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Majorcan Marvels

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Returning home with suitcase full of memories…

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

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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.

Thanks Helen and Nick ❤️

48 Hours In Edinburgh

We are so thankful that we have finally managed to get away…

… it may be only a few days, and it isn’t Copenhagen or Kiev, but we are feeling very lucky!

Nick and I have had a fabulous 48 hours in Scotlands Capital – Edinburgh.

I’ve been here on work trips, flying in and out for events, but never had time to explore the city so we couldn’t wait to pop on our ‘tourist hats’ and check out what Edinburgh had to offer!

The train journey up from Leeds is a great start – the scenery is beautiful, travelling along the coastal track, whizzing past Alnwick and Berwick On Tweed, spotting the Angel of the North and arriving at the very central Edinburgh Waverley Station.

Of course like all our journeys, we always have a drama! We travelled from Leeds to York in plenty of time to catch our connection train to Edinburgh. We’d treated ourselves to first class tickets and had a good 40 minutes to spare to relax in the LNER lounge and have a coffee. Strolled along to the platform (so let me plant the seed – I don’t travel lightly, especially in the UK, 3 pairs of shoes, an outfit for everyday, an outfit for every evening, make up etc etc – Nick is exactly the same, minus the make up 😉 so the case is massive!) 2 minutes before the train arrives there is a platform change. Those of you that know York station will remember there is lots of steps and those of you that know me, know I can’t run, so we ‘run’ (with the giant bag- poor Nick) up the steps along to another platform and jumped on the train to Edinburgh- the wrong train!

With 10 seconds to spare, ran to another platform desperately pressing the open button on the train side, to be told by the station conductor to stand back as the train was leaving – thank goodness, it was the London train! As we turned around in dismay, luck was on our-side. In a haze of light, glowing on the tracks was our train! It had been delayed by 2 minutes and like something from a superhero comic, Nick threw me, the bag and himself on and we were Scotland bound!

We met our lovely friends on the train, had a few drinks to celebrate our arrival and a good catch up. We’d booked into the Motel One – it was the perfect location for us walk to all the sights and from the train station. It’s a gem of a hotel, really clean, great service, fabulous breakfast and lovely bar area. Fab price too.

First stop was Edinburgh Castle, wandering through the narrow cobbled streets, walking up ancient steps and passing through hidden closes, we really began to get a feel for this old city. As we arrived at the Castle and looked over the whole city, the Firth Of Forth and Arthur’s Seat we definitely had a wow moment – what a view!

The castle was really interesting with stories about bygone days, baronial halls, tales of the Jacobite Rebellion and beautiful portraits. The National Scottish War Museum is also here and well worth a visit.

That evening we headed for a bite to eat and booked into a cool pub with live Scottish Folk Music. These guys were so talented, fiddle, flute, and guitar- absolutely great!

After a leisurely morning with a long breakfast (something we never really get time for) we were excited to be spending an hour or so in a bubble. I’ve wanted to do this for ages, ideally looking up at the stars in the wadi rum, but over looking the Edinburgh Skyline was good enough for today! It was pretty cool (well boiling inside) and a really unusual concept.

We then headed to Mary King Close. Bea and Will had recommended this! It was mega interesting. I won’t tell you the whole story – “Experience over 400 years of history, and discover the stories of your character guide. From myths and legends, to the deadly plague epidemic, and a famous royal visitor – there’s a myriad of tales just waiting to be told on this one hour guided tour” The tourist in use could resist the photo fridge magnet and matching key ring!

We couldn’t visit Edinburgh and not walk the Royal Mile, armed with our new found knowledge from the tour we wondered from the Castle to Holyrood Palace, there are some beautiful building and lots of shops, including a Christmas Shop!! Unfortunately we ran out of time to go into the Palace but there is always next time.

Tonight was date night! It felt so good to get dressed up (Top Tip don’t wear high heels!) We had booked in for cocktails at Cocktail Geeks – this is a very quirky concept, originally a pop up company around Edinburgh this brand is now based in the arches of the train station and changes it’s theme, decor and cocktails every 4 months. For us it was hero’s and villains and we felt very adventurous with our cocktail choices, a big difference for our usual expresso martini and amaretto sour!

It’s beautiful walking through the city on an evening, wonderful architecture lit up with warm lighting, log fires burning brightly in traditional pubs and laughter and chatter coming from bars and restaurants. It’s definitely a feel good city. We strolled through the old town to Cafe Andaluz for our Tapas (another Bea recommendation) we couldn’t wait to taste the culinary delights of Spain and boy did we indulge! I could list and list what is on the menu, but the Padron Peppers, Chorizo and Paella were delightful – as were the Churros and melted chocolate, ohhh and a bottle Tempranillo 😊 After chatting with the waiting team about how fabulous northern Spain is, we’ve now added that to our list of ‘must visits’

There are loads and loads of restaurants, all sorts of varieties. Our friends ate at Indian restaurant ‘ Ronaq Restaurant Waverley’ claiming it to be the ‘Best Ruby Murray’ ever!

We finished our evening in a cosy and characterful bar, hidden down an old town close called – Half Way House. This pub is a must visit!

And that’s that, I’m now sat on the train writing my blog, with a coffee and cookie looking at the views of Durham Catherdral and watching the deers playing in the fields.

