A Room With A View: Limone Sul Garda Travel Review

Limone, on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda was our destination for the week. It takes about two hours by coach from Verona airport but the journey is well worth it for the stunning lake views and cafe culture you can experience in this little Italian gem.

We stayed at the All Azzuro: perfectly positioned right on the shoreline and ideal for watching the frequent lake ferries come and go, and of course to indulge in much people watching.

We really couldn’t have hoped for a better location. The hotel itself is charming but it’s fair to say that it’s not moved on since the nineties with average food offerings and dated rooms. This however was to our advantage because if the hotel standards did actually meet the standard of the location it would be well out of our price range.

We paid extra for a balcony which was worth every penny.

Breakfast and dinner were taken on the open terrace, although if you have a rear facing room you eat inside.

Limone itself is just perfect with geraniums spilling out of balconies, cobbled streets, numerous foodie opportunities and boat trips to keep you amused. It is heaving with day trippers from around ten in the morning but settles late afternoon into a more languid vibe.

We ate our fair share of pasta and pizza, not to mention the Chiaretto rose wine and the odd Aperol Spritz. Below is the view from our favourite Porto bar where ducks waddle amongst the drinkers hoping that someone will feed them a crisp.

A week is just about perfect to see everything that Limone has to offer. We hopped over to Malcesine for a couple of hours too just for an excuse to get on a boat. The ride takes about 20 minutes and costs £13 each if you use the ferry. Cheaper boat trips are available if you don’t mind small cramped boats but we preferred to pay a little extra and travel in comfort on firstly the San Ferhino then returning on the mighty Brennero.

If you want to wander further afield on foot then just out of town there are some shady spots to eat with a great view across the lake. The one below was set in the olive groves.

Beware – this is a small pizza! Not bad value for eight Euros.

We last stayed in Limone in 1996 and more recently have also stayed in Malcesine and Bardolino – both of which are beautiful too. I’m sure we will be back again soon.

Our Renovation Progress (Or Not)

Much has happened since I last blogged about our renovation, but you wouldn’t think it to look at the sorry mess we are still living in.  In my last post I wrote how hard it was to get the right people and that we were waiting on dates to start the work.  Well, now it is the end of April (we moved in November) and every room is a jumble with bits and bobs started but nothing finished.

Bathroom

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My biggest nightmare – we have just had the new loo fitted (after almost four weeks with a bucket to flush with).  The problem arose from the fact that the bathroom was clad in a wood ceiling – rather nautical, with some sort of plastic panels on the walls.  When the plastic and wood came off, so did much of the plaster and the ceiling, so making good has taken some time.  We had the old airing cupboard removed to make more room for the shower and basin which as you can see in the picture above, were crammed together.

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I should mention we have only one bathroom, so we have been showering at Steve’s sister’s home which has been a Godsend.  To add to this state of affairs, Steve and I have negligible DIY skills, so everything needs to be brought in. You would wonder why we didn’t buy a new build, but there you have it.  The bathroom should be finished by the weekend so we should be clean very soon!

Kitchen

Work is due to start in about ten days.  We took up the old flowery carpet to reveal this rather colourful yellow and orange vinyl floor.  The rods had been fitted over the felt and the door plate had helpfully been fitted under the door architrave.

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I’ve chosen a shaker style kitchen in a colour called mussel, which should be easy on the eye.

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Bedroom

We didn’t dare have new carpets as there is so much dust about, but we have wallpapered in this striking floral pattern and I have upcycled my old Queen Anne style side table as a dressing table.

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Steve doesn’t mind a bit of wallpapering and painting thankfully!

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Living Room

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Nothing to see here – still the old carpet but I did buy a pair of Laura Ashley sofas because I couldn’t resist them.  Too soon by far, but it made me happy at the time.

Hall

I upcycled the hall cupboard by painting it with grey chalk paint and we have had the floor tiled in a grey slate effect.

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Garden

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I’m pleased to see lots of bulbs popping up which work well with my existing pots from the old place.  I’ve made a start on the veg patch with some rhubarb, raspberry canes, broad beans and a couple of fruit trees. Most of this though will be next year’s project.

