure on the quality of the stuff!!! There are a few other local trips on offer with local taxi drivers. We didn’t have much time, so made do with the market and came back. From there we drove to The Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos all converge across the Mekong River. Here we visited Laos, and went on a boat trip to Dong Sao Island, passing Myanmar on one side of the river, having Thailand behind us, and Laos on the other, we said you’d need a guide! Our final visit was to a tea plantation, for some Tang Ting Tea, and then we stopped for delicious Kwaw Soi, or noodle soup, at a roadside cafe that our guide recommended. We would heartily recommend Thailand’s North. The culture, landscape and people offer a more authentic “Indo-Chinese” experience, rather than the “Land of Smiles” on offer on the southern beaches. That said, it’s only a short, low cost hop back to those delights!
17 January 2010
We flew to Kota Kinabalu from Singapore and initially stayed at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria resort. The hotel is outside the city, but they offer a shuttle bus to and from the main shopping centre in the town. One word of warning, we really struggled to get cash from the ATM’s in the town, so would definitely advise you to take travellers cheques. On our first day we visited the orang-utan sanctuary at Rasa Ria, which is actually part of the hotel. After an induction, we were taken into the jungle to the feeding area. Here the orang’s are usually younger, so much more playful and interactive with the wardens, and of course that bit cuter!! We watched them feed and generally playing around, before the heat got too much and we headed back to the hotel pool. The following day we arranged a tour of the Monsopiad Head hunter village. This was a really interesting day out, and gave you an insight into the way the locals lived up to fairly recently. It was also interactive, with opportunities to try local weapons (catapults and blowpipes), local dances, trying the local “fire water” as well as chewing beetlenut! (My Husband tried it, and ended up with red teeth for a good few hours afterwards!!) After a further few days relaxing on the beach we moved to the other Shangri-La hotel (Tanjung Aru) - This hotel is much closer to the city centre, and also offers great views of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. The beach here is much smaller, but the hotel offers shuttles to a number of the small islands nearby. It was then time for our trip over to Sandakan. After a 5.30am start and a quite hairy flight we arrived at Sandakan and met our guide. On arrival we went to the world famous Sepilok orang-utan sanctuary. As we got out of the taxi, we saw our first adult lazing on the roof of the gift shop – quite a surprise! We then made our way to the feeding area, which turned out be quite popular, so don’t expect any private viewings!! When we visited, the weather was dry, but it was fruiting season, so most of the apes were happily feeding in the jungle, so only 7 or 8 came to feed. That said, it was still exciting to see the leaves rustle, and then suddenly seeing the apes appear from the trees. What absolutely beautiful creatures! We then went on a city tour with our guide, and visited a Chinese Temple with fantastic views over the city. We also visited a local market, the fishermen’s village, built on stilts, and also to the memorial to the victims of the infamous Death March (we didn’t know too much about this, but its equally as sad a story as the Death Railway in Thailand). We finished off with a cool beer by the sea before taking our flight back to Kota Kinabalu. A thoroughly memorable day! We decided to try out one of the smaller islands for a day and took the shuttle across to one of the beaches out in the Bay. We decided on Sapi Island which was recommended for the snorkelling. We enjoyed a peaceful day on the Island and headed back to the resort, enjoying a final sunset drink in the sea front bar at the hotel. We really enjoyed Borneo, but it’s still relatively undeveloped and not for the faint hearted in places. The hotels offer all you’d expect, but once outside is does become a lot more basic. The jungles, local culture and wildlife is fantastic, but unless you go trekking, expect to see it with lots of other people. Next time we go, we’ll definitely climb Mount Kinabalu.............................honest!!
