Sent by Martin Hayden SC
Law Library Dublin 10/03/2022
Based in Dublin
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
I have been in the travel industry for over 20 years with specialist experience in long haul First and Business Class travel. My passion is to provide expert advice on both luxury and business travel with the aim of making all my clients travel experiences as enjoyable and seamless as they should be. My clients travel needs are my number one priority.
With extensive knowledge of the world’s most exceptional hotels, resorts and airlines, combined with vast experience in the luxury and economy travel sectors, I pride myself on saving you time and effort by advising, recommending and providing results based on your personal requirements.
As a professional Travel Counsellor, I’m available at a time that best suits your needs - 7 days a week. My commitment to all of my clients begins long before they travel and continues after they’ve arrived home.
I am able to provide you with the opportunity of selecting your holiday in the comfort of your home, office or any other location convenient to you.
I really love what I do and my passion for travel has taken me to all continents around the world including my personal favourite South Africa, with 31 visits so far (honest!) enhancing my experience and knowledge in this amazing country.
Travel Counsellors’ award winning reputation allows me to deliver the great service my clients deserve, so to start planning your next trip please contact me anytime by phone or email.
As the indomitable 'Red' Adair was quoted as saying "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur".
I hope to hear from you soon.
Whatever your holiday needs I'm here to help you, so simply give me a call or send me an email with your contact details on and I can get things started for you:
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.
20 December 2021
Immediately prior to pandemic lockdown in March 2020, I’d taken a first trip to any Nordic country with a long overdue visit to Iceland. My first time on an aircraft since then and deferred from 2020 due to Covid travel restrictions, I was Nordic bound again, flying mid-December 2021 to Finnish Lapland. A charter flight direct from Dublin into northern Finnish airport of Kuusamo (800km due north of the capital, Helsinki) A 5m high snowman in the airport parking lot set the scene for the days to come, letting us get underway for the relatively short 60 minute transfer further north to the Arctic Circle Hotel (Perhaps unsurprisingly located only a few hundred metres from the eponymous geographical line of latitude - For the geography nuts among us, this puts its location further north than any point in Iceland) We travelled with Santa specialists Canterbury Holidays on their 2 night 'Christmas Sparkle' holiday. On reflection, I have to say I do believe this is the best of every world, balancing budget, activities and time on the ground. 'Budget' is maybe a misnomer here as this is not a cheap trip, but with the phrase overused, it truly will be a once in a lifetime experience for any kids travelling. Day 1 arrival day is for settling in and getting sized up for your thermal snow suits and boots. Having had some experience with outdoor equipment, I knew straight away my own boots and gore-tex would fall well short of any hope of keeping warm in temperatures approaching -20 degrees C (minus!) on this trip (warming up to -15 degrees during the day!) An included dinner and elf entertainment brought the first evening to a close. With everyone sized & suited up, there was no time to waste on Day 2 after breakfast with a full set of tasks to make the grade as one of Santa's helpers! First was a short trip to a local reindeer herder where we were treated to a short overview of their lives in front of a raging wood fire in their 'kota' dwelling (similar to the North American Indian tipi) A reindeer sleigh ride after was the first of many highlights to come. Another short transfer to a local ski area let us try the snow for real this time with each person on their own toboggan. This free leisure time was interrupted (if required) by outdoor fires to warm up and hot berry juice. The nearby husky accommodation gave us a proper appreciation of these working dogs and their regimented diet, leading to their astonishing long lives. Not the preening 'show dogs' that the ranger mentioned, these instead were much leaner Alaskan Husky canines but with power that would put any of the Crufts prize winners to shame! The husky sleigh ride was a favourite in our house, our son even asking if our own dog could come next time?! A snowmobile ride to Santa's postal sorting office followed with more hot berry juice by the ever cheerful elves. After some sorting of letters & presents, we got to spend private time with the man of the hour - Santa Claus himself and his helper elf, who were well informed of each boy & girls interests and hopes for what present they might receive. A snowmobile ride afterward did little to quell the excitement of this fully loaded day of activities. With many countries increasing travel restrictions, Canterbury were well up to the task. Antigen lateral flow tests (as required for Ireland arrivals) were provided complimentary on the final day lunch/shopping enroute to the airport, stopping at the ski resort of Ruka. With lunch provided at a local hotel, the increasing darkness (at 2pm!) providing a great spectacle, looking out at the floodlit ski runs. With many new customers unable to get space for the 2021 trips, due to the original 2020 clients having to be moved to 2021, next year (Christmas 2022) is all set to be one of their busiest to date - get in touch!
