16 May
Car Hire

Five car hire tips when abroad

From finding the relevant desk at the airport and enduring the lengthy queues, to ensuring you have the correct paperwork in order, hiring a car abroad can be stressful.

Knowing what to expect and preparing for car hire can make the experience considerably less taxing.


 

13 Oct
Mojacar

Mojacar and its white-washed pueblo: Andalucia’s stunning coastal secret

It is fairly safe to say, there aren’t many destinations in southern Spain that comprise of stunning stretches of sun-drenched sand, atmospheric cafes and bars, top class restaurants and a white-washed old-town clung majestically to a hillside, that aren’t teeming with tourists.

If you did make this proclamation, you’d be almost right, but not quite.

The town of Mojacar, on the Costa de Almeria in the south-eastern corner of Andalucia, would prove your assumption wrong.

When driving along Costa de Almeria, past the bustling port towns of Villaricus and Garrucha, an incredible sight soon dominates the vista – a whitewashed pueblo clung almost precariously to a hillside, looking serenely out towards the Mediterranean.

Welcome to Mojacar!

Mojacar comprises of two infinitely contrasting existences – the ‘Playa’, which consists of a string of pretty, sandy, well-facilitated beaches, and the Pueblo, an old town with cobbled twisting streets housing quirky bars, restaurants and boutiques round every corner.

One of the greatest things about Mojacar is that you get the ‘two in one’ ideal. The ‘Playa’ beckons for a memorable beach holiday, where swimming, sunbathing, banana boats and ice-cream are available and waiting.

Once you’ve had enough of the sand, sangria and squeals of delight from those riding the banana boats, the tranquil, timeless and bohemian world of Mojacar Pueblo awaits you.

Simply drive, catch the bus or walk a kilometre or so up a steep road from Mojacar Playa and you’ll find yourself in an entirely different world altogether. This fascinating, white-washed town provides a taste of timeless Spain. A network of cobbled alleyways ascend and descend around the village.

‘Alternative’ boutiques selling quirky clothes, jewellery, pottery and gifts puts shoppers in paradise. As does lovers’ of authentic Spanish cuisine, with tapas and Sangria being served in abundance in the pueblo’s characterful bars and restaurants.

What’s more, being relatively inconspicuous from the predominant tourist trail, both Mojacar Playa and the Pueblo never get bombarded with an overcrowded stream of visitors.

If you want to discover the best of both of Spain’s irrefutably different worlds, designate a day on your Andalucian holiday to visit Mojacar.


 

11 Oct
Pollenca

Ca’n Trillo: The perfect accommodation in the Pollenca vicinity of Mallorca

Traditional yet modern would be an apt overall description of Ca’n Trillo. Located not far from the traditional town of Pollenca on the eastern end of Serra de Tramuntana, this beautiful villa sleeps up to six guests in comfort and luxury.

The exterior and interior building design has been used to make houses like this one for a hundred years. The American style fridge in the kitchen is however a relatively recent addition along with all the other modern day necessities that contemporary society demands.

Wooden beamed ceilings and ceramic floor tiles with white-washed walls give a genuine Spanish feel to Ca’n Trillo. The colourful and stylish furniture, artwork and furnishings place a modern stamp on a bygone age of house design. Cool, light and roomy, houses such as Ca’n Trillo were built to a practical standard in order to deal with many hundreds of hours of sunshine beating down relentlessly onto the rooftops of the houses of Mallorca.

The house has three bedrooms plus three bathrooms. The traditional bedroom layout with iron beds and wooden cabinets contrasts with the modern requirements of satellite TV and air-conditioning. All the bedrooms are en-suite and comprise of two twins and a double. Doors lead out into the garden from the bedrooms.

The kitchen, dining room and lounge fuse together in one huge light and roomy open plan room. Cooks can enjoy getting to grips with the local cuisine in Ca’n Trillo’s well-equipped kitchen.

Ca’n Trillo’s exterior is equally as alluring. A sparkling swimming pool surrounded by a large lawn area means guests can bathe and dry off spread out under the sun. As well as the inviting pool there is a hot tub for guests to relax in. Whether it’s being immersed in the hot tub or bathing in the pool, with pretty pencil thin cypress trees planted round the perimeter you can enjoy total privacy at Ca’n Trillo. .

The built in barbecue is further enticement to lure guests at Ca’n Trillo into outdoors. It is easy to imagine a vibrant and joyful party taking place in this beautiful outside area of the house.

