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I recently used Bristol Airport to fly to Toulouse for a long weekend. I haven't been to Bristol airport for many years, so my experience was akin to using the airport for the very first time.
I should first mention that I phoned the airport about a week before departure clarifying their rules on liquids on the plane - purely because we were travelling with a 6 month old and needed to take milk andfood! The lady I spoke to was very helpful, informed me on the guidelines of baby milk and food, and also advised on taking the buggy to the boarding gate.
Upon arrival we made our way to our check in desk and were checked in quickly, having to make a small detour to a special check in desk for more 'delicate' items where we deposited our baby car seat.
With the exception of a coffee shop and confectioners shop, there wasn't much before security, so knowing we wanted to have a decent meal before flying, we heading through security.
This is my main complaint about Bristol. Through the initial stages of security the staff were very chatty and helpful, but when we got to the stage where we had to empty our pockets, remove our daughter from her pushchair, go through the security gate, and then proceed to collect everything back up again...they really let themselves down. Firstly, they had no patience. As my daughter is quite small and has a rolled up blanket behind her as she's sat in the buggy, I really needed my husbands help briefly to hold her while I re-arranged the buggy ready for her. For some reason the security guard didn't like the look of my husband and wanted to 'pat search' him. Not a problem, but would they mind literally 10 seconds while he held his daughter to help me out? They eventually allowed us, but purely because we were holding up the line! There just didn't seem to be a child friendly system in place (unlike Toulouse airport - see my review on that.). Secondly, I had completely forgot that I had a child's beaker of water in my bag (granted, before hand I had measured it strictly to the 100ml level, plus my daughter had already drunk from it!), not put in one of those clear plastic bags, and it wasn't checked or questioned at all after my bag had slid through the x-ray machine. Considering I was made to taste my daughter's milk, I was a little surprised.
The area beyond security is very well equipped. Many different types of restaurants and food outlets, shops, newsagents...can't really fault them here. Our flight was slightly delayed so the wide choice of refreshments was very welcome.
When we were called to our boarding gate - boy is that a long walk!! - we were pleased to be sent down a separate queuing lane to the majority of travellers so we would be allowed on the flight earlier and all give us time to settle into our seats with a baby. Granted, the speedy boarders were allowed access first, but it was lovely to be given this opportunity. There was a further delay at the gate, with lack of communication as to why there was a delay, but it appears it was more the airline and their staff's fault regarding this.
Upon arriving back in the UK we sped through passport control and through to baggage reclaim. All our items came through on the luggage belt in good time (unlike in Toulouse where the more 'delicate' items were transported separately and a little later), and we were out very quickly.
Overall a good airport and one we'd be happy to fly from again.
We recently used Toulouse airport during a long weekend trip to the South of France. On arrival at the airport, we first found that we had to walk quite a distance to reach our luggage claim area. Not so much a problem except that we had our 6 month old daughter with us, substantial hand luggage, and our buggy which we had been able to use before boarding was obviously with all the luggage! But we survived. The luggage came through quickly...except for our buggy and car seat! Two pretty vital pieces of equipment considering we were holidaying with a baby! After the luggage carousel was completely empty, and most passengers had left, ourselves and a few other families were left waiting around, getting quite worried, unsure where our items were! Suddenly a small motorised cart, pulling a small trailer arrived with all our 'delicate' items on board. It was obviously a very thoughtful thing to do, to stop delicate items being thrown about with the rest of the bags, but we were completely in the dark as to what was going on! (Granted, we have NO idea whether this was Toulouse's idea, or the airline, but on our return journey our luggage did not have the same treatment on arrival in the UK.....)
We then made our way out to try to find our car hire. It seemed to us that Toulouse airport has recently undergone a great deal of improvement work, and although the whole building seems very sleek and new, the signage is a little unclear (and I'm not talking about French/English - simply that the car hire signs pointing in very obscure directions!). It took us quite a while of wandering (mistakingly making our way down to the under level car parks!) until we found the hire car booths. The whole airport also seemed quite empty.
The empty feeling was confirmed on our return trip. Upon arrival at the airport, the building seemed bustling and we were immediately greeted with many check in desks and a large restaurant. There being only one restaurant (and granted, my husband being a picky eater!) we decided to wait until we went through security to grab something decent for lunch.
However, we were very disappointed. With the exception of one café style place, there was no where that you could have a proper meal. The whole area behind security seemed very empty - many of the shop areas seemed either abandoned, or - considering the whole airport seemed as though it had undergone some recent work - waiting for new shops to take their place. I hope this improves as it was a great disappointment in what is turning out to be a large attractive airport.
Security at Toulouse airport is worth mentioning. After a very un-child-friendly security experience at our British airport, because of our young daughter we were stunned and very pleased to be ushered to the front. There we were allowed to go through the security process straight away rather than having to wait, and given plenty of time at the other side to put our belongings back together, return our daughter to her buggy, etc. Something that the British airports could possibly learn from.
The boarding gates were a bit chaotic. A lovely feel to the place - open, plenty of seating, but no order where actual boarding takes place. It seemed a bit of a free for all, and some simple queue lines would have helped.
Well signposted from the main Autoroutes around Toulouse, so even the less worldly France visitor (like us!) could easily find it. Overall, not a bad airport, but more facilities would be very welcome!
Myself, my husband and my daughter recently travelled with Easyjet from Bristol to Toulouse and back again over a long weekend. This was the first time I had ever flown with Easyjet and my experience wasn't too disappointing.
We booked our tickets through the Easyjet website. Firstly, don't be surprised by the add-ons required if you want to take hold luggage, or in our case our 6 month old daughter! We were quite surprised that although she was not officially allocated a seat and had to sit on our laps, we still had to pay a fee for her. We also decided to purchase 2 lots of 20kg baggage allowance as we knew that travelling with a young baby - even for a weekend trip - we would need it! Plus we needed to take a car seat for use in our hire car at the other end.
This is where we had a little confusion. Closer to the time of travel I called Easyjet with regards to using a stroller pushchair through the airport before the flight and whether this would be included in our baggage allowance (it wasn't!). While I was on the phone to their call centre, I decided to confirm a rumour I had recently heard regarding car seats. I had heard that car seats can be taken on flights for free, regardless of whether they were to be used during the flight or not. The lady I spoke to from Easyjet basically had no idea. Likewise at the check in desks it wasn't particularly made clear whether the car seat was included in the luggage allocation. To be fair, in this case is didn't matter as our large case was over the normal 20kg limit so we needed the 2 lots - but it would have been nice to know!
Travelling with a baby for the first time we were also a bit concerned about the non-allocation of seats on the flight, but we had no reason to worry. Having a young child with us we were basically front of the queue (behind priority flyers!) to board the flight so we were able to get seats near the front (rather than worrying about hanging around on arrival) and we were VERY lucky both ways that the flight wasn't ram-jam full and we had 3 seats to ourselves. At Bristol, this 'assisted' boarding was clear and explained fully, sending us and other young families down a particular queue at our boarding gate. However, at Toulouse the Easyjet boarding staff were much more vague, no queuing system, and a half hearted call out to those hanging around.
