Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Infiniti Beach Resort - Vera Playa, Almería, Spain

We ended up at the Muthu Group’s Infiniti Beach Resort in Spain as a result of our having been falsely advised that there was no room this week at our preferred venue – Clube Praia da Oura. This frankly disgraceful episode has been related elsewhere, so I’ll not dwell upon it here. It has, at least, provided us with a useful opportunity to gather some information on this other resort.

What struck us at first about the IBR was its sheer smallness. When the driver told us we had arrived at our destination we were surprised, because we were half way along a street with no obvious sign of a holiday resort in evidence. Then we noticed the word “Recepción” inscribed modestly over the door of what appeared to be a house, and a sign bearing the MGM logo upon the opposite wall.

At the reception we were greeted by a friendly chap who gave us a map, and issued us with a key and a swipe card. The key provided access to the site itself and also, we later established, to both swimming pool areas. Infiniti Beach Resort is strictly off limits to all but its own staff and guests. The swipe card gave us access to our apartment, and is also need to enable some of the internal lights to be switched on. As there are two of us and we only had one key and one card this presented some obvious problems, but for a small deposit we were able to acquire a second key and card which resolved these issues.

The apartment is comparable to those at CPO, with the welcome pack arriving an hour or so after us, along with our towels and other sundries. It boasts all the usual mod cons including a tall fridge-freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, cooker, toaster, kettle, microwave, iron and of course flat screen TV.

On site there are two pools, both of them ample and both of which are well-used and popular without becoming crowded. One includes an appealing bar-restaurant at which one can purchase a wide range of food (during certain hours which are not noticeably specified), drinks including cocktails, ice creams and bar snacks. The staff are not English-speaking but are patient and helpful.

Other than the above there is nothing on site to compare with CPO’s extensive programme of activities and entertainment. It is simply not that kind of site, and as such any comparisons with CPO would be unfair. IBR provides a restful, family-friendly, holiday environment. Anything beyond that should be sought outside the site, and there are in effect two places to look – at the beach and in town, both of which are just minutes’ walk away. Restaurants, supermarkets, a bank, bars – some with evening entertainment – it’s all here, just not provided by MGM itself.

As said, comparisons with CPO would be inappropriate. As a holiday destination in its own right IBR has great appeal. Whether I would choose it over CPO is entirely another matter, it is really a question of horses for courses. But I would certainly come back.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to Friends of Clube Praia da Oura.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Last Minute Offers from Rookley Country Park, IOW

The following late offers are available at Rookley Country Park on the Isle of Wight from Island View Holidays:

19th – 22nd June
Medina Caravan 3 bedroom £89
Solent Caravan 3 bedroom £99
Wight Cottage 2 bedroom £129

22nd – 26th June
Medina Caravan 3 bedroom £89
Solent Caravan 3 bedroom £99
Wight Cottage 2 bedroom £129

Centrally located and set in 23 acres of beautiful parkland, Rookley Country Park is ideal for active families and a great base for exploring the Isle of Wight.

Rookley Country Park offers:

Indoor & outdoor heated pools
Bar & restaurant
Well stocked fishing lakes

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Petersham Hotel, Richmond

A hotel situated in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames might not seem the obvious holiday destination, least of all for those of us who live in the Great Wen, in our case less than a thirty minute walk away along the Thames towpath.

But as Greater London goes Richmond is certainly one the most leafy, natural and attractive venues and the Petersham Hotel, half way up Richmond Hill, stands proud overlooking some breathtaking scenery as the still-tidal Thames winds around Glover's Island and on towards Ham.

Just a short stroll from here are Richmond Park, Petersham Nurseries and Ham House, and during the warmer months a river ferry is available at an almost nominal cost across to Twickenham and Marble Hill Park. In the opposite direction is the popular town of Richmond itself, where most of the best known chains mingle seamlessly with designer outlets and coffee shops, some of which hide reclusively along mini Brighton-style lanes which link the High Street to the Green.

