European Holidays

Reviews of Holidays in Europe…

Los Zocos Club Resort, Costa Teguise, Lanzarote

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I stayed here from 23rd to 30th March 2017.

Transfer took about half an hour and as I was one of the first people off the bus check in didn’t take too long, although those at the back of the queue might think otherwise. Reception staff were polite and friendly, as were all of the staff I encountered during my stay. All inclusive customers get to wear a dayglow yellow band for the duration.

First impression of my third floor apartment were positive, although it would’ve been nice if there had been bottled water left for weary travellers. The key is the usual credit card type.

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Room 1314 overlooks the busy pool area and doesn’t have a sea view, although you do get the sun on the balcony all afternoon and a sunset. Everything looked clean and I was pleased to have a separate bedroom and living space. Both rooms had a door opening onto the balcony, where there’s a small table and four chairs along with external lighting and washing line, although if you intend to hang anything on it you’ll need to bring some pegs.

The bathroom was more than adequate with nice shower and plenty of towels (there’s no bath). You do get mini soaps but not a lot else in the way of toiletries so take your own.There were plenty of toilet rolls.

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The bedroom had twin beds and plenty of storage for one person. Might’ve needed more for a couple. Actually the apartment could cater for a family of four with two sofa beds but it would’ve felt a bit cramped I suspect. This was actually one of the nicest apartment s I’ve stayed in and I really liked the chunky, white wooden furniture and the artwork on the walls was stunning. I did find the mattress a bit too firm and asked at reception if I could have either a softer one or a mattress topper, however the best they could offer was for the cleaning staff to fold up a blanket for me to have under the sheet. The this was actually a good compromise as it turned out because they put two duvets underneath the sheet which was just the job.

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I liked the fact this was and apartment with self catering facilities if required. A selection of English speaking TV channels to choose from, including BBC1, BBC 2, channel 4, some movie channels, entertainment channels, sky news and BBC news 24. There were two electric sockets in the bedroom and three in the lounge (if you use the one in the kitchenette).

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Layout of the complex was a little strange with entrances to apartments at the back but I got used to it quite quickly. The site was well maintained and attractive and always spotless. Flat walkways and ramps throughout the site made it ideal for both pushchairs and wheelchairs alike.

Location was excellent with lots of shops and bars close by. The walk to the beach took under five minutes.

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Los Zocos is very much geared towards families with small children so bear this in mind if you prefer a more adult orientated holiday. There’s loud music around the busier pool most of the day and rooms overlooking this pool will hear it. Abba, queen, the spice girls and Michael Jackson don’t appeal to everyone’s tastes but I was always entertained playing my own version of name that tune as the more obscure past pop hits blasted out across the site. It really had been years since I last heard sugar baby love by the Rubettes! For those who like to be involved during their holidays there’s lots of activities throughout the day, hosted by the animation team; everything from darts to aqua aerobics. There’s also a beach volleyball court, mini golf and football pitches, as well as dedicated children’s play area. There’s a lovely chill out area with comfortable sofas in a shaded area beside the beach volleyball court.

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Although noisy during the day there was very little sound at night which was much appreciated.The poolside snack bar had a limited selection of hot food and drinks as you might expect. It seems to be the only place on site where you can get bottles of water to take to your room so remember to stock up when they’re open!

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The el Mirador restaurant didn’t have the widest variety of food I’ve ever seen but it was mostly well labelled with just about enough for vegetarians (as long as you like pizza or salad), however I wouldn’t have wanted two weeks of it. Credit where it’s due, and the carrot salad, celery salad and cabbage salad were all tasty and fresh. Desserts were disappointing with very dry sponges and some fillings still partly frozen, in fact they were the worst I’d ever experienced.

I’m easily pleased at breakfast so cereal and coffee was all I needed. There were some other basic options for those who wanted more.

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To access the boulevard restaurant you have to go out the front door of reception and turn left. You only get an evening meal here but I preferred it as there were far less children running around screaming. There were three stations, vegetarian, Asian and Tex mex. Very limited selection but good quality food nonetheless. Must admit that the orange coloured mashed potato with a skin on top wasn’t a favourite, but I loved the veggie lasagne, the Asian vegetables and the nachos with cheese dip. Massive galleon bar in the centre was impressive and real conversation piece. As you enter you’ll notice a section on the left which is screened off, and that’s the Italian restaurant. You get one opportunity to book this during your stay and you must do this asap as it does get booked up quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here.

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The boulevard hosts entertainment around 9pm, which seems to be mainly a chap on piano. All very cordial, and drinks at the fabulous galleon bar are plentiful. Shorts are huge – you have been warned! Service is always with a smile, making this a really relaxing place to spend an evening or two.

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For those late risers please bear in mind the el Mirador finishes breakfast at 10.30am but the pool bar snack service doesn’t start until 11am. This was more annoying for those with impatient youngsters than it was for me. There’s also nowhere to get food between 5pm and 6pm, unless you’ve paid for gold band services in which case you only have to go hungry between 5.30pm and 6pm.

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The best place to access the WiFi is in reception. There’s a free WiFi zone by the quiet pool however I never managed to get it to work on my mobile or my tablet there.

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I’ve been to Costa Teguise previously so knew about the night markets around the bandstand. These are every Wednesday and Friday evening between 6 and 10pm and well worth a look.

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The number 3 bus regularly goes to Puerto del Carmen and the stop is close to the boulevard restaurant, on the same side of the road. It’s under 3 euros one-way (I suspect a return fare is a better deal). It took an hour to get there at lunchtime, which was uncomfy on a crowded bus with no air conditioning. The trip back took longer due to rush hour traffic, so bear this in mind when planning. (Use a toilet beforehand and take a bottle of water with you). Incidentally, this is also the bus to Arricefe and Playa Blanca. Buses run frequently throughout the day and it’s a really cheap way to get out and about, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

I didn’t use the pools so my only comment would be that the children’s pool was well used but not the quiet pool (possibly due to the children’s pool being heated and the others not).

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I didn’t use the agua marina bar so can’t comment on that.

With all the rooms having plant troughs on the balconies it was a shame these weren’t actually planted up as I image it’d look amazing.

I have to say a quick thank you to the Tui reps based in reception, who were always very helpful whenever I needed to know anything.

All in all it was a good holiday. It’s in an ideal location to base yourself, rooms are cleaned daily, it’s a lovely site, you really can do as much or as little as you want to, everyone’s friendly and I’d have no problem returning to the Los Zocos.

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A word to a certain few parents; If your little prince or princess screams blue murder every time you are more than three inches away from them, has a major hissy fit the second they’re near water and goes nuclear whenever they enter a restaurant, maybe they’re not quite ready for that family holiday just yet?

The One Bar, Rubicon Marina, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

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This nice café / restaurant is perfectly located at The Rubicon Marina and overlooks the water, so the views are stunning. I’d popped across to the marina via the water-bus and the jetty is right next to the One Bar, so it seemed a good place to have a quick coffee and a snack before taking in all the sights.

I ordered coffee, which cost 2 euros, and enquired about sandwiches. They apparently make them to order, so I asked for a cheese sandwich. The total cost was 5 euros 50, so not too bad at all considering the location and convenience.

Staff were very polite, and about 5 minutes later a waiter brought me a toasted cheese sandwich with a few chips! Wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was delicious nonetheless.

I must say, I was really impressed with this café / restaurant, and if I were to visit the Marina again I’d certainly go back to The One Bar for something to eat and drink again.

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H10 Rubicon Palace, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote

 

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I stayed here from Thursday 1st December to Thursday 15th December 2016.

When I arrived at the H10 Rubicon Palace it was a lovely surprise to be greeted by a smiling lady with a glass of champagne. There’s a lot of information for staff to pass onto guests so queues are inevitable, just be patient.

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I’d been given room 6064, on the same level as reception so no lifts or stairs to negotiate. It’s a bit of a trek but you have to expect it when you holiday at a massive complex.
I did have issues with my door key (credit card type) but only because there’s a ‘knack’ (a quick in & out rather than leave it in). However, if you don’t happen to have the ‘knack’ you might be standing there for quite some time; one night I made 27 attempts! (And no, I didn’t have it next near my mobile phone). Thankfully, after a few days I managed to suss out the timing.

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Once inside I was very pleased to see a large sofa-bed, round coffee table, flat-screen tv with remote (there are 5 English channels, BBC World, Sky News, Disney plus 2 movie channels). There was a huge bed (with more pillows than you could ever need) and although the bed was comfy I’m used to a slightly softer mattress, so the next time I was walking through reception I asked for a mattress topper. When my room was cleaned in the afternoon the topper was put onto my bed (excellent).

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The bathroom was spotless, like the rest of the room, along with more toiletries than I’ve ever been offered at any other hotel I’ve stayed at. I’ve never seen bathroom scales provided at any hotel I’d been to previously (I chose not to open that particular can of worms!) It was lovely to have the option of a bath as well as a shower.

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The coffee / tea machine was a nice addition (once I worked out how it worked). I felt that a few basic instructions would have been useful as I’ve never used a coffee pod machine before. I loved the bathrobe & slippers, and the very large balcony with fantastic views of Fuerteventura and Los Lobos, although it might’ve been handy to have had a small clothes line on the balcony for hanging out wet towels and swimwear. I ended up using the towel rail over the bath when I wanted to dry anything. (Tip: if you’re short, like me, if you drag the padded bench seat from the end of the bed onto the balcony, and throw a towel on it, you’ll have a comfy place to lay face down getting your back tanned).
There was plenty of space for all my clothes and enough hangers for one person (2 people may well want more). The giant mirror in the hall ensures you see yourself from top to toe in all your glory. I quickly sussed out the free WiFi, which was very useful, and I was easily able to connect two devices at once (unlike other hotels that restrict you to one device per room). There were 3 electric sockets (4 if you unplug the lamp by the tv) which was plenty for me.
One niggle was that if you actually want to see anything after dark you’ll have to take it in the bathroom as the lighting in the main room is very dim. Even with all of the lights and lamps on I still couldn’t read a brochure very well.

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There are lots of steps (as well as lifts to use) in the main building so it can be a bit disorientating, although you will eventually get used to it. The main restaurants are down 2 flights of stairs (under the main reception). Each level is beautiful and has it’s own pond (fabulous); two have fish in them.
A note regarding the pools; I did venture a dip on one occasion in the big pool but only for 5 minutes. One of the handrails for the steps was very wobbly and once into the icy cold water you realise there’s quite a few broken / missing tiles on the floor (be careful where you tread as there are very sharp).

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With a site this size there’s always bound to be maintenance, so you just have to accept banging and having areas roped off so the workmen can get on with their jobs.
Janubio Restaurant, Breakfast 7.30-10.30am, lunch 1-3pm, dinner 7-10pm.
Went here for my first evening meal and it seemed adequate. Vegetarian options are available although you may end up with a few interesting combinations if you want to fill your plate sometimes. I ended up with pasta, rice, potato and a slice of mushroom pizza one lunchtime, but I was hungry and it filled a hole (there was also salad). There were plenty of plates, bowls, cups and glasses (maitre d was checking stock regularly). The wine was drinkable and the cakes/gateaux were delicious.

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I returned for my first breakfast, which in my opinion is the best meal of the day in this restaurant. Coffee was available however you’ll need to be creative if you want to stir it as when I asked a waitress for a teaspoon she directed me to the dessert spoon on my table; a minor irritation. (Tip: take one of the teaspoons from your room with you, or from the piano bar). It’s surely not rocket science to put some teaspoons next to the coffee machines?
I usually opted for cereal and there were several to choose from. There were also cheeses, meats, fruit and an array of other foodstuffs to try out if you felt the urge. I have to say though, that yoghurt should not be served at room temperature in my opinion. Fruit juice is available from the Children’s Buffet and isn’t very well labelled, and there doesn’t appear to be much choice.

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I also found that food labelling was ambiguous; there was often rice / pasta / sauce with ‘things’ in but it wasn’t always clear what it all was. There probably were more veggie options available than I realised but without labels it’s impossible to know; ‘pasta salad’ could’ve had meat or fish in it, but might have been ok. One lunchtime there were just two food labels covering more than 6 different trays, so I had no idea what the other 4 dishes were, and staff are so busy you feel awkward about asking all the time.
I never did figure out why on some occasions this restaurant was excellent and others it was average. The evenings with hot couscous, large veggie vol-au-vents and hummus were far superior to the times when there was mashed potato that you could pour onto your plate, boiled-to-death broccoli and cold pizza slices. The 4-cheese pasta in watery lukewarm sauce was definitely not my favourite dish.
However, credit where it’s due so bravo for the Asian evening as the food was exceptionally good. I loved the spring rolls, all the different types of vegetables and those lovely mushroom tarts. Everything was hot and delicious; it was by far the best meal I had in there the entire two weeks. Now why can’t the food be of that high standard every night?

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Tabaiba Restaurant, breakfast 7.30– 10am, lunch (privilege only), dinner 7.30 – 9.30pm. I had high hopes for this restaurant, but sadly it was a bit of a let-down for me (personal taste). It’s much smaller inside and there’s a lot less choice; although the ambience is calmer than the chaos in the Janubio and there are fewer small children running around.
Food is decent quality and usually hot, but as a vegetarian I was left with even less options than in the Janubio. I looked at the rice one evening but that had egg in it although the pizza slices were good and the desserts delicious. Also, I had rubber soled sandals on one evening and for some odd reason the floor surface in there is so slippery I had to be careful I didn’t skid. On subsequent visits I made sure I was wearing trainers.

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In the area between these two restaurants, apart from the stunning fish pond they often have market stalls, which is a nice addition.
The poolside snack bar was really useful for a quick bite to eat and a drink, as long as you’re not vegetarian. Sandwiches are pre-packed, so ideal to stick in your bag for later (warning – the vegetable sandwiches contain eggs!) The pre-packaged salad has chicken in and the pizza slices have sausage on them. The fruit pots are delicious; just mind the pips (especially in the grapes). There’s pre-prepared containers of nachos and a variety of chips, onion, burgers, sausages and so in paper wraps. After several days I ended up asking the chef for a plain baguette and making myself a chip butty for lunch, which actually tasted really good (there’s sachets of ketchup on the counter). There’s also yoghurts and pre-packed small cakes. I did notice it open for meals in the evening but you have to book ahead.
In order to pre-book the 3 a la carte restaurants you need to be downstairs (between the two main restaurants) between 9-11am and be prepared to queue. You can have 3 a la carte meals per stay whether you’re there for 1 week or two. I really didn’t fancy the Steakhouse (despite reassurances there’s a veggie option) so I was able to swap my Steakhouse meal for another Italian as I was there for a fortnight. These restaurants all open from 6.45pm.
La Dolce Vita (Italian Cuisine): This was fantastic. I was given a glass of cava on arrival at 6.45pm and shown to my outdoor table close to a heater. Service was prompt and consistently friendly. I chose the goats cheese salad as a starter, tagliatelle in pesto for main and tiramisu for dessert. There was already fresh bread and a bottle of water on the table, and the waitress filled up my wine glass for me. The food was delicious; I can’t fault this restaurant at all.

