I had the privilege of visiting the Portuguese city of Porto earlier this year, and going on a journey to learn about the history and heritage of the most delicious of dessert wines – Port.
Inspired by my sun-drenched trip to Porto and the surrounding Douro Valley, I’ve not been able to stop treating myself to a little tipple now and again over the past few weeks of summertime brightness.
Recommended by the lovely folks at Graham’s Port, here’s the secret recipe for the most delectable cocktail you’ll taste all season…
- A generous serving of Graham’s Fine White Port
- A dash of light tonic water (the port itself’s plenty sweet, so I prefer to go for the virtually sugar-free tonic)
- A slice of lemon to garnish
- Plenty of ice (recommended quantities vary according to the weather!)
- Pour your port into a small glass, add the tonic and ice, then garnish with a slice of lemon on the side. I usually go for around one-third port versus two-thirds tonic.
It’s difficult to think of a country that can compete with the fascinating history, chic cosmopolitan culture and perpetual charm of Italy. From mouth-watering cuisine, breath-taking scenery and magnificent architecture to sophisticated fashion and world famous art, its enchanting towns and cities are the perfect way to indulge in what the locals lovingly refer to as, ‘la dolce vita.’
Italy comes alive in the warm summer months and there is simply nothing more delightful than jetting off on an exclusive escape to a luxurious holiday apartment in Italy. To help you fall in love with this incredible country, Jill Kammer has compiled a list of her favourite Italian charms that are guaranteed to make you swoon!
The language: Some people say French is the most romantic language in the world but we think that the passion, flow and endearing rhythm of the Italian dialect gives it a run for its Euros! If you’re planning on renting a luxury holiday apartment in Italy, why not try charming the locals and learning a few phrases yourself?
The weather: The magnificent Italian sun is sought out by holiday makers from around the globe. Whether you soak it up from the picturesque beaches of Cinque Terre or bathe in the glorious rays while enjoying an ice cream on Rome’s famous Spanish Steps, Italy is the perfect country to experience the bliss of a European summer.
Gelato: A trip to Italy simply wouldn’t be complete without a daily dose of gelato! The silky soft texture and lip-smacking flavours are the perfect accompaniment to keeping cool in the hot summer sunshine.
Cuisine: Food plays an essential role in Italian culture and there is simply no better way to experience the country than to sample its mouth-watering cuisine. From crispy wood fired pizzas and perfectly al dente pastas to aromatic espressos and freshly baked treats, you are guaranteed to fall head over heels for Italian food.
Opera: Culture lovers will be enchanted at the Italian opera scene where you can give yourself goose bumps listening to the trills of the world’s most famous sopranos. And with magnificent venues such as Venice’s La Fenice, Rome’s Teatro dell’opera di Roma and Tuscany’s Torre del Lago Puccini, you are guaranteed a night to remember!
Art: With a history of highly skilled artisans sating back to Etruscan civilisation, Italy is a mecca for those with an appreciation for art. Cities such as Rome and Florence play host to some of the world’s finest masterpieces while Venice’s Guggenheim Collection is a must visit destination for contemporary critics.
Architecture: Italy boasts some of the finest architecture on the planet and offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich historical background. From the ancient pillars of the Colosseum, the awe inspiring facade of St Peters Basilica, the magnificent domes of St Mark’s and the gravity defying wonder that is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
With such an incredibly diverse range of activities, attractions and exclusive experiences on offer, why wait any longer to book a luxury holiday apartment in one of Italy’s mesmerising cities?
This guest post was written by Jill Kammer for Take on the Road.
There is, undoubtedly, something about the Italian lifestyle that appeals to many of us. Whether it is the weather, the food, the passion for everything from opera to football, the world-class fashion sense or the historic architecture, many of us want a piece of Italy’s dolce vita.
BRING IT HOME
The good news is that you can bring many elements of Italian style into your own life, with relative ease. The Italian lifestyle is fundamentally about valuing quality over quantity; this applies to clothes, food and décor in particular. Italians like to find what works well and stick with it, which is why so much of the nation’s architecture and traditions have lasted for centuries.
For example, the next time you are in Italy, have a look around you at the Italians in the street. You will notice that many are impeccably dressed, but not in garish, up-to-the minute styles. Italian fashion is admired worldwide for its timeless, understated chic and quality fabric and manufacture, and you can see this in the outfits worn by many Italians on a day-to-day basis. Most Italians have relatively few clothes, but what they have is of fine quality, cut and style – quality matters more than materialism.