Staying at the Petersham Hotel is not a cheap night away. It is a quality venue - quality accommodation with quality food, quality service and quality prices. But it is a wonderful place to stay, whether for a night, a week or whatever. We opted for the discounted "Civilised Sunday" package which included English Breakfast and an evening meal from a set menu, which was still glorious. Whilst doing so we took the opportunity to peruse the stand-alone menu for dinner and what was on offer was more glorious still. The Petersham enjoys the services of celebrated chef Adebola Adeshina, who learned his trade under Gordon Ramsey and boasts more qualifications, awards and accolades than most normal folk could be bothered to read.


The rooms have all the mod cons as one would expect, with twins and doubles either with a scenic view of the river or, at a lower cost, facing the still-pretty woodland or the street. A penthouse suite is also available. The hotel offers honeymoon packages, hosts private events and offers ample conference facilities to suit most requirements.

As for the building itself, it is splendid. A lift is provided for those who wish to use it - for those who don't the stairwell is resplendent with art and artefacts. At the bottom scores of photographs signed and framed give some indication of how popular the hotel is and long has been with celebrities, actors and actresses, singers, musicians, politicians, sportspeople and sundry other household names.

Notithstanding the abundance of places of interest that lie within walking distance, the hotel is itself a good place to relax, with no shortage of lounges, balconies and bar areas. Cakes and teas are always available, as of course is champagne.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Belstead Brook Hotel, Ipswich

Albufeira it isn't, but having Infiniti Exit points to use up before 2015 ends we decided to spend a weekend at Muthu Hotels' solitary resort in the UK, at the perhaps unlikely location of Belstead Brook, just outside Ipswich in Suffolk.

It's not a place we would usually have visited. No personal issues with East Anglia, of course, but a horrible 115-mile drive, half of it around the M25, coupled with its lack of proximity to the sea renders it a slightly inhospitable alternative to the many coastal resorts from which we have to choose due south.

Nevertheless at a little over 10,000 Exit points for a long weekend we decided to go for it, and arrived here at about 6.30 in the evening after a long and windy day pounding the streets at work.

The first impressions were favourable. After parking up we descended the steps to the Reception, where we were assisted by a very pleasant and helpful young man for whom nothing was too much trouble, and who answered our last question with as much patience and enthusiasm as he had the first. We took a look around - at the pool (which was self-evidently popular even at that time on a Friday evening), the spa, the gym and the restaurant and bar facilities. We were offered a table for lunch, which like breakfast was ever so slightly on the expensive side, but declined as we had already eaten, although we promised ourselves we would give it a try on Sunday.

The room is nice - quite spacious, all the necessary facilities, clean and smart. The double bed is at the small end of acceptable, but adequate. A good selection of television channels, and of hot beverages. The pictures on the wall captured my wife's interest.

Down at the bar in the evening, once again one was struck by the polite helpfulness of the staff. By hotel bar standards there was a good range of beers, including the weakish but tasty local brew Adnams Southwold, which were decently priced. We enjoyed a few in comfortable surrounds, along with some tasty hot bar snacks.

In the morning we used the swimming pool, which it seems is also visited upon by the locals as Belstead Brook is a leisure centre as well as a hotel. The water was nice and warm and there were lots of good facilities - sauna, jacuzzi, ample lounge area with comfy chairs, a selection of reading material and a coffee machine. The changing rooms were decent and the showers warm, something which ought to be a given but is not always so at holiday resorts. This was followed by a leisurely walk around the hotel's substantial grounds, and a venture into the pleasant town of Belstead where we found a great local pub and restaurant, the Belstead Arms, which is worthy of a mention in its own right.

The Belstead Brook Muthu Hotel is a great place for a stay, to relax and to chill out. It is difficult to reconcile it with the Clube Praia da Oura, which is my unlikely connection with this resort and indirectly my reason for being here. It is a typical, quality English hotel, having little in common with the sunny poolside apartments and ambience of CPO. But I'm glad of the experience and it is a change as well as a rest.

