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28 October 2012

Mijas

Mijas is a pretty little town located on the side of a mountain.  It is regarded as another of the famous white villages (pueblos blancos) that are located in this part of Spain.  It is a very touristy place offering visitors many restaurants and bars to enjoy and also the opportunity to take a horse and carriage ride around the town.  This is probably the nicest way to see it, as being it is on the side of a mountain it is a fairly hilly town.  There has been a village here since Prehistoric times and during that time it has had a variety of names, including, Tamisa and Mixa.


We were only there for a few hours but we managed to take one of the horse and carriage rides, as well as people watch over a morning coffee and enjoy some delicious tapas for lunch at a great tapas bar down a tiny little side street.  I'm sure if I returned I'd never find that place again.  As I mentioned it is a tourist location and there are lots of souvenir shops, places to eat and the types of things that cater for the tourist.  That said though it's a lovely place to stop for lunch or for a little bit of tourist souvenir shopping.








24 October 2012

Singapore Staycation

My husband and I recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary, how can it be a year already!?  As a result I'd been thinking about what to do to treat him and mark the event.  I'd have loved to have gone away for a proper break somewhere, but at the moment it just does not seem to be an option for us.  Fingers crossed that 2013 allows us to take more advantage of all the wonderful countries on our doorstep.

However I digress, so in trying to think of ways to celebrate I came up with the idea of a staycation instead.  I actually tried to do this before (though on that occasion we stayed at our home) but it didn't really work very well and at the end of the weekend I felt like we had not really achieved my aim of getting away from it all.  So this time I decided we needed to stay in a hotel so that we could completely 'get away' from all our usual distractions!

I didn't really know where to start in terms of finding a hotel in Singapore that might make a nice anniversary stopover, having only briefly stayed in a hotel here when my husband first arrived.  I searched 'boutique hotels in Singapore' on the Internet however and eventually came up with the Hotel Fort Canning in Fort Canning Park.  I knew there was a hotel there as we'd been for an after show drink in the bar when we went to watch Shakespeare in the Park a couple of years ago, but otherwise knew nothing about the place.

The package we chose included a bottle of sparkling wine in our room,not the Veuve (we supplied that) but the bottle in the background which was very pleasant too

Like many hotels do, the Hotel Fort Canning offers a number of weekend one night packages which include a few extras (like the bottle of sparkling wine in our room) to make your stay a little more memorable.  I don't know that this is necessarily the best or the cheapest of these options in Singapore but for us it made our first anniversary just a little bit more special.

Although you are incredibly close to Orchard Road, being in the heart of Fort Canning park you could be anywhere.  All we could really hear was the chirping of insects and the calling of birds.  In the evening we enjoyed some pre-dinner drinks in the Private Lounge for hotel guests and then dined in the hotel's Italian restaurant, Gattopardo.  All the while enjoying the peaceful setting of Fort Canning Park.

Drinks on the verandah of the Private Lounge for hotel guests

All too soon our stay was over though and it was time to check out.  As we were leaving there was a flurry of activity as the hotel was obviously preparing for a wedding celebration later that day.  I have to say it would make a very nice venue for many special occasions.  Hopefully we'll have reason to return there at some point, maybe on our next wedding anniversary.

Verandah of the Private Lounge

17 October 2012

Yet Another Welcome Distraction!

Any of you who follow me on Twitter or have seen my Instagram photos will already know this, but just in case you don't, my husband and I have a new addition to the family.  A little kitten called George.



Both my husband and I grew up with cats and we'd talked about getting one but George was a slightly unexpected arrival, not that we'd be without him now!  George was actually found by friends of ours near to where they live, alone and very frightened.  They managed to tempt him out of his hiding hole and gave him a home for a few days.  I know they'd have kept him if they could but sadly allergies prevented that and so we offered him a home.  Well my husband did knowing I wasn't going to say no.

Of course this meant a shopping trip for all the things needed to give a kitten a good home, or at least initially the most essential items.  Pet Lovers Centre has since become my most popular shopping venue after the supermarket.  It also meant finding a vet and thanks to various Facebook friends recommendations we found one not too far from where we live, they've certainly lived up to all the high praise they received.


George got a clean bill of health, which we were very pleased about given that we did not know anything of his origins etc.  He has since had his first jabs with some more to come, as well as getting him microchipped and neutered in due course.  He certainly is full of life and very feisty with a real little character and has made our home even more of one.

