Peru – My Dream Destination

Peru – My Dream Destination

There’s a place on my travel wish list that has fascinated and intrigued me since I first discovered its existence. A place of ancient civilizations, mountain-top ruins and home to one of mankind’s greatest mysteries. A place where you’ll find snow-capped mountains, the world’s deepest canyons and a vibrant swathe of dense tropical rainforest.

Where the people are welcoming, creative and colourful and a country whose capital is considered to be one of the best cuisine destinations in the world. Here are some of the reasons why Peru is calling me.

 

Lake in Cordilera Blanca, Peru

Lake in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

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Crete – Why you should go to Rethymno

Crete – Why you should go to Rethymno

The Old Town Rethymno tables and chairs in a shady alleywayThe Old Town Rethymno

Greek Island holidays were top of the list for family getaways when the kids were young. I have memories of sunny, cloud-free days spent exploring Rhodes old town, dipping into warm turquoise seas around Corfu and of sleek dolphins slip-streaming the boat during a trip from Skiathos. But that was a long time ago. Too long ago, and a day excursion to Mykonos and Delos during a cruise last year got me thinking that it’s time I gave the Greek Islands some proper attention again.

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Iceland – Instagrammed

Iceland – Instagrammed

Last weekend I was beyond excited to be in Iceland – a place that has always been right up there in my ‘really wanna see’ list.  I have a whole heap of Iceland photos, foodie finds, tales of the Golden Circle, Icelandic design, a photo tour of Reykjavik,a dip in the Blue Lagoon and lots of really cool Icelandic things that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks but in the meantime here’s an Instagram teaser to whet the appetite…

Big trucks are needed for the volcanic terrain and these monsters were perfect

We saw steaming geothermal waters and lichen covered lava fields

and bathed in the Blue Lagoon

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Blue Lagoon #iceland

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The food was pretty amazing

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#iceland #food #fish #cuisine

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And the Brennivin (schnapps) pretty deadly!

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They’re an arty crafty lot in Iceland

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So true…. #iceland #toocool

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And they’re into design…

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Looking Down #iceland #reykjavik

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But it was the natural beauty of Iceland that really captured my heart

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Montenegro – A Photo Tour of Budva

Montenegro – A Photo Tour of Budva

The second part of our ‘Grand Montenegro Tour‘ excursion took us to Budva. With a backdrop of dramatic mountains, colourful harbour and a fortified Stari Grad (old town) it’s the prettiest of tiny towns and one of the most popular on Montenegro’s coast.

Budva was one of the last Venetian outposts. Look closely and you’ll discover many clues to the 400 years of Venetian rule within the walls of the Medieval fortress encircling the town. In contrast, the narrow alleyways and squares are filled with modern boutiques, bars and restaurants.  So, what’s to see?  Let me show you Budva in photos…

Dancing Girl Statue, Budva

Dancing Girl Statue, Budva

The old town of Budva lies on a little island that was once linked to the mainland by a sandbar which over time turned into a peninsula.  Head out towards Mogren Beach for panoramic views of the town.

There are three churches in Budva and each one is very different. (clockwise)  A tiny single nave church, the Church of Saint Sava, is said to have been built during the 14th century. Saint John the Baptist Church was Seat of the Budva bishopric until 1828. In 1867 the belfry was added to the north side. Church of Holy Trinity is a single nave construction with a dome built in 1804 and modelled on one of two churches of the Podostrog monastery 2k from Budva.

The Stari Grad or Old Town is made up of narrow streets, alleys and small squares.

The old town was heavily fortified and today is still entered from one of five gates in the towering walls. Evidence of different Mediterranean cultures that have influenced the town can be spied in the walls.

 

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Dancing Girl Statue Budva

Dancing Girl Statue Budva

Budva, Montenegro

Budva Walled Town

A photo tour of the pretty walled town of Budva, Montenegro

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Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises UK for hosting our cruise. As always views and opinions; good, bad or otherwise are entirely my own.