So, as you can see, not really that much to report.  However, I think in the next month, there will be significant changes and the place will start to feel like home.

 

 

 

 

H10 Rubicon Palace Lanzarote: Review

I had such high hopes for this five star hotel, but all I can truly say in its favour is that the room was lovely.  The rest of it was just OK, nothing wrong with it, but all a bit ‘meh’.  IMG_3156

I think my judgement was coloured because we started off on the wrong foot.  The hotel allocated us a room which was barely completed (ie the paint was still wet) and there was a huge noisy digger right outside our window making the whole block tremble. I was off down to reception sharpish to complain but was told they could not move us until the next day.  I complained to Thomas Cook who couldn’t do anything about it.  Very disappointing.

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We were moved next day to a lovely bungalow room with a sea view which was mercifully quiet.  Because we had been inconvenienced on day one, we were compensated with a superior room which I have to say was lovely.  We were also invited to have dinner in the Vulcan restaurant which is for Privilege guests only and was excellent.

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The bathroom was great and the bathrobes were a nice touch.

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The hotel is big, with several restaurants to choose from and plenty of pools, should you be inclined to take a dip.  Not for me unless it’s 28 degrees outside!  There is a really nice piano bar where you can take advantage of the all inclusive drinks package while you listen to some good live music.  There’s also a sports bar where we spent a couple of nights.  Service in the piano bar was a bit patchy but the sports bar was better.  Drinks quality in both was excellent.

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One of our favourite spots was Mike’s coffee shop where you could get a nice cappuccino and sit in the sun with a book.

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The food was overall good, but not great.  I’m not veggie, but I do like a good amount of vegetables and this is where I found it lacking.  There were plenty of salads but cooked vegetables were disappointing.  Breakfast and dinner were a bit of a scramble – hard to get a cup of coffee as I think the place was understaffed; cutlery, crockery and condiments were on a ‘steal it yourself from a spare table’ basis and there were long queues for speciality things like fresh pancakes.  Fresh juices at breakfast was a nice touch but often the jugs were empty.

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Lunch was a delight as it was warm enough to sit outside and I think the burger bar tempted some people away from the restaurant so we had more space and better service.

The location of the hotel was OK.  There is not much to do or see in Playa Blanca, but for a week of just getting some sun on your face, it’s fine.  Lanzarote is notoriously windy and our week was no exception.  You need a cardigan or sweater in March and a jacket for evenings.

What I did enjoy was the opportunity to wear a dress in the evenings as the hotel felt dressy enough.  Quite often these days everyone is in jeans and I do like to dress up now and again.

One mistake we made, and entirely our own fault, was that we booked a week that overlapped with the start of the Easter holidays, so that by the last couple of days the place was inundated with children.  No-ones fault but our own! Really must be more careful with dates.

I enjoyed our week, but I think that the poor start definitely clouded my opinion and I wouldn’t return.  This was our first stay with H10 and I can’t see me trying any of the others in the chain.

 

Hotel San Gil Seville: Review

Set in the back streets of Seville’s old town, we picked this four star hotel for our two night stay based purely on its Moorish architecture.

We were on our home from Jerez De La Frontera as part of our train journey around Andalucia and I wanted to spend some time in Seville to see the Alcazar without the tourist hordes that had accompanied us on our previous one day visit.

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The hotel certainly is a stunner with its mosaic tile covered reception area and bar plus its riad style central courtyard.

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It’s about half an hour walk to the Alcazar.  It would probably have been less if we had gone the right way, but there are so many nearby narrow streets to explore and diversions to take that it probably didn’t matter.

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We arrived at the Santa Justa train station after dark and took a taxi.  Good job as we would have never have found our way through the alleyways on public transport and it is about a 35 minute walk to the station, assuming you know where you are going, which of course we did by the time we were leaving for the train back to Malaga.

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Our room was on the ground floor and had a window facing out onto the courtyard.  You couldn’t draw back the curtain as everyone could see in.  I think it was a disabled friendly room as the bathroom was exceptionally large with a walk in shower.  All good stuff and no complaints there.

