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Hull Classy and Cheap!

A list of Yorkshire city breaks would normally include: Leeds for the shops and night life, Sheffield for the theatres and museums, Bradford for the Media Museum, and the food and of course York because, it's well, York! One Yorkshire metropolis is of course missing from this list, Kingston Upon Humber, or to give it it's more common name Hull! Maybe it's the bracing East wind (childhood memories of Eddy Warring 'it's a coat colder on the East Coast today!!'). Maybe it's the end of the road  location(OK it's the M62!), maybe it's the fact that for years a piece of graffiti greeted travellers proclaiming 'This place smells of death'. For whatever reason Hull has never really featured on the travellers radar. This is a shame because Hull has changed, Hull is sparkly, historic, cultural, classy and currently Hull is really, really cheap!

Where else could you sort of dine underwater for £25. Watch the cup winners in a major sporting fixture on a full 3 course meal executive package for £65? Visit the best museum in the country for nothing, have a suite for a family in a four star hotel on the marina for £80 a night?

Ladies and gentlemen please put on your smart clothes take a small amount of money out of the bank and follow me for 48 hours in Hull.

We arrived on a Friday evening and checked in to the fabulously located Holiday Inn Marina. The Marina is only a stone’s throw from Princess Quay an iconic shopping centre that links the waterfront with the heart of the city centre.

We had no time for such retail frivolities; time enough for that later, for tonight we dine with the sharks!

There is a restaurant in Dubai and another in the Maldives where you can dine underwater. This of course costs you hundreds of pounds and obviously neither of the restaurants are in Yorkshire. There is however an alternative. For every Friday and Saturday night Europe’s deepest aquarium becomes an upmarket restaurant. The food is excellent (and yes you can have fish and no they don't ask you which one you want) but the bonus is you can get to wander round part of the Deep between courses. The total damage for 2 adults and a child (kids meals are great value at under £10) was about £70 including a decent bottle of wine.  The extra bonus was we got a tank side table where we could watch catfish and sharks swim lazily by until bedtime. At about 9.30 they dim all the tank lights and the fish go to sleep. The sharks actually sleep on wait for it...the sea bed no honest!! Dinner with the sharks?


After a full English breakfast it was a very short walk into town via the Princess Quay shopping centre. After a little light shopping (Jo bought a new handbag) it was culture time so we popped into the Ferens. Hull's main art gallery. This features works by a diverse and stellar range of artists including  Canaletto, Stanley Spencer, David Hockney, Helen Chadwick and Gillian Wearing. It is also free to get in (something to warm the heart of any true Yorkshireman!). After a delightful overdose of high culture it was time for something a bit more red meat. We hailed a taxi 'Take us to the KC' I said. The taxi driver looked wounded. Turned out he was a Robin and not an Airlie Bird.

The taxi pulled up outside the impressive KC Stadium (one of the cities windfalls from selling their telephone company) and we took a lift up to the executive restaurant. It was time for a little sport.

Hull is one of the few cities in the world (Sydney, Brisbane, Perpignan, Port Moresby, Wakefield?) where the oval ball is king and in it most exciting format the 13 a side code! Today it was Hull F.C. versus cup holders Warrington. If this was football we might be paying £50 just to get in. But rugby league is still the true people game and this was reflected in the prices. At the KC for £65 you can get a silver served 3 course meal, pre match entertainment, executive seating (or you can stay inside), pre ordered half time drinks at your table, after match entertainment, party games and a programme! My wife and youngest daughter are not the greatest of sports fans but they loved the whole experience. Classy and cheap!

The last morning of our stay saw us in Hull's newest retail experience the slightly Science Fictiony St Stephens Mall. Coffee and hot chocolate was taken in a Starbucks suspended from the ceiling in a sort of giant coffee bean . Things were bought, dithering occurred and eventually we set off for the old town past the wonderfully named 'Land of Green Ginger' and headed for the truly amazing museums quarter.


