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Spa weekend in Dartmouth

Having looked about for a spa weekend for my cousin’s birthday that didn’t cost a huge amount, we came across a deal on Wowcher.

It was 2 nights at the Dartmouth spa and golf hotel, with 3 course meal and drink one night, use of the spa, and breakfast on both mornings. This cost £169, which I have to say was a bargain! When you look around at the cost of a spa day for one person and take into account that the 3 course meal is £25 each it was definitely value for money. The room is average size but clean. With tea making facilities and a lovely bathroom.

fruit starter
  Fruit Starter 
Portuguese kebab
Portuguese kebab
creme brûlée
Creme Brûlée

 

 

 

 

 

The food is lovely, we had the 3 course meal on the first night and ate from the bistro menu the second evening. Breakfast is choose anything from the cooked menu as well as cereal, toast etc.

The spa has treatments which are extra. But the free facilities are an indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. The was also a small gym.

shower
Bathroom

We spend a morning with the jacuzzi and pool pretty much to ourselves, as it was November and quiet, which was great.

We then went for a little explore into Dartmouth, which has the river Dart flowing through it.

dartmouth

The hotel is set on the edge of Dartmoor and this is a great place to explore too, with random villages and streams, sheep and cows about.

Dartmoor
Dartmoor

The hotel is set in the lovely Devon countryside, but only a few minutes away from Dartmouth.

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Prague

I booked a 3 night stay in Prague through Easyjet, I did their holiday deal and got the transfer too. The transfer was easy and efficient, on the arrival and departure.

The hotel was the Gallileo Hotel, it was about 5-10 minute walk from Wenceslas Square and had plenty of restaurants, take aways and convenience stores close by, that were a little cheaper than in the main areas. A pizza from Johnny Pizza was freshly made and cost about £4.

Galileo Hotel
Galileo Hotel

The hotel has an older section, and a newer one, my room was in the newer section, and was very large. The bathroom was a good size with a large shower, that was powerful and hot. There was tea and coffee making facilities that were replaced daily, and also a fridge, but as my milk went off I don’t think this was actually working. There was a variety of things at breakfast, eggs, sausage, continental choices like cold meats and cheese, pastries and cakes, cereals and toast. There was a hot machines machine, and a cold drinks dispenser.

I tried the hop-on, hop-off bus for the first time and I have to say it was not exactly what I thought it would be. So we got onto a mini bus, and got take to the stop where you can change routes. We waited for about 20 minutes until the next mini bus came, but by that time, 2 more mini buses had stopped and unloaded people. So it was a race to the little mini bus. We then went passed about 2 more stops, and we are now at one of the highest points in Prague, by a huge stadium. We stopped here and got told everyone has to get off as it is their lunch. There’s a nice view, but after a minute of taking pictures, there really nothing else to do, no shops or cafes. Not really the place to dump a mini bus of people, even worse 2 more come along and do the same thing. So all we can do is sit around on the walls and wait. Fortunately it wasn’t raining. There was no indication of where they stopped and picked up from, so it was a bit hard getting back on one too. It cost about £20 and it was not money well spent.

The metro however is easy to navigate, cheap and quick. There are also plenty of trams, and I think these would be a better option in my opinion.

Prague itself is an amazing place. There is plenty of buildings to see, and they are so interesting. A lot of the roads and pavements are cobbled, so sensible shoes are a must. The Astronomical clock is the oldest working, and was build in the 1400s.

Prague clock
Prague clock

The Dancing House is worth a picture, and is a very modern contrast to the beautiful old buildings.

Prague Castle, isn’t really a castle, it is more of a complex, with churches and buildings to explore.

Prague

The Street Food in Prague is a must to try. There was a lot of venders in the main tourist areas, there was various different types of potatoes, I tried the potato on a stick with cheese and tomato sauce, it was excellent. I also tried a freshly made Trdelnik. Which was nice, it was fresh and warm, and tasted like cinnamon. I also had one with ice cream in, but I actually preferred the fresh one.

Street food
Street food
hot dog
Hot Dog
Beef Goulash
Beef Goulash

 

 

 

 

 

There was lots of nice cafes and restaurants too, and the menu is usually outside, and has it written in English as well as Czech. They are definitely worth a visit. As well as Costa, Starbuck, McDonald’s etc if you want something a little more familiar. I managed to spill an entire latte in one Starbucks, the staff were lovely and helpful, and replaced it with a free one.

waf waf waffle
waf waf waffle
potato on a stick
potato on a stick

 

 

 

 

 

Things to note –

Toilets: In most places you have to pay, in places like Starbucks you get a code on the receipt to let you into them. But keep some change just in case.

