Chris Almey has been organising day trips, holidays and short breaks for more than ten years. When she retired from teaching she became the Excursions Secretary for a local retirement association working with a membership base of 1,200 retired employees. Initially this involved organising a day trip a few times a year, but Chris developed a comprehensive programme which covered the whole year and included short breaks to Europe. She was nominated for the ‘Group Travel Organisers’ Award’ in 2010 in recognition of her work with the group, which is now called ‘Journey Continues’.

As I look into the garden today, the heavy frost overnight makes me remember how different things were only 12 months ago when I was packing to take 35 members of my group, Journey Continues, to North Wales during the last weekend of March 2012.

The St. Kilda Hotel in Llandudno was our chosen destination for three nights. We hired our coach from Hammond’s Coaches, Nottingham, a company I have used for many of our day trips.

After leaving Leicester at 9am we made our way to the Trentham Estate, Staffordshire, where we stopped for refreshments and had an opportunity to look around the shops and extensive garden centre. The Trentham Estate Gardens are huge and would require at least a half day in which to fully explore and appreciate the beauty of the many different sections and displays offered to visitors.  However, as time was limited we only had an hour to visit the shopping outlet which itself is interesting and provides an ideal refreshment break when travelling along the M6. It is not many minutes from the motorway but is much more pleasant than motorway service areas.

Refreshed and rested we were soon back on the M6 again and heading towards North Wales for our journey along the coastal roads to Llandudno. The St. Kilda Hotel is situated in a very prominent position on the promenade road overlooking the bay and Great Orme, which looked very inviting on such a warm sunny March weekend.

We were greeted in the hotel with tea and shortcake whilst the staff took our luggage to the rooms. Many of us were fortunate enough to be allocated a room with a sea view. The downside to that was that the seagulls would sit on the windowsill tapping the glass waiting to be fed! Obviously previous residents had kept them well supplied with food.

The hotel dining room was quite large but had a very pleasant atmosphere. Each evening we had a choice of menus offering three excellent courses. The staff were very friendly and efficient which is always a bonus when dining in large groups.

The theme for the weekend was a Gourmet Show Time Break and each evening there was entertainment of songs from both Broadway and West End musicals. There was also a ‘Showtime Quiz’ one evening when we arrived back from our day out to Conwy, during which we visited Conwy Castle and took boat trips along the River Conwy. During the weekend we managed to visit the Great Orme where fortunately the railway had just opened for the summer season that weekend. Many of the group took advantage of the train to the top, but one or energetic group members walked to the summit and back.

On Sunday we travelled to Bangor and Caernarfon. Lunch was taken in Llanberis where most of us took the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the first summit station. As the weather is usually cold and snowy during the last weekend in March, there was no train to the summit despite the glorious warm sunny conditions we were having. From Llanberis we travelled through the spectacular Llanberis Pass to Betws-y-coed  where we had time to explore, shop or relax with a welcome cuppa.

Each day when we returned to the hotel we were warmly welcomed with refreshments and a chance to catch up with one another exchanging stories of what we had done that day. As the weather was so beautiful some chose to spend a day walking along the prom, the pier or the beach.  Shopaholics naturally explored the town’s shops, which were only a five minute walk from the hotel.

Our last evening was our Gourmet Dinner which began with Bucks Fizz and wine served during our meal. After dinner some strolled along the prom, sat in the gardens or lounge with a drink or enjoyed the Showtime Entertainment.

All too soon we were boarding the coach for our journey home. We again stopped at the Trentham Estate for lunch before arriving in Leicester during the late afternoon.

Everyone had a most enjoyable time in North Wales. The only complaint I heard was that “we packed jumpers, coats and scarves but we should have brought t-shirts and shorts instead!”.