My first holiday abroad was to the beautiful Puerto Pollensa on the north coast of Majorca with my Mum, Dad and two brothers. That holiday gave me my taste for travel and I’m sure was part of the reason I wanted to be a Travel Agent ( it was just so exciting booking a holiday!)
It’s only taken me 30 (ish) years to come back and visit this dramatic coast again, (this time Port Soller) and it has lost none of it’s magic.
This holiday was about rejuvenation and exploration- so for the first time ever, our hiking boots and anoraks were in a suitcase alongside our swimsuits and sandals.
Port Soller is a picturesque village, a natural harbour full of amazing restaurants, jaw dropping views, lighthouses and a San Francisco style tram that links the port to Soller Town. It’s breathtaking backdrop is thanks to the Serra De Tramuntana which separates the ‘Valley Of Gold’ from the rest of Majorca.
The Serra De Tramuntana was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011 so we couldn’t wait to tie up our walking boots and make our way along part of the famous ‘Ruta de Pedra en Sec’( the dry stone path) We chose the section of the mountain path that took us from Port Soller to Deia. The routes takes you though stone terraced olive groves, high into the clouds and past beautiful fincas (some serving good coffee and amazing apple cake) until climbing the stones steps into ancient Deia. The walk is about 12km and they say takes about 3 hours – I think if you ask Nick, that will all depend on how many photos your wife takes 😊)
Deia is very beautiful, perched gracefully at the foot of the mountains over looking the Mediterranean. It attracts artists and writers, walkers and cyclists and has a lovely selection of eateries! We chose a lovely pizzeria called ‘Es Punt’ a great pizza complimented by our first try of Majorcan Red Wine – delicious.
We jumped on the bus back to Port Soller which run every hour, a spectacular journey (not for the faint hearted)
This is the most iconic hiking route in Mallorca, the ‘Ruta de Pedra en Sec’ or Dry Stone Route follows 168.4km of signposted trails through dry stonework terraces where olive trees have been growing for centuries, mountain villages, pine and holm oak forests and olive groves, also offering breathtaking sea views and we couldn’t wait to do our next section…
A couple of days later we took the Tram connecting the port to Soller, what a delightful way to travel. The tram and it’s wagons are 1913 originals and in perfect condition. It cost €7 each to trundle along the bay, through orange groves and central streets reaching the tram station in Soller. The tram station links up with the Tren De Soller (Soller Train).
Inaugurated in 1912 you can travel between Soller and Palma using the trains and wagons from that same period. The journey is meant to be beautiful, crossing over the Serra D’Alfabia through tunnels, over viaducts and through the Soller Valley. We didn’t have enough time to do have this adventure on this trip but is a must do next time we visit. Todays visit was about walking from Soller to Fornalutz (which enjoys the status of being one of ‘The Most Beautiful Town In Spain’) -maybe an hour or two’s walk. To be honest we didn’t look at our watches. We were to busy looking in awe at the citrus groves which fringed the bottom of the mountains with bold colours, the crystal clear rivers and swooping swallows dancing in the sky. It’s a pretty steady walk, making your way through the small hamlet of Biniaraix with its fresh water wells and cobbled streets along the river with views over the valley and up the steep streets to the historic centre of Fornalutz. The Parish Church overlooks the lively square filled with cafes (yes more apple cake) art galleries and museums. It really does live up to its title.
We had only come to Majorca for a few days and wanted to explore the town of Soller a bit more before jumping back on the tram back to the port. Our whistle shop tour took us to the main street, ‘Calle de la Lluna (Moon Street), home to lots of boutiques, independent shops and a handful delicatessens. The town is full of beautiful homes, retaining old features and charm and it’s a really pleasure to walk through the maze of cool stone alleyways. We had enough time to enjoy a large beer and take in the incredible architecture of Constitution Square. The baroque church stands proudly over looking the vibrant space, filled with bars and restaurants. The Banco de Soller and the town hall are also here, both stunning buildings. There is so much more to see and do in the town including botanical gardens and museums
So what’s left to tell you…
… Port Soller. The perfect base for our 5 night break. We fell in love with it as soon as we arrived! We stayed in the Hotel Aimia on a bed and breakfast basis and had the most wonderful side sea view.
The team that worked at the hotel were so welcoming and knowledgeable and made our stay here brilliant. As I mentioned our trip was about rejuvenation, the lovely spa area and treatments definitely helped with that. We didn’t have chance to use the outdoor pool, however it was a great area with nice sun beds, seating and bar service. The location was perfect, right in the centre of the bay. To one side you have the old town of Santa Catalina full of wonderful charm, quirky shops and restaurants and then, as you cross the bridge you can enjoy the beaches of Es Traves and Ca’n Repic. Walk along the tree lined pedestrianised promenade and enjoy some tapas or a cocktail overlooking the sea.
The public transport is just fantastic and so organised, you can travel from Port Soller all over the island by train and bus.
There are so many restaurants to choose from, the foodies in Nick and I were in heaven – here are a few recommendations…
Beach Front Vibes – Es Reco Bistro
Amazing Paella – Es Raco Des Port
A Menu with a Twist – C’an Ribes
Something really special – Vint
Majorca isn’t always a top on the list for a early season getaway, the weather can be mixed but we will definitely be back the same time next year. I remember a lovely waitress saying to me ‘this is a great time of year- you can hear the sea’ and that was the thing – out of season everyone had time, time to chat, time to smile, time to say hello. It was just lovely.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and please get in touch with me for more information.
We have just returned from a 4 night/3 day Jet2CityBreak to Barcelona and it was fabulous… the weather was great – 18 degrees and sunny!
Being a city break package our trip included 22kg luggage per person which was great as we didn’t need to worry about restrictions for this short duration and would have plenty of room for souvenirs 😊
We flew from Leeds Bradford at 4.30pm on Easter Sunday and despite being forewarned by Jet2 about French Air Traffic Control strikes and Swissport strikes on that day, it was the quickest we’ve ever got through bag drop off and security, in fact we even departed a couple of minutes early!