We’ve had a wonderful weekend and look forward to visit again soon. ❤️

Giant gorillas, Turkish wine and getting lost in the wilderness…

Fun and Frolicks on the Norfolk Broads!

I’m sure if you’d have asked me my wish list for a ‘staycation’ that these ideas wouldn’t have been at the top, however amongst lots of fantastic experiences, these helped us make the most amazing memories 😊

So, the first challenge of a UK staycation must be, how much you can fit in the car (along with a dog and 3 adults) The answer is (and I’m sure my lovely friend Kirsty will agree) a lot – especially if food, wine and games are part of the luggage. The one rule we have is that Nick doesn’t pack the car (sorry darling) but he just doesn’t have the patience – no one wants to arrive with squashed crisps, dripping dips and exploded shampoo bottles!

This year we were heading to Bury St Edmunds, we’d booked a lodge with our friends (default from what should have been Paxos) and we were so excited! The drive for us is never too far, we love music so it’s a great excuse to have a great singalong – yes we look a bit crazy, a good catch up and some yummy old fashioned ‘in the car’ sweets!

The lodge was all about the location, oh and a Hot Tub. Aspen Country Park, made for a great base and gave us loads of space for our party of 6. We had done loads of research and there was so much to do, a week wasn’t going to be long enough…

After a few drinkies on Friday night to celebrate us ‘actually getting’ to somewhere on holiday after 2 years of trying, we headed to ‘Go Ape’ on Saturday. Now I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, as is Kirsty, so it was left to the dads to navigate the girls round the Tree Top Challenge! They had a blast and conquered all 5 levels #nailedit. If like Kirsty and I that’s not for you, the course is set in a part of Thetford Forest.

Apart from the forest being stunningly beautiful, it’s a brilliant set up…

…there is Forest Segway, Bicycle Hire and a brilliant adventure playground plus some amazing walks. I managed my 10,000 steps by walking around trying to find our gang on ‘Go Ape’ so I’m not sure who had the biggest challenge!

I’m beginning to think I’m not used to too much fresh air, happily tired and with a good glow (the weather was great) it was homemade Hongkong Style Sweet and Sour Chicken for tea, and a game of “Great Night In”

If I had one word of great advice – prepare yourself. Wow! is the only word I can say about this game. Skateboard drawings that looked like UFO’s, a whole new miming language in Charades and a humming game, of which the memories will be with me for the rest of my life – Possibly in my nightmares!

Bury St Edmonds is a jewel in the Suffolk crown and also known as Suffolk’s ‘foodie’ town, so we definitely hit the jackpot there! It’s simply lovely with elegant Georgian squares filled with bustling cafes and live music, and medieval streets lined with fabulous independent shops. For bigger brands there is also the Arc Shopping Centre. We managed to hit market day, so the town felt extra energetic, there was lots of different stalls from fresh fruit and veg, clothing to furniture and flowers plus some brilliant street food to choose from! I loved the history of Bury St Edmunds, and it really is everywhere. Home to one of the first examples of a road sign and in Abbey Gardens possibly one of the earliest examples in the UK of a sundial. Abbey Gardens was my favourite spot (apart from the restaurants – but more about those later 😉) These gardens are on the site of the former Benedictine Abbey, once one of the richest and most powerful Benedictine Monasteries in England and home to the shrine of King Edmund, the original patron Saint of England of whom the town is named after. The Abbey was destroyed in 1539 but as you wonder around the gardens you can still see parts of the original Abbey and the gardens are framed by its walls.  Enter the gardens through Abbey Gate and entrance is free. The gardens have won many awards and as you walk amongst the beautiful flower beds (approximately 20,000 bulbs are planted for the summer displays), through the rose garden and the wildflower labyrinth it is easy to see why. There’s lots of grassy space so be sure to take a picnic and watch the world go by with views of the stunning St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral is beautiful, originally starting as St James Church in the Abbey grounds, it received its Cathedral status in 1914. The building itself has been developed over the years and most recently the 150ft Millennium Tower added in 2005 and then the intricate guided vault in 2010 makes the Cathedral even more impressive. We were welcomed to come in and explore, they had a local art gallery on display, and we also had the chance the view their very ambitious Lego project, it was amazing and I wish we could have taken a photograph. The aim is to recreate the Cathedral out of 200,000 Lego pieces and for each £1 that is donated, a brick is placed onto the structure. The project that started in 2016 is still going strong and is run purely by volunteers and I think it’s fabulous. We missed the tour of the Cathedral (Cost of £10), which takes you to what looks to be some brilliant viewing points so we will do that next time.

Food and drink – as always, I can’t do a blog without mentioning the two 😊 There are so many eateries and pubs/bars to choose from in Bury St Edmunds, so I wanted the share with you our favourites

Sunday Lunch in a ‘proper pub’ – we booked a table for 3pm at the Mason Arms. The gentleman on the phone recommended we sit outside in their courtyard. What a fab recommendation, undercover, warm and a great atmosphere. Our own fault for booking a later table is that we only got to view what looked like an amazing Sunday lunch but the comments from the tables around us were great. Our food was brilliant, I think most of us, for our mains went for pie and the odd chicken dish – obviously starters and puddings , they were all beautiful. The staff were attentive which was great as they were still doing table service and for beer drinkers, they had a fantastic selection of ales to choose from. The pub also has the ‘Five Paw’ award so taking dogs with you isn’t a problem.