17 January 2010
We started our trip in Perth, deciding to spend a couple of days around the city. We stayed at the Hilton hotel which was well situated in the business district, walking distance to the river and the main shopping and entertainment areas. We used the bus for the city tour to give us a flavour of the place, and then hopped onto the Blue Cat ferry which ran us up and down the length of the city along the river. We also caught the cross river ferry to southern Perth. The following day we took the ferry across to Fremantle and visited the historic prison, initially built to hold the early convicts, but it was still used until fairly recently! I’m glad we were only visiting! We also decided to do a wine cruise down the Swan River. It was glorious weather and the beautiful scenery and good wine made it a day to remember (not to mention the Sandalford Port!!). We were also fortunate enough to see river dolphins as we cruised back to the city. Having got a taste for the local wine we hired a car and drove down to the Margaret River area of WA, staying at Smiths Beach. Alcohol seems to be one of the main industries around here, and this includes beer, so we called in to the Bushshack Brewery to try their chocolate beer!! Interesting?! The following day we visited Margaret River itself, which is a pleasant country town with a very useful tourist information office, which gives details of all the areas vineyards. We spent some time there planning our wine tasting route. Too many to mention, but the chocolate liquer at the Grove Winery was delicious. We then headed back to Perth, visiting Bunbury en route and stopped for lunch at Preston Beach. We also had a pleasant afternoon in Mandurah, before watching the sunset on City beach in Perth. The following day we took a flight up to Broome and visited the famous Cable Beach to watch the sunset. We hired a car and explored the local area, including visiting the Lighthouse and looking for dinosaur footprints (unsuccessfully) which are found in the rocks just off shore. We also went to the Mango brewery at a place called 12 Miles and visited the mangroves and Town Beach. Broome is famous for its pearl industry and there are a number of attractions telling the story of how the old pearl divers lived. We spent a week here, but to be honest, 2 or 3 days would be sufficient, unless you intend to do some trips into Kimberley where they filmed the movie “Australia” From Broome we flew to Darwin in the Northern Territories. We were here during the “Dry” season, so the weather was just about perfect, but you could still feel the humidity in the air. We stayed near the marina at Cullen Bay, where there are numerous bars and restaurants. There are also buses running into town frequently from here, so it’s pretty handy to get to and from the town centre, although we spent most of our time at the marina, especially the Buzz Bar! We also did a very pleasant sunset cruise from here. After 3 days in Darwin we headed to the Red Centre, and Uluru (or Ayers Rock). We stayed at the Lost Camel resort, which is part of a complex of purpose built resorts, ranging from 5 star to backpacker. There is absolutely nothing outside of these resorts, apart from dust and flies, and so you tend to feel a bit of a captive if you spend too long here. We stayed for 3 nights and felt that this was just about right, especially if you want to see the rock itself a couple of times. We went on the Sound of Silence evening trip, which includes dinner and star gazing. This was one of our highlights, especially being able to see Saturn and her rings through the astronomer’s telescope – just amazing! We also visited Uluru at dawn, and watched the light and colours change on the rock surface. This trip also included visiting the weirdly shaped Olgas, and walking through Walpa Gorge, which are again highly recommended. This trip showed us the extremes of Australia, from the lush, productive and fertile areas around Margaret River, to the tropics and the steamy mangroves around Darwin, to the harsh, unforgiving “Red Centre”.
30 September 2009
Spread over an area equal to twenty-five percent of the USA, the fifteen islands that make up the Cook Islands offer everything you expect from your South Pacific Paradise. We chose to visit the Cook Islands after a visit to New Zealand. The flight is 3.5hrs from Auckland, which then goes onto Los Angeles, so you could visit the islands after a visit to LA. We split our stay between the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki as we had heard about the beautiful Aitutkai lagoon. The Cooks Islands are also known for their laid back Polynesian lifestyle. Rarotonga is the main island where all the international flights land. It’s also known as a high island as it was formed from a long-dormant underwater volcano. The island is not very big - we hired a car and it only took us 1 hour to drive all the way around. By the way, when you hire a car you are allowed to use your Driving License for 24hrs, but after that you need to apply for a ‘Cook Islands Driving License’ which is easy to get from the local police station for a cost of $20. There are plenty of nice bars and restaurants spread around the island, which is why it’s best to hire a car to make sure you sample the best of them. If you don’t want to drive though, you could join a mountain trek across the island (if you are feeling energetic), explore the marine life in the reef, or visit the picturesque villages and fantastic beaches. The cultural show, which is free of charge, is held on a Saturday morning at the town’s market and is very interesting and colourful. Make sure you try some local food – we tried IKA MATA – raw tuna, which is not as bad as it sounds. There are also many stalls selling local produce and wares. We stayed at the Crown Beach Resort which is located on a perfect beach, and was ideal for snorkelling - we saw octopus, conger eels as well as millions of fish, all about 5 yards from the beach! This hotel is on the west coast, so also gave us the most amazing sunsets. Aitutaki is located north of Rarotonga and is a 45 minute flight away. The island features spectacular lagoons that were created when the volcano's central peak fell into the sea. The island is well worth a visit for its natural beauty and tranquillity. If you don’t want to stay, although I cannot imagine why, you could choose a day trip by air which includes an island tour and lagoon cruise. Lunch is included and prepared while you relax, explore the coral or hand feed the fish. As a special treat, take a trip to one of the uninhabited islands, or motus as they are known, for that genuine cast away feeling. Here, we chose to stay at the ‘Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa’ which is on its own island. This is truly paradise and our beach bungalow looked directly onto one of the lagoons. We relaxed and enjoyed the idyllic location by just chilling or kayaking, snorkelling and swimming in the beautiful lagoon. Whilst staying in Aitutaki we chose a lagoon cruise that visited ‘One Foot Island’, where for a small charge you can get your passport stamped at the local post office – which is actually the only bar on the beach. The colours of the lagoons here are amazing, so many different shades of blue and magnificent and if you like snorkelling there is an abundance of different species of fish to see. Accommodation on both of these islands range from basic to 5 star luxury, so they cater for everyone, and the currency is the New Zealand dollar. With regards the weather, the drier cooler season runs from April to November, and the warmer, more humid (and wet) season runs from December to March. "No artist's palette could ever conceive of a more perfect, more luminescent turquoise than that of the lagoon of Aitutaki, arguably the most beautiful in the world." So Steve Davey has written in his book, "Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die".
