• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton
    Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

Time to start thinking of your next summer holiday…

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

USA and Canada

Everyone’s situation is different as to what they need to think about when booking a holiday. Do you have children at school, are you in a job that restricts you from taking time off when you like?

Early planning is a must to avoid disappointment in these situations. Booking early also means you can take advantage any early booking discounts, which can save significantly sums for your holiday.

We are here to assist you make those plans and to help take the stress out of organising your trip. Once booked you can simply sit back and look forward to a wonderful holiday!

We are experts in the USA and Canada priding ourselves on the fact we have stayed in and visited many of the places we send our clients, helping you to make the best choices. The USA and Canada are well worth booking early in high season and they both offer something for everyone, from big city glamour to small town charm but can have limited availability.

 

USA – first thoughts

For the USA ‘big city glamour’ try the city of Chicago in Midwestern USA, a metropolitan hub for dining, shopping and entertainment. The Magnificent Mile is one of Chicago’s most famous shopping districts, and you’ll find flagship stores — from high street favourites to high fashion stores — along the stretch of shops. Nearby, wander along State Street, where you can visit the original Marshall Field’s, now Macy’s. For boutique shopping, head to Chicago’s 77 neighbourhood, where you’ll find unique, one-of-a-kind items you simply won’t want to leave without.

Chicago is bursting at the seams with theatrical talent. Broadway in Chicago and many Tony Award winning companies bring in big names and blockbuster shows, while more than 200 storefront, experimental and neighbourhood theatres bring you pioneering contemporary performances. Chicago is also a city that loves to laugh —after all Chicago invented improvisation comedy. See where Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell performed at world-famous ‘The Second City’. If stand-up comedy is your thing, grab your tickets for The Laugh Factory or Zanies. It is also a hub for all kinds of music and well worth experiencing.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For small town charm, we would recommend Jackson in Wyoming USA, sitting 15 miles from the Idaho border and approximately 12 miles from the entrance of Grand Teton National Park and 60 miles from the famous Yellowstone National Park. Offering you an adventure holiday exploring the wildlife and immersing in the local culture. You can explore on skis (in winter), mountain bikes, rafts, horse drawn stagecoaches. Add in exquisite cuisine, world-renowned art, and unique shopping to make a holiday to remember.

 

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Canada some places to consider

For ‘big city glamour’ consider a visit to the vibrant city of Vancouver, British Columbia with its skyline of glass buildings and the surrounding ocean and coastal mountains. Here you can swim from the beach and then go off to explore a mountain all in one day.  This is such a versatile city with so much to do. The city is the largest in British Columba, but manages to hold on to its rustic charm and natural beauty nonetheless. Visitors can enjoy bike riding, shopping, visiting a local museum or just relaxing in Stanley Park. Take the free shuttle service out to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Originally built in 1889, Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River. Cliffwalk is the park’s newest attraction – a cantilevered walkway clinging to the granite cliff high above Capilano Canyon. Treetops Adventure, seven suspension bridges through the evergreens taking you up to 100 feet (30m) above the forest floor, offers a unique squirrel’s eye perspective of the forest. See the jaw-dropping majestic nature of British Columbia unfold as you ascend via aerial tram to the summit of Grouse Mountain. Rising 4,100 feet (1,250 metres) above Vancouver and just 15 minutes from the city’s downtown.

You can dine at a world class restaurant or join a Vancouver foodie tour which allows you to visit a wide variety of highly recommended restaurants trying varied cuisine and enjoying the nightlife. A visit to Granville Island is a must for true foodies looking to sample the best of this coastal city. This gastronomic-focused district offers everything from elegant waterfront restaurants to small ethnic eateries. The Granville Island Public Market is a must see, an indoor market featuring a fascinating assortment of food and produce, displaying handcrafted products and unique gifts.

 

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For small town charm in Canada, we suggest Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan – an attractive town with an underground network of bootlegging tunnels connecting buildings. The tunnels were created in 1908 for a steam system that never happened, but it is rumoured that Al Capone gambled and made deals in them. You can get around this historic town on trolley buses and guided tours, stopping to visit one of the many attractions and museums, or you can simply relax in one of the many spas around the town. Summer in Moose Jaw is always bustling with activities such as Sidewalk Days, Park Art, the Motif Multicultural Festival, Farmers’ Markets, events in Crescent Park and much more.

 

Picture courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan Greg Huszar Photography

Picture courtesy of Tourism Saskatchewan Greg Huszar Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information and help with organising and booking your holiday please contact us.

Why Wyoming..

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

If your someone who likes space with peace and amazing scenery, then this state’s vast size and low population which could allow each person living in Wyoming to have 111 acres all to themselves could be your perfect get away. Here are 10 places to get you started…………..