The same applies to architecture, including domestic architecture. You will notice, on any visit to Italy, that certain elements are repeated from home to home. The use of traditional shutters on windows is a good example – these look great, last for years and do the job well, so why change?
Simplicity is another key Italian value. Italian food is fundamentally about good quality ingredients, used well. Most Italian dishes are not complex, but they are cooked from scratch in kitchens up and down the country, using the best ingredients available, just as they have been for years. Italians are not impressed by pre-packaged or convenience foods, and they eat all the better for it.
Similarly, another great Italian passion, coffee. The huge range of fancy coffees that can be purchased in coffee houses across the world nowadays may have been inspired by Italy, but this is primarily an American invention. Italians simply drink good, well-made coffee, which they usually take strong and with just a splash of, if any, milk (cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink, and eyebrows are raised if you order it after 11am). As a result, the quality of the beans and the roasting really shine through in truly Italian coffee.
Finally, Italians have a great ability to look outside themselves and recognise that they are part of a wider community. This is expressed in a variety of ways, including communal meals involving family and friends, and a general sociability and preference for company over solitude.
There is clearly much to admire in the Italians’ way of life, but there is no reason why you should not also benefit from it. With a few simple touches – inviting several friends for a home-cooked meal, valuing quality over materialism, looking to tradition for inspiration – we can all move a little closer to the Mediterranean, wherever we happen to live. Why don’t you give it a try, today?
This post was written by David Charles for Take on the Road.
Taking your family on holiday is an incredible way to relax, unwind and spend some quality time with each other. Yet the age old dilemma always presents itself – should you stay in the country or embark on an overseas trip? To help you decide what’s best for you and your family, Nannies Incorporated (a London based nanny and maternity nurse agency) has compiled a useful list of pros and cons that will help you choose a holiday destination that you’re guaranteed to love.
drgillybean via Flickr
BENEFITS OF FAMILY HOLIDAYS IN THE UK
There are no airports involved: One of the major downsides of taking the family overseas is the fact that it involves flying. This means lengthy airport waits and multiple passports to worry about, not to mention hours on end in the plane itself – a tantrum or screaming baby on board a flight is not fun.
Instead, why not pack up the car and head on a family road trip? Whether you drive for a few hours or a few days, taking the the car will give you added flexibility and is also a great way to bond. If you’ve got an extra seat in the car, taking a private nanny along is a great way to make your road trip that little bit easier.
There are some great destinations: Despite its rainy reputation, the UK summer can be delightful and there are some fantastic places to discover and enjoy this year. Traditional holiday spots such as Brighton and Cornwall are beautiful and offer all the creature comforts that you’re used to. There are also some exciting theme parks and adventure attractions that are guaranteed to keep the kids entertained and offer accommodation for a trip to remember.
If you want to enjoy a little adult time while you’re on holiday, why not look into the fantastic and convenient services available at a nanny or maternity nurse agency?
Help your kids appreciate their country: What better way to instil a sense of national pride in your kids than to take them on family adventures to some of the nation’s most charming spots? Whether you’re into camping, beaches, sports or relaxing, a family holiday in the UK will give them fun filled memories of their homeland that they will treasure forever.
Badr Naseem via Flickr
BENEFITS OF FAMILY HOLIDAYS OVERSEAS
The weather: Let’s face it, the UK is notorious for bad weather so if you have your heart set on sun, sand and sparkling blue seas, it’s probably best to head to warmer countries such as Spain, Greece or Turkey.
They are exciting: While family road trips are fun, there’s nothing quite as exciting as packing up your things and heading abroad! The UK is just a short flight away from an array of international destinations. If you’re willing to brave longer haul flights, countries such as Thailand and Malaysia are also wonderful family holiday destinations.
Get your kids interested in culture: Experiencing different foods, languages and cultures can be hugely beneficial to helping your children grow and develop.
There are some great deals on offer: While heading overseas may sound expensive, there are actually some incredible deals and offers to snap up. Package holidays are wonderfully easy and take the stress and hassle out of planning a vacation. All-inclusive resorts and hotels are also great value and will ensure you find the time to kick back, relax and enjoy your holiday. On such an affordable holiday, it’s easy to budget in taking a professional nanny along for that enhanced level of relaxation for all the family.
