December 28, 2015 by Heather Cowper
Filed under United Kingdom, Europe, World, Leisure, featured, Art and design, Brittany, Copenhagen, Costa Brava, Cruise, Denmark, Devon and Cornwall, Eating and drinking, France, Germany, Greece, Greece & Turkey Cruise, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Museums, Sightseeing, Spain, Venice, Walking, Zakynthos
We’re in that lull between the feasting and celebration of Christmas and the fresh starts and new plans of New Year. It’s the quiet time when we can reflect and review the year that’s gone, the time to reminisce and consider what the year brought us: the adventures and challenges, the excitement of visiting new places, the holiday times we enjoyed with loved ones. Here’s a look back to the travels I enjoyed in 2015.
January – A cottage stay and fossil hunting in Devon and Dorset
We started the year with a weekend at Red Doors Farm in Devon through Premier Cottages, a collection of 500 year old thatched cottages, set around a cobbled farmyard. My teenage son and friends made good use of the indoor swimming pool and proved that you’re never too old to feed the goats and chickens. We climbed up to the hill fort near the farm and enjoyed a bracing walk along the beach at Lyme Regis where we spotted fossils on the ammonite pavement that was revealed at low tide.
February – A charity visit to India
In February I flew with Jet Airways to India for a week that was off the tourist map, although I spent a little time exploring Bangalore at the beginning and end of the trip. My purpose was to visit a local charity that I support in Andhra Pradesh and see some of the projects that we had funded. Together with one of the charity trustees I was treated to Bollywood style dances in all the local schools, had endless cups of teas with the nuns who ran them, cut the ribbon on a new water purification plant and presented a womens’ tailoring class with their new sewing machines. It was a week that made me realise more than ever that when you give to those in need, you come away much richer from the experience.
March – A weekend by the sea in St Mawes, Cornwall
We spent a weekend with friends at the magical Dreamcatchers house from St Mawes Retreats with a view over the Fal estuary in Cornwall. From the bedrooms we could see the tankers passing St Anthony’s lighthouse and the St Mawes ferry heading for Falmouth. We’d stayed at another St Mawes Retreats house before (read my review of Stargazers here) so we knew that we could expect gorgeous Designers Guild fabrics and luxurious furnishings, with sea views to die for. This time we wandered around the harbour and took the St Mawes ferry across the estuary for a Cornish pasty and ale pub lunch in the quaint streets of Falmouth.
April – Venice with the family
I was lucky enought to win an apartment stay with Go with Oh through the Passports with Purpose fundraiser and decided to use it for a few days in Venice with my family. Although we visited a few tourist highlights like the Doge’s Palace, we found that the neighbourhoods away from St Mark’s square were much more enjoyable to wander around. We loved the modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim and saw Venice from the water on our boat tour with Walks of Italy when we climbed up the campenile of San Georgio Maggiore for views across the lagoon to San Marco. The only disappointment was the food, but hopefully you’ll do better than me with my tips on How to not eat badly in Venice.
April – A weekend in Wiltshire and a sunrise visit to Stonehenge
I stayed at Sarum College inside the close of Salisbury Cathedral for the Social Travel Britain conference and part of the weekend included a walking tour of the cathedral, a private viewing of Magna Carta and a visit to Edward Heath’s old residence of Arundells. The highlight, though, was a sunrise visit to Stonehenge during which we were allowed to walk within the stone circle. This access is only allowed on special guided tours and most tourists can’t get up close to the stones, so it made the experience much more magical.
May – Lloret de Mar in Costa Brava, Spain
Lloret de Mar is one of those coastal resorts on the Costa Brava coast of Spain that was built up in the 1960s as one of the first places to welcome mass tourism from the UK. I was there as a speaker at the TBEX conference but took some time out to explore the town and discover its history. While the Lloret de Mar of recent years has gained a reputation for 20-somethings looking for nightlife and older couples seeking a retirement in the sun, I enjoyed walking around the older squares and along the rocky coast path on the edge of town.
In the Museu del Mar, I discovered the connections to Cuba where many locals sailed to make their fortunes, returning to build the grand mansions on the seafront. I tasted the Daiquiri cocktails, another import from Cuba and now the favoured drink of Lloret de Mar, and I loved the restful Santa Clothilde gardens, planted in Italian Renaissance style, overlooking the sea.