This seems to be the only real problem with Easyjet - their lack of communication. Yes, their flights almost always seem to be delayed - granted, on the day we flew not by much, but EVERY Easyjet had a delay of at least half an hour.... - but overall their service was pretty good. It's a shame their communication lets them down. Even though at the Bristol end we had been called to board the plane, we were left at the boarding gate - miles ...well, ok, it seemed like miles!...from anywhere - for an additional half hour. It wasn't until one of the passengers shouted out demanding to be informed of the reason behind the delay that a member of staff decided to tell us over the intercom that they were waiting for the company who assists with boarding and disembarking passengers that need more physical help. Seconds after that, we were allowed to board. So why not tell us out of courtesy earlier?
The flight itself was very smooth, the airhostesses were helpful, and my husband found it relatively comfortable considering he's rather tall - the leg room is surprisingly better than some other budget airlines.
Overall we don't have any problems with travelling with them again. We just won't expect to go on time, and be prepared for the lack in general communication at the airports!
I feel a little bit silly writing a review on Facebook what with there being over 500 reviews already here, but I do use it, and I thought I should share my thoughts. I'm not going to start talking about what it is or what it does - there are hundreds of other reviews that do that! Instead, I'm going to talk about my personal pros and cons with the site.
STAYING UP TO DATE WITH FRIENDS - Ok, I'm a bit weird in the fact that I can be a bit of a loner. Even though I love my friends dearly, and love spending time with them, I don't want to be doing it on e regular basis (happy locked away at home watching TV in my PJs - yes, sad I know!). But through Facebook you can keep up to date with each other's news without having to make phone calls (which I'm sure most of us admit that with MOST friends can be a bit awkward at times!), or finding time to meet up properly.
LOST FRIENDS - I have managed to get in touch with many many people from my school days who I always regretted losing touch with. As mentioned above though, I am weird, and although I'm glad to be in touch with these people again, I don't think I'd necessarily want to meet up face to face.
APPLICATIONS - Some applications can be really useful - I particularly like the world map where you can 'pin' where you've travelled to! (see Cons too!)
START SPREADING THE NEWS - Facebook is second only to Twitter in the fact that it can spread news - good and bad - amongst its millions of users within short time scales. Brilliant where an issue needs addressing (or complaining about!), or when there's vital UK or worldwide news that should be shared.
SECURITY - Facebook actually has a very good security system in place. The only time this fails is down to 'operator error' - basically the user! If you take time to look through your security settings and change things appropriately, you can keep your details very safe and secure. This is also down to common sense dictating simple things like whether or not to post your telephone number and address on your pages, and whether or not to add every single friend request that comes through!! <sigh>. Facebook HAS thought about security a great deal, and if you take time to set it up right, no one can access anything you don't want them to!
SHARING PHOTOS - I love this feature. I've been able to share everything from old school photos with old school friends, to baby scan pictures of my unborn child, to pictures from a night out with all those who were also there. No longer do you need to email everyone copies of the pictures (or get multiple sets printed out like in the good old days!), you can share them instantly - and see theirs just as quick. My cousin is currently nearing the end of a world backpacking trip, and throughout the last year he has added photos of his journeys. Not only have I, my family, his Mum and Grandmother all been able to get a glimpse of his adventures, but him showing us the pictures when he gets back should take MUCH less time (as we've seen a lot already!!).
APPLICATIONS - MOST applications are a waste of time; or a great way to waste time! They range from the little quiz which may take up 2 minutes of your time and then clog up your news feed, to full blown simulation games. All very well, but half the time these more interesting 'games' don't load! The amount of people I see complaining about them. <sigh>
PEOPLE NOT LIKING CHANGE - Facebook has millions of users, so obviously there are updates and changes required to keep the site working efficiently for all. However, as soon as Facebook make one tiny little change to the structure or the way the news feed works, people panic! They set up silly little groups ranting 'Bring back the old news feed!!' - seriously people, there are more important things to worry about! It does annoy me when I pop on to catch up with friends that there's so many people ranting over a silly software change!
ATTENTION SEEKING STATUSES - This drives me around the bend. Yes, we know the status updates are generally self absorbed pieces of work, that's how Facebook works, you talk about yourself. But some people seem to take it to the extreme. It's really hard to explain, but I'm sure everyone who uses Facebook can think of at least 2 'friends' off their list who go on and on about themselves regarding silly little things... and you have to resist being rude back to them! Or is it just me being intolerant. Sorry if that seems the case. <Blushes>
Overall I think Facebook is definitely one of the more interesting, useful and safe social networking sites around. I tried Twitter for a while but got bored. Facebook has kept me interested for much longer - maybe it's its friendly 'feeling' pages, or maybe it's because I'd rather stay in touch (to varying degrees) with people I know rather than celebrities. Regardless of the reason, I'm happy with it!
Llancaiach Fawr Manor House is a Living History Museum based near Caerphilly. The idea is that you visit the Manor and 'step back in time' to the year 1645, and upon entering the Manor you meet servants who may have worked in the house during that time. If you're really lucky, you might also meet members of the Pritchard family.
The history of the Manor is described in full on the official website: www.llancaiachfawr.co.uk, so I won't try to condense it on here. Instead I'll concentrate on the experience you'll encounter if you visit this award winning museum.
Unlike other historical houses, Llancaiach Fawr is very hands on. When you arrive you'll be greeted by a servant and offered the choice of either making your own way around the house, or to have the guidance of a servant - always go for the latter! It's a much more worthwhile experience and history really does come alive. (There are occasions on very busy days - summer bank holidays, 'Kings Day', etc - where you might not be given that choice, but there's normally plenty of things going on to make up for that.) You travel from room to room under the guidance of a servant, often with other members of the public, and you're told about the use for the room, you're in, some of the features of the room, and most importantly the lives of the servants you're talking to. All the staff speak in 'old english' and it is impossible to catch them out of character - no wonder they are award winning!
On key days throughout the year you can also find additional activities taking place in and around the manor - butter making, pottery, children's games, seasonal celebrations - all the dates for these are on the website.
There are also special events in the evenings - for example, the Christmas promenade theatre is a great family evening out!
Thousands of school children visit Llancaiach Fawr throughout the year, and the experience they encounter is a wonderful way to immerse them in the history of the Tudor and Stuart times. Depending on prior arrangements by the school, the children are often invited to participate in a craft, which they can then take home as a momento. The presentation from the Manor to the children is especially designed to tie in with the National Curriculum.
The Living History aspect is the main feature of Llancaiach Fawr, but that's not where it ends. Due to well built function rooms, Llancaiach Fawr can also cater for weddings, parties, conferences, or any event you can think of.
Oh, and have I not mentioned that it's haunted? Llancaiach Fawr has features on Living TVs Most Haunted (series 2) and is known for being one of the most haunted locations in Wales. Throughout the winter months - if you're brave enough - you could go on a Ghost Tour, Ghost Tour Extra or even a Ghost Watch (details of all are on the website.).
Llancaiach Fawr really is a fantastic day out, come rain or shine.
Admission Charges 2009
Prices for evening tours and ghosty related events can vary, so take a look at the website!
I'm not going to go into detail regarding the storyline of this book, as you can see that for yourselves by a simple search online.
I read the first book in the Wee Free Men Discworld series a few years ago. It wasn't until recently that I even knew there were more books about the strange little blue fairies!
I've always liked the Terry Pratchett books, especially those that relate to Discworld. However, even though I read a LOT, I do find at times that the writting can be a bit disjointed and rambling. Maybe it's because I tend to dip in and out a bit (I read in bed, so sometimes I can read for ages, or barely manage a couple of pages before dropping off to sleep!).
