New York Holiday Review

We get lots of reviews sent to us from our customers. Here is one about New Year in New York

I travelled with my boyfriend to New York in December 2011 for the New Year celebrations and for my 21st birthday. It was cold, wet, and 2ft deep in snow most of the time… but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We flew British Airways from Manchester direct to JFK. It cost about £330 each as we booked months in advance with Global Holidays.  The 7 hour flight was extremely comfortable, with in-flight films and 2 nice meals on board.

We stayed at the Jolly Madison, just off Madison Avenue. The taxi from airport to hotel cost about $30 and took about 45mins. You can pre-book transfers and they are a few dollars less but as we booked all parts separately similar prices. The hotel its self is a 4* Italian style hotel. It is very clean and the staff are very friendly. It’s just a 10 min walk from all the sights but is way from all the bustle of Big Apple life. Its restaurant and bar is expensive though so we tended to eat out for all our meals.

There was a diner just over the road call ‘Ruebens‘. We ate mostly breakfast here. The omelettes at about $5 were to die for and there was the usual selection of bagels too. Very reasonable and very tasty. For lunch and tea we went one of the numerous restaurants on and around Time Square and Broadway. It is handy to book these advance or get there early as we waited approx 30mins for table nearly every night. Prices are a bit above what you pay in UK but only to be expected as in any tourist area, and the portions are, well, American size!

After all that food, you need some exercise and what better way to shed the pounds than whilst sightseeing. Skating in central park is one particularly good way. I thought it would be expensive to do as its so popular but actually is only cost $4.50 for entry and $5 for the skates for as long as you want. It does get very busy so get there early. Also, in restaurants and the bars, you should tip. 10% is the norm but you can give what you want. Continue reading “New York Holiday Review”

Foie Gras Pate, Fillet Steak and Call Girls in Barcelona !

Our blogger and Travel TV Presenter, Becky Hayes, has just returned from a short break to Barcelona. In this article she talks about a “chilled out” break and her experience on the 26th floor of the W Hotel !

If you are looking for a cheap summer getaway then Barcelona cannot be beaten! Full of culture, history, fantastic architecture, beaches, shopping and fantastic nightlife it’s one of my favourite short haul destinations.

This is the 2nd time I’ve been this year and this time went with my husband so it was a little more chilled out compared to my weekend with the girls there back in February!

We stayed at the 3* B-Hotel right in the centre. I cannot rate this hotel highly enough. The location is fantastic; its right next to the Metro has a direct bus to the airport across the road and is next to a modern shopping centre. It also has some fab tapas restaurants alongside it. It’s great in the summer especially as it has a very chic rooftop pool that is reminiscent of Ibiza. We spent most afternoons there with a chilled bottle of cava, watching the hustle and bustle below.

I took my husband for cocktails at Eclipse, which is a bar on the 26th floor of The W Hotel.  It’s exactly the kind of swish atmosphere he likes with a very cool crowd and a DJ playing. However I have to say I was disappointed by it this time. Even though the views are fantastic, you don’t get much chance to see them as they pack the bar too full. We could barely move in there at one point and it became very uncomfortable. Also we noticed (and I’d heard rumours beforehand) that there were a lot of call girls in there. It became obvious because as we were trying to take pictures of the views, they would all cover their faces! There were no tables free to sit at because the call girls were sat at them drinking champagne. We didn’t stay very long.

A new bar that we discovered is Club Pipa. This is like no other bar I’ve ever been to before! It is also called the secret bar as it’s hard to find and with no signage outside. It’s in a square just off La Ramblas and you find the door with a buzzer on it. You then have to ring the buzzer to be let in. You then walk up 2 flights of stairs in darkness (we thought it was all a hoax and we might get mugged at this point) and arrive at a small, funky bar. It’s dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and has old pipes and memorabilia everywhere. It is definitely worth finding!

Generally most restaurants you find in Barcelona do great food, all reasonably priced too. As my husband and I are big foodies, we decided to treat ourselves on our last evening and go out for a nice dinner in the Gothic Quarter. Firstly, the Gothic Quarter or el Gotic or Barri Gottic as its known, is a beautiful place to spend your evening. It’s like a film set from an old movie and there are so many gorgeous little bars and restaurants to be found amongst the winding alleyways. We went to PLA, which had great reviews on trip advisor. It’s intimate and romantic inside with great service. We had Pork Carpaccio and Foie Gras Pate to start followed by Fillet Steak.

