A Room With A View: Limone Sul Garda Travel Review

Limone, on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda was our destination for the week. It takes about two hours by coach from Verona airport but the journey is well worth it for the stunning lake views and cafe culture you can experience in this little Italian gem.

We stayed at the All Azzuro: perfectly positioned right on the shoreline and ideal for watching the frequent lake ferries come and go, and of course to indulge in much people watching.

We really couldn’t have hoped for a better location. The hotel itself is charming but it’s fair to say that it’s not moved on since the nineties with average food offerings and dated rooms. This however was to our advantage because if the hotel standards did actually meet the standard of the location it would be well out of our price range.

We paid extra for a balcony which was worth every penny.

Breakfast and dinner were taken on the open terrace, although if you have a rear facing room you eat inside.

Limone itself is just perfect with geraniums spilling out of balconies, cobbled streets, numerous foodie opportunities and boat trips to keep you amused. It is heaving with day trippers from around ten in the morning but settles late afternoon into a more languid vibe.

We ate our fair share of pasta and pizza, not to mention the Chiaretto rose wine and the odd Aperol Spritz. Below is the view from our favourite Porto bar where ducks waddle amongst the drinkers hoping that someone will feed them a crisp.

A week is just about perfect to see everything that Limone has to offer. We hopped over to Malcesine for a couple of hours too just for an excuse to get on a boat. The ride takes about 20 minutes and costs £13 each if you use the ferry. Cheaper boat trips are available if you don’t mind small cramped boats but we preferred to pay a little extra and travel in comfort on firstly the San Ferhino then returning on the mighty Brennero.

If you want to wander further afield on foot then just out of town there are some shady spots to eat with a great view across the lake. The one below was set in the olive groves.

Beware – this is a small pizza! Not bad value for eight Euros.

We last stayed in Limone in 1996 and more recently have also stayed in Malcesine and Bardolino – both of which are beautiful too. I’m sure we will be back again soon.

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H10 Rubicon Palace Lanzarote: Review

I had such high hopes for this five star hotel, but all I can truly say in its favour is that the room was lovely.  The rest of it was just OK, nothing wrong with it, but all a bit ‘meh’.  IMG_3156

I think my judgement was coloured because we started off on the wrong foot.  The hotel allocated us a room which was barely completed (ie the paint was still wet) and there was a huge noisy digger right outside our window making the whole block tremble. I was off down to reception sharpish to complain but was told they could not move us until the next day.  I complained to Thomas Cook who couldn’t do anything about it.  Very disappointing.

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We were moved next day to a lovely bungalow room with a sea view which was mercifully quiet.  Because we had been inconvenienced on day one, we were compensated with a superior room which I have to say was lovely.  We were also invited to have dinner in the Vulcan restaurant which is for Privilege guests only and was excellent.

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The bathroom was great and the bathrobes were a nice touch.

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The hotel is big, with several restaurants to choose from and plenty of pools, should you be inclined to take a dip.  Not for me unless it’s 28 degrees outside!  There is a really nice piano bar where you can take advantage of the all inclusive drinks package while you listen to some good live music.  There’s also a sports bar where we spent a couple of nights.  Service in the piano bar was a bit patchy but the sports bar was better.  Drinks quality in both was excellent.

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One of our favourite spots was Mike’s coffee shop where you could get a nice cappuccino and sit in the sun with a book.

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The food was overall good, but not great.  I’m not veggie, but I do like a good amount of vegetables and this is where I found it lacking.  There were plenty of salads but cooked vegetables were disappointing.  Breakfast and dinner were a bit of a scramble – hard to get a cup of coffee as I think the place was understaffed; cutlery, crockery and condiments were on a ‘steal it yourself from a spare table’ basis and there were long queues for speciality things like fresh pancakes.  Fresh juices at breakfast was a nice touch but often the jugs were empty.

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Lunch was a delight as it was warm enough to sit outside and I think the burger bar tempted some people away from the restaurant so we had more space and better service.

The location of the hotel was OK.  There is not much to do or see in Playa Blanca, but for a week of just getting some sun on your face, it’s fine.  Lanzarote is notoriously windy and our week was no exception.  You need a cardigan or sweater in March and a jacket for evenings.

What I did enjoy was the opportunity to wear a dress in the evenings as the hotel felt dressy enough.  Quite often these days everyone is in jeans and I do like to dress up now and again.

One mistake we made, and entirely our own fault, was that we booked a week that overlapped with the start of the Easter holidays, so that by the last couple of days the place was inundated with children.  No-ones fault but our own! Really must be more careful with dates.

