Morocco, North Africa!

Take every chance you can in life, because some things only happen once…. but not in this case… in this case, I will definitely be back Morocco! You won my heart!

From Marrakesh Medina and it’s contrasting new town, to driving over the Atlas mountains (still snow capped in May) to the earthen buildings of Ait Benhaddou and on to the captivating dunes of the Sahara desert in Mhamid , then finally on to Agadir and Essaouira, this country literally changed at every turn in the road but we didn’t anticipate what an amazing experience we would have here. Morocco left us speechless and wanting more.

I have to say, this was the first holiday where I really wasn’t ready to fly home. I was even checking flights to see if I could stay 4 extra days , unfortunately we couldn’t, but I have promised myself that some day I will return.

Here is what we got up to over our 10 day trip. We managed to fit in two Game of Thrones filming locations too!

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We flew Dublin to Marrakesh thanks to ryanair. (Shur where would you be without them). Initially we planned two nights in Marrakesh. On arrival, I gotta say, I was out of my comfort zone, everything was so different as we made our way through the busy streets.

We arrived late afternoon and went straight to our Raid Palacio de las especias Marrakesh, where, we were greeted with smiles and Morocco’s famous mint tea. Surprisingly refreshing in the afternoon sun. Once settled in to our amazing room, they prepared a Moroccan tasting meal for us. Each course as delicious as the last. Every time we thought we were finished, another plate appeared from the kitchen.

We chilled on the rooftop terrace (complete with a traditional Berber tent may I add) listening to the call to prayer and got an early night. Our room was amazing and the food there was delicious.

Check it out ūüėä

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We spent the next two days exploring the Medina and souks, wandering the narrow streets, shopping, eating, drinking and people watching. FYI! An empty suitcase would be advised for your return flight , there are such amazing rugs, blankets, cushion covers, shoes, lamps, plates, spices, herbs and so much more to be found here.

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We visited Bahia Palace, and the YSL Gardens (Jardin Majorelle), We found the most amazing rooftop restaurant bar in the middle of the Medina, Terrasse des Epices. The perfect spot to watch sunset. (booking is essential for food)

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We sat on the rooftop of cafe France in Jamaa-El-Fnaa sipping mint tea and watching the madness below.

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We walked to the new town and hit up the famous Barometre, well worth the 40min walk each way. The bar has a crazy scientist feel with concoctions of all sorts used for alcohol infusions.

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I had the nicest gin cocktail of my life there! (Ros√©e du Matin) Actually , I’d even go as far as saying it was the nicest alcoholic drink I’ve ever had EVER. Infused with actual rose petals and mint, the smell alone was captivating and it tasted heavenly. (Yes i did just refer to alcohol as heavenly, don’t judge) We sat and enjoyed the live DJ playing chilled house music. It was lovely. We had planned on eating there because we heard that they have a pretty tasty tapas menu, but they were booked out.

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(Ill probably dedicate a blog post solely to Marrakesh because it deserves to be in the limelight)

The next morning we collected our rental car and mentally prepared ourselves for the crazy driving conditions ahead in order to to get out of Marrakesh, we survived and made on our way to Ait Benhaddou, our first Moroccan road trip.

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It does take time to get around Morocco, the roads are good but there are speed limits and the police are always out with speed guns, although we never had any issues. If you go up north I think there are motorways, but distance takes time here.There is alot of activity on the side of the roads, overloaded donkeys, women carrying all sorts. Kids cycling to and from school. It’s a great way to meet locals.

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Moroccan earthen clay architecture & (GOT location 1)

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It was late afternoon when we arrived and I was hangry.

(GOT location 1)

I could have done with a snickers, anyway, I stupidly decided to have pizza on the way in to the Ksar which meant I missed out on their candle light, homemade, traditional Moroccan dinner. Let’s just say, I deeply regretted not waiting. It looked amazing and a really good opportunity to speak with and meet other travelers. Lesson learned! Never let yourself get HANGRY!

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We spent the night in Kasbah Tebi located inside the historic ksar of Ait Benhaddou a UNESCO world heritage site and one of only four family dwellings still lived in inside the walls of the Ksar.