We arrived at Barcelona on time and headed to our hotel. We hadn’t booked transfers as we originally thought about getting the metro. However, when we headed that way we noticed it was very quiet and being Easter Sunday we weren’t sure whether all the services would be running especially in the evening. Instead we used Uber which arrived within 5 minutes and we were at our hotel in around 25 minutes, the cost was approx. 30 Euros.
We stayed at the INNSiDE Barcelona Apolo Hotel which was in the Theatre District. The hotel was modern and bright, and the reception staff were very welcoming. The rooms were lovely and clean and spacious with a lovely big bed (and huge pillows!!!!), refreshments were provided including juice and water in the fridge. There’s a small bar area and a large lobby with plenty of seating. We didn’t find the Terrace Restaurant as this didn’t open until 7pm and we were usually out and about but the photos on the website looked lovely. It was a 15-minute walk to the Port area and a similar distance to La Rambla so a really good central location. There was a metro station literally minutes away. Across the road was a Café 365 which was perfect for a croissant and coffee in the morning for breakfast and was so reasonable, 2 croissants for 1.60 Euros and they were very tasty. These cafes are found all over Barcelona and are good for lunch too.
We booked on to a City Tour Bus on our first day (it’s become a bit of a tradition for us as a family to get on a tour bus especially on the top deck!!), we like to have a good look around and get our bearings, it’s great for hopping on and off and getting around. Just remember to tie your hair back as it gets a bit blustery on the top deck, Dad didn’t have that trouble though😂 We caught the bus near the Port and had lots of photo opportunities along the route. We pre-booked but you can get tickets on the day and there are 2 Bus companies offering tours. We used Barcelona Bus Turistic which did seem a bit quieter so more availability on the top deck.
We finished the day by walking down La Rambla down to the Port where we stopped for refreshments by the sea, it was lovely and sunny with a breeze so perfect weather.
Day 2 was a Gaudi Day. We had pre-booked tickets to La Sagrada Familia and to Parc Guell as we’d read that you were best pre-booking to guarantee entry. It was a 50-minute walk from our hotel to La Sagrada so we decided to get the metro which was so easy. A Single trip is 2.40 Euros per person however after researching a bit more we could get a Family ticket for 10 Euros which covered 8 journeys so this worked out cheaper, you can buy online and collect your ticket at the metro station using a code.
You can also get the Hola Barcelona Card, which covers travel for a selected number of days. We didn’t opt for this as it was our intention to walk more places but time wise it may be beneficial. We got the metro a few times but still managed to clock up 1000s of steps every day so definitely make sure you have comfortable shoes.
We arrived at La Sagrada a little bit early, but they allowed us in after going through security. It is simply Amazing, it’s definitely one of those WOW moments when you walk in through the door, the detail is out of this world and phenomenal. We booked to go up one of the Towers and got a view of the city, plus you got to look at the detail on the outside of the Cathedral and see the work that is currently still being undertaken. Definitely one to tick off the bucket list.
Our next stop was at Parc Guell, again we had pre-booked tickets for 2pm. There were limited tickets available on the day for much later on so definitely worth pre-booking. We stopped at a Café nearby for a spot of lunch before going to the Parc. It was very busy, but we were able to look around and get plenty of photos.
Day 3 we booked a stadium tour at Camp Nou, home of Barcelona Football Team. A must for football fans, even my Mum and Sister were impressed. It was fascinating to see the number of trophies they have won, they really are one of the biggest teams in the world. The pitch was amazing, we took plenty of selfies and photos!
My Sister had researched places to go whilst we were there and found Poble Espanyol which is an open-air architectural museum where you walk through different areas of Spain such as Andalusia and Galicia, it is made up of streets, squares and recreations of traditional buildings throughout Spain. We did this in the afternoon on our last day.
We had hoped to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc during our stay however we didn’t realise the showtimes were only on certain days so make sure to check the timings to co-ordinate with your visit dates if this is something you want to see.
We found a Tapas restaurant we wanted to try called Guell Tapas, this was located off La Rambla. The first night we tried they were fully booked, same on the second night however we managed to book in for the Wednesday night and we are so glad we did. It was busy even though there were plenty of tables, so clearly a popular choice. The menu had plenty to choose from, we had the Paella and it was divine, really worth the wait. Top Tip – pre book to make sure you get a table. You’ll find it on the street Carrer Nou de la Rambla.
With plenty of sites to see, lots of photo opportunities, shopping and many places to eat and drink, Barcelona is definitely recommended for a city break, with flights from Leeds Bradford it was a perfect getaway!
We like to make life as easy as possible on travel day so often we book a hotel the night before. We stayed at Ryland Farmhouse, about 5 miles from Manchester Airport which was perfectly adequate for the night and had the full English breakfast it was one of the best I’ve ever had!
Top Tip; Being Tesco shoppers, we get Clubcard points and use our rewards to book a hotel the night before through Hotels.com. It normally costs about £25-£30 (we do lots of shopping), but it certainly makes it a much cheaper option.
We pre-booked the ‘drop & go’ parking at Manchester, which makes life so much easier on the day – Once the keys were dropped it was less than a 5 minute walk to the terminal (and I have short legs!). Whilst we were checking was some confusion around the luggage allowance and that we had to pay £130 for excess luggage, although Arundel were close, I called the wonderful Helen and she asked us if we were able to pay it and she’d get it refunded when we return. Helen also made sure there would be no problems for the return flight –
“One of the massive benefits of using Arundel Travel is the exceptional service you get. If there is ever a problem, you are totally reassured it will get sorted as you know you are dealing with people and they appreciate your business! ”
We made it to the Aspire lounge, we do like our ‘free’ wine and comfy seats in a quiet area before a flight. The food options are a little limited, but having already had a fabulous breakfast we didn’t have to worry about that today!
We flew with Air Transat on a direct flight from Manchester to Toronto. They are a Charter flight so you don’t get as many benefits as you do with a scheduled flight such as British Airways, this is reflected in the cost – you do get a meal with with a glass of wine and a snack, however for anything else you are directed to the food and drink menu and pay for. You could pay for a premium option to include some drinks and snacks, but I think this was significantly more! Air Transat is a basic airline, but the staff were lovely. They were all very normal people, a lot were older and just kind and considerate.
