Spain

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Halloween Break at Port Aventura World & Ferrari Land, 3 Nights, 2ad & 2ch, Flights, 4* Hotel & Park Passes, €1019!

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Spend the Halloween break at Port Aventura and Ferrari Land this year. Treat the kids to a weekend away with this super deal, which includes flights, hotel and park tickets!

 

Port Aventura World is a great place to go during the Halloween break. The park is decked out with lots of spooky decorations and there are enough frightening characters and scary creatures to satisfy kids of all ages. Younger kids will also enjoy the Sesame Street characters that sing and dance in Halloween costumes. Make sure you catch the amazing Halloween show on the gloomy lake and stay till closing time to catch the spooky fun parade.

Halloween Break at Port Aventura World and Ferrari Land

What I love about this Halloween break at Port Aventura and Ferrari Land is that the kids can still enjoy Halloween night at home. I’m not sure about you but my kids always want to be at home to go trick or treating! You will be flying from Dublin to Barcelona Reus ( closest airport to Salou ) on Wednesday the 1st of November and return on Saturday the 4th and staying at the 4* Sol Costa Daurada hotel in Salou, which is located only 2 km from the Park. Hopefully the weather will be good enough to spend a day at the beach but if you are unlucky the hotel also has an indoor pool as well as a host of activities for all the family to enjoy. 🙂

Halloween Break at Port Aventura World and Ferrari Land

The price includes a two day park ticket to Port Aventura and Ferrari Land, which you can buy in advance with Attraction Tickets Direct. Read my top ten reasons to visit Port Aventura World and my blog on Ferrari Land to see all the amazing attractions available.

Click here to book flights  Dublin – Reus €239pp

Click here to book hotel: €216

Click here to book theme park tickets:  €59 per adult, €51 per child.

 
Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change. Note that some links above are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

 

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In The Media

Travel Hot Spots for 2017 – As Seen on TV3’s Saturday AM

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Spain, Portugal and Croatia are looking like the top short haul destinations this year while America and Asia lead the way in long haul travel. Check out my travel hot spots for 2017 as seen on TV3’s Saturday AM.

  

European holiday destinations 

Sunway

Spain and Portugal will remain the most popular short haul holiday destinations in 2017. 1.8 million Irish holiday makers went to Spain in 2016 and this year should attract similar numbers. The Costa Dorada could be the big winner. There are flights from Dublin, Shannon, Cork and Knock serving Reus, Girona or Barcelona. Sunway and Falcon Holidays both offer package deals to Salou and Cambrils. The combination of the iconic city of Barcelona and the opening of Ferrari World at the already popular Port Aventura theme park, make it an ideal choice for all the family.

Travel hot spots for 2017

The Algarve has almost fifty flights per week from Irish airports, in the peak Summer months. Aer Lingus have added a new service to Porto, and Lisbon is already a popular city break destination. Sunway have introduced a direct flight to Sardinia in Italy, a welcome return for those looking for nice beaches in Italy. Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Aegean air are all flying to Athens so this should help those looking to travel to the bucket list destinations of Santorini and Mykonos.

Croatia may prove to be the hot spot for people looking to go somewhere different but want to be close to home. Aer Lingus have introduced flights to Split and they also fly to Pula and Dubrovnik, while Ryanair fly to Zadar. I was in Pula last year and loved it, you can read all about my stay here.

Fly from Dublin to Pula with Aer Lingus on the 23rd of May and enjoy a seven night stay in the popular Splendid Hotel for only €349 per person, including airport transfers. Situated right at the waters edge, this is a great choice for a relaxing break and is within easy reach of the city of Pula. Use my exclusive code TRAVELEXP10 to save 10% off the hotel cost.

Click here for more details.

Travel hot spots for 2017
Amphitheatre in Pula

City Breaks

WOW air have increased flights from Dublin to Reykjavik and added on a service from Cork. It looks like Iceland will remain popular in 2017 for weekend breaks and as a holiday destination. KLM are now flying four times a day to Amsterdam as well as Aer Lingus and Ryanair so this could prove another cheap city break option.

Porto for me will be the big winner. When Aer Lingus announced they were flying to Porto, Ryanair decided to increase their flights. We now have 8 flights a week to the small city of Porto – it could prove to be this years top city break destination. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities and almost feels medieval. It is also a good choice for food lovers. You will find some excellent restaurants serving traditional Portuguese food and wine, at a fraction of the cost you would pay at home.

