Latest News from Arena
Latest News from Arena
Host report by Andy & Chris Simmons
This was our second holiday at the Chateau des Comtes de Challes, a traditional castle in the French Alps that has been lovingly restored by its current owner. It retains its charm as a historic building whilst the rooms are gradually being upgraded to accommodate modern tastes. This year all rooms have been fitted with air conditioning and that is especially welcome because the weather can get a little warm in the summer. That said, the weather on this holiday has been near perfect with warm and dry sunny days.
“This place is just idyllic”, said one guest and that sums it up quite well. Terrace gardens look out over a scenic valley and there are lots of seats strategically placed so that guests can relax in the sun or in the shade and watch the gliders swooping across the chateau to land on the airstrip below. There are beehives providing fresh honey and birdsong is in abundance all day long.
After a couple of days the danger of evening thunderstorms had passed and dining was outdoors on the adjacent terrace. Dining here is a special experience. Guests at first found it odd that they had to order their choices in advance. However, this is a restaurant that has two ‘Michelin Stars’ and with a group this size it is necessary for the Chef to know what is needed so that the ingredients can be brought in fresh each day. The result is stunning as the food is presented immaculately just as you would expect at such an establishment. To wash it all down there was a generous allocation of fine wine too. Continue reading
Host report by Jacky Baker
The spectacular setting of Lake Bled proved a popular venue for our group, many of whom previously had never been to Slovenia. The views from the restaurant, the bridge room and many of the bedrooms were of the lake, which with the small island (with its church) in the centre of the lake looked just too good to be true!
There were several trips organised - to the capital Ljubljana, a “Taste of Slovenia” trip, a visit to the nearby Julian Alps and a tour around Bled itself. This Bled tour included a voyage on a “pletna” boat to the island and the picturesque church. Local legend has it that visitors should pull the bell rope three times; if they succeeded in ringing the bell then they would be granted a wish. That evening we were watching carefully for guests enjoying more than their fair share of successful finesses.
The hotel staff were really friendly and efficient. In fact they were so efficient that one evening after the bridge session finished they locked the doors leading to the bridge room without realising that two of the players were still in the toilets. Once this became apparent it took a little while for the person with the keys to be located and a rescue made. Fortunately the free drinks which were offered by the bar to the unlucky pair saw the evening end happily.
We do hope to return to this stunning location at some time in the future. As usual, we have to offer a big thank you to the hotel and also to our excellent local tour guide Luca who greatly enhanced the trips and was appreciated by all the guests. Thanks, too, to the third member of our First for Bridge team, Fran Keene, who was a willing helper, played when needed and added much to our holiday. Continue reading
Host report by Jacky Baker
Our first visit to the Rhine Valley saw us staying at the splendid Bellevue Rheinhotel in Boppard, which is situated right on the banks of the imposing river. Boppard is a delightful town, with a central square offering a good variety of pavement cafes and many fine buildings, some of which date back over five hundred years. Its location fairly central in the Upper Middle Rhine is ideal for discovering the region.
The area known as the “Upper Middle Rhine” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the sixty seven kilometres between Rudesheim and Koblenz is generally recognised to be the most beautiful part of the whole Rhine between the Alps and the North Sea. As our bridge holiday included two river cruises, one South to Rudesheim and the other North to Koblenz and beyond, where the Rhine meets the Moselle, our guests were able to enjoy the wonderful scenery along the whole of this stretch of the river. In addition the local rail station provided fast and efficient services to places such as Koblenz, which offered further scope for exploring the region. Continue reading
Host Report by Pauline and Nigel Durie
This was our first opportunity to host a holiday for First for Bridge and what a wonderful introduction it was. Thank you Andrew for your guidance and support. La Quinta hotel was splendid and the staff were very welcoming, recognising returning guests and treating them as old friends. This was much appreciated. The hotel’s facilities were a big hit and as the weather was not overly kind at the beginning of the week, the indoor spa pool and extras were well used. The beautiful outdoor pool came into its own by the end of the week. The food was described as outstanding by many of the guests. The courtesy bus into Cuitadella was well used with people enjoying exploring the harbour and the old streets. Some went to the mass in the Cathedral on Sunday morning. Thanks to John Barker for organising activities. The tennis match ended with two of the team suffering minor injuries but was enjoyed by all. The week passed very quickly and bridge honours were shared. Continue reading
Host Report by Barry & Maggie Watts
For anyone who has explored the Western Mediterranean resorts, the Slovenian Coast and Istria on the Adriatic are a delightful surprise. It is lush, green and heavily forested. The ‘Karst’ landscape is beautiful and the neat towns and villages are architectural gems with buildings owing their diversity to Roman, Venetian and Austrian empires. Its 47 mile coastline is a picture postcard and the resorts pride themselves on offering a mix of healthy, active and restful holidays.
