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Tour of Australia via Singapore and Dubai
Qantas Flights from Manchester International Airport to Sydney via Dubai and Singapore
The tour began when we departed Manchester on the 29th of September on an evening flight to Dubai with Qantas. We then made our way to Singapore for a second stop off staying in the lovely Miramar Hotel in central Changi with lovely views of the city, this was a great place to have a travel break before our next flight to Sydney International, all of the flights were very good and connections caught easily.
We spent 7 days in Sydney allowing us to view all of the sights with great ease, enjoying the sun and ambience of down under as well as acclimatising after our mammoth journey across the continent! We used water taxis to navigate to city these are very good and affordable. Whilst visiting this great city we took a trip to visit the Blue Mountain National Park including a ride on a cable car across gauges and valleys which saves your legs from a work out in 30+ degree heats! After a great time in Sydney it was sad to leave however more fun was to come on our travels to Melbourne, we flew straight from Sydney to Melbourne staying in the Mercure Melbourne Treasury Gardens for 3 nights which was a first class hotel allowing us to have a relaxing stay in this beautiful city.
Our third destination on the tour was the famous Alice Springs, we flew from Melbourne to Alice Springs for the night. We visited Featherdale Wildlife Park where we learnt about the animals of the outback! From Kangaroos to Crocs and snakes you name it they had it there, it was interesting to learn about what we might find on our travels as well as to handle them with the keepers. We also explored the settlement and visited the flying doctor station along with the Alice Springs air school.
Alice Springs is a place stuck in time with telegraph station buildings still intact and tiny air strips dotted around; flying to Ayres Rock airport from Alice Springs we experienced stunning views from the sky as we flew. We then took a private transfer to our hotel namely the Voyages Desert Garden Hotel in Ayres Rock with beautiful views of the rock and surrounding bush.
Upon arrival in Ayres rock we took a helicopter tour around this amazing sight this was a nice add on that was suggested to us by the travel centre staff. This was a great extra giving us a unique view of this great natural phenomenon. Following our private helicopter trip around Ayres rock we ended the experience with dinner held under the stars, waking to an amazing sunrise before ending our 2 day Ayres rock experience and heading off to the airport for our next leg to Cairns.
We stayed in Cairns for 2 nights at the wonderful Bay Village Tropical Retreat which allowed us to take in our previous experiences along with visiting another wildlife centre to view reptiles, birds and Kuala bears to which one of our party got to hold and pet one! Our final leg in Australia and penultimate leg of the tour brought us to Brisbane where we stayed at the Ibis Brisbane Hotel for 2 nights here we explored the city and prepared for the journey to Dubai. We flew from Brisbane to Sydney and then boarded for Dubai where we spent our final 3 nights in the Four points by Sheraton in Downtown Dubai which was a real treat and a great way to end our fabulous tour of New South Wales via Indonesia and the UAE!
Holiday in Cardiff
I would like to start by saying that everyone who came on the trip thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They felt the choice of events and venues was excellent and the whole trip was very well organised. The banquet was seen as the highlight of the trip. To such an extent that people have said that this has been the best Rotary international trip they have ever been on, because of the visit to the castle. The following is summary of what we did over the weekend;
The tour was conducted by someone who was knowledgeable and it was comprehensive. Lunch was good the quality of food was first class. The only comment for organised parties they need a room in which to serve the meal.
The service was good and the rooms were comfortable. The hotel was full because of a rugby tournament, nevertheless the staff worked hard to meet our needs. It's location is excellent for both the bay and the city centre.
We walked from the hotel, allowing me to tell and show some of the more interesting parts of the city. E.g. St Johns Church , the Library, the Hayes etc.
The tour of the castle lasted around thirty minutes. The guide knew his stuff and took us to parts of the castle where you would normally not have access. In particular the Herbert Tower and the Arab room. I have visited the castle and taken people around and I have only been inside this room once before and that was in 1973 when I was given a dinner by my college in the banqueting hall. So this was a real exclusive.