I do have one very big gripe though.  On our final morning, we were woken around 7:30 by a smell of chemicals so strong that my eyes were streaming and I was coughing as if my life depended on it.  I dashed out of the room, looking like a mad women and went to reception to ask what was going on.  The receptionist said that someone had accidentally allowed bleach to get into the aircon and not to worry!  Wowzers!  I’m asthmatic, so not for taking chances, we packed up and left immediately.

Anyway, notwithstanding the poor attention to health and safety, everything else was fine.  The breakfast buffet was extensive and the coffee was good.

There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from in the nearby streets, but beware the tourist menu of insipid paella – there is so much more out there if you seek out the proper menu.  This squid was exceptionally good and cost about eight euros.

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This hotel was a good enough base for a two day stay, but based on our experience I would not recommend it.  By all means pop in and have a drink at the bar though as you can appreciate the architecture for the cost of a coffee!

 

 

Radisson Blu Manchester Airport: Review

When we have an early flight we often stay over at Manchester Airport in one of the airport hotels.  Last month we tried out the Radisson Blu for the first time and it was really relaxing.  The great thing about staying over is that you can check your bags in (for some airlines anyway) the day before and avoid that horrible wait at stupid o clock the next day when everything is just too much trouble!

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This time we checked in at two p.m. then spent the afternoon drinking coffee, browsing and shopping for books in WH Smith and then lazing in bed!  There is a pool but I had just had my hair done so no way I was going to spoil it with a swim.

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The rooms are large, as you would expect, with great quality bedlinen, shower plus bath, flat screen TV and wifi.  Check in is efficient and you can do it all when you arrive so no timewasting next day having to check out.  There is a restaurant on site but we walked through the tunnel to the airport to grab something to eat.

There are lovely This Works beauty products, fluffy towels, decent tea and coffee and an iron/ironing board should you need it.  The room was quiet despite proximity to the runway and aircon worked just fine.

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When it was time to leave, we were too early for breakfast, but the hotel provides a free grab and run service for early risers so you can pick up a coffee, some fruit and a cereal bar which you can take with you as you make your way to the airport.

As we had already checked in for our flight, we clocked the huge queue snaking to the door and thanked our lucky stars we could go straight to security.  We were on the other side in no time.

We have decided to do this for all our early morning flights from now on.  The cost can be combined with a Meet & Greet parking deal so the cost isn’t too bad.

I am most definitely not a morning person and this works just fine for me!

 

Hotel La Palma Princess & Teneguia Princess: Review

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We’re just back from a winter break at this popular hotel in La Palma, Canaries.  It’s popped up many times in our holiday searches and we’ve dismissed it because of remote location, but as we’ve had a mad few months we thought we would give it a go.

It certainly is a place to rest, with over ten pools to choose from and loads of sunbeds. One pool is heated and this was naturally the busiest, but there were lots of secluded places to nip off to and read.

We were all inclusive and generally speaking the quality of the food was good – especially the veggie selections.  I can vouch for the rose wine and cava but the coffee was dire and completely unpalatable. There is a kettle in your room, so my advice would be take your own.

We took breakfast on the terrace at the La Choza restaurant and it was fab to start the morning with a sea view.

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The hotel is set in lush sub tropical gardens which was a real joy.  Loads of wildlife too – including lizards, egret and a couple of kestrels which flew over every day.

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Our room was colonial in style with an excellent shower, separate bath and marble basin.  The room was huge with a large verandah looking out towards the gardens.  My only complaint was that the room was cool because it got no sun at all.  Fine in the summer, but in the winter, not so good.  We enquired about upgrading but the hotel was full so we stayed put and they gave us extra blankets.

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The hotel is fairly isolated, but there is a little bar about 25 minutes walk where you can get decent coffee, as well as a good selection of fresh fish and wrinkly potatoes with freshly made mojo sauce and alioli. The view from the bar is fantastic too.

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We took the bus to the capital one day – an hour away over the very tortuous mountain road.  It has really good shopping plus some very pretty houses with traditional balconies.  We enjoyed some excellent tapas too.  The bus ride is not for the faint hearted – in fact the lady behind me threw up because of all the twists and turns!

