MELIA TAMARINDOS – The secrets of under promising and over delivering

•November 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

All-inclusive resorts sell the ultimate dream a 6+ day cheap and worry-free travel vacation to a destination where all you do is relax, eat, drink and do some extracurricular activities. In the last couple of years, all-inclusive’s have been under fire, particularly due to how bad the food is, their hidden “extra” fees and the fact that there is little to no contact with life outside the resort. attracted to the hassle-free aspect of all-inclusive vacations. Once you arrive, you can store the wallet and relax. But along the way, all-inclusive resorts have since gotten a lot of stigma — earning a reputation for being tacky, comprising dated rooms and sub-par food. While this is sometimes true, in some cases it’s certainly not. Be advised, all resorts are not created as equals. There are some very nice resorts that offer all-inclusive packages that are a good deal for those who want a managed vacation experience. However, there are other resorts that are below the quality standards that most expect while on vacation (just check my review of Iberostar in Cuba)

Generally speaking, all-inclusive’s are really not my thing but this time the situation was different. OK, here is the setup: typical English October (cold, wet and grey), a limited budget and kind of last minute booking; so Bora Bora is not possible and I hate flying more than 5 hours. So, there are only two options, Canary Islands or northern Africa. Since Egypt or Tunisia still ring the security bell, I chose Las Palmas. And immediately Melia Tamarindos in San Agostin caught my attention.


Founded in 1956 in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Meliá Hotels International is one of the largest hotel companies in the world and the largest hotel chain in Spain in both resort and city hotels, operating now more than 370 hotels in 43 countries and 4 continents under its brands.

As I already experience two of their brands: Gran Melia in Genoa and Melia Costa del Sol in Torremolinos, my next move was to check if their high standards apply in a resort where the affluence of tourists and the “all-inclusive” concept can create an environment with different expectations and challenges.

Since the moment of booking, Melia Tamarindos proved not only that they have the guest as the centre of it universe but more than that, so rare, unfortunately this days that they know how to under promise and over deliver.

Before our arrival in San Agustin the team of the hotel send us very useful information related to check-in, all-inclusive package details and interesting suggestions for the time we intended to spend there. This charming but not intrusive care and concern continued after our arrival with phone calls and letter from both Reception and Concierge, all focused in creating the conditions for a perfect stay.

Located right on the spectacular San Agustín beach and very close to Playa del Inglés and the commercial centre of San Agustín, the Meliá Tamarindos is the perfect option for your trip to the island, thanks to its excellent location in one of the main tourist resorts on Gran Canaria. What I do like about the hotel, is the fact that you are away from the over-crowded touristic areas, far enough to don’t feel the cheap package holiday “taste” of Playa del Ingles but close enough (7 Euro by taxi) if you want to party all night long in Yumbo. Actually, you are somewhere in the middle between the airport and areas like Maspalomas or Meloneras. Is like you have the best seats for a rock concert: close enough to feel the vibe but not so close to need earplugs.  Love the fact that the location close to the beautiful and quite beach gave me the chance of a perfect mix: sunbathing by the pool and listening to decent background music and swimming in the crystal clear Ocean only 2 minutes away from my sunbed.

The hotel is quite impressive. Built in 1974, the venue was following the trend in the late ‘70 and early ’80 hotels: big lobby, vast open spaces, luxurious garden which guide the guests to an immaculate big swimming pool. The local Spanish Colonial–style with the wooden back façade was kept after 2000 renovation and now the hotel has 2 outdoor pools for adults (one of them heated) and 1 children’s pool, a mini golf course, a tennis court and a squash court with balls and rackets free of charge plus a real observatory with telescope and professional astronomer.

More recently the introduction of new “The Level” found here the perfect grounds for the exclusive commitment by Meliá to offer a unique range of superior services and facilities. Checking in at Melia Tamarindos makes you feel special very easy, when every detail has been designed and created for their guests.

For my stay at Melia Tamarindos I decided to o “full option”: a suite, all-inclusive and The Level. And, believe me, it was the best decision!

My room was a magnificent suite THE LEVEL VISTA MAR; located in the central nave of the building, at the 6th floor the room provided a wonderful view of the hotel gardens and the Atlantic Ocean. Never had for breakfast so many amazing sunrises anywhere else in the world. The suite measuring approximately 57m², offers three clearly defined spaces: bedroom, lounge and bathroom. Once again, the layout of the space was incredible: the interior designer took some elements for the “LEVEL” framework (minimalist, modern, sleek, smooth and glossy with champagne and beige tones creating a relaxing ambience) but, at the same time he kept the “old” hotel look with couple of pieces of furniture in strong colours which made the entire mix an extremely pleasant space. The leaving room lead onto a wooden colonial styled balcony with stunning views and enough space to soak up the energies of the tropical garden or clear and calm Ocean.

The large elegantly decorated independent lounge measures over 28 m² and is designed to offer the perfect space for relaxation, on the comfy sofa including a working space for those who cannot stay to long away from the office.

The bedroom dominated by a comfy queen size bed was the perfect environment for a relaxing and deep sleep, while the impressive walking in wardrobe would made happy make envy even the most serious luggage orientated traveller. Don’t remember a holiday resort with a walking in wardrobe with a vanity table, mirror and 3 double full-size wardrobes.

The bathroom was large with 2 sinks a separate space for bath/shower and toilet and of course has the decadent LOEWE amenities, replaced twice a day by the housekeeping.

Talking about housekeeping that’s a point where a special mention is needed. The room was pristine with a daily cleaning and an evening turn-down service with an immense attention to details; everything was spick and span with every items placed in the same position like was never moved. Having a conversation with the Jiske Jager, the Guest Experience Manager I was not surprised to find that the longest serving employee is Mrs. Elia Rosa Padilla, who started in the housekeeping department when Meliá Tamarindos opened its doors in 1974, made her way up to manager of the housekeeping department and will retire next year. Is a very good example of walking the talk in accordance with the very high standards of Melia.

