Sent by Paul Findlay
Based in Sutton Coldfield
Hello and thank you for visiting my webpage. My name is Charlotte and I am your personal Travel Counsellor.
I have been in the travel industry for over 18 years and have been extremely lucky to have experienced some amazing products and services along the way. Some of the highlights have been many city break trips to Bruges, Paris, Nice, Rome, Barcelona and Dublin; my first ever visit to New York, arranging and getting married in Cyprus in 2012, our spectacular three-centre honeymoon to Los Angeles, Hawaii & San Francisco, meeting some of the friendliest people in Mauritius and Zanzibar; a culture change in Singapore & Bali, then the incredible speed of the Formula 1 in Montreal. A breathtakingly & memorable trip so far has to be visiting the Canadian Rockies, an absolutely outstanding area of natural beauty, although our very recent trip to South Africa blew us away with its amazing culture, scenery and people.
I am proud of my achievements and I have great experience of booking all types of travel; weddings to honeymoons, from cross country tours to beach breaks in Europe. I also have extensive knowledge of the fastest growing business in travel, cruise. I always ensure that I am up to date with all travel training and I recently qualified as an Australian and Canadian Specialist, meaning that I have an extensive knowledge of these areas, enabling me to give you honest and impartial advice.
My priority is that of my clients and their needs and I can assure you that when you book with me you will be in my very capable and experienced hands. Over the years I have built up some amazing relationships with my clients and I respect their likes and dislikes when it comes to planning their holidays. I adore hearing about their adventures, but most of all, I am humbled when they contact me to help plan their next quest!
Travel is my passion and I promise to provide you with top quality, customer focused care, because with me...it’s personal.
So, whatever your travel plans - city break, family holiday, bespoke luxury trip, cruise, wedding or honeymoon, just pick up the phone and give me a call, I would be delighted to hear from you.
Why you should trust me with your future travel plans - here are 4 great reasons.
South Africa absolutely stole my heart - I think it will yours too! https://www.travelcounsellors.co.uk/charlotte.mitchell/Profile-Blog/SizzlingSouthAfrica
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.
04 August 2020
I need to be completely honest; ski has never been the top of my bucket lists of holidays to do. Too much exercise, mental thinking & coldness all at the same time, was never my idea of a holiday! However, outnumbered as I was with two friends and my husband Tom, I caved. Back to work for me on Boxing Day I booked our first ski trip – nervous was an understatement! Finding a resort that would suit two débutants and two intermediate skiers, wasn’t as hard as expected - we found a catered chalet in Switzerland, a mere 1 hour 10-minute direct flight from London meant we would be on the snow in no time at all. The convenience of a catered chalet means that you have more time to enjoy your ski holiday. Why worry about preparing dinner or cleaning the dishes. With catered ski accommodation you have more time to spend on the piste, chill and let yourself be pampered in the evening. It is a great experience and is extremely good value for money. We headed straight to the ski school office once we arrived late afternoon on Saturday – here they informed us where to meet our ski instructor the following morning. We then had to collect our skis boots and helmet - the guys in the office were fantastic! TOP TIP ** When pre booking ski school, check around but ensure you book in advance as in peak times they will get booked out. Some group lessons have maximum participants, so spaces can be limited even outside of peak times. After storing everything in the chalet heated boot room (I later understood why skiers go crazy for this!), we headed out to the local village to taste some local food & beer! Then it was an early bedtime for the beginners as school started the next morning… At first, it’s going to be challenging & (I knew this) for those that have been ice skating or have roller-bladed in the past may pick up the technique quicker, but fear not if you haven’t - once you get started, you’ll soon start to relax and enjoy yourself. The more you ski, the more your confidence will grow and the easier it will become. Remember, everyone feels the same when they ski for the first time, so you're not alone. Finding a resort that is ski in and ski out is a huge benefit - equipment is heavy (well for a slight & unfit person like myself). The less distance to carry your skis to the lifts the better. The fact that you don’t have to wait for jammed busses either is a huge benefit. Our lessons ran for 5 days (Sunday to Thursday), but if like me you want to try it and then have some time for yourself, then 3 days is plenty & providing there is space you can always add more days on locally! TOP TIP ** A lesson 9am to 12pm is the best. The slopes are fresh with snow and still colder in the mornings, meaning the sun will not have melted it, making it a completely different skiing experience. There were a few bars high up in the mountains where you could stop and treat yourself to lunch and beer - our favourite was the Tipi located in Siviez – they had the best IPA selection or then wrap up with some Après Ski - our second favourite in Nendaz was Le BOB! On our last full day, the boys went off skiing to Verbier, and I opted for a day pass to the local spa – I was in PURE HEAVEN! Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa was incredible. In an Alpine decor designed in contemporary style, allow yourself to be carried away by the magic of the Spa and take the opportunity of recharging your batteries in complete serenity, while enjoying the spectacular panoramic views. Laid out on two levels, this space dedicated to water recalls the natural scenery of the region. A water channel runs through it, whose gentle murmur will follow you into your dreams. Comprising of a 15 metres outdoor swimming pool, with running water & spectacular views overlooking the Alps, a Finnish Sauna, vaporised steam bath, 3 grottoes (hammam, salt & ice), panoramic sauna, jacuzzi and much more, this hotel spa really does allow you to escape and relax. Nendaz was a resort for all abilities. It was great for families with children and groups of friends looking for a small, peaceful alternative. As much as this hurts me to admit, Tom was better at skiing than me, this time around…next time he might not be so lucky! Skiing is a completely different experience to anything you might have done before but will be an amazing experience! Don’t put it off – go on and give yourself a new challenge!
15 October 2019
A safari holiday has been on our bucket list for a while, but it never seemed to fit in with any plans we had. For 2019, I decided that this was the year. We needed a good road trip and, although there are many different routes I was considering, South Africa stayed at the top; so, planning commenced and before we knew it, we had booked our South African adventure. This is the route that we chose to follow: Cape Town > Franschhoek > Knysna > Pumba > Tsala We took direct flights from London Heathrow to Cape Town with British Airways – 11.5 hours later we were in Cape Town. We pre-booked a private transfer to take us to our accommodation as a car isn’t really required. Taxi rides or sightseeing busses are plentiful, also the easiest way to get around. Cape Town is brilliant! We stayed at the LawHill Luxury Apartments located right on the V&A Waterfront. Fantastic access to shops, bars, restaurants, and city attractions. As it was a very clear day, we decided once we had checked into our apartment that we would head straight up to Table Mountain. The weather in Cape Town changes very quickly, meaning the cable cars close, so it is best to do this as soon as you can. A taxi journey to the cable car depot and then we were on our way up. HINT: The cable car rotates as it journeys up to the top of the mountain. It doesn’t matter where you stand as it will turn a full 360° We also pre-booked our tickets across to Robben Island. A 60-minute ferry journey takes you across to the island which is known for being used as a prison, leprosarium, psychiatric hospital and military defence post. In the twentieth century, black opponents of the apartheid regime, sentence to long sentences, were interned there, including three future South African presidents (Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma). The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of Africa’s most visited destinations and attracts 24 million people every year. It’s setting, in the oldest working harbour in the southern hemisphere, is simply spectacular; it has Table Mountain as a dramatic backdrop as well as extensive views of the ocean, city bowl and the mountain peaks of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains. TOP TIP - The Old Power Station brought power to the Cape Town dockyard, blazing a trail for trade in Cape Town and the African continent. Today, this powerhouse of innovation is still generating bright ideas through the V&A Food Market. We showcase 42 of the finest local products and offer a platform for small business to launch trend concept food stores and bars alike. You can sit indoors when windy or quayside for sundowners. It’s the place to be for those seeking an eating experience with a vibrant atmosphere, plenty of variety at affordable prices. Cape Town is a beauty of a city - extremely friendly people, with some very precious landmarks and place for all the family. Next stop for us was Franschhoek. Our rental car was promptly delivered to our apartment, meaning we didn’t have to lug our cases around to find the depot. We decided to take a little trip south of Cape Town first to Boulders Beach – home to the African Penguins! This roughly takes 2 hours to get to, but it is a fab day out for all the family. Parking was easy to find