What’s hot

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.
IMG_3157
  • 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.
IMG_3403
  • 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!
IMG_3473
  • 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.
IMG_3652
  • 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.
IMG_3496
  • 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.
IMG_3204
  • 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).
IMG_3506
  • Tenerife is known for its dolphin watching trips and so make sure you hop on board when you’re there.
  • 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!
Advertisements
Europe

A weekend in Yorkshire

IMG_7524

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.

IMG_7506

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!

IMG_7466

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.

TOR

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!

IMG_7582

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.

IMG_7612

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.

tch

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.

IMG_7617
Africa, Americas, Asia, Australasia, Europe

5 tips for Respectful and Ethical travel

IMG_5091

Tip 1

Travel on foot, bike, bus and train wherever possible when you arrive at your destination.  You never quite get to know a city until you have walked it.  We found a lot of hidden gems in New York thanks to taking only one subway whilst there.

Tip 2

Learn basic phrases in the native language of the country you’re visiting.  This can result in friendlier exchanges, better bartering and you’re learning!  Check out this helpful BBC page.

Tip 3

Be aware of local customs to avoid causing offence and embarrassment.

  1. Thailand – Never disrespect the king or images of him (this includes currency).  Openly doing so can result in imprisonment and possibly the death penalty.
  2. Dubai – Some prescription drugs (including some commonly used anti-depressants) are included on the UAE’s drugs and controlled medicines and you should check the status of your medicines before bringing them into the country (you may need permission or may be prohibited from bringing them in full stop).
  3. Venice – feeding pigeons is against the law and could land you with a fine.
  4. Barbados – it’s an offence to dress in camouflage clothing and you can be fined.

Tip 4

Are you a keen photographer?  Holiday snaps are a lovely souvenir but be careful what you capture.  You should always check the laws of the country you are visiting to make sure you do not come home with a fine too.  Hungary has just introduced a law (March 2014) making it illegal to take a photograph without obtaining permission from everybody in the photo.

Tip 5

Be sparing with the water you use.  Take quick showers, re-use your towels and don’t leave taps running whilst brushing your teeth. 

Americas

Havana Have Fun!

For many, Cuba will be on their list of places to visit.  It’s a big place so don’t expect to be finished within a week.  In fact, you may need to separate breaks or one long one to cover everything you want to.

When we stayed, we visited Havana for 3 nights and Varadero for 7 nights with a long day trip to take in Trinidad, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos.  The time spent in Havana was about right and the day trip broke up our beach break nicely but we felt that we didn’t have anywhere near as much time as we wanted in some of the other places which set us off looking for the perfect Cuban itinerary.  The suggestion below is for 10 nights and covers most places but a second trip may still be required for the south of the island!

Havana

We would recommend staying for 3 nights and our favourite hotels here are Iberostar Parque Central for its fabulous rooftop pool views and The Sevilla which is an historic building and has a charm of faded grandeur.  If you arrive before sunset, take a walk along the Malecon and enjoy the classic cars you will spot around every corner before heading to a Paladar for a homely welcome and great food.  We tried La Guarida.

Spend your first day visiting the famous Havana Club Museum, historic settings such as Plaza de San Francisco, the beautiful 18th Century Cathedral of San Cristóbal de la Habana and of course a tour of a cigar factory (Partagás is our favourite).  You can do this on foot or maybe hire a classic car and be chauffeur driven around this wonderful city.  End with a cocktail at El Floridita, one of Hemingway’s favourite bars!

Enjoy the morning at Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana before hopping on a coco taxi to the Plaza de la Revolution.  Visit Parque John Lennon and his statue on the bench and stop on the way for ice-cream at Coppelia, where locals queue around the block for its great value ice-cream.  If you have time, do visit Plaza Vieja, a beautifully renovated square where you can get a coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.

DSC01221

Havana to Remedios via Santa Clara

After your 3 night stay in Havana it’s time to move on.  The first stop is Santa Clara, the first major city to be liberated by Catsro’s forces during the revolutionary struggle against Batista in 1958.  You can take a tour of the city before having lunch.  In the afternoon, head to Remedios where you can visit the Sugar Museum and take a ride on a steam train.

We would recommend staying 1 night at the romantic Hotel Mascotte or Hotel Barcelona with its beautiful courtyard.