Less than a ten minute drive from Ca’n Trillo and all its fabulous amenities puts you at the horse shoe-shaped bay of Pollenca. This characterful town is framed by two mountains, each with their own sacred site on top. Pollenca and all its charms looks incredible against the backdrop of the Tramuntana Mountains.

With wonderful scenery, great restaurants and glorious beaches, your time spent holidaying in this refreshingly unspoilt region of Mallorca will be torn between staying at Ca’n Trillo or exploring the town of Pollenca.

For more information about Ca’n Trillo visit: https://www.vintagetravel.co.uk/villa_details.cfm?p_id=1269

 


 

10 Oct
Tapas

Three tasty Spanish tapas

Tapas are smallish dishes of Spanish-style food, which put great variety, flavour and interest onto the table. A little bit of this and a piece of that is the general idea. We have to admit tapas are most enjoyable when washed down with an ice-cold cerveza or a chilled glass of vino blanco.

The great thing about tapas is with some modest ingredients and fairly little effort, you can recreate the tastes and flavours of the Spanish bars with ease at home.

Take a look at the following three tasty tapas.

Pears with blue cheese and walnuts

Pears with blue cheese and walnuts is a great looking dish, which happens to taste as good as it looks. Simply take some decent sized pears, cut them into half then scoop out the core. Rub the pear surface with a fresh slice of lemon to prevent browning and to add a little zest to the taste.

Mix some chopped walnuts and blue cheese and cook them in a frying pan with a spoonful of olive oil. As soon as the blue cheese melts, spoon the mixture into the hollow of the pear and serve with a sprig of rosemary.

Calamari with lime and parsley dressing

In order to recreate an authentic Spanish seafood restaurant you should buy your calamari fresh from the fishmonger and ask them to clean out the gristle from inside the squid. You should be able to make six rings of calamari from each squid.

The sauce is made with a blend of fresh lime juice (20%), single cream (30%), olive oil (40%), white wine vinegar (5%) and some chopped parsley (5%).

Simply mix all the ingredients together and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill the calamari in a griddle pan until they are nicely seared.

Serve on a bed of rocket or baby spinach and drizzle over the dressing.

Cured ham, melon and mozzarella bites

There are many different types of cured ham in Spanish supermarkets and Jamon Serrano is one of the most popular. Simply wrap some ultra-thin cured ham of your choice round some pieces of thinly-sliced melon and mozzarella cheese and attach a basil leaf to the cheese.

Hold this tasty little parcel of food together with a cocktail stick.

Many of the bar owners in Spain make their tapas throughout their shift by inspiration. It is a continuing inventive process. Why not use the improvisation skills of a Spanish chef and wrap the ham in asparagus?

Tapas possibilities are endless and one of life’s simplest pleasures is to get a table together for family and friends, which contains a tasty tapa for everyone!


 

08 Oct
the best way to check these distinct and flavoursome wines out is by going on holiday to this beautiful land.

Wines to savour in Istria, Croatia

Unlike the wines of Italy, France and Spain, you are less likely to find Istrian wine on the shelves of the supermarkets. With this in mind, probably the best way to check these distinct and flavoursome wines out is by going on holiday to this beautiful land.

Aiding the nation’s present winemaking success, is the fact some innovative experiments have been going on with the new wave Croatian winemakers, such as ageing the wine in acacia casks instead of oak. Though it has to be said that it is the local grapes and vineyards which are the ultimate influencers in abetting the delightful local bottle of Istrian wine you are served in a restaurant.

Istrian winemaker Ivica Matosevic gets around the world, visiting wine shows and events in the countries of Europe and the US. He is happy to show off his fine wines, which consist mainly of Malvasia and Chardonnay varieties. Ivica does however produce a great little number called “Grimalda red,” which is a blend of Merlot and Teran.

There is a loft space in Iyica’s rural wine tasting building at Kruncici to the south east of Porec. Art exhibitions and live music also take place here, accompanied with lashings of the superb local house wine.

Fellow Istrian winemaker Bruno Trapan designed his wine tasting building to look and feel like a railway station. Trapan makes a full range of wines and a tasting session at the Wine Station in the town of Sisan, to the east of Pula.

Marino Markezic is another leading winemaker in Istria. Marino makes his fine wine at the Tuscan-looking area around Momjan, which lies to the north east of Porec close to the Slovenian border. The wine is aged in huge terracotta jars and buried under lavender. Marino’s tasting room is conveniently located in the basement of his villa.

We have to admit, the increasingly innovative, distinct and quality wine being produced on the fertile, sun-drenched soil of Istria, is yet another excuse to visit this stunning corner of the world.


