Tag Archives: featured
June 19, 2017

A quartet of very different Lake District books

A quartet of very different Lake District books

Four special Lake District Books Cumbria

“I’m coming to the Lake District on holiday. What book would you recommend?” Well, that really depends on what kind of book you’re looking for. There are so many Lake District books: traditional guide books, walking books, novels, biographies, photography books, children’s books … Here are four of my favourites.

Lake District Books

I Never Knew that about the Lake District - Christopher WinnI never knew that about the Lake District by Christopher Winn

Did you know that Fletcher Christian, he of Mutiny on the Bounty, was born in Cockermouth? Or that the ‘Yellow Earl‘, past owner of Lowther Castle, was the only man other than Winston Churchill to have a Cuban cigar named after him (the Lonsdale Cigar)? Well, if you read ‘I never knew that about the Lake District‘ you’ll find out hundreds of fascinating snippets and facts about the area. The book is divided up into geographical sections ie The Central Lakes, The Lakeland Coast, Windermere, so it covers Cumbria, not just the Lake District National Park. Charming illustrations by Mai Osawa add to the this delightful book’s appeal. It would make a great gift for a fan of the lakes; I was given it as a birthday present and regularly dip into it. Note to the author: the 201o edition could do with updating as a few things have changed eg many more local breweries and visitor attractions now.

More about I never knew that about the Lake District and other books by Christopher Winn

 

Dances with the Daffodils - Matthew ConnollyDances with the Daffodils by Matthew Connolly 

I chose this book from a host of books by local authors laid out on our tables at the Cumbria Family Business Awards 2017. (Well done to the organisers for an original way to support Cumbrian writers.) Author Matthew Connolly explained how the novel was inspired by the story behind one of the most famous English poems, William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. The poet’s sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, wrote an entry in her diary on April 15th 1802 referring to a walk she and her brother took beside Ullswater where they saw daffodils that ‘tossed and reeled and danced’ in the wind. In the book, Luke, who’s returning to the area after 20 years of travelling, visits the lake and sees a ‘thin, gypsy-tanned woman … hopping along the lane like a chaffinch,‘ admiring the daffodils, beside ‘… a tall and ugly mantis of a creature.’ (William). Luke is immediately attracted to Dorothy, ‘as she knelt among the daffodils like some pagan goddess.’ I thoroughly enjoyed this poignant love story, especially seeing Dorothy in a different light, as a feisty young woman, torn between her love for her brother and another. It’s also a love story to south Lakeland, its local culture and heritage, which the author clearly knows well.

More on Dances with Daffodils here

Photographer's guide to Lake District by Ellen BownessThe Photographer’s Guide to The Lake District by Ellen Bowness

‘The Lake District is a beautiful part of the UK and it’s jam-packed with photogenic locations, from lakes and fells to waterfalls and caves.’ The opening to this gem of a book says it all; here is a comprehensive guide to the best places to get the perfect photo of the top sights in the Lakes. Local Ellen Bowness is a self-confessed travel photography addict who shares her professional knowledge of the area so the rest of us can find the perfect location. The book includes directions, maps, parking and satnav information as well advice on the best time of year to visit. Many popular sites feature, including Cat Bells overlooking Derwentwater, Grasmere and Castle Rigg Stone Circle, but also lesser known gems like Innominate Tarn,a favourite of Lakeland walker Alfred Wainwright and Ritson’s Force at Wasdale Head. One for photographers of all levels from beginner to expert.

More on The Photographer’s Guide to the Lake District here

Small island by little train - Chris ArnotSmall Island by Little Train – a narrow-gauge adventure by Chris Arnot

OK, this book is not only about the Lake District; it’s a journey round the nation’s narrow-gauge railways, but it has a very interesting chapter about one of this area’s most popular tourist attractions. In a chapter entitled ‘Return Ticket to Red Squirrels’ author Chris Arnot travels on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Light Railway. which runs through some of the most beautiful scenery in England. He also meets some of the enthusiasts who run L’al Ratty, as it’s known locally. He talks with Peter Van Zellar, who sums up the appeal of this country railway. “You are conscious of being part of the scenery but, beyond the track, that scenery changes every day. You might see a buzzard one minute and a herd of red deer the next.” The author shares some local history and has a humorous style reminiscent of Bill Bryson and his Notes from a Small Island, on which this book is vaguely modelled.

Disclosure: I was sent this book by publishers The AA for review. It fits very nicely within into the Quirky Travel niche.

