Based in Penzance

Vanessa de Vere

Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here

It's Nice To Meet You

There is nothing like a global pandemic to test your metal when you work in the travel industry.

I've been creating memories for people for over 40 years. and I wasn't going to let a pandemic stop me. It was In 1978 I put on my BA Uniform for the first time - from there the story began; and after a lifetime working in resort, hotel and travel operations management, today I am still here helping people who want to see the world do it with confidence, in safety and with financial protection.

In 2020 and 2021 I looked after my clients with a "whatever it takes" attitude; to get their travel reorganised, refunds made and crown myself the Queen of Travel Administration. In 2021 we are moving forward, finally getting people to where they want to go - it's not easy and you have to keep your eye on the ball but it's possible. 2022 will see the world gradually get to grips with every letter of the Greek Alphabet and we will again travel the world.

Sustainable, slow travel, is high on my list - it's a shame to fly over so many places where train journeys can be so exciting... it can turn the journey into part of the destination adventure.

I look to find the unique, and different experience for my clients with small ships and yachts fast becoming the preferred more intimate sailing experience, at prices that wont prompt a call from your bank manager !

Yes, I’m a globetrotter; I'm also a cruise specialist and have visited 72 countries. I've crossed the Pacific exploring Hawaii down to Tonga, Samoa to French Polynesia to New Zealand and Australia, sailed around South America, enjoyed the Indian Ocean, and made the 7 day Atlantic crossing on several occasions - arriving into my favourite city New York, and "inching" under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge as the sun comes up, glistening against the windows of the skyscrapers in Manhattan .

In 2019 I got a Master Tourism qualification from the Japanese National Tourist Office - it's already helped many clients to explore this mysterious and exciting nation. and was busy organising multi-centre itineraries to Italy, Croatia, Norway, Japan, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and mainland USA, USA West Coast driving holidays, Canada fly-drives, Sri-Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia wildlife holidays including the odd orangutan and a Komodo dragon or two!

I've planned city breaks, ocean and river cruises, and added campervans, river boats, barges and yachts in the mix along with complex flight itineraries and group breaks for hen/stag parties and conferences. Honeymoons, anniversaries and special birthday celebrations have featured highly to some very exotic locations.. I'm also very excited to be planning an Antarctic experience for my clients with Hurtigruten for Christmas 2021, and a Svalbard trip to see the Polar Bears!

If you ask me where is my specialist destination is..it's easy for me to pick. I have spent over 20 years of my life in Greece and Cyprus; I'm a fluent Greek speaker and every year I go "home" on an island adventure. I love showing clients the real Greece and that there is life outside of an All Inclusive resort for those wanting authentic experiences.

Many come to me because they are tired of spending endless hours at their computer, worried about getting things wrong, unsure with what they are booking and just simply bored with faceless contact centres . More than ever, I know you are looking for that personal touch to travel. My business is built on referrals and repeat business - why not read my client testimonials below and then call me to start your next adventure.

I am more than happy to be available at a time that suits you, including evenings and weekends as my hours are flexible.

Warmest regards

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My Blog

I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.

Hidden Neighbourhoods of Singapore

07 April 2021

Beyond the likes of the well-known Chinatown and Little India, Singapore is 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.

An adventure in Borneo - Part 1

12 January 2020

Just recently we've seen so much media coverage on Borneo, and the plight of the magnificent Orangutan. From Judi Dench's adventures to BBC's Natural World and the latest BBC production, Earth's Tropical Islands. I watch them all, in awe of this charming ape. On my desk this year I have a National Geographic Calendar, gifted to me at Christmas and my January Pin Up, is nicknamed Oscar the Orangutan. I was told I should write a blog per month on each of the wonderful animals feature. So here I am ! In this article I wanted to share my ideas for a trip I recently planned for a client to see the orangutan. the adept proboscis monkeys along with other endangered species. Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, you’ll start with a private guided tour of historic Malacca City, the capital of the Malaysian state of Malacca. A UNESCO World Heritage City, it is full of hidden gems. Onto Kuching, capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. A bustling, diverse city of old colonial buildings and modern towers. Along its Sarawak River waterfront are food vendors, shophouses selling handicrafts and an esplanade with views of 19th-century landmarks including The Astana, former palace of the White Rajahs, and Fort Margherita, built to thwart pirates. Before you continue to Bako. A National Park since 1957, Bako offers the perfect introduction to Sarawak’s forests and wildlife. The park covers the northern tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula, an area of 27 sq km. Despite its seemingly small size, Bako contains a wide range of vegetation – swamp forest, scrub-like padang vegetation, mangrove forest, dipterocarp forest, delicate cliff vegetation and more. In fact, at Bako it is possible to see almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo. Bako also contains a rich variety of wildlife and a coastline covered with small bays, coves and beaches. The park has a number of well-marked trails offering interesting walks ranging from short pleasant strolls to serious full-day hikes. Unlike some national parks, visitors to Bako are almost guaranteed to see wildlife. Long-tailed macaque monkeys and silver leaf monkeys are ever present, wild boar are often found rummaging around the park HQ, squirrels and monitor lizards are also common. There is every chance of seeing the rare and unusual proboscis monkeys on trails such as Telok Paku and Telok Delima, particularly if you go late afternoon. Bako is also home to approximately 275 rare proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo. The male is an odd-looking creature, with a huge pendulous nose and a large pot-belly, weighing in excess of 20 kg. Both male and female are covered in reddish-brown fur with grey limbs and a white tail. They are mostly arboreal (tree-dwelling), moving about the forest or mangroves in small groups and feeding on young leaves, shoots, sour fruits and seeds. Although it requires some patience, an encounter with a group of proboscis is likely to be the highlight of your trip to Bako. The best times are early in the morning or in the hours before dusk. Telok Delima and Telok Paku are the best trails for viewing these charming apes. The mangroves at Telok Assam are testament to Bako’s plant life, both beautiful. The trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarps to dense mangrove forest. Carnivorous pitcher plants are found on the Lintang trail, so don’t touch! Bako also has white sand beaches that provide perfect resting spots in between jungle treks. Telok Pandan Kecil is perhaps Bako’s best beach. After an hour or so the Telok Pandan Kecil trail comes to a rocky headland. The view down to a beautiful secluded bay, and the thought of a swim in the cool waters, is irresistible. The 20 minute descent suddenly becomes more enjoyable. All of the beaches are bordered by limestone and sandstone cliffs, and the action of the sea has left some remarkable rock formations, such as the famous Sea Stack. In Part 2 you'll visit dolphins on the Santubong Peninsular, check out the Proboscis monkeys and get to smile at a crocodiles

An adventure in Borneo - Part 2 seeing Dolphins, Crocodiles and cheeky Proboscis monkeys...

12 January 2020

As you are on an island, we’ll add some more water based activities into the mix today with an exciting cruise along the Santubong Peninsular to spot some of Sarawak’s very own fascinating array of wildlife, such as the iconic Proboscis monkey, crocodiles and even the lively dolphins! Starting at Sarawak Boat Club you’ll head for the mouth of the Santubong River. Here, sightings of the Irrawaddy dolphins have often been reported. However, dolphin-spotting is not guaranteed, and it all depends on your luck. Your boat will then take you through the mangrove-lined rivers for a wildlife-spotting adventure. As it gets darker, you will be able to see the adorable Proboscis monkeys hanging out on treetops, often in harems. Keep an eye out for crocodiles too, crawling on the mud banks or swimming in the calm waters. A caveat: please don’t dip your hands in the water! After crocodile-spotting, next you will get a chance to see twinkly fireflies gathering by the riverbanks. Watch as they flicker around the mangrove branches, like beautiful Christmas lights by the riverbank before returning to the Sarawak Boat Club and transport back to your hotel. And then we reach one of the highlights of your tour. You’ll fly to Sandakan airport, you will be greeted by your local English speaking guide and transferred to your hotel in Sepilok area, for an overnight stay. In the morning you will set off for the Sun Bear Conservation Centre nearby. This centre aims to increase awareness of this endearing, but little-known bear species – named after the crescent shaped patch of fur on their chests that resembles the rising sun. From here you’ll walk to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in time for the morning feeding session at 1000. Your journey continues to the Kinabatangan River, where you’ll stay in a rainforest lodge and in the evening, meander along the Kinabatangan River alongside a local guide who will point out some of the area’s nocturnal inhabitants as they descend from their hiding places high in the trees. On your return to the lodge, time for dinner before an informative talk and presentation on the river and the species found around it. Rise early with the birds today and you head out for a cruise to Kelenanap Oxbow Lake. This crescent-shaped lake was created when the meandering path of the main river strayed so far that its loop got cut off from the main tributary. The stillness of the lake and its relative protection provides a haven for animals and plants that is unique from the nearby river ecosystem. Then mid-morning return to the resort for breakfast before taking an informative tour along the Hornbill Boardwalk, with the resort’s naturalist, offering fascinating insight into the medicinal and traditional uses of the jungle flora. The rest of the day is at leisure before heading out in the late afternoon to watch the river activities of local primates. The afternoon is a particularly great time to spot wildlife, and the light is perfect for photography.

An adventure in Borneo - Part 3 - Onto Kinabalu

12 January 2020

A short internal flight of about 40 minutes takes you to Kota Kinabalu, the final leg of your adventure where the following day you will visit Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site and is the Centre of Plant Diversity for South East Asia. The Park boasts more than 5,000 vascular plant species and the Park has no shortage of fauna as well, being home to some 90 lowland mammal species and many others. A list of plants found here are the infamous Nepenthes rajah; the world's largest pitcher plant, Nepenthes x sukaibiensis; a natural cross-hybrid between Nepenthes lowii and Nepenthes burbidgae and the enigmatic Paphiopedilum rothschildianum (Rothschild slipper orchid) one of the rarest orchids in the world. I have a windowsill of orchids in my office but mine are from the supermarket – I bet they look breath-taking in the wild. The main attraction at the Park is majestic Mount Kinabalu, one of the highest mountains in South East Asia standing at 4095.2 metres. Apart from traditional mountain climbing, you can also experience the Mountain Torq, the world’s highest and Asia’s first Via Ferrata or ‘iron road’ at 3,200m to 3,800m above sea level. A visit to Kinabalu Park will never be perfect without swinging by Poring Hot Springs. Situated 40 kilometres (25 miles) slightly northeast from the Parks HQ, Poring is in the lowlands—a contrast to the Parks HQ. De-stress and soak away the sores and aches of your muscles in the spring’s hot sulphuric minerals, deemed to have healing properties and very popular among the locals. Other than the natural hot spring main attraction at Poring Hot Springs, visit the butterfly farm, the Poring Orchid Conservation Centre, the tropical garden, the Poring canopy walkway, and the Rafflesia flower site. The following day you’ll take a ride on the North Borneo Railway and relive the nostalgic romance of British North Borneo. Passengers hop on a steam train straight out of the 1900s, chugging along the tracks from Tanjung Aru, through Kinarut before arriving in the Rice Bowl of Sabah, Papar. Along the way, soak in the green vistas of sprawling paddy fields, traditional village homes on stilts and buffaloes ambling in the distance. On board, its time for Tiffin A Tiffin-style breakfast and lunch are served, comprising of Asian and Continental cuisine. The train features five fully refurbished colonial-style passenger train carriages that can accommodate a total of 180 passengers. The North Borneo Railway is built and operated to the highest of international standards and is fully compliant with modern safety standards. Back to the sea the following day, and I’m taking you to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, located Just offshore, turquoise waters, filled with exotic fish, coral reefs and five tropical islands, make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Once on land again, it's time to find tea. The golden Sabah Tea brew originated from a blend of fine tea leaves from the Sabah Tea Garden, located at the mouth of Mount Kinabalu. The Sabah Tea plantation (now known as the Sabah Tea Gardens) was officiated on February 19, 1984 by the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad. In 1997, an Ipoh based company, Yee Lee Corporation Berhad acquired the entire shares from Sabah Tea Sdn Bhd and Desa Tea Sdn Bhd after the government decided to privatise the company, therefore enabling Sabah Tea to find fame. And then time to relax maybe on a beach and think about everything you just did and saw. My golden rule with planning travel is to remember that we need to see life. Our world is changing so quickly we need to grasp every opportunity we can. So, the next time you are thinking of 2 weeks all inclusive somewhere hot just think what you could be doing. This itinerary was put together by myself on behalf of my clients with the assistance of our agents in Malaysia and Borneo. Remember, if you want to go just to see the Orangutans and have a week on the beach you can do that too! Look no further for your own tailor made itinerary to Borneo.

