Sent by Aibe Collins
Based in Dublin
Hi, my name is Richard Harbourne and I am based in Dublin.
I have worked in the travel industry for 17 years now, 13 with Travel Counsellors and I can bring a wealth of experience in helping you plan the right holiday, wherever in the world that might be.
I pride myself on excellent customer service and commitment to finding the right holiday for you.
The unique concept of having your own Travel Counsellor means no more lengthy waits in travel agents or spending hours of your valuable time trawling through thousands of websites. You can call me from the comfort of your home and discuss your travel requirements, safe in the knowledge that you will be receiving the very best service.
Having travelled extensively throughout the world I will more than happily research and refer to colleagues for recommendations on any specific destination you may be thinking of. So whatever your travel plans are, whether it be a weekend break, a late break to the Canaries or a round the world vacation, give me a call or email me and I will be happy to help you!
America: Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Miami, Pheonix, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Carmel, New York, Orlando, San Diego, Philadelphia, Seattle, Jackson, Grand Teton, Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon National Parks.
Far East: Thailand - Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Koh Tao, Koh Phanghan, Koh Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo.
Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City.
Indian Ocean: Sri Lanka, Maldives - Sun Island, and Holiday Island., sSailed on a Dhoni boat
Australia: Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane, Port Douglas, Hamilton Island, Gold Coast, Melbourne.
New Zealand: Auckland, Rotorua, Bay of Islands, Christchurch, Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier.
Africa: Cape Verde Islands – Sal, Egypt – Hurghada, Luxor.
South Africa: Cape Town.
French Polynesia: Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahaa, Raiatea.
Middle East: Dubai, Abu Dhabi
HoCangada: KVictong, Malaysria, B(Vancouverneo.
C Islanada:) Vancouver, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Banff, Jasper, Golden, Revelstoke, Whistler.
Caribbean: Mexico, Grand Cayman, Belize, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Barbados, Turks & Caicos., Antigua, Barbuda, Bahamas, St Vincent, St Lucia.
Cruise: Norweigan Sun, Royal Caribbean - Freedom Of The Seas, Voyager of The Seas and Independence of The Seas. P&O - Ventura, Britannia.
Europe: England, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Majorca, Ibiza, Turkey, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Latvia, Denmark.
For totally independent and unbiased advice, contact me today!
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.
07 January 2017
I have sent many clients over the years to Singapore, particularly to take advantage of the great offers via the Singapore Airlines stopover programme. It was then time for me to explore this vibrant city for myself. While densely populated and comprising a lot of reclaimed land, Singapore has a calm, organised and modern feel to it. The city itself is spotlessly clean and features some excellent transport links. While Singapore is heavily taxed, this also leads to several advantages. For example, there is 100% vehicle registration tax on imported cars, a car permit for $50,000 every 10 years in order to drive, and the number of cars is regulated, and this added to the many toll gates makes driving very expensive in Singapore. But, it also helps to have a fantastic metro system in place. In fact, you will find more than metros underground as the city has many underground malls, shops and food courts. If you are staying over for a weekend and in or around the main shopping district of Orchard Road, Sunday is the main shopping day and throngs of locals come out in something akin to the mad rush at home for gifts on Christmas Eve! The Singapore people are made up of various different communities, predominately Chinese, Malayan and Indian, along with many other smaller ethnic groups. They are vibrant colourful people with a calming nature and always very courteous. Due to strict laws, the crime rate in Singapore is extremely low and it’s an extremely popular destination for all types of travellers. Singapore is ideal for a stopover if travelling to or from Australasia. The city is easily seen with a full day tour via a hop-on, hop-off bus and for some light-hearted entertainment, I recommend a visit to Sentosa Island to see various attractions for all the family, among them, Universal Studios. For the adults, a trip to the famous Raffles Hotel to sip a Singapore Sling is a must! For hotels, you have the choice of luxury 5 stars, but the more budget-conscious tourist is also well catered for. There are various nightlife options from fine dining to the buzz of the main area for nightlife on Clarke Quay. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Singapore and it is well worth a flying visit if you’re in the region or passing through. Get in touch with me if you need any further details on Singapore or if you wish to combine Singapore with another destination!
07 January 2017
Bali is a beautiful Indonesian island known for its fantastic hotels, beaches, beautiful sunsets, great restaurants and lovely people. The Balinese are extremely friendly, gentle and courteous, with a warm smile. The interior of this tropical island is a rainforest and also features a volcano, and a combination of temples carved into the cliff faces along with paddy fields. This diversity is in stark contrast to the many towns located along the stretches of sandy beaches. Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua are popular resort towns, along with the lively city of Kuta. Bali offers great value for money and hotel standards range from luxury 5* opulence to very good value 3* hotel options. Bali attracts a wide diversity of visitors including honeymooners, families, backpackers, and surfers from nearby Australia. It can be considered a year-round destination, with the same summer season as Ireland. We visited during off-peak season in November and had fantastic temperatures in the late 20s and not a drop of rain. We split our time in Bali between two contrasting resorts of Sanur and Kuta. Sanur is a quiet town; ideal for a relaxed atmosphere but with plenty of hotels and dining options to choose from. The beach side city of Kuta, in contrast, houses big nightclubs, a great stretch of beach that is very busy and is a major party capital of Bali, with lots of options for nightlife. We also visited the more upmarket and chic resort of Seminyak, some 20 minutes by taxi from Kuta. (Talking of taxis, the traffic conditions in Bali are hectic to say the least. Roads are virtually a free-for-all, with motorbikes and scooters coming at you from all angles. Rapid development and an ageing infrastructure mean that some roads struggle to cope. In major tourist areas the traffic is chaotic and there are daily traffic jams.) Bali is packed full of things to do, including many water-based activities such as scuba diving, surfing, fishing, and more. It is also a paradise for spa-lovers and all sorts of treatments are widely available. A famous Balinese massage is usually done with oil and involves long, Swedish-style strokes. In stark contrast to some exorbitant Western prices for a massage, a Balinese massage is incredible value, and visitors should definitely avail themselves of this luxury (on a daily basis I say!). In local salons, a one-hour full body massage will cost as little as £4 (approx. €5). The cost of living is much lower in Indonesia, and dining and drinks are extremely reasonable. There are also great options for you to include another city stopover on the way to or from Bali. Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong all offer great flight connections. Alternatively, you can explore the island next door, Lombok, which is very relaxing and chilled out. Or, you could use Bali as a stopover with Australasia. Bali is a beautiful island with super friendly people and great dining options along with a great choice of hotels to suit all budgets. It really is worth putting in that extra few hours’ flying as the affordability on the ground will more than cover the cost. If you are interested in Bali or combining Bali with another destination send me an email or call me.
07 January 2017
This was my first visit to Vietnam and my first experience with Vietnam Airlines. Vietnam Airlines fly a direct route from London and I flew out Premium Economy Class and back home in Business Class. Both were amazing and I highly recommend the premium upgrade, which can be very affordable. We arrived in Vietnam early in the morning and it was a short drive to the centre of the very crazy city of Hanoi! After a quick nap we got an early lunch in the cafe virtually opposite our hotel, the first of many delicious meals we would experience in Vietnam. Our half day tour began at 2pm and it was excellent value as we had an informative guide. We were all quite tired by then as jet lag had caught up with us but we didn't want to waste a single moment and we wanted to experience as much as we could during our 2-week holiday. We booked a guide for the first day and he took us to a temple, the history museum and the bridge by the lake and from there, the tour included an electric cart around the highlights of the city and a water puppet theatre. Water puppets, I think, are unique to Vietnam. Several puppeteers stand in a pool of water up to their waists and they manage the puppets on sticks from behind a curtain. It is difficult to follow but it seems to be based on legends and stories of ancient Hanoi, with musicians playing at the sides of the stage and it is spectacular so worth seeing even if you don't understand it. Hanoi can be very nerve wracking as traffic lights are few and far between and are seemingly arbitrary anyway. You simply step off the kerb and carry on walking while mopeds drive around you. Forget walking on pavements where they exist - they are for parking mopeds and dumping rubbish! Despite this complete and utter chaos, the traffic moves, albeit slowly, so we didn't see any traffic jams during our stay at all and somehow it all works. We had an early start the next morning as we were going to Halong Bay for our overnight cruise. We were keeping our fingers crossed for good weather as we knew it was the rainy season but as it turned out, the sun shone brightly so we endured the high humidity to enjoy a lovely and well equipped cabin. The food – wow! We had four endless meals, dish after dish of absolutely delicious food came out. The cruise was amazing. We all went kayaking through the caves, then we got some free time on the beach and time to relax on deck and watch the sun go down over the beautiful world Heritage Site of Halong Bay. We also visited an oyster farm where you can learn all about their breeding facility and purchase pearls. After another night in Hanoi, we took a flight to Danang where we stayed for three nights in Hoi An. At night it was lit up with lanterns and by day it was lovely to walk around the pretty streets full of tailors and shops. We had a morning on An Bang beach, which was a lovely beach with some beach bar restaurants. This is the place to get suits and I can recommend a specific tailor if you do visit. After three nights in Hoi An, we then headed to Nha Trang for three nights, which was another short flight. Nha Trang feels very Russian as many Russians visit for their holidays. There are many beach bars and restaurants to choose from and the beach in Nha Trang is sandy. We also visited Vinpearl which is a theme park and water park. It’s not as big as some of the parks in the USA but it’s still an amazing day out and for around £15 for a full day ticket to both parts, it is well worth it. There are some great rides and slides in the sun for the adventure minded! We then headed to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). This was my favourite part of Vietnam. The streets were much cleaner than Hanoi, with decent pavements and it felt much safer crossing the roads! I recommend visiting the Grand Palace, the prison and also the museum, which has lots of history and is very popular with tourists. There are many restaurants and bars in Saigon; I recommend the roof top bars in the hotels. My favourite was the Air 360 sky lounge. 22 floors up, with a great atmosphere and music - we had a great night. Overall, Vietnam was excellent value. The service was great, the people were friendly and curious, there was really good food, and all of our transfer buses were early apart from one and they called to say they were delayed. The guides were all very patient, flexible and knowledgeable, and language was rarely a problem since almost everyone spoke English.