 

Lander – Hiking, mountain biking, fishing and world-class climbing await in this secluded mountain town along Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Most of Lander’s outdoor fun can be found in Sinks Canyon State Park a beautiful park with a natural phenomenon known as The Sinks. Jump on one of the 500+ area climbing routes or explore the park’s stunning scenery via trail.

Wind River Canyon Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Star Valley – Wyoming’s Star Valley is a community of 12 towns that span a 45 mile stretch of valley nestled against the Salt River Mountain Range – just one hour south of Grand Teton National Park. This often-overlooked part of the state is also one of the most beautiful, with rolling hills, snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers serving as the backdrop to your outdoor adventures.

Saratoga – For the ultimate mountain rejuvenation, head to Saratoga and take a soak in the hot springs. Hobo Hot Springs features several free pools, including a few along the North Platte River. Make your way to nearby Medicine Bow National Forest to hike along the Snowy Mountain Range.

Hot Springs Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Sundance – Break away from the stresses of modern technology in the place where the Sundance Kid got his name. This Western town is located in the heart of the Black Hills, offering plenty of trails for the enjoyment of hikers, horseback riders and off-road vehicle enthusiasts alike. Explore Devils Tower America’s first national monument by hiking around its mile-long base or climbing up its 900-foot face.

Alcova – Technically part of Casper, Wyoming, Alcova is an unincorporated town near Fremont Canyon that offers rest, rejuvenation and adventure on the water. Get away from the noise of everyday life by staying at a campsite along the canyon’s Alcova or Pathfinder reservoirs; or book a rustic cabin in the town of Alcova. Rent a pontoon boat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard or water toy of your choosing at Alcova Resort and spend your days gazing at the canyon’s towering walls from its refreshing blue shores. Grab your fishing pole and cast a line into Alcova Reservoir, or try your luck at fly fishing on the nearby Platte River. Rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking offer even more fun on shore.

Seminoe Alcova Wyoming Backway Cedit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Guernsey – Step off the grid and into a time when the West was a new frontier. Just south of Guernsey you will find remnants of travel from those heading West on the Oregon Trail during the mid-1800s. See the Oregon Trial ruts – the tracks worn into sandstone from pioneer wagons – some of which are now five feet deep. Then head to Register Cliff to find names carved into rock wall by emigrants passing through. Continue your deep dive into history with a trip to Fort Laramie, a national historic site that transformed from a fur trading outpost to a military post protecting westward travellers from local American Indian tribes.

Fort Laramie NHS Buildings Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Fort Laramie NHS Barracks Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovell – This quaint town in northern Wyoming offers a doorway to both Western history and outdoor adventure. Spot wild horses at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center, discover ancient American Indian History at Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark or stroll through downtown Lovell, known for its beautiful rose gardens. While in town, take a few days to explore the nearby Bighorn Lake and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, an area that spans into Montana and features stunning, 1,000-foot-tall canyon walls carved by the Bighorn River.

Medicine Wheel Credit: Wyoming Office of Tourism

Green River – Discover southwest Wyoming’s beautiful buttes and other worldly rock formations in the area surrounding Green River. Toss your phones aside as you search for wildlife at the beautiful Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, where moose, pronghorn and over 200 species of birds can be spotted year-round. Or drive the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop for the chance to see members of the area herd, which consists of about 1,500 wild horses. Drive the Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway for breath taking views of Green River and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, leaving ample time to stop and explore.

 

Buffalo – Tucked just east of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, Buffalo offers a wide range of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed during any season. Take a hike in Cloud Peak Wilderness, cast a line in Clear Creek or saddle up for an hourly, daily or overnight horseback trip at one of several nearby ranches. When the snow starts falling, hit the slopes at Meadowlark Ski Lodge or snowmobile pristine trails in the Bighorns. For a touch of Wild West adventure, step back in time at the Historic Occidental Hotel, where infamous guests such as Butch Cassidy and Calamity Jane once stayed. Then venture down to Hole-in-the-Wall near Kaycee to get a first-hand look at one of the West’s best outlaw hideouts.

Buffalo Occidental Hotel Credit: Buffalo, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce

Dubois – Located near both the Wind River and Absaroka mountain ranges, you can hike to the peaceful Lake Louise or challenge yourself with a hike up Whiskey Mountain, both of which aren’t far from Wyoming’s tallest mountain at 13,809 feet: Gannett Peak. During the winter months, head west to Falls Campground or Deception Creek to snowshoe or cross-country ski. These areas are protected from snowmobilers, allowing you to have a quiet experience on pristine snow.

Sydney to the Hunter Valley Wine Region by Rail

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

If you are planning a holiday to Australia and fancy visiting the Hunter Valley but are not keen on self drive, then why not include a rail trip in your itinerary?