Our first port of call was the prosaic sounding East Riding Museum which is actually great and features amongst other things a woolly mammoth, a fully reconstructed bronze age village ditto Roman town and a Viking ship. Crossing a courtyard stopping only to play free table tennis in a Buddhist Garden (I'm not making this up) we entered the Hull Transport Museum. This sounds a bit beardy but isn't! It's brilliant! Street scenes with real transplanted Art Deco shops, a fully working old cinema, a vintage amusement arcade, a stagecoach simulator that was at the same time ridiculous and atmospheric. Every other museum in the country should look at this and learn. To put a top hat on it neither of these museums charged an admission fee. Classy and free!



With heavy hearts we set off back from the land of Green Ginger along the M62. We'd been to Hull and back and we'd loved every minute of it.



Steve Keeling teaches Travel at Stockton 6th Form College. He is the former travel correspondent for The Smoke magazine and lives in Leeming Bar.



All Inclusive Holidays - Yes or No?


 Every year I visit at least one all inclusive hotel, where we can kick back and relax for a week knowing everything is taken care of.

Having 2 young children (6 & 5) I like to not worry about one holiday a year and as a single mum its something I can do relatively easy on my own.

Now as you probably already know, Im a big traveller, I love to travel and I holiday at least 4 times a year on week long holidays, I usually go away for 2 weeks at Christmas and I like to throw in as many city breaks as I can throughout the year. Put simply I live to travel.

Im very fortunate that I have seen a lot of the world and yet every year there is one place that I always visit without fail, and that is Turkey.

For the past few years I have visited Turkey twice a year, once in May and once in October. I always book with First Choice - not because they are necessarily the best, I have no idea if they are, they were aptly named "Worst Choice" when I worked as a travel agent, but for me they tick the box for a hassle free decent priced holiday.

I have never stayed in the same hotel twice (I have visited Turkey over 20 times now) and I always try to see a different hotel, being all inclusive the hotels are generally isolated and the whole idea is that you stay in the hotel and use the facilities that are provided. To visit the same one would take away the excitement factor for me.

The amazing thing is over the last 5 years, Turkey has really come into its own with regards to these all inclusive holiday villages, where there will be a water park within the hotel grounds, a fun fair with carousels and dodgems and a big wheel, entertainment, water sports, kids clubs, buffet and ala carte restaurants, what more could you want?!

Now I love these types of holidays because I also do other holidays where I get to see things, and experience local culture, going on one of these all inclusive packages means its unlikely you will experience much local culture unless you book extras such as organised trips or tours at an additional cost.

So is a good thing for you or not?

If you want to have an easy holiday where your meals are provided, you can get as many drinks and snacks as you like, and you want to simply wake up, laze by the pool, let the kids play, eat, and be entertained on the evenings then yes they are perfect, however if you are into fine dining, eating at different restaurants every night, want to get out and see the country you are in, they probably arent for you!

One big suggestion I would give you is RESEARCH your hotel, I have stayed at some amazing places and unfortunately some real humdinger's! I would also suggest you dont book too far ahead, I made this mistake once, I booked 10 months in advance and at the time the trip advisor reviews were brilliant, by the time the holiday came around the reviews were awful and a lot of people were coming down with gastroenteritis!

Trip advisor is the most amazing tool, before trip advisor was invented we had a "truth book" at the travel agency where we could read the REAL hotel description not the nice fluffy one they had in the brochure, but obviously we couldnt show this to customers so we simply had to sway them towards somewhere that was suitable for their needs.

If there is a lot of you an all inclusive holiday can be perfect as it easily caters to everyones tastes, we travelled as a group of 9 last May and it pleased every single one of us from the youngest (2) to the oldest (34)

I can recommend a few hotels where I have stayed

For luxury I can without a doubt recommend The Gloria Serenity, its not cheap but it is ultra all inclusive, a mini bar with every spirit concivable is replaced daily in your room, along with room service, a jacuzzi, private villa accommodation, amazing entertainment (similar to broadway shows) dining that is out of this world. Highlight for us was the beach trampolines, had great fun after a few glasses of wine on those with the children!


For a great family holiday I would recommend The Cornelia De Luxe

Now this hotel is the only one I have ever visited twice and thats because I simply cant fault it, the slides are great fun (daily competitions happen between the male residents at the hotel, great fun can be taken from watching who makes the biggest splash and getting the unsuspecting passers by at the bottom of the slide all adds to the charm!) the restaurants are good, the waiters are funny and the evening entertainemnt is pretty good and followed by live music in the bar afterwards.