 

06 Oct
Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez de la Frontera: European Wine City 2014

The Southern Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera is a real privilege to visit. As well as its famous Flamenco dancing and internationally-admired white Andalucian horses gracing the surrounding countryside, this traditional yet elegant town also has more than its fair share of magnificent buildings. Though we have to admit Jerez’s most famous association is its wine.

Being globally-recognised for its local sherry, brandy and wine, it stands to reason Jerez was awarded the European Wine City of 2014. Wine lovers and buyers from all over the world have been descending on Jerez this year. Whilst wine shows and events have taken place in Jerez throughout 2014, it is the autumn, with the wine harvest, when the town will really come alive with visitors.

The accolade of European Wine Capital of the Year coincides with it being a special year for Jerez, which commemorates its 750th anniversary.

2014 might be an especially vibrant time to visit Jerez but the city remains as stunning and culturally-enhancing whatever time you decide to visit.

The buildings of Jerez stand up to any in the province of Cadiz or the whole of Andalucia for that matter. The Alcazar is a beautiful Moorish stronghold set upon the highest point in the city. This Moorish palace is superbly graceful with delightful pretty gardens and well-preserved arches. What’s more, every Monday morning visitors are permitted into the Alcazar free of charge.

Jerez’s cathedral is also well worth a visit, as is the church of San Miguel. The detail inside the church is incredible and the altar piece will certainly draw your attention, with the arch angel fighting off demons!

Horse enthusiasts will also be in their element in Jerez and could not possibly call into this city without paying homage to the world famous Andalucian white horses. The Fundacion Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Equestra hosts exciting equestrian events all year round.

Whether you love wine, horses, flamenco or history, Jerez de la Frontera has it all, particularly in 2014 with people from all over the world are flocking to its streets, intent on sampling the city’s famous tipples.


 

02 Oct
Istria, Croatia

Two beautiful towns of inland Istria, Croatia

People rightly enjoy the superbly formed indented coastline of the Croatian Istrian peninsula. However, Istria’s stunning coastline has an equally as compelling backdrop which comprises of many pretty hilltop towns and villages, which are both picturesque and historical.

All it takes is a short drive in the car or a bus ride and you find yourself in the thick of olive groves and vineyards and ancient towns void tourist makeovers. The contrast between the coast and the countryside is huge in Istria and a visit inland will certainly add variety and intrigue to your time on the heart-shaped peninsula.

Take a look at two of Istria’s most beautiful inland towns.

Motovun

Motovun is a half hour bus ride to the north east of Porec. Motovun is a fine example of medieval Venetian colonialism. The town is built upon a hill and is around 800 feet above sea level. There are towers, walls gates, coats of arms on the buildings, which are propelled to timeless grandeur with Venetian stone lions extolled on the walls.

There are not many perfectly preserved towns from the days when Venice ruled huge swaths of Europe but Motovun is certainly one of them. It is hardly surprising the town is often described as the most beautiful on the peninsula.

Grosnjan

Grosnjan does not possess the amount of Venetian antiquities as Motovun but it certainly has its own appeal. The town was virtually deserted in the mid-sixties but fortunately for the wellbeing of the Grosnjan’s future, artists and later musicians moved in and gradually the town became refurbished to its former glory.

Nowadays there are free concerts held nightly in Grosnjan throughout the summer months. Grosnjan has become a stronghold for the arts and today this old Venetian fortress town is the most important international arts colony in the whole of Istria. The town is a similar distance away from Porec as Motovun but the bus ride still leaves you with a three kilometre walk – though we have to admit, is definitely worth the trouble.


 

28 Sep
Sierra de Tramuntana Mountains, Mallorca

Sierra de Tramuntana Mountains, Mallorca

An enigmatic mountain range always adds mystery and beauty to any island and the Sierra de Tramuntana on Mallorca is no exception. This dramatic and lofty mountain range is often snow-capped during the winter months, which adds yet more sparkle to the spectacular scenery of the island. This high moisture attracting oasis on the Spanish Balearic Islands possesses a diverse range of plant and animal life alongside majesty and splendour – It is hardly surprising the Sierra de Tramuntana was awarded UNESCO status in recent years.

You can drive through the Tramuntana but it’s not a journey for nervous drivers as drops are unforgiving and the roads are tortuous and relentlessly winding. In fact so steep and challenging is the journey through the Sierra de Tramuntana that Bradley Wiggins and the Sky team used these mountains for training for the Tour de France.

Some of the villages within Tramuntana’s reach are outstandingly beautiful and well worth a visit. And none more so than the small coastal village of Dela. In 1932 the English writer Robert Graves of “I Claudius” fame visited Dela and decided that it was so lovely he would take up residence in the village with his mistress. Grave died in Dela in 1985 and is buried in the village. Graves wrote a book called “Wild Olives” which talks about life in Mallorca and particularly in Dela.

Whether you’re visiting Dela of twisting and turning round hairpin bends of the Tramutana, remember to take your camera with you as these limestone mountains contain sheer gorges and 5000 feet peaks, a photographer’s haven. Cosy villages, mountain streams and famous clientele surely make the Tramuntana Mountains one of the foremost great escapes in the age of modern tourism.


 

26 Sep
Montalcino

October 2014 events in Tuscany

October is a great time to visit Tuscany. The air is crisp and clear without the stifling heat of summer yet the temperatures are still pleasantly warm. Asides the enviable climate, there are several quirky festivals going on where you can wade in with your heart and soul.

The first Sunday in October will see the “Montalcino Carnigliano” – “Festival of the Rooster” take place in the town of Montalcino. This truly unique festival involves hundreds of chickens being grilled on a spit in the open. The chickens are doused in litres of local wine. Asides eating plenty of wine-drenched chicken, folk dancing takes place well into the early hours. Many of the locals – and visitors – dress up in medieval costumes and play a traditional game known as the Druzzola – Game of the Wheel, which involves throwing a circular piece of olive wood (the mind boggles!)

On the last Sunday of October the town of Castiglione d’ Orcia hosts the Festival of the Mushroom. Castiglione d’ Orcia is extremely picturesque with old ruins of a castle dominating the rocks on the high point of the town. The sloping town square, with its water fountain and intricate brickwork, clings on to its ancient past. In fact the town was first documented in 714. The Mushroom Festival celebrates the Porcini mushrooms and needless to say, many of Italy’s finest mushroom-based dishes are served in abundance throughout the festival.

The equally as charming Tuscan town of Moltalcino also has its share of October festivals. Though with its almost perfectly preserved medieval castle Moltalcino is a delight to visit any time of the year. The Festival of the Thrush takes place in Moltalcino on the last Sunday of October, when a great feast is laid out in the 14th century castle. The feast is open to the public and enables tourists to experience truly unique dining in one of Europe’s finest examples of a 14th century castle.

If you’re wanting to experience traditional Tuscan culture and cuisine in beautiful autumnal surroundings, then a trip to Tuscany this October certainly won’t disappoint.


 

24 Sep
Kefalonia

Why Kefalonia?

For anyone heading to the Ionian Sea for their holiday, the island of Kefalonia has become a number one choice for tourists. Much of this beautiful island’s popularity stems from the fact it was setting for the blockbuster film “Captain Corelli Mandolin”. That said, there is much more to Kefalonia than merely being a place projected out to millions worldwide on the silver screen.

Take a look at just some of the reasons Kefalonia is rivalling the likes of Corfu and Rhodes and becoming one of Greece’s primary travel hotspots:

Incredible beaches

Whether you prefer sand or pebbles, coves or facilities, Kefalonia’s beaches cater for a diverse mix of preferences.

Myrtos is Kefalonia’s trademark beach which has won a myriad of award and has been dubbed as one of the ‘best beaches in the world.’ Each year this long, pebbly beach lapped by turquoise water and set against a background of steep cliffs and fragrant pine trees, is awarded the Blue Flag by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO).

By contrast, instead of pebbles, Xi Beach is made up of reddish coloured sand. With a clay-composition under your feet, just walking along this unique sand means you can enjoy a free and 100% natural massage. In fact Xi Beach is renowned for its cleansing and tightening effects on the skin.

Quaint and quirky villages

You don’t have to travel too far on Kefalonia before you stumble upon an interesting, atmospheric and traditional village. Fiscardo is one of the most popular beaches on Kefalonia. This picturesque Greek harbour village is situated on the northern tip of the island. It is home to almost 400 villagers. Augmenting the village’s uniqueness is the fact it was left virtually undamaged in Kefalonia’s great earthquake of 1953.

By daytime, enjoying a relaxing drink at a harbour bar watching the traditional fishing boats bob up and down in the translucent water is one of those simplest Greek holiday pleasures we remember for a lifetime. By night, Ficardo takes on an entirely new perspective. Lights protrude from the old buildings, cafes, restaurants and bars, as the whole of the village comes alive creating an enchanting night-time atmosphere.

Whatever you are looking for in a Greek holiday, the island of Kefalonia has it all.