Lake Windermere Hotels

For me, Spring time is by far the nicest time of year to visit the Lake District. Any time of year is good but I just love to see the little lambs frolicking around in the fields and the sea of daffodils that would make Wordsworth proud.

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The weather is not always great but there is something very spiritual about the place for me. As soon as I come off the M6 motorway and look up at the landscape, it never fails to take my breath away, even though I have seen the view many times before. I often stay at the Windermere Hydro which although in lots of ways was a very average hotel, the views and the foo took it to another level. However, it recently changed ownership and the food did disappoint when I was last there. There are some other lovely boutique hotels such as the Cranleigh or other hotels with more olde world charm such as Linthwaite House hotel, The Ryebeck and Storrs Hall in Bowness. 2016-02-28 10.07.14

Although Bowness and Windermere get really busy at peak times, I still enjoy mooching round the shops. I particularly enjoy going for a drive to neighbouring places such as Ambleside and Hawkshead. I love all the quaint little craft shops. A couple of options if you’re not one for hiking is a lake cruise or a visit to the World of Beatrix Potter. I particularly also enjoyed a visit to the steam railway at Haverthwaite where the staff in the cafe there made us feel very welcome.

 

 

 

I would love to go back there some time and take my board and easel and do some painting to try toreally capture the views and the peaceful nature of the area.

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Holidays to Las Vegas

Las Vegas in March

If you’re thinking of flying to Las Vegas then March is a great time to go.  What can I say about the place? Well, I love it. Vegas is a unique multi faceted oasis. It is well known for many things such as quickie weddings, excesses of every variety, everything from shopping, entertainment to gambling and a more risque lifestyle. I personally have never enjoyed gambling but Vegas is one of my favourite places on Earth. I can just ignore all the casinos at the front of the hotels and take from it what I enjoy, that being the opulence, the OTT settings and even it’s vulgarity has a special kind of charm that you only understand once you’ve been there.vegas 1

The hotels on the Strip are magnificent. From the MGM Grand to the Luxor, the Venetian to the Bellagio, there are many to see and they are all pretty amazing.

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When we went for the first time, my daughter couldn’t comprehend why we would want to spend an evening looking round hotels and she needed a fair bit of coaxing to come out. Thank goodness she didn’t miss out on what was on offer. With a full scale reproduction of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Luxor, the best that Paris and New York can offer, a replica of Venice with canals through the hotel in the Venetian that is incredible; to say nothing of the best designer shops to be found from Gucci to Prada and with more places to eat out than you can imagine, there really is so much to see and do here. Vegas draws in the top entertainers also with Elton John, Celine Dion and Cirque de Soleil being firm favourites. For free entertainment get down to the light show outside the Bellagio. The artificial lake houses thousands of fountains and puts on a spectacular display as streams of water dance to music lit by a rainbow of coloured light.  vegas 7

There’s so much to see and do here but make sure you don’t miss out on a trip to the Grand Canyon. It’s about a 4 to 5 hour drive from Vegas. Man may be able to accomplish many architectural feats but what nature can do far outweighs that. This place is guaranteed to take your breath away.

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I know they say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas but Vegas seems to be a place that people either love or hate and I’d love to hear what your views are if you’ve been.

Diane

 

Best places to travel in February

Best places to travel in February – Antigua

If you’re going to go away in February then why not do it in style. Antigua is a fantastic place to visit to get the feel good factor. I would also say that if you’re getting married then this would be up there competing as one of the best honeymoon destinations in February. I personally love the Caribbean. I love it’s vibrancy, I love the weather, the ambience, the people, the music, the food, in fact the country as a whole and the nice thing about the West Indies is that each country has its own unique culture. Antigua is no exception. With enough beaches to try a new one each day, I’m sure you too would love it here. There are plenty of watersports to try. watersports

While we were here we hired a car to explore the island. There are some great places to see such as the English harbour. The view from here is amazing. We had an interesting experience when we were driving along, minding our own business. Right in the middle of nowhere we were flagged down by two policemen. Worried sick that we had unwittingly broken some law, we waited as they approached the car. Imagine our surprise when they asked us if they could have a lift to the next town! Only in the Caribbean! Oh and of course we said yes. English harbour

February is an ideal time to visit this wonderful island and the weather should be just perfect, so what are you waiting for.