Those who have stayed in one of Melia Hotels before recognise the high quality standards and know that  “Everything is Possible” is not just a marketing slogan, but daily reality. The LEVEL experience concept brings indeed the customer service experience to a completely different … level! At Melia Tamarindos the attention to details was exquisite: everything is created for and around the guest and everybody is working hard to create the perfect holiday experience. And, being honest, every moment spent in the hotel was a memorable one: from the friendly and efficient approach of the reception team to the personalised bathrobes in our room, from the constant genuine care of the LEVEL team to the impeccable service in the restaurants and bars. Every day at my return from the beach I found placed in the room a little surprise: sometimes some sweets, delicious cakes or a small selection of traditional tapas. Amazing! But to take this magic moment to a different level, every day the Guest Experience team, lead brilliantly by Jiske, a Dutch moved in Canarias more than 7 years ago, left a genuine message, making me to crave for the next surprise in my room, like a child waiting for Christmas day.

“THE LEVEL” is the best option if you choose Melia Tamarindos for your holiday. A series of exclusive services are provided for those lucky to get a “black car” and enter THE LEVEL: daily newspaper of your choice in the room, exclusive access to The Level Lounge where you can enjoy a range of snacks and a hot and cold drinks in an elegant and relaxed setting, a modern business centre from 10am to 6pm in The Level Lounge, 30 minutes of sauna every day at SPA IN plus a  5% discount off treatments, 1 hour free tennis and squash every day and of course access to an exclusive solarium place closer to the beach with Jacuzzi, fruit, cava, coffee, juices and water perfect area to relax for guests over 16s. And of course, everything continues in your room:  a welcome gift, the Level high quality bathrobe and slippers, a free late check-out, an Nespresso coffee maker (like home!!!), the excellent Loewe bathroom amenities, a pillow menu and of course the Turn-down service. Is like being in Paradise!

One of the reasons why I always avoid resorts for my beach holiday is the animation team. Nothing can be more annoying if you want to relax on the beach or by the pool, than a group of youngsters screaming their heads off to make you join their daily activities. I still remember the pain in a resort in Hurghada where the word “aqua gym” started to be a twice a day nightmare when I was on the beach. At Melia Tamaridos the story is completely different. The hotel provides a range of daily activities but, everything is done with an impressive respect for the guest’s privacy and a very good taste. Yoga, stretching, aqua-gym classes are all done in areas which are not interfering with those who will just want a relaxing day at the pool. Actually, the trainers were quite good and, even I am an anti-gym type of tourist, I got caught in the mood. And in two days the team organised for the guests other surprises: an entertaining cocktail making demonstration and an unexpected good fashion show by the pool.


For the evening the entertainment is the expected one for a resort hotel. You don’t go to Canary Island to watch in your hotel a Parisian cabaret show or something like that. The evening entertainment was decent, tailored on the audience expectations and complemented by the trendy atmosphere of Jameo Bar where the service was always aiming high standards. Of course for a more relaxed evening the other option was TARA BY NIGHT BAR, an open-air area next to the main pool with a wide variety of drinks, cocktails, long drinks, gin and tonics complemented with a chilled, friendly atmosphere and every night live music.

As I said earlier I always tried to avoid the “all-inclusive resorts” for my holiday just because the universal question “All-inclusive? Aren’t those resorts where the drinks are watered down, the restaurants are crowded and the food is pretty minimal and mass produced?”. And if you read my experience in Cuba you will see that the scary stories with all-inclusive buffets can be truth. When you take your vacation you surely don’t want to end up at some resort that has serious issues with quality. And in Melia Tamarindos when is a meal time QUALITY is part of the daily routine.

Roque Nublo buffet restaurant was the main choice for breakfast lunch and dinner and doesn’t matter how fussy you are about your food it was hard to find something wrong there! The buffet offering international and regional cuisine having large, magnificent areas was never busy and the service was spot-on. The elegant space with show cooking was serving salads, vegetables, fish and meat dishes, and a wide selection of chesses and cold meats, fruit and delicious desserts, Italian corner (pastas, pizzas) and had always a local cuisine corner.

For my mornings in Melia Tamarindos, I loved the large outdoor terrace with lovely views of the gardens and the sea and the breakfast was tailored to satisfy all taste and expectations from a huge hearty choice to more healthy options.

Our lunch was normally in Tara snack bar, a charming terrace overlooking the sea and the pool. The bar was ideal for informal lunches as you enjoy a pleasant day by the pool choosing from a wide choice of hot and cold snacks (hamburgers, salads, pizzas, sandwiches, ice creams) or from a buffet or a la carte menu. Once or twice I tried the main restaurant where the breakfast’s experience was repeated with an amazing choice of international and local dishes, fresh fish, great salad bar and mouth-watering deserts.

The icing on the cake? Of course, the dinner. Roque Nublo was open from 6.30 to 10PM which match perfectly the eating habits of the multi-national crowd and made the restaurant pretty quiet for a buffet style venue and create space for a very efficient and elegant service. I loved the idea that a “smart dress code required for dinner” was not only recommended but respected in the restaurant; no more flipflops, t-shirt and shorts around us! The dinner buffet was one of the best buffet I have ever had, and I’m a person who lives to eat. Fantastic variety, no skimping, something for everyone. Everything from a cheese and fruit board, to salads, prawns, local specialities, mains, side dishes, veggies, and dessert. In addition, every evening a special cooking station was present to order specials such as pizza, steak, paella, or pasta and even sushi. A bit of room left for desserts which were too many to try even half, but a good selection of sweet and savoury again meant there was something for everyone. And add to all this a reasonable wine list and a great service to get the clear image of a perfect dinner.

And once again the titanic work and genuine passion was revealed by our host Jiske Jager, Guest Experience Manager: “We only work with fresh products that arrives to our hotel daily from the Canary Islands and from Spain mainland. We exclusively work with suppliers of great prestige and experience, based on these products we elaborate our different menus. Daily we cook for around 500 guests distributed in the main buffet restaurant ¨Roque Nublo¨ for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The level areas, ¨Tara¨ restaurant, ¨TBN¨ a la carte restaurant and our tapas & cocktail bar ¨Le Pool¨

During my 7 days stay at Melia Tamarindos I was continuously amazed about the high level of customer service and customer care in all departments. And of course, I was trying to find the secret behind the genuine 24h smile of everybody there from Jiske. The answer was the perfect explanation for the high standards everywhere in Melia Tamarindos: “Our guests are our reason for being. We just love to make their stay in Meliá Tamarindos an unforgettable experience, which is our main goal. I personally believe that our colleagues only can transmit this to our guests if they feel passionate about what they do, not just ¨working for a company¨. Meliá Tamarindos is their home and we are all one family. When employees are in the loop what is going on and feel that they are a part of something rather than just working for a company, things will really progress. Employees appreciate when you ask their opinion and let them know that it counts. They feel happy knowing that you think they have the talent, knowledge, and skill to contribute. In return you’ll get some great ideas. For example, once a month the direction team invites employees from every department for a sit down in a relaxing environment to hear their ideas and opinions. From those sit downs came a lot of great ideas which we directly apply in our day to day. It creates team spirit and motivates them to improve every day. Another example is our private Facebook group where everybody can share, for example, when we receive a compliment of one of our guests, we share that on the page and congratulate them for the good work as well as our colleagues congratulate and motivate each other.”


