Based in Cork

Mary Foyle

It's Nice To Meet You

This year, I celebrate 46 years in the Travel business and 17 as a Personal Travel Counsellor. Over the years I have availed of wonderful travel opportunities which have helped me put together amazing, special itineraries for my clients.

I specialise in bespoke holidays for those coming up to or recently retired. I think the new acronym for this group is ‘SKI’ - ‘Spending the Kids Inheritance’! Everyone nowadays has their ‘bucket list’ and once the kids have finished College and left home, it is time to start putting a few ticks on it.

Many of you, like me, will probably have children living in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Isn’t that a great excuse to travel? I have been to all three places visiting my children and have put together fantastic itineraries for myself and my husband and would be only too delighted to help you ‘kill two birds with one stone’ and plan a fabulous holiday and visit your kids at the same time.

Of course, you don’t have to have children living in these far-flung destinations in order to travel. Fabulous bucket list holidays include Vietnam combined with Cambodia, Alaska cruise combined with either a self-drive or train ride through the Canadian Rockies or a South America tour taking in several countries if you wish. Just contact me for a chat and we can get the ball rolling.

Honeymoons and special anniversary holidays continue to be a large part of my business and when booking that ‘special’ holiday, you do not want to leave anything to chance. Travel Counsellors are licensed and bonded here in Ireland by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and so your money is completely safe. Furthermore, my years of experience are an invaluable asset and the fact that all my business comes from referrals is testament to the high level of customer satisfaction I receive. I take great pride in matching the right holiday with the right person.

So, if you are planning that special, once in a lifetime holiday, why not give me a call. As I work from home, I am not restricted to the 9-5 working day and can chat in the evenings when you have more time to talk. If you would prefer a face to face meeting, that can also be arranged, and I would be happy to meet you in the evenings or at weekends at a place suitable to you and together we can plan your special holiday.

Travel – tailor made for you, with care.

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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.

Luxury 5 star Adriatic Cruise

14 August 2022

I was so lucky and felt so privileged to have been invited to experience a 5 star, ultra luxury cruise onboard the Silver Spirit. The ship, recently renovated, is the largest in the Silversea fleet and holds just over 600 passengers and has a crew of just over 400. Our cruise commenced in Athens and visited the Greek islands and mainland before heading to Montenegro and finishing in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We checked into our cabin shortly after boarding and were introduced to our lovely butler Anil and his sidekick, Armando. Each of the suites offers a butler service – not only do they ensure the suite was spotless each day, but they kept our minibar refreshed, provided breakfast on our large veranda and kept us informed as to what activities on the ship were on each day. Each time we met them, whether in the suite or the corridor, they greeted us by name and were just so friendly. I am sure we would all love an Anil or an Armando at home! We stayed in a deluxe verandah suite which was incredibly spacious. There was a sitting room area adjoining the bedroom area with a table, 2 seater couch and armchair. The bathroom was large with a full size bath and a double shower and to my huge surprise, we had a large walk in wardrobe – plenty of room for all the ‘glamorous’ clothes we had brought with us! And of course, we had a large veranda and one of my favourite times of the day was to have a glass of wine sitting on the veranda in the evening before heading up to dinner. For such a small ship, there was a great choice of restaurants and food was top class in each of them. Once we boarded the ship, we headed for La Terraza which was the buffet restaurant and open for breakfast and lunch. In my life, I have never seen such a choice of fresh fruit and berries which we enjoyed each morning, and at lunch time, the selection of salads was just mouth-watering. This restaurant became an Italian Restaurant in the evenings with waiter service. The main restaurant was called Atlantide which offered a wide range of food from meat to fish to vegetarian, and I especially enjoyed the scallops with strawberries! Hot Rocks was a real favourite. Situated on the pool deck, it does what it says on the tin – you pick your steak or giant size prawns and cook them yourself on the hot rock which they place in front of you. We also enjoyed the Pizzeria – ‘Spaccanapoli’ on another evening and a real treat was ‘Silver Note’, which served ‘tapas’ style food accompanied by a fabulous jazz singer - have a look at the picture of my starter 'The Beehive'! Indochine, the Asian restaurant was closed during our stay and the other 2 restaurants, Seishin and La Dame were the ‘specialty’ restaurants and carried supplements of USD$40 - $60 per person. All of the Silversea product offers a premium all inclusive package. Premium brand drinks are included and they have 110 house wines onboard and you can choose what you want. In fact, if you discover a particularly nice bottle of wine, your butler will place a bottle in your fridge! The package also offered 1 excursion per person per port. Silversea does not offer all the razzamatazz shows of the larger ships, but we enjoyed 2 lovely singing and dancing shows – one fairly contemporary eg, Abba songs and the other more ‘swing’ style. There were some other lovely options – a classical evening, an opera singer but there simply wasn’t time for everything. Each evening finished with music and a ‘bop’ at the Panorama lounge and what I just loved, was the huge comfortable outdoor area here. And of course – the cruise is all about the destinations. I never thought I would appreciate waking up in a different place each morning and not having to live out of my suitcase! The beauty of the Silversea ships is that they are small, and can therefore berth at many ports where the larger ships would have to tender in. Kotor in Montenegro is a prime example here – we docked in the centre of the town in front of the tunnel which brought us under the road and up to the gates of the old town. We were therefore free to come and go as we please and Kotor was one of the highlights of our trip. The journey up to our berth was spectacular – we sailed through Europe’s most southerly fjord in the early hours of the morning. The sea was like glass, the sun rising and the mountains on either side majestic! Silversea offered shuttles every half hour into the towns of Chania in Crete and Corfu Town. We didn’t avail of the latter as we in fact chose one of the beach excursions. We did this also at Katakolon and just loved swimming in the warm sea. We did our own thing in Santorini – took the tender into the port and the cable car up to the capital Fira. Oia is where everyone wants to visit – it is roughly a 30 min taxi journey from Fira (although we could have taken the included excursion) . The views were spectacular – just like all the post cards you see of Santorini, but we found it to be extremely busy. Earlier we had walked from Fira to the village of Imerovigli (approx. 3km). It offered the same view and type of accommodation (much cheaper than Oia) and was far less crowded. Each afternoon when we returned to the ship, it was a lovely treat to head to the Arts Café for a nice coffee and something ‘fancy’! Our cruise ended in Dubrovnik and we tendered in right up to the Old Walls – just spectacular! Silversea is indeed an ultra luxury product and definitely more expensive than other cruises. However, it is important to understand why this is the case. Very few ships in the 5 star category will offer a 24 hour butler service. Very few cruises will offer the standard of accommodation, meals and drinks and very few will offer excursions in each port in your package. The ships are small and intimate. The ratio of passenger to crew member is one of the best in the business and therefore explains the superior service. The ships stay in port a lot longer than many other cruise companies and because of their size, can berth much closer to the ports than other cruise companies. Overall, service is par excellence. Silversea sails to over 900 destinations worldwide spread over all 7 continents. If you want to see the world and like a bit of luxury, why not give me a call?

New Zealand continued.....

14 February 2020

Over the past few years, I have noticed a marked increase in the number of people asking me to design holidays for them to New Zealand. This magnificent country is high on everybody’s bucket list but generally speaking, when people approach me, they are thinking of the South Island – mountains, lakes, fjords, glaciers, adventure sports – so much to do and the scenery is incredible. On my recent holiday to visit my two daughters, I decided to spend a little time in the North Island to see how it compared with the more renowned South Island. We overnighted in Auckland before picking up our car and driving to the Coromandel Peninsula the following morning. The Coromandel – 'Good For Your Soul' is all about fabulous beaches and rain forest and rolling hills. We based ourselves in the town of Whitianga on the North Eastern Coast for the next 3 nights. Whitianga (pronounced Fitianga) is approx. 2 ½ hours drive from Auckland but there is also a ferry service from Auckland to Coromandel town. Whitianga itself is situated by the 5km long Buffalo Beach and the town is a typical beach resort and a very popular weekend escape for the Auckland locals. Our next 2 days exploration took us to some fabulous beaches, only accessible by boat or via a walking track. The first we visited was New Chums beach, named as one of the top 20 deserted beaches in the world. Access was from the long sandy Whangapoua Beach and it is important to visit at low tide. We had to climb across the rocky shore in order to access the partly formed track and from there, we walked for about 30 minutes. The walk was so well worth it – what a view! The practically deserted 1km long beach of white, powdery sand was framed by the rainforest. There wasn’t a house, road nor tent in view. It was a real ‘off the beaten track’ paradise. One of the most picturesque and ‘must see’ places to visit in the Coromandel is Cathedral Cove, a famous cave/rock formation and one of the film locations for the Narnia films. Arrival by boat or kayak is the most recommended way to view this spot but we decided to walk the well laid out track which took roughly 45 mins each way. There is no parking at the entrance to the path but there is a park and ride service operating from the nearby town of Hahei. We chose to park at one of the houses close to the start of the track and the NZD$10 charged by the householder was well worth it. The path to the cove was paved all the way, a bit hilly in parts but the views were stunning. We had to climb down several flights of steps at the end of the track to arrive onto the beautiful beach. Due to its popularity, this little beach becomes really crowded in high summer season and early morning arrival is recommended. I hope you like my photos of this beautiful area. Ten minutes by car from Hahei lies the very unique Hot Water Beach which gets its name from the hot springs which lie underneath the sand. Armed with our spades, we made little pools for ourselves and sat into our own little hot tubs! The most important thing is to visit 2 hours either side of low tide. Next stop on our itinerary was an overnight at Mount Manganui, surf capital of New Zealand and situated in the city of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. The ‘Mount’ as it is called by the locals has been voted as the best beach in New Zealand. We were here to climb the ‘Mount’ the extinct volcano which rises above the town. The summit is 232m high and it took 45 mins to reach the top and the fabulous views. After Tauranga we headed for Rotorua, home of the Maori culture and famous for the hot springs and geysers. Our hotel was really well situated, right next door to ‘Eat Streat’, an all weather, al-fresco dining area with a retractable roof and a great choice of restaurants and bars. We had been recommended to visit the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, home to Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world. The experience included a self-guided walk which took just under 2 hours down to the lake followed by a 45 minute boat trip on Lake Rotomahana. The walking trail covered a range of geothermal activity – hot springs, volcanic craters, nature and wildlife. The colours of the landscape were incredible and it was amazing to see the boiling water bubbling up from the ground. My favourite part was the fabulous colour of Inferno Crater. I would highly recommend this tour. Regularly I get asked by clients if there is anywhere close to Auckland to relax and get over jetlag before commencing their self drive tour. We spent our last 2 nights in the North Island on Waiheke Island, situated just a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. The island was just beautiful – a true paradise. The beaches were just fabulous – long and sandy and we did a lovely hike along the clifftops from the main Oneroa Beach to Palm Beach. There are also lots of wineries on the island and many of them have lovely accommodation and are really popular for weddings. With ferries operating every 30 minutes, Waiheke Island is a great place to recharge the batteries after a long flight. I can definitely say that our 10 nights on the North Island did not disappoint. The scenery may not be as dramatic as on the South Island, but nevertheless, was really beautiful, the beaches were fabulous and the geothermal area so interesting. Like the South Island, the countryside has thousands of walking tracks which will bring you to so many beautiful places inaccessible by car. We then headed to Christchurch to be with our two daughters for the next 8 days. We had previously ‘done the sights’ there but I was very happy to see the progress that had been made in the city centre since we last visited 2 years ago. There were lots more shops, bars and restaurants and a great buzz about the place. We took a day trip to Akaroa, a very pretty little coastal town, maybe a bit like Kinsale but the 1 ½ hour journey from Christchurch was spectacular. We also visited the alpine village of Hanmer Springs and then headed to Kaikoura for a little whale watching. What a fabulous country – it has something for all seasons and is totally geared to the outdoor life with great hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. The pace of life is slow, the atmosphere is casual and we just loved every minute of this trip. Without a doubt, New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever been in. Please get in touch and let me help you design your perfect itinerary.