13 October 2016
Madrid is a city I can recommend to anyone of all ages. Whether it be a stag/hen part, a family break or a romantic weekend away. We stayed very central in a four star hotel. The city has great transport links with a metro system that is very easy to navigate and English is widely spoken. The airport is only around 15 minutes’ from the city centre which can be reached by train or a private transfer which I can arrange and will be hassle free. There is much to offer in the city with many attractions including the well-kept parks, lakes and buildings such as the royal palace. You can also spend a few hours rowing on the lake which is very reasonable. The city is very clean and safe. There are many local restaurants to choose from including tapas and all international cuisines. There is a main area for the nightlife and trendy bars and the prices are very reasonable. I recommend the cable car tour however pre-booking is essential to avoid long queues which I can pre-arrange. I can arrange also the hop on hop off tour bus and this way you can see the city very fast and learn all the history on Madrid. You can also visit the Real Madrid football stadium on a tour if you wanted to see the amazing stadium. If you are going for two/three nights I highly recommend a day trip to Toledo which is half hour by train from Madrid. It will cost by train approximately €10 each way. The city is stunning and very historical. The city is quite small, however I recommend the hop on hop off bus tour again as you can get amazing pictures around the city. If you fancy an adrenaline rush you can zip wire across the river for €10 per person. If you pre-book early there are many low cost flights to and from Madrid and it can easily be experienced on a low budget.
29 July 2015
My week in Sri Lanka was a work trip and it was hosted by Explore who specialise in adventure and tours. We flew Sri Lankan airlines from Heathrow on their newer fleet and I highly rate them. We spent the first night in Negombo around 45 mins from Colombo on the coast. We stayed at the Catamaran beach hotel which is located in the town and directly on the beach. The hotel I would recommend to anyone and a good stop for a night or two. The next morning we visited the fish market in Negombo. We saw fisherman bringing in their catch of the morning and we had a tour of the market where we saw fish prepared and sold. Our next stop was a tile factory where we were shown the process of making tiles. 2 great visits on our tour! We then drove north to a luxury camp where we would spend our next night. Along the way we stopped at a beach where we saw toddy tappers climbing tall coconut trees collecting sap from the coconuts to make Arrack which is a whiskey type spirit. Our campsite at Mahoora was next to the Willpathu national park, home to the leopard. We went straight to the park where we experienced a game drive in the afternoon. Unfortunately we didn’t see any leopard but we saw a sloth bear which was a rare sighting, Sambar deer, monkeys and bird of prey. That evening we stayed in a luxury tent which had en-suite facilities and mosquito covered beds. This was my first ever experience of sleeping in the wild. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend for at least a night. That evening we had dinner and drinks at the camp around a fire. The service was fantastic and sitting in the wilderness with nature all around was totally amazing. The next morning we drove to Dumbulla where we saw some temples that had been transferred from caves dating back from the 1st century. We then arrived at the Minneriya National park for another game drive. This time we saw a herd of elephant which was amazing. We were also in open top jeeps in this park so we could stand at any time during the game drive. We also saw antelope. We stayed in the Giritale hotel near to Sigariya so we could climb the rock early in the morning. The next we started at 7am to climb the Lion rock which is 1202 steps. Well worth the climb, the views were stunning and it was great to learn about all the history. Next was a bike ride visiting more temples and then on to Peradeniya Botanical gardens. This evening we stayed at hotel Hilltop in Kandy and we had dinner at the Amaya hills. We then drove to Nuwar Eliya which is 1893 metres above sea level. The temperature was much cooler here, along the way we stopped at Glenloch tea factory and had a tour followed by tea and cakes. We then stayed at the Windsor hotel which was really nice and we had dinner there. The following day we drove back to Negombo through the mountains. We had a brief city tour of Colombo and on the last night in Sri Lanka we stayed at the J hotel. This was very central in a good location. Negombo is quite touristy so you can find a few bars and restaurants in the town for a night out. After a week in Sri Lanka we flew just 1 hour to the Maldives where we spent 3 nights on a Dhoni boat. Not something I would have considered before. To my surprise it was an amazing few days. Having been to the Maldives before it was great to experience something different. We had 5 crew members on board and they look after a maximum of 10 guests. The cabins are basic but en suite and comfortable. We had 4 snorkelling stops over beautify coral reef and we experienced sightings of dolphins and many turtles and amazing coloured fish. The food was all prepared on board each day and was fresh. We visited the island of Fulidhoo which has a population of around 350. We had a tour of this small island and done some shopping. We went back to the island in the evening for some local entertainment which was drums and dancing. Overall a fantastic experience and a better way to see the Maldive islands and have a variety of snorkelling in different locations. Generally I would recommend a tour of Sri Lanka which is how we experienced the island rather than staying in one spot. I would recommend a week to ten days on a tour with maybe a few days rest in Galle at the end. A great experience with Explore, Our tour guide Upali was excellent and always took us off the beaten track to experience more of the culture of Sri Lanka and the extra bits which weren’t on the itinerary kept us on our toes.
16 July 2015
Well I finally made it to St Lucia, that’s another one off my bucket list and one place you have to add to yours if it’s not already on it. This exotic Caribbean island lived up to all I expected of it. We were only here for five nights but I made sure I saw as much as I could of this beautiful island. We started off with two nights in the Sandals Regency La Toc. This is a lovely very large resort with a huge selection of restaurants; it is situated right on the beach, with plenty of water sport activities. It also has an amazing spa facility. The resort is quiet hilly but they do have shuttles to bring you to your accommodation or a restaurant if needs be. The Sunset Bluff would be the quieter area and it’s like a resort within a resort. I much preferred this area and it has the most breath-taking views. We then visited the Sandals Halcyon. Again another stunning resort although much quieter with an older clientele with low- rise accommodation. It does not appear quiet as luxurious as the other two Sandals properties but it’s much more peaceful and the grounds are beautifully kept. Finally, and it was worth the wait, we spent our last three nights at the Sandals Grande. This was by far my favourite of the three properties. Situated on a stunning white sandy beach, with turquoise calm waters and nicely placed palm trees. It was definitely picture postcard perfect! The large entrance has a lovely colonial feel about it, the rooms are quiet large, spacious and modern. The Sandals Grande is also close to Rodney Bay, which is good for a spot of shopping or even just a walk along the harbour. There is free Wi-Fi throughout, eight dining options, six bars, four pools and a beautiful spa. If you stay in any of the sandals resorts you have the added bonus of using the “Dine Around” option. This gives you a choice of 23 restaurants to choose from and a free shuttle service. The highlight for me was seeing the twin Pitons. We wasn't brave enough to hike up it but if you do go and make it to the top be sure to give yourself an old pat on the back. We also walked through the rainforest to a geothermal waterfall, stood inside a volcanic crater in Soufriere, swam in front of the Pitons, drove by Marigot Bay and so much more. If you’re looking for a Caribbean adventure with luxurious accommodation then this is the place for you. Please give me a call if you want to visit this stunning island and I will be happy to arrange the perfect trip for you.
16 July 2015
Well what can I say, this place just has the WOW factor. From the moment we landed until we left we were treated like royalty. St Vincent and the Grenadines are made up of 32 islands, with only nine of them inhibited. St Vincent would be the largest of the islands and at only 18kms long and about 11km wide it won’t take you long to get around! We stayed at the beautiful 5* Buccament Bay Resort. All the individual villas are well appointed and very spacious. They have 1,2 & 4 bedroom villas each with their own plunge pool and some are directly situated on the white sandy beach. Each Villa has an iPod dock, hairdryers, irons, safe, expresso machine and tea maker, plasma TV, a fully stocked fridge, free WiFi and most importantly the best beds ever! This All Inclusive resort just ticks all the boxes for me. The food was amazing and not your typical All Inclusive. Although it is quiet and relaxing, there is still plenty to do for those who are more energetic. They have superb facilities and coaching academies on site with visiting celebrity coaches. The academies are tennis, football, cricket and rugby. They also have a unique theatre school and an excellent kids club. There are also personal trainers there to help you work off that big breakfast if you wish. The spa area is well worth a visit too. I loved the relaxed ambiance and the perfect white sandy beach surrounded by lush green mountains and rainforest. Just wish we could have stayed longer. This was truly a 5* experience and one place I hope to return to.