However, I've struggled through many of the Discworld books, to great reward as the stories are always brilliant, characters so wonderfully described, and the Discworld itself so fantastically thought up.
When I read the first Wee Free Men book years ago, knowing full well it was written for a younger audience, I was pleased at how easy it was to read in comparison with Terry Pratchett's other works. So when I discovered "A Hat Full of Sky", I was really looking forward to it.
I wasn't disappointed. The narrative was easy to read, and the story engaging. It seemed completely suitable for younger readers, although the incredibly well written Nac McFeedle dialogue would be a bit difficult for some as you have to read it with a Scottish accent in your head. Maybe brave parents who can do a Scottish accent would be better off reading this to their child!
It's also nice to have a well known character from the adult Discworld books making a more definite appearance in this book. It links the book directly with the magical world of the Discworld. The descriptions of magic, people's beliefs and daily lives also stay true to the original feel of the Discworld. You're simply seeing part of the Discworld through the eyes of a young girl and her mad little blue friends!
If you enjoy the Discworld series, this is a great little book (along with the others in the series), and an ideal way to introduce younger readers to the mad world of witches and wizards.
Ah, the amount of these I get in emails!! Here we go then...
1. What is your middle name?
2. Fire or Central Heating?
Central Heating, but wish I had an open fire!
3. What are you listening to right now?
4. Clubbing or Romantic Meal?
Romantic meal every time!
5. What was the last thing you ate?
6. Last person you hugged?
7. How is the weather right now?
It's getting dark, but it's dry!
8. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
My dad yesterday.
9. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
10. Favourite type of Food?
Oooo hard one. Cakes!!
12. Hair colour?
13. Do you wear contacts?
Nope. Can't bear the thought of putting anything in my eyes! Wear glasses though!
14. Favourite holiday?
Kenya for our Honeymoon last year!
15. Favourite Season?
Autumn without a doubt, what with the colours of the trees, the cooler days and nights, and the big build up to Christmad!
16. Have you ever cried over a love lost?
Yes, but normally the tears weren't worth shedding!
17. Last Movie you watched?
Oh, um....probably "Up" in the cinema.
18. What books are you reading?
James Patterson - Pop does the weasel. But just finished "A Hat Full of Sky" by Terry Pratchett!
Ears - pierced twice in each ear but only use the front holes now. Also had the top of one ear pierced when in university, but it bugged me too much!
20. Favourite Movie?
Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one!)
21. Favourite Sports Team?
Wales Rugby Team - does that count?!
22. What were you doing before filling this out?
Writing a review, rating other people, and reading a cake disaster blog!
24. Favourite drink?
Banana milkshake (at the moment!)
25. Favourite flower?
Hmmmm. Haven't really got one.
26. Have you ever loved someone?
27. Who would you like to see right now?
My husband - it's almost home time!
28. What colour are your bedroom walls?
Red and cream
29. Have you ever fired a gun?
Nope, but would like to try it.
30. Do you like to travel by plane?
Yes, but have been spoiled by flying premium economy, so I won't be enjoying economy as much from now on.
31. Right-handed or Left-handed?
32. If you could go to any place right now where would you go?
Right now? Home (currently in work)!
33. Are you missing someone?
No one seriously anyway.
34. Do you have tattoo?
Yes - the Chinese symbol for the year of the Rooster at the base of my spine.
35. Do you still watch cartoons on Saturday mornings?
Nope - are they still on? I'm barely up in time for Saturday kitchen...
36. Are you hiding something from someone right now?
Nope - unless you count Christmas presents?!
37. Are you 18?
Nope, but I was 10 and a half years ago!
38. What is the wallpaper on your cell phone?
Whatever the phone came with, but did have pictures of my two cats on there until recently.
39. Are you afraid of the dark?
Nope! As a 'ghost hunter' it would be a bit silly wouldn't it!! lol
40. Favourite Hangout?
Hang out? I'm not a teenager! lol
41. Three things you can't live without?
My husband, my laptop, and a TV!
42. Favourite songs?
Mika's songs are great, also love Foo Fighters, bit of Muse, sing along type pop music, swing music - bit of everything really.
43. What are you afraid of?
Losing my husband or our unborn baby.
44. Are you a giver or a taker?
Hopefully more of a giver than a taker.
46. What is your dad's middle name?
47. What do you sleep in?
A bed, and shorts with a strapy top. And extra pillows to support my expanding bump!
48. Stuck on a deserted island, and can only bring one thing?
Argh. One thing? Suppose I better say my husband.... Especially as there's probably no broadband or TV signal.... <sigh> lol
49. Favourite TV commercial?
Don't think I currently have a favourite.
50. First thing you'll save in a fire?
My husband (and laptop!)
51. What is your favourite colour?
52. What are the things you always bring with you?
Mobile phone, purse, USB stick.
53. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
54. What do you do when the alarm turns on?
Wait for it to go off another 6 times before I get up!
55. What colour is your bed sheet?
Creams and browns.
56. Who do you want to meet?
Eddie Izzard, Derren Brown, David Tennant.
57. What do you think about before you go to bed?
I place bets with myself as to how many times I'll have to get up in the night for the loo! (Ah, the joys or pregnancy!)
There we go! Hope that's interested someone!
The Cove Retreat was where we spent the final 6 days of our two week honeymoon in Kenya. After a long (and brilliant!) 8 day safari covering much of Kenya, we eventually made it to Mombassa to our unique little hotel.
However, because The Cove Retreat is so small, secluded, private and exclusive, we were almost 2 hours late arriving there as our driver had never been there before, and his head office wasn't 100% sure where it was either! Eventually, one of the other drivers from his company (who were fortunately based in Mombassa itself!) came out to show us the way. Phew!
Because of the location of The Cove Retreat, we ended up off the main road that travels through the busy bustling resort of Mombassa, and the last 20 minutes of our drive was over bumpy less developed tracks. Eventually we made it to The Cove! No wonder it was hard to find - it was outside the main resort completely, and there's no garish neon hotel sign indicating its location. All you see on the outside is a wooden fence and gate!
This all may sound very odd at the moment, but trust me when I say that this is the beauty of The Cove. It really is a retreat! You're miles away from all the touristy areas of Mombassa - including shops and restaurants. Not an ideal situation for everyone, but we knew this in advance and after the hectic 8 days of travelling, game drives, and souvenir shopping of the past 8 days, we really wanted to get away from it all. Besides, if you really want to travel into the main part of Mombassa, a taxi can be organised for you easily!
The rooms were the main reason we chose this hotel in the first place. The rooms aren't quite your usual 'rooms'! For a start theres only 6 of them, and each room is strictly for couples, so that makes a maximum of 12 guests there at any one time! Now, I'm not sure the best way to describe the rooms themselves, but I'll try my best. They're all described as 'Tree houses'! Each 'room' has been build next to (and in some cases around) its own tree. The main living area is raised one story above the ground and consists of a large bedroom (with a MASSIVE four poster bed, 5 foot above the ground - so when lying in bed you can see out of the patio windows down towards the sea! Don't worry, they provide little box steps so you can get up there!) big enough not only for your bed, but also two reclining arm chairs, a small table, two dining chairs, bookcase, clothes chest, fridge, build in wardrobe, and most importantly - air conditioning! The room has large full sized windows (and patio doors in one spot) around half of the room, giving you a wonderful view out to your own private veranda and the sea. All tree houses have been designed so each gets a sea view! The veranda is made of wood, surrounded by bamboo fencing - lower on the side with the sea view, and to the one side where your privacy might be compromised, build much taller. It's at this side also that you'll find a tall bamboo gate leading to the access stairs for your tree-house. It's worth noting at this point that they VERY much respect your privacy here. At the bottom of your access stairs there's a rope. Leave it hooked across the entrance of your stairs and NO ONE will disturb you, not even to see to your room and bed. Leave it unhooked and the staff slowly make their way up the stairs - shoes off so not to make a mess - calling 'Knock knock' just in case you left it unhooked by accident. Anyway, I digress.
