Saturday, 17 October 2015

Visiting Portugal for a Wedding

Last month my better half and myself visited Portugal for one of my oldest friend's weddings. His family has always had property in the Algarve (south coast) and it was therefore an obvious choice for their event.

The UK can be pretty drab at anytime of the year (it has actually been great this year but it wasn't worth the risk of rain). The wise choice is therefore to fly 2 hours away to the south of Portugal for guaranteed sun. By having the wedding just after the school holidays in September, the prices were very reasonable for flights and accommodation.

Because I was a long time friend and travelling from farther away from the UK, I got to stay in the family villa (see photo below). This meant I just had to cover the cost of the essentials like electricity. Most of the wedding party got a very reasonable deal at a small hotel down the road.

Poolside at our villa
The wedding lasted for a week with all the before and after events. It was the perfect little holiday and almost everyone invited managed to make it. Even those from the other side of the world took the opportunity to catch up with everyone at the wedding.

The events included a pre-wedding brunch by the sea (turned out to be a late lunch for us due to a late taxi), stag and hen parties at night, a BBQ and lots of meals at local restaurants. It was a super week with bright sunshine every day. September is a great time to visit Portugal because the hottest weather is over and it is a very pleasant, slightly milder temperature.

The wedding itself was by the beach at a lovely spot on top of a cliff. Then the reception was at an outdoor restaurant 200 metres away. Finally a short walk down to the beach for the evening disco. It was a great location and I can't wait to see the videos and photos which were done by Bloom Imagery.

The wedding photographer was a team of maybe 3 guys (I didn't notice really, except for when dancing). It was drummed into us that they would be handling photos and videos of the event, to stop everyone holding their own cameras and phones throughout the big day.

Encouraging everyone to stay focused on the proceedings was a great idea. This is why I haven't attached any pics from the day. Far too many people miss important life events because they want to take a photo or video on their phones. By almost banning them from the wedding, I think we all enjoyed it more.

The wedding week was a great success and when I get married I would like us to do something similar. Portugal is a great place to have a wedding. I don't know the figures, but my guess is that even with the flights, it won't cost more than back in the UK.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Swimming Lessons for the Kids Before a Holiday

We have booked to go away this year at the end of July for two weeks in Spain. We found a good value package deal, made sure all our passports were up to date and got our youngest his first passport (nightmare at Liverpool's passport office- avoid them if you can), we even starting buying bathing suits.

Then we realised that our youngest James, has no idea how to swim. We quickly asked around and looked online. We found a really nice website for kids swimming lessons Trafford, it was coincidentally a service that our neighbour recommended to use too. So we were doubly happy to sign up.

I work with computers so always appreciate when someone has a nice clean website design. It makes me think that they will also provide a good service. We spoke to the head honcho Linda, who was very nice, and she invited us to come and try out her next lesson in Stretford.

It was ideal. A clean pool, not too many getting taught at the same time, a fun atmosphere and it seemed to be very effective, professional coaching. We are confident James will be ready to at least take a dip without us watching him every second. He seems to be picking up the basics very fast, so we will have no worries as long as he is in a show end where he feet can touch the floor.

Anyway this post is just a reminded for anyone else who overlooks this: make sure all your kids are able to swim before you go on holiday. It really would of put a dampener on things if James couldn't go in the water un-aided. Below is a map of the location of our swimming lessons, click it to go to the website.

Young Kids Swimming Lessons in Stretford, Trafford

Saturday, 18 April 2015

What is Great About Boracay for a Paradise Holiday in the Sun

Boracay is rightly the top tourist destination in the Philippines, a country with over 7,000 islands in the tropics. This is one of the most beautiful places to visit, plus it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to be there.

Firstly Boracay has awesome white sand beaches. In Station 1 in the north part of the main White Beach, the sand is like powder. The sea is fairly shallow and seaweed and coral free. This means it has a beautiful turquoise color. It is bliss just to be there and such pleasant surrounds make it a place where you don't feel the need to "do more".

Secondly the relaxed way of life here is addictive. Residents and visitors live on "island time". This means a brief foray out in the morning, then a leisurely lunch and possibly a snooze when the sun it at its hottest. In the afternoon people really start to go out to the beach in numbers and by sunset it is full.

Finally sunset cocktails and sunset sailing. Most days you will sit in one of the many bars or restaurants on the beach, slip your sandals off and feel the sand between your toes. Then wait for your waitress to bring you happy hour cocktails for a bargain price.

Sailing on Boracay at Sunset 2015

On at least one day it is practically mandatory to take a sailing boat cruise at sunset. There are wonderful sunsets on Boracay and this is a must. You can use the local boats called "paraws" or hire out a real full sized yacht. I recommend Yachting Boracay for this as they have awesome service, especially if you are in a big group.

There is plenty more to the island too. It has a fantastic range of accommodation to suit all budgets. Almost all world cuisines are catered for in the hundreds of restaurants. There is a lively bar and club scene at night. Plus lots of daytime activities. The only downside is that the island is becoming more and more populated as tourist demand grows. That is why you should visit sooner rather than later.

Update 24 April: Check out this post I just found about the top 3 activities on Boracay

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Day in Castleton

Castleton is situated in Derbyshire in the north of England. From Manchester we drove and the scenic journey took around 40 minutes. Just before entering the village the scenery gets really good as you drive down a hill between two small mountains.

