Monthly Archives: May 2017

Unique Food Festivals

Every Spring Bank Holiday near a small village in Gloucestershire, the tranquillity of the English countryside is shattered by several hundred participants engaging in the pursuit of a large round of locally-produced cheese. Despite the considerable assistance afforded by gravity and a steep slope, the runners find themselves no match for the nine-pound Double Gloucester that cartwheels downhill at speeds of up to 112 kilometres per hour. If you want to experience a food festival that’s quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, ask your personal travel manager to help you design an itinerary that’s sure to be memorable.

Fête du citron

In February 2017, the French Riviera town of Menton will celebrate the 84th year of the Lemon Festival. Why? Menton citrus afficionados have long-proclaimed the uniqueness of the Menton lemon, which according to local legend is descended from a single fruit that was planted by Eve herself following her exiling from the Garden of Eden. Regardless of the accuracy of that claim, more than two hundred thousand visitors descend on this pretty little town annually to view the giant sculptures that have been lovingly crafted from thousands of tonnes of oranges and lemons. Each year the festival adheres to a different theme: in 2017, it will celebrate all things Broadway. As well as the sculptures, which stand up to ten metres high, visitors enjoy daytime and nightime parades, an orchid festival and the magical Garden of Lights.

Salon du chocolat

Chocoholics rejoice! In the last week of October, as many as 5,000 artisans will gather in a vast convention space just outside Paris to showcase and celebrate all things chocolate. The Paris Chocolate Show brings together the world’s top producers, confectioners, chefs and chocolate lovers in a vast trade show at which, for five glorious days, visitors can enjoy the very best chocolatey treats, demonstrations and other choc-tivities – there’s even a chocolate fashion show that features a collection of couture dresses that are literally good enough to eat!

And the good news for those who can’t make it to Paris this year: sister events are run in ten other locations around the world at various times of the year.

La Tomatina

This is La Tomatina: an annual festival that takes place in Buñol, a small town near the Spanish coastal city of Valencia, every year on the last Wednesday in August. Its origins are unclear, but this is a tomato fight of epic proportions. The rules are simple: wear white, keep a safe distance from the trucks (which dump an estimated 145,000 kilograms of tomatoes along the course), stop when you hear the second cannon, and always squish the tomatoes before you throw them. After an hour, you’ll be wallowing ankle-deep in salsa and your skin and clothes will be coloured a fetching shade of tomato-red. You are now free to adjourn to the nearby square to rehydrate with jugs of cold sangria.

Sensational Santiago

With its fabulous cuisine, European ambience and easy mix of Latin American energy mixed with old-world bohemian charm, Chile’s capital city has plenty to entice the curious.

1.  Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Santiago’s Museum of Pre-Columbian Art is housed in the lovely 1807 ex-Royal Customs House. It is an essential first stop – especially if you’re heading further north to explore the Inca city and World Heritage site of Machu Picchu in Peru. The museum’s collection includes centuries-old art from Mexico to Patagonia. Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s bustling hub, is just metres away, but inside the museum all is relaxed and reflective.

2.  Mercado Central

Chile’s incredible long coastline ensures a varied supply of seafood, and the best place to sample the Pacific’s bounty is at Santiago’s Central Market. Take a seat at one of the seafood restaurants and order one of Chile’s signature Pisco Sour cocktails to enjoy with your meal, fresh from the ocean.

3.  Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Bellavista is Santiago’s most well known bohemian neighbourhood with modern bars, restaurants and boutique hotels. The area’s arty vibe still lingers at places like the humble Venezia Café, which is well worth a visit. The Venezia Café was a favourite haunt of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, whose former Santiago residence; La Chascona is now a museum.

4.  Random acts of juggling

Forget car window washing! During rush hour Santiago’s students present their own unique brand of money-making entertainment at intersections around town. And because you are in South America, don’t be surprised to see a few flash moves with soccer balls as well.

5.  Barrio Brasil

Welcome to one of Santiago’s most popular eating and drinking hot spots. Barrio Brasil’s (undeserved) reputation as an unsafe area after dark has been trumped by its emergence as the city’s hub for atmospheric corner bars and intimate restaurants. For something special the elegant Zully Restaurantlocated in the mansion that was once home to Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro, is well worth a visit.

6.  Football

The best way to beat jet lag is to jump on the city’s modern subway and venture to a soccer match. Expect lots of singing and chanting, with the bonus of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes as a scenic backdrop.

7.  Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is the main square of Santiago and the central heart of the city. Here you will see the historic architecture of heritage villas and the Santiago Cathedral. Despite the modern additions of alfresco cafes and skyscrapers, traditional Santiago remains refreshingly intact, with shoeshine stalls, art displays and impromptu games of chess always in progress.