I found a great deal to the 4* Cristal Porto hotel in May, highly recommended on tripadvisor, this modern hotel ticks all boxes. Fly from Dublin on the 11th of May and enjoy a three night stay here for only €237 per person.

Click here to book flights: €75pp:

Click here to book hotel: €162pp

Travel hot spots for 2017
Porto 

Cruises

Cruise Holiday

One of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry, cruise holidays should have another bumper year. The competition has never been greater. Most major cruise lines have dedicated Irish websites now and many travel agents and tour operators have dedicated cruise departments. Free all inclusive drinks packages, half price kids offers and even free flights, will I am sure, entice Irish holidaymakers to cruise in 2017. New destinations like Cuba will make it easier for visitors to visit Havana without paying the increasing accommodation costs. River cruises are also proving popular for discerning clients. For those who don’t want to fly there are also cruises operating directly from Ireland in 2017.

travel hot spots for 2017
MSC Meraviglia

MSC’s Get more, Get All campaign offers free WiFi, free all-inclusive drinks package and €50 on board credit. This deal is also available on their brand new luxury ship, MSC Meraviglia. Fly from Dublin to Barcelona on the 8th of September and enjoy a seven night Med cruise, visiting Spain, France, Italy and Malta for only €1399. This price includes an upgrade to a balcony cabin, a FREE all-inclusive drinks package, FREE Wi-Fi and €50 on board credit.

Click here for more details:

 

Long Haul destinations

Flights to the States have grown to unprecedented levels. New routes to from Aer Lingus to Hartford and Miami and extra flights to Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago and New York, should translate into a bumper year for Irish tourists to the USA. The addition of low cost flights with Norwegian Air from Cork to Boston and New York, as well as WOW air flights via Iceland, should ensure lots of good deals for Irish holidaymakers.

travel hot spots for 2017
Miami

With two direct daily flights to both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and now a new daily service to Doha with Qatar airlines, getting to Asia, Africa and Australia has never been easier. No lengthy lay overs in Heathrow and with so many flights, prices will be very competitive. Ethiopian airlines‘ Dreamliner aircraft made many news reports when they offered cheap direct flights from Dublin to Los Angeles this year. They have now added extra connections from their hub in Addis Ababa to South Africa. This means that flights from Dublin to Cape Town are easily accessible and hopefully well priced too.

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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City BreaksDestinationsEurope

48 Hours in Bilbao

48 hours in Bilbao

For many, the main reason for visiting Bilbao was the Guggenheim. But when you are travelling with two small kids, an art museum, albeit one of the best in the world, is not high on the priority list.  Luckily we discovered lots more highlights during 48 hours in Bilbao.

 

I always wanted to visit the Basque Country but as there was so much to see, I decided to plan a road trip. Bilbao was our first port of call. We only had 48 hours in Bilbao and decided not to frantically scratch the ‘the top ten things to do’ off a list. Instead we explored Bilbao at a leisurely pace, immersed ourselves in it’s culture and found a city that offers so much more than the world’s most impressive art museum.

We stayed at the modern Holiday Inn Bilbao. We had two rooms with a large living area outside, which was particularly handy with the kids. The hotel has a swimming pool, spa and leisure centre and a nice bar with a pool table. It was just what we needed, plenty of space and good facilities. It is located about 15 minutes walk to the old town, which we walked each day.


Walking down to the old town I realised I was going to like this city.  It was almost medieval, there were colourful buildings, narrow alleyways and pintxos bars (the Basque’s take on tapas) everywhere. After descending some 300 steps, we were greeted by a buzzing crowd in a large square. The atmosphere was tangible. Locals and tourists spilled out of pintxos bars. High street stores in old buildings were next to local crafts shops and pintxos bars. We strolled around the side streets and soaked up the atmosphere, before enjoying our first taste of Bilbao’s cuisine.

The Basque country in general is known for it’s culinary delights and Bilbao is no exception. Pintxos bars are on every street corner, Michelin star restaurants are plentiful and if you are unsure what to try, you can always book one of the city’s popular food tours. I loved eating pintxos and there was a huge variety to choose from. I have eaten tapas in many Spanish cities but I have never seen such variety before. Traditionally pinxtos or pinchos were small portions of food, with a cocktail stick pierced through them. This is no longer the case, pintxos can be anything from Iberian ham to risotto, small portions of food that Basque people have at any time during the day, usually accompanied by a glass of wine  🙂


After a great first night in the old town we decided to go ‘modern’ the next day and head for the Guggenheim. Bilbao is very easy to navigate and although we walked everywhere, there are trams, metro and buses too. We decided to walk along the river and admire the architecture that Bilbao is renowned for. We spotted people kayaking along the river. This struck me as a novel way to see the city, I began to wish we had more time…

After a leisurely stroll we arrived at the Guggenheim. Even if you have no interest in art or architecture – you can’t help but be blown away by the sleek modern design. Frank Gehry, the architect who designed it, deserves all the praise he gets. The titanium panels reflect the lights of the city and ensure that the Guggenheim looks different depending on what time of the day you are there. The enormous sculptures outside are remarkable too, it is impossible not to be impressed, even before you step inside.

