Europe

The Ritz-Carlton Abama

The Moorish red palace-like Ritz-Carlton Abama stands tall on the hills outside Costa Adeje.  Flanked by a pristine golf course and banana plants it takes its dominant stance and exudes luxury.  A powerful statement hotel where everything you experience delivers on that promise and where every need is tended to.

The red buildings of the Ritz-Carlton Abama, Tenerife looking out to sea.

Upon arrival you will be warmly welcomed with a glass of champagne , its cool and rich bubbles setting the tone of what is to follow.  This large hotel is big on seamless service and the staff know what you want before even you do.

The villas are located nearest to the adult pool and beach; they also have access to El Mirador restaurant for breakfast.  What better way to start the day than sitting out on the deck being cooled by the welcome morning breeze and tucking into fluffy snow dusted pancakes!

The golden sandy cove at The Ritz-Carlton Abama Tenerife with the turquoise sea to the left and banana planatation above.
Imagine relaxing on one of these sun loungers looking out to sea, soaking up the sun and waiting for that cocktail to arrive!

The seven pools within the hotel’s grounds afford each guest their own space. From the pool where children can enjoy their inflatables to the private pool at Tagor’ Villas there is something for everyone. If you prefer the beach, choose your transport to the soft specks of gold below. Take the zig zag walk down, the mini train or small funicular. Wherever you choose to relax, the attendants will look after your needs, even providing sun lotion!

You will not struggle to find a quiet spot with an abundance of choice for lunch.  Try the garlic prawns followed by the churros at the Club House, the Mediterranean quinoa salad at the Beach Club, or the Mirador salad at El Mirador.  All have beautiful views out to sea and offer shaded spots.

The gym is well equipped with an outdoor cycling hub and battle ropes for those who can brave the heat.  For spa loving guests, the Abama’s extensive facilities include an impressive water circuit, a relaxation garden, a boutique manicure and pedicure room, a cold cabin and a hammam.  Children are welcomed and well looked after at this hotel.  With extensive facilities including a large garden, a games area and cinema area, children will not get bored even if the clouds do turn a little grey. 

Our villa was front line offering clear sight of the vast ocean view. Catching the sun late afternoon on the balcony whilst enjoying a glass of cool cava and local artisan chocolates is the perfect way to end the day.  When it’s time to get ready, you can take a little longer to indulge in a bath enclosed by Moroccan style shutters whilst enjoying the gorgeous Asprey toiletries provided.

When the sun falls, this pretty palace comes gently to life opening Pandora’s box of culinary delights. This hotel most certainly offers travel for your taste buds as you enjoy food from around the world, from Italy to Japan, across 10 different restaurants.  With two Michelin starred restaurants on site (one has two Michelin Stars) you will not have to travel far to enjoy some incredible dishes. Try Kabuki which is set above the hotel near the Club House.  Its sweeping views down to the sea with the hotel almost silhouetted in the distance is a satisfying vision to drink in.  Enjoy beautiful sunsets, imaginative cocktails and a perfectly formed tasting menu.  You will be guaranteed to find service to complement the food and take home memories to feast on for years to come.

sunset over the Abama Hotel looking over the golf course, hotel and out to the shimmering sea

We have put together a very short video to give you even more of a taste of this wonderful hotel.

Get in touch today to start planning your adventure!

toni@holidaysplease.com

07951 219293

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Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part III

Day 4

One thing you have to do when in France is to try a French breakfast and make it local.  We headed to the tiny bakery in Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer and were like kids in a sweet shop.  The range was quite astonishing considering its size and also at home we’re just used to 2 options when it comes to a continental breakfast pastry (croissants or pain au chocolat). We picked an apple based pastry and a custard filled one and took these away to consume in our car.  One of the tastiest breakfasts…..if only they were healthy and I’d be eating them every day!

Before Arromanches, we headed a little further on to Longues Sur Mer to see the German battery flanked by the landing beaches and the only artillery battery to have Listed Building status.  You will find four quite in tact gun casemates.  Allow about half an hour for this stop.

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Arromanches has a few memorials to explore but its real draw is the film shown there in its 360 cinema.  By far the most emotional of all and possibly the best of all films seen on our trip to Normandy.  People left the cinema with tears in their eyes and even writing about it now, stirs my emotions.  This 19 minute film showing previously unseen footage projects onto 9 screens in HD and tells the story of the 100 day Battle of Normandy.