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My second visit was just as good. Cava on arrival, water on the table and wine glass frequently topped up. This time I ordered the tomato soup for starters (veggie version / no ham) and I dipped my fresh, warm rolls into it. That was delicious, as was my massive pizza bella vita with sun dried tomatoes. I have to admit I couldn’t finish it all and had to take a 10 minute break before I could tackle my dessert. This was the mint and lemon sorbet, which arrived rather like a slushie in a champagne glass with a straw. It was actually really refreshing. I honestly can’t fault this restaurant.
Sakura (Asian Cuisine): I was given a glass of cava on arrival, which is always welcome. I was then offered wine along with the bottle of still water which was already on my table. The menu seemed a tad lacking in veggie options. The only starter I could have was tempura. I’d never had that before and to be honest I don’t care for it (greasy, battered strips of veg).
For my main I chose the tofu option. What arrived was the biggest bowl of rice I’ve ever seen, topped off with a few small pieces of unseasoned and frankly unpleasant tofu. The rice was also sadly lacking in any seasoning. I then bit into one of the two wedge-shaped crisp-breads supplied with the meal and I apparently found all the salt!
Dessert was ‘exotic cake’ but although it looked spectacular (and huge) it was basically sponge with cream topped off with a couple of fruit slices. Staff were polite and the décor pleasant, but I wouldn’t want another meal there.

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Gala Dinner (Mondays) Teatro Del Mar: You have to book this at the small guest services desk to the right of the main reception desk. It’s on Mondays and there’s a vegetarian option; you just have to ask. If you have small children on holiday with you they apparently take them elsewhere and feed them so you can enjoy a grown-up evening. You meet in the small square outside the cinema at 8pm on the evening, where you’ll find it beautifully decorated and there are waiters handing out cava / orange along with ‘amuse bouche’. It was fabulous to be outdoors under a lovely moonlit night, especially when one of the waiters began singing.
Then, out came some ‘entertainers’ before we were herded into the cinema to be seated for the 5-course meal. Everything looked stunning and I was given a front row seat for the cabaret. Now, it was a very adult show and might not suit all tastes. If you’re offended by drag queens, ‘exotic’ dancers, belly dancing, and scantily dressed males then you probably won’t enjoy it – however, I absolutely loved it.
Three male and three female artistes presented a whole night of short performances, compared by a very capable drag act, while waiters raced around ensuring glasses remained filled and food was served to a packed house simultaneously. As I’d stated I needed a vegetarian option the manager, who was personally overseeing all special meals, made sure that I had the correct dish for each course. The event ended around 10.30pm and I have to say it was one of the best nights out I’ve ever had.
Mike’s coffee shop was a joy. You do pay extra for the cakes but there are menus on tables and it’s clear what’s free to AI and what’s not. Service is always with a smile and milkshakes are fabulous (vanilla, chocolate and cookie flavours available). I was marooned there during a heavy downpour but I didn’t mind a bit.

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The Disco Bar is where the entertainment happens. Quite why there are only ever a maximum of two members of staff to serve here is a mystery as it clearly needs at least 3, if not 4. Be prepared to queue or to do the very un-British thing of barging in. (Tip: Get as many drinks in as you can carry to avoid spending half the evening with your back to the shows).

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I don’t have small children so wasn’t interested in the evening shows aimed at kids (reptile show, bird show etc with the usual ‘photo opportunities’ afterwards). The main entertainment starts at 10pm. I have to say that Il Divo were utterly superb; the best act I’ve seen in many years, and ‘Downtown’ (two female singers singing 60’s songs) were very good too. Movie Night, with the animation team putting on a show, was also good although a little less smoke would’ve meant we could see more of the dancing. The juggling/balancing act wasn’t my cup of tea and wasn’t well attended (just as well as there was just one poor barman on duty that night). I didn’t bother with the magic show, tango thing or variety show.
One day it poured with rain when both main restaurants were closed, so the only sensible thing to do was to pop along to the piano bar for a coffee and a chill. (This is where you go to get your bottles of water for your room, as are the other bars). This is a large area full of comfy chairs and small tables, where you can just relax with hot drinks, soft drinks or booze. Despite the fact it was rather obvious there’d be a lot of people going in there, it was severely under-staffed and queues were inevitable.

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However, in the evenings, when you’re relaxing while watching the entertainment, waiters walk around clearing tables and fetching you drinks, so the queues at the bar are minimal. They should do this in the Disco Bar. I have to add that the Piano Bar does seem to be very much geared towards a more mature clientèle (Saga have reps at this hotel).
The piano bar also has a lovely outdoor balcony area overlooking the pools and it a wonderful place to sit in the mild evenings (you can also see the sunset from up there).
Just behind Mike’s coffee shop there’s a very small shopping area with a high-end clothes shop, cheaper ‘tourist’ shop, dive shop and a cinema (where you have the Gala Dinner) as well as a restaurant for Privilege Guests and the Beefeater sports bar.
There’s another small tourist shop beside the piano bar.

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There’s also a spa, and a gym behind the main pool, which I didn’t use. I walked through the children’s section one afternoon and it seemed very well thought out with tons for little ones to do.
Grounds are extensive and kept clean and tidy. I loved all the flowing water around the site and little bridges. There’s only one gate in and out of the property which leads onto the promenade. The second gate a bit further along is no longer in use. You need your room key to get in and out.

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Once out of the back gate, onto the promenade, turn left and Flamingo Beach is around a 20 minute walk. If you want a beach holiday you’d be better off staying in one of the many other hotels that are nearer to the town.

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Walk for about 30 minutes and you’ll find a small port. There are some shops along the route, along with bars and restaurants as well. Five minutes from the port is Playa Blanca town, and just keep on walking and you’ll eventually find Rubicon Marina. It’s a long way so bus/taxi is probably a better option unless you really like walking. I have to say that in my opinion it was well worth the blisters as it’s fabulous.
Although the promenade along the seafront is ‘flat’ (ie: ok for prams and wheelchairs) there are a couple of fairly steep hills en route to the beaches and town, so be mindful of this when setting out.
If you turn right out of the back gate and walk for about 20 minutes you’ll be at the lighthouse. You’ll need sturdy shoes as it’s a bit rocky the closer you get. Apart from a small café and a diving place just around the corner from the Rubicon Palace, there’s not much else along the route other than great views. If you like watching the sunset, look towards the lighthouse to the right of the back gate in the evening and you’ll sometimes see it (if it’s not too cloudy).

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After 4 days I actually discovered a short-cut to the small pool that you can see from the balcony, as long as you’re ok with steps. Instead of turning right out the door, and along the covered walkway to reception, turn left. Just around the corner are stairs that go down. Walk down 2 flights, following the sign for swimming pools. This will bring you out at the small pool.
If you carry on walking parallel to the apartment block, through the gardens, it’ll bring you out at the steps next to the Asian restaurant, where the outdoor chess is situated. From there it’s just around the corner to the 2 main restaurants. It’s the same distance from the room to the restaurants downstairs as it is if you go via reception, but it’s more scenic than that long corridor.

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The theme days are great fun, especially the Spanish one, and there always seems to be something to watch and/or listen to around the pools.
If you buy a 15 euro water-bus ticket at the kiosk at the port you can go to Papagayo beach via Rubicon Marina (be warned – there’s no jetty at the beach so it’s a dinghy for the last few hundred yards and then wading through several inches of water). The beach is stunning and there’s cafes / restaurants up steep steps. Just before you get there the captain will drop anchor and take you downstairs to watch fish being fed (underwater glass windows). There’s several pick-up times. You can get off at Rubicon Marina en route back to the port and spend a couple of hours there (or you could do the Marina first, or not at all – up to you). You can easily make a full day of it so it really is excellent value for money.

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If you buy a 27 euro return ticket at the kiosk you can go across to Fuerteventura for several hours (Corralejo). The first one out leaves at 9.30am and the last one back leaves at 5.15pm (there’s the option to return at 1pm if you wish). This, again, was great value for money as Corralejo is very pretty with several small beaches and loads of shops and restaurants. I spent a further 5 euros and had a 30 minute trip around the whole town in the little road train; great fun.
A word of advice: do NOT stop for people with clip-boards who pretend to be deaf / dumb, just ignore them and carry on walking (and definitely don’t sign anything or give them money!)

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After numerous trips to the Canaries, and hearing about the free ‘blanket trips’, curiosity got the better of me and (after reassurances by the First Choice rep that I’d be back by 1.45pm and that the presentation would last about 40 minutes), I decided to go for it. Firstly, you’re picked up at 8.45am and you don’t actually get dropped back until 3.30pm! (So much for it being a ½ day excursion). Secondly, the presentation lasts over an hour and then you have to hang around waiting while various members of your party discuss purchases.

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Donna, our guide for the day, was extremely knowledgeable about the Island and I enjoyed learning all sorts of facts, and once we’d endured the blanket part of the trip we were taken to Puerto Calero (“Millionaire’s Marina”) and we had 90 minutes of free time to enjoy all the lovely sights and buy some food and drink (had we known how long the trip really was we would’ve packed sandwiches).
Then it was onto the Aloe Vera Museum where we had a good-humoured demonstration and were able to test out products (obviously also buy them if we wanted to). I did enjoy myself but probably wouldn’t have gone had I known how long this was really going to take.
I would suggest you join the H10 Hotel Group Membership Scheme before you arrive (free, and you can do it online), and email the hotel well in advance to let them know that you’re a member, especially if you have any special requests such as a ground floor room.

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Be Live Experience, Costa Teguise, Lanzarote

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I stayed here from Thursday 26th November to Thursday 3rd December 2015

I wasn’t too keen on the long, uphill trek from the airport to the bus park, but I guess that couldn’t be helped. (Just be aware of it!) Transfer from the airport was about 20 minutes maximum, which is ideal when you’ve already had a long day.

I’m not sure how they decide who gets offered champagne on arrival as I wasn’t, however the extremely charming reception staff took my passport, attached my silver AI wristband and directed me to the pool bar where I could eat and drink while they processed me. When I returned 20 minutes later I was given my room key (credit card type) a map and various other information along with a large bottle of water, which was available from reception 24/7. My door entry card stopped working within 24 hours, so I had to go back down several flights of stairs to reception to get it fixed, only for it to happen a second time 24 hours later. The receptionist suggested I keep it well away from my mobile phone as this is apparently the biggest cause of room cards not working (my mobile had been nowhere near it, but do bear this in mind!)

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Contrary to popular belief, there is no free wifi anywhere at the complex unless you’ve paid for a superior room upgrade. There are PAYG desktop computers or you can pay for wifi at reception (and even then, you can only use one device at a time). There is, however, free wifi at the café next to the white metal gate that leads to the beach (Fuel Stop), so just have a meal or a drink and use the wifi there for as long as you like. It’ll actually work if you stand nearby, including the balcony above the café, which is handy for subsequent wifi needs if you simply want to occasionally check emails.

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The twin room was spotless, but I felt it could have done with a couple more drawers for storing clothes. Ten clothes hangers was enough for me but a couple may well want a few more. There were extra blankets and an extra pillow in the wardrobe. The décor was simple but pleasant and the bed was comfy and I managed to get a decent sleep the very first night, which is something I rarely do when I’m anywhere unfamiliar. The room was very quiet with no noise from doors banging or loud music. There was plenty of lighting and adequate electric sockets for my needs. 3 sockets in the main room, with an extra 3 if you unplug the lamps and 1 if you unplug the tv. There’s also 1 in the bathroom. I was in room 2318N which had an inter-connecting door to the next apartment (useful for families.) It could also have done with an extra bin and not just the tiny one in the bathroom.

The complex is a bit of a rabbit warren with many stairs to climb. I was fine with the exercise although others may not appreciate it (I understand lifts are to be installed during the refurb). The location was great, just yards from the beach and lots of shops and cafes. As with most holiday destinations, there’s ‘lookey-lookey’ men (and women) along the beach area – just ignore them.

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The maid had created a pretty flower design out of my bed linen, with a silk flower on top which was a nice touch. This had also been done in the bathroom and to my complete bemusement the first sheet of my lavatory paper was also folded into a flower (that’s a first!) The armchair in the corner of the room was comfy and there was a large flatscreen tv, which I didn’t use.

The shower was lovely and big, and the water was hot and plentiful. Be warned that the bottle next to the shower is shampoo and not shower gel as you might assume! (Well, it was in my room).

The balcony overlooking the pool was a decent size with a table and 2 chairs; however, privacy is a real issue with a glass front and low sides. It’s good if you want to make new friends but if you don’t happen to like the people in the next room this could be a problem. Also, if your neighbours smoke and you don’t, you might not be particularly happy. I also felt that there ought to have been a clothes line of some sort attached to the wall. The cream-coloured fabric on the outdoor chairs was a little bit stained, and it would’ve been better to have had plastic chairs that could be wiped clean. They also have these types of chairs in the pool bar.

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The main restaurant (predictably named “Timanfaya”) is downstairs with no outside view, making it a little claustrophobic, especially when busy. Not the biggest restaurant I’ve ever been to at a holiday resort but just about adequate for the number of guests. It does get very smoky to the back of the room, so a table near the entrance is a good idea if you can get one. Food choice isn’t as extensive as I’ve had elsewhere but (again) just about adequate. As a vegetarian the options were a bit limited but I didn’t go hungry, although by the end of the week I was a little fed up of salad and plain pasta. Food labels were few and far between, making it a bit of a lottery, and I wasn’t impressed when my ‘vegetable rice’ had bits of chicken in. Dessert choices were minimal (I’ve never seen chocolate mouse with plain biscuits thrown into it as a dessert before), and again, no food labels near the ice cream. The red stuff I put on my vanilla ice cream tasted a lot like cough syrup.

Breakfast in the restaurant is also adequate, with a range of cooked options (after 8am) along with cereals, fruit, breads and so on. The orange drink is a bit sweet but you need to pay extra for the freshly squeezed juice. There’s a machine at the back next to the hot drinks machine that does rather nice fruit juices, and next to that is the fizzy drinks machine, so plenty of choice. Opening times are; 7.30am til 8am cold breakfast, 8am til 10am breakfast, 1pm til 3pm lunch and 6.30pm til 9pm for dinner.