Sculptures dominate the 1st floor as well as cool digital displays, so these kept the kids happy for a while! For art lovers the Francis Bacon exhibition is outstanding, unfortunately I did not get to see much more. It’s not the most child friendly museum I’ve been to, my kids were scolded on more than one occasion by a burly security guard! If you are travelling with children, don’t plan to stay for the day!

48 hours in bilbao

Tummies were rumbling after our morning’s sightseeing so we decided to try more pintxos! Time to visit the Plaza Neuva. This magnificent square dates back to 1821 and between the colonnade and the arches there are tons of pintxos bars. We sat outside with the locals, had wine and pintxos and enjoyed the Spanish way of life.  There was plenty of options for kids as well as unusual combinations like, goats cheese, onion jam and chocolate! Each one was better than the next, I could have sat there all day.

48 hours in Bilbao

We continued our stroll around the city, admiring the shops on the Gran Via, before taking the three minute funicular ride to Mount Artxanda, which offers the best views of the city. A mist descended while we were there but on a clear day it is worth a visit and it only costs €2! Bilbao is very inexpensive. A glass of wine Is €1 – €2, taxis and entrance fees are lower than many of its European counterparts and dining out is fantastic value.

We had sampled many pintxos at this stage so our last night we fancied a leisurely meal with a full menu. This, however, is not easy to find in Bilbao. Perhaps the fact that it was November and many places were closed, but we struggled to find a restaurant open that had a full menu. Our hotel recommended Columbo, a modern fusion brasserie which served everything from cheese burgers to Pad Thai – just what we needed!

48 hours in Bilbao
We collected our rental car the next day and decided to take a quick look at the surrounding countryside. Bilbao is so close to the coast and there are some excellent beaches near by. You can reach these easily by metro, so car hire is not necessary. The countryside resembled an Austrian ski resort, with Tyrolean houses and wafts of freshly chopped wood emanating from the deep forests.  We went in search of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a legendary chapel that stands on a peninsula jutting out into the sea.

This magical place was once a convent of the Knights Templar and was recently a setting for the TV series, The Game of Thrones.  We planned to drive past and stop to admire the view but after a quick search on tripadvisor, I discovered that it was only a 30 minute walk. My eyes should have told me that this was impossible but having read four different reviews that said the same thing, I persuaded my husband and the children that it would be worth the trek.

It was only after the 40 minute walk to reach the bridge that we realised that this wasn’t included in the reviewers comments… Three hours later we arrived back at the car, sore, thirsty but proud of our achievement all the same. The views are spectacular and definitely worth the trip, but be prepared. Bring water, snacks, comfortable shoes and take three to four hours to experience it properly.

And so ended our 48 hours in Bilbao, an unsung hero of the Basque country, full of culture and charm, I will definitely be back for a longer visit next time.

 

Read our next stop on our tour of the Basque Country – La Rioja 🍷

 

Like city breaks? Check out more destination reviews and travel deals by clicking here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

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Christmas Gift ideas: 10 Four Star Christmas Breaks for less than €200!

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Give the gift of travel this Christmas. I give you 10 holidays for less than €200!  All prices include flights and accommodation  🙂

 

1. Rome

One of my best sellers this year, this weekend deal to Rome is sure to impress this Christmas! Fly from Dublin on the 3rd of March and spend three nights in a superb 4 star hotel for only €199 per person.

Click here for more details:

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

2. Porto

I’m just back from a fantastic weekend in Porto, a city I would highly recommend for a weekend break. Read my blog here. Enjoy a three night, four star stay on the 11th of May for only €195 per person.

Click here t0 book flights: €75 pp

Click here to book accommodation: €120pp

 

3. Algarve

Kickstart your Summer with a four night break to the Algarve. Fly from Dublin on the 16th of May and enjoy a four night stay in the highly rated Oceanus apartments, Albufeira for only  €191 per person.