The other side of the veranda area consists of a shaded thatched area which is very welcome in the hot Mombassa sunshine (word of warning - you get a lovely breeze this close to the beach, and you can easily forget how dangerous the sun is - you are close the equator after all!). Beneath the shaded are you'll find a large deep L shaped day bed, with plenty of scatter cushions, with a coffee table, two unique wooden chairs made from tree trunks, and your own private hot tub! (I'll refer back to the hot tub later!). Beyond the hot tub you'll also find a wide beaded curtain. This leads through to your very special bathroom (you also have access to this through a door from the bedroom). This is our indoor/outdoor bathroom! Technically, although there's 3 solid walls around you, the other wall is the simple beaded curtain, so you're almost outside! Very weird to start with - especially when using the loo - but the privacy is complete - no one anywhere else can see you, so you soon get used to it. There's also something wonderful about showering in complete privacy, while the warm sea breeze moves around you!
Plus, there's more! We were lucky enough to have one of the 3 tree houses that was DIRECLY adjacent to the beach (the other three were set back a little and therefore you had to walk about 30 seconds to get to the beach itself! Shock horror!). After descending your stairs to ground level, you walked through a little sandy path between bushes, and there you were on the beach! Beneath the tree house there's also a lovely double bed size wooden hammock - a lovely place to lie in the shade reading! Here is where you'll also find your log burner - all ready for your hot tub!
I should mention at this point that we were staying at The Cove at an all inclusive basis - I'm not sure you can stay there in any other way - besides, you wouldn't WANT to. There is no other way to describe the food other than AMAZING. The Cove has its own chef, and what a chef he was. You decide where and when to eat for a start. There's no set breakfast time. You make your way down to the restaurant when you are ready, order your food there and then (cooked breakfast, toast, VERY fresh fruit). Or else, you can order your breakfast the night before and have it served on your own private veranda! The table and chairs from your room are brought outside, and you have complete privacy to eat. This can also be the case for ANY of your meals through the day.
About an hour before lunchtime (again, no real set time for it - it helps the chef if most guests eat at the same time, but it's up to you really!) the bar staff travel around to find you to give you a varied menu of which you can choose your lunch. There was such a wide selection from the mundane (burger!) to the Chef's special dishes. Some things are not always available due to the fact that most food is bought directly from the fishermen, suppliers, fruit pickers etc, but there's always something you'll like. The meat and vegetable home-made samosas were to die for! And as for the salads - I've never seen anything so pretty in my life. It's not a case of putting it all on your plate - the tomato, cucumber etc is often arranged into the most amazing shapes. It's so hard to describe without pictures.
Each evening there's a set menu with two or three choices for each of the three courses. The menu depends totally on what fresh produce they have that day, and although my husband is incredibly picky with food, there was rarely a time when there wasn't something he'd eat for each of the courses. When there was, the chef was incredibly accommodating and cooked something else especially for him (for example - we had a seafood salad or a soup for starter one night, and as hubby didn't like either of them, he asked if he could have samosas as a starter. It was absolutely no bother!). Plus, one particular evening we had delicious pineapple crumble cupcakes for dessert. Being cheeky, we asked the bar staff if there was anyway we could have the recipe. The chef himself came out, sat with us, and talked us through the recipe from start to finish, while writing it out. He then insisted on taking re-writing the recipe before letting us have it - we then had it the next day!
The grounds are beautifully maintained in a wonderful 'dessert island' style. All the pathways are sand, the plants are palms and bright flowers. The 6 tree houses are situated throughout the grounds, right next to the private beach (used only by the guests and the local villagers for their early morning fishing!). The ONLY other buildings on site are a small toilet hut near the pool (so you don't have to go back to your tree house!!) and the reception/restaurant/bar. This is the main hub of The Cove and we ate all our meals here and enjoyed our drinks throughout the day.
The pool itself is gorgeous. Exceptionally clean, yet not over chlorinated (I can never open my eyes underwater normally, but I could in this pool!). It not only has an 'infinity' side where it appears when you're in the pool that the water overflows down towards the sea, but it also has a swim up bar (adjacent as you are to the main building). There are also sets of two sun loungers around the pool - either shaded or not. Oh, and the bar men often come around asking if anyone wants a drink.
The staff themselves. There is at least one member of staff per guest, and they are AMAZING. During the 6 days we met all 3 of the bar men, and each one was polite, exceptional in their work, yet educated and always up for a good discussion over the poolside bar. They really made our stay there even the more better. These bar men work from the start of the day until last thing at night, and not only serve you drinks but are also your waiters - whether you eat in the restaurant or your own veranda.
The 'cleaners' are wonderful. We only saw the two of them - one lady one man, and not only do they remove their shoes before entering your tree house, they are incredibly attentive to everything that needs doing. In fact, the man was referred to as our 'butler' on our arrival, and that is a perfect description as he "buttled" around wonderfully!
There are also 'bell boy' type staff around who would do everything from cleaning the pool, tending to the gardens, to the important role of filling your hot tub!
Ah, the hot tub. Each tree house has one, and the only condition with your hot tub is that you need to ask it to be filled before 10am on that day, as it takes pretty much the rest of the day to be filled. The reason for this is that your wood burner beneath your tree house needs to be lit, heat up to the right temperature, and then the piped in water is heated from your burner before being pumped up and into your hot tub. The hot tub itself can take between an hour or two to be filled. 5pm is the ideal hot tub time, and this is the time they normally aim for. The sun has dropped in the sky by this point, and it's the ideal time to relax in your tub before showering and dressing for dinner around 7pm!
The water was surprisingly very warm on the two occasions we requested a hot tub, and the bubbles were heavenly!
While we were there, one of the other couples got married. They hadn't told their families back home, so it was literally them, the Cove staff, and the rest of us guests (all 6 of us on that day!). It was beautiful. The Cove staff not only decorated the area they were to get married (and where the bride would arrive from) with beautiful fresh flowers, but also provided bubbly, and a cake made by the very talented chef (which we had a little of, and it was SO light and tasty!). They also received a complementary beauty treatment each earlier that day (beauty treatments can be booked and paid separately by any guest throughout your stay), and a special private 3 course evening meal on the day of the wedding on their veranda - the content of the meal being exactly anything they want! Obviously they paid for the wedding package, so I'm not saying any of this was probably cheap, but it looked amazing.
The Cove has a massive link with the local village and school. Some of the locals have a little hut on the beach where they sell hand made crafts and gifts (and are more than happy to haggle with you!) but also arrange day trips and experiences with you - anything from snorkelling, to visiting the local primary school (if you plan to do this visit, take pens with you as they are rare and expensive in Kenya!). The locals use the beach as a base from which they do their fishing, and a great deal of their produce is bought by the hotel. What is also lovely, is as long as you are on hotel property, you don't get bothered by them at all. If you're on the beach however, you are likely to get approached and the day trips advertised in great detail to you! But hey, they're only trying to make a living - AND they have such a close link with the hotel that you KNOW they're safe. The hotel recommends them in fact.
