Get Your Bake On

With BAFTA Award winning TV show, The Great British Bake Off, still fresh in our minds, maybe now is the time to indulge your inner baker and treat yourself not only to a slice of cake, but a cookery course. That way you really can bake your cake and eat it too!

JOB1827W0133

Thanks to the likes of The Great British Bake Off, hit US shows like The Next Great Baker and Cupcake Wars, along with MasterChef, which has seen success across the globe, it seems that we are becoming more and more likely to want to experiment in the kitchen. It seems cookery schools have tapped into that and are offering great courses not only at home, but abroad too.

Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry

Perhaps you want to follow in Paul Hollywood’s footsteps and try your hand at cooking in Cyprus? Paul spent six years baking in Cyprus at two different resorts, following stints as Head Baker at several prestigious hotels in the UK. The Cookery School Cyprus offers many courses in different types of cuisine. You’ll enjoy learning to cook in beautiful surroundings, just inland from Limassol, where you’ll find a number of our properties just perfect for enjoying your foodie holiday in Cyprus.

Good Food Show

Sticking with Paul Hollywood, fans of this culinary ‘silver fox’ will be thrilled to learn of his new British Baking Live Tour, which is set to tour the UK in November and December this year.

Mary Berry fans needn’t worry, the doyenne of all things cake will herself be appearing at several events throughout the UK this year. You can find her at the BBC Good Food Cakes & Bakes Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, along with the likes of Eric Lanlard, Lisa Faulkner, Phil Vickery, Mich Turner, Paul Hollywood and stars of The Great British Bake Off past and present, between the 25th and 27th of October. You’ll also find her at the Good Food Show London on the 14th and 15th of November and the Good Food Show Birmingham on the 28th and 29th of November. We do of course have plenty of options in terms of your accommodation while you enjoy a show or two featuring your favourite celebrity chefs.

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymalloe Cookery School

If you’re looking for the ultimate cookery school. Look no further than Ballymaloe in County Cork, Ireland. Situated on a beautiful 100 acre farm and teaching students from all over the word since 1983, under the watchful eye of the famous Irish chef Darina Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell, who himself has twice been voted Ireland’s Chef of the Year, it is a culinary institution. Joined by celebrity chef Rachel Allen, who once attended Ballymaloe Cookery School herself, they make a formidable team.

The choice of courses at Ballymaloe sets it apart from other cookery schools. You can take up a 12 week certified course, dabble in the odd half day course, or spend a few days to a week learning about the subject of your choice. Learn how to create the perfect tea and cake, Italian dishes like pizza, calzone and panzerotti, Christmas dishes, bread making, butchery, sherry and tapas, foraging, how to start your own tea shop or maybe even how to start your own food blog. The list is endless.

Your Own Private Foodie Retreat

16130-1800290627-pad_738_527_Castello Gubbio - Umbria - Italy (23)_01Perhaps you’d prefer a foodie break where you can enjoy learning to cook in the comfort of your own holiday rental property. Look no further than Castello Gubbio in Umbria in Italy. It’s the perfect place to relax with friends and family while you enjoy the sumptuous surroundings and get some great one on one tuition in the kitchen. You could perhaps even host a banquet in your very own medieval banqueting hall or hang up your apron for the evening and enjoy the culinary delights of your very own private chef.

Of course the beautiful Castello Gubbio isn’t the only one of our extensive list of properties at which you can learn to hone your cookery skills. If you would like further information on these properties, or you would like information on cookery schools in the area you wish to stay, don’t hesitate to get in touch via customer services or social media.

 

3 ´off the beaten track´ ski resorts in Europe

Some of the biggest, brashest and glitziest ski resorts in Europe, include St. Moritz, Switzerland, Cortina, Italy and St. Anton, Austria, which all offer first class skiing and excellent facilities.

However, if you´re looking for more ´off the beaten track´ places, where it is more about the skiing than ´being seen´, and where beautiful natural landscapes are blanketed with untracked snow which lasts for days, we have chosen our three favourite resorts.

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt Situated in the German- speaking part of Valais in Switzerland, the village of Zermatt nestles in a deep valley surrounded by steep mountains, including the Matterhorn.