I enjoyed our week, but I think that the poor start definitely clouded my opinion and I wouldn’t return.  This was our first stay with H10 and I can’t see me trying any of the others in the chain.

 

Hotel San Gil Seville: Review

Set in the back streets of Seville’s old town, we picked this four star hotel for our two night stay based purely on its Moorish architecture.

We were on our home from Jerez De La Frontera as part of our train journey around Andalucia and I wanted to spend some time in Seville to see the Alcazar without the tourist hordes that had accompanied us on our previous one day visit.

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The hotel certainly is a stunner with its mosaic tile covered reception area and bar plus its riad style central courtyard.

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It’s about half an hour walk to the Alcazar.  It would probably have been less if we had gone the right way, but there are so many nearby narrow streets to explore and diversions to take that it probably didn’t matter.

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We arrived at the Santa Justa train station after dark and took a taxi.  Good job, as we would have never have found our way through the alleyways on public transport, and it is about a 35 minute walk to the station, assuming you know where you are going, which of course we did by the time we were leaving for the train back to Malaga.

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Our room was on the ground floor and had a window facing out onto the courtyard.  You couldn’t draw back the curtain as everyone could see in.  I think it was a disabled friendly room as the bathroom was exceptionally large with a walk in shower.  All good stuff and no complaints there.

I do have one very big gripe though.  On our final morning, we were woken around 7:30 by a smell of chemicals so strong that my eyes were streaming and I was coughing as if my life depended on it.  I dashed out of the room, looking like a mad women and went to reception to ask what was going on.  The receptionist said that someone had accidentally allowed bleach to get into the aircon and not to worry!  Wowzers!  I’m asthmatic, so not for taking chances, we packed up and left immediately.

Anyway, notwithstanding the poor attention to health and safety, everything else was fine.  The breakfast buffet was extensive and the coffee was good.

There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from in the nearby streets, but beware the tourist menu of insipid paella – there is so much more out there if you seek out the proper menu.  This squid was exceptionally good and cost about eight euros.  We had been staying with friends in Jerez who taught us that it is perfectly acceptable to walk into a bar and just order one thing from the menu to share, which we did.  This of course allows you to drift from bar to bar sampling tapas as you go.

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This hotel was a good enough base for a two day stay, but based on our experience I would not recommend it.  By all means pop in and have a drink at the bar though as you can appreciate the architecture for the cost of a coffee!

 

 

Hotel La Palma Princess & Teneguia Princess: Review

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We’re just back from a winter break at this popular hotel in La Palma, Canaries.  It’s popped up many times in our holiday searches and we’ve dismissed it because of remote location, but as we’ve had a mad few months we thought we would give it a go.

It certainly is a place to rest, with over ten pools to choose from and loads of sunbeds. One pool is heated and this was naturally the busiest, but there were lots of secluded places to nip off to and read.

We were all inclusive and generally speaking the quality of the food was good – especially the veggie selections.  I can vouch for the rose wine and cava but the coffee was dire and completely unpalatable. There is a kettle in your room, so my advice would be take your own.

We took breakfast on the terrace at the La Choza restaurant and it was fab to start the morning with a sea view.

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The hotel is set in lush sub tropical gardens which was a real joy.  Loads of wildlife too – including lizards, egret and a couple of kestrels which flew over every day.

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Our room was colonial in style with an excellent shower, separate bath and marble basin.  The room was huge with a large verandah looking out towards the gardens.  My only complaint was that the room was cool because it got no sun at all.  Fine in the summer, but in the winter, not so good.  We enquired about upgrading but the hotel was full so we stayed put and they gave us extra blankets.

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The hotel is fairly isolated, but there is a little bar about 25 minutes walk where you can get decent coffee, as well as a good selection of fresh fish and wrinkly potatoes with freshly made mojo sauce and alioli. The view from the bar is fantastic too.

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We took the bus to the capital one day – an hour away over the very tortuous mountain road.  It has really good shopping plus some very pretty houses with traditional balconies.  We enjoyed some excellent tapas too.  The bus ride is not for the faint hearted – in fact the lady behind me threw up because of all the twists and turns!

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We picked a bad day to go into town unfortunately as it poured with rain and was pretty cold – but it gave me an excuse to buy a jacket!

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The hotel is surrounded by banana plantations which we found fascinating – there were little trucks carrying bananas about and lots of processing plants along the road to the hotel.

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Evenings at the hotel were spent in the huge riad style bar/lounge. There is a separate entertainment lounge for those who prefer to watch a show, but we were happy to chat to anyone and everyone in the bar.  The hotel appeals to a diverse range of nationalities and we enjoyed some fun conversations with new friends from Aarhus to Essex.  Bar service was hit and miss at busy times with no-one clocking who was next in the queue, so that those who shouted loudest were served.