It was a cold day and we didn’t have our walking boots so we walked around the town, stopping in the small shops to browse for jewellery made from the locally minded gem stone.

We found a cash machine in Castleton at the end of a shop which also doubled as a cafe. That was rather handy and allowed us to start thinking about lunch.

We popped in most of the pubs and decided upon the Bulls Head, mainly due to the seat with decent views of the hills and it was next to a smouldering fireplace. Earlier we had visited another pub across the road for a drink which also had a real fire burning.

After a hearty pub lunch with very generous portions, we walked around the village again. This time we came across an attractive little river with some ducks.

After a while we had walked off our lunches and decided to go home. A great way to spend a few hours if you are close by.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Weekend in Hong Kong

This post might just help if you are wondering what is best to do in a weekend in Hong Kong. I recently spent a few days in this excellent destination. It really is a cut above the rest compared to most other cities in Asia.  Firstly I recommend you find a hotel with views over the bay. It is an excellent sight day or night, see photo. We were lucky enough to have a room with a massive window in the bedroom, which gave us a great view to start the day from bed.

Hong Kong is pretty posh for Asia. It has some of the highest land prices in the world. Mainly due to it’s small size and the fact that it is a hub for business in China and other parts of the region. This has led to a bustling expat area. We met a local expat in Sheung Wan who runs his own counselling service for other expats in the area. This place is great with loads of excellent restaurants and some cool bars too. Highly recommended for a visit if you want to get off the tourist trail.

We were staying on the other side of the bay but transport was very easy. The buses are excellent but it is easier to stick with taxis for a short weekend visit. From the airport we took the taxi into town, but the public transport including train on the way back. All very organised and efficient.

Shopping is very popular and there are excellent malls on both sides of the water. All the big western stores are located in Hong Kong. Mixed in with these are some more oriental options. We found a few bargains on a side street which sold cheap handbags and watches. The watch probably won’t last long but it was so cheap that it was worth getting even if only worn a few times.

The food is fantastic. I really had the urge to eat in the small local, backstreet style Chinese places. It wasn’t difficult to find suitable options. In one place we ate dim sum, which was awesome. Another place was a noodle cafe which was also great. I highly recommend you take the time to seek out these places to eat.

We also went over to Disneyland on Lantau Island which was a nice way to spend an afternoon. You can stay on this island at a place like Discovery Bay if you have kids with you. Discovery Bay is just 10 minutes away so it would make sense to stay there instead of across the water. Getting around Hong Kong is very easy though.

We also did some sightseeing by walking along the edge of the water and visiting some museums. Great weather and views. We will certainly be returning to Hong Kong whenever we want a weekend away in Asia.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Preparing for a ski holiday with SkiA

If you are planning a trip on the slopes soon, one way to avoid feeling out of touch when you get on the snow is to use a revolutionary new ski training aid from SkiA. The company launched the product earlier this year and it has been a major success. The Sweetspot is aptly named as it helps you discover your skiing sweet-spot.

Basically it is a pair of balancing blocks. You strap them under your boots and then all of a sudden it feels like you are in the Alps, when you are really stood in your lounge. What they do is help you practice balance. You have to keep the sweet-spot at all times, once you are in the correct position then you can practice turns and general movement.

The device is rapidly spreading around the world. It has already been a big hit with BASS in the UK and many instructors are beginning to utilise it. They are telling students to practice with the Sweetspot trainer in between lessons. For anybody going on a ski holiday in the near future, buying the product is highly recommended. You can find it at SkiA's Sweetspot.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Take Advantage Of Holiday Cottages In England

If you are thinking about taking a vacation, there are a lot of reasons to stay at holiday cottages in England. Cottages offer a lot more comfort and room than traditional hotels. They are also much closer to fun outdoor activities. Many are just a few hours driving distance from major cities, making them a very convenient choice for a holiday trip.

There are a variety of holiday cottages in England to pick from. Depending on what you like to do, you may want to choose one that is next to a scenic lake, hiking path, or biking trail. You can enjoy great activities like swimming, fishing and boating. You can get secluded cottages that mean you can get some peace and quiet away from the city. Or you can pick one that is closer to other buildings and people if you feel like being more social.

Most cottages come with all the comforts of home. You can sleep on soft beds, make all your meals with a modern kitchen, and relax at night next to a fireplace. Some cottages offer patios and hot tubs as well, so you can have a truly luxurious stay.

Cottages come in a variety of sizes and are made to fit every budget. You can get something small and cozy for a romantic getaway weekend. Or you can pick something with multiple rooms that is big enough to fit a large family. Come and relax for a couple days, or or extend your stay and enjoy the gorgeous countryside for a week or more.

Many cottages allow pets. You will not have to worry about leaving your dog at a kennel or finding someone to watch them. Your animals are sure to enjoy the great outdoors just as much as you are. Pets can be a big part of the family, and its only fair to let them in on the fun too.

Holiday cottages in Shropshire and other counties in England are the perfect choice for a vacation. You can be close to the great outdoors, but still take advantage of comfortable lodging. There will be lots of fun activities for everybody to do, like biking, hiking, swimming, and more. You can get a cottage perfectly suited for you, whether you need one to house just a couple people, or a big family. Your favourite canine friend will be able to come too, making it a superior choice to the majority of hotels.