Large lightweight luggage

Review
IT Luggage World’s Lightest 76.5cm Fluorescent Orange Four Wheel Spinner Case

Product : IT Luggage World’s Lightest 76.5cm Fluorescent Orange Four Wheel Spinner Case
Price : £73.50
Best place to buy : Amazon
Size : 76.5 x 44 x 26 cm – 2.3 kg               suitcase

This case has got a lot of features that I love. Although IT do an extra large version of this product, what I find is that if I have room I will fill it so I know this size is the maximum I can get away with in terms of using up my luggage allowance for a 2 week holiday. That’s why I have a different case depending on the length of my stay. I know what size is ok with a restriction of 23kgs – that’s where I use my large lightweight luggage, the medium size I can just about get up to the full quota of 20kg allowance and for a weekend bag I can normally cope with the carry on size case.

One of the things I have realised over the years is not to go with a colour case that everybody has. Try to be original. That way you’re not picking up a case off the carousel every time a similar colour to yours comes round. That’s another reason I love this make as the flourescent colours are so easy to spot . You can see your case from 100 yards away! Also, I always go for 4 wheels nowadays. True, the case can sometimes run away from you but if it is a large case packed to the brim then being able to push aswell as pull if you’ve got a 5 mile hike to your terminus certainly makes life easier. Also this case only weighs 2.3kg which is very light in the luggage world so means you can fit in an extra few pairs of shoes or outfits for that special night out.

All in all I would rate this IT Luggage World case very highly and definitely recommend it. It is worth paying the extra for the quality you get, reliability of the make and think of what you’ll save in the long run through no excess baggage fees.

Best places to travel in February

Dubai

This is a good time to visit Dubai as going in the summer months is exceptionally hot. I like to be able to walk round and explore a place on holiday but I once visited Dubai in June and the heat was unbearable. It was impossible to walk round in it so I had to get taxis everywhere just to cool down a bit and keep out of the heat. burj alarab

Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city. It can be a very expensive place to stay. It is very modern with some architectural marvels but it still manages to hold on to its traditional roots. The country is epitomised in the luxury of the Burj Al Arab, a 7 star hotel, well worth a visit if you get the chance, if only to see how the other half live and drink in the opulence. However, the don’t allow tourists just to go in for a nosy round. You have to at least book a meal there. We had afternoon tea which was very enjoyable and on a par with London prices.

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The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and worth a trip to as are some of the luxurious shopping malls with all the top designer names on show. If its culture you’re after then there are places like Jumeirah mosque that show off a fine example of Islamic architecture.

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The Deira souk is world renowned and Dubai is known as the City of Gold. The Dubai aquarium on the ground floor of Dubai Mall is also well worth a visit.

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A word of warning if you like a drink. Supermarkets don’t sell booze. You can only buy alcohol in hotels and it works out very expensive. Also be mindful of when Ramadan is. If you are caught eating or drinking in a public place, you may be arrested. 

Best places to travel in February

India – Agra

I’ve got to start with this place and the Taj Mahal because the effect it had on me when I first caught sight of it was more than breathtaking. It is and enchanting experience and it is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.

 

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The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is early morning. It is magical to watch it slowly appearing through the mist. The marble will dazzle you and the colour of it appears to gradually differs throughout the day as the light changes. It took 22 years and 20, 000 workers to build it and the results are awesome. However, be careful of the touts outside. They can be very persistent and quite intimidating if you’re not used to that sort of thing. If you don’t want them to be so pushy, then you need to be firm with them. If you don’t want their services, then let them know. Show them the slightest bit of interest and they won’t leave you alone and there are a lot of them there trying to make money out of you. You have been warned! mumbai 036mumbai 006

India itself is a very unique country, unlike any other with its diversities. Doing the Golden Triangle is very popular, taking in Delhi and Jaipur. Both places are well worth a visit. We hired a private driver to show us round which works out very reasonable, cost wise. Most service industries work out very reasonable as labour is cheap in India on the whole. I had the best pedicure I’ve ever had in India. They took so much time preening my tired feet, it was very impressive.mumbai 052

mumbai 007I also visited Mumbai, which was another memorable experience. Indians don’t appear to take much notice of authority, for instance, most seem to ignore traffic lights, and I witnessed many of them driving down one way streets the wrong way. If that wasn’t enough, then you’ve also got the rickshaws driving too fast as well as the many different animals that suddenly come into the road including goats, cows, horses, camels. You really are taking your life into your own hands when travelling by road. It is an amazing place though and you won’t experience anywhere else quite like it from the huge span of slums to the marvels of the opulent architecture, this has to be one of the most unique cultures I’ve ever experienced. It is buzzing, vibrant, and you will see and smell sights and sensations never experienced before. Whether it be 50 people hanging off a bus or visiting beautiful temples, it will live long in your memory. The food is great here, especially if you love spicy food like me and it’s more cosmopolitan than I was expecting. I will say though, Indians don’t like queuing. Be prepared for a tussle whether it be in a shop or airport terminal, it feels more like being at a football match. mumbai 014 
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Best places to travel in January

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Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is an ideal place to go this time of year. It’s like being in the West Indies only it’s cheaper. If you can handle electric power cuts whilst you’re getting ready to go out in the evenings, then this is a great way of experiencing the typical white sandy beaches and aqua blue seas that you associate with the Caribbean. The culture is unique in that there is no such thing as a typical looking native here. The population is very mixed. The Dominican Republic is the most visited destination in the Caribbean with its great climate, golf courses, resorts and value for money.

dominican republic

There are a lot of really good all inclusive deals to this part of the world and I’d recommend staying in Puerto Plata for a great all round holiday

Best Places to travel in January

Cancun, Mexico  cancun

If you’re still looking for a last minute deal for this month, then for me one of the best places to travel in January is Cancun in Mexico.I just love it here, with its enticing white sands, turquoise sea with plenty of watersports, lots of nightlife, great shopping, good foods and first class service, it’s almost impossible for Cancun to put a foot wrong. The bars even show live English football games which was a nice unexpected surprise for me.

There are a lot of really good all inclusive deals to Cancun and I must wave a flag for the Riu chain of hotels. I’ve used them in other parts of the globe and they’ve been good but the service I received in Mexico was exceptional.  chichen itza

If you’re interested in a bit of culture then there’s much on offer with the history of the Mayans and sights such as the famous pyramids and temples of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula – well worth a visit.

Best places to travel in January

Cape Verde           2014-11-12 12.53.14

Not many people you ask seem to know where Cape Verde is but when you look on the map and see how close the islands are to Senegal in Africa, you’ll realise why it might be a good choice for a holiday in January. You can enjoy the Saharan trade winds and endless hours of sunshine. Together with the unspoilt white beaches and the friendliness of it’s people, it’s a great place to while away the hours and recover from the festive season’s excesses. There are many all inclusive complexes both on Sal and Boa Vista, the two most popular of the islands in the Azures and they give excellent value for money.

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The main language spoken is Portuguese but most of the locals speak English. I tried my first ayuverdic massage here and it really was a most enjoyable experience, a little bit different with the therapist arranging my body into some yoga poses whilst lying there. It really gave me the feel good factor, as did the sun, food and entertainment.  2014-11-16 21.52.40

As a relatively quiet part of the world, (it has not yet been discovered by the masses) I would thoroughly give it the thumbs up as a remedy to get the New Year off in a positive frame.

Mississippi River Paddle boat cruises

It’s nearly ten years now since Hurricane Katrina and whilst there is still some evidence of her destruction in New Orleans, what a place to visit. NOLA as it is known to the locals has a culture all of it’s own and is like no other place in the States. I loved the French Quarter with the colonial style housing and Regency decor. Some of the are looks quite run down but we stayed in a quaint little house that stuck out of the neighbourhood like a little palace. It had it’s own unique eccentric style, typical of New Orleans. There’s plenty to see and do here.2015-06-27 12.46.43

 

Try the House of Blues and you must walk down Bourbon Street and take in the vibes. If you’re looking for cheap parking, spend an hour at the Casino, it’s much cheaper that way. We visited the voodoo museum which was small but interesting.

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Our favourite place to eat was a steak at Chris Ruth’s – the portion sizes too much for our small British palette but we shared a meal between two. You can take a pony and trap ride and be sure to check out Brad Pitt and Angelina’s house. My favourite part of the whole trip was the Mississippi paddle boat cruise.

 

The Jazz played on whilst we enjoyed a three course meal, a truly memorable evening. Talking of eating, I tried some NOLA delicacies that I haven’t had before, like a po boy, that’s a baguette, filled to the brim with meat. A trip to the Big Easy wouldn’t be complete without trying jambalaya or the beignets, that a very filling pastry dish that’s deep fried and dusted with sugar to add extra calories but delicious.2015-06-30 22.28.27

 

Although when we were there, it wasn’t Mardi Gras which must be really exciting, we did witness a unicorn parade and the place is always so lively there is always something to see. Jackson Square is always full of tourists and there are some great restaurants and cafes to try as well as shops to pick up souvenirs. There’s always music being played and buskers abound. It’s a great place for all musicians and although it’s synonymous with jazz, if you walk up Frenchmen Street, you’ll be met with many different varieties of music to suit all tastes