and free of charge – HINT: you will need to tip the parking attendants for looking after your car (you decide the tip as no set amount). On to Franschhoek – home of the winelands! Here there are so many different wine estates to try at your leisure. A handy winetram with different routes will drop you off and pick you up, allowing you to taste a variety of wines along the way. Many have a restaurant so you can always stay longer to experience their food too. Franschhoek is a smaller town, with a great number of shops, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and market stalls. For sure, it is one to add to the list when considering a South African road trip. Where did we go next? Situated along the Garden Route at Knysna, staying on the Leisure Isle, we checked into Amanzi Island Lodge. It is incredible! Three nights in Knysna meant we could really go off and explore the area. Bike rides, to kayaking, to National Reserve walks but the emotional highlight was walking with orphaned/rescued elephants. See these amazing animals up close and personal was a once in a lifetime experience. Leaving Knysna behind saw us travel along the garden route to Pumba Private Game Reserve. This private reserve allows the free roaming of the animals, which then doesn’t make it feel like a UK safari park experience. Although, you do have to remember that you are visiting their habitat & if they want to be seen they will! We were extremely lucky as on our first game drive we saw a giraffe giving birth - quite an experience to watch! Then to have the cheetahs walk alongside the Land Rover was just jaw dropping. We saw a family of elephants, white lions, a pride of lions with the baby cubs, hippos - the list is endless. We did an extra experience of walking with the white lions, while they sat a mere 200 meters away from us! TOP TIP: opt for a Bush Lodge, the number of animals that come through here during the day, it was busier than the M25! As this trip was so unbelievably busy, we opted for a short stay at the Tsala Treetop Lodges and WOW we were not disappointed. A stay in the treetops was the perfect, relaxing way to end this road trip. The peaceful location means you really can escape and enjoy nature at its best. HINT – Two-Bedroom Villas are located above the treetops looking down – not for the faint hearted! Overall our experience of South Africa is one we will never, ever forget. Everything was perfect and this destination, well and truly stole my heart!
01 April 2019
In September 2018, I was very lucky to have the chance to visit the wonderful Island of Mauritius, an island based in the Indian Ocean. I had visited before, but an opportunity came around and I got to visit again! We flew from our local airport, Birmingham with Emirates via Dubai. The connections are so easy and smooth in Dubai, they really are the best at connecting flights! Onwards from Dubai was approximately a five-hour flight down to Mauritius. Clearing customs was easy and straight forward and at the time of travelling British passport holders did not require a visa. Upon arrival, we were met by our local driver who gave us a bottle of water for our journey and then transferred us to the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort, located in the south of the island where we were going to be staying for 7 nights. This was roughly an hour drive from the airport. Typically, when we landed we managed to bring the standard UK weather with us…rain! However, when we opened the curtains the following morning, there was not a cloud in the sky! Beautiful sunshine and stayed this way until we left. Check in at the Outrigger was stress-free. We were on a half-board basis, meaning we had breakfast and evening dinner included for the duration of our stay. Our room, a deluxe beachfront room, was fantastic!Superb views across the Indian Ocean, a very large room with an extremely comfortable bed! Our room category included inclusive access to the Club Plantation; here it offers a French Colonial atmosphere with a wine room for exclusive tastings and tea library, celebrating the islands tea culture. The Club’s private pool and outdoor lounge area are perfect for relaxed reflection in a garden overlooking sugar cane fields and nearby mountains. During the day, the Plantation Club is exclusively for guests staying in suites or villas. In the evening, The Plantation Club is a restaurant open to all guests serving modern Mauritian cuisine. A unique brunch is also provided twice per month on Sunday’s and includes free flow beverages in a jazzy atmosphere. Breakfast is also served here from 7am until 10.30am. Afternoon tea is served from 3pm until 4pm, while cocktail hour is 5pm until 6pm. The main restaurant, the Mercado Market, offers an energetic international food market dining concept, where guests interact with chefs at exhibition kitchens. The restaurant offers cuisines from Europe, the Mediterranean, North & South Asia, and India. Hiring a car is an expensive way to travel in Mauritius, so we opted for a local guide and driver to take us on a tour of the West of the