No traffic is allowed in Zermatt, and the first thing to strike you will be the silence. Sleigh-pulling horses wait for passengers and the cobbled streets wind around the village, transporting visitors back in time.

All journeys to Zermatt are via train, and from there, on foot or on skis. This is a perfect ski resort if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the busier resorts and enjoy the fresh Alpine air which first attracted early visitors to Zermatt.

We have a wide choice of winter ski accommodation in Zermatt to suit all tastes and budgets, including villas, apartments and chalets.

The first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 ended disastrously when, having reached the summit, four of the party, led by Edward Whymper fell to their deaths on the descent.

The beauty of the setting backed by high peaks, including the Matterhorn at 4,478 metres is still unsurpassed.

Laid back and welcoming, Zermatt offers a wealth of cosy restaurants, bars and night clubs to suit all tastes and budgets.

The winter ski season runs from November-May (the longest season in Europe) and Zermatt is home to nine of the ten highest mountains in Europe.

The nearest airport to Zermatt is Sion, which is 82km away. The airport has direct flights from Zurich and other major destinations.

St. Michael Im Lungau, Austria

 St Michael Im LungauSt. Michael Im Lungau, Austria is the perfect destination for a wide choice of winter sports, including cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ice-skating.

Salzburg Airport is 1 hour and ten minutes away by car, and the convenient location coupled with stunning surrounding landscapes make St.Michael an ideal location for thrill-seekers.

The town offers a choice of wellness centres, where visitors can go to relax body, mind and soul.

Check out a wide choice of winter accommodation, including chalets and apartments for rent in St. Michael Im Lungau, ideal for families, couples and groups of friends.

Situated between the Aineck ski regions of Grosseck/Speiereck, Katschberg and Obertauern, St.Michael also offers a choice of après-ski activities, including romantic sleigh rides and a choice of excellent eateries.

If you are lucky enough to be visiting at Christmas, the Advent markets offer elegant stalls, selling a choice of local produce and handicrafts.

This year´s markets will be held in the centre of St. Michael in December, 2014 from 5-7, 13-14 and 20-21.

Eisacktal, Italy

 Italy, South Tyrol, 2013-538The Eisack Valley is a district in South Tyrol, Italy which comprises the middle part of the valley from Franzensfeste in the north to Waidbruck in the south.

The ski areas in Eisacktal offer modern lifts, ideal conditions for skiers and snowboarders and a stunning location.

A local ski bus will take you to different resorts within a 30 minute drive, and if you purchase an Eisacktal ski pass, you can enjoy unlimited skiing on the slopes of all three resorts.

With a wide choice of ski chalets, apartments and houses to rent in Eisacktal, we offer winter holiday accommodation to suit all budgets.

Visit Groden/Gardena Sella Ronda, Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi, Plose or the Kronplatz/Plan de Corones for the ultimate winter sports experience in stunning surroundings.

The Villnoess Valley/Val di Funes, is the perfect holiday spot for cross-country skiers, hikers and families with small children. The ski area has super facilities, offers a wide range of activities and is also quite compact, so easy to get around.

The nearby Mount Plose is also worth a visit. A snow park and cross-country ski run is situated near the Valley Station in St. Andra, and both offer stunning views of the Dolomites.

Gitschberg-Jochtal is situated at the beginning of the Pustertal Valley. This resort is perfect for families and over 43km of slopes are wide and easy to navigate. There is also a kid´s park for the little ones and a ski school. Both Gitschberg and Jochtal are quiet and never over-crowded.

Europe´s Top 4 Winter Sun Destinations

The words ´winter sun´ may evoke images of sun-kissed Caribbean beaches, glitzy Dubai swimming pools and Egypt´s famous Red Sea Riviera, but what about the resorts closer to home?

Four of Europe´s top winter sun resorts are within a 4hr 30 minute flight time of London, and are easily accessible from all major airports.

Malaga, Spain

View of Malaga at twilightMalaga boasts long, sandy beaches, cultural monuments and superb restaurants and shopping outlets, all within a two hour flight of London.

Once a fishing village, Malaga has evolved into the self-proclaimed ´Capital of the Costa del Sol´, and is an elegant city with a thriving port area.