Read More: Lloret de Mar – sun, sea and so much more…
June – A weekend in Copenhagen with my daughter
I’ve visited Copenhagen many times and in June I returned with my daughter for the opening of the Absalon Hotel which had been newly renovated in Designers Guild furnishings. I was able to interview Tricia Guild, Creative Director of Designers Guild who was there to open the hotel, as well as trying out new restaurants and cocktails with my daughter. We also spent a couple of nights up the coast at the gorgeous spa hotel, Kurhotel Skodsborg where we wafted around the pools and jumped off the jetty to cool off after our sauna.
June – Alpine Sports Week in Wilder Kaiser, Austria
I love being in the mountains in summer so I jumped at the chance when I was invited to try out some of the outdoor activities on offer during Alpine Sports Week in the Wilder Kaiser region of Austria. During this week different mountain sports are on offer, from high rope walking to canyoning, mountain-biking to Via Ferrata and all for the knockdown price of €99 for 5 days of activities with expert guides. It was the perfect opportunity to try something different, since I’m a keen hiker but was able to test myself with the mountain-biking and high wire climbing in the Hornpark tree forest.
July – A week with the family in Zakynthos, Greece
In July we made our annual visit to Zakynthos in Greece to visit my sister who runs two hotels there with her husband. We spent the week visiting different beaches, swimming, eating, sunbathing and catching up on family news. This summer my niece had returned to the island after training with a leading hotel group and had decided to get involved in the family business, opening a new Mediterranean restaurant in an idyllic setting by the sea. Anadalis, as it is called, is named after the old estate on which the hotel is built which once belonged to an aristocratic family with a house just a little way up the shore, but you’ll have to read to article to find out why the locals thought the old ruined mansion was haunted. If you visit Zakynthos I highly recommend that you book a table for dinner as the sun goes down over the bay.
August – Our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Later in August we were back to the Greek islands again for a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises which took us from Athens to Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos, Kusadasi and finally to Istanbul where we ended our cruise. We absolutely loved the luxurious small ship cruise experience with Azamara Club Cruises where the spotlight is firmly on the destinations you visit, creating unique experiences like our magical evening concert among the ancient ruins of Ephesus as the sun went down.
September – A walking holiday in Austria with Headwater Holidays
September saw me back in Austria for a few days walking with Headwater Holidays who specialise in relaxing walking and cycling holidays. I was accompanied by my friend Julia for our annual walking trip which has become our tradition since we walked the Tour de Mont Blanc together. On the first day on the high slopes of the Gaistal valley I fell down a slope and hurt my ankle but using the Headwater walking guides we chose the less strenuous walks on subsequent days and enjoyed the rest of the holiday. We watched a rifleman’s parade in Seefeld and walked along a Mental Power trail, walked through the wild Leutasch Gorge and round the lakes above the picturesque town of Mittenwald with its painted houses. Each day brought different mountain scenery and things to see, confirming my love of the mountains in summer.
September – A gourmet visit to Luxembourg
In September we spent a few days in Luxembourg, a city and tiny country that’s full of surprises. While Luxembourg is known as a centre for international business, we found a charming and easily walkable city with great food, museums and a fascinating history, making it an ideal weekend break location. We also spent some time touring the Moselle wine region where the Moselle river forms the border with Germany, with many wineries to taste the delicious white wines the sparkling Cremant which was my favourite.
November – The Christmas Markets of Heidelberg, Germany
At the end of November we spent a few day in Heidelberg, Germany to see the Christmas Markets and generally get into the festive spirit. We’d visited Heidelberg previously on a day trip from our Rhine River Cruise and were pleased that we could have more time to explore this picturesque and romantic town at our leisure. We took the river boat down to the Neurberg Abbey Christmas Market, climbed up to the castle, learned the history of the ancient university and student fraternities and ate plenty of hearty German food, delicious cakes and chocolates as well as drinking quite a few mugs of hot Glühwein.
Read More: A Food Lover’s Guide to Heidelberg, Germany
December – A weekend in Le Havre, France
My final trip of this year was a hop over the channel to le Havre with Brittany Ferries to discover what this channel port would offer for a weekend break. Most Brits drive through Le Havre on their way to their holidays in France but I discovered that there are many fascinating things to see here that make it worth stopping to visit the city and surrounding area. The city was reconstructed after heavy bombing in WW2 and the architecture of the new town (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) represents the modern designs of the 1950s. We visited a 1950s show flat which would have been allocated to those who lost their own houses in the bombing, as well as a gorgeous 18th century ship owner’s mansion. Another highlight was the MUMA modern art museum, a light and airy glass building with the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside Paris, since painters such as Monet loved this part of the Normandy coast. I’ll be writing about my weekend in Le Havre very soon so stay tuned.