This is possibly the longest review I've written, but I really can't explain how wonderful The Cove is. It's a shame I can't add pictures to my review! It was the holiday of our dreams, and although expensive, we would go back there at the drop of a hat. (I'm not sure on the exact costs as it was combined with our 8 day safari and flights - different companies will also vary). We never left The Cove during our 6 days (even though initially hubby was all set for a little journey into Mombassa) but as everything we'd ever want was THERE...we didn't move much!! And it was the only time we have ever felt genuinely sad to leave a hotel. I can't recommend this place enough!
Salt Lick Lodge was to be our final overnight location for our 8 night safari. We were supposed to have been here a day earlier (vehicle trouble - see Amboseli Sopa Lodge review!), but this was never an issue with the lodge themselves.
Salt Lick Lodge is part of a two hotel complex with Hotel Sarova. The other hotel is outside the Taita Hills Sanctuary and we had to stop there briefly on our way in to sign ourselves in (along with receiving a very welcome cold drink.). We then jumped back in our vehicle (not before seeing a family of about 15 elephants cross the road near us and make their way to a small watering hole adjacent to the hotel for a drink - how little did we know that this was only the start!) and headed into the Sanctuary and to Salt Lick Lodge itself.
Salt Lick Lodge is unique! At it's centure is a large building which houses reception, the restaurant and bar. Leading off from this building in two directions are walkways (two storeys above the ground!) which take you to a series of circular huts - also suspended above the ground on stilt like legs - which contain your rooms.
Each room is one of 4 in a single 'turret. The room itself is not overly spacious, but is perfectly circular! Our room was clean, comfortable, and from the (double glazed) window we could see the 'salt lick' watering hole that the lodge is named after. Form this view we could also see that the main building and its two 'arms' of walkway linked rooms were creating a cresent shape around the watering hole.
Due to us being there on a different day to our original plans, we were extremely lucky to find ourselves one of only 5 couples who were staying there! Due to this, the usual evening buffet was scrapped, and a la carte menus were brought out to the tables. The food here was divine! Freshly made rather than sat in a buffet made a massive difference, and the meal choices themselves were verging on high class restaurant quality! All three courses was delicious. Breakfast was also served to the table. We could chose what we wanted (types of fruit, toast, cooked breakfast) and it was all brought when ready straight too us.
There's not really much we can say about the grounds as there aren't any! As the whole hotel is pretty much based up on stilts, you're restricted to walking the walkways. All for good reason though as you'll see in the next part.
When exploring the lodge we discovered a curious purpose build tunnel that led down, underground. At the end of the tunnel was a small round room, with high windows which we discovered was positioned out away from the lodge right next to the watering hole! Ideal for spotting animals. Although at this time we'd only seen a lone giraffe and a lone elephant making their way to the water for a quick drink before disappearing at sunset.
However, when the sun had set, this is when the action really started taking place. We had heard there would be animals visiting the watering hole, but we had no idea to what extent. As we sat having a pre-dinner drink, overlooking the watering hole, we saw a family of elephants making their way, one behind the other, towards to the watering hole. We soon discovered that this was quite a large family - over 30 - and they were actually more interested in the water that was directly alongside the reception area. The lodge pumps fresh water everyday into a large trough along side the OPEN sided reception area. Upon rushing down there we found ourselves stood in the relative safety of the reception area only 6 foot away from a herd of thirsty elephants thoroughly enjoying the water. We couldn't have been closer if we wanted to. (There was an armed ranger stationed in the reception area all night for protection and also to stop anyone using the flash on their cameras as it would startle the elephants.)
The whole watering hole area at night becomes fully lit - thank goodness - because as night went on family after family of elephants arrived, waited their turn, had a bit of a fight with other families (the noise! It sounded like roaring lions - no wonder the room had double glazing!!), drank their fill, and left back into the darkness. At one point, quite late on, a family turned up and we counted no less than 90 elephants in one family group! Overall, during the time we were awake and watching, we must have seen hundreds of elephants. Please don't think I'm exaggerating here, I'm really not! It's quite unbelievable even to me and I was there!
The gentleman at the bar - which had excellent views over the watering hole - was very informative and told us about a lioness and cubs who had been spotted occasionally quite recently at the watering hole. My husband, showing a great interest in this, was then thrilled to discover that the barman had gone out of his way to knock on our room door when there was rumour of the lioness and her cubs being close by!! Unfortunately this night she kept her distance, but with our night vision binoculars we were lucky enough to see lion shaped and coloured movements right on the outskirts of the lit up area. Maybe the high numbers of elephants that night put her off!
We should also mention that our poor driver had the shock of his life in the morning. The drivers all stayed in a ground level lodge away from the main lodge itself, and he woke, opened his curtains to find a herd of buffalo looking straight in at him!!
This turned out to be our favourite lodge that we stayed at on our safari - mainly because of the unbelievable elephant experience during the night. But with excellent food and informative staff, you can't go wrong.
I shouldn't be reviewing this lodge. In our pre-arranged safari, we were never meant to stay here. However, we did, and they were nothing but wonderful.
We left Ol Tukai Lodge and were heading down towards Taita Hills, when our trusty 4x4 packed up on us! We hadn't travelled too far fortunately, just 20 minutes or so outside of the Amboseli National Park (on a road where you have to drive in convoy with armed soldiers because of some trouble that was had in the area a few years ago regarding the close proximity of the Tanzania border! Nothing has actually happened there for a VERY long time, but they do it as a precaution.) where our 4x4 broke down and our excellent driver managed to patch it back together (with a soldier's help!) enough to drive us to a local lodge. This lodge happened to be Amboseli Sopa.
Amboseli Sopa is one of a small chain of Sopa lodges throughout Kenya. We hadn't stayed in any other Sopa lodge during our safari as our safari had booked us into (excellent) lodges that were all inside the national parks. The Sopa lodges all seem to be outside the parks themselves, which isn't a problem if you are intending on staying for a few days, but does mean a good 20 minute drive as part of your 'game drive' before you even reach the parks themselves.
When we arrived the hotel was empty - the guests had either left or were out on game drives, and all the staff were in a staff meeting. However, when the situation was explained to them, we were welcomed and given a drink. We were also then given lunch in their restaurant.
To make a very long story short, our 4x4 wasn't fixable, not even with Amboseli Sopa's on site mechanics and garage. So another 4x4 was to be sent down to us, but because of the remoteness of Kenya and our current location, it would take 7 hours! By that point it would be too late for us to travel to our next destination as you cannot travel through national parks in the dark.
Fortunately for us, even though our safari company doesn't really deal with the Sopa Lodge chain all that much, arrangements were made for us to be able to stay there overnight, and be fed and watered. We spoke to a representative from our safari company on the phone and he arranged for a free bottle of wine with our evening meal, and also discussed with us the remaining itinerary for our Safari. Out of the two remaining lodges we were due to stay at, we chose the one we'd been most looking forward to (which was completely the right choice in the end - I'll be reviewing Salt Lick Lodge soon!) .
Once we knew we were stuck at Amboseli Sopa lodge for the night, we managed to relax - after what had been a very stressful day!
The rooms here are incredibly quirky and very sweet! Each room is a self contained round hut. The main room containing the bed and storage is the majority of the round hut, and the bathroom took up a curved area at the back. The walls were literally curved throughout! The decoration was a slightly less tacky version of a Disney decoration (not that I don't like Disney, I do!!) - there was a large brown elephant head painted above the bed, and similar style decoration around the room.