20 February 2020
After procrastinating for 30 years, I shouldn’t have been surprised at a 24 hour delay to my flight to Reykjavik – it was winter in Iceland after all! What I was more surprised at was the ease at which our exclusive partner OBEO Travel were able to rearrange transfers, accommodation and tours in a few short hours with the typical Icelandic good humour – All done less than 24 hours before travelling! Home base for my few days in Reykjavik was the Radisson Blu 1919. This hotel is housed in a charming building in downtown Reykjavik. Dating back to the early 1900s, this historic building was once the headquarters of a shipping company. Although the interior is largely modern contemporary, there are glimpses of its history, such as the original staircases and the thick revolving brass porthole doors when entering the hotel. The readily accessible geo-thermal power and heating is everywhere, lulling you into a false sense that you’re prepared for what is coming... If you’re complacent with clothing some rapid correction will be required on first stepping outside, as the full force of the north Atlantic winter wind makes its presence felt. Having had some similar experience, the layering concept for technical winter clothing is an essential policy here. Even strolling around in winter can be a dismal experience without adequate preparation. Once you’re ready, everything else falls into place. Our first stop was a short 1km walk to the ‘Sólfar’ (‘Sea Voyager’) – This stunning 18m long stainless-steel sculpture is intended by the artist to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, especially apt on this island nation with its vivid history. A Northern Lights cruise is always wise to pencil in for your first night as this iconic experience is never guaranteed, but a no-show will entitle you to a complimentary voyage on any of your remaining evenings if you wish. The dancing lights in the sky (Aurora Borealis) are an incredible natural phenomena, well explained by the on-board naturalists and sure to make any trip to this country worthwhile. My first morning was spent at Reykjavik’s newest attraction : ‘Flyover Iceland’ – This immersive experience can best be described as a being belted into ‘static roller-coaster’ with feet suspended as you watch an exhilarating aerial journey, filmed across the country by a dedicated helicopter crew, but translated perfectly on the 20m spherical film screen. The experience is enhanced with wind, mist & scents matching what you’re witnessing onscreen. A great experience on my first day to whet my appetite for the trip ahead… The central Reykjavik 101 district is home to many of the most established eateries and boutique shops and is worthwhile seeing for a few hours stroll. 101 is dominated by the 75m Hallgrímskirkja church on the hill. It’s probably the city's best-known landmark and is visible throughout the city, with visitors able to take a lift up to the viewing deck and view Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains. After lunch, it’s a short walk to the Old Harbour for my afternoon whale watching trip. Iceland on the water, in winter can be very inhospitable, but the heated lounge makes everything easier (along with the bar on board) If you’re not as well prepared as you’d hoped, complimentary warm overalls can be provided for everyone on board. A short trip out into Faxaflói Bay will mostly result in regular sightings of native Humpback & Minke whales along with Harbour Porpoises. It’s also possible to catch sight of Killer Whales. This is a nature expedition and as such there cannot be a guarantee of a sighting – Should you miss out on this occasion, the operator will honour a complimentary return trip within 2 years of your booked excursion. An evening at Iceland’s top tourist attraction – The Blue Lagoon was a great evening warmer. The vast pool in this volcanic landscape, is fed by hot water supplied by the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station at an approximate 40 degrees C. The evening experience can also be enhanced by Northern Lights if you’re lucky. A morning dip would be a different experience again, with you experiencing the ‘blue’ colour with the Silica content in the water – An excuse for the next time! (towels & changing facilities provided – along with a first drink in the swim up bar in the lagoon) The incredibly laid-back nature of the local people was personified by the Reykjavík Excursions bus driver heading back into town. Going out of his way (and off his route) to drop people to their hotels as “it’s not weather you’d walk in” is an experience I’ve no doubt you’d not get anywhere else! My final full day was a Golden Circle private tour in an Icelandic prepared ‘super-jeep’ and was the highlight of the entire trip. These modified 4WD vehicles have undergone full modifications to cope with the Icelandic landscape and its harshness – something far beyond what the original designers had in mind I have no doubt! The most jaw-dropping spectacle on this day was the stop at Gullfoss Waterfall with its 32m plummet down into the canyon below. In winter, this was enhanced with the water spray being frozen onto the opposite wall in a massive curtain of ice – An incredible sight to behold. The drive home included a very short detour to the Friðheimar Greenhouse. Initially sceptical of the attraction of “Iceland’s 2nd largest tomato producer”, on arrival into the greenhouse you are warmly welcomed into the restaurant among the tomato plants. The tomato soup is (unsurprisingly) the best ever tasted and are grown on the vines within reaching distance. The stone baked breads add another dimension to the experience. People ask how expensive it is as a default question – I would use a comparison that it’s not unlike Dublin on a night out. You’re paying a bit in ‘holiday tax’ yes, but you are on holiday and this life is too short. Travel Counsellors exclusive partner OBEO have endless inspections & investigations of suppliers, resulting in them only working with top quality local partners, providing the best service, staff and safety. In an increasingly generic world with places & people becoming more alike, Iceland stands tall with its own identity, with no wish to change from what has worked so well for them for so long.
16 November 2018
A quick week away to Mexico was a great immersion in the country for my first trip a little while back. Whether you connect via the US or fly direct from a European hub, there is no escaping the gargantuan size of the capital – Mexico City. On approach in the evening, the lights of the city below seem to appear so long before your actual touchdown. This is additional reinforcement of the 9 million inhabitants who call this metropolis home (6 million in the whole of Ireland by way of comparison – North & South). A welcome break from the mania outside was found in the upscale Polanco district. Close by my ‘Habita’ design hotel is the Chapultepec Park and at 1700 acres is the 2nd largest urban park in the whole of Central America. Originally a retreat for the Aztec rulers and later the residence for Mexican heads of state, it has a staggering 250,000 visitors – daily! An unmissable day trip here is a short 40km trip to the 2000 year old Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. It’s well preserved pyramids, monuments & murals are famous images of the country itself. A notable stop on the 400km drive south to the coast is the town of Cuernavaca. Located on the southern slope of the Sierra de Chichinautzin mountains, the static climate of 21-25° C has attracted royalty and nobles since Aztec times. Acapulco has long been a destination of merit for North America as a whole and dating from the 1950’s, the iconic ‘Las Brisas’ hotel and its casitas (42 of which have private pool) Characterized as ‘the Pink Palace’ , it’s hillside location has outstanding views of Acapulco Bay, not to mention that it still attracts a healthy portion of Hollywood ‘A’ listers. A great wind down day was a jet ski navigating Acapulco Bay, with the dolphins jostling for position with the multi-million dollar yachts. Another essential in the city is the famous La Quebrada Cliff Divers. The professional divers launching themselves from the 30-40 high stone outcrops has now grown into daily shows with lunch & dinners served on the opposite cliff for an unrivalled vantage point. Flying homeward from Acapulco airport was with a heavy heart having had what felt like full immersion experience in a trip lasting less than 7 days.
