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Eat, Drink and Travel in Europe

'You are going to be amazed,' Juan Carlos my guide, exclaims as we set off on a tour of the largest of the Canary Islands. Juan tells me that almost half of Gran Canaria forms a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Yet, if you tell most people you are going to the Canaries, a flicker of confusion, even sympathy passes across their face. They know it for its year-round sunshine and package holidays, but little else.

The Great Rest was established in the middle of the 19th Century when a group of English sailors discovered an island with Europe's best winters. Gran Canaria quickly became popular as a place of refuge, where visitors could convalesce, or simply relax. Brits flocked to the island for health tourism, on the recommendation of British doctors, and the tradition is still going strong today.

Most of the spas inevitably make use of the island's health giving plant. High in the hillls, the Sheraton Salobre even named their Aloe Vera spa after it. Here the spa is not an afterthought, as in so m...

‘My grandfather was lucky; he got a bullet in the eye in 1941,’ declares Franck-Lin Dalle, owner of the 18th-century Château de Campuget in Costières de Nîmes, a little known wine region in the south of the Rhône Valley. ‘It meant he escaped the war and discovered this beautiful place where he worked until he retired in the early 1980s. My father carried it on and has only just retired. He bravely moved away, as he knew wisely that otherwise he would find it too difficult to let go.’

The chateau has always been Franck’s family home. He once tried working in a law firm in Paris but swapped its thick plush carpet for the land he knows so well, where he passes peacocks and tractors on the way to work. His sister Mathilde lives in the chateau while he resides in a small adjoining house in the grounds. He insists they didn’t fight over it. ‘I saw the work my mother had to do just to keep the house going. We have two small children and I wouldn’t want my wife to have to go through that,’ he s...

In Montenegro, I fell in love the delightful man-made island of Our Lady of the Rock with its  charming history.  It was built by seamen in 1452 to house an icon of The Madonna and Child which they found washed up on the rock. To this day on July 22nd locals throw rocks into the sea to widen the surface of the island whose pretty blue-domed chapel has several striking paintings and tapestries, including one embroidered over 25 years by a lady from nearby Perast while she waited for her sweetheart to return from sea. She used gold and silver thread as well as her own hair.

The pretty coastal town of Perast has the trademark Venetian influence which is so prolific here with 16 white Mediterranean style churches.

 image shows inside the Palazzo Bozzi Corso

I am just back from the gorgeous baroque city of Lecce in Puglia, right down in the heel of Italy. Even a couple of days there is enough to explore the winding streets crammed with cherubs, gargoyles and gremlins grinning down from every glorious church. And then there is a fascinating Roman ampitheatre in the central Piazza Sant'Oronto which is just as busy  as it would have been in days gone by, these days packed with people enjoying the city's signature  caffe in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla (espresso with ice and almond milk) at the Caffe Alvino and diving into the pretty shops.

Every day at noon local tenor Tito Schipa  sings his heart out here providing a musical and uplifting start to the afternoon's sightseeing.

 Above:Baroque palace in Lecce

My stay in Lecce included visiting two fabulous hotels, both owned  by Parisian Giacomo Fiermonte. La Fiermontina Urban Resort is a luxurious, elegant boutique hotel with 16 distinctive rooms...

There is an exciting new food scene emerging on the little island of Ibiza with a wave of new restaurants and dining experiences. 

This month sees  Ibiza  set to host  The Amorevore Food & Arts Festival (26-28 October) with stands of street food, wild food walks, long table banquets,pop up dining, cookery demonstrations and photography exhibitions.The festival highlights Ibiza’s growing status as an artisanal food destination and offers insights into global food issues. ‘Amorevore is about celebrating what comes from the heart – the love of food, the love of creating in community and the love of shared knowledge and experience’ says founder Jenna Ansell

My  dining highlights on a recent visit included eating fresh seafood overlooking the sea at Atzaro Beach with its beach club atmosphere and bright turquoise furnishings reflecting the hue of the sea to eating farm to table fare at rural garden restaurant Aubergine.

The mood is away from fine dining to a more relaxed, h...

Just a few minutes from the colourful  West Cork village of Ballydehob, down a quiet lane, we find the lovely Pierce House, a wonderful B&B with its own two acre garden overlooking the sea.  Perched in a high position with amazing views  this has to be one of the prettiest houses in the area.