13 September 2009
We arrived in Christchurch at about 3pm, after a short flight from Brisbane, so it allowed us to get straight into the city for a look around. (We got some fantastic shots of the Southern Alps on the flight in!) The following afternoon we got our hire car and headed down the Banks peninsula to Akaroa. The town itself has a nice harbour, with some good cafes overlooking the water, but the highlight was the Summit Road. This offers some great scenery and is an ideal gentle introduction into the South Islands landscape. That night we took in a show, Miss Saigon. Now onto the big stuff! We set off to traverse Arthurs Pass, and it was a lovely sunny day, and as we crossed the Canterbury plains we could see the Southern Alps looming towards us. Our intention was to drive over to the west coast, but when we arrived in the village, we were warned of an impending snow storm. Not having full winter gear, we decided to go as far as the Otira viaduct, 10 minutes past Arthurs pass and meet the Kea’s. Fabulous cheeky little fellas, though don’t leave them on your car too long, they’ll have it in bits! We then got chased back to Christchurch by the snow storm, and took comfort at the Dux de Luxe pub. Great real ale! We then headed down to Queenstown on a short internal flight. We stayed right on the lake, about a 10 minute walk into the town. This place is known for outdoor pursuits, and everywhere you look there is bungee and other mad pastimes for sale. The place has a nice atmosphere, but it may be a bit too “rad” in peak season. We went for the gentler pursuits, including a lake cruise with great scenery, and mulled wine! Then it was Phil’s highlight – the Shotover Jet boat! All you can say is 'wow' – you have to do it. The following day, our last in Queenstown we were due to take a scenic flight to Milford Sound. Unfortunately the wind was too strong for the light aircraft, so we weren’t able to get there. If we’d taken the coach tour option we would have got there, possibly worth considering if you’re there off season like us. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back! That was it for the South Island, we then headed to Auckland and the warmer north. We stayed in Auckland for a few days and enjoyed the great views from the Hilton, right on the waterfront. We toured the city on the free bus, and did a harbour cruise. We then had an early morning pick-up for our Bay of Islands tour. This tour is excellent, combining a cruise amongst the magnificent coastal scenery of the Bay, with some historical insight into New Zealand’s development at the Waitangi Treaty grounds. On the cruise, we were visited by a pod of ORCA’s. A whole family unit including a baby swam right around our boat, fantastic. On our return, we ate in the Viaduct area, and if you get chance, try the mega bacon butty at O’Hara’s here. Now back under our own steam we set off for Rotorua and stayed right on the lake. We then went to Hell’s Gate, one of the many sulphur pools in the area. Weird, it’s like an alien planet, and hard to believe the Earth was all like this at one time. As the light faded we had a mud bath and relaxed in the warm spring waters. (Warning – wear something old – the smell of sulphur never comes out!). On our way back to Auckland, we drove through the Bay of Plently area. We first stopped off at Mount Manganui, which is a nice beach resort with a lovely wide beach. We then saw the Kaituna River jetboat. Well we couldn’t resist another go, but this time just the two of us, wheeeeeeeeee! It was also interesting to see the kiwi fruit orchards in this area. On our final day in Auckland we took a local ferry to Devonport which takes about 10 minutes, we had a late breakfast and had a look around. Later on we went to see a Maori cultural show at Auckland museum, which was very entertaining to say the least - note the photo with the scary Maori's! We then took the evening flight to the Cook Islands.
06 September 2009
We started our trip in Melbourne, and spent several days exploring the City and it's varied neighbourhoods including St Kilda, Chinatown and Federation Square, all of which had a good choice of restaurants. Also, don’t miss the view from the top of Melbourne 360 tower, fantastic at sunset! The highlight though was a trip to the MCG to watch an Aussie rules football match. The “Four n twenty” pies here were fantastic too! We then hired a car and set off down the Great Ocean Road – fantastic scenery, especially around the 12 Apostles rock formations. We got as far as Port Campbell and then headed back towards Melbourne, stopping overnight in Geelong. Then it was down the Bellarine peninsula to Queenscliff and onto the ferry to Sorrento and from there to Philip Island. We stayed overnight in Cowes and went to the hugely cute Penguin Parade, watched wild roo’s and joeys near the Nobbies, and finished off with excellent fish and chips! It was then back to Melbourne for an early flight to Sydney, and yes, she’s as good as she looks on the TV! I think our favourite bit was an early evening drink at the Opera Bar, just below the Opera House and looking across to the Harbour Bridge while the sun went down. Wow! Don’t forget to do all the trips while you’re here – Bondi Beach, Darling Harbour: for some great (and inexpensive) restaurants, old Sydney or “The Rocks” and of course shopping on George St. The ferry across the harbour to Manly is also worth doing, but allow some time for a beer or two near the ferry terminal as there are some great bars there. Back in the car now for a brief tour of New South Wales. First, we headed up the coast to Nelson Bay for an overnight stay. We took the very cute ferry to Tea Gardens in the afternoon, and on the way back had great fun watching the dolphins playing chase with the boat. Whilst here we went to Red Ned’s Pie Shop, we had Kangaroo Teriyaki and Lobster, Prawn and Barramundi pies! We also visited Shoal Bay to watch big Pacific breakers coming in and then headed off to the Blue Mountains. We stayed in Blackheath and went on a tour of some of the area’s best viewpoints, including Echo Point, Govetts Leap and Shipley Plateau for stunning views, and yes they looked blue! We also went to touristy Katoomba, before taking the scenic Bells Line of Road back to Sydney. The following morning we flew up to Cairns and drove to our accommodation in Port Douglas. Next morning and it was off to the Great Barrier Reef. We actually did a helicopter trip from the reef, and that was fantastic; seeing it from above was brilliant and gave you some idea of the scale of the place. Underneath wasn’t bad either, with brilliantly coloured fish everywhere, including a big, friendly Wrasse. Next day was off north to Cape Tribulation, about as far as you can go without a 4WD vehicle. We went into the Daintree Rain forest, and saw where it came to meet the beach, Daintree River, and came very close to the snoozing crocs – scary! – And finally through the Mossman gorge, a nice nature walk. Our final port of call now, and it’s into Brisbane. Whilst in the city, we took the City Cat ferry up and down to get our bearings and stopped off at Eagle St Pier and Southbank beach (a man made beach in the middle of the city). Then it was off south down to the Gold Coast for a look around. On the way we stopped to visit the locals at the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. We got as far as Coolangatta and then headed back towards Brisbane stopping in Surfers Paradise and Southport for refreshments. After this, we headed north to the Sunshine Coast and up to Noosaville and Noosa Heads. We then headed back down the coast road stopping at Mooloolabba before driving through the picturesque Glass House Mountains and back to Brisbane for our last night before we headed off to New Zealand.
