THE PADCASTER

Whenever I am out doing press trips I have my iPhone 5s and my iPad with me.
I use both these pieces of equipment for taking all my photographs and video.
No doubt some of you will be saying how do you  keep the camera so steady when you’re using your iPhone and your iPad?
Well there’s a simple answer I used the Padcaster.
What is a Padcaster?
Its a rugged aluminium frame with tons of threaded holes around it and a flexible insert that holds your iPad nice and snug.
It  works with all versions of the iPad, iPad Air and now iPad mini!
It comes with a frame, insert, a lens bracket and step-down ring, four screws to hold it in place, and a cold-shoe adapter that you can pop your favourite light or mic into.
Best of all its safe.
I did use a device called a Makayama, but I have found it to be not as good as this.

SUMMER FAMILY FUN AT VILA VITA PARC, ALGARVE

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·         Learning holidays and family fun with VILA VITA Parc and Zoomarine
·         Play with Dolphins in the Algarve
·         Special movie nights for children

VILA VITA Parc the leading luxury hotel and resort in the Algarve, is offering families the ‘Ultimate Luxury Family Experience’. With plenty of sunshine and under three hours away from London, it is the perfect summer getaway to enjoy with the family.

This summer VILA VITA Parc is teaming up with Zoomarine, to create a unique and exclusive experience – ‘Explore and Discover’. Children staying at the hotel will enjoy privileged access to the park and backstage, as well as educational and zoological presentations. For the ultimate sea life adventure, there is the Dolphin Premium Experience, where children will enjoy a special interaction with these beautiful and friendly animals.

Set on a prime cliff top location within 54 acres of lush subtropical gardens, VILA VITA Parc has recently completed an extensive refurbishment. The hotel offers families an array of accommodation options, including the brand new Deluxe Rooms and wonderful ‘Masterpiece’ Villas, with spectacular views over the ocean, and the always popular Oasis Family Suites.

With eight restaurants and seven bars onsite, one of which is the 2 Michelin starred Ocean restaurant, there is plenty of choice for everyone. Whilst children enjoy the various activities on offer, there are options for the adults as well including a VITAL spa, three tennis courts, volleyball court, boccia lanes, mountain bike hire, nine hole pitch and putt, 18 hole putting green and several 18 hole championship golf courses nearby.

As well as ‘Explore and Discover’, there are various other activities for children to keep them amused, including the Annabella’s Kids Parc, watersports, surfing lessons and much, much more. Not to be missed are the special children’s movie nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During the day take to the ocean for snorkelling and diving, where children will experience Portugal’s largest natural reef.

The Family Fun Package is valid until 31 October 2014 and includes:

·         Half-board for the entire family during the whole stay (excluding beverages, maximum 2 adults and 2 children 4-12 years old)
·         Fresh seasonal fruit, a bottle of mineral water and a special VIP amenity for the children in the room on arrival
·         Make your own pizza: cooking lesson for children (4-12 years old)
·         A one day pass to Zoomarine or to Slide & Splash Water Park for the family
·         Free use of the Annabella´s Kids Parc facilities during the stay including weekly activities for children ages 4-12.
·         Free use of indoor/outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, saunas, steam bath, tepidarium and EnerGYM fitness room.
·         Free use of our 9-hole Pitch&Putt golf course, 18-hole Putting Green (clubs and balls are available at a charge) and 18-hole crazy golf
·         Service & VAT

Stay at VILA VITA Parc for four nights with the Family Fun package in a Deluxe Room for 2 adults and 1 child from £950. Prices include VAT at the current legal taxes.

For bookings contact: www.vilavitaparc.com / reservas@vilavitaparc.com Tel: +351 282 310 161

STENA LINE ACQUIRES DIRECT ROUTE FROM IRELAND TO FRANCE

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Leading European ferry company Stena Line has acquired the Irish-owned Celtic Link ferry service which operates from Rosslare-Cherbourg.  Celtic Link currently provides a three times weekly service between Ireland and France with the Mv Celtic Horizon, which can accommodate 1 000 passengers, 200 cars and 120 freight units.

