Arena Travel Blog

  • News from the Bridge Rooms in the Balearics

    Host report by Nigel & Pauline Durie

    Menorca October 2016:

    What a beautiful island Menorca is and S’Algar resort is in a wonderful location that offers everything needed for a bridge holiday. A first-class hotel with staff who couldn’t be more attentive to our every need. The playing room is spacious and overlooks the pool and the sea, so when the bridge is tough it is easy to remind ourselves of the finer things in life! Two excellent excursions were enjoyed by many of the guests enabling people to see interesting places in and around S’Algar and the capital Mahon. One of the excursions focused on visiting parts of the island not on the usual tourist route and a knowledgeable and interesting English speaking guide was greatly appreciated. John and Marjorie organised a popular afternoon trip to a stable for a demonstration of the skills of the beautiful black horses of Menorca.

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  • Bob Baker RIP

    Bob Baker RIP

    It is with great sadness that we report the death of our dear friend Bob Baker on Saturday after a short illness.

    Bob and Jacky have been an integral part of the First for Bridge family for many years. Arena Travel took over the business in 2012 and along with others Bob and Jacky offered great advice and support to ensure we maintained the high bridge standards of First for Bridge. They have been very popular with customers who booked any trip they led and Bob will be greatly missed by us all.

    We extend our sincere condolences to Jacky and the family.

    The family have asked not to receive phone calls at this difficult time. We would be pleased to gather your memories and condolences and pass them to Jacky in due course. Please address any messages to

    We would like to introduce The Bob Baker Memorial Challenge Cup next year in honour of Bob's memory.

  • Quilters Retreat to Portugal September 2016

    Report by Karin Hellaby

    On a Sunday 18th September, 19 of us flew from London to Lisbon for the start of our 8 day quilting retreat.

    The first couple of nights were spent in a luxurious 5* hotel in Lisbon's historic area, perfect for exploring on foot or catching a nearby tram. Arena had sight-seeing tours arranged for us and the most memorable included a tour of the famous tile museum and afterwards, the costume museum. Both were filled with beautiful displays and gave us an enormous amount of inspiration.

    From Lisbon it was an hour's drive to a Marriott Resort Hotel situated on the Atlantic coast. We had a large sunny conference room overlooking the pool and beach, set up with 12 Bernina sewing machines, ready for four days of sewing.

    What a perfect venue for a retreat! After classes we took the opportunity to swim in the pool and walk along the beach. The exercise was needed as we ate breakfast and dinner from the most fabulous buffets, with good wine included.

    Obidos, a quaint walled medieval town was close by, so one morning Helen our tour manager arranged for four taxis to take us there. We browsed the shops with frequent stops to admire the views and taste the local cherry liqueur served in small chocolate cups. At only one euro each many of us indulged more than once!

    Our evening flight from Lisbon meant that we could take in the lovely town of Sintra on the way to the airport. We visited the colourful Palacio National del Pena, atop the hill and shopped for last minute souvenirs in the pretty town.

    This was a really fabulous relaxing week with a marvellous mixture of sights, culture, sewing and excellent food in super hotels. Thank you Arena Travel for the excellent itinerary, Bernina for providing machines and Helen for her good tour managing skills.

    More photos and a daily blog can be viewed on

    I hope one day to return to Portugal with Arena as the quilters on this tour are keen to explore Porto next. In the meantime, why not join me and escape from the cold and miserable UK next February and join me for a sewing retreat in Madeira.

    Karin Hellaby

    Karin Hellaby is an internationally known quilt teacher and author of 10 quilting books and numerous patterns. She is a regular teacher at the Houston International Quilt Show and has also been invited to teach at quilting symposiums in New Zealand, Dubai and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon.

    Read more about Karin
  • News from the Bridge Room in Montenegro

    Report by Rob & Rosa Richardson

    Our group of 40 intrepid travellers arrived on two flights into Dubrovnik and were very soon treated to a stunning scenic transfer by coach through mountains and along the Adriatic coast across a border and on a ferry to our sun drenched hotel. We were amazed to find all of the players ready for bridge on the first night, as almost all had left home at about 2am! Determined lot, bridge players.

    At the welcome meeting Rada and Jana gave us short talk about Montenegro and gave us all the vital information we needed in a most entertaining way. All our local guides had amusing stories about how lazy Montenegrin men are and how hard working the women are. (Our hotel staff appeared to disprove the former, but confirm the latter.) Why does a Montenegrin man keep 2 stones by his bed? One to turn the light off and one to check that the window is closed.

    Nearly everybody went on our first outing to the town of Kotor, a world heritage site. This lovely medieval walled town is set between the bay and the mountains and is perfect for strolling and just soaking up the atmosphere. The second trip was up into the mountains, where we were able to sample the local delicacy, prosciutto ham. Finally many of us went on a day trip to Albania. I am guessing that not many of us would have expected ever to be able to say that! The local cognac at prices from 3 Euros a half litre proved to be quite a hit. Here is where I encountered my only “lost in translation” moment of the trip. I asked for a decaf coffee and received a normal coffee with a decaf tea bag in it! It seems that Albanians do not drink decaf coffee, but do drink decaf tea.

