TransfercarTransfercar is an online relocation service that offers free use of rental cars to travellers. In return the travellers are helping the rental car industry to relocate their cars in a cheaper way than any current relocation alternative.

This is how it works:

“Transfercar is an online relocation service providing really cheap (usually free) rental cars and campervan hire. With “free” we really mean the cars are free to drive, not even $1 a day! We don’t charge anything for this.

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DSCN7484_200_Ramada_Jumeirah_Dubai_Classic_RoomWe travelled to Dubai in June 2013 – as a stopover between London and Sydney.

A couple of days before leaving London, we were able to book a room at The Ramada Jumeirah Hotel at a very good price by Dubai standards.

We found the new four star Ramada Jumeirah (built 2011) to be excellent value for money.

Our Classic Room was very spacious and the bathroom was one of the largest we have found in any hotel. Room facilities were excellent – we particularly liked the long desk – plenty of room for our computers. Unfortunately WIFI was not free except for the first hour.

There was a small rooftop pool plus a Health Club and Spa for guests.

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If you are looking for cheap accommodation in a good location of London, then easyHotel South Kensington could be for you. At 50 pounds a night for two people, it’s certainly cheap by London standards.

However, it is the smallest hotel room we have ever stayed in! The room consists of a double bed (with or without a window), two hooks on the wall, two power points, a small TV screen (extra charge to use) and a tiny bathroom with shower and toilet.  There is no place in the room to store luggage as floor space is very tiny (ask reception about luggage storage). It certainly won’t suit everyone.

Don’t stay here if you like to hang out and relax in your room. It is a place to sleep and two can be a crowd!

We had a car and while parking is limited, we were fortunate to be staying over a weekend when street parking was free on both Saturday and Sunday. During the week street parking is only free overnight. Parking is available at Sainsbury’s nearby – but only for a limited time and not overnight.

Located at 14 Lexham Gardens, Kensington, easyHotel  Kensington is in a great location:

–      10 minute walk to Gloucester Rd Tube Station
–      10 minute walk to Earls Court Tube Station.
–      10 minute walk to High Street Kensington
–      10-15 minute walk to Natural History Museum
–      20 minute walk to V&A Museum
–      30 minute walk to Harrods
–      20 minute walk to Royal Albert Hall

July 2013

DSCN6687_Warwick_Lodge_exterior_200At the end of a long day of travelling, we received a very warm welcome at Warwick Lodge from owners Mary and Nick.

Our spacious double room with ensuite on the first floor was a warm and cosy haven on a cold day. Everything was spotlessly clean with comfortable bed and pillows, tea/coffee making facilities, television, hairdryer and plenty of space for luggage.

A delicious, freshly cooked breakfast is served every morning in the downstairs breakfast room.

DSCN6678_Warwick_Lodge_interior_200There are very good places to eat in walking distance from Warwick Lodge including Casa Romana Italian restaurant and Alexandros Greek restaurant.

Warwick Lodge is located at 112 Warwick Road, Carlisle and we found it to be excellent value for money.

Book Warwick Lodge at AccommodationGuru.com

Take a look at more photos of Warwick Lodge.

22 July 2013

 

South_Hams_Devon_200_20130519_120825

South Hams coastline

The South Hams is renowned for its gorgeous countryside and pretty coastline. We spent a few days in the area and loved the narrow hedge-lined roads, the charming villages and small seaside coves.

The South Hams is known as ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in the UK and is well worth a visit. It is located in the south-eastern part of Devon, just over 3 hours drive from London’s Heathrow Airport, via the M4 and M5 motorways.

Here are some recommendations on what to see and do.

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Based on the reviews by millions of travellers worldwide, TripAdvisor announces the world’s top 25 hotels for 2013. See also the Travellers’ Choice small hotels, bargain accommodation plus B&Bs and inns.

 

A very pleasant day trip from Melbourne is through to Geelong, Barwon Heads and Queenscliff.

Geelong_DSCN5917_200Geelong

Geelong is about one hour’s drive from Melbourne and is the second largest city in Victoria. We loved the Geelong Waterfront and in particular the Baywalk Bollards track along the shores of Port Phillip Bay. We did part of the walk from Steampacket Gardens to the Art Deco Eastern Beach sea baths, however, if you have time, we recommend doing the whole walk starting from Geelong Botanic Gardens to Ripppleside Park which takes about 1.5 – 2 hours.

Artist Jan Mitchell has created over 100 colourful painted, wooden bollards along the Baywalk track, depicting characters and events from throughout Geelong’s history. Try to spot the rabbits painted on many of the sculptures – they represent rabbits introduced to Australia by an early English settler in the bay in the mid-1800s.

If time permits, the National Wool Museum and Geelong Art Gallery are also worth a visit.

