French Camping at it’s Best

1-Logo_principal_LES CASTELSLike so many Irish people who visit France, none of us can be immune from the horrific events in Nice last week.

Having spent a month in this wonderful country recently I thought long and hard whether to postpone these next few articles on one of the most popular holidays the Irish take in France. I decided however that the French need our support at this time and that we should support our friends in time of need. 

Camping in France is big business and there are many sites dotted across the country.Accommodation can vary between mobile homes, tents, luxury safari tents, caravans and luxury pitches with their own toilet facilities. The services and facilities offered at sites can vary wildly so it’s important to know what your going to get before you set off.    

Les Castles have 39 sites over France and 30 of them are 5 star rated, and if like me you have been a camper or caravaner, the quality of sites varies enormously.

My second campsite on my French Sojourn, was down near Carnac.

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Standing Stones at Carnac

Carnac is famous for their rows of standing megalithic stones. The standing stones of Carnac are one of Brittany’s greatest attractions. Three fields – Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan – contain around 3,000 aligned megaliths, which date from 4000 BC.

The granite stones were erected on the spot where they were dug, hence the differing sizes, although it is not known why they were put up; it is thought they had a religious or cultural significance. 

Located opposite the renowned Megalithic site is Les Castel Camping’s La Grande Metairie, once a traditional Brittany farm, this wonderful campsite offers you a superb 5-star experience, which extends over 15 hectares of greenery.

Jam packed with things to do this is a wonderful site for children. The Michelin Camping Guide, selected 6 exceptional campsites in France. And this site is one of them, having received the highest award of “5 red tents”.

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It’s all about Children

If the children are having fun then it makes for a much better holiday for the parents and the activities on this site are endless.

Segway tours, zip wire adventures, high level tree walks, aquatic park, petting zoo are just some of the activities available.

French holidays are nearly all about the water, it maybe a lake, water park or villa pool, but its what the children generally want and at La Grande Metairie they go all out to make sure the kids have fun. 

This site boasts a truly fantastic pool complex, sliding down the toboggans, swimming the lazy river, passing under the waterfall, relaxing in the jacuzzi, splashing around with the toddlers in the padding pool or doing gentle lengths in the swimming pool. You can just enjoy the waterpark as you wish.

parc_aquatique_24And whatever the Brittany’s weather may throw at you there’s always the heated indoor pool with it’s own Jacuzzi!

Bordering the different pools you will find plenty of space to relax on a sun-lounger and soak in the sun. Blue-Lagoon bar and terrace is just a “splash” away for a refreshing drink or ice-cream.

Many of the visitors to La Grande Metairie stayed in mobile homes, but there are of course other options available such as caravans, wooden camping pods and tree top cabins. The Squirrel’s and the Birds’ Cabin.

Those in mobile homes have en suite toilet facilities and many caravans do, to but when on a campsite the most important building is the sanitary block. Such buildings can make or break a campsite and I can tell you that in La Grande Metairie, they know this and provide exceptional facilities.  In fact they are hotel class.

Spotlessly clean at any time of the day, there are piping hot showers, family showers, hair driers, laundry and ironing facilities which were all amazingly clean. Over all La Grande Metairie, is an exceptional site it has everything you need and more for a fun packed family holiday and you literally do not need to leave the site if you don’t want to. If you do decide to go sightseeing then there is lots to see and do as Brittany has so much to offer.

IMG_ 1 1078With prices as little as €9-00 per day for a pitch its great value too.  

Situated about 4 meters above ground, (children must be over 2 yrs. old ) each cabin is built with two bedrooms, and an open terrace.  

Soft beds (for 4 people in one bedroom, and for 3 people in the other), several chairs and tables, you can leave your car in the area provided, and you will be just a few meters away from the toilet blocks. 

grande_metairie_sanitairesIMG_4264I brought my own caravan with me so I had a pitch with water, electric, and an outside fridge, which was extremely useful. I also had a patio set as well. My site was spacious and located close to the shower block and on site store.

See www.camping-castels.co.uk

 loadImage.phpLe Manoir de Ker An Poul

After three days of fun I then headed further south to try out Le Manoir de Ker An Poul near Sarzeau. This was a 4 star Les Castel site about an hour and a half further down the Brittany coast and situated about 800m from the beach. Covering three quarters of the Rhuys Peninsula, Sarzeau is lined with fine sandy beaches.

You can also enjoy the charm of the Damgan seaside resort and the picturesque town of Arzon.

IMG_4399My accommodation this time was a charming little chalet in the style of what the French call a Gypsy Caravan.