You can travel to the Hunter Valley, which takes about three hours by express train, from Sydney Central Station. Along the way you will only experience seven stops. The modern trains are very comfortable and feature an on board café and toilets. Large windows offer views of the stunning scenery throughout your journey.

The package would include:

  • Return train tickets from Sydney’s Central Railway Station to Singleton Station
  • Meet and Greet transfers to and from Singleton Railway Station via private Mercedes
  • Two nights’ accommodation in a choice of guestrooms and cottages at the Hunter Valley Resort.
  • Onsite Vineyard Tour followed by a private tasting with a Cellarmaster
  • Hunter Wine Theatre experience showing the onsite winery in action followed by wine tasting
  • Accommodation, breakfast, and wine activities are included in the package.

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Hunter Valley Resort is a superb country inn or lodge with 35 rooms and cottages surrounded by 70 acres of countryside and 50 year old shiraz vineyards.

Whilst there see the Hunter Wine Theatre Experience, explore and enjoy the facilities in the resort, visit the Brewery, souvenir shops, go bike riding, visit local wineries and a cheese factory, try a segway, horse riding, enjoy a relaxing massage in the Hunter Valley Heaven Massage Centre, take a carriage ride, play tennis, or go swimming – there really is something for everyone!

 

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Picture courtesy of Hunter Valley Resort

Coastal Pacific Rolls Again!

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

It’s the news we’ve been waiting for – the Coastal Pacific train on New Zealand’s South Island is set to recommence operations from the beginning of December! This scenic rail route operates between Picton and Christchurch, and connects perfectly with the ferry between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

If arriving by ferry from Wellington, Picton is the first place visitors will come to – with a stunning journey through the Queen Charlotte Sound on the approach. Here, explore the wine regions of Blenheim and Marlborough, and take time to discover Abel Tasman National Park with its crescent shaped beaches and lush greenery. Kayaking, sailing, cycling and walking are just a few of the activities awaiting visitors to the region.

From Picton, board the Coastal Pacific train – the rail route wends its way down the east coast of the island, and stops in Kaikoura along the way. At this point, it’s possible to stop for a night or two – Kaikoura is best known for its whale watching and the albatross found here. The earthquakes of 2016 have meant an enforced regeneration of parts of the town, and it is ready to welcome visitors once again.

 

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

The rail route continues to Christchurch. This is another place that has seen earthquake enforced regeneration and the locals here have taken advantage of the chance to make improvements along the way. Alongside traditional attractions such as the botanic gardens, the tram and punting along the river, visitors can head to the unique Cardboard Cathedral and the Quake City Museum – both icons of the recent history of the city.

From Christchurch, it’s possible to connect to another of New Zealand’s iconic rail journeys – the Tranz Alpine. This rail route cuts a path through the Southern Alps from east to west, briefly stopping in alpine Arthur’s Pass before continuing to Greymouth on the coast.

These trains provide a chance to experience New Zealand’s scenery from a different perspective, and can dovetail perfectly with sections of self-drive during a New Zealand holiday. For more information, please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

Picture courtesy of KiwiRail

Chile: The Best Place to Witness the Total Solar Eclipse in 2019

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Join a tour in to the heart of the Elqui Valley, Chile for an amazing location to see the Total Solar Eclipse which will occur on 02 July 2019 at 16:40. The tour is a 4 day glamping experience that allows you time to explore the region with its hot springs, fascinating valleys and picturesque villages.

On the day of the eclipse you journey up to the observation point in good time to have lunch and then prepare for the eclipse.

Add this unique experience to a tour of this country that has a diversity of experiences awaiting exploration – Atacama Desert, remote and exciting Patagonia, the beautiful Lakes region, Wine region and the Capital, Santiago, which is well worth exploring.

For more information on this once in a lifetime trip please contact us

Picture courtesy of Sernatur

Picture courtesy of Sernatur

Picture courtesy of Chile Tourist Board

 

Panama: Whale Watching in the Chiriqui Gulf

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

From July to November whales migrate from the North and South Poles to mate and to have their calves, especially the humpback whales. The warm waters of the Chriqui Gulf are ideal for the calves who are born with hardly any body fat and would find the extreme cold waters of the Poles impossible for survival. They are also relatively predator free.

Along the Pacific coast of Panama, Colba Island and the south of Veraguas Province are considered the ideal places to catch your whale watching boats. The beautiful warm sea will entice you to stay to explore the corals and beaches as well as seeing these giants of nature.

Another excellent reason to visit this small but exciting Central America destination – indigenous tribes, rain forests full of wildlife, two Panama Canals and the city of Panama that has been built 3 times.

For more details please contact us.

 

Pacific_138324898253

Picture courtesy of Metropolitan Touring

Another and Quieter side to Tanzania

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Most people know about the plains of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater and the wildlife spectacle to found there. But there is so much more to explore in Tanzania and much of it is untouched and incredibly diverse.