16 July 2015
I arrived in Sorrento for an eight-night stay, this was my second visit. I stayed at the amazing Grand Capodimonte hotel located just a five minute walk to the main bustling street of Sorrento. The hotel is on the cliff face with three pools on three levels on the roof of the hotel. The views are amazing and you can see the whole of Sorrento and the ocean. You can see all of this from the sunbeds. The hotel is a four star superior, staff very friendly and couldn't do enough for you, serving you around the pool areas. The hotel has a really nice A La Carte restaurant but we decided to eat out every night. Our main purpose of this visit to Sorrento was for a friend's wedding. The wedding was in the town, a stunning location with the reception back at the hotel after. The standard rooms are a good size, clean but no views. Anything up from the standard rooms have breathtaking views. We stayed in a superior room which had the stunning views but we were hardly in the room so if on a budget the standard room would be decent enough. I would recommend Sorrento to anyone but it is more up market but not too expensive for food and drink. There are many restaurants and bars in Sorrento on the main street and also off the main street down many of the cobbled side streets so you really have to explore and you will find some very reasonable places to eat and drink. The hotel is only a 20 min walk through the town and down to the port where the marina is. Sorrento doesn’t really have any beaches you have to do the day trips to find the beaches. There are plenty of trips you can do and this time we done a day trip to Capri. No need to organise this as you can just turn up at the marina and the ferries depart every hour taking around 45 mins. The cost was 35 Euros each return. Once you arrive into Capri you can take the funicular up the hill where you then take a 10 mins bus ride to the chair lifts. The transport is around six euros per person and the chairlift is 10 euros per person. The chairlift will take you to the very top which takes around 15 mins where you can have stunning views of the island and the Amalfi coast. A day trip would be enough and I would advise to go during the week avoiding weekends. We also did a combined tour of Pompeii and Vusevilo volcano quite close to Naples. This was an organised 10 hour tour where you are taken by coach from your hotel down to the marina and then a boat over to Pompeii where you arrive by boat. You are then escorted by coach to Pompeii ruins. We then had a guided two hour tour of the ruins. You can do the audio tour if you are doing this independently but I advise this exact tour. After the ruins they provide you a small packed lunch and then you are taken by coach to the edge of the volcano. You then board off road vehicles seating around 20 people on monster truck wheels. It’s then a fast trip up which is was a thrill and then the last part is a 20 min hike to the top. From the top you can walk around one hour and see inside the volcano and also the whole of Naples and the Amalfi coast. This was an amazing day trip costing 59 euros per person. You also have to pay 15 euros per person to enter the ruins and then 10 euros per person to hike up to the top of the volcano. You are then escorted back the same way you came. Some other trips that would be well worth doing would be a day trip to Positano and Herculean. I have to say we had an amazing holiday and I would not hesitate to return if I get the opportunity. The wedding itself was also organised through Travel Counsellors and this is something I am able to put together.
22 June 2014
What an experience this wasl from the pictures you can see just how spectacular this attraction is. Niagara Falls is definitely a place I would go back to. It's around 150km from Toronto. You can either book up an escorted day tour which includes the boat trip and the journey behind the falls. It also includes lunch and then a visit to a winery on the way back. I recommend pre-booking and I can do that for you. Another choice simply spend a night or two at Niagara and do the trip yourself. There are various hotels overlooking the Falls and one of the best has to be the Sheraton hotel and I would opt to stay in one of the rooms with a Falls view. The prices are not expensive. Niagara falls is between the U.S and Canada and you can visit both sides by just crossing the bridge. However if you are visiting from the Canadian side then there really is no need to cross the bridge as I think the Canadian side has the best views. The day tours from Toronto are around 150 dollars per person. If you take the Greyhound coach from the coach station in Toronto the price is 40 dollars per person return. The journey takes around 1 hour 30 mins and the coaches are frequent and all have wifi on board. Once arriving into Niagara, the Falls are 5 mins by taxi or you can walk all the way along the river which takes around 30 mins. I really recommend this, the walk really was amazing. Niagara Falls has three waterfalls, two combined and then the main one which is the horse shoe shape. They are very close together and if you take the boat trip which is 20 dollars per person you will go right next to the falls. So close that they give you ponchos because you get wet from the spray. The roar is absolutely amazing and you can literally take hundreds of pictures like we did. You can also do the journey behind the falls which we didn't actually do but it's a walking tour and you will learn some more history, I really recommend staying 1 night here and make sure it's a Wednesday or a Friday as they have a spectacular fireworks display over the falls. The boat trip on those nights is an hour and it's 30 dollars per person but it is supposed to be amazing. The boat trip during the day is around 30 mins. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area also as well as the Hard Rock Cafe. Please ask me if you need to know anything else.
22 June 2014
This was my first visit to Toronto and we stayed for 2 nights at the Fairmont Royal York hotel. The hotel is quite old yet modern inside and is a 5* hotel, very central right by the main train station. The airport express bus also runs within 50 yards of the hotel so it's an excellent spot. It is a huge and our room was very modern and quite spacious. I really could not fault the Fairmont Royal York and I would definitely stay again. There are many attractions to see in the city. I recommend the hop on hop off tour bus which is a live tour and runs right next to the hoteland by using this you will go to all the main sights and learn about the history of the city. Included in the hop on tour bus is a 45 min boat trip which goes around Toronto Island. So it's an excursion well worth experiencing. The Toronto tower is also worth a visit and is the tallest building in the city. Right at the top they have a viewing platform and a 360 degree revolving restaurant. I really recommend this and pre-booking is essential. They also have a glass floor which you can walk over if you can stomach it! The shopping is fantastic and they have a main shopping mall with loads of bargains much cheaper than here. Alternatively there is a shopping outlet which you can go to and they have buses that run from the city taking 45 minutes. There are plenty of bars and restaurants close to the hotel and being so central you can walk anywhere within the city centre within half an hour. Another top attraction would be Niagara Falls which I've written about in a seperate blog. Distance is around 150KM and takes under 2 hours and I think it is a trip you just cannot miss. For more information, give me a call.
21 June 2014
This was my first visit to the Bahamas and I stayed 1 week at the Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort in Nassau. Sandals are a very unique chain of properties only situated in the Caribbean. They are adult only All-Inclusive hotels. Every hotel has 28 different room categories. Bahamian Bay is not a huge resort like some of the other Sandals properties so it's very easy to find your bearings within a few hours of arriving. We stayed in a Windsor deluxe pool view room which was on the first floor in the Windsor building. Our room had a 4 poster bed and it was very spacious with a huge bathroom and a walk in shower. Bahamian Bay has a very good choice of restaurants, ten in total and a good range of bars and pool bars. Service was excellent and nothing was too much trouble. The choices are sea food, British/American, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, French. The resort is right on the beach which has beatuigful white sand. Sandals also owns an off shore island which is two and a half miles across the water. They run a boat to and from the island which runs throughout the day every hour. There is also a pool on the island, a pool bar and a restaurant servicing lunch and dinner. Reservations have to be made for dinner on the island and the boat runs to and from the island for guests going over for dinner. The resort has daily entertainment throughout the day and evening, it caters for everyone. If you were to stay in a butler suite at the resort you would have your own personal butler for the duration of your stay. You are given a mobile phone on arrival and you can contact your personal butler night and day for anything at all. The resort has a state of the art gym which overlooks the whole island, the views are just stunning. There are various different excursions you can go on if you do not fancy sitting by the pool or beach all day long. You can go on snorkelling trips, go diving or horse riding. They also run a trip into town or you can simply take the bus right outside of the hotel which is 2USD each way. The journey is around 20 minutes and well worth a visit. The town is very western and commercial mainly due to the island being a stop for all the cruise ships. The town is quite wealthy and not necessary cheap when you are shopping. It is still worth a visit to see the island and try something new. Overall I had a fantastic stay and I would definitely stay in another Sandals property but not necessary visit the same place again; only because I like to see as many destinations as possible!
03 October 2013
Thailand is now a destination I have visited 14 times. This was only my second time to travel south to the islands. I started in Hua Hin where I stayed 10nts at the Verandah resort which is situated right on the beach. I would say this is the best area to be as the beach is much nicer and quieter. Fine white sand and the sea is very warm. The hotel is very good value for money and they have a restaurant directly on the beach which is superb. There are plenty of bars, restaurants just 5 minutes away by taxi or 20 minutes walking. Hua Hin is around 3 hours from Bangkok by road and this is a destination I would definitely recommend. There are many excursions you can take which include shopping trips, boat trips and you can also go and see some real Thai boxing which was a good night out. I then travelled from Hua Hin to Koh Tao (top diving destination in Asia) by coach and ferry and I arranged this locally. It cost me around €25 for both. The journey was around 7 hours in total and was very comfortable. We stayed at the Montalay Resort which is on the other side of the island to where you arrive by ferry. It took around 20 minutes by taxi but was very cheap. I chose this hotel because it is on the best beach of the island and the hotel has its own coral reef. We spent hour’s snorkelling every day. The water is crystal clear and you will see hundreds of different species of fish and corals. The hotel was quite basic but they do have many room types at the hotel. We stayed in bungalows within the trees and it really gives you a jungle feel with views through the woods. The food was very good but if you wanted any kind of nightlife you have to be back in the town where they have all the bars along the beach which are open all night. They have shows every night where you can watch the locals’ fire dancing to rave music or you can find many bars with live bands etc. My favourite bar was El Murphys which is an Irish pub in the centre. They have a live band in there 7 days a week from 9pm. They are very good and also have a very good menu. I then travelled by ferry to Koh Phanghan which took around 1 hour 15 mins and the journey again was comfortable and it was very cheap. We stayed 1 night here by Raad Hin beach where they have the full moon parties. If you are staying here during a full moon party be prepared for it to be extremely busy. When we stayed here there was no party but the bars all the way along the beach are still very busy. The beach is amazing and I would definitely recommend a few nights here for a visit. I then travelled to Koh Samui which was just 1 hour from this island by ferry. I stayed at the Kings Garden Resort Hotel situated directly on Chaweng beach. This is the most central place to stay with all the bars, restaurants, nightlife and shopping is situated. Koh Samui is very commercialised so you will see all the fast food chains everywhere also. Having said that there are many more local restaurants also selling lots of local cuisine and sea food is very popular. If you wanted to stay somewhere a bit quieter the areas of Lamia or Bophut may suit more. Although Chaweng beach is still fantastic and there are various different types of water sports you can take part in or day trips/excursions. In all Thailand is a destination I sell week in week out and I would recommend this exact itinerary to anyone.