This chalet had all the facilities one would require for a comfortable stay on the Brittany Coast.  Two bedrooms and a living area, gas cooker, fridge coffee machine shower and toilet, outside eating tables and chairs BBQ and parasol these chalets are the ideal themed holiday chalet. 

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Le Manoir de Ker An Poul is a beautiful little site with about 300 pitches covering Caravans, mobile homes and tents. The Manoir de Ker An Poul is a typical Breton architecture. It was probably built around the fifteenth century, although it is difficult to make a precise dating of the building.

loadImage.phpThe building adjacent to the tower entrance was probably built around the same time and has often been altered over the centuries.

Little is known about the use of the building but the house belonged to belonged to De Francheville and CILLART families (called “Kerampoul”).

It is now owned by the Marquis de Gouvello Keriaval. The building has been listed as a historical monument since 1968.

 

The campsite offers mobile homes of 2 and 3 bedrooms and it boasts a large fully heated water park with an indoor pool, an outdoor pool and a third pool with three slides. 

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The campground also offers many activities such as bowls tournaments, sports tournaments on the sports ground, water aerobics, water polo. And for the evening, musical entertainment, theme nights, karaoke … are offered in high season!

This is a slightly more grown up campsite than the one above but no less amazing.

Situated amongst pine trees is it close to a superb windsurfing center just 800m away.

The little village a few feet away offers a great pizzeria and local bar and tabac.

Facilities again were superb and this is a must visit site if you want to feel the breeze and see the ocean.

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Travelling to France I used Aferry.co.uk

Finding a cheap ferry has never been easier. With AFerry.co.uk you have access to the largest selection of ferries in Europe and beyond.

 

AFerry.co.uk is proud to be the winner of “The World’s Leading Ferry Website” award at the World Travel Awards four years running.

 

Camping Les Castels with AFerry.co.uk

 

 

 

The Football is all over, Andy has won Wimbledon and the “12th”is over (peacefully) in the North, so what next ?

Sunshine perhaps?

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to make some suggestions about campaignCamping and Caravanning and this comes after the recent opening of quite a number of Go Outdoors  stores and the fantastic offers from the likes of Halfords and CampingGas.

It’s clear we all could do with getting outside a bit more and exploring our natural environment, even if that means on our doorstep.

And for many like me, going on holiday means forgetting about everything at home, stopping the hum drum of normality and just getting out there.

So I have teamed up with AFERRY.CO.UK and LES CASTLES CMPING to see what’s on offer.

If you didn’t know AFerry.co.uk  is the Travel Gateway’s leading online ferry brand, which features real-time comparison technology for ferries, generating over 55 million unique visitors per year and over 3,000 bookings per day. Founded in 1997, AFerry.co.uk has been an industry leader for nearly two decades and has strong relationships with ferry companies from across the globe.SO if you want to secure a great price check them out.

Les Castels was created in 1959 and is a collection of 38 four and five star camping sites across France and is the leading provider of glamping sites – characterised by their outstanding locations near areas of cultural interest and outstanding natural beauty.

Les Castels offers a wide choice of accommodation with everything from chalets and mobile homes to tree houses, gypsy caravans, houses on stilts and apartments.

So if you are stuck for somewhere to go this summer? Why not take a ferry crossing over to France with AFerry.co.uk, the leading ferry comparison website?  Travel by car, caravan, bike or on foot and stay at possibly France’s most stylish group of glamping sites, assembled under the Les Castels brand.

With 38 locations throughout the country, there’s a wide range of accommodation options ranging from mobile homes to gites, tents to treehouses,  lake-side cottages to gypsy caravans – basically every kind of accommodation that you can imagine. AFerry.co.uk features all the best routes and prices for ferry crossings across the world and if booked via their app, you can even amend your booking en route.

Best of all, Fido can come too!

 

So here are suggestions:

Before you all start shouting, the ferry routes below are prices for sailings from the mainland or England, you can of course go via Brittany Ferries, Stena-line, Irish ferries from IRISH ports if you prefer. Prices on the Irish routes are a little distorted because of the return s fro the Euros which is why I didn’t list them.

Ferry Crossing: 

Newhaven Dieppe – with DFDS, this is a four hour crossing with three sailings per day in high season.  Lead-in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £323.00*.

Le Domaine de Drancourt – This Les Castels is close to the Grand Site de Franceof Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme in Picardie.  The domaine has a plethora of beautiful century old trees.  Entertainment, as mini-club and fitness activities are on offer in season. Classic pitches in July start at around €250 (approx £214) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

 
Ferry Crossing: 
Dover Calais – with either DFDS or P&O who run several crossings daily taking 90 minutes crossing.  Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £99.90*.
La Bien Assise is located just ten minutes from Calais port, the Opal Coast and the Grand site National de 2 Caps – Cap Gris and Cap Blanc – Nord-pas-de-Calais.  La Bien Assise is situated in the grounds of a 200 year old manor house and has great facilities and a good restaurant. Simple pitches in July start at around €401.60 (approx £343) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability,

 

Ferry Crossing:

Dover Dunkirk – with DFDS A two hour crossing with several every day in high season. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £106.20*.