Remedios to Cienfuegos

Spend day 5 making your way to Cienfuegos and visit the Teatro Tomas Terry, the city’s cigar factory and Parque Jose Marti.  Enjoy your afternoon taking in the Palacio de Valle before enjoying a boat trip around the bay in the evening.  We would recommend basing your night’s stay at Hotel La Union which has fine views of Cinefuegos from its roof terrace.

Cienfuegos to Trinidad

Once in Trinidad, take a tour of the city.  Walk along the cobbled streets, past the pastel buildings, visit the Palacio de Cantero Museum and La Canchanchara Bar.  If you can, climb the bell tower to take some wonderful photos of Trinidad from a different angle.  Stock up on handmade souvenirs and breathe in the wonderful architecture and sights around every corner.  You will have earned your overnight stay at Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad or for a smaller hotel, try Hotel La Ronda.

DSC02029

Trinidad to Varadero via Santi Spiritus

Explore the ruins of sugar mills and take a tour of the warehouses, manor houses and slave quarters in Valle de los Ingenios before heading to Santi Spiritus, the centre of Cuba and the oldest city in the Cuban interior.  Stretch your legs and enjoy a walking tour before heading to Varadero for an over night stay.  We would recommend staying on at Varadero for at least a further 3 nights before heading home.  You can relax on the beach or take a diving tour if you still want to explore further.  We enjoyed staying at Iberostar Tainos or we could recommend the Royalton Hicacos.

Europe, Trips

Malta: The City Break

Many people think of Malta and think of a week or two long holiday but we love Malta for a city break.  We spent 3 nights and 2.5 days on the island discovering just some of its jewels and look forward to returning again soon.

Where to stay

What to do and how to get there

If you don’t fancy driving, the Hop on/off bus is an easy option.  Just remember to pick up a timetable and note the departure times.  There are North and South tours and on some days, these are combined and so check with your hotel or with the tour company to see which tour is running.  We took the combined tour on day 1 and took in Valletta, Mdina and a tour of the island.  On day 2 we took the South tour and saw the 3 Cities and Marsaxlokk.  You can save money if you buy the 2 day tour and so have a think about what you would like to achieve before you buy:

Valletta

  • St John’s Cathedral – The most stunning cathedral we have ever visited.  Every inch has been decorated with a thoughtful touch and no picture can do it justice.  Take the free audio guide and be absorbed in the beauty of this cathedral.
IMG_8290
  • Wander the historic streets – They undulate, they are characterful and they host a fine mix of eateries and great opportunities for shopping.
IMG_8314
  • Lower Barrakka Gardens – Situated towards the far end of Valletta, you can start at the Waterfront and ascend to the Upper Barrakka Gardens via the Barrakka lift in just 25 seconds which saves those muscles for later on!  From here, it’s a lovely walk to the Lower Barrakka Gardens where you will find a tree planted in April 2012 to mark the 70th anniversary of the award of the George Cross to Malta by King George VI for its bravery in the Second World War.
IMG_8305

Mdina

  • Wander the historic streets – Mdina is like a maze.  Around every corner there is a beautiful building, a stunning old wooden door, pretty flowers climbing the walls or a quirky shop selling Maltese produce.  It’s a fun maze to get lost in and explore, eventually winding your way to the viewing point out towards the sea.
IMG_8368
  • St Paul’s Cathedral – Make your way through the narrow streets and you will find that they open up into a large square where the sheer size of the cathedral will leave you with a wow moment, its size having a greater impact due to the small avenues you have just been travelling through.  You may notice the clocks on the outside give you different times.  It was thought that this would confuse the devil who may attempt to attend mass and sway people from the right path if he could be sure of the right time for mass!
IMG_8372

3 Cities

  • Beautiful boats – Take a stroll to see the Grand Harbour Marina, Vittoriosa.  You will see an array of boats you could only dream of owning or even sailing on.
IMG_8390
  • Gardjola Gardens – A reasonable walk from Vittoriosa over a bridge and right at the end of Senglea but worth the walk for the views across to Valletta.
IMG_8411
  • St Lawrence’s Church – a stunning church right next to the hop on/off bus and so no excuses not to take a quick peek!