Calle Larios is the main pedestrianized shopping street through the centre of town, and is lined with quirky pavement cafés, boutiques, ice- cream shops and tapas bars.

The streets leading off Calle Larios will take you through the impressive old town to the Cathedral and the Alcazaba, a palatial fortification which was built by the Hammudid dynasty in the early 11th century.

We offer a vast range of rental apartments, villas, townhouses and fincas in Malaga to suit all tastes and budgets.

Malaga´s beaches are some of the best in southern Spain, and with average winter temperatures of between 17ºC-22ºC between October and February, and over 320 average days of sunshine a year, this vibrant city attracts visitors from all over the world.

Winter sports fans should take a trip to the Sierra Nevada, Granada, just a 90 minute drive from Malaga, for excellent ski runs and a range of holiday accommodation.

Funchal, Madeira

 iStock_000020099860_MediumOne of the prettiest islands in Europe, Madeira offers visitors stunning landscapes, cultural attractions and a sunny climate.

If you are lucky enough to be visiting over the new-year period, amazingly Funchal, the capital stages the world´s biggest and most spectacular fireworks display.

The island of Madeira belongs to Portugal, which is over 1,000 miles away and lies closer to Africa than Europe. Average winter temperatures between October and February are 20ºC.

Funchal holiday accommodation rentals include apartments, villas and townhouses.

You will find plenty to explore in the city centre of Funchal. Take the cable car up Monte which offers stunning views over the white houses and terracotta roofs which dot the surrounding hillsides. The themed flower gardens at the top are worth the trip alone.

No trip to Funchal is complete without a ride on one of the toboggans which whizz down the hill on wooden sliders. These were originally used in the 19th century to transport goods down the steep slopes. With the addition of a wicker seat, the toboggans became one of the town´s most famous tourist attractions.

Two ´carreiros´ steer you down the 2km route using their boots as brakes!

Famous for its colourful flowers and plants, Funchal is a beautiful location on one of Europe´s most idyllic islands, perfect for winter sunshine and a range of activities.

The flight time from London to Funchal is 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Lanzarote, the Canary Islands

 Cactus garden, LanzaroteLanzarote offers plenty of sunshine throughout the winter months, and average temperatures from November to April average around 22ºC.

The flight time from London to Lanzarote is around 4 hours and 10 minutes.

A wide choice of holiday rentals, including apartments, villas and studios in Lanzarote are available on uGuest.

Mild winter temperatures allow visitors to explore the long beaches on the island, perfect for relaxing and swimming, while avoiding the summer crowds.

Surfing, diving and boat trips to Fuerteventura are also popular activities in Lanzarote.

Timanfaya National Park offers volcanic, rocky landscapes which were left behind after the Montañas del Fuego, a group of over 100 volcanoes exploded in the 1730´s. It is also the number one attraction in Lanzarote.

If you want to explore the more tranquil parts of the island, hire a car and visit the small coastal villages or use the rural walking trails which will lead you through beautiful open countryside.

Cyprus

Sea caves near Cape Greko. Mediterranean SeaWith average winter temperatures of 21ºC, Cyprus is a perfect escape from the chilly climes of northern Europe.

Cyprus, out of the main summer season, is uncrowded and offers plenty of sunshine. From March the island´s flowers start to bloom and the sightseeing opportunities are endless.

Cyprus holiday rentals provide perfect accommodation for families, couples and groups of friends.

The flight time between London and Cyprus is 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Nature lovers are attracted to Cyprus in winter by its lush, green landscapes. Take a trip to the Troodos National Forest Park, the largest park of its kind on the island with over 9,000 hectares of plants, colourful flowers and fauna.

The city of Limassol offers a wide choice of cultural attractions, including the medieval Lemesos Castle, built in the 14th century.

Paphos is famous for its stunning beaches, and the town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You may not normally associate Cyprus with winter sports, but ski facilities are open from January to March in the Troodos Mountains. Mount Olympus, which is over 2,000 metres high is a favourite destination and offers 4 ski lifts and slopes to suit all abilities.

The Top 3 Places to Spend Christmas in the UK

With 75 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes left until Christmas (not that I am counting), many of us will be looking for cottages and apartments in the UK to rent while visiting friends and family for the festive season.