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We then headed to Bayeux.  We made our way first of all to the Commonwealth Cemetery which was quite a contrast to the American Cemetery.  All the headstones were very similar and lined up to precision but many contained personal messages from home and they all had flowers planted.  It was not as grand but it felt a little more grounded and peaceful.  This cemetery is home mainly to British servicemen but also has people buried here from New Zealand, Canada and South Africa to name but a few nations; there were also German graves which I found quite touching and which provides such a powerful message.  Again, very different to the American Cemetery and possibly one of my favourite spots on our trip to Normandy.

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We found Le Moulin de la Galette for lunch.  Situated overlooking a river with its own water wheel, this place used to be a mill.  Now it dishes up the friendliest of welcomes, a huge selection of galattes (including a choice for me with several without ham!!), one of the prettiest locations and great home cooked food.

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Feeling very full and having had my fill of cheese, we walked slowly across the road to see the Bayeux Tapestry.  Being entirely honest, I was not too excited about this.  Yes, it’s old and big but would I enjoy it?!  Absolutely!  The museum is well thought out.  You take an audio guide which starts when you reach a certain point and this then guides you through the story being told on the tapestry making it fun and it also set you on a good pace. After seeing the tapestry there is a small museum followed by a 16 minute film.  You learn how it was a miracle the tapestry was still in existence.  It was used as a covering and once almost torn up for a parade.  The tapestry itself is amusing, clever and so well preserved that it’s hard to believe the 70 metre long embroidered cloth is more than 900 years old. Allow around 1.5 hours here and the cost of entry at the time of writing including audio guide was 9 Euros per person.

Afterwards, we spent some time in Bayeaux and with an ice-cream in hand wandered to the cathedral although the outside is far more impressive than the inside.  We had also heard about an organic cider and calvados producer with a shop in Bayeaux run by husband and wife team, Christele and Francois, which we managed to track down. Lecornu is situated west of the cathedral near to a green (Place de Gaulle) and sells calvados, cider, apple juice, calvados jelly and many more wonderful products.

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We were lucky that the weather was so beautiful for exploring Bayeux and then for sitting out in the evening with a glass of wine and nibbles listening to the birds sing and reflecting on what a terrific day we’d had.

Day 5

When we visited Normandy, we visited every beach and related museum and tried to experience as much as possible.  I believe that Utah beach has the best museum.  We only had about 2 hours here to explore and actually could have spent at least another hour here. The museum like all others has a film, accounts from those who fought, objects from the war and it was the only place I recall seeing the German story being told, although this was very brief.  One thing that struck me when listening to the stories of the French who were occupied was in relation to a German solider.  He used to visit them and loved playing with the children. He had white hair, that’s all the family remember, and he said he had children and missed them.  He went missing, presumably died in the war.  Many people didn’t want to be there fighting but felt obliged to and were terrified of the consequences. Utah was an American beach landing and was largely successful although not without its terrible losses.  We didn’t actually see much of the beach, mainly because the weather was poor on the morning we visited.  However, the museum here is wonderful, set on the beach which brings you closer to the history you’re learning about, brimming with accounts I could have listened to all day, with terrific exhibits and there is a walk right at the end above the trenches giving you a silent insight into life at Utah.

When you are at Utah beach, you’re not far from Sainte-Mere-Eglise which is worth a visit for its museum but probably more famously, the statue of the airman hanging from the church spire by his parachute.  When the paratroopers were dropped by the gliders and were dispersed throughout the area, one soldier found himself dangling from the church spire.  A comrade fought off German forces to save his life and was himself killed in action but John Steele played dead and lived to tell the tale.

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The museum, situated just across the road from the church, contains 3 areas all worth a visit.  Allow about an hour and a half to see it all with an entry fee of €9.90 per person (at the time of writing).  The best part of the museum for me provides you with a tiny insight into what it must have been like in Normandy in 1944, thanks to a hyper-realistic museography.  There is a plane you walk into which is noisy to the point of being quite scary and it’s full of paratroopers ready to parachute into the night.  When you exit, you’re looking down onto the local area from above, you can see the church on fire and lots of parachutes descending.  Then you’re on the beaches and gun shots are being fired.  Making your way forward you’re in the middle of hedgerows avoiding sniper shots. Even though you know it isn’t real, your heart can help but beat a little quicker and your reflexes make you a little lighter on your feet.

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Now home and having reflected on the trip, I realise how quickly pain can be forgotten.  How we move on with our lives at great speed giving little time to let the past help our future.  With the anniversary of D-Day approaching, I hope everyone reading this will take a moment to remember those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Read Part I and Part II.

Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part II

Day 2

Feeling refreshed after a great night’s sleep, we set off at around 9am to Caen.  Caen was heavily bombed in the war and was left with just one medieval street remaining although the city does not look as modern as some of the others which rose from the ashes.  Its cathedral, rebuilt after the war, makes a skyline statement and its castle looks rather impressive, reminding me slightly of Cardiff, but without much substance.  A view best appreciated from outside if you’re short on time.

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After a fleeting visit to Caen, we made our way to Pegasus Bridge about 20 minutes away. This had one of the best museums we visited, dedicated to the men of the 6th British Airborne Division.  It was not overwhelming and recounted real stories which I love.  We learned about the gliders that dropped paratroopers into the area before D-Day to try and make a little headway in preparation.  We learned how that particular plan didn’t really work too well and many were dropped in water where they drowned or right into the hands of the German forces and others were scattered all over then left with the task of reuniting with their sections.  The museum is split into an inside and outside section.  Outside, you can see the actual Pegasus Bridge, a glider and learn about the ingenious Bailey Bridge. Allow an hour for this visit and at the time of writing, the entrance fee was €8 per person.

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After a quick packed lunch in the car (cheese of course!), we made the 15 minute journey to the Caen Memorial Museum.  You will be able to see the museum from a distance as there’s a large statue outside of the sailor and his sweetheart!  The Museum we found a little overwhelming but certainly worth a visit.  It took just shy of 4 hours to see it and that was without spending too much time in the latter part devoted to the Cold War and Berlin (we’d recently visited Berlin and so just looked around briefly as we’d learned so much there).  There is a lot of detail in this museum and although it flows very well, it is tiring. There is a film here which is well thought out and presents very differently to the others; it appears about three quarters of the way through the museum tour and runs every half an hour.  We had about 20 minutes before the next showing, just enough time to go to the café and grab a coffee and share a raspberry tart.  Once we’d finished the film, we headed outside to see the remembrance garden for the Canadians and Brits which is certainly worth a look.  The British garden was immaculately kept and was very peaceful with us being the only ones there.  If you plan on visiting both this museum and Arromanches 360, be sure to buy the joint ticket costing (at the time of writing) €28 per person and which also now includes the Civilians in wartime Memorial in Falaise.

Our final stop of the day was Sword beach, one of the British beaches.  There’s no museum here but there are some memorials just off the beach.  We took a very long and blustery walk along its lovely and peaceful promenade.  Be prepared for a long walk!  We seemed to walk forever and we only really scratched the surface.  This gives you an idea of how big this beach is.  The houses that line the front are characterful, pretty, most of them locked up until the summer months arrive. It’s a peaceful place full of joggers, dog walkers and kite surfers!

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After such an exhausting day, we headed back to Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer, our favourite little French town, and settled down to dinner at Le Crabe Vert.  As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, I did find this part of France a bit of a struggle as they love their pork!  I was usually left with mussels, Scottish salmon (odd!) or whelks!  However, this restaurant served up a delicious seafood pizza which I ate a little too eagerly and then finished off with a scrumptious sundae.

Day 3

Our first stop of the day was Pointe du Hoc.  This surprised me as I really didn’t know much about this before arriving.  This is the cliff face scaled by brave American Rangers in the D-Day landings.  The German forces were not overly concerned about this spot as it was almost impossible, in their eyes, that anyone would try to target this spot as it was so hostile.  However, the Rangers did it although only 90 of the 225 were still able to bear arms on 8 June 1944, 2 days after D-Day.  You can visit the spot, see many craters where bombs hit, see the German trenches and gun emplacements and stare out to the raging sea below.  This was a mission impossible and I was in awe of their determination and the success of this operation.  The museum is very small but nicely presented.  There are a few information boards inside, tributes outside and the scene of Pointe du Hoc is left very much in tact.  Allow at least 2 hours to visit this spot (no entrance fee) which is exceptionally memorable.

Omaha is the beach which will stick with me forever.  It was truly the most beautiful of all beaches, long and golden and I would recommend visiting the beach here and taking a walk along the sea front.  There is a small museum although it’s not for everyone.  There’s lots of memorabilia which is great for people who like this sort of thing.  For me, I prefer reading letters, the stories and the real life accounts.  The people are interesting and for me, the objects less so unless of course they have a story attached.  Here, there was mainly just a note about what the objects were and so I found myself whizzing along to a board detailing the stories of several soldiers and then listening to the film at the end which is certainly worth a watch.

