Atrium Prestige, Rhodes, Greece

Only a four hour flight from London, there’s a place where I can be away from it all, here in Rhodes, Greece. Not only is the weather warm, the sky is blue but the hotel too is pristine. I am staying at the Atrium Prestige Hotel ( ). On our arrival we were guided into the palatial foyer with chandeliers and a glass of fizz to welcome us. From here we were transported by golf buggy down hill to our room which is simply decorated with a pretty trailing ivy design and butterflies on the ceiling. The doors open out to a seating area and we are fortunate to have our own pool which overlooks the white villas below and the glistening and calm ocean.

It takes me a while to grasp that the reception area was at ground level with the rest of the hotel, apartments and villas cascading down towards the ocean. There are two main swimming pools and surroundings full of colour from plants, flowers, trees which complement the sky, white buildings and ocean. There is a small delicate chapel next to one of the swimming pools accessed by an arched white bridge.  

The main building houses an adults playground. The spa pool is amazing with two jacuzzi type beds incorporated into the pool. There are three spouts blasting water which is rather painful to go beneath and numerous jets pumping out water too. Being filled with salt water means that you don’t have to swim but can float as the jets move you around. All of the pools at the hotel contain salt water which is much nice than swimming in chemicals. The spa has treatment rooms which you can book as well as a sauna and hammam. The hammam is a vast steam room, large enough for corporate business meetings. For those feeling energetic there is a well equipped gym to use too. 

Near to the gym is an Greek BBQ restaurant, one of four restaurants. The Asian and Aegean restaurants are close to the sea whilst the gourmet restaurant (where breakfast is served) sits high in the main building with a glass edged balcony providing fantastic views out over the ocean. The hotel serves delicious food, wine and the hospitality is exceptional.  

There are of course a choice of bars here, two at the pool and one as you leave the tunnel which leads down to the black sandy beach. Follow the board walks and you’ll find countless parasols and loungers awaiting sun worshipping travellers.  

The Atrium Prestige provides a relaxing environment and I’m sure most travellers would use the time to have a morning lie in however here that would mean missing another great phenomenon, sunrise. A much better choice would be to watch dawn which fortunately occurs directly in front of the hotel. The red, yellow, green and blue colours at dawn provide a vivid rainbow across the horizon and precede a speedy sunrise. 

Our stay is only mard by the pathways which when damp due to the early morning air or the efficient cleaners become slippery. As the paths do slope down to the ocean it can be quite hazardous.  

If you want warmth, blue sky, great hospitality and somewhere that you don’t want to leave (we didn’t the whole week) The Atrium Prestige is an awesome place to go!  

Camper-vaning, Port Douglas, Hartley’s Crocodile Farm and Ellis Beach, Queensland, Australia (3)

We were escorted from the Daintree Rainforest predictably by the heaviest enslaught of rain. This eased in time for a Cassowary to be crossing the road ahead of us. A tall robust colourful bird different but similar to an emu. We stopped and watched it move across the road before hiding in the vegetation and disappearing. A rarity, apparently to see in the wild and a wildlife tick in the box for me.

On both our entrance to the rainforest and departure we crossed the Daintree River by ferry, not a ferry as we would experience  in the U.K but more of a platform on water. A $26 fee for the ten minute journey with signs warning of crocodiles inhabiting the area. 

Todays travels take us from the remote, uninhabited, natural landscape of the rainforest to Port Douglas. A contrast indeed with concrete, materialism and swarms of people. The area is nice with boutiques, bars and a mix of people from different backgrounds but something in me would prefer to return to the rainforest or nature. Any attempts today to visit the beach were thwarted, as soon as my toes touched the sand, there was a deluge of rain being dumped on me, requiring a dash back to Martha and yet more wet clothing needing to be dried out in our small space. 

The following morning we drove to the lookout at Port Douglas. An incredibly steep climb up for Martha but a wonderful view from Flagstaff Hill looking out to the sea and surrounding area. Thankfully the sun was shinning which always makes sightseeing more pleasant and engaging. From here I could see the beach that I attempted to venture on to the day before and I have my first glance of a swimming net. This is an area patrolled by lifeguards and protects swimmers from stingers (jellyfish), crocodiles and sharks (depending on where you are on the coast, depends on what’s out there). This was the moment when I realised that swimming in the ocean would not be an option for the time being.

Our next over night stay would be at Ellis Beach however a stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm was to come first. Hartleys is a great place to visit. On arrival we were greeted by Gonzo a parrot and we were directed to join the tours and talks on offer ( not by Gonzo I may add but by the lady on reception). The trip is well organised with the opportunity to watch crocodile and snake shows, go on a boat ride on the crocodile lake whilst they were fed and to hear their powerful snapping jaws as well as going into the enclosures with Wallabies, Kangaroos and kookaburras. I left Hartley’s feeling that I’d seen and learnt a lot about the wildlife of Australia including what to do when you encounter a crocodile (run in a straight line away from it and every man for himself) and a snake.

From Hartley’s the drive allows so many beautiful places to stop along the coastline. This is made easy with lookouts that you can park up at and admire the awesome views. This helps with the fatigue of being in a van and travelling too. A revival of the mind ready for the next part of the journey. Ours is to Ellis Beach, an isolated area on the main road with only a restaurant that closes early today. We set up on the camping pitch and cook dinner. It’s no longer raining, in fact it is really warm, too warm to close Martha’s doors to sleep. Tonight we are going to learn that this is in fact not a good idea…….