October is traditionally the busiest time of year for Christmas holiday bookings.

Cottage rentals and vacation rentals over the Christmas period are popular with families who are visiting relatives a long way from home, and also with city-dwellers who want to ´get away from it all´ and celebrate the holiday in the countryside.

Christmas Day, 2014 conveniently falls on a Thursday this year, so many of us will have at least a four day break, including Boxing Day and the weekend, without having to book any additional days off.

Three of the most popular destinations for renting a cottage or holiday let in the UK over the Christmas and New Year period include:

Edinburgh, Scotland

New Years fireworksFrom one bed holiday apartments to 30 bed castles, Edinburgh, Scotland offers a wide choice of accommodation to suit families and groups of friends over Christmas and New Year.

No trip to Scotland over the festive period is complete without celebrating Hogmanay in style, and the colourful celebrations in Edinburgh are among the best in the world.

The Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party is the only festival to appear in the ´Discovery Channel – Top 25 World Travel Experiences´, and includes live bands and DJ´s who fill the streets, framed by the backdrop of the stunning Edinburgh Castle.

Other events being staged as part of the Street Party include the Torchlight Procession, the Keilidh, which brings the best Scottish folk music to the city and the Concert in the Gardens, a spectacular fireworks and music extravaganza. Lily Allen is the headline act at the 2014 event.

We have a vast range of holiday cottages, self-catering houses and apartments in Scotland for rent to suit all tastes and budgets.

Cornwall, England

Cornwall Xmas If you want to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in some of England´s finest landscapes over the Christmas period, Cornwall offers a vast range of accommodation, including cottages, apartments and penthouses.

Christmas festivals, fayres and markets are held in towns throughout Cornwall, including St. Ives, Truro and Penzance, and this is a perfect destination for families who want to enjoy Christmas in style without the razzmatazz of full-on city celebrations.

We offer a wide choice of holiday cottages, apartments, studios and penthouses for rent in Cornwall at Christmas and throughout the year.

Go to one of the many Christmas Carol Services at churches throughout Cornwall, join in a Christmas Day or Boxing Day Swim in the Cornish Sea (if you dare) at Bude or Charlestown, or Join in one of the Christmas theme events such as the Dickensian Weekend at Looe.

Visit one of the many Christmas food markets selling delicious local produce for some special treats or a craft market for gifts with a difference such as The Castle Christmas Food Fayre in Bude.

Cornwall´s beaches are among the most beautiful in the UK and you can enjoy some stunning winter walks along the unspoilt stretches of sand which hug the coastline. Watch the winter waves crashing in from a sea-view restaurant or pub, and you will understand just why Cornwall attracts so many holidaymakers each year.

London, England

London XmasIf you want to let your hair down, party ´til dawn and enjoy some of the world´s most spectacular Christmas and New Year events and attractions, London is hard to beat.

Glide around one of the outdoor ice rinks at Exchange Square, Canary Wharf or Hampton Court Palace.  Most of the outdoor rinks include bars, cafés and outdoor terraces where you can enjoy the action. The ice rinks open from November to February.

No family trip to London at Christmas is complete without a trip to the pantomime. This year check out Jack and the Beanstalk at the Park Theatre, north London, Sleeping Beauty at the Churchill Theatre, south London, Mother Goose at the Hackney Empire, east London or Dick Wittington and His Cat at the Lyric Hammersmith.

A wide choice of London apartment rentals, houses, flats and penthouses are available throughout the Christmas period.

Christmas as Kew is also worth a visit with the family. Attractions include a Victorian Carousel, Santa´s Grotto a Christmas Market and live festive music.

The Dusty Fingers German Winter Wunderland also comes highly recommended. The market is held in the Round Chapel, Clapton and includes arts and crafts, home wares, festive films, vintage stalls and a wide choice of German food. Sample the bratwurst, waffles and cakes which bring a taste of Deutschland to east London.

London boasts some of the finest eateries in the world. Whether you are planning a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings or a more international feast, you are sure to find something to suit your tastes and budget. From Michelin star fine dining to gastro pubs and quirky cafés to pub grub, London offers hundreds of options for Christmas Day.