22 March 2009
We decided to do our Vietnam tour from north to south, starting in Hanoi and ending up in Ho Chi Minh City. In Hanoi we stayed in the Old Quarter, not far from Hoan Kiem Lake. This is the traditional commercial heart of the city with many shops and restaurants. We stayed for three days in Hanoi, using it as a base, and only spent one day in the city itself, but we felt that was enough time to see all the main points of interest. The other days we visited the Perfume Pagoda, about 2 hours north of Hanoi, and one of the main Buddhist sites in Vietnam. This is a good opportunity to see the countryside around Hanoi, and includes a very picturesque 1 hour boat ride to the temple. We also went to Halong Bay – possibly the highlight of the whole trip! The scenery is stunning, and even though it was cloudy the whole time, it didn’t detract from the beauty and tranquility of the area. We stayed overnight on an old (but very luxurious) junk and visited the (aptly named) Surprise Cave, and a local floating fishing village. From Hanoi we flew to Da Nang, where we stayed at Furama Resort, right on China Beach which has gorgeous fine white sand. From Da Nang we were able to visit the two main cultural sites in the central area – Hue and Hoi An. Hue was the imperial capitol of Vietnam during the 18th century, and the impressive Citadel still stands as a reminder of this past time. Unfortunately there was heavy fighting around this area and a lot of the original structures were destroyed in the Vietnam War, and there are some reminders of this more recent history still to be seen. One other bonus of taking this trip is that you cross the Hai Van pass, a great coastal road that climbs up into the hills and gives you great views. We also visited the lovely Hoi An – another highlight! The central area of this town appears not to have changed for many years, and offers an insight into life a couple of hundred years ago. Now, as well as being hugely photogenic, it is a retail delight, with many art and craft vendors showing their wares, at very reasonable prices. There are also many restaurants, some right on the riverside – one tip here, if you cross the river, they get even cheaper. It was here that my husband drank beer for 32p a pint, but make sure to ask for “fresh beer” – it is what they call draft beer. From Da Nang we flew to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) in the south of the country. We stayed at the majestic Majestic Hotel, right on the river. The rooftop bars offer great views over the city and you could easily lose an afternoon just watching the world go by from here. This hotel is also at the heart of District 1 which has the main tourist sites and the most high-end shopping and restaurants. It is also opposite the river cruise terminal, if you can cross the road! We wandered across one evening and just went on board for a few drinks as we had already eaten - it was 50p each for the trip, and was a very enjoyable hour or so. HCM has many iconic buildings, from its French colonial past up to those made famous through the images of the fall of Saigon from the 1970s, so a city tour is well worth it. If you’re interested in a Vietnamese perspective on the “American War”, do visit the War Remnants Museum, be warned though, a number of the exhibits are not sanitised in any way! We also visited the Mekong Delta, a town called My Tho. It’s about 2 hours from HCM and we did it in a local taxi – they charge about $10 per hour. We hired a boat in My Tho and took a 90 minute trip around the delta, and into the backwater canals – again a very beautiful landscape. If you do think about visiting Vietnam, it is worth remembering that tourism is still relatively new. Be aware - they eat virtually anything, especially in the north – “Dog anybody??”. As for the traffic – IT IS MANIC – especially in the cities – just go with the flow and enjoy the difference to home – you often don’t get any other choice!