The lunchtime menu was a la carte style, probably as many of the lodge's guests were absent from the lodge and it therefore made life easier than laying out a buffet - although I may be wrong! The food lunchtime was lovely, but I can remember very little of it due to the other goings on regarding our broken 4x4 at the time. The evening meal though we remember very vividly. Although it was a typical buffet style, there was also a carving station where a chef was freshly carving roast pork for those who wanted it. I have to say it was one of the most delicious roast pork meals I have ever had. The chefs there certainly know what they are doing with food!
The grounds are wide and 'ambling'. The paths that lead from the main facilities are natural looking and give you a sense of privacy from the other guests.
There was a lovely pool on site, and if we'd known a little earlier in the day that we were going to be there for the duration, we probably would have tried it. It looked incredibly clean and well maintained. Plus from the pool (and restaurant) you had an amazing view of Mount Kilimanjaro.
There were at least two bars on site that we knew about - one right next to the pool which was small but had plenty of choice, and another to the rear of the grounds, which had its own special feature! (See below!)
There are two styles of gift shop on site - a lodge owned one; and a market style shopping experience, run and owned by local Masai families. Unfortunately, when we decided to do a bit of retail therapy, the market had closed, but the lodge own shop was still open. We were very pleased that the lodge shop didn't seem as commercialised as some hotel shops can be, and the gifts and mementoes were much more unique than some of the stuff we'd seen so far (banana leaf napkin rings designed like Kenyan animals for one!).
Hemmingways Bar was the bar at the rear of the grounds, and this very special place was designed for one purpose only. To access the main bar itself you have to walk up and around the hill like structure that it's been built on. Parts of the path have small boulder like seats and viewing areas. The bar itself has plenty of windows which overlook a lit up area. Every night, the kitchen staff bring out left over meat and place it in the lit up area, specifically to entice one type of creature. Yes, other creatures get involved too - but you're mainly there to spot hyenas! Eventually through much patience, a hyena arrives - apparently there's been a pair visiting there for many years, but this year one seemed to have disappeared. The well educated bar staff in Hemmingways thought it was down to the drought they were currently having.
The staff throughout the site were wonderful. The manager was incredibly sympathetic and helpful throughout our ordeal, and she made an effort to find out what was going on with our safari company. Likewise, the barman stationed at the pool side bar was lovely. We spent a good hour or two there after we knew we were staying, killing time as the sun got lower in the sky before dinner, trying desperately to take a picture of the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (which had alluded us until now!) as the clouds slowly moved away. He was nothing but polite, chatty and very pleasant.
Overall, a highly recommended lodge. Not ideal if you're there specifically for game drives in Amboseli National Park due to the distance, but ideal as a more permanent base rather than a flying visitor. The staff were incredible, food delicious, and even Mount Kilimanjaro rewarded us at breakfast of the day we were leaving! We were supposed to be miles away from the mountain if our itinerary had gone to plan, but it was this morning that the mountain revealed itself completely, with no clouds anywhere in sight. We were very lucky.
(For the record, our new 4x4 had arrived the night before and our wonderful driver cleaned the whole thing from top to bottom before picking us up on time and taking us to our next destination!)
After a very long drive from Lake Nakuru, including a bone trembling journey across the Amboseli plains (and our vehicle breaking down temporarily at the entrance to the Amboseli National Park) we arrived at Ol Tukai Lodge in the middle of the National Park.
Each room is semi-detached to another room making them look like small houses. They have all been positioned with either a view over the plains and underground river where many animals roam, or towards Mount Kilimanjaro (when the clouds weren't covering it!)! Even though we made it known during our original booking that we were on honeymoon, Ol Tukai Lodge was the first hotel to acknowledge it! (This was night 5 of our safari!) Above the entrance to our room was a lovely floral and palm leaf arrangement, which was unique to our room and symbolised we were on honeymoon. A lovely touch.
Whereas breakfast was the usual buffet affair that you find in Kenya, the evening meal was a rare a la carte sit down 3 course meal! It was a lovely change from the buffets we'd been having on previous days (in previous lodges), and whereas the buffets were nothing but lovely, it was nice to be served our meal. The candle light made the whole evening very romantic, and the food was delicious.
The grounds were a bit sparse 'garden' wise - but this was to be expected when you consider the environment of Amboseli itself. Amboseli basically means salty dust and the whole area is VERY dry and inhospitable for creatures and plant life, with the exception of the massive underground river which runs nearish to Ol Tukai lodge - attracting wildlife from miles around. However, the grounds men had obviously worked hard to sustain lawns around the grounds, and lush foliage and trees near the well kept pool. Due to the quite open design of the lodge and its grounds (excellent views of the plains or Mount Kilimanjaro), there was a fence erected around the circumference, which provided some reassurance against any possible wandering animals!
Monkeys! Everywhere! You're advised not to feed them as they can be pests! Feed them near your room and they start trying to get in - they've been known to steal! However, stick to the rules, don't feed them, and they are wonderful to watch as they gallivant around the grounds in their family units (we saw many baby monkeys!).
Amboseli itself is famous for its elephants - who love the underground river. We had one of our most memorable experiences whilst on a game drive in Amboseli - a herd of over 30 elephants of all ages, shapes and sizes, walking past our vehicle - literally within feet of us (our driver had his hand poised on the engine key the whole time in case we needed to make a quick getaway!)! Because of the lack of water in the surrounding area, it's also incredible to see the wide range of different animals all wading and drinking together. Ol Tukai Lodge is the perfect base to explore Amboseli National Park - it's already right in the centre of it!
Ol Tukai was a lovely lodge, and highly recommended for its food, location, rooms and attention to detail.
Lake Nakuru Lodge was another of the lodges we stayed at during our safari honeymoon. After starting in Nairobi, and spending two nights in the Masai Mara, we spent a night in Lake Nakuru Lodge.
We arrived mid afternoon and were checked into our room straight away. Even though we were there on honeymoon, and had made this known during the original booking procedure, we discovered that we'd been given a triple room with three individual single beds. It wasn't really an issue - with all the travelling and game drives, sleep was definitely a priority - plus it was only for one night! So we didn't make an issue of it. The room had a large French door style window across the entire length of the room, which led out to a quite private veranda. As the lodge is up on a hill, this veranda gave us a view of Lake Nakuru itself. Unfortunately the weather wasn't fantastic (very much like a drizzly UK day!) so the view wasn't as clear as we would have liked, but we could see the lake and the majority of the amazing surroundings. On clear days you can see a pink shimmer around the outskirts of the Lake - some 4 million flamingos are at Lake Nakuru every year! (An amazing sight which you can experience first hand if you are going on a game drive around the lake.) The room was comfortable and clean, although the mosquito nets were only positioned at the head of each bed so at night when you put the net around you, it rested around your feet so you felt a bit enclosed - not fantastic for claustrophobics!
Like many lodges in Kenya, the food here was served buffet style. It was quite a small 'restaurant' so the selection wasn't massive, but the food was hot, tasty, and there was something for everyone. The dessert selection (including fruit) seemed to be quite good.