If you are lucky enough to be in London for New Year´s Eve, enjoy one of the capital´s biggest party nights.

The city comes alive with festivities and the spectacular firework display at midnight rivals that of every major city in the world.

The 2014 event is ticketed to ensure the safety and success of the London New Year´s Eve Celebrations.

The New Year fun in London does not stop there. The New Year´s Day Parade features more than 10,000 performers, including acrobats, musicians and dancers who gather in the centre of the city in a colourful celebration.

Seville Makes Way for the Dornish

Fans of hit TV series Game of Thrones around the world are waiting with bated breath for Season 5 to air in early 2015. However, thanks to some of the amazing locations they have chosen to use across the globe, we can get a sneak peek into the world of the Seven Kingdoms before it premieres.

For a reminder of what happened in Season 4, take a look at this short clip:

 

Currently filming in Northern Ireland, home to Winterfell, which will see a revival this year. Riverrun and the King’s Road, among others, are also filmed here. Scenes of King’s Landing and Meereen are being filmed in Croatia, with the cast and crew moving to Spain in mid October, where they will be filming in both Seville and Osuna, transforming it into the Kingdom of Dorne.

 photo gameofthrones_zps2869b69c.jpg

For those not familiar with Dorne, it is the southernmost part of the continent of Westeros, with a harsh desert climate and a people with a strong sense of national identity.  Much like Spain in medieval times, it was conquered and the region united by the powerful Queen Nymeria, who, thanks to her marriage alliance with Lord Mors Martell of Sunspear, was able to take control of the entire region and form what is now known as Dorne.

Up until now, we have only met the character Prince Oberyn of House Martell and his paramour Ellaria Sand, who came to the Red Keep to celebrate the wedding of King Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. We learn of Oberyn’s hatred of the Lanisters, following the death of his beloved sister and her children, at the hands of Sir Gregor Clegane one of Tywin Lanister’s bannermen. Of course Prince Oberyn seeks revenge on Sir Gregor and uses Tyrion Lanister’s trial by combat to attempt to kill him. Unfortunately for Prince Oberyn, just when it looks like he has won the battle, Sir Gregor shows why he is such a feared opponent and crushes Oberyn, leaving Ellaria screaming in despair.

Of course Prince Oberyn isn’t the only member of House Martell, his older brother Doran, rules Dorne, Marcella Lanister is betrothed to Prince Doran’s son and Oberyn himself had eight acknowledged illegitimate daughters, known as the Sand Snakes. Needless to say, this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this exotic, lusty and vengeful family. But how are they and the Kingdom of Dorne linked to Spain?

Two sets have been chosen in the province of Seville. Osuna, where the imposing bullring is being used for what is believed to be a fight scene (some preparations and test shots have already occurred here) and the stunning Alcázar of Seville, which is to be transformed into the Water Gardens of Dorne, the pleasure palace of House Martell.

Osuna

 photo osuna_zps4fe0f290.jpgA small town, surrounded by countryside and overlooked by a hill, upon which the lavish Colegiata de Santa Maria de la Asuncio and the simple yet imposing University sit (both you can imagine fitting in quite nicely in Westeros), Osuna is itself shrouded in history. With links to Spain’s Moorish past, the Romans and with lots of medieval buildings, including the University with its plain sandstone exterior and tiled blue and white turrets and the caves, famed for their prehistoric carvings. Osuna is an interesting place to visit in its own right.

It’s believed both the Colegiata and the University will be used in filming, along with the bullring, which is said to be bringing ‘Daznak’s Pit’ to life. Something which will feature in Daenarys Targaryen’s future storyline.

Alcázar of Seville

 photo alcazardesevilla_zpse420759e.jpgThe Alcázar is everything you could image the Water Gardens of Dorne to be and more. One of the oldest palaces in Europe to still be in use to this day, it is a feast for the senses. With the scent of orange blossoms gently floating on the breeze, the trickling of the fountains, the cool of the mosaic tiles. The intricate architecture and the sheer majesty of the place, which is clear everywhere you look, it is simply breathtaking.