With Jiske Jager, Guest Experience Manager

I had the chance to speak with other guests in the hotel from Germany, France and Norway and I realised that my feeling after spending some time in Melia Tamarindos you just want to go back wasn’t singular: a lot of guests return to visit the hotel. Mainly because they feel at home and enjoy the quality service and the “obsession” of taking care of every single detail. Mrs. Jager, the Guest Experience Manager, was proud of the return business: “Our returning guest love that we recognize them when they come back. For example, small gestures like a attention in their room upon arrival and remembering their preference of previous stays and apply them without they have to ask for them again. We let them know that we care and that we appreciate their loyalty a lot. We make them feel like home. I believe that quality is our best guarantee of customer loyalty, our strongest defence against competitors and the only road to growth”. In addition, Meliá hotels International has a loyalty program which provides private rates at, Get points for each booking and Redeem your points for MeliáRewards emotions, a free program with personalized customer services. MeliáRewards has benefits for members such as MORE VALUE (Points, surprises, discounts) MORE POSSIBILITIES (Flexible use of your points) and MORE TIME (You are always our priority). There are 4 levels; MeliáRewards white, MeliáRewards silver, MeliáRewards gold and MeliáRewards Platinum (

I can spend another good hour writing about my recent experience and I am sure that I forgot so many experiences and names, but I have something better to do: to book my next stay in Melia Tamarindos in February.

Why ?

Because at Melia Tamarindos the guest is their reason for being

Because at Melia Tamarindos they do things right: with professionalism, efficiency and agility

Because at Melia Tamarindos they anticipate and evolve to be better every day

Because at Melia Tamarindos they love to share, listen… feel

Because at Melia Tamarindos they do what we say

Because …


An unexpected Sunday in Margate

•November 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Being a sunny day, last Sunday I decided to have a short drive and stop, one again in Margate, watching the sea and dreaming about my next cruise in December.

It’s hard to believe today, but Margate was once a small fishing village. ‘Meregate’ had a large, partly-12th century church of St John’s set on a hill and a track down to a cluster of houses round the harbour. But the 1730s brought a passion for sea bathing, sparking the growth of Margate as a fashionable resort. Hoys, or sailing vessels, later steamships and eventually trains all brought countless visitors down from London.

Margate is crammed with historic and architectural gems, and today Margate Sands, the pier and Droit House, an attractive little building at the beginning of the pier are as fine a sight as ever – especially in a sunny day of November

My Margate’s routine includes a walk on the beach, a stroll on the pier and a quick  visit the Turner Contemporary Gallery followed by a generous portion of fish and chips in a sunny spot on the promenade fighting the cold air and the smell of the winter.

This time a little sign and a flash back of some online research lead my steps to Shell Grotto, a Grade I-listed building, consists of a winding subterranean passageway, about 2.4 metres high and 21 metres in length, terminating in a rectangular room, referred to as The Altar Chamber and measuring approximately 5 x 6 metres.

The story goes that in 1835 Mr James Newlove lowered his young son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. Joshua emerged describing tunnels covered with shells. He had discovered the Shell Grotto, its walls decorated with strange symbols mosaic-ed in millions of shells. Is it an ancient pagan temple? A meeting place for some secret cult? Nobody can explain who built this amazing place, or why, but since its accidental discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.

The purpose of the structure is unknown, and various hypotheses have dated its construction to any time in the past 3,000 years. Hypotheses include: it was an 18th or 19th-century rich man’s folly; it was a prehistoric astronomical calendar; it is connected with the Knights Templar/Freemasonry.[2] No scientific dating of the site has been carried out.

A popular theory with some, who cite the popularity of follies and shell structures in the 1700s. There are lots of them dotted around the country, largely in the grounds of stately homes, and as a result of wealthy landowners having embarked on the Grand Tour and seen shell structures on their travels. But the land the Grotto lies under was farmland and as far as we know has never formed part of a large estate. So why would a rich man’s fancy be built under someone else’s pastureland?

Follies were built as a statement: look at how much money I have, look at how cultured I am, look at me! So, if they included shells, the more exotic the better! In general, they weren’t secret, hidden away places. And they weren’t built under a farmer’s field.

If the Grotto had been built in the 1700s is it possible that all knowledge of it had disappeared by the time of its discovery in 1835? The building of the Grotto would have been a mammoth task: the excavation of the passageways, transporting 4.6 million shells to the site, sorting those shells and enlisting enough labour to create the mosaic. How to do all this on rising open ground, next to a busy track without anyone noticing? Every towns person would have had to be in on the secret and not breathed a word about it.

Was the grotto a smuggler’s cave? There was certainly a good deal of smuggling going on in and around Margate but it’s impossible to imagine the Grotto being a useful hiding place. For one thing, it’s a fair distance inland from the coast with no tunnels extending to or from the cliffs, nor any providing entrance or escape routes to nearby houses. The idea that smugglers would bring their booty to an exposed field doesn’t hold water. And why decorate it with millions of shells?

After getting back to the daylight why not stopping in the little shop where the owners stock hundreds of products, some inspired by the designs in the Grotto, some inspired by the seaside and many inspired by, or made of, shells. The shells come in a wild variety of colours and sizes, with prices ranging from 10p to £90. I spent couple of minutes looking at an interesting range of jewellery, plus fossils, crystals and a small but perfectly formed selection of books from Shire and Thames and Hudson.