Le Brévedent in Normandy encompasses an eighteenth century hunting lodge in the middle of a large forest overlooking a pretty lake. There are numerous children’s activities like nature workshops, juice making, plus concerts, story-telling and visits to a cider mill.  Simple pitches in July start at around €330.50 (approx £283) for two adults and two children under twelve, subject to availability. No pets allowed

 

 

Ferry Crossing:

Portsmouth Le Havre – with Brittany Ferries who operate two daily crossings which take eight hours. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £622*.

Chateau de Chanteloup in Le Mans is located in the heart of the Sarthe with pitches throughout the park, down by the lake and close to the castle which dates from the nineteenth century. This is a very pleasant site especially for those looking for a charming countryside location. Simple pitches in July start at around €325.50 (approx £279) for two adults, two children under seven and a dog, subject to availability.

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing:  

Portsmouth or Plymouth to St Malo with Brittany Ferries – one daily crossing and takes 11 hours.  Lead in ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children £659*.

Le Domaine des Ormes in St Malo covers an enormous area of 250 hectares between Saint Malo and Mont St Michel.  There are several types of unusual accommodation here from rat houses and tree houses, log cabins and so forth.  There is a wave pool, indoor water fun area,  golf, horse riding and much more. Classic pitches in July start at around €512.80 (approx £440) for two adults, two children under twelve and a dog, subject to availability.

 

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing: 

Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries – two daily crossings taking seven hours.

Lead in ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children £604*.

Le Chateau de Martragny in Normandy is exclusively for campers looking for a quiet unspoilt and peaceful retreat.
The facilities are all housed in the stone outbuildings of the main castle and each pitch is surrounded by apple trees.
This is a perfect place from where to visit the D-Day beaches and Bayeux Tapestry.
Classic pitches in July start at around €185 (approx £159) for two adults, two children under thirteen and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

 

 

Ferry Crossing:  Plymouth to Roscoff with Brittany Ferries – there are two daily crossings and it takes around five and a half hours. Lead in return ferry price, subject to change, for a car plus two adults and two children is £560*.

L’Orangerie de Lanniron in southern Brittany was once the summer residence of the Bishop of Quimper on the banks of the Odet.  They offer a restaurant, nine-hole golf course, a 600 m2 aquatic arena and many different types of accommodation. Classic pitches in July start at around €468 (approx £400) for two adults, two children under nine and a dog, subject to availability,

 

 

*School holiday ferry price quotes are based on two adults and two children, a standard car crossing and cabin (where route applicable).

Les Castels prices have been based on an arrival date of 22nd July for seven nights for two adults, two children and a pet where applicable. Other accommodation is available.

All prices are for guidance only and subject to change and availability at time of booking.

AER LINGUS GETS SMART WITH NEW, MORE PERSONALISED MOBILE APP

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7th July 2016: Aer Lingus has officially launched its brand new mobile app available to Android and Apple iOS users promising a smarter and more personalised mobile experience for its guests.

 

Currently almost 50% of Aer Lingus guests check in online before they reach the airport, over three quarters of those via desktop, with the remainder on mobile or tablet devices. As a result of new check in and ‘day of travel’ features Aer Lingus expects mobile check in to grow significantly.

 

The new Aer Lingus mobile app boasts features that will help save time and make the booking and travel experience more seamless, allowing a more personalised mobile experience. Guests can search and save the best fares from 170 destinations worldwide, create personal and travel companion profiles, and securely save payment details for speedy purchase and check in. You can also add your mobile boarding pass to wallet* for easy access through security and while boarding your flight.

 

Key features of the new Aer Lingus mobile app include:

 

Personal Profiles

Guests can create profiles that store all personal, travel and payment information. We’ve made it a whole lot easier to check in, add travel companions, and complete future purchases using your personal profile.

 

Planning and Booking

Redesigned search functionality makes finding the best fares easier and faster. Searches can be saved for extra convenience.

 

Speedy Check in

Check in just got simple, speedy and paperless. Guests can check in for inbound and outbound flights at the same time. With the option to add several travel extras, we’ve got all your last minute travel needs covered. With new ‘add to wallet’ functionality, simply surface your boarding pass and you’re ready to go.

 

Personalised Home Screen

Here guests can view details of their next flight and the latest flight status. They will also be informed when it’s time to check in.