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You cannot visit this area without visiting the American Cemetery. If you have ever watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’ this will be familiar to you as it features in the opening and closing scenes.  It is grand and the headstones are positioned to military precision.  They are all very similar with the only difference being that the stones are shaped to the faith of the soldier.  There are also many stones which read, ‘A soldier, known but to God’.  There is no order as such to the stones; the men were not buried by surname, date of death, platoon or battalion, they were buried randomly, side by side.  Even Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the ex-President’s son, is buried amongst his colleagues without a special position.  It’s a very stark picture when you step out and see all of the headstones, all 9,387 of them, and realise this was the tip of the iceberg of the death toll of this Total War.  There is a film to watch inside and so do make the effort to go through the security checks to see it.  It tells the heartbreaking stories of several soldiers and this is what makes it so real.  After the film, head out through the long enclosed corridor whilst the names of those buried at the cemetery are read out.  There is also a board dedicated to the Niland brothers just past this which is worth reading (Saving Private Ryan used this for its inspiration).

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Gold beach is very similar to Sword although the promenade isn’t as pretty. However, this beach does have a museum with the nicest staff.  We arrived with half an hour to go before closing but were welcomed and actually offered a free return visit the next day.  However, half an hour is plenty of time to see this small museum which is split into 2 areas.  The first is dedicated to a plane which crashed in the local area.  It had set off from New York in 1927 and was the first airmail link to France and due to the bad weather on route, had to divert from Paris to Ver-Sur-Mer.  The second part was of most interest to us and tells the story of the British invasion. This section is relatively small, but perfectly formed, and so half an hour is sufficient.

We were staying in Cote de Nacre and were about a 10 minute walk from the beach which forms part of Juno beach where the Canadian forces landed.  Like the others, the sea appears miles out when the tide is out, very much like Weston.  It only adds to the sheer size of the beach.  When the forces landed on 6 June 1944, they opted to land when the tide was out so they could avoid the obstacles and booby traps in the water such as the hedgehogs.  To land so far from the sea and then have to make their way with their heavy kit to the edge of the beach and onto the road…..it really is astonishing how they did it under that fire of bullets.  Juno was a success story but again did not come without its losses.  There is a lovely memorial by Courseulles-Sur-Mer which is worth visiting.  This is the spot where many of the key figures arrived after D-Day such as Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, King George VI and Eisenhower.

We returned once again to our old faithful, Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer for our evening meal and decided to splash out at Le Poisson Dans Tous Ses Etats (‘Fish in all its states’).  We hadn’t booked and were lucky to get a table as this place filled up with locals quickly.  We enjoyed fish soup, battered fish and chips with two types of fish and a trio of desserts and a lemon mille feuille.  The restaurant does not have a website but is on the promenade looking out to sea next to Le Charleston; if you always pick where you eat on Trip Advisor you will miss out on this little gem!

Read Part I and Part III.

Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part I

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As I walked along the beach at Omaha, still golden in the low winter sun, watching families building sandcastles and holding the hand of my better half, I could not imagine the horrors that struck this place just 72 years ago.  That’s tangible history and yet it didn’t seem possible watching the scene unfold before me that something so unimaginably terrible had taken place here.  At first I felt bad about the family enjoying their time building sandcastles underneath the sculpture remembering those who’d lost their lives here.  Then I realised that if we weren’t enjoying our time there it would have been for nothing.  They gave their lives so that we could enjoy ours.  This place was once blood, bullets and bodies and now there was love, life and laughter.

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The Normandy beaches should be visited in your lifetime. I think it should be part of every school curriculum to visit these historically key locations, to learn about those who made the greatest sacrifice at all, to learn how it all started, the evil genius that brought this into being, the brutality, the morale, the struggle, the fight, the resourcefulness and why we are here now doing what we are doing.  It’s a part of history we all have in common.

Day 1

We took the ferry over from Poole to Cherbourg early on Monday morning.  We were lucky to have such a lovely sunny day for our sailing and even got to peek at millionaires row at Sandbanks on the way out to sea whilst sailing just past Brownsea Island.  Don’t pin your hopes on the Brittany Ferries‘ breakfast and take a good book with you to keep you occupied!

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We arrived in France at around 2pm and headed straight to Auchan to stock up on French goodies.  We selected several wines with the aim of tasting them before our return journey so we could buy more of what we liked.  Good decision!