Click here to book flights: €102pp

Click here to book apartment: €89pp

christmas gift ideas


4. Madrid

A city break to Madrid is a fantastic Christmas gift! Girls will love the shopping on the Gran Via while the lads can take the tour of Real Madrid’s stadium!  Fly from Dublin on the 9th of June and enjoy a two night stay in the centrally located 4*  Claridge Hotel for only €183pp. I have chosen the early flight out on Friday morning and the late flight back on Sunday evening so you really get 3 full days to explore this wonderful city.

Click here to book flights €85pp

Click here to book hotel: €98pp

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

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5. Marrakech

Marrakech is a feast for the senses and should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Fly from Dublin on the 21st of June and spend three nights in a highly rated 4* Riad, in the heart of Marrakech, for only €185 per person.

Click here to book flights: €90

Click here to book hotel: €95

weekend in marrakech

6. Prague:

Treat your loved one to a romantic weekend in Prague. Stay at the 4* Theatrino Hotel, for three nights with breakfast, for only €164 per person, departing the 20th of January.

Click here for more details:

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about Prague

 

7. Athens

Culture vultures will love Athens. The combination of the ancient Acropolis and the modern new town makes Athens is a great city break destination. This deal is superb! Stay two nights in the four star Art hotel for only €199 departing Friday the 4th of May.

Click here for more details:

CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

8. Lisbon

Spend a weekend in one of Europe’s favourite city break destinations, Lisbon. Enjoy a three night stay in a five star hotel for only €191 including breakfast, departing the 27th of January. #LoveLisbon

Click here for more details:


CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS FROM THE TRAVEL EXPERT

 

9. Valentines Day in Paris

Treat your loved one to a two night break in Paris for Valentine’s Day.  Price of €176 includes flights and a two night stay at a highly rated four star hotel.

Click here for more details:

 

10. Zadar

Go somewhere new in 2018 and travel to Zadar in Croatia. Enjoy a three night stay in the 4* Villa Vanilla  from €188, departing the 11th May.

Click here for more details:

Christmas gift ideas

 

All prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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Travel News and Reviews

Spain Celebrates 1 Million Irish Visitors In 7 Months

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I think we all know that Irish holiday makers love Spain, but when Spain celebrates 1 million Irish visitors in just seven months – that’s a lot of love!

 

The actual figure of 1,245,767 shows a massive increase of 27.4% for the same period in 2015. Although visitors are steady throughout the year over 50% of trips took place during May, June, July and August. The most popular destinations are the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, which in total equate to over 93% of Irish Tourism to Spain. During the same period 5 million overseas trips from were made from Ireland, these levels have not been seen since 2008! After the UK, Spain is our most popular destination!

Spain celebrates 1 million Irish Visitors in 7 months

The ongoing concerns about travel to Egypt, Tunisia and other European countries has meant that Spain is considered a safe and secure destination for tourists. This trend is likely to continue in 2017 so if you are planning a trip to Spain next year  – get booking!

 

Sarah 

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Best Travel Deals

3rd September, One week package deal to Fuerteventura, only €334!

Fuerteventura, is blessed with year round sunshine, stunning beaches and a great laid back atmosphere. Enjoy a one week package deal to Fuerteventura for only €334 in September, and finish off the Summer in style!

 

It is less developed than the other Canary Islands but that is part of it’s charm. If you are a beach lover you will love Fuerteventura. You will find picture postcard white sandy beaches here – some would say as good as the Caribbean! Watching the wind surfers and kite boarders and pottering around the many surf shops you can’t help but notice that it has a sporty feel to it. For more information on Fuerteventura you can read my blog post by clicking here.

One week package deal to Fuerteventura

I found a fantastic deal departing on the 3rd of September from Dublin staying in the popular Villa Florida apartments. They have been a firm favourite with Irish holiday makers for many years. They are centrally located in the resort of Caleta de Fuste, close to plenty of bars and restaurants and only 200 meters from the sandy beach. They also receive great reviews on tripadvisor!

VIlla FLorida 2

Fly direct from Dublin on Saturday the 3rd of September and enjoy seven nights in a spacious one bedroom apartment for only €334 per person, based on two sharing. This price includes flights, accommodation, transfers and checked baggage, with NO hidden extras!

 

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Sunway Holidays but all views, as always, are my own 🙂

 

Sarah

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TravelUncategorized

Menorca – The perfect family holiday, 31st July, 2ad & 2ch €1876

Menorca

When it comes to family holidays, it doesn’t get much better than Menorca. Crystal cove beaches, captivating harbours, family friendly resorts, is Menorca the perfect family holiday?