Montenegro – Discovering Kotor, Njegusi and Cetinje

Montenegro – Discovering Kotor, Njegusi and Cetinje

We’re in Montenegro, one of Europe’s newest nations, and the road we’re climbing clings to the steep limestone mountains overlooking the Bay of Kotor. With every bend (or serpentine, as our guide aptly describes them) the views of the bay become increasingly breathtaking.

On the eighth hairpin the coach comes to a grinding halt as a couple of cows and a hefty bull plod up the hill in front of us; but we don’t mind – it gives us time to soak up a bit more of ‘that view’. The bovine roadblock pulls into a convenient passing point and we’re off again – onwards and upwards.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

It’s the ‘Grand Montenegro Tour’ our first excursion on our Celebrity Cruise and when we stop at serpentine number 25, a mighty 850m above sea-level, we can see our ship ‘Silhouette’ sitting centre stage in the beautiful bay. The Gulf of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), despite often being called the southern-most fjord in Europe, is actually a submerged river canyon and from this height we can see the route the river would have once taken. This morning I woke, as the ship edged into Kotor, to see a backdrop of green covered mountains plunge into the bay behind small monastery islands set in the deep, still waters.  Mistakenly I thought that would be the best view of the day.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

We tear ourselves away from the vista and head back to the coach for our next stop, Njegusi, which is even higher up the mountain at 1100m. Njegusi is famous for its local cheese, ’sir’, and ‘prsut’ a smoked dried ham; we sample a generous portion of each with a huge beaker of very drinkable red wine in Kadmi Ethnic Village.  It’s not even midday but, well….! The restaurant is cosy inside and reminds me of a ski chalet with its hide covered benches, gingham curtains and copper fire hoods but today is warm so we head back outside to enjoy the views of Mount Lovćen.

 Njegusi, Montenegro

Our next stop is Cetinje and we head off along the road from Njegusi which winds through a grey, rugged area of Mount Lovcen known as The Stone Sea. The view is stark but softened with splashes of autumn colour.

The Stone Sea, Montenegro

The Stone Sea, Montenegro

Until 1946 Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro, before Podgorica took over the mantle, although the small town still remains the country’s cultural and royal capital. It’s a pretty place with a quiet air about it dotted with small embassies and museums – so much nicer than Podgorica – but then I’m slightly biased as a few years ago my luggage went walkabout in Podgorica…

We visit the State Museum, on King Nicholas’ Square, which is the former residence of Nikola Petrovic I, king of Montenegro. The palace is set out with beautiful period rooms as they would have been when the palace was in use. I loved the Princesses’ bedrooms and it would seem little girls liked pink just as much then as they do now! Displays of uniforms, medals, flags and weaponry fill the building but photography wasn’t allowed. If you’d like to know more check the museum’s official website where you’ll find a virtual tour and photographs.

We leave the peacefulness of Cetinje for the thirty minute drive to the coastal town of Budva where we’ll have lunch and a wander. As the sea comes into view so does Sveti Stefan in the distance, an exclusive holiday hideaway only accessable nowadays to the rich and famous.Budva’s a pretty little fortified town and worthy of its own photo tour so for now I’ll just leave you with a taster…

Budva, Montenegro

Budva, Montenegro

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Bay of Kotor

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises UK for hosting my first cruise. As always views and opinions; good, bad or otherwise are entirely my own.

 

Bologna’s Knobs and Knockers…

Bologna’s Knobs and Knockers…

As I walked the porticoes of Bologna it wasn’t long before the quirky knobs and  knockers that peered out from the heavy wooden doors caught my eye.  I couldn’t help but notice the wide variety of door furniture adorning the city’s thresholds.  As I passed by entrances and doorways small human faces peered silently at me; some serene some grimacing.  Gaping keyholes awaiting heavy metal keys yawned at me.  Ornate, detailed; plain, simple all shared the purposes of announcing a visitor.   Gleaming brass reflected the sunlight or unpolished and dull faded into the wood.  Take a look – do you have a favourite?