Since the first paying customers descended the chalk stairway debate has raged about the Grotto’s origins: for every expert who believes it to be an ancient temple, there’s someone else convinced it was the meeting place for a secret sect; for every ardent pagan, there’s a Regency folly-monger ready to spoil their fun. At first glance the Grotto’s design only adds to the confusion, with humble cockles, whelks, mussels and oysters creating a swirling profusion of patterns and symbols. A storehouse for the imagination, there are any number of interpretations; trees of life, gods, goddesses and something that looks very like an altar, to name but a few.

However, there’s only one fact about the Grotto that is indisputable: that it is a unique work of art that should be valued and preserved, whatever its age or origins.


(“Far From the Sodding Crowd: More Uncommonly British Days Out”, Robin Halstead)


GRAND EUROPEAN TOUR on Viking LIF, November 2017

•November 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Absorb the atmosphere of Budapest’s Café Gerbeaud and learn the Viennese waltz. Sample the food and wine of Austria’s Wachau Valley. Admire Rhine Valley vistas from a 900-year-old castle. Indulge all your senses on this 15-day journey spanning the best of Europe. On our most iconic itinerary, trace the legendary Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers between the stunning landscapes of Hungary and the windmill-dotted waterways of Holland, with engaging encounters at every bend.

Imagine all this wonders discovered in comfort on board of Viking LIF in the exquisite company of a 187 amazing guests and 53 fantastic crew

Be sure that you don’t miss your chance to be part on this journey in 2018!

Can’t wait to meet all of you.

Click here and watch the video of the trip:


TBN – The hidden gem of San Agustin

•October 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Travelling all around the world I was always amazed about how bad the majority of the restaurants are in touristic areas. From Cuba to Cote d’Azur or Naples, from Malaga or Greek Islands to Caribbean, the ghost of a waiter clutching a laminated menu with horrible photos translated in 5 languages and beckoning you in from the doorway, inviting you to discover a hell of local cuisine was haunting my worst holiday nightmare. And Gran Canaria has its own place on the list; despite of the fact that Canary Island cuisine is famous for its unique blend of flavours influenced by the cuisines of Africa, Europe and America – a one-of-a-kind combination of freshness and flavour, the all-inclusive ghetto in Playa del Ingles attracted the invasion restaurants with laminated photo descriptive menus where the freshness, variety, simplicity, and the richness of local food is substituted by couple of drops of Mojo picón lost on a bunch of distant relatives of the real Papas arrugadas.


Restaurants, in Yumbo Center for example, which welcome many tourists each day are bound to take many short-cuts including with the quality of the produce they serve. In their defence, they’re trying to appeal to guests who are coming from all-inclusive resorts and may not have an adventurous palate looking for a cheap meal, as a “one off treat” during their holiday. During my recent trip to San Agustin I got, once again, the confirmation for my “tourist trap” theory: flashy menu and neon signs are always warning signs. The larger the sign, the further away you want to be from these places. Great restaurants serving great cuisine do not need a lot of advertising. Their story is shared through word of mouth.


Despite the fact that the food in Melia Tamarindos was great for every meal, one night I decided to try something different. Jiske Jager, the Guest Experience Manager of the hotel, suggested a local a la carte restaurant “TARA BY NIGHT”. And I said YES! Normally I don’t fall for this type of suggestions, looking for places where the locals eat and avoiding hotel’s restaurant. This time I had 100% trust in Jiske, just because after 5 days in Melia Tamarindos I realised that the hotel rejects the approach of large resort chains that don’t treat their settings as unique, but rather as a sort of generic tropical paradise that thru sun, sand and a sense of abundance amid poverty can convey a feeling of entitlement and luxury to their clientele.


And the evening spent in “Tara By Night” was one of the best experience of this holiday.

First of all the location is fantastic and the entire business model is great. The venue is located at the end of the hotel’s grounds, with excellent view of the ocean. Interesting is that, the location is extremely and intelligent versatile: in the morning the breakfast for the top end accommodation (“The Level”) is provided here in a quiet and peaceful manner, during the day the place is an excellent spot for light lunch or a snack close to your sunbed and in the late at night a charming cocktail bar with live music takes control. In the evening the space changes with 180 degrees creating a elegant intimate venue, perfect place for a romantic sophisticated dinner – “TARA BY NIGHT”


From the very first moment we were guided by the knowledgeable and friendly  Suanel, who helped navigate us through the plethora of dishes on offer and provided some excellent recommendations that would best be suited to our individual tastes. Just seconds after we were accompanied to our table and the menus started to be under our scrutiny, a delicious “amuse bouche” landed elegant on our table, whilst from somewhere close a warm live jazz music was invading the restaurant.


The menu offered a decent selection of Mediterranean and Canarian fusion cuisine, large enough to satisfy any taste, but small enough to guaranty the high quality of the food. From detailed descriptions to authentic-sounding foreign names, restaurateurs have many ways to persuade diners into ordering high-profit meals. At “Tara by Night” they have let the ingredients speak for themselves, in a simple list, with evocative descriptions, subliminal labels directing guest’s attention towards a feature in the dish, and hence helps bring out certain flavours and textures.


First choice: the wine. The list? A quite decent one, with local and international options but not in a number which will direct you to a cheap wholesale source. Our choice was Manto Malvasia Volcanica Seco, a wine from Lanzarote, very bright, clean and unctuous with attractive pale-yellow colour. The charming waitress assist us to notice the aromas of abundant fresh and ripe tropical, among which the hints of pineapple and passion fruit mix with very nice notes of peach and citrus.  Served by the book, the wine, on cork and when it opens up, displayed an intense floral aromas.IMG_1319

For the starters we decided to go on both land and sea.

My Micuit of duck was earthy and elegant, melting slowly and invading the palate with an aroma and flavour that’s gracefully soothing, supple and rich, with a lingering and delicate toasted-nut aftertaste. The creamy lentils and the gel of Indian tuna created perfect companions for the rich flavour of the Micuit, while the local touch was added by the strong cured Canary goat cheese Valsequillo


Micuit of duck, creamy lentils, flowers of Valsequillo cheese and gel of Indian tuna

The other choice for the evening was grilled octopus grunt, caramelised iron pineapple on coconut. The result of this interesting eclectic combination: tons of flavour, great texture and tenderness. The sweet and savoury caramelised iron pineapple compliment perfectly the octopus while the coconut gave this dish a necessary creamy element that brought all the flavours together


Grilled octopus grunt, caramelised iron pineapple on coconut

For the main course we decided to challenge Manu, the TBN’s chef and ordered: Turbot on May fire roast tomato, green Mojo rock and papaya compote and Roasted retinto sirloin with garden herbs and a red wine reduction.