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Wombat Hill House Cafe

Wombat Hill House Cafe

On a recent trip to Melbourne, friends took us to the villages and countryside around Daylesford – an easy day’s drive. Even in the height of summer, when temperatures soar and the landscape is a little parched, this is a beautiful trip.

This region is a gourmet’s delight and a large part of our day seemed to be spent sampling local produce. On the way to Daylesford we bought buckets of delicious cherries. We left money in a roadside box for a bag of red-ripe cherry tomatoes near Hanging Rock. We enjoyed the view from Mount Macedon Memorial Cross. We stopped for coffee at Newham General Store. In Trentham we bought delicious pastries and bread at the Red Beard bakery and took a stroll around this charming country village.

In Daylesford we wandered along the main street taking in the shops. We strolled around the grounds of beautiful Lake House. A highlight was our trip up to Wombat Gardens and the Wombat Hill House Café where we enjoyed delicious pizzas, salads, coffee and cake. Don’t miss it if you are visiting Daylesford!

The drive home took us through Hepburn Springs and Kyneton – and we all resolved to come back soon – and to stay longer!

Take a look at our photos of Daylesford and surrounds. As you will see from the photos, we were quite taken with Wombat Hill House Cafe!

January 2013

View over Canberra from Mount Ainslie Lookout

View over Canberra from Mount Ainslie Lookout

Canberra is the national capital of Australia and an ideal weekend-away destination from Sydney – especially for overseas visitors. The city has many wonderful museums, galleries and monuments that will give visitors to Australia an insight into our history, culture and society.

By car, Canberra is an easy 3.5 hour drive from Sydney. It is impossible to see all the sights of Canberra in one weekend but here are a few recommendations to choose from.

 

Canberra & Region Visitors Centre

Firstly, it’s a good idea to stop at the Canberra & Region Visitors Centre on 330 Northbourne Ave, Dickson (1300 554 114) – you will pass it on the way into Canberra from Sydney. Pick up copies of brochures and maps to help you find your way around.

Parliament House Canberra - House of Representatives

Parliament House Canberra – House of Representatives

Parliament House

We recommend taking a tour of Parliament House. There is a free tour that takes approximately 30-45 minutes. The tour includes the Marble Hall entrance, the Great Hall, the Senate, the House of Representatives – with an interesting and informative guide. Visit the top of Parliament House for excellent views over the city. For more details on tours see - www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Tours

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Seal Rocks NSW

Seal Rocks

For those who enjoy driving holidays, this is a good route to explore the NSW coastline between Bulahdelah and Coffs Harbour and get a glimpse of the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. You will see some of the best waterways, the best beaches and national parks in NSW. During winter, the area is far less crowded than in summer, the days are sunny but not too hot and the air is crisp and clean.

Bulahdelah

We left Sydney via the Pacific Highway (F3) early on Saturday morning of the June long weekend. After nearly three hours driving, the first stop was at Bulahdelah where we love to call into Café on Main for delicious home-made cakes, sandwiches, hot chocolate and coffee. The town was busy with travellers making their way north for the long weekend. Read the rest of this entry »

Knysna – Oudtshoorn – Calitzdorp – Ladismith – Barrydale – Montagu – Robertson – Worcester – Paarl – Cape Town

Outeniqua Mountains near Oudtshoorn

Outeniqua Mountains near Oudtshoorn

On a recent trip to South Africa, we travelled one of South Africa’s most scenic drives – Route 62.

While based in Knysna we planned to spend a few days in Cape Town. The direct route from Knysna to Cape Town is just over 5 hours driving time, or 480kms, on the N2 – the coastal road. However we love to travel inland – along Route 62 – a much more scenic trip with majestic mountains, country landscapes and charming towns along the way.

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A visit to Sedona was an unexpected bonus after a road trip to the Grand Canyon in Winter.

As part of a three week trip to the US, we drove from Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (about a six hour drive) for a couple of nights. Rather than going back the same way, we decided to drive on to Phoenix via Sedona, to catch our flights from Phoenix airport.

Sedona is a small town in Arizona surrounded by spectacular rock formations where you can experience beautiful landscapes, Native American history and New Age spiritualism.

The drive from the Grand Canyon to Phoenix via Sedona takes around 4 hours 30 minutes, with Sedona at about the half-way point, however give yourself plenty of time. We found this drive a much more scenic route than between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. The highlight of the drive was between Flagstaff and Sedona – through Oak Creek Canyon.

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Banff township

Banff

On a trip to the US in December 2009/January 2010 we decided to include a visit to Canada. First stop was one day in Vancouver and then four days in the Banff and Lake Louise area.

Some of our party were keen to ski so Banff was a good place to make our base. After a couple of weeks on the road, we were looking forward to five nights in the one place, the chance to rent self-catering accommodation and enjoy some home-cooked meals.