Marsaxlokk

  • This is a pretty place to wander and there is a market every day where you can stock up on local honey, figs, biscuits and nougat (as well as some very touristy souvenirs).  Even better, if you visit on a Sunday morning you will be treated to its main market.  You will see hundreds of beautifully and brightly decorated boats here, fisherman mending their nets and repainting their boats.  It’s a lovely brief stop or take a little longer and have lunch here.
IMG_8440

On our last day we visited the Catacombs in Rabat and took a local bus.  It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get to Rabat from St Julians Bay.  On our return the speedier bus which was timetabled did not show and so we had to wait 40 minutes for the slow bus which then took an hour and a half to get back to St Julians due to traffic and so do plan well and allow for the unexpected.

IMG_8451

Hire a car and see more!  The Maltese drive on the left making it much less daunting.  You can get around the island far more quickly by car and see what we did on our hop on/off bus plus a few more attractions which we’re saving for next time including the Blue Grotto, the Tarxien Temples and the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples.

You could also try a day trip to Gozo (or even a few nights in Malta followed by a couple in Gozo) and snorkelling around Comino Island.

Where to eat

  • For ice-creamL’Accademia Café in Valletta – a VERY large scoop of delicious (and incredible value!) ice-cream! 🙂
IMG_8317
  • For fishZeri’s Restaurant in Paceville.  We had a starter of octopus, calamari and fishcakes, a main of red snapper, brown meagre and seabass all with potatoes and vegetables, a bottle of wine and water and a dessert each of Chocolate melt in the middle pudding with Bailey’s cream for 60 Euros each with a nice tip included.
  • Lunch stopThe Three Sisters, Marsaxlokk.  Run by……yes…..three sisters……with most fish served having been caught by their husbands……terribly romantic we know!  A sense of community draws you in to eat at this perfect lunch spot overlooking the harbour which bobs away with brightly coloured boats.
IMG_8436
Europe

Our Further Italian Wonders

We visited many other locations on our Italian road trip this summer and it’s difficult to include them all within just one week and so in addition to the wonderful Alberobello and surrounding areas, Volo Dell’Angelo, Maratea and Matera already mentioned this week, here are a few of our further favourites:

Craco

This is one of the most interesting places we stopped off at on our travels.  We headed here after our trip to Volo Dell’Angelo where we met Azeem, a travel writer from London and previously a city lawyer.  We had lunch with him in Castelmezzano and told him all about our plans to visit Craco.  He actually knew the guide there, William, and made a call to him to arrange a tour for us.  He also told us about the city that must not be named which we later passed on our travels!

IMG_9787

We met our guide, William, who took us on a private tour of the abandoned town which lies about an hour west of Matera.  Once beautiful with a stunning palace at its apex, it now lies empty, crumbling and divides those who still own properties here and government bodies.

You must book on to a tour to visit this site and hard hats are worn at all times and at just £15 per person, this tour is great value.  You learn all about the history of the town, its links to the mafia, its brilliant water system and how water came to be its downfall.  You get to see empty buildings that used to have purpose such as bakeries which now sit empty but for the large ovens which stopped serving up delicious loaves a long time ago.  You learn about the demise of the town, how people fled with the promise of a better life, how traditions fled with the residents, how the lifeline to this town declined and about the hopes of those that still claim ownership to the properties.  It is quite sad to visit the palace which sits at the top Craco.  Paintings are still visible, beautiful tiled floors still partially there (and partially removed by thieves) and the views from this incredible building are breathtaking.

IMG_9275

It’s not a surprise that many advertisers and film makers chose Craco or nearby to shoot their work.  It’s peaceful, extensive and brimming with character.  It’s also known as the ghost town and there are rumours that it is haunted.  Stop in your tracks for a second and you will hear doors/shutters moving, crows crowing and underneath that, an eerie silence of a town still clinging on.

IMG_9297

William, a former priest, is fascinating, knowledgeable and was very generous with his time.  We made the last visit of the day as the sun was starting to fade, the perfect time to take some fabulous photos.