The fish was cooked to perfection: the large flakes had a really nice medium-firm texture and smooth, sweet taste. The roasted tomato (with a light smoke flavour) and sweet papaya complement in a very elegant way the taste of the fish. Very interesting was the green Mojo rocks added to the dish: the intense colour and strong coriander flavour plus the mild spicy taste was an notable feature on the plate


Turbot on May fire roast tomato, green Mojo rock and papaya compote

The meat was indeed the “pièce de résistance” of the dinner. The Retinta is one of the three pure breeds of cattle native to Spain and high quality llana (sirloin) was perfect roasted. I always go for a rare option and in “Tara by Night” they know how to make a juicy, tender and delicious rare roasted sirloin. Was a divine gastronomic experience to discover in each piece of meat a light smoky flavour, a bit earthy like a mushroom with a different texture, with a tenderness that melts in your mouth.  The wine reduction was simple and flavourful contrasting nicely with the pieces of crispy Polenta as garden herbs as sides. What a celebration of delicate flavours!


Roasted retinto sirloin with garden herbs and a red wine reduction.

By the time when we reach the dessert we were overwhelmed by the service style and the high standards of the dinner, so, the final option was initially a Barraquito (served in a slightly large glass and containing coffee, regular milk, condensed milk and a syrupy liqueur called “Cuarenta y Tres”) or a simple Carajillo (a small black coffee, topped up with a dash of brandy). But our waitress persuaded me, quite easily, for the chef’s special: Apple Tatin with Ceylon vanilla ice-cream. A winner, not only because it’s offer of opulent harmony of flavours and the creative plating , but the idea of having a crispy base for the Tatin. How we managed to round off the meal with the incredibly tasty and chilled pudding, is beyond me. But it was definitely worth it.


Apple Tatin with Ceylon vanilla ice-cream

I thoroughly enjoyed our immense culinary journey at “TBN” which offers exquisite dishes, a wonderful wine selection, a warm ambience and outstanding, friendly service The bespoke menu, the charming ambience and high standards of the service make “Tara by Night” a gastronomic “go to”  destination in the area and anyone needs to make some time to discover one night this hidden gem of San Agustin. And for sure you will come back…I will!


Manu – TNB’s Chef

Where & How?

Starters range from €8 – €18

Main course range from  €18 – €26

Deserts from €5 – €6.50

To make a reservation at Tara by Night – Telephone: +34 912 76 47 47

Tara by Night is located at Melia Tamarindos Hotel&Resort, Calle las Retamas, 3, 35100 Playa de San Agustín, Las Palmas, Spain and is open seven days a week, from 7pm to 11pm




•September 14, 2017 • 3 Comments

This was my second time at Hotel Casa CAPSA; the first one wasn’t the best experience (see my previous review) but at check-in the Receptionist was trying to persuade me to come back and to see that the first unpleasant stay was an “unhappy experience”. Despite the fact I’m not “buying” amazing deals from Shopping TV programs or glossy magazine I decided to come back to Casa CAPSA in September.

Big mistake because everything moved from BAD to WORTS consolidating in my eyes (after staying in 4 and 5 star hotels around the world at least 3or 4 times a month) the idea that Hotel Casa Capsa is a SCAM with capital letters.

I booked on-line (using a Junior Suite and I was very excited because the photos on both websites ( and the hotel’s one) looked amazing. Unfortunately, only location of the hotel and the historical building are real 5 stars. The rest…

At check-in a very talkative receptionist explained me how lucky I am that I manage to secure in a last minute booking a Jr. Suite when the hotel is fully booked. Last minute? Is what they called in Romania a booking done 5 weeks in advance? Maybe is just … “lost in translation”. Later the same receptionist confessed that after booking me in a real Jr. Suite, couple days before my arrival the management decided to move me in another room because some “important guys staying in the hotel” and of course “can’t tell you more, you know what I am talking about…” was present in the conversation too. Very professional.

I got room 317, placed at the end of a creepy corridor at the 3 floor. The room was obviously not a Jr. Suite (complete different them the descriptions of both and When I discussed the issue with the reception they spend a good 20 minutes to explain me that I am wrong and “317 is a Jr. Suite” …. really??!! However, later some of the staff explained me that the room is not a Jr. Suite and maybe if I talk with the manager I will pay a different price.

The room was very dark with no natural light or fresh air due to the fact that the window was opening in an interior closed courtyard. Nice to wake up in the morning and switch on all the lights in the room to find my way to bathroom.

Talking about bathroom was an … experience. I don’t remember when I saw last time in a 2-star hotel a shower with a plastic curtain … maybe in 1970? But a 5 star hotel will never accept this solution just because a plastic shower curtain needs a lot of effort (at least a good wash once a day) to assure the correct level of hygiene.  The bathroom had an original “rainforest shower”: the shower head was so old and damaged that projected water everywhere, especially on the roof and after that when you were trying to have a decent shower you had and very special “naturistic” add-on: water dripping from the roof with paint and calcar… That’s a 5-star touch.

After the first 20 minutes in room 317 I had the feeling that the room was more appropriate for a rent by hour (oops!) than by night. Later that day looking under the bed I found the confirmation that the management had the idea “rent by night” before me … that’s what I call style: pretty woman earring and used “spread the love” as a trademark of a 5 star Junior Suite.

The first morning, after not a very good night sleep and remembering the last experience at Hotel Casa Capsa I skipped the breakfast and decided for a French wake-up call: Nicotine Macchiato.  But the second day I took the risk…and I paid for it! The breakfast was the same lame dull experience, far for an expected offer in a 5 star hotel and a service offered in a communist hotel in Berlin 1975. I will not go in to details but this time Hotel Capsa beat it’s own record: this time a 30 minutes wait for a simple omelette.


Nobody else to blame than me. Was my decision to comeback…the last time.