Flying into Calgary from Vancouver was a shock to the system – it was minus 23 degrees Celsius outside!

 

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Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Visiting Venice is like visiting a living museum. Its beautiful setting, its abundance of artworks and architecture and its maze of streets and canals make it a unique experience.

We arrived by train into Santa Lucia station and were able to change money, buy a snack and get a map from the Tourist Information Office – all within the station building. Going out the main doors and down the steps took us to a large pedestrian area – to the beginning of the Grand Canal – the main thoroughfare of Venice.

From the station we took a Vaporetto (water bus) towards the San Zaccaria stop, just near St Marks Square. This trip down the Grand Canal was a wonderful introduction to Venice.

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Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle, Highway One

Neptune Pool, Hearst Castle

Given the choice of flying between Los Angeles and San Francisco, or driving the famous Highway One, the decision was easy.

Highway One is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the US. While it is preferable to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles (you will be on the right side of the road to stop and enjoy the views), our itinerary was such that we drove north – it was still spectacular – and we got to stay in beautiful Carmel.

This drive really warrants a couple of days to see the sights, however we had one day to drive from Los Angeles to Carmel for an overnight stop. To give you an idea of timing, it is about 550 kms between LA and Carmel, or nearly seven hours driving time.

Starting the drive in Santa Monica the road follows the coast. It was frustrating to whizz through Malibu and by-pass Santa Barbara but we were heading for Hearst Castle, a four-and-a-half hour drive away.

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The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square, San Francisco

The Painted Ladies

It was not ideal but we found ourselves with only one day and one night in San Francisco. We were on our way from Los Angeles to Vancouver with friends who hadn’t been to San Francisco before but who wanted a glimpse of the city.

It was a January afternoon and we had driven from Carmel. There wasn’t much light left but we were hoping to visit the Muir Woods, about 20 kms north of San Francisco, before checking into our hotel in the city.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods is an old-growth coastal redwood forest (Sequoia sempervirens) – one of the last on earth. Lovers of nature will particularly appreciate the grandeur of this place. Visitors can see redwood trees of all ages – some are over 600 years old.

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Sunset at Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Sunset at Venice Beach, Los Angeles

On an extended trip to the US, we spent four nights and three days in Los Angeles. There wasn’t too much idle time, however it was the beginning of our trip and we thought we were fresh enough to see a lot in a short time.

After much research we chose to stay at the Elan Hotel in West Hollywood based on price and location. While our room was small (there were four of us sharing a room), the staff are friendly, continental breakfast was good and each afternoon there was complimentary wine and cheese.

We had a car and planned to visit Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Venice Beach/Santa Monica and Disneyland. With the exception of Disneyland, we were very close to all we wanted to see.  The only downside was that we found the valet parking expensive and a little inconvenient so we chose to park on the street. If you do park on the street, take note of the parking restrictions.

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Grand Canyon in Winter

Grand Canyon in Winter

On a trip to the USA in December/January 2009-10, we were keen to visit the Grand Canyon. We hired a car in Las Vegas and drove to the Grand Canyon (South Rim). It is about 277 miles or 5 hours driving time.

We recommend a stop along the way at Hoover Dam about 35 miles south of Las Vegas and if you have time, we are told that the tours of the Dam are excellent. However, don’t plan on eating at the small cafeteria at Hoover Dam as the food isn’t good.

Just as we entered the Grand Canyon National Park it started to snow! We came in on South Entrance Road and by the time we reached the South Rim Visitor Centre it was really coming down. There was a quick glimpse of the Canyon and then white out. Read the rest of this entry »

Las Vegas - The Strip

Las Vegas – The Strip

At the end of 2009, we did a trip to the US, starting in Las Vegas. We were a group of seven – four adults and three teenagers. As we would be travelling for about two months in total, we looked for good-value-for-money accommodation wherever we went, and decided to stay off the Strip while in Vegas.

Although we had a car, we planned to stay in walking distance to the Strip. After much research, we stayed at the Tuscany Suites & Casino – which proved to be great value for money. Our room, with two double beds, cost around US$30 per night for four people! It seemed too good to be true however we can highly recommend it. It is a large resort style property. The rooms are big, it was clean and quiet. For convenience we ate at their Italian restaurant (Tuscany Gardens) and had breakfast in their coffee shop (Marilyn’s Café) at the back of the casino. Fairly standard and relatively cheap.

In comparison, we had friends who travelled a year later, chose to stay at the Bellagio Hotel for about US $130 a night for four people. While the room was good value, they said the meals were very expensive and their stay in Vegas cost more than they anticipated. Read the rest of this entry »

New York City

New York City

Winter is a good time to visit New York City. It is the quietest season when it is less crowded, there are no queues, hotels prices are reduced and the city looks beautiful when it snows.