Happy travelling!

Michelle x


 Photo taken May 2012 in Antalya Turkey of The Sands Family & The Greasley Family after staying at The Cornelia De Luxe



 India - How to do India and not get the dreaded Delhi Belly!

I recently travelled to India over the Christmas period, 15 days of exhilarating, breath taking adventure! img_0578

India has always been on my list, ever since I can remember I have desperately wanted to see the Taj Mahal, in all its beauty and glory, I think the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal was the real reason I wanted to visit, as a young girl hearing of the powerful love between a husband and his wife was enchanting, like a prince charming fairy tale. In case you dont know the story I shall tell you it, The emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj in memory of his favourite wife (note not only wife!) Mumtaz in 1631 who died in childbirth whilst giving birth to their 14th child. It took 22 years and 20,000 men to build it and within it lies the tombs of both Mumtaz and Shah Jahan. The story goes much deeper than this and you can find the full story here

I decided that life is too short and it was time to visit India, so after extensively researching what we should see and do I booked our trip.

We flew out with Emirates from Newcastle to Delhi via Dubai, the flight was long, but not horrific, it was around 6.5 hrs to Dubai, we had a 4 hr stopover in Dubai and then an additional 4 hours from Dubai to Delhi.

In Delhi we stayed 2 nights at the Leela Palace, highly recommended for luxury however the prices were similar to english prices for food and drinks. Unfortunately for us Delhi was in lock down when we arrived, as im sure you will have heard in the news a young 23 year old student was brutally raped by 6 men on a bus in Delhi , then beaten and subsequently died. The people of Delhi were horrified and protests were beginning. Delhi is a predominantly government city, with government buildings being the main tourist attractions, so we found on our first day there wasnt much that we could get to. We hired a guide each day and he took us to see the minaret  sam_0075which was a beautiful sight. It made us laugh how there was a foreigners price (about 500 rupees each) and a locals price (around 10 rupees each!)

The second day in Delhi we had a different guide who took us to see Old Delhi, we hired a rickshaw sam_0100and we were taken for a trip around the back streets of Old Delhi, now this was real India, I loved every second, this is the place to come to buy wholesale ribbon and beads and materials, I didnt see another tourist while we were there, some sights were shocking, people sleeping on the filthy floors, eating from stalls with their hands, dogs, cows roaming freely, everyone stares at you, you are white, they dont consider it rude, and you have to not consider it rude yourself, they are simply curious of you.  The ribbon shop was my favourite a small stall no bigger than 6ft by 6ft housing floor to ceiling reels and reels of beautiful ribbon! It was like a crafters dream! We then went on to Elefantastic and met the amazing Rahul, you have to book this so make sure you do so you arent disappointed, we had the most amazing afternoon, feeding, painting (yes painting!) and riding our own elephants! sam_0321I have never been so close to an elephant for so long it was a truly unforgettable experience, find all the information here

We visited a restaurant on recommendation from our guide which was called Lazy Azziz we saw a monkey being walked like a dog and snakes that danced before going in and our guide exclaimed "everything is possible in India" and gosh he was right! I have a friend whose parents are Indian and she visits regularly herself and she recommended we take dettol wipes with us, an invaluable piece of advise, I took big packs, they were brilliant! I would wipe our hands, the cutlery, the plates, the glasses, the cans the bottle tops everything with them before we ate, Having children this was a life saver as children tend to touch everything then put their hands in their mouths!

We then travelled to Agra - it took around 5 hours in quite dreadful traffic, India is busy, with constant horns honking and driving with no care for anyone or anything, regularly you will see 5 lanes of traffic squeezed into 3 lanes! We collected our guide on the way, checked into the ITC Agra then we went to the Taj, getting into the Taj was - ahem interesting! From the second you arrive you are shouted at by sellers, people wanting to take you on a camel, a horse and carriage or a rickshaw down to the entrance, children begging and mothers holding children asking for money, our guide told us to ignore the sellers and say a firm no if persisted. We chose a camel ride to the entrance which was great fun even if the child in charge asked us for double the money once we arrived. Luckily having a guide helped us a lot in these types of situations. Again foreigners pay more to visit but this has its advantages, the ques of the Indians were miles and miles long but as a tourist on a high price ticket you can pretty much que jump all the ques! Men and women are separated to go through the security and they will search any bags, you can't take anything with you except water, camera and necessities, no toys , food or anything else.