We popped into the One Bull for some after dinner drinks, again highly recommended. Big comfy sofas, high tables, trendy lighting but most of all, a fabulously unique wine list! It looked as though ALL the wines could be bought by the glass too which is pretty unusual. We didn’t eat here but I took a peek at the menu, and it looked good – grazing boards, grilled sandwiched, crispy rabbit leg and feather blade steak were my standouts and mostly locally sourced.

Holly and Abbie, headed to the Abbey Gate cinema one evening. The cinema is privately run and a lovingly restored original 1920’s cinema. They had the latest movies including the chosen Jungle Cruise and the girls loved it…

… time for a cocktail and some more fabulous food. Chris had clocked this amazing looking hotel called the “Angel”. It is an historic landmark in the centre of Bury St Edmonds overlooking Abbey Gardens, the exterior of the building is impressive and then you walk inside and ‘wow’ The newly refurbished bar and eatery are well worth a visit. Extravagantly furnished with a food and cocktail menu to go with it including a new inspired Dickens Cocktail. As many of you know I am a book worm so finding out that this hotel is where Charles Dickens stayed when giving his reading of the Pickwick Papers (hence the cocktail) made me like it even more. Quite a few subtle hints were given to Nick about a lovely weekend break staying at this hotel- I hope they were heard!!

After cocktails, we had pre booked a window seat at Francela – Mediterranean Grill and Restaurant. I’m not sure how to write about how fantastic the food was. We ordered far too much, so it’s a good job our friends like food as much as we do.  A hot and cold meze starter – the ‘Sucuk’ (homemade Turkish sausage), whitebait and fresh green beans were my top picks, then Lamb Alfungi for my main (delicious) and first time for trying Turkish wine – ‘Yakut’ too. The evening here made me so excited to visit Turkey next year. The team here were great, friendly, funny and very welcoming. The girls arrived just on time for pudding, and we said a rather loud and giggley farewell to the staff over a couple of ouzos, promising to return (when Nick brings me back 😉)

As you may remember from previous blogs, our holidays are never without a good drama and this year was the same…

We hired a boat for the day on the Norfolk Broads from Barnes Brinkcraft (stop smiling to yourselves- I didn’t drive) However, how hard could it be – push the stick up to go forward, pull down to go back and steer! Oh my gosh, we hadn’t got 200m before Nick has steam coming out of his ears, and his life saver (which he never took off, even on land) looked as though it was going explode and poor old Elsa wanted to jump overboard. Kirsty quickly took over and within another 400m saw the ice cream barge and came to an alarming dock, so we could have one for breakfast! Boating along the river is just lovely. The wild/birdlife is abundant, I think we must have seen 8 Herons up close, and the scenery is out of this world. One thing I didn’t expect to see is a giant Gorilla on banks of the broads!

So, add together a very low bridge, a traffic jam and 5 ‘back seat’ fellow boaters, what do you get?

  • Nicks life saver popped!

He navigated us safely under the bridge, nearly hit a multimillion-pound yacht and missed the pub stop – we all absolutely needed a cider!

In all fairness, he did a great job and after lunch politely refused to drive and sat lapping up the sights for the afternoon. Holly was fabulous (I was so proud of her) and really enjoyed her experience of being the captain of the boat for the afternoon, alongside Abbie and Kirsty. Kirst’ if you are reading this – you were amazing, you got us out of many a sticky situation and your James Bondesque 180 degrees turn at the end was truly magnificent!

I swear they gave me the job or jumping off and on the boat to moor it, was for their own entertainment and for some raucous laughter if I fell in – sorry I left them disappointed, but let me assure you, it was not a sight to behold!

Steamboats, riverside pubs and the boating etiquette (I’ve never waved so much in my life) made for a day full of laugher and fun. An experience we will always remember and definitely repeat.

We had been recommended a day out to Southwold, a charming seaside town on the heritage coast.

Note to self, check the weather forecast for where you are going and not where you are. Armed with sunglasses and wearing my favourite sundress and sandals of we headed to Southwold Pier…

… and the rain. First stop, breakfast on the promenade, dressed in my sundress, sandals, two jumpers and anorak but after a good coffee and sausage sandwich, thing were looking up. Within the hour a chink of sun came through the clouds, we all started to smile and even the dogs were happy as we hit the dog friendly beach.  Abbie and Hols had a paddle and to our great surprise spotted a seal, swimming along the edge of the beach.  The colourful beach huts along are delightful and the town is full of individual shops and a lovely market. Homemade cakes from @naughty but nice and lovely handmade jewellery were purchases of the day (alongside Holly’s very expensive candle but I’ll let her tell you about that!) Don’t forget to go on the pier for some good old-fashioned fun, magic mirrors and a collection of handmade slot machines. There is also a fascinating water clock – be there at the right time for a bit of giggle 😊

Our week went so quickly, and I was desperate to have one final walk in the beautiful forests that surrounded us. On our final afternoon we headed to the Kings Forest for a leisurely walk. “Follow the arrows and you can’t go far wrong” said one of the locals. Famous last words! 3 hours later we are still trooping along the tracks. Our love of ‘eye spy’ had diminished and the wonder of the age-old trees, and hundreds of butterflies had worn out. We couldn’t find the car park for love nor money (if we had seen another soul) all I can say is thank God for Chris’s ‘Find My Car’ App. I have never felt so relived to hear a car alarm in my life!