Still relatively unspoilt ,Menorca retains all the charm and character you would expect from a Spanish island, but without all the noisy bars and discos. For such a popular holiday island it is hard to believe it still managed to keep its individuality. Recognised by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve because of the diversity of its landscape, it is a perfect mix of rural countryside with cosmopolitan beach resorts. There are stunning harbours mixed with architectural ruins, it really is a true find. The laid back atmosphere is perfect for a family holiday and the lack of any club scene keeps the night-owls away. The holiday resorts of Cala’n Bosch and Cala’n Forcat have a great choice of bars and restaurants all catering exceptionally well for families and most with stunning sea views.

If this wasn’t enough to tempt you, how about a family complex that not only offers on site entertainment but a mini splash park for the kids too! Try the Hi Binimar apartments in Cala’n Forcat, one of Menorca’s top resorts. With a resort centre and a sandy cove only 300 meters away, what more could you ask for. They receive great reviews on trip advisor and are sure to keep you and the kids very happy throughout your holiday.

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert talks about Menorca

The flight times are perfect with no awkward 6 am starts! The direct flight leaves Dublin every Saturday at 14:50 and lands back in Dublin at 21.35pm, just another bonus to sweeten the deal! Package prices for 2 adults and 2 children on the 31st of July or 7th of August for seven nights is €1876 which includes flights, accommodation, transfers, 20kg checked baggage per person and thankfully NO hidden extras! If those dates don’t suit, click on the link below for prices throughout the summer season.

 

Click here for more details:

 

Sarah

 

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Celebrate World Tapas Day!

tapas

Today, 22nd of October we celebrate World Tapas Day! There are celebrations taking place in many cities throughout the world and none better than right here in Dublin!

 

The Spanish Tourism Office has teamed up with Taste City Fusion to offer you a ‘taste of tapas’. This allows you to get one free tapa plus a glass of Spanish wine when you buy a tapa from one of these participating restaurants. If you really want to celebrate in style, why not try the Dublin Tapas Trail? Enjoy a spread of tapas and a full glass of wine in three of Dublin’s top tapas restaurants, during a three hour tour. Voted as the best place to have ‘kick ass’ tapas by Lovin Dublin – for €50, it’s definitely worth a try!

Dublin Tapas Trail
Dublin Tapas Trail

I had was very fortunate to experience a master class and tasting experience of Jamón Ibérico last night. I never thought of the time and detail that goes into the curing process – to think Ibérico ham is cured for 2 – 4 years! The difference in taste from various parts of the ham, some fruity, some salty was something I had never considered before. Even the aroma varied depending on the temperature of the ham. As one of the million Irish people who visit Spain every year, I was shocked at how little I knew about the tapas that I love so much! Of course we had some fantastic Rioja to go with it ❤

Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert celebrates World Tapas Day

One of my favourite dishes is prawn pil-pil (garlic prawns) and its always the first thing my kids ask for when we are in Spain. Check out this recipe I found which incorporates Ibérico Ham. The combination of the spicy prawns and the salty ham – and it doesn’t look too difficult either! With the bank holiday weekend approaching, maybe you could make some yourself?

Tapas are not only about the food, it brings good friends together to share and experience a variety of different foods. There are many theories of how tapas originated, the name tapas means ‘cover’. Some stories are told of how the tapas (cover) was placed on top of the glass of wine, others about the sick King Alfonso who could only eat small amounts. My favourite is that bar owners gave locals a small amount of whatever they were cooking for their own meal, to accompany their customers wine or beer. Of course everyone likes free food, so over time bars all over Spain started serving small pieces of food with their drinks. With each bar trying to offer better tapas than its neighbour, the standard grew higher and higher. Eventually the tradition extended to all parts of Spain. The tapa, a Spanish hallmark has now been exported all over the world with some of the best michelin star restaurants now serving tapas.

 

So when booking your next holiday to Spain, don’t just think sunshine and beaches. Think gastronomy and tapas, and enjoy the real taste of Spain.

 

Sarah

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Nerja, 4th May, Flights & Hotel €245!

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One of Spain’s most treasured resorts, Nerja is undoubtedly the jewel of the Costa del Sol.

