Saturday, 6 April 2019

HAVE YOUR BUSINESS REVIEWED ON THIS BLOG

 


Competition within the leisure industry has always been fierce, but these days it is even more important for companies to gain good publicity. Travel companies, hoteliers, restaurant owners and the like need to be ever more imaginative in the ways they advertise and publicise their business. Consider the following questions:

 
What makes your business stand out from the rest?
Why should a guest choose your hotel or restaurant over one just a few yards down the road?

 
There are many on-line sites where customers can leave reviews and feedback on their experience of certain businesses, but these can often simply be a platform for disgruntled customers to let off steam and complain about the most minor of annoyances. These type of reviews will often do little to inform potential customers of the benefits or not of booking with a particular company, and can do a lot of damage to a struggling business.


Here at World Travel Reviews, we try to give a balanced account of the hotel, restaurant, leisure facility or area that we are visiting. If we find fault we will say so, but we will not complain for the sake of complaining.


If you are in the leisure business and you would like us to visit your business with a view to reviewing the service that you provide and publishing that review on this blog, then please email your details to robertlidster@ymail.com  Please make the subject World Travel Reviews.

 
Depending on the type of business and review we may be able to gain further exposure in other leisure publications. We can also offer links from this blog to your own website.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

LONDON HOTELS


RAMADA LONDON FINCHLEY



It's often said that you shouldn't mix business with pleasure, but that's hard to do when your business is the leisure industry! I often find myself visiting wonderful places in order to carry out reviews, and even when I'm on holiday, and not officially there to review the accommodation or destination, I find myself looking around with the critical eye of a writer. And sometimes, it is just very convenient to mix the two.


So it proved to be recently, when my wife and I attended a travel show in North London. It just so happened that the travel show was on the day before our 41st wedding anniversary, so I thought why not have a hotel stay and combine visiting the travel show with celebrating our anniversary? Having carried out a thorough search of hotels in the area of Allianz Park, where the travel show was to be held, I decided upon the 3 star Ramada Hotel Finchley London, for a one night stay to rest after the show and to celebrate our anniversary.


Allianz Park is in Hendon North London, approximately ninety miles from where I live, and less than five miles from Finchley. We arrived at the show around midday and left at 4pm, which meant we arrived at the Ramada Hotel Finchley in good time to settle into our room before dinner.


The hotel was easy to find and is within easy access to the A406 London North Circular route. There is also quick and easy access to London city, by means of the underground network or bus route, allowing guests at the hotel the opportunity to be in the heart of London within thirty minutes. There are numerous shops and restaurants in the area, many within walking distance, which is ideal as the hotel has its own free car park for guests.


On viewing the hotel for the first time, I was aware that it has three very distinct areas. There is of course the main hotel entrance, clearly marked 'RAMADA', and adjacent to that is a large deck area, aptly named 'THE DECK', this is a fully heated area ideal for al fresco eating. Then there is 'FLAMES', a Greek restaurant serving Greek and Mediterranean style food, this is where we had booked our 6.30pm anniversary dinner.

 


 

 















 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
On check-in at the hotel, the reception staff, on the 24 hour front desk, were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and made sure we had all the information we needed to make our stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible. We were then given directions to our room which was situated on the second floor overlooking the car park. The room was accessible by either lift or stairs.




The Ramada Hotel London Finchley offers 88 spacious and well equipped en-suite guest rooms, located over three floors. There are four room types, Standard, Standard Triple, Deluxe and Executive. Accessible rooms are available in either Standard, Deluxe or Executive.


Our room, an Executive Room, was designed with the business traveller in mind. The room comes with all the features of a Standard Room, shower, work desk, tea/coffee making facilities, LCD TV with freeview channels, free wi fi, double or single beds, but also features Temple Spa Bath products, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottled water, and complimentary snacks. At 22 square metres, the Executive Rooms are also 2 square metres larger than the Standard Room. I found the room to be well designed, bright, and nicely decorated, with all the comforts we would need for our overnight stay.



 


 

 





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Once we had settled into our room and freshened up, we then made our way to Flames restaurant for our anniversary dinner. I had made the reservation for dinner by emailing the hotel with my request prior to arriving, a quick, easy and efficient means of booking.

As with the check-in staff, all the restaurant staff were very pleasant and helpful, we were immediately shown to our table by the window, handed a menu and our drinks order was taken. The menu provided a very good choice of food and drinks, all at very reasonable prices. We were both tempted by the Swordfish and Greek Salad, accompanied by Pitta Bread and Hummus. My wife chose a soft drink, whilst I chose a glass of very palatable red wine. The restaurant was fairly busy, with a number of tables occupied by party groups, with a group of youngsters at one table celebrating a birthday. There was a good atmosphere in the restaurant and the staff were attentive at all times. Having enjoyed a very good meal, we retired to our room for the night.