The pool bar (“Manrique”) has very basic burgers and hotdog type food with fresh fruit and yoghurts for those who don’t wish to scoff chips. There’s also a few mini doughnuts for those with a sweet tooth. There’s a coffee machine in there where you can help yourself to hot drinks if you wish or booze. There’s a little bar where you can be served alcoholic drinks and boozy slushies (the pina colada one was lovely). Cold drinks are also ‘on tap’. Opening times are; 10am til noon for late breakfast, noon til 3pm for warm snacks and 3pm til 6pm for cold snacks. The variety of food on offer is extremely limited and your best bet really is to have breakfast in the main restaurant if you can manage it.

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The upstairs bar (Bar Salon “Jameos”), where the evening entertainment is held, is small and can get a bit crowded. It’s open from 6pm til midnight. There’s a kiddies disco before the evening show. I didn’t really see much of the evening entertainment but the 3 tenors seemed quite good as did the trio singing popular music and a solo female singer.

The sun-beds have definitely seen better days and are in a bad state. You pay 15 euros refundable deposit for a beach towel, which you get from the lifeguard once reception issues you with the paperwork. I understand the pool is to be heated during the refurb – hardly anyone was brave enough to go in during my week there.

All of the cleaning staff were lovely and always greeted guests with a cheery ‘Ola’.

The air con was predictable noisy but I really didn’t need it.

I didn’t use the safe, so can’t comment on that.

As my friend booked independently, I did get to see what a superior room looked like and it was worlds apart from my own, with a kitchen (although no pans to cook with and no plates or cutlery to eat with, making the oven and hob a bit pointless), microwave, kettle (but no plug socket in the kitchen), fridge stocked with drinks, nibbles, fluffy bathrobes a coffee machine, speaker system and an additional lounge area and sea view. There was also free wifi for these guests and free use of the room safe along with being able to choose what time you want the maid to clean your room and what time you wanted your bed prepared for night time and a chocolate! It was only when we were leaving that my friend realised that she was supposed to have been given a bottle of champagne on arrival (which she didn’t receive).

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While I appreciate that the hotel was due to close for refurbishment on the day we were leaving, and that they clearly didn’t want to have a lot of food wastage, during the final few days of our stay the variety and quality of food on offer was well below par. It seemed mildly amusing at the time, but we paid for our meals in advance and in my opinion this situation, which left the full-paying guests making do with what was remaining of the leftovers, was unacceptable. Several of the all-inclusive guests were actually paying to eat at local restaurants instead.

Would I go back to this hotel? No. It was adequate for my needs for the most part, and I accept that I hadn’t paid a fortune for my holiday, but I was disappointed with the food situation throughout, from the underachieving pool bar to the lack of labelling in the main restaurant.

An additional issue was the fact that the builders came onto the site about 9am and started putting up scaffolding while we were trying to relax for the final hours of our holiday. There were hoses and cables around the pool which were a genuine trip hazard and there was a lot of noise. Surely they could’ve at least waited until the remaining guests had checked out before turning it into a building site?!

ClubHotel Riu Vistamar, Amadores, Gran Canaria

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On arrival the First Choice rep (Becki) greeted us and we had our silver AI wristbands attached. There was a bit of a queue in reception but not too bad. Cases were brought to our rooms for us which was a nice touch (you can take them yourself if you wish). I have to admit I found the whole thing very confusing (reception is on the 8th floor and you go DOWN to your room), but then I was over-tired and still partly deaf after the flight. A map was provided but as I’m not great with maps/directions it took a few days for me to suss it out (most people would probably find it simple enough). I’d only been in my room 10 minutes when the phone rang. It was reception asking if everything was ok. That was a nice touch.

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My room was nicer than I thought it’d be. Bathroom with bath, shower, toilet and bidet is in a separate room to the bedroom. 3 table lamps in the bedroom were adequate. The free safe was a bonus (as was the free beach towel – which some hotels charge to change). The room has a proper metal key, not a plastic card, and there was a knack to opening it (had to pull the door slightly towards me when turning the key). Bottles of water are available free from reception as & when required (big 1.5 litre ones) and there’s a mini fridge in the bedroom, which is handy for keeping it cool. Yes, the carpet was a bit worn and the bed base was tatty, but these things happen in well used rooms.

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My room (518) had a balcony overlooking the beach, with a round table and 2 chairs. This has a superb sunset view. There was also a pull-out clothes dryer, although I’d have liked a light for sitting out there at night time but was informed that as all balconies overlook the ocean it’s a shipping hazard to have lights (presumably ships might mistake it for a light-house in poor weather). Ceiling fan was useful and there was a flat screen tv. There’s a few sports channels, sky news and a few other English-speaking channels. Could’ve done with a few more electric sockets as I had to unplug the tv to charge my mobile but that was no deal breaker. The mattress on my bed was a little firm, so a quick chat with the reps and it was all sorted out (just ask if anything’s not to your liking and the hotel staff will bend over backwards to put it right asap for you). Rooms are cleaned daily and the cleaning staff are lovely (mine made a bow out of the bathroom towels and even folded up my pjs for me).

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It hadn’t been confirmed on arrival what sitting I was at for the evening meal. I’d emailed ahead requesting 6.30pm and I did mention it at check in. However, when I made enquires 6.25pm on my first night I hadn’t actually been officially allocated that time –I’m glad I asked! The main restaurant was to the right of reception downstairs (a red rope is across it until 6.30pm). You have to tell the restaurant manager your room number on the first night, he’ll check it on his list and a waiter will show you to your table. You can simply breeze through on subsequent evenings. The same restaurant is where you go for breakfast and is also open for lunch at 1pm. No allocated seating and a much more relaxed affair (and yes, you can pour yourself a beer at 8am if that’s your thing!). Good to see a hand sanitizer at the entrance (would’ve been nice to see one at the entrance to the poolside bar as well considering the close proximity to the toilets).

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Food in the man restaurant was plentiful and there was a wide variety at both breakfast and evening meal. I’m extremely fussy and am vegetarian with a fish and egg allergy, but I had no problems at all filling my face day after day with delicious treats (far too many treats if I’m honest). Fresh carnations on the tables were lovely. Could’ve done with labels on the fruit juice at breakfast as the grapefruit looks very much like pineapple (those on statins be wary). There’s beautifully presented tiny pots of food but with no labels it’s impossible to be certain what was in them. There’s also bowls of yoghurt (I think) but again, labels were lacking. Restaurant staff were very friendly and obliging. Tip: If you don’t like where you’re seated for the evening meal just ask the restaurant manager to give you a different table and he’ll do his best to accommodate you. The pool bar has themed nights but you have to book 24 hours ahead for these. I didn’t test this out but everyone I spoke to said it was fabulous.

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The lifts are vital as there’s a lot of stairs and reception is on the 8th floor, pools on the 9th. The longest I had to wait for one was about 2 minutes. If you struggle with stairs you may find you spend rather a lot of time in and around lifts. The top pool had plenty of sun loungers and parasols and the area was kept nice and clean. It’s all up steps, so be prepared. The pool bar/restaurant provides all drinks in plastic cups for safety, and around the pools are grey crates where you put your used cups. These are emptied regularly. Good to see a lifeguard patrolling. I didn’t test out the lower pool. During the day the animation team walk around the pools offering ping-pong, beach volleyball (there’s sand in 2 tennis courts), football, aqua aerobics and so on. There’s yoga every morning too. You’re never pestered into joining in, it’s just there if you want it. It would’ve been nice if the top pool had been adults only but that’s just personal preference. (There’s a large sun terrace full of loungers before you get to the pools and I didn’t see any children in that area during my stay).

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The pool bar/restaurant had a relaxed feel and food was adequate. It was pretty much basic holiday fare; chips, pizza, pasta, fruit, bread rolls, cheese, salad etc. I must admit that after the 3rd time I was getting a bit bored with the selection, also the food could’ve done with being hotter (not a fan of lukewarm pasta in sauce). Although most of the food is labelled, some of it in the salad bar isn’t and although most of us can recognise grated carrot, I wasn’t entirely sure if the ‘bits’ in some of the dishes were meat. (A little green ‘v’ would’ve been helpful). I preferred to have my lunch in the main hall (away from the smokers… and pigeons) as there was more variety.

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The walk to the ‘nearby’ beach takes about 20 minutes. The first 5 minutes is up a steep hill, before a further 15 down winding slopes. Walking back took me longer as I somehow managed to lose my way – twice! This walk is not for everyone as it’s challenging. Tip: Wear very comfy/sturdy footwear. Better tip: Use the free courtesy bus or get a taxi!  To get a taxi anywhere just ask at reception. They will issue you a slip of paper with the number of your taxi and the car will arrive outside the front of the hotel within minutes (so simple). A taxi to the beach is approx 3 euros, very cheap. The beach itself is partly crushed coral and pleasant enough. The water is warm and clear. The beach is surrounded by the usual restaurants and flip-flop shops you’d expect.

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I’d been to Gran Canaria once before, and taken a boat trip to Mogan. This is something I wanted to do again, so instead of a busy Friday I went on a quiet Wednesday. Tip: Instead of paying to go via First Choice at 28.50 euros, get yourself a taxi to Puerto Rico harbour for 4 euros. A return ticket to Mogan is 11 euros and the glass-bottomed Bluebird boats run every 30 mins from Puerto Rico from 9.30am til teatime. Boats back to Puerto Rico are hourly and when you get back to the harbour just walk to the left for 2 minutes and get another 4 euro taxi back to the hotel. It means you can be far more flexible as to when you go and you’ll save yourself money.

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As the Riu Vistamar is a bit remote, with no adjacent shops, I asked about the nearby Europa Centre and was told it’s just a 5 minute walk. That’s a bit of a porkie as it takes almost 5 minutes to get up the infamous ‘cardiac hill’. You then have to keep walking before you see the signs (keep on the right hand side of the road once you get up the hill). It took me around 10 minutes in total. I went twice (one evening and one morning) but didn’t stay long as I found it a bit too much (typical holiday touts hassling you to try their bar/restaurant and a load of sunglasses shops). For those who enjoy a bit of ‘nightlife’ and shopping I’m sure you’ll find something to suit you there.

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On site there’s a small mini-market, beauty salon and pay-as-you-go internet pcs down some steps (stand outside the front of the reception, where you were dropped off and to the left follow the silver signs down some steps). Internet is 1 euro for 15 minutes (2 euros for 30 minutes). It’s quite fast and (in my opinion) a much better option than the wifi. There’s 5 computers in the room. Mini-market sells postcards and other holiday bits and pieces and is open til 10pm. Wifi in reception at the Riu Vistamar is free for 60 minutes per day per device. (You can pay for more via a big silver machine in reception). There’s chairs and tables in reception and I always found somewhere to sit with my laptop. I tended to go between 1pm and 3pm and found I got a fairly usable connection, although I understand 6pm is really slow as there’s so many people trying to connect at once. I heard several people complain about the wifi during my stay…

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I have to say that this Hotel was immaculate. Even walking around the grounds at night there was no litter or any unwelcome creepy crawlies. The theatre was ok. Seats were a little worn out but they were comfy enough and there were lots of tables. Shows were probably what you’d expect of a holiday resort and the animation team did work hard. Every Friday evening craft stalls are invited into reception – leather goods, glass ornaments & jewellery (it’s like a very small market). There does tend to be a lull early evening when nothing much happens until 9.30pm, so the Friday market is a good idea. Corridors were extremely quiet at night which meant you could get a decent night’s sleep. The vast majority (over 70%) of the guests are German & Scandanavian, which might not be to everyone’s liking. Would I return? Probably not as I feel I’ve done the Gran Canaria thing now. No reflection on the hotel or its staff, just personal preference.

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Big thanks to Becki and Iuean, the First Choice reps who were regularly available and who ensured that my holiday ran smoothly. They’ll answer all of your questions, no matter how small (or daft) from a wealth of combined local knowledge and with a genuine smile. I have to be honest – they were the best First Choice reps I’ve ever encountered (and there’s been a few over the years!)

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** My final evening I felt queasy and had an early night. By morning I had a nasty tummy upset – no telling where I’d picked it up from. Tip: Pack Immodium and Dioralyte just in case. Better to have them and not need them than to not have them and find yourself having to get to the pharmacy up cardiac hill in a delicate condition.
*** A very big thank you to the Thomson/ First Choice cabin crew for looking after me when the holiday sickness bug took hold of me somewhere over Portugal!

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Trafalgar Restaurant, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura

We were wandering around looking for somewhere for an afternoon snack when we saw the Trafalgar and decided that the prices were the best we’d seen so we should give it a go – and very glad we were too!

We sat outside under the parasols and were greeted by very friendly members of staff, who took our order; a filter coffee, an alcohol-free beer, a chicken baguette and a cheese baguette. A few minutes later it arrived, and oh my word… the baguettes were massive. However, in this instance quantity certainly didn’t make way for quality as both were utterly delicious (and more filling than a main meal).

The salad was fresh and crunchy and the baguettes tasted as if they’d just been baked and at only 3.50 each you simply couldn’t have asked for better value for money. Even though we were stuffed to the brim, 10 minutes later the thought of an ice cream in the Fuerteventura sunshine was too tempting, so we opted for a multi-scoop and 2 spoons. The mint-choc-chip tasted just like after eight mints, the chocolate had real bits of chocolate in it, the vanilla tasted extra creamy and the strawberry was sublime – underneath was a strawberry flavoured cream (yoghurt?)

My partner had another beer and when we asked for the bill we couldn’t believe it was only 14.50. We’ve never eaten anywhere that was such great value for money.

The Trafalgar is definitely somewhere we would eat again.

Footnote: We returned the next day and got great service and decent grub at unbelievably good prices again.

Goose and Firkin, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura

Just needed a quick snack so I popped into this little restaurant and I was quite pleased that I did. Clean, with pleasant and efficient staff and a decent selection of snacks and basic meals. I paid 5.50 for a cheese and onion baguette with a white coffee, which filled me up and I thought was good value. Bread was fresh, onions crunchy and cheese was nice. Couldn’t really have asked for anything more of this place. I would certainly recommend it to others.

Piero’s Restaurant and Music Bar

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We’d seen this bar (or set of bars) several times so decided to pop in for a snack lunch on the last day of our holiday. Wimbledon was being shown on various tv screens and although neither of us are sporty types we agreed we’d quite like to watch some of it.

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We both had sparkling mineral water @ 1.50 euros each and I had a cheese and onion baguette (it wasn’t on the menu but they were happy to make it for me) @ 3.50euros while my partner chose the cheeseburger and chips @ 4.50 euros. My baguette had processed cheese and red onion, and was quite nice. My partner enjoyed his meal and then ordered 2 ice cream scoops @ 3 euros.

For a total of 14 euros it was a very reasonable price to pay for some tasty lunchtime snacks in a chilled out atmosphere.

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Fado Rock Restaurant, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura

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This is a large, themed restaurant which caught our eye as we walked past one day so we decided to give it a go.

