Sent by Shirley Barrett
Glanmire, Cork 10/02/2020
Based in Co. Cork
What I am offering to my clients is a totally impartial, professional, confidential & friendly service, which will far exceed your expectations. I specialise in long-haul travel and have a passion for organising Honeymoons and special occasion trips.
Most importantly I can ensure that you will get the best value and choice for your money, and because we are licensed and bonded your money is safe.
My travels have taken me to many exciting destination worldwide. I have travelled to many countries within Europe and further afield to Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles, Tanzania, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Australia, U.S.A., Middle East, British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
I am a qualified Aussie specialist and enjoying tailor-making holidays to to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
For the past 12 years I have won the 'Best Travel Counsellor' - Ireland Award and I am also very proud to be one of the top (out of over 2000 Travel Counsellors Worldwide) for exceptional customer service as voted by my customers.
My main objective is to provide you with a friendly and professional service. I pride myself in offering the highest level of customer care and I have built a loyal customer following over the past 18 years, most of whom continue to recommend me to family and friends.
Whether you're looking to relax with the family, or you're ready for a complete change of scenery and want to jet off to your favourite far-away destinations, or discover some new ones, it would be my pleasure to guide you through the various destinations and ensure that you are fully up-to-date with the latest travel guidance.
I look forward to hearing from 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.
14 October 2021
If Iceland is not on your radar then I recommend you add this unique and diverse destination to your bucket list right away. Whether you are looking for a weekend break abroad, celebrating a special occasion in your life or want to head away to somewhere different with the kids, Iceland ticks all the boxes. You should spend at least 3 nights there, although if you want to go at a leisurely pace 4 nights may suit better. For those who love exploring and hiking you could take a car rental and spend up to 10 nights exploring the Island. So my friend and I did a whistle stop trip and let me outline the itinerary below: We flew with Iceland Air direct from Dublin to Reykjavik. The flight duration is just over 2 hours and it takes about 45 mins to reach the city. On the day of our arrival we checked in, dropped the bags and headed down to the Old town of Reykjavik to soak up the atmosphere and it didn’t disappoint. The city has a bustling vibe, loads of beautiful shops, restaurants, lovely bars & cafes. After an early dinner we walked to Reykjavik pier and bought 2 tickets for “Fly Over Iceland” which is simulator ride giving you the feeling of flight. You will hang suspended, feet dangling, and the film whisks you away on an exhilarating journey across Iceland. Special effects, including wind, mist and scents, combined with the ride’s motion to create an unforgettable experience, it was amazing and the best of fun. Later that evening we boarded a Cruise in search of the Northern Lights. Whilst the lights did not put on much a show we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We woke up on day 2 to the beautiful sunshine. Perfect conditions for a whale watching cruise from the Old Harbour in Reykjavík. Whilst we did spot a few Minke whales in the distance, the highlight had to be the many dolphins that circled the boat. Boy did they put on a show. The views from the cruise were breath taking, a truly wonderful experience. After lunch we got the bus to the Blue Lagoon for an afternoon of relaxation and it did not disappoint. We opted for the comfort package which included entry to the thermal baths, Silica mud mask, towel & drink of your choice. In hindsight for approx. €30 more we should have opted for the Premium package which includes all of the above and 2 additional masks of your choice, slippers & bathrobe. I would highly recommend this trip and due to its distance from the city (45mins approx.), I would be encouraging my clients to head straight to the Lagoon on the day of arrival from the airport, or indeed on the way to the airport on the day of departure. For our final day we opted to do the Gold Circle Tour by Super Jeep & Snowmobile - WOW WOW WOW. Our first stop was at Þingvellir National Park, one of Iceland’s most significant historical sites. It’s the home of the country’s first parliament which was founded in 930 A.D. and is the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world. From Þingvellir, we headed inland towards the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with it’s boiling mud pits and spouting hot springs. We then continued on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most powerful waterfalls. Located on Hvítá river, the waterfall is fed by Langjökull glacier and plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon. To top it all off we drove towards Langjökull glacier, got suited and booted and sped across the glacier on snowmobiles while taking in some awesome views of the peaks and ice surrounding us. This was a full day tour. We arrived back at the city around 6pm. A day I will never forget and a tour that I will certainly be offering to all my clients going forward. After a delicious steak sandwich and beer at a local food market we decided to give the Northern Lights one last go. Thankfully the cruise company invited us back free of charge so we hopped on the boat at 9pm and within 30 mins we were gazing at the Northern Lights of Iceland....what an epic end to an epic trip....
11 March 2020
We kicked off this adventure in style by travelling business class on the British Airways Dreamliner. The full flat bed, incredible food and service was such a treat. On arrival to Durban International my colleagues and I were met by our Partner Destination Management Company who have been taking great care of our clients for many years in South Africa and it was a pleasure to explore the Kwazulu-Natal location with this special company. Mkhuze Game Reserve was our first port of call. Located just under 3 hours from Durban we settled into the Ghost Mountain Inn, a beautiful property located at the foot of the legendary Ghost Mountain, a perfect setting which to explore the dramatic landscapes, exceptional bird life and cultural tribal villages. We were so lucky to be invited into the home of a Zulu family to experienced firsthand their everyday way of life, traditions and culture. Early the next morning we enjoyed a Sunrise cruise on Lake Josini. The spectacular views combined with sightings of hippos and crocodiles was a sight for sore eyes. Our next port of call was Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park, the oldest game reserve in South Africa. En-route we were invited to view the incredible accommodations at Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve and we were greeted by some impalas, giraffe & buffalo. The accommodation here was just breath-taking with individual luxury rented accommodation or luxury pool suites. A couple of cheeky elephants decided to help themselves to some water from one of the plunge pools much to the guests delight. This was a very special property and I would highly recommend especially for a honeymoon or a special occasion trip. Thanda offers game viewing of the “big 5”. Onwards to what I can only describe of a “little piece of heaven” we settled into the 5 Star Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge. This lodge is the only Safari lodge in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park. The lodge is strategically located in an elevated position and commands majestic views over the reserve. Guests can explore the reserve by jeep or organised walking tours. There is a wonderful spa and outdoor pool area where guests can relax after their early morning game drive. We experienced 2 game drives and were lucky to see rhino, giraffe, elephant, impalas & buffalo. We were very sad indeed to be leaving Rhino Ridge Lodge but another lovely surprise was in store, the Makakatana Bay Lodge at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This luxury rustic style lodge on the banks of Lake St Lucia was very much "at one with nature" which I loved. Only 12 rooms, each with a private decking area and outdoor tropical shower and bath. One can enjoy early and evening game drives, private safaris, boat safaris and a full day beach Safari. Our ranger Jaco was a true expert, his enthusiasm and passion for the animals, insects and bird life was a joy to experience first-hand. As you lay in bed at night you can hear the hippo feeding off the property’s foliage which is pretty surreal. The final leg of this wonderful trip and no better way to finish off than a relaxing beachfront location. Umhlanga is a seaside resort town located just outside Durban. Umhlanga and it’s surrounds feature golden sand beaches for 200 kilometres, endless sugarcane fields and rolling hills. We checked into the infamous Oyster Box Resort offering colonial charm and nostalgia of a bygone era but with all the modern comforts and amenities. Stunning gardens, beachfront pool and terrace, delicious restaurants and bars. Incredible spa and a lavish daily high tea with piano accompaniment. A perfect end to a perfect trip. Having already visited Cape Town and it’s surrounds I am delighted to have now experienced what the east coast of South Africa has to offer. With a year round warm climate this location is an ideal combination with the likes of Cape Town, J’Burg, Victoria Falls or perhaps the island of Mauritius. The world is your oyster and the incredible value for money, service and unique experiences that this amazing country has to offer is hard to beat.