16 February 2013
February 2013 was my first visit to Philadelphia. We visited this vibrant city on a stopover on the way back from Miami. We decided we would stay here 2 nights and we stayed at a hotel called the Radisson Warwick Plaza. A very good standard of hotel right in the city centre perfect location. The subway was a 10 minute walk away which you can get to the airport direct and the cost is around $8USDpp each way. A taxi will cost around $30USD each way which takes around the same time as the train depending on traffic, which is around 20 minutes. The first full day we had in Philadelphia we spent at the premium shopping outlets located in Limerick which is around 1 hour 30 minutes away by bus. The busses depart from the greyhound bus terminal in the city centre, 15 minutes from the hotel we stayed in. The cost was $28USD return per person. The price was well worth it as there were over 150 shops to go around and most had absolute bargains. The busses leave twice a day in both directions and you need at least 5 hours to see everything. Overall a great day and I would definitely go back here if I did visit this city again. The second day we spent sightseeing around the city. We did the hop on hop off bus tour which has a live tour guide and the cost was $20USD per person for 24 hours. We visited some fantastic locations and we could have spent at least one more day in this city. One of the largest U.S prisons has a tour you can do which we would have liked to see but we did not have the time unfortunately. Also the zoo which is located on the outskirts of the city. Philadelphia has the 3rd largest china town in the U.S behind San Francisco and New York and is worth a visit. There are lots of different restaurants and shops with some great food at great prices. Other sights worth visiting which you can also see on the tour are the famous steps from the Rocky movie along with the Rocky statue. Here there are some great picture opportunities. You can also visit a few of the famous museums, Independence Hall and maybe one of the theatres which are good for Jazz and classical music. You can also take the Amtrak train from Philadelphia which runs to many cities including Washington and New York City. A great visit and a good stopover destination.
16 February 2013
February 2013 was my first visit to Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean. We stayed 7 nights at the fabulous Beaches Resort which is part of the Sandals group and located only 15 minutes from the airport. Beaches Resort is a very family orientated hotel but does also cater for weddings and honeymoons. The hotel is made up of 3 villages in one resort. The Caribbean village which is where I stayed, the other 2 are the Italian village and the French village. You can dine in any of the restaurants throughout the resort and drink from any of the bars and use all facilities within the complex. The hotel has around 16 restaurants with a few of them being adult only. The complex also has around the same amount of bars including pool bars and an adult only bar. There is also an Irish pub on the complex called Cricketers which serves Guinness. The Beaches Resort is located on one of the best beaches in the Caribbean and has to be one the best I have ever been on: pure white sand and turquoise crystal clear waters. The hotel has its own dive centre so perfect for scuba diving. All the water sports possible are also available and free of charge (excluding motorised, banana boats and parasailing etc) The facilities at this hotel are outstanding. You can dine A La Carte for breakfast, lunch and dinner with fantastic service at a very high standard. One of the restaurants called Barefoot is directly on the beach and was one of my favourites. All the restaurants offer something different and the choice is never ending. We were able to eat whole lobster which was the best I have ever tasted and also included in the All-Inclusive. The drinks are also premium branded in all the bars where they serve all the cocktails you can think of. Our mini bar was fully stocked and also red/white wine is re-stocked every day as well as sparkling champagne. All the rooms also have plasma TVs and an Xbox. The 3 villages have a wide variety of pools within the complex so there is loads of space and nowhere was too crowded. The complex also has its own water park with lots of water slides for all ages and also a wave pool where you can practice surfing. The hotel has a whole programme of entertainment including various kids clubs within the complex and also entertainment for adults during the day such as volleyball, water polo, tennis, and many other activities. In the evenings the hotel has a huge outdoor stage where they host evening entertainment for all ages. If you are interested in staying at this resort there are no direct flights from the Ireland so it will only be possible to fly via the U.S. A stopover could also be possible enabling you to visit another city at the same time as we did including Miami or Philadelphia or perhaps another city. The Hotel has many different options of room types with various advantages. Some of the rooms will enable you to have your own private seating area by the pool and even butler service is available at this hotel. I can go through the room options with you. Overall this was one of my favourite beach destinations and if I have the opportunity I would most definitely stay here again. Booking early is essential as the hotel has many repeat guests all year round.
16 February 2013
February 2013 was my second visit to Miami. We flew U.S Airways via Philadelphia for a 3 night stay in Miami. The connection in Philadelphia was 4 hours but this was no problem. Unlike some of the U.S airports this airport was huge with many shops, bars and restaurants making the connection comfortable and lots to do and see. Also the airport offers free WIFI. On arrival into Miami transportation to downtown or Miami Beach is very easy and also quite cheap. We stayed at the Chesterfield Hotel one road from Miami Beach. The location was perfect and the hotel affordable. Staying at this hotel there are free transfers to and from the airport and also WIFI is included throughout your stay. Hotels I would normally recommend would be the Claridge hotel and also the Miami Beach Resort & Spa. Both are in a good location, very good value for money and right near South Beach. South Beach is a very lively destination and attracts all kinds of crowds but a lot of youngsters due to the amount of bars, clubs and beachside restaurants. The beach is white sand and stretches for miles. There are many places to eat out and drink with a huge variety of entertainment for all ages. I would definitely recommend at least 3 days when visiting Miami, perfect if you are going on a cruise, Miami is the largest cruise terminal in the world. Miami is also a great stop if you are driving down to Key West or if you are going in the opposite direction up to Tampa and Orlando. You can do many types of excursions if you are not hiring a car here. You can even do a day trip to Orlando which is around a 4 hour drive and visit one of the many theme parks or Disney world. They are around $180USDpp for a day trip including the tickets. Other attractions well worth seeing would be a tour of the Everglades which would be a hover boat through the croc infested swamps. This is a great excursion and only around $35USDpp. Miami has many shopping districts but if you wanted to go to the designer outlets then Saw Grass Mills in Fort Lauderdale is only an hour away by car and you can also do a day trip here at around $30USDpp if you are not hiring a car. The best excursion for me on my second visit was the hop on hop off bus tour of Miami. At $40USDpp for a 2 day pass you can visit the whole of Miami from South beach along Ocean drive and up past millionaire’s row and star island up to downtown Miami. There are 3 bus tours included in this package and offer audio and also live tours. Overall Miami is well worth visiting especially if you are on the way to another U.S city or whether you are staying purely in Florida or perhaps taking a cruise.
16 December 2012
Prague is my favourite European city. I have been to Prague over 30 times and I got married in the old town square back in September 2006. My wife is from Prague so I frequently visit this amazing city. Prague has so much to offer all year round and my favourite time has to be Christmas time. I travel before or after Christmas every year to see the Christmas market, go ice skating and sample various different types of Mulled wines and be amongst family and friends in an amazing atmosphere. If you do not like cold temperatures do not go during the winter months as the temperatures are way below freezing and snow is pretty much guaranteed. The summer can be extremely hot but a great time for taking river cruises and being in outdoor restaurants and bars and for general sightseeing. I do recommend staying right in the centre of Prague. My favourite location would be the Old Town square, not so much Wenceles Square which is the newer part of town, although you do have to see Wenceles square and take a walk across the Charles Bridge and along to Prague castle. I normally recommend a 4* hotel called the Grand Majestic Plaza which is very modern and very close to the Old Town square. If you want to be right in the Old Town square then the U Prince hotel is also a very good choice. Both hotels are a very high standard and have fantastic facilities. Prague is the cheapest city I have visited in Europe and even though the flights and accommodation can be a little expensive sometimes, especially when booking last minute, it is very cheap once you are there and a pint of beer will be on average around £1. Prague is also very popular for stag and hen groups but for couples and families you can easily avoid these kinds of bars as the city is quite big and the choices of eating and drinking out are huge. Public transport is very good in Prague and getting around by bus, metro or tram is very cheap and easy. Failing that, there are taxis but if you stay in the centre then you won't really need to use any of it apart from when you arrive and leave the country. I arrange many trips to Prague so contact me for the best tips and up to date information on one of the best cities you will ever visit.
01 December 2012
I had a fantastic three nights in Paris which was long overdue. We flew with Ryanair into Beauvais airport which is around 82km from Paris. It’s not ideal but there are plenty of coaches that run from the airport into the city centre and also to Disney. I would normally recommend flying into Charles De Gaulle. We stayed three nights at the Royal Elysees hotel which is a four star hotel in the Champs Elysees. It’s only a five minute walk from the Arc De Triomphe and ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower. It was a good hotel of a good standard. I recommend a quiet room rather than a room with a view of the Arc De Triomphe as the main road will be noisy. The quieter rooms are at the back with no view at all but you will have a better night’s sleep. Breakfast, a continental buffet, was good. The hotel was in the perfect location, five minutes’ walk from the subway. Disneyland Paris then was just one subway ride to the end of the line which took around 40 minutes. There are a few hop-on hop-off bus tours which you can do and I recommend the green bus tour. You can then use the yellow and orange tours combined. The two day pass is €34 per person and the buses run frequently to all the main sites. We spent a full two days sightseeing, which is what I would recommend. If you wanted to do the sights as well as Disney then I would recommend four nights. We then spent the third day in Disneyland Paris and we managed both parks in one day. Although it was a little rushed, the queues were quite short as it was during the week and it wasn't a school holiday. I would recommend at least two days for both the parks if you wanted to do all the rides and not have to rush. Overall I had a fantastic time in Paris and I would definitely recommend it to anyone for a city break.