27 February 2009
For our trip to Bali we decided to stay in Sanur, and chose the Bali Hyatt. We felt that Sanur would give us the most chance to see the “real” Bali, without it being too touristy, or remote. There were lots of restaurants and bars in the locality, but it still had a distinctly Balinese village feel, with plenty of local life around. The other advantage of Sanur is the coastal path that runs the entire length of the resort, great for hiring a bike and exploring the beautiful beach and the many restaurants and local shops on the beach front. We experienced a Kecak dance show at the hotel; this was a fascinating introduction into the Hindu art and dance of Bali, and was typically energetic and colourful. The art and architecture is probably the island’s greatest virtue, so do try to take in some of the unique examples of the Balinese Hindu culture, if you can drag yourself away from the lovely beaches. We visited the resort of Nusa Dua, courtesy of the Hyatt, which offered a free shuttle bus to its sister resort the Grand Bali Hyatt. Nusa Dua is a purpose built tourist area, south of Denpasar airport, and is a collection of luxurious 5 star properties, ideal for seclusion and relaxation, but be aware that you’ll need transport to see anything of Balinese life. We then started our tour of the island with our guide Gusty, who is extremely knowledgeable about the place. We started out and headed north towards the interior of the island, and very quickly left behind the tourist areas of the south. Our first stop was at Besikhar temple, the Mother Temple, in the centre of Bali. As these temples are in constant use, there is always something going on, and we saw preparations for a festival, as well as a group of villagers bringing offerings. The black volcanic rock is a fantastic looking material, and adds an extra quality to the striking architecture of the temple complexes. We then made our way to Lake Batur, and had lunch overlooking the old lava flows from Mount Batur’s last eruption. Finally we went to Goa Gajah, the cave temple of Ganesha, the Hindu Elephant God. We continued our cultural tour the next day with a visit to Tanah Lot, the temple perched on a rock in the Indian Ocean. Don’t miss the holy snake in the cave opposite the temple, it’s considered good luck to touch it! We also visited Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Kuta is very popular with young Australian tourists and is VERY commercial, with many, many bars, restaurants and nightclubs, probably on a par with the Spanish Costas for the British. Legian and Seminyak tend to be smaller versions of this theme. From here we again headed inland and went to visit the rice terraces. We would recommend a visit to this area as it is a very attractive area. The views are stunning, and it’s fascinating to watch the farmers going about their business in what looks like complete harmony with their surroundings. Finally we made our way to the picturesque Lake Temple at Bedugul. We also visited Ubud, the cultural heart of the island. It’s definitely worth considering a few days here, not just to soak up the artistic ambience, but also it’s a good base for exploring the North of the island, something we’ll do when we come back! Whilst in Ubud, make sure to have Babi Guling, the local speciality of suckling pig; it’s delicious (the most famous shop is opposite the market in Ubud, near the old palace, and it’s cheap as well, just follow the crowds!). If you’re feeling adventurous, also try Nasi Jingo, it’s a local snack of rice, chilli sauce and a few other bits served in a pandanus leaf. Again, really cheap, great taste, and you’ll really impress your guide/taxi driver with it! One other local speciality is the Padang restaurants. They have their wares on show in the window, and will bring out one of each dish for you when you sit down. You’re then only charged for what you eat, a great way to sample a range of local dishes. If you are thinking of going to Bali, do consider a twin centre, and most definitely drag yourself away from the beach - the island’s interior is simply stunning. The best time to visit Bali is April - October, we visited in Feb and saw rain on a few days.
18 December 2008
If there is 1 Asian city you have to visit, Hong Kong is it! It certainly does live up to all it's hype, and has to be one of the World's most photogenic cities, at least from the water! Going in December made it an ideal opportunity to do some Christmas shopping; we also managed to find time to do quite a lot of sight-seeing. One big tip is to buy an "Octopus" card. These are available at any MTR (underground) station and cost HK $150 (approx £12.00). These are great because they can be used on any public transport, including the ferries, buses, trams, even car parks and some visitor attractions, and saves having to dig about for the correct change all the time. They can even be topped up at any 7/11 store. We stayed at the Harbour Plaza Hotel in Hung Hom in Kowloon. A great hotel with fantastic views over Victoria Harbour to the Hong Kong waterfront. It also has a great (heated!) roof-top pool that offers the same view! Its 5 minutes to the Star Ferry terminal which takes you to Central or Wanchai on the Island. It also has the Whampoa Centre an easy walk around the corner, which has more than enough good restaurants. (It was obviously a good choice because the Shenzhen-7 astronauts were staying there at the same time as us! It was the first time I’ve exchanged waves and a smile with an astronaut!) We did quite a lot of shopping around Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui. Mongkok for all things electrical, especially in the Computer Centre on Nelson St, and then down to Nathan Road for the designers (and the ubiquitous copies!) on offer. We visited the Avenue of Stars to watch the “Symphony of Lights” - It’s on every night at 8pm and is the worlds biggest sound and light show, a must see in Hong Kong. We went over to Hong Kong Island via the famous Star Ferry to visit Victoria Peak. Another little tip, take the number 15 bus up to Victoria Peak. You see more than on the Peak Tram, and the route is pretty precarious at various points, especially on the front top seat of the bus (sit on the left hand side for the scariest view!!). Once there, you get one of the most famous views in the world, simply breathtaking!! We took the Peak tram back down to the City, and took the tram along the length of the City to North Point, stopping off at various places, including Causeway Bay (for more shopping!) on the way. Finally we took the North Point ferry back to Hung Hom and dinner at Whampoa. We also spent time doing our own Island tour to see outside the city .This time we took the bus to Aberdeen, and its famous floating Jumbo restaurant. We took a Sampan ride around the harbour to see all the fishing boats, and then got dropped off at the restaurant for a light lunch, after which the restaurants free ferry took us back to land. We visited the beaches! It was about 18c when we were there, which was just nice for a walk along the sand. We stopped at Repulse Bay, but probably should have gone to Deep Water Bay instead, it just seemed that bit more laid back! From there it was onto Stanley, and another market! Stanley was really pretty and had loads of restaurants near the waterfront, it almost had a Cornish seaside feel to it. When back in the City we took a ride up the mid-levels elevators to SoHo, for more eclectic shopping. Hong Kong has more shops and restaurants than you can visit in a year, let alone a week, but we tried to see as many as possible. It really is a shopper’s paradise, and the place has commerce at every corner. Take walking shoes, plenty of money, a big dose of patience and a culinary sense of adventure, and like us and the astronauts, you’ll find Hong Kong OUT OF THIS WORLD!!