 

Managing Trips

As part of a more personalised offering the new Aer Lingus app will display all past and upcoming trips, making it easy to retrieve bookings. It will display all flight, passenger and travel extras information and provide a fare summary and receipt.
The new Aer Lingus mobile app is part of the airline’s new brand repositioning which launched last year, ‘Smart Flies Aer Lingus’. It provides users with an entirely refreshed mobile experience that better reflects the new Aer Lingus brand and meets the needs of consumers today. It follows on from, and supports, the newly designed aerlingus.com which launched last year, based on the same principles of innovation and a more personalised user experience.

 

Speaking about the launch of the new Aer Lingus app, Chief Commercial Officer, Keith Butler said:

 

We’re delighted to reveal the new Aer Lingus app which we believe will become the ultimate travel companion for travellers. The new app complements the new website experience at aerlingus.com and together enables Aer Lingus to offer guests a smarter online experience. The improvements in this app have been guided by customer feedback to facilitate a more convenient check in, trip planning and booking experience.  Currently almost half of Aer Lingus guests check-in on our website and we would expect advanced check in numbers will further swell as the new app means every step is simple, speedy and tailored to their needs.

 

Download the new Aer Lingus app now, available for both Android and Apple iOS mobile devices.

 

*Wallet, an iOS application, is Apple’s digital wallet that lets users store boarding passes, movie tickets, etc. in one place. Android applications boasting similar features are also available.

 

Shandon Hotel, Dunfanaghy, beats the best

shandonhotelspa_com_2wp-content_uploads_2016_06_Shandon-Hotel-Before-After-Images-2016_pdfWell it’s all over and the fans are home, the money is spent and the partners are just about talking again. So here is a tip for those of you who want to build up the brownie points and treat your significant other. After 35 years of marr
iage, I know there is no better way to do that than a few days away at a luxury hotel with a spa.

Following a major refurbishment the Shandon Hotel and Spa in Dunfanaghy, is once again putting its best foot forward and providing Donegal with superior accommodation in a wonderful location.

On arrival at the Shandon Hotel and Spa its clear to see this is a very impressive building. Standing like the Whitehouse overlooking Dunfanaghy beach, it is a landmark that draws your eye.

The main reception area is as welcoming as the as the view you can see from it. Check in process was efficient and seamless and within a minute I was off to my room.

Sea Views

All the Rooms in this hotel face the sea, giving everyone a spectacular view. The view is breathtakingly beautiful, you can sit in your room and watch four seasons pass in 20 minutes.IMG_95509

It’s like having the latest HD screen right across the room. Having visited many hotels over the years I have developed an ability for spotting housekeeping faux-pass.

A very important thing for me when visiting hotels is the standard of housekeeping, it can make or beak a hotels image in an instant. The Shandon was at the great end of that spectrum, the housekeeping was superb and it was easy to see this was a beautifully kept hotel. Large seating areas at the front of reception made a great space for just watching the views and taking afternoon tea.

 

IMG_95437Wonderful Rooms

My room was large and extremely spacious and had excellent amenities, full sized fridge (great for families), two large comfortable beds, good quality linens and housekeeping was spotless. A comfortable armchair was provided to enable you to take in the view; needless to say it was well used. The spacious bathroom was clean and dust free and clearly had been well cared for. The drying line over the bath was a great idea and no doubt for the bathing suits. Having a bath and a shower were pleasing to see as this hotel is geared for families.

Breakfast  

Breakfast was a delight, two members of staff were working so hard, they hovered over the tables like silent drones, cleaning, lifting plates wherever they can, a real asset to any hotel are the staff and these people did not disappoint.

One other member of the restaurant team was asked where the breakfast sausages came, he was full of knowledge about the local produce used in the hotel, what a gre
at level of service this was. After breakfast my wife was looking at a map in the front lobby, the same waiter came over and offered assistance on tourist info. Brilliant service!

Spa

shandonhotelspa_com7_wp-content_uploads_2016_06_Shandon-Hotel-Before-After-Images-2016_pdf

I’m not a spa person, so that is why I bring my wife she know the right end of a pedicure and manicure and has been in the very fortunate position to have been in many spas in many countries, the good news is the Shandon Spa is right up there with the best, my spa tester was extremely impressed, she had the €85 treatment, she loved it and was extremely impressed with the quality and delivery of the product.

One of the spa receptionists also gave us some superb tourist info and told us of the Rusty Oven. What a font of knowledge a veritable walking tourist board encyclopaedia, and again great ambassador for your hotel.