Once we arrived in Toronto we opted for the train/metro. It’s a little walk to the station which is sign posted and from there we caught a free train to Terminal 1. Our hotel was downtown so we bought a one way ticket to Union Station which was about 24$ (£18) for the 2 of us and then got a 2 trip pass to Dundas Station which was about 13$.
TOP TIP: If you use the TTC in under 2 hours they don’t deduct a fare so we went to the hotel, unpacked and went out for dinner on 1, then back from dinner on the second.
You can get a daily pass, but by the time we were going for dinner it was 5:30pm in Toronto and 10:30pm UK time and having left the hotel at 8am, we knew we needed a relatively early night!!
Like we do in the UK, we pre booked a reservation for our evening meal. We ate Goodmans Bar and Grill – After a long day of unhealthy food, feeling tired and dehydrated, this was just what we needed! Tim my husband ordered a cheeseburger and I ordered the seared tuna sandwich which came with really delicious fries too to get a good mix of comfort and healthy food!
Tim tried a local beer, the Mill Street Original Organic beer, which is brewed a couple of blocks away, and really enjoyed it.
We had a lovely surprise when the bill came – the bottles of wine were half price on a Wednesday! We heard about this at another bar too, so Wednesday is a good day to treat yourselves to a bottle of wine in Toronto 😊
It was a lovely meal, which including tip cost about £80
We were exhausted and wanted to take some wine back to the hotel so our server gave us a bag to carry our leftover wine back in. It’s against the law here to drink alcohol in public places so you have to be quite careful when carrying open bottles around!
Travelling really is quite exhausting, especially with a 5 hour time difference. We got to bed at 9pm, equivalent to 2am UK time which is pretty late on a Wednesday!
Just so you know- in Canada there is a federal tax that is levied by the government that is a set 5% and a state tax of 6 to 10% which varies between provenances. This often gets combined to a single tax called the ‘Harmonized Sales Tax’ in Ontario which is the state we were in, the combined total was 13% The tipping etiquette in Canada is similar to the USA and it customary to tip between 15 – 20%. Generally they give you a receipt with a calculation at the bottom of what the tip would be at 15%, 18% and 20%. If you pay by card the choices are on the card machine.
After such a long day yesterday, we had a slow start this morning and a rare treat of not setting the alarm clock! We caught a train to Union on the TTC which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, The Chelsea.
Just across from where the train comes in is ‘The Path’. An underground network of over 1200 shops and cafes that is very useful, especially when pouring with rain or the temperature drop well below freezing. According to the Guinness Book of Records it’s the largest underground shopping complex in the world! We weren’t there for the shopping so it wasn’t really our cup of tea, however, we found the Danish Pastry House which had the most amazing selection of pastries.
We then walked to the CN Tower. We had seen online that you can go to the viewing platform after dinner, ideally we wanted to see Toronto before it was dark so asked if this was possible. The really lovely young lad said we could go up to the viewing platform before the meal so just turn up 30 minutes early. Unfortunately this was not the case and they make you pay for the meal before allowing you your “free” visit to the viewing platform.
It was amazing just to see and wander around and see the CN Tower! It’s not the prettiest of buildings, but so iconic.
From here walked to the harbour. We’d been last night but it looked very different on a dry sunny day rather than a miserable wet evening.
From there we walked to the Distillery Historic District which was about 3k from the harbour. We got there far too early, as most places were closed until about 4, however you could tell would be an amazing place to go on an evening. Through the day it had a really chilled vibe, but you can just imagine it’s really lively and buzzy. There were also plenty of places to sit out when it’s warm – Easter is just too early for this. 🥶
We had a wander round and popped into Mill Street for a drink. Food was on our mind so we left and had a look at restaurants but the only other restaurants that were open (a Tapas place and an Asian fusion restaurant) were really expensive charging 85/90$ for a bottle of wine compared with most places charging 42-48$ so we went back and had lunch at Mill street, another delicious seared tuna sandwich! This was also the brewery that had brewed Tim’s pint from the evening before. The food in Canada on the whole is delicious. Though nothing is cheap…
St Lawrence Market, another place the guide book told us we should visit. The produce looked amazing and there were places in here to buy food and some tables to sit at. There was also a shop to buy wine but because you’re not supposed to drink in a public place you could be given little paper cups to drink out of. The lady assured us that lots of people do this but we didn’t feel comfortable with it.
The Fairmont New York is the most beautiful building and when you walk in you are blown away by the beauty of the place. It was absolutely fabulous with pianist playing – A little moment of heaven. We treat ourselves to a drink here. We both went for cocktails and sipped them very slowly to soak the ambiance up! As you would expect, it wasn’t cheap (a slight understatement) but lovely and really worth it for the experience. Sadly, the Pianist finished for a break at 4pm. If we went again we would check out the times he plays so we didn’t miss it! As he finished, the lights dimmed and gentlish pop music played.
After returning to the hotel to change we were out for dinner at The Keg steakhouse. It was very buzzy and lively. Good steaks, served with hot beetroot. The wine was reasonable, about 30$ a bottle. 26oz is 1 bottle. 5oz is 142ml. 6oz is 177ml which is a uk medium glass.
Not quite ready for home, we tried to find somewhere to go on the way back to the hotel. There was a Jazz bar which sounded amazing but unfortunately it was 20$ each to get in and as we were only planning to be out another 30 – 60 minutes, we decided it was too much to pay. It seemed lots of bars close at 10pm on Thursdays.
Easter is a big holiday here, and we visited over the easter weekend, so we found on Good Friday lots of the shops and cafes were closed in fact we went back to The Path for a Danish Pastry and the shop was closed – we had to have a ‘Tim Hortons’ – basically a Canadian McDonald’s. This was a real low point for us and the only recommendation we can make is please don’t waste your money! The bars on and evening also closed early so maybe have drinks before your meal if you want to have a later night out!