Metaponto Ruins

If you like history this is for you.  This attraction is split into three parts: 2 sites of ruins and 1 museum.  The first site we came across was a set of Greek columns which once formed part of a temple dating back to the 6th Century (Tavole Palatine).  It is located just off the motorway in Metaponto and does not take long to stop off and view.  With its picnic benches set behind the bougainvillea lined path which leads to the columns, it’s also a perfect place for lunch stop.

IMG_9350

We then headed to the museum to understand more about the sites and it was also a useful place to then discover the exact location of the second site which spans a much larger area and is home to the ruins of several temples, a tomb, agora and a partially reconstructed amphitheatre.  Wear good shoes as this area is beautifully wild and full of grasshoppers, a few bees and lizards rather than set in a manicured landscape.  This is about 5 minutes away from the museum and first site.  It was very quiet when we visited and it was only towards the end when a small coach party arrived we realised just how peaceful this place was!

IMG_9384

Allow about 1.5 hours to visit all 3 attractions plus travelling time and the only entry fee payable is for the museum.  This is a perfect stopping point on the way to Maratea.

Monopoli

IMG_0116

Take a chance (!) on this pretty place on the way back to Bari airport for your flight home.  Walk past the locals making the most of every inch of its tiny beach, down the brightest white washed street I have seen, along the water side via a mini fortress and through to the harbour.  At the end you will find an archway which leads to a quaint piazza, the perfect place to have your last Italian supper.  We chose a typically Italian restaurant and dined on seafood topped off with prosecco and found it was incredibly cheap.  We enjoyed ice-cream here from the friendliest ice-cream man before wandering off to explore the surrounding streets.  Monopoli was pretty, friendly and the prefect way to end our Italian road trip.

IMG_0118
Europe

Matera

IMG_0073

Once the embarrassment of Italy, this is now the jewel in its crown.  Steeped in history, this is possibly the world’s longest living civilisation, having been occupied since the Paleolithic era.  In the 1950s this place had an open sewer running through the streets; Matera was a problem but now it’s a symbol of hope, beauty and strength.  It truly is an inspirational place to be.

IMG_9909

Accommodation here is in caves.  We stayed at Le Dodici Lune which has a display in reception of how this hotel looked just a few years ago and it is remarkable how far this place has come in such a short time.  Our room was very large and was comfortable although you do have the slightly damp feeling when you’re there as you are staying in a cave after all!  This hotel has a wonderful restaurant which sits in the sunken courtyard.  Candles line the stairway up to the passing pathways making this a romantic place to dine.

IMG_9805

Many visitors just pass by and you could probably get a feel for the place on a day trip.  We spent 3 nights here exploring and it was a great decision as we felt a part of Matera and enveloped by its hospitality by the time we left.

IMG_0069

Do away with all maps…..you will not be able to use them here.  Streets are alleys which merge and wind up, down and around.  You will feel lost without a map in this maze but be patient and you will soon learn your way around.  You have to remember that the cathedral is the centre and at the top of the sissi and then just let your feet wander and explore the delights of Matera.  One discovery I made which sounds obvious now I write this is that I expected Matera to be the sassi and so it was a bit of a shock to arrive to the busiest city we’d encountered on our trip and a bit of an alarm clock to our living dream.  However, once we’d found our way to the sassi, we discovered the beauty and peace that existed within.

IMG_9855

A big tip for those staying here is to bring a small case.  I had travelled with a large suitcase and a small carry on suitcase and before leaving Maratea, I had transferred all my things for our 3 night stay into the smaller case.  This makes a big difference if you are staying anywhere other than the hotels just off the main street (‘ground’ level).  Also, take shoes with excellent grip and do away with heels for evenings as this place is super slippy underfoot due to the well worn limestone.

IMG_9892

The best way to start your stay or your day trip here is to take a tour.  One of the best tours we have ever had was here in Matera.  A husband and wife team run tours in English and Italian with great skill, knowledge and energy.  Learn about the history of the area, the architecture and hidden symbolism with Matera Tour Guide.  I would also suggest a visit to Casa Noha at the start of your time in Matera which gives you a great understanding of its history.  This is located not far from the Cathedral but is not necessarily the easiest place to find.

