Seafood in Madeira: September 2017

This month Steve and I had a wonderful holiday on the spectacularly beautiful island of Madeira. We were based in an apartment in a central location directly overlooking the harbour in the capital city of Funchal where the weather was always hot and sunny. It was the first time we had visited the island so we hired a Fiat 500 convertible to explore places of interest, although we found that it was easy to get everywhere by bus.

We enjoyed fresh seafood dishes every day at different restaurants at various locations on the island which varied widely in price and quality. To accompany every meal we enjoyed the traditional signature eat Bolo de Caco (garlic bread)

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One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
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Sardines in Funchal
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Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
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Skewered Garoupa fish and Limpets in Praia de Machico. Grilled Limpets are very much in favour with the locals as a starter

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Two views of Praia de Machico. One of the most popular holiday resorts in Madeira, Machico has a wide partially sandy beach, with calm, warm waters that are perfect for swimming. Swaying palms and rugged hills in the distance make for a picturesque backdrop. The busy promenade extending around the beach is a great place for people-watching too! 
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Prawns and squid in Funchal
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A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
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Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)IMG_20170905_1524387.jpg
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The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
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Trout in Porto Moniz

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Two views of Porto Moniz. The natural bathing pools surrounded by bizarre lava rocks and filled by the tide with crystal clear water are undoubtedly the main attraction of this most Northwestern point of the island.

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The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
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The view overlooking the picturesque harbour at Câmara de Lobos

Câmara de Lobos is a traditional fishing village on the south-central coast of Madeira, which was beautifully decorated giving it a festive atmosphere. We found it to be one of the most attractive places on the island and well worth a visit.

Eating out in Madeira is fairly expensive and we paid 25 Euros a head on average for a two-course main meal with drinks.  I am more than happy to recommend the following places in Funchal for al fresco dining with good food and service which were great value as well.

The Marina Terrace Restaurant for fresh fish and great seafood, good service and value with excellent views over the harbour.

Restaurante Marina Terrace: MARINA DO FUNCHAL, Funchal 9000-055, Madeira, Portugal

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Taberna Popular (Bar) for a taste of Funchal nightlife with cheap drinks, courteous service and free popcorn!
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House Jazz for great live music, a warm welcome and home-cooked Portuguese cuisine

House Jazz Restaurante:  Rua dos Aranhas 16, Funchal 9000-044, Madeira, Portugal

 

Restaurant Armazém do Sal for fine dining inspired by traditional Portuguese cuisine located in a 200-year-old building that once served as a salt warehouse.

Restaurante Armazém do Sal: Rua dos Alfândega 135, Funchal 9000-051, Madeira, Portugal

The Golden Gate Grand Cafe is the height of opulence in style with an extensive menu of Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Expensive but worth it for the location and silver service.

Golden Gate Grand Cafe: Avenida Zarco 2A, Funchal 9000-060, Madeira, Portugal

 

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The Castle and Espigueiros of Lindosa, Northern Portugal : May 2017

On a recent holiday in Northern Portugal, Steve and I spent a day touring the National Park of Peneda Gerês. We were particularly keen to see the famous centuries-old corn cribs (espigueiros) at Lindoso village, which is located 25 km from Ponte da Barca.

The medieval Castle of Lindoso dates back to the 13th century and stands on a small rocky outcrop beside the village. The espigueiros and the castle are set in beautiful scenery and in addition to the fresh mountain air, there is a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. It was a highlight of our holiday and a memorable experience.

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The Castle of Lindoso and the espigueiros are located in the National Park of Peneda Gerês

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The view of the espigueiros and the village from the castle ramparts. It’s a surreal and incongruous mix of the historic espigueiros and modern housing at Lindoso. IMG_0548 (2)

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Skillfully sculptured and meticulously constructed, these amazing old stone espigueiros were used to store corn cobs and designed to protect the maize from rodents and rain. At Lindoso there is a threshing-ground composed of 50 granaries dating back to the 18-19th centuries. They are located near the castle and constitute a unique and beautiful agglomerate. Made entirely of granite, slatted for ventilation and topped by a protective cross each one is supported by mushroom-shaped stilts standing on rock. IMG_0539 (2) (2).JPGIMG_0541 (1).JPGIMG_0544The frontier village of Lindoso is the location of one of Portugal’s best-preserved collections of granaries or espigueiros800px-LindosoCastle2

Lindoso Castle is a defence monument built in the 13th century during the Restoration Wars. Inside the walls of the fortress, the garrison houses, the chapel, and the oven are in ruins. The drawbridge was intact and looked to have been recently restored. There were outstanding views from the sentry posts on all sides of the ramparts.