Step into a breathtaking lounge with great views from floor to ceiling windows which showcase this beautiful part of Ireland. Pierce House is 3km (1.8 miles) from Ballydehob and 11km (6.8 miles) from the popular fishing village of Schull

Rooms are spacious and include The Blue Room with a huge double bed that can be converted into singles and The Green Room with a double bed and divan. Both have en suite facilities, fridge and tea and coffee making facilities and are decorated in a stylish but comfortable fashion with artistic touches.  Rooms have their own entrances and car parking is available outside.  There is free Wi-Fi and the mobile phone signal is good.

Hosts Patricia and Chris...

Back from my first visit to the Hungarian capital Budapest I found myself with a wealth of memories. From chaotic ruin bars to elegant squares, historic castles to modern art galleries – Budapest is a complex mix of styles and atmospheres.

 This is a multi-layered city which could take years to discover in depth. But with only a few days and armed with the latest version of

, I did my best to sample some of the city’s attractions.

The guide usefully addresses the city neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Most visitors, like me, start their visit in the popular Belvaros inner city area, with its shops, cafes and promenades. Here we also find insights into Hungary’s rich history by exploring down the embankment of The Danube. The Rough guide not only gives interesting information on main sites such as the Cathedral of the Dominion Greek Orthodox church but also directs us to quirkier finds such as the Underground Railway Museum.

 Above: Me sampling the local drink Palinka

Close by are the Erzebetv...

Fond memories of a visit last month to the The Stud at Kladruby nad Labem ,  one of the oldest studs in the world and home to the oldest original Czech horse breed: the Old Kladruber horse.

The Old Kladruber horses are still the pivot of the life in the stud. Historically, the grey horses were used for ceremonial service at the royal and imperial court. In fact, they are probably the only horse breed in the world which was bred specifically to pull coaches of the sovereigns. The black horses were mainly used for representative service by high clergy. Nowadays the grey Old Kladrubers still serve at royal courts. The Danish queen, Margrethe II, uses a team of six Old Kladruber greys to draw her State Coach on festive rides in Copenhagen. In Sweden, the Old Kladrubers carry the trumpeters of the Swedish Mounted Royal Guards.

In the Czech Republic the horses can often be seen at various celebrations at Prague Castle, and they are also used by the mounted police in Pardubice, Ostrava and...

The southern Cypriot town of Larnaka has not always been as popular as some other spots in Cyprus. But a recent visit found a wealth of attractions with old meeting new in traditional architecture, historic churches and bustling taverns.  Don't miss a walk around the lovely old town with some good shops and cafes, or a meal in one of the many excellent restaurants.  Here is our top ten:

 1 Agios Lazaros - Saint Lazarus Byzantine church. Built in 900 AD the church stands in a lovely open square lined with cafes, shops and restaurants

2 Palm Trees Promenade - a long stretch of seafront entertainment

3 Larnaka Saltlake - Thought to be one of the most important wetlands areas in Cyprus

 ABOVE: EUROPE SQUARE

4 Larnaka Medieval castle and Museum - Founded by the Byzantines in the 12th century

 ABOVE; KITION ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

 5 Halaa Sultan tekke - Built over a tomb said to belong to the foster mother of the Prophet Mohammed

6 Kamares, the old aqueduct - built in 1745 with gran...

Castles, lakes, horses and beer – why we are loving the Bohemian life!

EASTERN BOHEMIA IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC OPENS UP TO UK VISITORS

 Image: Ladislav Renner  Czech Tourism

A new direct flight to Pardubice in the Eastern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic opens up a wealth of opportunities for UK travellers to visit this hidden gem.Ryanair commenced the new route this month.

Pardubice lies in the Labe lowlands, surrounded by meadows, forests and lakes. It is probably best known for its Great Pardubice Steeplechase, the oldest and most difficult cross country horse race on the continent and held here since 1874. Horses play a huge part in Eastern Bohemian tradition – Pardubice’s coat of arms includes the front half of a horse (from the coat of arms of the influential Lords of Pernstein who developed the city) and close by is the National Stud at Kladruby nad Labem, one of the oldest studs in the world. Here we see the magnificent Kladruber horses, bred here since the 14th century.

In...

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