The banquet and entertainment was fantastic. It was value for money. On each table there was sufficient wine and the food was to a high standard. The entertainment gave an excellent insight into Welsh culture as well as being modern. Not all the songs were in Welsh. The entertainers served on table as well. The MC who was in his 20's had impeccable timing and played the audience very well. I found myself singing along with the traditional folk songs and even some of party were also joining in - they didn't know what they were singing, but who cares. A great atmosphere great night.
We took the A48 to Tintern passing via Carewent, Penhow and Chepstow. I was able to explain the significance historically of each of these places. We spent an hour at the abbey and had a cup of coffee.
This is the old Roman Fort of Isca Siluriam , it is off the traditional tourist path. However, it is an interesting place to visit. There is one of the best preserved amphitheatres in the UK and excellent legionary museum. This is also one of the sites for Camelot. Careleon was a medieval port and consequently, has more pubs per head of population than most other towns. We visited the Hanbury Arms where Tennyson wrote his poem to Lancelot and Guinevere. In the Pub the bay window still exists where he actually wrote the poem. The party really enjoyed this visit we left at 2.30. Most people took the time upon arrival back to Cardiff to have a wander around the city.
Great location, great food great service. We had a wander around the bay before returning to our hotel. On reflection we could have spent more time in the bat area.
St Fagans Folk Museum
I had read on the Thursday before we went that the museum staff were on strike on this weekend. I emailed and was assured most buildings would be open. There was a craft fair and food fair on the day as well as traditional Welsh dancing. The general consensus was this was a visited most of them wouldn't have made under their own steam, however worthwhile and fully appreciated.
The food was good and we were well looked after by the staff. Everyone enjoyed the meal and felt it was a fitting end to the weekend.
So, Roger well done and there is a template for a trip that could be used again.
1. Holiday in Petrcane, Zadar, Croatia September 2014
The holiday was booked through Benchmark travel. I gave details of the holiday my daughter and I would require and within 24 hours we got the reply we were waiting for. Things sounded perfect with the added bonus of overnight in Manchester for ease of travelling for the early flight and an extra day to relax. The holiday price included overnight at the airport, flights, transfers and half board tariff at the Hotel Pinija. It all worked like clockwork hotel bookings, transfers and flights.
The Hotel Pinija is set within grounds full of pine trees, hence the name, and the smell of the pines was apparent from the start. The hotel was modern, spacious, clean and the staff really polite and helpful. The Hotel provides facilities for families and visitors of all ages with small children’s play areas, slopes for easier access and the area is mostly flat making it easy to get about. There was minimal entertainment in the hotel every evening both for children and adults and a few bars within walking distance. The food was great with so much choice at breakfast, lunch and evening meal and as it was served as a buffet, as much as you wanted. There was a café bar within the hotel close to the pool and sea which was equally as good for both service and light lunches. There was a beauty therapy salon which was popular, we had 2 treatments to further relax, and a fully equipped gymnasium with supervision from fitness instructors. The hotel does have its own pool and bar with views over looking the sea towards the islands. We prefer the sea and we only had a few metres to walk to get to the waters edge As with a lot of Croatia there is no beach but sun loungers were available at about £1 per day by the sea so we spent time relaxing in the sun on the man made rock platform, no sand.... job done! We were able to relax by the sea and swim safely at our leisure. There is no tide so it was like swimming in very large a pool! Jelly shoes are advised due to the stony sea bed and possibility of lurking sea urchins. There are opportunities to experience day boat cruises and even some water sports close by at extra cost.
The area itself was very quiet and tranquil, not spoilt by tourism and it was exactly what we had requested.
Benchmark travel took all the stress out of us trying to organise a holiday ourselves and I felt confident with their recommendations and organisation.
Everything went perfectly and we cant wait to go back!!!!