Ian Davies, Stena Line’s Route Manager (Irish Sea South) said: “The acquisition of the Rosslare-Cherbourg route is a key strategic investment for Stena Line and one which will help stimulate and strengthen new and existing opportunities for trade and tourism between Ireland, France and beyond.  With confidence in the Irish economy strengthening, we see positive long term growth in tourist and freight traffic from the Continent as a real opportunity to help strengthen this economic growth further.  The Celtic Horizon will continue to operate a year- round service and we look forward to introducing the Stena Line experience to the vessel for our customers to enjoy.”

Michael McGrath, Stena Line’s Chief Operating Officer commented:  “This exciting investment represents an important milestone for Stena Line as for the first time in our history we will be able to offer a direct ferry link between the Republic of Ireland and the Continent.  We believe we can bring significant added value to the route with our wealth of industry experience and award winning customer service standards which we are confident will help to stimulate increased traffic volumes in the future.”

The all year round service currently operates 3 weekly sailings from Rosslare at 21.30 on Tuesday and Thursday with a Saturday sailing at 16.00.  From Cherbourg the schedule is 21.00 on Wednesday and Friday with a Sunday sailing at 16.00 with a journey time of approx 17 hrs.

Final details are currently being concluded around the acquisition and Stena Line hopes to be in a position to take over the running of the service with effect from Monday 31st March 2014.

Now this is a blooming good deal !

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Discover the acclaimed flower show with Travel Solutions

Travel Solutions, Northern Ireland’s leading independent tour operator, is offering a great value break that will delight any aspiring Alan Titchmarsh.  Departing on May 23 for three days and from just £399 pps, horticultural enthusiasts can enjoy return flights to London Gatwick, 2 nights’ accommodation at the 3* Thistle City Barbican in London including breakfast, entry to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, coach transfers throughout and the services of a tour manager.  The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is renowned for its world famous show gardens, floral exhibits, awards and superb shopping.   Enthusiasts can discover a diverse array of plants in the spectacular Great Pavillion, take in the cutting edge design from leading gardeners, garden designers, plant producers and much much more.   For more information or to book, please call Travel Solutions on 028 9045 5030, click on www.travel-solutions.co.uk or visit your local travel agent.

LOCAL TOUR OPERATOR OFFERS HOLIDAYMAKERS A MALTA – TEASER

Malta pic 1Travel Solutions expands air division with introduction of new destination

Northern Ireland’s leading independent specialist tour operator Travel Solutions has expanded its recently-launched air division with the introduction of a brand new destination for local holidaymakers.

The picturesque island of Malta is the latest addition to the company’s ever growing range of holiday and short break destinations with three new flight packages available direct from Belfast International Airport in February next year.
The three-night breaks which start at just £189pps include direct return flights from Belfast International Airport, return airport transfers and accommodation with breakfast at the 4* Cavalieri Hotel or 5* Radisson Blu in St Julians.

Travel Solutions Managing Director Peter McMinn believes that Malta is the perfect spot for a short break or holiday.

“We are delighted to add Malta to our expanding list of holiday destinations for the Northern Ireland holidaymaker,” said Mr McMinn.  “It’s a beautiful country, steeped in culture and history and offers tourists the chance to explore fascinating towns such as Valletta which was built by knights in 1566 and the medieval walled town of Mdina, also known as the Silent City.

“Malta’s beautiful scenery and picturesque villages mean that it is widely regarded as a film maker’s paradise and a long list of well know movies have been filmed there, including Gladiator with Russell Crowe, the Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks, Troy with Brad Pitt and Alexander with Colin Farrell,” he added.

“At Travel Solutions, we are always looking for new and exciting options for local holidaymakers and destinations that offer something a little bit different at an affordable price.  Malta fits the bill perfectly,” concluded Peter.

Established in 1996, Travel Solutions is an award-winning specialist tour operator, offering a wide range of air and coach holidays, short and long, to a growing customer base throughout Ireland.

Working with well established, professional transport and accommodation suppliers, the company carries approximately 30,000 holidaymakers annually to an ever growing range of destinations and special events.

For more information on the company’s entire range of air holidays or to make a booking, holidaymakers should call Travel Solutions on 028 9045 5030, click on www.travel-solutions.co.uk or visit their local travel agent.

Ten interesting facts about Malta

Did you know…?

1.      The average yearly temperature is around 23 °C (73 °F) during the day and 16 °C (61 °F) at night.

2.      Malta covers just over 122 sq miles, making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries.

3.      Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.