We caught the ferry to Toronto Islands. The ferry boats go to 3 different islands: Centre, Harlan’s and Ward. The islands are all connected so you can walk between the. We choose to get a ticket to Ward. This cost around 7$ for a return ticket. The ferry is pretty basic and only has seating inside – so wrap up warm. We were lucky the sun was shining and we stood on the deck admiring the skyline. The shops and services here don’t really open until early May so it seemed a little run down, that said, it was lovely just walking round and the views were amazing looking back over Toronto. In the summer there is a beach to sit on and a cafe and restaurant and I can imagine lots of locals get the ferry across for the open space
The Goodmans Pub on the harbour was a great spot for lunch: had nice views, good food, and it was cheaper than a lot of places.
We had pre-booked the CN Tower for dinner in the 360 degree rotating restaurant. It takes 72 mins to rotate fully and you are allowed 90 mins at the table. We got there early as we were hoping to go the viewing platform before dinner, however as I mentioned previously this want the case and ended up having 2 hours in the restaurant, it was quite quiet, if they were busy I can imagine they would be much stricter. I would definitely say to do this experience- it was amazing, the food was very mediocre, by far the worst food we had on the trip but the view was phenomenal.
Having paid for meal you can go to the viewing platform downstairs but it was absolutely rammed so we went back up the stairs to the 360 restaurant and got the lift down without queues. The lift is glass so you can see the view going up and down. Dinner for us was 327$ plus tip. We had 2 courses at 75$ each (90$ for three) but having said it was our anniversary we got a free pudding to share which was delicious, the best part of the meal!
The service was also quite poor, with Tim’s plate being removed while I was still eating, but again the views made up for this!
TOP TIP: Make sure you pre book your table- obviously the weather is something that can never be guaranteed so maybe check the long range forecast. You are not able to book a window seat either, so if it’s an anniversary or celebration make sure you let them know! We also checked the sunset time before booking so we had planned about an hour before sunset and half an hour after. We were so lucky as we had a beautiful clear night.
The following day, we picked up the hire car that was included in our package. The package was to pick up in the centre of Toronto and drop off at the airport, there was a charge of for this, but because the car hire company hadn’t advised about this, they only charges $25 rather than $70.
It’s worth googling car hire hints and tips before you go as the car hire companies don’t give out much advise: Be aware you can undertake and if you’re turning right you have to let pedestrians cross. Due to the extremes in temperature, the roads are pretty bumpy too potentially worse than in the UK.
We stopped at Vineland on the way to Niagara on the Lake (NOTL), another recommendation we had received. We did a wine tasting, 3 x 2oz glasses for 16$ sitting on a mezzanine floor above the farm / wine shop. We then drove onto the Queens Landing Hotel which had a large free car park at the front and was in a decent location. The locals we spoke to said it was the best hotel in NOTL. She told us our room didn’t have a view so I asked if we could upgrade but got short sharp shrift that it was booked by a third party and they weren’t allowed to offer us any kind of upgrade. It’s a shame as the back of the hotel overlooked a small marina which would have been lovely to look over.
Lunch was at Corks. It had a lovely glass conservatory style frontage and looked lovely with the sun shining in. I had the special which was a Buffalo chicken wrap, which was to die for. Deep fried chicken breast with buffalo sauce and ranch sauce, grated parmesan, iceberg lettuce. Slightly spicy and very large but beautiful. 21$. Worth every penny. Tim had the chicken Caesar wrap which he also said was gorgeous but there was no food envy going on from me! We went to Corks again for dinner as other places very expensive or quite empty and managed to get a window seat – there’s definitely a theme. Our lovely waitress recommended we to go to The Angel Inn where they had live music. It was absolutely fabulous and the pub just got busier and busier throughout the evening. It was full of locals, some Canadians and some ex-pats who were all so friendly and welcoming. Good to get there a bit earlier, we were there about 8.30, to get a seat.
We’d walked round in the afternoon and found the underground fort. It literally took a couple of minute look round as you couldn’t access all parts of it, but the views were amazing and you could see across to Toronto and the CN Tower. Luck was definitely on outside with the weather, clear blue skies again! We found a great Golf Club too. The view from the golf club was amazing, straight across the lake towards America! The Dinner menu looked expensive but the breakfast menu looked delicious and great value. There was a buffet breakfast starting at 10am as it was Easter Sunday, but they were also serving the normal breakfast 8-9am. We booked a table for 8.45am the following morning and breakfast was great with the most magnificent view. The golf club was virtually empty but I got a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea – a joke in our family that wherever I am in the world I ask for English Breakfast.
We set off early and drove to Niagara Falls for the last stage of our journey. We realised we had missed another Fort on the road out of NOTL but decided to carry on going. On the way we stopped to have a look at the Whirlpool Areo Car. This is a cable car that has been in operation since 1916 and is suspended from 6 sturdy cables which gives wonderful views of the Niagara Whirlpool – It was about 17$ each, it wasn’t for us, so we drove the White Water Walk. You travel down 70 metres in an elevator that was built in the 1930s onto the gorge, and then walked through the 73 metre ‘leaky’ tunnel – What a wonderful experience! The power and speed of the water is incredible and we’d definitely recommend you doing it first before you see the falls as once you’ve seen the falls you’d probably be less impressed 😉
There is car parking all over around the area for around $30. We choose to park at our hotel for 45$ a day as we thought it was safer and easier just to keep it close.
We saw the Falls … wow, wow wow. Absolutely incredible another tick on a bucket list of thing to see…
We had a little wander round and then went to Table Rock welcome centre and the restaurant in there. Incredible views over the falls, which obviously is reflected in the price. We had the smoked salmon sandwich with chips which we shared and was lovely. The portions here are so big it’s crazy! In fact we enjoyed it here so much we had exactly the same lunch here the next day!
We had pre-booked dinner up the Skylon, again having checked the sunset time so we could see the Falls by day and night. We mentioned about our wedding anniversary again and managed to get a table by the window. I had the Canadian Smoked Salmon and Tim had the Shrimps and Scallops Provencale for a starter – Both were delicious. For mains, Tim chose the striploin steak which was really tough and I had the seafood pasta which was huge and quite nice. When we mentioned about Tim’s steak, they offered a free dessert instead. The food and service were much better than the CN towers.