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We explored the Ksar at dusk and watched the sunset from the highest point, it was breathtaking to see the vastness below. Truly breathtaking! On the way back to the kasbah the light was growing dim. Men used boiled kettles to wash and shave themselves and they actually lock the Ksar from the inside at night so we had to be let out by one of the few people living within the walls. They were all so lovely, always smiling. We went back to Tebi for some stargazing before bed. There is no electricity within the walls of the Ksar making it the perfect star-gazing spot by night. The next morning Thomas got up to watch the sun rise, I opted out. The little shops along the narrow streets have the most amazing finds, honestly, the best shopping in morocco!

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By 12pm we were on the road again and heading to the desert! The drive was long and sweaty. (too much information?!) It was really eye opening to see how the villages and towns changed along the way the further we got into the desert.

The destination, Mhamid.

We had read that Mhamid is less popular due to some border disputes which are all sorted now, so we presumed it would be the more authentic option.

We arrived at camp Sahara holidays late that evening. The boys were great fun from the get go, after some mint tea they let us loose into the desert dunes to watch the sun set. What a place to be for sunset!! cool sand in between your toes, palm trees barely swaying in the breeze, everything glowing bright.

The sun drops off so fast, going and going for ages, then gone in the blink of the eye to reveal the star light sky. I didn’t expect to be blown away by the sky because I thought, shur I live in the countryside! but my god , was I blown away. We had actually only planned to stay one night in the desert but it was so, so nice there, we stayed two nights. Camp Sahara was the only desert camp in Mhamid that had reviews on bookings.com so that’s why we booked with them.

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They have proper toilets and showers and clean, comfy tents. The food there was the best we had in Morocco, the cous cous tagine was exceptional and the people we met there were unforgettable. We were sad to say good-bye when the time came. The boys arranged camel trekking and a trip to Erg Chegaga which was brilliant. They also made the most amazing lunch for us in the desert camp out in Erg Chegaga. You HAVE to have a Berber omelette when your in Morocco along with Moroccan salad!

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Check it out.

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We got on the road the following morning with heavy hearts, we wanted to stay longer. This lil camel even crossed the road in front of us to try and stop us from leaving.

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A desert camp overnight stay is a must if you are planning a trip to morocco.

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Our next destination, Agadir! Another long drive. To be honest, I only wanted to visit Agadir to see paradise valley because it looked amazing in the pictures but… I wouldn’t recommend going just for that.

Agadir is was just your typical resort town. When we checked into the hotel there was no personal touch unlike the Riads, Kasbahs and camps, everyone there seemed depressed! anyway, we had our first pool afternoon and evening and drank some well deserved gins. The next morning we got up and headed for paradise valley. it was scorching hot even in the morning. We headed along the trails and across stones strategically placed on river beds to find the hidden lakes. Following donkeys carrying supplies to the cafes in the valley.

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It was lovely, but packed with tourists and there was alot of rubbish, we followed the trails further and saw some more rock pools and we headed back to Agadir, we actually had to check into another hotel because the one we stayed in the night before was full and we couldn’t book a second night, I was glad because I didn’t like it there. The next hotel was lovely.

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After the hike we chilled at the pool and headed to Agadir beach for sunset. The beach there is lovely.

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We wandered the streets and ate dinner in a beach side restaurant, as I said before, it was like any other resort town you would see in Europe so if that’s not your thing then maybe consider skipping Agadir.. The next morning, we packed up and got on the road in the direction of Essaouira. This was our last planned journey, a few days of chilled beach and pool time before flying out.

Along the road we encountered the famous goats in argan trees, the farmer let me take a picture in exchange for a few dirhams.

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We arrived into a windy Essaouira around midday. We had booked Hotel Des ILLes on bookings.com before arrival but when we got there it was very run down compared to the pictures. It was fairly crappy accommodation to be honest and I had really wanted a few pool days before flying home so it was disappointing for me in that sense. Maybe I was just spoiled because all the other places were so nice.

Anyway, we grinned and bared it and headed off to explore the town that evening.