4.      Malta has seven UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation) World Heritage Sites, most prominently the Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

5.      Both Maltese and English are official languages of Malta.

6.      Although there is a well-known breed of dog called the Maltese, Malta’s national dog is actually the Pharaoh Hound, with a sleek tan coat and a profile resembling ancient Egyptian statues.

7.      Many people with an interest in ancient myths and legends believe Malta to be part of the Lost City of Atlantis.

8.      Malta is the most successful country never to have won the Eurovision Song Contest, having come 2nd twice (in 2002 and 2005) and 3rd twice (in 1992 and 1998).

9.      The country has been given the nickname “the land of honey”, partially due to its large production of honey thanks to an endemic species of bee living on the island.

10.  Since 1925 when the first film was shot in Malta (Sons of the Sea), Malta has welcomed over 100 feature films entirely or partially.

Surprise yourself in the Isle of Man

Citywing-logo-aboveA great many of us pass over the Isle of Man every time we travel to the mainland  or further afield to Europe. A couple of weeks ago I decided to  visit  Mann as its known and spend a few days in this very quaint part of the British Isles.

I travelled direct with Citywing (www.citywing.com) direct from Belfast harbour airport on one of their 19-seater aircraft. I am a hopeless claustrophobic but actually found this a very pleasant way to travel and the size of the craft did not bother me at all. Citywing offers exceptional fares on routes to the Isle of Man, Blackpool, Gloucester (M5), Newcastle and Jersey.

citywing1Belfast to the Isle of Man starts from £29.95, and they have up to 4 flights a day. They also fly onwards to Blackpool daily, with up to two flights a day with fares starting at £59.95 for this one. Citywings timetable is specifically designed to provide flights at times customers actually want to fly at. For business travellers, they offer a choice of early departures and late returns, while leisure passengers can take advantage of flights that are conveniently timed for onward travel with the leading low-cost airlines – meaning you can easily book with Citywing to escape to some of Europe’s top destinations. For more see (www.citywing.com)

The Isle of Man has been inhabited since before 6500 BC and it was one of the six Celtic nations. It’s a self-governing British Crown dependency which have their own government called Tynwold and the Manx people claim that this is the oldest continuously existing ruling body in the world.

They have their own laws and importantly their own taxation system, and interestingly it’s the only country in Europe that does not have any debt!

So their local form of government could show the rest of us a thing or two about managing finances!IMG_1536

Due to the very generous tax laws, many celebrities still retain residency on the Isle of Man in order to benefit from their tax system.

 

The Isle of Man is 32 miles long and its widest point and approximately 14 miles wide it has an area of around 221 mi²The latest interim population census was completed in 2006 and it showed that it was home to about 80,000 people, of that; approximately 30,000 reside in the islands capital Douglas.

 

My previous impression of the Isle of Man was that it was dull, boring and a place that you should only ever go to once. Well I was indeed wrong.

 

The Isle of Man has a pace of life that is without doubt slower than most others, they don’t rush they don’t panic they just “let it be”.

 

When you visit the doctor and he or she tells you: “not to sweat the small stuff” or  “take a chill pill” what I think they mean is visit the Isle of Man. As soon as you step of the plane your worries slip away, your heart rates starts to reduce and you feel a sense of calm invade your body.

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I visited in the middle of September, the holiday season had all but come to an end and visitor numbers were starting to diminish, but it was none the less a nice time to be there. I stayed at the Empress Hotel, which is located right in the centre of the Promenade (www.theempresshotel.net).

 

The Empress commands a wonderful view of Douglas Bay and is a short walk from the town centre; it’s a perfect place to stay whether visiting the Isle of Man for Business or Leisure.

Recently the hotel has been extensively upgraded and maintains its status as one of the best hotels on the Island. This impressive hotel boasts 102 bedrooms including 3 executive suites with separate lounge area, a number of executive sea facing rooms and a fantastic top floor penthouse overlooking the whole of Douglas Bay.

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All of the bedrooms are fully equipped with the comforts of home. Luxurious en-suite marble bathroom, complimentary refreshments, LCD flat screen televisions, hairdryer, trouser press and Free Wi-Fi.  Apart from great rooms and stunning views the Empress is also a great place to dine as well. With 3 different restaurants to eat in, you will be spoilt for choice. The Conservatory, located on the upper ground floor with spectacular views of the bay, offers a traditional à la Carte menu, including fresh locally caught fish and mouth watering grills. “Aroma” ‘Eat as much as you Like Buffet’ was clearly a hit with the locals as it was packed every night and the Piano bar.