 

Unlike many the typical resorts on this coastline, Nerja still retains its old world charm. Nerja was fortunate to avoid the building boom that Torremolinos, Benalmadena and many other resorts encountered. It is authentic with a typical Spanish vibe, yet only 40 minutes from Malaga airport. The mix of  low rise buildings, cobbled stone streets and stunning sea views has made it popular with Spanish holiday makers as well as foreign tourists. Have some tapas in one of the many plazas, sip a cocktail and admire the view in the Balcon de Europa hotel or laze on one of its many beaches.

A week in Nerja, by Sarah Slattery, The Travel Expert

I have chosen the Hotel Nerja Princ Hotel. Situated in the heart of the resort and close to the beach, this small hotel with only 20 rooms, is a real find! Not only has it received a certificate of excellence from tripadvisor but it is rated no 2 out of 39 hotels in Nerja! Fly from Dublin on the 4th of May and spend seven nights on a bed & breakfast basis for only €245 per person. So what are you waiting for?

Click here to book: €245pp

Price shown is total cost for two people. Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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Magical Madrid, 14th February, Flights & Hotel, 3 Nights €199!

Terrazas de la Plaza Mayor de Madrid

The Spanish capital of Madrid is often overlooked for a city break but actually it probably has more to offer than most of it’s European counterparts.

 

Take a guided tour of the Royal Palace, probably one of the largest and most beautiful palaces you are likely to see. Enjoy a coffee on the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main square, it is a great place to people watch and plan your day. Follow that with a night out in the city, when Madrid comes alive with gastro bars, al fresco eateries and vibrant nightlife. With over three thousand restaurants, it is not surprising that Madrid is now considered one of Europe’s top cities for gastronomy.

There is plenty in  Madrid to keep everyone happy, some may like to shop while the others take in a football match or a stadium visit. A trip to the Real Madrid’s Bernabeu would satisfy even an avid football fan. A stroll along the Gran Via, Madrid’s grandest street is a shoppers paradise, where high street and designer shops combine to tempt you with prices cheaper than at home. A new apple store opened in 2014 with a 360 degrees genius bar, where experts from ‘Apple’ give advice and solve any technical issues, its known as a ‘little apple museum’, worth a look in the area of Puerta del Sol!

Bernabeu, The Travel Expert, Sarah Slattery

So with all of this and a lot more, isn’t it time you visited the city of Madrid? I have found a great deal departing on the 14th of February. Fly with Aer Lingus and stay three nights in the popular HRC hotel for only €199. This modern hotel is situated in the heart of Madrid, close to all the main attractions and it’s excellent nightlife. The HRC also receives excellent reviews on tripadvisor as well as a certificate of excellence.  So what are you waiting for?

 

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah 

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DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeaturedSunseekers

Why Lanzarote Is My Favourite Canary Island

lanzarote

With year round sunshine, numerous sandy beaches and plenty of interesting sights, Lanzarote is my favourite Canary Island.

 

When you land in Arrecife airport the landscape is startling. There are no high rise blocks, just barren terrain and pretty white washed buildings as far as the eye can see. Thankfully building laws prohibit high rise buildings in Lanzarote and all houses, hotels and apartments have to be painted white. This makes even the commercialised holiday resorts, such as Puerto del Carmen, very pleasing on the eye. There are many resorts to choose from, Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise are the largest but there are also smaller resorts, such as Los Pocillos, Matagorda and Puerto Calero – suffice to say there is a resort here to suit all tastes!

lanzarote

Puerto del Carmen

Puerto del Carmen is one of those holiday resorts that ticks all boxes. Located just ten minutes from the airport, we arrived at our accommodation within a half hour of the plane landing! There is just the right amount of night-life, but you would never consider it ‘rowdy’. For this reason it tends to attract plenty of families, couples as well as girls looking for a nice break away. There are plenty of different areas to stay, the growing ‘new town’ leads in to the neighbouring resorts of Los Pocillos and Matagorda. I stayed in the Aqua Suites, an four star boutique hotel which is superb for families, read why I think the Aqua Suites is the best place to stay in Puerto del Carmen with kids.

lanzarote

I love the ‘old town’, which has some lovely restaurants and excellent duty free shopping, with shops like Zara and Mango about 20% cheaper than what you would find at home. The harbour is the best place to catch the sun set. There are plenty of bars and restaurants as well as a playground for kids. You can enjoy sundowners while the kids play happily – its bliss!