Once in our son desperately needed a wee so my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal was dashing to the toilets - ah children! But there it was - the most breath taking view I have ever seen! I wont go into detail as it may spoil it for you but I can assure you, you will not be disappointed! Before I went i read that it was smelly at the Taj, but this definitely was not the case, it exceeded all my expectations and trust me when I say they were high! Did you know that behind the Taj Mahal the foundations are laid of what was going to be a black Taj Mahal, the emporer was going to build a black one to mirror it to express his deep sorrow of Mumtaz's death however his son stopped him from completing it.sam_0196

The ITC Agra was adequate, it was not the same luxury as the Leela Palace but it was clean and comfortable and still above average, the pool was not heated much to our children's dismay but they still braved it shivering when they came out, we rode a 6 seater tandem around the fields in the hotel which was great fun and then the next day we travelled to Jaipur.

It took around 5 hours to get to Jaipur, the pink city and wow! The pink city was definitely one not to miss! We had 2 nights booked in Jaipur but as we arrived I received an email from Spice jet regarding our flight from Jaipur to Goa to say it had been cancelled. The next flight to Goa on the same date was from Delhi so unfortunately we had to drive back to Delhi on our second night (7 hours) which was a huge disappointment.

Therefore we decided to make th most of Jaipur - and we all wanted to go shopping! We met our guide who was desperate to show us the historic buildings of Jaipur and he was somewhat amazed when we said we just want to go shopping but he obliged, came with us and even took me to the bangles shop where he buys his own wifes bangles from and got me a discount! sam_0267We had a wonderful time, we didnt see any other tourists, but we bought handmade leather shoes, bed spreads, indian trousers, henna tattoos for my daughter and I, we bought puppets, toys all sorts of delights for meer pennies! It was great fun bargaining for what you want, and different to some countries I have been, here there was no aggression from the Indians - just good fun bargaining! I did get tempted by a seller who followed us for ages trying to sell us a peacock feather fan, it was only 100 rupees (about £1.20) but im so glad I didnt because I later found it is forbidden to take peacock feathers from the country! Jaipur was a real highlight for us, rows and rows and rows of shops that simply sell everything!  Again we stayed at an ITC hotel and it was very nice. Prices for food were again the same as at home and we were feeling a little bit disappointed because we thought the food was meant to be cheap, however we werent really chancing any street stalls , having small children we couldnt afford to get ill.

We flew from Delhi to Goa, it took around 2.5 hours, then once in Goa we stayed at the Terra Paraiso in Calngute, sam_0377an amazing little find and highly recommended, we had a deluxe room and it was spacious with a wonderful view of the pool. We stayed here over new year, it was literally a 1 minute walk to the beach. We made the mistake of going to the Saturday night market - a famous market which was quite close to Calngute but unfortunately we were not forewarned of the traffic chaos in Calngute and Baga at new year, ques that took hours to get both there and back had us all feeling a bit down and once there the prices at the market were 4 times what they were in Jaipur!

So we resolved to stay in our hotel and at the beach for a few days and enjoy some family time, the weather was 32 degrees and the hotel was so small, maybe 6-8 guests around the pool during the day, the pool was a great size and the staff were so friendly always chatting to us, the food was amazing and so cheap! Steak with all the trimmings was just 240 rupees - about £3.00 for fillet steak! We ate like kings, and even after 4 of us having breakfast, lunch and tea and non stop drinks of beer and pop we only spent about £40 a day!