The Cilento Coast Part 1 - The hidden gem in Italy's crown Salerno, Paestum & Padula

12 July 2019

Hidden from the tourist trail for the moment at least, Cilento is one of the best kept secrets in Italy. I’d like to share my experiences of this wonderful area with you. Long a retreat for the chic Italians to holiday and stay cooler than in cities like Rome when the temperatures soar, the Amalfi Coast has kept its traditional Italian seaside retreat vibe with (mostly) rocky beaches, indulgences in a long lunches, shopping, siestas, Aperitivos and then indulgences in another long dinner. The people of the Cilento seemed to be a bit more like the coast itself: wild and rugged. Here is where the Italian adventurers have been hiding, or rather, flocking to each summer. But in true Italian fashion, even the adventurers can appreciate the finer things in life. The Cilento Coast has miles of sandy beaches and less than one hour from Salerno, Paestum is home to some of the best preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. You may well think that you may have been transported to the Parthenon in Athens. In fact, you are at the Greek temples of Paestum, the oldest of which dates back to the 6th century BC. Home to one of Europe's most glorious archaeological zones, Paestum was deemed a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and includes three of the world's best-preserved ancient Greek temples, and the obligatory museum crammed with millennia-old frescoes, ceramics and artefacts. The iconic Tomba del tuffatore (Tomb of the Diver) is the most famous. Paestum is also home to a cluster of buffalo farms that produce Italy’s best mozzarella di bufala. founded by the Greek Achaeans around 600BC under the original name Poseidonia, it became Paestum in 273BC after the Graeco-Italian Poseidonians sided with the loser, Pyrrhus, in war against the Romans. It was a major ancient Greek city with a system of roads, temples and defensive walls. It’s also home to the Temple of Neptune. The buffalo haven’t been around quite as long as the Greek temples and it isn’t exactly known how they got here. Some say that the buffalo were brought to Sicily from Egypt; others say that the Goths brought them. Either way, they’ve been around for many centuries. It also wasn’t until the 18th century that their fatty, rich milk was turned in to cheese. Since the milk is too fatty and rich to drink like cow’s milk, it’s perfect for making the creamy mozzarella di bufala. Anyway, enough about Buffalo, because aside from stunning Greek temples and delicious mozzarella di bufala, Paestum also has miles of beautiful white sand beaches. And unlike the Amalfi Coast where nearly every sunbed was occupied even mid-week, there were barely a handful of people on the beach. Of course, this all changes in August when the Italian holiday makers reclaim their heritage in vast numbers. Paestum – or Poseidonia as the city was originally called, in honour of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea – was founded in the 6th century BC by Greek settlers and fell under Roman control in 273 BC. Following the demise of the Roman Empire and savage raids by the Saracens and periodic outbreaks of malaria and disease, it fell into decline as the dwindling population were forced to abandon the city altogether. But today, Paestum offers a vivid, to-scale glimpse of the grandeur and sophistication of the area's past life. The northernmost point of the Cilento is considered to be Salerno. Now initially this doesn’t appear to be much on the surface but seek out its historic centre where medieval churches, and a wonderful 11th century cathedral in the Plaza Alfano (ripe for exploration) and lunch at one of the neighbourhood trattorias and suddenly the whole places just screeches southern Italy. After dark, the atmosphere is Salerno goes up a peg and it’s a rather lively place. The locals, called the “salernitani” know how to enjoy themselves! Salerno is up and coming again with a lot of investment especially in the historic area, of which the tree-lined seafront promenade is one of the prettiest in southern Italy and perfect for a late-afternoon wander or a “passeggiata”. I’d also head up to the Castello di Arechi, a medieval castle with great park nature trails for a wander and some enjoy very special panoramic views. If rugged is your thing then head inland to the natural beauty of the Parco Nazionale del Cilento. Of note the Vallo di Diano e Alburni where dense woods and flower filled meadows seamlessly combine with daunting mountains, rivers and waterfalls. It is the second-largest national park in Italy, covering 1810 sq. km, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and encompasses around 80 towns and villages. Whilst the Cilento is known for its eclectic orchids, it also has vast, spectacular underground cave complexes and romantic but dangerous looking hilltop villages. The park area itself was founded in 1991 and now covers most of the Cilento area, but some areas are more outstanding than other. I strongly recommend that you look at the parks website: http://www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.cilento/Eindex.php where they suggest some day time itineraries to get the most out of the area. I would particularity recommend The Pearls of Cilento, a gentle 1.2km walk which takes you to the Castelcivita subterranean caves and a visit to the historic town. The Pertosa Caves are also another great visit. Next up would be a visit to Padula, famous for its enormous Carthusian monastery, the 14th-century Certosa di San Lorenzo (a must see). It was once one of the most powerful feudal estates in the kingdom of Naples and is famous for its festival called the “Frittata della 1000 Uova”, where you can get a bit of party vibe whilst they cook a huge potato omelette. It goes back thousands of years and in 2019 it starts on 8 August with a procession at 8pm. It goes on with live music, and lots of street food for 3 days. The August fete is a medieval extravaganza of costumes, crafts and shows that culminates in the giant frittata, a tasty recreation of a celebratory event in the town's history that lauded Charles V on his return from Tunisia in the Middle Ages. Today, it's a fun way to spend a day and get a glimpse of the Old World through its flavours and aromas! Not far from the Certosa is the fabled Valle delle Orchidee (Valley of the Orchids), whose 70-plus varieties of orchid create a spectacular blaze of springtime colour. In part two we explore further south. See you there!

The Cilento Coast Part 2 - The hidden gem in Italy's crown Teggiano, Castellabate to Palinuro

12 July 2019

You will not want to miss the charming medieval village of Teggiano which has a maze of ancient wobbly houses and streets and is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the park’s villages. It dates from Roman times but the Norman Sanseverino castle dates to medieval times. It’s often called a mini-Rome with six churches, shady cobbled streets and four small museums hidden amid its tangled maze of alleyways. Great for a wander and a gelato! 28km west of Teggiano there is Roscigno Vecchia. There’s an eerie feeling here as it was abandoned early last century following landslides. There are so many deserted villages in Italy. Why go see a deserted village? It’s full of original stone houses untouched by modern day building and its sort of a time machine. Tasteful restoration was started in 2007 so you get a real feel for a traditional stone village. It is definitely worth a visit I would recommend a visit a little further south down the Cilento Coast to the village of Santa Maria di Castellabate. Not only does the village have a sandy beach steps away from its centre, it also has its very own prince in residence, Angelo di Belmonte, who lives in the 17th-century Palazzo Belmonte. Glued to the coast and with a glorious 4km-long Blue Flag beach this former fishing village has that ubiquitous southern Italian feel, with dusky pink-and-ochre sun-baked houses blinkered by traditional green shutters. Water sports and boat trips run from here and of course you can hire sunbeds on the beach. It’s another of those just gorgeous towns you probably won’t want to leave. The perfect spot for your seafood lunch with a chilled glass of the local Falanghina or a Greco di Tufo. Don’t miss Piazza Perrotti, with the 15th century Palazzo Perrotti landmark situated directly on the seafront and recognised as a Cultural Heritage Site 1. Castellabate village is slightly further inland is only 10km south of Agropoli and is a classic Italian hilltop village and is one of the most endearing and historic towns on the Cilento coast. Located just half an hour from the resort is the Polito Viticoltori - the Polito Vineyard. For three generations, the Polito family have been supplying quality wine throughout Campania. I recommend a visit to sample their wines and take a few bottles back to the villa with you! Try the Soppressata di Gioi - a locally cured meat, will go down a treat as will the fresh buffalo mozzarella you will find in the Tenuta Vannulo – an organic Buffalo farm with guided tours and tastings some of the dishes may even include Cilento’s famous olives and figs. Heading south from Castellabate, the next stop is the pretty harbour at San Marco di Castellabate. This was once an important Greek and Roman port, and tombs and other relics are on view in the museum at Paestum. Then heading even further south along the Cilento Coast, you will reach the village of Acciaroli. The tiny fishing village was a favourite of Hemingway, who came here in 1952 after he’d finished writing “The Old Man and the Sea”. Hemingway would spend hours in the bars along the seaside promenade. The village is small and there isn’t much to do but wander the little shops like the shoemaker who makes custom shoes for you or the handcrafted pottery shop. It is charming though and worth a few hours to explore, perhaps relaxing on the seaside promenade with a spritz Aperol or having a lunch of fresh fish. Founded by the Greeks in the mid-6th century BC, Velia became a popular resort with wealthy Romans where you can wander around the thought provoking ruins, including parts of the city walls as you imagine how this all looked way back then – with traces of one gate and several towers – as well as the remains of thermal baths, an Ionic temple, a theatre and parts of the original Greek streets, paved in limestone blocks and with the gutters intact. The site's most visible landmarks are a 12th-century tower, built over a Greek temple, and an 11th-century Palatine chapel. Both are perched on an 'acropolis' overlooking the sea. The Porta Rosa is a rare example of an intact Greek arch. Your trip to Cilento wouldn’t be complete with a Blue Flag beach day in Palinuro, which, like Capri, lays claim to a dazzling Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). Palinuro is a low-key picturesque village known only by those in the know, and boasts crystal-clear waters and bay sheltered by a promontory, and with superb beaches (considered to be among the cleanest and best-kept in Italy), it is very popular with Italians in August, and they aren’t the quietest of holiday makers. But the prime reason for me suggesting this location is Grotta Azzurra. This is an awesome karst cave, formed by limestone dissolution over thousands of years. Sunlight refracts through the cave’s turquoise waters presenting spectacular blue illuminations that are often compared to those of Capri’s Blue Grotto. Book onto a local boat tour, most of which take you around numerous caves along the spectacular Cilento coast and usually offer snorkelling opportunities. It's a magical party of Italy I hope you will agree, and I hope I can assist you in planning your next trip to Bella Italia.

If I said Middle East ...what thoughts does it conjure up?