Bar

The bar in the Shandon was well used spacious it was busy with a mix of families and diners alike. Vibrant friendly and busy, just what you want in a bar. I was too busy looking at the beautiful scenery to eat dinner in the hotel, but did have the opportunity to talk extensively to four ladies who had afternoon tea. They told me what they got, how much they got and the fact they could not eat it all and they loved the whole experience. Says it all really.

What an impression    

The Shandon has probably the most stunning location of any hotel I have ever been in, including the Inter Continental in Kowloon. Hong Kong harbour is amazing but I sat in room 316 for a lot longer looking at the majesty of that view. It is simply breath taking as you watch the seasons roll in and out. Donegal has a lot to offer visitors, and every time I visit this magnificent country I enjoy it more and more. It is not hard to see why so many people have a holiday home there. The Shandon has now come of age and the refurbishment has meant it is a truly splendid place to stay, for an afternoon, day weekend or longer, you will not be disappointed.

Friendly, kind, considerate and dedicated staff makes the Shandon a real treat to visit.

Check out http://shandonhotelspa.com

 

Even More Winter Sun for Northern Ireland Holidaymakers!

Jet2 Planes– Jet2.com and Jet2holidays expand 16/17 programme

– MORE FLIGHTS to top Portuguese and Spanish hotspots

– Year round flying to Alicante plus February half term flights to The Algarve

 

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays are giving local customers even more opportunities to escape for some winter sun with the expansion of its 2016/17 flights and holidays programme from Belfast International Airport.

 

In total, 58 MORE FLIGHTS have been added to popular destinations AlicanteFaroGran CanariaLanzarotePalma and Tenerife.  More than 8,000 additional seats are now available including year round flying to Alicante and February half term flights to The Algarve.

 

This further growth follows the recent launch of the leading leisure airline’s and package holiday specialist’s biggest ever flights and holidays programme for summer 17, including brand new route Costa Brava (Girona).  With this enhanced winter sun programme, Northern Ireland holidaymakers now have the best ever choice of destinations for their sunshine breaks.

 

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “This is more exciting news for Northern Ireland as we further expand our winter sun programme from Belfast International Airport.  These are some of our most popular destinations so we’re thrilled to be giving our loyal local customers even more opportunities to visit throughout the year.”

 

Graham Keddie managing director at Belfast International Airport added: “Jet2.com’s and Jet2holidays’ continued expansion at Belfast International Airport underlines their commitment to the local market. We are delighted that they have been able to increase their flying programme giving local holidaymakers an expanded choice direct from their local airport.”

 

Additional winter sun flying information:

 

  • Alicante – 12 additional flights with the Saturday flight now available throughout the year.
  • Faro: 16 more flights, including February half term services.
  • Gran Canaria: 6 additional flights with the weekly service now operating for the full season.
  • Lanzarote: 9 additional flights with the Wednesday and Saturday flights now operating for the full season.
  • Palma: 6 additional flights.
  • Tenerife: 9 additional flights with the Tuesday and Friday flights now operating for the full season.

 

For further information and to book visit www.jet2.com or www.jet2holidays.com

 

FRANCE IS TOPS FOR EUROS TRAVEL

colours for guidelinesThere is little doubt Europe’s biggest footballing event the Euros, are on and people are still seeking great deals to get to France.

 

So this week I have had a little look to see where the best deals are to get you across the sea to France. Yes I know we are leaving it a little late, but there will be some who have just decided to go.

Rather than spend countless hours searching ferry companies individually, here is a great idea for you. WWW.AFERRY.CO.UK is the best online portal for ferry prices and timetables.

LEADING ferry company, Stena Line, is getting a Christmas makeover this year complete with a historic name change to Santa Line across its European Network.  Not only that, they also celebrated by giving one of their ships in Gothenburg a festive new look for the day and are introducing a fun app which customers can use to win prizes as they journey across the Irish Sea. Passengers can Ho Ho Go to their festive destinations in Ireland and Britain from only £79* for single car and driver with the widest choice of routes and sailings on the Irish Sea.  For more information or to book your very own Santa Line trip log onto www.stenaline.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/StenaLineUKIE/ or call 08447 70 70 70. Follow Stena Line on Twitter @StenaLineIE

LEADING ferry company, Stena Line, is getting providing ferry crossings from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

Even if you can’t get a ticket, to get into the ground there will be a wide range of open air screens for Euro fans to view the match and enjoy the French atmosphere.

AFerry has done the hard work for you. Visit their Euro 2016 Ferry Guide to find the best ferry ports for each match, and see the best prices for convenient ferry route.

AFerry.co.uk is The Travel Gateway’s leading online ferry brand, which features real-time comparison technology for ferries, generating over 55 million unique visitors per year and over 3,000 bookings per day. Founded in 1997, AFerry.co.uk has been an industry leader for nearly two decades and has strong relationships with ferry companies from across the globe.