We headed home that evening and I have to say, we’d had a wonderful time. It wasn’t our usual summer holiday overseas but the memories we made with our friends are just as precious and we wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again…

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have writing it and remembering our UK adventure.

Helen x

CUNARD – JAPAN GRAND VOYAGE

” Join us on Queen Elizabeth and immerse yourself in her evocative art deco elegance. Our newest Queen exudes style and has an especially refined feel. Prepare yourself for a truly remarkable voyage”

This stunning voyage round trip from Tokyo, offers eight Japanese calls, one in South Korea and one in Russia. Explore mountain-fringed islands, castles, Shogun history, seafood and sake.

17 May 2022

18 days

Return flights from Manchester

From £3879 pp

Take a look at this incrediable journey!

Day 1

In 1859, Yokohama became the first major Japanese Treaty Port opened to foreign trade, so there is interesting maritime and international flavour to one of the country’s most accessible and second largest cities.

It’s an exciting city filled with Japanese charm and culture, and is less than 30 minutes’ train ride from Tokyo, so there’s an opportunity to sample two of Japan’s greatest urban centres.

Day 2 – At Sea

Day 3

Once the base of Japan’s largest fishing fleets, Kushiro, ‘The City of Mist’, is your gateway to the pristine natural beauty of the Kushiro Wetlands and Akan national parks.

Kushiro is surrounded by breath-taking natural beauty, which is often overlaid with a thick mist, giving it a surreal feel. This one-time prosperous fishing port is now known for its stunning Kushiro Wetlands and Akan national parks – and its endangered, Japanese red-crowned cranes.

Day 4 – At Sea

Day 5

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a city on the south of Sakhalin Island. Now belonging entirely to Russia, the southern part of the island was briefly once claimed by Japan, and nods to this heritage remain.

Sakhalin has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and the Ainu, Oroks and Nivkhs are among the island’s indigenous people. There have been many claims and counter-claims to the territory, or parts of it, over the centuries, mostly involving Japan and Russia. The island was split between the two nations for much of the 1800s; indeed Japan owned at least the southern half of Karafuto, as they named Sakhalin, until the end of World War II when it became totally Russian.

Day 6

Otaru lies close to the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s islands. Hokkaido’s scenery comprises dense forest, mountains and marshlands, dotted with mineral-rich hot springs.

Hokkaido is seen as wild and rugged, where nature dominates. So it was only in the late 1800s that the population flourished. Much of Otaru’s industry at this time focused around the herring fishing industry, and the wealth it brought was reflected in its so-called ‘Herring Mansions.’ One of these still stands nearby on a hill overlooking the sea and is open to visitors. Further inland is the Former Aoyama Villa, an even more lavish house owned by the Aoyama family who made their fortune from herring fishing.

Day 7

Hakodate is one of the most popular city destinations in Japan. Here you can experience diverse dynastic architecture, the last Shogun battlefield and enjoy shimmering night views from Mount Hakodate.

The Motomachi buildings from the Edo period and Meiji era of the late 19th century blend with western-influence to create an exciting cultural concoction. In Goryokaku Park, where the last battle of the Japanese civil war was fought, you can now enjoy peaceful contemplation amongst the fragrant blossom of 1600 cherry trees.

Day 8

Savour the natural landscapes in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture of Honshu, the largest and most populous island of Japan. Aomori sits between the southern end of Mutsu Bay and the fine Hakkōda Mountains.

At the heart of the Tōhoku region, Aomori charms you with its unique blend of ultramodern architecture and sleepy fairytale castles, amid scented cherry blossoms.

Day 9 – At Sea

Day 10 – Another chance to see Tokyo

Day 11 -At Sea

Day 12

Capital of the Akita Prefecture, Akita City is located in the north of the Tohoku Region of Japan. Its Jizōden ruins are a major archaeological site, with artefacts dating from up to 40,000 years ago.

The city is known best for its Kanto Matsuri festival at the beginning of August, where performers balance bamboo poles up to 12 metres long, with 50 paper lanterns attached, lit by real candles.

Day 13

If you’re in search of historic Japan, look no further than Kanazawa. A UNESCO recognised City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa emerged from World War II largely unscathed, and the city is now one of the best surviving examples of Edo-era architecture in Japan. Consequently, Kanazawa evokes a feeling of stepping back in time and it’s this connection to the Geishas and Samurais past that fascinates and delights in equal measure. Step ashore for a vision of the way things were, savour tea in an authentic 19th Century teahouse, and feast on Japan’s finest delicacies, fresh from one of the country’s oldest markets.

Day 14

Maizuru is known for its red-brick buildings and nearby natural attractions. It’s also your gateway to Kyoto, Japan’s capital for 1,000 years and laden with sacred temples and other historic sites.