26 July 2012
Hurghada and Luxor have to be the hottest destinations I have ever been to! Staying one week at the 5 star Makadi Palace was a great choice, It was a holiday booked very last minute, in-fact 3 days before departure which is very unlike me. The hotel had a various mixture of guests from all over Europe which was fantastic to see. The hotel is part of a chain and was next door to the Grand Makadi Hotel and also the Makadi Spa. You can use the facilities of all the hotels. You can choose from a fantastic 6 restaurants to eat from including the main buffet, Italian, Grill, Chinese, Indian and Thai which are all A La Carte. The service and food was fantastic. The hotel is situated directly on the beach in Makadi Bay only 30 minutes from the airport. Luckily the transfers are air conditioned and also most of the hotel including all the rooms which was a must. I really would recommend this destination and hotel to all ages as there are many things to do and see in and around Hurghada. Or you can just laze in the sun in the hotel you choose. Most of the All Inclusive Hotels have activities throughout the day for all ages and evening entertainment included. Some of the shows we saw in our hotel were just breathtaking. The cobra show was something I have never seen before and well worth going to! Most of our holiday was spent in the hotel around the choice of 6 pools with massive of space and plenty of sun beds. I am glad to report there was no fighting over sun beds nor did you have to be out at the crack of dawn to put a towel down The 2 days that we did venture out of the hotel was firstly a day trip to Luxor. We left the hotel at 5am for the 2 and half hour coach journey to Luxor. We did stop off half way and also on the way back. We visited some tombs just outside Luxor before a short cruise down the Nile just after lunch. The trip was guided so we learnt a lot of history along the way. We then visited the famous Valley of the Kings where we went inside 4 of the tombs. I cannot add any pictures of that as it was strictly forbidden to take photos in the tombs. It was a long day returning back to the hotel by 8pm but well worth it. The other excursion we decided to do was Camel, Horse and Donkey riding (yes all 3) also Spider Buggies, Jeep safari, Quad biking and a belly dancer show with dinner included. A great day and again well worth the money! . It was very hot and a head scarf which you can see in my pictures was a very good purchase at just €1.50. The scarf and the sun glasses along with a lot of sun cream and water is needed. Although they did provide us with water throughout the day. There was a massive choice of excursions you could do, those were just two that we had decided. But you can go diving, do the diving courses or go snorkelling. Or in-fact you could visit Cairo and the temples in Giza which is just outside Cairo. A little further from Hurghada and more expensive. the journey by coach is 5 hours each way or you could go overnight staying in a hotel. The other option was a 40 min flight which is more expensive but included everything from transfers guided tours to having 3 meals. The flight to Hurghada was only 5 hours so you do not suffer from any jet lag visiting Egypt. That is a massive bonus and the weather is almost guaranteed throughout the year.
22 February 2013
Tenerife is a destination I have visited 7 times over the years and I recommend this Spanish Canary island to anyone. The island has something for everyone depending where a bouts you stay on the island. The south has the best beaches of the island in Playa De Las Americas which also has all the bars and nightclubs so this resort does attract a lot of young people, especially during the holiday months. Costa Adeje is also a nice beach resort as well as Los Cristianos which will attract more families and couples. There is also a fantastic water park in the south of the island which is great for all ages. I have stayed in most of the tourist resorts now as well as the north of the island in Puerto Del La Cruz. This resort is around 1 hour 30 minutes from the south. The beaches are rockier and this resort attracts more the older generation and mainly couples/families. Hotels I have previously stayed in are the Conquistador hotel, The Abama Golf resort, Bahia Del Duque and the Compostella Beach golf 3 apartments. There are many things to do on the island and my top recommendations would be Loro Parque in the north of the island, which is a bird wildlife park, with various shows and entertainment. Tenerife Zoo in the south. You can also go dolphin watching and take various different boat trips including a day on a catamaran. You can also do day trips up to Mount Teide which is well worth doing and on a good day the views from the volcano are spectacular. You can see the whole island from the top and also the coastline of North Africa. For recommendations on hotels/apartments please let me know this is one of the most popular destinations that I sell. This is a destination I always recommend for families and couples looking for all year round weather and within Europe and a flying time of approx. 4 hours.
22 February 2013
October 2010 was my first visit to the amazing island of Antigua. I stayed 1 night at the Grand Pineapple beach and then 4 nights at Sandals Antigua resort & Spa. The trip was a prize winners trip with Travel Counsellors. We flew British Airways from London Gatwick direct and the flight time was just over 9 hours. The Grand Pineapple beach is a 3 star plus hotel and an all inclusive property. This was not one of my favourite hotels but this is more for the budget minded. The accommodation was all low level bungalows which were nice and the hotel is directly on the beach. On a plus side the beach is amazing, very spacious so it was nice to stay here and spend a day on this beach. The choice of entertainment is good with many different excursions of the island you can chose from. The food was good which was buffet style and drinks and cocktails are also included. We then stayed 4 nights at Sandals resort which is an adults only property. The hotel is huge and is amazing. Many different room categories to choose from located in various different parts of the resort which is also located on a stunning white sandy beach. The hotel has a very high level of standards and is one of the best Sandals resorts you can stay at, in the Caribbean. The hotel offers A La Carte restaurants, and premium branded drinks in all the bars. You can take many different excursions around the island from the hotel. One of the excursions we took was a catamaran to the island of Barbuda. It was a day trip to this small island which took around 2 hours in each direction. Once on the island we had a bbq lunch on the beach. A fantastic day and a must visit. Another great excursions was Shirley Heights where we could see stunning views of the coastline and have drinks and a bbq meal included with various different entertainment. Overall I would definitely go back to this amazing hotel and I recommend to anyone looking to go for either a holiday or whether you are going on honeymoon.
26 July 2012
Los Angeles and San Diego were two destinations part of a multi centre trip which had included New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. See my other travel diaries for the other destinations. We first stayed in San Diego for 3 nights. We arrived by car originally from San Francisco driving the coastal route but stopping off at various different places along the way. The drive was truly amazing with breathtaking views. We stayed in a motel a little outside of San Diego itself but I would recommend to stay in the centre as this will save you a lot of time. Our first day we spent most of it aboard the USS Midway museum (Warship) which is docked in the harbour. You will need around 4 hours to do this tour properly and most of it is a self guided tour which you are equipped with an audio player. I really enjoyed this and it was very cheap. You will also get to experience sitting in different types of aircraft and also inside the cockpits. The second half of the day we spent on a whale watching boat tour which took us several miles out to sea. They guarantee you see whales or you get your money back. We did indeed see a Gray Whale one of the largest mammals on earth. San Diego's coastline happens to be one of their passing points during their migratory trek to and from the Arctic waters to the warm water lagoons of Baja California. Other day trips could be spent at San Diego's Sea world, San Diego zoo or perhaps in the City Water Park. San Diego also has a great range of places to dine out at very affordable prices and also has a great range of shops if you want to go shopping for designer clothes. After 3 days of sightseeing in San Diego we drove 2 hours to Los Angeles where I had previously been a few years ago. We stayed at the Millenium Biltmore which was a five star hotel situated in the cultural district, the hotel was just steps away from major attractions, such as the Ahmanson Theatre, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dodger Stadium. You could also stay in Santa Monica which is where I stayed before at the Holiday Inn a few years before this trip. Santa Monica has 3.5 miles of well-maintained California beach. Cycling, movie shoots, beach volleyball games, and the finest of people-watching all happen here, and it's no wonder. People love to gather at this California beach, partially because it is so pristine. You will also see the famous muscle beach if you visit Santa Monica where you will see where all the body builders train hard in the big outdoor gym. There is so much to do and see in this huge city which is quite spread out. Driving is really a must in the city as you will see and do so much more. Hollywood Studios is just outside of the city in Anaheim where you can visit Universal studios. This was built before the Universal in Orlando but it is still worth a visit if you haven't been to the one in Orlando as it has the same rides. If you are travelling with children you could also visit Disneyland as this is another great day out and plenty of rides to choose from. Shopping in Los Angeles is huge as it's the fifth large shopping district in the world. One classic Los Angeles experience is a cruise down Melrose. Nearby, boutiques cluster along Third Avenue, Beverly Boulevard, La Brea Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard. Even if you are not shopping drive around these areas and then down to Beverley Hills. We finally flew out of LAX airport which is quite close to the city only around 20 minutes away. A great experience, we packed a lot in within a short space of time.
26 July 2012
March 2010 was my second visit to San Francisco which was part of a multi centre taking in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego. San Francisco is around half hour from the international airport and is easily accessed by airport taxis or another way of getting into town would be the train which is fast efficient and cost effective. San Francisco has many attractions and has something for everyone, the best area to stay would either be downtown San Francisco my favourite area is Fishermans Wharf which is a very big tourist attraction and has a huge harbour which homes hundreds of sea lions. There are plenty of choices for accommodation with the down town area being the cheaper end of the market and Fisherman's Wharf slightly more expensive. When staying in San Francisco I recommend you visit Alcatraz and do the guided audio walking tour. It really is a fantastic day out to get there you have to take a boat from the main harbour. My tip is to either pre book the tour before you get there or book it as soon as you get there as the tours to Alcatraz are always very popular and you may be disappointed if you do not book early enough. There is also a boat trip you can take which goes around the island and also under the Golden Gate Bridge but this is a completely separate tour. There would be no real need to do this tour as well unless you are not going onto Alcatraz itself. If you have a car hired then this will be a great way to experience driving over the bridge and stopping off at various different photo spots for plenty of pictures. Alternatively you can take a bus tour which will do the same thing but it is much better if you have your own transport. When visiting the downtown or Fisherman's Wharf depending on where you are staying I recommend you take the old fashioned cable car. It runs on rails just like a train or a tram but its open so you can sit and see the amazing sights and San Francisco city as you go up and down some of the steepest roads in the world. The cable car is operated by a driver also and you can watch how it is all operated. San Francisco is great for shopping as there are many designer stores and the prices are much cheaper than back home, so make sure you have room to do some shopping. Other places to visit would be Napa Valley Wineries and Yosemite National Park. And now for the best bit – we hired a convertible and drove the coastal road from San Francisco stopping in Monteray, Carmel, and Pacific Grove which are all part of the Monteray Peninsula. The hotspots here are the Monteray Bay aquarium, Cannery Row, Pebble Beach (golf enthusiasts will love this) and the famous 17 mile drive. Next stop was San Simeon where you can find Hearst Castle. From there we drove to Santa Barbara staying a few nights there and then on to Santa Monica for 1 night. There is plenty of nice accommodation on this route and we stayed mostly in B&B’s which were like small boutique hotels and very unique. You could drive from San Francisco in a day driving the coastal road but I recommend spreading it out over a few days as there is so much to see. This is a place you have to visit!
