Sunday, July 29, 2012

Five refreshing summer drinks

On a hot summers day, there's no better place to be than in a beautiful holiday location relaxing with a refreshing cold drink. Here are 5 of our favourites.

White wine, enjoyed in Granada

Frozen cocktails in Las Vegas

Tinto de Verano, by the beach at Marbella
Tinto de Verano is made using red wine, Casera (a kind of sparkling water with lemon drink), ice and lemon. You'll find it throughout Spain but mainly in Madrid & Andalucia. One tip, never accept the pre-made bottled version, its a pale imitation of the real thing.

Kunstmann Cerveza in Pucon, Chile

Pisco Sour in downtown Santiago de Chile
Pisco Sour is the centre of a hot debate between between Chile and Peru as to where it was invented, we support the Chilean arguement.The drink's name is a mixture of the Quecha word Pisco ('Bird') and the term Sour (in reference to the mixed drink family of the same name). The Chilean version is similar, but uses Chilean Pisco, sugar instead of syrup, and excludes the bitter.  The Peruvian Pisco Sour requires the use of Peruvian Pisco as the base liquor and the addition of lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three famous homes of Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and diplomat, in 1971 he won the Nobel prize for literature, he always wrote in green ink his personal color of hope. He had three houses in Chile all of which we visited during our trip first trip to Chile together. They are all quite unique showing his passion for collecting trinkets from his trips around the world, his love of the sea and his love of entertaining. All of the houses have a bar which hosted some legendary parties in their time. If you visit Chile's capital city, Santiago, you'll find that all three houses are in easy striking distance. 

La Sebastiana, Neruda's five-story home in Valparaiso, sits high on a hill with windows facing the Pacific and is full of surprises. His tiny top-floor writing room offers wonderful sea views.

La Sebastina, Valparaiso

Neruda's house in the hills above Santiago is known as La Chascona, a Quechua word meaning disorderly or disheveled, and an affectionate reference to the curly, knotted hair of the poet's third wife, Matilde Urrutia.

La Chascona

The poet's house in Isla Negra is a treasure trove of collectibles -- everything from a papier-mâché horse to masks. It's also the final resting place of Neruda and his wife, whose graves face the sea.

Isla Negra

The resting place of Neruda & his wife Matilda
Its fair to say that the three houses may not be that spectacular from the outside, what really impressed us was the flow and interior design more than the exterior. That added to the fantastic locations and sea views of La Sebastiana and Isla Negra, along with the quirkiness of Neruda's collections, make these houses fascinating to visit. We were hooked after our visit to La Sebastiana which was what made us want to complete the set. To read more about the places mentioned in this post, simply check under the heading, Labels, on the right of your screen and click on the relevant place name.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Luxembourg City, great destination for a city break

We celebrated our wedding anniversary with a weekend in Luxembourg City, the capital of Luxembourg. The main attraction, the Vielle Ville (Old City) is perched high on an escarpment over the rivers Alzette and Petrusse. Down in the valley you'll find the three Villes Basses (Lower Towns) of Grund, Clausen and Pfaffenthal. We stayed in the Park Inn by Radisson, just a short walk from the old town, it was comfortable and good value for money. If you're looking for a destination for a relaxed weekend break, Luxembourg city is ideal. Its a compact city with no need to hop in the car or take public transport to see the old town.

Place Guillaume II

Place Guillaume II is the city's largest square which was named after Grand Duke William II, you'll find Cathedrale Notre-Dame to your left as you look at the statue of the Grand Duke. On Saturdays there is a market in the square which is worth a wander round. We celebrated our anniversary in Brasserie Guillaume and had a delicious meal washed down with a lovely bottle of Luexmbourg white wine. The menu was in French but don't worry if you don't understand it as the waiters will help.

Catehdrale Notre-Dame, in the background

Hotel de Ville
The two main attractions in the Old Town are the Palais Grand-Ducal and the Casemates du Bock. The Palais Grand-Ducal was renovated and restored to its former glory during the 1990s and there are guided tours throughout the day. For some reason the two English ones are at 4pm and 5pm. They seem to cater more for their visitors from the Benelux and Germany than those coming from further afield.

Palais Grand-Ducal
View of the lower town, the district called Grund.
The Casemates du Bock are a network of galleries, staircases and tunnels which spread over a distance of 23kms. They were built between 1737 and 1746 by the Austrians and included gun emplacements, munitions stores, workshops and more. During the 2nd World War they were used as bomb shelters for 35,000 people. They have a great view over the lower town and Eglise St. Jean-Babtiste in the area called Grund.

 Casemates du Bock

On our second evening, we had another lovely dinner. This time at Restaurant Les Caves Gourmandes,  another great meal and another resturant worth visiting. This time they did have an English menu. The service perhaps was a little slow but the unique situation made up for that. In general the cost of a meal out is similar to that in the rest of the Benelux countries. After the meal, we walked down to the Lower Town of Grund to watch some of the Jazz & Blues concert at the Eglise St. Jean-Babtiste, a former Benedictine Abbey which is now a vibrant arts venue.

Restaurant Les Caves Gourmandes
The following morning we returned to Grund for a walk around this lovely town. This is one of the beauties of visiting Luexmbourg City, there is so much that you can see on foot.

So would we recommend a trip to Luxembourg City? Without doubt, yes! There is a lot to do and see at a relaxed pace. There are some amazing views over the Lower Towns and the walk down the hill is well worth it, to take some time to explore them. Luxembourg does seem to cater  more for visitors from the other Benelux countries and Germany so there isn't too much English signage in museums. That aside, it's another beautiful city which we're sure you will enjoy as much as we did.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Five famous lakes

When you live far from the sea, or from a natural lake,  you don't realise the beauty that water brings to the landscape. Below are some of our favourite shots of five beautiful lakes which we have been lucky enough to spend some time next to.

Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como, Lago di Como in Italian, is Italy's most popular lake and also its deepest. The lake is shaped like an inverted Y giving it a long perimeter. The lake is surrounded by beautiful villas and resort villages as well as hiking paths and is popular for boat trips and water sports activities.

Lake Zurich, Switzerland
Lake Zurich,  extends southeast of the city of Zurich. The almost banana shaped lake is framed on the southern side by the Albis and Zimmerberg hills and on the north by the Pfannenstiel chain of hills. The lake is bordered by the cantons of Zurich, St.Gallen and Schwyz. On a clear sunny day the scenary is spectacular, especially from one of the many boat trips you can enjoy on the lake.

Lake Annecy, France
Lake Annecy is a perialpine lake in Haute-Savoie, the second largest lake in France. Unsurprisingly it is a very popular tourist destination, especially for lovers of water sports.

Lake Villarrica, Chile
Lake Villarrica is located about 700Kms south of Santiago, in Chile's Lake District. On its east shore lies the city of Pucon, a major Chilean tourist destination. The Villarrica Volcano, one of the world's ten most active volcanos is situated to the south of the lake.

Lake Caburga, Chile
Lake Caburga is situated in the region of Pucon and Villarrica. The lake has warm waters and a beautiful natural landscape. Nearby you can find the Ojos del Caburga, two waterfalls that are said to look like eyes from above, one eye is blue and the other green.

To see more about the regions or countries where these stunning lakes are, simply click on the links throughout this post or enter the place name into the Search This Blog box and click on the relevant post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stratford-upon-Avon & the Cotswolds

We're just back from a short break in England for a family gathering in the Cotswolds. We flew into Birmingham and stopped off enroute in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Set in the beautiful rural Warwickshore countriside, on the banks of the river Avon, Stratford is one of the most important tourist destinations in England. As well as being home to the Royal Shapespeare Company (RSC) Theatre, Stratford gives you a unique insight into the life of the famous bard when you visit  the Shakespeare Museum and the house where he was born.

"Oh noble fool, a worth fool", from As You Like It

Shakespeare's birthplace
There are five Shakespeare properties which you can visit, which include Shapespeare's birthplace (above), New place/ Nash's House, Hall's Croft, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Arden's House. One ticket covers all the properties and is valid for a year, so you get great value for your entrance fee.

Downtown Stratford
Using Stratford-upon-Avon as a base you are in easy striking distance of the nearby surrounding counties of Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucesterhshire. You can visit Blenheim Palace and the Cotswolds to the south, Worcester and the Malverns to the west, Warwick Castle and Henley in Arden to the north. All of these beautiful areas within an hour's journey of Stratford itself. Our next stop was Icomb, near Stow-on-the-Wold, where we stayed in Ash Farm Barns, a complex of well equipped holiday cottages. The Cotswolds covers an area of 790 square miles and is the England's largest officially designated "area of outstanding natural beauty".

The Old Stock Hotel, Stow On The Wold

The "Old Stock"

As well as beautiful countryside, the Cotswolds is know for its sleepy ancient limestone villages, historic market towns and for being "typically English", where time has stood still for over 300 years. When you visit some of the villages you really will feel that you have just stept onto a movie set.

The old market hall, Chipping Campden

We only had time to see a small fraction of this beautiful area of England, so we will definitely be back to see more and enjoy the wonderful tea rooms of the Cotswolds.

"Enjoy the Cotswolds"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Five famous palaces

Below are images of five of our favourite "palaces" visited so far. Why have they made it into this list? Simple reason, in some way they all generate the WOW factor. There is something about all of them that makes you stand back to take in their beauty, the detail of the stonework or simply to admire their sheer scale. Is there a reason that Ankor Wat is featured first? Yes, if you want one recommendation to add to your Bucket List, add Ankor Wat. Once visited, you'll never forget that feeling of excitement and awe when you saw it for the first time.

Ankor Wat, Cambodia
Ankor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Close to the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia, Ankor Wat and the other temples in the region are truly stunning. The only way to really appreciate them is to visit them.

The Hofburg complex, Vienna
The Hofburg complex stands in the middle of downtown Vienna. It consists of 18 wings and 19 courtyards and houses a large number of museums, displaying unique treasures and collections. The Silberkammer and the Sisi exhibition are well worth a visit.

Schloss Charlottenberg, Berlin
Built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte, this regal estate, the largest palace in Berlin, is framed by a baroque-style garden. Inside, a collection of 18th century French paintings is the largest of its kind outside France. 

Royal Palace, Aranjuez
The Royal Palace of Aranjuez, located on the side of the Tajo River, was built in 1561 by King Philip II as a royal summer residence. The palace was rebuilt by the Bourbon King Fernando VI in the 18th century after it was destroyed by fire.

The Alhambra, Granada
The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa'lat al-Hamra'» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighbourhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba. 

The Alcazar, Segovia
This Alcazar, a castle-palace, lies in the walled city of Segovia in the province of Segovia in Spain. It's one of the most famous castles in Spain due to the fact that a lot of Spanish kings resided here and because of its beautiful exterior.

To see more about the cities or places where these fabulous buildings are, simple click on any of the underlined links throughout this post or enter the place name into the Search This Blog box and click on the relevant post.