island. Our itinerary consisted of visits to Trou aux Cherf, a stop at the Grand Bassin – also known as Ganga Talao, which is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius. It is about 1800 feet above sea level. Our lunch at Le Chamarel Restaurant was out of this world – the views were breath-taking. A visit to the 7 Coloured Earths and Chamarel Waterfalls – the 7 Coloured Earths, over a Millenia, the rocks of Chamarel Coloured earths were pulverised into sand which have the amazing property of settling into distinct layers! Followed by a rum distillery tour at Le Chamarel – this is a must for any keen rum drinkers! For our second trip we then ventured across to Illes Des Deux Coco. A world away, you'll be greeted with a refreshing cold towel and welcome drink, before exploring this tranquil haven. Swim in crystal clear warm waters, snorkel amongst the corals and shoals of bright tropical fish flitting around the offshore marine park or, if you prefer, visit by glass-bottom boat. On shore there is also plenty to do. Laze on the beach or stroll along the small paths through native woodland. Lunch is served either at tables in the open overlooking the ocean, or under the shade of a white marquee where you can sink into deep settees. Dine on delicious salads topped off with fresh herbs from the garden and grilled specialties from the buffet, while wine, beer and soft drinks flow freely. You know you're on holiday when an ice cream cart trundles past laden with freshly made tropical delights. The afternoon is yours and culminates in a tasting of homemade flavoured rum to conclude another perfect day. I also had the opportunity to go and visit another hotel, One & Only Le Saint Géran! This hotel has recently undergone major refurbishment and re-opened in 2018 with significant changes that put this hotel in a different league to any others I know in Mauritius! From the moment of arrival, you get a wow factor! The staff greet you at the door of your car and help you into reception. The bright and airy feeling of the reception continues throughout the whole of the property. I was very fortunate to see the transformation of the rooms and previewed a Beachfront Balcony Suite and a Beachfront Balcony Room. Outstanding amenities, very comfortable beds and modern, clean decoration. Not only have all the rooms been refurbished, but the grounds too. The addition of a new day-time pool area, allows for all the family to enjoy, but the main restaurant has had a refurbishment too. Our lunch at La Pointe, was delicious! Serving the freshest, rustic lunches by day and hosting spectacular private celebrations by night, new restaurant La Pointe, with its iconic thatched structure, is the ultimate in relaxed beachfront dining. Located within the vibrant hub of Palm Grove on the beautiful northern shore, talented chefs grill the ‘daily catch’ over firewood and coconut for unrivalled authentic flavour. Enjoy on the shaded lagoon-view deck, by the sparkling family pool, or directly on powdery sands. Overall our stay in Mauritius was fantastic. I would return to Mauritius as the people are so friendly and the culture is varied. The weather was perfect, although a little breezy in the evenings. All in all a fantastic destination for all the family!
27 March 2019
For our 5th wedding anniversary, we wanted to do something a little bit different. The brief that I received from my husband was that he wanted to go East, so out came the maps as I wanted to make the most of this trip. The mighty plan was to do Singapore and Bali. Singapore has been on my bucket list for quite some time, to be there for the Grand Prix to be exact, however having our anniversary in June, meant that we didn’t want to wait until the September race-day to go away. There are many routes that we could have taken, but I chose flights with Emirates via Dubai from our local airport, Birmingham. I have always dreaded indirect flights as the part that I hate the most about flying is the take-off and landing, so this was going to be a big challenge for me. In truth, it was brilliant. It allowed us to break the journey up and meant that we were not in the air for so long and could stretch our legs by walking around on solid earth for a while! The transfer from one aircraft to another was very easy. Signs are clearly marked and there were lots of airport staff around to ask should you need help. We packed a new set of clothes and a few essential wash things (including toothpaste) in our hand luggage, meaning we could freshen up in between the flights. At Dubai Airport, there are shower facilities for a fee. The main thing is to allow plenty of time if you do want showers, as the queues can be quite big. Departure from Dubai was on time and everything ran smoothly, so next was the 9-hour journey from Dubai to Singapore. We stayed 3 nights in Singapore at the Marina Mandarin Hotel in a Marina Bay View Room. I had pre-booked a taxi to take us from the airport direct to the hotel as after travelling for so long, we didn’t want to hang about waiting for taxis. Very easy to locate and took