06 June 2018
My husband and I visited Canada for our 10th wedding anniversary, and the trip was equally as memorable as the celebration. We spent four weeks on the trip and concentrated on the west coast, between Vancouver, the Rockies and an Alaskan cruise, just stopping off in Toronto to break the journey home, and of course to see Niagara. We arrived in Vancouver and stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, overlooking the Canada Place Cruise Terminal, and with the Burrard Inlet and Grouse Mountain as the backdrop it was a fantastic location. We stayed in Vancouver for 4 nights and hired a car to fully explore the Vancouver area. It is a fantastic city, and has everything from mountains to beaches, all within easy driving distances. Our highlights were Grouse Mountain, to visit the Grizzly bears, "Coola" and "Grinder", and the views of Vancouver, the Capilano Suspension Bridge (which is not for the faint hearted), and Stanley Park. We also did a harbour cruise, shopped on Robson Street and visited the white Beluga Whales at Vancouver aquarium. After Vancouver we spent a few days on Vancouver Island. We drove up to Campbell River, passing some fantastic beaches with great views across to the mainland and the Coastal Range Mountains. Whilst in Campbell River we took a trip to view wild Grizzlies hunting for salmon on the Orford River. What an experience, we were stood yards from wild bears. At one point we had 4 of them around us and saw a mother and her cubs! After this we travelled to Victoria, the state capital for a night before returning to Vancouver. We then moved west, and flew to Calgary, this time for our drive through the Rockies to Jasper. We visited the stampede ground, the Calgary Tower, with views of the distant Rockies and visited the Tyrrell Badlands and dinosaur museum. From Calgary we drove to Banff and stayed in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is just like a fairy tale castle, surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountains. We decided to hit the spa, and spent several hours soaking in the thermal spa waters, with its outdoor hot tub!! What an afternoon!! The following morning, we took the Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, and then it was onto Lake Louise for 2 nights, where we stayed at the Chateau right on the Lake. We used this base to explore the Icefields Parkway, right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, and saw natural wonders like the stunning Peyto Lake, the glaciers of the Columbia Icefields as well as the Crow Foot Glacier, Bow Lake and Morraine Lake, and more stunning mountain scenery than you could possibly describe. We moved onto Jasper, to catch the Rocky Mountaineer back to Vancouver. We overnighted in Kamloops and went to the Canadian Lumberjack Show, which was good fun! On arrival back in Vancouver, we had the following day free before joining our Alaskan Cruise, so we took the open top bus tour, and visited Granville Island for lunch, took a False Creek ferry ride and went up the Vancouver Lookout to watch the sunset. On to the Carnival Spirit for our 7 night Alaskan Cruise. Within an hour of leaving, we had passed a pod of Orca's just outside Vancouver! The second day was cloudy, so we spent the day enjoying the ships facilities, including the spa, and unlimited food! We visited Juneau, Alaska's capital, then the highlight of the trip, Glacier Bay – with simply stunning scenery. The ship then moved onto Skagway, where we flew to a glacier by helicopter. Then onto Ketchikan, where we went on a Bering Sea crab fishing tour. The ship then headed south, cruising through the Inside Passage, where we watched families of humpback whales. We then flew to Toronto, and went to see Niagara at night, stopping off at a vineyard, where we experienced the beautiful Ice Wine. We had dinner overlooking the Falls, got wet on the Maid of the Mist and then watched the colours of the night time light show play across the surface of the cascading water. Our last day included a bus tour, and the must-do of Toronto - visiting the (very high) CN Tower. I'm exhausted just writing this, but every day was fantastic, and we wouldn't have missed any of it! They (very) often say "awesome" over there, now we have to agree, Canada really is AWESOME!