 

Most of us will has seen a picture of the famous horse trams that run along the promenade in Douglas. The Trams are the world’s oldest surviving facility and they started in 1876 and have run ever since (except the war years). The trams run between the Manx Electric Railway station, along Douglas Promenade to the Sea Terminal, a distance of just two miles and they are great fun and provide a very useful function.

 

The Isle of Man is a railway enthusiast’s paradise the extensive railway system has plenty to offer. There are more than 60 official stations or stops on the network which provides a perfect opportunity to hop off and explore some of the Island’s most stunning glens and coastal areas.

 

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Steam railway service

The Island also features a regular steam railway service, which is the longest narrow gauge steam line in Britain and was opened in 1874.  The three-foot narrow gauge railway still runs with its original locomotives and carriages through the Island’s charming countryside between the Island’s capital and a range of destinations in the south.  

If by now you have been left wanting more, then the Snaefel Mountain Railway is sure to quench that thirst.  This unique Victorian enterprise, which is around five miles long, has been in operation since 1895 and is the only electric mountain railway in the British Isles as well.

You can start your journey in Douglas or in the pretty village of Laxey on the east coast. En route you’ll be able to see the Laxey glens and Lady Isabella – Laxey’s water wheel – as well as The Bungalow, a famous TT landmark and only other stop on the line.

 

Once you have reached Snaefell’s summit, at 2,036 feet above sea level, you may be able to see some, or all, of the Seven Kingdoms – England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the kingdoms of heaven and the sea. Unfortunately the day I visited the mist and clouds had come in and I could barely see my hand in front of me, but the summit café more than made up for that.

 

There are no roads to the summit of Snaefell but there are a number of paths that lead to the Bungalow, and Laxey, for those visitors who want to make their own way up or down.
You’ll never be short of something to see and do during your visit to the Isle of Man whether you’re looking for action packed fun or the opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the countryside its all there for you. Its certainly a true adventure playground for lovers of the great outdoors, the Island’s varied terrain and extensive coastline lends itself perfectly to those who want to get their blood pumping.Rushen Abbey Crown Copyright

Whether you’re a thrill seeker who wants to try your hand at watersports, a mountain biker keen to explore some of the best trails in the British Isles or a walker keen to scale the challenging coastal footpaths – you’ll find an activity to suit. Don’t forget to look out for the wildlife which calls the Island home! Of course, if you are there at the right time you can join in with the world famous TT races.

When you’ve exhausted yourself during the day you’ll find an extensive year round programme of arts and cultural entertainment so you can relax watching a play, a live musician in session or watching the latest Blockbuster.

Other suggestions

Castle Rushen

Located in the ancient capital of the Isle of Man, Castletown, this impressive fortress was once home to the Kings and Lords of Mann.

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The picturesque village of Cregneash was one of the last strongholds of the traditional customs, crafts, and skills, which characterised the Manx crofter’s way of life.

Laxey Wheel

Designed by the Victorian engineer Robert Casement, the wheel was built in 1854 to pump water from Glen Mooar, which was part of the Great Laxey Mines industrial complex.

 

Beaches

The Island has a fantastic range of beaches to visit and there are simply too many to list. Visit http://www.visitisleofman.com for more information.

 

Everything taken into account my return to the Island after quite a number of years was enjoyable. I honestly thought I was going to be bored stiff, but it was really a pleasant surprise to find the island so enjoyable.

My taxi driver who, was originally from Northern Ireland and who took me back to the airport for my flight home summed it up for me. “I came here 30 years ago as a relief driver, I am so glad I stayed. It’s a wonderful place to live, where quality of life really means quality life”

If you fancy a great break away from the humdrum, give the Island a visit you might be very surprised at how relaxing it can be.

SENSATORI SHARM EL SHEIKH

 SENSATORI SHARM EL SHEIKH.

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The Amazing Sensatori resort in Sharm

375517_442042202516052_957256065_aWhen people go away on Holiday, there are always concerns wherever you go. Security, is it safe, food, will it be clean, weather, will it be good etc.

Since the Arab spring uprisings, a number of popular tourist destinations have been affected, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, The Middle East and more recently Egypt. The FCO in the UK have advised caution and refuse to allow holidaymakers into Cairo, but Sharm El Sheikh remains largely unaffected. The Department of Foreign affairs in Dublin has only this week lifted the ban on Sharm but with strong warnings.