Reproduced with acknowledgements to Friends of Clube Praia da Oura.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Captain Morgan Cruises, Malta

It's been a long time since I last travelled to Malta and I'm well overdue another visit, so I was pleased to discover that the famous Captain Morgan Cruises are still operating. Indeed judging from their website it would appear that the fleet, and the range of tours and cruises, has broadened somewhat since the days when I used to holiday on the sunny Mediterranean island.

No visit to Malta would be complete without a boat trip around the main island and Captain Morgan has been providing this unique service for nearly four decades. But now there are a whole host of other options too including an Underwater Safari, a Boat Party, a trip to the Blue Lagoon, a Grand Harbour tour and a whole lot more. Lunch is provided on many of these trips and all prices are clearly published on the website.

In addition the company now operates a low-price ferry service from Valetta, Sliema, Senglea and Cospicua, with frequent sailings throughout the day.

If you are visiting the Maltese Islands remember to set a day aside for a Captain Morgan cruises and an experience you will always remember.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Park Resorts on Wight - Part Four: Landguard

As the fourth and final part in our series on Park Resorts holiday sites on the Isle of Wight we take a look at Landguard Holiday Park, in Shanklin.

Landguard is Park Resorts' most recent acquisition on the Island, and is a close neighbour to the larger Lower Hyde site. As well as the usual range of holiday caravans it boasts some luxurious lodges and full camping facilities.

Although the site is situated in a beautiful woodland area it is only five minutes' drive, or about fifteen minutes' walk, from the beach at the popular and historic seaside town of Shanklin.

Landguard has two modern swimming pools, one indoor (with water slide) and one outdoor, as well as an adventure playground, and recently upgraded restaurant and leisurely entertainment facilities. Alternatively a more lively entertainment program is on offer next door at Lower Hyde, which is open to all Landguard guests.

Park Resorts offers Wightlink ferry services from Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Lymington to Yarmouth. Prices depend upon the time of year. It is worth getting in quick as Park Resorts is offering an attractive Early Booking Holiday Offer - now extended to February 6th - wherein you can save up to 30% off your 2015 holiday by booking now.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Park Resorts on Wight - Part Three: Thorness Bay

This is the jewel in the Park Resorts crown, the king of holiday parks where the Isle of Wight is concerned. As the largest of the four sites in the company's Isle of Wight portfolio, Thorness Bay Holiday Park is the place to be for holidaymakers who like to get involved in what is happening around the site.

Thorness Bay has all the touring, camping and holiday home ownership opportunities (caravans start at £14,495 and the site is now open all the year round), plus an extensive range of chalets and caravans of all grades, from the pleasant and comfortable to the luxury with every mod con.

The entertainment is out on its own. Like other Park Resorts venues the Sparky's Krew Club are always around to entertain the children, with a host of daytime and early evening activities. Later in the evening there is music, comedy, in-house cabaret and party dances - something for everybody as you enjoy excellent service from the spacious and well-stocked bar.


An adventure playground, archery, horse riding, an indoor pool with an imaginative themed water chute and a large multi-purpose sports area mean there is no shortage of things to do for the young and the not so young.

The on-site restaurant (with another bar!) provides breakfast in the morning and a varied menu throughout
the day. From the spacious balcony outside one can observe all the activity on the busy Solent and across the water around Southampton, or one can take a short walk down to and along the beach to see it all from closer still.

Throughout your stay it is possible to keep stocked up with supplies from the busy camp shop.

Thorness Bay is located near to Cowes, so it can be accessed with the minimum of inconvenience from the Red Funnel after arrival at East Cowes. On selected dates a free ferry is available as part of an inclusive holiday deal.

Take advantage of the Early Booking Offer by organising your 2015 holiday before the 31st January, and get up to 30% off the published price. Click on the links here for further details.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Park Resorts on Wight - Part Two: Lower Hyde

The second location in our Park Resorts series is Lower Hyde, one of two parks situated in the popular seaside town of Shanklin.