Not only can AFerry.co.uk service all your UK ferry needs, but this handy site covers European, Asian and American routes too – over 1,800 routes around the world from over 140 ferry companies. With apps for iPhone and Android, and a website optimised for mobile, tablet and desktop devices you can compare and book ferries from wherever you are with ease.

ACCOMODATION ?

1-Logo_principal_LES CASTELSNow if accommodation is an issue and I know prices in hotels will be sky high so  try out some campsites. Le Castel is a company with a reputation for 5 star camping and accommodation at very competitive prices. When staying with Le Castel, you’re not in an ordinary place – you’re invited by an owner. Veritable “guest campgrounds,” the Les Castels sites have preserved the art of entertaining, as each owner is intent on offering you a familial and warm reception.

Green Awards

38_Camping_France_-_Castels_luxury_camping_in_FranceThe Green Key is an environmental seal of approval which has been awarded to Le Castel since 1998, run by la Fondation pour l’Education à l’Environnement [Foundation for Environmental Education]. It recognizes campsites, hotels and holiday rental cottages for their efforts to protect the environment, in the following areas: general environmental management, waste management, water management, energy management, environmental education and land development.

Some examples of action taken by the campsites to improve their green credentials:

  • Installation of heat pumps for heating the swimming pools
  • Installation of thermal solar panels to heat water for the bathroom blocks
  • Setting up light sensors for exterior lighting
  • Facilities for recycling, composting and compacting waste
  • Use of electric vehicles
  • Reusable carrier bags in the shops, instead of plastic bags…

So if the Euros are for you consider a trip with AFerry.co.uk and a great place to camp when in France.

Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens

Le_Coin_des_Artistes_-_Giverny1IMG_3211


The Final Part of my French trilogy ends with a visit to the holy grail of impressionist painters, well in my opinion anyway.

About an hours drive from Rouen, I arrived in Giverny, a small hamlet that is dedicated to one man, Claude Monet. Claude was a prolific painter and the founder of the impressionist movement. He started a following that continues to this day and it was one of his most famous paintings which has attracted more comment than any other.

The Lilly pond was painted in his garden and my trek around some of the impressionist areas of this beautiful part of France was indeed to culminate right there where it all began.

IMG_3209After finding my way to Giverny, I made my way to rue Claude Monet, could you really expect anything less?

And Into a beautiful little B&B called Les Coin des Artists.

This amazing B&B is like one of Monet’s paintings

A joy to behold, beautiful, perfectly scaled and in a delightful setting. I was situated in what was originally an outhouse but it has now been transformed into a 5 star ensuite room.

The beauty of this room was it was literally your own little property at B&B Prices. Expertly designed and beautifully furnished it is a real treat to stay in such a beautiful home.

 

baudyDinner

I didn’t stay for dinner, as I had spotted a little restaurant just down the road. l’Ancien Hôtel Baudy, 81 rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny www.restaurantbaudy.com

Hotel Baudy provided a number of menu options, a brasserie option at €14 and going up to a French Cuisine menu at €28, I had the standard brasserie option which was delightful, service was good and overall it was a very pleasant dining experience. The ting that makes this restaurant stand out, is the terrace in front of the hotel. I remember passing when returning to my B&B and it was packed with a queue of people waiting to sit. If you have an afternoon to spare watching the world and art lovers go buy this is indeed the spot for you.

 

pondMonet’s House

Nestled along the banks of the Seine Monet’s house and garden are world renowned thanks to the famous paintings they inspired.

Today, Monet’s House and Gardens at the Fondation Claude Monet have become an international pilgrimage site for garden enthusiasts and art lovers alike.

Here you can see as Monet saw, the beautiful and inspiring vista in his amazing garden’s.

The Monet Foundation has kept his home the way it was when he died, paintings adorn all the rooms and it’s clear this must have been a beautiful place to live and paint.

Birds twittering, the cool breeze gently saying the trees on the banks of the Seine and dragon flies, landing on the lilies on the pond. This is truly an inspirational place.

Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 when there, he set about transforming the abandoned house that he bought, into a floral masterpiece and it was here where he found the inspiration for many of his greatest works of art.

Monet was not only a painter of his own gardens but also an artist whose painting trips took him away for lengthy periods of time. However, he was never really far from his famous Lily pond.

Through constant correspondence, he kept a close eye on his family and his flowers. Frequent visits from his friends and admirers made Giverny the centre of his existence until his death in 1926.

As I sat in his garden overlooking the lily pond, it was so easy to imagine that this great painter not only sat in the same spot painting his masterpiece, but he had the foresight to design the gardens in the first place.