30 June 2019

I bet it isn't miles of white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, adrenaline filled activities, delicious cuisine and really affordable luxury hotels? Well if you are planning a late summer, autumn, winter or early spring escape - tune in because this is just for you - there is an Emirate or country in the Middle East that will be right up your street. Bur how do you know which one to choose? I'm so lucky to have spent an extensive amount of time in the Middle East with family connections in the Lebanon which opened up a whole new exciting world to me. Lebanon has been rebuilt since its troubled times and is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited, from the valleys and vineyards to the ski slopes to the beaches to the casinos, the antiquities at Byblos...it’s just wow. To Israel, modern, chic, vibrant Tel Aviv with 13 beaches stretching over 14 kilometres with an inherent beach, bar and restaurant culture, LGBT friendly, and the Red Sea to explore corals and marine life. Of course, the Emirates, Dubai, bold outspoken ostentatious but tolerate of western ways. Abu Dhabi its distinguished neighbour often overlooked with towering glitterati buildings, and cultural attractions, like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the new Louvre Abu Dhabi - but it’s the sandy islands, like Saadiyat linked to the mainland by a bridge which sets this apart for me. With white sands and curvaceous sand dunes coupled with sparkling waters, a Blue Flag beach and a host of water sports – it’s a magical paradise! A close neighbour to Dubai, is up and coming Ras Al Khaimah, a miniscule emerging sleepy emirate on the verge of new beginnings; this is the place for action packed activities, the longest zip wire in the world, luxury desert camping, authentically styled hotels and a man-made archipelago to complement the beauty of this niche holiday destination. Then there is Oman, and this has to be my destination of choice. Having friends in Muscat I’m no stranger here and a retreat to this paradise is a highlight of my year. To watch the flamingos strutting their stuff across the white sands, date palms swaying in the breezes – away from the hustle and bustle and heat of Muscat a whole new way of life awaits you. Fins Beach offers a souk and beach experience offering some of the best diving and snorkelling in Arabia. A restaurant and beach party culture are emerging here making this is paradise for winter sun worshippers who appreciate this proud and noble nation. And, if you are a keen golfer or fancy a spot of desert camping or rock climbing, then this is the destination for you. For me this is one of the most romantic of all destinations, and the perfect honeymoon location if you can get over the “middle east thing” that tends to haunt too many people. Ajman is one of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, and its culture is steeped in exceptional hospitality. It is relatively unknown and slightly naïve to the ways of mass tourism with tis hospitality with overwhelm you. This is warm and welcoming place where you are made to feel like a long-lost friend. The luxury beachfront hotels of Ajman have their own private beaches, with long stretches of white sand and turquoise waters, the beaches are one of the key selling points of Ajman. They are quiet, crowd free, and all the hotels are just a few steps from the sandy shoreline, which makes them attractive for couples looking for a romantic beach break. My first visit to Bahrain (or two seas) is one I will never forget. I had a slight feeling of trepidation but setting foot on Jarada Island made me feel I was in a desert paradise. I guess as it only appears as the tide ebbs and is in the middle of the Gulf you could see why! It has one of the best beaches in Bahrain where you can spot dolphins, dive and see over 35 species of coral (still in great shape) and even dive for pearls. It’s over an hour out from the mainland but get yourself into the Ritz Carlton and their private boat will whisk you away. Don’t panic when I say Ritz Carlton, because its more affordable than you think! There are over 30 islands that make up the Bahrain Islands and could put a whole new spin on island hopping for you! My whistle-stop tour of the middle east has left out one very special place and that is Jordan. Look out for my new blog on this regal country coming soon!

Heading south to Antarctica - is it for you?

26 April 2019

It was International Day of the Penguin on 25th April. Probably a day that slipped past unrecognised to most, but it got me thinking again about Antarctica. If the last time you saw a penguin was at a zoo you really do need to get out more. In February 2016, I sailed a circumnavigation of South America and made several ports of call in the Falkland Islands, Argentina and Chile. Penguins were the order of the day most days from the Falkland’s onward, where daily encounters with penguins were the norm, along with dolphins and elephant seals. Now, I understand that the Falkland Islands are an acquired taste and not on everyone’s holiday hot spot list, but we (the UK) did a grand job holding onto our little bastion not far from the Argentinian coast and are now the keepers of an invigorated penguin colony. Did you know that back on 1971 there were just 31 breeding pairs of king penguin left on East Falkland? Today, there are more than 1,500 and it has become the second largest and most accessible colony of king penguins in the world. Nothing prepares you for the noise these guys make, but a cuteness overload takes over as these majestic creatures dominate the rocky pathways, known as the "Penguin Highways", with their slightly clumsy waddle – set to topple at any time they somehow maintain their dignity as they propel themselves from land into water like a mass mutiny…to the cries of “Penguin Overboard!" It's a memory that still makes me smile. From tiny Rock-hoppers with their spiky yellow headdress, to the gregarious surfing Gentoos (who are also really fast swimmers) and sport a Royal Ascot like fascinator white trim to their headdress. Onto the Magellan Penguins (my favourites) who are shy, territorial, full of attitude, but at the same time are really photogenic little chaps who I recall stood by the entrance to their burrows with defensive pride as I walked past them. Of course, the Falklands is only the start of the adventure, and its not all about penguins. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (UK) and west to Ushuaia (Argentina) before the great adventure to Antarctica begins. Sailing the Drake Passage between the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn, an archipelago off the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego in Chile, takes two days. When I sailed Cape Horn it was calm, in fact we went around several times - just because we could - and when I sailed the Drake Passage I truly felt I may happen to fall off the edge of the world at any time! You sense that you are an explorer, from the minute your leave Ushuaia you are following in the wake of famous explorers like Nansen and Roald Amundsen from Norway and of course, Robert Scott and Shackleton from Great Britain. In fact, Hurtigruten has named their new hybrid Expedition ships after Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen – due to be delivered in May 2019 and June 2020 they are a celebration of all great polar explorers and a your open invitation to set sail and explore down under. With today’s thermal technology, our cosy jackets, thermal underwear and factor 100 protection it’s easy to forget just what these very early 20th century explorers endured on their quest to reach the South Pole. By contrast, we have it so easy today, all we have to do is book an Expedition Voyage and be led by experts into the Antarctic wonderland, in the warmth and comfort of small ships purpose-built for the job - responsible travel is the order of the day, let's go there and not leave a footprint! But, who wants to go look at a pile of ice and snow on holiday anyway? The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, (who are the guys that ensure all Expedition ships operate to the highest standards of environmental “friendless”), reported that 38.5k people visited the southern ice-scape in 2016 rising to 44k in 2017 and set to increase over the new few years as newer Hybrid purpose built Expedition ships are brought into service If seeing climate change first hand, and taking in the unique topography and oceanography of Antarctica is something that fires your imagination, then intermingle this with close encounters of Orcas, Arctic Turns, Elephant Seals and of course a cast of Penguins, and this could well be for you. The 7th Continent is now easier than ever to reach in the austral summer (our winter) and it will reward you handsomely for your effort. You will never forget the silence and the serene beauty of this place, the joy seen in the bright blue colour of a glacial ice or the thrill of crashing through an ice strewn sea on a rib boat. For me, this has to be the ultimate experience. It can be a demanding and unforgiving place at times, but it is also an extremely beautiful one too. If you want to make a date with a Penguin or two and make some memories you will never forget; or you’d like to ask me about what it really means to be on the bottom of the world just get in touch.

My Top 5 Cruise Ports in Japan (Part 1)

21 April 2019

In the news and media a lot recently, and a country on so many people’s bucket lists…Japan. Slightly mystical and far removed from our society and culture, it sparks the imagination and ignites curiosity. I started planning my own adventure to Japan a few weeks ago after passing the Japan National Tourist Office Master of Japan Certification, so I thought I’d share with you my top 5 cruise ports in Japan. Of course, circumnavigating Japan by ship is one thing but exploring the interior is where the mystery lies, and a combination of the two is the perfect combo for a big tick in the bucket list box. Not all cruises are equal and the incredibly high number of ports in Japan make choosing the right stops tricky unless you’ve really done your homework on Japan. In this article I’m exploring some of the top cruise ports which shine out, for history, geology, culture, botany and cuisine. Most cruises will start and end in Yokohama. If you just book a cruise only it’s unlikely you will get enough time to see Tokyo in any depth which is just over thirty minutes from Yokohama. So, I’d always plan in a few extra days pre or post cruise for Tokyo. It’s also worth noting that Hakone and Mount Fuji, and Fuji 5 lakes which are absolute musts can easily be reached from Tokyo by Bullet Train, (another must do), and that not all cruise ships make a port of call especially for this. You could also spend a night in a traditional Japanese Inn, a Ryokan either in Tokyo or overnight in Hakone and experience an Onsen bath, and a Kaiseki Ryori, the multi-course Japanese haute cuisine. Akita Not on all cruise ship itineraries, Akita is the Capital of the Akita Prefecture, located in the north of the Tohoku Region of Japan. Its Jizoden ruins are a major archaeological site, with artefacts dating back 40,000 years. I don’t know anyone that old! Akita is known in Japan for its Kanto Matsuri festival in August, where performers balance 12 metre bamboo with 50 paper lanterns attached, lit by real candles but I wouldn’t try this at home! Shrines and temples, crater lakes and impressive waterfalls are all within reach of Akita. Locations such as the Dakigaeri Gorge are not to be missed. If you choose to spend time in Akita itself, the Museum of Art will teach you all you need to know about this area. The cherry blossoms of Senshu Park blooming in springtime are as always, the utopian vision of Japan, but somehow Senshu manages to escape the cherry blossom tourist hauls otherwise found in Tokyo and Kyoto. I like this port because: Akita gives you a sense of the ancient history of Japan and has an incredibly diverse geological make up. Kanazawa I know you’ve heard that name somewhere before. Monty Don was here not so long ago exploring the Kenrokuen gardens! It’s that cruise port slightly off the beaten cruise tourist trail which only a handful of cruise lines explore. It’s usually only the intrepid overland explorers on the new Golden route who get here! Kanazawa is the shining example of the hugely important Japanese Edo era (1603 to 1868), where you can live and breathe Japan’s history and sample fresh delicacies from one of its oldest food markets. Street food in Japan is a teaser for the senses so take all opportunities to ditch the cruise ship buffet for a sensual taste bud extravaganza. I like this port because: Kanazawa offers you one of the best examples of Japanese botany; and you get to eat out in one of Japans’ oldest markets! Kyoto (Maizuru) The astute amongst you will know that Kyoto isn’t actually a cruise port. There are several ports ships will use for access to this wonderful city; laden with sacred temples, geisha tea ceremonies, samurai kembu sword dances, Shinto shrines, Zen gardens and pure charm. Kyoto is home to an astonishing 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine - one of the city’s most spectacular sites, with its sloping walkway encased by hundreds of bright red Tori gates, and the Fushimi district, Kyoto’s sake and brewery area as well as a network of enchanting tree-lined canals add to the story. The list of places to visit in Kyoto is endless – my advice is that you cannot do this in a day. Usually it’s around a 90 minute each way transfer to the cruise port so you will only really be dipping your toes into the eternal pond of Kyoto’s Green Tea Ceremony heritage. So do try to incorporate this with an overnight stay or two, stay in a traditional Japanese Inn and immerse yourself in pure Japan. The cruise port of Maizuru though will grab your attention with its own temples and castles, albeit on a smaller scale than Kyoto. Maizuru grew out of its legacy as a naval base and played an important role in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, when Japan headed off Russian naval forces on several occasions. The city holds a fascinating naval history. And from a geology standpoint, the nearby Amanohashidate Sandbar which stretches for two miles across Miyaza Bay is covered with thousands of pine trees with fine ribbons of beach visible on either side, it’s considered one of the Three Scenic Views of Old Japan with its verdant green islands and deep blue seas. Or head to the Goro Sky Tower for the best view over Maizuru Bay. And further to the north, Ine provides a sense of tradition with the ‘funaya’ fisherman’s houses, with moorings for their boats underneath. I like this port because: Maizuru demonstrates how Japan’s coastline is so diverse and beautiful and it brings 20th century naval history to life. In Part 2 we will continue our circumnavigation and discover the final two hidden secrets!

My Top 5 Cruise Ports in Japan (Part 2)

21 April 2019

Sakaiminato This is a really “out there” pick, but I believe visiting a country properly means taking in a few contrasts. In the prefecture of Tottori Sakaiminato's claim to fame is the Matsuba crab – another opportunity for a culinary exploit. Sakaiminato is also the hometown of Japanese manga artist and historian Shigeru Mizuki. Although Shigeru passed away in 2015, his legacy still lives on through his weird and wonderful creations which line Sakaiminato’s streets. You will quickly find Shigeru is the local hero, as almost everything is named after him. Make sure you see the Kitaro statue, one of Shigeru’s most famous characters in the Nakaura Fish Market, before you sample the local kaisen-don (seafood over rice). But don’t miss out on a clean-up with an invigorating outdoor natural spa and bath in the Kaike Onsen hot springs. I like this port because: Sakaiminato is the psyche of Japan personified. Eclectic art on the street, an Icon based culture, and the best crab plates in Japan. Nagasaki Japan was a closed nation for hundreds of years during its period of isolation. It’s first real contact with the West was through Portuguese explorers and Jesuit missionaries, and then Dutch merchants. Apprehensive Shoguns closed Japan to foreign trade except at Nagasaki. It’s the closest trade port to Asia and is often combined with a port of call in South Korea Nagasaki was obliterated by the bomb – but with credit to the Japanese they have invested heavily in the reconstruction of heritage buildings in this area. Visit the Kofukuji Temple, a Buddhist temple in the Teramachi district and the Confucian Shrine, the Sofukuji Temple for excellent examples of this pride in Japanese heritage. My top picks for a stop here are Hirado, the former site of the Dutch trading post, the volcanic Shimbara peninsular, and a visit to Arita and Imari for some of Japan’ most beautiful and iconic pottery outlets. Of course, the must do is the Nagasaki Peace Park for a chilling sense of surrealism and reflection. I like this port because: Nagasaki reminds you how destructive mankind can be, how proud the Japanese are of their heritage and the beauty and craftsmanship the Japanese portray in their centuries old craft of ceramic work. I hope you have enjoyed my Top 5 Ports of Japan; please do get in touch of you’d like me to tailor make your Japanese itinerary for you, as a qualified Master from the Japanese Tourist Office can I guarantee you the time of your life in this fascinating country.

