Glorious Crete.

The family and I have just returned from two stunning weeks in Crete.  To begin with my expectations were average as I imagined Crete to be living in the shadows of Santorini and others.  I was completely blown away and smitten and have got severe withdrawal symptoms from my latest love.  Crete is a perfect holiday destination, from its picture perfect coastline with clear waters, to its beautiful beaches coupled with an abundance of things to see and do.  Being six of us this year including my two teenage nephews we opted for the Sensatori resort which is all- inclusive.  To be frank, this may not be my preferred way of board option, but with teenagers it’s a great way of having plenty of options and all times of day.  If the little cherubs go clubbing for example and miss breakfast, it’s no skin off my nose if they go grab a snack to keep the going till Lunch.  Alternatively, if the darlings spill a cocktail/ milkshake or ice-cream, the can just get another.  If they want endless passion fruit Martinis, then not a issue.  Being on campus however gets a little tedious after one has unwinded the first three days, so we do always ensure that we go out for dinner, day trips and Lunch at local places to provide the needed balance to our holiday.  This all said, I am a fan of the Sensatori brand and enjoyed an amazing time at their Side property last year.  I’d like to visit them all actually, plus Rhodes and Croatia are joining  the portfolio in the next year or so.  My highlights of the holiday included Elounda, Agios Nikolaos and namely the journey between the two resorts.  Sissi bay was beautiful although a little more touristy.  We hired a car and explored, and also took the buses which were intact coaches with much needed air-conditioning.  Water sports were in abundance for the children to enjoy, and for semi- tame clubbing, Hersonissos was ideal.  Hersonissos, I adored, especially the Old town, and I’ve found an amazing restaurant called Cavos of which was serene at lunchtime and packed out at dinner.  Fishing boats would arrive during dinner to offload the gorgeous fresh Red Mullet to the waters edge where we sat on whitewashed chairs sipping the local vino.  All in all, I’m feeling much refreshed and the teens had a great time too.  Highly recommended.

Who needs New York when one resides in Newbury?

To be honest, one has been feeling a tad glum of late.  Things have not been going too well for me work wise, however I’m all about positive thinking and looking at the bright side of life.  I’m also into reading positive quotes and  poetry of which I can identify with and generally doing everything I can to keep my pecker up.  I’ve taken to writing a journal, and am having a bit of therapy to get any negativity out of my mind and must say this really helps.  Whilst maintaining a positive stance, I decided to seek the positives in the home town that I reside in,  as all too often we can become consumed with gloom.  I hope that this will be useful for any one visiting or just a general reminder to my neighbours!

Here we go then, in no particular order.

1- The Racecourse.  I’m no expert on racecourses, but I believe it to be a decent course.  I certainly have a jolly good time whenever I go.  I tend to go racing maybe three or four times a year.  I’ve got a good mate who invites me to her box, and I get very merry on the endless champers.  I love a day at the races, never win anything but it’s a good craic.

2-The Corn Exchange. I love this little theatre, I prefer going to the cinema here too, it’s much more intimate, and you can take a glass of vino in with you.  I’ve been to many a production here, and the Pantomimes are hysterical at Christmas.

3-Highclere Castle.  It’s stunning and full of Downtown Abbey charm.  Events happen here all the time.  Its wonderful for the odd tour, also it’s a fabulous Wedding venue.

4-The Vineyard Hotel.  I of course have to mention this place.  The hubster runs it, one of the most special places to dine, with the most amazing wine list.  The bedrooms are luxurious, service is sublime.  If they don’t get a michelin star this year, then I’ll be well miffed. The afternoon tea is awesome too.

5-The Woodspeen. Another lovely place to eat.  Michelin starred, but very relaxed whilst being high end at the same time.  One of the best steaks I’ve eaten demolished by moi recently.  Really like this place, plus there is a cookery school too.

6-The Walks.  There are plenty of local country walks, from The Chase at Woolten hill, to Snelsmore Common, to The Ridgeway. Great for the canine babies.

7-Golf.  We seem to have an abundance of Golf courses.  Donnington Valley is one of the best, but seriously there are loads to suit all budgets.

8-Spas. Again The Vineyard hotel and Donnington Valley both have lovely Spas where one can chill and luxuriate one.