For this trip we were reaching back to our childhood memories and decided to stay at the perfectly located Eurocamp Cote de Nacre at Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer, now part of the Sandaya Group, about an hour and a half away from Cherbourg.  It was a lovely site tucked away behind residential streets which felt as though we were part of the community.  We took a walk around the site which was really quite quiet in April.  Our holiday home was completely private and had no-one staying immediately next to us which made it nicely secluded.  The grounds were beautifully kept and for those needing the communal washing facilities, we’ve never seen such a modern shower block.

Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer was fairly quiet in April.  The cold windy weather, although sunny, didn’t help much in bringing out the crowds but we were welcomed by the restaurateurs and chose to eat at Cote Sable.  On our first night we enjoyed the local delicacies of Normandy Mussels (mussels in a creamy white sauce) and a ham and cheese galette all washed down with wine and a bowl of cider.  It would have been rude not to have sampled the crepes and so of course we obliged!

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Read Part II and Part III.

Europe

For the love of Baklava

One of my all time favourite desserts is Baklava and the best I have ever tasted was in Fiskardo, Kefalonia (although my parents have just returned from the island and still say mine is better and so I will take that!). Mine is a combination of a traditional Greek receipe and Lorraine Pascal’s baklava recipe. Give it a whirl and share your pictures on Facebook with me @MTGHolidaysplease.

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Mini Baklava

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 packets of filo pastry (you will get about 6 sheets per pack)

For the filling

  • 500g of nuts of your choice – we often choose pecans, walnuts and Almonds (roughly chopped/broken up by hand) and Hazelnuts can work well too.
  • 3tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1.5tsp mixed spice (or make your own by mixing spices you have – e.g. cinnamon and a little nutmeg – a little goes a long way with nutmeg and so don’t be too generous! – or ground clove)

For the syrup

  • 340g granulated sugar
  • 200ml water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Method

  1. Defrost your filo overnight in the fridge.  If you forget and need to do defrost it the same day, place it somewhere warm, but not hot, and leave it for a couple of hours.
  2. Put all your filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix them up.
  3. Put half of the butter in a bowl and melt (we use a microwave to do this but pick whichever method you’re used to).  There is no set amount of butter really, it’s simply as much as you need but 250g is a rough estimate – don’t worry if you don’t use it all or if you need more.  The suggestion is to only melt half now because if you’re not a very quick worker (unlikely when working with filo), the butter will turn white (separation) and you will not be able to work with what’s left.  Keep melting the butter as and when you need it.
  4. Whilst the butter is melting, carefully unwrap the filo and lay all the sheets out on a clear surface and cover with a damp towel (which stops it from drying out which makes it more tricky to work with).
  5. Choose a tray to bake in.  We have a large Pyrex dish (the sort you may cook lasagna in – about 21cm x 14cm*).  You will need to cover the inside of your chosen dish with a coating of your melted butter from step 3; we do this with a silicon pastry brush otherwise, you risk getting hairs on your pastry if you use the standard basting brush.  Once you have done this, take a sheet of filo and line the dish with it.  Then you need to coat the first filo layer with more butter.  Repeat twice so that you have 3 layers of filo with a final coat of butter on the top layer.
  6. Use 1/3 of the filling mixture and spoon this on top of the third filo layer making sure you have an even distribution.
  7. At about this point, put your oven on to get up to temperature (180 degrees or 350 fahrenheit or gas mark 4).
  8. You will then need to add 3 more layers of filo following the instructions at step 5, followed by a second layer of filling, as in step 6.  Then, a further 3 layers of filo (as per step 5) and the final 1/3 of the filling before finishing off with a final 3 layers of filo.  Once you reach the top, score the pasty diagonally so you have diamond shapes on the top and then coat with a final thick layer of butter.
  9. Put your masterpiece in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  10. Whilst your baklava is baking away, put the water and sugar (for the syrup) into a pan and keep on a low to medium heat.  Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Then add the honey and cinnamon stick and turn down to a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  11. Once the baklava is out the over, leave to stand for about 10-20 minutes before pouring over the syrup from step 10.
  12. Enjoy!

*Don’t worry if the dish you use is smaller.  Filo is long!  Simply start placing your filo in the dish one end, let it overlap at the other end and then fold it back on itself.  Essentially, half of the dish will have a layer of filo and the other half may have 2 layers thanks to the doubling up.  Simply rotate the dish for the next layer so you’re all even!