3 Road Trips you won't want to miss....

01 December 2018

One of the best experiences of all must be driving somewhere new and exciting. We've all had enough of the M5, M4, M6 by the time we put our out of office on...especially if you have a long commute. But a driving holiday can be hugely rewarding. Read on to find my top 3 destinations... Bella Italia As a specialist in Italy it was inevitable this would come first. The well know SS163, or the Amalfi Coast route follows the shoreline from Sorrento south to Salerno in Italy. This is one of the best, and most heart thumping coastal drives in the entire country. After all, the stunning Amalfi offers nothing but beautiful scenery all around, sheer drops, vistas of blue and green and colourful houses clinging to rock sides. The road is famous for its hairpin bends, zigzags, and the extreme narrowness in some parts, a feat of engineering built at a very steep angle, it winds around the cliffs leading you from one paradise to another. A multi-centre in Italy is a must and I have some fantastic itineraries (tried and tested) which can be tailormade just for you with some of the most beautiful accommodation choices in converted convents, chic boutiques and even palatial villas along the way. The well-known Amalfi Coast route follows the shoreline from Sorrento south to Salerno in Italy. This is one of the best coastal drives in the entire country. Chapman's Peak Drive Chapman’s Peak Drive or the "Chappies" as it is fondly known is in Cape Town and takes drivers on a 5.5-mile winding route from Hout Bay to Noordhoek. It was initially constructed during WWI and is 9km long with 114 curves, bends and other distractions as it skirts Chapman's Peak, the 593m high southerly extension of Constantia Berg. It follows the rocky coastline to unfold breath-taking views whichever way you approach it. Starting at the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay, the climb winds steeply up to Chapman's Point, revealing jaw dropping (and heart stopping) views of the sandy bays down below, until the road reaches lower levels again at Noordhoek. You'll need to obtain a day pass from the Hout Bay side, although the first 3km of the drive are free there is a toll road in place. This is the gateway between Cape Town and the South Peninsula and is known as one of the most scenic stretches of road on the planet. Some of the vantage points are up to 1,945 feet above sea level and you can often see whales and dolphins dancing in the ocean below. Ask me about a touring holiday on the Garden Route, I know some very special, quaint and different places to stay and can get you involved in everything from weaving to wood working, meeting locals from the cooperatives and getting to grips with a very different lifestyle - or relax in your 5* chalet by the lake before heading up into the mountains for an off-piste driving adventure. It’s all here! Norway The Atlantic Road in Norway is not for those who can't cope with a scenery overdose. In 2005, this National Tourist Route was acclaimed as the world’s most beautiful drive and has been voted the “Norwegian construction of the century”- and it gets my vote! Not that I'm biased because my roots are in this amazing country. The bridge connects Averøy with the mainland via a series of small islands and inlets spanned by a total of eight micro-bridges over 8km. Opened in 1989, it is one of the most famous roads in the world because of its proximity to the ocean’s edge; taking you from lush coastal landscapes and heaths to bare rocks along the exposed Hustadvika, where you can see the sun sink into the horizon. The time to do this is June, when the midnight sun teases you, but if you need a challenge, tackling this on a stormy day might just be your thing! But this isn't just for the drivers amongst you...try it on a bike! Combine this with a coastal cruise and a week’s road trip and you will have Norway nailed. Find out more in this video https://youtu.be/LrISN2rtZc0 For more information on these road trips get in touch - I love talking adventures! vanessa.devere@travelcounsellors.com 01736 370008 | 07833 098748

My top 5 Asia Detox Destinations...

30 November 2018

Just how many parties can one fit into their diary in December – it’s excess gone mad! Another mince pie and that extra glass of mulled wine are outrageously tempting, especially when everyone else is getting into the "spirit" of things. If like me you follow a healthy lifestyle 10-12 months of the year you may be concerned that the festive season is going to send your healthy habits, into a downward spiral. Because once you start... Ok, so let’s focus and be a little mindful on some health-focused rest and relaxation. Let me take you to...... Bali - not as obvious as you might think. Away far from the madding crowds, to the north of this island paradise. Tucked away on the remote northeastern coast of Bali, you will find a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity, immersed in the gentle spirituality and age-old traditions of the Island of the Gods. Fringed by volcanic, black sand beaches, far away from the densely packed South, here one will find a truly intimate setting perfect to relax, rejuvenate and rediscover. In a hotel where ALL the staff are from local villages, this small 25 room adults-only luxury retreat exudes a subtle vibrancy that echoes true Bali - a land that time has forgotten. Sea breezes, peaceful nights, this is a holistic retreat focused on health and happiness. Borneo - set amidst lush mangroves, Gaya Island is a tranquil hideaway surrounded by distinctive island flora and fauna. From the warm clear waters of Gaya and its rich lowland forests to the high altitude blossoms of Mount Kinabalu, treatments here utilise only the finest fresh local ingredients. A rich tapestry of spa programmes reflects the cultural healing traditions of Sabah's many indigenous people. And if you thought Koh Samui was past its sell by - then let me surprise you. In an idyllic village retreat where age-old Thai spa therapies have been revived, integrating nature with an indoor/outdoor environment, and drawing from the island’s healing resources, individual treatment pavilions or salas, and a Yoga Sala, rest above the serene, meditative Gazing Pond. The therapeutic properties of natural local ingredients and age-old healing practices of the region are at play here whilst the residence pays respect to the environment, culture and traditions of Thailand to create holistic and rejuvenating spa programmes. Like the Songkran Shower, a pre-spa ritual inspired by the annual Songkran festival involving the joyful throwing of water, as a prelude to selected spa treatments. Set in an emerald landscape of lush farmland and verdant jungle, your trip to the Cameron Highlands features healing therapies based on produce of the Orang Asli or 'original people' from the surrounding jungle and ancient tea rituals of the Colonial British pioneers. This authentic blending of culture and product is what makes the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia such a unique haven for relaxation and rejuvenation. This award-winning spa uses the tranquil emerald landscape of the highlands provides the perfect ambience for relaxation and rejuvenation. Malacca is the world's only spa to base its therapies on the healing heritage of the Baba-Nyonya or Peranakan culture - a unique combination of Chinese and Malay influences. Treatments are designed to recapture energy that life's challenges remove. Based on Peranakan healing philosophy and inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, the spa therapies are moulded around a person's cool or warm energy. A visit here is a voyage into the heart of Malacca's rich culture. Inspired by the elaborate and colourful 12-day Peranakan Wedding Ceremony, every guest enjoys a pre-spa experience that includes a soothing hair care ritual. Therapies are moulded around a person's cool or warm energies based on Peranakan belief and inspired by traditional Chinese medicine. The combinations of age-old traditional remedies sourced from indigenous ingredients are believed to cleanse, replenish and reinvigorate, both physically and mentally. Come here to embrace the rich multicultural influences and life with a spa experience like no other. For more information on any of these idyllic retreats please get in touch. 01736 370008 | vanessa.devere@travelcousellors.com

Ditch everything and just go !

29 November 2018

So, what's wrong with taking a career break? Apparently, we all live longer now, so we have more time on our hands. I did it a few years ago - and it changed my life. Do you like the idea of a long, mid-career break to go do something really different? India is surprisingly the most popular of these locations thanks perhaps to the film, The First Exotic Marigold Hotel. Whilst this article is not about India it’s about the why - which is almost as important as the journey itself. Many of us obsess over our careers, work painfully long and anti-social hours putting both our health and relationships at risk. We fret about our pension pots, often terrified we won't have enough money to ever retire. This is a logic behind the notion of the mid-term career break. See it as a late gap year. But this time you can afford it and it will put life and all its entrapments into perspective. Doing this at the end of a 40 plus year career, as you near retirement is ideal. Probably when you raid your pension pot at 55 and get this insatiable urge to do a runner with your 25% tax free lump sum. After all we could be working until we are 80! Ask yourself why you shouldn't take some of your retirement at a time when you can really enjoy it - that is, before you retire. I've spoken to many clients in the past year who have told me they want to "do it now...before they get too old to enjoy it". The sabbatical is hardly a new idea, but the mid-life sabbatical as opposed to the mid-life crisis is gaining momentum - but why aren't more of us doing it? Until recently most people would not dream of quitting their jobs just to have fun for a year or two. For workers in a high demand-high stress career the idea is catching on fast. Why not talk to your financial advisor and see how you can do this alongside other goals such as retirement or buying a home. Don't just rule it out. In the last year I have had numerous come to me asking for such a trip - all ready for a change, an adventure and challenged me to push the boundaries on extraordinary for them. Pushing your boundaries outside of the work place can prove you to a be a stronger human being, more mindful, more focused and more complete as a person. Remember that retirement is no longer the ultimate goal - live an enriched live today rather than waiting for life to begin.... when you get the clock and return the car keys.

It's not all about bars and karaoke.....Come with me to unveil something just a little different and

14 September 2018

Ah Tenerife. What's the first thing that comes to mind? Package holiday hotels, bars and karaoke? Over the years this popular destination with Europeans has picked up quite a reputation for all the wrong things. When we say Tenerife, you are immediately pointed to the south of the island, with the usual big hotels and all-inclusive brands making their mark but if you venture to the north you will see a totally different side and a plethora of culture, history and spectacular scenery ripe for exploration. It's time to turn things around! Two of my favourite two locations are La Laguna and Garachico which add a real dimension to your stay. La Laguna is home to the University, but it is without a doubt the most beautiful town in Tenerife with a colonial style, narrow straight streets, colourful mansion houses, traditional style bars and small artisan shops. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and will overload you with Canarian culture and some incredibly good nightlife - Canarian style! On to Garachico, or small island in Spanish. This is a tranquil town located in a deep valley with steep forests to either side and a very rocky coastline, and oozes Canarian identity. There are no big hotels, no real beach, but you can swim in the volcanic coves along the rocky coast, but I think you come here for the history, as this was once a commercial port - to look at it today you'd wonder what happened. It's a place of natural disasters with everything from wild storms, floods, fires, epidemics and, in 1706, a major volcanic eruption that destroyed the port and buried over half the town in red hot lava, answering the question why it’s no longer a commercial port! Today, you can hike trails that follow the path of the disastrous lava flow. Whilst here pop down to to Icod de los Vinos for a look with its famous Dragon Tree and a maze of narrow streets. Onto Santiago del Teide which is a small town northwest of the National Park Boundary. This makes a good base for exploring if you prefer a single location holiday; and is a hiker’s paradise with easy access to Masca and Teno. In spring this town is full of cherry trees in blossom. Get off the beaten track and put the 4x4 to proper use, explore the road networks leading up and around the National Park to Mount Tiede; take a picnic at one of marked picnic spots and spend time, take your walking boots and follow one of over 30 marked trails. I recommend No 11 Fortaleza, and No 10 Pico Teide. To ascend to the highest point in Spain Volcano Mount Teide at an altitude of 3,270 metres, take the cable car up, be warned it is very steep, and walk down only if you are a keen walker - allow five hours. The National Park is an impressive landscape of craters, volcanoes and rivers of dried lava surrounding the dominant (but dormant) Teide Volcano that stands at 3,718 m above sea level. There are multiple vantage points to gain a panoramic view of the whole park. If you want to get creative with your stay why not ask me to add in a night’s accommodation in Las Cañadas Parador. The Guanches, the indigenous inhabitants of these lands were almost wiped out by the Spanish during their conquest in the 15th Century, that's why you see plenty of Catholic shrines for the early Spanish settlers, who built churches and monasteries around Candelaria. I'd give top marks to Candelaria, which gets full religious status on a Sunday as hundreds of Canarians descend to make a tour of the town’s sacred sites. The waterfront is lined by statues of nine half naked men which represent the nine Guanche kings who ruled Tenerife at the time of the Virgin Mary’s appearance. This is a very special place where souvenir shops sell statuettes of Jesus and an array of associated saints. This religious serenity is sharply contrasted by the stormy Atlantic smashing against the sea wall. A trip to the wild side of Tenerife wouldn't be complete without a ferry crossing to La Gomera; it's 40 minutes from Los Cristianos and one of 7 islands that make up the Canaries. For me it is distinctive because of the whistling language used called El Silbo - I challenge you to learn how to order a beer in a whistle! Here is a place to walk, think and reflect on the silence and beauty of this charming place and how lucky you are to be there. You can get to see whales and dolphins here, in fact its Europe's top whale watching destination. I would highly recommend a few nights here in a traditional Parador for a truly get away from it all experience! Please do get in touch to see how I can create a perfectly different and authentic Canarian experience for you. Let me show you undiscovered Tenerife. #letshaveanadventure #takemetotenerife

Don't like the sand in your toes - take to the Jungle !