Canada revisited

04 September 2019

I had a fabulous trip to Canada back in 2018 and was so lucky to have experienced the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff. This year I decided to revisit and see the country from another perspective - a self-drive tour. I also had the added incentive to go as our son, Kevin who moved there just over a year ago. We flew into Vancouver and spent the first 4 nights there. We did all the ‘touristy’ things I had done last year - Grouse Mountain, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Flyover Canada and Granville Island. We also enjoyed the 10km walk around Stanley Park and visited the beautiful beach suburbs of Kitsilano and Jericho. We didn’t need a car here as local transport was so efficient and reasonable. There was also a regular free shuttle to both Grouse Mountain and Capilano. I was so excited for the next part of the holiday on Vancouver Island. We picked up the car early in the morning and made the 40-minute drive to Tsassawen from where the ferry sailed to Swartz Bay, which is about 30 minutes’ drive from Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. By the time we arrived, I was thankfully familiar with the left-hand drive automatic - phew!! We spent just the one night in Victoria - a very ‘pretty’ city - spotlessly clean with beautiful buildings and gardens and a gorgeous Harbour area. It was very small but had lots of fabulous restaurants and bars to choose from as well as a great buzz. After our brief stopover in Victoria we headed to Ucluelet on the West Coast. We spent 3 nights here and soaked up the amazing views. The Wild Pacific Trail went through our fabulous accommodation at the Blackrock Oceanfront Resort and although the drive from Victoria was longer than expected - over 5 hours, the scenery from Nanaimo was gorgeous. Ucluelet is a tiny town with just a few shops and a handful of restaurants and try as we did, we could not find the one and only pub! The day after we arrived, we walked the Wild Pacific Trail and yes it was wild, but I could not stop taking photos. The scenery was stunning. The weather dipped the following day and we just did a short walk on another of the local trails and in the afternoon, headed to Tofino which is about 30km from Ucluelet. There was a lot more going on here than in Ucluelet - lots of cafes and restaurants and lots more accommodation options. The entire area is really geared to the outdoor life – picturesque walking trails and great surfing. The beaches between the 2 towns were fabulous with some high-end lodges available directly on the beach. We paid a quick visit to the Relais & Chateau ‘Wickanninish Inn’ and it did not disappoint! After a 3-hour drive back to Nanaimo, we took the ferry to Horseshoe Bay which is north of Vancouver and in a little over an hour, arrived into Whistler, home to the Winter Olympics of 2010. This town reminded me of Queenstown in New Zealand - purpose built for the skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts and in the summer, it also caters to hikers and mountain bike riders. There were loads of bars and restaurants but as Kevin told us, prices were far higher than in Vancouver. We took the gondola to the top of Whistler Mountain and then crossed to the top of Blackcomb Mountain, the highest in the area standing at 2436m, over twice the height of Carrauntoohil. For hikers, there are some fabulous walks close by but a popular one is in the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park which is situated approximately 1 hours’ drive north of Whistler. After Whistler it was time to head to the Rockies. We split the journey over 2 days and overnighted in Clearwater, 5 ½ hours from Whistler and 3 ½ from Jasper. We took our time soaking in the scenery and making lots of photo stops. There was not a lot happening in Clearwater. It is the gateway to the Wells Gray Provincial Park, but time was of the essence and the Rockies were calling. The journey onto Jasper was fabulous and we stopped at Mt Robson for amazing views and a walk up to the lake. From there it was an hour to Jasper, a small alpine resort surrounded by majestic mountains and lakes. I covered much of this area in my blog last year ‘The Rocky Mountaineer Rocks’ and although we were self-driving this year, we more or less visited the same places. There are a few points to note however when self-driving: You need to buy a pass for the Jasper and Banff National Parks. You pay on entering and tell them the number of days you will be spending between the 2 areas. The cost is approx. CAD$20 per day and you receive a sticker which you attach to the windscreen of your car. Some of the lakes become extremely crowded, particularly in high season and you cannot park near them. First on this list is the iconic Lake Louise which is pictured in almost every brochure of the Rockies. For those arriving during the day, you will need to park well away from the town, and they operate a park and ride system to and from the lake. The alternative is to get up early and visit at around 6-7am. The situation is similar at the other lakes in this area – Moraine Lake and Emerald Lake and at the stunning Lake Maligne which is situated close to Jasper. We both vowed that we would return to the Rockies and explore some more of their wonderful walking trails. Calgary is just a direct 8 ½ hour flight from Dublin, roads are fantastic and once you get used to driving an automatic car on the right-hand side of the road, you will be flying! My two trips were in May and June when there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground (particularly in May). Some of my colleagues visited at the start of October last year and their photographs are full of fabulous Autumn colours. So, whether you are interested in winter or summer sports, the Rockies is a great mid haul, year-round destination. If you’re looking to plan your own adventure through the Rockies, please contact me to find out more. I know we will definitely return!

The Rocky Mountaineer Rocks!

19 May 2018

Another tick on the bucket list! I have just returned from a fantastic trip starting in Vancouver and journeying through the Rockies on the iconic ‘Rocky Mountaineer’ followed by 2 nights in magical Banff before finishing off with a night in Calgary. We arrived to glorious sunshine on Sunday afternoon and checked into the lovely Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. We took it easy that evening as we had a big day ahead on Monday. We were up before the sun rose (mainly due to jet lag!) and headed off on a whistle stop tour of the city. First stop was Stanley Park - Vancouver’s largest park and home to lots of walking and cycling tracks, beaches, gorgeous gardens, an aquarium and lots more - a true oasis in the rainforest on the edge of the city. We then headed to the Fly Over Canada experience where state of the art technology with special effects gives you the feeling you are flying, and we covered Canada from East to West Coast in 8 minutes taking in the icebergs of Newfoundland, Niagara Falls, the Rockies, Northern Lights and lots more. Lunch at Granville Island is a must! The famous public market opens daily from 9am to 7pm is home to several food outlets offering every type of food you can think of. I chose fresh calamari with a kale and pomegranate salad which was so tasty. We spent a lovely hour eating outside and enjoying the sun. In the afternoon we headed to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver. We ‘bounced’ along the bridge, did the cliff walk and walked the 7 footbridges suspended 110 ft above the forest floor. The scenery was gorgeous as the park is situated in the Rainforest. Next day was D day - the day we were all waiting for. We transferred early in the morning to the Rocky Mountaineer train station. The waiting area was buzzing and with great pomp and ceremony, we followed the bag piper to our train. The first day we travelled in gold leaf service. The carriages are 2 storey- the upper level is a glass dome carriage offering amazing views and there is the added benefit of an outdoor vestibule. Each gold leaf carriage has its own dining room and kitchen downstairs and food was excellent. Once we passed the outskirts of Vancouver, the scenery just got better and better. We passed forests, rivers, lakes and snow-capped mountains. Our overnight in Kamloops was great fun and we indulged in some beer tasting but were up early again the following day for Day 2 of our journey to Banff. Of course, we were a bit dubious about the drop down to silver leaf service, but we needn’t have worried. The seats were really comfortable, and the rows were well spaced out. Food was really good, and our hosts kept us entertained with stories of the places we were passing and there was huge excitement when we saw a bear. Today’s journey brought us on a steep climb and for the final few hours, we were travelling through the Rockies. Even though it was misty, we could see the towering peaks above the clouds and the numerous rivers and waterfalls cascading down the mountains. It was just stunning! We reached Banff in the early evening. It is a gorgeous alpine resort town in the Alberta Rockies with some great bars and restaurants and with the jet lag behind us, we had a great night on the town! The following day we went on a fabulous excursion along the Columbia Icefields Parkway and went up on the Athabasca Glacier on a specially designed 6WD vehicle called the Ice Explorer. On the way back, we had a short stop at Lake Louise. The Lake was still frozen but the scenery both there and along the Icefields Parkway and the Glacier was just ‘awesome’. I would highly recommend this tour. Finally, it was time to leave Banff but before we left, we took the gondola to the Sulphur Mountain Summit and the views were breath-taking. And our overload of fabulous views was not finished yet! On the journey back to Calgary, we took a short helicopter ride for 1 last ‘peek’ of the magnificent Rockies. We spent our last night in Calgary and our evening entertainment took us to ‘’Ranchmans’, a famous cowboy pub in Calgary known for its line dancing. Some of the group also tried the mechanical bull but I am afraid I chickened out! The Rocky Mountaineer is one of those things on everyone’s bucket list and there are so many permutations and combinations of things to do and see to enhance the experience - take a cruise to Alaska, visit the wilds of Vancouver Island, see where the Winter Olympics at Whistler took place - the options are endless. Give me a call and together we can plan your perfect holiday and put another tick on that bucket list!