IMG_9870

Matera is the setting for many films, most famously, The Passion of the Christ.  Explore the Madonna delle Virtu and see the Monastery where Mel Gibson chose to film.  This is one of the most interesting spots as it’s hidden away on the outer part of the sassi and has various levels to explore.  Don’t miss Casa Gotta (a reconstructed cave house), La Raccolta (a remarkable water filtration system and now a UNESCO site) and the churches Santa Maria de Idris, San Pietro Barisano and Santa Lucia Alle Malve.  Possibly the most famous of the churches is that set in one of the squares near to the ‘main road’ through the sassi, Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo al Sasso Caveoso.

IMG_0025

We never usually return to the same place to dine twice as we like to make the most of the experiences whilst staying somewhere.  However, Malatesta’s hypnotic trance had us returning for a second night.  On our first night, a guest stood up and treated us to an hour of opera and on our second night, we met a lovely group of Finnish artists.  The food was plentiful, home cooked and served with a genuineness you will struggle to find elsewhere.  This place lives in the moment and is open to all, a real taste of Matera.

IMG_9983
Europe

Maratea

IMG_9622

A hidden corner of Italy harbours a beautiful secret that is Maratea.  I inadvertently stumbled across this treasure in a fictional novel; reading about the pomegranate tree, Christ the Redeemer Statue and the homely Villa Rosa.  To discover just a few months later that this place existed meant there was only one thing for it…….I had to see it for myself!

IMG_9562

Maratea was the third stop on our road trip around Italy this summer.  We chose to stay at Villa Cheta Elite nestled away in the hillside at Acquafredda just 10 minutes away from Maratea.  It’s located on a coastal road which winds around the cliffs with stunning views out to sea and so walking around this part of Italy is not really an option.  However, Maratea itself is completely walkable.

IMG_9430

Our hotel was a stunning Italian villa beautifully kept and oozing understated luxury.  Our room had a dual aspect view of the turquoise waters below and we could see the outdoor restaurant between the pretty branches of bougainvillea.  This for us was the prefect base for our next adventure.

IMG_9441

Maratea is a small hillside town with narrow cobble roads, a broad selection of cafés and even more churches.  It’s a great way to spend a day taking in history, architecture and enjoying good Italian food.  Stop for lunch at La Caffeteria in Piazza Buraglia which is a tiny piazza full of character.  High above the town and a car ride taking in a few hair pin bends is the Christ the Redeemer statue with its back to the town below it.  In the novel I read, its back was toward the sea as the fishermen had no interest in the statue and the funds it was consuming and therefore, it was decided the statue would not look down towards the fishermen.  In reality, the statue stands atop this wonderful town offering a more protective arm and blessing this historically impoverished part of Italy.  When we visited, the sky was grey with rain and created a moody atmosphere allowing for great photos.

IMG_9500

The harbour hosts several wonderful restaurants which enjoy fabulous views out to sea.  Enjoy the most delicious Italian food and great value wine as you watch the sun set.  We visited Lanterna Rossa perched on the first floor with an almost concealed entrance which is up some steps and around to the left and certainly worth looking for!

IMG_9468

Beaches here are plentiful but don’t expect the sandy beach found in Castellaneta Marina.  This area is home to more pebble beaches but don’t let this discourage you.  We enjoyed La Secca beach for a day to recharge our batteries in advance of our remaining tour of Italy.  You pay a fee to park and to hire a sun bed but it’s all reasonable and there’s a great value beach bar on site which serves up good lunches.  This beach is located in a quiet cove and is family friendly.  Take a dip in the clear calm waters or hire a pedalo to take you further out.  We enjoyed a peaceful day here and would certainly return despite being lovers of sandy beaches.

IMG_9686

If you have time, don’t miss the White Horse restaurant which is very nearby La Secca.  There is a warm welcome and great pizza awaiting you!

IMG_9721

This is not something that is usual but we were lucky enough to watch the release of a turtle on the day we left Maratea.  Before arriving in Maratea, we’d stopped off at the WWF centre in Policoro and had learned that the turtle would be released at midday on the day we were due to leave.  We therefore headed to the beach and waited and waited until the moment finally came.  We felt incredibly lucky to have captured this memory.

turtle release
Europe

Volo Dell’Angelo

IMG_9163

We booked our flight on the internet in advance of our trip to Italy and opted to begin our journey in Castelmezzano, over to Pietrapertosa.  We parked on the side of the road in Castelmezzano and walked to the tourist office to collect our tickets.  It’s about a 10 minute quick walk through the town to get there and so leave some time.  You then trace your steps back to the entrance to the town near to where you park your car to catch a minibus to the hill you need to climb to reach Volo Dell’Angelo.  At the top you are given your equipment, then get hooked up to the zipline and you’re away.

