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Stories from the Americas

​Believe it or not, the entertainment capital of the world is increasingly being recognised for showcasing world-class art – whether on The Strip or the streets of Downtown, in secluded galleries or in the showiest of resorts. The longstanding Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and the MGM resort are still undeniable anchors for traditional art in Las Vegas, but today the once edgy Arts district has the city’s highest concentration of galleries.

If you feel like a different kind of Las Vegas trip, you can enjoy street art and murals splashed all over Downtown or, for a staggering $100,000 a night, sleep with art by Damien Hirst at The Empathy Suite at Palms. Clark County Government Center and the Nevada Museum of Art both beautifully celebrate the natural beauty of the desert landscape, the definitive creation surrounding Las Vegas. It is just part of an ever changing vision for the city in 2020.

Jane Egginton is the author of several guide books about Las Vegas, including the AA CityPack...

Tobago's cuisine is a unique blend of African, Indian, Chinese, European and Latin American influences, as well  as from Syria, Lebanon and Italy. This fascinating culinary fusion reflects the  multiracial population of Trinidad & Tobago,

Curry and roti are national favourites. Roti originated in East India, but, like all West Indian curry dishes, has now been thoroughly localised and is quite different to the East Indian variants. It is basically a thin flat unleavened bread (flour pancake), not dissimilar to a tortilla. Fillings include  curried chicken, goat, shrimp or conch with potato chunks and channa (chickpeas).

Crab and Dumpling is a local speciality. Its impossible to eat without making a mess, and best enjoyed outdoors, ideally on the beach. Miss Trim's food shack on Store Bay is one of the best places on island to try it

 Away from the international restaurants found in the more populated areas of the island, virtually every restaurant serves variations of the same basic...

Casa Bonita Tropical Loge is a boutique resort tucked in the heart of the rainforest. Formerly a private home the pretty 18 room hideaway has a canopy tour of the jungle and rooms have views of the Caribbean Sea or the Sierra Barahuco mountains.

Barahona is the only place in the world where they mine larimar, a semi-precious stone the colour of the ocean.  Locals say larimar can heal a broken heart. You can visit the mine and at  Casa Bonita’s Tamana spa masseuse Miranda uses it as part of a unique experience where she stands with her feet in the river as I lie on a bed with the water rushing beneath me.

Ocoa Bay is the only vineyard in the Caribbean. Found in Azua about one and a half hours from the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo, its position between the Central Mountains and the sea has a dry climate perfect for cultivating grapes.  I sampled a lovely Temparillo followed by  a French Colombard of a quality to satisfy any connoisseur.

Maria Claudia and Guillermo Mallarino left careers as oncologists in the USA when they fell in love with this location.  ‘We noticed vines growing in gardens’ says Maria Claudia ‘The climate is the same as California so it seemed natural that wine could be produced here’. That has been happening for three years on the 27 acre sustainably run plot and the couple have plans to open villas and a vineyard hotel.

www,ocoabay.com

Famous for its pink sands, turquoise ocean and of course that infamous triangle, the small island of Bermuda with its  quaint Englishness has a charm all of its own. And there is so much more to it than just the beaches.

One of my favourite ways to see the island is by walking the disused railway line which stretches the length of Bermuda. Known affection ally as Old Rattle and Shake, the line was made into a national park in 1984 and over the past few years bridges connecting parts of the trail have been opened. Open only to cyclists and pedestrians, this is a peaceful trail through glades and there are information points along the route explaining the history of the railway. Pause to listen to some melodic birdsong  including that of Bermuda’s iconic yellow bird.

St George’s

The former capital St George’s is one of the earliest English settlements in the New World where British sailors were  shipwrecked in 1609 while travelling to Jamestown, Virginia. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site I...

Friday night is usually Fish Fry night in The Islands Of The Bahamas when parties take off, tasty fish and chicken is deep fried over a smoky camp fire, music starts, rum punch is poured and the local Kalik beers are cracked open. Young and old, locals and tourists all join in at locations such as pretty Governor’s Harbour on tiny Eleuthera when this otherwise sleepy spot jumps into life.

Wednesday nights alright for frying on Grand Bahama

But in Grand Bahama Island Wednesday night is when we head to Smith's Point for the weekly Fish Fry. For Get there early (about 6)before the queues form. Eat at tables overlooking the lovely beach and watch the sunset, then party until the small hours with music and dancing enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. A fish dinner with fresh snapper or grouper, rice and peas and sides is about $12. Don’t miss the guava duff for pudding and wash it down with a rum punch or local Kalik beer.

Conked Out

No one can visit The Bahamas without experiencing a Fish Fry...

Looking back on our trip to Mexico last year which took us to Playa del Carmen, Izamal, Chichen itza, Merida, Vallidolid, Cozumel and, earlier in the year, Tumul and Coba, we found these lovely images,  Rick Stein may have focused on the food in this colourful country in his recent TV series, but here are some of our favourite pictures  of the amazing architecture we witnessed.

 Convent at Izamal

 Chichen Itza

 Valladolid

 Merida

Rising out of the jungle in the steamy afternoon heat with the shrieks of howler monkeys in the background is a towering black temple; marked by age and worn by climbing feet over thousands of years ……..This is my first glimpse of the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala, one of the wonders of the Americas.  We stay until sunset as the sky turns pink over the five magnificent temples and return the next morning at sunrise with the toucans, macaws and parrots. I am told that jaguars and ocelots lurk in the surrounding forest, but we only spot a cheeky coatimundi or racoon like creature scurrying past.

Tikal is one of the oldest Mayan sites with the earliest evidence of human habitation here around 700 BC.  There are five temple pyramids which soar above the forest canopy, with carve stelae and altars in the central plaza. We spot masks carved in the stone as we learn the history of this amazing place with its stories of rulers buried in tombs with precious jade, human sacrifices and r...

The Hotel con Corazon sits on  an unpretentious corner of the historic city of Granada, Nicaragua. This charming boutique hotel has 15 rooms, a swimming pool, tiny bar and restaurant and a lush courtyard. 

But the Hotel con Corazon is more than just a pretty face. The boutique property helps young Nicaraguans build a better future, as 100% of hotel profits are invested in educational projects as well as creating jobs and supporting local businesses.

Inside the hotel, evidence of its work is seen in the small shop in the lobby which sells jewellery and hand made cards produced by local artists. Food is all locally sourced and visitors are welcome to enjoy group dinners of Nicaraguan dishes in the courtyard dining area where at the weekend youngsters from the neighbourhood can also be seen having lessons. Hotel con Corazon encourages visitors to get out and about to see the real Nicaragua. Its in-house guides take trips to the lakes and volcanoes as well as walking and cycli...

The Central American country of Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the region these days with a wealth of natural attractions including volcanoes, lakes and a breathtaking landscape as well as beautiful old colonial towns and cities . UK visitors are increasingly turning their eyes towards the country, sometimes called The Land of the Poets because of its strong poetic heritage. (The most famous Nicaraguan poet is Dario (1867-1913) but there are many others well known in the Spanish speaking world - all of who captured the nations romance and drama.) 


Flying into the capital Managua, the colonial city of Granada is an hours drive away, and is the perfect introduction to exploring Nicaragua. Granada and Leon are stately colonial cities with an old world charm yet still close to adventurous activities and scenic attractions.
 


The centre of Granada is dominated by the lovely ochre yellow cathedral of Saint Francis in the main square, Parque Central. Dating from 1583 and then reb...

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