If your wondering how windy it is there, please use the picture below as a reference! Essaouira is a popular wind surfing destination, I know that now but didn’t before (haha)

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Game of thrones filming location 2

We came accross two lovely resturants in Essaouira.

La Licorne, all the artwork on the walls were painted by the owner. Both the food and atmosphere was lovely.

And Umai resturant which is where we found this delicious bottle of moroccan red wine ūüėć I’m pretty sure this place was fine dinning. It was fancy AF.

We actually decided to head back to Marrakesh a day early (the day before flying home) because we got a few emails from ryanair regarding delays at the airport etc.

We hit the jackpot with the Riad we booked! and it was a great price too, Riad Shemsi. Have a look at this beaut! ūüėć Initially I wanted to stay here for our first few nights but it was out of our budget so we just got lucky.

We chilled for a few hours by the riad pool, had lunch there and then headed out into the souk. Obviously I wanted to go back to Terrasse des Epices. again. (haha)

We had a few hours the next morning and we wanted to check out Ben Youssef Madrasa but it was closed for renovations.

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Although it was disappointing, I got over it by going shopping, AGAIN! much to Thomas’s dismay.¬† We headed to the airport that afternoon feeling like we wanted to hop on another flight, somewhere, anywhere but home! Morocco has changed a lot for us, it really opened our eyes and hearts to travel, we¬† now want to travel more into the unknown!

We will definitely go back there and I¬† would 100% recommend a visit.¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Don’t listen to the people who say ‘I wouldn’t go there’!¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†We didn’t encounter any badness or negativity, only smiles and good hospitality. Obviously we had read about all the scams that can happen so if you go knowing what to expect, you won’t be fooled. If you want to ask me any questions about this ,please do.

I will be travelling to India in November so please keep an eye on my Instagram.

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Thanks for reading and as always pleaseeeeeeeeeeee follow me on the below sites:

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From France to Spain

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To say I have been through a hell of a time the last few months is an understatement.

So an extended holiday was exactly what the doctor ordered.!

18 days of bliss, but how could we afford it!

We set about planning our summer 2015 trip wondering how we could reduce costs while still enjoying ourselves to the max and so we made our plan.

We flew into Carcassonne, a beautiful medieval town in the south of France on the 10th of September and stayed in the fabulous Maison Fortunat

(https://www.facebook.com/Maison-Fortunat-661011880682193/)

Of course it helps that my sister owns this wonderful property, check it out!

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Fully equipped with everything you need to have an amazing holiday including a pool, obviously!

A short walk from the medieval cite where you are transported to another world almost immediately, every narrow little street leads you to another gem. Torture museums, haunted houses, knights jousting on horseback, shops, freshly made crepes and juices, restaurants…. WINE!! ¬†(As i said, everything you need)

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When you eventually want to face reality again you can walk another 10 minutes to the ‘new town’ where you will be greeted with magnificent fountains, carousels and the ultimate holiday necessity, the square in the centre Ville, where you can sit for hours sipping on a local wine and get lost people watching. (My favourite haunt is Chez Felix)

If you fancy a spot of shopping, there is literally a long street running from one side of the town to the other with everything a girl could want. Sephora,  Pimkie, parfois and many more.

Spend your evenings in The Celt Irish bar, not your usual Irish bar abroad. This one is actually owned and run by genuine Irish people and doesn’t have the usual cringy Irish bar abroad vibe. Its classy interior and even classier range of high end whiskeys sets it aside from the others. The Celt hosts open mic nights which attract French, English and Irish patrons. A diverse culture which makes for a great night.

Find them here; https://www.facebook.com/theceltcarcassonne?fref=ts 

                          http://www.theceltpub.com/

From Carcassonne you have access to Carcassonne plage, a man made lake with water activities, if you want to venture a little further, Toulouse is only an hour away, the same with Montpelier and Narbonne, both sea side towns.

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Carcassonne should defiantly be on your places to visit list.

 

So, I guess this is when our adventure really started.

We caught the 9pm train to Barcelona (extremely hung-over), but the train was super comfortable.