As the political situation has caused a lot of issues for the Irish travel industry, I decided to pop down to Sharm to see for myself just how bad or good things actually were. I travelled with Falcon Holidays on a weeklong all-inclusive package direct from Belfast International.

My flight was approx. 5.5 hours and went in with minimal fuss. I had pre-booked extra legroom seats and this made the journey extremely comfortable for me.
Thomson flight crew were superb and the flight few by.  On arrival at Sharm El Sheikh airport, we were met by our Thomson Holiday representative and driven the short distance (15 minutes) to the Sensatori resort in Sharm El Sheikh.
I had never been to a Sensatori resort before, so this was going to be a new experience for me.
This smart 5 * rated beachfront hotel is just metres from the Red Sea and comes with all the Sensatori trademarks: from top-class restaurants to lots of different room types, amazing service great food, Spa’s etc.
In a nutshell Sensatori’s goal is to make you feel as comfortable as possible and if there is anything the staff can do to make you feel better they will (within reason).

 

Resort Team
The Thomson resort team is managed by Diane Bellamy, a lady who’s job it is, is to make your holiday as fantastic as possible.
She doesn’t just, work for Thomson holidays, she lives for the customer. You need it, need information or require something, she’s there to “I’ll sort that for you”.
Want advice on taxis, trips, local places to eat (not that you need to eat off resort), shopping, medical, tourist guides you name it she has the information.
Diane is very much a part of the Sharm resort experience and she is there every day, behind the scenes, making sure your holiday is a success.Following some fun snorkelling at the in resort Ocean Dive Centre, I did the VIP boat trip organised by the resort. At £50 it was a superb day out, a full day excursion to Tiran Island and Shark bay with three snorkelling sites and a BBQ lunch on board.
What a trip it was truly amazing.

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So what’s included?
The Sensatori resorts all Inclusive deal means, meals and snacks are included, and you get locally produced drinks from 10 am to midnight. (
You can also upgrade to international-brand drinks when you arrive for an extra charge)  To be honest why would you?

Breakfast is served in the main restaurant (FOUNTAIN VIEW), while dinner is included in four of the six eateries, and lunch in two.
Room service is also available at a small charge.
Meals
My first impression when I arrived at the main restaurant for lunch was somewhat flavoured by the fact that there were hand sanitizers’ adjacent to the doors both outside and inside. Initially I thought that this was quite an unusual thing to see in the resort and I assumed that there might be a hygiene issue. How wrong was I?
After realising that in large holiday resorts it’s generally the guests who bring the bugs in to the restaurants and not the staff. Thomson holidays encourage all their resorts to use hand sanitizers and when you think about it logically, it is a truly magnificent idea as it ensures that all the people touching the buffet utensils, handling plates and eating in restaurants (provided they sanitise their hands) minimises the risk for all concerned.

Staff also advised guests to go sparingly on the ice because of the heat outside. You see our stomachs get quite warm in 40 °C so if we take on board a lot of ice it does tend to upset the constitution.
Thomson holidays have in my opinion acted very cleverly on this issue and are seriously proactive about cleanliness and health consequently whilst I was in the resort I suffered no “problems” at all.

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Accommodation
The rooms at Sensatori Resort Sharm El Sheikh have a contemporary luxurious feel. They come with high-end touches like whirlpool baths, plasma TVs and iPod docking stations, plus handy bits and pieces like tea and coffee-making facilities, irons and ironing boards. To really up the ante, you can pay extra for a room with a pool or sea view, or book a superior room in the adults-only section of the hotel. Sensatori resorts really do think about your options when on holiday. I paid the upgrade and had a swim up room with a sea view, this meant I literally had my own private pool at the end of my patio and after that; there was the beautiful red sea.The room was spotless, luxury Egyptian cotton and towels, beautiful fittings whirlpool bath and room service worth of the Savoy in London or the Ritz in Paris. I did pay extra to have Wi-Fi in my room, but there is free wi-fi available in resort.  Is not just the wonderful area, the views, the weather, the amazing entertainment, the fantastic food, the great flight, its very much the about the staff too. My room had the same staff member looking after me for the week “Ragab” was quite literally there for me the whole time. He serviced my room, checked to see if everything was perfect, not just ok or right but perfect.  Obviously I wanted to “tip” this commensurate professional and I asked him to make sure he saw me before I left for home. His response was remarkable. “ No need Sir, my payment is just making sure you are happy and that you have had a good time ” Wow!
The staff really do want to ensure you have a great time, if they can make your stay better they will do what they can to make this a truly Sensatori experience.