26 July 2012
Las Vegas justifiably deserved its name as the ‘gambling capital’ of the world – it is 24 hour round-the-clock gambling from the ‘slots’ to the ‘tables’ to the ‘poker schools’ to the TV Sports Bar where you can bet on any ‘live’ sporting event happening anywhere around the world. Things however have changed considerably over the last few years. It is now the fastest growing city in the USA and as a result there is a lot more to Las Vegas than just gambling. It has now established itself as one of the world’s top Convention Centres. Anyone who has been to Las Vegas or seen the movie will be familiar with the ‘neon-lighted’ offers of “eat as much as you like for $10” or “Free Beer” with every meal. Beyond all that however there is a great collection of top quality restaurants that would put our ‘star’ restaurants to shame for service, quality and price. You can drink for free in most of the casino's in Vegas as long as you are either playing the slot machines or the tables. The waitresses will soon ask you, all you need to do is give a tip. Even if it is just $1. March 2010 was my second trip to Las Vegas and I can honestly say I would go back again and again. A lot of people go to Las Vegas just for the nightlife. You can party away 24 hours in one of the many nightclubs to choose from with a majority of them actually being inside the hotels all the way along the seven mile strip. On both of my visits I have stayed at the Circus Circus Hotel twice as it was very good value for money. Although slightly further at the north end of the strip the location was still great and only a 45 min walk to the central part of the strip. The taxis and busses run 24 hours along the strip so it is very easy to get out and around. If you are on a budget my advice would be to stay in one of the cheaper hotels on the strip as you will find you will only be in your room to sleep. There were many highlights from ‘Venice at Night’ with real life gondolas and tenors in the Venetian Hotel, the ‘Cirque du Soleil’ show at Bellagio’s, with its magic fountain, and the unbelievable roller-coaster at New York New York. You can go inside any of the hotels and use the facilities; some of the hotels I managed to visit are The MGM Grand, The Mandalay Bay, Treasure Island, Luxor, The Stratosphere, Excalibur, Paris, The Venetian. It is worth visiting as many as you can because each and everyone has something different and is unique. I have to go back to do the helicopter ride at night along the strip and of course to visit the Grand Canyon which is only a few hours by road from Las Vegas. I recommend these excursions are booked in advance as they are very popular. If you like shopping then make sure you go with an empty case because they have a huge shopping outlet in Vegas and you will find many bargains. You could also combine Las Vegas which is what I did with California and visit other fantastic places such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Mexico and many other places. You could do a self drive trip and combine internal flights also which can be very cheap if booked in advance. All in all I had a great experience and I definitely recommend.
26 July 2012
It’s so good they named it twice! Although this was my second visit to New York I had a list of places to see and things to do the length of my arm. As I was travelling with my wife and friends of ours I knew we would be busy so I decided 4 nights would be just perfect. Arriving into Newark Airport instead of JFK Airport can sometimes be quicker to transfer into Manhattan. You can take the airport tram to the airport train station and within 30 minutes you are in downtown Manhattan having missed all the traffic. If you fly into JFK the subway is the best way to travel as you can miss all the traffic and be at your hotel quicker than you would in a taxi and it is much cheaper at just $10USD approx per person. One of my big tips when arriving into New York or any other city in the U.S is not go to bed before 2200 local time. Because of the time difference if you go to bed early you will definitely be awake by 3-4 in the morning. So stay up late and you will get over the flight straight by the very next morning. The hotels I have stayed in are recently the Radisson Lexington Hotel which is centrally located close to Central Park and previous the Paramount hotel located in Times Square. Both hotels were very good but the most important thing was location. It is really important to be central as it will save you loads on travelling costs and also save you time as normally you would only spend a maximum of 4 nights in New York. When everyone tells you the shopping is great in New York believe them! I was in my element and I'm a man. If you want to go shopping for bargains then take the bus from the Port to the shopping outlet Woodbury Common. There is over 220 designer shops here all at discounted prices. If you are travelling with someone who does not like shopping be sure to leave them behind. And then there is Broadway, you simply cannot go to New York and not see a show, same when visiting London! Purchasing a 48 hour hop on hop off ticket is worth every penny. These tours will take you all over Manhattan. Uptown, downtown you name it, you’ll see it. Other highlights of my trip were the Empire State building by day (no need to pre book) and Top of the Rock by night, a horse and cart around Central Park will make great memories for you and you may even spot a star. You will also see the John Lennon memorial in Central Park and where they filmed the Ghostbusters and also Home Alone 2. I also recommend taking a boat trip across to the Statue of Liberty; you will see all of New York City and just how small the Statue of Liberty really is. But believe me it's still worth seeing. If you want to go inside the statue up to the top you need to pre book this in advance as it is very popular. The boat tours are very cheap. Visiting Ground Zero is a very sad experience and seeing the memorial and reading all the names of people who sadly lost their lives. You just cannot imagine the devastation that was caused and how tall those buildings were unless you have seen them before. Ground Zero is around 20mins by subway from the centre and well worth a visit. Pre booking is now a must. There are so many restaurants and so many bars in New York so it can be hard to choose but do make sure to take a night out in Greenwich or the Meat Packing District. Both of these areas are now very popular with gorgeous restaurants and bars. Times Square by day and by night will just make you smile. The lights, the crowds, the naked cowboy, the street performers and many other things will complete your trip to New York. New York is for all ages and it is a city I would return to again and again.
26 July 2012
Mexico is simply amazing! November 2009 was my third visit to Mexico. I stayed in the couple’s only hotel the Secrets Silversands in the Riviera Maya which is around 30 minutes from Cancun and the airport. The previous year I stayed in the sister hotel which had just opened which was the Secrets Maroma Resort in the same area. My first visit was to the Aqua Marina Beach Hotel in the heart of Cancun. Most people that look to travel to Cancun want to actually stay in Cancun and don't really consider the other parts such as Riviera Maya and Playa Carmen. I recommend the Riviera Maya and Playa Carmen unless you are single and early twenties as this is what Cancun attracts. Cancun has bars and lots of clubs and it is busy and very popular especially during spring break! The reason I recommend the other two areas is because it's more laid back and more of a mature nature than how Cancun is. The resorts are very Americanised as for people travelling from the U.S it is the same as us travelling to Spain. The Caribbean is on their doorstep. Wherever you stay the beaches are sandy all the way along the coast and are as good as anywhere else in the Caribbean. Mexico is for all ages and there is a wide choice of hotels to choose from depending on your budget. The two adult only hotels I have stayed at have been the best All Inclusive hotels I have stayed in ever. The service is out of this world let me tell you and if you like good quality and very high modern standards then these places are where you should stay as long as you have no kids of course. My main reasons are that they are both beach front hotels, adult only, 24 hour room service, plenty of Al La Carte restaurants to choose from including French, Italian, Asian, Grill, Seafood and Chinese. The hotel serves premium branded drinks and cocktails at no extra cost. You will be served all day whether you are by the beach or around the pool. Both hotels also have great evening entertainment so you are never bored. If you are looking to stay in Cancun and experience all the nightlife then all of the hotels run busses most nights to the various different clubs and bars. Coco Bongo's is the best club in town and has to be visited at least once. You will generally pay a fee of around $50USD to get in and then all the drinks will be free. Playa Carmen also has a bit of nightlife but is slightly more low key as it is a smaller area, but there are lots of outdoor bars to choose from and some of them have great entertainment and live bands. The Blue parrot was one of my favourites. If you are looking to take part in any excursions there are many on offer. You can visit the temples or you can go on snorkelling/diving trips or do the jungle tour across the swamps on a jet ski. Now that was my favourite and I highly recommend you do this. There isn't too much in these resorts for shopping. In-fact I actually thought clothes etc were quite expensive and the best of the shopping I thought was at the airport on the way home. Mexico is a destination I will go back to again.
16 December 2012
Whilst visiting Australia we decided to have 1 week on Hamilton Island. What a week it was. Hamilton Island is a tiny island located 16km off the coast of Queensland. We took an internal flight from Sydney which was just a short two hour flight with their low cost carrier Virgin blue. On arrival into Hamilton Island at their tiny airport we picked up our transport for the week (A golf buggy) this is the main mode of transport on the island although there are a few cars but not many. Everyone drives golf buggies. You can drive around the whole island within 45 minutes which we actually did every single day because the views are just so stunning and driving the buggies was addictive! We stayed in an apartment on the beach and renting our apartment we were provided free of charge our buggy for the whole week. If you are staying in one of the hotels on the island and there are not many, you can rent the buggies if you want to. I do recommend this as you will not do this anywhere else apart from a golf course or maybe in one of the hotels in the Caribbean. It is the easiest way to get around as there are no busses. There are only around 20 restaurants and 6 bars located on the whole island but if you are staying here for a week which is what I would recommend then it is enough anyway. The choice of food is great. The main beach on Hamilton Island is stunning and is not busy. Lots of space and the best hotels on the island are located at the main beach. Even though Hamilton is a very small island there are still lots to do if you do not want to just spend a week on the beach. There are various different activities and the top 5 are: Day trip to the Great Barrier Reef Sail aboard "On the Edge" to Whitehaven Beach Round of Golf at the Hamilton Island Golf Club Spa treatment at Spa Qualia or Spa Wumurdaylin Bowling at the Hamilton Island Bowling Alley In the main town where the restaurants and bars are is located a beautiful harbour where you can take boat trips or just have a walk around and do some gift shopping. The wildlife is amazing with various different types and species of animals (not dangerous). Every evening we would feed different types of birds from our balcony including Cockatoos,Paraqueets and Macaus. The best thing about Hamilton is that you can really go off and explore the whole island and go anywhere you like. It's very safe and you will have an amazing experience.