    Many guests also ventured out on their own to Sveti Stefan, about an hour away by foot or 10 minutes by bus. We walked there and caught the bus back. Others walked into the lovely old walled town of Budva about 20 minutes away.

    Finally mention should also be given to the pool attendant who was scared witless by one of our older guests diving into the pool. Apparently he had never previously seen that manoeuvre performed by someone of such vintage without being hospitalised as a result!

    The evening bridge was 10 full tables each night and was played in a very friendly, but competitive atmosphere I am very pleased to say. The prizes were shared out amongst 21 of our 40 guests. As well as normal duplicate sessions we played one night scored by Butler IMPS and two nights of teams. We had a seminar on the different scoring systems prior to the “IMP” night, and one on one of my favourite toys Minorwood. The third session was a group discussion of various hands of the week.

    Here is a very interesting bidding problem from the IMP pairs. Sitting South you hold:

    Nobody is vulnerable and North is dealer. The bidding goes:

    I think the choice here is either to bid 2NT (if your system allows it) to show a strong hand with a Heart stop or double for take out. Double is not ideal as it suggests 4 spades, but I would find pass too unpalatable and any suit bid here would mislead my partner. In either case the bidding will usually continue:

    What now? Partner with a passed hand has made a free bid to enter the auction at the 5 level. What is his hand? Lets start with the easy question, how many Hearts will he have? On the bidding east has 6 West should have at least 3 but more probably 4 as he can have few points, so must have shape for his bid. I have 3 so partner has a void, possibly a singleton. My double has raised the possibility of 4 spades so I would expect North to bid them with 4 of his own. Therefore I can read him for 10+ cards in the minors, with clubs being at least as long as diamonds as he has bid them. He must therefore have at least 5 clubs, we have a good fit. What about North's points? He has made a free bid at the 5 level so even with his known good shape he must have some points, and they are not in Hearts. We have no certainties here, and we cannot bid on without committing ourselves to slam. We suspect a void with partner and probably the ace of diamonds, we have at least a 9 card trump fit, so it is decision time.

    We were playing IMPS and I think slam is a lot better than 50-50, but I can understand the 4 pairs that settled in 5C. 2 pairs doubled 4 Hearts instead of bidding 5C, not an unreasonable option but of less interest. One South presumably not wanting to lie about his spade holding and double, allowed EW to play in 2H. Of the other 3 pairs I suspect an entirely different auction in 2 cases (see below) and one pair found 6C.

    Same hand but East does not open a weak 2. South is playing 4 card majors with a weak no trump and will probably open 1club with a flat 19 count.

    I would play the 4 club bid as Minorwood (1430) and 4H shows 0 or 3 key cards. Other slam bidding conventions are available and should work here. With IMP scoring 6C should end the auction, but in duplicate the gamblers may be tempted by 6NT. Of the 2 pairs mentioned above one played in 3NT and the other in 6NT, I suspect via an auction along these lines.

    Norths hand was:

    The main point of the hand is the power of opening a weak 2 in a major, look how difficult things get for your opponents!

    See you all soon:


    Prize Winners

    Championship Pairs: Tony & Marion Watkins

    Championship Teams: Bob & Marjke Bennett with Eva Glover & Jackie Borkowska

    Ladies Pairs: Sue Hazlehurst & Chinni Arasan

    Random Teams - Chinni & Tamil Arasan with Malcolm & Catherine Boyack

  • News from the Bridge Room on the Venetian Riviera

    Host report by Andy & Chris Simmons

    For our holiday on the Venetian Riviera we returned to the Hotel Principe Palace in Lido Di Jesolo. This ‘platinum grade’ hotel is located in the heart of Lido Di Jesolo with lots of bars, shops and restaurants close by. It has a well-appointed rooftop terrace where guests could relax during the day, and extensive indoor and outdoor ground floor lounges that included grand piano recitals. Rooms were comfortable, fully equipped and regularly serviced. For dinner we were encouraged to select from a range of specially prepared Italian cuisine and there was always an extensive salad bar and lots of dessert options. Service was truly magnificent and gave the impression that this is a family run hotel where the guests come first. One of our guests was very soon overheard to say “this is a great hotel and I never say that of anywhere”.

    During the entire holiday we were blessed with warm, calm and sunny weather – perfect for sightseeing. A bus and then ferry ride took us into the remarkable city of Venice. Everyone came on the inclusive guided tour and this was a good introduction. There is so much culture and history in Venice that most guests returned for subsequent visits. Nearby islands also have unique charm and character and many took advantage of the regular ferry services to visit them too. Among these was Murano that is famed for its glass making studios.

    A large number of guests took advantage of the trip to Lake Garda and Verona. Sirmione del Garda is an attractive town on a picturesque peninsula on the south of the lake. Here guests would find the best ice cream in Italy (arguable the world). The trip also stopped at Verona. This is a city with artistic heritage and has a well preserved ancient amphitheatre that still stages grand open air productions like Verdi’s classic opera Aida.

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