08 December 2019
I was incredibly lucky to be part of a small group of Travel Counsellors who travelled to Tanzania to experience the Bush Rover Suites in the Serengeti National Park. You cannot get more unique than this!! We flew with Turkish Airlines who without doubt in my opinion offers the most comfortable in-fight experience in both economy and business class cabins. I also had to opportunity to experience the new airport at Istanbul and WOW it is incredible! We started off with a night and a day in Istanbul. What an amazing city and one I would highly recommend visiting. We had a lovely dinner on the evening we arrived in the old town of Istanbul. It was incredibly authentic and alive with locals socialising in outdoor cafes and restaurants. There was such a lovely vibe and buzz and I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the old, historic city after dinner. The next morning, we visited the Grand Bazaar, the largest covered market in the world. Prepare to get lost and embrace this as a part of the authentic experience. If you love shopping and haggling this will be paradise. I also noticed how friendly and fun the vendors were. All in all, an excellent experience and one not be missed in this amazing city. We spent the afternoon on an Istanbul City Boat Cruise. This trip allowed us to see both the European and Asian sides of Istanbul and view the most incredible monuments, private homes, historic buildings and hotels on the riverside. Istanbul is a sprawling city and the city boat cruise and a fantastic introduction and history lesson to this city and I would highly recommend. Whilst my trip was a whistle stop visit, I will most certainly return to Istanbul to experience the city and indeed the incredible airport which is by far the best in the world. Onwards to Tanzania, we flew direct from Istanbul to Dar es Salaam and onwards to Kogatende Airstrip on a small aircraft. Kogatende is the gateway to North Serengeti National Park. Here we were met by the “Tent with a View” team, Travel Counsellors’ partners in the Serengeti. We jump on-board our safari jeep and drove to our accommodation in the heart of north Serengeti experience plenty of wildebeest, zebra, elephants and more on the way to our Bush Rover Suites. The Bush Rover Suites are full working Land Rovers that, once in-situ, fold out and transform into a stunning home. You must see it to believe it, so I have attached loads of pics. The beautiful elevated bedroom has its own balcony looking out to the wilderness. Down the spiral staircase to a lovely wood panelled bathroom and out-door private shower. Solar powered hot water, lights and power sockets to recharge your batteries. What more could one want? Most importantly, unlike fixed camps and lodges, the Bush Rovers move to the right places to provide the safari of a lifetime, to experience splendid isolation in total comfort. When the wildebeest migrates the camp folds up and moves to the next exciting area within the Serengeti destination leaving no trace of human footprint. We had “front seat views” of the wildebeest and it was a mind-blowing experience watching these incredible animals crossing the river just below the Bush Rover Suites. This was truly a “once in a lifetime” experience and I feel incredible fortunate to have being a part of it. We also came across a “kill” where a lioness had a full belly of Wildebeests!!! We saw Rhinos, buffalo, hippo, lions, zebra, wildebeest, hyenas and plenty of vultures hovering overhead. The Bush Rover Suites are without doubt the most special and unique way to experience the might Serengeti. Our next destination was at Little Okavango Camp near Lake Victoria where we were met with peace and quiet apart from the bird song from the most beautiful birds. We had a very tasty dinner followed by drinks, chats and songs around the campfire. Next morning, we were taken to a local fishing village to see the catch being brought in from Lake Victoria and then the fish were laid out for sale by the women of the village. Our tour guide, Amos, a local of the village gave a fantastic insight about life on this famous lake. From here we headed along the lake by boat into narrow water channels which led us to the fabulous Little Okavango tower where we were treated to a delicious brunch and take in the view from of 3 of its decks. We arrived back to the camp by boat and were very sad to be bidding farewell to the incredible staff of Little Okavango Camp and Tanzania. If you’re sense of adventure is calling you and you’re interested in embarking on a Safari trip of a lifetime contact me to find out more!
08 December 2019
Having already explored Europe and America with the kids, I wanted them to experience a new culture and what better location than Asia. As myself and my Hubbie honeymooned in Thailand we were eager to return and explore new adventures with the kids in tow! The trip totally exceeded all our expectations. Let me give you a brief outline of our amazing itinerary; Flying with Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi, we had a very comfortable and pleasant in-flight experience. On arrival to the island of Phuket we took an hour-long transfer north to the idyllic province of Khao Lak, located on the gorgeous Andaman seaboard. Khao Lak is a very chilled out, peaceful location and we spent a week on the beachfront enjoying the sun, sea and sand. In the evening the town centre was buzzing with restaurants and shops where the kids learnt the art of haggling! Mid way through the week we decided to do a full day trip to the island of Koh Phi Phi. This was just incredible. Picture postcard location with classic tropical beaches, stunning rock formations and turquoise waters home to colourful marine life. We had the most wonderful day swimming, snorkelling, exploring and the kids experienced jet skiing for the first time which was fab. After a week of re-charging we were collected from our hotel and transferred to Elephant Hills, Thailand’s first luxury tented camp and a “bucket list” experience for my family and I. Located in the stunningly beautiful Koh Sok National Park, the Elephant Camp comprises tailor-make luxury tents located in the rainforest and a floating rainforest camp situated on Cheow Larn Lake. We got to feed, wash and interact with the Elephants at the elephant nature park. We canoed down the Sok River, visited a local market to experience Thailand’s rural lifestyle and in the evening, we enjoyed a local school dance performances and cookery demonstrations. At the floating lakeside camp, each luxury tent came with a double canoe and we had a guided canoe safari, jungle trekking on foot which was a wonderful experience for the kids as they learnt about the rainforest, exotic plants, wildlife and enjoyed an incredible caving experience. Elephant Hills was a truly amazing and memorable experience. We headed onto the island of Krabi for our final 4 nights staying at the wonderful Rayavadee Beach Resort, accessible only via speedboat. Krabi is home to white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, coral reefs, caves and waterfalls. We had an adventurous 4 days snorkelling, abseiling, swimming and chilling. We had a bit of rain during our time here, but it did not “dampen” our experience as the accommodation was top notch and we enjoyed movie evenings in our suite. All in all we had the most incredible time and cant thank the Thai people enough for their kindness and hospitality. Thailand is a truly special destination and we will most certainly return in the near future.