The lodge makes great use of its hill top position, providing views for almost every room down over Lake Nakuru. On the whole it's quite a small lodge, and has quite a nice community feel. The gardens are well looked after but still retain a natural feel. There's a nice looking pool on site, but as usual, due to our schedule (evening game drive, early start next morning) we didn't get a chance to use it - plus the weather wasn't ideal for it. There was also a long bar alongside the pool - all covered over with tiered seating so you could enjoy the view over the pool and down towards the lake, or be located more within - ideal for evenings when they lit a fire and often put on some sort of entertainment (I think it was local drummers the night we were there).
The Lake Nakuru area is very different to other parts of Kenya - it's very similar foliage to the UK, and the only place we saw white and black rhino, and even a very rare leopard!
The evening meal was a bit of an event! The restaurant opened at a specific time, and we were greeted for the first 15 minutes or so with music, drums and a few dancers! It was nice to see they'd made the effort to make the evening meal special and it really set the atmosphere for the night.
The following day when we embarked on our long drive to Amboseli, we were provided with a packed lunch my Lake Nakuru Lodge. I have to say that not only was it very generous, but it was very tasty (3 types of fruit, cooked chicken piece, a cheese roll, and something sweet - oh and a drink!).
A recommended lodge, but if we were to return to Kenya we probably wouldn't make the effort of travelling here. Not specifically anything to do with the lodge, but compared to the other areas often visited on safari in Kenya (Masai Mara, Tsavo, Amboseli) the Lake Nakuru area is quite a fair old distance. If we were to visit here again, and if it was for more than one night, we'd also make sure we had a more suitable room rather than the triple!
As part of our two week honeymoon in Kenya in October 2008, we spent two nights of our 8 day safari experience based at Keekorok Lodge, slap bang in the middle of the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. These were the first 2 nights of our safari, and we couldn't have asked for better.
A brief word on the Masai Mara itself - one of the most incredible places to go on safari, with a wide range of wildlife, and was the site of our favourite safari all holiday - and early morning game drive where not only was the weather perfect, but we also saw a cheetah with her 3 cubs - the same cheetah (Shakira) who was being filmed that very week (unbeknownst to us!) by the BBC for Big Cats Live!
All the rooms are self contained little log cabins - normally either semi detached or part of a block of 4 (depending on the size of your room). Each cabin is accessed from outside, and contains a bedroom (with fan!) and bathroom. The rooms are lovely and clean, and at dusk the mosquito nets are put down around your bed, and your bed turned down ready for you! All rooms are within easy walking distance of the main reception and restaurant area.
All meals are served in a buffet style. The restaurant itself was busy - although it's a relatively small hotel, Keekorok Lodge is one of the most popular lodges in the Masai Mara - but there was always plenty of food available. There was also a very wide choice available - 3 courses if you wanted it! My husband is very picky over his food, but he had no trouble finding things he liked each and every meal time. Breakfasts were outstanding, with a choice of 2 or 3 different sausages and bacons, fruit, potatoes, yogurts, and the obligatory egg station! This is something that you will find in most hotels and lodges in Kenya - there is a chef stationed with two pans, and masses of eggs. You can have your eggs cooked anyway you like - literally! Fried (hard or soft), scrambled, pancake or omelette, and you get to choose your omelette filling (cheese, onion, peppers, chilli...). For lunches and evenings, the egg station turns into a pasta station! You get a choice of two pastas (macaroni or spaghetti) and you can create your own pasta sauce to go with it. At Keekorok it was a base tomato sauce with your choice of onions, peppers, chilli, and lots more that have escaped my head as I type! Trust me though, there was more than just that!
I should add that due to our holiday package, all our food was inclusive, as it was in all the lodges we visited. The only thing we had to pay for (and it seemed the same for every other visitor too) was drinks. Soft drinks are relatively cheap, and the local larger isn't that bad either. But don't forget to save a bit for tipping the waiters! Remember, tipping is expected - and normal and polite! - in Kenya. A little goes a long way.
There was a gorgeous pool in the grounds, which due to our frequent game drives and therefore leaving the lodge on a regular basis, we didn't get the chance (or have the energy!) to try it out. But it looked clean and as it was surrounded by trees, was secluded. The rest of the grounds were well kept and maintained. Considering we were right in the middle of the Masai Mara (with wild animals everywhere!), there were no obvious fencing around the grounds! But it never seemed a problem and made it all the more exciting. Besides, wild animals aren't THAT stupid...
This lodge had something completely unique. It had its own hippo pool! Directly in front of our lodge, across the lush green grounds (which also contained the aforementioned swimming pool) was a the start of a walkway. The walkway in total covers about 300 meters in a loop which eventually leads you back to the other side of the lodge's grounds. But in the middle of the walkway you find yourself heading towards a small hut with extends over a large pool. The hut itself is a bar, providing the opportunity for you to sit and while away the hours with a cold drink, watching over the pool. A pool that contained a family of at least (so we were told that day by the barman!) 17! Not only that, we also saw a buffalo braving the pool edge for a drink, and a crocodile! (The hippos weren't too impressed by HIS presence!) Again, like the lodge grounds itself, there's no fencing around the hippo pool! Hippos by nature are quite quiet during the day - it's at night that they get active in the cooler weather. Also, hippos are one of THE most dangerous creatures - I believe they have killed more humans than most other animals, simply because of their bad tempers!! But don't worry. As soon as it gets dark at Keekorok Lodge, if you're travelling from the bar or restaurant back to your lodge, you're accompanied by a ranger with a rifle! Not as scary as it sounds - it's very reassuring. We were told that at night the hippos can sometimes venture up to the lodge to graze on the grass at night, but at sunrise well armed staff members usher them gently back towards the pool. We didn't have ANY trouble from them, and it was thrilling to be that close to nature.
Another additional point I should make is that the beauty of this lodge already being inside the Masai Mara Natural Reserve is that as soon as you leave (in your safari vehicles!) the lodge, you're on safari and you could see anything! No travelling to the park's gates and waiting for your driver to complete the paperwork - you're already in there! So keep your eyes peeled!
Keekorok Lodge also offer you the opportunity to pay for a hot air balloon flight during dawn over the Masai Mara, including breakfast. We ummed and ahhed over whether or not to treat ourselves to this, what with it being our honeymoon and it being something we'd both always wanted to do. The price was a little high (I'm sorry, the amount escapes me, but it was at least £100 per person!), and we'd decided that we'd spent enough on the honeymoon already. We're glad we didn't decide to do the balloon flight. Although it looked amazing, and I'm sure everyone who did it thoroughly enjoyed themselves, it would have meant us missing the only true early morning game drive of our entire 8 day safari - and it was undoubtedly the best (lighting, cheetahs - see the comment at the start of the review!). Still, it's worth knowing that the balloon ride is an option - certainly not many places better to do it!
All in all, a beautiful lodge, highly recommended, and would stay there again in an instant!
We stayed at the Safari Park Hotel for two nights during our recent honeymoon in Kenya. We stayed there for our first night of the two week trip, and for the last night before our homeward flight. The Safari Park Hotel is based on the outskirts of Nairobi - the opposite site of the capital city to the airport.
We arrived at the Safari Park hotel after a bumpy and 'enlightening' drive through Nairobi on our first morning in Kenya. Having taken a night flight, it was still quite early. The Safari Park Hotel has a wonderfully large inviting reception area, with a large elephant model stood slap bang in it's centre. We approached the desk, were asked to sign in, and were offered a cool drink and hot flannel to refresh ourselves. Immediately we were allocated our room, and the porters took our bags to it, us following behind marvelling at the amazing well kept and lush grounds of the hotel. The rooms are in 'blocks' in and around the hotel grounds. Make no mistake, this is a LARGE hotel. We arrived at our lovely room, admired the view over the hotel's large pond, and collapsed for a few hours sleep to recover after our journey.