We ordered 2 sparkling mineral waters @ 2 euros each and the waitress brought us over some fresh bread with a garlic dip. This was very tasty and quite filling.

I ordered cheese and tomato pizza @ 6.50 euros while my partner had the t-bone steak with chips, salad and sauce @ 19.95 euros. The staff were polite and friendly, although in my opinion, service was a little on the slow side considering we were the only customers in there at 2pm on a Monday. Eventually our meals were ready and they were well worth waiting for. My thin crust large pizza was really nice and my partner said that his steak was absolutely delicious.

The bill came to 32.58 euros which was very reasonable considering the amount of food we’d eaten. The waiter brought us over 2 small shots of baileys to drink from tiny brandy glasses while paying the bill.

All in all this is a really good restaurant with great food and quirky surroundings.

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Lin’s Cafe, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura

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We wanted somewhere cheap and basic for a spot of lunch, and after checking the prices at Lin’s Café we decided to give it a go. Service was efficient, the place was clean enough and the selection on the menu typical Brit grub (which is what we wanted at the time). I had a coffee and a cheese / onion / tomato / lettuce baguette and my partner had sparkling mineral water with steak, chips and salad. The food was presented nicely and tasted ok – actually, my partner really loved his steak. The whole lot came to about 17 euros, which was reasonable.

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Wild West Restaurant, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura

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Situated within a the small shopping centre next to the Barcelo Fuerteventura Thalasso Spa, this restaurant was really nice place for our first meal in Fuerteventura. It was 3pm so not too many other people about. Waiters were polite/pleasant. We ordered a sparkling mineral water @ 1.80, and a pineapple juice @ 2.00.  I ate the jacket potato with home-made coleslaw and side salad @ 5.00 which was delicious and my partner ate the chicken kebab with rice, chips and salad. He said the rice was delicious and the meat cooked well although at 10.50 was a little expensive. I was too full for dessert but he had hot apple cake with ice cream @ 5.50, which he said was delicious.

All in all at just under 30 euros it wasn’t cheap but was tasty and the service was nice.

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Barcelo Fuerteventura Thalasso Spa

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As we’d read on previous reviews, there were quite long queues at check-in and not enough staff to cope, but we were prepared for this. This is something that could easily be rectified with 2 extra members of staff on reception for busy periods so I’m not sure why they don’t just do it and get better reviews! (Tip: as previous reviewers have suggested it may be a better idea to fork out for a taxi, although your room won’t be ready any earlier). I guess we waited about 30 minutes to be seen and then we were told the room wasn’t ready (which we assumed it wouldn’t be as it was only 1pm) and given 2 complimentary vouchers for drinks at the bar, which was welcome (either wine or orange juice). By 2pm our room was ready  – ours was room 1316. I was a bit worried as I’d read that Block 1 was quite noisy but we found our room nice and quiet (as long as you keep the windows closed at night). I had emailed in advance asking for a quiet room upstairs and this is exactly what we got (Tip: email them with any special requests before you go).

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There are lifts, which are a godsend, although they are a bit bumpy. They do make life a lot easier when you’re on the 3rd floor.

The room was an adequate size, nice and clean and well decorated. We were glad of the aircon, especially at night. If you leave the windows open you may get mozzie bites – I’ve never been bitten in the Canary Islands before, and I’ve been to Lanzarote, Tenerife as well as Gran Canaria, but got several nasty bites here. The mini-bar was really useful as was the lovely big area outside the toilet for getting ready, tons of space for toiletries.

We had an ocean view, and could see the harbour, which was nice. The balcony was small but ok for the two of us and the chairs comfortable. It could have done with a table but it was simple enough to take the small table from the room out there, so not an issue. The balcony also has foot rests and a pull-out clothes dryer. It didn’t get much in the way of sunshine, which may bother some people or may suit others better (personal preference).

The beds were quite large and comfy and there was a large flatscreen tv as well as tea/coffee cups and a kettle….but bizarrely no teaspoons! (No tea or coffee either).

The wardrobe was large and the wardrobe doors were mirrors. 8 clothes hangers in each side was ok for us, but some people may find that’s not enough. 3 drawers for clothes was, again, ok for us as we travel light, but may not be enough for other people (especially for a 2-week stay).

Restaurant opening times were:

7.30am – 10.30am for breakfast.

1pm – 3.30pm for lunch (for those all-inclusive).

7pm – 10pm for dinner.

If you are half board you can swap evening meal for lunch as long as you do so by 8pm the night before. We didn’t bother so I can’t comment on the lunchtime service.

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We were half-board and to begin with very confused about eating arrangements. It turns out that when you go to the restaurant for the evening meal (gents must wear long trousers as previous reviews state), you must take a slip of paper which is allocated on arrival (you don’t get a wrist band for half board). At the door the restaurant manager will issue you with a ticket on which your drinks orders will be written by the waiting staff and you sign it (you pay for all drinks after your meal, even water). As we’ve never done anything other than self-catering it was also confusing about what to do, but we eventually figured it out. Extra cutlery on a trolley somewhere obvious (not hidden away) would be useful as you have to rely on place-settings at tables for knives and forks. Also, do check your plate / bowl /cutlery as they are not always as clean as you’d expect, especially the backs of plates.

It’s a large restaurant with a vast variety of food, so it can feel overwhelming at times and despite nice tables with proper tablecloths can feel a bit like a school dinner hall. Food was generally good and plentiful and there was probably something for everyone, although on occasion things were a let down (bones in fish, gristle on bacon, cold vegetables and the Canarian sauce went from delicious one night to inedible the next). Food has basic labels but a small green ‘v’ to indicate suitable for vegetarians would be really helpful. There are no labels on the dessert counter where the cakes and pastries are so it’s pot luck. (I wouldn’t have had coffee cake if I’d known). The cheese counter was a real let-down with only 2 varieties on offer most evenings (one of which was a smokey cheese which is an acquired taste). Staff are quick to take empty plates and glasses away so if you haven’t quite finished then be on your guard! Also, the restaurant felt very hot at times, so wear lightweight clothes if possible. I’m not sure why they can’t put aircon or fans in there for diners comfort. It can also be really noisy, and on occasion it was almost impossible to hear yourself speak (I’m not a fan of having to shout to my companion in order to have a conversation, especially at breakfast).

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On our second evening we went down at 8pm and it was very busy, so much so that when we’d got our food it took a full 5 minutes before we located a clean table. The staff work very hard but were obviously rushed off their feet, which meant by the time we were finally seated our food was stone cold. (Tip: when you notice it’s busy, locate your table first, leave 1 member of your party to hold the table and go up for food in shifts). I’m guessing most family-orientated places are the same, but be prepared for children running around screaming and putting their fingers in the chocolate fountain, ice cream etc. (Not entirely the fault of the hotel but an issue of poor parenting by certain families).

Breakfast was a more casual affair, no ticket for drinks needed (free), and again there was more than enough choice. The bread rolls were excellent and there was a selection of cereals as well as hot food (although hash browns instead of chips at breakfast would’ve been a better option in my opinion). No need for long trousers at breakfast, however, again it did seem very confusing and it did take several days before we finally sussed it out. Some may find this exciting, but others may find this a little stressful. Queues are an issue at times and it can take an age to fill your plate. Several times I gave up and had something else instead.

Although the bed was comfy I suffer back pain and went down to reception the first morning to ask for a softer mattress (and a teaspoon for tea/coffee).

We also paid 20 euros deposit for the beach towels, which you get back when you return them as long as you keep the receipt (don’t lose it!) This is useful as you don’t need to pack towels and you do get your deposit back.

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The cleaner came in and put lovely squishy mattress toppers on both beds – sorted! I have to say this made the beds the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on during any holiday. However, when I asked about a spoon for my tea/coffee she indicated she couldn’t provide me with one. When I came back through reception I asked again (different staff member) and he handed me 4 small plastic stirring sticks! He said it was all he’d got. At least I could now stir my coffee – I just didn’t have an easy way of getting the sugar into the cup. I swiped one from the restaurant at breakfast the following morning but I have no idea why they don’t provide them in the rooms. (Tip: take a teaspoon!)

Wifi was really expensive at 25 euros for the week and you can only use one device at a time, which was a bit annoying when you have 2 or more people wanting to use the net at once. It also kept cutting out on some days and at times was painfully slow, which really isn’t good enough when you’ve paid so much money for it. Unfortunately, as my partner and I are both self-employed we both need access to emails throughout the day, so had to suffer it. (Tip: There’s plenty of nearby bars and restaurants which offer wifi for free if you simply buy a drink if you only need occasional internet access).

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The beach at the back of the complex has quite a few stones (you may want to wear flip-flops of jelly shoes when paddling), but if you stand at the beach looking towards the ocean and walk 10-15 minutes to the right, past the fish restaurant and past the small shopping centre, you’ll come across a really lovely beach with soft sand. This is definitely worth the walk, and just past the shopping centre are some rocks where chipmunks / ground squirrels live (be warned, it can smell rather foul there at times!). You may even spot a few lizards in the morning. Camel rides are behind the fish restaurant (white building before the shopping centre).

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As previously commented on, the pools are very cold, however once you get over the initial shock it’s actually quite nice in there. There are also daily activities such as water polo for those with a bit more energy. I have to add that maintenance of the pools could be better – several of the small tiles are missing and some areas appear grubby. Also, despite the signs saying it’s forbidden to reserve sunbeds, it happens all the time. At one point I counted 12 people in the pool and well over 100 sunbeds with towels on them (all in the shade).

The hotel animation team worked their socks off to please all of the families and the theatre shows were obviously well rehearsed. Unfortunately, it’s a bit like marmite – you either love it or hate it. I’ve never been a fan of Butlins-type entertainment so it wasn’t my cup of tea at all (although the theatre was always packed and it was clearly very popular). Several people left the theatre one night (‘The Best Of’ show) during the sketch featuring two grown men running around in nappies pretending to be babies, and another sketch where a man pretended to have no arms in order to trick another man into helping him to pee, although others found it hilarious. I guess it’s simply a matter of taste. Also, it can get incredibly hot in there (presumably a ploy to encourage you to buy drinks, however, people were actually leaving due to the temperature in there).

Next door is a shopping centre with several really nice shops and restaurants, and if you cross the road from the reception and turn either left or right you’ll find plenty more shops and restaurants within easy walking distance (I can recommend the Trafalgar restaurant, Wild West Restaurant, Piero’s Bar, Lin’s Café, The Goose and Firkin or the Fado Rock restaurant; see separate reviews).

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For the final 2 days of our stay the mechanism on the gate leading to the beach nearest to our room was broken and you couldn’t use your key to get out (although you could get back in). This meant you either had to stand there waiting for someone to return to the complex and let you out or a walk around the pools and sunloungers to locate the next nearest gate. It was still broken when we left…

Would I go back? In a word, no! Too many issues and the unexpected mozzies really were the last straw.

Dolphin Watching Trip…

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These trips run twice daily from the harbour and cost 25 euros (you get a free trip if you fail to spot dolphins/whales) and take 2 and a half hours. (There are several companies offering these trips – the times and prices vary).  As I went across the wooden walkway to the boat a chap with a large camera took me by surprise and took my photo.

The boat looked nice (“open-plan” design) and when I went (early December) there weren’t too many others on board. The captain did a brief chat before we set sail, during which he told smokers to sit at the back and that the sick bags were at the front! He also said that drinks were available to purchase. No mention of life jackets or any other H&S stuff.

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I’d taken the precaution of having sea-sickness pills and was wearing acupressure (anti-sickness) wrist bands, but others weren’t so forward thinking. It was quite a cloudy day and the sea was quite rough. I decided to make the most of my experience and take up the captain’s offer to sit ‘upstairs’.  A couple of others tried it but soon chickened out when they got cold and the boat rocked. The captain offered me a blanket but I was wearing a fleece so was ok. I must admit, the adrenalin was going a bit as the boat felt like a bucking bronco at times, but the views were amazing.

After about an hour the seas calmed and the captain asked if I’d like to sit right at the very front of the boat for the best view (not sure of the technical term for where it was, but it was a couple of feet away from the grab rail with nothing else in front other than the sea).  Again, I decided to get my money’s worth and went for it.

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After we’d been out for an hour and a half I was beginning to worry I may end up getting a free return ticket, but after almost 2 hours suddenly there were other people around me and the captain was excitedly pointing towards the underneath of the boat.

There they were… a pod of dolphins, swimming alongside the boat. We spent about five minutes watching them, but it only felt like a few moments, and then we continued on the journey back to the harbour.

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I was chatting excitedly to another lady who’d been thrilled to watch the dolphins when the captain presented us with photos in cardboard sleeves (so THAT’S why I had my picture taken…!) He then asked us for 10 euros each, which I thought was a bit steep but I almost felt obliged to pay up. I wasn’t thrilled with my picture but decided it was a ‘nice’ memento of my trip, so I reluctantly paid up (as did the lady I was talking to).

The captain then showed us a photo and some information about the dolphins we’d seen…bottle-nose dolphins as it turned out.

All in all it was a fabulous experience and well worth the cold/bumpy bits, although I’d have felt safer if I’d been told where the life jackets were and I’d have been happier if I’d not been ambushed with a photograph.

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This picture is a scan from the front of the cardboard cover on the photo I bought, obviously this photo was taken on a much sunnier day when there were far more people on board!

Here are three short videos I uploaded to Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY3H5cEAXmc&list=UUYrndCTOIDEh0cYU5jg6bow&index=2

Arizona Restaurant, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

This restaurant is apparently owned by the same person who owns the bar next door, so we weren’t sure where to sit when we went in, but the British waiter was friendly and quickly showed us to a table even though he worked in the bar, not the restaurant.

The tables had proper table cloths and were nicely laid out.

Bread rolls with a pot of herb butter were brought over, which we didn’t ask for but it didn’t matter as they were very nice.

For the main meal I had the vegetable pizza, which was lovely and thin with a delicious topping, while my partner had the mixed grill which hung from a skewer (with chips and a side salad). We had drinks (beer and mineral water) but didn’t have dessert.

After we’d eaten the waiter gave us some shots and cherry-flavoured lollipops (that’s a first!)

At around 25 euros we thought that it was good value and tasty, the restaurant was nice and clean, the staff were polite and we would happily recommend the Arizona to anyone else.

El Faro, Mogan, Gran Canaria…

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This restaurant has spectacular views over the harbour and the ocean.

We started off with a coffee and a mineral water, then we ordered food and 2 more mineral waters.

I had a goats cheese salad (without eggs) and my partner had the tuna with chips and side salad.

My salad was lovely and fresh, with lots of water cress, grated carrot, sweetcorn, Canarian potatoes, tomato, lettuce, goats cheese, cucumber and olives. My partner also enjoyed his meal, and at just over 25 euros it was good value.