06 June 2018

I see part of my role as a travel professional is to promote travel to places that take responsibility for their footprint and actively encourage eco-tourism. You may have read in the press that The Beach is Thailand made famous by Leonardo di Caprio and the Island of Boracay in the Philippines have been temporarily closed in a bid to save the corals and give the eco systems time to regenerate. In truth it runs much deeper than that. Boracay has recently been described as a cess pit. Humans did that. In Mauritius the eco-tourism industry is expanding; with swathes of little unknown and vast areas of natural parks, wild flowers, kestrels and parakeets which are often forgotten as visitors rush to its white sands and pretty beaches. Tourists have habitually chosen beach resort hotels and go for the all-inclusive experience with the excitement of flopping on a sunbed drinking in the crystal Mauritian waters with a cocktail in hand, but things are starting to change. Eco-tourism is strongly backed by the Mauritian government, it generates significant revenue and fuels the promotion of intense conservation of the island’s ecology and investment to fund forest regeneration projects and wildlife protection schemes. This is the new buzz word in Mauritius; over 1m tourists are expected to take the eco-tourism option by 2020. When I was in Mauritius in the 1980's I stayed in a traditional Creole cottage; it was painted bright yellow with green shutters, and white picket fencing. I slept on a simple mattress on the floor, which often got bumped out onto the veranda (that's an Indo-Portuguese word by the way) at night. I remember eating rice and bread for breakfast with curry, rice and curry for lunch and curry and rice for dinner. The curries were all very different and it was baptism by fire with the Mauritian Chillies. My favourite food was the dholl poori, a soft pancake made with grounded yellow split pea flour filled with bean curry, wild herbs, sweet tomatoes and chilli. Today you can stay in deluxe waterfront properties, and enjoy the revival of real Mauritian cuisine, merged with the French influence from their late 18th century occupation, Dutch Colonial influence from their tenure in the 17th century and of course from the Brits who got their hands on this wonderful island from 1810 - 1968. Chips are still popular here, but Creole cuisine remains supreme. Thankfully. To experience the real Mauritius head to the south coast and Bell Ombre. If only for the day see a Mauritius without the development, go off the beaten track and explore the wild and authentic. If you want to find your own Jurassic Park head southwest to the Chamarel Valley and the Black River Gorges National Park, teaming with waterfalls, jungle trails and wildlife; stay a few nights in an eco-lodge - glamping personified but with care and respect for the environment. So for your next safari, or maybe your first...why not go off-piste and try Mauritius!

Eco Tourism - who cares ?

05 June 2018

In the 1980's I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Mauritius. I was writing a thesis for my degree in Oceanography. Mauritius is an island in the south west Indian Ocean around 2400km south-east of coast of Africa and 855km east of Madagascar. Back then we didn't know what we were doing to our planet. Plastic was big news in the 80's as it was seen as the new and better alternative to paper bags and adoption grew rapidly across the globe. Global warming was a mumbling in University lecture halls after its first appearance is academic journals in 1975 - but no one took it seriously. I went to Mauritius to study the effect of ocean currents on coral reefs and around the lagoon area of Ile aux Cerfs just off the Trou d'Eau Douce and the Ile aux Aigrettes. I spent time diving and researching, measuring water current speeds and flows. What I did see was the most spectacular marine life and stunning corals. What I didn't see was pollution, apart from the occasional bottle floating by with the letter in it! Eco this and eco that is something we've all heard about but not perhaps actively doing anything about. When I was there, the country was dipping into recession and times were pretty hard. Tourism was just starting to get a foot hold with the introduction of Air Mauritius in the 60's (although it initially had no aircraft of its own) by Air France and BOAC who operated services on their behalf. As the island nation became more accessible tourism started to boom and together with a really smart economic policies have brought the island nation into the modern day world. And with it modern day problems - like plastic pollution. What inspired me to write this article is the way in which eco-tourism is embraced by the Ministry of Tourism, how hoteliers adopt policies for change and the care and respect with which the human footprint is dealt with. Like it or not we all leave a mark wherever we go; taking that plane trip, that car ride, the food we eat whilst away, flushing a toilet, throwing away our empty bottles of lotions and potions before we embark on our return journey home - it all adds up. In this mini series of articles, I will share with you what makes Mauritius my go to holiday destination for eco-tourism and what makes it so very special. Because there is more to Mauritius than all-inclusive holidays, pristine beaches and palm trees.

MyTC - Start planning your adventure today!

30 March 2018

These days we have apps for everything. Some are more useful than others and some you just can’t live without. At Travel Counsellors we have access to state of the art technology - you don't usually see it. When I'm researching and booking your holiday I use real time systems that reach out across many platforms to collate and deliver accurate information to build your holiday. Although it's not new, the myTC app is now something all my clients should have on their mobile devices. The myTC app is unique and enhances the personal service I offer my clients. But it’s not all about me. Once you have downloaded the myTC app you will have access to your itineraries, your booking documentation and I can advise you of any changes directly to your phone. A holiday countdown is one of my favourite features and once at the airport you get gate announcements usually before anyone else. Even if you are off the grid on your holidays your itinerary is travelling with you, along with electronic copies of your travel documents. I will of course also provide you with a travel wallet and paper copies, just in case. Whilst you are away, the myTC app allows you to share your adventures via SMS, email or social media - ideal for letting everyone know you are safe and having a great time; much better than loads of repetitive phone calls and freeing up more time to enjoy yourself! At Travel Counsellors we build our professional reputation and our businesses through your personal recommendations. I always ask for a referral from my clients, so if you’ve had a great service from me you can easily share my details with your friends and family. The myTC mobile app is available for both Apple and Android devices from your App Store. To be a part of the TC World and join thousands of travellers in their journey, why not contact me today for your temporary password and get online! It's all part of the professional and personal service I offer.

Island Hopping in Croatia Split to Korcula (Part 1)

28 March 2018

With hundreds of islands, this is an idyllic location to hop on and off ferries and seek a new adventure every day. A green and lush version of the Greek Islands, this charming country offers something for everyone and is a walker’s paradise. On a trip I did in 2017 I flew into Split and took a 20-minute (17km) transfer to the Maksara Riviera and the town of Seget Donji on the Adriatic coast. The traditional Croatian style holiday village of Medena slopes down towards the sea and is connected by a seaside promenade with Seget, an old fishing village. It’s only 4km away from Trogir, the treasury of art or a Town Museum protected by UNESCO. Split, the second largest city in Croatia, is only 25 minutes away by bus. The old town of Seget is located inside a rectangular medieval castle; steeped in history with a Renaissance Tower dating from 1516. It's a treasure trove of medieval finds. Seget also offers a very diverse selection of cuisines. Numerous restaurants and taverns offer a wide range of different dishes. The "Frenkie” is especially recommended; It’s amazing for fresh seafood delicacies, local wines and lovely desserts and ice creams. Eating out in Croatia is not expensive and fresh fish is in abundance here and the peaches and cherries in the market are like nothing you’ve ever tasted. Seget is an excellent starting point for hikers and cyclists; it has a nicely decorated promenade and walkways which lead you directly to Trogir or along the coast to Primošten. The village has a small shop with good offer of food items. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be bought at the small market in the old town and the stalls along the main road. There is a regular boat service every 30 minutes from Seget Vranjica to Trogir and back. You can also go by bus as there is now a bridge connection - but the boat can add a sense of adventure. I think it’s a great family destination; the children will love the beautiful pebble beaches with crystal clear sea and being able to see the fish swimming close to shore. I stayed at the Medena Apartments which are well spaced out giving you privacy, and some are recently renovated. This is a picturesque resort, situated in the shade of pine woods and genuine subtropical vegetation and offers a healthy environment and breath-taking views. Inside the grounds there are also 324 000 sqm of beautiful pine forest and Mediterranean vegetation - home to many sports and recreation such as walking trails, Nordic walking, tennis, running, cycling, and there is a nature school, as well as relaxation and yoga classes. The resort offers organised transport into town, to Trogir, Solin, Split and Šibenik so car hire is not essential. I would recommend day ferry trips to Vis, Hvar (Blue Caves are excellent) and Brac. The coastline here has numerous small bays, some suitable for naturists (they are well signposted!) and lots of water sports activities along the shore line are available. This area has many easy to reach must see’s including Krka Waterfalls and Sibenik, Plitvice lakes and Kornati. After a week here I caught the Catamaran to Korcula from Split. Catch up with the rest of the journal in Part 2.

Jet sets, sun sets, yachts and moussaka

28 March 2018

Much loved by yacht owners, artists, celebrities, well-heeled visitors from Italy and holidaymakers alike, Fiscardo is one of Kefalonia’s most charming and elegant destinations. It is the northernmost town on the island and is a port (and fishing town) that offers ferry routes out to Ithaca ports of Lefkada and Frikes. It is beloved by artists for its Venetian buildings painted in pastel colours and the historic tavernas that look out over the water, not to mention the charms of the local fisherman who remain there despite the rising prices brought on by the influx of wealthy visitors. Fiscardo managed to avoid the brunt of the destruction brought on by the 1953 earthquake, compared to other towns and villages, and consequently retains a great deal of original Venetian architecture – which is why it is so popular in summer (sometimes a little too popular!) Many people choose to visit rather than stay in Fiscardo (as the hotels there are very expensive), and there are some fantastic restaurants and tavernas along the waterfront, with The Captain’s Cabin and Faros often described as the best restaurants on the island. Even a coffee in a waterfront café is a delight – sitting in the sun watching the fishermen get their nets ready for their next trip out to sea. Fiscardo is packed with things to see and do. A lot of people head to Fiscardo for the shopping alone, with seemingly endless backstreets of tiny gift shops, craft shops, tavernas and cafes around every corner. The streets are gorgeous to walk around and simply window-shop as they are lined both sides with the traditional Kefalonian 18th century buildings, balconies, tiled roofs and grapevines. The harbour walk is a must-see too and if you follow the headland around from the harbour you will eventually come to a small but delightful beach. For those people after a bit of history there are a couple of old buildings to explore. Follow steps from the harbour up to the Panagia of Platiteras Church and Monastery and explore a wonderful area that was left untouched by the 1953 earthquake. Additionally, you can spend some time admiring the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church and its remaining Venetian architecture. Another trip worth making is over to the Lighthouse of Cape Fiscardo. This gorgeous old lighthouse was built in 1892 and stands proudly on a sliver of land that juts out into the sea. Lastly, check out the harbour museum that has a fascinating display depicting how the village has changed over the last few years. If you want to head out and about then there are some stunning spots near to Fiscardo as the west coast of Kefalonia is well known for having the most impressive beaches and landscape. Heading south from Fiscardo you’ll get to Assos village which features one of Greece’s most picturesque ports as well as a stunning Venetian fortress and row upon row of pastel painted Venetian buildings. Further on you’ll get to Myrtos beach, the most spectacular beach in all of Greece and consistently voted into the top ten of best beaches in the world thanks to its white sand, turquoise sea and surrounding tall cliffs. Further still you’ll discover a seemingly endless choice of untouched and picturesque beaches and coves, most of which you can have all to yourself. Finally, while in Fiscardo it is worth taking the opportunity to hire a boat or go out on a boat tour for the day as the stretch of water between Fiscardo and Ithaca is something you will never forget. A tour is preferable as they will be able to guide you around all the hidden sea coves and caves, point out all the marine life, from octopi to the resident "monachus monachus" to all the usual Mediterranean fish (at least the ones that haven’t been wiped out by overfishing!) This is one of the most sought-after destinations in Kefalonia, this is a very special holiday. I visited Fiscardo in June 2016 and stayed for a week; In 1980 I worked a summer season in Kefalonia or Zante as its sometimes know. Of course, it’s changed a bit since then but it’s still as charming as it ever was and the perfect place for a romantic week away!

