Jonathan's desire to set up his travel company goes back to the 1980s when he was studying for a degree in Travel and Tourism at Newcastle Polytechnic. Keen to gain experience within the industry before venturing out on his own, he worked for a variety of different tour companies. He spent 8 happy years as a sailing instructor at PGL Adventure holidays prior to working for operators offering world wide escorted tours. In 2000, Jonathan decided that the time had come to go it alone, and with that he set up Cities Direct. Eager to share his love of Europe, it wasn’t long before he had built up a loyal following of clients and needed to expand his work force. Over time, his friends and former work colleagues, Fiona, Joy, Ruth, Ann and Ian have joined Cities Direct bringing with them their wealth of travel experience and love of Europe.
Favourite City: Barcelona. Jonathan tells us that the unique architectural style of Gaudi, the buzz of the Ramblas and the treasures contained within the Picasso Museum are what he loved most but deep down we know it was really the marinas full of yachts!
Next on the list: The Azores - apparently great for sailing...
Most memorable travel experience: Crossing the Bay of Biscay in a yacht.
Can't travel without: A good book and researching boat trips in the area.
When not at work: Jonathan will be on a boat somewhere. He's not fussy - he would set sail in a puddle if it were big enough.
Originally from Edinburgh, Fiona started her career in travel working for a specialist French tour operator based in Cheltenham. She then moved into the group tour market and worked for a couple of different operators that offered worldwide escorted tours. Contracting hotels across the globe was the perfect opportunity to get out and visit so many great cities and meet some really interesting people, but after a while her passion for Europe led her to Cities Direct in 2007 and she hasn't looked back since. Fiona works closely with Jo, our graphic designer, producing the content for the Cities Direct brochure and weekly newsletters.
Favourite City: Paris - it's just everything about the city; the food, the language, the way of life, the style...
Next on the list: Reykjavik. As a Scot used to rugged landscapes, Iceland is sure to tick all the boxes.
Most memorable travel experience: Watching the sun rise over the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia.
Can't travel without: Her running kit. To see the most of a city, Fiona likes nothing better than to get her trainers on and start running!
When not at work: Fiona will be out walking with her black Labrador called Scooby.
Joy's career in travel has been long and varied. She has travelled extensively, mainly within Europe, which makes her product knowledge second to none. She spent many years working for a specialist River Cruise Tour Operator and was often to be found cruising up and down the valleys of the Rhine & Moselle in Germany. She spent some years working with worldwide escorted group tours but finally decided that Europe was where her affinities lay and joined Cities Direct shortly after its inception in 2000. Having been with the company since the early days, Joy has been able to watch it grow and develop, all the while keeping a firm grip on the administrative procedures within the office.
Favourite City: Tallinn because it is such a gem of a city with its effortlessly beautiful medieval Old Town.
Next on the list: Vienna. Not only to explore the rich history of the city but also to attend a performance at the Spanish Riding School.
Most memorable travel experience: Walking into St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. The towering dome within was absolutely breathtaking.
Can't travel without: Her kindle and a travel kettle. She does like a cup of tea!
When not at work: Joy will be gardening or cooking delicious meals for family gatherings.
Sport and travel are Richard's two great loves in life so what better way to start his career than travelling the world working for a specialist Sports Tour Operator. Keen to expand his travel knowledge, Richard moved into a completely different area of the industry and became a specialist in holidays to Cuba. This involved frequent trips out to the Island to gain essential product knowledge. In 2012, Richard decided he wanted to focus on something a little closer to home and became part of the Cities Direct team. Since joining the team, Richard has built up a loyal following of clients who book with him time and time again. He certainly has got a way of finding hotel rooms that no one else can get their hands on!
Favourite City: Copenhagen, mainly because of the food. He particularly liked the food market down by the harbour.
Next on the list: Carcassonne. One of those cities that you really need to see in the flesh to truly appreciate its celestial magic.
Most memorable travel experience: Riding the Glacier Express across the snow capped mountains of the Swiss Alps.
Can't travel without: Doing plenty of research on the local beers and being sure to sample them all during a trip.
When not at work: You will most likely find Richard down the Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester watching the rugby.
With over 25 years' experience within the industry, there is nothing that phases Ruth. The perpetually calm presence in the Cities Direct Office, Ruth's experience in travel has taken her around the world. Her work with a Caribbean specialist tour operator involved plenty of travelling to different islands checking out some of the region’s top hotels. She tells us this was really hard work, but we are yet to be convinced! Ruth also spent time working for an escorted tour operator where she played a key role in the operation of the river cruise, coach tour and long haul tour programmes. Her next step was to join Cities Direct in 2002 and her passion for Europe's wonderfully diverse cultures is showing no signs of slowing down.