For me visiting Monet’s home was one of those bucket list moments, you turn a corner and there it is a truly special place that no one should miss if they can. www.fondation-monet.com/en/

RYANAIR LAUNCHES NEW BELFAST ROUTES TO GDANSK, WARSAW & WROCLAW

ryanair-aircraft-(2)Ryanair, Europe’s No.1 airline, today (27 Apr) further expanded its Belfast winter 2016 schedule with 3 new routes to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, as well as extra daily flights (5) to London Gatwick, which will deliver over 1m customers p.a. and support 750* jobs at Belfast International Airport.

 

Ryanair’s Belfast W 2016 schedule will deliver:

3 based aircraft

10 new routes to: Alicante (2 wkly), Berlin (3 wkly), Gdansk (2 wkly), Krakow (3 wkly), Lanzarote (2 wkly),

Malaga (3 wkly), Milan (2 wkly), Tenerife (2 wkly), Warsaw (2 wkly) & Wroclaw (2 wkly)

More flights to: London Gatwick (5 daily)

11 routes in total

60 weekly flights

Over 1m customers p.a.

750* “on-site” jobs p.a.

 

These new Belfast routes make Ryanair the perfect choice for NI business and leisure customers, who can now choose from 11 Belfast routes in winter 2016 at the lowest fares and look forward to further improvements, under Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” programme, which includes more new routes, new digital features, new cabin interiors and even more low fares.

 

Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said:

 

“We are pleased to launch 3 new routes from our Belfast base to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, as part of our winter 2016 schedule, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, and the extra flights to London Gatwick (5 x daily), which will deliver over 1 million customers p.a. and support 750 jobs at Belfast International Airport. Our new Polish routes will be ideal for both business and leisure customers and we look forward to growing routes, traffic and jobs in Belfast in the coming months and years.

 

To celebrate, we are releasing seats for sale from just £19.99 our new Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw routes, which are available for booking until Wednesday (4 May) for travel in November and December. Since these amazing low prices will be snapped up quickly, customers should log onto www.ryanair.com and avoid missing out.”

 

Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: 

 

“This is more fantastic news from Ryanair. It means that this winter should be one of our busiest ever. Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw follow Krakow and deliver a very comprehensive network to a new and important Polish market.

We currently stand as the eleventh largest airport in the UK, but I expect that with continuing airline expansion and growth in passenger numbers, we will break into the ‘Top Ten’ before too long. The airport is delivering real economic benefit for Northern Ireland and that means new employment and business opportunities.

These new Polish routes are delivered without any government support and show only a fraction of what could be achieved if APD were removed. Despite this ‘headwind’, we’re making great progress and have reason to believe we can maintain the momentum.”

First Quarter Results – Aferry.co.uk sees increased sales

colours for guidelinesThe online retailer Aferry.co.uk, the world’s leading ferry website, has seen a very encouraging growth of +16% in the first quarter of 2016.  This comes on the back of excellent sales in 2015 and the signs are good for the rest of the year, ex – UK and across Aferry’s global markets.

In the UK, bumper growth is particularly noticeable on the Western Sea routes which are selling very well, as are North Sea crossings, particularly Harwich to the Hook of Holland..  The Irish Sea is stable with a similar picture to this time last year, as is the short route to Calais. 

The increase in sales is being attributed of the various technological developments that have been taking place on the Aferry co.uk site as well as stronger distribution and partnerships.  Particularly useful for the consumer is the new flexi-fare option available on the site and the multi-route extension which allows customers to travel outbound on one route with one carrier and then return with another carrier on a different route.  These facilities are new for 2016.

Kirsty Laifa, UK Head of Sales commented, ‘We are very happy with this excellent start to 2016 and all signs for the rest of the year are good.  Crossings with DFDS and Brittany Ferries are doing particularly well on the Western Channel, which is no surprise – this is like starting holiday with a cruise!’

Aferry.co.uk is available in 28 languages, and takes more than a million individual bookings each year. More and more bookings are being made via mobile platforms and the app has more than 500,000 downloads – a figure that is also increasing. Aferry has the widest choice of destinations, works with over 140 operators and there are 1,800 routes to choose from, with new routes being added all the time. As well as routes in Europe and North Africa, ferry tickets for Australia, New Zealand, Asia and established routes in USA and Canada can also be purchased.

Aferry also caters for the travel trade with an increase in agents using their long established www.aferryagent.com system allowing immediate access to all routes from one easy to use engine.

Competition – anyone downloading the AFerry app before 30th June 2016 will be automatically entered into the prize draw to win an iPad Pro

McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl

 

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I’m a great supporter of this small part of the world; Northern Ireland has produced so many great things and people and continuing on this theme I was delighted and honoured to be invited on the inaugural Official McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl. As one might imagine, this is a different take on a very popular theme.