 








Breakfast the next morning was served in Flames restaurant. At check-in we had been given, along with our room key, two coupons for redemption at breakfast time. As we entered the restaurant a member of staff greeted us, took our coupons and invited us to sit where we wished, and informed us that breakfast was self service. We sat, once again, at a table by the window, and helped ourselves from the array of breakfast cereal, fruit, bread and yoghurt etc. A selection of hot food was on offer, which was served at a serving station, but tea and coffee was self service.


 
 



 


Check-out was as quick and easy as check-in had been on our arrival, and we were soon on our way, having had a most enjoyable stay. The hotel is extremely well placed for visiting London and surrounding area, and was perfect for our needs. The Ramada Hotel London Finchley is a budget priced hotel that certainly doesn't skimp on hospitality, and I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel, or indeed staying here again. Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay and found it an ideal place to celebrate our anniversary, as well as meeting our business needs perfectly. Now, what was I saying about mixing business with pleasure?

For more information on The Ramada London Finchley, please visit.


Telephone: 0208 446 6644.


Post Code for Sat Nav: N12 0QZ.








Wednesday, 23 January 2019

NATIONAL TRUST


NATIONAL TRUST VISITS 2018

Every year at about this time, I write a summary of my visits to National Trust properties during the previous year. I have been a member of the National Trust for four years now, and in that time I have had the pleasure of visiting some truly wonderful places, and 2018 was no exception. I am happy to say that I also managed to fulfil two of my lifetime ambitions in the process. Here is a summary of four of the properties visited in 2018. For more in-depth information and for charges and membership details, please visit: www.nationaltrust.co.uk


FELBRIGG HALL & BLICKLING ESTATE

Whenever I am travelling within the UK, I will always look out to see what National Trust properties are in the area I am visiting. It was no different when in April I found myself spending a few days on a road trip which took in the beautiful county of Norfolk. I was very happy to find that there were two very substantial National Trust properties for me to visit within a short distance of where I was staying.
 
FELBRIGG HALL

 

 
The first of these was Felbrigg Hall, a magnificent house with some beautiful stained glass windows dating back to the 15th century. Set in 520 acres of wonderful parkland and woods, Felbrigg Hall is an absolute delight, and even comes complete with a herd of very friendly, inquisitive cows which came to greet me and pose for some photos. Close to the famous seaside town of Cromer, Felbrigg Hall is easily accessible and provides ample parking along with a garden shop, gift shop, cafe and toilet facilities. The parkland is open from dawn to dusk, but as opening times for the house vary, please check the National Trust website prior to your visit.


 

Post code for Sat Navs: NR11 8PR


BLICKLING ESTATE
 
 
 
 
The second property visited on this trip was Blickling Estate, an incredibly well preserved Jacobean mansion with a very impressive 18th century long gallery. Visitors, with an interest in books, will be extremely impressed with the marvellous, inspiring library, housing over 12,500 volumes.




Surrounded by a formal garden, the house is a joy to visit, and with the gardens leading onto undulating parkland, the opportunity to wander free is there for all. There is the obligatory gift shop for all those delightful little purchases, 3 very tempting cafes to tend to your culinary requirements, a garden shop and a very interesting second hand book shop.

For entrance charges and opening times please refer to the National Trust website.
Located in Aylsham, the post code for Sat Nav directions is: NR11 6NF

HADRIAN'S WALL & HOUSESTEADS FORT


One of the lifetime ambitions that I mentioned in my foreword, was to visit Hadrian's Wall. I have travelled to the north of England on many occasions, even venturing over the border into Scotland at least half a dozen times. However, for whatever reasons, I have never managed to find the time to visit Hadrian's Wall or any of the many forts and towers that are scattered along the way. The scale of the wall is very impressive, and it is both the scale and the amazing history that has always appealed to me, and fired up my imagination. So, in July I found myself setting off on yet another road trip, this time taking in all four corners of the UK. I was determined, on this occasion, to finally take the time to visit this very famous and historic wall.



I was heading to the Dumfries area of Scotland and had planned a route that would allow me to view both the wall and an old Roman fort, with a diversion of approximately sixty miles. The part of the wall that I had selected for my visit was near Housesteads Fort, a remarkably well maintained Roman fort, cared for by the National Trust. Close to the town of Hexham in Northumberland, the site was easy to locate using the NE47 6NN postcode provided by the National Trust on their website.




There is a charge to use the car park as it is not run by the National trust, but this is only a few pounds, and the car park provides ample parking. There is a small visitor centre with a gift shop, toilet facilities and a cafe area. From the visitor centre it is a ten minute walk to the site of the fort, and just a little further beyond the fort is Hadrian's Wall.
 