During the summer months you can go to Barcelona for under £300 each; that includes flights and a hotel in the centre. I would definitely recommend a short break there!

A 70 year old’s view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

I  climbed the Sydney Harbour Brdge a few years ago and I thought it was a fantastic experience. It was no where near as scary as some people were making out and the height didn’t bother me at all. Some bridge climbers I saw though did turn around before they reached the top as they found it too much !

When a customer of ours sent in his holiday report for us to publish on our blog I decided to put his story on our blog and not mine. The reason being that this customer is 70 years of age. If he can climb the bridge so can you !

Watch a video of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb then read the fascinating report

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhu7E7ONve8]

 A personal experience of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb

We are all familiar with the five words of sensible advise “Don’t drink if You Drive” but when I visited Australia last year I encountered a slight variation to those words of well being-“Don’t Drink if You Climb” ! I am referring to the world famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the best Sydney tours, where one of the requirements before you climb it is that you are breathalysed!

At the age of 70 I achieved yet another of my ambitions by climbing it during an around the world trip I made, and must admit the ascent was easier than I anticipated. In fact I would describe it more of a steep walk than the “Climb of your life” for which the ascent is billed. OK I suppose you could say I was reasonably fit for my age. I have to be seeing I am still actively engaged in two of my hobbies of SCUBA diving and mountain trekking.

It is stressed climbers must be physically fit with no fear of ladders which you have to climb up and down on many occasions during your walk of 1500 metres over the gentle metal curve of The Bridge sometimes nicknamed as the “Coathanger.” It should present no problem to the average reasonably fit person although I did hear a couple in my group complaining of aches in their calf muscles at times! As mentioned you will need to pass a breath test before the climb, so don’t have a drink beforehand! Other stipulations are climbers must be over 12 and you will be asked to complete a declaration form of the Bridge Climb’s terms and conditions. Continue reading “A 70 year old’s view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb”

Venice – just amazing ! – Holiday Review

Venice – a unique place that makes it a place that will inspire you for a lifetime.

I had heard lots about Venice before I finally decided to spend a short break in the city. I had this picture of Venice in my head; a picture of over commercialism and dirty smelly canals. How wrong I was, because the reality of Venice is far different to what I imagined. When you arrive at Venice airport you have several ways that you can travel to the city. The most expensive way is to travel by water taxi, although if you can share a water taxi this can reduce the cost. The advantages of a water taxi are that you will be taken from outside the airport to as close as you can get to your hotel. Also, the views from the boat as you arrive in Venice itself are staggering.

rialto Bridge

Other ways to get to Venice include buses or the public waterbus. The waterbus is relatively cheap but it takes longer than a taxi and will make several stops before arriving in Venice. But you will still get excellent views of Venice as you arrive from the sea.

If you can afford it I would recommend travelling by water taxi because it is a unique experience arriving in Venice this way. You will feel like a celebrity as you weave in and out of all the narrow canals and avoid the slower moving gondolas.

Venice Island

Before you visit Venice it is worth doing a little reading about the history of the city, because it makes fascinating reading. The first settlements on the Venice Lagoon islands date back to the 5th and 6th centuries, when the inhabitants from the mainland came to this swamp area to escape the barbaric invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Gradually small houses on stilts were built and eventually walkways were built on wooden platforms. Venice, from the beginning, was always an important trading area and many wars were fought over it.

As you enter Venice the first thing you will see are the incredible churches that dominate the skyline and the red coloured roofs of the houses. I was making the visit to Venice in July and the weather was very hot. If you visit during winter it is advisable to take a pair of wellies as the rising tides can cause flooding and you may well find yourself walking through St. Marks Square in a foot of water!

St. Marks Square

Venice is such a fascinating place. It is a city of winding narrow streets with pavement cafes and designer shops. You will need a good street map and a good sense of direction if you don’t want to get lost. The city is like a maze and the first time you leave your hotel you will get a sense of panic as you wonder how you will ever find your way back to your hotel. But, you always do so don’t worry too much. Getting to know the city on foot is the best way but you can always catch a waterbus, which gives you a chance to admire the unique buildings as you pass slowly by.