Where summer is really something - April 2017

28 March 2018

Sweden is beautiful in the summer. It is gorgeous any time of the year! A few weeks ago, some clients asked me to put together a two-week itinerary for Sweden for their summer holidays. Too often Sweden is not even on the summer holiday radar which is such a shame. It offers a powerful combination of city, islands and countryside which offers the opportunity to experience many aspects of Swedish life and their gorgeous country. Collecting your car at Stockholm airport you'll drive to Malexander. It’s about 195 miles easy drive through the Swedish countryside taking you through some smaller Swedish towns and hamlets to Norrköping in the province of Östergötland and then south through Linkoping to Malaxender. It should take about three hours. Situated on Lake Sommen you will be staying at an attractive, traditional Swedish red-house – formerly a vicarage, and now converted into a small hotel, set in idyllic countryside. It is the perfect spot for a relaxing family holiday, with a host of activities to suit the whole family. These include canoeing, cycling, horse-riding, wildlife watching and walking. The nearby lakeside beach offers crystal clear water for swimming. Within easy reach there is so much else to see and do, such as a guided tour of the farm next door, or perhaps a steamboat trip on Lake Sommen. The Gota Canal and Kinda Canal are within easy reach, for boat trips, or just to enjoy the endless fascination of watching boats pass through the locks! Astrid Lindgren’s World – childhood home of the popular Swedish children’s author is about 45 minutes’ drive from Sommarhagen, with an adventure park featuring some of the locations for her films. By way of contrast is Stockholm, Sweden's gorgeous capital city, built on 14 islands. My good friend Simon Lever, who is a budding travel writer says “Stockholm is one of those very special places that will tend to stay in one's mind following a visit, whether it be for business or a memorable vacation. Depending on the time of year, be it summer or the freezing cold winter, appropriate clothing and a positive attitude will ensure a very special and memorable stay in one of the most wonderful cities in Scandinavia. A memorable walk through the Old Town to the myriad cafés, brasseries of the Västerlånggatan is unmissable.” Simon goes on to mention his choice of eatery. “My favourite and most frequently visited place to enjoy excellent food in Stockholm was Mårten Trotzig located in the Old Town, even walking to the location is a treat through a passageway so narrow that one can touch both sides of the walkway at the same time. Mårten Trotzig's restaurant is named after the fairy tale character of the same name and is a friendly, relaxed and welcoming place to enjoy truly awesome food. The good news is that the standards have always been maintained and I always enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, with classical Swedish and international dishes on the menu”. My favourite eating place is the traditional and classical Slingerbuten on Stora Nygatan; the best meatballs in town and they are so child friendly. Eating out here doesn’t have to be expensive there are some real finds – I know where they are too! Whilst in Stockholm with the kids I’d go to Skansen, the city's fabulous 'living' outdoor museum and nature park. Just a short hop by water taxi you’ll find the Vasa Museum. This magnificent warship sank on her maiden voyage, and has now been recovered, in an amazing state of preservation, after nearly 400 years at the bottom of Stockholm harbour. The splendid museum built around it offers endless fascination for all ages. Also close by is the Grona Lund Amusement Park, the ABBA Museum, and Junibacken, where the Story Train takes you on an adventure into an exciting world of fairy tales, great for adults and children alike. There are numerous boat trips available taking you out into the Stockholm archipelago, including a trip to Birka – a whole day’s outing to discover the exciting and unique Viking City. Birka was built in the 700s and today the archaeological area of Birka is part of UNESCO’s world heritage list. This is a wonderful opportunity to see two facets of Sweden and one I'm sure you will enjoy as both an adult and a family holiday. My last visit to Stockholm was April 2017. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details.

Island Hopping in Croatia - From Korcula to Dubrovnik ( Part 2)

28 March 2018

Arriving in Korcula you will be taken aback by the vegetation, the proliferation of vineyards, olive groves and small villages. Home to the enchanting old town, the island of Korcula is the sixth-largest Adriatic island, stretching nearly 47km in length. It's made up of dense woodlands with numerous pathways ripe for walking, leading you to quiet coves and small sandy beaches which you'll find along the steep southern coast. The northern shore is flatter and pebblier. It's a traditional place, very Croatian where you can still see live folk music and dances being performed. It's a wine-lovers paradise with some of the best wines being produced from pošip grapes, which are only grown here together with the grk grape, which produces quality dry white wine. And it’s cheap, the Pivo (beer) isn't bad either and the Croatians have long since adopted the Italian coffee ethic - it’s hard to find a bad cup of coffee here. In Korcula we stayed at the very trendy Port 9 apartments in the serene Shell Bay surrounded by olive groves and greenery overlooking the Adriatic Sea; a location that will put you totally into relax mode. The apartments are surrounded by picturesque beaches and serene bays, some with a purpose built bathing platform and ladders, or opt for the pebble and sandy beaches and some water sports. You can explore the picturesque island coastline in a canoe, take out a day boat with a picnic or lounge by the outdoor swimming pool drinking in the views, which are spectacular whilst enjoying a glass of the local Korculan wine and the seafood specialties with a drop of the ever so tasty olive oil. The newly renovated Port 9 Resort (100-300 m away) has several smaller bars on the beach and you can try the original specialties from the à la carte offered in the Dalmatian tavern. Local Korculan specialties such as fresh oily fish or grilled squid, lamb, makaruni pasta or fish stew with polenta complemented by home-made olive oil and high quality local wines are not to be missed - food heaven. For dessert taste the traditional pastries such as cukarini, klašuni, hroštule, kotonjata or the exquisite rožata. If you'd rather interpret the island cuisine yourself, there is a grocery store located nearby. From Korcula, a whole new world of exploration opens up and you are in easy reach of some of the smaller islands. I'd recommend a day trip to Mijet National Park, a couple of hours boat ride east. You can also get there by local speed boat which is a bit quicker. I visited Lastovo, a small remote island with numerous secluded bays where you can swim, sunbathe and snorkel, and observe the underwater world close up - its teeming with fish life. You can also do some hiking or cycling along several Island’s trails. Lastovo is one of the remotest islands in Croatia but easily accessible from Korcula. Another choice is a local boat trip is the Skoji Archipelago including Badija, Planjak, Vrnik, Gojak, Baretica, Gubavac, Knezic to name but a few is a mini island paradise just truly spectacular with opportunities to swim in caves and some of the best snorkelling in the Adriatic. Of course, staying on land, a tour of the island by buggy is amusing and fun! Korcula old town is a delight and not to be missed. Our last stop on our Croatian adventure was just outside Dubrovnik – the catamaran takes you into the port. The Villa Ratac only 20km away from the enchanting old town of Dubrovnik (easily accessible by local bus) and located close to the charming small town of Slano. I would advise staying clear of the mania that is Dubrovnik in the summer months. Get in there early and out by lunchtime. Villa Ratac is a dwelling dating back to 1999 now fully restored and converted into a prestigious and fascinating villa Located on the Dubrovnik Riviera. It offers a beautiful view over the Lopud and Šipan islands (past of the Elaphiti), the Pelješac peninsula, and the islands of Jakljan and Mljet national park in the distance. This is a great position, you are away from the hub bub of Dubrovnik but can easily get in by bus for the morning to do the old town and perhaps the cable car. If you are a game of thrones fan, then nearby Lokrum Island was a filming location. If like me, you are a foodie then Villa Ratac has an excellent reputation for its food and will fit the bill. My journal for this trip made up over 40 pages of my trusted Travel Diary – here I’ve included just some of the highlights. This is a potentially actioned packed trip with the option of doing nothing as and when pleases. IT works as a family holiday or for couples giving you and your family freedom to be as active or laid back as needs be, and the opportunity to explore local culture and cuisine whilst avoiding the more touristy locations in Croatia and focusing on the real land and people of 718 islands. If you'd like to know more or just chat about Croatia and her islands, give me a call. There is nothing like sharing a travel story or two!

Sing-a-Long with Sydney -March 2017

24 March 2018

There is so much to Sydney; its young and vibrant population of many cultures. My recent three-night stop off in Sydney was exciting. It was at the end of a cruise from San Francisco, although slightly tinged with sadness disembarking the Queen Elizabeth in the pouring rain (yes it rains in Australia). A swift transfer to our hotel in Darling Harbour was pre-arranged and early check-in meant we had the whole day to start discovering this really interesting place. Darling Harbour is a great place to stay as you are on the edge of everything, in particular the area of Pyrmont with its little cafes and bakeries and Victorian houses. You’re just footsteps from the harbour side where water taxis can shuttle you into Circular Quay Harbour, so this is, in my opinion, the perfect location for a short break. A stroll along the promenade, the Darling Harbour Walk is the perfect start to your stay and takes you around the Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney and Madame Tussauds with plenty of opportunities for a coffee stop to take in the charming surroundings. You can jump on one of the numerous ferries at Pier 36 to whisk you around Barangaroo and Dawes Point, under Sydney Bridge and into Circular quay. We bought a rechargeable transport card which makes this a very cheap from of transport compared to a taxi. Off then to explore The Rocks area, a quaint collection of Victorian warehouse conversions, a profusion of cafes and restaurants and a lively market at the weekends. I usually turn my nose up at markets, but this was very well organised and the quality of items on sale very high. I bought several artisan pieces here; I may have changed my mind about markets. Time for a lunch stop, it was Sunday and live music everywhere created a really relaxed vibe. An afternoon stroll around The Rocks and a visit to one or two of the pubs reminded me of the heritage the early settlers left here. Sydney is rich in history with much preserved and carefully mingles in with a modern city. An early evening water taxi to the Opera House is the way to arrive. I pre-booked tickets for a “Best Of” opera performance, just enough to get the feel of the Opera House whilst sipping a glass of bubbles overlooking the harbour. An hour-long performance gave ample opportunity to take in the atmosphere and architecture of this much photographed building, up close it looks a lot different! Strolling around Circular Quay finding somewhere to eat is fun, especially when the Queen Mary 2 is berthed on the opposite quay almost overshadowing Sydney Bridge. I enjoyed The Sydney Cove Oyster Bar - Its nights like this you remember on a holiday. A stroll in the Royal Botanical Gardens is an absolute must; allow a morning, with a stop at the restaurant. An afternoon shopping in downtown is a must, try the Westfield Central Plaza, Pitt Street Mall, the Queen Victoria Building and The Strand Arcade. Follow this with afternoon tea in The Tea Room with sublime Victorian architecture and Baccarat crystal chandeliers.