16 May 2018
Hats off to Air Canada...We arrived At Heathrow airport at 9am to find out that our flight to Vancouver had been delayed by 7 hours. On approaching the ticket desk, the Air Canada representative’s very fast thinking and efficiency resulted in us being rerouted via Calgary on a 10am departure and we actually arrived to a very sunny Vancouver an hour ahead of schedule. We had a very enjoyable and comfortable journey on-board a brand new aircraft. A great start to what was to be an incredible journey. I was lucky to share this trip with my colleague and very close friend Mary. Once we dropped the luggage we found a lovely restaurant/bar directly opposite the hotel with a lovely outdoor terrace so we had a bottle of wine in the sunshine and watched the world go by. It was a glorious evening and I thoroughly enjoyed all the people watching. The next morning bright and early we met with the rest of the group made of up many nationalities. After the initial pleasantries we set off on a whistle stop tour of Vancouver. Starting off with a brief stop at Stanley Park, a big public park in the middle of the City, home to many outdoor amenities including beaches, cycling routes, walking treks and picnic areas. Opposite Stanley Park you will find the cruise terminal, Canada Place. Stunning waterfront location and promenade . We experienced “Fly over Canada” whilst there. This is a 4D simulator experience of the highlights of Canada. It was really cool and I would highly recommend. Next stop, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This was incredible. I never realized that Vancouver is pretty much located in a rain forest. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, British Columbia. The reason is simple, there are so many things to see and do! The Bridge crosses to towering evergreens, cedar-scented rainforest air and Treetops Adventure, 7 suspended footbridges offering views 110 feet above the forest floor. The new Cliffwalk follows a granite precipice along Capilano River with a labyrinth-like series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms and only 16 anchor points in the cliff supporting the structure! We only had 2 hours but you could spend much more time and they offer complimentary shuttle buses all day from downtown Vancouver. Next morning..........ALL ABOARD..........the very special and remarkable experience that is The Rocky Mountaineer. A world as wondrous as the Rockies provides a lot of stunning photo opportunities. Our host let us know in advance of any major sightings so we did not have to worry about missing out on any amazing photo opportunities. Onboard the train, we were surrounded by a super friendly team of staff who were truly dedicated to excellent customer service. Our coach had a lovely host who shared engaging stories of the history of the area and surrounds. We journeyed from Vancouver to the quaint town of Kamloops where we stayed overnight and were hosted by one of the local bars for some local beer tasting. Great fun was had by all. Early start on day 2 as we headed off towards Banff National Park via the Rockies. WOW...there are no words for the scenery....incredible.....I always find that the Irish are not easily impressed by scenery because we live in such a scenic country but I was absolutely blown away. It rained for quite a bit of the day and the clouds descended on the mighty Rockies but this didn’t dampen the mood and we even spotted some bears. Next stop Banff, I just adored this resort town located within Banff National Park. On Banff Avenue, the main thoroughfare, boutiques and restaurants mix with chateaux style hotels and souvenir shops. So quaint, I just loved it. We had the most wonderful day trip through the Rockies enroute to the Columbia Icefield Parkway where we stepped on a glacier, this was a surreal experience. The views and photo stops along the way were nothing short of incredible. I was awestruck for the entire day at the sheer beauty of the magnificent mountain range. We were so so lucky to have spent 45 mins at the majestic Lake Louise as our last call for this evening. On day 2 in Banff we took a trip on the Banff Gondola and what I witnessed on top of the observation desk could only be described as a winter wonderland. It was truly special. En-route to Calgary for our homeward flight we experienced a helicopter scenic trip for a final farewell to the Rockies. What an awesome and fitting way to complete such an incredible journey. The Rocky Mountaineer Experience was a truly unique, once in a life time experience and you most definitely have to add this to the bucket list if it is not already on there, put it at the top of the list! I promise an unforgettable and very special experience.
16 May 2018
China is a destination that has forever been on my bucket list and as I suspected it exceeded all my expectations. This type of trip was a first for me as I was travelling as part of an escorted group with Intrepid Travel who are specialist in adventure and cultural worldwide group holidays. I travelled with 8 other Irish agents whom I met for the first time at Dublin airport and true to the Irish style they were a fantastic group of people. We were incredibly lucky to experience the exceptional business class service of Finnair who routed via Helsinki. As expected, the attentive service combined with a fine selection of wines, champagnes and delicious meals were second to none and the full lie flat bed was such a treat. After touching down in Beijing, the adventure began. The group’s local tour guide, Jay from Intrepid met us on arrival. His wealth of knowledge, friendly and kind approach certainly enhanced the whole experience. Our two-night stay in Beijing included iconic sights such as Tiananmen Square, one of the largest squares in the World, the Forbidden Palace, Jiangshan Park and we also visited the Olympic Village. Of course, the highlight of the entire trip was visiting the Great Wall. The was just incredible and it certainly gave me a better understanding of what a “once in a lifetime” experience feels like. We climbed right to the top and this was a very proud moment and an excellent bonding exercise for the group. Onwards to the ancient city of Xi’an by high-speed bullet train. This journey took just over 5 hours and the experience was smooth and very comfortable. The imperial centre of China for over 2000 years, Xi’an is such a vibrant and modern city, dotted with many interesting historical sites and I absolutely loved this city. Xi’an is still surrounded by old walls. We hired mountain bikes and cycled the circumference of the wall, approx. 14 kms with many photo opportunities en-route. Afterwards we ventured into the wonderful Muslim Quarter which was alive with hundreds of market stalls and street food ventures. After some serious haggling we all acquired some great deals. We learnt all about the ancient trading route of the Silk Road. We also came across the Great Mosque and we took in the Bell and Drum Towers’ the former built to lock up the dragons which were causing Earthquakes. An hour outside Xi’an is the site of the Terracotta Warriors. WOW. This is a must for all travellers to China. Regarded as one of the important archaeological finds of the 20th century. I will let the photos speak for themselves. Another unique experience was the overnight sleeper train from Xi’an to Shanghai. I did find the train to be quite smoky and stuffy and whilst I am glad I experienced the train I think that next time I will opt for a flight!!!! Shanghai I would consider as the New York of China. Vibrant, modern, busy. I just loved this city. We explored on foot, parts of historical Shanghai, including the Bund with its spectacular array of Art-Deco-style buildings. We did some retail therapy on Luwan’s Huaihai Road, a busy shopping area and popular dining spot. In the evening we attended a performance by the world famous Shanghai Acrobats. Nail biting stuff!! Followed by some lovely cocktails in 47th floor Sky Lounge at the Radisson Blu Hotel allowing us a sweeping view across the city. On our final day we set off to the Water town located about 90 mins from Shanghai. Xitang certainly is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. We explored the gardens and the streets, we cruised the canals which criss-cross the town, sipped some tea at a traditional tea house and visited a local history museum. After our farewell dinner later this evening we got a taxi to the “Bund”, the financial district of Shanghai. The incredible buildings lit up the night sky, what a magnificent sight and amazing photo opportunity. I was very sad to be leaving this wonderful country. As a tourist I really only tipped the iceberg and will most certainly return in the future to explore the countryside and perhaps go to see the pandas and cruise the Yangtze River.