14 May 2008
Me and my husband decided to spend Christmas and New Year in Thailand. We travelled with Etihad airways and treated ourselves to business class seats which are very private, with a good choice of films and music and the food is delicious. In Bangkok we stayed at the Royal Orchid Sheraton which is situated right on the river, all the rooms have river views and are very spacious. The hotel is 5 minutes from the Sky Train Station which for around 50p can take you near to all the main tourist attractions of Bangkok. Bangkok is an amazing city, there are temples to see, fabulous shopping with really good bargains, river cruises, excellent restaurants, and night markets including the infamous ‘Patpong’! There is so much to do and see you would never get bored in this exciting city. From Bangkok we went down to Krabi, which has amazing scenery due to the limestone buttresses rising from the sea. So beautiful it was Scaramanga’s hideaway in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’. Here we chose to stay at Centara resort which is in a bay near to Ao Nang; you can only access the hotel by boat. The hotel provides a free speedboat into the centre of Ao Nang every 2 hours. Instead of waiting for a taxi back to the hotel you wait for your boat to arrive to take you back to hotel – How cool is that!!! The setting of the hotel is lovely, it’s actually built within a National Park – you can often see monkeys wandering about. All the rooms are very spacious and most of them have good views out to sea. We hired a car for 3 days and visited Phuket and Phi Phil. Phuket can be very lively or laid back depending which resort you choose to stay in. Phi Phi was beautiful, the sea is so clear you can see the coral from the ‘long tail boat’ – there is not much to do on Phi Phi outside the hotel. If you get a strip of beach that is shared between hotels then you can walk along the beach to the other hotels, other than that you would have to get a boat everywhere. The whole area around this part of Thailand is beautiful, the Thai people are so friendly and welcoming, and another bonus is that everything is so cheap. My top tip if visiting Phi Phi or if you chose to stay at Centara Grand Resort is to dress casual as you often get wet when stepping off the boats.
14 May 2008
My weekend break to NEW YORK was both thrilling and tiring but also worth every penny spent. We started off by travelling with the very prestigious all ‘business class’ airline Silverjet. As we arrived at Silverjet’s private terminal at Luton airport we were met by a valet who took our car and parked it for us. On entering the terminal, immediately your bags are taken off you and you are escorted through to the private lounge that has free snacks and free drinks (even champagne). When its time to board you have a private transfer to the aircraft and it’s straight onto the plane. The seats are flat beds with a private individual TV screens. What a wonderful experience, a great way to start our holiday and well worth the extra money to travel this way. We stayed at Helmsley Park Lane which is in an ideal location, overlooking Central Park, it’s around 20 minutes walk to Times Square/Broadway and close to all other places of interest. We did a helicopter tour of the island which lasted around 15 minutes, it’s brilliant to see New York from the air and take aerial pictures and video. We also did a boat tour of the island that takes around 4 hours, its so relaxing to sit back and take in the sights of the 5 different districts of New York City. Another day we booked on the ‘bus tour’, where you can catch various different coloured buses that take you to different parts of the city and you can hop on and off as much as you want. There are so many restaurants to choose from its hard to recommend one in particular, apart from one ‘deli’ that we used for breakfast one morning – its on 7th Avenue and is called “Carnegie Deli” - you would not believe the size of the portions you get in this place!!. Many “stars” are visitors to this place, as you can see by the hundreds of photos on the wall. It’s well recommended! One of the highlights was going to see a show on Broadway, I chose Mamma Mia and it was fantastic. After the show had ended we got a cycle taxi back to the hotel, what an experience – here we where travelling through the streets of New York around 11.30pm at night with a guy pedalling his cycle with me and my husband sat on the back seat (how strong he must have been to carry us both!!). My top tip when visiting New York is to take comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to eat lots!
15 May 2008
Our trip to Sri Lanka was made so special because of the welcoming and hospitable locals. Our trip started by travelling with Sri Lankan airlines which is one of the friendliest airline’s I have ever experienced. The crew cannot do enough to make sure you are comfortable throughout the trip. As it was my husbands birthday we chose to travel Business Class, the seats are not flat bed they are more like sleeper seats but very comfortable. The food, choice of entertainment, service and ambience made the flight very enjoyable. We spent the first 2 nights in Colombo and stayed at the Hilton Hotel which is centrally located for all the sights and shopping of the capital. The rooms are very spacious and the hotel offers a variety of restaurants to choose from. From Colombo we moved on to start our tour, one of the hotels we stayed in near to Sigiriya was called ‘Elephant Corridor’ which is truly amazing. The hotel is set in grounds where animals including Elephants roam freely. Our room was a suite with a small plunge pool overlooking the jungle, wildlife was rife and at night it was weird listening to a chorus of animals that sent you to sleep. A special present to my husband was a sunrise balloon ride over Sigiriya, it was quite daunting at first, but once you got used to it the trip was a truly memorable experience. Whilst in Sri Lanka we visited many places including the Rock Fortress of Sigirya, Dambulla Rock Cave Temple, Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Kandy and the tea plantations. After this we travelled down to the beach resort of Bentota to relax. We chose to stay at Taj Exotica which is a very nice hotel right on the beach, it has a lovely swimming pool and plenty of gardens to sunbathe and relax in. In the beach resorts there are still plenty of things to do and see, getting around is cheap and taxi’s or tuk tuk’s are available all the time. Venture out of the hotels as there quite a few restaurants tucked away – its always wise to ask one of the locals where they would recommend as they seem to know the best places. Sri Lanka has some wonderful beaches, some with local shacks where you can drink local beer or cocktails and watch the fantastic sunsets – which is the best part of the holiday for me!!