Plugs: European

Currency: Czech Koruna

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Geneva

Not really sure why I was looking at Geneva but after having found flight for £100 for 2 people I booked it with easyJet. It was only for 1 night, so I went about finding a hotel. I found Hotel Lake Geneva and although it was in Versoix, about 15 minutes on the train from Geneva, and the train stopped just at the back of the hotel. Because it was just for 1 night a bit more money was spent and the room with a coffee machine and a lake/mountain view was booked. Got to say – totally worth it.

View from the hotel room
View from the hotel

Lake Geneva has to be one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. The hotel is a 3 star but way better than most of the 4 stars I have stayed in. The room was spacious and modern. The view was just perfect. The shower was hot and power. Just a really nice hotel. We ordered room service, something which I have never done, it was fairly quick and the food was great. Very expensive, but everywhere and everything is expensive. 

Geneva is a lovely city, with beautiful views of the river and lake, and history and architecture to match. It is quite flat and is easy to walk about, although it has a fantastic public transport system.

geneva
Geneva

 

We went on a little tour train that cost about 10 Swiss Francs each but we definitely wouldn’t have got around to seeing some of the sights without it.

Versoix was a lot smaller and quieter than Geneva and that meant you could meander around without the crowds. 

versoix
Versoix

It is definitely worth a visit, but be prepared to spend money, and the plugs aren’t the same as the 2 pin European ones, so check for adaptors before you come. Or like us, you will be wandering around a supermarket trying to find one.

One thing you do get for free is public transport. At the airport you get 80 minutes free from the time of your ticket to get to your destination, and your hotel will then give you a ticket for free public transport (within the zone 10 area in my case) for the duration of your stay. 

boats
Lake Geneva

I would love to go back and explore the places around the lake a bit more.

Things to note –

Currency: Swiss Francs

Plugs: 3 pin Swiss plugs, some European ones will fit, but only if you have a diamond shaped plug

Cost: Expensive

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Ibiza

So Ibiza was somewhere I had looked at a few times, but never booked. This looked like a beautiful island, and I had heard good things about it, despite its reputation for being a party island.

 

It was a lot more expensive to go in September than I thought it would be, and I wanted a quiet part of the island rather than the party scene. So I went for the Sirenis Hotel in Cala Llonga. Right next to the beach this looked an amazing location and really is. It is quiet, but it is a village with shops and restaurants you aren’t in the middle of nowhere. A taxi to Ibiza Town cost about 20 euros. There is a bus and a ferry. But we couldn’t find the bus stop in Ibiza and the sea was so choppy we didn’t fancy a boat.

Sirenis Cala Llonga
Sirenis Cala Llonga

The ferry stops right at the bottom of the hotel, so it was really close. There are a few ferries that stop here, and will take you to various different places, you can pop round to Ibiza Town, or take a longer trip to the island of Formentera.

The Sirenis Hotel is made up of 3 blocks and it puts a lot of effort in, I’m not sure whether I’m just a snob, or just fussy but it just wasn’t as nice as I had hoped. It is clean and the staff are fantastic but it is just a fine hotel nothing more. The location makes it. There are 3 pools which is nice, 2 snack bars and 3 pool bars, and 2 restaurants to choose from for breakfast and the evening meal. 

In the snack bars there are menus and it is table service which is very nice for a 3 star hotel. The food is freshly prepared so it comes piping hot, and a better option than going to the restaurant for lunch in my opinion. They also come round sometimes and take orders for drink while you are laid on your sunbed, again this is a nice touch for a 3 star.

view from hotel
View from hotel

A few things I did like was that the sausages at breakfast were “English breakfast” sausages, and the coke was actually coke. Sometimes it can be the little things that make a hotel more appealing. Overall the food was fine, it was cooked well and tasted ok, but it mainly seemed like a lot of sides and very few mains. It didn’t change much daily, and there was often 2 trays of the same thing I had beef and pork and the meat was very tender and pleasant. They seemed a little obsessed with tuna too. There just seemed to be a lot of tuna. I’m not a fan, so was disappointed with what I thought was ham pizza, but it turned out to be ham with tuna hidden under it. As I’m not a massive seafood fan I avoided the seafood paella but the vegetable one was great, a must when you are somewhere Spanish.