us straight to the door of the hotel. This was the furthest east either of us had been, so I was keen to make sure that our first day was not overloaded. I had a feeling we wouldn’t know what time of day it was, so I had planned a leisurely journey on the City Sightseeing Bus for the first morning. This meant we could find our bearings and get to see some important landmarks that we would eventually go back to. You can’t go to Singapore and not visit the world-famous Raffles Hotel. Most tourists go in for their famous Singapore Sling, but a friend recommended we go for Afternoon Tea. As this was a special occasion, I thought this was a brilliant idea. It was fantastic! Featuring exquisite teas, Champagne, classic sandwiches, home-baked scones and cakes, and seasonal treats in a stunning heritage setting. Next, we visited the Gardens by the Bay. For this I can highly recommend that you pre-book your tickets as it gets very busy. Of course, we had to visit the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (most famous hotel in Singapore, other than Raffles). Soar 57 levels above the heart of the city as you capture the moment of a lifetime at the stunning Sands Skypark public observation deck. Alternatively, if you approach the Ce La Vi Lounge desk in tower 3, you can pay an entrance fee of $20 per person, but this contributes towards a cocktail in the Ce La Vi Lounge. The views are amazing, and a top tip is to get there for around 5pm so you can sit and watch the sun setting, then watch in awe as the lights start to come on in Singapore Financial District and the Marina light show. Prices for drinks are reasonable, but for a drink with a view, totally worth it! Fact: It is illegal to take chewing gum into Singapore! Our next destination was Bali. We flew directly with JetStar, who are much like a low-cost equivalent here in the UK, but with customer service that was faultless. Fantastic from start to finish and only a 2.5-hour journey. Upon arrival into Bali, we were met by the ground agent who then took us to our driver waiting in the parking lot. Some hotels provide free airport pick-up's so check this out before booking a standalone transfer. We stayed 3 nights in Ubud at The Kayon Resort in a Kayon River Suite – wow! It has got to be the most tranquil hotel I have ever stayed in. Amazing service, views, food and a beautiful room. A small family run hotel, but this was perfect. While here, we hired a driver for the day with an English-speaking guide. The day was great from start to finish. We were taken on a journey through the unspoilt Bali, with a lunch that had views that were just jaw dropping. The holiday did not end here; we then moved down to Seminyak for a 5-night stay at the Seminyak Icon Villas, with our own private pool. This was great as we were a short walk away from the very busy streets that had many shops, bars and restaurants. The beach was a little further and you could walk this or take the free villa shuttle bus. Bali do things differently, where they have more beach clubs, allowing access to pools/bars/food and live music in most daily; all while overlooking the long stretch of Bali beach. All in all, this was an unforgettable holiday and one we will always remember.
29 November 2017
This could be the strangest thing ever – a travel agent that hates flying. Well not really, there are lots of people who have a fear of flying and I just so happen to be one of them. It’s not pleasant but I can absolutely relate to those who say they have this fear also. With the need to try and get my fear under control due being diverted because our plane hit a bird on take off. This was the point where my fear hit new heights, I was so upset and refused to get back on the replacement plane, that the only way was to have a Valium! I refused to ever step foot on a plane ever again. I must say, looking back, Ryanair were fantastic and were so calm and reassuring throughout the whole experience, it was just me being a complete pain. Little did I know that my husband Tom, had then booked me a surprise trip to New York and he wanted to guarantee that I would get onto another flight, so he booked me one session with a hypnotherapist. Thinking it won’t work before you’ve even gone, will have negative effects, so going in with an open mind helps. What I have learnt is that you need to train your brain to think of an alternative solution to the panic/situation you are in. My hypnotherapist talked me through the different stages of what I do and don’t like about flying and it was clear it was only going to be tested once I was on a flight. She taught me to think about the things I hate most about flying; saying a repetitive word over and over again and how it would take my mind off the situation. I need to say, prior to this I was taking valium for EVERY flight and would never travel on my own. After my hypnotherapy, I felt confident enough to travel on my own and valium was no longer needed! In 2016, I had a slight wobble and could not control the situations. We travelled to Canada to do a trip through the Rockies and before we