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Lindoso village with its castle and unique and beautiful espigueiros set in spectacular scenery are well worth a visit if you are travelling in Northern Portugal.

Snapshots of Northern Portugal: May 2017

Following my last blog post about our recent holiday in Northern Portugal, I just had to share a further selection of photos with you as it’s such a picturesque and colourful place.

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A typical beach scene  – Costa Verde, Portugal

The beautiful coastline town of Praia da Ancora nestled just south of the Portuguese/Spanish border was a lovely place to visit.

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The pretty harbour at Praia da Ancora
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I loved the decorative tiles on these harbour front houses in Ancora
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Flower decoration found on the exterior of a butcher’s shop in Ancora

Porto is a coastal city in north-west Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. I found this historic hillside city to be charmingly dilapidated and stunningly picturesque. One of the oldest cities in Europe, its a maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets and we visited the medieval Ribeira district which was full of interesting spectacle, so understandably it’s very popular with tourists.

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The majestic Douro River in Porto
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Port wine barges at Porto
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Colourful houses in Porto
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A fascinating shop totally devoted to sardines in Porto!
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A beautiful shop entrance in Porto
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Some typical old dwellings in Porto, a few were derelict but most were lived in – note the steep steps!

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Porto’s bustling riverside area in Ribeira has lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants and the river cruises are very popular.IMG_20170517_1530150 (1)

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A striking piece of street art seen in Porto

We travelled to Porto by train and even the railway station was a thing of grandeur!

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Our local railway station in Caminha was a typical example and beautifully maintained
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I liked the look of these apartments in the historic centre of Viana do Castelo
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We enjoyed wandering around Viana do Castelo and the ornate doors and coloured tiles on these typical townhouses were most attractive

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This shopping street in Viana do Castelo hung with gaudy umbrellas made a terrific visual impact and certainly drew customers in!

Viana do Castelo is a lively resort and the main coastal town in the Northern Minho region, and a great place for souvenir shopping and sight-seeing.

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Another fabulous example of the local architecture. We spotted this place, – now a hotel (Villa Dalina) on the road to Valenca do Minho at Seixas.

Eight days wasn’t enough time to sample all the delights of Northern Portugal so we would love to return sometime to explore more places.

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The beach at Moledo do Minho

Tastes and vistas – Northern Portugal discovered: May 2017

It’s been a while now since my last blog post (Easter) and I’ve been waiting for something really special to share with you. Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in Costa Verde, Northern Portugal and I found plenty to write about. It was our first visit and we explored an area resplendent with colour, sunshine, seafood, striking architecture, and much more. We stayed at Casa da Galé – a villa in the picturesque coastal village of Moledo do Minho. 1161_6 (2)We were within walking distance of one of the area’s most scenic sandy beaches. It was very quiet being low season, and although the weather was good the unspoilt beach was often deserted.

Our holiday home Casa da Galé was a charming stone cottage with a pool, which was set on several levels amidst spacious grounds of lawns and fruit trees.

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Moledo do Minho is a five-kilometre beach located at the mouth of the River Minho, which forms the north frontier between Portugal and Spain. Popular with surfers and kite-flyers!

We visited some picturesque cities like magnificent Porto with its stunning architecture and enjoyed several delicious meals in restaurants where locally caught seafood was always on the menu. We found eating out to be generally inexpensive and soft drinks were usually priced at one euro. Beer was also cheap and we drank copious amounts of Super Bock Portuguese lager!

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We thought Porto was absolutely stunning!

Just two of the lovely restaurants where we enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine. We found it a challenge at most places to understand exactly what we were ordering because we didn’t speak the language, but although the food and drink were sometimes not as expected it was always delicious!