Spectacular New Zealand

26 December 2017

What magnificent scenery! Think Kerry but with bigger mountains, bigger forests and bigger lakes – New Zealand far exceeded my expectations. We arrived into Christchurch in late November to visit our daughter who has been living there for the past few years. After a welcome barbecue to meet Eileen’s friends, we headed off on a whistle stop tour of the South Island. First stop was Nelson, gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. We drove out to Marahau and took a water taxi out to Anchorage Bay. From there, we did the 4 ½ hour gentle hike back to Marahau. We passed beautiful, white, sandy, deserted beaches with crystal clear water surrounded by dense rainforest. There are lots of different routes you can take - the water taxis will drop off at all the main beaches and you can choose to walk back or they will pick you up from another location after your trek. The tracks were easy to negotiate – in fact, the entire country is geared to healthy, outdoor living with well laid out walking tracks and cycle paths everywhere. No matter which route you take, the scenery in this National Park is just fabulous. As time was of the essence, we chose to do the long drive from Nelson to Franz Josef Village in the one day. It is a 6 hour drive but we took 9 hours as we could not help stopping several times along the route for photographs. A definite ‘must-see’ along the way are the pancake rocks at Punakaiki and the Hokitika Gorge. The gorge was situated 33km from Hokitika off the road we were travelling. That meant an extra 66km onto our journey but my daughter assured us that it would be worth the extra travel. And she was so right - never have I seen water in such a beautiful, turquoise colour which was enhanced by the surrounding greenery. Of course, time permitting, I would recommend an overnight stop between Nelson and the Glaciers either at Punakaiki, Greymouth or Hokitika. The highlight of our trip was the helicopter ride over the Glaciers and Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand standing at 3,724m high – more than 3 ½ times as high as Carrauntohil. We were lucky in that the sky was a clear blue that day and there was no wind. We landed on the Glacier and in our shorts and t-shirts, we were knee deep in snow! This tour is well worth the money but unfortunately, can often be cancelled due to weather conditions – we had the perfect day. We then headed to Wanaka and after all the driving, our 2 night stay was a great idea. We didn’t do much in this area apart from climbing the Mount Iron track but we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful scenery around the lake. Wanaka was very quiet with just a handful of bars and restaurants in the town centre and we recharged our batteries before our arrival in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the World! I had previously been to New Zealand 27 years ago and at that time, Queenstown was just one street. Now, the centre has spread out by up to 10km in all directions. Our hotel was in a fabulous location less than a 10 minute walk along the flat lakeside promenade from the town centre. The town was full of great restaurants and bars and if you were looking for outdoor active wear, there were some fabulous shops. We took the gondola up to the top of Bobs peak and were once more rewarded with a fabulous day of clear blue skies. The views from the top of Queenstown, the Remarkables and Coronet Peak were stunning. There is so much to do in Queenstown for the more adventurous – choose from bungee jump, white water rafting, mountain biking, jetboating and sky diving. In the winter season, Queenstown becomes a big ski resort and of course, the Southern Alps are capped with snow all year round. We made a visit to the Gold Rush town of Arrowtown, a short 25 min drive from Queenstown. The town is also in the heart of ‘Lord of the Rings’ country. The main street was lined with heritage buildings housing gorgeous cafes, galleries and souvenir shops. Arrowtown is famous for its walking trails and there are 15 listed tracks in the area. We chose one of the easier ones and spent a lovely hour admiring mountains, rivers, forests and lakes and watching other tourists panning for gold. Our final stop before arriving back to Christchurch was at Lake Tekapo. En-route, we visited Mt Cook Village situated under the highest mountain in New Zealand. We just did the short Kea Point Walk to the viewing platform where the views of Mt Cook were stunning. In Tekapo, we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd and the St Johns Observatory, arguably the best star gazing site on Earth. Once back in Christchurch, we were able to see the damage caused by the big earthquake back in February 2011. The city is still in recovery and there are big tracts of land where once office and hotels stood tall. In other parts of the city, these high rise buildings are now derelict waiting to either be repaired or demolished. However, slowly but surely, the life is coming back into this city. In recent months, several hotels, shopping malls, bars and restaurants have opened and the process is ongoing. New Zealand is definitely NOT a once in a lifetime holiday for me. We cannot wait to get back and explore more and we have promised ourselves a return visit in 2 years and plan to spend a bit longer there. I need to explore some of the North Island, in particular Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula and I most definitely want to return to the Abel Tasman National Park and explore more of the fabulous tracks there. On a score out of 10, I give New Zealand 11!

Sri Lanka

15 October 2017

Sri Lanka – another tick on my bucket list! In October 2017, I was lucky to experience an amazing trip to Sri Lanka hosted by Turkish Airlines and our superb local agent Columbus Tours. Like so many other countries in Asia, Sri Lanka has it all – history, culture, beaches, wildlife, weather and lovely people. Sri Lanka is basically a year round destination with 2 monsoon seasons – the south western monsoon between May and December and the north eastern monsoon between October and January. Our trip straddled the 2 monsoons but in general, we experienced some lovely sunshine. When it did rain, the downpour was short and then followed by some more sun. Our trip started with an overnight at the Movenpick Hotel in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. We did a short city tour but the main point of this stop was to rest and freshen up before we started our sightseeing. I would however recommend that time permitting, you spend 2-3 days at a nice beach resort near Colombo before starting your tour. All the itineraries I put together are entirely bespoke and you can do as little or as much as you want. On days where you are sightseeing, you will have your own air-conditioned car with a chauffeur/guide. We were on the road early every morning as there was so much to see and each day brought different experiences. From a wildlife point of view, we stopped at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage and got up close to the elephants whilst they were being bathed. The Orphanage was founded back in the 70’s to care for baby elephants orphaned in the wild. We then visited Kaudulla National Park and were thrilled to see herds of wild elephant in their natural habitat. Our wildlife lesson also included a safari into the Yala National Park on the South Coast. Here we saw elephant, deer, water buffalo and a sloth bear! Yala has the highest density of leopard in the world but because of drought being experienced in this area, part of the park was closed during our visit and we did not see this elusive animal. However, I believe that during peak season from December to April, sightings are high. One of my favourite parts of the trip was the climb of over 1200 steps to the top of the Sigiriya Fortress or The Lion Rock. Considered the 8th wonder of the world, Sigiriya was built in the 5th century AD by King Kasyappa. We arrived on a feast day and there were huge crowds and so the climb took about 2 hours. The Palace was at the summit where the King had 500 hand maidens living! The views from the top of the rock were incredible and I experienced a huge sense of achievement! Next up was Kandy, the cultural centre of Sri Lanka and the capital of the last Kingdom. Here we visited the Temple of the Tooth where the sacred tooth of the Lord Buddha is kept. The colourful evening ‘Pooja’ where the worshippers offer flowers to the sacred relic was well worth the visit and you get a feel for the tradition and importance of this place. The temple was beautiful when lit up at night. The highlight for me however had to be the tea plantations. The drive from Kandy to Hatton was spectacular – I thought Ireland was green but I could not believe how fabulous and green the countryside was in this area. We were so lucky to stay in one of the bungalows at the Ceylon Tea Trails. On arrival at our bungalow we were met by our butler and a glass of bubbly. Accommodation was superb with just 5 rooms in each bungalow. We also had an infinity pool and Jacuzzi and the views were simply amazing. There is lots to do in this area; for starters, you can hardly visit the tea plantations without visiting a tea factory! We came home with so much tasty tea that I had to invest in a tea pot and strainer! There are also some gorgeous scenic walks and hikes in this area as well as mountain biking, kayaking and tennis. My biggest regret of this trip is that we only spent 1 night there. I would highly recommend a minimum of 2 nights but preferably 3. From a beach point of view, we visited the Jungle Beach Lodge north of the town of Trincomalee on the East Coast. The hotel was situated on a magnificent beach and the water was so warm. Saying that, the best time for weather in this area is during our summer. On the South Coast, we had a glimpse of some fabulous beaches, however, as we were right in the middle of their ‘off’ season and due to strong currents, you could not swim in the sea. But saying that, I thought the beaches of Sri Lanka were some of the best I have seen anywhere. On our final day we drove to Galle and through Galle Fort that was built in 1588 by the Portuguese and fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century. The walls were so strong that they withstood the hammering of the Tsunami back in 2004. Galle Fort is now a Unesco World Heritage site and behind the walls you can find boutiques, antique shops and restaurants in addition to a marine museum and ancient churches. Wandering around the fort is a must in any itinerary and I can’t wait to go back to this amazing country.

Lovely Lisbon - March 2017

21 March 2017

This year our annual ‘girls’ city break took us to Lisbon. At this stage we have narrowed down our criteria – warm weather, good value, interesting sights and a good choice of bars and restaurants. Lisbon is known as the City of the Seven Hills and is twinned with San Francisco. They both still have the old-fashioned tramcars and the 25th April Bridge spanning the River Tagus resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We arrived early last Thursday morning and having checked into the hotel and unpacked, we set off to explore. First stop was the tourist office to buy our hop on – hop off bus pass. I would recommend this to everyone visiting any city as it helps you get your bearings and gives you a great overview of the City. We chose the pass for the ‘Tramcar Hills Tour of Lisbon’ and I felt it was great value for €20.00 for a 24 hour ticket. The Hills Tour takes around 1 ½ hours to cover the various districts but it also included access to the Santa Just lift and the Lisbon Funiculars. Lisbon is full of castles, palaces and churches and is split up into several areas or ‘bairros’. Alfama and Mouraria are ancient medieval areas with lots of narrow alleys and whitewashed houses. The former is known as the birthplace of Fado, the music genre which can be traced back to the 1920s in Lisbon. Chiado is elegant and sophisticated with theatres, bookshops, cafes and expensive shops. Lapa is the diplomatic quarter and the Bairro Alto is where is all happens at night! Once we had finished the tour, we retraced our steps back to the Castle of Sao Jorge which was once a Moorish royal residence. It is situated on top of one of Lisbon’s 7 hills with a fabulous view over the historic centre of the city. The streets and alleys all around the Castle were full of beautiful tile shops and small tapas bars. After exploring for a while, we took the ‘Santa Just Lift’ to the bottom of the hill and headed back to get ready for the evening. The next day, we used up the rest of the 24 hours left on our hop on-hop off ticket and we headed to Belem and saw the spectacular 52m high Monument to the Discoveries and the Belem Tower which was part of the defence system at the mouth of the Tagus. We then continued on by train to the resort of Cascais. I have to say, this is a great option for a sun holiday during the summer months – lovely resort with great hotels, beaches, proximity to Lisbon (40 mins by train) and close to the UNESCO Heritage site of Sintra. On our last day, we were up early and headed to Sintra which like Cascais, was also 40 minutes by train from Lisbon. I suppose I was not too sure what to expect but we were bowled over by it. Once again we purchased the hop on-hop off bus pass and headed off from the gorgeous town of Sintra to our first stop at the Palacio de Regaleira whose origins dates back to 1697. We spent almost 2 hours here exploring the palace, chapel and beautiful gardens with grottoes, wells and fountains. We then visited the Cabo da Roca which is the most Westerly point of Mainland Europe but the highlight of Sintra for me was the Palacio de Pena which is a national monument and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Our money was mostly spent on food, drink and taxis and I found all to be extremely reasonable. Another highly successful weekend for myself and friends. Lisbon surpassed all our expectations and we could easily have done with another night or two there.

South Africa has it all!

22 January 2017

South Africa is definitely the ‘in’ place at the moment. With the fabulous exchange rate of euro v rand and the extra flight availability, it is now one of the best value destinations to visit. And yes – it has everything - beaches, scenery, wildlife, great food and wine and fabulous accommodation. I spent 2 wonderful weeks there from the end of November to mid-December. The weather was magnificent – beautiful blue skies, temperatures in the mid to high 20s and very low humidity meaning we could do lots of sightseeing very comfortably. We started off in Cape Town arriving early morning from our very comfortable flight with Ethiopian Airlines. The beauty of South Africa is that there is no jetlag as there is only a 2 hour time difference between Cape Town and Ireland. And so, after a couple of hours rest, we took a taxi to Table Mountain and went in the cable car to the top. The weather was so clear and the views were amazing that day. The Waterfront area in Cape Town is where it all happens. There are lots of bars and restaurants as well as great shopping and it is always buzzing and we spent a great evening there. The next morning we were up early for the trip to Robben Island. I would definitely recommend having this pre-booked as the boats are very full in high season. The entire tour including the boat to and from the island took about 4 hours and was most informative. The tour was given by former prisoners and we saw the cell where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated. We took a hop on/hop off bus ticket another day and toured the coast outside Cape Town City. Another ‘must do’ in Cape Town would be the drive to Cape Point taking in the penguin colony at Boulders Beach on the way down and driving back over Chapmans Peak – spectacular day out. Next stop was Stellenbosch and we did the ‘Bites and Sites’ tour which was highly recommended and after that, we headed off down the Garden Route and our first stop was in Knysna for 3 nights. We went walking in the Garden Route National Park one day and the next, we did a wonderful excursion by boat over to Knysna Heads and the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Once again, we were just enthralled with the scenery. Then it was time for a bit of relaxation and we headed to Robberg Beach just outside Plettenberg Bay. We were not disappointed – the beach was just amazing and a 40 minute walk along the beach brought you right into Plettenberg Bay. Whilst in that area, we also visited the Tsitsikamma National Park and walked over the suspension bridge over the Storms River. Our last stop was the safari and we stayed in gorgeous Ukhozi Lodge at the Kariega Private Game Reserve. The view over the plains was magnificent from our private deck and the game drives brought us through more spectacular scenery. The plains were full of wildebeest, zebra, giraffes and impala and we were lucky to meet up with some lion, elephants, rhino and buffalo. We found the cost of living so reasonable. A two-course meal with wine and a few beers would cost €20-€25 per person. In fact, we went to a ‘bring your own beer/wine’ in Knysna where the fresh fish is barbecued and served with gorgeous salads. We both had giant size prawns with some hake and the total bill came to €27.00 for the 2 of us. An Americano coffee cost no more than €1, a bottle of Miller from €1.50 and a glass of wine from €2.50. Amazing value – amazing holiday! My next stop has to be Kwazulu Natal!

AMAZING ARGENTINA

02 November 2014

I just knew I was going to love Argentina! I love the fact that it is Spanish speaking. I love the variety it offers – the sophisticated capital city of Buenos Aires, the majestic glacier region at el Calafate in Patagonia, fabulous Bariloche the ‘little Switzerland’ of Argentina, superb wines from the Mendoza region and the thundering Iguazu Falls in the north of the country on the Brazilian border. We arrived early in the morning after our overnight flight from Amsterdam. Our sightseeing tour took us to the colourful area of ‘La Boca’ where the famous pedestrianized street called the Caminito is full of local cafes where lots of tango artists perform. The area is also home to the famous soccer team the Boca Juniors where Diego Maradona played in the early days. We also visited Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried and spent some time at the Evita Peron Museum which was well worthwhile. It covers the life of Evita from a young age. You can hear all her inspiring speeches and hear the crowds roar and they had a showcase of all the fabulous outfits she wore during her most famous appearances on the world stage. Buenos Aires consists of several neighbourhoods. Apart from La Boca and the cultural area of Recoleta, we visited Palermo Soho at night – the area was just buzzing with lots of bars, restaurants and hundreds of people sitting outdoors in the warm evening soaking up the atmosphere. We also visited the newly developed area of Puerto Madero, home to lots of upmarket hotels and apartments along with some exclusive restaurants and cafes. One of the oldest neighbourhoods is San Telmo, home of the tango and many of the cafes in this area put on open air tango performances. Buenos Aires is definitely a city of contrasts. We then headed to Bariloche known as the ‘Little Switzerland’ of Argentina. Our flight took 2 hours and 20 minutes and we had a fabulous view of the snow-capped Andes as we descended. The drive to our hotel situated a couple of kilometres from the centre of the town was lovely. Bariloche is situated on Lake Nahuel Huapi and the view of the lake backed by the Andes was spectacular. The following day, we did a tour called the ‘Circuito Chico’ or ‘Small Circuit’. The highlight of this tour was the chairlift to the top of Campanario Hill. The views were simply amazing and we could not stop taking photographs. Every corner we turned offered a better view than the previous one. It was just fabulous. Bariloche itself is a lovely town – very alpine with lots of wooden chalets. It had lots of restaurants and some great pubs. The speciality here was smoked foods e.g. deer, trout and mushrooms. A typical souvenir from Bariloche would be chocolate and the main street was full of chocolate shops. The following day we took a trip to the quaint town of Villa la Angostura which lies 70 km from Bariloche. Once again the scenery was magnificent and activities you can do there include skiing, hiking, horse riding and all sorts of water sports. This is also one of the starting points for the lake crossing into Chile. Weather in this area was a lot cooler than in Buenos Aires and the locals advise that for any time of the year, it is necessary to pack a warm jacket. However, the skies were a clear blue and it was just wonderful being out in the clean, fresh air. After 3 fabulous days in Bariloche, we headed back to Buenos Aires for our last night. The highlight of the trip was the tango show at the Esquina Carlos Gardel. We were lucky enough to be seated in the VIP section and had excellent views from our table over the balcony to the stage. We arrived at 9.00 pm and after a fantastic meal accompanied by fine wines, the show began at 10.30pm. Not only were we entertained by the passionate dancers, but they were accompanied by a lively 8 piece orchestra and 2 singers. The dancing, the acrobatics, the music, the outfits – totally amazing! And so ended our short trip to Argentina, however it is such a fabulous country and there is so much to see there that it still remains on my bucket list and I hope to return in the near future.

Southern and Central Coast Vietnam experience

13 April 2014

I have just returned from a fabulous trip to South Vietnam and the Central Coast; it was my first time to visit Vietnam and it won’t be my last. Vietnam is a long very narrow country - over 2000 miles in length but in parts of the Central Coast, only 25 miles wide. Due to its size, each area has a totally different climate and it is so important when planning a trip, to visit the right part at the right time! I was very impressed with Saigon. The buildings were beautiful and the city very well maintained and clean and I hadn’t expected that. There was great shopping there from high end to markets and a huge variety of restaurants and bars. The must do trips from Saigon would be a tour to see the Cu Chi tunnels and a trip to the Mekong Delta. We were lucky to spend two nights in the latter. The tunnels are situated approximately 1.5 hour’s drive from Saigon and were the Vietcong’s operations base during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s. They have been preserved and turned into a War Memorial Park which is visited by thousands of tourists every year. We were able to go down into the tunnels which have been widened to fit the Western Tourists. It was a horrible experience - we had to crouch low and make our way through the narrow tunnel with absolutely no room to manoeuvre and I was never so happy to see daylight even though I was only in the tunnels for a minute or so! The booby traps displayed all around the Memorial Park were sinister indeed but it was definitely a worthwhile experience and should be on everyone’s list. Our visit to the Mekong Delta was one of the highlights of the trip for me. It took up approximately 3 hours to get there on very busy roads with dreadful traffic! Known as the 'Rice Basket' of Vietnam, the landscape was so green with lots of villages along the canals that flowed on all sides of the Mekong River. We made two journeys into the hinterland - one by Sampan where we sat four to a boat plus one person rowing us. As the Sampans were so narrow, we were able to go deep into the Delta to areas where boats could not access. We stopped for lunch at a typical guest house and the food was fantastic. We also did a two hour cycling trip through the Delta, cycling through lots of villages and everywhere we went, we got a great welcome from all the locals. Our accommodation in the Mekong Delta were Eco Lodges on stilts overlooking the Mekong River and only accessible by boat. The accommodation was simple, the food in the restaurant was excellent and there was a lovely infinity pool in the middle of the Delta. After a day of cycling and sightseeing, this was most welcome - there was a great sense of peace and restfulness about this complex and I was so sorry I could not spend a second day here. We then flew up to Hue, the old Imperial Capital of Vietnam. Amazingly, the weather was very cool here - a total contrast to the heat and humidity of Saigon and the Mekong Delta. We visited the Imperial City and Citadel and the beautiful seven storey Thien Mu Pagoda on the banks of the Perfume River. Then it was off on another cycling tour around the Rice Fields outside Hue. This was a complete different landscape to the Mekong Delta - rolling fields of the deepest green - really peaceful countryside compared with the buzz in the villages around the Mekong Delta. We then drove to Danang, the biggest city on the South Central Coast of Vietnam. We checked into a 5* hotel situated on a magnificent wide beach backed by sand dunes. On the first evening we headed for the town of Hoi An - one of the most popular beach resorts on this Coast. Hoi An is famous for its Full Moon Festival - not like the Full Moon parties in Thailand! The Old Town becomes pedestrianized and everywhere you go, the lanterns are lit - the town is buzzing, there are some fabulous restaurants here and it is just so romantic. We arrived the evening after the Full Moon but all the lanterns were still lit and it was spectacular. My tip is to try to see Hoi An during one of these festivals! The following day, we visited a local farm known for growing special aromatic herbs. After a bit of labouring on the farm (see photo!), we had a foot and head massage and headed into lunch which was the most delicious meal we had had since we arrived. Everything we ate had so many flavours due to the use of the herbs in the cooking. We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the old streets in Hoi An stopping off to see the Japanese Bridge and the Chinese Temple. I have visited many areas of South East Asia but I feel that Vietnam has it all - great cities, culture, beaches and fabulous people. I am already planning my next trip which will take me to the North of Vietnam and in particular to Hanoi and Halong Bay. I will try to combine Laos with these two cities and that will complete my personal tour of Indochina. This whole area of Indochina is really popular amongst my clients in their 50s- 60s. It has great relevance to them as we all remember the Vietnam War and the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. It is just wonderful to visit these countries and find out all about their history and combine this with a stay at some fabulous beach hotels. Flights and ground arrangements are so reasonable and you definitely get 'bang for your buck'!