Hotel Casa Capsa has a prime location and a beautiful building but that’s all; the rest is a TOURISTIC SCAM with capital letters.

One “LEVEL” above expectations

•September 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

To be honest I don’t remember when I fall in love with Costa del Sol and Torremolinos. You can call me “old fashioned” but I still love the little Mediterranean resort town on southern Spain where I feel like home when stepping on the smooth sand of El Bajondillo. And being honest once again, I lost the count of my days spent there in long weekends, well planned holidays or even couple of hours on the beach between 2 easyJet flights.

I was trying always to find the perfect spot, a hotel where the comfort will match the accessibility to the incredible day and night life of Torremolinos. Sometimes I succeeded sometimes I failed in real touristic nightmares.

And one day, going back to one of my favourite spots – Melia Costa del Sol I discovered a little miracle called “The LEVEL”. Of course, the hotel is itself in an excellent spot in Toremollinos: situated right in the heart of the Costa del Sol, perfectly located next to the Bajondillo Beach, 6 kilometres from Málaga International Airport and just 5 minutes from the centre of the city.

But the new concept takes the guest’s experience to a complete different “LEVEL”. The Level conveys the idea of a private club, a “hotel within a hotel”, where exclusivity and personalised service come together in a unique and modern setting. But the marketing description is far below the real experience I had at Melia Costa del Sol with an amazing consistency from the moment of checking-in up to the genuine farewell in the last day.

The check-in was fast and efficient with a genuine mixture of technical questions and relax chit-chat and smiles. By the time when the Reception team finished all the formalities and one of the bell-boys took care of my luggage, the LEVEL Concierge was already there extending the welcome of the team and offered to escort me in the room.

The LEVEL Junior Suite was indeed an extremely present surprise with spectacular front views over the Mediterranean Sea and located on the hotel´s 7th floor. The amazing 25 m² terrace, the separate lounge area, amenities from luxury brands such as Loewe or Nespresso, a welcome gift in the room, pillow menu, the Level bathrobe and slippers, personalised minibar content everything are only couple of the elements of this unique and personalised experience in which every detail has been created especially for guests.

During my stay at Melia Costa del Sol, both charming girls acting as Concierge, were active parts of an over-spoiled daily routine. From suggestion related to free time activities to restaurant or Spa bookings everything was possible and done with a genuine smile. And despite the fact that the LEVEL was fully booked the staff always find time for a pleasant conversation. Nothing was too much trouble and their friendly, helpful and humorous demeanour ensured I had a wonderful experience.

The Level includes access to private The Level Lounge, with an excellent location including a lounge and a garden with a permanent coffee station, daily snack and cocktail service and a private reception for personalised arrivals, departures, reservations and tourist information and excursions. Was the perfect place to run from the heat of the crowded beach, enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or charge your batteries in the evening before discovering the night life of Toremollinos. The amazing Level Lounge is a real oasis away from the main hotel where I could have continental breakfast, small snacks and drinks throughout the day.

The staff looking after the lounge made each day a pleasure with their smiles and friendly service. Late afternoon tapas and drinks in the private garden was a treat and set us up for the evening ahead. Jasmin and Maria, the LEVEL Concierge, went the extra mile to assist and look after us and are a credit to the hotel with their professionalism and service. The drinks served in the THE LEVEL lounge are premium spirit brands but the Spanish ones are available too. Was a great idea to change the drinks menu according to the time of the day with aperitifs before lunch and dinners and digestives until late. The snacks served were exquisite, following the modern trends but bringing an authentic Andalusian touch.

Melia Costa del Sol offers different packages:  accommodation only, B&B, half or full board and this time I opted for a half board choice…great idea! The size of the restaurant and the number of the guests having their meals at the same time could create the risk of “mass produced” service. But is not the case at Melia Costa del Sol. At the end of my stay I was still wondering how the entire staff manage such a smooth, almost perfect service flow with no waiting time, always clean tables, staff everywhere ready to serve and a general shocking efficiency. But the most striking memory is the entire staff of the restaurant, from the Maître D, who will guide you to your table to the waiter who will take the drinks order; despite the fact that they were always busy they never forgot to have a polite, genuine and cheerful presence, making every meal a high customer service experience.

The breakfast was served until 11am and whenever you turned up, at 8am or 10.45, the same amount of food was still available, no shortage and no queues. All staff appeared to know exactly who you were and were always in good spirits. The choice was amazing and doesn’t matter how picky you are with your food, at Melia Costa del Sol is something for everybody – Mediterranean, international and regional specialities – each culinary taste being satisfied with a wide range of international and Spanish dishes, both for breakfast and dinner. For every meal I had, Melia delivered with style. Where else can you find honey served directly from a local producer or a “salt collection” for seasoning your dinner?

The entire hotel was spotless and the staff takes pride in keeping the premises shining day and night.  A single cloud on the shiny sky of Melia Costa del Sol: our housekeeper who needed a more polished attention to details: never replaced the amenities without being asked, forget to change the towels or the paper tissues in the bathroom, forget to push the vacuum cleaner in some corners or under the bead. Small details which for sure are just single happenings in a perfect high standards environment.

Melia Costa del Sol extend the excellence pre- and post-stay; genuine and kind messages received in my inbox before my arrival and after returning home and the most impressive a hand written note place in my room before my departure showed, once again, that at Melia’s philosophy is built around guest satisfaction.

In summary, The Level conveys the idea of a private club and of a “hotel within a hotel”, which serves guests staying in The Level rooms and executive suites, which offers special services and other upgraded amenities to make the hotel stay a truly sublime experience, where exclusivity and personalised service come together in a unique and modern setting. An excellent choice and a great value for money.

I am not easily impressed but I can without hesitation recommend Melia as a must go to destination when visiting the Costa del Sol. You will not be disappointed!! I will definitely come back without a doubt! Many, many thanks for all you did for my short break at Melia Costa del Sol; Melia Group could not ask for better ambassadors


A falling star … or maybe two!

•July 28, 2017 • 1 Comment

Is not a secret for any of my readers: I was wearing (with so much pride) British Airways uniform for couple of years.

Is a fact that I was working for the airline both in the air and in the office gaining enough insider type of information

Is a privilege to have a lot of friends, both crew and managers so I am not completely cut from what’s the current vibe in Heathrow or Waterside.