With much of the filming taking place in the gardens, where Dornish tradition has it that both high and low born children are free to frolic in the fountains, it is the perfect place for a stolen moment beneath the palms and offers plenty of secluded nooks in which to plot revenge against the Lanisters. Inside the palace, the stone work and mosaics are quite simply amazing and you can easily imagine Prince Doran receiving visitors in the beautifully ornate Salon de Embajadores or a steamy scene being shot in the Banos de Dona Maria de Padilla.

Game of Thrones aside, the Alcázar is without a doubt a must see on your visit to Seville and is one of the most beautiful palaces you will ever have the privilege to see.

Whether you’re on the trail of the Game of Thrones, or you just want to see what the glorious city of Seville has to offer, we have the perfect selection of accommodation to suit you, both within the city itself and in the surrounding area.  So book your rental property to use as a base to explore this magnificent and enchanting city and get ready to follow in the footsteps of not only the Dornish, but the greatest Kings and Queens of Spain.

Great Excursions and Day Trips from Split

Split is Croatia´s second largest city and is a great place to base yourself if you want to explore the local islands and landmarks.

The city enjoys a unique setting with the clear blue waters of the Adriatic lapping its shores with a backdrop of coastal mountains. Split offers a vibrant atmosphere with cafés, bars, shops and restaurants jostling for position in the Old Town.

Plitvice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Diocletian´s Palace is one of the most impressive Roman monuments of all time, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make the most of your trip to Split and check out the following great excursions and day trips:

Plitvice Lakes Tour

Take a trip to the Plitvice Lakes National Park which is one of the oldest parks in Europe, and the largest in Croatia.

The Park was granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1979 for its outstanding beauty, and is home to the Great Waterfall, which is 78m high, ancient woodlands and natural phenomena.

Krka National Park

Krka National Park

Krka National Park & Sibenik

A tour of Sibenik and the Krka Waterfalls, will take you to one of Croatia´s most famous monuments and one of its most beautiful national parks.

Sibenik Cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Krka Waterfalls are breath-taking.

Skradinski buk is one of the most stunning parts of the Krka National Park, and is a massive, clear, natural pool with high waterfalls at one end and cascades at the other.  It is the lowest of the three sets of waterfalls formed along the Krka river. There are 17 waterfalls in total. Due to the play of light on the whirlpools, Skradinski buk is considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Europe.

Hvar Island

Hvar Island

Hvar and Pakleni Islands

Famous for its azure waters and beautiful bays and coves, Hvar Island boasts stunning lavender fields, vineyards, olive groves and a wealth of history and culture.

Take time to visit the Fortica fortress above the old city which was built in the 16th century and the Franciscan monastery, originally built as a retreat for sailors in the 15th century.

The Pakleni Islands are just a few minute´s sail from Hvar, and is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Croatia´s cities.

Pakleni otoci is Hvar´s most famous resort. Soak up the sun on the long, sandy beach surrounded by woodlands and exotic flora and fauna.

Medjugorje

Medjugorje

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Make the most of your stay in Split with a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The old town of Mostar, under Ottoman rule in the 16th century is famous for its Old Bridge, which was completed in 1566 and was one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time.

The walled town of Pocitel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is well worth seeing on the way to Medjugorje. One of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Europe, Medjugorje attracts thousands of people who are looking for spiritual renewal. The Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to children here for the first time in 1981.

If you are planning to visit Croatia, check out our fantastic choice of accommodation in Split.

All the Fun of the Fair in Fuengirola

Feria Fuengy

One of the most fun-packed events on Spain´s Costa del Sol takes place from October 6-12 when the Fuengirola Feria comes to town.

During feria week, the town is ablaze with colour, music, processions, song and dance when hundreds of visitors and locals take to the streets.

This lively festival is held in honour of Our Lady, the Virgin of El Rosario, Patron Saint of Fuengirola. Town centre bars are festooned in bunting and play lively Sevillanas music to entertain the crowds.

The fair kicks off with a huge firework display on October 6, and live entertainment can be found on almost every street corner.

During the first full day of the celebrations, the best place to be is Church Square (or Plaza de Constitución) in the centre of town, which comes alive with flamenco dancers, huge pans of paella and ice cold ´fino´ sherry.