Reviewing the year was a fun way to remind myself of all the fun I had on my travels in 2015. There’s much more to come in 2016 and I wish you Happy Travels for the year to come.
Please note that many of the trips were hosted by the companies mentioned and you can find more details in the articles from each trip.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
If you are holidaying on the Greek island of Zakynthos, be sure to visit the new restaurant Anadalis in Argasi that adjoins Windmill Bay Hotel on the coast road. The setting by the sea could not be more magical since the tables are set under palm trees with the waves lapping below the restaurant, making a romantic evening setting and a place to enjoy good times with friends and family.
The restaurant was opened this season by my niece Sophia, who has returned to the island after a few years working for a leading hotel group. She’s one of a new generation of entrepreneurs that are returning to the island and bringing fresh style to the businesses started by their parents on Zakynthos.
Why the name Anadalis?
The land on which the restaurant and hotel stand was purchased by Sophia’s great grandfather, but it originally belonged to the Anadalis Estate, which was owned by the aristocratic Domeneginis family. A little up the road is a small church and square tower overlooking the sea, all that remains of the family’s Anadalis mansion which in its 19th century heyday, hosted the leaders of Zakynthian society, including the famous Zakynthian poet Solomos.
Over the years, the mansion was damaged in earthquakes, but always rebuilt. However, during the 1821 Greek war of independence from the Turks, the mansion became a secret meeting place for political groups and was left in ruins to discourage unwanted visitors. In order to keep prying eyes away, a story was put about that the old mansion was haunted and it became known locally as the ‘Devil’s Mansion’. When Sophia opened the restaurant, she remembered the stories her grandmother had told her about the old ruined mansion and decided to call the restaurant Anadalis after it.
In Anadalis, Sophia has created a restaurant that offers the flavours of the Mediterranean while using local Greek and Zakynthian ingredients. She told me,” When we worked on the menu, I wanted to make sure that there was a uniquely Greek touch in every dish, and many of the ingredients are only found here on Zakynthos”.
The best of local flavours
The bruschetta uses fresh tomatoes topped with a local smoked pork called apaki, and the sea bass is garnished with kritama, a green vegetable a little like samphire, that grows on the rocks near the sea. The Zakynthian graviera cheese is used in the rolled pork tenderloin with sundried tomatoes and spearmint, while the Greek salad incorporates a local goat’s cheese katiki domokou instead of feta.
The seafood dishes are especially popular and the sea bass is caught locally by the fishing boats you’ll see moored up in the mornings along the harbour wall in Zante town. The Mediterranean influence comes through in the pasta dishes such as Linguine Anadalis with prawns, calamari and mussels in an ouzo sauce.
Chocolate soup and ancient Greek Baklava
Deserts are equally delicious, with one of the most popular being the chocolate soup with crispy biscuits and orange ice cream and I enjoyed the creamy pan cotta served with pomegranate syrup. The baklava here is made with pistachios instead of the more usual walnuts, and flavoured with krokos, a Greek herb similar to saffron. Although most people think of this as a Turkish desert, in fact it was popular with the Ancient Greeks who served crisp fried bread drenched in honey and sprinkled with nuts. Many of the deserts are served with Kaimaki ice cream, a typically Greek flavouring that is based on the mastic plant that is also used to make liqueur.
A chef who has worked in the top Greek restaurants
Sophie recruited an experienced chef de cuisine in Kristy Karageorgou, who although still in her 20s, brings ten years of experience of working in top Greek restaurants. Kristy worked in the 6 Keys restaurant in Pelion which has a ‘Toques d’or”, the Greek equivalent of Michelin star and also worked under top Greek chef, Yannis Baxevanis at his restaurant Giorti in Athens. Krista loves using fresh herbs and will be found at the beginning of the evening clipping herbs and flowers such as lavender from the borders beside the restaurant to use in the evening’s dishes.
Cocktails and wines with a Greek twist
We enjoyed a cocktail before our meal from the list which also incorporates local herbs and Greek flavours. The Violet cocktail includes gin, violet liqueur and lemon as well as the Greek mastic flavour and basil from the herb garden, while the Elderflower fizz with gin, elderflower syrup and lemon makes a refreshing drink for a summer evening.