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It would be a travesty not to mention Portuguese custard tarts, which are my favourite sweet treat. In fact, I made sure that I ate at least one every day!

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The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.

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We also enjoyed sampling the local Douro wines and Port!

We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car, and I’ll have to put together another blog post of Steve’s wonderful photographs to really do the holiday justice.

The historic and magical Rathaus Christmas Market in Hamburg

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Last week Steve and I enjoyed a few days in Hamburg where we visited several  atmospheric Christmas Markets in beautiful locations. The largest market, and our favourite was located just outside Hamburg’s most impressive town hall, The Rathaus. We discovered history, tradition, heritage and highly decorative stalls in the design of rustic Alpine huts selling a vast range of goods, and of course lots of food and drink!

The Hamburg Town Hall (Rathaus) Christmas Market is filled with hand-crafted Christmas decorations from the Erzgebirge region, woodcarvers from Tyrol, bakers from Aachen who produce their famous “printen” cookies on site, gingerbread makers from Nuremberg and pottery made by artists from the Lausitz region. There were also stalls featuring the work of silversmiths and many other artisans and craftspeople from all over Germany.

Every day at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm Santa Claus could be seen flying his reindeer sleigh across the sky high above the roofs of the Christmas Market stalls, where he stopped and told the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer to the entranced spectators. We thought we had drunk too much glühwein when we first saw Santa fly! It was incredibly effective, and both adults and children were mesmerised by the spectacle.xmas-25

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 FOOD AND DRINK, Glühwein, Bratwurst and much more!

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The pulled roast pork served in a bun was very popular
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Steve enjoyed a Bratwurst for lunch every day!
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The “Spielzeugasse”, a large model railway running across the stalls was the cause of much fascination by young and old

The historic Christmas Rathaus market has 80 stalls and takes place on the largest inner city square in Hamburg. It’s become the best-known, and one of the most prestigious markets in Germany, with almost 2 million visitors every year. In front of the venerable and imposing backdrop of the splendid town hall, artisans and craftspeople come from all over Germany to offer their high quality goods, including potters, glassblowers, woodcarvers, candle-makers, jewellers and a lantern-maker. We came back with a suitcase full of affordable and unusual presents for friends and family.

The market smells of burnt almonds, gingerbread and nuts and the popular mulled wine drink called Glühwein is drunk from specially designed Glühwein mugs, – which you can keep as a souvenir, as we did.

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There was a specialty street with yummy edible treats, where culinary products from Tyrolean cheese to the many Lebkuchen stalls are located, locally baked bread and pretzels, and the traditional Stollen from Dresden, which surprisingly doesn’t contain marzipan. The sights, sounds and particularly the smells were seductive, and we were very impressed with both the Christmas markets and Hamburg itself. This a city we would certainly like to revisit in the summer to spend more time exploring the magnificent harbour area.xmas 32.jpg496502ed46d92562a6f750fe6bb18623

 Granny Apples says “Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year”

 

Scenic Travels along The Upper Middle Rhine: A German Road Trip – Part 2

img_20160906_1323169-2Part 2 of our German road trip along the Middle Rhine area, including Koblenz and Cologne, and a mini-cruise on a boat which was part of the flotilla bound for the spectacular Rhine in Flames Festival at Oberwesel, (more firework pics follow later in this post.)img_20160910_2145332-2

We continued our journey to Koblenz, one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful cities, situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle.

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We enjoyed this awesome cable-car ride which gave stunning panoramic views of Koblenz

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One of our stops was at Rüdesheim on The Rhine, a romantic and picturesque winemaking town in the Rhine Gorge and thereby part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. We found it very busy in September and extremely popular with tourists.

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I enjoyed another iced coffee and Steve had a *Rüdesheimer Kaffee, which he liked so much he brought home both the special cup and a bottle of Asbach brandy!img_20160908_1159542-2

*Rüdesheimer Kaffee is an alcoholic coffee drink from Rudesheim am Rhein in Germany  invented in 1957 by television chef, Hans Karl Adam. A delicious and popular drink in coffee houses, it’s made by adding Asbach Brandy and sugar cubes to a cup specially designed for this beverage. The brandy is flambéed and stirred for a minute until the sugar dissolves. Strong coffee is added, followed by a topping of thickly whipped cream sweetened with vanilla sugar, and finally chocolate flakes are sprinkled on top.