26 June 2018
Selected to represent Travel Counsellors on a trip organised by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Visitors Bureau, I flew direct from London Gatwick into Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport (FLL), one of a growing number of US destinations offered by this new carrier, shaking up the transatlantic market. Probably best described as a ‘low cost / long haul’ operator, Norwegian operate the state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. Nothing more to be said here, other than this is arguably the most advanced aircraft in the sky today. Standard economy seats to match all rivals. No business class offering on this carrier, with their ‘front of the bus’ seats being labelled under ‘premium economy’ – Forgetting this term, you would be taken aback by the space and size of the chair (compared to the equivalent offering by BA or Virgin). I would liken it to a standard business class cradle seat 10 years ago, before the flat bed standards took over. Having arrived/departed/transited nearby Miami Airport many times over the years, FLL was a revelation! A much more compact airport, it has a fraction of the crowds of MIA as it has relatively few international arrivals. This trip was to showcase the best of what Fort Lauderdale has to offer, offering clients an alternative to the default choice of Miami (less than an hour south). Our first hotel was the anti-thesis of that metropolis to the south. Pompano on the northern district of Fort Lauderdale is quintessential harbour town, with any amount of access to local water sports or fishing charters, sure to keep you busy when the lure of the (empty) beaches is fading. The following mornings trip on the Jungle Queen riverboat is a proper way to experience the ‘Venice of America’ with its myriad of canals. The trip itself takes in some of the most stunning waterfront homes and super yachts of the wealthy who make this corner of the US their home. Possibly the biggest surprise of the entire trip was a trip later that afternoon to Bonnet House. Approaching 100 years old, this is an historic property in a truest sense of the word. In a world preoccupied with buy/sell, it’s truly refreshing to see a 35-acre wooded estate in (central) Fort Lauderdale, with beachfront access. The house/museum is operated as a non-profit organisation with volunteer guides offering enthusiasm unrivalled my entire trip. The eclectic collection of architectural and artistic items really is an enjoyable experience considering the preservation efforts that have been undertaken. I was surprised to learn that Florida has an indigenous Seminole Indian Tribe, with researchers saying their first contact with European settlers being in 1510. Undoubtedly, the most dramatic experience of my trip was a visit to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, with its new 36 story annex being constructed in the shape of a guitar. Dividing opinion in equal measure, it certainly will be an iconic addition to the landscape on the Seminole tribal land. Much subtler was a hosted dinner at the hotel’s Kuro restaurant. This artisan Japanese sharing style presentation had us raving about the food into the small hours. No trip to Florida can really be complete without a trip to the Everglades. Sawgrass Recreation Park is less than an hour from the coast, set up primarily for adoption and rescue of the local fauna (eg. alligators caught in swimming pools!) A trip out in the ‘Glades proper by the ubiquitous airboat was great fun and the information that they can operate at speed at water depth of an inch! A relocation to Hollywood (Florida!) exposed me to a whole other aspect, of what you might have assumed was a ‘beach break’ trip. This regenerated suburb has a burgeoning population of boutique shops and social eateries, still only 15 minutes from the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach. Trips taken as diverse as a Segway tour of Hollywood, a tour of the murals gracing many buildings in a compact area of this artists enclave. I was left in no doubt, when people talk of a city & beach break in South Florida – there is a new sheriff in town!
16 October 2017
A long overdue visit to Canada’s British Columbia province was everything I always hoped it would have been. Beginning in Vancouver city with a great hotel location in Yaletown had any number of dining options within a short distance. This most walkable of cities initially had us at the central Canada Place from where the ‘FlyOver Canada’ experience is located. We entered not knowing what to expect and this is the only way – suffice to say it is a jaw dropping sensory experience, seeing Canada from an aerial perspective from its eastern shores all the way over to the western fringes – unmissable! From there we headed north a short journey to the Kia’palano (Capilano) suspension bridge, more than 70m over the river below. In the days that followed we visited the 167m Vancouver Lookout Tower, a nature walking tour of the central Stanley Park and visited the adjacent Vancouver Aquarium. Activities moved to Foodie Tours on Vancouver’s culinary hub, Granville Island Public Market and it was rude to not include a brewery tour to finish the day out! An early departure day brought us to Horseshoe Bay north of the city and some R&R was welcome on the 2-hour ferry sailing over to Vancouver Island as a further 3 hour road transfer took us to Tofino on the far west coast. This small town punches above its weight with activities as diverse as whale watching, Pacific ocean surfing, Bear viewing by boat, First Nation museums and art galleries, craft food manufacturer’s and the ubiquitous craft beer breweries. Having never been shy of staying at luxury accommodations worldwide, the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino rates as highly as any of my luxury experiences to date. The ‘extra’ season here is to experience Storm Watching – forget the flip flops and swimsuit, replacing them instead with full Goretex overalls and waterproof boots whilst you walk the beaches as the fury of the winter Pacific storms crash into the island. An equally popular version would be the view from your bath-tub, wine in hand while the lightning strikes illuminate the coastline. Departing Tofino for the east coast (“Wild to the Mild” as per our guide) gives you mirror-smooth warm waters, gentle tidal movements and sea views looking out and over to the high Rockies, back over on the mainland. The same departure point of Nanaimo took us instead to the more southern ferry port of Tsawwassen, leaving a much shorter transfer to Vancouver International airport for our flight home. A truly exceptional experience and one that I plan to repeat – no doubt.