The small wine list is also carefully chosen to include wines from Zakynthos and other prize winning Greek wines. The aygoustiatis is a grape variety that is unique to the island, making a fruity, aromatic red from the Grampsa winery on Zakynthos. We also tried a delicious, prize winning Gerovasilioy Chardonnay from the Epanomi region in Central Greece.
The sun sets over Anadalis
As guests start to arrive in the restaurant the sun casts a golden glow over Anadalis and the sea breeze rustles the leaves of the palm trees. Just below the casual bleached wood tables and painted wood sofas, the sea is lapping gently over the shingle and narrow strip of sand where guests swim during the day.
As you order a cocktail or glass of wine the sky turns to pink as the rosy ball of the sun sets over Zante town. The candles flicker on the table and lanterns are lit around the restaurant as the lights of the town match their twinkle across the bay.
It’s a magical setting for for dinner with family or friends and there’s a large grassy area adjoining the restaurant where children can play happily while parents relax over a glass of wine. In the height of the summer, the air is warm but at the beginning and end of the season the tables are brought under the awning and sides lowered as the evening cools.
Be sure to reserve your table at Anadalis, already it’s proving very popular and getting great Tripadvisor reviews. Starters €4-6, Main course €8-14, Pasta €7-11, Deserts €4-4.80. Ring Windmill Bay Hotel to make a reservation. You’ll find Anadalis adjoining Windmill Bay Hotel (it has a separate entrance and parking area) on the coast road on the edge of Argasi resort, on the Greek island of Zakynthos.
More things to enjoy in Zakynthos
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Are you a coffee lover like me? It’s the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans that hits your nose first and then you take a sip of hot, sweet coffee. Ahhh, the day starts to feel better already. But perhaps for you it’s a tiny cup of strong, black expresso, ending the meal perfectly like a full stop at the end of a sentence. Or a frothy cappuccino to eat with a sweet pastry for breakfast like they do in Spain.
However you like it, a great cup of coffee is full of ritual as you watch a skilled barista operate those shiny machines that woosh and hiss, or the buzzy atmosphere of your favourite coffee shop where you meet your friends for a late morning weekend brunch or an afternoon coffee and cake.
Now I’m dreaming about all the coffees I’ve enjoyed on my travels, each coffee experience giving me a doorway into the culture of the place I visited. For more coffee inspiration, take a look at this Coffee infographic that will take you around the world in 31 coffees, but in the meantime let me share with you some of my favourite coffees around the world.
1. Copenhagen – the best coffee in the world?
If ever there was a place where they know how to elevate coffee to an art form it is Copenhagen and Coffee Collective sits among the best of the best.
I visited their original coffee shop in Nørrebro a few years ago, a tiny place with just a few wooden tables outside and a stool inside to perch while your coffee is being expertly made. Their coffee beans are sold all around Copenhagen and they operate on a Direct Trade model, working with farmers in Brazil, Guatamala, Kenya and Panama to pay the best prices for the best quality coffee. If you visit this place you’ll probably be buying your coffee to take away (perhaps picking up a pastry from the Claus Meyer bakery across the road) but if you want to sit and enjoy your coffee in a foodie atmosphere, head for their stand in the Torvehallerne food market halls.
Torvehallerne is one of my favourite places in Copenhagen, where you can get a fabulous but reasonably priced lunch or sip your coffee with a cake just like your Danish grandmother might have baked. The third branch of Coffee Collective is in Frederiksberg, where the beans are roasted and they do monthly tours and coffee tastings where you can learn how to make a perfect coffee. Definitely a place of pilgrimage for the coffee connoisseur.
2. Coffee time is Fika time in Sweden
If you’ve visited Sweden I’m sure you’ll have come across the tradition of ‘fika’, or having a coffee break with friends. This is the occasion to settle down in a cosy cafe where the counters are laden with buns and pastries to relax over a good cup of coffee and a chat. When I visited Gothenburg I discovered that the picturesque old neighbourhood of Haga was the perfect fika spot, since its cobbled streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and artizan shops.
Cafe Husaren on the corner of the main street of Hada Nygatan is reputed to be the original source of the enormous cinamon buns which are a speciality of Gothenburg, although we squeezed into the pretty, traditional Cafe Kringlan with the gold bagel hanging outside. The local’s choice for fika in Gothenburg seems to be Da Matteo and they have several shops including the largest in Magasingaten where they bake the bread and pastries on the premises, so you get the aroma of freshly baked bread thrown in with your coffee.