30 July 2012
May 2009 was my second visit to the Land of Oz In this trip we visited Sydney, Brisbane, The Whitsunday islands (see other journal), the Gold Coast and Melbourne. It was all packed into 3 weeks. We flew with Qantas on the brand new super jumbo airbus A380. Anyone travelling to Australia I always recommend and check availability as it makes a huge different on the journey and doesn't always add much to the cost. It is much more comfortable with more leg room and more choice of entertainment. Sydney is one of my most favourite cities, so much to see and do. One of my many highlights was to visit Manley which you travel to by boat from Sydney Harbour. Manley has the best beaches in Sydney and from there you can travel up to Palm Beach where they film the famous Home & Away. You could even try some surfing. Bondi beach is also a must visit which is close to Sydney, you can easily get there by bus. This is very touristy and can be quite busy but still well worth the visit. There is also some great coastal walks in that area. We also visited Sydney Zoo and the sea life centre near the harbour. I would recommend the Sydney harbour bridge climb. You could also go to the top of the Sydney tower which has stunning views of Sydney and the Sydney Opera House. We stayed at the Marriott Hotel which was a good 4 star centrally located. Sydney is great for shopping. We visited Brisbane which was just a 2 hour flight from Sydney. This is a good base if you want to visit Australia Zoo which was set up by Steve Irwin. It's located around an hour away by train. It was a good day out and lots of interaction with the keepers and animals, they also have a crocodile show. You can also visit the Gold Coast from Brisbane as it is only around 2 hours away by train. We stayed in Surfers Paradise for 3 nights which again has amazing beaches and lots of things to do. It attracts all ages but does have quite a young image with the surfing and vibrant nightlife. We visited Melbourne right at the end of our stay, the last 3 nights and then flew home from there. Melbourne I think is very much like London and I personally wouldn't go back purely to visit that one city. But the others I would. On the plus side it was very good shopping and plenty of choice of trips etc. One of the highlights was the tram tour which is a hop on hop off stopping off at all the main attractions the city has to offer. The first time we visited Australia in 2007 we flew Emirates business class. Emirates are a fantastic airline whether you are travelling in economy or business. I have travelled economy with Emirates several times. We visited Sydney,Brisbane,Cairns,Palm Cove and Port Douglas. After visiting Sydney and Brisbane we took a 3 hour flight to Queensland and stayed 1 night in Cairns. Cairns is a very small city but a good base if you are looking to see the Great Barrier Reef. A lot of the tours and diving can be booked here. Whilst staying in Cairns we took a trip on the Kuranda scenic railway. The train ride takes you up to the mountain and then you travel back by cable car, all 7 miles of it above the forest. The views and ride was stunning and I highly recommend this tour. We stayed 3 nights in Palm Cove which is only an hour away by bus before our next trip up to Port Douglas. There is lots to do and see along the way with various different trips on offer. We took a day trip to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree forest which included a boat trip along the river which was home to many crocodiles. We saw lots of wildlife. Australia is a country that has so much to offer. I would recommend a stopover in at least one of the directions if not both. My recommendations would be either Hong Kong,Bangkok,Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
26 July 2012
If you like Theme parks and Disney and want to be a big kid for a few weeks then go to Orlando in Florida. This is a place for all ages and families. Orlando International Airport is only around 20 minutes from International drive, which is where a majority of the hotels are. Sanford Airport which is where all the charter flights go into is around 1 hour away. 2008 was my second visit to Orlando and this time I went back for longer. My first experience was a work trip and was just 5nts. But it was a great insight and I experienced first class VIP treatment in a few of the parks and hotels. The first time I went to Orlando I stayed at the Universal Hotel Royal Pacific which is part of 3 hotels literally on Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures door step. I enjoyed the location and standard so much that the second time I went back with my wife and friends we stayed 1 week at the Universal Hotel Hard Rock. One of the huge advantages of staying in one of the Universal Hotels is they will automatically upgrade your park tickets into Universal and Islands of Adventure to fast track. Which means you do not have to queue to get on to any of the rides and this will mean you can do all the rides easily in a whole day in each park. We then stayed the second week at the Disney All Stars hotel right by Disney so we could be closer to the other parks. Wherever you stay in Orlando getting around is very easy. A lot of the hotels run shuttle busses to all the parks or you can hire a car and do it all yourself. This would be more for people I would say who are maybe staying in a Villa in maybe the Kissimee area or if you wanted to get out of Orlando and drive down to Clearwater,Tampa or even Miami which is around 4 hours away. You could even do a twin centre flying into one airport and out of the other, driving in between and dropping the car off as you depart. In my two week holiday I managed to visit all the parks (just) it was hard work and believe me you will do a lot of walking as the parks are huge. But it is all well worth it and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Both times I visited was during the Halloween season which runs from Sep-Nov. Halloween horror nights was my favourite event and experience out of everything else. I can talk about it for hours. If you are lucky enough to go away during this period I will tell you all about it. Do not miss it!! I also recommend the express ticket that they offer which is generally the same cost again for the ticket. This means you do not queue to go into any of the haunted houses and events and you will see everything in 1 night, just about. There are many different types of park tickets you can purchase with various different deals at different price ranges but I can have all that pre booked for you so you do not have to worry as I will recommend the places to go and see. There are also many water parks to visit and have fun at. If you are looking to get out of Orlando during your stay Clearwater is not too far, only a few hours away and we stayed there 1 night. It was quite small but really nice with a few restaurants and bars along their magnificent beach. If you are looking to visit Busch Gardens in Tampa which is another theme park full of roller coasters then you could visit Clearwater also as it is very close to Tampa. There is a huge shopping outlet in Orlando which we visited and came back with bags and bags of shopping. It's too hard to resist as you can get so many bargains that you just would not get back in Ireland. So if you are looking for a thrilling experience and enjoy all different kinds of rides then Orlando is the place to go.
22 February 2013
Dominican Republic is a destination I have now visited twice. I have stayed in the north of the island in Puerto Plata and also the south in Punta Cana. The Dominican Republic is one of the cheapest Caribbean destinations to visit apart from Cuba. A lot of my customers ask me whereabouts to stay on the island. When I visited the North I stayed in 4 hotels in one week (Iberostar,Gran Ventana, Riu Merengue, Victoria resort) as I was on a work trip. I also visited several others. Although the hotels are as good in the north as they are in south, the beaches are not! In the north the ocean is the Atlantic so the sea is not clear and not very warm. In the south the beaches are on the Caribbean ocean so the sea is much clearer and warmer and also much better for scuba diving. I stayed at the Sirenis Cocotal hotel which is part of also the Sirenis Suites hotel. I stayed here for a week it was a very good standard of hotel and budget wise very affordable. There are often many different offers for the 5* hotels so depending on when you are travelling I will be able to advise you who has the best rates at that time. Punta Cana is also very close to Bavaro which is very similar and on fantastic beaches. As good as anywhere in the Caribbean I would say. There are choices of many different excursions from the hotels bookable on arrival. Most of the hotels are quite secluded so walking outside of your resort is not really an option, but you can still take the excursions from your chosen hotel. Some of my top recommendations on hotels would be the Secrets chain (adults only) Bahia Principe, Sirenis Cocotal or maybe the Dreams or Iberostar resorts which would appeal more for families. Overall a fantastic holiday destination that I would go back to and with a flying time of only around 8 and a half hours which is one of the shortest Caribbean flying times.
03 October 2013
Thailand is a country I have had the pleasure to visit 13 times and I could still go back again and again as I haven't visited the whole country yet. It is one of my favourite destinations. The Thai people are amongst the friendliest in the world and are very accommodating. I lived in a town called Pattaya for 4 months around 10 years when I decided to go travelling and see Asia. I got settled very quickly and fell in love with the place. Pattaya is around a 2 hour drive from the capital Bangkok and getting around is very cheap. A taxi will cost no more than €20 for the 2 hour journey. Cost of living is very cheap and you can live like a king. There is so much to see in Pattaya including the crocodile park, Pattaya Zoo and Wildlife Park, Numnok Safari Park and many outdoor adventures. You can even go elephant trekking which I highly recommend. Pattaya is also the capital of Thailand for nightlife. There are literally thousands of bars and nightclubs to choose from and the place comes to life at night and can be very busy all year round. Even during monsoon season it is just as busy. I would recommend Pattaya for groups and singles but not for families. On my last visit I flew into Bangkok and stayed in a 3 star hotel called the Bellaire Princess which was centrally located near Bangkok's main commercial and shopping district of Sukhumvit Road. The transfer from Bangkok airport took about 30 minutes. Bustling Bangkok is one of Asia's most intoxicating capitals, full of street bustle and wonderful food, with its mix of ancient and modern, plus great shopping and sightseeing at ridiculously cheap prices. I took a boat trip through the Floating Market, picture-perfect temples and also visited the Night Bazaar. If you are staying longer in Bangkok more than 3 nights you could take a trip to see the bridge over the river Kwai. In recent visits I have also stayed at the Asia hotel in Bangkok which is a very good 4 star hotel and centrally located. But there is a massive choice of hotels to suit your budget. I have also visited Phuket in recent trips which is Thailands largest Island and sits in the deep blue waters of Anadaman Sea. Phuket has some of the best diving in the world in the crystal clear waters and unspoilt beaches and also has vibrant nightlife but not so much as Pattaya. Phuket provides a great base for exploring the underwater world but you could also visit the other islands such as Krabi and Koh Samui. These places are also very popular for tourists and will appear more to couples and honeymooners.
