Caribbean Sea

LGBT Holidays in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is THE place to go for couples in love. There is such a wide array of activities to experience as well as gorgeous beaches, amazing hotels, friendly people, not to mention the food and music.

Islands vary considerably and although there has been an amount of homophobia on some islands in the past, gay couples can now generally visit most Caribbean Islands without any worries.

Islands vary considerably and although there has been an amount of homophobia on some islands in the past, gay couples can now generally visit most Caribbean Islands without any worries.

The most gay- friendly islands are said to be the Dutch and French Islands such as Aruba, Curacao, Saba and Bonaire. Dutch St Maarten and French St Martin have long had a gay-friendly reputation and there are many beaches and bars where gay and straight couples coexist peacefully.

The exclusive French Island of St Barts has been called one of the most gay-friendly islands in the Caribbean with its gorgeous beaches and high end dining.

The island of Curacao has been very public in its embrace of gay travellers with its many gay friendly hotels and attractions. It “encourages gay and lesbian travellers to visit its island and experience its “live and let live” atmosphere for themselves” say the Curacao Tourist Board. They have a dedicated website – www.gaycuracao.com which lists gay-friendly weekend hot spots.

The US Virgin Islands offer a friendly and tolerant attitude throughout the islands. St Croix, in particular, has become a mecca for gay travellers.

Cancun in Mexico has earned its reputation as an LGBT party hotspot particularly during the Cancun International Gay Festival held each May. Playa Del Carmen is also just a 45 minute drive away with its gay friendly beach clubs, bars and shopping malls. Mexico’s hottest gay resort, however, is Puerto Vallarta, a charming town with excellent facilities and beautiful beaches, known as the gay capital of Mexico!

Although there aren’t many places in the Caribbean where same-sex couples can legally marry, there are many destinations where you can hold symbolic ceremonies. In particular, the Secrets resorts in Mexico are more than happy to arrange same-sex symbolic ceremonies as well as The Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico and the soon to open Hard Rock Hotel In Aruba.

Occidental Hotels & Resorts offers same-sex wedding ceremonies at its resorts in Mexico, Costa Rica and Aruba.

Wedding packages are available at all Allegro, Occidental Grand and Royal Hideaway properties and can be customized to suit the couple’s requirements.

So if you are thinking of a holiday for any reason in the Caribbean and want some expert advice give us a call 0845 313 3101 and ask for Lisa, your Caribbean expert.

http://www.caribbean-boutique.co.uk/

Michael on the beach

California and Nevada

Nothing like having the beach all to ourselves in November and the sun was still shining! Manhattan Beach was one of the destinations in a week long educational trip to California and Nevada. Looks something out of “Baywatch” (NOT!).

First stop for myself and my wife Caroline, was two nights at the Sheraton Universal, Los Angeles which was pretty much on the door step of Universal Studios. Perfect for being almost first in line as the park opened. Back to my childhood of running around trying to do all of the rides and packing in as much fun as possible. Lots of ticket options available including general admission, front of line passes and VIP passes which is the ultimate experience.

Next stop was four nights in Las Vegas at the Palazzo. Wow, what a great time we had. The Palazzo is a 5 star hotel which is very reminiscent of Italy and together with its sister hotel, Venetian (that actually has a gondola water ride running through the first floor of its hotel). Totally awe inspiring. Lots of things to do in Las Vegas other than the gambling like, shows, helicopter rides out to Grand Canyon, taking in all of the activities in all of the 30 hotels approximately on the famous Las Vegas Strip. We even found time to see Elvis (a really good impersonator, that is!). I could go on forever about this destination but if you want to hear more, give us a call and we can give you a much information as you want to know.

Our last pit stop was back to Los Angeles before our flight back to the UK. We stayed at Holiday Inn, Los Angeles airport. This hotel is close to the airport and has a free shuttle bus to and from the airport. Although a 4 star property it does appear to feel a little tired and in need of an uplift, but the great thing about this Hotel is the ability to pay $5 and step outside and across the road to a small shuttle bus that not only takes you to two malls, it even goes to Manhattan Beach. Unbelieveably inexpensive as the hop on, hop off minibus takes you on a timetabled service from morning into the evening. It’s a perfect stopover hotel with an added extra.

If you want help to plan a trip in California or Nevada, we are able to help. We can help with itineraries, booking flights, hotels, car hire to suit and we can even help sort attraction tickets for almost everything.

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Alisons mini break

Alison mini Weekend Break to Budapest, Hungary

We checked in for a 0815am,2 hour 40 minute flight, departing from Terminal 1 at  Manchester with Jet2 flights.  We took advantage of the Ultra modern airport lounge the ‘Escape lounge’ which offers unlimed tea and coffee,  pastries, sausage and bacon butties, fruits , yogurts and alcoholic drinks.