We sat upstairs, (outside), so had to go downstairs to use the toilets. Not the best loos I’ve ever used but not the worst either considering just how many people use them in any one day.

I’d be happy to recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Mogan.

La Cantina, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

Judging by the glass cabinets nearby filled with a variety of slabs of meat we thought that this restaurant would be ideal for a steak meal, but unfortunately looks can be deceiving.

To say the eating area was ‘snug’ was probably an understatement, but they obviously wanted to maximise the limited space available to them. Several waiters were rushing around, so it was a little confusing who was actually serving us.

We ordered 1 beer and 1 mineral water.

Prices seemed a little steep so we skipped starters and went straight for mains. I ordered a home-made pasta dish with spinach, ricotta and parmesan while my partner ordered the t-bone steak (the special) with salad and chips and peppercorn sauce. He’d asked for a fillet but as the waiter said the t-bone was the same price for tonight he changed his mind (big mistake).

My pasta arrived on a huge plate, which made the small portion seem tiny for the 9 euros 50 cents we paid for it, but it was really tasty and quite filling.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the steak meal. The meat was chewy and there were only about 4 edible mouthfuls on it, the skinny chips were cold and although it initially looked nice the salad was actually dry (as if it had been sitting around too long). There were various unwanted garnishes / adornments on the plate, possibly to distract from the poor quality meat. At almost 17 euros this was hugely disappointing (and annoying). I would have said something but my partner didn’t want to make a scene, so we ended up paying almost 40 euros and leaving. The waiter brought us some shots with the bill but I only took one sip as it was quite revolting. My partner was not in the mood to even attempt it, especially after the waiter walked off with the credit card still in the machine and then tried to laugh it off.

This was our worst restaurant experience during our 7 days in Puerto Rico and I’d discourage anyone else from wasting their money eating there.

Taj Palace, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

We had high hopes for this Indian Restaurant as it looked really nice from the outside, with coloured lights, plenty of outdoor seating and an extensive menu, however, unfortunately it was a bit of a let-down.

We ordered a beer and a mineral water – these were fine.

We had 5 poppadoms and were given 4 dishes of dips (1 lime, 1 something sweeter and 2 with chopped vegetables). These were nice, the poppadoms were warm and crispy, but it would’ve been better to have been given 4 different sauces/dips.

My partner had 2 onion bhajis as a starter, which he said were great, however, things rapidly went downhill after that.

My main was a mild vegetable curry and mushroom rice, while my partner asked for chicken korma and plain pilau rice with 2 naan breads. There didn’t seem to be much vegetable curry, and it wasn’t exactly piping hot on arrival and it consisted of more onion than anything else. There was a large bowl of mushroom rice, which tasted ok but nothing special. My partner’s chicken was very chewy and they’d given him rice with small chunks of vegetables and peas…and he hates peas. After 10 minutes a waiter asked if everything was ok and we mentioned about the peas, so he apologised and said he’d bring some plain rice asap. (I know we should’ve said something sooner but by the time we realised the rice was wrong the waiter had disappeared). A few minutes later he arrived with a large dish of plain pilau rice, which was lovely but by this time my partner had finished his korma (as it was getting cold and there wasn’t a huge amount of it to begin with) and could only manage a few spoonfuls of the plain rice. His 2 naan breads were a bit flat but apparently tasted alright. He was sitting back letting his food get down and hadn’t quite finished when the waiter came and took the plates away. He should’ve said something at the time but to be honest, after the rice saga he didn’t want to appear to be making more fuss, so he watched while the rest of his naan and curry was taken away. He finished his second beer and we then asked for the bill.

It was just under 40 euros, which would’ve been good value if the meal had been better quality. If they’d cooked the food better and had dished it up hotter, and given us more curry and less rice, and got the order right in the first place, we would have stayed for dessert and more drinks. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to stay and they lost our custom.

As is often the case when you’ve had a less than perfect meal, we spent both the rest of the evening with indigestion, although I guess it could’ve been worse.

El Cenador Grill, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

On arrival we were shown to the tables for two, overlooking the small shopping mall and restaurant area. I ordered a mineral water while my partner had a beer. A small dish of 4 Canarian potatoes (cooked in their skins) was brought out, which tasted nice.

We skipped starters and went straight for mains. I had vegetable pizza while my partner ordered steak, chips and salad. Two small opened bottles of wine (1 red and 1 white) were brought to us but we didn’t want them so they were eventually taken away (they hadn’t given us any wine glasses in any case although I guess we could’ve asked for some). Two pots of sauce were then brought to the table (1 garlic and 1 Canarian sauce).

My pizza was quite nice but too filling to finish. The base was very crunchy in places and a bit doughy in other places but it wasn’t an issue. I dipped my crusts into the garlic sauce, which tasted really nice (quite strong).

My partner’s steak was slightly under-cooked and his chips weren’t the best he’d ever had (although they were ok), but the salad was fresh and the pepper sauce was excellent, and overall he did enjoy his meal.

Several different waiters served our table, which was a little confusing but not a problem, although a waitress did take away my cutlery after I’d used it on the Canarian potatoes and I had to ask another waiter for a knife and fork, then ask another, then someone else brought me fresh cutlery!

Each waiter has a device strapped to their wrist (looks like a watch) and every table has a little wooden block with 3 buttons. You press one for service, one for the bill and 1 for something else (I forget what). This seemed like a very good idea although I suspect the staff don’t think so when customers allow their children to touch the ‘toy’ on the table.

All in all it was worth the 26 euros we paid for the meal.

Toro Bravo, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

We found all of the members of staff to be friendly and helpful. The beer was ice-cold, the food was delicious and the price was very reasonable.

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I had the vegetable pizza, which had a thin crust and cheese that wasn’t overpowering or greasy, topped with a selection of vegetables in small chunks (including broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, courgettes). It made a welcome change from the usual mushroom and tomato you usually get on vegetable pizzas.

My partner had the steak with pepper sauce, chips and vegetables. He was more than happy with the quality of the meat and how it was cooked.

We were too full for desserts but did have tequila and brandies to round the evening off.

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We were there for a couple of hours and the entire time we were entertained by a solo performer singing a wide selection of popular songs, while a few people danced.

This is a lovely restaurant and we would thoroughly recommend it to anyone else looking for an enjoyable and relaxing evening with lovely food and good service.

Marina Suites, Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria…

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After a very early start and a very long day of travelling, we finally arrived at The Marina Suites and all I can say is WOW! We were greeted by genuinely friendly reception staff and given a room on the 8th floor overlooking the ocean – stunning. We were given 2 room keys (credit card types that also serve the electric) and were told if we needed an extra one just ask, which was just as well after my partner dropped his key in the lift and it disappeared down a gap in the wall. There were 3 lifts in reception, so we never had to hang around very long waiting to get back up to the apartment.

Even though I’d read on Trip Advisor about the size of these rooms, I was still taken aback by the vastness of this apartment. We had a large bedroom, with lovely wide beds, the biggest bathroom I’d ever experienced on holiday along with a beautiful large lounge area with kitchenette.

I’d also read that the wifi wasn’t very good and not available in the rooms, however, my partner was thrilled to be able to use free wifi on his iphone in the room for the entire week! (He only lost his connection a couple of times). I’d taken my laptop with me and although I couldn’t seem to access the wifi in the room I had a decent connection downstairs in reception, which suited me just fine allowing me to do everything I needed. Wifi was a little hit & miss around the pool / restaurant area but this wasn’t a huge problem for us.

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Everything was spotlessly clean, which you always hope for on holiday but don’t always get. Even though the beds were really comfy, I suffer back problems, so I asked at reception if there was a slightly softer mattress I could have. Despite being told the hotel was fully booked so the lady on reception couldn’t guarantee anything, within 5 minutes a maid had appeared upstairs with a thick mattress topper and within seconds it was on my bed and the bedding all replaced! This made a HUGE difference. I have never slept on such a comfortable bed before. My partner didn’t like the small, long pillows but if only he’d asked reception I’m 100% confident they’d have found him bigger ones.

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The pool towels were an extra 20 euros but you got it back when you checked out, so that wasn’t an issue at all. If you required a clean one during your stay you simply handed the dirty one to the lifeguard at the pool and 1 euro 50 cents and he’d hand you a nice clean dry one. It couldn’t be simpler.

The first day we weren’t sure about the on-site restaurant options as we were self-catering, but for just 17 euros 10 cents for two you could make use of the all-you-can-eat buffet from 8am – 11am!! We felt this was exceptional value for money as there was a huge variety of food and drink from crispy bacon, cold meats, cereals, breads, cakes and so on, as well as unlimited soft drinks, teas, coffees…. I must admit, I pigged out and couldn’t move afterwards (shame on me). In fact, after an encore the next day we decided to ask about breakfast deals and on the 3rd day we paid reception 30 euros each so we could have breakfast every day for the rest of our holiday. This saved us quite a bit of money, although I think we’ve gained a stone each in just 7 days!

The Balcony was big, with plenty of space, and this is where we spent most of our time when we were in the apartment. I had originally requested a marina view but I’m really glad we had an ocean view as it was beautiful, and this will be the view we request when we return. The balconies are glass-fronted so as not to spoil the magnificent scenery. I was a little worried as I’d read that there can be noise from the boat yard but we were never disturbed by any industrial sounds and it was actually interesting watching the men at work. I also liked the idea we could watch the evening’s outdoor entertainment from the comfort of our apartment if we felt too lazy to go downstairs (starting 9.30pm and ending before 10.30pm so “noise” was never an issue.)

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The décor was minimalist and very stylish with a lot of marble and aluminium, which we like. The settee/bed and armchair in the lounge were both incredibly comfortable (don’t lie down on the sofa if you have plans to do anything because you’ll fall asleep!)  There was a large flat-screen tv and a DVD player to use (apparently there was a large selection of DVDs at reception but we never bothered to watch any). I think there were just Spanish tv channels but that didn’t worry us as we had no intention of wasting any of our week glued to the screen.

The kitchenette was cleverly hidden behind doors. It was small but perfect for the two of us. There were plenty of plates and glasses etc. The microwave was definitely a bonus. There’s a sign telling you not to bake for longer than 10 minutes or the kitchen would overheat but this wasn’t a problem for us. The fridge was perfect for all the usual self-catering bits and pieces, including our bottled water (DON’T drink the tap water on Gran Canaria). I was especially pleased we were provided with a kitchen pack consisting of washing up liquid, a sponge and a cleaning cloth (something I always hate having to buy on holiday).

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The two outdoor jacuzzis were a fabulous 30 degrees and quite addictive. The infinity pool was utterly gorgeous and around 28 degrees. Much has been said about sun-loungers but we had no problem whatsoever nabbing two right next to the edge of the pool whenever we went down there and it didn’t bother us that there were lots of other loungers in close proximity. The lifeguard was, as all the Marina Suites staff are, very friendly and ever-present, so we felt confident about leaving bags unattended (although common sense should prevail and you’d be a bit daft to bring high value goods to the pool with you when every room has a safe – for an extra charge).

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On the Thursday we decided to try the buffet dinner at The Marina Suites, and at 15 euros each (drinks were extra) we found it to be exceptional value. It was steak night and the food was outstanding, plentiful and there was a wide variety (plenty of options for a fussy vegetarian like myself). The staff in the restaurant (downstairs opposite the reception) were polite and helpful and at no point did we ever feel rushed. It was the only time we have ever said we’d consider all-inclusive next time (we ALWAYS go self-catering but the food at The Marina Suites has been sensational). Every night the menu has a different theme (Italian, Spanish, Mexican etc) and I assume the food is just as good then.

We also tried out the Atlantic Bar & Restaurant afternoon menu (1-4pm) and that too was excellent (pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, chicken etc). As with all the meals and bar services at The Marina Suites, you could pay cash, credit card or simply give your room number (and sign the receipt) and have everything added to your bill, and pay when you checked-out. Everything is made as simple as possible.

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There was a toilet block behind/underneath the Atlantic restaurant which was spotlessly clean (same as everything else at The Marina Suites) and jolly handy if you’d been in the pool or around the restaurant area. Disabled toilets and baby change facilities were near the covered walkway. Ramps everywhere make this complex highly accessible.

There was an information booklet in the bedroom listing everything you needed to know, and if you needed anything else 24/7 you could simply phone reception staff who would help you.

There was a supermarket within 5 minutes walk, which would suffice for most self-catering needs, or the Spar which was about 10 minutes walk (near the beach).

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There was a dress code – you must cover up when in reception and for evening dining gentlemen are to wear long trousers, not shorts.

I have to add that we always felt safe at The Marina Suites and felt that our belongings were also safe. This was highlighted one day when my partner accidentally left his Reebok trainers under his sun lounger by the pool about 4pm, and when he eventually realised at 8.30pm the same night the trainers were still exactly where he left them! (Thankfully!)

It wasn’t just the main features which impressed me about the Marina Suites, but also the ‘little things’ like having a liquid soap dispenser in the bathroom, having ‘do not disturb’ signs to hang on the outside of the doors so you didn’t get woken up by cleaners in the morning and finding out that the maids who clean the rooms also do your washing up!

Disney was wrong – The Marina Suites is the ‘Happiest place on earth!’

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Aquarius Restaurant, Sidari…

Spiros, Peri, Nikos, Kelly and George make this restaurant and bar the most welcoming place in Sidari.

There is a fabulous menu to choose from, with very reasonable prices, available from 8.30am – 11pm. (The bar opens from 8.30pm til late). The fresh Greek salad is phenomenal and for veggies (like me) there’s also a nice selection of home-made pizza, stuffed peppers/tomatoes, mushrooms in cream and much more…
Don’t worry if you’re a meat-eater as there’s more than enough on the menu to cater for your needs too!

You’ll find evening entertainment several nights per week; Saturdays Poolside BBQ, Sundays Quiz Night, Tuesdays Greek Night with dancers and plate-smashing, Wednesdays Live Music Night – rock and blues with Corfu’s very own Rock God, Nikos Sellas and his band. (Band name roughly translates as ‘3 and a cuckoo’).

Above the taverna is a playroom with pool table, darts, internet, games, library and widescreen tv.

You can order takeaway for your apartment, beach or excursions.

Unlike several other restaurants in Sidari, The Aquarius does accept credit cards which is very useful.

The views of the Mediterranean and Albania are spectacular and, in my opinion, this restaurant is by far the best in Sidari.

Konaki Greek Taverna, Sidari…

We saw this restaurant had a good rating on Trip Advisor and as it was so close to where we were staying (The Kanali) we decided to try it out.

The waiter was very friendly and the prices were very reasonable. I had a greek salad and my partner had the steak.

We had fresh bread to start with.

