Monday, 27 June 2011

We receive award for 'Outstanding Achievement for supporting Domestic Tourism'

Pictured is our Director Oliver Broad receiving the award for 'Outstanding Achievement for supporting Domestic Tourism' at this year's 'Brit Awards'. The awards were set up a few years ago to recognise travel agents in the UK that promote and support domestic tourism within their companies. Thanks to those clients who have made this possible, without you wanting to travel within the UK we could not have achieved this wonderful accolade. Thanks also to Great Rail Journeys, the sponsor of the award.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Kerala Calling...Dave visits India again!...

Day 1: The heat, the noise the sheer volume of people and traffic, yes it was all too much to bear – so I left the M25! Thanks to those nice people at Purple Parking my car was soon parked and I was making my way to Terminal 4 at Heathrow. I checked in with Jet Airways and met up with the rest of the group. I quickly realised that I was the oldest person in the group of 8 but didn’t think anyone else had picked up on this until one of them asked if I would like to sit down!

Jet Airways check in was excellent but the bad news was we were upgraded to business class – what a disappointment but it’s something we just have to put up with! A visit to the executive lounge was also arranged as was pre-boarding so that we could have a tour of the aircraft and also see the small sleeping area with 6 bunks for some of the crew to sleep (hopefully not the pilot).

Jet Airways business class lived up to my expectations and also my memories as I have travelled with them before. The crew were excellent, food superb and the 30 seats that converted into flat beds were extremely comfortable. Departure was on time at 2125hrs and soon everyone was settling down with the complimentary pyjamas for the 9 hour flight to Mumbai. I personally would have preferred a nightie but hey ho that’s another story..

Day 2: We arrived into Mumbai at 1100hrs local time and immediately realised how much better the airport was since my first visit many years ago; very modern, comfortable and air-conditioned . We transferred by coach to the domestic terminal which took us past the shanty towns which back up right to the airport fence and we also witnessed evidence of major redevelopment work taking place at the airport.

Our flight departed at 1340hrs and landed at 1525hrs in Cochin and was operated by Jet Airways shuttle, a basic no frills flight but comfortable although extremely busy. It is amazing as to how big air travel is in India with huge numbers flying daily to every point in India and also of course around the world. One of the group mentioned that on a Sunday there were 10 flights to the UK from Mumbai – amazing. On arrival we were transferred to the Vivanta by Taj Hotel for a 2 night stay.

My first impressions of Cochin and Kerala were that is very different to Delhi and the North – it appeared far more affluent, extremely green and a lot quieter with very little bibbing of horns and no animals wandering the streets! It was also very warm with temperatures in the 30’s and humidity of 90%. The Vivanta by Taj is situated on Willingdon Island with magnificent views of Cochin Harbour (including the cranes). The hotel is fairly modern and has 96 rooms, an infinity pool, spa and gym. I really liked this hotel and the breakfasts were excellent.

A lot of the food in Kerala is of course fish and that evening we were treated to a cookery demonstration and tour of The Casino Hotel followed by a delicious meal of lobster, prawns, squid and local fish -absolutely delicious . The food in Kerala is amazing and contrary to what is generally believed it is not hot but cooked in the delicious spices that are grown locally which bring out all the flavours. Curries in this country do not compare and on no occasion did we have to ask our hosts to ‘tone’them down.

Day 3: Probably the best way of seeing Cochin is from the water and thanks to the kindness of the Brunton Boatyard Hotel who lent us their boat we were able to do this and spent the morning looking from the water at the amazing Chinese fishing nets, bazaars, old storage warehouses and traditional mansions. Following this we visited Jewtown with its spice markets, antique shops and Mattancherry Palace (now a museum complete with some amazing murals). We also managed to see the Chinese fishing nets from the land and visited the local fish market to see some of the unbelievable variety of fish on sale.

Further hotel visits, more food and an evening visit to the lovely Brunton Boatyard Hotel for dinner completed our day. Here I made a note to look into the history of the Brunton Boatyard on my return to the UK as the hotel is named after the boatyard and in St Francis Church in Cochin there is a plaque to George Brunton the founder of the boatyard who was a Brummie like me! Also in the church was the resting place for the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama before his remains were dug up and moved back to Portugal.

Oh dear – late night, feeling delicate and a 7 hour road journey to Thekkady (212 km) to contemplate ...

Day 4: The journey did go quickly though with stops to see a couple farming rubber trees and watching while they extract the sap, stops for coffee breaks (Nescafe was around 12p a cup – I’ll get these you get the beers later was the phrase used!) and just so much to see as you travel through the green slopes of the Cardamom Hills, viewing the vast plantations of teak, cardamom, tea, rubber and coffee. Here we stayed at the Spice Village Hotel – a delightful hotel with bungalow style accommodation and very much built in a ‘back to nature’ style (no television in the room so no Emmerdale!!)

Day 5: This is the spice growing region of the Western Ghats and no visit would be complete without seeing the delightful spice gardens and also of course the obligatory elephant ride before continuing our journey to Kumarakom which was about 4 hours We stopped at a local ‘service’ station for food and a break with sandwiches at around £1 and a wonderful biryani at £1.25; we feasted like kings yet paid like paupers! We arrived late afternoon at my favourite hotel the Kumarakom Lake Resort which has stunning views of Vembanad Lake . Included for all guests is a one hour sunset cruise which is a delightful way to watch the sun go down. The accommodation is built around a winding swimming area so when you open the door of your cottage style room there is the pool right in front of you - absolutely delightful. One strange thing with the bathrooms, not just here but at several of the hotels is that they are open to the sky which is rather strange. I think I managed to scare most of the wildlife away and indeed even the mosquitoes were very wary! Afternoon tea and snacks are also served here every afternoon at 4.00pm...all very civilized.

Day 6: The highlight of the visit; a backwater cruise on a traditional houseboat complete with our own chef. What a delightful way to spend a day. The backwaters are made up of 5 large lakes linked by canals and fed by 38 rivers which cover half of the state of Kerala and an area of 900km of waterways . The kettuvallum which is a traditional houseboat is used to travel these beautiful waterways – quite large ours had two air conditioned bedrooms although they do come in different sizes. Many people choose to stay overnight but I would recommend the day cruise as all boats have to be moored by 5.00pm and are not allowed to move until next morning.

There is of course nowhere to walk so if overnighting would be quite restrictive. Many of the canals are too small for the kettuvallum so a smaller canoe is used for one/two hour trips allowing you to see so much more (no longer seats are very hard!). This is a fantastic experience and gives you the chance to see rural life as it really is and which has not really changed over the years. Everybody waves and it really is a magical experience.

On our return to Kurakom we stopped for dinner at the Coconut Lagoon another very pleasant hotel and its unusual feature is that it can only be reached by boat . Our boat was followed by fruit bats all the way and was a fantastic way of arriving at a hotel.

Day 7: One of the fastest growing areas in tourism in India is the development of home stays. The concept allows you to experience a stay in a more traditional small property usually maximum 6 rooms although the ones we visited had only 4 rooms. During your stay you mix with the local people, explore the local villages and markets – even help prepare the meals.

They really do allow you to see how life really is in these backwaters. Accommodation is of a high standard and if you are looking for a more authentic experience away from the normal type of hotel in small quiet surroundings then these are definitely worth considering.
We managed to take in 3 of these properties; 2 overlooking Vembanad Lake and one on the beach in Marari. I loved them all but possibly my favourite was Symphony on The Beach (this one also had a swimming pool) with four fantastic cottages with outside seating areas where meals are served for you.

Onwards to our final hotel for the last 2 nights, The Marari Beach Hotel. It felt slightly run down when we arrived but accommodation was good in individual cottages again with open roof bathrooms (I think some of the mosquitoes remembered me!). The hotel is right on the beach and we all grew to like this property . Meals were buffet style with a wide choice and a lovely outside bar although this does close at 10pm. Quite a shock to the system! A stroll through the gardens took us to the beautiful beach which runs for about 20 miles. It really is a beautiful spot but remember beaches in India are not private and there are no facilities there either. The Arabian sea was very rough and definitely not for swimming.

Day 8: Our last full day – the week seems to have flown by and we spend the time with one more house visit to which most of the group cycled to. It’s a great area to explore by bike, nice and flat and you can just tootle along at your own pace with plenty of stops for refreshments. Last minute panic for presents to take home at the hotel shop and a trip by Tuk-Tuk followed by dinner in the hotel completes our final day.

Day 9: It’s a good job the bar does close at 10pm as we have a wake up call at 0330hrs to begin our departure for Cochin by road and the journey home to the UK where we finally land at about 6.00pm UK time.

An excellent trip to an area of India which is completely different to the hectic North. Very laid back, peaceful with delightful welcoming people and excellent food. If you are a first time visitor then I would still recommend visiting The Taj Mahal and Rajasthan first but there is nothing to stop you combining both areas for a complete contrast.

What the trip did bring home to me is what a vast country India is and how the different states vary so much - Incredible India – the tourist board call it and Kerala is called Gods Own Country - they are not far wrong! Why not experience it for yourselves?