Please feel free to add pistachios (which appear in some recipes) or lemon zest or orange-blossom water which appear in other recipes.  It really is all down to individual taste.  We have tried the recipe inducing these additions but always return to the recipe above!

Europe

Cycle the Camino de Santiago

This 500 mile route stretching through the north of Spain has been witness to thousands of pilgrims each making their way to Santiago de Compostela’s Cathedral, the final restring place of St James.  The pilgrimage is believed by some to be one of three pilgrimages for which the sins of the pilgrim will be forgiven.

Many people will choose to walk the route and complete in several stages or join it at a later point just in time to earn the compostela (certificate of accomplishment).  The minimum you need to complete to earn this is 100 km (walking) or 200 km (cycling).

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Cathedral Santiago de Compostela. Photo by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias

We have found the perfect cycling itinerary which covers the last 200 km and takes 7 days although you will actually cycle 280 km in total.

Day 1

Arrive in Bilbao and if you have time, take in the wonderful Guggenheim Museum and then off to El Pero Chico for a delicious meal with friendly service (and also popular with Frank Gehry while he oversaw progress on the Guggenheim).

Day 2

Make your way to Leon just in time for lunch which you could take at Alfonso Valderas, the city’s most famous restaurant for salt cod prepared around 25 different ways!  We love the pil-pil version.  After lunch, you will cycle to Astorga across a section of the Meseta Plains.  A great place to head for food in the evening is La Peseta which serves local dishes but with cheaper menus for pilgrims!

Day 3

You will cycle across the Biezro Hills stopping at the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) at 1482m, the highest point along the trail.  It’s traditional at this point to leave a stone in prayer.

Day 4

Make your way to O’Cebreiro where you will find unusual stone houses with thatched roofs which mark the entry to Galicia.  You will then cycle to Tricastela and on to Samos.  Samos is a lovely village built around the very fine Benedictine Monasterio de Samos and well worth a visit when you’re there.

Days 5 & 6

The next 2 days will be spend cycling through the unspoilt landscape of Galicia through medieval villages, taking in Portomarin and Azura.  You may want to see San Nicolas in Portomarin, the church which was re-built stone by stone to rescue it from the reservoir which was to be flooded.  In Azura, head to Casa Theodora, run by brothers Jesus and Gabriel, for a well earned home cooked meal.

Day 7

Today you will reach your destination: Santiago!  Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) in a UNESCO World Heritage site and so there is lots to explore, including of course its Cathedral.  Around every corner you will discover something new and so you may want to extend your tour to relax and take in the sights at a more leisurely pace.

Europe

The Famous Five

The Cinque Terre walk (Italy) can be completed within a day.  The route takes in the 5 pretty villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and finally Riomaggiore.

Taking some time to stop in each, the route is likely to take about 7 hours (5 hours walking and 2 hours for sight seeing and refuelling.  You may wish to base yourself in Monterosso and start the walk from there as early as you can.  We would advise starting at 7:30am as the first part of the walk is most difficult and you will want to avoid the heat of the day.  Once you reach the end, you can get the train back and enjoy a well earned dinner and cocktails.

Alternatively, the easier route is Riomaggiore to Monterosso (you can catch the train to Riomaggiore in the morning if staying in Monterosso) but the difficult bit is towards the end and the best views are behind you!

Where to stay in Monterosso

The hidden gem – Hotel Ristorante Marina

The one with the pool – Hotel Porto Roca

The friendly modern one – Hotel Souvenir

Where to eat

As you will most likely be starting early, you may not have time for much of a breakfast.  In any event, you may choose to eat something light as the first part of the walk to Vernazza is the toughest section.  However, you can reward your efforts upon arrival by visiting Panifacio Focacceria, the town’s best bakery.  Pick up some pastries and head to the harbour to enjoy the view, food and achievement.

By the time you arrive in Corniglia, you may have worked up a small appetite.  We wouldn’t usually suggest only indulging in sweet treats, but as you’re working so hard, you deserve to treat yourself to some of the best ice-cream in Italy at Un Mare di Yogurt.

The last part of the walk is relatively gentle and by the time you arrive in Riomaggiore, you may be ready for a late lunch.  Il Pescato Cucinato is the perfect place to stop, being located close to the harbour and the train station.  It serves fabulous sea food in paper cones which you can take out into the sun to enjoy the view.

And don’t forget the lemonade stop on the route……you will regret missing out!

Europe

Walking the Isle of Man

When you think of the Isle of Man, what most likely comes to mind is preconceived ideas of motorcycle racing, cats with no tails and a tax haven for the wealthy.  But what you may not realise is that it’s something of a walker’s delight as well.