¬†Barcelona was just a place to pick up our rental car for the next part of our adventure. We figured we could fly directly into Barcelona any time but other places are not as accessible, plus you need time to wander in Barcelona and we didn’t have enough of that hehehehe

So, we collected our car and shat ourselves a little bit at the task ahead of navigating Spanish roads. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t that bad. We then headed North, yes, back the way we came, past Girona, to the¬†lovely medieval town, Pals.

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We stopped along the way in Decathlon to buy ourselves a tent, some foam rollers and microfibre towels.

Camping was the cheapest way and Spanish camp-sites have excellent facilities.

This is where we found paradise, Cala D’aigua Xelida

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Then Girona, another massive medieval Town, where they were filming Game of thrones might I add!

We wandered through narrow streets in the old town and then sat down and watched the world pass us by while we drank Rioja and ate patatas bravas and Nachos.

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We drove to two camp-sites in Girona and both looked unsafe so we stayed in a gorgeous hotel in the city centre, that I found in 5 minutes before check in on bookings.com. But I really enjoyed Girona Town, it felt homely and safe.

IMG_20151010_160835The¬†weather wasn’t amazing so we decided that heading south was a good option, we stopped off at some lovely places along the way.

Tossa De Mar

A beautiful place to stop, have some lunch and take it the views.

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From there , the awe-inspiring Roman Amphitheatre in Taragonna.

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And on to Granada, it was late when we got into Granada and we had drove for 4 hours so i went on bookings.com and found this amazing hotel, for 100EURO. I still think it was some sort of mix up, we got a suite with a jacuzzi in the room!

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I was just raging that we didn’t arrive earlier.

The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go explore Granada. A town we had heard so much about, steeped in history, on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

I had planned on going to see Flamingo dancing in the caves and the Palace in Alhambra and the Arabic shopping streets.

Sadly we didn’t research it enough and our whole, be free , make no plans ethos on the holiday back fired. Tickets for the palace were sold out for the foreseeable future and the same with Flamingo dancing in the caves.

However, we did get tickets to see the palace gardens, and we made it to the Arabic markets.

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It was beautiful there, we were so disappointed we didn’t get to see the palace, but we had to move on, we wandered through the Arabic centre and sat and had a glass of wine and then we did a spot of shopping. At about 7pm we decided we better organise where we would stay so we searched camp-sites and found an award winning camp-site up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we made our way up. It was dark on arrival so using the lights of the car we pitched out tent and headed to the camp-site bar for a night cap.

¬†The air was fresh in the mountains and I actually woke up in the middle of the night freezing, my micro-fibre towel wasn’t enough so i wrapped myself up in clothes.

The next day we saw some of the Sierra Nevada national park and went and walked the hanging bridges of Granada.

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We drove from there straight to Malaga, had some lunch on the beach and pitched our tent in Torremolinos for our first few beach days xx It was so nice to finally let the sun soak into our skin, read some books and drink some cocktails.

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We rested here, went for relaxing morning walks on the beach and two hour strolls every night until it was time to check into our final destination.

Mijas

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We stayed in an amazing rental property in Calle de Mijas which was spread out over three floors.

Casa Kewuet

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When you walk into the house you are greeted with this view, amazing day or night. It was such a pity that our schedules were so hectic, we never got to sit here and watch the sun set together with a bottle of wine.

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An old style interior with a modern twist.

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The bathroom was built into the hillside rocks and this beautiful free standing bath took centre stage in the house.

We were in Mijas for our friends wedding and it was beautiful, and so central, Close to Malaga and Marbella.

So many things to do x

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I really enjoyed the holiday but I gotta say, Greece and it’s old fashioned islands still have my heart.

Spain was busy, commercialised and stressful to drive in and I just didn’t get the same relaxed vibe I had felt in Greece.

Check out my previous blog here:

https://brenda89b.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/my-love-affair-with-the-greek-islands/

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My Love Affair with the Greek Islands

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Apparently, ever since my eldest sister could talk she spoke about France. The sunflower fields, the culture, the people. It was no surprise when she eventually moved there.