If you would like to see and hear Africa at its unspoilt best then consider heading to places like the Gombe Stream National Park and walk in the footsteps the British primatologist, Jane Goodall, in search of the descendants of her favourite chimps – Frodo, Merlin and David Greybeard.

On the banks of Lake Tanganyika, the deepest lake in Africa, is Mahale National Park, another place to see primates such as chimps and Colobus monkeys in their natural habitat. End up on your own private beach to cool down and then around the camp fire with more stars above you than you could imagine.

Katavi National Park, Tanzania’s third largest Park, is ideal for the traveller looking for a truly remote experience away from regular tourist routes. In this park, you will find animals curious and unfamiliar to human contact. Herd sizes of buffalo and other plains animals are massive, often in the thousands and this in turn brings in good numbers of predators. With hardly anyone else around and a great lodge to retire to, you will feel like a true explorer.

For more details please contact us.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

More reasons to visit Namibia…

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Namibia is a destination that has so much to offer tourists, particularly if you like your wildlife, geology, spectacular scenery, sea life and adventure. With 4 different deserts, each with its own ecosystem that would keep most desert lovers happy.

But here are some new ideas for when you are there and a new camp on the Zambezi River in the Caprivi Strip.

Firstly, the Zambezi Mubala Camp and Lodge are located under tall, shady trees on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, about 40 km east of Katima Mulilo. Eight safari tents, equipped with four beds each, ensuite bathrooms, self-catering kitchens and verandas invite you to linger along the river. Traditional campers are also welcome to pitch their tents on one of the ten campsites with private sanitary facilities.

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Guests to Zambezi Mubala Lodge are transferred by boat from Zambezi Mubala Camp to the lodge. As they are only allowed to do transfers on the Zambezi River during daytime, guests are kindly require to arrive at least one hour prior to sunset.

The next adventure gives you a bird’s eye view of the Namib Desert. As from 1 May 2018, the Namib Desert Lodge offers Powered Paragliding to its guests. The Gondwana Collection partnered with Wild Air Safaris to provide guests with an adventure of a lifetime. The 20-minute flights can be booked and paid directly at the Namib Desert Lodge and are subject to availability. Safety is our priority and flights are only offered on the motorized paragliding flights in perfect weather conditions.

Walking part of the Fish River Canyon (the World’s Second Largest Canyon).  On 20 April the 12 participants of this season’s first Klipspringer Trail made their way through the Fish River Canyon in the wilderness area north of the main viewing point. Luggage and equipment are conveyed between the overnight camps, so participants only need to pack water and snacks for the day’s hike. Each overnight camp offers cooking and bathroom facilities. The self-guided Canyon Klipspringer Trail (4 nights/3 days) covers altogether 30km, hikers are equipped with a detailed map.

For fuller details or to learn more about Namibia, please contact us.

 

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

It is not too late!

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

With the longest day just about to arrive and the true summer weather with us, you may think that it is too late to book a holiday for this year, but you could well be wrong! Many regions still have the capacity to take good numbers of travellers and still feel un-crowded.

Parts of Canada and the USA fit this bill well and do have the option of medium and long haul flights on offer. Atlantic Canada is just 6-7 hours flying time away and offers a huge variety of experiences, scenery and excellent food and wine. Eastern USA also has much to offer and is only a little longer on the plane. September is a particularly good time for these regions, as the fall colours begin to show.

If you are willing to be more adventurous in your destinations and avoid the really popular locations, then you have time to book your holiday for this summer or autumn.

It starts with a call – Contact us / 01323 446550 and you could be on your way.

Picture courtesy of Angie Watson

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

One to add to your bucket list…

Posted on:
Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Gaya Island, Malohom Bay, is set within the Tunku Abdul Marine Park, a group of 5 islands located off Kota Kinabalu.  Fringed with coral reefs, they pride themselves on the marine wildlife and coral reef restoration.

The endangered Sea Turtle is one of the marine wildlife animals that Gaya Island are keen to help and to date they have helped and released four turtles back into the sea – Bobby, Ninja, Carman and Nick Jr all of which have undergone rehabilitation and research.

Guests recently staying on the island were lucky enough to be joined by a gentle green turtle on their Coral Garden snorkelling excursion with the resorts Marine Biologist – This sounds like an amazing experience.

If this is something that you would like to add to your bucket list, why not get in touch to enquire about how you can put together your own holiday and look forward to making amazing memories on an amazing island getaway. Please contact us for more details .

Picture courtesy of YTL Hotels, Gaya Island Resort

Picture courtesy of YTL Hotels, Gaya Island Resort

Picture courtesy of YTL Hotels, Gaya Island Resort

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