had even left Heathrow I was having panic attacks. The pilot advised that we were unable to ‘push back’ as there was a technical fault that they were investigating. The longer this went on, the more stressed I was becoming. To the point where I raised this with the crew and the next thing I knew, the co-pilot was walking towards me and then knelt beside me to explain exactly what was going on. To me, it felt as though I had taken a huge step back to where I was before and I knew that I needed to return for a top up session. So in January 20017, I found a new hypnotherapist myself going back to a hypnotherapist for a ‘top up session’. After discussing various options, a week later, I flew to Tenerife and I was like a new person again. It’s not the easiest of fears to have, when you see young children sitting with not a care in the world and tackle flights, while I, the adult, crumbles to a mess due to a flight not even leaving the ground due to technical issues. So when you can openly admit that you have the fear and can talk to someone who can help you, it makes planning and booking holidays so much more exciting. This year, I challenged myself to the most flights in one trip. I can proudly say that I managed to fly Birmingham to Dubai, to Singapore, to Bali, to Dubai and back to Birmingham, I managed all of this and I survived! Top tip: Make it stress-free, pre-book every seat on every flight you take. This takes majority of the pressure off for me – with so much going on before any holiday, remembering 24 hours prior to departure to book seats is unbearable. Majority of airlines now charge for this, but factor this into the budget of the holiday. As the New Year approaches, make 2018 the year that you conquer that fear. Don’t let it put you off going on holiday, seek some help and you could be jet setting all around the world! Why not add this to your Christmas wish list: Fly without fear - written by an ex pilot and a hypnotherapist. It’s a great book to keep and you will always have it to refer back to if you have any doubts.
17 November 2017
Always wanted to explore South Africa but have always been put off by taking malaria medication? Well look no further as I am about to give you an example itinerary where malaria medication is not compulsory. Driving route: Cape Town - Winelands - Hermanus - Garden Route - Eastern Cape game reserves. Total distance: 1,200km; 14 days Cape Town: Days 1-4 After renting a car from Cape Town International Airport it is just a 20 minute drive into Cape Town. Here are some recommendations for you to do while in Cape Town; Table Mountain - A must visit, its two disabled-friendly cable cars each take 65 people and run all day. Journeys to the summit take just three minutes and the cars rotate for 360-degree views. TOP TIP: Head up Table Mountain at the first possible opportunity. Strong winds and low clouds can prevent the cable car from operating. Afternoons are quieter. Other must do activities are: Robben Island; District Six Museum; Hop-on, hop-off bus; V&A Waterfront; Get with the beat Winelands: Days 5-6 Take in the Cape's southern wine areas such as Constantina, the closest to Cape Town at just 20 minutes away, the Southern Hemisphere's oldest wine-producing region Stellenbosch & the historic Franschhoek which is regarded as the culinary capital of South Africa due to it's many restaurants. Other must do activities are: Vine Hopper; Jonkershoek Nature Reserve Hermanus: Day 7 A 70-minute drive from Franschhoek, bustling Hermanus is also a wine-growing area and has been listed by WWF as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world. From July to November, southern right whales come to mate and calve in Walker Bay and can be viewed just metres offshore as well as on boat tours. Other must do activities are: Dine & whale-watch; Sea kayaking; Wine hopper; Cage diving with sharks Garden Route: Days 8-10 From Hermanus, the 300km drive to Mossel Bay takes around three hours. Beyond Mossel Bay, the spectacular Garden Route coastline stretches over 200km to Storms River. Destinations to visit along the way & driving times are: George - great for golfers; 35 minutes Wilderness - A seaside resort with a lagoon and long sandy beach; 50 minutes Knysna - An adventure playground with a lagoon & ancient forests; 1.5 hours Plattenberg Bay - Nature & activities are close by this seaside town; 2 hours The Crags - A mountainous area with attractions including Birds of Eden; 2 hours Storms River - A scenic river offering outdoor adventure in Tsitsikamma National Park; 2 hours 30 minutes Other must do activities are: Knysna Township Tour; Knysna Oyster Cruises; Bramon Wine Estate; Tenikwa Wildlife; Storms River sea kayaking. Eastern Cape game reserves: Days 11-13 End this road trip with a safari in a malaria-free Big Five reserve. There are many games reserves in this area and include; Addo Elephant National Park Shamwari Amakhala Kwandwe Lalibela Kariega Pumba Depart from Port Elizabeth: Day 14 Today you return the rental car to Port Elizabeth International Airport before your connecting flight home.