For me, its always been about Greece. I never vocalised it like she did but for some reason Greece has always been in my thoughts. When I was a teenager it seemed so far out of reach as a destination. In my head it was a luxury place that someday, when I was rich and a famous singer (oh to be young) I would go to. Of course this is not the case.

Greece is a very popular destination among package holiday’ers. (Is that even a word)

So in 2013 I visited my first ever Greek Island Zakynthos (Zante) and fell madly in love with it.

Zakynthos, a Greek Island in the Ionian sea is small and intimate with deserted beaches as-well as resorts full of party goers. It has an old time, relaxed feel to it. A simple life. It is most famously know for its shipwreck bay or smugglers cove, where a boat smuggling tobacco came into difficulty while being chased by police and washed up on shore.

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Smugglers cove can be seen by boat or more daringly can be seen from the limestone cliffs above which are crumbling away more and more every day.

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I have to say, this was the most beautiful site I have ever laid my eyes on. Driving our rental car around every inch of the Island and finding this was just beautiful and still to this day, when I look back on my pictures, I cannot believe I saw this first hand. When people say that Greece has turquoise waters, believe them. We also went to smugglers cove by boat. You have to go early in the morning because as the package tourism arrives midday, it is like a D-day landing at Normandy.

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As we drove around Zante we found more and more beauty. Restaurants perched on cliff tops, looking down below to crystal clear, turquoise, heavenly waters.

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Deserted beaches with turtle’s nesting. We even got to witness baby turtles making their first steps to the ocean x

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Everywhere we looked beauty surrounded us. Life seemed so easy there. People visited their neighbours at night and sat outside and spoke to each other. Not in front of TV’s, not with smart phones in their hands!!

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The little Island behind us is called turtle island, it is shaped like a turtle and humans are forbidden on it. Turtles come there to nest every year. You can however take a boat and go turtle watching around the Island.

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Cameo Island, the ultimate wedding venue! A small Island attached by a timer bridge has all the essentials, a bar and a restaurant.

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A place where nature blends in with modern life.

(A place where you can pick a lime straight of the tree for your balcony beers)

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Zakynthos, defiantly a place to visit, defiantly a place to return to, defiantly a place to retire in. My first ever Greek love.

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When holiday decision time came round in 2014, I wanted to hit up another Greek Island and Falcon travel had just added Rhodes to their destinations. So we booked and made a list of what we wanted to do there.

Rhodes is much bigger than Zakynthos and more built up. You have to go right into the middle of it to get that¬†left behind sense that Zakynthos has. A feeling that I love. Again, driving around Rhodes, you could see it’s beauty, but just in different ways. Because it is more built up, you cannot get that sense of desertion, you don’t feel like the only two people in the world here and you loose that ‘simple way of life’ that I loved in Zante.

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However, Rhodes is steeped in History. Rhodes old town is just amazing, getting lost here is not a defeat, it’s an opportunity! It is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe and as you walk through the narrow streets catching glimpses into people one bedroomed houses your perspective on life changes. 10665385_952853091397116_1617460677983253495_n From one extreme to another you can walk through the palaces of kings and they are truly magnificent. It has hundreds of bars and restaurants but to find good home-cooked food you have to get off the beaten track. xxx The colossus of Rhodes is one of the seven wonders of the world and when you walk around it you get a sense of what¬†life was all about back then. You can almost hear the cheers and excitement of generations passed. 10628436_952849074730851_7681555233574458081_n¬†10639694_952849171397508_77917104531396295_n

Lindos, another beautiful old village is a must see.

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Where narrow streets leading to colourful gates greet you at every corner.

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A place where fresh fruit and veg¬†and nature surrounds you ¬†even in Town’s and villages.

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Both beautiful Islands. If you feel like you need a break from hustle and bustle and want to laze around, then pick Zakynthos. If you want lavish hotels, beaches smothered in parasols, friendly locals and historic buildings pick Rhodes. Either way bboth are worth a visit.

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And……… there are cats EVERYWHERE!

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I could talk about both Islands for hours and upload a million pictures too but I’ll leave it at that. Both times we booked through Thompson/Falcon travel and they delivered a top class service.

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