A Dream Holiday Win: A Week In Crete

Thanks to the very generous people at Silver Travel Advisor and Simpson Travel, we’ve just spent an amazing week in Western Crete at the GK Beach Hotel.  As you know, I’m a keen comper and I always have my suitcase packed for my next trip, so I was able to combine my travel experience with my comping hobby by adding several reviews onto the Silver Trip Advisor website and I ended up bagging this wonderful prize.

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First thing first.  Let me tell you about the first class pre-departure service we received from Simpson Travel.  A personal booking service, the offer of car hire or private transfer to our hotel, a generous 20kg luggage allowance each, proper luggage labels and meet and greet at Chania airport on arrival with a cool bottle of water.

On arrival at GK Beach we were met by Chris and Sev, our Simpson Travel reps who showed us personally to our junior suite (room 1A) and gave us a run down of the facilities.  It was fabulous to have such a personal touch.  Simpson Travel also provided us with a gift of Cretan honey, lavender oil and some oregano (handy for those Greek salads).  As we were on a B&B basis, they also provided a very generous 50 euro voucher towards dinner and drinks at the hotel.

The hotel is small and friendly.  All the communal space is outdoor and is, in the main, shared with the general public (with the exception of the pool and certain designated sitting areas and sunbeds for Simpson Travel guests only).

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Our room was bright and spacious with a mini kitchen area so we were able to knock up a quick lunch…..well, until, that is we discovered the village bakery at Kalyves, then it was pies all the way (spinach, feta, potato and burger!).

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Breakfast was an absolute delight and included Greek yoghurt, thyme honey from the owner’s hives, feta cheese, a selection of fruit and veg, a cooked selection (eggs, bacon etc), pastries, excellent quality coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, PG Tips, and the yummiest sourdough bread.

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The location of GK Beach couldn’t be better.  It is right on the beach, five minutes to the local supermarket and 20 minutes walk to the centre of Kalyves with its many tavernas and shops (oh and the aforementioned bakery).

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We dined at GK a couple of evenings. The food is fresh and made to order.  We both had this very tasty sea bream.

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We spent our days walking into the town which has a lovely little harbour, mooching about and generally doing nothing.  There is of course much to see in and around the Souda Bay area, but as we are in the process of moving house, we just wanted to chill out.

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The evenings we didn’t spend at the hotel, we tried some of the local tavernas.  In Provlita, right on the seafront, I had the most delicious lamb chops I have ever tasted in my life. The Greek salad served there was a jewelled masterpiece too!

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My favourite thing to do the whole week, was to sit under this tree in the main square in Kalyves, reading my book, and drinking coffee.

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We had a fabulous break!  Thanks so much to Silver Travel Adviser and Simpson Travel for such a wonderful experience.  Crete has worked its magic on us.  We submitted to the gentle pace of life and have come home refreshed and ready to move house!

 

 

 

Bosworth Hall Hotel & Spa: Review

From the outside, this beautiful building looks the perfect place for a luxurious weekend away.  Standing in generous grounds, yet just a five minute walk from the chocolate box village of Market Bosworth, it would seem an ideal choice for a quintessential British break.

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Check in was quite encouraging – the entrance is a grand affair, with a huge chandelier and some interesting sculptures in the lobby and plenty of information about the resident ghost: the Grey Lady of Bosworth Hall who met a very sticky end.  So far, so good.

The room wasn’t bad either.  I loved the bedroom furniture – my guess it was early to mid 20th century and original too.  It gave the room a bit of old fashioned Cunard style elegance.  There were some very nice lampshades which set off the style beautifully.

However, here began the issues.

One of my pet hates in hotels is windows that are jammed shut.  As lovely as the original sash windows were, I am a woman in my mid fifties and I need to get the window open guys!  Especially as the heating was blasting away and there appeared to be no way to turn it off.

The next issue arose at dinner (a carvery affair which was included in the very reasonable dinner, bed and breakfast price).  The restaurant was too small for the number of guests, resulting in a bit of a bun fight.  Tables were cleared as fast as the staff could manage, but inevitably there was plate scraping in situ (yuk!!) as bums were accommodated on seats.  The food was generally OK at dinner although we went for mains only as the soup looked gloopy and the salad offerings were heavy on the mayo.

The overspill from the restaurant meant that the bar was full of people waiting to eat and at times, the queue for a drink was ten deep.  The smokers’ outdoor area was right next to the bar and dining room so a right royal gale was blowing through.