The room was clean, but small, which isn’t a problem as we didn’t spend a huge amount of time in it. We had a twin room and both beds were doubles which was very nice. Our balcony overlooked the beach so it was pleasant to sit on, and a real sun trap in the afternoon. The only thing it lacked was a fridge, and a kettle as it is nice to be able to make drinks in your room. From what I have read some rooms do have a kettle but none of them have fridges. The walls are very thin. There is a hatch between the showers and you can hear everything that is going on in the next room, while you are sat on your bed, and I mean everything!

Beach
The Beach

We took a taxi into Ibiza Town and wander around one morning, it was quite quiet and pleasant we wander into the old town, which was scenic and had fantastic views from the top.

Ibiza Old Town
Ibiza Old Town

The sea wasn’t freezing, and once the storms had passed it became very calm, and beautifully clear. You can see the little fish swimming around your feet, and it is only a few steps down to the beach from the hotel so really nice to pop there for a change of scene from the overcrowded sunbeds.

sunbeds
Sunbeds

If you are quick in the mornings getting a sunbed overlooking the beach and sea is a must. To be laid in the sun overlooking a beautiful blue sky with not a care in the world is what holidays are about.

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Cologne

I booked a impromptu trip to Cologne in Germany. After getting a taste for city breaks and exploring, what better place to go than one with a Lindl Chocolate museum.

We got to the museum for opening and were treated with chocolate as we got our tickets. There is a lot of information in the museum about chocolate and we did browse but I have to admit we didn’t read everything. We were to eager to see the chocolate and were drawn to the wonderful smell. It was a great few hours spent watching the process and sampling the chocolate. Well worth a trip. 

Lindt Chocolate Museum
Lindt Chocolate Museum

We then went on a river cruise. The Rhine runs all down through Germany so you can get large boats with bedrooms for the longer trips, but we went on a short return one, this a great way to see a different view of the city. 

River Cruise
River Cruise

We wandered around Cologne, heading for the cathedral first. A large, impressive gothic building with a mass of flying buttresses and gargoyles. The blackened stone adds to its gothic look. 

Cologne Cathedral
Cathedral

As we were in Germany we wanted to sample some the local food and went for a curried Bratwurst. It was delicious I have to say. The curry sauce was a similar taste to what you would get in a British chip shop. We also wanted to try schnitzel, but found this a lot harder to come across. 

Curried Bratwurst
Curried Bratwurst

We stayed at the Mercure Hotel Severinshof. There was a tram stop right outside, so if you wanted to get to different parts of the city it was easily accessible. The room was very nice, as was the rest of the hotel. We didn’t eat there but we did have a drink in the bar. It is worth noting that you have the option to not have your room cleaned or towels changed and you can get a free drink at the hotel bar.

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Crete

So I was only going to do a few city holidays this year. But it turned out I can’t resist laying by a pool doing nothing, so I needed to find a cheap all inclusive hotel that would be warm in June. I turned my attention to the Greek islands and found a nice looking hotel, 4*, that was under £500. So I went to Chrissi Amoudia in Crete.

Chrissi Amoudia
Pool

Most of the rooms aren’t in the main hotel, they are little villas that make the complex appear to be a small Greek village and with plants all about it make it a very pleasant place to stay. I paid a little extra (£26) and got a room with a sea room. There was a small balcony, and the room was pleasant with a small bathroom just off the room. There was a fridge but no kettle, but I had seen this on the reviews so I bought a small travel kettle, cups and my own tea and coffee. 

The food was nice in the main restaurant. Freshly made pancakes were served at breakfast and other continental hot and cold food. With help yourself drinks, the way I like it. There was a balcony area that was undercover and gave stunning views of the sea, a great way to start your morning.

View of the restaurant
View from the restaurant

By the pool was a snack bar that opened about 10, where you could help yourself to drinks. From about 11 it started serving snacks. The pizza slices were so good. We ate there rather than going up to the main restaurant at lunch as they had pizza, chips, a pasta dish, a meat dish and soup with rolls, filled rolls and a small salad bar. In the afternoon they also served cake. There was ice cream available all day too, you just helped yourself.