 

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Room Upgrades
Thomson also offer Family rooms, Whirlpool rooms, Suites and Sensatori Suites.
Family Rooms
These sleep up to 2 adults and 2 children with a king-size bed and two day beds. There’s a sliding partition between each sleeping area for added privacy. They’re also available as swim-up rooms.
Swim up rooms
These rooms let you go from your room to the water in seconds. They’re also available in adult, family or suite varieties and you can book them on the beachfront, so you get sea views as well. Swim-up pools are acclimatised in winter.
Whirlpool Rooms
When you book one of these rooms your balcony will come with an al fresco whirlpool bath. They’re also available for families.

Suites
These rooms come with a separate lounge area and a king-sized bed. They’re also available as family suites, family swim-up suites, and Sensatori suites, which are the most luxurious of all our room types.

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The Golden Menace (the Sun)
Sitting in the sun’s rays for long periods of time can be extremely harmful to your skin and in some cases could be deadly. The sun is particularly strong in Egypt and can get up to 50°C so you do have to be very careful. This is where your sun cream becomes a lifesaver.
At the Sensatori resort they have a “Cream Box Swap”. If you arrive on resort with out sun protection you simply call in with the Thomson crew and they will let you take some left over creams from the “Cream Box Swap”, alternatively if you are going home and don’t want to take an opened bottle, pop it in the “Cream Box Swap” and leave it for someone else. The box contains Sun Cream after sun and mosquito repellent.

I also brought with me a “Zap It” Mosquito Bite Relief Device. (www.myzapit.com) Wherever you go in the world you can’t avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and as I am a rather large target, the little blighters managed to get me a few times. Repellents may help, but mosquitoes always get through to you. ZapIt inhibits the histamine build-up under the skin which relieves the discomfort and urge to scratch, which in turn ensures that a bite doesn’t become inflamed or septic. A few people inquired as to how my device worked and its really quite simple. The ZapIt works by the rapid expansion and contraction of crystals that takes place when you press the activating button. This creates a harmless impulse, similar in effect to a mild static electricity charge. If you have not seen these devices I urge you to try it, it saved me a lot of pain.

  SENSATORI DINING
The food being offered in the Sensatori resort was exceptional. Extensive range and exceptional quality is the best way to describe it. As part of the “all inclusive” package, dinner was available in:
FOUNTAIN VIEW – the main buffet restaurant, which served a mix of local and international dishes. This restaurant was vast, but the food and service was exceptional hundreds of dishes expertly prepared, It would be impossible not to find anything you liked in here. Exceptional quality

MARHABA – a Middle Eastern restaurant, which offered up a taste of the exotic, I ate in here twice and loved the experience, again super food, great service. Deserts to die for!

CASA BIANCA – an Italian eatery with a classic menu, this was one of the most popular restaurants in the whole resort and quite hard to get into. I know why because it was fantastic. The general restaurant manager MELUD, I hope I have spelt his name correctly was a star.  Nothing was too much bother for him. The food was outstanding and I would return to Egypt just to eat there.  Brilliant.

TIRAN DINER AND BEACH BAR – a beachfront diner that’s ideal for informal lunches and dinners. Its situated right on the beach, with an American diner type feel, burgers and salads etc. Food was great but it was hard to stay away from Casa Bianca.

Dining was also available at extra cost in 2 other restaurants…

STONEGRILL™ – a rooftop eatery that specialises in succulent steaks and seafood

IMG_1709IMG_1710IMG_0631GOKAN – an Asian, teppanyaki and sushi restaurant, a your all-inclusive status does not apply here apart from soft drinks. I didn’t eat there for one reason. The food was so good in the other all-inclusive restaurants why pay for great food, when it was included free in the other eateries?
Tea, coffee and light snacks are also served from midnight until 2am in the lobby bar.

Gentlemen are asked to wear long trousers in all restaurants at dinner. I can see their point, but if ladies could wear bikini bottoms and a see through sarong at dinner in 35 oC surely a smart pair of shorts would suffice on a man.