8.  Concha y Toro Vineyard

Chile is rapidly increasing competition for Australian’s wine offering worldwide. A visit to Chile’s oldest winery, Concha y Toro winery on the city’s outskirts is a popular afternoon activity. Established in 1883 the winery is set in 23 manicured hectares and effortlessly recreates a languid French ambience. Drinking world-class wines like Concha y Toro’s acclaimed Don Melchor cabernet sauvignon at the point of origin is yet another compelling reason to visit Santiago.

Highlights of Singapore

If you have limited time you will want to squeeze in as much quintessential Singapore as possible! Happily, its geographically-compact size and excellent transport infrastructure mean that your main challenge will be one of stamina.

Gardens Galore

As you approach Singapore’s central business district, your eye will automatically be drawn to two structures that simply defy belief. Even in a city that seems to run on the notion that “if you can imagine it, we can build it”, these go above and beyond the imagination of mere mortals. Gardens by the Bay could be described prosaically as a nature park of three gardens that cover a total of 101 acres of reclaimed waterfront, but the reality is so much more. The largest of the three gardens, the Bay South Garden, comprises two vast temperature-controlled conservatories: the Flower Dome is a mild, dry zone featuring plants from semi-arid regions while the Cloud Forest replicates the cool, moist conditions and flora of a tropical mountain region. This garden is also home to the Supertree Grove, a collection of twelve futuristic treelike structures, the tallest of which stands sixteen storeys high.

Measuring roughly 50 kilometres across and 27 kilometres across, Singapore is slightly smaller than ACT and its relatively small size means you’re never far from a green space. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are roughly six kilometres from downtown, with attractions that include the National Orchid Garden, the Ginger Garden and the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden.

The Gardens were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 and receive approximately 4.5 million visitors each year, but they’re open between 5am and 12am every day of the year and cover 82 acres in total, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to find a quiet corner if you need a break from the bustle of the city.

Bright Lights of the City

If nature fails to ignite your enthusiasm, the Marina Bay Sands complex surely will. Resembling, among other things, a giant cricket wicket, this vast complex of hotel, casino, bars and restaurants, theatres and shopping cost an estimated $8 billion to complete. To sip a cocktail in the bar overlooking the infinity edge swimming pool, 57 storeys above the city, is an absolute must-do Singapore experience.

Island Adventure

With or without kids, a trip to Sentosa would easily fill more than a day. This small island is connected to the main island by a bridge which can be crossed on foot, by car, train or even by overhead cable car. Once you’re there, the main difficulty will be choosing how best to spend your time. As well as beaches, golf course and hotels, you can ride the slides at the Adventure Cove Waterpark, zipline above the jungle canopy at Mega Adventure Park or visit the 100,000+ marine animals that call the S.E.A Aquarium home. There’s so much on offer at Sentosa, it’s no wonder that so many Singapore residents choose to holiday here instead of leaving town.

New ways to travel

Many of today’s travellers prefer a more individual approach, looking for travel experiences that are unique, tailored and fit with their personal tastes and interests. The same destination can offer different holidays for different people: foodies might choose Bali for a three-day cooking course in Ubud; fitness fanatics would probably prefer a bootcamp week in Seminyak, while those in need of some quiet time might prefer a yoga retreat in Canggu. Of course, some destinations naturally lend themselves to a particular type of travel. For example, the Galapagos Islands are unlikely to appeal to those not interested in wildlife. But if you were, say, an iguana enthusiast, and you gallivanted off to the Galapagos for ten days, you’d probably find yourself surrounded by like-minded souls.

Eco-tourism and voluntourism are two other relatively new travel niches that are becoming increasingly compelling reasons to travel. Instead being perched poolside at a luxury tropical resort for the duration of their stay, holiday makers might instead choose to spend a day helping to rebuild a cyclone-damaged school or digging a new cesspit for a local village. These holiday choices often stem from a strong desire to connect with the people we meet on our travels. If you’re in France as an example these travellers don’t just want to see a market from the window of the coach; they want to walk through that market, smell and taste and feel the produce, listen to the banter, and try out their rusty conversational French on the locals.

Improvements in technology have helped to make us brave in trying new destinations and new experiences. With a few taps or clicks, we can view our Marrakesh hotel on Google Earth and see where it is in relation to the souk, learn about local delicacies, or educate ourselves as to local customs and protocols. We can even research the best way to befriend a camel before we embark on a desert sunset ride. With such a vast world of destinations and experiences at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever to have someone who can help put the jigsaw pieces together and arrange them into a holiday that ticks all of your boxes.