While my partner said it was the best steak he’d ever tasted, and that his chips were delicious, I have to say that although my salad was nice it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. It was fresh and had a nice mixture of green peppers / tomatoes / lettuce / red onion / feta but I could’ve done with slightly less onion and more peppers.

I also wasn’t particularly enamored with the olive oil which I’d poured over my entire salad. Can’t put my finger on it but it simply didn’t taste quite right to me (personal taste / opinion).

We were given complimentary slices of watermelon, which was a nice touch.

As with many establishments we’ve found, the credit card scanner was out-of-order / broken, so although this meal was not expensive it almost wiped out all out spare cash and we had to find an ATM.

We had a nice meal there but in my opinion it wasn’t quite nice enough to warrant a return visit.

PS: Although I have rated the food as average my partner would’ve rated it as excellent.

Jeni’s Mediterranean, Moments…

Jeni is a wonderful human being who will always go that extra mile for you, with a smile on her face and a big chunk of genuine kindness. The café is not only a hang-out for ‘Brits Abroad’ but attracts all nationalities.

She helps to rescue and re-home stray dogs on the Island and there’s often a furry visitor having a siesta on the floor of the café, or popping by for some attention from dog-friendly customers (cats are also welcome). Jeni sells calendars with pictures of some of the dogs in order to raise much-needed funds for the charity.

Her home-made cheesecakes are literally ‘to die for’ and no walk back from Sidari town to The Kanali (or other nearby apartments) would be complete without a sit down and a chat with an ice cold beer and a snack with Jeni.

There are computers for customers to use at the rear of the café.

If you need to know ANYTHING then just ask Jeni!

As an additional service, Jeni will make delicious sandwiches for your journey home for just a few euros, and will also bring you cold drinks. This will save you from the horrors of eating at Corfu airport. She even delivers to your accommodation just before your transfer bus is due to arrive – now THAT’S service!

China Town, Sidari, Corfu…

This was a return visit to China Town as we’d enjoyed eating in there during our holiday in Sidari July 2011.

The restaurant is clean and spacious with very pretty ornamental (plastic) swans and a water feature in the entrance with little turtles swimming around in it. There are many colourful (red) lanterns hanging from the ceiling and pictures and ornamental vases on the walls.

The staff were incredibly friendly and efficient, as they had been the previous year.

We ordered our drinks (one beer and one sparkling water) and scanned the menu. My partner ordered prawns in batter in a sweet & sour sauce, spicy chicken in black bean sauce and I ordered the vegetables and fried rice with pineapple. We had prawn crackers (with 2 sauces) as a starter.

All I can say is “WOW!” The presentation was exquisite and the taste was sublime. Neither of us could quite finish the dishes (not for the want of trying). We had to sit there for quite some time after finishing our food as we were both quite stuffed, however we never felt hurried… in fact, we were given fortune cookies while we sat there watching the world go by.

The bill came to under 40 euros, which was excellent value for money, and hurrah – they accept credit cards! I have no problem recommending The China Town to anyone else and would happily eat there again.

Kima Restaurant, Kassiopi, Corfu…

We were on an evening trip from Sidari to Kassiopi and spotted this up-market restaurant overlooking the harbour. As we were in casual clothing (shorts) we asked about the dress code but were welcomed in and shown to a table (most of the tables were reserved, so it’s clearly a popular place).

It was nice to see proper table cloths, chair covers and cotton serviettes. The staff were very polite and attentive and quickly took our order.

I had a sparkling water and feta with honey while my partner had steak and chips with a beer. We didn’t have bread, but we saw that others did and they were given what appeared to be a selection of breads and dips (yummy).

I’d never had feta with honey before so wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but I needn’t have worried. It was a slice of feta wrapped in a thin, crispy layer of light pastry, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds! It looked like a small portion but it was surprisingly filling as it was very rich.

The food here was sublime. Presentation was stunning and the taste was out of this world.

We didn’t order a dessert but after we’d eaten we were given a dessert to share ‘compliments of the chef!’ (All diners are given this special treat).

It consisted of crispy puff pastry, fresh cream, strawberries, a chocolate stick and some tiny fragrant berries….and was utterly delicious.

We actually didn’t want to leave but as we weren’t in Kassiopi for long we had to get some sight-seeing done.

The meal was under 30 euros which was excellent value, and we would DEFINITELY eat there again if we ever returned to Kassiopi.

Pizza Romana, Sidari, Corfu…

This hidden gem is located behind the church, next to the bandstand in the centre of Sidari. It’s a beautiful, quaint place which is close enough to the main strip to be convenient but it actually feels a million miles away from all of the timeshare touts and reps trying to drag you into their bar/restaurant.

The staff were very attentive to our needs and, as it was an evening visit, we were given an oil-filled lantern for the table. Nearby, a waiter placed a mosquito coil so we wouldn’t get bitten.

While we waited for our food, a basket with freshly baked, hot, flat-bread was brought to the table along with 2 pots of utterly delicious sauces. One was tomato and the other was garlic. I was not intending to eat bread as I’d ordered a filling pizza but after the first taste I was thoroughly hooked and simply couldn’t leave the garlic dip alone.

I ordered a veggie pizza made with gouda cheese while my partner had the mixed grill. Both meals were huge and fabulous – my pizza being so vast I simply couldn’t finish it no matter how much I really wanted to.

We didn’t order desserts as we were simply too stuffed to cram another morsel in.

As we sat there letting our food get down not once did we feel hurried, even when we were given our little shot of something pink and alcoholic when we asked for the bill.

The people who run this restaurant obviously care about their patrons, and as a result they will get repeat business from us, and, no doubt, many other satisfied customers.

Madison Bar, Sidari (2012)…

We decided to give The Madison Bar & Restaurant a chance to redeem itself after our previous experience there, but unfortunately we definitely won’t be returning.

The beachside views are stunning, but even on a relatively quiet Sunday evening the service was incredibly slow. I asked for a sparkling mineral water with a slice of lemon. It came minus the lemon. My Greek salad was plentiful, quite well presented and reasonably tasty although the lettuce could’ve been crispier. I dined alone for the first hour and I asked for the bill before my partner arrived. My meal came to 7 euros 90 cents and I put 8 euros into the plastic wallet for the waiter to take to the till. I didn’t indicate he could keep the 10 cents change but he didn’t bring it to me in any case. If he’d bothered to bring me my change I’d have tipped him (his loss).

My partner arrived and was largely ignored for 15 minutes until I eventually made contact with one of the waiters. He ordered a beer and a meat dish (3 meats with coleslaw and chips). He was less than impressed with the cold chips, which could easily have been someone else’s leftovers (no way of knowing).

I asked for another sparkling mineral water with lemon and again it arrived minus the lemon.

He asked for the bill and wanted to pay by credit card but was told the machine was broken so he’d have to pay by cash (just as well he had enough cash on him).

Yes, I could’ve made a fuss about the missing lemon, the missing change and the cold chips but to be honest I simply didn’t think it was worth the hassle. We WON’T be going back!

The Madison Bar, Sidari (2010)…

Two very different experiences, same restaurant!

We chose this restaurant on the Sunday evening of our holiday as the views of the beach were stunning and it looked very clean inside. We enjoyed a fabulous meal out on the deck while watching the sunset in a calm and peaceful environment.

The starters were delicious, I had the garlic mushrooms while my partner enjoyed a prawn cocktail, and the only minor irritation was with the main meal. I was more than happy with my greek salad, however, my partner specifically asked that his pepper sauce be served separate from his steak; however it arrived on his meat. No big deal though, as the staff were very friendly and the atmosphere was very relaxing…..so we chose Madison’s for our evening meal on the Monday evening.

What a difference 24 hours makes! As the weather was cold, wet and windy the next night the doors to the deck overlooking the beach at Madison’s were closed, so we had to sit inside the main part of the restaurant. A DJ was playing music but it was tolerable. We soon began to smell cigarette smoke due to the closed doors, which as non-smokers was an unwelcome accompaniment to our meal, and within minutes of ordering our food the music was turned up much louder.

Our food arrived fairly quickly but was definitely not of the same standard as the previous night. The chips were greasy and under-cooked and there just seemed to be less attention to detail in general, probably due to the fact that there were more customers in there. The staff were pleasant enough, however, the DJ got hold of the mic and began shouting out to customers, encouraging them to play ‘guess the tv theme tune’ in order to win shots. He was trying to hype the audience up into a frenzy in readiness for the Neil Diamond Tribute act due on stage very shortly.

By this point, the racket was unbearable, and we rushed to finish our food and get out of there. It’s such a shame because we really did enjoy our meal in there the previous night.

The Venus Bar, Sidari…

We first stumbled upon The Venus Bar in May 2010. We’d walked a bit further along Sidari High Street than planned and were about to turn back when we spotted a neon sign over the door and some comfy seats outside. We could hear 80s music from a CD player and went in. The bar looked empty, although I think there were people in another room. The barman didn’t really say much, but he wasn’t rude. We took our drinks outside and sat on the incredibly comfy seats.

The bar is right on the roadside, slightly off the beaten track with a view of a piece of waste-land, so I’m not entirely sure why we liked it so much, although the first time we were there we were able to sit and watch fireflies, which was quite magical.

There’s a little brick wall which separates the seats from the pavement. In 2010 there were some candles along the wall (very pretty). The toilets are through cowboy-style swing doors (through the bar) and aren’t the best I’ve ever used – but functional.

We returned to Sidari July 2011 and made a point of returning to The Venus Bar. It looked exactly the same… bar empty, 80s music, not much of a view, but those comfy seats were just as gorgeous as I’d remembered. No sign of the candles on the wall this time, but it didn’t seem to matter. The whole atmosphere was completely chilled out.

Kanali, Sidari (2012)…

This was our third stay at The Kanali, and the first time we were able to stay for 2 weeks.

What can I say that hasn’t been said already? Nikos, Spiros, George, Kelly & Peri and all of the rest of the hardworking staff are the best hosts you could ever wish for, including all-rounder Mario who provides the best poolside BBQ in Sidari. The apartment was the same one we stayed in July 2011 (308) so it was just like ‘coming home’. Since our last holiday the shower has been upgraded – WOW!! A glass fronted enclosure so no soggy shower curtain. Superb!!  As an additional touch there are little complimentary soaps and shampoos for you in the bathroom – lovely.

Studios cater for up to 3 people. There are 3 proper single beds (none of your 2 beds plus sofa-bed nonsense) and there are 3 of all cutlery, cups, glasses, plates etc. On arrival, the towels were made into butterflies on our beds, which was another lovely touch.

The air con has a sensor, located on the sliding doors to the balcony, which shuts off the air-con when the door is open, which is a very sensible idea. If someone in the room wants the air con on and another person wants to sit outside on the balcony admiring the stunning views, simply close the sliding door.

The cleaning team are as efficient as ever, coming in 3 times a week – actually, I believe they came in most days (linen & towels changed twice weekly). Wifi is free throughout the apartments and the signal is often quite strong (although I did have a few problems staying connected with my laptop at times but that’s to be expected).

Air con is 40 euros per week and is excellent value for money and a real must in the summer months.

The swimming pool is lovely and clean and is open from 9am-7pm. There is a smaller kiddies pool and a larger pool next to it. There are loads of sun-loungers and sun shades around the pool as well as some set back slightly on a grassy area.

Reception at the Kanali is open all day (08:00 – 00:00) and is manned 10:00-12:00 and 18:00-20:00. Outside of these hours, if you need anything at all the staff at The Aquarius Bar and Restaurant will soon sort you out.

The site itself is beautiful (lots of gorgeous flowers and the grass is mowed regularly). Why would you ever want to go anywhere else?!

Kanali website http://www.kanalihotel.com/

Kanali on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/kanaliappartmenthotel.corfu

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Sidari%20Corfu%202012/

Kanali, Sidari (2011)…

Bearing in mind that the flight from Stansted only takes about 3 hours, this feels like a very long journey (especially if you had an unsociably early check-in). This is made slightly worse by the 2 hour transfer bus from Corfu airport (if you booked via First Choice / Thomson), although you could just treat the experience as a free tour via the scenic route. If you don’t mind paying extra you can get there an hour or so earlier by getting a taxi. Also, at Corfu airport, there are just 2 baggage belts each with 3 screens so they can process 6 flights at a time. Be warned to watch these screens carefully as they can change at any point and you’ll find yourself watching the wrong luggage coming through!

However, all of this hassle is totally worth it for the fantastically warm welcome you get when you arrive at The Kanali, and throughout your stay.

We first visited The Kanali in May 2010, but this time we had a tighter budget and instead of a large apartment we booked a studio, which was more than adequate for the two of us.

Nikos greeted us off the coach with open arms and took our cases in his pick-up along the short lane to the reception, and then Spiros (from the Aquarius Bar) came across to give us another warm welcome. Once the formalities were done (handing over passports and receiving the paperwork and key for the room and another for the free safety deposit box in reception) we were taken to our accommodation.

Room 308 is on the top floor and there are 3 single beds, bedside cabinets, plenty of pillows, kitchenette, and separate toilet/shower. The tv has several channels and you can watch the latest movies, not that we used it as the weather was so fabulous all week. The balcony (a real sun trap in the afternoons) has a table and 3 chairs, along with a clothes line and has a fabulous view of the Mediterranean and Albania. There’s also a wardrobe with hangers and drawers, a dressing table with more storage space and stool as well as table and chairs. The kitchenette is equipped with kettle, toaster and although there’s no microwave there is a 2-hob over/grill. There’s enough plates, cups etc for 3 people along with cooking pans.

The air con is 40 euros a week but is well worth it in my opinion. Wifi is freely available for those who want/need to be ‘connected’ during their stay.

The cleaning staff apparently have magic wands. How else could you explain how they manage to change your bedding, empty your bins, sweep the floor and bring you clean towels and new toilet rolls in the blink of an eye? Fantastic!

The on-site restaurant (The Aquarius) is perfect for all of your needs, whether you want a full English breakfast or a wonderful Greek dish, all served with a large portion of kindness and generosity. The home-made veggie pizza is to die for and the walnut cake is truly phenomenal. Spiros, Kelly, George and the team work tirelessly to ensure that you’re the centre of their attention and that you are made to feel like royalty. Evening entertainment is plentiful, with a BBQ by the pool, quiz night, a highly entertaining Greek night and also a live band night… featuring the multi-talented Nikos! My birthday was a few days away, but during the live band night I was given a delicious birthday cake, complete with sparklers by the Aquarius staff, while the other customers sang Happy Birthday to me, which took me completely by surprise! These are the sort of things which makes the Kanali and Aquarius so very special.