Lower Hyde Holiday Park is of a similar size to Nodes Park, but is situated close to a major Island town - an easy walk both to the shops and down to the beach. As such it is an ideal retreat for families and seaside dwellers.

The star attraction is maybe the popular heated outdoor pool, open between May and September. As well as the pool itself an attractive patio area is provided for lounging. For those who prefer the warm ambience of an indoor swimming pool this is shared with neighbouring Landguard Park, with modern facilities and overlooking bar and food area.

As with all Park Resorts venues Lower Hyde boasts some great evening entertainment at the Squires Showbar. There is also an amusement arcade which has been recently refurbished.

Great news is that the park is now open all the year round, albeit with some curtailment of facilities during the short former closed season in winter. Holiday home ownership is available as on all sites and caravans can be purchased from just £16,995.

Remember the Early Holiday Booking Offer in which you can save up to 30% on all 2015 Holidays when you book before the 31st January.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Park Resorts on Wight - Part One: Nodes Point

Much though we like travelling around, the one place we can always be guaranteed to return to each year is Park Resorts on the wonderful Isle of Wight. As holiday parks go these are the ones which in our view provide the best balance between peaceful enjoyment and entertainment, with high standards retained in every aspect of the holiday experience.

Park Resorts has four parks on the Island. One of them is Nodes Point, situated at St. Helens, near Bembridge. Just a short walk down to the beach (owned by the National Trust) at the beautiful Priory Bay, Nodes Point boasts an adventure playground, indoor fun pool with water slide, all-weather sports court, horse riding and evening family entertainment in a newly refurbished complex.

More good news is that Nodes Point is now open all the year round. As well as static caravans touring and camping is also provided for on site. A good selection of food is available from the Harbour View Terrace, and there is a well-stocked shop on site too which will provide for most of one's needs throughout one's stay.

One comment frequently heard about Nodes Point Holiday Park is that it has a strong community feel, not
least because of the many caravan owners who return sometimes several times a year. Holiday homes can be purchased from as little as £16,995 and it is always discussing what may be available in terms of finance and offers.

Until 31st January Park Resorts is running an unmissable Early Booking Holiday Offer, with up to 30% off all holidays booked for 2015. Click on the links for more details, but don't miss out - this offer expires at the end of the month.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Carrington House Hotel, Bournemouth

The Carrington House Hotel is part of the Britannia group of hotels, owned by holiday giant Pontin's, which has expanded its portfolio of establishments in Bournemouth in recent years from three to five.

As regular users of one of the others, the Britannia (which will be reviewed at a later date) we received an offer of a very cheap stay which we couldn't refuse.

Of course Britannia Hotels doesn't provide accommodation at give-away prices for the sake of it. The group operates an intelligent rewards scheme which (presumably) allows it to analyse who spends money beyond the price of a room and to target its spare low-season capacity accordingly. As well as bringing in trade this has the added benefit of creating ambience for other customers and users of the hotel.

The Carrington is a welcoming establishment, with helpful staff and at which one immediately feels comfortable. It boasts 145 en-suite rooms offering a selection of amenities including tea and coffee making facilities, television, telephone and hairdryer. The hotel also has a decent heated indoor swimming pool with showers and changing rooms, as well as free Wi-Fi and parking.


Although both breakfast and dinner are surprisingly cheap (£5 and £10 per person respectively) there was no compromise on quality in either instance. Both are self-service, although staff are on hand to help. We dined towards the end of the evening time slot but did not feel rushed in any way.

The hotel is located closer to Boscombe than to Bournemouth proper, and a reasonably pleasant ten minute walk through Boscombe Gardens brings one out opposite the entrance to the pier.

In terms of clientele the Carrington seemed to be aimed at a younger and more business-type market than the Britannia, but the "feel" of the place made us want to return in the not too distant future. Not for everyone, but we liked it.