MAGICAL MALAYSIA

02 January 2014

What a holiday! We arrived into Kuala Lumpur Airport on 3rd Dec to catch our connecting flight to the island of Langkawi. We landed late in the evening and headed to our beautiful hotel The Danna. The hotel is small – only 125 rooms and consequently, the service was very personal and at all times we were greeted by name. There was a marina right beside the hotel with a collection of excellent restaurants at very reasonable prices. The first day or two were quite dull and with a fair bit of rain – the end of the rainy season. However, the weather picked up on the third day and just got better and better as it headed towards the dry sunny season. We hired a small car to explore the island – very reasonable price of €25.00 per day including insurance. The roads in Langkawi are good and they drive on the left hand side of the road which was a bonus. We headed to the main town of Kuah and spent a couple of hours wandering round the port and shops. Langkawi is a duty free island and so there were some great bargains to be had. The following day we took the cable car to Langkawi’s second highest peak. The cable car ride is the steepest on earth and climbs 708m. The views at the top were amazing. Langkawi consists of over 100 small islands most of which are covered by rainforest. The normal price for the cable car ride is approx €6.00 per person. However, when we arrived, there was a queue of over 2 hours for tickets. We opted for the express pass which cost €25.00 per person and we did not have any wait at all. The price included a bottle of water and the guided walk through the rainforest between the top and middle stations. There were lots of other tours available including snorkelling and diving, nature walks, bird watching, jungle trekking, island hopping, jet-ski tours visiting 8 islands, a mangrove tour as well as day cruises and sunset dinner cruises. You would never be bored. We hired a private boat for a short tour of 3 islands. The first island had a fresh water lake and we hired pedal boats there, the next island had great birdlife the eagle being the main inhabitant and on the 3rd island, we stopped off at a beautiful beach and enjoyed a swim. All too soon our holiday in Langkawi finished and we headed to Kuala Lumpur. We were only spending 1 night here and this was primarily for shopping. We stayed at Traders Hotel – an excellent 4 star hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and right in front of the iconic Petronas Towers. We headed straight for the nearby shopping malls which were connected to the hotel by a sky bridge – a fabulous walkway up high and away from the horrendous downtown traffic. Most of the Malls here are high end with the best of designer clothes and prices to match and they also house all the big UK chain stores. As it was Christmas, the Malls and streets were decorated magnificently and it was so strange to find such a Christmassy atmosphere in such a hot country! After a bit of wandering round and soaking up the atmosphere, we headed to Chinatown and this is where the real bargains were. All leather fake Prada, Gucci, Mulberry, Jimmy Choo bags and any other designers you would care to mention were a steal – we bargained hard and managed to get a couple for €20 - €25.00. There was lots of other merchandise on offer and we were thrilled to get all our Christmas shopping done – guess what everyone got for Christmas! We finished our holiday by flying back to London on Malaysia Airlines fabulous A380 aircraft. I had booked our economy seats in the upstairs cabin and it was a lovely experience away from the hustle and bustle of downstairs. We will definitely return to Malaysia and see the sights in Kuala Lumpur the next time along with some other island.

We're going to Barbados!

17 February 2014

I was very fortunate to win a place on a trip to Barbados with British Airways, Elegant Hotels and the Barbados Tourist Board. We flew business class with BA and stayed at three fabulous hotels in Barbados - Turtle Beach, Crystal Cove and the Tamarind. Every day we were brought on the most fantastic excursions and I was amazed at how much there is to see and to do on Barbados. Here I will give you a flavour of my personal highlights. A visit to Rihanna’s Recording Studio where our group recorded a very passable version of 'We're going to Barbados', was followed by a tour of the Mount Gaye Rum Distillery where the world famous rum has been crafted for over 300 years. Silver Sand Beach is situated on the South Coast where we met Brian Talma 'de Action Man'- a legend in the surfing and paddle boarding world. The beach is beautiful - powdery white sand, the waves were great and apart from Brian and some of his staff, our group were the only people there having lessons in surfing and paddle boarding. Next up was the island jeep safari - a great off-road and hair raising experience, where we headed over to the Atlantic East Coast of the island. The waves were enormous and this is the best surfing area in Barbados. One of my favourite tours for a really chilled out day is the catamaran cruise up the West Coast of Barbados. We made a couple of stops for snorkelling but the highlight had to be swimming with turtles. They were not afraid of us and swam happily in our midst. This trip to Barbados was full of “first time evers” for me; my first time to get up on a horse and my first time zip lining - exhilarating! I even had a polo lesson which took place at the world class Apes Hill Polo Club - one of the finest in the West Indies. The next day we visited Harrison's Cave - an awe-inspiring crystallized limestone cavern - one of the great wonders of Barbados - fabulous! We continued on to Jack in the Box gully for our zip-lining adventure. The course has 8 platforms with the highest being 100 ft above ground level and the longest cable running close to 300 ft. The scariest moment was standing on the platform waiting for my turn to cross over to the next platform. It was hard not to look down and I was delighted to be tied to the platform as I had such an urge to jump!!! It was a great experience and I was on such a high when I finished the course. We had a farewell dinner that night at Daphne’s Restaurant at The House Hotel - one of Barbados' most famous restaurants. The food was fabulous and was the perfect end to a fabulous trip. For more information on this beautiful island and its hotels, please contact me.

Cambodia - Kingdom of Wonder

17 February 2014

A trip to Cambodia has long been on my hit list and I finally managed to combine it with a trip to Thailand in October 2011. The first morning, my husband John had planned out our sightseeing. He hired a local taxi driver (tuk tuk driver really) and arranged that he would stay with us until we had seen everything we wanted to see. We set off and it was lovely and cool flying round in the tuk tuk. If you stayed still for a moment, you would just melt in the heat! First up was the Royal Palace which is still the official residence of the Royal Family. Much of the Palace was off limits to protect the privacy of the Royals but the gardens and the Silver Pagoda were spectacular. After the Palace, we headed to Tuol Sleng - the school which was used as an interrogation centre and torture camp during Pol Pot’s reign of terror back in the 1970s. I found the visit to the museum quite disturbing and afterwards we just sat in the gardens for a while, where it was so quiet yet so peaceful. I needed time to simply absorb and reflect on what I had seen. We were to visit the Killing Fields that afternoon but I cried off, perhaps it could be a trip for my next visit to Phnom Penh. We then stopped for lunch and headed to the Russian Market which offered a huge collection of souvenirs, silks and lots of interesting bric a brac. We had our list from the kids and got great value and we were delighted with our purchases. That evening, we headed down to the river. This is the area where the best restaurants are the the most lively bars. I was introduced to the popular dish ‘Amok Trey’ which was basically fish covered in spices, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed – really tasty. The area was really busy and we had a great evening before the jet lag hit us again! The next day, we took the bus to Siem Reap which was about a 7 hour journey from Phnom Penh. I found that taking the bus rather than flying gave us a much better insight into the country and you can see so much more. It was very green due to the heavy rainfall it had experienced during the recent monsoon. We passed lots of small villages and the kids at each village ran out to wave at us. The people of Cambodia are really so lovely – very gentle and friendly. Siem Reap was buzzing with tourists who had all come to see “Angkor Wat” - the famous temples just outside Siem Reap. We booked our Tuk Tuk the next morning at the hotel to bring us to the temples and to stay with us for the day. The temples were situated in a huge national park outside Siem Reap. They had been buried in the rainforest up until about 150 years ago when the ruins were discovered. There was an entire village of temples - absolutely incredible. My top tip for this tour would be to make sure to have a good guide with good English and that is something I can easily arrange for my clients. It is very easy to add Cambodia on to a holiday to any other country in South East Asia. There are direct flights from there to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. On this trip, I combined Cambodia with a few days at the beach in Khao Lak in Thailand along with 2 days in Bangkok. I will be heading back to Cambodia soon to visit the areas I missed last time and this time round, I will be adding on a few days R ‘n R on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia plus a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur. All the tours I offer are tailormade private tours and I have noted a huge surge of interest in this area due to the fantastic value it offers in terms of airfares and accommodation.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

10 May 2011

Viva Las Vegas! Our ‘Gold’ conference this year took place over 5 days in Las Vegas in June. I have to say that Las Vegas was never on my wish list, but I thought it was the most fantastic place and I can see why it is so popular with clients of all age groups. We arrived on a Thursday and were transferred to our hotel in a stretch limousine. The strip was buzzing and we just sat back and enjoyed the view whilst sipping a glass of champagne. We checked into the Encore Hotel – WOW! There were people everywhere – sitting in the bars, eating in the restaurants, trying their luck at the Casino. The place was hopping. We went up to our rooms – absolutely enormous – wall to wall and floor to ceiling window looking down on the Las Vegas strip from the 58th floor. What a view. We had a wonderful time at the welcome party that night catching up with old friends. The next morning, we were up bright and early in time for the World Cup game England - V- USA. We gathered at the Sports Bar at the Venetian Palazzo Hotel. We were drinking beer at 11am convincing ourselves that it was ok because it was 7pm in the evening at home! The atmosphere was brilliant as we were in the company of almost 100 of our UK Travel Counsellor colleagues nd there were lots of Americans around to keep the banter going. That night, we headed to the Aria Hotel to see the Cirque du Soleil performance of ‘Viva Elvis’. The singing and dancing were amazing! We were up bright and early on the Sunday morning for our helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon. We headed off by minibus – a rowdy bunch of 10 of us and having passed over the Hoover Dam, we arrived at the ranch where we were due to have lunch and take the long awaited helicopter trip. We were not disappointed. The journey time to the Canyon from the ranch was approx 10 minutes in the helicopter and then we were hovering over the Canyon. What an amazing sight. The helicopter dipped into the Canyon below the rim and we had the most fabulous views. Unfortunately, the trip ended too soon and we headed back to the ranch and from there, took the long drive back to Las Vegas where we were stuck in Sunday afternoon traffic on the Hoover Dam for over an hour. I would strongly recommend clients that if the budget permitted, to book one of the trips from Las Vegas which included either helicopter or small plane direct from Vegas to the Canyon. That night, it was off to see the show ‘La Reve’ which was on at the Wynn Hotel. This show has to be the best show I have ever seen. It was a water based show and the acrobatics were simply spectacular and it has to be on everybodys wish list. Our trip was almost over. We spent some time visiting other hotels along the Strip. There were some great entertainment spots but I have to say, I never made it to the night clubs! On the final day, as our flight was not until the evening, I headed off to the Outlet centre to do some shopping for the family back home. There was great value there for the kids – all the usual Nike, Adidas and other sports stores. Hubbie got a full wardrobe from Timberland at a fraction of the prices over here and I treated myself to some nice evening wear at the Mall across the road from the hotel. I think I was amazed that I loved Las Vegas so much. I expected it to be brash, in your face and totally over the top and in fact it was. However, I really enjoyed the glitz and the glamour and it had so much to offer from fabulous hotels, great shopping, brilliant nightlife and of course, it is the gateway to the Grand Canyon. I will definitely be back!