09 November 2017
New York baby! Well, for the second time! This trip was for a very different reason altogether - my amazing husband Tom ran the New York Marathon and I was so very proud of him (and all that took part). The atmosphere, organisation, people, runners, professional athletes, supporters and well-wishers were all, to quote a word used a lot that day, "awesome!" He finished with an amazing time of 3:02:02. We stayed at a fab hotel called Shelburne NYC - an Affinia Hotel. This place was a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station and was within easy reach of pretty much everywhere! It had fantastic views at night from the roof terrace out towards the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building! Top tip: request a high floor room or a room with a view. Not guaranteed, but worth a shot! No trip to New York is complete until you have seen a show on Broadway. On our first visit, we saw Mary Poppins, which was good. For this visit, we saw Aladdin! The show is light hearted and fun for all the family. For those of you who may have seen The Lion King, (which in my opinion nothing has ever come close to), Aladdin may well be up there with this! My top tip (as with all shows) book as soon as you book New York. Tickets sell out and you do not want to be disappointed! Finally, the food. As we had to stick to a strict diet of pasta, pasta and more pasta in keeping with the Marathon training, we found an amazing Italian restaurant just off Broadway called Carmine's Italian Restaurant. This place is amazing! The food at Carmine's is served family style; generous portions that are made for sharing. Brilliant service and atmosphere. Groups of all sizes were attempting to snag a table, but were being put on waiting lists. Prices were very reasonable and a great selection too. If it's a special occasion or you really do want to visit this place, book early to avoid disappointment. It doesn't matter how many times you go to New York, you will always want to go back!
25 October 2017
The best Christmas present surprise ever! Christmas 2010 had arrived and I had been laying down the ground work on where our holiday for 2011 would be. New York was on my hit list and I was making it very clear that the choices were New York, New York or New York, but he just wasn't committing and I didn't know why. The Christmas list (yes I still write a list to tell him exactly what I would like, so there is no room for error), lay in the same spot upside down as I left it, so knew he was being his usual unorganised self once again. However on Christmas morning, when I started to open presents, one being a gift voucher for a hypnotherapy session to help with my fear of flying (see a separate blog on this), I was starting to fear he had lost the plot. Still nothing clicked! My final present was hidden at the back of the tree and I was instructed to go digging! Unwrapping to find a guide book on New York, I still thought he was trying to be funny! He said that I would not go to New York until I sorted out my fear of flying, but then told me to turn to the back page. Carefully placed at the back of the guidebook was an itinerary for a trip to New York, highlighted for all the important dates, times, names and happening in less than 30 days time! Many (loud) screams later, it finally sunk in that I was off to New York! Little old me that had never tackled a long haul flight in my life, was going to New York baby - and so the planning commenced! I took time over everything; planning it my usual way to make the absolute most of our time there so I would miss nothing, just in case I never went back. The countdown was on. Everyone heard about how many days until I flew to NEW YORK! I had even planned on which films I was going to watch on the way over, you can do this by logging onto the British Airways website as they release their programme a month at a time. So everything was sorted, now just to tackle the flight. We flew from London Heathrow Terminal 5 with British Airways. My first time at Heathrow and I was in total awe of this place - although I hate flying, I am a total plane geek at heart! The flight I have to say was brilliant. Coming in to land at Newark and sitting on the left hand side of the aircraft meant that we had an amazing aerial view of the financial district and the Statue of Liberty! (That's my top tip for you, although flight paths can change, so don't quote me on this). Arriving into Newark meant that we could get the train to Penn Station. It was incredibly easy to navigate around and locate the connection to the rail station. Ticket machines were in operation making it even easier to pay for the tickets. From Penn Station we then walked to our hotel a couple of blocks away on 31st Street, called the Hampton Inn, Manhattan - Madison Square Garden Area. Our first morning consisted of our trip up the Empire State Building. Making the most of being there early to ensure we beat majority of the crowds. While in New York, it is a given must that you need to see something on Broadway. I had opted for something a little light hearted so pre-booked for Mary Poppins and it was a fab show! Great for all the family but a great experience to walk out after the show onto Broadway to all the lights and excitement still happening even late into the evening. Because we had visited the Empire State during the day, we wanted to experience a different view when at the top of the Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock), so I pre-booked our time for sunset. After researching the sunset times, we were up the top ready for some wow factor. Do you like cake? Silly question; who doesn't! A visit to the Magnolia Bakery made famous by the Sex & the City ladies is one not too miss. As with everything, ensure a trip to Chinatown or Little Italy for some of the best food around! Well known chains such as Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. can all be found on or around Times Square. As it was so cold, we opted for a quick ride on a horse around Central Park. With wind chills of minus 30 degrees the thick warm blanket was definitely required!