Devised by two of Northern Irelands finest coach tour operators, Caroline and Ronnie McComb from Co Antrim, they have put together a tour of some of the best food producers and restaurants our country has to offer. My Grubcrawl commenced in Glengall Street in Belfa
st.

I boarded my coach and straight away I realised I was in good company. A pristine Mercedes coach with Wi-Fi, full leather seats, TV and a fridge. Clearly this was a cut above the rest!

DSC_0044_3We left Belfast and headed in to the beautiful hills of Co Down where country butter is handmade is made for some of the most prestigious shops and restaurants in the UK. The only interest of Abernathy’s is to create an unforgettable taste and flavour as far removed from mass-produced butter as night is from day. No Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda of even Waitrose, these artisan makers have taken the bold step of staying authentic, special and they refuse to go mass market. Available from small local farm shops to Fortnum & Masons.

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ABERNETHY BUTTER is appreciated by the best Michelin starred restaurants from Heston Blumenthal’s, The Fat Duck to Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge. And yes it’s all done in Dromara in Co Down. 271_Butter-1000x540-978x528

Watching Alison and Will present their craft to the people on my tour, was truly inspiring. Their passion, commitment and pride in their product shone through. They are dedicated crafts people who are committed to a perfect product. Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods. The cream is bought from a local farmer, who lets his cows graze on the green fields in the Lagan valley and pasturises his own milk.

IMG_3659The cream is churned until it separates into butter and buttermilk. Then the butter is put into a large bowl and washed by hand until the water runs clear. This is to remove all the buttermilk, (which would sour the butter if left in) The only thing they add to the butter is a pinch or two of salt. The butter is then patted by hand out into rolls ready for wrapping.

 

SECRET TO SUCCESS

271_Butter-1000x540-978x528The secret to their success is nothing. Because they add nothing to their product, no rubbish, no additives, nothing other than pure goodness, love and respect to a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years and a small pinch of salt.

Will and Alison are ambassadors for this part of the world, better than any trade mission or politician up in the big house, these are ordinary decent people who have and continue to promote Ulster in the best possible way.

Make sure you visit their wonderful workshop. See http://abernethybuttercompany.com

 

kilmegan cider-logo


ElderflowerCiderThe second stop on my Grubcrawl was the amazing Kilmegan cider based in Dundrum, Co Down. Under a wall of brambles, some twenty feet high, in 1967 Maurice Boyd discovered an old orchard that had been planted some seventy years previously beside the old farmhouse he had purchased.

With the back drop of the majestic Mourne Mountains near the village of Dundrum. In 2009 Andrew and Karen decided to try and make a batch of cider.

 

Using a strong bucket and a 4” wooden fence post, they laboured for hours to mash up enough apples to put into his fathers old wine press and they produced a gallon or two of juice. They carefully placed the juice into a demijohn, adCfhNI0RWQAEY3MWd some champagne yeast, stuck on an airlock and let nature take its course.

A few months later the juice had cleared, fermentation had stopped and hey presto the first batch of Kilmegan cider was made.

Tasting fresh and crisp and as natural a product as you could wish for and using no added acids, sugar, water or concentrates this was REAL CIDER.

You might see a theme here, and as with Abernathy’s butter, less is definitely more. Although Kilmegan is now using a proper apple mill and rack and cloth press their principles have not changed.

As Andrew said “Get the proper blend of apples, extract the juice, ferment and leave to mature for six to eight months and there you have it, pure real cider made with 100% fresh pressed juice, you will taste the difference.” So if you are after the taste of real cider check out kilmegancider.com.

ITS FOOD TIME 

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Sitting on the Killinchy Road just outside Comber is a superb little restaurant called The Poachers Pocket. This is one of three gastro pubs that Danny Millar is in charge of. A chef with impeccable lineage he has brought, his winning ways to Lisbane, just outside Comber.

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My beautiful starter, whitebait, breads, pate and chutney

A superb pub which retains it authentic pub craic front of house, and behind the frosted glass is a world of superb food. Its not hard to understand why McCombs Grubcrawl included this fine eatery on their new Grubcrawl. The food service and surroundings are superb. Ill be back again and again.

So good is this place I will let some of their accolades speak for themselves.

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Just some of the their accolades

 

 

 

 

If you want to see some amazing places in Northern Ireland, sample some of the finest products this wonderful country has to offer and eat in some of its best eateries, then you need to take a McCombs Grubcrawl. I know I will definitely be back on a tour before to long. Visit http://www.mccombscoaches.com/

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