Obviously, we popped in to say ‘Hello’ to the wonderful Jeni at Jeni’s Mediterranean Moments en route to the town, and to have home-made cheesecake. As always, we were made to feel extremely welcome and were updated on the most recent dog rescues. While we were there we booked our sandwiches and bottled water from Jeni for the journey home. The food at Corfu airport is very expensive (and ghastly) and for just a few euros Jeni will make sure you have something fresh and tasty to eat during your final few hours on the island, even bringing it to your accommodation before your transfer bus arrives.

This is a fantastic place to stay and after the last two wonderful holidays at The Kanali we’d never book to stay anywhere else on Corfu.

Kanali website http://www.kanalihotel.com/

Kanali on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/kanaliappartmenthotel.corfu

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Sidari%20July%201st%20to%208th%202011/

Parque Santiago IV, Tenerife…

I cannot rate the Parque Santiago IV highly enough.

On arrival we were given a very warm reception, two door keys (credit card type which also turn on the electrics), pool passes and other literature. As we arrived quite late the apartment was already available, but for early arrivals you may need to wait while the room is cleaned as check-out is not until noon. I think that rooms are generally available after 2pm, but you’ll be given your pool pass if you wish to wait in the sunshine, and if there are any spare rooms available you may even be offered one so that you can freshen up while you wait for your own apartment. The lady on reception will do all she can to ensure you don’t have to hang around too long.

We used the lift to get to our apartment. The lifts are small but were a godsend during our stay.

The apartment, a studio suitable for 2-3 people, was the best we’ve ever stayed in.

Kitchen: Fully equipped (I’ve never seen so many different types of glassware in a holiday apartment before!), with an oven, hob, fridge (with ice cube trays), toaster, coffee percolator, pans, etc etc. The kettle was not electric (on hob) but it didn’t bother us. There was no microwave, but (again) this was not an issue. Everything was spotlessly clean.

Bathroom: Crisp white towels, plenty of toilet rolls (replenished by the cleaners throughout our stay), mini soaps, lovely bath and shower.

Bedroom: Open plan design (less claustrophobic than other places we’ve stayed at), twin beds (quite firm but you can use the extra blankets folded underneath you for padding, or even the main cushions from the sofa bed), bedside cabinet, wall lamp, clean bed linen, extra pillow/blankets (not needed), plenty of wardrobe space (lockable), wooden hangers.

Lounge: Ceiling fan (excellent!), flatscreen tv, table & chairs, a rocking chair (fantastic!), sofa bed, coffee table, table lamp, safe (we didn’t use it), and a bowl of fruit, bottle of wine and a bottle of water waiting for us on the table (lovely touch). They also provided a pen, writing paper and a small note pad!

Balcony: perfectly adequate for our needs, wonderful views, table and chairs, washing line (with pegs), and an outside lamp. The shutters are presumably for windy days.

Electric sockets: 1 in the kitchen, bathroom, balcony, bedroom and 2 in the lounge.

Gym: Available, but we didn’t use it.

Reception: 24 hours, comfy chairs and reading material, holiday rep information, postcards for sale, free wifi, 6 pay-as-you-go computers (50 cents for 5 mins, 1 euro for 10 mins, and 2 euros for 20 mins).

Pools: Fabulously clean, heated pool (approx 25 degrees) was heaven, plenty of sun loungers and brollys.

On site restaurants: A little pricey but good selection.

Cleaners: If you hang the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door handle (outside!) the night before, they won’t wake you up. When you want them to come in you simply turn the card over and request they clean your room (which they did every day).

Security: Plenty of visible security day and night. Poolside gate needs a door key (card) to get in, so you feel safe on site.

Video footage of the view from the balcony:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTjk6UGRWuM&list=UUYrndCTOIDEh0cYU5jg6bow&index=3&feature=plcp

Parque Santiago website http://www.parquesantiagoiv.com/

Parque Santiago IV on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Parque-Santiago-IV/107623482612674

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Tenerife%20March%20-%20April%202011/

Kanali, Sidari, Corfu (2010)…

Well, what can I say? It was love at first sight! The Kanali is everything we’d hoped for and more.

When our transfer bus dropped us off at The Kanali, after an hour and a half journey from the airport, we were met by a very polite young chap with a truck, who took our cases along the short track for us in order to save wear and tear on our baggage (and our arms!) This service is also repeated when you leave at the end of your stay, which is a nice touch.

In reception we were warmly welcomed by Nikos, who greeted us like old friends even though we’d only just met. We later discovered that Jeni is no longer the manageress at The Kanali due to her other commitments (Jeni’s café and the dog rescue centre), however, she’s still involved with the bookings and emails. The reception area was beautifully clean and Nikos explained we could have a free safety deposit box whenever we wanted. There’s a bookcase full of holiday reading material, free to use as & when, and the First Choice notice boards are located on the wall with all the flight info and schedule for when the rep would be on site.

Nikos then took one of our cases, mine as it happens, and led us up two flights of stairs to our apartment – 304. He helpfully explained a few things about the electricity supply, the user name and password for the on-site wi-fi (we’d taken a laptop with us) and showed us the folder full of useful information which was on the kitchen table.

As soon as Nikos left we turned around and saw what a stunning view we’d been given. It was utterly breathtaking. The apartment was absolutely brilliant – everything we needed for a great stay. We’d been allocated an apartment with two bedrooms, enough for 4 people, even though there was just the two of us!

Both bedrooms overlooked the sea. There was a twin room, with two single beds linked together, while the main bedroom had a double bed. Both bedrooms had a phone, tv bedside lights and cupboard space along with a mirror and dressing table. Both bedrooms also had their own sliding doors leading onto the balcony.

As we were on the top floor, directly below the roof, the ceilings were slanted and wooden, with a gloriously rustic feel. The balcony was large, with a table and 4 chairs and a line for hanging out the washing. House martins and sparrows (in May) were chirping and swooping around making nests under the roof tiles, which was a joy to watch.

The bathroom was equipped with shower and plenty of freshly washed towels (as well as a couple of essential toilet rolls!) There was enough shelf space for toiletries and a very useful hairdryer.

The kitchen was basic but more than adequate for our needs, with a kettle, fridge, 2-ring stove & oven, dining table & 4 chairs, and enough cutlery and cooking utensils for 4 people. Tip: the smoke alarm can be a bit sensitive, so if you’re making toast it might be a good idea to open the kitchen window.

The main wardrobe was in the hallway, with easy access from both bedrooms and had plenty of hangers as well as two drawers at the bottom, and in there we found more pillows and clean towels. Bins are provided I the kitchen and bathroom. Tip: remember not to put toilet paper down the loo!

There’s no lounge in the apartment but there’s actually no need for one. It’s sheer bliss to watch tv from your bed and there’s always the balcony for sitting and chatting or having a bite to eat.

On the topic of food, we were travel-weary on arrival so headed to The Aquarius Bar & Restaurant next to The Kanali as it was the easiest option. Spiros and the team were the most fantastic hosts anyone could ever hope for, and to be frankly honest we were spoilt rotten. The food was sublime (strawberry cheesecake to die for), and nothing was too much trouble. The entertainment on Saturday night was the delightful Nikos and his band, playing a range of cover tunes in the upstairs bar. Needless to say, that’s where we ate most meal times as it soon became addictive.

Five Minutes walk away is the much advertised Canal D’Amour, with breathtaking scenery. In the heat of the day, small lizards scuttle about on the pavements and into the dense shrubbery.

Sidari town is just a 10 – 15 minute stroll down the road (depending on how distracted you get en route). Half way there we felt we just HAD to pop into Jeni’s café and say ‘hello’. We were made extremely welcome by Jeni and we even made a fuss of Bella, a rescue dog who chooses to pop by every now and again. Jeni’s cheesecake is an absolute must!

As you stand on the balcony of the apartment you can see a swimming pool just below you, but that one belongs to the apartment block next door. The Kanali pool is to the left as you look out on the sea – between the apartment block and the Aquarius Restaurant. Plenty of poolside sun loungers for everyone.

Cleaners seemed to pop round on an almost daily basis, ensuring clean towels never ran out and bins were emptied before getting too full. The entire site was spotlessly clean.

We didn’t bother with the welcome meeting, but Alison (First Choice Rep) made sure we had all the information we needed about excursions and departure times by pushing notes and leaflets under our door during our stay. When we wanted to book an excursion, we simply spoke to Nikos on reception and he immediately arranged for us to meet her in the bar for a chat later on. It couldn’t have been simpler.

We chose to book an excursion on the Wednesday called “Simply Corfu” but after 11 hours on a hot bus (little or no air con) I was far too tired to attend the fabulous Greek Night at The Aquarius, which I’d been looking forward to all week. Hindsight is a wonderful thing….

Mosquitoes WILL be an issue for many people, however, by sensibly using an insect repellent spray and covering up in the evenings, and by using plug-ins in the apartment at night, most of the discomfort can be avoided and it really isn’t much hassle. Most of the shops nearby are fully stocked with mosquito coils (for burning on balconies), citronella candles etc etc…You may find that using a product such as ‘after-bite’ as soon as you spot a nibble will prevent any itching and potential swelling.

We happened to arrive just prior to a storm, and the wind can really blow hard on Corfu. It really howls at times, and this can keep you awake if you’re a light sleeper. Also, when it rains it’s a full-on downpour, however, it soon eases off and if you find yourself out when it rains just nip into the nearest shop to keep dry. The shopkeepers won’t mind at all.

We were VERY unlucky with the weather as it happens, it was very windy and quite chilly during most of our trip, and it poured with rain most of the week, but that’s just the luck of the draw. We’d have loved to have gone in the sea but it really was too rough most days. On our last day the rain was so torrential that the apartment began to flood under the front door! Luckily we threw our towels down and managed to stop it reaching the bedroom. Later on, after we’d braved a dash to the Aquarius Restaurant, we discovered that some kind person had put a thick towel down on our doorstep to prevent any more water getting in under our door. Tip: if it does rain during your stay, be careful where you walk as pot-holes in the roads quickly become mini-ponds.

We would dearly love to return to Corfu, and wouldn’t want to stay anywhere other than The Kanali – however, we won’t be doing so in May again as the weather is too unpredictable.

Corfu is a smoker-friendly island, and non-smokers may find it irritating in bars and restaurants when others light up, especially after being used to the UK being a non-smoking zone in public buildings.

Video footage of the view from the balcony:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQup0I928wM&list=UUYrndCTOIDEh0cYU5jg6bow&index=9&feature=plcp

Kanali on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/kanaliappartmenthotel.corfu

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Corfu%20May%202010/

Panorama Apartments, Lanzarote…

We had booked our holiday through the First Choice website, flew Thomson, and the tour operator was Skytours, so it was no surprise that when 10 of us got off the bus at reception approx 3pm on Thursday 2nd July 2009, none of our names were on the list.

The rep had conveniently remained on the coach, which was now nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, all of the various couples were allocated rooms, however, as the Spanish receptionist handed over the key to room 114 she warned us that the view was “not good” and that “maybe you move room tomorrow?”

As we didn’t plan to spend much time in our apartment, the lack of a view did not unduly bother us. We certainly didn’t want to waste our first full day there unpacking / packing / moving room / unpacking again. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

There were no pillows on the beds, however, once I’d been to reception and asked politely we were given two (albeit the lumpiest pillows I have ever seen). Predictably, the beds were very hard, but there are thick foam cushions on the sofa and arm chair which we laid underneath our sheets at night. This seemed to do the trick.

There is a free tv in the room but channels are very limited and prone to interference.

There were only minimal kitchen utensils available, and I had to ask reception for a corkscrew. The can opener was completely rusty, and we chose not to use it. There are just 2 hotplates, no oven or grill. There is no microwave (although I accept that these things were not promised). A kettle and toaster are also provided.

We weren’t overjoyed at our room, but as it was only rated a 1 key we weren’t expecting a palace. I didn’t expect to see rust along the edge of the bath however, nor did I wish to see weird gunge growing on the internal window frames. With no windows, other than the large sliding patio doors, the room felt quite claustrophobic. With no windows in the bathroom you wouldn’t want to get locked in there!

With the July heat we decided it was a good investment to spend 21 euros (5 euros refundable deposit) on hiring a fan. We actually paid 20 euros as they had no change.

With only one visible socket in the room, located in the kitchen, the fan wouldn’t reach to the bedroom area. We asked reception for an extension lead but was told that we should come back and ask again in the morning!

The room was unbearably hot with no air con so we had no sleep. The fridge in the kitchen backs onto the wall beside one of the beds, generating even more heat for the poor unfortunate trying to sleep there. At 3.30am my partner went to the bathroom to find a huge cockroach scuttling around. I went to reception and woke up the night watchman to tell him. He spoke virtually no English but managed to convey to us we need to see the manager in the morning.

It was windy outside (which I’m certainly not blaming on the accommodation!) but the 6 feet tall metal fence, which was just a few feet from our room, kept banging and creaking all night long, so we had to keep the patio doors closed because of the din, meaning we had no fresh air in the room. (Also, we didn’t fancy letting any more cockroaches into the apartment).

After no sleep at all and having to sleep with the lights on so we could look out for more cockroaches, I went to reception at 8.30am Friday morning. I was finally given an adapter for the fan so we could at least cool down, and a large can of industrial strength cockroach spray (it was apparently up to us to fumigate our own apartment).

Due to the lack of any sleep, we missed the visit from our rep at 5pm as we’d dropped off. No attempt was made by the rep to check on us at any point during our stay.

The pool and Jacuzzi were quite nice, and there were plenty of sun loungers, but it would’ve been good if the poolside bar had been open, especially on Sunday. Everyone had to walk to the local shops for ice creams which was annoying when there’s a fully stocked bar on site.

Despite spraying the whole room several times each day, Sunday afternoon we had cockroaches on the patio. If we hadn’t spotted them, they could easily have scuttled into the apartment.

A cleaner came in but simply emptied the bin and washed the floor. She didn’t change the towels (or tea towel).

Monday morning, after another sleepless night paranoid about cockroaches in the room, we found another two large ones on the patio (making a beeline for the apartment). I’d had enough of this and asked reception to move us.

I have to say that the reception staff did the very best they could, and were very sympathetic throughout our ordeal.

We wasted all Monday morning packing up our things and waiting for an available room. By 1pm we finally had the keys to room 204. (A cleaner had been scrubbing it for over an hour to make sure it was fit for use).

The bathroom door handle came off when we used it, but the views were better and room was much cleaner. We were promised that there would be no more cockroaches, and I admit that we didn’t actually have any cockroaches in this room for the remainder of our stay.

There was no kettle in this room and I couldn’t be bothered to pester reception yet again, so I made do with boiling hot water for my cups of tea using the percolator.

The new issue became stray cats, who come into the apartments every time they notice the patio doors ajar. The image of an emaciated stray cat munching on a large bug just 3 feet away while I was trying to eat my breakfast outside on the patio is an image which will stay with me for quite some time.