We slept well despite the overheating as the sheets were good quality as were the pillows. The Grey Lady didn’t make an appearance – although she is said to roam the corridors at night.  Eek!  Should have checked for ghosts before I booked.

The breakfast experience was similar to dinner- too many people, lots of waiting to get into the restaurant, hasty plate clearing and scraping.  The food was motorway service standard.

In fairness to the hotel group (Britannia Hotels) it must be a nightmare to run this type of building and make a profit.  They have adopted a pile it high and sell it cheap approach which clearly works, as the place was bouncing.

In an ideal world, this grand old building would be home to a superior holiday offering, with tinkling champagne glasses, a piano bar and a fine dining experience to match.  But, as they say: you get what you pay for.

We had booked the hotel via Late Rooms, not specifically looking for a country house hotel, but just somewhere close to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, where we were attending an event.

I wouldn’t rule out staying again as overall the accommodation was fine.  However, I would book on a room only basis and try out one or two of the pubs and restaurants in Market Bosworth for dinner and perhaps a grab a pastry from a local coffee shop for breakfast.

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If you are a Richard III fan (as I am), then Bosworth is a great place to base yourself.  It’s about a three mile walk to the actual battlefield where Richard died fighting Henry Tudor.  The Battlefield Centre has a restaurant, picnic area and museum where you can read up on the events of 1485 and there are a series of walks around the area, dotted with plaques explaining how the battle unfolded.

The village itself is absolutely gorgeous and so worth a visit.

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Hotel Xuroy, Cala Alcaufar, Menorca

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After the last few weeks getting the house ready for sale, we really needed this break to Menorca!  We’ve stayed here before at the Hotel Xuroy (pronounced shoo-roy) and knew it would be the perfect place to kick off our shoes and get lost in a good book.

We had a shockingly bad experience with Thomson right at the start when we found ourselves bumped off an overbooked flight and bussed to Gatwick from Manchester, resulting in a 12 hour delay.  I kid you not, I can barely write this without steam coming out of my ears, so I’m going to say nothing more, other than our claim for compensation is in.

When we come across poor service, our normal way to deal with it is to vote with our feet, so goodbye Thomson, nice (or not so nice) knowing ya!

 

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Anyway, back to Cala Alcaufar.  The place is drop dead gorgeous.  The water is clear and there are jetties stretching out into the sea where you can climb down from a ladder and just drop right into the sea.

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The Xuroy is only two stars and is basic, but clean.  The food is good but there is very little choice – it’s a bit like going to a friend for dinner and just eating with the family.  There is no aircon so I wouldn’t go in the summer months, but in September it’s just fine.

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At night drinks are on the terrace and the view above is what you see as you sip your glass of rose and watch the sun go down.  Service is a little slow so you have to be patient!

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Our room faced the courtyard at the back.  The rooms have been done up quite recently and are modern and fresh.

The village itself has just one hotel, some self catering places, one shop and one other bar (Piccolo Mundo).  Within walking distance though, you can reach Punta Prima (about 35 mins scramble over rocks) where we had an excellent paella, and S’Algar which is another small village with a few more bars and shops (15 mins walk).

I’d go again, but next time I think we’ll rent a small place in the village and book flights independently.

 

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Luxurious Living At The Baron at Bucknell, Shropshire

Situated in the tiny Shropshire village of Bucknell, the Baron is a pub with rooms.  Nothing out of the ordinary about that, you may think.  However, this year, they have created  most amazing and luxurious garden rooms, elevating this establishment to something very special.

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I came across them on Twitter @Baronatbucknell and spotted that they had a competition running on Facebook to win an overnight stay.  Now you know I can’t resist a competition, so I entered and bingo!  I was picked as the winner.  Not one to let the grass grow, I booked immediately for the following week.

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From the moment we checked in, we were made to feel very special.  We were given a guided tour of the room and facilities (including a huge TV with Netflix, hot tub, swanky bean to cup coffee machine and….wait for it……a private wild swimming lake!).  The room was tastefully decorated and had the most enormous bed, complete with top quality bedlinen and snuggly mattress.  The fridge had fresh milk and chocolate (nice touch) and there were cookies laid out for us to sample.  Lots of quality teas to choose from as well as the fresh coffee.

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First things first, we hopped into the hot tub and gazed out over the adjoining fields, watching the sheep grazing and the rabbits darting about.  We then put a toe in the wild pool and, gorgeous as it was, an English summer just doesn’t tempt me to jump in, especially as the day was cool and overcast.

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For dinner, we nipped across the garden to the pub and enjoyed a tasty ribeye and a couple of drinks before heading back to our trendy lodgings to resume our nature watch.