Soaring at over 120m above the towns of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa, the Volo Dell’Angelo reaches speeds of up to 120 km per hour.  Imagine trekking up a winding steep hill and looking out over the valley beneath you in all its glory, knowing you will be flying above it very soon.  Strap yourself into a body sling and stand beside your partner as you line up horizontally with the waiting platform.  You will hear the words ‘have a nice flight’ before you are launched off the platform and out into the open.  You will hear and feel the rush of the wind, you will feel as though there is little to keep you suspended there above the caverns below and yet the fear leaves your mind as you are blown away by the thrill and peace the flight of the angel delivers.

IMG_9219

Time races by just as quickly as you feel your body is gliding through the air and it is brilliant fun.  At the end you can snap up souvenir pictures capturing that adrenaline rush. A minibus then takes you to the town.  Take a walk past the homes, shops and venture down to see the church as the bottom of the hill and at the end, you will climb about 100 steps to the return flight.  We went further and passed the return flight centre to see the fort on the hill before returning which has terrific views.  Castelmezzano is probably one of the most stunning towns that we had the pleasure of visiting in Italy.  Its yellow and terracotta homes glow in the sun and on the return flight, generated a real wow moment, a memory imprinted for good.  It’s a fun place to explore and provides a perfect lunch stop (just around the corner from the church square on the left hand side there’s a café with the nicest Italian owner serving great paninis!).

IMG_9226

A trip to this region is incomplete if you have not set eyes on Castelmezzano.  The best view is flying towards it; an angelic flight that is!

Europe

Alberobello

IMG_9014

About an hour south of Bari airport you will find this gem of a town, partially sleepy and partially buzzing with tourists.  The old whitewashed funnel-topped trulli houses sit nestled in the hillside basking in the Italian sunshine and are symbolic of this region’s past.  Previously built to be easily dismantled, these now sturdy buildings are cute homes and hotel rooms.

IMG_9062

We made Alberobello our first stop on our tour of Puglia and Basilicata this summer.  It was easy to reach late evening and we were warmly greeted by Francesco from Trulli Holiday Resort.  The trulli are spread out across the town and are mainly in two parts – the Rione Monti and Aia Piccola.  The latter is where we stayed and was far quieter than the tourist honey pot!

IMG_9061

Spend your day wandering the streets of Alberobello, collect a bag of cherries from the discreet shop on the corner of Piazza Mario Pagano or an ice cream from one of the many vendors along route (they will all taste heavenly!).  Don’t miss Alberobello Cathedral, the trulli church in Rione Monti, take a peek inside a real trulli dwelling, spot the symbols on the trulli rooftops, learn about the region’s history and see a masterpiece of workmanship at Museo del Territorio.

IMG_9086

When you have walked your socks off, head back to your trulli to get ready for dinner.  The Italians do not eat until 8pm at the earliest and so there’s plenty of time for a drink before dinner.  Head to Paco wines and take in the scenes around you on the way.  Old men sitting on a bench catching up on the events of the day, women gathered together watching over grandchildren playing in the Piazza……typically Italian and wonderful to see.  Have dinner at Trattoria Amatulli where you will be hosted by a friendly and proud owner who will serve you delicious home cooked food for half the price of an ‘Italian’ meal back home.

IMG_9013

We spent 2 nights here as there is plenty to do around and about too.  We visited Ostuni (the place to pick up your olive oil), Cisternino (a great lunch stop – you must try the bombette and egg and cheese balls slightly fried at Le Chicche di Zia Rosa), Locorotondo (the best ice cream on our travels can be found at Café Dolce Passione by tourist information – take it to the park just across the street to enjoy in peace) and Martina Franca (one of the pearls of Puglia – you can get seriously lost here if your wander the maze of streets and so take some water with you and head to one of the Piazzas for lunch).  Do be mindful that the Italians do observe the afternoon closure and so it’s a great time to head for a lunch stop or a wander.

IMG_8977