The Casinos at Niagara are the biggest in Canada, so we had to go for a look. It was a crazy place and we were slightly overwhelmed so didn’t end up having a go, but it was well worth visiting to watch those brave enough to risk losing their money.
On Monday, out last full day in Canada, we had breakfast up The Tower, just opposite our hotel. When looking at the menu the day before, the waiter told us it was an IHOP breakfast. IHOP is an American Pancake firm that’s specialises in American Breakfast – we didn’t really enjoy it, and found that it wasn’t good value for money, but again your paying for the incredible view.
We had prebooked the Maid in the Mist, but this wasn’t running so we went on the Hornblower instead. It was absolutely incredible, it was very wet and windy and I’m really not sure I had fully anticipated the strength and ferocity of it all.
I would definitely say to take a waterproof cover for your phone! They give you a poncho but holding your phone up to take photos and videos allows the water to go down your sleeves and also in the gap by your face. You will definitely need to dry off afterwards, or go and change your clothes.
We were lucky and sat in the sun having a lovely glass of wine as we got off the boat. It was about 25$ for 2 x 9oz glasses.
After lunch we did the ‘Behind the Falls self guided tour’ that was included in our holiday. (It was about 24$ each if you had to pay.) A series of tunnels getting you up close and personal. When you actually go behind the falls you are in the tunnel completely protected about 15 feet back and behind a fence, so not in any danger at all. You also go to the edge of the Falls and see the volume of water coming over the edge. You stay completely dry doing this but and it was worth it.
Dinner at the Keg, the same menu as in Toronto(so we knew what to expect). We asked for a window table so waited at the bar for one to become available. I never tired of this view – absolutely worth the wait. The Keg are renowned for steaks but I just didn’t fancy another so I had the calamari and tuna tartare starters at 22$ each. Both were huge and really good value. Tim had the scallop and bacon starter and got about 8 scallops wrapped in bacon on a skewer, again about 22$.
After dinner we caught the Fenicula down to the front by the Falls. 3.50$ each way or 8$ for a day pass. The falls looked spectacular lit up, and fabulous to be so close and hear the sound of water crashing over the edge.
We set the alarm early the next day to see the sunrise over the falls which was beautiful. We left the hotel about 9 and headed back to the Golf Club at Niagara on the Lake for another of their fabulous breakfast with a lovely view over the lake. The staff here are great and everyone just so friendly. We stopped at the Fort we missed a few days earlier- but this is seemingly only open weekends 10-5. We then headed to Lock 3 on the Welland canal. It’s a popular place to watch ship navigate one of the world engineering marvels. The outdoor discovery park also gives you chance to soak up the local history.
We’d decided to come back to Toronto early as we wanted a nice meal before our flight left. We dropped of the car and found a place at the airport to leave our bags safely which cost 20$ each bag for 8 hours and caught the UP Express to Union’ (a rail link from the airport to downtown Toronto) it takes about 27 mins and costs 12.35$ each and and walked to the harbour from there to find a restaurant (about 10-15 minute walk)
And then it was home time…At about 5.30 we set off back to the airport, collected our luggage and waited for our flight home.
… this was one of the best trips we’ve ever been on! The Canadians are just the most lovely, kind and helpful people. We did some amazing things and saw some incredible views.
There was the right amount of time in each location to see what we needed to see. We ate really well but did spend quite a bit of money. We didn’t take any Canadian dollars and were able to put everything on our Starling bank or Tesco Credit card.
All in all, we’re buzzing since we got home and would recommend this trip to anyone who is limited to time but wants a proper bucket list trip! Thanks Helen and the Arundel Travel team!
Last November, after years of wishing, hoping, and planning…
…this mum finally went to Iceland!
I’ve always wanted to see the northern lights and I am fascinated by wild, wintery landscapes; so Iceland has been on my wish list for quite a few years. My other half loves warm and sunny climes, so it took me a while to persuade him to dig out the thermals and experience this amazing country…. Plus the added incentive of a whale watching trip helped, as whales were on his bucket list😉
After excitedly visiting Arundel travel to book our departure day came, packing our suitcases with plenty of warm and waterproof clothing (just in case!) we were on our way.
Flying from Leeds Bradford is always a bonus, as it’s only 15 minutes from home, and easy to navigate.
The flight passed comfortably and quickly, and soon we were landing at Reykjavik. The first views of this magical island were real ‘wow’ moments, the landscape was almost other worldly.
After a short coach transfer, we were dropped at the Skuggi hotel. What a gem! Cosy and welcoming, with some fantastic local artwork in the bar and reception areas. After an efficient check in, we were shown to our room. Everything was spotlessly clean, minimalistic and tastefully decorated (and warm!) After a very brief unpack and donning another layer, we headed out into the sunshine to explore.
First (after consulting the wonderful reception staff) we decided to visit the famous Hallgrimskirkjachurch, about a 10 minute stroll away. Beautiful and imposing, it dominates the skyline. Entrance is free, and it’s well worth a visit to take photos of both the exterior and stunning interior.
After this, we set off to explore more of Reykjavik. Although cold, the sun was still shining, so we headed down towards the seafront.
As well as spectacular views of the sea and mountains, the gorgeous little streets are full of individual shops, bars and cafes. We walked down the rainbow road, and soon found ourselves at the waters edge.
The views were fantastic and the sculptures were fascinating – from the cairns along the seafront to the sun voyager sculpture, representing ‘the promise of undiscovered territory, and a dream of hope, progress and freedom’.
We had booked our Jet2citybreak package through Arundel Travel and this included a free northern lights excursion. The weather was going to be clear that night so we our trip was going ahead as planned! We headed back to the hotel for a little rest, before gathering up another extra layer of clothing and heading out to eat before our trip started!
TOP TIP; Eating out is expensive in Iceland, as is drinking. Take advantage of the duty free shop in Keflavik airport before heading to the baggage claim.