Favourite City: Rome because of the history, art, culture, monuments and, very importantly, the great food!
Next on the list: Krakow - Having previously visited the city, Ruth is looking forward to returning and gaining a greater understanding of Krakow's haunting past.
Most memorable travel experience: Camping at the Devils Marbles in the Northern Territory, Australia and seeing the stars so clearly in the unpolluted night sky.
Can't travel without: Her walking shoes.
When not at work: Ruth will be travelling. She particularly enjoys visiting Italy and Spain.
Rose was never in any doubt about where her career was heading. Her love of travel and experiencing different cultures developed at a young age. When the opportunity to work for a Portuguese specialist tour operator arose, she jumped at the chance and four years later, she took things a step further and studied Tourism Management at university. The course gave Rose the opportunity travel to many parts of America culminating with a work placement in a ranch hotel in California. Since graduating, Rose has become an integral part of the Cities Direct team. She travels with her family at every opportunity and has built up superb first hand knowledge of some of Europe’s finest cities.
Favourite City: Lisbon. Although Lisbon has all the trappings of a capital city, Rose found it a lot less chaotic than most. The warmth of the locals was also a big plus point.
Next on the list: Granada because of the vibrancy, passion and beautiful Moorish architecture that Andalucian cities offer.
Most memorable travel experience: Horse riding in the canyons near Palm Springs, California followed by a breakfast cookout.
Can't travel without: A good book and, where possible, one that incorporates her chosen destination.
When not at work: Rose will be out walking in the countryside with her husband and two children.
With a degree in Geography under her belt, Ann felt that a career in travel might be a good choice. Fast forward over thirty years, and Ann is still in the industry so her instincts have served her well. Ann spent much of her early career working for big names such as Global Overland and Wallace Arnold where she was involved in the contracting and operation of coach tours on a large scale. Taking time out to raise her family, Ann returned to the industry working for Cities Direct. Her desire to travel is as strong as ever and she loves nothing better than visiting a new destination and being able to relay her experiences first hand to Cities Direct clients.
Favourite City: Venice for its uniqueness and endless list of things to see and do.
Next on the list: Prague. Everyone loves Prague and despite its popularity as a city break destination, it hasn't lost any of its ethereal charm.
Most memorable travel experience: Travelling in a boat on Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian/Bolivian border.
Can't travel without: Her sketchpad and a few pencils.
When not at work: Ann will be out in the garden, pruning or weeding or maybe sketching.
Jo is our creative genius. With her graphic design skills she works closely with Fiona producing the Cities Direct brochure and weekly newsletters. She also looks after the visual content of the website, sourcing the stunning images that showcase the beautiful diversity of our European cities and landscapes. Jo loves to travel so throughout her career has used her artistic abilities working within the travel industry.
Favourite City: Berlin for its dichotomy. More than a quarter of a century since the Wall came down, the distinct architectural styles of the former East and West sides of the city serve as a reminder of the country's 20th century history.
Next on the list: Madrid to visit the museums of the Golden Triangle.
Most memorable travel experience: Making it to the top of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Not one for heights, it was quite an achievement to get there but the views from the top were well worth it.
Can't travel without: A camera - she is always on the look out for that extra special shot.
When not at work: Jo will be travelling or gardening.
Over thirty years in the travel industry began with compiling rail timetables for under 26 travellers and has since included management roles at a variety of Tour Operators such as Inghams Ski and Lakes & Mountains. Since 2002 Ian has run his own Travel & Tourism consultancy and has worked with Cities Direct since its inception. Ian's unbeatable knowledge of the European rail network is legendary. If in doubt, we ask Ian!
Favourite City: Anywhere except London - but Rome is hard to beat with its fabulous heritage and wonderful food and coffee!
Next on the list: Riga - one of the few European cities of any size he has yet to visit.
Most memorable travel experience: Riding on the roof of a steam hauled train climbing through tunnels and over soaring viaducts up the extraordinary 'Devil’s Nose' mountain pass in Ecuador.
Can't travel without: A camera and map.
When not at work: Ian will be watching sport, birds, trains or planes.
Scooby, the black labrador keeps Fiona company whenever possible. He is particularly helpful during the busy months ahead of the January brochure launch when there are plenty of late nights getting copy written and ready for the brochure to go to print.
Favourite City: Edinburgh. Scooby loves a trip north of the border.
Next on the list: Cornwall. Scooby enjoys a holiday in the UK and has no plans to get a passport just yet.
Most memorable travel experience: Running into the sea for the first time.
Can't travel without: His pheasant. There's not much stuffing left, but he still takes it everywhere.
When not at work: Scooby will be out walking in the countryside or sleeping on his beanbag.