DUBAI

10 May 2011

Last April, I headed to Dubai for a week with a friend of mine. I had seen a sharp rise in the number of enquiries for this destination and really had to see what it was all about. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to stay in Dubai ‘Downtown’ or out by the beach and so I solved the problem by splitting the holiday between 2 hotels. We started off at the beach hotel ‘The One and Only Royal Mirage’. We spent our 3 days here just chilling, lying by the pool and being pampered by the very attentive staff. We headed off one afternoon for afternoon tea at the Atlantis out on the Palm. This was a very ‘english’ affair – cups of tea, lots of bite size sandwiches and an incredible array of pastries. The hotel itself was huge and full of families. The waterpark and the aquarium attached to the hotel would be the main attractions for the kids. We ate at our hotel one night and headed to the Madinat Jumeirah for dinner on another evening. Here there was a buzzing marketplace and outside the market, by the waters edge, were a string of restaurants. We opted for an Iranian restaurant and the food was excellent. Now I have to say that Dubai is not cheap. The cost of a meal would be similar to the cost of eating out here in Ireland. But the wine.......a bottle of Oyster Bay which costs €10 here in Ireland costs anything from €40 - €50 in Dubai!!! By comparison, an excellent G&T cost approx €11 – expensive enough but relative to the cost of the wine, was definitely better value. Of course, we had to have lunch at the Burj al Arab – Dubai’s first 7 star hotel (The Hotel Armani opened the week after we left). The concierge at our hotel made the booking for us and we went to the Asian Buffet restaurant. The cost of lunch was €65.00 per person. The hotel was a very recognisable landmark out in the sea in the shape of a sail. Inside it was really bright – everything was blue just like the sea. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. We were shown to the restaurant and allocated a great table by the window. The Maitre ‘d gave us a tour of the buffet and then to our surprise, brought each of the course to our table cooked exactly as we had ordered them. We did not have to budge from our seats and we spent a fantastic afternoon chatting with the very friendly staff and fellow diners. Mind you, the Oyster Bay here cost €130.00!!! We then booked into ‘The Palace Downtown’ which was the complete opposite to our beach hotel. We just loved this place. The situation could not have been better. The hotel was linked to the Dubai Mall – the largest shopping mall in the world. Every single shop you have ever seen on the high street either here or in the UK was represented along with all the top designers. They also had an aquarium, ice skating rink and cinema. Right in front of the hotel was the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world over 170 storeys high. We visited by night and the lift whisked us up to the 142nd floor in less than 1 minute and our ears didn’t even pop. The view was AMAZING. When we came down from the tower, we spent some time watching the Dubai fountains which played every 15 minutes from 5 until 11pm. They were spectacular. After that, we spent the time people watching marvelling at how white the robes of the Arabic gentlemen were and wondering what sort of designer gear their many wives were wearing under their black robes. Then the Ash Cloud arrived and we were stranded! Now Dubai is not the best place to have to spend a few unscheduled days. It is an expensive destination and we had pulled out all the stops for our weeks holiday and the budget was shot. We stayed an extra 2 nights at The Palace and just relaxed by the pool. The weather was great and we just enjoyed our hotel. After the two days however, we decided to make a stab at getting home and that is a story for another journal! We left on Monday evening and after flying from Dubai to Muscat to Istanbul to Athens, overnight in Athens and from there to London, we finally landed back in Cork on the first flight in from Heathrow on the Wednesday evening. What an adventure. Dubai is definitely a great winter destination. It has superb weather, great hotels and service and lots of attractions. We had a ball here and will definitely return.

Bali - Paradise!

30 September 2008

It is quite a while since anyone asked me to quote for a holiday to Bali. It seems to have disappeared off the radar during the past few years. This was mainly due to the bombing at Kuta some years ago and also the fact that Irish citizens had to apply in advance for visas to enter Indonesia. However, this changed recently and John (my husband) and I decided to head off in September. This was to be our first trip away together without the kids in years and we were really excited. We chose Bali as we had a preference to visit an Eastern country and most of the other countries eg Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam were right in the middle of the rainy season. Bali was everything we had hoped for – lovely hotels, fantastic long stretches of white sandy beaches, fabulous sunsets, great restaurants and bars and most important of all, lovely people. The Balinese were friendly, gentle and courteous and not a bit pushy when plying their wares. Our first stop was Legian Beach and our hotel was situated on the magnificent 5 mile stretch of white sand which stretched 20 minutes walk in one direction to Kuta and 30 minutes walk the other way to the more upmarket and chic resort of Seminyak. The beach was a surfers paradise and I enjoyed sitting under the umbrella and watching the activity. All sorts of services were available on the beach from massage to manicures and pedicures and on the first morning, I was definitely taken for a ride. John headed for a walk and by the time he rejoined me, I had had a manicure, a pedicure, had bought 5 leather bracelets and some awful table mats as well as having been totally ripped off on the price of the sunbed!! As I had no money on me, I had to return to the beach to pay my lawful debts and I became the best friend to this motley crew of locals. They all greeted me each day as I arrived at the beach – ‘Hello Miss Mary – you like a massage today?’ I would definitely suggest that one checks the approximate cost of hiring a sunbed or having a massage before venturing near the beach!! Legian was fairly quiet in the evenings and all bars shut by 11pm. We headed into Seminyak on a couple of evenings and there was live music in the bars there which stayed open until 2am. Kuta on the other hand was where the party goers went – it was loud and brash and full of fake designer shops. There were lots of night clubs and they seemed to stay open all night. Next stop Ubud and our hotel here was the Uma Ubud which was an oasis of peace and tranquillity. It was situated approx 5 minutes by taxi from the town centre and taxis cost approx €2.00 each way. The town centre was dominated by a big market open every day from 5am until 5pm and there were lots of art galleries and fake designer shops. There was lots to do in Ubud and we enjoyed the early morning escorted walks organised by our hotel which took us into the hills and paddy fields in the area. It was amazing how lush and green the countryside was. We both loved the area and were able to combine nice walks with lazing by the infinity pool at the hotel to bargaining in the market. Restaurants were also excellent and very cheap and on the 2nd night there, we discovered ‘Naughty Nuris’ which is featured in several travel books and famous for its barbecued spare ribs. We had a great meal along with a few beers and stayed at the restaurant long after the staff had left. Our instructions were to put the empties into the barbecue!! Bali is not just a honeymooners destination. We also met older couples (like ourselves!) as well as families and of course there were lots of young backpackers and surfers. Hopefully on our next trip, we will get to explore a little more of this beautiful island.

Barcelona

14 October 2008

This year, the girls and I decided to return to Barcelona for our annual ‘catch-up’. We flew out at the end of February and booked into the Hotel Catalonia Princesa – a 3 star central hotel. We arrived in the evening and as it was dark outside, we were directed along the main road by the reception staff to Las Ramblas, the centre of tourism in Barcelona. I was a bit worried as it seemed to take quite a while to reach civilisation. However, on exploring the pedestrianised area beside the hotel the following morning, we discovered that in fact we were really quite central and only 5 minutes walk from Las Ramblas and the Plaza Catalunya. The hotel itself was in a very old building but had recently been renovated and the public areas and rooms were all lovely, breakfast was excellent and the staff were very helpful. On the morning after we arrived, we headed to the Plaza Catalunya to purchase our ‘hop-on, hop-off’ bus passes. Barcelona is a huge city and it would be impossible to get to see everything in the one day. However, as our time was very limited and we really only had 1 full day, we purchased a day pass and picked out the highlights along the route to visit. We opted to visit the Cathedral ‘Sagrada Familia’ the famous unfinished Cathedral designed by Gaudi and Park Guell featuring lots of Gaudi’s work. We also decided to do a tour of Camp Nou, Barcelona's football stadium so that we could boast to the kids back home that we had been there! The Cathedral was amazing and I cannot imagine it ever being finished. I really felt for the workmen as I cannot see how they could get any job satisfaction from a job that they will never see completed. Park Guell on the other hand was absolutely gorgeous – a small piece of ‘calm’ in the midst of the city and the views of the city from the terrace at the top of the park were wonderful. We sat for ages on the unusual multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats admiring the view. After lunch – tapas at a typical Spanish restaurant along the fashionable Paseo de Gracia - we headed for Camp Nou and spent a pleasant hour there admiring the Clubs trophies and exploring the grounds. On the way home, we did a bit of shopping – Barcelona has some wonderful shops and prices were much cheaper than at home – and we then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. We enquired at reception for the name of a good, typical Spanish restaurant in the Port area. We were actually directed to the Olympic Port area to a fantastic restaurant called La Barca del Samamanca. The restaurant area was huge and it was packed and buzzing. We were given a great table in the middle of all the action and had a fantastic meal. After dinner, we walked around and found ourselves in the middle of a very trendy spot. There were loads of really modern bars fronting on to the beach such as The Ice Bar and the Carpe Diem Lounge. This area is definitely the spot for the ‘beautiful’ people! After a couple of drinks in one of the local bars there, we headed back to Las Ramblas which was still alive with revellers. We wandered round for a while soaking up the atmosphere and headed back to the hotel at around 3am. We had to leave the hotel at 09.00 later that morning in order to catch our flight home but we decided we would have to return to Barcelona. It was a fantastic city – vibrant with beautiful buildings, great shopping, lovely old streets, restaurants and what we saw was only the tip of the ice-berg. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a great City break destination.