11 July 2017
First time to Canada after more than a dozen times to the US and I certainly was not disappointed. Using the Air Canada Rouge direct flight from Dublin to Toronto (Vancouver also in the summer season) was seamless. Pitched as a ‘low cost’ carrier I certainly didn’t feel that corners had been cut excessively. No seat back TV’s initially throws people, but with their notice to have the Air Canada app downloaded to your phone or tablet, with the onboard wi-fi streaming all the programmes, movies, news and music you’ll need directly to your device. It’s a first for me and a real forward thinking step I think. Charging ports at every seat also helps in this age of ‘low battery’ warning! For a nominal $12, the UP Express train will drop you to central Union Station, from where it was a short walk to our hotel in ‘Old Toronto’ along avenues with stunning older properties dating before 1904 (buildings that had survived the ‘Great Toronto Fire’ of that same year) – Yes there are high rise but so many older preserved properties was a real surprise. Frowned upon by locals, but we had to dine on our arrival night at the CN Tower. The world’s tallest tower when completed in 1974, it might have been beaten for the record now but it still dwarfs mostly everything else in the city. The ‘360’ revolving restaurant is a real novelty at its 350m elevation and with a full revolution every hour the evolving scenery does keep the conversation interesting. An exploratory visit to the historic St Lawrence Market, dating from the early 1800’s, presents you with the world’s top food market (* ranked by National Geographic) Nearby, the 47 restored Victorian buildings of the Gooderham & Worts Distillery has now become ‘The Distillery Historical District’, a haven for unique shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes & theatres. Re. the 'Hogtown' moniker - the most plausible reasons concerns the stockyards of William Davies Company, which was once one of Canada's largest meat packers. Davies died, ironically, after being kicked by a goat aged 90 With advice from friend living locally, we were advised to avoid the tourist hoards doing the 130km bus tour to Niagara Falls. Instead she had advised taking transport to the little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Off on the radar of the tourist coaches coming from Toronto (whose only aim is the Falls) Perched right on the shore of Lake Ontario, this tree-lined old town is known locally for its wineries and summer festivals. The 19th century buildings again were a fantastic surprise. The 25 minute drive to the Falls themselves has to be done when in the vicinity, but it’s great to be on your own time and not under the tour time constraints.
13 July 2015
I experienced some new amazing places I'd heard of and revisited some of my favourites on my milestone 30th trip to South Africa recently. I flew over with British Airways who operate their new Airbus A380 aircraft to Johannesburg and this experience really was a step forward in quality, space and service. Recovering from the 10 hour flight from London was made much easier by a short stay at the Montecasino complex in the upmarket suburb of Sandton in Johannesburg. The entertainment facilities on offer in and around the Palazzo Hotel where I stayed were fantastic ranging from award winning shows, family entertainment and it’s just the best place in Johannesburg to laze by the pool. With a 600km drive to the coastal city of Durban, we took a break with a detour into the 'Valley of 1000 Hills' - the historical homeland of the Zulu people. This unspoilt nature area (1 hours’ drive inland from Durban) has magnificent scenery with warm country hospitality on offer at every turn. The area is named after the thousands of hills around the Umgeni River, as it flows from the distant Drakensberg Mountains on route to the Indian Ocean. By way of celebration also for this trip, I stayed at the iconic Oyster Box Hotel on the Umhlanga coastal promenade. This wonderful hotel has origins dating back as far as 1863 but a relatively recent purchase and full refurbishment by Red Carnation Hotels has restored many of its original features including its famed terrazzo tiles, wrought-iron balconies and innumerable pieces of original art relating to the hotel and the area. To break the journey on the drive back to Johannesburg, I revisited the incomparable Hartford House. Dating back over 130 years, this wonderful property is within easy reach of the Highmoor and other neighbouring areas of the Drakensberg Mountain range. A confident continual investment in the property has now seen an expansion with 4 Lakeside Suites. Each has been constructed and decorated in their own unique way. In order to keep my own family happy also, we went on a tour of the established Summerhill Stud, with a history of producing world class racehorses since the 1930's. This province is certainly the surprise package for anyone visiting South Africa and may only be familiar with and aware of Cape Town and the adjoining Garden Route.