The beach in Calngute is beautiful, however going at New Year means that the beach is totally packed with Indian men who come down from the cities and villages to drink beer and have a holiday, generally the men are single. Personally I would not have liked to go to the beach as a woman on my own, the men are very unnerving, they all wear their underpants on the beach and they openly stare at women, one man came and sat down right next to me, even though I was next to my husband and watching my children making sand castles and he just stared at my legs!! They take pictures of your children without asking and of you, I know this is simply because we were white but it started to feel odd when adult men want pictures with my children and in the end we started to say no. They will happily stand in front of you while you are playing on the beach and have a photo, like you are a rare and exotic creature!

After a wonderful time in North Goa we were sad to leave, we travelled an hour south to Candolim to the Park Hyatt, voted the best hotel in Goa, it was pure luxury from the second we arrived, we had a beautiful big room with an outdoor rainfall shower, a huge balcony overlooking a waterfall and a feeling of being somewhere very special, but then it should be!sam_0486 It cost £250 per night and that was room only, the food was expensive, costing £18 for 4 cokes and 2 ice creams! On our final night I googled where to eat nearby and we were recommended to try Venus by trip adviser on the beach, we had a lovely meal with wine for a fraction of the hotel price, and we were sad we hadn't visited sooner!

From Goa we then flew on to Mumbai, and we stayed at The Oberoi, we were very lucky to get upgraded for free to a suite, we had our own butler!! The room and the hotel was amazing! We went straight out and headed for fashion street a place where you can get bargain clothes because they all have tiny faults and have been rejected by the designers, this wasnt that great for women unless you are into indian fashion but for men, it was good, lovely good quality Tshirts for around £6-7 , kids clothes were amazing! We got pyjamas for £1.50 , Tshirts for £1 all with things like angry birds and spiderman on! I did come across a top that had a primark £5.00 tag on - much to my amusement and I had to buy it (I paid £1) but it was busy and again we were the only white people so we were targeted by the many many sellers so eventually we gave up and went out for tea! The next day we took advantage of the Oberoi's luxurious pools and then we moved on to the Park Hyatt airport hotel ready for our 4am flight home. All of us came away without a hint of upset tummies, which I am so relieved about!

My top 10 tips for staying well in India

1. Take Dettol wipes and use them constantly for wiping your hands, surfaces etc, a lot of the public toilets dont have toilet paper, they are wet from people using a shower to wash and they may only have a hole in the floor!

2. Eat at reputable restaurants that are recommended either by trip adviser, your guide or your hotel

3. Drink lots of water, always check the seal

4. Go vegetarian if you at all suspicious of your surroundings!

5. Wipe down your cutlery, plates and glasses with the dettol wipes before you eat

6. Brush your teeth using a bottle of water not the tap water, if you rinse your brush by accident under the tap, throw it away!

7. Do not drink from the tap, sounds obvious but we were told at nearly every hotel that the tap water was safe to drink, we didnt chance it!

8. Eat where its busy with locals and choose a local dish - it will most likely be the freshest.

9. Dont order english food, where we went, we hardly saw any other tourists, English food isnt regularly eaten and therefore its unlikely to be very fresh.

10. Be wary of the spice, we love spicy food but even the simplest butter chicken can be extremely spicy! So opt for things with Aloo (potato) as they tend to be less spicy!

I could add so much more about our trip but I think ive said enough, I could go on and on about how amazing it was, the things we saw took our breath away, even as seasoned travellers, the poverty, the basic human needs that are strived for every day are things we simply take for granted. I visited an orphanage and home for the disabled in Agra called Mother Teresas Missionary, it was the most humbling experience of my life and it is now my personal quest to raise money to send there to buy toys and medicine to help the amazing work of 8 nuns who look after 200 people every day. I held babies, I spent time with severely disabled children who were so happy and smily just to see you, I spoke to women and men who were sick, disabled and some were blind, we made a donation there and then to aid their work, very few tourists go - very few people go, and if you could give anything or you wanted to do something for a charity then please get in touch with me at [email protected] and I can advise you how to give your support to them , they need warm clothing, toys and medicines and money, simple things that they are lacking. You can read more about the work they do here

I travelled with my husband and our 2 children Darcy & Joe who are 6 years and 4 years old. We visited Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, North Goa, South Goa and Mumbai - December 2012 - photos to follow



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