Orlando - Best Family Holiday

14 October 2008

We arrived at Orlando Airport late evening 1st July 2007. The first thing to hit us was the humidity as we made our way by taxi to our accommodation. We were all a bit tired what with the heat and the jet leg and we headed to bed determined to be fit and ready to tackle the theme parks the following day. The next day we were up early and headed off to Universal Studios. I had purchased the Orlando Flexi Tickets for the 6 of us in advance. These tickets gave us unlimited access for 14 days to 4 of the parks – Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Seaworld and Wet ‘n Wild. On arrival, we picked up maps of the park to get an idea where everything was and we picked the first attraction – Shrek – to visit. After queueing for approximately 10 minutes, we entered a cinema like room and were all given the 3-D goggles. The show was very entertaining and suitable for all the family. Our party consisted of 2 adults and 4 children aged 17, 15, 13 and 11 years and everybody enjoyed it. We came out into the sunshine and decided to go and visit the set of Jaws for our second attraction. This time the queue was a little longer – approximately 30 minutes and by the time that ride had finished, we noticed that the blockbuster rides for example Earthquake, The Mummy and Twister all had queues in the region of 90 minutes. We decided that with the heat, there was no way we were prepared to wait out in the sunshine for that length of time. We enquired about the ‘Fast Pass’ which would give access to the rides via a secondary queue with queueing times shortened to approximately 10 minutes on all rides. The cost of this pass was $45.00 each and we decided to return the following Friday morning early and work our way methodically through all the rides. The fast pass would also give us access to Islands of Adventure which was where all the big roller coaster and thrill seeker rides were located. Wet’n Wild was situated approximately 10 – 12 minutes walk from our apartments and most evenings after a day at the parks, we headed there. This was the best time to go as the park was quiet and there were hardly any queues for the various water slides. The kids had a ball and I was able to relax and read my book. It was agreed by all of us that Seaworld was our favourite theme park. The layout of the park was beautiful – lots of lakes and green areas, we all enjoyed the dolphin shows and the younger ones enjoyed the roller coasters. The final theme park we visited was Epcot – one of the Disneyworld parks. We were silly enough to mention the word ‘educational’ to the kids and that I am afraid was an immediate switch off for them. As it turned out, Epcot was fantastic and whereas it was educational, it was also great fun. The difference between the Disneyland park passes and those of Universal is that the Disneyland passes have a ‘fast-pass’ inbuilt into them. This allows you to punch your ticket at the fast pass kiosk and you will be told what time to return for your ride. The general waiting time would be 10 minutes doing it this way. Finally, Orlando has more to offer than the theme parks. The shopping there is fantastic and there are large shopping malls at either end of International Drive. We spent 1 full day at the Premium Outlet centre and another at Pointe Orlando. The kids were delighted with the bargains and returned home laden down with shorts, T-shirts, hoodies and lots of shoes. A wonderful, fun filled holiday!

New York...New York

24 November 2009

After years of pressure from our 4 children, we finally succumbed to their request for a holiday to Orlando. After careful consideration, we decided to include a few days sightseeing in New York at the beginning of the holiday and a Caribbean Cruise at the end of the trip for the purposes of relaxation. We made our plans early and announced them to the family at dinner on Christmas Day. It was the most fantastic Christmas ever – lots of excitement, hyper-activity and noise. Everyone vowed to save their Christmas money for shopping and they immediately started texting all their friends to tell them the good news. June eventually came and after the exams, we left Cork on 28th and headed for New York. I had organised a surprise for our arrival and we were met by a chauffeur in a stretch limo! The kids were so excited and I would highly recommend it as a very special treat. Everybody was exhausted and after a bite to eat, we all retired for the night and rose the next morning bright and breezy to check out the sights. After a super breakfast at a typical New York diner close to the hotel, we purchased tickets for the Hop-on, hop-off bus which also included entry to the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty. We queued for the Empire State and after approximately 30 minutes, we finally reached the top. The views over Manhattan were magnificent and we spent quite a while admiring the view and taking lots of photographs. After that, we headed off on the bus and visited Wall Street and Ground Zero before heading back to central Manhattan for the long awaited visit to Macys. The girls were in heaven and could not believe the value. We just did a bit of window shopping that day and decided to return and spend a lot longer there the following day. Make-up and handbags were high on the agenda. The following day, we took the bus to the ferry port and headed out to see the Statue of Liberty. Again, it was fantastic for the kids to see all these sights that they had only seen before in their school geography books. After spending a couple of hours there, we headed back to South Sea Seaport for lunch. This was a really trendy area with lots of great restaurants and excellent shopping. John and I chilled for a while whilst the kids went shopping for more bargains. The afternoon for the girls was spent back at Macys whilst the boys checked out the Sports stores. The following morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport to catch the flight to Orlando. We all agreed that New York was fantastic. The kids loved the buzz and pace of life and the sound of sirens going morning, noon and night. The sightseeing and shopping were fantastic and 2 days was really too short to see everything but they were all looking forward to the highlight of the trip – Orlando. (Full details of our Orlando trip can be found in a separate diary!)

MADRID

11 August 2008

Every year, myself and 3 buddies meet up for a short city break. Three of us live in Cork but Marie lives in Edinburgh and so the main reason for the weekend is to catch up on each others news. Our criteria is simple – good restaurants, a couple of decent pubs (not the loud disco variety) and some easy sightseeing. In February 2007, we headed to Madrid for 3 nights. We all arrived at more or less the same time and checked into our hotel – the Eurostars el Coloso just off the Gran Via in Madrid. Whilst the hotel was quite basic for a 4 star, the location was fantastic – just off the Gran Via which is the main street running through Madrid. Once unpacked, we headed out for some ‘Tapas and Rioja’! Within a 5 minute walk of the hotel, we arrived at the ‘Puerta del Sol’. This is considered to be the actual ‘centre’ of Madrid - it is from here that all distances are measured. The square itself was buzzing with humanity and just off the square were lots of cobblestone streets with great shops and lots and lots of restaurants. We chose one called ‘Canas y Tapas’ (Beer and Tapas). The restaurant was part of a chain but this particular one was full of Spaniards with hardly a tourist in sight. The menu arrived and as we had so much to talk about, we ordered the tapas selection for four. We were not disappointed. Plate after plate of wonderful tapas were served to us and at the end of the night, the bill for all the tapas plus wine came to the princely sum of €20.00 per person including a good tip. Where would you get that value? The next morning, we headed out to the Gran Via just beside the hotel and purchased our tickets for the ‘hop-on, hop-off’ bus which is a must when visiting any City. The bus took us to the famous art galleries of Madrid and we spend hours at the Retiro admiring the works of Goya and el Greco amongst several other famous painters. After lunch, we continued on our bus journey admiring the beautiful buildings and took in a tour of the famous Real Madrid soccer stadium. We then returned to the hotel to get ready for our nights entertainment. Restaurante ‘La Castafiore’ had been recommended to me as a great place to go for a meal and entertainment. We were not sure quite what to expect but on booking, we were told to arrive between 9.30pm and 10.00pm. We duly reached the restaurant at 9.40pm and were shown immediately to our table. The room seemed to be full of Spaniards and we really could not make out any foreigners/tourists. Everybody seemed to arrive at the same time and once everybody’s food and drinks orders were taken, the show began. The staff who had taken our jackets and drinks order were in fact trained professional opera singers and they sang several times during the evening – solos, duets, all together. It was absolutely fantastic and the meal and service were also excellent. At the end of the night, the entire restaurant was on its feet belting out the big numbers from the opera Carmen amongst others. In contrast to the previous night, the bill came to €80.00 each but we all agreed that the food and entertainment had been fantastic and all in all, it was not an expensive night by our standards. The next day, we continued on our bus journey and headed to the Royal Palace which was a most magnificent building. We spend about an hour touring the beautiful rooms of the palace before stepping outside to yet again, another operatic concert. The sun was shining and there were lots of people around and the atmosphere was brilliant. During the afternoon, we finished off our shopping – the Real Madrid store had some great bargains and we then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. That evening was a big one for Ireland – we were playing England in rugby at Croke Park – one week after we had been cruelly beaten by France in the dying minutes of the game. Before we had arrived in Madrid, we had googled ‘Irish Rugby Pubs in Madrid’ and after a bit of research, selected ‘La Fontana de Oro’ in which to watch the big game. We arrived early to get good seats and boy – what a match! Ireland demolished England and the atmosphere was fantastic. The pub itself was really old and the buzz was great. We spent a few very happy hours there before heading to a small tapas bar for a bite to eat and then an early night as we were flying home the next morning. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and way beyond our expectations. Madrid I felt really differed from other Spanish cities in that it was very ‘spanish’. Everywhere you went, there were lots of natives out eating and drinking – the tourists did not seem to be as much in evidence as for example in Barcelona. We thought it would be hard to beat Barcelona in terms of interesting sights to see, shopping and nightlife but after the weekend, we all agreed that Madrid could give Barcelona a good run for its money.

My customer stories

Sent by Paula Cahill

The minute I spoke with Mary I was confident that she knew exactly what we were looking for and that she had the expertise to give us the advice we needed. Previous to speaking with Mary, I was all confused about options/flights/ accommodation and each time I opened the computer it got more expensive. Mary gave great advice and I felt we got great value. Thanks Mary.

Sent by Glenn McCarthy

As a family planning a significant holiday we found Mary's advice, speed of reply and assistance with our ever-changing requests an absolute dream to deal with. We simply didn’t have the time or patience to review all the online options, booking times, transfers etc., and Mary guided us through this effortlessly. We would highly recommend her services.

Sent by Sheila Devitt

Mary is always professional. She is friendly & available to answer any questions. It is always a pleasure planning a trip with Mary’s help. I trust her judgement completely.

Sent by Caroline Callanan

I have over the years recommended Mary Foyle to so many of my friends and family. She is the ultimate professional who always has time for any query or customer. A pleasure to deal with and her organisation of any trip I have undertaken has been just amazing.

Sent by Clare Carroll

Mary was a pleasure to deal with. She made booking our honeymoon totally stress free, listened to what we wanted and gave us plenty of options to choose from. Mary was very quick at getting back to us and excellent at communication. We would highly recommend Mary for booking any holiday through and definitely plan on using her services in the future. Thanks again for everything Mary! Clare & Tadhg.

Sent by Joan Coppinger

Highly professional service. Everything explained simply and thoroughly. Installed the myTC app as advised-full itinerary etc available to view. No stress involved when making plans for trip. Contacting Mary was a smart move. Personal requests seen after, and advice given on all matters related to travel. Mary has done the hard work and I am feeling reassured and content..I highly recommend Mary Foyle as your Travel Counsellor.

Sent by Patrick Silke

I couldn’t recommend using Mary Foyle and Travel Counsellors any higher. I have booked two separate bucket list trips through Mary - one to South America and more recently to climb Kilimanjaro in September of this year which finished off with a safari in the Serengeti. We’d looked at planning the trip ourselves but with everyone working it was difficult to find the time and to organise everyone’s flights from different cities etc. Mary made it all so simple and bang on the budget we’d hoped for. The app made payment simple for everyone also. 10/10

Sent by Margaret Dewhurst

Mary, Peter and I want to thank you so much for organising our wonderful holiday and every minute of it was so enjoyable. Your dedication, listening skills, organisation, open to suggestions, help when wanting to change things and prompt replies, gave us great security and a memorable holiday of a lifetime. Thank you.