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We picked a bad day to go into town unfortunately as it poured with rain and was pretty cold – but it gave me an excuse to buy a jacket!

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The hotel is surrounded by banana plantations which we found fascinating – there were little trucks carrying bananas about and lots of processing plants along the road to the hotel.

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Evenings at the hotel were spent in the huge riad style bar/lounge. There is a separate entertainment lounge for those who prefer to watch a show, but we were happy to chat to anyone and everyone in the bar.  The hotel appeals to a diverse range of nationalities and we enjoyed some fun conversations with new friends from Aarhus to Essex.  Bar service was hit and miss at busy times with no-one clocking who was next in the queue, so that those who shouted loudest were served.

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I think I would return if I wanted a complete rest – I read eight books in two weeks which was pretty relaxing!  There is a little library where you can swap books and I made full use of it.  The hotel is four stars and it just about gets there….better coffee would make all the difference!

 

Insomnia! That’s All I’m Saying

Insomnia: great as a song title, but in real life, a mind numbing, wear you down, make you dread going to bed sort of problem that in mid life, seems to me to be impossible to crack.

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I know that insomnia is menopause related ….but it seems I have exacerbated the problem by moving house.  Since the huge adrenaline surge in August, when our old place sold, insomnia has been my constant companion.

First it was the excitement of the huge life decision, then the constant ‘will we won’t we’ get the bungalow’ feeling.  Worry for 12 weeks about whether either sale would fall through didn’t help one bit.  Then of course the agonising over what needs to be done and choices to be made on décor is still ongoing.

I long ago gave up going to bed with House Beautiful mag. Far too stimulating for the brain! Instead I switched to dull reading material ….but all to no avail.

I’m a big fan of a posh candle…Neom especially, but so far, that’s not cutting it either – although it does smell beautiful.

Wine works….for about three hours!  So that’s no blimmin use and makes me feel rubbish anyway.

Exercise – yes!  Yin yang yoga is a great help – I need to do more of it.  Walking is great and most days I get my 10k steps.  Running however is another issue – my energy levels have plummeted, and although I did a couple of short runs last week, I am nowhere near last summer’s fitness level.

When I analyse what’s keeping me awake, aside from the horrible hot flushes that are par for the course with menopause, it’s the constant whirring of the brain which just will not switch off!  I downloaded the Headspace app last week and have started doing the mini meditation exercises – they do help me feel sleepy so with perseverance this could be a big help.  I also keep a notebook by the bed to empty my thoughts before I sleep.  Some suggest you should write down things in the middle of the night as they come to you, but I don’t think hubby would appreciate me turning the light on and waking him up too!

People recommend a good bed – well my mattress is only a year or so old and I have the best quality white cotton bed linen I could afford so no worries there.  The bedroom is not yet a sanctuary though as it’s still a clash of someone else’s carpet and some shabby wardrobes…but next month the new glossy white fitted wardrobes will be in and we’ll have a pale carpet on the floor – no more shouty patterns.

I have invested in decaff PG Tips and I also enjoy herbal teas too, so no caffeine after mid day is quite easy to put into practice.

Then of course, there are trips to the loo!  I have a big glass of water by the bed and get incredibly thirsty when I can’t sleep so I’m up two or three times in the night. I don’t have bladder weakness luckily, but 61% of women experience bladder weakness at some time in their lives, so TENA Lady has some solutions for anyone that has their sleep disrupted by their bladder:

  • TENA Lady Mini Night with Triple Protection: specially designed to give you a good night’s sleep, these soft and comfortable pads are secure and offer extra security when you are lying down.  High absorption keeps you dry and ensures you’re confident all night long.  They have odour control too, should you be worried about that.
  • TENA Lady Maxi Night: soft, comfortable and secure thanks to their specific shape – they have extra length at the back and offer extra width for higher absorbency.
  • TENA Lady Pants Night: this is a disposable soft cotton pant which looks like everyday underwear and works well for moderate to heavy bladder weakness.

I really hope that this problem will sort itself out in the next 12 months, as it really is wearing me down.  The joys of being a middle aged woman!!

*This is a sponsored post