Angela & Kirsty Thompson
2. Beatrice - Equus Sylvania - Transylvania, Romania
A centre based holiday, riding out each day into the forests and meadows in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. I travelled as a single person, and was one of a group of six riders on the trip. For experienced horse riders only - to get the most from the riding you need to be fit and confident in handling a horse at speed in a group over varied terrain. We groomed and tacked up our own horses every day, although you can have help for this if needed. You must be able to mount from the ground - we also walked down some of the steeper sections of the mountains.
The centre has around 40 horses, mainly Shagya Arabs, Arabs and Kisberi (Hungarian) horses, many of which are used by the centre's owners for Endurance competitions. I rode four different horses in the week, all of which were forward going and fit. We rode through wild flower hay meadows, through thick dark forests, across rivers and up into the hills surrounding the centre. We rode between 20 and 30km a day, spending between 4 and 6 hours in the saddle with picnic lunches. Lots of opportunities for long fast canters. Wildlife in the countryside - we saw eagle, buzzard, bear, deer and numerous birds. Beautiful far reaching views to the mountains.
The accommodation was clean and comfortable with en-suite facilities. No frills, but there was everything I needed - comfortable bed, shower, a lounge, bar, dining area. My room had a balcony looking over the horse paddocks to the hills beyond. The food was excellent and plentiful - much of it produced at the centre from their own vegetable and fruit gardens and own livestock - pigs, hens (eggs), chickens (meat), rabbits, turkeys etc. All of it was home cooked and very tasty. Wine was included.
The opportunity to go to a bear hide is highly recommended. We spent about 3 hours in the hide and saw 14 different brown bears come down to feed. On our one day off riding, we were driven to two towns, Sighisoara and Viscri. Both very interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites, shown round the towns, the Saxon fortified churches, and treated to a traditional Romanian meal.The guides were very good, friendly, English speaking, experienced horse riders and knowledgeable about the area.
I enjoyed the week very much, the other guests were good company and we all got on being likeminded "horsey" people - irrespective of nationality (English, German and Swiss). I would recommend it to anyone wanting a taste of rural Romania and fast exciting riding.
3. Emma - America Ranch Holiday
New Haven Ranch
I would say if anyone wants to go on a working ranch holiday, learn how to horse ride first!
It was an amazing experience to see how the West live. When you see the old cowboy films and they are dressed in their chaps, boots, cowboy hats..., it is exactly the same in real life - you just don't realise it until you see it first hand.
It was supposedly a trip of a lifetime, but it is such a great place, people are so friendly over there, and as i only stayed in one part (at the ranch), it's a great excuse to go again!
4. Hong Kong
I’ve just got back from a trip to Hong Kong & Macau that you so brilliantly organised. The choice of accommodation was superb and with all the extra maps, literature and advice that you gave me, it made the experience of travelling on the MTR, Ferries & trams so much easier.
5. Jaqueline - Flights from Liverpool - 12.05.14 - 17.05.14 - Sorrento -
The Grand Hotel Hermitage
Just a word of thanks for all the hard work organising my recent trip to Sorrento. Everything went according to plan and my sisters were well impressed by all the arrangements, especially the private transfer from airport to hotel and return!
The hotel is quite remote from Sorrento but the village of St Agate is quite lovely and well served with shops and restaurants of all levels, from the casual pizzeria of Buenos Aries (which we frequented several times) to the more sophisticated. The shuttle service from the hotel to Sorrento was essential and much appreciated as the hotel was approx half an hour from the town up/down a series of steep hairpin bends! It just took a bit of organising the day as this had to be booked the night before, both there and back!
The bedroom had very little storage space,which was a minor problem, and very hard beds which was more of an issue! The restaurant was excellent as were all the staff - it is a family run hotel and very friendly.
So once again, thank you for sorting out my problems yet again. Next year could be Israel!
Jacky Atkinson (and my sisters!)