29 July 2015
If I had a penny for everyone who had the idea of driving Route 66… I have done it myself and for the most part I was unimpressed, in comparison to a drive I did before then. I fine-tuned my plan and ended up with the following route: https://goo.gl/maps/Mysu3 Flying into the ‘Mile High City’ of Denver, Colorado was to be my start point. An easy night there to recuperate before heading the 200 miles to Gunnison. The nearby winter ski town of Crested Butte turns into an outdoor biking/hiking centre during the snowless months. Perhaps more surprisingly, the Black Canyon is on your way to the next stop and is free of tourism whilst offering a kind of miniature Grand Canyon experience… if 800m chasm depths can be described as such. My first time in the next spot was by pure chance but my second time there cemented my view that this is my favourite place on the entire continent. Telluride is at the end of a box canyon in the middle of the San Juan Mountains in south western Colorado. The laid back views on everything here make this just a perfect spot to kick back. The dubious claim to fame here is the site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery back in 1889. There is so much to see on this route that each drive to the next spot is never just a mundane drive. On route to the Najavo lands in Utah, we come across the Mesa Verde National Park with its 600+ cave dwellings of the ancestral Pueblo people who resided here up until 700 years ago (and for 700 years before then.) A more modern type of monument is located at Four Corners. As the only spot in the USA where 4 state lines meet (Colorado/New Mexico/Arizona/Utah) this is a worthy photo opportunity. A return to the Navajo Indian reservation located at Monument Valley is an essential stop for anyone interested in the life of the ‘Old West’, not to mention the approaching road gracing many an album cover and the iconic ‘Mittens’ formations starring in too many westerns to count. Revisiting the Grand Canyon also sees a return to anything approaching population. Nothing to say here that has not already been said, suffice to say that it will take your breath away at the first view! From a return to population, we move into bedlam incarnate with Las Vegas. There is nothing like the comparison of a small Colorado town and ‘Sin City’. On my multiple trips there, I have always loved it from my first trip – the best hotels, entertainment, food & arguably shopping in the country – what’s not to love?! Leaving Nevada to enter my final state on this trip – California. Death Valley also has had more written about it that you would believe. ‘Hottest place on the continent’ certainly was borne out with July temperatures approaching 45 degrees centigrade on this trip. Should you be enticed, they also offer the world’s lowest golf course! Heading north into the Sierra Nevada Mountains we found ourselves stopping to watch the jets from the ‘Top Gun’ Air Force Bases at Nellis & Edwards. This lengthened my journey but thankfully I had chosen an earlier stop point at Mammoth Lakes which was a prudent move to keep the daily miles down. Possibly the biggest surprise on this trip, despite my research, was a stop at Bodie State Historic Park. 10,000 people at its pinnacle during the Gold Rush of the 1870’s, it’s numbers now less than a dozen park rangers. The ‘boom’ turned to ‘bust’ here almost overnight as you can see by the preservation of most things what they call ‘arrested decay’ – unmissable if you are anywhere nearby. From Bodie, a back track over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. A word of caution here is that the pass being so high over 3000m can often be snowed in and closed from November through to as late as July. Pictures do tell a thousand words when it comes to one of the oldest National Parks in the country, Yosemite. Indeed, I’ll do all the driving necessary and never tire of seeing Inspiration Point, Glacier Point or the view up to El Capitan from the valley floor. The 4 hour drive back to San Francisco really cemented the view that you’re back in civilisation, but I had just seen a huge amount of the best scenery on offer in the country.