Portoroz has been known as a health resort since, in the 13th century, monks discovered the healing properties of seawater and sea mud. The Venetians, members of the Habsburg Empire, the French and now the Slovenians have maintained the tradition of the monks. At the end of the 19th century, a shareholders' company was established, which built a spa and health resort. Today, the Grand Hotel Portoroz is one of five luxury hotels that are all joined by a single 1st floor corridor allowing access to a magnificent modern spa on several floors. Continue reading
By Karin Hellaby
India...no description would ever be adequate! You really do need to see this continent for yourself. This was Arena's first tour to India and my third.
We started off in Delhi, staying at their top 5* hotel which had been built for King George V's stay in 1911. We were immediately transported to life in luxurious colonial India. From there, we travelled to Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahmedbad and Mumbai, taking in forts, history, museums, culture, shopping, scenery, life on the streets and of course the most amazing textiles we have ever seen. We had a fantastic guide, whose family were noblemen of the Maharajahs and who asked to guide our tour as he had been collecting and documenting his centuries old family textiles. On coach journeys we could ask him anything about India and on each topic we got a lecture. His knowledge helped make this tour outstanding. Continue reading
Host Report by Frances Keene & Liz Farrar
It was our first opportunity to host a First for Bridge Holiday and the first visit to the Hotel Bella Playa which came with a few challenges! As both hosts, director and scorer’s luggage had disappeared into the ether, we soldiered on for two days before our cases arrived in dribs and drabs. However the Hotel Bella Playa and the Manager were exceptionally helpful during our hours of need providing us with bathrobes and toiletries. This was an indication of how obliging they were to us and our guests during our two week stay including assisting with flight problems caused by firstly the French Air Traffic Control strike followed by freak storms in England. Continue reading
Host Report by Jacky Baker
Our holiday in Cyprus in the superb Athena Royal Beach Hotel lived up to all expectations. We have been coming here for a few years now and always get a very warm welcome from the staff, who cannot do enough for you. Good weather, great hotel, good food and good company - what more could you want!
The hotel is situated on a level promenade which runs all the way into Paphos harbour, and there is also a regular, inexpensive bus service which stops just outside our hotel.
The guests also enjoyed the many additional activities on offer, including putting, crazy golf, aqua aerobics, cycling, table tennis and of course our programme of bowling, which consisted of seven free sessions over the fortnight.
There were several excursions available and we had one, exclusive to our group, which took in many of the principal sights of the island.
Our thanks to Pauline Durie, the other member of our team on this occasion, who was a cheerful presence in the bridge room and extremely helpful , and once again to the hotel. We look forward to returning next year. Continue reading
Host Report by Chris & Andy SimmonsMalta is an island between Sicily and North Africa in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. For our first visit we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so guests were able to enjoy the many good value trips to explore the culture and heritage of this special place. Buses were plentiful and extremely cheap so guests could easily go off on their own ventures. Geared up for British tourists the hotel was exceptionally friendly towards our group. Rooms were comfortable and well equipped and staff made a special effort to keep the bridge room serviced with refreshments.
There was lots of choice on offer for meals where guests could book into Brazilian, Italian or Asian specialty restaurants to get something a bit different although the main buffet was magnificent in itself. A nice touch was that on two evenings the hotel gave First For Bridge guests exclusive access to two of these restaurants and opened them early so we could enjoy the experience and still get to bridge on time afterwards. The lobby bar area was popular for post competition discussions and socialising. Late all-inclusive drinks were available including cocktails like the much loved “After 8” or the “db Special”. For the active there were interesting walks to nearby sites like Popeye Village that was created for the film starring Robin Williams, and The Red Tower with magnificent views of Gozo and Comino. Continue reading
We are delighted to advise that all our bridge holidays detailed below in our summer programme have already reached minimum numbers with at least 7 or 8 tables already booked on each one at this early stage.
This means there is no danger of any of the holidays below being cancelled! We are able to confirm your travel arrangements at time of booking or shortly after, and you can then plan your calendar for the months ahead.
Over the last few years First for Bridge have introduced a number of new and interesting destinations to our summer bridge holiday programme. Many of these are from your suggestions. We have included some places that are a bit different and less commercialised. This has really appealed to many of our regular clients looking for somewhere different to go. It has also brought in many new guests to First for Bridge Holidays. Thank you all we really appreciate your custom.
We have included many extras such as excursions to Chambery and Grenoble on our French holiday, two river cruises on the Rhine Valley, and a full day tour of Venice on our Italian holiday
And of course not forgetting the most important part - the bridge! As usual all the holidays offer interesting seminars, varied bridge sessions with duplimated boards and hand records plus Master Points and prizes are awarded.
If you haven’t yet booked a place we do hope you are able to join us! Continue reading