For many, Maizuru is an invitation to head to wonderful city of Kyoto, birthplace of the tea ceremony and the Geisha tradition. You could watch a demonstration of samurai kembu, the traditional sword dance of the samurai, while any discovery here will include Shinto shrines, Zen gardens and incredible temple complexes. In fact, Kyoto is home to an astonishing 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Day 15 – At Sea

Day 16

There is no doubt nature has been generous to the fine Korean island of Jeju-do, also known as Jeju Island. This is home to the mythical Cheonjeyon Falls, the stunning scenery of Sunrise Peak and the world’s longest lava tube.

This picturesque haven is a honeymooners’ mecca and it certainly is a heart-warming destination. Newly-wed, happily married or still looking, you’ll fall in love with Jeju-do’s charming setting.

Day 17

Japan’s first real contact with the West was through Portuguese explorers and Jesuit missionaries, and then Dutch merchants. Apprehensive Shoguns thus closed Japan to foreign trade except at Nagasaki.

Stop by Peace Park for a moment of serenity, or visit the Confucian Shrine to see the influence that the Chinese community has on Nagasaki.

Day 18 Return Home – Flights to Manchester

PLEASE CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS OR ANY OTHER CUNARD CRUISE. WE WOULD LOVE TO TELL YOU MORE.

Prices are based on 2 adults sharing an inside cabin. Prices subject to availability and change and correct as of 29/09/2020 1644

FAMILY FESTIVITIES IN MADEIRA

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR LOVED ONES ON THE ISLAND OF MADEIRA THIS CHRISTMAS…

… STAYING 9 NIGHTS AT THE BEAUTIFUL CALHETA BEACH HOTEL IN A SUITE ON AN ALL INCLUSIVE BASIS. FLIGHTS DEPART FROM LEEDS/BRADFORD ON SUNDAY 20TH DECEMBER 2020 AND WE’VE INCLUDED A PRIVATE RETURN TRANSFER FOR YOU TOO.

FAMILY OF 4 PRICE £2679.00

FAMILY OF 3 PRICE £1928.00

TO BOOK THIS FANTASTIC OFFER CONTACT @arundeltravel ON 01943 462209 OR POP IN AND SEE US. WE ARE HUGE FANS OF MADEIRA AND WOULD LOVE TO TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT.

Prices are subjest to availability and change and based on 2 adults sharing a room with upto 2 children aged 12 years and under. prices correct 29/9/2020 at 14.42.

The ‘C’ Word

The ‘C’ Word

This year, more so than any I can think of, we have needed some escapism, to get off the roller coaster of life and to give our family a sense of normality. It is no secret that the travel industry like many others has been suffocated by the ongoing pandemic and I’m sure like many of you, we felt we were firefighting on a daily basis to keep our travel agency alive. Whilst we have been one of the lucky ones, reopening our doors – we are (or were) exhausted and needed some ‘us’ time.

So what to do – I closed my eyes and thought of the place that makes me happy,  an island that is filled with age old memories and  where I knew I would be able to get the biggest (and much needed) cuddle from one my best friends…

… That is my ‘C’ word – Corfu

Like most of us that have travelled this summer, the build up to jetting off to our chosen destinations was slightly over shadowed with the quarantines regulations constantly changing and the slight apprehension of mask wearing in the airport and on the plane. However, putting all that to one side we are all so glad that we bit the bullet, packed our suitcases and headed out to the sunshine.

It is true, that feeling of walking off the aircraft and the sunshine hitting your face is one of the best feelings in the world and its never made me smile so much.

Driving north along the east coast of Corfu is always so spectacular, views across the rugged coastline across to Albania, passing through the coastal villages along winding roads lined with olive trees and smiling faces is just the best start to a holiday. We were already beginning to relax when we arrived at the Katia Studio’s and Apartments on the outskirts of Kassiopi.

You may remember me staying at the Katia Apartments last year with my lovely friend Kirsty when we came out to visit Lucy, and luckily Nick and Holly instantly loved it as much as I do. I’ll quickly remind you. The Katia is a small, family run complex with a great pool area and gardens that take you down to a natural un-serviced (therefore very quiet) pebble beach. It’s a very happy 2* complex, with basic self-catering facilities, a fantastic restaurant that serves delicious homecooked Greek food ( plus to Nicks and Hollys delight a great English breakfast – all day) To me it’s set in the perfect location, a gentle 20 minute stroll into the beautiful, bustling harbour town of Kassiopi or a 5 euro taxi ride and owned by the delightful Alex and Joanna. The staff are characterful, full of fun and very friendly – it really is a great base for a Greek escape.

We came out for 11 nights and spent the first few days by the pool and on the beach, recharging our batteries and then we decided to have an adventure!

I was trying to work out how many times we had been to Corfu, I think mine is around 8 or 9, Nick 4 and Holly is 5, and we have never explored the northwest coast, we have followed in the footsteps of the ‘Durrells’ and stayed in the beautiful areas of Kalami, Nissaki, Agni and Kassiopi (and I thought nowhere would be as beautiful but …) so we hired a car and headed out on an journey of exploration, hysterics and hysteria.