19 June 2017
A Christmas Day surprise for Frank, Danny and Clodagh and boy what a surprise it was! We travelled over the Easter Holidays going direct from Dublin to JFK with Delta Airlines who offer a very friendly and comfortable service. We were met by a limo to take us to our hotel (another surprise and to see their faces...it was priceless). We had 4 nights in New York and I guess if I was to change any aspect of our trip it would be to extend New York by at least a day, ideally two as it really did take the kids a couple of days to recover from jet lag. I had the four days planned as follows: • Friday - Rockefeller Centre (top of the Rock) and Times Square, Diner for dinner • Saturday - Ground Zero, Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty and meeting friends for dinner. • Sunday - The Ride, Hire bikes Central Park, Natural History Museum, lunch at The Boathouse. • Monday - Empire State Building and shop till we drop! Needless to say, nothing went to plan!! I knew I had to go at the kids pace and the jet lag really did knock them at the beginning of the trip. We managed to fit in Top of the Rock, 9/11 memorial, Central Park (we went rowing on the lake and had the best of fun), Hop-on hop-off bus which I would highly recommend with or without kids, very informative and entertaining. I had not planned to do the outlets but all the boys wanted were shoes and sports gear so we made a last-minute decision to include Woodbury Common to the agenda in lieu of Macy's. It's was a good decision, we got excellent value. We did this on our last day as it was a Monday and the shops were relatively quiet. We arrived back at the hotel around 6pm and finished off our stay in the Big Apple in style by visiting Times Square by night and heading up to the top of the Empire State Building close to midnight. New York is spectacular by night and the queues were minimal. Ellis Island will have to wait! We then flew onwards to the Caribbean Island of Dominican Republic for a 12 night stay in the beautiful 5 Star All Inclusive resort, Now Larimar Beach Resort and Spa. We had 2 inter-connecting Deluxe Rooms and they were so spacious we could have fit into one room (at a squeeze). This resort has something for everyone. We were lucky to have been upgraded to the preferred club and so we had exclusive lounges, restaurants, pool areas and a dedicated section on the beach with waiter service. We were truly spoilt. My youngest, Clodagh went to the Explorers Club quite a bit and this kids club ran from 9:30am - 9pm everyday with endless activities and facilities including outdoor cinema nights, camping on the beach, bingo, talent shows, mini-disco and lots lots more. There is plenty for the older kids too including beach and pool volley ball, play station, pool tables, giant chess board, zumba, archery, yoga etc. There is also a Core Zone for teenagers with plenty going on. The beach was without a doubt one of the best I have ever seen and the endless array of water sports kept us busy with complimentary kayaks, paddle boards, sailing boats and snorkelling. You can also book scuba diving courses, parasailing, banana boats and speed boat trips. Plenty of room to haggle for the best value. The entertainment in the evenings was excellent and very varied. There was great interaction between the staff and guests. Food was good, our favourite was the Mexican Restaurant and Castaways Restaurant down by the beach. Whether you are travelling with a family, as a couple or a group this resort has something for everyone. A truly memorable trip for me and my family and I think we might head East for our next big holiday so watch this space…
15 June 2015
After a very comfortable flight with South Africa Airlines we had a fast and efficient transfer via Johannesburg airport and landed in a very wet, windy but beautiful Cape Town. A lovely journey via the Atlantic Coast road we passed by the stunning Camps Bay before arriving at the famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.We enjoyed some wonderful delights for lunch at the Market Place, various local vendors selling the most delicious savouries and desserts. Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour whilst in Cape Town so our trip up Table Mountain was cancelled, but then again it's winter in June there so whilst it was very disappointing it was not surprising. After a walk around the Waterfront we headed to the 5 Star Vineyard Hotel. Stunning property on the outskirts of Cape Town, the Vineyard is situated on beautiful landscaped parkland with Table Mountain as back drop. Idyllic setting and an oasis only 20 minutes from the city centre. Next morning we woke to glorious sunshine and headed off on a full day Cape Point Tour. So we drove along a very beautiful coastal route. First port of call was Houts Bay where we boarded a 40 minute Seal Island Cruise enabling us to get a real close up view of hundreds of Cape Fur Seals in their natural habitat. We then proceeded along the coast to Boulders Beach, home to the Jackass penguin colony. South Africa has lost 90% of their penguin population since the 1930s so they are very much an endangered species. I really enjoyed seeing the penguins. Just beyond Boulders Beach we had lunch at the Black Merlin Seafood Restaurant, without doubt the best seafood I have ever tasted. Hake, prawns and lobster, yum, I would highly recommend. Onwards to Cape Point, we drove over the famous Chapman's Peak Drive with a 200 meter drop on one side of the coach and a 200 meter rise on the other. It was the most dramatic drive I have ever experienced, a bit hairy at times, not for the faint hearted!!!! At Cape Point we drove through the natural reserve and took the funicular to the lighthouse where I experienced the most panoramic views of the meeting place of the icy Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans, WOW..... After a hearty breakfast we left the Vineyard Hotel and Cape Town behind us and drove to the Winelands. We were very lucky to visit Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch farm with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the Drakenstein Valley. Guests staying at the farm have full access to the entire farm so they can choose ingredients and pick from the fruit, vegetable and herb garden. A wide range of activities including spa, yoga, cycling, canoeing, swimming, guided walks and hiking and most important....wine tasting!!! We arrived early afternoon at the quaint and picturesque University town of Stellenbosch. What a wonderful town amidst the many wine farms and vineyards. Very historic, leafy town centre with some fab restaurants, outdoor cafes, art galleries and boutiques. We were very lucky to be taken on a "Foodies and wine tasting walking tour" what a fantastic way to find one's way around this beautiful location. We stayed 1 night at the Oude Werf Hotel. This hotel is ideally set amidst the towns many heritage sights, museums, galleries and vibrant cafe and boutique culture. I would highly recommend Stellenbosch, a very special town. Our next day took us along the Garden Route. This drive was so enjoyable with spectacular sea and mountain views, after around 5 hours we arrived at Knysna. This town is famous for its oyster festival, warm people and the most magnificent views from Leisure Isle to Knysna Heads. The Knysna Heads is the most famed attraction; its treacherous entry into the Knysna Lagoon is where many an ancient vessel met its doom....We set sail on the 'John Benn' for a sunset cruise where some lovely food and refreshments were served. I really enjoyed this little town and would highly recommend a night of 2 here whilst travelling along the Garden Route. The following morning we set off to one of the most famous private game reserves in the world. Shamwari Game Reserve was our home for 2 nights, 2 days and 3 game drives. We stayed at one of the 6 safari lodges called Riverdene and I was very impressed with the welcome, friendliness & enthusiasm of all of the staff. Our game driver managed to find all of the 'big 5' as well as giraffe, zebras, hippos, monkeys, and many more species of wildlife & bird life. We also were very lucky to have a guided tour around the Born Free Foundation Animal Rescue & Education Centre. The goal of this foundation is to create an awareness of the horrific way in which wildlife is exploited in captivity around the world. We were very lucky to meet some of the rescue big cats. There is also a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Shamwari. The aim of this centre is to rehabilitate and return all animals back into the wild. It was a very moving experience. If you have the time, I would highly recommend combining Cape Town, the winelands, the 'Garden Route' and a safari experience, this is definitely a 'once in a lifetime' trip which is great value and will give you precious memories to last a lifetime! I hope you enjoy looking through my photos and would love to hear from you if you are considering an "adventure of a lifetime".