We found a lovely restaurant 2 minutes from the hotel called Loa ( it was next to where we were getting collected by the coach) Although we hadn’t booked, we were made welcome by the friendly staff. They really went out of their way to help. A member of our party was coeliac and they even baked her some fresh gluten free bread ! The meal was delicious, all made from local produce.
Then, the skies were dark and it was time to cross our fingers for a glimpse of the aurora borealis as we climbed aboard the coach !
Be prepared and wrap up warm, it was absolutely freezing, but no one was complaining !
As we left the lights of Reykjavik behind, we noticed some fuzzy white stripes in the sky, only to be told that they were the aurora beginning to appear! We drove along dark roads into the middle of nowhere towards viewing area in Thingvellir national park, The excitement was contagious! We hopped of the the coach and looked up at the clear, moonlit sky. What an absolutely amazing experience watching the lights dance for over 2 hours – spotting shooting stars and drinking hot cocoa…
Then, everyone sporting enormous grins and cold hands (difficult to take photos with gloves on!) we headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep, after a fantastic first day.
FACT: the geometric glass reflects the sunlight, changing colour with the time of day and the weather.
Day 2. Another lovely bright day and because the sea was calm we decided to do a whale watching trip from Reykjavik harbour. After a fantastic complimentary breakfast in the hotel, we strolled down towards the harbour. As we were early for our trip, we called into the Harpa concert hall and conference centre in the old harbour, for a coffee. Amazing architecture both outside and in.
FACT: The geometric glass reflects the sunlight, changing colour with the time of day and the weather.
We then headed to the harbour boarded our boat and in the sunshine sun made our way out to sea. A lot of staring at the open water followed 😆 the guides were great and kept our interest by giving us information about the habits and characteristics of different whales… … And then we saw them- preceded by their water spouts, 2 whales surfaced near to the boat! What an absolute joy it was to see them, even for a brief few seconds! Well worth the waiting and watching, another fantastic memory from our trip to Iceland.
JUST SO YOU KNOW: we were lucky and didn’t need them, however there are waterproof suits onboard.
Once back on dry land, we headed to the Hard Rock Café for a burger before a twilight stroll around the town. The town is full of quirky buildings and there is artwork everywhere. As all the shops are well heated. A great excuse to pop in and browse (or treat yourself to something unique) and keep warm at the same time.
We also saw the John Lennon Imagine Peace Tower. This is an outdoor light memorial, which is lit on certain dates, from sunset to midnight. It is on Vioey island in Reykjavik, and can be seen from most of the city.
After another restful night at the Skuggi, our next adventure began. We took a trip, booked through the Get my Guide app, to visit national parks, geysers, and waterfalls…
After boarding our assigned coach for the Golden Circle trip, our guide for the day gave us some excellent information and history about Iceland. The coach was warm and comfortable perfect for passing through some stunning scenery en route to our first post of call – the Thingvellir National park. Here we stopped, layered up and walked through the rift valley. This is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. We saw waterfalls, streams and rock formations.
Be warned, the wind chill can be absolutely freezing at times so be prepared walk briskly. The hot chocolate is very welcome when you return to the visitor centre !
Back on board the coach and peeling off a few layers, we next headed towards Haukadalurgeothermal fields – the home of the geysers. The smell of sulphur was a little strong, but didn’t put us off walking up through the steaming landscape to stand next to the great geysir and wait for it to erupt! Many of the rocks have turned green and yellow with the sulphur, and the landscape is quite barren. The visitor centre here has a lovely café, and a shop selling traditional Icelandic gifts and crafts, and it was good to get out of the biting wind to warm up with another a nice mug of hot cocoa.
Next stop was Gullfoss waterfall, where the water of the glacial river Hvita plummets 32 meters into a deep crevice. The sheer power of the waterfall is awe inspiring, as the noise and spray envelop you. The guide continued to explain the history of the area, and offer advice on taking the best photos, but the photos just don’t do it justice.
After leaving the splendour of the waterfall, we were treated to an impromptu stop at a stable, giving us the opportunity to get up close with some Icelandic horses…
…they are small, but magnificent!
Whatever you do though don’t call them pony’s in front of the locals, as they will be offended !
Driving through more dramatic scenery, we made our way to the Kerid crater for a short photo stop, and brief history / geography lesson.
Our guide was great throughout the day, explaining things in a fun, informative way, without swamping us with facts.
More waterfalls, rivers, lakes and mountains followed, as we made our way back towards Reykjavik, after a fantastic day of exploring.
With our last day upon us, we decided to spend the day at the sky lagoon, just outside Reykjavik.
TOP TIP – the Sky Lagoon isn’t accessible by public transport . Our receptionist booked our tickets and arranged our taxi.
After a 30 minute journey, we turned off the main road into what looked like a small trading estate, it did make us wonder where we were being taken! Then we pulled up in front of the spa which is built into the earth, and looks like a large grass covered mound and we were amazed at how large it was inside. The decorations were mainly dark neutrals, wood, glass and slate and the aroma was amazing. We’d paid extra to have private changing facilities, so were led to a row of beautiful individual rooms, containing showers, mirrors, towels, toiletries and baskets for your clothes. After donning our swimwear and taking a quick shower, we entered the outdoor spa pool. The huge spa pool is built into the hillside, overlooks the sea and it’s toasty warm . We swam over to the outdoor pool bar to pick up a glass off fizz, which we sipped whilst gazing out to sea.
You are allowed to buy a maximum of 3 alcoholic drinks per person.
It’s such a relaxing and peaceful experience, despite other tourists and locals chatting around you, never feeling crowded or busy. We then headed into the spa, to start the 7 step spa ritual, which included sauna, steam, mist and body scrub. The view from the sauna was breathtaking, a whole side of the sauna was glass overlooking the sea.. another wow moment.
After another relaxing hour (or 2) in the lagoon, we headed back indoors to visit the restaurant and shop. I treat myself to a bottle of the gorgeous smelling organic body lotion that was in the changing rooms, so now when I use it at home I can re live our blissful day at the spa ! Then, it was time to head back to the hotel to pack for our return journey.