We were just so excited as we jumped into our Red Suzuki Jimney – trust me there was nothing flash about this car but we grew to love it like a comfy old armchair and it never let us down.  With our free map of Corfu in hand our first stop was the Old Town of Perithia – one of Corfu’s oldest villages and a heritage protected site. 130 houses , many built in Venetian style stand abandoned and in different stages of disrepair but it’s amazing to hear that the village built back in the 14th Century, perfect for sheep farming and the cultivation of olive and vines was fairly prosperous, unfortunately its demise came when tourism brought a wealth of jobs to the coastal areas and locals moved further down the mountain in search of work. Although often classed a ghost town, Old Perithia has a village square with a handful of Tavernas and is a favourite spot with locals for Sunday lunch, filling the village with laughter and delicious tasting mountain fare. We stopped for at ‘Gabriels Steps’ Taverna where I just could resist having homemade apple pie for breakfast (yes you read that right) and were presented with home grown figs for us to try – perfect start to the day. It’s very rural here so expect to see all sorts of wild life including snakes – we nearly stepped on a baby viper, so got a bit of a sprint on thinking ‘where there’s a baby viper, there’s a Mummy viper!

In our haste to get up the mountain we forgot to fill the car with petrol, so for the first hour Holly was panic stricken that we were going to get stuck, in what would literally been in the middle of nowhere, never to be seen again, so we drove back down the mountain to fill up – actually there are petrol stations all over but at this point we hadn’t realised!

So after a bit of toing and froing up and down the mountain our next stop was to head over to the famous Palaiokastritsa, now I told a bit of a fib earlier – Nick has been here before, about 30 years ago on his inter-railing days so he was really looking forward to reminiscing – Falling of mopeds, sleeping on the roofs of hotels and swimming in the turquoise waters. I don’t think he was disappointed, and Holly and I certainly weren’t.  Although I’m sure it is a lot more commercialised than it was all those years ago ( can I say that 😊) the resort is still stunningly beautiful, arguably one of the most picturesque villages on the island with a beautiful monastery, lone rocky coves and the main Agios Spyridon Beach  looks like somewhere that you would find on the shores of Thailand. We arrived too late to spend time on the beach on our first visit so headed back to spend a few hours there a couple of days later – we just could not come home without swimming in these beautiful surroundings. The snorkelling here is unreal, there are so many different colourful fish and the water is so clear. I’m not going to lie, it is busy and they have made the most of the tourism with trendy beach club style bars and souvenir shops but once you are nestled on your towel or swimming in the coves it is pretty perfect.  Now if you have been to Greece during the summer before, you’ll know that the sea is a good temperature and after a little bit of faffing about its pretty easy to get submerged. Word of warning, the sea in Palaiokastritsa is freezing, it’s up to 5 degrees colder than sea on the north east – now I am not one to make a scene, but there was a lot of screeching going on when Hols and I were trying to get in.

On our first visit  to this area we took a mountain route, through some amazing villages such as the beautiful Lakones  which is gifted with spectacular views over Palaiokastritsa. The main street through the village is very narrow, so only allows for one-way traffic at one time, and works on a traffic light system so you may have a small wait to pass through it. Trust me when I say that the driving isn’t easy and the roads not great but gosh the views are insane so completely worth it. Nick did make the driving look pretty simple so I thought I’d give it ago, so of course at the top of a mountain I insisted that I drive so Nick could have a turn at looking at the views.  Let me set the scene here, I’m looking pretty cool, my curly holiday hair, pretty headband, oversized sunglasses and the jeep roof down, feeling dead confident. So can you remember the car chase in the James Bond Movie – For Your Eyes Only, the cliff edged hair pin bends, roads that you can just about squeeze two cars past each other – yep that is literally the road I drove down. We started off with jovial giggles, which turned into raucous belly laughter, I then turned a corner and came face to face with a bus to which I swerved so hard that poor Nick ending face to face with a bush that came through the window. From that point the hysterics turned to hysteria, Hols just could stop laughing (nervously) and from that point the only words Nick shouted was “you’re on the wrong side of the road” We finally parked up and I burst into tears – with a mascara stained face and my hair looking like a lions mane, I silently thanked god that we had made it alive. I am not sure Nick saw any of the view after all and he drove for the rest of our car hire adventures.

After all the excitement we were starving, and both Nick and I were wanting some seafood. One of the best things about having friends living here is the recommendations that they can make for restaurants, so that evening we ate at the Taverna Glyfa. We booked a table for 5pm so we could soak up the incredible view whilst eating fried shrimps, anchovies and sword fish steaks – amazing!

The next day we stayed fairly local and headed up the coast to Kalamaki Beach. The east coast is renowned for it pebble beach and clear waters, but here the beach is sandy and offers such safe bathing for families. You can walk out a long way in the water and the sea only comes up to your knees so its perfect for babies and toddlers to have fun. The water is so warm, all I needed was some bubble bath and rubber duck and I’d have been on cloud 9. That said – frappe, donuts, watermelon and good company comes a very close second. Take your own beach towels and find a your own perfect spot or because Kalamaki is a serviced beach so you can treat yourself to a pair of sunbeds and a brolly for just 7 euros for the day. There is plenty of parking at Tavernas and as long as you buy a coffee or snack the owners are really happy for you to use the facilities.  The drive down to the beach isn’t for the faint hearted and test your breaks its really steep but makes for a great day out.