As I mentioned I grew up with, at least, one cat in my family and we also had chickens, zebra finches and goldfish at various times.  My extended family have also always had cats and dogs and other animals so really it was inevitable that we'd have a pet of our own at some point.  For us a cat is definitely the best option and really what we wanted the most, not to say that I'd never consider a dog but, at the moment, that's just not practical for us.  I only now appreciate how much I missed living with a pet and the daily enjoyment they bring.

Something of a first for me though will be owning a cat that is essentially an indoors cat (other than access to our balcony).  The cats my parents owned have always been able to have access to a garden and enjoyed the best of both worlds.  Though my parents current cat is a self proclaimed house cat.  She's fourteen and won't consider going out unless the weather is very good.  Anyone knowing the UK will therefore know she doesn't go out much!  I was worried about keeping him happy and entertained but he seems very content with his life and thoroughly enjoys the toys we've got him, as well as anything else he can find to play with.  Of course any tips anyone has for keeping a house cat completely happy I'd love to hear them.

He is currently chasing a pen around the floor and quite frankly being absolutely gorgeous!  Welcome to the family George.

15 October 2012

Halloween Treats at Charly T's, I12 Katong


A “spooky” treat awaits the little ones this Halloween!

Enjoy a fun-filled afternoon with the kids as Charly T's, I12 Katong celebrate Halloween.


Charly T's

Image courtesy of FoodNews

Dine in over lunch or tea and kids can have their faces painted into a scary monster, ghoul or superhero!  Watch the balloon sculptor perform his magic as he entertains with adorable sculptures of balloon poodles and other animals.  A special “trick or treat” bag will also be given out to the children.  

While the little ones are kept busy, parents can savour the great taste of Charly T’s famous rotisserie chickens which come in 4 signature flavours – Original recipe, Kansas City BBQ, Black Pepper and Kampong (priced from $13+ for quarter chicken serve with two sides).  Specialities for the kids include the wholesome Pasta in Tomato Sauce, Sausages with Fries or Chicken Kiks with Fries (priced at $8+ and served with a complimentary soft drink or homemade iced tea).



Charly T's Famous Rotisserie Chicken


Image courtesy of FoodNews

Date: 28 October 2012

Time: 1pm to 3pm

Address: Charly T’s on Level 3 at I12 Katong, 112 East Coast Road

Reservations recommended at (65) 6636 4701

12 October 2012

Sponsored Post: Seville

As my series of posts about our holiday in Spain begins to draw to a close here's a post about Seville, brought to you by the online travel agency, Destinia.com.  Sadly a place we didn't get to on our visit but somewhere I'd like to visit at some stage.

Seville is located in the Southern region of Andalucia in Spain and is considered to be one of the most traditional ones in the country.  Known for the Feria de Abril, a large fair that takes place after Holy Week, this city is filled with ancient churches, historical cathedrals and tiled plazas.  The city is pedestrianized and many of the main cultural landmarks are nearby, making it a prime location for those who want to explore this historical city.


Seville
Image used under Creative Commons from greenacre8 

The Feria de Abril is the city's main event, celebrating the culture of flamenco.  Many marquee tents called casetas are set up, with some of them being private, invitation only tents and others being public.  Flamenco dancers, guitar players and singers flock to the city to join the festivities, and many locals dress in the traditional colourful flamenco dresses.

Seville could be considered a traditional Spanish city.  The influence of Christians, Jews and Moors can be seen in the architecture, and tiled plazas with fountains decorate the city's streets.  The ancient Real Alcazar of Seville is a palace built in Mudéjar style, and tours can take visitors to its many rooms and tiled courtyards.

The Cathedral is one of the city's main monuments and the resting place of Christopher Columbus.  Built on the ruins of an ancient mosque, this cathedral and the square are lit up in the afternoons.  The Giralda is a minaret tower that was converted into the bell tower of the cathedral from where visitors can enjoy views towards the city.

The Archive of the Indies is an ancient Renaissance palace that was used by traders and was later reformed into the archive which held historical documents.

María Luisa Park is one of the city's main parks.  The Guadalquivir river flows through the park, where visitors can rent boats.  The Plaza de España is a large central square located in the park.  The square is known for its 58 recesses, each representing a province and decorated with tiles that characterize the province.

Visitors will be able to enjoy many tours around the historic city centre, considered to be one of the largest one in the region.  There are many tours by foot and on bikes, and visitors will be able to enjoy traditional tours in a horse pulled carriage.

Many boat trips across the river start from the Torre del Oro.  This tower is a dodecagonal watchtower which used to be part of the city's fortifications.

There are many activities in and near the city, including side trips to nearby water parks and the Doñana National Park.  Isla Mágica is a large theme park where visitors can enjoy fair rides, roller coasters and water rides.

Seville is a city of art.  The Museum of Fine Arts is known for local art masterpieces and for its fresco painted ceiling that dates from when the building was a monastery.  Hospital de los Venerables, located near the historic Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring, is a baroque building that has a large collection of paintings.

Tapas are part of the city.  The districts of El Arenal and La Macarena are filled with chic and traditional bars.  Visitors can join the locals and explore the many bars where they can taste typical tapas, mainly the tortilla de patatas omelette, the jamón ibérico ham and pieces of bread with salads and anchovies.


09 October 2012

Casares & Gaucin

The area of southern Spain we visited over the summer is famous for its white villages (pueblos blancos).  These are a series of towns and villages characterised by their whitewashed walls and red or brown tiled roofs.  Various reasons have been suggested for the reason behind the buildings all being whitewashed.  These include, that the chemical properties of the alkaline whitewash is antibacterial and that visually it presents a socially cohesive appearance.  Equally though there is also evidence to suggest that not many of the buildings in the villages and towns were painted in this manner before the 1920s.  Investigations into the layers of paint on some buildings have also shown that some of these were in fact previously decorated.  

During our time in Spain we visited two of these villages, Casares and Gaucin.  Our visit to Casares was on a Sunday morning and after a pleasant drive through the Spanish countryside we rounded a corner and saw this.  Quite beautiful I think you'll agree, particularly against the bright blue sky.

View towards Casares
The town is a maze of twists and turns and narrow passages and roads.  This is a place that was built when the mode of transport was on horseback rather than by car.  As you can also hopefully see Casares is built on a cliff and as a result is known for its typically Moorish cliff hugging buildings.  Walking around the roads and paths was a reminder of just how flat the majority of Singapore is by comparison.

Of course stopping somewhere like this we could not help but visit one of the town cafes just off the main square (below) for a morning coffee and the opportunity to watch the world go by.  Here is where the locals gather to meet friends, put the world to rights and no doubt observe the regular stream of tourists passing through their town.

Casares

Casares

Casares

Casares



Casares

View towards Casares

View towards Casares

Our second white village experience was to the town of Gaucin.  According to all the tourist information this is one of the best of the white villages, particularly for its views of Gibraltar and Morocco.  Unfortunately though our visit didn't really give us the chance to see this or the beauty of the village.  Once again it was a maze of tight roads and narrow passages and definitely not designed for anything really but horses and carts.  As a consequence of that and it obviously being quite a draw for visitors we struggled to park.  When we did park we then struggled to find our way to the best points of the town, when all the buildings are white and the streets narrow it can get a bit confusing, particularly when you've been driving round and around.  Our time was also limited here which was a real shame.  I can only hope I get the chance to return again sometime to really be able to appreciate this place as much as I enjoyed my visit and walk around Casares.

Nonetheless though Casares (and Gaucin) were beautiful and certainly somewhere I could happily return to given the chance.


Gaucin

Gaucin

05 October 2012

Camuri - Chill Out Bars Goes Spanish

Continuing in his occasional series of good bars for a drink, my husband has written a post about a great, family friendly bar/restaurant we found near Estepona, Spain on our summer holiday.

For this post I will review a single bar and restaurant we frequented many times when we were on holiday in the south of Spain.  It is called Camuri and is located in a development called Laguna Village, near the fishing village of Estepona on Spain’s Costa del Sol.  The bar is situated on the edge of the beach with views out to the Mediterranean, with its deep blue hue and luxury yachts.  With sun loungers available for hire on the beach (the waiters / waitresses will go on to the beach to serve cooling drinks and restorative lunches) it's a great place to stop and even has an Asian feel.


Typically we sat on the comfortable decking area where the attentive staff served our drinks and food to chilled out tunes.




The menu was a wonderful mix of western and Asian fusion dishes, ranging from tapas type starters and sandwiches to noodles and steaks.  In addition to this there were excellent desserts, the nutella crepe was apparently to die for, see below.  We would generally go to Camuri in the late afternoon for a drink and a dessert, on our last Friday I could have sat on the decking all afternoon, but alas I could not have more than two beers as I was driving.


The food was generally excellent.  It is worth noting that, like many spots in Spain we visited, the paella has a minimum order for two people to share but it included prawns, squid, mussels and chicken, and was very filling. The Singapore noodles (can you tell we were back dining on western style Chinese food again) were a little spicy but nonetheless very good and they will even give you chopsticks if you ask.


Most importantly though the beers were cold, a key feature on a very hot day.


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