 

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Families will love the wide sandy beach. With pedalos and an inflatable waterpark, you could easily spend the day here. Don’t miss the open air cinema and enjoy a day out at Rancho Texas Park. This theme park has dolphin and seal shows, a small water park as well as hundreds of animals. For more details read my post on things to do in Puerto del Carmen with kids.

lanzarote

Puerto Calero

Less than ten minutes by taxi from Puerto del Carmen will bring you to the pretty town of Puerto Calero. Purpose built, its marina is home to many luxury yachts and designer shops. Restaurants are reasonably priced though and it is a great option for lunch if you happen to be staying in Puerto del Carmen. If you are feeling adventurous you can take the coastal walk ( about 90 minutes ) from Puerto del Carmen all the way into Puerto Calero, enjoy a tasty lunch and catch the water taxi back.  You can also take boat trips on stylish catamarans or if travelling with kids, they will love the submarine safari.

Playa Blanca

With plenty of five star hotels and an upmarket marina, Playa Blanca is becoming the ‘sophisticated’ choice. The promenade stretches for 7km from the Marina Rubicon to the small old port where you can catch the ferry to Fuerteventura. There are plenty of inexpensive restaurants here along the seafront and most with stunning sea views. The marina has plenty of upmarket restaurants and designer boutiques, all surrounded by some luxurious yachts. The big draw is the choice of golden sandy beaches as most of the other resorts in Lanzarote have darker sand. 

 

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Playa Blanca is also very popular with families as there are numerous self catering options to choose from, most of them offering an entertainment programme and facilities for children. Aqualava, waterpark is sure to keep the kids entertained and the more adventurous can dive to Europe’s only underwater museum. If you fancy a change of scene take the ferry to nearby Fuerteventura. Once you see it’s white sandy beaches, you will think you are in the Caribbean!

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Things to do in Lanzarote

Lanzarote is the perfect size for exploring. It is very easy to navigate so I would suggest hiring a car and visiting the main tourist spots yourself. Timanfaya National Park is a must see, the volcanic landscape is spectacular. Over 100 volcanoes erupted between 1730 and 1736 but due to limited erosion, the area still looks almost Martian. It was made a National Park in 1968 and you are no longer allowed walk freely through the park. Coach trips, guided walks and camel rides are all possible but go early as it can get very busy in the afternoon. Try El Diablo restaurant, where you can enjoy meat barbecued by the heat from the Volcano – a truly unique experience. 

 

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Don’t miss a trip to Jameos del Agua, in the north of the island. Famous Lanzarote artist César Manrique created this tourist site in the 1960s, inside lava caves that were formed 4,000 years ago by the eruption of La Corona Volcano. Walk down stone steps into the volcanic tunne,l which is one of the longest in the world, at 6 kilometres in length, to discover a unique restaurant which over looks a small lake. The lake looks almost translucent, which probably has something to do with the small blind albino crabs that are only found here.

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You then emerge from the dark cave to find hundreds of tropical plants and a stunning swimming pool. The fact that you are not allowed to swim in the pool only makes it more magical! The Jameos del Aqua is also home to a large auditorium where cultural events and concerts are housed throughout the year. The Jameos del Agua is said to be the perfect harmony between nature and artistic creation.

A short drive from Playa Blanca brings you to the small village of El Golfo. This is a great spot to stop and have lunch, the seafood is fantastic and the setting is perfect. Situated on the coast, with sea views but extremely authentic and thankfully still unspoilt. If you like to haggle, visit the old town of Teguise. With its cobbled stone streets is probably the pettiest town on the island and holds a market every Sunday.

Like this post? You might be interested in these:

Five Things To Do With Kids In Puerto del Carmen

 

Why The Aqua Suites Is The Best Place To Stay In Puerto Del Carmen With Kids

 

Sarah

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Fun in Fuengirola

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With over 1 million visitors from Ireland to Spain each year, the resort of Fuengirola tends to get overlooked.

It’s probably for that reason that I like it so much! Unlike some other Spanish Resorts you don’t feel like you are on O’Connell Street when walking through the town at night. In fact it’s the opposite, it attracts many Spanish people and has a feeling of authenticity about it. Yes, there are lively English bars but not to the extent of the other resorts along the Costa del Sol. The beach stretches over 7km so the resort itself is quite spread out. The main centre known as Constitution Square still has a Spanish feel to it, with a beautiful church in the centre and plenty of pedestrianised streets with boutiques surrounding it. Although you find some high street stores like Zara and Mango, it doesn’t feel like a city or a holiday resort, more like a town that locals inhabit. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tourists but it just feels more subtle than its neighbours, Marbella or Benalmadena.