18 October 2017
I am going to be totally honest; Barcelona was not a destination I had any particular interest to travel to, that was until I actually travelled there. Wow, what a city - it was fantastic! Arriving into Barcelona means that you can take advantage of the Aerobus (it collects from both terminals). You can pre-book your tickets online, or you can do this at the terminus at the Airport, such a great and convenient way to reach the main hub of Barcelona. Our hotel was at the top of Las Ramblas, which is a great location to be as you have full access to all of the city from here including all shops, restaurants, cafes & bars. To get around, we used the City Sightseeing Bus Tours. We were able to visit the Olympic Stadium that was used for the 1992 Summer Olympics - which today this is used for concerts and events. Also on the bus route was the Sagrada Familia - this is an absolute must when visiting Barcelona. It is a large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí's work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is amazing, so prepared to be utterly blown away with how modern it is, considering it was designed many years ago! Top tip: Pre-book entrance into the Sagrada Familia before you go, to guarantee you entry. With some ticket types you may be able to fast track the queue's! We ventured into the Food Market, located half way down Las Ramblas, one lunch time and picked up some baguettes, fruit and pastries, where we then took a seat down at the harbour and watched the world go by - it was a perfect spot for lunch and didn't cost the earth either. The beauty of Barcelona is that you have both the city and beach rolled into one. You will definitely not run out of things to do here, the list is endless!
17 October 2017
In February, we decided that enough was enough and with winter blues lasting forever, we booked a last-minute trip to Tenerife in the Canaries? We flew from our local airport which is Birmingham International Airport. They have recently said it is investing 100 million on improvements to its facilities and infrastructure, including hold-baggage screening, self-service check-in, surface access, additional car parking and air traffic control. Additional parking was underway when we arrived, but pre-booking our parking space meant that we didn't have to worry about not finding anywhere to park. I had pre-booked a private car transfer to take us on arrival from Tenerife Airport to the resort of Playa Paraiso - which took approximately 30 minutes. We arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel and were treated to a VIP check-in with a welcome cocktail, while they completed all the necessary check in requirements. Here we were told of all the amenities that were on offer at the hotel and which restaurants were open. During the winter months, the hotel operates a 'Dine Around Menu'. This means that rather than opening the main buffet restaurant for evening meals, the restaurants offer a set menu for half board clients, or a credit amount in other restaurants. Top tip: Ensure you pre-book the speciality restaurants in advance as you may not get a table! The buffet restaurant is open for breakfast every morning and wow, it is amazing! So much choice, so fresh and they advise anyone with specific dietary requirements to advise staff prior to or upon arrival. You truly feel like a Rock 'n' Roll star, by not carrying money with you around the hotel - all guests are given an electronic bracelet which enables you to charge everything to your room. Top tip: setting up a secure 4-digit PIN number, means you don't have to keep signing for everything. The extremely helpful staff will help you to set this up! Why not hire a guitar in your room to jam out? Yes you can actually do this! There is quite a high supplement to do this, but it's there to be taken advantage of should you wish. I mean who wouldn't!? Playa Paraiso is an up and coming area, so there is not much around this in terms of cafes or restaurants. The nearest town is Costa Adeje or Playa de las Americas. A taxi ride will cost you approximately €25.00 each way, which the hotel can arrange for you, and will take approximately 20 - 25 minutes. All in all this was a great destination and hotel for a short winter getaway. Great for all the family with two pools and a third pool for adults only. Children's facilities range from a splash pad to children's clubs, and even an entertainment centre, where you can play the drums, guitars, video games and board games. You name it, it's there for all children to use!
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