Although there is a public computer in the reception area it costs 1 euro for just 10 minutes, so is quite expensive.

During our stay we used the Thomson helpline but they simply said that cockroaches are a common problem and that there was nothing they could do. Basically, they didn’t want to know.

I have tried to write a balanced review, including some positive aspects, but it hasn’t been easy finding anything good to say about The Panorama Apartments.

The décor in the corridors is nice, the receptionists are very helpful, the views in some of the rooms are nice, the wardrobes are large, the fridge is adequate, the pool and Jacuzzi are good and the actual location of the apartments is good (5 minutes from The Strip, 5 minutes from the Old Town, 3 minutes from the local Spar supermarket).

There is a gym on site, but I never once saw anyone use it.

Unfortunately, this is the worst holiday I have ever had and I would certainly not recommend The Panorama Apartments to any of my friends or family members. There are lots of far better places to stay in Puerto Del Carmen.

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Lanzarote%20July%202009/

Aliathon Holiday Village, Paphos, Cyprus…

When we booked online for our holiday in Cyprus from 12th – 19th November 2008, we misread the ratings for this holiday village and believed the apartments to be 4 star, when in reality it’s the SITE which is rated 4 SUNS. The site rating reflects the quality and quantity of the food outlets, general cleanliness, quality of the swimming pools etc and does not reflect the quality of the individual apartments. Subsequently, when we were shown to our basic apartment (kitchen / bedroom / lounge all in one room) we were very disappointed. I would personally rate the basic rooms as 2 star.

The apartment (room) was a lot smaller than we expected, bare wires hung out from a light fitting (this was rectified after a complaint to the management) and the shower was coming away from the wall (again, this was fixed within the hour).

There was no lock for the toilet door. This didn’t bother us but some people may wish for more privacy.
There were complimentary soaps and lots of toilet rolls. Clean white towels appeared frequently, due to the efficiency of the on-site cleaners.

The beds were very hard, but we found that if you take the big blankets out of the wardrobe and fold them in half, you can use them underneath you for some light relief. The stone floors however mean that even small amounts of movement will send the beds sliding across the room. The novelty of getting out of bed to put it back against the wall wears thin after the 4th or 5th time.

The wardrobe was big enough for the two of us, and a few wooden coathangers were provided.

The small, portable tv had a good selection of channels, but the remote control was awkward to use.

The sofabed looked like it had been dragged out of a skip! It was stained and wobbly, with bits of foam hanging out of it. I would not have wanted to have to sleep on it!

After complaining to our rep, she showed us the deluxe apartments in the fishing village. Although they looked quite nice it didn’t justify the extra £20 a night, which would’ve taken an extra £140 out of our spending money simply to get the quality of room we had been hoping for before we arrived.

The manager put a basket of fruit and a bottle of wine in our room by way of an apology, which was a nice touch.
We actually found that the staff were efficient and friendly.

On arrival we discovered that there was a welcome plate in the fridge, with tea, coffee, sugar, milk, crackers and jam. This was another nice touch.

The kitchen was adequately equipped, and clean. I was impressed with the microwave/grill. A cleaning cloth and scouring pad were provided, which was useful. Thankfully, the fridge was not a noisy one (a blessing when you sleep in your kitchen/lounge).

There was a storm during our first night and water poured in under the door. Luckily, I’d put a towel down but some of our things still got wet.

The next day we started getting overrun with ants, but once the cleaning staff had sprayed in there the problem was solved. (Tip: if you want to buy your own ant spray, buy the stuff in the green can from the supermarket).

It was my partner’s birthday during our stay, and hotel staff put balloons and a birthday card in our room, which was a nice gesture. (Tip: If you are going to be having a special occasion during your stay, just mention it when filling out your registration form on arrival).

The balcony was relatively large, and the view was pleasant. We had room 413, on the 3rd floor overlooking a pool, close to the main reception.

The pools on site are fabulous to look at, but were far too cold to swim in unfortunately. There were a few brave souls in there midday, but generally they remained unused (there is aparently an indoor pool on site but we did not bother looking for it). There are plenty of sun loungers around the pools, and it was warm enough to get a tan in mid-November.

The food outlets were good. We were self-catering but for just 5 euros per plate you can help yourself from the Lighthouse buffet (Tip: pile the plates high). We did not use the main food hall which the all-inclusive people use, but I took a small peep inside and it looked really lovely.

The Aliathon Village has many, many cats (this seems to be the case all over Cyprus). They tend to pester you whenever you sit outside to eat, which is offputting. If you have issues with cats, maybe Cyprus isn’t the best choice for you.

As for the entertainment…..well…..they did their best!
The music in the evening is very loud. If you are hoping for a quiet night in, you’ll be out of luck. Even with the tv up high we could still hear the singing until about 11pm.

The actual site is quite stunning, with many different kinds of trees and flowers. It was wonderful to wander around the gardens, seeing fruit trees, grapevines and an abundance of blossoms.

Local buses run regularly to the Harbour and are cheap (1 euro 30 cents), but be warned. After 7pm you’ll be very lucky to see any buses at all. We waited for about 40 minutes one evening until a nice couple informed us that bus inspectors go home at 7pm and drivers ‘do their own thing’ after that! (They’d spent the previous evening waiting for a bus). It cost us 10 euros for a taxi back to the Aliathon. (Tip: you might want to ensure you catch a return bus before 7pm unless you fancy a walk or are prepared to pay for a cab).

We booked 3 excursions via our First Choice rep. We were allegedly the last group of the season to walk on the seabed under the water and feed the fish (fantastic!). The half-day cruise to Coral Bay was superb value for money. The day trip through the mountains was lovely but we were not informed beforehand that we should wear long trousers when we visited Kykkos monastery (luckily they supplied robes for us to cover our legs, or we would have missed the highlight of the day).

Paphos airport has a brand new terminal (opened this week). It is clean and efficient, but there are very few shops in departures (you can buy duty-free and food but I couldn’t see anywhere to buy postcards).

Overall, this was a reasonably good holiday but it could’ve been better if the accomodation was nicer.

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Cyprus%20November%202008/

Atlantis Las Lomas, Lanzarote…

My partner Steve and I stayed in apartment 206 (upstairs) from 2nd to 9th October 2008 and we had a fantastic time.

No cockroaches (there was a can of spray in the cupboard but we didn’t need it), lovely big balcony with table and chairs (and a wall light), lots of pretty shrubs planted around, plenty of kitchenware, cleaning lady almost every day, and a lovely view.

The only slight niggle was the hard beds, which was very easily rectified by using the sofa cushion and the spare single mattress (under the sofa) on top of our beds. Problem immediately solved, and a good nights sleep was had by all.

Very helpful reception staff. We asked for 2 extra pillows and within 30 minutes they’d been put in our apartment (cleaning staff finish at 4pm so requests for things to do with the apartments need to be made before then, otherwise it’ll have to wait until the following morning).
There were 3 computers with internet access available in reception. I think that 2 euros bought about 20 minutes of surfing (I could be wrong). 24 hour reception meant that there was always someone there to help you if you needed anything, which was good.

Pool was wonderfully clean and very well maintained. At night it looked stunning with the coloured lights turned on. Nice little poolside bar for snacks. I counted about 60 sun loungers, so more than enough to go round.

I’d read the negative reviews, so we didn’t bother using the safe inside the wardrobe (kept our cash on us), however a guard was walking around all day long so we felt happy with the security arangements. I did notice several people leaving doors and windows open (ground floor apartments) while they went off to the pool, which I’m guessing might’ve encouraged an opportunist thief to try his/her luck, however we didn’t hear of any robberies during our stay.

I was concerned that we were right above the on-site bar/venue and that we might’ve been disturbed in the night by noise, but the site operates a policy of ‘no unnecessary noise after midnight’ so we rarely got woken up. To be honest, once the balcony and bedroom doors are shut you can’t hear anything much.

There was so much choice within a 5 minute walk we only bothered to pop into the on-site bar for one quick drink, so I can’t really comment on the entertainment, however I know they had quiz nights, karaoke and satellite tv in there.

I liked the fact that the bathroom had a bath and a shower. The microwave in the kitchen was very useful. There were tons of coat hangers in the big wardrobe. Spare blankets were in the cupboard, but we didn’t need them. The kitchen had lots of cupboard space, which was also useful. I also liked the fact we were given plenty of big blue bath towels & hand towels (changed twice during our stay).

I highly recommend the Grand Tour (volcanoes, camel rides, lunch, wine tasting, lava caves……) as well as the submarine safari (32m under the Atlantic Ocean watching the fish in their natural environment). We booked through our rep and we got door-to-door service (which is what you need after a long day’s sightseeing).

Yes, ‘cardiac hill’ is quite steep but it’s mentioned on all of the websites I’ve seen so there’s no reason for anyone to not be aware of this before they book their holiday. In my opinion, it’s worth being up a hill to get better views.

Grocery shopping can be done cheaply at the local Spar shop (5 minutes walk).

The new shopping centre is just over 5 minutes walk away. Lots of designer shops if you like that sort of thing, along with restaurants and a creche.

‘The strip’ is at the bottom of the hill (turn left) and is crammed with bars, restaurants and tacky tourist shops. It has a vibrant atmoshere for those who like things lively.

The beach is at the bottom of the hill (just across the road) and is vast.

To the right (10 minutes walk) is the old town, which is quite charming and has a more relaxed feel.

There’s a wide variety of entertainment available, from drag shows to live music venues, so something for everyone!

The sheer number of shops, bars and restaurants mean that prices are competative and good deals can be had (avoid the electrical shops as there’s a lot of dodgy iPods and cameras about). Full English breakfasts are around 2.5 euros.

We can’t really fault the Atlantis Las Lomas and we’d definitely return if we had the opportunity.

Atlantis las Lomas website http://www.atlantislaslomas.com/

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Lanzarote%202008/

White Waters Hotel, Machico, Madeira…

We flew to Madeira on 3rd July 2008, returning on 9th July 2008.

White Waters is a stunningly beautiful, family-run hotel just 5 minutes by taxi from Funchal airport. Our room looked like it’d never had anyone stay there before us (it was spotlessly clean). We were welcomed as if we were old friends, and treated like royalty throughout our stay. Nothing was too much trouble. The air-conditioning was not working during our stay, and when I asked to borrow a fan for the room the owner got in his car and went to an electrical shop, where he bought a top-of-the-range fan for us to use (he was constantly apologising while he was putting it together for us in the lobby).

Our small balcony overlooked the sea (stunning views) which was about a one-minute walk away! Bear in mind that Madeira is a volcanic island, and the ‘pebbles’ on the beach are bigger than hen’s eggs! There are wooden pallets on the beach for people to sit on, underneath parasols made from palm leaves. There IS a sandy beach further up the coast, but it’s black sand (and down an incredibly steep hill).

Breakfasts were a choice of cereals, bread, meats, cheeses with hot & cold drinks. This was self-service in the hotel’s wonderful bar/restaurant.

The bathroom had a bath, shower, bidet, toilet and sink and we were supplied with huge white fluffy towels (and toilet paper).

Outside our room was a communal lounge area, with sofas and magazines.

The bedroom had a comfy king-size bed! There was plenty of storage space for clothes

There is a separate tea room on site, but we didn’t have time to enjoy it (it looked lovely).

There is also a souvenir shop in reception, which was very useful.

The rooftop terrace offers spectacular views. There are sun-loungers available for those wanting to top up their tan.

The only thing I can think of that might be a problem for some travellers is the lack of a computer, however the entire island has Wifi, so if you have your own pc you can surf 24/7. (There didn’t seem to be any internet café’s in Machico, however there might’ve been in Funchal).

I suspect that if anyone was desperate to send an email, the hotel owners would be able to sort out something (I’ve never met people so eager to please before).

We had a slight niggle on the Sunday. The receptionist told us that there were regular buses to Funchal and that everything would be open once we got there, however, the buses definitely weren’t regular and many places were closed. This led to disappointment (and an expensive taxi back to Machico). If you are thinking of doing things in Madeira, I’d be inclined to advise that you don’t make any grand plans for Sundays.

Public transport is fairly useable, and taxis are plentiful, however you may want to hire a car if you want to explore the Island fully.

Within a 2 minute walk of White Waters are numerous fantastic restaurants, offering everything from freshly baked pizzas to crispy salads.

Shops do tend to close for siesta (1-3pm) but often open late to compensate. Machico doesn’t seem to have been struck by tacky tourism, so there’s a distinct lack of places to buy cheap & nasty junk (a good thing in my opinion).

There’s lots of tiny lizards running about outside in the morning (before it gets too hot). I loved them but they may not be to everyone’s liking.

Footnote: Since we visited Machico there has been a brand new man-made, sandy beach created a few hundred yards away from White Waters Hotel.

White Waters website http://www.whitewaters-madeira.com/

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Madeira%202008/

Apple Inn, Amsterdam…

We stayed at The Apple Inn from 9th – 13th June 2008. We booked via the Easyjet website, so shouldn’t have been charged any extra on arrival. However, the receptionist insisted we pay 22 euros “tourist tax” before she’d hand over the key! (We complained to Easyjet afterwards, who investigated and then credited our bank account with a refund). If this happens to you, I suggest you do the same!

Trams are nearby and plentiful, so it was really easy to get about, and cheap.

The Vondelpark is a short walk away.

The key is simply a piece of plastic which you use to get back into the B&B once reception closes for the night. (Reception is not manned at night). It also allows you back into your room and allows you to turn the lights on.

The room was peaceful (despite being right near to the breakfast room, which I imagined would wake us up in the mornings, however it was very quiet).

Staff in the breakfast room appeared miserable, although there was usually a decent selection of food available. The view from the conservatory (adjoining the breakfast room) were of treetops, making us feel as if we were in a tree house (I liked that).

The bed was extremely comfortable (I’d emailed them beforehand requesting a double bed, which is what we were allocated).

The room was reasonably clean. The bathroom door did knock onto the bed when opened but we could still get in & out ok.

Nice to have a table and chairs in the room, but there was a lack of cupboard space.

The shower was a little tricky and we had to be careful not to flood the bathroom, however hot water was plentiful.

No kettle in the room, or fridge, meant that we had to eat out most of the time, although we did bring back a few cold drinks and snacks.

Yes, the stairs are steep, but most houses in Amsterdam have narrow stairways. It’s simply the way they were built. We managed ok but I wouldn’t have wanted to carry too many cases upstairs (or try to get back up to the room after a little too much to drink!)

Here are more photos of our trip:

http://s698.photobucket.com/albums/vv343/panda762/Amsterdam%20June%202008/

Holiday Reviews…

So far I have only travelled in Europe, hence the name of this blog (European Holiday Reviews), but hopefully I will travel further afield one day….

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