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There are so many good restaurants that it is hard to only mention a few! Along Calle Moncayo, or ‘Fish Alley’ which it’s more commonly known, there are numerous restaurants side by side, each as good as the next and very reasonably priced. You can get a three course meal with wine for €10 here, and the quality is exceptional! Casa Roberto, just off the square is excellent, and again relatively inexpensive for the quality of the food.  My personal favourite is El Toston, tucked behind the local bus station. Its full of locals because the food is so good! It’s primarily a tapas bar but you can have a full ala carte menu if you prefer. The steak on the stone is just perfection and if you like tapas, try the  pata negra ham and the wild boar croquettes – amazing! By the way Mamma Mia‘s serve great pizza, so if tapas are not your thing don’t worry, there are restaurants a plenty to suit every taste.

Tapas

With all of those food recommendations, I can only suggest staying in an apartment or if it has to be a hotel, make it a room only or on a B&B basis. I like the Illunion Hotel, it’s right across the road from the beach and only about 15 minutes walk to the centre. The beach bar, Madrid Playa offers a great lunch menu and you can get two sun beds plus a bottle of cava for €5 per day – how can you beat that! They will even keep them at the waters edge for you if you ask the day before!

Fuengirola is a great choice for a sunshine break without breaking the bank – go try it for yourself.

Sarah

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Benidorm – bold or beautiful?

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For years, I couldn’t understand the appeal. I had to know why Benidorm was the most searched destination from Ireland on Google last year.

I was aware that Benidorm had good nightlife, and of course it is renowned for its low cost of living – but don’t most Spanish resorts have this? I finally got the opportunity to visit this place that had perplexed me so much,  I was invited on a familiarisation trip and I  jumped at the chance to see what Benidorm had to offer.

After a pleasant 2hour 20 minutes flight, we arrived at the Costa Blanca.  I must admit my first impressions were not that great, high rise buildings and English bars everywhere. I found myself wondering why this place was so popular with Irish people? It wasn’t until that night when suddenly it all became apparent. Until then, the only thing I had heard about the nightlife was that it was loud and catered mostly for stag and hen parties! I have visited most Spanish resorts and have experienced nightlife on many levels, but Benidorm has so much more. There are bars, disco bars , karaoke but its the shows that differentiate it from everywhere else. People, young and old, thronged to see amazing tribute acts, Take That, Westlife, Queen, U2,  unique comedy acts, and everyone was fantastic!

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We found ourselves wondering “why are some these acts not winning  X Factor”! When it comes to nightlife, Benidorm is king, there is nowhere better – it has it all.  It was like being in the West End but everyone walks around in shorts and teeshirts and all the shows are free! The cost of living has to be lower than other Spanish resorts, 6 bottles of beer for €5, or €1 for a pint – hard to beat that anywhere!

Now that I had warmed to the nightlife, I tried to feel the same way about the resort itself. I  was pleasantly surprised when visiting hotels that most rooms had sea views.  In the 1950s, the mayor of Benidorm decided he wanted hoteliers to build upwards so everyone could get a beautiful sea view.  With these high rise buildings everything is in close proximity and Benidorm can cope adequately with 500,000 tourists at any time.

Benidorm has five stunning beaches, stretching over four miles. You can choose Levante Beach which is close to the lively centre and tends to be extremely busy, or the quieter Poniente Beach which has a newly built promenade, great for an evening stroll. In between both you have the old town of Benidorm. It is packed with shops, tapas bars and oozes character. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch with sea views right in the heart of the old town, it was perfect.

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Not only did I have a new found respect for Benidorm as a destination, but I realised that it has so much more to offer than nightlife and beaches. What other resort can offer five theme parks within a ten minute taxi ride from the centre? There is Aqualandia, the largest aqua park in Spain with one of the tallest slides in the world! There is Mundomar, a park with dolphin and seal shows and of course Terra Mitica, if rollercoasters are your thing then you can’t afford to miss it! Lets not forget all of the possibilities for day trips, there is the stunning Villajoyosa with its colourful buildings and the city of Alicante which really surprised me. The castle of Santa Barbara is well worth a visit, with lifts that go all the way to the top, the views are stunning! The palm tree lined promenade stretches the length of the City. Alicante has beautiful old  buildings and an affluent marina, it stuck me that not only is it a nice day trip from Benidorm, it also is a great option for a city break.

benidorm sarah slattery the travel expert

I know finally understood the whole Benidorm phenomenon  and why seven years later, the TV series is still such a huge success. Benidorm has sun most of the year, stunning beaches, a variety of Hotels, fantastic nightlife, an old town full of character. Benidorm has something for everyone and it is a destination everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime!

Sarah

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