We had an absolutely amazing time, and can’t wait to return to Iceland. Yes, it’s expensive, but the food is local and fresh, everywhere is spotlessly clean and the people are friendly and helpful plus the scenery awe inspiring and unique…
… and that’s why this mum will definitely go to Iceland again!
In June we set off on our lovely family adventure (4 year old Peony & 8 month Carter) to Mallorca.
It was our first beach holiday since the dreaded pandemic, and we had heard all sorts of horror stories, however we flew from Leeds Bradford with Jet2holidays and it was all very calm and easy – no sight of the long queues we had heard about.
TOP TIP WHEN TRAVELLING WITH SMALL CHILDREN: I had ordered some milk for our baby Carter, from Boots at the airport which I collected airside, this made life so much easier!
Our flight was in the afternoon and we picked the resort of Palma Nova as the transfer was no more than 40 minutes – trust me with a very excited 4 year old this was perfect; it felt like we arrived at our beautiful hotel, Aula Hawaii in no time. As It was quite late and dark when we arrived we couldn’t really see much so we went straight to bed excited to see what tomorrow would bring!
The Aula Hawaii was ideal; nice and clean with a lovely splash park plus 2 choices of swimming pool and a small rocky beach where you could take a canoe out to sea. We had a ground floor suite, spacious with a little kitchenette and a small balcony.
The hotel was located perfectly. A nice short walk along the sea front from the pool area brought us to bustling beach front with an abundance of lovely restaurants, overlooking the beautiful bay. Instantly we noticed how friendly the locals were and how chatty and child friendly the resort was. There are multiple playgrounds dotted along the seafront as you walk along the front dotted around and we spotted a few traditional holiday hair braiders and plaiters – essential for young girls on holiday (or peony certainly thought so 😊)
The beach was perfect for our daughter. Well looked after with, shallow waters for quite a distance, perfect for a paddle and splash around. My daughter Peony spent hours looking through the hundreds (maybe thousands) of shells that had collected in the beach!
There was loads of different restaurants and eateries to try! One evening we visited the ‘The olive tree’ restaurant and had a delicious meal with lovely mojitos! The Olive Tree restaurant is beach front with lovely wooden decking cantered around an Olive Tree, the interior & music gave the restaurant a very chilled. It was great to know we were eating mostly locally sourced ingredients and natural products.
‘Max Garden’ Restaurant was a perfect lunch & dinner spot! During the day they had ‘ buy one get one free on burgers’ which were so tasty and fresh. There a lovely terrace with a really calm feel – ideal for a late lunch and a drink in the sunshine.
A MUST TRY; ‘Cafeteria Playa Son Matias’ had the most amazing traditional Mallorca Paella!
Most restaurants we visited on the seafront had play areas too. This was so handy and made eating out that bit easier, and didn’t leave you feeling like you were having a meal in a children’s play area!
Palma Nova really is a great spot for families- (there is even an Aldi so if you need to stock up on snacks and nappies you can do easily and at a very reasonable price)
Golf fantasia was fun and something different to the normal crazy golf! We only did one course but there are 3 to choose from! caves, water falls and gardens pick one or all 3 😊 There was also a chance to feed the fish and the turtles which the kids loved!
Try pre-booking your ticket online, I am sure we got a discount on the ticket price, it worth checking it out before you turn up!
We also visited Katmandu the famous upside down house. Inside the house was certainly mind bending, a room with a pool table on the ceiling! There is also an indoor soft play, 3d shows, rides and water park, probably more for slightly older children too. Peony loved watching the machine inside the house make candy floss, and the ice creams were a welcome treat in the afternoon.
If you children like to have lots going on, be sure to use the small funfair area which was really reasonable priced and not too busy, with trampolines and merry go rounds, and a small park area.
To be fair, we spent most day by the pool, which doesn’t make the best story but it worked well for us as a family. The hotel had a children’s area and kids club which was open daily and parents could stay with the children or drop off. It was a great area, even glass fronted looking on to pool area so you could always keep an eye on the kids.
After tea we liked to go for a walk on the front and stop at the ice cream shop, the ice cream, waffles and pancakes were divine- one thing I really notices about the town is that there are hardly any steps and the pavements are really wide so it was perfect for walks with the pushchair.
Our holiday passed so quickly and we made the most of our last day, finishing on a high with Paella and a Daiquiri at ‘Be Max Beach House’ We had enjoyed are holiday so much we didn’t want to leave, my daughter ask frequently to go back hopefully we will get back soon.
Sitting at the airport with a pizza and coffee waiting to come home is always a bittersweet moment for me, this time it seems particularly difficult…
Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) has gotten under my skin; the people and the authenticity, the beauty and the barrenness
Just over a week ago we took the 5.5 hour flight from Manchester to the island of Sal. I’ll be honest I was apprehensive… All Inclusive holidays are not something we have ever done as a family and I was scared of being ‘stuck’ in the hotel and feeling like I could be anywhere in the world.
Looking over the turquoise fringe island as we came in to land definitely made me smile…
We were staying at the RIU Palace Santa Maria, and we enjoyed everything about the hotel. The food was incredible- we tried all the specialty restaurants (these are all included in the All Inclusive program) – the Japanese was very good! I have to say though, the choice on the buffet was fabulous and if you decided not to go to these alternative restaurants you wouldn’t be disappointed. The RIU Palace has direct access to the beach and 3 of the 6 swimming pools over look the amazing sands. The location of the hotel is great, a 30 minute stroll along the beach takes you into Santa Maria town where there are some nice bars and restaurants giving you the option of trying out the ‘catch of the day’ and get a real flavour of the local life.
The complex, really lends itself to families with preteen children. The kids sounded like they were having a great time in the clubs and in the fantastic waterpark. Alternatively if you are travelling as a couple; the restaurants and adult only swim up bars – plus the romantic sunset walks on the beach make this hotel perfect!
Something great to note was the facilities place for guests that are in wheelchairs or of limited mobility. There were ramps, spacious seating areas in the dining rooms and additional measures around the pools such as hoists.
Top Tip; Friday nights is RIU party night. It alternates weekly between a white party and a neon party. It was fabulous fun and not to be missed!