That evening, we ate in possible the most special and best restaurants I have been to, not because it was fine dining, or cosmopolitan, but because it was true Greece. Chasing the most incredible sunset up the mountains to apparently one of the highest restaurants on Greece we arrived at the family run Boozoovey’s Café and Tavern. The food here is grown in the garden and is homecooked. We just didn’t know what to choose so we went for it  and ordered a full meze for starters – Spicy Tsigareli, ‘Tigania’, Roasted Stuffed hot peppers and for mains, rabbit Stifado. The wine was rustic, the service unbelievable and the food the best I’ve tasted in Greece. 

As I mentioned earlier we spent part of our final day with the car in Palaiokastritsa and then headed up the west coast to a watch the sunset at Agios Georgios. Another beautiful drive over the mountains, and just as we though we couldn’t beat the last view, we turned a corner and were wowed again. We even met the famous Costa Provatas. He and his wife are Artists and Jewellery makers and sell from the side of the road in one of the beauty spots. I joked with him that he must have one the best office views in the word. They have had been selling their hand made products in the same spot for over 10 years – quite unbelievable to be honest. Nick was delighted that we managed to get a hand painted fridge magnet!

After a few wrong turns, some exciting reversing we pulled up just in time to see the sunset in the charming Agious Gerdiuos whilst eating  delicious salad and chips. We chose the Athina restaurant and were so glad we did, the service was brilliant and the setting perfect!  After another adventurous journey in the dark on the way back, we said goodbye to our old friend Jimney and relaxed with a well needed Ouzo and lemonade.

We decided to stay put for the next few days, apart from arranging an evening boats trip to Corfu town, a recommendation from one of our customers that had done it last year. Unfortunately, the weather turned and although it was really warm the wind really got up and our trip got cancelled. We were really disappointed as wanted to explore the fortresses and get lost in the old town, but as we drank wine in the Venus bar overlooking the sea in Kassiopi, we thanked our lucky stars it had been, the waves were crashing against the rocks and the swells were massive. It would have been scary to be out there but it was stunning to watch on dry land and we made a lovely new friend – Philipa the cat. We managed to get the last table in a restaurant we had wanted to eat in all week – Kima which looks over the harbour and ate grilled octopus, village sausage and seafood linguine and risotto – delicious.

Kassiopi is just so delightful with great character. Over the years I’ve been coming it has changed, not for the worst and not for the better – It’s just different and that why we can keep coming back. Its great for all ages, for young families the eateries are children friendly, there’s a lovely ice cream and smoothie parlour and a great little park. For young adults there a handful of music bars and water sport services on the beach and if you like good restaurants there is plenty to choose from at a range of different prices. We actually ate in Best Kabab one evening, the chicken giros are amazing and Holly said the tzatziki was the best in town! For a great cocktail or if you love a good chocolate crepe head to Jasmine and say hey to Lucy whilst your there ❤️

If you like a good mooch like we do, there are some lovely shops from homemade crafts to fashion boutique selling beautiful clothes and jewellery. If your feeling energetic head up the hill and explore the old castle ruins.

Our last day was filled with fruit salads, ouzo and friends sat on Avlaki Beach – this is a small beach about 20 mins walk from the Katia in the opposite direction and really popular with the locals. It’s fab watching the paddle boards bobbing by gracefully and hearing the kids laughing. A meal in our favourite restaurant Cavo Barbaro was the perfect end to our holiday, of course more tears as we said goodbye to our lovey friend Lucy and her family but we know we’ll be back to our bolt hole in the sun very soon.

Guest Blog – Wonderful Waidring.

Today Elevenses with Arundel Travel is a Sunday Special as it has been written by one of our customers and fellow Otley businesses owner Tim Wilkinson and I have to say it’s absolutely great – I hope you enjoy reading it as much a I did. Thank you Tim❤️

“Now I’m not the most enthusiastic passenger but one flight I’m always happy to book is the Jet2 LBA to Salzburg route. By no means the cheapest but it’s rapid, leaves at a reasonable time and, coupled with the ease of car rental at the comfortably sized, mountain fringed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart airport, gives immediate access to any number of ski resorts in the Austrian Tyrol and Salzburgerland

A bus can get you to the town centre railway station for trains to larger town resorts but braver Alpinists can simply walk across the car park, pick up a hire car and head straight into the Alps. Last time we visited was to a tiny village called Waidring. Two routes, a longer one south which passes by the ski jump town of Bischofshofen, or more directly by crossing through the ‘German Nose’ bit of Deutschland that sticks out into Austria but attracts a supplement at the car hire desk (if you tell them that’s the way you’re going…)

Less than a pleasant hour’s drive later, and only four hours door to door, Waidring offers lots of lovely self-catering apartments, frustuck pensions (B&B) and traditional hotels of all budgets, some with ‘dampfbad’ (steam sauna – although not a stitch allowed in Austria!) and other wellness spa facilities. Owning a B&B ourselves not getting up for breakfast is a welcome relief so we self-cater at Appartement Winkler, a converted hotel 300 yards walk from the gondola ski lift