Just remember, the key to family holiday planning success is to think about the needs and circumstances of your family and choose a destination accordingly. Considering the ages of your kids, your budget and your interests are all important factors.
This guest post was written for Take on the Road by Nannies Incorporated. To find out more about the company, visit their website here.
If there’s one thing I love to do when I travel, it’s to learn about the local food and produce. Today on St Kitts, we did just that.
Fairview House is a former plantation that’s now been turned into a heritage museum and restaurant. As well as touring the beautiful grounds, the site plays host to a cooking demonstration outfit called Caribbean Cooks (sometimes also known as Island Flavours).
Run by British expat Janice Ryan who’s lived on the island for 26 years, it’s a wonderful place to get acquainted with the edible riches of St Kitts.
Janice’s demonstration included five different dishes: jerk pork loin, creole fish in tomato broth, island rice and peas, green banana escovitch and the recipe I’m going to share with you now…
Recipe: Caribbean Bread & Butter Pudding
This coconut and rum-infused take on bread and butter pudding is melt-in-your-mouth good, and the taste will stay with you for days.
- 3 cups of thick white bread, cubed
- 1/2 cup of tinned coconut milk
- 1/2 cup of grated coconut
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup of thick cream
- 1/4 cup of softened butter
- 1/2 rum-soaked raisins
For the rum sauce:
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/2 golden rum
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 4.
- Pop the cubed bread into an oven dish and set aside next to the hob.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut milk, sugar, eggs, butter and cream until you have one smooth mixture.
- Pour the liquid mix over the bread until it’s covered, then sprinkle the grated coconut and rum raisins evenly on top.
- Place in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown.
- While it’s baking, add the butter and sugar for the rum sauce into a hot frying pan.
- Keep over a low heat, and when it’s nice and warm, add the golden rum.
- Burn the alcohol off and add as a glaze to the top of the pudding when you remove it from the oven.
- Let the pudding cool down for a couple of hours, and then indulge!
For info on St Kitts, visit the tourism authority’s website here. For Fairview House and the Nirvana Restaurant, visit the website here.
Follow our adventures on Twitter @takeontheroad and on Instagram @LaurenRazavi.
Today we visited the Wingfield Estate. It’s a place full of fascinating history and heritage that is slowly being excavated and then restored.
The Estate is like a storybook of the island’s past. It was the first working estate in the English-speaking Caribbean, and its initial crops were indigo dye and tobacco. Later, it produced cotton (which is very high quality in the West Indies) as a by-product of other crops.
Rum was also produced on-site, and the Estate boats the oldest remaining rum distillery in the whole of the West Indies. It dates back to 1673!
Estate slaves, soldiers at Brimstone Hill and Royal Navy sailors were all allowed a ration of rum. Historically, rum was often the product that covered the estate’s entire annual operating costs.
After a tour around the site with the owner, we headed to the Caribelle Batik workshop on-site. Beatik is a traditional folk craft on St Kitts, and after watching a demonstration, we tried our hand wax-printing and dying some material.
The results of our artistic experimentation weren’t bad, though I’m sad to say that Jesse’s linen came out a lot better than mine…
For info on St Kitts, visit the tourism authority’s website here. For the Wingfield Estate and Caribelle Batik, visit the website here.
Follow our adventures on Twitter @takeontheroad and on Instagram @LaurenRazavi.
For all travelers coming to Bangkok within the next few months and are currently searching for hotel bookings, look no further. Accor has officially launched the ‘Bangkok Super Saver’ hotel campaign which features room bookings at a very special rate (inclusive of free breakfast). But book fast; this deal is an exclusive offer for all bookings made during 24th April – 24th May 2014. All bookings are for stays during April until 30th September 2014.
There are a multitude of participating hotels in Bangkok which includes: Sofitel So Bangkok, Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, Pullman Bangkok King Power, Hotel Muse Bangkok Langsuan, Grand Mercure Bangkok Asoke Residence, Novotel Bangkok Platinum Pratunam, Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square, Mercure Bangkok Siam and ibis Bangkok Siam.