 

 

 

 

Swimming pool
The hotel has 6 swimming pools in total. Each one has a different vibe, so you can pick and choose based on your mood. Each one was spotless and great fun, the fitness instructor was really fit!
•    1 pool overlooking the beach, acclimatised in winter and surrounded by a sun terrace and lawns
•    1 activity pool, with things like Aqua Zumba
•    1 adults-only pool, as one person I spoke to thought it was “adult themes”, no sorry to disappoint, it meant no kids.
•    1 family pool, acclimatised in winter
•    2 children’s pools – one next to the main pool and another in the family zone. The latter comes with a sprayground, tipping buckets and water jets (cool for the kids and big dads)
•    1 horizon pool

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Entertainment
Once the sun goes down, the entertainment at Sensatori Resort Sharm El Sheikh starts up. Now you have been there, in a resort all the guests have eaten, the ladies have put on the makeup and are dressed as cougars.
The “international entertainment” starts and out comes a snake charmer or the Chippendales with woodworm. Entertainment can be quite ropey, but not in Sensatori.
When I was there a comedian called Patrick Monaghan was appearing, what a treat that was. As seen on the Paul O‘Grady show, BBC, Edinburgh fringe and many other appearances, he brought the house down. Another great entertainer who was there was Chris Tame a classically trained singer, again another top quality act.
Activities
Sensatori Resort Sharm El Sheikh certainly makes the most of its Red Sea Riviera address. The hotel has its own Ocean College dive centre, and a water sports centre that offers things like snorkelling and windsurfing. And the rooftop gym and Chavana spa come with great sea views.

chrisHere’s the full list of what you can expect if you want to get up off the sunbed.…
•    Volleyball
•    Snorkelling*
•    Windsurfing*
•    Yoga
•    Pilates
•    Tennis
•    Archery
•    Gym
•    Zumba
•    Indoor pool*
•    Turkish bath*
•    Sauna*
•    Steam room*
•    Spa treatments*
•    Ocean College dive centre*
•    Water sports centre*
•    Activities suitable for teenagers
*These facilities come at an extra charge
Sensatori For Families

PLAY HOUSE
At the Play House, daytime activities are anything but ordinary thanks to the Silly Science Lab, Crazy Kitchen and the Arts and Crafts Zone. Evenings, meanwhile, bring parties and movies, plus, you can pay a little extra for sleepovers. Finally, because all Play House and Nursery staff hold UK-accredited childcare qualifications, you’re guaranteed peace of mind.
•    Free IMG_1583supervised sessions for 3 to 12-year-olds are available 6 days a week for an hour or two. These sessions run between April and October and throughout the Christmas period
•    You can use the facilities as a family with our special ‘stay and play’ sessions, available 7 days a week
NURSERY
Toddlers and babies get their own multi-sensory nursery, which comes with the likes of flashing lights, tactile panels and a Little Land of Nod sleeping room.
•    For 0 to 4 year-olds
•    Morning and afternoon sessions, 7 days a week, all year round.
•    Nursery sessions cost extra and need to be pre-booked in the UK because of the strict child-to-staff ratio

After reviewing this holiday and writing up my experience I can honestly say it was the best package deal I have ever experienced in 25 years of traveling. The Sensatori experience was truly fantastic, everything was taken care of and all your senses were catered for: mind, body sprit, health and wellbeing.

The family staying in the room next to me summed it up for me.

Mark from Newcastle explained, “I’m fortunate enough to have travelled to many resorts, but I have returned here 6 times in two years, that says it all.”

 

 

VIDEO  GALLERY

 

 

 

Travel entrepreneur hailed as ‘King of the Castles’

Travel entrepreneur hailed as ‘King of the Castles’

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Belfast born entrepreneur, who specialises in providing online castle accommodation through www.celticcastles.com, is setting his sights on conquering the travel industry as the business marks its fifteenth anniversary and celebrates record growth.

Celtic Castles founder and director Roger Masterson, known as ‘The Castle Man’, a former pupil from MCB in Belfast, pursued careers in retail management and publishing, prior to setting up his own business, having being disappointed from a company brochure selling croft and castle holidays. Roger spent 18 months searching for castles in Scotland and started to promote four properties as he tested his business model.

It worked! Having built his company by recognising the power of the internet in the late 90s, Roger now employs a 12-strong team and offers accommodation in more than 90 unique and stunning castles across the UK, Ireland and France.