We awoke at about 11.30am giving us time to have lunch and explore the grounds of the hotel before our pre-arranged trip to the local Elephant Orphanage later that day. With 5 restaurants to choose from (International, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and of course African,) we decided to play it safe first thing and try the Italian. Excellent food, and at an excellent price. We then wandered around the rest of the grounds. This hotel has been designed not just for holiday makers, but also for conferences. We saw conference rooms everywhere we went. The site also had a number of well designed swimming pools, a club, bars, and along with the hotel's own gift shop (located in reception) there was also a shopping 'village' of small craft shops owned and run by locals. An excellent idea as it really helps the locals establish themselves and provide a living for themselves and their families.
After returning from our trip to the local Elephant Orphanage, we changed and headed off to the African restaurant - Nyama Choma Ranch. We had planned from the start to have our first proper evening meal here. We'd seen on the website before hand that it was basically a giant BBQ with many different meats, and a dinner show. Little did we know! The menu was immense. You simply paid a one off price and you were offered a starter of soup (Pumpkin the night we were there!), followed by mini baked potatoes and salad to accompany as much meat as you could eat. The meat was brought around by the chefs on giant swords, and the meat was carved directly onto your plate. The meat included: pork sausages, chicken wings, ribs, lamb, steak, goat, crocodile, camel... Amazing selection and you could choose to try as many or as little as you liked. Then the show started - an amazing array of male and female dancers wearing wonderful traditional outfits. And then they stunned us even more as the men started performing the most amazing acrobatics on stage. For a hotel restaurant (and one of 5!), we highly recommend it. We decided there and then, as long as we had enough left over cash at the end of our two weeks, we'd eat our last meal in Kenya there on our return.
After a very restful night (we didn't hear anything of the club - such as is the size of the hotel grounds!), we woke to breakfast in the International Café where a full breakfast buffet is served. Everythign you could imagine was available - cereals, fresh fruit, yogurts, sausages, bacon, and eggs. This is the wonderful discovery of Kenya, and something I'll probably mention in every review I do of a Kenyan hotel! The eggs are incredible. Not just because they're fresh, but because there is a chef there ready to cook your eggs in exactly the style you want them! Be it omelette (and you can choose your fillings - normally things like onions, chilli, peppers), fried, scrambled, pancakes... it's amazing and simply a wonderful way to start your day!
Soon after breakfast we headed off on our 8 day safari. But after two weeks enjoying Kenya (including 6 days at a beach hotel) we returned to the Safari Park Hotel for our final night.
We arrived, after an efficient flight from Mombassa to Nairobi and a scary drive through Nairobi in evening rush hour, back at the hotel at around 7pm. We were taken to our room (a more spacious room, but the location wasn't as great - view wasn't as good and was further away from amenities. But hey, it's a BIG hotel!), we changed, and headed to the shopping village. We had decided during our two weeks in Kenya that there were some certain mementos that we wanted to buy, but wanted to buy them from not only last minute (to save with lugging them about!) but also from the shopping village where the money went straight into the hands of the locals. Unfortunately, the shopping village had closed a few hours earlier, so we had to make do with the hotel shop - which, considering it's small size, was very well stocked and we were able to buy the key items we really wanted to purchase as mementoes of our wonderful honeymoon. After spending far too much money in the shop, we decided to forego the African BBQ for a slightly cheaper Italian - whose standards were again excellent. It was romantic, quiet and the perfect way to end the honeymoon.
We had a VERY early pick up for the airport the next morning (4.30am!) so tried to get an early night after ordering our room service breakfast. The room service was a little disappointing - because of the location of our room, the hot food my husband had ordered arrived cold. Fortunately we'd also ordered fruit, so we filled ourselves up on that before heading off.
Overall, a very efficient and welcoming hotel. Restaurants were excellent - Nyama Choma Ranch is definitely worth the slightly higher price! - grounds were gorgeous and rooms comfortable. It can get busy especially at meal times, but with 5 restaurants it takes the strain off slightly. Some of the conference attendees also seemed not to care about where they smoked (even inside the breakfast buffet restaurant - when spotted the hotel staff quickly moved them out!) - but that's not exactly the fault of the hotel - there's signs everywhere! Compared to other hotels and lodges we stayed at it was not as personal an experience, but considering its size and efficiency, it's not surprising.
This review is regarding my personal experience with PayPal in the past few weeks.
I've used PayPal on and off now for many years. It's one of the most secure ways of paying for items via Ebay (especially considering it's support if there's an issue with a buyer/seller on Ebay), and more and more online companies are allowing PayPal to be used as a method of payment when shopping online. This is a nice improvement as it saves you having to input your card details into site after site. However, using a credit card (NOT debit) online is just as secure as most credit cards provide excellent security measures and you can easily get your money back if something dodgy happens!
I have recently had a bit of a bizarre experience with PayPal if I'm honest. I set up PayPal many years ago, and therefore it was in my maiden name. Now, as I've only recently gotten married, I still have one credit card in my maiden name, and that's the only card/account I have on that PayPal account. I recently tried to purchase a laptop from Ebay using PayPal and therefore using my credit card (which had plenty of space on it for this purchase). When I got through to the PayPal part of the transaction I was suddenly told that I couldn't purchase this item as over the years I had used PayPal so much that I was reaching my 'unverified' spending limit. The transaction I was trying to make was quite urgent as it included using a voucher that was to expire the next day. The only way I could verify the account was to link a bank account to it - which would not only take about a week to do (where they send two tiny payments to your account, and you need to tell them how much they were), but as I'm now married, I don't HAVE an account in my maiden name. So I asked them how to change my name to my now married name on PayPal (which, if I'm honest, I know I should have done sooner). The reply came back...two days later. So too late for this issue, and the only way to do it is to send them a copy of my marriage certificate!
Anyway, with no immediate reply regarding the name change, and being aware of my voucher running out, I decide to set up a new PayPal account in my now married name, with the plan to add my credit card to the account. I know you can add multiple credit cards to an account, so I went through the process only to be told that I couldn't add that card to the account as it was already linked to another account! Argh!!
So I'm now in the process of closing down my original account in my maiden name, and moving everything over to the account in my married name. But again this is also something that couldn't be done in a hurry.
Oh, I went through with the purchase - my parents allowed me to use their account, and I have since paid them back!
My main 2 issues are these:
If I was nearing my 'limit' on my unverified PayPal account, why don't they warn you? I was within only a few hundred pounds of that limit - surely a warning wouldn't have hurt?
Why can't a credit card be used on more than one PayPal account? Since (as I've discovered recently - see my Ebay review!!) Ebay vouchers can only be used successfully if the Ebay account the voucher has been added to is linked with a specific PayPal account (you still with me?), then why can't that same credit card be linked to two accounts? Both my husband and I have separate Ebay accounts, and separate PayPal accounts, but we jointly use credit card accounts for household items. So it's a lot of faffing, and tooing and froing going on as it is...
Maybe many of you won't agree with me with regards to my review, and maybe I should have looked into changing my name on the account sooner. But surely I'm not alone in the fact that PayPal, whereas it can be a wonderful tool and service, they can make the simplest things SO difficult at times!