Customers who are already members of the Accor Advantage Plus could go ahead to place your booking and enjoy an additional 10% off the Bangkok Super Saver rate. Members of Le Club Accor hotels, Accor’s free Loyalty program will earn triple points on their stay. Non Le Club members can head over to Le Club website to sign-up.
Room rates during this period start from as little as USD $27 per room per night.
If you don’t know who Accor is, they are one of the leading hotel operators and leader in Europe having established nearly 45 years of hotel expertise. Currently, hotels under their brand are present in 92 countries with over 3,500 hotels.
I love making cookies but I have to admit it: I’m a bit of a lazy baker when it comes to making anything fancy!
So when I tried the Chef’n cookie stamp, I was delighted with the results. It’s an idiot-proof cookie cutter with a difference, and excellent design.
An easy to follow recipe comes with it in the box, and following the recipe gives great results. I’ve also used my old tried and trusted cookie recipe and it worked wonderfully well.
It’s so easy to use and keep clean and the all in one storage idea is fab (no lost parts – always a problem in my kitchen).
The patterns it makes are so clear and with no distortion. The dough doesn’t get all stuck up on any of the parts, as with previous stamps/cutters I’ve tried. In fact you can just go on stamping and stamping!
It’s so easy to change the heads and push the “stamping button”. I couldn’t pull my 8-year-old niece away from the kitchen: it’s a godsend for entertaining the kiddies too.
I would definitely recommend this as a cool addition to any baker’s cupboard. Buy yours here.
In the post-Christmas haze of January life, it’s easy to succumb to those New Year blues, especially when it comes to food and drink. After such indulgence over Christmas, you’re stuck between disappointment and guilt, and actually, it’s enough to make your head spin if you think about it too much…
Here are three of my new favourite products to buck up the first month of 2014. They offer just the right combined levels of health and yum to keep you smiling and moving.
Alma de Cuba Coffee
I’m salivating just thinking about Alma de Cuba coffee. Strong, rich and fragrant are each an understatement in terms of how awesome their blends of fresh bean really are. If you’re a casual coffee drinker, Alma de Cuba is enough to turn you into an aficionado. If coffee already makes up an important part of your day, prepare to enjoy this coffee like you’ve never enjoyed a drink before. You need this coffee in your life. Order here.
Crostini by Crosta & Mollica
Crosta & Mollica is a brand taking the world by storm, and popping up in more and more shops across the nation. For good reason. Their exquisite flavours of Italy make the perfect snack, starter, treat or meal staple. Their Crostini are divine little crispy bread treats. Grab yourself some at Waitrose now.
Fairtrade, ethical and delicious, the latest range from Liberation Nuts is just as delectable and appealing as the work the company does. Their seasonal bags of mixed nuts and mixed nuts with dried fruit at the perfect tasty yet healthy snack to help you in your journey away from the beers, mince pies and chocolate feasts of Christmas. Om nom nom. Find out more about Liberation Foods here.
Hot for 2014: The Canary Islands
When British wintertime comes, island hopping somewhere warm and beautiful is the stuff office daydreams are made of. While consider up in thermal jumpers and patterned bed socks, I've been gazing off into the distance and thinking about the Canary Islands
, which have quickly jumped to the top of my travel 'to do' list for 2014.
As well as gorgeous sunny weather paired with 22 degree heat, the Canary Islands
are a pretty unique find. In December and January, their vibrant beaches become adorned with towering and sculptures, some of them measuring up to four metres in height. At Christmas time, majestic, enormous and impressive nativity scenes are displayed in the sand, most of them created by acclaimed sculptors from all over the world.
Personally, the intrigue of the sand sculptures is appeal enough for me to want to hop on a plane immediately, but there's lots more on offer too. There's all the usual ample travellers' offerings to take advantage of: amazing gastronomy, a unique island culture, and breathtaking views.
Setting the islands apart is a loyalty to the environment, interesting especially for ecotourism aficionados. Four national parks, world heritage zones and biosphere reserves combine to make this a formidable destination for those stunned by nature and preservation at their best.
Check out all this and much more in the dazzling video below, which showcases this paradise in visual form.
Christmas in the Canary Islands? What a dream that would be. Just close your eyes and imagine this for a moment: sipping cocktails in a beach, napping during the afternoon in the comfort of a hammock, and enjoying the culinary treats of the island. It would certainly make for a very different holiday season, but certainly a great one.