15 October 2013
I travelled in May 2013 to the newly opened 5 Star St Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi with my family. I found this to be a great time of year to visit before the very hot summer. Located on a fantastic 12km stretch of beach with a sparse 3 luxury hotels at this location. It’s fantastic for walks as far as the horizon with uninterrupted views, certainly harder to come by in Dubai in my experience. It’s a wonderful property with a large selection of rooms and suites, with every kind of facilitates available. Just a 15 minute drive from town should you feel the need for some retail therapy, but really has everything you need under one roof. Very convenient also, as only located 20 minutes transfer from Abu Dhabi airport. Great place for couples and families alike, was not overrun by children and has an adult’s only pool to cater for the romantic honeymooners! This hotel has an abundance of excellent restaurants which can be used on a half board basis. The main buffet restaurant works well for families and has incredible staff working towards every need you might have. For a buffet we found the food to be very good and extremely varied for each night we stayed. The food for children was also a hit and well catered for. We also discovered the newly opened Yas Waterpark which will have the younger section of your family begging for more time there! All in all, a great trip away with guaranteed warm weather. With a direct flight option flying from Dublin with Etihad, it works out very convenient. If you however choose to fly Emirates from Dublin to Dubai, it’s certainly possible with only a 90 min road transfer to the hotel. For more information, please contact me.
15 October 2013
A trip to New Zealand to visit my sister brought me back to the beautiful Marlborough province of the South Island; home to the eponymous Marlborough Sounds coastal area and is also renowned as the premier white wine producing area in the entire country. All of the above makes this a whole destination in itself. We drove around the relatively compact area enjoying all that it had to offer, including lunch in the gems of towns omitted on any guide book. The stunning Queen Charlotte Sound as a homeward scenery backdrop is truly one of the most scenic places on earth. The very easy access from Wellington (the nearest international airport) makes for very easy connections. Air New Zealand makes the short 15 min trip over to Blenheim on the South Island. If you fancy something a little more lively, Sounds Air operate smaller aircraft (at half the price) flying into Picton Airport in addition to Blenheim. As they say locally, “half the price, twice the adventure!” A day long stop-off in Sydney on the way home reacquaints me with my old haunts, having lived here a few years ago. I have to take a ferry journey across the Harbour to my old home of Kirribilli, with a walk under the Harbour Bridge from that beautiful suburb back to the city. A real insider’s view of all the best scenery in town, at no cost! It is very easy access to the airport now with the centrally located Circular Quay station connecting directly to the airport terminals.
18 February 2014
My 29th visit to South Africa (honestly!). This time to try and improve my time on the incredible Cape Argus bike ride. Staying in a great central location at the Mandela Rhodes Place in the middle of the ‘Mother City’ which provides spacious apartments, a great pool deck and great food. A very necessary relaxing time afterward in the picturesque Cape Winelands village of Franschhoek allowing me to recuperate properly from the exertions of the reason for the trip. Heading back to my most favourite of cities is never a hardship as the constantly evolving accommodation and eateries never fails to amaze you. Add that to the location on the southern tip of Africa, it adds up to the most fantastic of trips. For bookings, this is arguably the biggest repeat destination I send people to, which says more than I can. A follow up family holiday in the idyllic beachfront town of Kommetjie, 40 km south of Cape Town. Getting here, my one year old son had his introduction to long haul travel (and non-European spring temperatures) so if you need a few pointers on travelling with an infant, I can help keep you pointed in the right direction. Here we avoided the buzz of the city, which is sometimes a welcome release. Add this to the quiet roads, local people and stunning sea views makes for a holiday to cherish. Staying in this most European of African cities is something everyone must do, at least once.
18 February 2014
We brought my mother on her first trip to Thailand and there is nowhere to improve upon the incomparable Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai in the north of the country (previously managed by the Mandarin Oriental group). This paradise of a hotel is built within 60 acres of locally farmed rice paddy fields and is home to, quite likely, the world’s top spa. Previously employed rice farmers have now been kept on as employees doing exactly what they were before. They get a wage instead from the hotel now, with the farmed rice being given to the local monks. Accommodations are built in the local duplex Lanna style detached villas or in the more contemporary Colonial rooms. As is the norm now, villas are also available with private pools. The hotel feels remote due to the thousands of local trees that have been planted, but is in fact only 10 minutes by road from the very centre of Chaing Mai. Its world famous night market is the perfect place to pick up a few bargain souvenirs on your way to a few nightcaps at the Riverside Café. If you go the ‘the Café’ earlier, I highly recommend the dinner on-board their own river cruiser. The Doi Suthep hillside temple is also a ‘must see’ in the area. The mountain road can have you there in 20 minutes from the hotel, but everything you see will last a lot longer in your memory. A non-typical Thailand trip in that it did not include a beach break, so if you crave the ocean this might be more suited as a side trip to a beach holiday.