Sent by Joan Dinneen

With my husband we booked our first cruise with Mary. She was professional, efficient and planned our trip perfectly to make it a very memorable holiday. She was always on the other side of the phone to answer any queries for us. Mary was also on the phone to me on a Sunday night when our flights were cancelled and I couldn't get any information at the airport. I would recommend Mary to assist in holiday planning that will be tailor made for you.

Sent by Marie Jolly

Mary I will always be grateful to my sister's friend Ger for recommending you to me. You are always a pleasure to deal with. So pleasant, helpful, extremely efficient. I actually feel safe when I travel through you. As I know should anything go wrong (which has actually happened as you may remember) you are only a phone call away. I can feel/see you "talking with a smile". Continued success Mary and I wouldn't have any hesitation in recommending you.

Sent by Denise Moynihan

Mary was recommended to me by a friend who had previously booked holidays with her, and I’m delighted that she was! Mary was so helpful in planning our recent 2 week trip to Sri Lanka. She made the trip completely hassle free. Six of us travelled together and Mary listened to our requests and budgets and took them into consideration. We stayed in some lovely hotels around the country. We had an extremely modern van and very knowledgeable driver. It was great piece of mind having the stress of organising a holiday completely taken out of our hands. As mentioned we were a group of 6, but I could see why couples or smaller groups would also use Mary's services. This was our first time travelling with Mary's services, and certainly not our last! I have no hesitation in recommending her expertise to anybody.

Sent by Emma Scanlon

Mary literally "came to the rescue" when another trip we had booked through another company fell apart at the last minute. In three days Mary had come up with a range of itineraries and we ended up with the most perfect, luxurious holiday in Phuket, Thailand a few days later. For hassle free travelling in beautiful places, with a personal touch (e.g. travel documents arriving in the post in a handy document wallet), I couldn't recommend Mary more highly.

Sent by Anne Travers

We like to book our special holidays with Mary, she is such a professional! Mary has vast experience and always comes up with great suggestions if one is not too sure what they want. She has endless patients when one keeps changing their mind. We have never been disappointed with anything Mary has booked for us and we are really looking forward to our latest adventure to South Africa... will let you know how it goes. Thank you Mary for all your help and hard work.

Sent by Anne O'Neill

Mary has organised several holidays for a group of 4 of us on a number of occasions. We have always received exceptional service from Mary and will continue to book our holidays through her in the future. It is of huge comfort to us that Mary is always available to us should we need her services while on holiday. We all would recommend booking with her very highly.

Sent by Oliver Kennelly

Thank you for all your help and patience in organising our Asia trip. An absolute professional in dealing with the four of us, getting everybody’s wish list on the trip organised and at the same time keeping everyone happy. It was only as we expected because the recommendation of your ability to organise given to me by my sister Kathleen was second to none.

Sent by Geoffrey Hayes

For the past 6 years I have booked my long haul trips with Mary Foyle of Travel Counsellors. My trips consisted of Australia (Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin Melbourne & Sydney) and also Thailand, Malaysia & Laos. I have found Mary to be extremely efficient and professional and offers very competitive value for the services rendered. I have never had any hitch whatsoever and it has been of great reassurance to know that she is there if I ever needed her help. Any tours she recommended and organised for me were excellent and really enjoyable.

Sent by Sally O'Driscoll

Great service as always from Mary Foyle at Travel Counsellors. Service is so good that I recommend Mary Foyle to all my friends and family. Mary is not related to me & I can assure you she gives a first class service.

Sent by Kevin O'Keeffe

Thank you for arranging my recent trip to Bali . Caroline and I had given you an outline of what we were looking for and you turned our trip into a "WOW" in 3 different locations in Bali. Each location had a different theme and couldn't have been better for us. All of our travel arrangements, by air, land and sea worked seamlessly allowing us to enjoy every moment of our trip. Thanks again Mary.

Sent by Anne O'Neill

Over a number of years and following a recommendation from a colleague, we have been using Mary Foyle as our Travel Counsellor. Mary now has a really good insight into what our preferences and requirements are and uses that knowledge to tailor holidays/trips for us. Mary delivers every time! We will certainly be using her services in the future.

Sent by Anne Hegarty

As a group of girlfriends planning to organise a 'birthday' holiday trip, Mary was personally recommended as someone we should work with. Mary has a wealth of experience in the travel industry and so we trusted her judgement and handed everything over to her. She has handled a variety of requests from us including an unexpected change of date and negotiated some fantastic deals for us so we didn't have to do a single thing - only pay the money of course!! I would have no hesitation in recommending Mary to you too.

Sent by Catherine O Neill

Paddy and myself asked you to organise our holiday in Australia this year. It was a great decision on our part. We had such a wonderful time from start to finish. The flights, the hotels, car hire and transfers were all in place for us and it made our holiday stress free and allowed us to enjoy our time there without the hassle of bookings, phone calls and looking for available Wi-Fi. Thank you Mary for choosing lovely hotels for us to stay in but in particular we really appreciated your time, care and attention to detail while dealing with us. We would highly recommend you to anybody undertaking a holiday big or small.

Sent by Dan Cronin

I have been using the services of Mary Foyle Travel Counsellor for the past 6 years and I can safely say that I would not change. From the outset Mary comes up with great recommendations to suit my travel needs and from there the booking process could not be more simpler. Mary has consistently ensured that our holiday and travel plans have been top quality. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Mary to my friends, family and contacts.

Sent by Patricia Carey

My husband & I have been using Mary's services in Travel Counsellors for many years and they have never failed to impress us. Mary has an incredible wealth of information on all aspects of travel and her valued 'tips' have made our travelling to far-flung and exotic places very pleasant and added to our enjoyment. Our most recent trip to Dubai excelled. Her recommendations regarding hotel and travel were just wonderful. We highly recommend Mary Foyle and assure that once you indicate to her what your wishes and budgets are, that she will arrange a super holiday. I can't wait for my next trip!

Sent by Blaithin Quinlan

Mary has been so helpful from our very first conversation. She has organised all aspects of our holiday taking away any worries around doing it ourselves, leaving us to look forward to our holidays.

Sent by Adrian Butson

Mary sourced our long-haul flights so we could attend a wedding in Australia. We got dates that suited us, easy stopovers and great value. Mary gave us great advice on accommodation and other activities in the area. The details provided with our itinerary made our trip very easy and more relaxing.

Sent by Finbarr Twomey

I have been dealing with Mary for several years and she had handled requests from sun holidays to city type holidays in both Europe and America. On all occasions she has provided a most professional and very knowledgeable service in respect of the areas visited. Mary's experience in the travel business is very reassuring and has proved very beneficial when planning trips where multi connections are involved, so I would have no hesitation in recommending Mary as a person to contact to deal with your personal travel arrangements in a very competent manner.

Sent by Mary Day

Mary Foyle Travel Counsellor is an excellent resource from start to finish in planning and identifying holidays for you and putting together a package to meet individual or group’s needs. Mary provided a range of prices and advice on planning trips, flights, accommodation, excursions etc. Mary has vast experience and knowledge which she has developed over the years. I have booked both short and long holidays with Mary and in my experience, her professional services were exemplary. I was also impressed by the way the travel package tickets, visa etc were organised in time and delivered to you. No job is too big or too small. A strong recommendation!

Sent by Edmond Fitzgerald

The best day for us was when we were told about Mary! So when it comes to planning one of our bucket wishes the only person we could rely on to do the job competently and to our satisfaction was Mary. We had the most wonderful trip on the Rocky Mountaineer through the Canadian Rockies. Then a week in Vancouver and everything went perfectly never a worry. Another triumph for Mary.

Sent by Billy Harty

We booked our honeymoon with Mary in June 2013. We were very impressed with Mary's professionalism from the very start. Her experience and know how made her very well equipped to cater for whatever holiday we had in mind. From start to finish, the holiday was perfect. Every tiny detail was looked after in terms of transfers, baggage, etc. I would recommend Mary to anybody.

Sent by Eugene & Carmel Lucey

We were delighted with the holiday to Alaska/Vancouver drawn up by Mary. Flights at reasonable hours, centrally located hotels and an excellent cruise. We were very impressed by the timely service provided at all times - confirmation of bookings, processing of payments, provision of tickets ,etc. We have never met Mary as we live in Dublin but this didn't impact in any way on the excellent service provided.

Sent by Jacinta Cussen

We cannot thank Mary enough for organising a truly unforgettable holiday. From Beijing to Xi'An on to Shaghai, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Halong Bay,Hoi An & on to Ho Chi Minh. It was a holiday of a lifetime. I will be recommending the service to my friends. From start to finish it was a dream holiday. Fantastic service.

Sent by Kenneth and Samantha Aherne

Over our 3 week honeymoon we took 3 flights, drove 100's of miles and stayed in a variey of hotels, lodges and B&B's, all perfectly suited to us and our over enthusiastic plans. This was secured with ease by Mary who would take our calls/emails night and day, providing clear and expert advice along with hints and tips from her own travels. The fact that we are booking our next holiday with her basically speaks for itself, great service and a friendly attitude will always work for us. Thanks again Mary

Sent by Mortimer O'Connor

My wife and I used Mary for our honeymoon. She was recommended to us by a friend who used her service. We can only say fantastic things from start to finish. Planning was top class and follow up afterwards was something we never experienced before. Mary was always at the end of a telephone if we needed her but we never did as the planning was so top class. We will be using Mary for years to come.

Sent by Hugh Collins

My wife and I have been dealing with Mary for the past few years. Mary has organised and managed fly/drive holidays for us in Canada, from Vancouver down the US West Coast to San Fransisco,to the Southern States of the US taking in the US Masters, to the French speaking region of Eastern Canada. Her knowledge of airline options, hotels, car rentals etc. has proven invaluable to us.

Sent by Michele Johnson

Mary suggested a number of options for a summer holiday break for me, my husband and teenage daughter. She had a lot of information on each location and was very knowledgeable about activities etc. and their suitability for us. As a result we are really looking forward to our summer holiday in Dubrovnik which Mary has arranged for us very efficiently and as always with a smile!!!!

Sent by Benjamin Martin

I have now used Mary's services on a number of occasions including one trip for my honeymoon to South Africa and also my a flight back to visit family in Australia. I cannot speak highly enough about the service that Mary provides. Nothing is too much hassle and she is always so prompt to respond to any enquiry (even at the oddest times of the night!)

Sent by Aileen Sheehan

I've been dealing with Mary for years. Almost every time I leave the country Mary books it for me. She did a Zero birthday trip for me and nine others to Vietnam which was fab. She books ski trips for me as a family and girl holidays matching costs, hotels, and locations to people involved. She provides a fantastic service . I recommend her to all my friends. She goes the extra mile.