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.

 

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.

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

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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Majorca

The first “sunny” holiday I went on was to Majorca. When we landed it was a little cloudier than I was anticipating. But not really knowing what to expect and being excited for my first All Inclusive holiday I ignored it. We stayed at Belvedere Hotel about 20 mins away from the airport. Our room was clean with a balcony where we could see the sea, see the hills, and watch the planes coming and going.

View from the balcony
View from the balcony

Within about 20 minutes of being there we decided to try out the snack bar by the pool. It was quick, efficient and with varied  choice of food that did change a bit each day. It served things like chips, burgers, hotdogs, chicken nuggets and toasties. In the afternoon there was also freshly cooked pizza from their pizza oven. It was amazing pizza. 

The food in the restaurant was nice, lots choice and there was served until quite late, which was great if like us you fancied a late evening snack.

The pool was freezing, and we stuck to the “hot tub”, they were warmer than the main pool, but far from hot.  The sea was much warmer.

Belvedere Hotel
Belvedere Hotel

The walk to the beach was down hill, and took about 10-15 minutes, and was effort on the way back. But the sea was warm, clean and inviting. The beach was beautiful and golden. It was close enough to plenty of shops if you wanted to explore. There was also a bus put on by the hotel that took you to Palma Nova, and also stopped by an aquarium. We went on this one day as it was raining, in Majorca, in August. 

Majorca Beach
Beach

I was also ill for a couple of days which didn’t make this the best first all inclusive holiday, but it was somewhere to start. The thing I learnt from this holiday was that the hotel is everything.

A Ski Trip

So my first real time abroad was over Christmas in 2008. We went to Borovets in Bulgaria. I discovered that I was not a natural skier. When a group of small children are asking if you are ok and if they can help you, while you are trying to get back up, you know something has gone wrong. The snow however was amazing.

Snow in borovets
Snow in borovets

Forests of tall snow ladened fir trees to stroll through while you have snowball fights and stop to make snow angels.

Snow angel
A Snow Angel

The hotel was not amazing. But the locals were. They were so friendly, shouting encouragement as I gripped onto the pole of the ski lift trying to keep my balance.

Snow in Borovets
The bottom of the ski slope

It was fantastic, despite eating mostly chips and toast at the hotel (the food was not the best I have had). The restaurants during the day saved us though. Great food to keep us going, and plenty of hot chocolate to warm us up. Definitely a different kind of Christmas.

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Introductory Blog

Just thought I would do an introductory blog to what the other blogs will be about, although they might change overtime.

I grew up in a large family so we never had a lot of money but we always went on holiday to Devon or Dorset. It was always on the beach and often in a tent.

Tent

The South West coast of England is wonderful to me, with golden sands and clean seas. Cornwall has amazing blue sea and waves if you want to bodyboard or surf.

cornwall
Cornwall

I was (and still am) a little afraid of flying, that combined with no spare money meant that I didn’t travel far, other than the south west coast of England. I didn’t go properly abroad (not sure Republic of Ireland counts) until I was 28. That was a skiing holiday and I was not good. I might blog my experience another time.

I first went on a “sunny holiday” when I was 33. I have now caught the bug to see other places, but I also like a great hotel. I travel with siblings and often with my cousin. I am happy to admit I am lazy on holiday and I do lay by the pool a lot. So a great hotel is essential. So thinking about the blogs I plan to write I will cover my trips, and include reviews of the hotels etc. Hopefully you will find them helpful.