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I think I would return if I wanted a complete rest – I read eight books in two weeks which was pretty relaxing!  There is a little library where you can swap books and I made full use of it.  The hotel is four stars and it just about gets there….better coffee would make all the difference!

 

The Down Side of Down Sizing

What seemed like such a good idea last summer isn’t feeling so great in dreary January.  At the moment our home is a mish mash of clashing colours, horrible carpets and a sticky back plastic bathroom…..and it still smells musty!

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I have no patience you see.  I need those carpets up right now. I need that horrible plastic bathroom cladding ripped off today. I need a bedroom which is a sanctuary – not one with wonky second hand wardrobes and nowhere to put my stuff.

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We have been in for two months now and I seriously underestimated how hard it is to get the work off the ground.  We are not DIYers so need tradesmen for the big jobs and everyone is busy, booked up and with a waiting list.

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The good news is the central heating is booked in to be replaced in two weeks time.  This is the job on which everything else rests, as every room is affected.  The current system works, but bangs so badly you would think it was going to explode so we have to turn it right down and rely on a fan heater for the most part to keep us warm.

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The bathroom suite has been purchased and should be fitted next.  I am desperate to be rid of the ‘comfort’ toilet and the plastic walls.  We have chosen some beautiful tiles and just need to find the right person to fit them for us.

We also have fitted wardrobes on order for March so I will have some space to hang my clothes, most of which are in suitcases.

New sofas are coming next month – way too soon, but I spotted them in the Laura Ashley sale and as they were perfect, they just had to be ordered.

The kitchen/dining room should be started in April when the hacienda style arch will hopefully be no more!  I’ve dithered over kitchen colours – should I have trendy grey, or maybe a classic cream.  Still undecided.

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The garden is still looking pretty ugly, although some snowdrops are peeking through.

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There have been many times when I’ve thought why the hell have we done this…but here we are and I know it will be beautiful a year from now.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

Church Lodge Birdham: Review

We had the most relaxing winter seaside break last month in Birdham, West Sussex, staying at the delightful five star B&B Church Lodge.

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Birdham is about a ten minute drive from the beaches of The Witterings and as it was December, they were almost deserted, save for these amazing starfish we found washed up on the beach.

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Just a short stroll away from Birdham, you can reach Chichester Harbour, which on the day we visited, was still frozen and looked all the more beautiful for it.

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Our accommodation at Church Lodge was this Scandi style cabin, kitted out with a huge bed, flat screen TV, shabby chic furniture and sheepskin rugs to warm your toes as you get out of bed.

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The bathroom was tastefully decorated and Nicky, the owner, had provided lots of thoughtful beauty products to make our stay more enjoyable, plus a stash of magazines for reading in the bath!

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Breakfast at Church Lodge is huge and one of the best I’ve had at a B&B.  Everything was great quality, from the home made muesli, the fresh fruit and of course the very filling fry up!

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One of the highlights for me was meeting the resident husky, Roxy, who is absolutely adorable and amenable to a cuddle too!

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Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts Nicky and Martin.  As soon as we arrived we were offered tea and fruit cake in the conservatory while they gave us the low down on where to go and what to see.

We were even invited to Nicky’s Pilates class, although a drink at the local Lamb Inn put paid to that!

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What makes this place special is the hospitality and the feeling that you really are away from it all.  It was the perfect antidote to the crazy run up to Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Our Seventies Bungalow: Before Pictures

We’ve taken on the job of updating this sad little seventies bungalow and making it into a home.  We picked it for its location – in a quiet little close, and for me, its generous sized garden which is south facing and not shaded – completely the opposite to my old shade garden.  I have massive plans for the garden, but that’s another blog post.

So, here we have it: the before photos.  We’ve actually already moved on from here, with a lick of white paint just to neutralise the yucky paint colours.  But brace yourselves!  It is not pretty!

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I can assure you that the nets were the first thing to bite the dust!

 

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We’ve already removed the gates and posts so that we can get the car on.

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The bathroom had a few disability aids which have been removed – we’re planning to remove the airing cupboard and have a walk in shower.

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The main bedroom is big so we’re having fitted wardrobes and getting rid of this flowery carpet.

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This is the dining room with its peculiarly placed boiler – all this is coming out to make a kitchen diner.

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The kitchen is in an extension at the back of the property and is OK to live with for a few months until we get the heating and bathroom done.  It will hopefully be replaced in the summer.

Structurally, the place is OK and it’s a reasonable size, so in 12 months time we could have ourselves a nice little home.

I’ll keep you posted on the refurb!