As the business accelerates, its goal is to further build on its leading global travel brand.  Masterson attributes his success to three factors: hard work, a great team and knowledge of the individual castle properties…..and yes, he has slept in them all!

Said Masterson, “It is an absolute privilege to work in this tourism niche and have a team of experts who can locate the right castle experience for our global client base. We celebrate great customer feedback within the team and it is our level of service and the fact that we stay, holiday and visit the castles regularly that helps our customers pick up our passion for the experiences these properties can offer.”

Masterson, ‘The Castle Man’, has also been able to increase brand awareness via TV and radio and has hosted programs such as Jaw Dropping Rentals, showing American customers the interiors of castles in Scotland. He also works with film location companies finding castles and stately homes for period and reality US TV shows.

A question he always gets asked is which is his favourite castle and his answer as you can imagine has to be diplomatic. He has slept in over 157 castles and is not afraid to tell customers if a castle is displaying 4 stars on the door but only offering a 3 service. This is probably why customers trust his feedback.

When pressed again, he says, “Every castle offers it own magic; they are all unique.” It may be a public room, a specific bedroom or an eccentric castle owner or even a great chef that gets him overly-enthusiastic and sharing a few stories. “It was my daughter’s 10th birthday last year and she wanted to be a princess in a castle. Since we were back home in Northern Ireland at the time, my choice was for her to be a princess at Ashford Castle in Mayo. We had dinner in the George V Dining Room, one of the premier castle restaurants in Ireland. For me, castle stays are all about the memories they give you for ever.”

You can read more about Roger and the team’s experiences in castles throughout Ireland, the UK and France on their blog at www.celticcastles.com.

HILLSBOROUGH CASTLE EXHIBITS OUTFITS WORN BY THE QUEEN

IMG_0988 A new exhibition of outfits worn by Her Majesty The Queen during recent state visits will open to the public at Hillsborough Castle tomorrow (1 August).

Among the collection are outfits worn Her Majesty during her Diamond Jubilee visit to Northern Ireland in June 2012, and during her historic visit to Dublin in May 2011.

Five of the six outfits on display and all six hats were designed by Angela Kelly LVO, personal assistant and senior dresser to The Queen since 2002. Angela also designed The Queen’s outfit for the wedding of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The sixth outfit was designed by Karl Ludwig, business partner of John Anderson who designed Her Majesty’s dresses from 1988 until 1996. Karl took over the mantle after John’s death in 1988 and The Queen still wears his designs today.

Welcoming the exhibition to Hillsborough Castle, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP said:

“It is always a great privilege to have Her Majesty The Queen’s outfits on display at Hillsborough Castle. This year we have secured the exhibition for an extra month so that many more visitors to the Castle will have the chance to admire the collection.”

 

“Hillsborough Castle is the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland, full of Royal and political history. I hope that both local people and tourists visiting the exhibition also take the opportunity to tour the beautiful house and gardens and find out for themselves why Hillsborough is so special.”

Members of the media were given a special preview of the exhibition today, with local fashionistas Lynne and Zara Beggs – owners of Hillsborough’s award winning boutique Candy Plum – plus Belfast milliner Grainne Maher and members of the Women’s Institute on hand to offer their expert opinion.

Commenting on the exhibition, Grainne Maher said:

“All six hats are a very similar, classic design with a short brim and fabric covered crown, and trimmed with arrowhead quills. Her Majesty obviously knows what she likes and Angela Kelly is an expert at reinventing the style over and over.”

 

Lynne Beggs said:
“Her Majesty clearly knows her style, which is simple but with an elegant and timeless twist. She wears a lot of bright colours that make her stand out in a crowd. It is important to have a designer and style that suits you, and in Angela Kelly The Queen most definitely has that.”

Following last year’s successful exhibition of formal gowns worn by The Queen at state occasions, this new collection will also be on display in the Throne Room at the Castle.

The exhibition runs from 1 August to 29 September 2013 with tours available at 2:00pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 4:00pm on weekday afternoons, and from 10:30am on Saturdays and 12 noon on Sundays.  Booking is strongly advised.  Group tours may be possible at other times, subject to the Castle’s diary.  For more information and to book, contact Hillsborough Castle on 028 9268 9406 or email hillsborough.castle@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk.

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