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Niarbyl Sunset. Photo by Grant Matthews.

Located slap bang in the middle of the British Isles, the island is 220 square miles in size, with no place on it more than approximately 7 miles from the coast.  That in itself is a great attraction for walkers; the prospect of frequent sea views and the difficulty in getting lost, which also makes it attractive for the casual walker.  The island’s geology gives it a tremendously wide range of scenery – from wild moorland and woody glens, to dramatic cliffs with crashing seas.  It has just one mountain, Snaefell, standing at 621 metres above sea level, which many will wish to conquer.  It’s an easy one to bag as the Victorian electric railway takes you up from the Bungalow Station in mere minutes.  More discerning walkers can take the 40 minute hike up, but better still would be to look elsewhere on the island for rambling inspiration.

A few years ago, I completed a 15 mile walk from the pretty seaside town of Port Erin to the island’s former capital, Peel.  A beautiful coastal walk, it took in three significant ascents and certainly some stamina, but was ultimately extremely rewarding.  The initial ascent up Bradda Head takes you to a commemorative plaque where Kodak’s “World’s Best Photograph 1931” was won, and about half way along the route I came across Niarbyl, where the thatched cottage scenes from the movie “Waking Ned” were filmed.  Apparently the Isle of Man looks more like Ireland than Ireland does!  The final descent over Corrins Hill into Peel as the sun melted into the Irish Sea was a truly magical moment, topped off with a much-deserved pint of local Manx ale at The Creek Inn.

The island has several official long distance paths.  The Millennium Way is 23 miles in length and follows the old route of kings from Ramsey in the north to Castletown in the south.  The walk gets you away from the coast and gives you the opportunity to explore more inland scenery, some of which certainly resembles the Lake District.  It is achievable in one day, but can be conveniently split into two days by stopping over at Crosby, for those who wish to savour it.

The 14 mile Herring Way follows, as the name suggests, the old fishermen’s roads, and is a great path on which to enjoy a balance of coastal scenery and quaint glens and woodland.  There is also the opportunity to take a modest diversion to ascend South Barrule, where you will be rewarded with a stunning view over countryside and sea.

For the most committed of walkers, there is the official coastal path (the “Raad ny Follian”), a 96 mile footpath round the whole coastline.  Typically starting at the island’s capital, Douglas, It’ll take about a week to complete, with accommodation on or near the route readily available.  The path winds its way along the coast, yes, but also a nature reserve, a disused railway, fishing villages and numerous sites of historical interest.

Want to know more?  Take Terry Marsh’s excellent walking guide with you for a superb variety of walking inspiration.

When:  Avoid late May, early June and early September, when the island is invaded by motorbike enthusiasts for the TT Races and Manx Grand Prix.

How: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Citywing, Easyjet and Flybe all serve the island’s only airport at Ronaldsway.  Regular buses go to and from the airport linking it to Douglas, Peel and Castletown.  You can catch the ferry from Heysham or Liverpool but this is often more expensive and time consuming.

Ben Sharp

Europe

10 Things to do in Tenerife

  • Visit the Agromercado in Costa Adeje.  This is a farmers market where locals do their shopping.  When we visited, we were the only British there and so it’s a great way to test your Spanish!  We were self catering and so stocked up with a few things for the week and cooked some tasty meals with this delicious fresh produce.
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Loro Parque

  • Loro Parque is a conservation park in the usually cooler part of the island, Puerto de la Cruz, and is great for all ages and particularly good for families.  There is an option at the beginning to upgrade (you can go behind the scenes, have lunch included, a guided tour and reserved seating to allow for the best views) and we recommend you do.  It’s such a huge park and by doing this, we felt we made the most of our time there.
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  • Candelaria is a lovely place to wander around.  The Basilica of Candelaria is quite impressive and if you venture up the hill, you can take a lovely photo of the square.  Another good thing about this place is that it has great ice-cream shops!
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  • Mount Teide is something not to miss.  The journey there is quite long but there are lots of pretty villages to stop at along the way and pine forests which are heavily and beautifully scented.  You can take a cable car almost to the top and so make sure you bring a cardigan or something warmer with you as you really feel the temperature drop.  You can climb the final 200m but will need a permit which you can get online in advance for free. You can also visit at night and toast the sunset with a cool glass of cava followed by stargazing!
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  • Possibly the best water park in Europe, Siam Park is great for families, couples and groups.  Some of the hotels include entry within their price and so if you’re into your water parks, this may be something to consider.
  • The Pyramids at Guimar is an historical site with a small garden of poisonous plants to look at!  Uniquely, this is one of the very few places on the planet where you can witness a double sunset behind twin peaks.
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  • La Oratava is on the way to Loro Parque and we managed to see this town and the Parque in one day.  The main attraction is Casa de los Balcones but there are also some beautiful gardens and again, some very pretty streets to wander.
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  • We ventured away from the tourists to Poris de Abona and sampled fine tapas and very inexpensive wine whilst looking out to sea.  We picked a place right on the seafront at the very far end, almost hidden away.  It was so tiny with just a handful of tables (pictured).
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  • Tenerife is known for its dolphin watching trips and so make sure you hop on board when you’re there. We chose to cruise on board the Bahriyali.
  • There are also lots of Watersports on offer for the more active holidaymakers from jet skiing, parascending, paddle surfing, flyboarding and of course….the banana boat!

Most recently we have stayed at the Spring Vulcano and the Ritz-Carlton Abama.

Start planning your next adventure now!

toni@holidaysplease.com

07951 219293

Europe

A weekend in Yorkshire

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Do you want to spend a night away from home, leave all your stress and worries behind and indulge in beautiful countryside and welcoming village life?  Step forward Yorkshire.  We spent 2 days away and came home feeling thoroughly refreshed.  The people are friendly, the food is excellent and there is enough to see and do ensuring you leave feeling relaxed and not exhausted.

Day 1

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an open air gallery set in the 500 acre Bretton Estate.  Situated a mile away from J38 of the M1, it’s a great place to stop off on route if you are heading from the south.  The wonderful thing about the YSP is that there is no entrance fee, only parking needs to be paid for.  We opted for all day parking which currently costs £12 and were so glad we did as we spent 5 hours taking in the sculptures and exploring the estate.

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We felt like we were back at Hawkstone Park or CentralPark in New York (finding something new around each corner).  We arrived at midday, prefect timing for one of the many delicious lunch options served in the YSP Restaurant.  We would recommend allowing 4 hours to visit most of the sculptures although even if you wanted to see them all, you could well miss some as there are more than 60 sculptures on display at a time and some of them almost hidden meaning you are well rewarded if you are a little curious!

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Haworth is the perfect place to stay and less than an hour away from the sculpture park.  It has been made famous through the years having appeared in various films and TV shows and most recently welcomed the Tour de France to Main Street.  We stayed at The Old Registry which as its name suggests was the old Registry!  The old registry office and two residences now make up this delightful B&B.  Each of its rooms has a theme and offers a welcoming blend of history and modern comforts.  One of its best features is its restaurant which offers exceptional first class dining.  You also must try the brown bread ice-cream for dessert.  If you fancy a pre-dinner drink, you are spoilt for choice with lots of local pubs on Main Street alone.  We visited the Black Bull and were given samples of local beer before choosing what to order.

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Day 2

You can easily spend an entire day in Haworth.  We travelled by steam train (minutes from The Old Registry) from Haworth to Keighley, back through Haworth to Oxenhope and then alighting at Haworth.  The journey takes an hour and a half and costs £11 per adult.  You can hop on and off at each station and sample the different carriages or if you would prefer to explore the stops in more detail, you can for an additional £4 per adult.  Watch out for sooty faces after having stuck your head out of the window!

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After a morning of steam trains, head back towards the historic Main Street via Central Park.  Start at the top taking in the Brontë Parsonage Museum located behind the church of the former Reverend Patrick Brontë (the father of Charlotte, Emily and Ann).  Don’t forget the Apothecary …and Chocolate on the way back down.

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We headed to No.10 The Coffee House not far from The Old Registry for cake and coffee.  The owner, Claire, is up until 2am most nights baking for her customers and we can say that it’s worth it.  You can choose to have half slices of cake so you can sample a variety of her bakes and the selection of freshly ground coffee and loose tea is very pleasantly surprising.

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When visiting, we discovered that Haworth also runs 1940s weekends every May.  If you plan on attending, you will need to reserve early as accommodation gets booked up quickly.  Don’t forget to dress up if you do go and we can recommend Rochester House Gallery for beautifully handmade hats (think Lady Mary!).

If you have time on the way home, there are many places to stop off including Ilkley, Skipton, the World Heritage site of Saltaire and the 5 rise locks in Bingley, all within close proximity to Haworth.

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