I’m flying as a passenger, for business and pleasure at least 5 times a month in Club Europe and Club World and I still keep somewhere same (at least for a sentimental value) my Silver card with British Airways.

Therefore, I do care about British Airways, a little bit more than expected, and far more than Alex Cruz, for sure. Maybe only for the simple reason that I love this airline and I look at BA as former “World’s favourite airline”, not like a cash cow. But since Mr. Cruz started to be the henchman of Willie Walsh and proud accepted to get his hands dirty with the crime of assassinating an amazing brand I started to feel more than disappointment…I AM ANGRY NOW! Actually Cruz&Co don’t kill British Airways; is more like an assisted suicide, with the couple “Slasher Walsh” and “Percy Alex” indulged in self-prise and pulling the plug of the airline.

Flying in the last month 4 times Club with British Airways (once long haul and 3 times European routes) and just getting off from a plane in Gatwick, I wasn’t surprise to find that according to Daily Mail interviewing the CEO of Marketing Research firm Skytrax, British Airways is about to lose their 4 Star rating and now even compares unfavourably to airlines like Aeroflot. Aeroflot, once synonym for horrible service and half day delays is now apparently the benchmark for the national carrier of the UK that is lead by former Vueling low cost CEO Alex Cruz. The Daily Mail calls it yet another humiliation! (

The boss of research firm Skytrax said Britain’s flagship carrier now compares unfavourably with the state-backed Russian airline, once known for having an appalling safety record, inedible food and rude staff. Skytrax said it is likely to cut BA’s rating to three stars out of five, bringing it in line with budget airline Ryanair, Uzbekistan Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Myanmar Airways. Skytrax  rate airlines in an independent manner. The reality  can’t be denied: BA has suffered under the helm of Mr. Cruz who has cut corners every left and right to the point of where it indeed feels like you’re travelling on a budget airline and not Britain’s proud national carrier.

Skytrax said Aeroflot – which is 51 per cent owned by the Russian government – has better in-flight catering and better service. He described Aeroflot as a ‘shining example of an airline that’s transformed themselves’ – compared with BA, which ‘has not invested in the same way’. BA has had four stars since the ratings began 18 years ago. … Keep in mind that the Four Star rating isn’t even the top of the food chain. Airlines such as Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines are holding a Five Star rating, so an even larger distance to BA.

But leaving the rating behind is the BA experience which drive loyal customers nuts.

Mr Cruz has been quoted as saying cutting costs is “now injected into the DNA” of British Airways. Senor Cruz asked about cost cutting programs for BA said: “If one particular day we don’t come up with an idea to reduce our costs, then we’re not doing our job.” What about the passengers, who actually keep you in your office Mr. Cruz? Travellers are already furious at the airline’s decision to scrap free food and drink on short-haul flights in favour of paid-for offerings from Marks & Spencer.

Everybody who use to love BA agree that under its latest CEO BA has deteriorated so much it is as unappealing as it was when it was a state-owned company nicknamed Bloody Awful. This year “has been a tipping point”, says Rita Clifton, a former Saatchi & Saatchi director of strategy who helped create BA’s iconic World’s Favourite Airline campaign. “Most staff and passengers used to love the brand. For too many, that has turned to hate.”

As a Silver Card holder and frequent flyer in Club (Europe or World) I was tempted to believe that an increase in quality of services will happen this year in BA’s aircraft. After my last flight in Club Europe I realised that the statement of Mr. Cruz that short haul business class separates BA from budget carriers is a pile of … words. It’s hard to call a seat which is identical in size, shape and legroom to the offering found in economy, “business class”. Yes, I get that the efficiencies in the airport are good, but budget carriers have those “fast track” privileges now too. With the hit and miss quality of the  lounges it’s hard to discern the finer points, despite the fact that the price it’s consistently inflated in this cabin. No one is looking for a re invented wheel here, just something with considerable legroom, extra padding and food worth tucking into.

I still remember the time when I was dreaming to have a BA ticket and step in one of their planes, when BA was generally considered a top league airline with innovating seats that turn into beds in both first and business class and laying on services such as arrivals lounges serving hot breakfast, providing weary travellers showers while having their suits pressed. BA should be careful; reputations are more difficult to win back than to lose.

Under Cruz BA has introduced “Hand Baggage-Only” fares* (launched pre-Cruz) where even top level members of its loyalty program have to pay for checked baggage and seat assignments. It comes alongside a number of small cuts, such as eliminating the traditional second meal on westbound transatlantic flights to a package of chips, taking away cheese and crackers from the main meal and even bringing the scalpel to its First Class cabin, removing flowers that used to be in the restrooms, slashing extended “Bistro” menu options, cutting out a tasting menu it offered aboard its Airbus A380s and removing an amuse bouche from meal service.

I have a lot of friends still flying for British Airways and their stories, away for the on-line eye of Big Brother Cruz are confirmed by my recent in-flight experience. Flight attendants from business class sometimes have to help sell food in the back, impacting service to its premium passengers. On my flight the bred arrived 30 minutes after the food was served and the drinks after another 20 minutes. What to expect from on flight attendant in a cabin with 8 rows and 15 passengers. Teething pains maybe? Reportedly, cabin crew can’t give out food or drinks during delays for service recovery. In Amsterdam waiting 45 minutes on the tarmac we got a glass with orange juice. But we were lucky in Club Europe; one of my former colleague in charge of an Airbus 320 told me that “Cabin crew has been instructed to give potable water in cups for those that request it only after the paid service has been completed.”

Having to grovel for H2O doesn’t help BA’s image. And there were also reported incidents where passengers were not initially given water, even to take medicine. Why would someone choose to fly on BA when they get nothing on the feeder sector when they could take full-service airline such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar with superior product especially if flying east. Cruz told journalists that he still considers BA a “full-service airline.” No comments!

BA staff and some managers to whom I have spoken say the airline has cut costs too aggressively, eroding what was once its greatest strength: its status as a premium brand. One ex-colleagues of mine from Waterside said: “We just don’t know when to stop cutting costs. There’s no calibration.”