22 October 2014
After a wonderful flight experience in Club World with British Airways I arrived at Colombo Airport, Sri Lanka. To say I was excited was an understatement. As a lover of all things cultural and historic I knew that Sri Lanka was going to be a wonderful experience for me. I travelled with 10 colleagues and we had a very busy itinerary ahead hoping to cover the sights of this amazing country in 8 days. We had 2 drivers and a wonderful tour guide, Alanda. Their knowledge, expertise and hospitality was incredible and without doubt enhanced our over-all experience. We spent our first night on the beach staying at the Jetwing Beach Resort in the town of Negombo located only 30 minutes from the airport. Some travellers may welcome this stop for a night or two after a long flight. Onwards to the Ulagalla Wallawwa Resort in Anuradhapura. What an amazing property. Villas built on stilts in the rainforest with a plunge pool and private deck. You can choose to cycle around the hotel grounds or call the buggy service. En-route to Ulagalla we visited the Pinnawela Elephant orphanage. A sanctuary for orphaned and injured wild elephants – it was a fantastic experience. Next morning we visited the Bodhi Tree Temple and the ancient ruined city of Anuradhapura. We were also so lucky to experience an afternoon jeep safari driving deep into the Minneriya wild life sanctuary. It was very special seeing the herds of Sri Lankan elephants and the spotted deer in their natural habitat. We arrived early evening to the Heritance Kandama hotel. This property is very unique in that it was cleverly designed and built into the side of a rock and so the hotel blends in with its nature surroundings. I do recommend that you keep your balcony door closed at night as you may have some unwanted visitors, monkeys and fruit bats! The views from this hotel are spectacular. After an early breakfast we went to visit the famous rock temples of Dumballa and onwards to Sigiriya. This was one of my highlights. We climbed up to the top of Sigiriya rock fortress, the eighth wonder of the world. WOW the views were amazing and Ananda our tour guide was so informative about the history of the Rock. On to the town of Kandy, a town in the centre of the country 500 metres above sea level. The views of the surrounding countryside are just spectacular. We checked into the Cinnamon Citadel Hotel located on the banks of the river Mahaweli and we visited the Temple of the Tooth followed by a traditional Kandyan dance which was very enjoyable. The next morning we drove the short distance to Kegalle to the very, very special Rosyth Estate. This wonderful property is surrounded by tea tree plantations and rubber trees. Neil and Farzanna our wonderful hosts brought us for a guided walk through the tea tree plantations, a local tea factory and a rubber making factory. Their chef, Chandana was so kind to allow us invade his kitchen and educate us about Sri Lankan local produce and his wonderful culinary skills. I would encourage all my clients who want to visit Sri Lanka to stay at Rosyth. It will be an experience that will stay with you forever. Beach time and boy was I ready to relax!! When we arrived at The Fortress Hotel in Koggala just a little south of the city of Galle, I knew I was "home". The beach front setting, the pool, the spa and the amazing bedrooms were so welcoming and I must say this hotel was up there with one of the best beach hotels I have ever seen. Next morning we drove south to the beaches of Bentota stopping en-route in the city of Galle. I loved Galle, very bustling city with good shopping, street vendors, dramatic coastal views. Our final night we stayed at the Centara Ceysands Beach Resort, only accessible via boat. This hotel is ideal for families as it has an excellent animation programme and offers an all-inclusive food and beverage option. But alas all good things must come to an end! Endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, herds of elephants, surfing beaches, famous tea and flavourful food best describes Sri Lanka. I had a wonderful and unforgettable adventure and plan to return in the not too distance future.
30 December 2013
HANDS DOWN; this is the most beautiful location I had ever visited. Heaven on Earth!! Seychelles is made of an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. The Granitic Islands of the Seychelles cluster around the main island of Mahe, home to the Capital Victoria, and its satellite islands of Praslin and La Digue. These three islands contain the majority of Seychelles tourism as well as its most stunning beaches. And I was extremely fortunate to visit all three islands. We started on the island of Mahe, home to the international airport and to 90% of the total population. Mahe is lush, green and mountainous with many spectacular viewing points. The port city of Victoria is home to beautiful colonial buildings, museums, Botanical Gardens, markets, bars and restaurants. I would recommend a city tour taking in a market. Overall I found that the standard of accommodation is excellent as is the personal service and food. Whilst the majority of hotels are on a half board basis, the beverages are not as expensive as I had initially anticipated. Similar to Ireland a bottle of wine with dinner starts at €24.00, a cocktail at the bar €9.00 or a glass of beer €7.00. At all the hotels I stayed in they offered complimentary water and tea/coffee facilities in the room. So a honeymoon couple would need a budget of approximately €100 - €150 per day to cover all beverages and lunch. In Mahe we stayed at the 5 Star Constance Ephelia Resort, a stunning resort, ideal for both couples and families. We then went onwards to the island of Praslin, a 1 hour fast ferry trip from Mahe or 15mins by sea plane and I was lucky to experience both. Praslin is the 2nd largest island in the Seychelles. A leisurely tour around the island will take about 2 hours. This island is the site of the fabulous Vallee De Mai, one of Seychelles two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The island is also home to exquisite beaches, two of which feature on the top 10 list of World's best beaches. We ate lunch at a local beachfront restaurant and the food was amazing as was the hospitality. 20 minutes fast ferry from Praslin brings you to the island of La Digue. WOW, my highlight...La Digue is an island where time stands still and time-honoured traditions such as travelling by ox-cart and bicycle are still king. There are no cars on the island and we explored mainly on foot. The friendly atmosphere of this intimate island is what I fell in love with. The hotels are intertwined with the local homes and villages so you are living amongst the locals who will greet you with warm smiles. So whether it is relaxing on a beach, pedalling to your local restaurant, or buying some local wares....as they say on the Island, "La Digue is more than just an island, it's a way of life". My visit to Seychelles was a memorable experience and a country I will most certainly return to. I have uploaded more photos than usual as I could not stop taking snaps. Please call me for best rates and to personally arrange your holiday here. Enjoy!!
30 December 2013
I headed to the resort of Cascais on the Lisbon coast for a 4 night break in September with my Mum and I must say it was spectacular. The resort that once was a fishing village is now one of Portugal's most famous holiday destinations. The tradition remains and this is the beauty of the town. Cascais is steeped in history and offers some of the most exquisite natural and architectural sites. Cobbled streets, winding lanes leading to small museums, beautiful gardens, new marina and a pedestrianised old town dotted with designer boutiques and seafood restaurants. There is a stunning sea-front promenade ideal for walks, running, picnics or simply watching the world go by. There are many glorious beaches dotted along this route. If you are a keen surfer, Guincho's Beach is world famous and one of the biggest beaches in Cascais. Nightlife was quite vibrant with plenty of bars to choose from. I also found the restaurants to be excellent and quite reasonable. As a lover of seafood I found the local produce to be delightful and there was no shortage of local cafes and pastry shops. Whilst we had a "lazy" relaxing few days, there is so much to do in Cascais including golf, sailing, surfing, tennis and fishing to name a few. Many other areas of interest are easily accessible from Cascais as the town is on a main rail route. We took the train to the city of Lisbon for the day. The train station is located right in the centre Cascais so walking distance from our hotel and 30 minutes later we found ourselves in the centre of Lisbon. Lisbon is one of the world's great historical cities. On a beautiful seafront setting it is a paradise for walkers and photographers. It is quite a small city with a lively cafe culture. It is home to beautiful gardens, parks and esplanades and it reminded me of a mini Paris. In the centre of the town there are 2 magnificent squares framed by arcades and a historic arch that offers a panoramic view of the streets in between; stunning. We hit the shops for a few hours and found the shopping to be very reasonable and dined for lunch al fresco. All in all we had a great day out. Another "must" whilst in Cascais is a visit to the Unesco World Heritage listed centre of Sintra. Wander through the narrow streets amongst the historic Palaces, Castles, Monasteries and monuments. It is hard to tire of this beautiful architectural and historic landscape. I would highly recommend Cascais for all holiday makers.