Unfortunately, due to time restraints, my time at Hadrian's Wall and Housesteads fort was shorter than I would have liked. Nonetheless, my visit was most enjoyable and I even managed a short walk along the top of the wall. The views were amazing, and even though the weather was somewhat inclement (typical British summer!), it did not dampen my enthusiasm, or, evidently, that of other visitors, with many people walking along the wall and visiting the fort.

I left Houseteads fort very pleased that I had made that sixty mile diversion. Both the wall and the fort far surpassed my expectations, and I would urge anybody with an interest in history, or even just a love of the beautiful British countryside, to pay this historically rich and extremely interesting site a visit, you won't be sorry you did.



THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY





Following on from my visit to Hadrian's Wall, I spent a few days in Scotland before travelling by ferry across the Irish Sea to Belfast. It was to be in Northern Ireland that I would fulfil another of my lifelong ambitions, to visit The Giant's Causeway!

The Giant's Causeway is located just a few miles north east of the town of Bushmill in County Antrim. Bushmill is famous for its whiskey as well as being the gateway to the causeway. Having seen countless documentaries over the years about these incredible Basalt columns, and having heard the stories surrounding their formation, I was excited and intrigued to finally get to see and touch them, for myself.



Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions between 50 and 60 million years ago, the causeway is made up of some 40,000 interlocking columns. Unesco declared it a world heritage site in 1986, and in 2005 it was named as the 4th greatest natural wonder in the UK by a Radio Times poll.

The columns form stepping stones leading from the cliff out to sea, and it is these stepping stones which led to the stories of two battling giants. Most of the columns are hexagonal and the tallest of these is a very impressive 12 metres high!

On arrival at the site, visitors will find ample car parking close to the visitor centre. It is then a downhill walk of approximately 20 minutes from the visitor centre to the causeway. However, a shuttle bus is provided, at a small charge, for both disabled visitors and those preferring not to walk. There is a coffee shop, gift shop, bureau de change, and toilet facilities within the visitor centre.


 
Although a very popular tourist destination, the site did not appear overcrowded on my visit, and as the coast and the coast path is open from dawn to dusk, there is ample time and opportunity for all to view and even stand on this historic site. I spent some time exploring the fascinating columns and sitting amongst them, gazing out to sea, and understanding perfectly just how the mythical tale of the brawling giants came about. The sun was setting as I left to continue my journey, and this stunning, picturesque scene made the moment seem even more magical. It was an experience that I will never forget!






Tuesday, 18 September 2018

TEN THINGS TO DO IN SALISBURY WILTSHIRE UK

MUCH MORE THAN JUST A CATHEDRAL

 
With Salisbury having been very much in the news lately, I got to thinking "What is there to do in Salisbury"? I have never actually visited Salisbury itself, although I have been in the area and visited Stonehenge on several occasions.
 
Just a quick glance at www.visitwiltshire.co.uk  gave me a number of options for places to visit and things to do, here is a random list of ten:
 
1/    Old Sarum, originally an Iron Age hill fort, it was re-used by the Romans, Saxons, and the Normans.
 
2/    Saint Thomas' Church with its medieval "Doom" painting.
 
3/    The Market Place where regular markets have been held since 1227.
 
4/    The Salisbury Museum.
 
5/    Salisbury Cathedral.
 
6/    The Salisbury Playhouse, great for theatre buffs.
 
7/    Many parks including the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, with views of the Cathedral.
 
8/    Wonderful walks along the River Avon.
 
9/    The Avon Valley Nature Reserve.
 
10/   Oh! and of course there's that little known gem called Stonehenge, just a mere 8 miles away. 
 
Well I hope this helps to whet the appetite of any potential visitor to Salisbury, seems to me that there is a lot to do there, sounds like a great place to visit.


Friday, 24 August 2018

MINI-CRUISE WITH CMV


MARCO POLO


Marco Polo is a mid sized cruise ship owned and operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV). With a passenger capacity of around 800, accommodated in 425 cabins, the ship has a very homely, almost country house feel. Sporting a dark blue hull, this cruise ship looks every inch your classic ocean liner.