28 July 2012
New Zealand - What a country! I have been lucky to visit New Zealand twice. The last time in 2007 I spent 2 weeks in the South Island and a year before that I visited the North Island. New Zealand is a place for all ages but especially if you are the adventurous type and like outdoor activities. The first time I visited New Zealand I was on a work trip so we packed a lot into one week. We started off with a few nights in Auckland, which is a very clean and modern city. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel right down by Auckland’s beautiful marina. Auckland is quite small and a good place to start as that is where the International Airport is. If travelling to New Zealand I would recommend to start your holiday on either the North or South Island and then fly out of the other driving and stopping off at different places in between. This is how you will see the whole country and get the most out of it. There is so much to do but a few trips we took was the coach ride to Mangere mountain. This was fantastic and you will see the whole city and the bridge from the top. This only took a few hours. We then took a jet boat tour out of the harbour which was at high speed and was great fun. It's the best way to see the coastline and get your adrenaline pumping. If that's not enough you could do the sky jump from the tower in the city which is at 630 feet. (I chickened out of this I'm afraid). We then drove south to Rotorua visiting the Waitomo glow worm caves along the way taking a boat tour inside the caves, this was spectacular. We then took a helicopter tour to White island and landed on an active volcano. This was an experience I will never forget as it was my first time in a helicopter, the views were amazing. We spent a few of the days in various different hotels along the coasts up to the Bay of Islands where the two oceans meet. If you are lucky you may spot a shark from the cliff tops as we did. It was about 20 feet and possibly a great white. We also drove along 90 miles of beaches the whole length to Cape Reinga which again was stunning stopping off for photo opportunities. The second time I visited New Zealand in 2007 was for a holiday and I flew into Christchurch, stayed there for a few nights. Christchurch was quite small and 3 days would be enough here. We then travelled down to Queenstown by internal flight which was less than 1 hour. This was my favourite place in New Zealand. Such a beautiful place and so many different kinds of sports and activities to take part in. One of my favourites was the cable car ride up to Bobs Peak. You have views over Queenstown and the mountains surrounding Queenstown. Once at the top you can also do the luge ride which are toboggan type single seater cars on wheels. They can go quite fast and you ride along a single track. They have a restaurant at the top where we had lunch by the window and just admired the views and watched all the different sport activities that were going on. There is something for everyone here. We then went to the magnificent Franz Josef Glacier which is widely regarded as the gem of New Zealand's West Coast Glaciers. We stayed here 1 night in a motel but whilst we were there we took a helicopter ride up to the glacier and landed on top for photos and to walk around in the snow. Another one of hundreds of amazing trips to take whilst visiting this country. From Franz Joseph we took the Alpine train journey which ran from Dunedin back to Christchurch which was a great way to see more of the country and its coast. The journey took us around 3 hours from Dunedin back to Christchurch. So much to do and see in NZ you need at least 3 weeks to see the whole country. The best way is to hire a camper van which are widely available and can be picked up on arrival and which I can arrange as well as an itinerary for you whilst you are there. I hope I get to do this all over again.
30 July 2012
In June 2007 I travelled to Cape Town in South Africa on a prize winner’s trip. We only stayed in Cape Town for 4nts so a lot was packed in. We flew South African airlines from Heathrow. The journey was comfortable and the best thing was that there is no suffering with jet lag as the time difference is the same. We transferred to the Table Bay Hotel which is a 5 star luxurious hotel located in the heart of Cape Town. Cape Town had various amounts of restaurants and bars to choose from along with activities and excursions. Some of my colleagues managed to experience the great white shark dive. The tours go from the main harbour in Cape Town. I chose to do an excursion up to Table Mountain which looks over the whole of Cape Town. To get to the top you had to take a cable car. Once at the top the views are stunning and there are over 1470 species of plants. To the right of Table Mountain, Kloof Nek is linked to the aptly which is named Lion's Head. The spiral walk up Lion's Head passes through silver trees and spring flowers, and provides a 360º view of the Cape Peninsula as you go round the mountain. The walk is not terribly challenging, and is a popular family outing. At the top, you are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views. You will also see some wildlife once at the top. The next day we did the Aquila Game Reserve which was located within a few hours from Cape Town. We saw all of the big 5 and this was my first ever safari. There were options to stay in a lodge at the game park but we were only in SA for a few days so we didn’t get to stay over. If you go at the right time you could also do a whale watching trip as Cape Town is where they do the tours from as well as the shark diving and fishing trips. There are many activities to choose from and I will hopefully go back one day as 4 nights was not nearly enough to fit everything in. One of the most popular tours as well is the garden route which you can do a self drive and stay at different points spread out over time.
17 December 2012
In September 2006 I spent 10 nights on Sun Island which is a 5 star in the Maldives which was for my honeymoon. We flew Qatar Airways from London via Dohar and we were lucky to be able to fly business class. Qatar Airways are a 5 star airline and I would say they are as good, if not better than any other airline. The service was truly amazing. We were spoilt rotten from the massive choice of menu to the top quality entertainment they had with their huge seat back tv screens. The beds were also flat beds so sleeping was very comfortable and spacious. On arrival into Male airport we had a sea plane transfer which took us 45 minutes to get to Sun island. We chose this option as 3 hours on a speed boat could be a bit long and especially if the sea happens to be rough. The sea planes are very small with only around 20 or seats. You get to see some great views of the islands also and you can even see the same view as the pilots as it is all open. It was well worth to pay the extra and experience this. We landed at Sun Island just off the beach where we took then a speed boat to our island which was very short. Sun Island is the largest island in the Maldives and we chose this so we could have a good choice of activities and also so we could explore the island and even ride bikes etc. We were automatically upgraded on arrival from a beach bungalow to a water bungalow. This absolutely made the holiday as the water bungalows are out to sea which are spread out all the way along the pier. At the end of the pier we had a Thai restaurant which you can eat in there once during your stay. Every night by the restaurant after 6pm they would feed baby sharks that would come in. This was something I had never seen and it was a great experience. We did not see them same sharks during the day. The water bungalows were very private and at the back had steps going down directly into the sea, so you could swim and snorkel straight from your room if you wanted. A massive advantage staying in a water bungalow meant you could dine in a separate restaurant from all the other guests not staying in the water bungalows. The food was buffet style but also waiter service to your table for drinks etc. The quality was very good and offers an excellent range which was changed every day. We did not eat the same meal twice. Even though Sun Island was the largest of the islands it was not crowded at all because there is so much space so we never had anyone within 10 meters of us on the beach. Being All Inclusive which I highly recommend in the Maldives as drinks can be very expensive and once you are there you have no choice but to purchase at their prices, so it will be much cheaper in the long run. There was a wide choice of excursions you could take with 2 being free for every guest. The 2 free excursions were deep sea fishing and a trip to another island called Holiday Island. The deep sea fishing was great as we went early evening fishing from a boat. We then went back to Sun Island where we ate all the fresh fish which was caught and dined on the beach. This was one of the best meals during our stay. Visiting Holiday Island was also great and we went in a small group after lunch one of the days by boat. On arrival we were given a guided tour and drinks. All our activities and water sports except motorised were all included during our stay including snorkeling gear which we used every day for swimming. There were many different types of species of fish which would come very shallow and close to you. All different colours, we even saw a few small stingrays too. If you like diving they have a diving school on site and you can do the diving courses and various different trips. The Maldives is an amazing place and I highly recommend for couples and honeymooners. I hope to go back some day in the future.
16 December 2012
Borneo was simply amazing! We flew Air Malaysia from Heathrow direct to Kuala Lumpur. We also stayed in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. I would recommend this exact itinerary and duration of a minimum of two weeks but three would be much better. See my other journal on Langawi and Kuala Lumpur. In Borneo we stayed at a 5* hotel called the Shangri La Tanjung Aru which was directly on its own private sandy beach. There is another hotel called the Rosa Risa which is the same chain and down the road but the Tanjung Aru is much nicer. The hotel is situated in Kota Kinabalu and only around ten minutes’ drive from the airport. The flight duration from Kuala Lumpur is two and a half hours. You can also fly here from Singapore and Hong Kong and the duration is also the same. The hotel has a good variety of restaurants and the standard is excellent. Rooms are spacious, clean and also of a high standard. The hotel has many different room types and views such as garden, land, golf course and sea view. The hotel has a club lounge which guests can upgrade to and enjoy snacks and drinks. The main town of Kota Kinabalu is a short drive away and has a great shopping centre and various restaurants including plenty of sea food and bars. There is a choice of some fantastic excursions and my top choices would be either a day visiting the Orang-utans in Sandakan or the white water rafting. There are also boat trips, water sports and lots of other activities. Borneo was one of my favourite destinations and I recommend at least a week in Borneo if combining with another area of Malaysia. I would recommend to anyone and all ages. It would also be a perfect honeymoon choice combined with either Hong Kong or Malaysia.
26 July 2012
My holiday in Rio seems a life time ago now but I remember it like yesterday, an experience I will never forget. I flew from London via Sao Polo with British Airways which was a long over night flight but was all worth the journey. When we arrived we transferred to our hotel one street back from Copacabana beach. A perfect location to explore the city as we were only there for 5 nights. We stayed in a modern hotel which has recently changed ownership. Rio has a huge choice of restaurants and bars for dining out and at very affordable prices. The steak was so cheap in Rio I was eating it every night. At night it was always recommended that we took taxis and avoided walking on our own down any of the side streets. We stuck to this plan and only travelled by foot during daylight hours. We found the city safe and very friendly. Copacabana beach was amazing. There was so much happening on the beach that you wouldn't get bored. The waves were huge crashing in with plenty of surfers riding waves like professionals. Plenty of things happening also on the beach from sport activities to people selling local crafts and gifts. We went on a tour that also included a live football match in the worlds biggest stadium but as the crowd was only around 30,000 the stadium looked empty as it holds 120,000 + people. After the football match we went up to the Corcovado to see the statue. On the way to the Cosme Velho Train Cog Station at the bottom of the Corcovado Mountain, we stopped by the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. Then at the mountain, we took the ride up to the top, through the dense Tijuca rain forest to the 38m tall Christ the Redeemer Statue. From the top we enjoyed spectacular views of Rio De Janeiro. The other trip we took on another day was the cable car ride at Sugar Loaf Mountain. The famous James Bond movie (Moonraker) with the cable car scene was also filmed here. Reaching the top of Sugar Loaf is actually done in two stages. The first car ascends over 700 feet up Urca Hill affording marvelous views of Corcovado Mountain, the Niteroi Bridge and Guanabara Bay. Transferring to a second car then elevates you an additional 1300 feet to the top where spectacular views of Copacabana and other beaches can be admired. The view was stunning and I could have spent the whole day up there. Other activities that can be done in Rio are a jeep safari and quad tours as well as hiring Segways. You could also take a hot air balloon trip or take a helicopter tour. There are many more activities you can do. A fantastic experience and a once in a lifetime trip!