29 December 2013
I visited Abu Dhabi on a city break and conference in May. My husband and I stayed at the magnificent beachfront Fairmont Bab Al Bahr Hotel. Our suite overlooked the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; a breath-taking view. After spending the first day relaxing by the pool, we decided to partake in a city tour. We saw the Jebel Ali Port, the biggest man-made port in the world, stopped outside the Grand Mosque for some photo opportunities and then we then continued to the Women’s' Handicraft Centre to admire the skill of the local ladies making traditional handicrafts. We continued through the city viewing the city's oldest building, the Qasr al-Hosn Palace built back in the 18th century. We drove along the beautiful Corniche and then visited the Heritage Village (a journey to the past to explore life before oil was discovered). After all the culture, it was then time for some fun and no better place than Yas Island...WOW was my reaction! We enjoyed cocktails at the roof terrace of the magnificent Yas Viceroy Hotel overlooking the luxury yachts and Formula 1 race circuit after a tour of the Formula 1 race circuit, where my husband enjoyed the Kartzone. We spent an afternoon at Ferrari World, a theme park with thrilling rides, exciting attractions, themed shops and restaurants. Whilst there we both experienced the World’s fastest Rollercoaster with a speed of up to 240km/h, launched 52 meters into the sky, what an adrenaline rush!!! Finally, we spent the day at the Yas Waterworld, it really is the ultimate water adventure, hands down the best Waterpark we have visited and we have being to a few, including the Atlantis in Dubai. It was so much fun, and we relaxed in style in between rides as we hired a Cabana. Each Cabana offers cooling fans, towels and a food and beverage delivery service; the only way to go!! Abu Dhabi really has something to offer all tourists, fabulous shopping, year round sunshine, sandy beaches, endless choice of restaurants and nightlife, and plenty of activities. I would absolutely highly recommend Abu Dhabi as a winter sun destination or a short stopover point en-route to your final destination or to relax on the way home.
30 October 2012
I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Mexico and experience first hand what this amazing destination has to offer. Because the majority of my business is organising Honeymoons, Weddings and that "special occasion" trip, I was very eager to see if the 5 Star Luxury properties that Mexico boast lived up to their reputation. I don’t usually delve into detailing individual properties when writing travel journals, however as Mexico is such a popular destination with my past and present clients I simply have to give you a brief synopsis of my favourites. 5 Star Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa – stayed at this property for 4 nights and had a wonderful time. I loved the entrance to this hotel and the walkway down towards the pool and beach. Also loved the room layout, it was different and really worked. There was a great buzz to this resort and the live music in the lobby in the evening followed by nightclub was excellent for entertainment. I was lucky to see a wedding down by the beach, it looked amazing. All in all very good experience and would highly recommend to couples, groups and families alike. 5 Star Secrets Capri Riviera Resort & Spa - Beautiful property with a Italian feel to it, the beach was quite narrow but that will not deter me in selling this property. Again I loved the layout of the pool area and the 2 beach front restaurants. The lobby area and restaurants had a definite “WOW” factor. A huge plus for this property is its location, only 10 minutes in a taxi to downtown Playa Del Carmen. 5 Star Zoetry Paraiso De La Bonita - Stunning property. 10 out 10 of for all aspects. A truly very special hotel which focuses on well being with a luxurious feel & a very intimate atmosphere. The Suites are stunning, all ocean front with fine quality decor throughout. I would be very careful when recommending this property, whilst I would recommend to honeymoon couples, I feel that it would be too quiet for younger clientele. 5 Star Secrets Maroma Resort & Spa. The minute I entered the lobby I knew I had "come home". This is one of my biggest selling properties for weddings and honeymooners. All I can say is “WOW WOW WOW”. The personal service is second to none and it’s also located on an award winning beach. This is the one property that continues to wow my clients and exceed expectations. Of course it doesn’t stop at the hotel experience; Mexico has loads to offer in terms of activities, excursions, historic sites etc. We swam with dolphins which was surreal. We visited the Mayan Ruins, as a lover of all things historic this was a highlight for me. We spent a day at Xcaret, world famous ecg-archeological site. It boasts Mayan ruins, a dolphin show, horses, a farm with tropical birds, butterflies, bat caves and a stunning beach. We went snorkeling in the famous caves and the well known underground river. With over 53 activities to enjoy it is a great day out. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I just can’t wait to plan my next trip.
29 December 2013
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful locations I have visited....I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the island itself, so lush and green, mountains, valleys and waterfalls, powder white sandy beaches and coral reefs. The Mauritian people are so hospitable, always a friendly face and a smile and wonderful service. Whilst I know that the majority of visitors to Mauritus for the most part enjoy the sunshine, relaxation, hotel hospitality and beaches I personally explored part the island and all it has to offer so let me share my experience with you; On a tour of the Island's South West with breathtaking scenery, we began a magnificent journey with a visit of the Trou aux Cerfs, an extinct volcano for 700,000 years with a 280 foot deep crater. We then travelled through the Plaine Champagne forest, stopping at the Grand Bassin, a sacred lake to the Hindu community. After the sacred lake, we drove through the verdant mountains stretching toward the coast at Black River Gorges and its waterfalls. The rum part next, where we were let into the secrets of the manufacture of agricultural rum, with a chance to taste it at the end of the guided tour followed by lunch in its restaurant called L’Alchimiste. This restaurant had the most spectacular views (see photos). We then viewed the magnificent Chamarel waterfall and the Seven Coloured Earths. Its name was inspired by the soil, which is layered in hues of yellow, blue and red, a unique geological curiosity. The Casale Nature and Leisure Park was a full day trip where we went quad biking for 2 hours through the national reserve where we came across Zebras, Ostriches, African Antelopes, deer, Wild Boar and many exotic birds. We were lucky to be able to pet some Zebras and a Stag. After the quads we had a yummy lunch at the restaurant which again had the most spectacular views. After lunch we went Zip Lining through the forest; I was never so petrified in my life but felt amazing afterwards. This was the longest Zipline circuit in the Indian Ocean, the last zip line was over 400 metres long; I still cannot believe I did it! One morning I got up at 6.30am to go swimming with the wild Dolphins. This really was a unique and incredibly moving experience swimming with the Dolphins in their natural environment in the open sea. I also tried my hand at water skiing, a service offered complimentary by the majority of hotels on the island. The water ski activity includes a short boat trip to the starting point inside the lagoon where I get the skis, wear a life jacket and get ready to start the water skiing. I was very pleasantly surprised to find I was up and skiing on my 2nd attempt, it was an amazing feeling. We also had time to relax and enjoy the sunset on the beach in the evenings, played some tennis and explored the immediate area around the hotel by mountain bikes. I was lucky to stay in two amazing 5 Star Luxury properties the Lux Le Morne Hotel and Beachcomber Paradis Hotel, both wonderful properties. Service and food was top notch, especially the seafood for which the island is renowned for. All in all an amazing experience and certainly a destination to which I will return in the very near future.