We spent a week in New York City in January 2010. If travelling at that time of year, if possible we recommend arriving before 10 January so that you can see the Christmas lights throughout the city (on this trip we missed them but had loved seeing them on a previous visit).

We chose to stay at the Belvedere Hotel in mid-town Manhattan. Booking one of the executive guestrooms is recommended as they have recently been refurbished.  There were four of us – two adults and two teenagers. Our Double Executive room was good value for money as we could all share the one room (two double beds). The room also had a kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator which could be useful for families with young children but unfortunately there is no cutlery or crockery provided.

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The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains

If you are visiting Sydney, we can recommend a day trip to the Blue Mountains. Anytime of year is good however it is a bonus if you can see the mountains in autumn or spring.

If you have the time, we suggest doing a circular route – driving out of Sydney along the M4 onto the Great Western Highway through Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath. When you reach Mount Victoria we recommend returning to Sydney via the Bells Line of Road. It is a big day out but you will certainly see a lot.

Driving time to Katoomba is about two hours from Sydney. Read the rest of this entry »

View over Lake Jindabyne

View over Lake Jindabyne

Jindabyne is the gateway to the snowfields of the southern Kosciuszko National Park – Perisher, Charlotte’s Pass, Blue Cow, Smiggin Holes, Guthega and Thredbo.

We arrived in Jindabyne the week before the official opening of the 2011 ski season. In previous years we had passed through Jindabyne on the way to the snowfields without giving it a second thought. However, after staying a few days we discovered that it is a very pleasant town.

At this time of year there is an influx of young people looking for jobs for the ski season. Everyone we come across is incredibly friendly, enthusiastic and helpful. Read the rest of this entry »

Sydney – Goulburn – Crookwell – Cootamundra – Echuca – Swan Hill – Mildura – Wentworth – Broken Hill – Dubbo – Sydney

Line of Lode Miners Memorial & Restaurant, Broken Hill

Line of Lode Miners Memorial & Restaurant, Broken Hill

An area of NSW that we didn’t know well was the Murray River and Broken Hill region so we did a driving trip along the Murray River, out to Broken Hill, returning to Sydney via Dubbo.

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Grand Pacific Drive - Sea Cliff Bridge

Grand Pacific Drive - Sea Cliff Bridge

One of our favourite day trips from Sydney is the drive south via the Royal National Park, through the towns of Stanwell Park, Austinmer and Thirroul to North Wollongong. A highlight of the trip is the Sea Cliff Bridge and the spectacular coastal views.

Leaving Sydney we drive out past the airport, following the signs to Rockdale/Wollongong. Just beyond the airport, there are good views over Botany Bay from along the Grand Parade, Brighton-Le-Sands. The foreshore of Botany Bay has been landscaped in recent years to provide a walking/cycling track and grassed areas for picnicking.

Once through the southern suburbs of Sydney take the turnoff to the Royal National Park. Established in 1879, it is Australia’s oldest national park and covers an area of 132 sq kms. The Royal National Park was the second national park to be established in the world, after Yellowstone in USA.

The Royal National Park is the beginning of what is known as the Grand Pacific Drive – from Sydney to Wollongong and beyond.

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Visiting Kiama, Gerringong, Gerroa, Berry, Huskisson, Kangaroo Valley, Burrawang and Bowral.

We left Sydney on a Saturday morning, hoping to stay a night in Huskisson. The plan was to explore the coast between Sydney and Jervis Bay over the next two days. It was what we call in our family ‘a flash tour’ – touching on many places in a short time, with a view to going back to where we liked the best.

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Knysna

Knysna

Knysna is one of the prettiest places you will visit in South Africa. Located approximately five hours drive from Cape Town, Knysna is on the Garden Route, about half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The closest airport is George.

Knysna is set on a beautiful lagoon with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other.

We are regular travellers to Knysna and stay with family in Belvidere, just outside of Knysna, but there are plenty of wonderful places to stay in and around Knysna. We would recommend bed & breakfast accommodation and there are lots of good quality places to choose from. Leisure Island is a pretty place to stay. On the Heads you will have spectacular views over Knysna or on Thesen Island or the Waterfront you are quite close to town. If you want to stay at Belvidere have a look at Belvidere Manor and cottages.

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Vietnam

Vietnam

We can highly recommend a trip to Vietnam. Our family and friends travelled to Vietnam in April 2005 and our itinerary has been used by many people since.

Vietnam itself is a very safe, clean country and is incredibly cheap.

Our 17 day trip cost approximately $2,000 per person which included airfares, accommodation and some meals, some transfers, guides/train trip to Sapa, Halong Bay junk. Meals were very cheap – US$2 bought a good meal.

We flew with Vietnam Airlines – we found them to be excellent. We generally chose to stay at 3 star hotels and found them clean and comfortable. Many included breakfast.

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