We landed into Budapest airport and cleared customs in a few minutes and we were met by our private transfer to our hotel, the Ibis Budapest Centrum hotel , which is 3 star plus comfortable hotel located on a lovely street with lots of bars and restaurants to choose from and only a short walk to the nearest metro or within a 10 minute walk to the nearest hop on hop off big bus stop that we bought into,  its excellent value for money just £16.00 for a two days pass and includes a free river cruise and a free cocktail in the Cuban bar in the Jewish Quarter called La Bodeguita del Medio.

Budapest still has its own currency the Hungarian Forint approximately 379,000 forints to the pound, on average prices are very cheap a local beer costing just £1.50 and a cocktail for just £3.50 and a two course meal with wine just £20.00 a person.  We dined at the ‘Zeller Bistro’ and a highly recommended Hungarian restaurant to appreciate the Hungarian cuisine called,  ‘ Hungarikum Biztro’.

The city has amazing architecture and the main tourist spots on the Pest side,  is the suspended ‘Chain Bridge’ which spans the ‘River Danube’  between Buda and Pest, the Saint Stephens Basilica a Roman Catholic Church which is definitely worth having a look inside.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, a notable landmark of Hungary and a popular tourist destination of Budapest. 

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, and was first completed in 1265.

Behind ‘Hero’s Square’ there is  a lovely artificial boating lake lined with  restaurants and bars overlooking the lake to take in the view of the  beautiful building of ‘Vajdahunyad Castle’ .

Taking advantage of the hop on hop off bus we took the yellow line to Buda and after a short uphill walk we came to  ‘Fisherman’s Bastion’  which is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style, situated on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill in Budapest, around Matthias Church. The spectacular views from the terrace are truly amazing and as we sipped our cocktails we were serenaded by three Hungarian musicians.

Our last lunch was taken in the beautiful area of ‘Lizszt Ferenc Square’ on the Pest side of the river lots of restaurants line the beautiful square This is a cute square that is between the old town and the hero’s square on Andrassy Avenue.

We left Budapest on the Sunday evening for our inbound flight back to the UK, there is still so much to discover in this beautiful city and I can’t wait to book my return trip.

Vietnam view

My Experiences of Vietnam & Cambodia

I met with ten other travel agents at 8am at Gatwick Airport. After a long but enjoyable flight from Gatwick to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines, we arrived at Hanoi airport and were greeted by Martin, the Travel Indochina rep.

Hanoi is a charming city with beautiful lakes, shaded streets and lovely people.

On arriving at the hotel, we were introduced to Gaing, who would be our local guide for a few days and for this morning’s first experience of Hanoi, which was to see the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the first president of Vietnam up to his death in 1969.

This is a sombre experience, more so, seeing how the Vietnamese were saddened by his death and the respect he still has by the people. His nickname amongst them is ‘Uncle Ho’.

Afterwards we went to see the “Hanoi Hilton” not the hotel but the Old French Prison, used to keep the Vietnamese in check, while the French ruled the country. The name Hanoi Hilton, came from the American Air Force officers, who were imprisoned there, during the American/Vietnam War.

That night we had our first experience of Vietnamese food, which was excellent. Martin, chose various Vietnamese dishes for us all to try. The food was all very fresh, healthy with lots of vegetables and fish. The most popular dish is Pho (pronounced ‘Fur’) which is a big dish of tasty soup with noodles, meat and your choice of chillies, herbs etc.

To end the night, we had a few drinks in a local bar, 3 floors up, overlooking a busy traffic junction..  to see the organised chaos from above, is a sight to behold. Crossing the roads in Vietnam an experience in itself. They are full of scooters who don’t believe in stopping and seem to drive on any side of the road in any direction!. You literally have to just cross in front of them and they go round you – really! If you don’t you will be stood there all day!

After a second day discovering the wonderful delights of Hanoi, we then set off to Halong Bay, the highlight of my trip!. We boarded our luxurious boat and, whilst enjoying a sumptuous lunch, set sail out amongst the thousands of limestone islands. We were extremely lucky with the weather and had clear blue sky and sunshine for the rest of the day, the scenery was fantastic! We stayed on board overnight and rose early the next morning to climb to the top of Titop Island to see the amazing views!

On the way to the airport, we stopped  to visit a lovely rice farming couple and their family, who invited us all in for a drink of her homemade rice wine – tasted very potent!

On arriving at Danang Airport we transferred to Hoi An for our 2 night stay at The Hoi An Historical Hotel Hoi An was an important trading town in the 16th century for the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indian, which was heavily influenced by these countries and you can tell in the feel of the place. Lots of Chinese pagodas, the beautiful Japanese bridge and the smell of incense in the air from the Chinese temples.

Hoi An is famed for having some of the best tailors in the world where you can get suits and dresses made for a fraction of the price!

Later we had a great meal at the Duck café, fantastic high end Asian fusion food, from our chef, who recently taught Gordon Ramsay a thing or to about Squid!

We ended the evening with a walk along the river, with all the different coloured lanterns floating on the river and hanging in the trees and on the bridge – a wonderful sight!