24 November 2011
How would I describe Boston; historic, cultural, quaint tree-lined streets, great hospitality, compact city so easy to walk around, Duck Tours, shopping, great restaurants and vibrant nightlife. I was lucky to be stay at the Taj Hotel, right in the centre of Boston. The transfer from the airport took about 15 minutes. Checked into the hotel, very traditional "old world" hotel and finished to the highest standard. The hotel was dotted with chandeliers and also had a Chanel shop & Burberry just across the road! My room had 2 queen beds and was very clean and again in keeping with the hotel very traditional decor. The beds were very comfortable and they had Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom, very luxurious! The views from the hotel were incredible and overlooked the "Boston Common" which is a central public park in Boston. The hotel bar area was very cosy, like being in a large dark oak living room. I had dinner the first night at the hotel and the food and service was amazing. I didn't think they could do better until I had breakfast the next morning, WOW best I ever had! After a very friendly chat with the hotel concierge, I was off on a Duck Tour. You must be wondering what a Duck Tour is?! The fun begins as soon as you board your "DUCK", A W.W.II style amphibious landing vehicle. First, you'll be greeted by one of our legendary tour ConDUCKtors, who'll be narrating your tour. Then you're off on a journey like you've never had before. You'll cruise by all the places that make Boston the birthplace of freedom and a city of firsts, from the golden-domed State House to Bunker Hill and the TD Banknorth Garden, Boston Common and Copley Square to the Big Dig, Government Center to fashionable Newbury Street, Quincy Market to the Prudential Tower, and more. And, as the best of Boston unfolds before your eyes, your ConDUCKtor will be giving you lots of little known facts and interesting insights about our unique and wonderful city. And just when you think you've seen it all, there's more. It's time for "Splashdown" as your ConDUCKtor splashes your DUCK right into the Charles River for a breathtaking view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, the kind of view you just won't get anywhere else. This was a fantastic way to see Boston, our tour ConDUCKtor Ray was very chatty & knowledgeable. On the tour I was so impressed with the design and architecture of the buildings throughout the city from the 19th century historic buildings to the modern sky scrapers. The parks and harbour areas were stunning. Next, some shopping, Filenes & Marshall's are excellent for discounted designer wear. Or if you prefer the large department stores don't miss out on a visit to the Prudential Mall. You can't go to Boston without visiting Cheers Bar so that was next on the agenda. Incidently they didn't know my name!!!! But they had yummy cocktails and of course a souvenir shop where I just had to buy a tee shirt. Another absolute must in Boston is Quincy Market (also known as Faneuil Hall Marketplace). In the heart of Boston, Faneuil Hall Marketplace is adjacent to historic Faneuil Hall down by the waterfront and park of Boston's "Freedom Trail. Food stalls, photographic exhibits, shops, restaurants, bars, carousel for the kiddies. The food stalls were laden with exotic coffees, fresh seafood, baked breads, gourmet desserts to name a few delights and the atmosphere was electric with outdoor entertainment to enjoy while you feast on the scrumptious food. On my final day I took a walk through the common adjacent to the hotel. The colour or the trees, locals exercising and walking their dogs, feeding the ducks, watching the many squirrels scarper through the park was surreal, little did I expect to find such tranquility in the middle of a city. They were just constructing an ice skating rink in the middle of the Boston Common for the Christmas season. All in all I had a wonderful few days in Boston, as a lover of all things historic I think the history and wonderful buildings stood out most for me, and of course the hospitality. A million miles away from New York in my opinion, a much more laid back and friendly feel to this beautiful, enchanting city.
29 December 2013
Dubai is a unique destination, one of the few cities in the world that has undergone such a rapid transformation and is one of the fastest growing cities on the Earth. How would I describe Dubai...Cosmopolitan, exciting, dramatic, fun, amazing and beautiful. I spent 4 nights in Dubai and explored the beach areas, the city and the desert. I stayed at the stunning 5Star Westin Mina Seyathi Beach Resort located directly on the famous Jumeirah Beach. Our wonderful Deluxe Ocean View Room had breath-taking views of the ocean and the famous Palm beyond. The hotel has an excellent spa, private beach club and you simply must sample the eateries, especially the Bubbalicious Westin Brunch every Friday..WOW.. The 4 days were action packed with a little time each afternoon for a quick dip in the ocean. We toured the city taking in the magnificent Water Fountain display (for those of you who saw the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas, you ain’t seen nothing yet!) We took a sneak peak at the 6Star Armani Hotel. There is a viewing point from the Armani overlooking the fountains; that is amazing. We popped into the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. We took the lift to the observatory deck (124 floors up) and the views were phenomenal. Definitely one of my highlights. We had a bird’s eye view of all of Dubai, including The Palm and The World. We also spent one of the days at the Aquadventure Waterpark at The Atlantis. It was such fun and yes I did do The Tower of Neptune (never again!!). My husband is like a child when it comes to water parks so whilst he did a second round on all the water rides I relaxed with a cocktail and a book on the private beach. One evening we headed into the desert for an evening of authentic Arabian entertainment including dinner. I would highly recommend this and can arrange it for you. Of course no trip to Dubai is complete without a visit to the local souks. Located in the Deira area of the city, they offer the buyer an array of gold, leather, spices and textiles. The colours, the textures and the local bartering I found fascinating. On the last day we made our way to The Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest shopping malls with over 1,200 shops. But it’s not just shops; it is home to a luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens and dozens of restaurants and cafes. Here you will also find the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. And wait for it.. Whilst I hit the shops my husband decided to spend a few hours skiing at Dubai's indoor ski centre! We had a wonderful time in Dubai and I would recommend it to all travellers, couples and families alike.
11 January 2012
'Trains are wonderful... to travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and rivers, in fact, to see life' - Agatha Christie No truer words written. My recent travels brought me to Asia to experience the wonderful Eastern & Oriental Express. Here is my story. After arriving in Singapore I spent 3 nights in this wonderful city staying at the luxury 5 Star Shangri-la Hotel. As well as relaxing by the hotel pool surrounded by the expansive tropical grounds I found time to experience what Singapore has to offer. Singapore’s historic ethnic quarters are surrounding by soaring skyscrapers, shopping centres and natural beauty. However there is more to Singapore than the urban glitz. Ramble in the rainforest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the west, and wonder at the wildlife on a night safari at Singapore Zoo to the north. Decide if a Singapore Sling is worth the hype in the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel, well I did the Singapore Sling, in fact I did three and they were best I ever tasted, as for Raffles hotel, wow “a sight for sore eyes”. For those who would like to experience the city from a birds eye view, I would highly recommend you take a trip the Singapore Flyer. The world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer offers you breathtaking, panoramic views of the Marina Bay, city and beyond. Of course no trip to Singapore would be complete unless you experience the famous Clarkes Quay where the Singapore River comes alive at night. Clarke’s Quay is buzzing with life and activity. The waterfront play host to a colourful kaleidoscope of restaurants, wine bars, entertainment spots and retail shops. When the sun goes down, you don't have to look far to discover some of the city's trendiest nightspots. On check-out from the hotel I found it difficult to contain my excitement, I was boarding the Eastern & Oriental Express. The Eastern & Oriental Express departs Singapore’s Keppel Road station in the morning. Having been welcomed onboard, my personal butler, Kitt introduced himself and made us feel so welcome. Within an hour we departed Keppel Station for what was to be the most amazing journey. Through rainforests and paddy fields, past golden temples and misty mountains, we travelled straight to the heart of Asia. A unique and unusual way to experience ever-changing scenes and to discover a new and thrilling world – both on board and alongside the train. The journey on board the Eastern & Oriental Express from the elegance of Singapore to the excitement of Bangkok through the heart of South East Asia and Malaysia, with visits to colonial Georgetown, Fort Cornwallis and the infamous River Kwai was an experience that I will never forget. And what better way to end this amazing trip but by 3 nights in the city of Bangkok; one of the most cosmopolitan, contrasting and, above all, compelling of Asian cities. A city of dazzling temples, street markets around every corner, gleaming palaces, shopping malls, famous nightlife and everything in between. We checked into the 5 Star Banyan Tree Hotel, a wonderful property with exceptional service. Dropped the bags and off to explore the city and sights. The hotel concierge organised a half day excursion to Thonburi Klong & Palace with lunch at Supatra River House. We travelled by long-tailed speedboat on the picturesque Chao Phraya River and Klongs (canals) of Thonburi. Disembarkation at Tha Chang pier, then short walk to a small fruit & flower market then to The Palace. That evening we have dinner on-board a river cruise, enjoyed the culinary delights amongst the night lights of Bangkok. We also took in a tour of the Grand Palace & the Temple of the Emerald Budda, Thailand most sacred site. The Grand Palace was not only the seat of the king and his court, but contained within its crenellated walls the entire government administration. The palace served as the official residence of the kings of Thailand from the 18th to the mid-20th century. The Banyan Tree houses a famous roof top restaurant and bar called Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar. We were lucky enough to get a reservation for what was a wonderful experience, Vertigo is unlike any other bar-cum-restaurant in the world: some 61 floors above the streets of Bangkok, this open-air rooftop lounge gives true meaning to the word 'vertigo' as it grants views that simply take your breath away. A trip I will treasure forever.....