Another highlight is the horse procession through the streets with proud horsemen and women wearing colourful costumes and local dress.

The main fairground is situated between Fuengirola and Los Boliches, and is lit up at night by a huge archway leading to the dodgems, the roundabouts, the big wheel and the live entertainment tents (casetas).

Most visitors dance the ´Sevillanas´ which is a much less formal type of flamenco to be enjoyed by all. Not all of the casetas are open to the public, but the fairground boasts a wide range of bars where you can enjoy typical Andalusian dishes, sample local wines and dance the night away.

Fuengirola Feria takes place through the whole town, and good transport links to the main fairground are available. Local trains connect Fuengirola with Benalmadena, Torremolinos, Malaga and all stops in between, and there is regular direct bus between Marbella and Fuengirola.

Not for the fainthearted, the late night parties in the fairground continue until the small hours, and as noise levels increase, visitors are encouraged to drink and dance until dawn.

Fuengirola Feria allows the locals to embrace and celebrate their culture while welcoming visitors from all over the world.  Six days of great Spanish music and dancing, traditional Andalusian food, fairground rides and plenty of chilled fino provide fun for all the family.

If you would like to experience Fuengirola during Feria week, check out our Costa del Sol uGuest Rentals, including apartments, villas, penthouses and fincas.

Kissimmee – Florida´s Holiday Playground

nnnn

Known as Florida´s holiday playground, Kissimmee offers a wide choice of attractions and activities, all within a 30 minute drive of Walt Disney World.

Whether you want to bask on the beach, relax at a luxury spa, enjoy a round of golf or go hot air ballooning, Kissimmee has it all.

Why Go?

Kissimmee enjoys a great location in the heart of Florida, and boasts a sunny, mild climate all year round and a wealth of outdoor activities to choose from.

Within easy reach of Walt Disney´s magic kingdom, but far enough away to avoid the crowds, Kissimmee attracts visitors from all over the world.

Kissimmee is just a 30 minute drive from Orlando International Airport, and an excellent base for exploring Florida.

Eating out is affordable, and a wide range of restaurants, bars, diners and pubs offer everything from fast food to fine dining.

What to See?

Book an airboat swamp tour and experience the thrills and spills of skimming across the water, just feet away from the alligators.

Step back in time and see how Florida was before mass development and see endangered species en route, including whooping crane and snail kite. Bald eagles and alligators are likely to raise their ugly heads, and an informative guide will give you an ongoing commentary of local wildlife and history.

The brick streets of Old Town of Kissimmee hosts weekly classic car cruises on a Saturday night, with oldies bands taking to the stage for a trip down memory lane. A great event for all the family, go-karts, dodgems and themed restaurants line the streets.

Just under one hour´s drive from Kissimmee and highly recommended is the Kennedy Space Centre.

From the moment you approach the visitor complex you’ll see the giant structures that have carried so many people into space.

Get up close and personal with Space Shuttle Atlantis which flew into space 33 times in a stunning display that captures the imagination of every visitor. This amazing complex is packed with experiences that range from astronaut encounters to larger-than-life IMAX films, live shows to hands-on activities and behind-the-scenes tours.

Thailand – the Land of Smiles

Friendly and welcoming, historic and vibrant, Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles.

Magical beaches, jungle-topped islands and turquoise waters, this far-eastern piece of paradise continues to attract visitors from far and wide.

Whether you are looking to find yourself, or lose yourself, Thailand is the perfect tropical escape. A country of contradictions, this Buddhist nation is home to stunning temples, noisy and colourful festivals and tranquil meditation retreats in the countryside.

We take a look at the more unusual attractions and events in Thailand:

village on stilts.jpgto go

Koh Panyee

Take a 20 minute long-tail boat trip from Phang Nga Bay, and discover the intriguing village on stilts, Koh Panyee.

This magical fishing village seems to be floating in the bay, and still retains its original traditions and charms. Every one of the 1,500 people who inhabit the island are descendants of Toh Baboo and his friends who settled here over 200 years ago.

After leaving Indonesia by boat, Toh Baboo and two other families sought a new place to live where there were lots of fish. On discovering the island, the families raised a flag on the highest land as a signal to the others, who joined them soon afterwards.