Call Dave on 01543 258631 or email

Kerala, India - May 2011

MarariMarari BeachKerala 292Marari BeachHome Stay GardenHome Stay pool
Symphony on The BeachSymphony on the BeachSymphony on The BeachSymphony on the BeachMarari Beach ResortMarari Beach Resort
Marari Beach HotelMarare Beach ResortMarari Beach bedroomMarari BeachAnother home stayHome stay
Garden at the home stayLocal children in the backwatersKerala backwatersLunch in one of the home staysHome stayHome stay Lake Vembanad

Kerala, India, a set on Flickr.

Dave's photo's from his trip to Kerala, India are now online...

Monday, 13 June 2011

India plans for it's first Formula 1 Grand Prix !

Dave recently returned from Kerala, India - call to discuss your holiday there on 01543 258631...

New Delhi is preparing to host its first Formula One race, the 2011 Indian F1 Grand Prix, an exciting prospect for all British Formula 1 fans. Delhi is the perfect opportunity to enjoy Formula One motor racing in a great, brand new venue and to spend a few days delving into the culture of India's capital city, which has so many historic links to Britain.

Delhi is a melting pot of sights, sounds and colours, a kaleidoscope of languages and traditions. Fairs and festivals are celebrated with pomp and abandon. Ancient forts, palaces and temples share the skyline with skyscrapers and modern shopping complexes. Everywhere there are bazaars and markets and, of course, there are restaurants of all kinds where you can indulge your taste for Indian cuisine.

The hotel for the Indian Grand Prix 2011 is located on Connaught Place, at the heart of New Delhi, where you will find everything you need. Nevertheless, our guided city sightseeing tour will take you to some of the many famous sights and open up the history of Delhi and the ancient Moghul Empire.

If you've more time to spare then consider extending your 2011 Indian Grand Prix stay to see more of this beautiful and fascinating country. The Golden Triangle tour is perfect for a first trip to India. In just four days you will be overwhelmed by its treasures as you ride by elephant to the Amber Fort and visit the pink Palace of Winds in Jaipur, the flamboyant capital of Rajasthan. A highlight of your Indian Grand Prix 2011 tour will be the grandeur and serenity of the Taj Mahal, a monument to eternal love.

Alternatively spend a few days in the cool, mountain scenery of Shimla, a hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas. The erstwhile Summer capital of the British Raj, Shimla is full of gabled cottages, imposing greystone Gothic structures and Christian churches with stained glass windows. You can fly from Delhi or, more interestingly, travel by train on the Himalayan Queen. In Kalka you change to the narrow gauge mountain railway for the final ascent.

Train journeys in India are legendary and a two night tour by train to the Ranthambore National Park and game sanctuary is a good way to combine sightseeing and wildlife. The Park is famous for its tiger population and jungle safaris are included during your stay.

Finally if, after a weekend of Grand Prix racing, a few days relaxation is more to your liking then the resorts of the southern state of Kerala are ideal. Dave in our office recently returned from this area and highly recommends it. Beautiful resort hotels, boat trips, paddy fields and an array of aromatic local dishes make it the perfect place to end your holiday to the 2011 Indian Grand Prix.

For more details click here to visit our Sports Events Travel website where we sell a range of tour and holidays with tickets to see Formula 1 grand prix's all over the world, and other leading and specialist sports events...

To discuss the Indian F1 Grand Prix call Dave on 01543 258631 or email

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Galapagos Update No. 2

Day 2 on the Galapagos Islands brought more Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, more Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds and the wonderful Albatross, who were nesting their eggs.

This along with the dramatic landscape of Espanol Including an amazing 'blow hole' which had it's water blown over the island like a morning dewy mist made for an absolutely amazing day.

And to finish it all off, a phenomenal sunset!

Today we have arrived at the island of Floreana in search of Flamingo's ad Turtles.

An absolutely amazing trip so far, this really is one of the most unique placed I have ever been to.

Until tomorrow...

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Live from the Galapagos Islands...

It is difficult to find the most appropriate words to describe the Galapagos islands. The scenery and wildlife are breathtaking. Yesterday I boarded Isabela 2, a 40 cabin luxury cruise ship that is taking me on a quick 3 night trip around the islands.

Our first afternoon included sightings of Blue Footed Boobies, Frigate birds and a number of Iguanas.

Today we ventured to the island of Espanola where we enjoyed a morning with the Sea Lions. It really does feel like the wildlife are 'allowing' you to visit them as they go about their daily business in their natural environment. Never before have I been so close to animals like this with absolutely no artificial facilities, just their natural and unique surroundings.

This afternoon we are off to find the Albatross on the other side of the island.

So far, an absolutely 'once-in-a-lIfetime' experience and we still have 2 more days here!

Stay tuned!....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone