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.
Harbour view from our apartment in Funchal
Views of Porto Moniz
Two views of Praia de Machico
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)
One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
Sardines in Funchal
Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
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!
Prawns and squid in Funchal
A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)
The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
Trout in Porto Moniz
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.
The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
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
Taberna Popular : Rua dos Fontes 18, Funchal 9000-053, 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
This is a working farm which has successfully diversified and is collectively known as Wyken Vineyards. The Leaping Hare comprises a classy interiors shop, cafe and restaurant, and there is a vineyard and lovely gardens which are open to the public and all are part of the private estate of Wyken Hall.
Wyken Vineyards is located approx 11 miles from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and it had been highly recommended by a friend as a splendid destination for a day out in the countryside.
Wyken Farmers’ Marketwhich islocated in the old stables blockwas open from 9-1 when I visited last Saturday with a companion. After a look around the stalls, we found the Leaping Hare restaurant for a spot of lunch. As an aside I have to say that the name of this restaurant appeals to me almost as much as ‘The Giggling Squid’ Thai restaurant in Bury St Edmunds. (Unusual names must be a Suffolk thing!)
It was one of those typically changeable English summer days when there was a heavy rain shower one minute followed by bursts of bright sunshine the next, so we were wearing macs and sunglasses!
We started lunch with ice-cold sparkling orange and cranberry drinks
We both chose the Eggs Benedict dish for our lunch
My companion chose a slice of light and moist carrot cake instaed of a dessert.
Still thirsty and enjoying a leisurely-paced lunch we orderd a pot of tea each from a selection and it was loose-leaf!
Wyken Vineyards restaurant,The Leaping Hare, is located in the 400-year-old barn. A Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide and now in its 15th year in The Good Food Guide, the restaurant tries to source their ingredients from a five-mile radius, so the beef, lamb, game and eggs are local (and when possible from the Wyken farm and estate) with fruit, herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Curious sign on the entrance door into the restaurant!
Wyken Cafe, which serves breakfasts and lunches daily, is also located in the barn and offers a lighter menu choice with the same quality of food and service as the elegant restaurant. Prices were on the high side but the food was exceptionally tasty. We paid £20 a head for our lunch which included two soft drinks each, cake/dessert and service.
There was also a Summer Exhibition in the Leaping Hare Cafe Gallery of limited edition prints of watercolours by Eric Ravillious.
The Leaping Hare restaurant is located in the 400 year old barn
Wyken Shop – The Leaping Hare Country Store
This very attractive and stylish shop apparently sells wool throws and blankets from Scotland and Ireland, braided rugs from North Carolina, French grape-picking baskets, Panama hats from Ecuador, and much, much more. The Leaping Hare Country Store also included the book room which houses a selection of books from small specialist publishers. I particularly liked the designer pottery, the chic and classic clothes and accessories, and their range of unusual cards and gift wrap. This veritable cornucopia of beautiful and useful household items and consumables was an ideal place to buy presents. I came home with a bottle of Good Dog Ale brewed by Wyken Vineyards for Steve!
The Wyken Farmers’ Market
At The Wyken Farmers’ Market, there was an impressive selection of stalls from local producers including farmers, bakers, and a distillery. I noticed fish, artisan cheese and fine tea stalls, and an abundance of organic fruit, veg, plants, flowers and herbs for sale. The Market is open from 9 am to 1 pm every Saturday.
Wyken is a 1200-acre working farm which includes a flock of Shetland sheep, a small herd of Red Poll cattle and in 1988 they established a 7-acre vineyard with some 12,000 vines. It has produced award-winning wines, including the English Wine of the Year, and in 2009 their ‘Wyken Bacchus’ won the East Anglian Wine of the Year,
On average they produce some 12,000 bottles a year, and these are all sold through their Shop and Restaurant. From the Leaping Hare, you can take a walk to the vineyard over Home Meadow and through the beautiful ancient woodland of the estate.
Wyken Hall Gardens
These beautiful formal gardens surrounding the Elizabethan manor house are crammed with topiary, herbs, roses, and fruit trees and you may see meandering peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens too!
The gardens are open from 27th March until the end of September, from 2 – 6 pm daily (except Saturday unfortunately, but all the more reason for a return visit!)
Wyken Road Stanton Bury St Edmunds Suffolk IP31 2DW
Last Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed an excellent Afternoon Tea in The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St. Neots in Bedfordshire. To celebrate my daughters birthday we were booked into the hotel for the *Sunday Runaway spa package, (details below). Set in 350 acres, this modern 4 star hotel and spa, with a golf course and leisure centre is 2.8 miles from the market town of St. Neots.
The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes is in a lovely location
We were delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on the house as it was a special occasion
*SUNDAY RUNAWAY Y Spa stay
This Sunday night break includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and a full day’s use of thermal spa facilities on Monday which includes a two-course buffet lunch and a choice of one of the following treatments.
On a recent holiday in Northern Portugal, Steve and I spent a day touring the National Park ofPeneda 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.
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.
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. The frontier village of Lindoso is the location of one of Portugal’s best-preserved collections of granaries or espigueiros.
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.
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.
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.
The beautiful coastline town of Praia da Ancora nestled just south of the Portuguese/Spanish border was a lovely place to visit.
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.
Porto’s bustling riverside area in Ribeira has lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants and the river cruises are very popular.
We travelled to Porto by train and even the railway station was a thing of grandeur!
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.
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.
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 villain the picturesque coastal village of Moledo doMinho. 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.
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 SuperBock Portuguese lager!
A striking piece of street art seen in Porto
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!
The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.
The pretty harbour at Vila Praia de Ancora
The tiles are outstanding on these harbour front houses in Ancora
This shopping street in Vila de Castello was hung with gaudy and highly effective umbrellas
We loved the ornate door and the coloured tiles on this town house inVila do Castelo
Entrance to the Town Hall at Ancora
I loved the look of these apartments in Vila do Castelo
We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car
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.
This week I had not one but two good reasons to celebrate as it’s the 2nd anniversary of the date I started my blog and it was a friends birthday, so we treated ourselves to a delicious Full Afternoon Tea at the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa in Newmarket, Suffolk.
We ate in the elegant Squires restaurant which although contemporary was the epitome of comfort and luxury that one would expect from a 4 star country house hotel. It was very quiet on a Thursday afternoon so we had the restaurant entirely to ourselves. The service was friendly and attentive, and we were offered limitless refills of pots of tea which I always think is a prerequisite of an Afternoon Tea, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen everywhere.
The food was freshly-made and served on attractive Villeroy and Boch china, with white linen napkins and tablecloths. The finger sandwiches had exceptionally tasty fillings and were generously filled. The scones were extremely light and still warm when served with the very best lemon curd I have tasted anywhere. In fact, I liked it so much I asked if they sold it in pots to take home. (They didn’t!) We also had both plain and fruit scones, with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.
In addition to a delightful selection of cakes and sweet treats we also enjoyed a refreshing seasonal fruit sundae served with a dark chocolate spoon, which was a lovely touch.
Presentation of the Afternoon Tea was especially attractive and appetising. Although we had skipped lunch deliberately we soon ran out of room, so a selection of cakes were boxed up for us to take home to enjoy later.
We had a guided tour of the elite spa adjacent to the hotel which has superb facilities at surprisingly affordable prices, so we plan to book a spa day there soon.
Newmarket is the ancestral home of British horseracing and a unique town in Suffolk which is well worth a visit. The Bedford Lodge Hotel would be an ideal location to stay, and I’m more than happy to recommend Afternoon Tea at the award-winning Squires restaurant – which is open to non-residents.
Next time I visit I intend to try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea which was a quirky twist on the traditional. Our Afternoon Tea was £18.95 per person which was exceptionally good value, and is served from 2.30 to 5.30pm, throughout the year. This stylish hotel is set in lovely grounds and there is ample parking.
I only have one minor quibble, and that is the tea was not loose-leaf which one would expect from a hotel of this quality, but a selection of teas were available (or coffee if preferred).
Last week I had a lovely day out in London with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started our day with a visit to The Switch House, – the new extension to the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark which opened to the public in June 2016.
Having skipped lunch we were looking forward to enjoying a full Afternoon Tea at our next destination The Wolseley, a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located on Piccadilly, London.
In a classy and relaxed atmosphere we enjoyed The Wolseley’s full traditional Afternoon Tea, which had a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and small cakes, with freshly baked warm fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of loose-leaf teas. At £28.50 per person I considered this to be excellent value, as we were offered more sandwiches and a second pot of tea at no extra charge. Although this place is always busy the service is remarkably good because they have lots of staff. The ambiance is buzzing and it was a super place for people-watching! It’s good to know that their scones and pastries are made on the premises, with an ever-changing selection of cakes, which typically might include a Battenberg or Sachertorte. Everything was perfection, from the white linen napkins, the marble-topped tables, the silver cutlery and tableware, to the bespoke china. We felt that this Afternoon Tea provided a quality experience and it’s the perfect venue for a special occasion. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in London, but booking is advisable.
The sandwiches were freshly-made and especially tasty with fillings of Chicken and tarragon, Smoked Salmon, Celery and Tomato, Cream cheese and cucumber, and Egg and Watercress.
A full Afternoon Tea is served from 3.00pm (3.30pm at weekends).
First opened as a prestigious car showroom in 1921 for Wolseley Motors Limited, the venue became The Wolseley in 2003 and soon became the famous institution it is today.
The Bar at The Gilbert Scott offers flavour, ingredients and theatre and provides the ultimate cocktail experience in show-stopping 19th century surroundings. Guests are welcome for drinks on a drop-in basis, and although I thought it was expensive, it was well worth it for a special occasion.
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, and the new Switch House extension provides one of the best panoramic views over London free of charge, so it’s well worth a visit. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space.
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.
FOOD AND DRINK, Glühwein, Bratwurst and much more!
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.
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.
Granny Apples says “Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year”
Part 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.)
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.
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.
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!
*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.
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.
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.
Every nook, cranny and corner of Beilstein was visually charming, with it’s magical fairy-tale style architecture.
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 ….
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.
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…..
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.
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.