04 June 2019
Our visit to Cuba was a twin-centre trip, with the initial three nights in the beautiful city of Havana before heading down to the beach resort of Varadero. Combining the bright and brilliant city of Havana with a beach destination delivers the best of both worlds. It's the perfect tactic for those who want to experience the country’s top sights, best restaurants and trendiest bars without sacrificing some much-needed “me-time” on one of the Caribbean’s most idyllic beaches. Arriving in Havana makes you think you have gone back in time 50 years. From the classic cars to colonial buildings, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Three amazing days were spent browsing Havana’s charming streets, eating traditional chicken, rice and beans and visiting many of its beautiful sights – we even nipped into a lively salsa club! We then transferred by private car from Havana down to Varadero for our beach stay which took around two hours - a great road trip in itself. Many of the hotels down in Varadero are four/five-star all-inclusive properties, set yards away beautiful beaches with clear blue sea. From Varadero, one popular trip is to swim with the dolphins, which many clients are always asking about. You travel to Varadero Marina where you would get on a boat trip to Rancho Cangrejo. On arrival, they give you a short talk regarding safety and what to expect from the dolphins - you then spend around 30 minutes interacting with the dolphins. If you want to see more of Cuba, there are options for escorted tours, or for the more adventurous, there are self-drive itineraries. We visited for Christmas and New Year and the weather was perfect. Cuba is very popular and often gets booked up well in advance, so I recommend you go soon before it starts to change. Book your Cuba adventure by calling me on 07879 621768 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
16 May 2008
For our wedding anniversary celebrations we decided to go to the Seychelles, and because we wanted to completely 'chill out' we decided to stay on just one island rather than island hop. We flew with Air Seychelles whose service was excellent. We travelled in economy class on the way out and treated ourselves to business class which the airline call ‘pearl class’ on the way back. The pearl class section contained ‘sleeper seats’ rather than flat beds, but the seats had ample room and were very comfortable. The international flight landed into Mahe, then we transferred to a small aircraft across to Praslin which took around 15 minutes. We chose the island of Praslin and the hotel we stayed in was called La Reserve; a lovely family owned hotel which has only 40 rooms which are all individually decorated with king sized four poster beds and sea view rooms. A great choice for our relaxing holiday. Our hotel was located on Anse Petit Cour, in a Marine National Park and had its own exclusive beach, it also boasted one of the largest swimming pools in the Seychelles, just in case we got sick of the beach!! Praslin is the second largest island in the Seychelles and is many people’s idea of paradise. It certainly was ours! We found the islands beaches completely amazing and on the west coast we found one of the world’s most beautiful beaches – Anse Lazio. We were also fortuate to glimpse some rare and striking species of birds on the island, which made excellent photos, when we were quick enough to capture them! We hired a car for a few days which gave us chance to travel round the whole island and see all the different beautiful beaches and landscapes. The Seychelles was a romantic place and an ideal place to celebrate our anniversary. I highly recommend for any romantic break and would love to return some time in the future.
St. Albans 28/01/2022
Melton Mowbray 11/01/2022
South Wales 15/12/2021
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire 03/12/2021
Dinas Powys 26/08/2021
Wigston, Leicestershire 04/06/2019
Newark, Notts 06/03/2019
Melton Mowbray 20/02/2019
Hathern, Leicestershire 30/01/2019
Penarth, Wales 08/11/2018
Melton Mowbray 02/10/2018
Melton Mowbray 18/05/2017
Eastleigh, Hampshire 20/03/2017
West Midlands 20/03/2017
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire 20/03/2017
Quorn, Leicestershire 06/12/2016
Porthcawl, Wales 27/11/2016
Abingdon, Oxon 27/11/2016
Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan 27/11/2016
Melton Mowbray 23/11/2016
Rothley, Leicestershire 31/03/2016
Sully, Vale of Glamorgan 31/03/2016
Harby, Leicestershire 31/03/2016
Melton Mowbray 11/12/2013
Melton Mowbray 02/12/2013
Melton Mowbray 17/09/2013
Melton Mowbray 08/08/2013
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire 20/07/2013
Stanton on the Wolds 29/05/2013
Stapleford, Nottingham 09/05/2013
Harwell, Oxfordshire 09/05/2013
Melton Mowbray 04/03/2013
Huntingdon, Cambs 22/11/2012
Irlam, Manchester 18/07/2012
Great Yarmouth 17/05/2012
Chandlers Ford Hampshire 28/05/2011
Ashby de la Zouch 27/05/2011
Ashby de la Zouch 25/05/2011
Melton Mowbray 25/05/2011
Melton Mowbray 25/05/2011
Melton Mowbray 06/04/2010
Keyham, Leics. 04/11/2009
Melton Mowbray 12/08/2008
Melton Mowbray 19/07/2008
Melton Mowbray 18/07/2008
Melton Mowbray 18/07/2008