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We couldn’t resist another spectacular cable-car ride to the world-famous Niederwald Denkmal monument topped by the iconic central statue of Germania, from which there is one of the most scenic views over The Rhine Valley. monument

On another day our travels took us to Beilstein, which must surely be one of the Moselle Valley’s most picturesque old towns, nestled on a beautiful stretch of the river.mosel-3moselle-1

Every nook, cranny and corner of Beilstein was visually charming, with it’s magical fairy-tale style architecture.

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In the middle of our holiday came the highlight of our trip when we embarked on a mini-cruise from Koblenz to Oberwesel bound for The Rhine in Flames event. This firework extravaganza was really special, although it’s almost impossible to capture in photographs the magical atmosphere of being there and seeing the images live ….

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As dusk fell we became aware that we were one amongst dozens of boats which were all headed for Oberwesel where the Rhine in Flames display took place.

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Prominent buildings in Oberwesel were floodlit which added to the spectacle from our vantage point in a boat on the river. The display lasted a full 30 minutes and was accompanied by classical music. We both agreed it was the most impressive firework display we had seen anywhere, and The Rhine in Flames more than lived up to our expectations.

From Koblenz we moved onto the elegant city of Cologne for a few days before returning home…..

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Cologne’s Cathedral – known as The Dom is located in the city centre and a famous example of Gothic architecture in all it’s magnificence

Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day. Currently it’s the tallest twin-spired church at 157 metres, which dominates the skyline. Cologne is the fourth-largest city in Germany, with more than ten million inhabitants. Steve and I had visited Cologne before for the Christmas markets, and liked it so much we had been keen to return in warmer weather.

We found a busy ‘holiday’ atmosphere along the Rhine embankment with lots of river excursions, stunning old town houses, hotels/restaurants galore and a vibrant nightlife.img_20160913_1255494-2

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We stayed at Das kleine Stapelhauschen, a quaint 13th century hotel in the historic Fish Market. A very central location situated on the banks of The Rhine and a big photo opportunity for tourists!

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We ate here….just one of dozens of waterfront restaurants with terraces affording panoramic views of The Rhine

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A final beer and a final nightcap at the end of a memorable road trip! We will be returning to Germany in December to explore the Christmas markets of Hamburg.

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Picture postcards of Crete (1)

Last month my partner Steve took lots of delightful photos when we were on holiday in Crete, which are just too good not to share. From seascapes to townhouses, with some interesting doors, and a sample of graffiti, these are a few of my favourite images which encapsulate this beautiful island.IMG_20160505_1746347

I loved this beautiful town house in Chania with it’s vibrant coloursIMG_20160505_1721343 (2)

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Views of the harbour in ChaniaIMG_20160505_1721416 (2)

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Quirky doors spotted in Chania and Rethymnon

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We loved this graffitti found on a wall in Rethymnon

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Art gallery entrance in Chania 

Margaritas Gallery in the Old Town, Chania, Crete, sells a wide range of natural and precious metal jewellery, and is the home of Margaritas Icon WorkshopIMG_20160504_1656023

Picturesque doorway to an old spa in Rethymnon

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The pink sandy beaches at Elafonissi are stunning

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A view of Chania harbour at sunset

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The Church of St. Panteleimon at Nopigia looked like it was made of icing sugar!

The church of Saint Panteleimon at Nopigia is a cruciform church of the 14-15th century and is one of the largest pilgrimages in the area of Kissamos.

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We visited the spectacular Lake Kournass 

Kournas Lake is the only freshwater lake in Crete, located in the Apokoronas region of Chania.

We stayed in a rented villa in the traditional village of Vamos which lies between Chania and Rethymnon, in the beautiful foothills of the White Mountains (Lefka Ori) just 7 km from the Cretan sea. The village is located at an altitude of approximately 300m and situated in the greenest prefecture of Chania, Apokoronas.

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We stayed at ‘The Old Bakery’ in Vamos

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A spectacular view from the top of the mountain about one hours drive from Vamos

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Granny Apples says “At  900 metres above sea level it felt like we were sitting on top of the world!”