24 November 2009
From the moment I landed at Muscat International Airport I fell in love with the Country of Oman. Oman is one of the oldest civilisations on the Arabian Peninsula and retains all its Arabian character from its people to its architecture. I found the country to be exciting and vibrant with a wonderful climate and beautiful beaches. And as a lover of all things historic, I explored the ancient and modern traditions of the Omani people with fascinating sightseeing and scenery. The Capitol City of Muscat is like an oasis in the desert, a modern city that is the crowning jewel and capital of Oman. It’s split into three distinct regions – Old Town, Muttrah and Ruwl. I recommend you head to Muttrah for the excellent souk (or market). It’s a bit of a labyrinth but your efforts at navigating its twists and turns will be rewarded with bargains. Pick up frankincense, earthenware, spices, incense, gorgeous fabric, handicrafts and jewellery and do expect some playful bartering in the process. Take a break with some halib (tea with milk) or sulaimani (black tea). The Corniche district is famous for inexpensive eateries. This area is also beautiful by night. Dine waterside along the promenade and watch the lights bounce off the waves. During your stay a visit to the Grand Mosque is a must. It is one of the largest Mosques in the world and features some wonderful art work, chandeliers and a one piece carpet covering the entire prayer hall measuring 4,300 square metres (which has earned it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records). What stood out for me whilst in Muscat was the city's medieval appearance with two old Portuguese forts, walls, and the royal Al-Alam Palace standing out in the city skyline. They are a sight to behold at night time under the lights. From Muscat, you’re in a prime spot to explore the Oman coastline. Its natural beauty is best discovered walking along the beaches where you can see local fisherman working for their daily catch and kilometres of open space. Oman's beaches are clean and beautiful. The best beaches in glamorous Muscat are Qurum and Al-Bustan, offering long stretches of golden sand. With 1700km of coastline, there are superb snorkelling and diving opportunities. I viewed and stayed in some amazing hotels along the coast including Al Bustan Palace, The Chedi, Grand Hyatt and Shangri-la, luxury personified! The hotels are of the highest standard and during your stay there are an abundance of great excursions to enjoy. During my stay I visited the souks, the Grand Mosque, went on a day trip on a speed boat to view the various forts that are dotted along the coastline, saw wild dolphins, turtles and had a wonderful lunch on a deserted beach. A truly memorable experience, a Country I will definitely return to in the very near future.
22 October 2008
My most recent travels has taken me to the Caribbean island of Barbados, and what a trip! The Island of Barbados is recognised around the world for its sheer natural beauty, the richness of its culture and above all the friendliness of its people. Barbados has three quite distinct coastlines: the fashionable West coast has fine long stretches of sandy beaches with calm waters protected by coral reefs and ideal for water sports. Many luxury hotels are dotted along the coast, where evenings tend to be quiet and sophisticated. The South coast has many excellent sandy beaches too. There is lots going on here and you are never too far away rom the next bar and restaurant. The East coast is scenic and unspoilt. Atlantic waves crash into the rocky shore; an impressive sight. This is a great place for a day out, however, swimming is not recommended owing to dangerous currents. The one thing that I have learnt about Barbados is that its not just about the sea and the sand, there is so much more to this tiny island. Whilst I did spend alt of time lying on the powder white sandy beach and swimming in the crystal clear waters I also explored the island and had a lot of fun. One day I went on an Island Jeep Safari and explored the historic interior of the island with its sugar cane factories and old plantation houses. Another day I was zip trekking through the forest, not for the faint hearted!! The zip line is 100ft off the ground and you move over 8 platforms and enjoy beautiful views of the island. I personally felt a great sense of achievement having completed this and it was so much fun too. Having swam with Dolphins in Australia I was very excited to hear that I could go swimming with turtles. Barbados is home to a healthy population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Once endangered by over-fishing, these great creatures are now protected and monitored throughout the Island. I headed out on a catamaran one day and swam with the turtles, of course again the crew on board were fantastic hosts, another fun day whilst we sailed to the sounds of Bob Marley. At night, there is a vast choice of restaurants for every taste and budget. And if you're still raring to go after all that then there is another Barbados of waterfront bars, night-life, music, gaming - and more than 1,000 rum shops to consider. (Rum was actually first distilled in Barbados) Barbados is an island that caters for everyone; honeymooners, families, singles alike. What really stands out for me about this wonderful island is its natural beauty and the hospitality of its people. Having been there it is easy to understand why this island has so many return visitors. Tempted????
29 December 2013
You probably guessed that travelling is my passion and one of my top destinations visited so far has to be Cuba. Cuba is a fasinating island that is rapidly growing in popularity due to its great mix of cultural heritage as well as some of the finest beaches with miles of soft white sand and clear warm waters. Add to this the warm and friendly multiracial people, the Cuban passion for music and dance, famous rum cocktails and balmy tropical nights and you have all the ingredients for a wonderful holiday. On my travels to Cuba I spent the first 3 nights exploring Old Havana, it was amazing, reminded me a little of Rome but 40 years ago. Its like going back in time. Around every corner you will find vintage cars, locals young and old sitting on the pavements watching the world go by smoking huge Cuban Cigars, magnifient colonial architecture and many museums. Whilst in Havana, I visited a Cigar making factory, went to see the hotel room where Earnest Hemingway spent the last years of his life and did a guided tour of the city where the local representative explained all about Fidel Castro and the political situation. Did you know that Fidel Castro is believed to have over 80 homes throughout Cuba, he keeps moving from house to house and no-one ever know his exact location. Onwards from Havana to the Colonial town of Trinidal De Cuba, this was the "real Cuba" for me. Trinidad is a town located in Central Cuba and in my opinion is like a museum in itself. Historic Trinidad is famous for its lovely cobblestone streets, pastel coloured houses with elaborate wrought-iron grills, as well as majestic palaces and plazas. On the day of our arrival into Trinidad we went on a tour of the old centre, whilst walking down the cobblestreets we came across a funeral. It was amazing to see all the locals dressed in black, bear foot walking behind a rusty old pick-up truck that carried an old battered box which was the coffin. They were chanting some words and there were many bear foot children running behind who seem to be amazed by the tourists. At one stage I took out a packet of mints and before I knew it there were over 10 children surrounding me looking for a sweet. Ill never forget that moment. The last part of our trip was spent in the luxurious beach resort of Varadero. Stunning 5 star resorts line the world famous beach all of which are based on an All Inclusive Meal Plan. Varadero has been offically designated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, which I experienced first hand and believe me the beach is out of this world. Cuba, for me is a country that I will definately return to. It is a wonderful honeymoon destination as well as a family destination. I hope you enjoyed reading about my wonderful experiences and I have tempted you to visit....... Tip: If you are travelling to Cuba bring some pens and soap with you, these are luxury items in Cuba and very hard to come by. To see the locals faces light up when you give them these gifts is a wonderful feeling.
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