CMV are Britain's newest privately owned cruise line, specialising in small ship, no fly cruises from the UK. Home based in Tilbury London, CMV operate out of 11 UK ports. With a fleet of 5 ships to their name, CMV have a high guest satisfaction record of 95%, and 40% repeat passengers. To read my review of Astoria and its fascinating history, another of Cruise Maritime Voyages cruise ships, please click on the following link:
 https://independentworldtravelreviews.blogspot.com/2017/04/cruise-maritime-voyages.html
 

Originally built in 1966, Marco Polo benefited from a £3 million refit in 2009. This is evident in the stylish and comfortable public areas that await guests to this ship. Most public areas are conveniently located on the same deck, making navigating the ships facilities an easy task. There is everything that one would expect from a ship of this size, from bars and lounges, to Library, card room, and the obligatory photo shop, and shopping arcade. There is also a reception desk, information desk and booking desk for future cruises. Entertainment is altogether a much more subtle, but none the less entertaining, affair than on a lot of the bigger cruise ships, with a show lounge for live performances as well as live music in the ship's bar areas.












There is a spa which includes a sauna and provides various massages and treatments, along with a reasonably equipped gym. There is one outdoor swimming pool and three hot tubs. For anyone wishing to jog or walk away their cruise, the deck above the Promenade deck does allow for a complete circumnavigation of the ship.





There are two large forward facing viewing areas, as well as a fair amount of seating around the pool. The ship is equipped with ten zodiac landing craft which are used for shore excursions in eco-sensitive areas. Although, now some 42 years old, Marco Polo has all the latest navigational aids and benefits from biological waste treatment.

There are 425 cabins, of which 292 have a porthole or window. There are no cabins with balconies, and only 2 cabins are wheelchair accessible. There are 4 lifts onboard, although if you are able, it is usually quicker to use the stairs. With some 15 cabin price grades there should be one to suit all budgets, from a standard inside cabin all the way up to the 2 junior suites or the 2 large suites. The largest of these suites (Dynasty and Mandarin) are spacious, well equipped cabins with a separate living area, large bedroom and marble bathroom with full size bath tub.










All your culinary needs are taken care of in The Waldorf Restaurant, where waiter service is the norm and smart attire is required, here they operate a two sitting dinner service. Alternatively, you may choose to dine in Marco's Restaurant where the atmosphere is less formal and all meals are self service.






 




Having never cruised with CMV before, although no stranger to cruising, I booked a one night mini-cruise for my wife and myself on Marco Polo. The cruise would take us from the Essex port of Harwich to the London port of Tilbury. These short weekend mini-cruises are a great way to try out new cruise lines and ships, and is also a perfect introduction to cruising for those who have never cruised before. Usually very keenly priced, this one night mini-cruise had prices starting from just £59 per person.

My wife and I were booked into a Premier Outside cabin and had been given an embarkation time of 3pm, embarkation and disembarkation times are based on your cabin grade and deck position. We arrived at the port of Harwich at approximately 2:30pm and parked in the designated car park, we had pre-booked the car park at a cost of £11. Along with other passengers, we were then taken by bus to the cruise terminal. Check-in was very quick and we were onboard by our allocated time of 3pm.



As we stepped onboard we were greeted by a member of staff who then showed us the way to our cabin, carrying our overnight bag for us. The cabin was of a reasonable size with two large windows which afforded us good views of the port. The shower room was very small, with very little space to put your toiletries etc. There were two single beds which had been pushed together, with a bedside cabinet either side, there was a dressing table and a reasonably sized wardrobe. It was nice to see that there were power points to enable us to charge our phones, and also tea and coffee making facilities.





 
Once our luggage was stowed away we made our way to Marco's Restaurant where a good range of hot and cold food was being served. After having something light to eat and drink, we returned to our cabin in order to get our life jackets as it was time for the compulsory safety drill.





Having been briefed in what to do in an emergency, we set about exploring the ship. For a small ship there is a surprisingly good amount of public areas, and nowhere seemed crowded at anytime. We were due to depart Harwich at 6:30pm but an announcement informed passengers this had been put back to 9:30pm, so our plans to watch the sail away prior to dinner at 8pm were dashed!

Dinner in the Waldorf Restaurant was a very pleasant, stylish affair, we shared a table with another couple, and, as you tend to do, swapped cruise stories whilst enjoying a five course meal. After dinner we strolled around the ship and took in some of the live entertainment in the Captain's Club, a very relaxing bar lounge area.
 

 
 
We then retired for the evening, first having set the alarm for an early call. Cabins had to be vacated early, by 7am the next morning and disembarkation would commence at 8am, breakfast would be served from 6:30am.

The next morning, as instructed, we vacated our cabin by 7am and had breakfast in the Waldorf Restaurant, breakfast can also be taken in Marco's Restaurant. We kept our small overnight bags with us, although passengers were allowed to store baggage in the show lounge prior to disembarkation. We disembarked at 8:30am and made our way to the car park to take up our places on the coach for the return trip to Harwich, this had been pre-booked at a cost of £20 per person. We arrived back in Harwich just after 10am.

For more information on CMV and Marco Polo, please visit the cruise lines own website at: www.cruiseandmaritime.com