Chowder Time - February 2017

24 March 2018

I’m not sure that February is the right month to visit San Francisco but wherever you go you will need very deep pockets. This is one of the most expensive places I have ever visited, and certainly kept my wine habit in check. Visiting anyway in the US shortly after an election you will feel the out pouring of emotion and a certain post-election fever. I always had certain iconic ideals of this city probably after hearing so many popular songs in the 60’s and 70’s. However, rest assured no one wears flowers in their hair here anymore. In fact, it was hard to even see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. What is striking is Fisherman’s Wharf, and the piers. It’s one of those lovingly restored areas (in places.) Warehouses have become centres for restaurants and museums and some hotels along the front have made really good use of the character and created some atmospheric places to stay. It’s a hilly city on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The hills are best navigated by one of the classic cable cars, but you will need nerves of steel to join the rest of your travelling companions as you pray for the brakes to work in places. The fog and bad weather prevented getting out to Alcatraz Island, but telescopes from the bay side afford great views. You can spend hours exploring the piers; in fact, I did and loved the style and enthusiasm of place. Especially great is the choice of bakeries for an authentic breakfast stop, I liked Boudin’s. A wander around will take you to Pier 39’s sea lion centre, a noisy affair but fascinating to see so many in one place and watch a number of neighbourhood disputes simultaneously in progress! Apart from the scarily expensive restaurants there are a number of street stalls that sell more crab than you can ever eat and more chowder than you ever thought existed. For a few days it’s OK but if you are planning to stay longer then plan to visit further afield. When I go back again I’d like to do some vineyard tours and ask them why their wine is so expensive! Come to San Francisco for a bit of nostalgia, bagels in Boudin’s, street vendors and hair-raising cable car rides and seal watching!

Bucket List Adventure Day 8 - Straight down for Cape Town!

01 December 2017

I took a long look at the huge map which covers an entire wall in my office this morning before I started planning today's article. I often refer to this when talking to clients looking for holiday inspiration. I realised that for as far north I was going to travel on my adventure I would also be moving east. Tracing a longitude of 18.955324 downwards from Tromso I would be in the same parallel as Cape Town in South Africa 18.423300. Leaving Tromso and sailing overnight we will reach The North Cape at Honningsvåg late morning after a few short stops along the way. A vertical cliff rising 307 metres from the sea is a platform to view the world to the north, over the endless horizon to, and over the top of the world towards the Arctic. At this point I will be only 2080km from the North Pole. For me this is a wonderful place to stop and send a postcard...wish you were here? At this point the temperature will be in the range of -2C to-12C; some of my sailing chums will be heading off for a snowmobile adventure whilst others will visit Honningsvåg. Me, I think I will just want to stand here and think, take a selfie and remember the day fondly. Sailing in the early afternoon the sun will be starting to sink into the horizon as we sail past the Finnjerka, the most dramatic sea cliff in Norway. Known as the Finn-Church in English this is an illuminated stretch of cliff, featuring multi-coloured lights that slowly and beautiful merge a spectrum of colours. This cliff face wasn’t conquered by man until as recently as 1955; when you see how vertically it rises from the sea it is a wonder how. I went around Cape Horn is South America a few years ago; I expected the worst from the weather but instead it was so calm the captain insisted we went around again. As many of you will know Cape Horn is actually a group of islands, so as we relaxed into the tranquil seas it wasn't until the South Atlantic and the Southern Oceans met we felt the full meaning of a gale force 10. I am ready for the same as we sail from the Norwegian Sea into the Barents Sea, round the corner and over the top towards the final stop on my voyage, Kirkenes a few miles from Russia. Time to replace the bobble hat with a Russian "ushanka" - a fur hat with ear flaps... might just need it on my next stop!

Bucket List Adventure Day 9 - The Final Push

01 December 2017

We will arrive in the small town Kirkenes around 9am, located north east in as far north in Norway as you can go. It's the capital of the Barents Region and the gateway to the east. We are talking Russia and Finland - Lapland country! Guess I would have missed Santa in March? The Kirkenes Snow hotel is my next destination, open between December and April (subject to global warming) it is built from ground up every year. The picture above is the lobby bar. I mean who wouldn't want to sip a vodka here? The temperature inside is a constant minus -4C but I'm told the beds are warmed with reindeer hide, I'd prefer a hunky Norwegian chap but there you are. Another possibility here are the log cabins on the same site but I've come this far and this is on the list! There is surprisingly lots to do here, even during winter, dog-sledging at various times of the day, snowmobile tours, ice fishing and king crab safari. This area is called Eastern Finnmark and is rich in modern history; the old town of Hamningberg on the tip of the Varanger National Tourist Route, is a stunning fishing village and one of few places that was not razed to the ground by the retreating Germans at the end of the Second World War. Kirkenes however, bore the brunt with over 320 air attacks against the city and by contrast is a modern and integrated town. Vardø, about 45 kilometres away is a popular summer retreat and has a very unusual monument in memory of 91 people, mostly women, burnt at the stake during the witch hunt in the 17th century. History lesson over - booked dog sledding in the morning to get my fix of canine power and after lunch I'm off on a 3 hour snowmobile safari. In the evening after dinner I'm on Northern Lights watch with a cocktail or two from the Ice Bar. My journey planned, let's just do it - BOOKED!

Bucket List Adventure Day 7 - Continuing North..again

21 November 2017

Arriving into Tromsø, the "Capital of the Artic" 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle with its large islands and high mountain back drop will spark excitement. It's said Tromsø has a mild climate because of the gulf stream, so somewhere between 0C and -9C isn't that cold... really! I last came here many years ago on a conference in the summer and experienced the midnight sun. This time the sky will be very different. We will arrive around 14:30 and as the sun will be setting around 17:00. I will be in a hurry to disembark to get to those gorgeous huskies for a few hours adventure in the snow. My own very first mini polar expedition fulfilling a life time ambition. We will be out for over 3 hours, so as the sun sets we will be "mush mushing" over snowy open plateaus taking in the magnificent frozen landscape and hopefully the northern lights will light our path. There are of course alternatives, and my sailing chums can choose between a walk around Tromsø or a polar history tour. But for me this is the first thing I had on my list - and sometimes you just have to do, what you have to do! The city has a lively nightlife, but I will be back on board as we sail at 18.30, tired, probably elated and ready for another wonderful Hurtigruten dinner as we head north to Skjervøy; an island and fishing community in the northern part of Troms County. A bit of a Norwegian lesson here - the name originates from the Old Norse word Skerføy, skerf means "rocky ground" and øy meaning "island" - I bet that won't come up in Trivial Pursuits. Meanwhile I will retreat to the bar with my glass of cloudberry wine in my Norwegian Cardi and my furry slippers - such is life on the MS Nordlyss. Tomorrow even further north - there is no stopping us now!

Bucket List Adventure Day 6 - Lofoten Islands to Tromsø and beyond

22 November 2017

The Lofoten Islands have beckoned me for years; I have absolutely no idea why. The sun will be setting as we sail into Stamsund, but I feel sure we wont miss the soaring Lofotveggen, rough and ragged peaks, misshapen and multi-coloured mountains as a backdrop to the westerly skies. Throughout the night we will drift through this Nordland archipelago making our stops; I think it will be a night when I don't sleep. This rare wilderness landscape tempered by the Gulf Stream has a mild climate, majestic mountains and deep fjords, vast colonies of seabirds and long glorious beaches. If the lights show themselves at all during my journey I would wish it to be here. Lofoten is home to the 83ft Viking longhouse at Lofotr; and is without doubt one of Norway's key archaeological sites bearing testament to the might of the Vikings. I will be joining the night trip to the longhouse, cleverly arranged between two ports of call and meeting the Chieftain and the Lady of the house for a real Viking feast in the banquet hall, with mead of course. Its not what you know you see. It's who you know!!! During winter, the Vikings made a sacrifice to ensure the return of the sun and the light - there will be a ritual enactment of a sacrifice to the Gods, praying that the sun will return to avoid Ragnarok, the end of the world. Another opportunity to see the northern lights in this vast area of unpolluted sky. During my brief visit to the Lofoten Islands I will be on the lookout for millions of skrei (cod from the Barents sea) on their way back to their northern Norwegian spawning grounds. Perhaps we will have Cod on the menu tomorrow or the Artic Char that was loaded from Sigerford overnight? We will arrive into Harstad, a municipality comprised entirely of islands, and also covers a large number of smaller islands and islets and white sandy beaches early morning after navigating the the Risøy channel, opened in 1922, which runs 4.8 kilometres long through the Risøysund. It's only 7 metres deep, with a bottom width of 100 metres, so will take some skilful navigation so I hope the bridge team kept off the cloudberry wine during the night! Tromsø with its incredible landscape is reached just after lunch. It's a small city known as the capital of the Artic and a renowned starting point for many Arctic expeditions - rightly so as I ready myself for my first arctic circle sledging experience powered by canines. I'm ready to don the bobble hat, the artic parka, (over the Norwegian Cardi) and the snow boots. Excited doesn't even go there... mush mush...

Bucket List Adventure Day 5 - Now the fun begins...

01 December 2017

As I've previously mentioned Hurtigruten are working ships which have sailed along the Norwegian coast since 1893 bringing much needed supplies and post to remote towns. After a few days of taking in the sights of Oslo and Bergen and having spent my first night on the MS Nordlyss we will have already made a few overnight and morning stops. Firstly at Florø (meaning strong stream) once a centre of herring production now a supply base for the petrochemical industry, then Maloy and Torvik, and the spectacular Hjørundfjorden - until our first point of disembarkation at Ålesund, a port town at the entrance to the Geirangerfjord (very popular with cruise ships in the summer). Known for the art nouveau architectural style in which the town was rebuilt after the 1904 fire, a walking tour of the town might be just the thing to stretch the legs. We have three hours here; another option is to head off to the Mount Aksla viewpoint where there are panoramic views of Ålesund, the surrounding archipelago and the fjords. Remember to take the binoculars ! As we sail overnight we reach Trondheim as the legendary Hurtigruten breakfast is being served. On my list here is The Bakklandet District where the first settlers landed in the 1600's beautiful wooden buildings with artisans and small traders (shopping - maybe a new bobble hat?), the Nidaros Cathedral and a kaffepause in one of the traditional coffee houses, and a slice of Kransekake (apple cake). We have six hours here so plenty of time to see Trondheim. At this point we are at latitude 63.45N, only a few degrees from the Artic Circle at 66.33 N.T During our morning cruise we cross the invisible border that takes you into this magical wonderland and one which is surrounded by ritual (much as crossing the equator by ship). King Neptune makes an appearance on deck and you brace yourself for ice cold water to be poured down your back; cloudberry wine is your reward. Well worth it! Onwards to Bodø - home to the world’s strongest maelstrom sea current Saltstraumen and the Børvasstindan mountain range. The largest city in the county of Nordland is a bit livelier in the summer than in the winter but I'm up for a Rib Safari, if the waters aren't frozen with my binoculars at the ready to catch sight of the magnificent sea eagle, or a mountain hike with the expedition team. We've only a couple of hours here so make the most of this stop! This afternoon we sail to my beloved Lofoten islands. I think I shall don my Norwegian Cardi and bobble hat and toast my arrival with a glass of cloudberry wine on deck... Tomorrow we head to Tromsø!

Bucket List Adventure Day 4 - Contemplating Bergen

21 November 2017

As my itinerary "topping" continues before the big voyage, I know I need to be in Bergen (Bryggen) for the Hurtigruten departure at 11pm. My train gets in at 3pm so I have a few hours. I'm quite a laid-back person and I don't like rushing things. After a long 7-hour train journey I think I would probably want to chill out and take in this gorgeous city. Bergen has an ice-free harbour sheltered from the North Sea by a chain of islands (not I'm not going swimming) and is sometimes called ‘The city between the seven mountains’. It also has a fascinating history. Bergen was founded in 1070 AD by Olav Kyrre, king of Norway. He was the son of King Harald Hardrada who died in the famous battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. His nickname Kyrre indeed means peaceful. It was once the capital of Norway and its dependencies Iceland, Greenland and many of the Scottish islands, in 1217. It replaced Trondheim, the first capital, and was itself replaced by Oslo in 1299. The Black Death plague in 1349 came to Norway from a foreign ship in the harbour of Bergen. It wiped out one third of Norway’s population and was a severe setback also to Bergen. Under Danish rule in the latter part of the fourteenth century Bergen was the centre of trade for all of Norway especially the dried cod which was exported to the catholic countries of Europe in connection with the fast. Along with the grain, clothing and spices, the Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of the city, on the east shore of Vaagen, where they built their living quarters and large wharfs, enjoying exclusive trade privileges with the fishermen from the North of Norway. Today, Bergen's old quayside Bryggen (pictured above) is where the Hanseatic traders lived, is on UNESCO's list as a World Heritage Site. There have been many great fires in Bergen mainly because of its wooden buildings and narrow streets. Today some of the oldest buildings in Bergen are at the Bergenhus Fortress including Haakon's Hall (1261) and the twelfth century St. Mary's Church with its twin towers - the oldest building in Bergen. You get the picture. This is a beautiful historic city, so decision made, I'm not going to rush this. I've tracked down a hotel on the waterfront in a converted warehouse and I'm going to spend the night here. I'm going to the fish market, Bergenhus Fortress, take a ride of the Fløibanen Funicular to the Fløyen Mountain for panoramic views and maybe find a hiking trail down and of course visit Edvard Grieg House where this famous composer once lived. I’ll take in the atmosphere of the wonderful harbour side restaurants and cafés, fit in a Sauna, a two-hour fjord cruise and wear my Norwegian Cardi and bobble hat. Tomorrow I'm going to plan my shore excursions whilst on my Hurtigruten voyage. Ha en fin dag!