The service, cleanliness and facilities were great. Something to note is that the gym and indoor pool is for over 18s which we hadn’t clocked, but Holly soon made use of the spa with her Aloe Wrap 😊
If you have teenagers, maybe look at the Hilton or Robinson Cabo Verde which is slightly closer to Santa Maria and have loads of water sport and beach based activities. Robinson Cabo Verde has a very cool, surfy vibe and a fab beach bar – we really liked it here. Plus a big selling point for me was that you could swim in the sea!
I loved the fact that you could get out an explore. We booked a private tour as we wanted to get to the heart of this island and find out more. What a fantastic day – Bumping around on the back of a pick up was an adventure itself! I could go about this trip all day. I loved it, but I only have so much space so here are my highlights:
✨Sharks Bay – walking out into the crystal clear sea to swim with the lemon sharks is an amazing experience! They grow up to be around 3 meters long and although I could see the big ones further out to sea, I was quite happy with the babies swimming around my legs 🦈
✨Salinas De Pedra De Lume is very unique. This was the largest salt works in Cape Verde, but now is know locally as the ‘dead sea’ as you can swim- well float in the salt lake which lies within a crater of the volcano.
✨Olho Azul – ‘the blue eye’ is spectacular! If you arrive at Buracona around noon and the sun is shining you’ll be in for a great surprise as the black hole turns a vivid blue as the light reflects from the rocks and the Sandy bottom of the cave!
The island isn’t that big, about 30km long and about 12 wide, so it’s easy to get around in a day! Be prepared to get dusty though, especially when your exploring the inner lands lunar landscape and mirages. It’s so baron, it’s breath taking!
In contrast the coastlines are incredible beautiful! Bright blue seas lap against white sand beaches, kite surfers filling the sky with colour as they brave the surf and boats bobbing along in the hope of seeking out whales and turtles in their natural habitat.
Before we travelled there were a couple of recommendations we wanted to try out! Bikini Beach Club was one of them. We arrived around lunch time and had booked a pool front cabana bed for a minimum spend 70 Euros. It was such good value for money! We had a fabulous food , amazing cocktails and basically a private pool as it was really quiet! It started getting busy as it hit early evening and the super trendy DJ started playing – that was our Q to leave as it becomes adult only after 7pm. Just to pre-warn you the beach club is a little weather beaten and could do with a sparkle so don’t expect Ibiza standard, however the staff were absolutely fantastic and we would definitely go back.
The beach club is located on the promenade that’s backed by the Melia Llanas and Tui Blue Cabo Verde. These hotels looked gorgeous and the beach here is very different to the Santa Maria beach as it looks as through the hotels have invested in man made coves meaning it’s a lot safer to swim in the sea as these temper the waves. No matter where you are on the island, make sure you heed the warnings of the lifeguard, the sea can be pretty choppy! The Bob Marley Bar in the same area had also been recommended but we didn’t have time to try this.
From this here you can walk down to Ponta Preta beach where there is a couple of cool beach bars. The world kite surfing championships was taking place whilst we were there which was an amazing spectacle.
Our last night arrived and we’d booked a table at the Bounty Restaurant about 5 minutes drive from our hotel. We’d had a sneaky lunch here the day before and the food was AMAZING. The evening lived up to our expectations, overlooking the beach, lovely wine and excellent service.
As you can see, getting out and about was easy and affordable using taxi’s or taking a trip. Electric bike tours and dune buggy trips are also really popular.
The local people are so helpful and friendly and it felt very comfortable walking around outside the hotel complex. Beach sellers approach you selling their wares ( there is some quite good stuff actually! Nick managed to get his fridge magnets) however is you say that you are not interested they don’t hassle you at all.
There is a wonderful saying here …
Hakuna Matata which means ‘no worries’
We will definitely be back to explore these islands more, maybe a triple centre exploring Sao Nicolau, Sao Vicente (home to one of the most beautiful bays in the world) and Santo Antao.
For now I’ll sit and reminisce on the flight home about this fabulous winter sun destination and all it has to offer!
Pop in and see me, Nick or Holly for more information. We would love to tell you more x
It’s so hard to know where to start, so I am making a BOLD Statement…
The best city break I have been on so far – gosh, there it is – in writing, I guess I had better explain!
I didn’t really know what to expect, Tallinn hadn’t been on our list of destinations to visit but thank goodness we ended up here by default. Wow… we stayed at the Schlossle Hotel in the heart of the old town ( see my favourite hotel blog on Facebook for more information about this hotel) all I’ll say is – it is beautiful and we would stay here again in a breath!
The old town of Tallinn is still tucked safely behind the original stone walls of the city. The walls themselves are part of the charm. With there hidden tunnels, imposing turrets and tales of Danish conquest – ‘if walls could speak’ I am sure they would have a secret or two to tell
Over the years the old town has been home to wealthy merchants that came to settle from all over Europe and this is shown in the architecture. Medieval churches and gothic spires overlook the cobbled streets, old mills, warehouses and ancient merchant homes – many dating back hundreds of years that are now home to bars, restaurants, shops and museums. The town is so well preserved it is no wonder that it was awarded an UNESCO World Heritage title.
The labyrinth of narrow streets seem to all lead to the ‘Town Hall Square’ The square looks like a film set! It’s an amazing setting for a lunch. There are loads of restaurants to choose from. We chose the ‘Bella Ciao Restaurant’ mainly because the host was such a good character and made us laugh! However the food was great – wild boar spaghetti and a glass of cider was the perfect match for the stunning surroundings. The ancient buildings in the square are painted in fabulous colours and over look the town hall which dates back to 1322 and has been lovingly restored and looked after all these years. Be sure to head up there during the evening – the hustle and bustle, fairy lights and colours make the square enchanting. The square used to be the setting where thieves and criminals were sentenced to death, luckily nowadays festivals and fairs are held here including a wonderful Christmas market! I can’t think of a nicer place to enjoy a mulled wine 🍷
I love a Birds Eye view of a town, it helps me find my bearings and also spot other areas I’d like to see. Tallinn has some incredible viewing points. One at the top of ‘Troompea’ (the upper town) which looks St Olav’s Church.