The following day we all learnt how to be fishermen ( the Vietnamese way). We went out on the little boats and learnt how to throw the nets and pull them back in ( not much in mine I am afraid!) and  learnt how to navigate a basket boat through the narrow waterways of the jungle before enjoying a wonderful seafood meal on board.

Sadly, the next day, we left Vietnam and boarded our flight to Siem Reap, Camboadia for our 3 night stay.

The day that followed was my birthday and I was treated to a very early start, at 4.45 am, where we were picked up from our hotel, the lovely Shinta Mani, and travelled by tuc tuc to Angkor Wat. We entered by the little-used eastern gate and witnessed the iconic spires of Angkor Wat emerge from the surrounding darkness. What a way start my birthday!! We spent the rest of the day visiting other hotels and temples, including Ta Prohm Temple where the blockbuster ‘Lara Croft, Tombraider’ was filmed.

After diner, we went out and experienced the nightlife of Siem Reap on Pub Street, with it’s bright lights, loud music and ‘crocodile pizzas’. Not really what you think of when you imagine Siem Reap!

For our last day we took a boat ride out on to Tonle Sap Lake and cruised past the floating villages, schools and houses before heading back to the airport for our long journey back to London.

An amazing trip, a lovely group of people and an experience I will remember for a long time to come!  

 

Malta Group photo

Malta Kirker Education

Malta Kirker Educational 26th-29th April 2013 Friday 26th April 2013 

Meet Kathryn from Kirker Holidays at Terminal 1 Manchester Airport at 0400hrs for an Easyjet flight to Malta.

Arrived in Malta and took a minibus transfer to the island of Gozo including a short 30 minute ferry crossing to the small island arrived at the 5 star Ta Cenc Hotel for a fabulous five course meal and then an inspection of the hotel rooms and facilities of the hotel.  The hotel would appeal to customers who want a get away from it all and an interest in walking and offers a regular shuttle bus to the nearby beach.

After leaving Ta Cenc holiday we had short guided tour of the island of Gozo visiting Xlendi Bay, Dwejra, Fungas Rock and the Azure window which gave us plenty of photo opportunities.

After the island tour transferred back to Malta by ferry and taken to the hotel Radisson Blu Resort & Spa in Golden Sands in the north of the island.

Upon check in to our suite rooms with sea view a site inspection of the hotel .

In the evening we were transferred to the resort of St Juliens and a meal taken at Zest restaurant.

Nightlife in St Julian’s & Paceville, Malta
Come the evening, and it seems the whole of St Julian’s is at the waterfront, having a good time. The restaurants are busy and the whole area has a real buzz about it. You can choose from a wide variety of restaurants, from traditional to Chinese take-aways . As the night draws on, there is a general move towards Paceville, the club capital of Malta. Paceville puts the emphasis on fun, with pubs and cafés spilling onto the streets and the clubs playing their music hot and loud. It’s fast, fun and unlike a lot of Mediterranean club areas, very good-natured

Saturday 27th April 2013

After breakfast we were transferred approximately 35 minutes journey to the capital Valletta, this was my favourite as Valletta has so much to offer in such a small city there are plenty of open air cafes and restaurants to choose from and the architecture and history of the city is endless.  We had a guided tour of the stunning St Johns Cathedral and then took in half an hour screen show of the Malta Experience which gives you so much insight to the history of the island of Malta.  Lunch was taken at a restaurant in Valletta called Palazzo Preca Restaurant which had fabulous lamb shanks and fish at reasonable prices.

After lunch we visited Casa Rocco Picolla and Upper Barakka Gardens which gives amazing views of the marina and beautiful buildings again another fantastic photo opportunity.

Had a site inspection of the hotel Pheonicia which is a five star superior hotel just a stones throw from the city of Valletta.

Evening meal was hosted by the Pheonica hotel and after dinner drinks in the lounge bar with a pianist and singer to set the relaxed mood.

Sunday 28th April 2013  

Today we were transferred to the south east of the island approximately 25 minutes to a beautiful fishing village of Marsaxlokk the village is approached via a long, narrow, straight road with vineyards on both sides.  The bay is memorable for the many colourful, traditional fishing boats called luzzu . The painted eyes on these luzzus are believed to protect the boats from danger. Tourists visit the town for the picturesque photo opportunities of the bay filled with colourful fishing boats, many seafood restaurants and the very busy Sunday market that sells everything from fish, local produce and groceries to souvenirs, clothing and footwear.

We were then transferred to Mdina which is the old capital of Malta. Mdina is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island and is often known as the silent city. The town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just over three hundred and the village of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.

We took in a site inspection at the boutique hotel  Xara Palace which consists of just 27 individually beautifully furnished rooms.

Our last evening meal was hosted at our resident hotel Radisson Blu hotel offering us a buffet meal and a private terrace was provided for ourselves to see the Fireworks Festival at Golden Bay.

Sunday 29th April 2013 

After breakfast an early transfer to Malta airport for our flight back to the UK with Easyjet.