The effects of BA’s decline are obvious, just looking out of the window at Terminal 5. The airline is too reliant on ageing Boeing 747 double-deckers and 777 single-deckers, even if it does have a few shiny new Dreamliners like the one Cruz wanted to show off. Breakdowns and glitches on its aircraft have left many CSDs (cabin service directors) joking darkly that they are “cabin ‘sorry’ directors” because they spend so much time apologising for blank TV screens, dilapidated lavatories and wonky seats.”

I am very subjective. I was flight attendant for BA and I love and respect the cabin crew community. They are amazing people who actually created the name of the airline. Was a time when they were the centre piece of the airline success.

Richard Branson once said: “If You Look After Your Staff, They’ll Look After Your Customers. It’s That Simple. Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Mr. Cruz didn’t have this translated in Spanish!

The cabin crew almost forget the pride and the glamour of working for British Airways. Despite the fact that they are working for a “full-service airline”, my colleagues from Eurofleet and Mixed Fleet are serving Marks & Spencer food and drink. An easy research will show you that Marks & Spencer staff in stores earn more than British Airways Mixed Fleet cabin crew selling the same stuff at 30,000 feet.

In 2010 Willie Walsh said that the airline faced ferocious competition in Europe and beyond, and could no longer afford the generous pay and conditions that cabin crew enjoyed. In that moment the “brilliant solution”was the establishment of a new cabin crew unit, Mixed Fleet. Every new Heathrow cabin crew member since 2010 has been recruited into Mixed Fleet, with inferior terms to longer-serving staff. In time, Mixed Fleet will eventually replace the “legacy” teams of Eurofleet and Worldwide. Until that happens, two or three decades from now, old and new never work together on the same flight. Which, given the discrepancy in pay and conditions, is probably wise.

“We’re not second-class cabin crew,” a friend of mine told me. “We do our job as well as Eurofleet and Worldwide. Why shouldn’t I get what the others get? “When I go and ask for a mortgage, they laugh at me.” She is not a drama queen and her P60 indicated she had earned less than £20,000 last year. “I’ve been at British Airways for six years, and I’ve never entered the sickness process,” she said. A male colleague said that he earned more on a zero-hours contract with Ryanair. His P60 showed income for the year at under £18,000. No surprise that some of my friends already moved to Norwegian and others consider very seriously the new massive recruitment process for easyJet in Gatwick. Funny how this opinions are ignored by the team in Waterside. And similar opinions are not hard to find: “There’s no individuality and no respect for their employees. They have no loyalty towards employees and change the rules as they go along. On paper it seems a nice place to work with career advancement but the reality is quite different” ( from

And the future doesn’t look good for both crew and passengers: British Airways is trialling something new at London Gatwick on short haul flights, crew give planes a light clean during the time between flights instead of paying contracted cleaners. Crew will be paid an additional £10 per flight segment, and the new standards mean that “a jet’s sewage tank is not always emptied. Instead they fly if it is up to a third full. In addition BA planes can now depart with just 50 per cent levels of drinkable water used for making tea and coffee.”British Airways considers this a test to “see whether passengers notice the planes are not as clean as normal.”


Crew give planes a “light clean” during the time between flights

Cruz has pledged not to “Ryanair-ise” short-haul economy, but his words ring hollow for many regular travellers. Especially the new rumour that Ryanair, the budget carrier famous for $9.99 flights, will soon surpass British Airways on short-haul seat pitch in economy class. By adding two rows onto its short-haul intra-Europe Airbus A320s and A321s next year in order to lower seat prices, the carrier will reduce the gap between seats from 30″ to 29″ of pitch, equaling the lowest numbers offered by any European discount carrier. (Comparably, legacy carrier Air France offers 32″ of pitch in their short-haul economy cabin.) British Airways flies to nearly 80 short-haul destinations within Europe, defined by the airline as flights five hours or less. And the next in line are the long-haul flights. Despite existing cramped conditions on BA flights, the current nine-seat row on its long-haul aircraft is set to get even tighter – with toilets being stripped out to make way for more seats. The 10-seat rows in economy will feature in economy cabins on long-haul Boeing 777s flying out of Heathrow and Gatwick.22

On social media, a Gold Card holder said: “BA is to become even more uncomfortable, with narrower seats and inevitably less leg room”. But is nobody there to hear that! Somebody else suggested Cruz a new policy, in line with his recent decisions: “Perhaps a new idea for a fee is to require that all passengers clean the area around their seats themselves, or they can pay £5 to have a flight attendant clean for them. A £5 fee per passenger would be a revenue stream rather than incurring £10 per flight attendant per flight!”

Rather than compete on price while offering a more refined experience, offering add-ons for purchase to increase revenue for the airline, British Airways is in a distinctive game of copycat—one that may prove treacherous, experts say, as many discount carriers look to bolster their more premium offerings as British Airways slashes away.

If Alex Cruz will receive an award for his latest achievements for sure the list will be quite long. Let’s have a quick run through the greatest hits (or rather, misses…):

  • No more free food and drink included on short-haul flights. Everyone loves Percy Pigs of course, but I’d rather have the option of a complimentary Gin & Tonic!
  • The introduction of Hand Baggage Only fares led to confusion for Elite Executive Club members and for passengers booking through online travel agencies.
  • Removing proper cleaning between flights.
  • A range of Avios devaluations that make long-haul Premium Cabin redemptions extremely expensive and uncompetitive compared to other loyalty programmes.
  • The apparent bad attitude from the top, including the infamous ‘show me the ******* money‘ investment slide (
  • Last but not least, the plan to offer less legroom than Ryanair!

Ryanair and Ba are a business-school case study in managing expectations. If your hallmark is comfort and courtesy, lower fares will never compensate customers for cuts and slip-ups. If your selling proposition is ruthless low-cost efficiency, play that on-time fanfare and you’ll be forgiven for everything else.

Talking about the disruptions caused by BA’s computer system outage RBS Capital Markets analyst Damian Brewer has said BA’s apparent failure to have learnt lessons from rivals problems “suggests fundamental management and planning weakness”. And I strongly believe that the idea can be applied to other areas in BA too.

So many things to say … maybe too many…

With no intention to ignore my unconditional love for British Airways and my huge respect for BA cabin crew community I can’t stop thinking that is time for somebody to start packing.

There is a VLG flight to Madrid tonight at 8.30PM…


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