3. Salzburg – for coffee and cakes
Perhaps you’ve gathered by now that I have something of a sweet tooth, so heaven for me is a great cup of coffee served in the afternoon with a slice of the local cake. Of course Austria makes a speciality of this Kaffee und Kuchen ritual and where better than Salzburg, the glorious homeland of Mozart and the Sound of Music to enjoy it?
When it comes to cake to accompany your afternoon coffee, you’ll likely be wavering between the Apfelstrudel (soft bites of apple wrapped in crisp layers of pastry) and the Sacher Torte (rich, dense chocolate cake laced with apricot jam). The traditional choice would probably be to head for Hotel Sacher which overlooks the river but we enjoyed our kaffee und kuchen on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Stein with a fabulous view of the fortress, which is highly recommended in good weather.
4. A chilled frappe on the beach in Greece
Coffee can be a cool drink in more ways than one, as I discovered on my annual trips to Greece to visit my sister who lives on the Greek Island of Zakynthos. Traditionally the Greeks drink their coffee like the Turks, strong and sweet in a tiny cup together with those ultra-sweet pastries that drip with syrup. This is what you’d serve to friends who come visiting in the afternoon.
But the trendy thing to drink in summer is a chilled Frappé – where an expresso is poured over ice with creamy milk to make a coffee that’s sipped through a straw from a long glass. When you’re lying on your sunbed or sitting in a trendy Greek beach bar, be sure to order a “Freddo” coffee, which comes in different Italian styles such as a Freddo cappuccino, Freddo Expresso or a Freddoccino (iced mocha coffee with chocolate).
5. Ruddesheimer coffee in Germany – coffee with a creamy kick
If you fancy your coffee with something a little stronger, we found the perfect alternative coffee on our Rhine River Cruise stop at the pretty town of Rudesheim. Wandering down the cobbled street of the Drosselgasse with its wine shops and taverns we stopped at Rudesheimer Schloss to try the local speciality of Rudesheimer coffee.
This coffee spiked with brandy is the German equivalent of Irish Coffee and started in the 1920s when the Alspach brandy company invented a brandy chocolate so that ladies could enjoy a secret tipple, at a time when it was considered unseemly for women to drink in public. One good thing lead to another and in the 1950s the Rudesheimer coffee was born, a warming mixture of sweet coffee with a good helping of Asbach brandy, topped with sweet, whipped vanilla cream and sprinkled with grated chocolate. These days the Rudesheimer coffee is served in all the local coffee shops and you can bring back small bottles of the Alspach brandy if you want to try it at home.
Read More: How to make a Rudesheimer coffee – video
6. A hot chocolate alternative to coffee in Gothenburg
If you’re not a coffee drinker, you’ll be pleased to know that in Gothenburg we found an excellent alternative at Cafe Kanold that specialises in velvety hot chocolate. Staying cosy from the chilly wind and weather, we sat on the cushioned banquette with pretty floral cushions and enjoyed a warming hot chocolate – served with chili flakes on top for an extra kick.
While there is also a counter of hand-made Kanold chocolates in the cafe, you’ll want to visit the main Kanold chocolate shop close by on Södra Larmgatan at the end of Viktoriapassagen. It’s a cross between an old fashioned candy store and a boutique chocolatier where you can buy the Kanold speciality, a soft chocolate truffle centre topped with sea salt, which has now become known as the “Gothenburg Truffle”. Of course if you insist of coffee at Cafe Kanold, I’m sure they serve that too!
Check out this Coffee Infographic
If you want to fuel your coffee fascination even more, take a look at this Coffee infographic from Cheapflights that will take you around the world in 31 coffees. Here are a few cool coffee facts that I discovered;
- In Italy you only drink milky coffee in the morning and NEVER after a meal – the cappuccino in the afternoon is only for tourists!
- Breakfast in Spain normally consists of a cup of coffee with a sweet pastry or churros
- In Senegal coffee is served with cloves and guinea pepper
- In 2001 Brazil issued a coffee scented postage stamp
- Seatle has 10 times more coffee store per head than the rest of the USA
Now, please excuse me as I’m off to find the perfect coffee to have with my weekend brunch in Bristol
This article is written in association with Cheapflights
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey