The Route of Wine in Andalusia

By , July 16, 2013 7:04 pm
Jerez Region

Jerez Region

Wine has been produced in Andalusia for centuries, and today there are thousands of acres of vineyards throughout the countryside, in the foothills of mountains, and stretching over verdant plains and across sun-baked coastal regions. Wine-making – in wineries, or bodegas, is a tradition that embodies the land and the culture of the Andalusian people, celebrating as it does the comforts of life and the bounty of nature.

Today many visitors choose to tour the region and its wine-producing areas. This can be done in tours or by independent means; you can arrange a car hire in Spain online so that you pick up your car at one point and drop it off in another town. This allows maximum flexibility when it comes to arranging itineraries.

There are several well-defined routes which you can follow as strictly as you like, stopping off at any other points which interest you. Depending on your tastes, these include the Condado de Huelva route, the Sherry and Jerez Brandy routes, the Montilla-Moriles route and a number of other routes which combine wine-tasting with other tourist activities.

The Condado de Huelva route passes through the region of Huelva in the Andalusian south-west. The wine-growing areas cover almost 15,000 acres and involve over 3,000 growers. The landscape of Huelva is of gentle rolling hills and it is a rural area that also grows cereals, olives and fruits; traditional villages are peppered around the region and amongst the items they produce are traditional handicrafts such as flamenco instruments and embroidered textiles. If you go to Huelva, make sure you visit the ancient cities of Niebla and Moguer and the beautiful wetlands of Donana, the legendary resting place of Atlantis and an incredible draw for nature lovers.

But back to the wine. Huelva produces wines known as the Wines of the Discovery of America, in reference to its history of shipping wine to the West Indies over the course of several centuries. Several grape varieties are grown, but Zalema is by far the most prominent, a variety which produces rich, full-bodied wines.

Also in the south-west of Andalusia, the region of Jerez produces several fine varieties of sherry and sweet wine, including Manzanillas, Olorosos and Moscatel. As well as being the capital of sherry wine, Jerez is also the birthplace of flamenco singing and a centre for the equestrian arts. The city of Jerez de la Frontera has several beautiful landmarks, including the Baroque Cathedral, Alcazaba Fortress, Gothic churches and palaces.

Travelling north and east, the region of Montilla-Moriles lies a little inland, roughly in the centre of Andalusia. Situated just west of the Sierra Nevada, this is a landscape of undulating, earth-fired hills, and the heat can be intense. Montilla-Moriles is a less visited region than either Huelva or Jerez, and travel here can be very rewarding, though you may have to do a little more searching to find the best bodegas.

Montilla-Moriles is notable for its production of sweet wines, produced in a similar way to sherry. Indeed, if you try out the wines here you may find yourself being asked how they compare with the sherries of Jerez. There are a few important differences in its manufacture. The main grape variety, Pedro Ximénez, has a high sugar content resulting in a more alcoholic wine, and Montilla wine is not fortified. Montilla wines tend to be sweet and aromatic, and most common are the clean, light and delicate Fino wines.

A wine-tasting tour is not just about tasting the different wines, of course, but also appreciating how the grapes are grown and the wine is made. Many bodegas either offer organised tours or are happy to show you around. If you’re really hooked, be sure to visit the museums in Jerez or Sanlucar, or coincide your trip with one of the wine fiestas in the region, most of which run between May and September.

Three great budget destinations for 2013

By , May 21, 2013 11:02 am
Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

A shoe-string budget and economic uncertainty shouldn’t put a damper on your holiday plans in 2013. Be smart and plan an unconventional holiday to a far-flung destination. Here are three destinations that on closer inspection offer some great options for cheap holidays this year.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Sweden’s reputation as a pricey country may be slightly over-exaggerated. Gothenburg, a pretty seaside city in Sweden, is excellent value when you know where to look. Away from the main drag, there are neighbourhoods with loads of charm, and plenty of cheap eats and places to bury your head. Check out the edgy gallery Röda Sten, then bask in the mid-summer sun in Keillers Park. The vibrant Knarrholmen music festival in the archipelago should not be missed either. Spend some time here and you’ll be a convert to the Swedish summertime.

Bolivia

When in La Paz, lay your weary head in one of the friendliest and cheapest hostels you’ll find in South America – the Adventure Brew Hostel. It’s terrific for those who don’t mind slumming it and drinking beer – in other words, the under-40 crowd. There’s a microbrewery on the ground floor and a noisy bar on the rooftop. A definite highlight of Bolivia is Salar de Uyuni, a 4,000 square mile salt-flat that gets coated in slick, shallow water after the monsoon season. The result is the world’s biggest and most spectacular mirror of the sky. The clouds waft past and create the illusion that the sky and ground are one. It’s an astonishingly beautiful place to spend a few days, with eco-lodges and hostels dotted around the outskirts and 4WD tours of the salty desert available.

Cambodia

Cambodia used to be SE Asia’s best kept secret, and travel there used to be at bargain basement prices. Nowadays it’s not as cheap, but, relative to nearby Thailand, it’s still very affordable. Mid-rage hotels in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are well-appointed, luxurious and still excellent value. Budget accommodation in less well-known provinces of Cambodia is feasible for under $5 per night. Go on the road less travelled to find blissful, tourist-free haunts. Check out Banteay Srei, an immaculately carved women’s temple, 30 kilometres from Siem Reap. Then meditate underneath a banyan tree or take a peaceful tour of the nearby jungle. Strap yourself in for an inexpensive but memorable trip. The big blue orb is waiting to be explored and if you’re smart about it, you won’t need to use your credit cards.

 

Lapland: Beyond the Festive Season

By , April 30, 2013 9:27 am
Lapland

Lapland

When you think of Lapland, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? Santa, reindeer and miles of endless white snow, right? While the area goes Christmas crazy for the festive season, and Lapland trips are truly magical during December, there’s a lot more to it than just elves and the fulfillment of childhood wishes. For the rest of the year, Lapland is filled with spectacular scenery and great activities to make a holiday at any time of year really worth your while.

Lapland covers an area of just under 100,000km and has a population of around 183,000. The native Sami people have one of the oldest surviving cultures here and they have been living in Lapland for thousands of years, though their culture spreads across Finland, Sweden, Norway and parts of Russia. Depending on the time of your trip, you could arrange to go ice fishing with a Sami guide. The lakes are frozen from around October to March and you can experience the winter up close and personal if you tie in a camping trip.

At Easter time, Lapland begins to celebrate the changing season and the return of the sun with a variety of festivities. Reindeer racing takes place across the region and is great fun for anyone there to watch. This may, however, put you off trying the local fare, which incorporates a lot of reindeer meat. But fear not! There’s plenty of other delicious food on offer if the thought of eating Rudolph doesn’t really do it for you.

Anyone planning their trip during the summer months should check out some of the national parks dotted around Lapland, including Pyhä-Luosto. Here you can soak up the peacefulness of Finland immersed in some of the most spectacular landscapes that Europe has to offer. You’ll be surrounded by native wildlife and have the opportunity to hike around the park. You should also look into visiting the river valleys of Lapland
where you can try your hand at sifting for gold!

No matter what time of year you decide to make your Lapland trip, you should definitely check out Artiktum, the museum and arctic science centre just outside Lapland’s capital, Roveniemi. This is a great place to learn about the history of Lapland and gain further insight into the indigenous people of the area.

And let’s not forget the Northern Lights which, despite their reputation for elusiveness, are visible for about 200 nights of the year.

Exploring the Beauty of the visual Arts on holidays to Malta

By , January 16, 2013 5:18 pm
Valletta

Valletta

The richness and diversity of visual arts in Malta are an ancient tradition with the Neolithic temples providing much inspiration to artists like Anton Agius, Julie Apap and Antonio Sciortino. Maltese visual artists tend to use numerous different kinds of media to create an array of impressive works. If you want to witness and experience the visual arts in Malta, then it would be great to check out holidays to Malta packages by searching the web.

Malta’s National Museum of Fine Arts in the lively area of Valletta, is the first port of call for art appreciators who can enjoy an assortment of masterpieces by both local and international artists. The museum can be found in a palace in an area that is notorious for majestic historical palaces, vibrant wine bars and incredible views of the city’s streets.

Valletta

Valletta

Visitors looking for more modern forms of expression should visit the Valletta house, known as No. 68 which hosts frequent artistic events, giving local artists great exposure. The gallery is located in St Lucy’s Street in an old house that has been restored by Alexandra Pace, a local photographer. The renovation has been mirrored to resemble the houses’ original structure and the ‘pink bathroom’ has been said to be the most alluring room in the house with black hexagon tiles and pink fittings. The house is host to numerous exhibitions and an alternative film club in one of Malta’s trendiest areas.

Vee Gee Bee is a complete shop for artists in the most prominent shopping area of the city. But on the first floor, visitors will find a stylish gallery that exhibits a collection of architectural pieces depicting the Palazzo Ferreria building where the shop is located. There are regular collective and one-man exhibitions held at the gallery.

The Opus 64 Art Gallery is dedicated to the work of local talent and provides a blend of cultures in a variety of forms. The works shown range in style and there is a diverse collection of sculptures, paintings and objet d’art.

The Farmhouse Gallery in Zebbug is owned by local and self-taught artist Jorg Bottcher. The gallery is a showcase of the artist’s paintings and photographs and well worth a visit when in Gozo.

Princes Street Gardens: The Green Lungs of Edinburgh

By , December 17, 2012 5:10 pm
Princes Street Garder

Princes Street Garder

The stunning Princes Street Gardens are the green lungs of Edinburgh city centre and are a ‘must do’ whatever time of year you visit. From the first blooms of spring right through to the festive Winter Wonderland, Princes Street Garden is ever changing to offer a different experience every time.

Find great value accommodation and you can afford to visit Edinburgh in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Travelodge offers amazing deals on rooms in the city, and with 13 city centre hotels there’s bound to be a convenient place for you to stay. Visit their homepage to find out more and choose from central hotels in traditional buildings such as Waterloo Place and Queen Street.

Of course, if you want to be as close as possible to the beautiful gardens of Princes Street, the Edinburgh Central Princes Street hotel will be the choice for you. Offering family rooms and double rooms, just off of Princes Street, this hotel is fantastically located. You’ll also find yourself right by the Princes Street shopping area, the Scott Monument, the Edinburgh Dungeon and the National Gallery of Scotland.

The Princes Street Gardens themselves afford amazing views of the castle, with a central walkway flanked on both sides by trees, grasslands and stunning floral displays.

Among the statues and monuments in the Gardens you’ll find the famous Scott Monument, an impressive gothic tower built to commemorate the work of Sir Walter Scott, historic Scottish novelist, playwright and poet. Those who brave the 287 steps to the top spire will be rewarded with amazing views over the gardens and surroundings.

Other memorials include those to explorer David Livingstone, publisher Adam Black and Professor John Wilson, on the south side. In the west gardens you’ll find poet Allan Ramsay, reformer Thomas Guthrie and obstetric pioneer James Young Simpson.

While perfect for picnics, sunbathing and exploring during the warmer months, during the festive period the Princes Street Gardens are transformed into a stunning Winter Wonderland.

Visit Edinburgh during December and you’ll find an atmospheric Christmas Market and funfair rides in the gardens. You’ll also find one of the city’s most iconic festive sights, the Edinburgh Wheel, and an ice rink for you to try out your skills on skates.

If you do find yourself in Edinburgh during the lead up to Christmas, why not wait until after dark to visit the gardens for a different perspective on one the capital’s best attractions? With the Edinburgh Wheel lit up with multicoloured illuminations, the wooden huts of the Christmas market strung with fairy lights, and the buzz and whirr of the fairground attractions, Princes Street Gardens takes on an amazing atmosphere come nightfall in December.

Other fantastic attractions within easy walking distance of the gardens include the bustling Royal Mile, St Giles Cathedral and, of course, the iconic Edinburgh Castle, which can be seen from the gardens in all its stunning glory. Those visiting the city with children may also want to consider spending a day at Edinburgh Zoo, with its rare giant pandas and over 1000 other animals to enjoy.

The Princes Street Garden are the green lungs of a bustling city rammed with culture and excitement. Be sure to take some time out from your Edinburgh adventures to explore what they have to offer, whatever the time of year.

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