The must-see places in my opinion are St Marks Square; the square is unchanged over the centuries and can be seen on many of the Renaissance paintings. Just sitting at one of the (expensive) cafes sipping a cool drink listening to the beautiful music and watching the world go by is one of my favourite memories. The Basilica is well worth seeing, the beautiful gold interior is stunning and a trip up the Campanile (the Bell Tower) gives you the most fantastic views over the rooftops to the Lagoon and the islands. Another of my favourite places was the Bovola tucked away amongst the houses this snail shaped tower is in a quiet courtyard giving fantastic views over the terracotta rooftops.

Wandering along the traffic free pavements and criss-crossing the labyrinth of canals really gives you a sense of the history of Venice and so much is unchanged. The stylish palaces along the length of the Grand Canal, best viewed from the waterbuses, are fascinating. The nobility of Venice in the Middle Ages had seriously good taste when it came to designing their houses! One other place worth visiting is the island of Burano. Just a short trip by waterbus takes you to this brightly coloured little island where time seems to have stood still.

Venice canal

It amazed me to see everyday life on the canals……food delivered to the hotels by boat, police and fire boats, refuse collection by boats ,the waterbuses, we even saw some teenagers stopped for speeding in their boats. It was certainly crowded in some popular spots with large groups of tourists being herded around for example by the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges palace. The heat in the summer can be overwhelming, my advice is to carry a bottle of water all the time and to try and walk in the shade….easily done with all the little alleyways. We were warned that Venice could be a little smelly but apart from the occasional slight whiff of a drain it was wasn’t at all!

Venice is, by all accounts, sinking so go and visit whilst you have the chance, it is definitely my favourite city break destination and I can’t wait to return.

Sorrento Holiday Review

Italy is one of my favourite places. I have been many times before and have visited Tuscany, Lake Garda, Venice, Verona, Florence, and Rome. I’m just back from Sorrento which is near Naples on the Amalfi coast in southern Italy. The area is otherwise known as the Neapolitan Riviera.

We flew from Manchester airport to Naples. Naples airport is not too bad. It’s efficient at handling luggage, which is the main thing. Once out of the airport there was a coach waiting for us to take us on the 2 hour drive to our hotel in Sorrento.

The road to Sorrento from Naples follows the coast road. The first part of the trip is on a dual carriageway before you join the winding road that has spectacular views out over the sea. On the way to our hotel we passed, on our left, the amazing sight of Mount Vesuvius. The first thing that struck me was the fact that the area below Vesuvius is densely populated. Apparently, there are 1 million people living directly next to the volcano. Rather them than me was what I was thinking!

We stopped to drop off people at other hotels before we arrived at our hotel, The Aminta. The hotel is situated at the far end of Sorrento up a hill and round lots of hairpin bends and about a mile out of the town.

Our hotel room had a fantastic sea view out over the Bay of Naples. The Neapolitan Riviera has a reputation for having one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and I have to say that I think the reputation is justified.

The hotel Aminta is a very good hotel in my opinion. It is suitable for anyone wanting a quiet holiday, although there is a little bit of traffic noise from the busy road. It takes about 30 minutes to walk down the hill to Sorrento town but there is a free bus service that runs every hour. Continue reading “Sorrento Holiday Review”

Las Vegas, California and Hawaii Holiday Review

It’s great when a customer sends us a written report about their holiday. These two holdiay reviews are about holidays to Las Vegas, California and Hawaii

When my partner said he really wanted to go to Las Vegas, California and Hawaii, I said I didn’t mind but I am so glad he talked me round to going.

We knew we wanted to travel when we got there and bought a map to decide where we fancied going – it wasn’t until we arrived in America and bought a more detailed map that we realised the size of the place!!

Originally we wanted to travel from Vegas to Napa Valley and the Red wood forest then down to San Francisco to Mexico and back to Vegas within 2 weeks – not a chance!!

As we weren’t totally sure where we were heading we booked a direct flight from Manchester to Vegas, 2 nights in the Hotel Circus Circus (purely because we’d heard of it) and we booked a rental car for 2 weeks. Plus our flight back – Vegas direct to Manchester.

The car rental place was just around the corner from the airport and as we were leaving we picked up a few free brochures which was our best move ever. A bit like travel guides full of vouchers for discount hotel prices.

Whilst queuing for our car we were warned by another couple that the company would try and talk us into upgrading our car. They did try to get us to upgrade but we stuck to our guns and they upgraded for free anyway! As neither of us at the time were 25 or over it cost an extra $15 per day for the car so only one of us drove.

We spent the next 2 days walking around with our mouths open in awe of the Las Vegas Strip…….. Continue reading “Las Vegas, California and Hawaii Holiday Review”