Koh Panyee literally translates as the ´Island of the Flag.´

Famously, a floating football pitch was erected on Koh Panyee, born from a dream of the island’s children who had little land to play on. The island´s youth football team is now one of the strongest in Thailand.

Vegetarian

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Due to be held from 23 September to 3 October, 2014 the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a lively, colourful event which is held annually.

The festival celebrates the belief of the Chinese community that eating only vegetables in the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will ensure good health and peace of mind.

A group of Chinese entertainers once fell ill with Malaria while travelling in Thailand, and were completely cured by sticking to a vegetarian diet and praying to the Nine Emperor Gods.

Not for the faint hearted, fire walking, body piercing and self-mutilation is often part of the festival. Some participants puncture their cheeks with knives and skewers, in order for the Chinese Gods to possess and protect them for the duration of the festival.

water to go

Songkran Festival

If you are planning a trip to Thailand in April, make sure you to get there in time for the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran.

Also known as the ´Water Festival´ Songkran is a perfect excuse to throw water at everything that moves in the street. Saucepans, buckets and water guns are used in this orgy of water throwing, which originates from the times when local farmers had to wait for rain to plant their rice.

Chaotic but fun, revellers usually make the police their number one target, often mixing the ice cold water with talcum powder. The festival takes place in most parts of Thailand but the wildest event is held through the streets of Phuket.

YUK to go

Dining out on Insects

One of the most popular snacks in Thailand is a crispy plate of fried insects.

Originally eaten in the north of Thailand, where crops were hard to grow and locals had to be creative, the insects were eaten as a valuable source of protein, and are now eaten on every street corner.

Popular insect snacks include silk worms, spiders, grasshoppers and crickets, usually sold by street vendors and are said to be delicious with a squirt of soy sauce!

If insects are not your ´thing´ check out the Bangkok noodle shacks, the seafood stalls in Phuket or the market stalls selling a vast choice of exotic tropical fruits.

lottery numbers.jpg correcto

A Flutter on the Thai Lottery

 After a crackdown on gambling, the national lottery is one of the few ways to have a flutter during your holiday in Thailand.

Ask Thais how they decide which numbers to buy and things can get bizarre. Some go to church and ask their vicar to choose their numbers, or pray to the Gods for inspiration.

Fortune tellers are also asked to predict the winning numbers, and monk´s temples are visited by gamblers looking for some divine intervention.

For more ideas about where to go in Thailand, check out the Rough Guide´s article.

Hvar Island – Croatia´s Jewel in the Crown

 

Hvar Island

Hvar Island

Croatia´s islands attract visitors from all over the world, and Hvar without doubt one of the most beautiful.

The island was populated as far back as 3500BC since the time of Ancient Greece, and is unusual for having a fertile coastal plain and fresh water springs.

Hvar lies between the islands of Brac, Vis and Korcula and offers stunning scenery and mild year-round temperatures with plenty of sunshine.

Why Go?

Hvar Town, the island´s busiest destination is a swish, elegant holiday resort with fantastic beaches, Gothic palaces and traffic-free streets.

The island appeals to the sailing-set, and you will find a choice of superb restaurants, bars, cafés and shops around Hvar town, plus wonderful architecture, history and culture.

Picturesque vineyards, lavender fields and olive groves surround the town. A wide range of excursions are available by boat from the yacht harbour.

What to Do?

To escape the tourist crowds, why not explore the Paklinski Islands by kayak? There will be a surprise waiting around every corner, and you will visit coves and bays which are only accessible from the water.

If you are not feeling quite so energetic, hire a boat with a skipper, stop off for a swim and enjoy lunch on the high seas.

If you enjoy seafood, you will be in heaven in Hvar.  Fish restaurants in the centre of town can be expensive, but walk just behind the main harbour area to find some real hidden gems. Steaming bowls of mussels, lobster linguini, and huge platters of mixed fried fish are accompanied by delicious local wines, for a fraction of the price you will pay in the harbour-side restaurants.

Before dinner, why not take a sunset stroll around the 700 year old stone town of Hvar, trek to the old fort, and pick up some lavender souvenirs to take home.