The pool was large, although it was quite chilly. There was never a lack of sunbeds, as they use a large grass area around the pool to put the sunbeds on. 

The beach was about 10 minutes walk down a gentle slope. It was quite gravelly sand and the sea was quite rough. But it was a beautiful blue colour and nice to paddle in. There were water sports available if that was your thing. We also spotted a train that went on a little tour, although we never ventured on.

beach
Beach

Not gonna lie, I did miss the private pool I had the year before. But this was a very pleasant hotel, and the weather was brilliant.

 

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Rome

City visits never really appealed to me before, this is mainly because I’m lazy. The thought of having to walk for ages or up a big hill just doesn’t appeal to me. But one place was always on my bucket list – Rome. This city has always fascinated me, the ancient buildings and rich history. So when I was looking for a weekend away to a city this one was the place that interested me the most. I spent 3 nights here and usually when I am planning holidays I spend hours looking at the hotels and the reviews. But this time it was about the places I wanted to visit, so it was a new experience for me. My main one was always going to be the Colosseum. The symbol of all things Roman for me. I stayed at  the Hotel Flavia, it was not far from the main attractions and close to shops and restaurants. It was very nice, and although the room was small it was fine for what I needed, as I wasn’t planning to spend a huge amount of time there. For the transfer to and from the hotel to the airport I used a company called Welcome Pickups that my sister had used before and they were fantastic. I got sent a picture of my driver and a WhatsApp when I landed letting me know he was waiting. He was holding a board with my name on it and insisted on carrying my bag to the car. It was very stress-free, and a great start to the break. He was waiting outside my hotel way before my pickup time and was in no rush. I have booked the same company for a visit to Amsterdam in 2020.

I haven’t done many city visits, I live near Bath and Bristol, and have visited London, but Rome was just amazing, you don’t have to far to see a fountain or a huge Roman building. The architecture is stunning and you need to keep your camera on hand. The food, as expected was fantastic. You cannot beat eating a pizza in Rome.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

We had booked tickets for the Colosseum but we got a refund as it was free the weekend we went. We got there want queued for opening and although the line looked long it went down very fast. 

Colosseum
Inside the Colosseum
Colosseum
Outside the Colosseum

 

 

 

 

 

As I’m not a fan of walking, we got to metro to Vatican City, it cost about 2 euros and was easy to work out. We went in the Vatican museum, and then slowly walked back across the city to our hotel. This was a great way to see loads. We walked for a bit then stopped, either just to take in the views or for a latte or food. 

St Peter's Square
St Peter’s Square

Make sure you book online tickets for anything you want to visit, the line to buy tickets for the Vatican Museums was massive, and I mean massive! So plan ahead, and you will get to see more and not waste your time stood about.

Gelato
Gelato
Pizza
Pizza

 

I went in March and the weather was sunny with clouds, about 21 degrees and was pleasant for walking about in jeans and t-shirt.

Eat as much gelato, pizza and pasta as you can. Everything I had was amazing, the Italian’s know how to cook so take advantage of it.

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Zante

So Portugal gave me a little taster of a nice hotel. I was looking for a holiday on any of the Greek islands when I saw rooms with private pools, I was intrigued. I looked at a 5* on Rhodes and was considering it when I came across Bitzaro Grande in Zante. The price was a lot less, it was a 4* but had excellent reviews, which I read through and take in the bad and the good. I honestly think that some poeple look for things to moan about. It was also really close to Laganas Beach where the Loggerhead Turtles come to lay their eggs, the thought of getting a glimp of a turtle pursuaded me.  

Bitzaro Grande
The front of the hotel

The hotel was a couple of minutes walk from the main strip with shops and restaurants, and also only 5 minutes walk down the Laganas beach. It is a fine sandy beach with beautiful clean blue water. We took snorkelling equipment and an underwater camera and watched the little fish swimming around our feet.

Laganas beach
Laganas beach

There is no water sports on the beach, and you cannot dig or put sun umbrellas into the sand incase you hit turtle eggs, but there are pedalos. We hired one and managed to nearly get stuck as we looked for turtles (they send the little life boat out to check we were ok). We did see from a distance one come up for air a few times and then after peddling for what seemed like forever to get back in one swam under the pedalo (when we were pretty close to the shore). 

fish
Look closely for the fish

Our room was very nice, the private pool, which was described as a jacuzzi was really a plunge pool, and big enough for 2 air bed to float about on. It was brilliant. The only criticism I would have for the room was there was no door on the shower and bath. Which if you are sharing with a friend or family, not a spouse, means one staying outside while the other showers. But there was loads of seating with shaded areas so it is comfortable. There was a double sunbed that is a suntrap, and the sun is on it from early morning until about 3.30pm

private pool
The private plunge pool
private pool
The pool at night
Outside seating
Outside seating

 

 

 

 

 

The food was fantastic in the main restaurant. The puddings where the best I have had in a hotel, it was the first time I actually looked forward to pudding.  I do read a lot of reviews before I book a hotel, and this one had a couple of bad reviews from people and I honestly don’t know why it was great. 

There were snacks from the pool bar. These were freshly cooked and again tasted amazing. We never went to the restaurant at lunch, we always ate from here. The only criticism I would have would be for the drinks (soft drinks) which came from bottles and although they branded, they were often flat. There was a fridge in the room so we would buy coke from a local shop and keep in there.  There was also tea and coffe making facilities. Having a private pool also meant that you could use your room more, for hot drinks and your own toilet which made the stay way more comfortable. 

The airport was really close to the hotel and the planes are quite low, but there wasn’t a lot and I enjoyed watching them go overhead. They also stop fairly early so they don’t disturb the turtles (or you at night). 

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Portugal

I decided I wanted to go to Portugal, when I was looking for all inclusive holidays they weren’t cheap and I only went for 4 nights, and paid the same as I have for a week in other places.  This was the first time I actually organised and book the holiday myself. This was the first time I spend hours and hours looking into hotels, reading reviews and looking at pictures.

The hotel I stayed at was called Salgados Palm Village. I had a twin room, and I have to say it is still the nicest room I have stayed in. It had a separate living room area, and there was a little hallway between the bathroom and bedroom.

Portugal - Living room
Living Room

The balcony was the length of the the bedroom and the living room and you could access it from both rooms. The complex consisted of several blocks of rooms and as a result there was about 7 pools. Most were around the main area, but with a couple in between the buildings.

Portugal - poolside
Poolside

They weren’t really deep, this is a problem I get being so short, a deep pool means unless you are swimming, you need to stay need the edge. They were a pleasant temperature and because there was so many they were never crowded. 

There was 3 different restaurants, a main buffet one, an Italian one and a grill one. There was food available all day from at least one of these. The sauces were branded, and it was little things like this that made this hotel stand out for me. 

Portugal - Outside the restaurant
Outside the restaurant

There was a large grasses area with an outside gym and a play area.

It was about a 15-20 minute walk to the beach. The hotel did have a little train though. The beach was beautiful golden sand, but the sea being the Atlantic was chilly. But you would not fault it for the scenery and amazing sunsets.

Portugal beach
The beach
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Cyprus

So next I went to Cyprus. We had booked Tunisia but due to a horrific event we had to change 8 weeks before. So we ended up going to Cyprus. The hotel, Smartline Protaras, was pleasant but they seemed to not want to put their air conditioning on in the hotel, and it was close to 40 degrees. This made for unpleasant meal times and I pitied the poor staff who were running around to get drinks and clear tables. I wasn’t a fan of ordering your drinks after you sat down. A nice idea but as they came from the very busy bar I had eaten before I got a drink. I like to have something to eat with my food so this became frustrating for me.

There was a group of 12 of us and we were those people that got up at 6 to put our towels out. But we were not the first out there. 

Cyprus - pool bar
The Pool Bar

There were snacks during the day. They had to be ordered from the bar and I sat for a hour for a plate of chips that never came. It was a shame that they took so long as the food was amazing when it did eventually get out to you. The food at lunch and in the evenings was again very good. My nephew, who is fussy always found something he liked. 

There were a few shops and restaurants down from the hotel as you headed towards the small beach. 

Cyprus - poolside
Poolside

The beach was quite same, the sand was quite dark and I was surprised the sea wasn’t as clear and blue as I had seen in other part of the Mediterranean.

There was a bus stop just outside the hotel where you could catch a bus to the next town, you could also walk to it along a walkway adjacent to the beach. 

Smartline Protaras Hotel
The Hotel

It was pretty hot when we went, the car steering wheels were melting in the cities, and when our coach trip back to the airport had no air conditioning for a hour and a half journey it was pretty unpleasant. I did email our travel company about it but heard nothing back.

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