9-Shopping.  Well, this is a tricky one, as our Town centre is a bit of a patchwork.  There are a few nice shops and chain restaurants, but also a few dire ones.  It’s probably best if you’re going to venture into Town to park at The Parkway end.  We have the usual favourites plus some goodish coffee shops.  Waterstones has been revamped and worth a little pop into for a coffee and a flick through some pages.

  • 10-Must say I’m struggling now! But Angelica’s Terrace in Camp Hopson, Newbury’s main department store is worth a little jaunt to.  It’s recently been refurbished and sells coffee, teas, Proscecco and Artisan products amongst other things. The furnishings are very glam, it’s quite lovely and you can sit Al fresco on the terrace and look across lovely Newbury!

Swansea weekend.

Swansea has never featured on my bucket list of places to explore. My daughter however had Swansea as her first choice for Uni so this weekend we paid our first extended visit.  Firstly on collecting a starving child we checked in to the Marriott.  Probably not my choice next time to stay there as quite tired, coupled with a large Wedding party who seemed to have monopolised the place.  Kudos to their stamina though, dancing from 5pm until Lordy knows when!  We dropped our belongings off and had a wander.  Location fabulous, as you leave the back of the hotel, stunning beaches to wander for ever on.  We were recommended two great eateries by Michelle on guest relations, the first,  we had dinner at Bouchon de Rossi which was just a ten minute stroll away from the Hotel.  I loved the ambience and the menu and chose Langoustine Thermidor and a Fillet au poivre. Both my dishes were cooked to perfection, tasty and hit the spot.  Service was a little intimidating and not as fluffy as I would have liked however Wine was lovely – a sublime example of a buttery and elegant Viognier.  I slept not too badly considering the Wedding guests were still knocking around at 4.30am, then I guess the empty booze bottles had to be emptied somewhere, sadly for us it happened way too early on a Sunday morning and directly under our bedroom.  Untederred, we had breakfast before wandering off to the Mumbles for a bracing walk.  Wow, what a spectacular place, absolutely stunning coastline and sandy beaches coupled with fish and chip air, rows of beach huts where families were taking in one of the last sunny days before Winter.  We opted for lunch at Langlands Brasserie.  What a tremendously busy and fabulous place.  Now sitting firmly as one of my favourite dining spots.  The Sunday Lunch menu was extremely well executed and priced, service was really excellent considering the volume of people to serve.  My Moules, Bouillabaisse washed down with a good ol Gavi were just the ticket.  I cannot wait to return to pick up the daughter for Christmas, just need to find a good local Boutique Guesthouse to frequent for the next four years sporadically.   The Langland Cove B&B looks promising……..

The Perfect Family Break…

Three months ago, the family and I booked a two week break to Side in Turkey. Every time I was asked where I was going on my holibobs this year by a friend or colleague, I was met with glazed expressions, sarcastic and flippant comments such as “you’re brave”, “it’ll be quiet”, “don’t stray into Syria”……

Needless to say when the attempted Coup was broadcasted with many scary images on TV and Social media, nerves really kicked in.

Arguments, wobbles, calls to our Travel agent took place over five days. We were refused the option to change our plans to another destination. Coupled with winding down from work I was a stress mess.

The evening before we were due to travel, as a family we decided that we would go and make the most of it. That night I slept un fitfully, dreaming of the worst possible situations and woke in a cold sweat.

Once we had arrived in Antalya, I was all of a sudden examining vehicles – goodness know where I picked up my risk assessment abilities.

The one hour transfer to Side was of course without a hitch. Security in Turkey is at an all time high and the only sign of a second attempted Coup was my Coup de Champagne on arrival at our resort.

Travelling with three teenagers, I worried that I would not be able to satisfy their partying needs, as of course I didn’t want to let them out of my sight.

Needless to say, I had one of the most stress free, beautifully relaxing holidays ever, and our break could not have been more perfect.

Turkish hospitality is sublime, the coast line is amazing, the food is fresh, delicious, tasty and extremely varied not to mention extremely reasonably priced. The Turkish vino and Efes beer is easily quaffable.

Side is a beautifully stunning town with a harbour, steeped in history. It’s heartbreaking to see the tourism being affected so drastically in such a beautiful place on earth. 

In the end after extensive research, I allowed the three teens a few nights out in Side. There are two really good clubs where you can dine as well before they turn clubby. Security and police presence at night is tight and vehicles are stopped at a barrier at the top of the strip and banned from town. That naturally offered reassurance to me.

All in all, a perfect breakaway and cannot wait to go back……