The Steinplatte ski area won’t keep an expert busy for more than a day or two but 42 euros gets a day ticket for the slopes starting with a ride in the gongola lift with cabins themed on diving bells. In summer the plateau at the gondolas arrival station features a dinosaur park and observation platform. The ski lifts are efficient and the pistes mainly simple, forgiving and treelined making the m ideal for beginners, improvers and the nervous, with the added curiosity of skiing over the invisible unmarked border into Germany. Wooden mountain huts dotted around serve the staple mountain food of kaserspatzle (cheesy noodles), pork and sauerkraut, germknodel (steamed suet pudding) and, of course, apple strudel. Always nice to take a break for a mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, with or without deadly Stroh rum depending on how your morning has gone

Back on terra firma everyone must join in the apres ski celebrations and a huge farm themed barn of a bar, Zardinis Schindldorf, awaits at the bottom of the gondola station. Chronic versions of songs, some you’d know, such as Country Roads and the – ever popular with Teutonics – Living Next Door To Alice, get the souped up electro-oompah treatment and the volume and dancing increases as the Salzburg brewed Stiegl beer, Pear Williams schnapps and spiced gluwein flows

After the après has died down thoughts turn to evening dinner. The weary and comfortably numb can eat in their ski gear at the après bar, and watch the weekly folk dancing and music performance although, a hot shower and clean clothes later, our choice tends to be between the Post Hotel (every Austrian town has a Post Hotel, Waidring’s dates from 1416) for hearty Austrian fayre or the Schneidermann restaurant near the outdoor stage (every Austrian village, town or city has a municipal stage), probably my favourite restaurant in the Alps

Morning brings a choice; back up the Steinplatte or a drive twenty minutes back towards Salzburg is the family resort of Lofer which styles itself ‘der schoenest Alm’ (most beautiful Alp, hard to disagree) with its own network of lifts and runs. To the west lays St Johan, a bigger working town with a station, hospital, brewery, traffic, commuters and its own ski mountain and beyond that an hour away is the metropolis (in ski town terms) of Kitzbuhel. Charming in itself but not on the friendly village scale of Waidring, horse drawn carriages queue up amongst the ancient, traditional Tyrolean buildings to show the town off to day trippers. The Hannenkham mountain hosts the ultimate in downhill World Cup ski races each January and the local sports centre hosts fixtures of the Kitzbuhel Adler (Eagles) ice hockey team, which competes in the Alps League with other Austrian, Italian and Slovenian clubs

Our week featured unprecedented snowfall which closed the ski lifts as fallen trees and avalanche risks were cleared although we usually take a day or two off midweek anyway. Local busses run in any weather and we found a meeting of international husky sled dog teams camped by the lake at nearby St Ulrich to visit as they prepared for the weekend races

Although low key and quiet – unlike the larger ski holiday factories – Waidring has all amenities at hand and some you might not need such as a schnapps distillery and a bell foundry although if you love it as much as we do don’t bother looking for a holiday home there, nothing ever comes for sale and new builds are prohibitively expensive; the locals intend keeping it for themselves and we can quite understand why”

Finding our paradise in Poros

You would think that because we have the travel agency and because I’ve worked in travel since forever, that finding our family summer holiday would be easy…

… Ok I will admit, it’s completely me that causes weeks worth of angst when it comes to choosing. I don’t even think that I’m that fussy ( Nick and Holly might disagree ) but I do have certain things that I know I really like and that would help make our family holiday perfect.

We aren’t talking luxuries here like spas, butlers and chandeliers. All I would like is to be in a small property with a lovely pool area and great views from our balcony, to be a stones throw away from the beach and easy strolling distance from traditional restaurants and we must have 2 bedrooms- Holly our teenage daughter is fabulous but very messy and, well she’s a teenager. We like to explore and Nick loves to pick up a fridge magnet or two so to be in a place that we can hop on the local bus or boat is really important – it sounds easy doesn’t it.

After weeks of too-ing and fro-ing finding something and then changing my mind, Nick took the reigns and decided we were going to have another Greek Adventure and we booked the Aegean Villas in Poros. Now we haven’t been self catering for a long time so we were excited about being able to do our own thing (secretly I think Nick was more excited about not having to get up for breakfast), we packed up the UNO cards and our favourite coffee and off we went…

… we flew from Manchester Airport, we hadn’t been to this airport for ages and to be honest that was the bit I was dreading the most but it was great. The meet and greet car parking was seamless and before we knew it we were through security having a coffee. Holly was in her element looking round all the shops and the time flew by.

Poros is one of the Saronic islands and is situated just one and a half hours by ferry from Athens, so after an overnight stay in the centre of Athens we jumped on the Sea Cat 6 and arrived in Poros Town and instantly we were blown away by its beauty and charm.

Our accommodation, the Aegean Villas was located in a small town called Askeli and it was perfect. There was literally 8 apartments, all with either a pool or pool and sea view. We had a maisonette which gave us loads of room and the balcony was huge – perfect for watching the sunset and of course games of UNO (weirdly I have never played it before, it was great fun). They were cleaned daily and the apartments, pool area and gardens were kept immaculately.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but one of my pet hates is fighting for a sun bed by the pool and here we were in the peak season and no matter what time we went to the pool there was never a problem this may have been down to the amazing location, literally thirty seconds walk to the beach. There are areas here where you can lay on the rock platforms or throw your towels down on the sand for free, or you can take a set of sun beds and a parasol, buy a drink and they are yours for the day, it was incredibly cheap.