Bucket List Adventure Day 3 - The big train journey

01 December 2017

When going away on any sort of trip I always look to maximise the time I have by doing as much as I feel comfortable with - I call it top and tailing. In my article "Planning an Adventure Day 2" I wrote about my choice of ship for the coastal exploration side of my adventure. Today I am looking at taking the train between Oslo and Bergen, courtesy of NSB (Norges Statsbaner AS) or the Norwegian State Railways. I've read numerous articles about this seven-hour journey; it's considered one of the world’s most scenic train rides bringing you across one of Europe’s highest mountain plateaus, and takes you through spectacular and varied nature. I love train travel, and this is a very affordable way of seeing a snowy Norway. (If I like it I will go back at a later date and do it the other way in the Summer via Flam). My itinerary then, is shaping up with an overnight stop in Oslo, catching the early plane gives me most of the day to explore Oslo; and with the swift Flytoget service from the airport I can be at my hotel in 20 minutes. Hotel location is everything here as I have to be up early to catch the NSB service to Bergen. On my must-see list is the Nobel Peace Centre, Royal Palace and Karl Johans Gate, Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Viking Ship Museum and the Oslofjord. Oh, and the Fram Museum; might even pop in for a spot of ski jumping! On my list of iconic stops is the Mathallen indoor food hall with over 30 speciality shops and cafes, just right for picking up a reindeer burger for lunch, and the beautiful Continental Hotel which overlooks the Oslofjord. This is an elegant hotel dating from 1900, a perfect stop for traditional afternoon tea in the Theatercaféen. There's also a collection of 12 graphic works by Edvard Munch in the lobby bar. Not sure I can afford to stay there though! Norway is big on opera and ballet so I will see what's on, but I will have to check out the architecturally stunning harbour side auditorium. Several of the hotels have very high floor bars with spectacular views over the city and the Oslofjord. I think for a nightcap that is a must. Dreaming now of the train journey and getting more than a little excited. Train, boat and plane - whatever next? More ways to wear my Norwegian Cardi and my bobble hat?

Bucket List Adventure Day 2 - We are sailing!

04 December 2017

With all trips there is a start date and end date, because we all have commitments and a set time span to do things in, unless we are really fortunate, and I'm not there yet! In working out how best to spend my days I've made a list of all the things I want to do (you will find this list in Part One if you missed my opening article). Norway is a long country with approx. 14,000 miles of coastline, and land borders of approx. 1500 miles with Sweden, Finland and Russia. Planning is everything and I want to see as much as I can. Living in the far South West, a few miles from Lands’ End, usually means adding an extra night to the departure airport to make sure of an early get away. A quick look through Travel Counsellors’ reservation systems gives me everything I need to make a cost conscious and workable solution for my flights from Newquay. Putting those to one side, one of my most important bucket list items was to take a cruise with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes way up in the Artic Circle. There was quite a bit of deliberation over which ship but after a few really inspiring conversations with our account manager a plan started to form. Hurtigruten has 11 ships servicing Norway, they are working ships visiting some of the most isolated areas of Norway with post and supplies. Although they all follow a similar itinerary, some of the ships have an expedition crew. Given my sense of adventure this is a must for me; a gentle hike on a glacier is totally my thing. But the essence of this adventure is getting up close and personal with the natural beauty of Norway. This isn't a cruise with the glitz and glamour but a chance to kick back, get your thermals on and soak up the atmosphere, the wonderful cuisine, interaction with the locals travelling between ports and maybe even spotting some whales whilst clad in my Norwegian Cardi and bobble hat on deck! So, its settled. I'm to sail on the MS Nordlyss, a modern expedition ship whose name and the interior design are inspired by the spectacular Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). 21 port stops, including my beloved Lofoten Islands. Next, what to do at each port of call? Decisions, decisions.

Bucket List Adventure - Planning a trip to Norway Part 1

22 November 2017

As many of you know, I started in travel in 1978 and the travel bug has never really left me. I work at home now and run my own business as a travel professional who "delivers travel solutions to people who want to travel". I'm part of Travel Counsellors Ltd. Every day I have access to hundreds of airlines, suppliers; I attend webinars and supplier days and come away armed with brochures, pens and key rings and lots of inside information. I've been to Norway so many times; on a cruise ship bobbing around the Fjords, on a business trip bobbing around a PowerPoint presentation but I feel I've never seen the real Norway. Often called the happiest country in the world they have so much passion and enthusiasm for their country it’s hard not to feel the love rubbing off. Norway has always fascinated me. A few months ago, I did one of those ancestry tests and found out I'm fourth generation northern Scandinavian. Well the first question you ask is "who was it"? With no real way of knowing I'm even more resigned to the fact that I must explore this gorgeous country urgently. I started by making a list of all the things I want to do. Visit my Sami ancestors (should I call everyone cousin?) shout mush-mush at the top of my voice and hurtle across the snowy plains in a sled propelled by Husky power, break land speed records on a snow mobile in the dark chasing after Northern Lights, go to the Lofoten Islands (where you ask...why I ask I don't know it's just telling me I have to go there), stand on the deck of a ship slowly cruising in peaceful waters for days along the Norwegian coast, get up to Svalbard to catch up with the polar bears, catch the train on the world’s most beautiful stretch of railway, stay in an iconic hotel in the country's capital, eat lots of Herring, spend a night in the snow hotel, drink vodka in the ice bar, fall asleep on a fur, go ice fishing, hike across a glacier, ski down a mountain with sea view, wear my Norwegian cardi and my bobble hat. So that's what I'm about to do - plan my own holiday with the same care and attention I give to my clients.

From Outback to Outpost

06 September 2017

Darwin was my first Australian experience which really having now seen much more is the real scene setter for this wonderful country. I flew into Darwin from Singapore; the vastness of the landscape strikes you and the colour green is vivid and contrasting to the deep blue sea. This won’t be everyone’s bag, but to say it’s something completely difference won't over egg the stark contrast between Darwin and other major cities on this vast continent. Having been totally rebuilt since Cyclone Tracy devastated the area on Christmas Day in 1974 it’s a selection of quick rebuilds with the Central Business District sticking out like a sore thumb. The heat can be oppressive depending on which time of the year you visit, but a walk along the upmarket Waterfront with its lovely collection of bars and restaurants is a must. If you want to go swimming whilst in Darwin then this is the place to go with a purpose-built crocodile, box jelly fish free lagoon with sandy shores. Swimming in the sea or in undesignated areas really isn’t a great idea unless you want to lose a limb or your life! The city is fast becoming a regular stop on cruise ship itineraries and as a result money is being thrown into upgrading. Don’t come here for the shopping experience, enjoy the sea front walk, the history around the Cyclone at the museum (complete with an eerie wind chamber that replicates the sound of the cyclone) more history about the Japanese bombing in WW2 and as a staging point to discover the outback in glorious detail. There are a number of day trips from Darwin that make good sense if you have more than a day to spend here. I went to Nitimuluk National Parks near Katherine, about a four-hour drive on the very straight wildlife strewn Stewart Highway. Setting off at dawn and watching the sunrise over the outback is a must have option; you will not believe the size of these beasts. On my next trip to Darwin I’m going to head a bit further out to and Kakadua National Park and the Mary River on the Arnhem plains, a cruise to the Tiwi Islands and a longer and much braver excursion to Kimberley on an organized camping trip with a Ranger. I have my bush hat ready and waiting…nothing to experience; breakfast stop at the Adelaide river is a welcome break from the straightest road I have ever seen. The park is a wonderful place where I tried controlled speed boat ride through the gorge, a spiritual experience home to ancient aboriginal tribes, bat watching, climbing to a very high outlook point in 40C. The Edith falls are spectacular at the right time of year and on the way back a stop at Litchfield National park is a must with stunning natural waterfalls and controlled swimming pools. Jumping crocs are also an stop me now! Visit Darwin to inspire your sense of adventure and discover the spiritual home of the aboriginal indigenous people of the Northern Territory.

Anyone for Cricket?

04 December 2017

We arrived in Colombo to a colorful sweaty hustle and bustle to start our two-week adventure; met by our enthusiastic driver Sammy we joined our private transport, luggage stowed we started on the hectic drive through the capital of Sri Lanka. Nothing prepares you for the array of colour and smell and the disorder of traffic. A front seat in the bus is not for the faint hearted! Our drive to Galle took several hours but we made stops at the Turtle Sanctuary at Bentota and Hikkaduwa along the way. Amazed by the beauty of the island we arrived in Galle and settled into our lovely colonial style hotel with incredible Indian Ocean views. Galle is wonderful, a nod to Portuguese occupation and British colonialism a fine display of architecture, culture and atmosphere and a wonderful cricket ground. If you ever wondered how seriously the Sri Lankans take their cricket then this is the first stop on tour! The after effects of the Tsunami on December 26 2004 are still very evident with deserted houses with no family left to claim the land and markers in restaurants attesting to the height the water reached. It’s a stark reminder of the power of the sea so a quiet moment at the Peraliya Buddha Statue puts things into perspective. We started our journey to Kandy on day 3 crossing acres of tea plantations on wide open roads, such beauty that was Ceylon and still imparts great days of their British Heritage. This all changed when we crossed back into Colombo and started on of the most hair-raising hair pin bend experiences of a life time. A slow crawl, very safety unconscious drivers clearly not wanting to live diced with opportunity to overtake at every bend. A five-hour journey not for the fainthearted was wiped away on our arrival in Lake Victoria. Our retreat was an elegant lodge, with open air bathrooms, open air lounge and views that were truly breath-taking. Our lovely housekeepers warned us about the monkeys but we quickly settled into a wonderful meal, some wine and took in the atmosphere of this gorgeous location whilst keeping a watchful eye out for rogue monkeys! The cricket ground in Kandy is a grand affair but we were waiting for our return to Colombo for the ODI’s our driver had cleverly sourced tickets for. The Temple of the Tooth is the crowning glory of Kandy, but its lakeside location and elegant villas are sublime. Take a stroll around the lake if time permits on your tour. The drive back to Colombo was full of pit stops, tea plantations, tea tasting, curry tasting and souvenir stops at one of the many bazaar like shops scattered along the roadside; the transition between the country and the town did not happen in this sprawling urbanization. A few hours later we arrived in Negumbo for a week of sand, sea and cricket. No one mentioned the beach traders who became slightly hostile when you didn't buy anything from them but the acres of golden sand, lush tropical plantations and beach side bars made this all worthwhile. Whilst souvenir shops and eager restaurateurs abound this is a great location to see this part of the island. For us it was the cricket ground in Colombo, nothing prepares you for the onslaught of enthusiasm, cheap beer and hotdogs and wild noisy atmosphere! We decided on a private cookery course for the day, where we became versed with a tuk tuk ride to the market to buy our ingredients and a road side stop for tuna before preparing endless cloves of garlic, crushing spices and enjoying a lazy lunch which we made ourselves, chilling on a small terrace with a local beer or two. Go to Sri Lanka for the atmosphere, the wonderful people, breath taking scenery, naughty monkeys and the best reason ever to restock your spice cupboard.

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