(Martha is the name given to our very old, leaky and cosy camper-van)

Camper-van, Daintree National Park, Australia

Our travel plans have led us to deciding to travel down the east coast of Australia. It seems appropriate to do so in the same style as most by camper-van. Having flown from Oahu, Hawaii to Melbourne the next stage of my travels requires a flight to Cairns on the north east side of Australia. It surprised me to learn the flight was three hours long (in Britain distances are much shorter) and included a change in time zone.
On arrival in Cairns we took a taxi to Travellers Autobarn and collected Martha. Martha had obviously seen better days but she was going to be home for the next month. We handed Martha our suitcases and jumped in the cab for our first stage of travels to the Daintree Rainforest. Our journey was slowed by repairing the sidelight which we discovered banging on the side of the van and we were entertained by the rattle of the cups, plates and cutlery in the drawers, however did Martha travel well. 
Our two and a half hour journey via the supermarket to collect supplies took us from the developed suburban town of Cairns to the humid, lush, green, untouched, undeveloped and remote area of Daintree National Park. We drove to PK’s campground in Cape Tribulation, hooked up the van and engaged in the excitement of organising the inside of Martha. With little storage space I placed my clothes in the cupboard under the seat and the food in the tiny kitchen area. Our next challenge was to work out how to set up the beds, using the collection of different shaped cushions we began our game of Tetris. 

Tetris led us to night time, the light had faded and outside the noise was intense. The rainforest by day and night is incredibly loud. The air is filled with the sounds of crickets, birds, bugs and frogs. The noise is both intense and relentless, it never stops and this evening a thunderstorm has joined in with the orchestra of noise. Storms at night scare me but tonight I feel they comfort me and cool me down, and besides my greatest fear at the moment is for the snakes which I know are out there…..somewhere.

You have arrived at your destination.

I’ve arrived, an incredibly long day which commenced with me packing, unpacking, discarding a few more items and repacking. I made it to the airport without incident which is always a concern after all a crash on the way really could put a spanner in the works. Check in, I was warned to be prepared for, know where you’re going and when, there was a pressure not to mess up. Thankfully I had printed off all my planned flights and visas. It turns out you can’t just leave the country without having some idea of when you’d return. 

Then a quick coffee, scoot around Duty Free and to the departure lounge where I’m greeted by my travel companion Greta Garbo. Norwegian Air have decided to name their airplane after an actress who was born in Sweden and died in New York? Greta is a stunning as you’d expect an airplane to be. Onboard there are large photos of her adorning the walls. My only concern was the man walking around beneath her with a torch but apparently this is perfectly normal.

I’m travelling in a Dreamliner 787 which is enormous and to make it even better there is a spare seat next to me. When you’re flying for nearly eight hours the more space to unpack and spread out the better. My choice of a gluten free meal was acceptable too,salmon with vegetables, a fruit pot and salad. They serve the special meals first and I did feel rather bad at tucking into mine before anybody else had received theirs.

We landed at 7.45pm local time and somehow I managed to be first off the plane! The next hurdle would be immigration control and boy did they ask questions. It didn’t help at the time that my popping ears were blocked and my head felt like I was underwater. The immigration officer took my passport and looked at the photo. ‘Have you been working out ma’am?’, I responded that yes I had. Now I was rather concerned that he would turn me away due to the fact I look a little different to the photograph, then the questions, oh my word. Where are you going, how long for, when do you go here, why are you here, are you travelling alone, how much money do you have on you, when do you return home? The questions went on and my paperwork was checked. Then, then when I felt really guilty and like I’ve done something wrong he tells me to make sure I leave enough time to travel around all my destinations! 
Once through immigration I ‘hail’ a yellow cab (I didn’t really, it was waiting in the taxi rank outside but hail sounds so American). The driver threw my case in the ‘trunk’ and off we went. It took a while before I could see snow by the side of the road and cars still covered too. We drove past a hotel about five floors tall with an illuminated multicoloured Eiffel Towel on top. Over the Queensborough Bridge into Midtown New York. It’s a bit like being in a film set. The building styles recognisable, trees encased in little white lights, the rows and rows of tall buildings, the guys out working on the roads in their yellow jackets, blocking roads off in a very unenglish way by just stopping the traffic without warning and placing cones there. People try to open the cab door to get in when we stop. The driver gets cross and says, ‘everyone here is in a rush’. So much to take in. I arrive at my hotel, check in and order room service before turning in for the night. The end of a very long 22 hour day. 

2 days until your trip to New York City

It’s Saturday 7th January 2017 and after all the months of talking and planning the time to pack has arrived. I am filled with excitement and nerves, what will I experience, who will I meet, where will I stay, how will I get there and what if something goes wrong? So many what ifs. So much to look forward to.
I have been planning to travel light. My S.O. and I researched our luggage and bought Osprey Meridian 75 wheeled backpacks. Excellent I thought so much space and I won’t be taking much, perfect! 2 days to go and I’m having a rethink. I’m running out of space!!