13 March 2014
This family trip to the Republic of Mauritius (Île Maurice) was for a big birthday for my father-in-law. We stayed in the wonderful Lux La Morne on the south west corner of the island. It’s so named for the freestanding La Morne Brabant Mountain, which rises immediately from sea level to over 550m. Standing on the beach, the views looking up at this iconic UNESCO World Heritage mountain are only rivalled by those looking out to sea. The close proximity of the Black River Gorges National Park is fantastic if you need a break from the relaxation. The beach on which the hotel is situated has stunning views all around this quieter corner of Mauritius and is great for taking a long stroll along. For those wanting a little bit more in the way of activity, the complimentary water skiing provided is a hotel first for me! Their Thai inspired ‘East’ restaurant is worthy of special mention for simply incredible range of flavours available. From the Lux, I decided for a repeat visit to the Oberoi Mauritius. It's long been lauded as one of my Top 3 favourite hotels worldwide and again, it did not disappoint. Staying in one of their Luxury Pavilion rooms, the sunken tub in the bathroom is the talking point along with the outside terrace overlooking the mountains beyond. Having viewed one of their Luxury Villas with private pool, this is certainly on our list of preferences on our next stay. Its location in the more northern Turtle Bay is closer to the capital, Port Louis if you need an afternoons retail therapy. In reality though, you will want for nothing in this stunning property. The 20 acre area has 500m+ of oceanfront but the luxury is provided in such a subtle way which is so hard to replicate.
18 February 2014
For my fourth visit to the Maldives we decided to celebrate and go all out, spending 16 nights in one of the most impressive properties in the country (and maybe the world?) Shangri-la’s Villingili is situated on the most southern point in the country. Instead of the typical seaplane or boat journey, this actually requires an additional transfer by domestic plane to the airport at Gan from your international arrival point at Male. This property took our breath away from the off. As is typical for the country, only this hotel is built on the island in question. They provide private pools for each villa with a separate entertainment annex in every building, so TV can be watched while you don’t disturb the slumbering partner, bikes to get around the large island and a fantastic array of dining options. Dr. Ali’s is an incredible eastern style dining room whilst Javvu offers all day dining with a café feel and menu to match. Falasha however, was our favourite, offering elevated views of the sea beyond along with the best fish you might ever taste. Incredibly rare for the country, Villingili has the space to spare, and offers a 9 hole golf course. Each hole is approx. a par 3 length but for the spouse who cannot do without – look no further! A fully equipped gym and health club will help get up a sweat if you feel you’re getting too used to relaxing. To those who say they might get bored in the Maldives, I say that maybe you’ve just forgotten how to do nothing… The whole reason most people need a holiday..?
18 February 2014
A lifelong awaited trip to Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Arguably the world’s most remote inhabited island, it can be reached from the Chilean capital Santiago on LAN’s thrice weekly flight (or coming westbound from Tahiti). Famous above all for the 800+ stone statues (or Moai) scattered throughout, Easter Island is now declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Bodies carved from the solidified volcanic stone from a single quarry, eyes of white coral and occasional hats hewn from rock high in iron to give the red tinge. The Moai were for me the primary reason for travelling. What I found also were the underground caves and the pristine beach at Anakena. Te Pitoote Hanua is the local word for 'Navel of the World' (I'm pictured in the epicentre of the world there!) The ongoing mysteries of who carved the statues (and why?) along with how they were transported by a civilization with no knowledge of the wheel. National Geographic has recently cemented its views of an island of clans, who went to war, toppling each other’s Moai statues (representing the ancestors) The lack of trees on the island are mostly apparent now that a chopped tree was the preferred method of movement, although how is still up for debate. Aside from the obvious draws, I heard of the reason that this island had one of the longest airport runways in the southern hemisphere. It had been flagged as a TAL (Transoceanic Abort Landing site) by the USA for the space shuttle. In providing funds for maintenance, etc. this would have avoided any 'diplomatic incident' should the space shuttle need somewhere to land. With no other landmass within 2000km, this was a perfect spot! The stuff of kids dreams – mine anyway!
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