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Breakfast the next morning was again taken in the pub – lots to choose from: fresh fruit, yoghurt, full English, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

We cheekily asked to look at the other rooms (there are three in total) and Phil, the owner was happy to oblige.  Take a look at the décor.  Wouldn’t you love to stay in one of these?

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Wild Goose Restaurant & Bar Chester

Every now and again you come across somewhere in your vicinity that you didn’t even know existed.  Just such a thing happened today when my bestie Linda and I had coffee and cake at the Wild Goose in Dodleston.  We had no idea it was here!  Hidden in the Cheshire countryside, but only a few miles from home.

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To be fair, it’s only been open for a few weeks.  It’s on the site of Chester Lakes, a fishery which has been popular with anglers for a long time.

Anyway, I had won a Facebook competition for coffee and cake, so it was the perfect excuse to try it out (and follow it up with a visit to the nearby Grosvenor Garden Centre).

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The décor is very country chic, with a quirky bar made up of wine crates.

 

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Outside there are the cutest little huts overlooking the lake which would be perfect on a summer night.  Pity it was pouring with rain!

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The menu looks good enough to tempt us back for dinner too!  PS I can recommend the chocolate cake!

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Walking and running in Malta

April is a beautiful month in Malta.  Wildflowers abound and there are still places on this very small island that you can get away from it all.  We stayed in Mellieha, an ideal base for running and walking as it is in the less populated north.  All the following trails started from our hotel, the Mellieha Bay and all are easy (no more than five miles).

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Our first run/walk started in the hotel grounds.  There is a trail right on the doorstep which starts at the edge of the gardens – just follow the coast path towards Marfa Ridge.  It’s not far until you are rewarded with this amazing view.

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From here, we scrambled across rough ground to a track with a campsite.  Following this road we ended up right on top of Marfa Ridge, on the main road to the ferry at Cirkewwa.  There are clear views of Gozo from here.

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We dropped down to the other side of the ridge, easy running, down to Armier Bay where we stopped at the Victoria café, right on the seafront, for a coffee and a rest before heading back towards Ramla Bay.

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By this point, aside from a few locals in the café, we had met just one other couple out walking. Bliss.

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Carrying on the main road past Ramla Bay you see the Red Fort ahead.  This landmark led us back to Mellieha.

Our next run was into the village of Mellieha.  Not far, maybe a mile and a bit, but uphill (seriously uphill!).  After a mooch around the village, we were able to run back in much more comfort, getting onto the beach at Mellieha for a better view of the sea.

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Our third outing was much more random.  We set out for Anchor Bay where the Popeye Village stands.  No way we were going to walk along the main road, so we followed our noses, starting at the rows of prefab houses opposite the hotel.  This took us right into open country, so we headed for the cliffs and figured we could follow the coastal path.  Wrong!  After climbing to the top of a ridge, all we got was a great view of a sheer drop into the sea.

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Tracing our steps back, we spotted what seemed like a well worn path and took that.

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However, this wasn’t straightforward as there were signs along the cliff edge saying keep out and danger, so following the edge wasn’t an option.  Instead we could see the back of Popeye Village in the distance, so we headed for it, hoping to find a way in.

The place looked shut to be honest and there was no obvious entrance, so we climbed over a small gate and we were in!

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Making our way to the official entrance, we were relieved to find a coffee shop (excellent espresso).

We were not the only visitors.  Sicily’s version of Hell’s Angels had come over for the day on the ferry and all their Harleys were parked up!  We enjoyed giving them a send off.

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The view over to Anchor Bay is absolutely amazing.  The Popeye film set is now a kiddies attraction, but pretty nonetheless.

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The weather was cool enough for running, but from May to September, I don’t think I could do it.  I will come back in Spring again no doubt.

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Tenby Under Moody Skies

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Tenby is a gorgeous place for a weekend getaway: beautiful beaches, quirky shops and cafes and the South Wales coast on your doorstep for you to explore.

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We spent four days there in the winter months.  Everything was deserted but beautiful nonetheless.

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Aside from a couple of dog walkers, I think we were the only people on the beach.

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The town itself is picture box pretty.  Set within ancient walls are a myriad of shops and cafes which kept us amused when the rain came!

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The harbour is famous for it’s higgledy piggledy ice cream coloured houses which even on a grey day looked fabulous!

We used it as a base to visit nearby Saundersfoot (excellent fish & chips on the front!) and St David’s with its magnificent cathedral.

Well worth a visit.