More on Small Island by Little Train here.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some Quirky Travel Lake District Books. What’s you favourite book about where you live? Please leave your thoughts and any recommendations in the Comment Box below 🙂

June 12, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Quirky Travel Review: Verdant Works Jute Museum, Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee - image zoe dawes

The Scottish city of Dundee is said to be built on ‘Jam, Jute and Journalism’ and a visit to Verdant Works Jute Museum introduced me to the Jute industry, about which I knew nothing.  Housed in a former jute mill in the Blackness area of Dundee, it was opened in 1996 as a museum dedicated to telling the story of this aspect of the textile industry.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee

Verdant Works Jute Museum

‘The jute collections cover the entire history of the jute industry. It covers topics such as manufacturing, research and development, end products, quality control, textile engineering, the industry’s Indian connections, and the lives of the workers. Objects include machinery patterns, jute and flax products, small tools, technical drawings, plans, and quality control and testing equipment.’ Wikipedia

Moisture tester Dundee Jute Museum Scotland

Black and white images of factories belching smoke, enormous machines, men, women and children dressed in drab clothing standing proud (tired?) beside this equipment flicker through the film auditorium. Until the 1857 Factory Act was introduced, limiting working days to 10 hours, it was common for young boys to toil for up to 19 hours a day. Other facts leap out; in 1863 the average life expectancy for a Dundee man was 33 years. By the end of the 19th century the production of textiles was the dominant industry in Dundee, directly employing around half the working population. Their textiles were being distributed all over the world …

Jute - Dundee and the World, Scotland

Women outnumbered men three to one in the mills, an imbalance in the labour market that gained Dundee the nickname of ‘she town’. It created a unique and tough breed of women, born out of being the main providers for the family. The mill girls were noted for their stubborn independence. “Overdressed, loud, bold-eyed girls” according to one observer and often ‘roarin’ fou’ with drink – characteristics that caused consternation among the ‘gentlefolk’ of Dundee. verdantworks.com Women continued to play a key role in Juteopolis until the well into the 20th century.

Female Jute factory worker, Dundee Scotland

It was salutory to find out how market forces were at work over a 150 years ago. In 1855 the first jute mill in India was set up, using machinery and workers from Dundee and by 1900 had taken over as the world’s leading jute producer. (I remember working with shoe-makers in Clarks factory Kendal, where the footwear manufacturer was closing down UK production as it had all been outsourced to Eastern Europe and South East Asia.) The jute museum does an excellent job of combining fascinating facts, industrial equipment, historical reconstructions and hands-on experiences.

Verdant Works Jute production Dundee

Displays include the wagons transporting raw fibrous jute, massive machinery, information boards on the complex process involved in production, colonial life in India, office managers, the daily lives of factory workers and modern-day uses of jute. It’s gives an excellent insight into one of Scotland’s most important industries. Verdant Works Jute Museum is a must-see attraction for any visitor to Dundee.

Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

Many thanks to Visit Scotland for hosting me in Dundee, Jennie Patterson for showing me round and sharing her passion for the city, the owners and staff at Tay Park House for their hospitality and Dundee City for a very enjoyable visit to Dundee.

More about Scotland: Delicious Food and Drink in Dundee

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Verdant Works Jute Museum Dundee Scotland

June 2, 2017

Discover picture-perfect Painswick in the quirkiliciously quaint Cotswolds

Discover picture-perfect Painswick in the quirkiliciously quaint Cotswolds
Yew Trees Painswick Cotswolds - photo zoe dawes

Yew Trees Painswick

Visiting villages in the Cotswolds is like eating a box of really good chocolates; one or two are divine, the whole box makes you feel slightly queasy. They (the villages) are all so achingly pretty, with mellow-stone walls, rambling roses and pastel foxgloves, manicured lawns, thatched roofs, quaint pubs and shops selling fudge and chi-chi things for the ‘home’ at ridiculously high prices. They have wondrously English names like Bourton-on-the-Water, Chipping Sodbury and the sinister-named, but oh so charming Upper (and Lower) Slaughter. 

Cotswold Way signpost in Broadway

Cotswold Way signpost in Broadway

However, if you’re looking for a slightly less known Cotswold village then search out Painswick. Calling itself the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds‘, it’s only 6 miles from Gloucester and yet it’s as if the 21st century hasn’t got here yet.

Painswick – Queen of the Cotswolds

St Mary's Church and Yew Trees Painswick - photo zoe dawes

St Mary’s Church and Yew Trees

St Mary’s Church and Yew Trees

A gilded weather-cock sits on top of the splendid spire of St Mary Church, getting a bird’s eye view of Painswick and surrounding countryside. Built over 600 years ago, this delightful church has a number of intriguing features to attract visitors. The ceilings were repainted and gilded in the 1970s, the lecturn is made from applewoood not stone, and the font dates to from 1661.

St Mary's Church Painswick Cotswolds - photo zoe dawes

St Mary’s Church Painswick

High above hangs a model of Sir Francis Drake’s Armada flag ship, the Bonaventure. (The word ‘nave‘ is derived from the Latin word for ship, navis.) In the oldest part of the church is a beautiful mosaic from Italy and a wooden Memorial Screen carved by a Belgian refugee in the First World War. My eye was drawn to the colourful embroidered kneelers hanging from the pews. There are over 300, made by the parishioners in the 1980s.

Yew Trees Painswick Cotswolds - photo zoe dawes

Yew Trees

The yew trees in St Mary’s churchyard were planted in 1792. Legend says 99 were planted and a hundredth will never grow. I visited with a friend on a gloriously sunny October day; they’d been clipped in August and were looking magnificent. On the Sunday following the 19th of September the church holds the ‘Clypping Ceremony’ (from clyppan = to embrace) during which the clergy, choir and children walk through the churchyard and a join hands in a circle around the church. A sermon is preached from the steps near the tower and the children are given buns and coins for joining in.

Painswick Rococo Garden

Painswick Rococo Garden - photo HartlepoolMarina2014

Painswick Rococo Garden – photo HartlepoolMarina2014

Painswick has England’s only surviving complete rococo garden. Designed in the 1740s, it’s described as a ‘theatrical set for holding intimate garden parties, ripe for riotous pleasure and romance’. Painswick Rococo Garden. With quirky follies, a maze, woods, fruit and vegetable gardens plus a cafe and gift shop, there’s certainly a lot to see. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit this attraction,  but my friend assured me it is well-worth a visit. Next time …

Painswick Village

Painswick signpost

Painswick signpost

There are a great many fine buildings in this village, which used to be a thriving centre for the Cotswold wool industry. Bisley Street has quite a few medieval houses; their low doorways indicate the age of these buildings. The oldest building in Painswick is on New Street. Built around 1428, it used to be a post office but sadly it’s no longer in use. Grander houses can be found all around and we were tempted by attractive Cardynham House Bistro for a bite to eat. Behind the church are the Spectacle Stocks, which were last used in the 1840s.

Painswick village

Painswick village

We picked up a leaflet of walks in the area from the tiny Tourist Information Office near the church Lych Gate. The Cotswold Way runs through the village and there’s a path along Painswick Stream. Our final stop was the Victorian Town Hall where a craft fair was being held. It appeared very popular with locals and the few tourists who were pottering about. There’s plenty to see in this attractive village and we felt we’d found a very special corner of the busy Cotswolds …

Find out about Stratford-upon-Avon and William Shakespeare here.

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Guide to Painswick Cotswolds village - The Quirky Traveller

May 29, 2017

An illuminating bus tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, Germany

An illuminating bus tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, Germany

Nazi Party Rally Grounds video Nuremberg

I very nearly didn’t go. There were a number of tours on offer that day and I was torn between culinary (and beer) highlights of Nuremberg, a walking tour of this historic city in Bavaria or the Train Museum. The idea of visiting the Nazi Party Rally Grounds was not so appealing, mainly because of the very negative connotations of the name, a part of history many of us want to forget. However, a number of people had already done the tour and said it was excellent. I am so glad I listened to them. Here’s why …

The Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour

Nazi Party Rally Grounds bus tour Nuremberg

Lest we forget; that’s the resonant message from World War I, yet we do forget and we shouldn’t. The Nazi Party Rally Grounds Video Bus Tour is run by Geschichte Für Alle (History for Everyone) and outlines ‘the use of architecture as a theatrical backdrop to the various events, explains the function of the rallies themselves and the way in which Nuremberg has dealt with its National Socialist legacy.’ I was on a shortened version of the full day tour; we had three hours to get an idea of what Hitler envisaged and what remains today.

Map of Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg 1940 - image Lencer

Map of Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg 1940 – image Lencer

Our guide, Werner Fiederer, welcomed us aboard the coach and told us we’d be seeing some video footage from A Triumph of Will. This 1935 propaganda film of Hitler and the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, was was directed, produced, edited, and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl. Werner then gave some background history to the ‘success’ of the Nazi Party and Hitler’s megalomaniac plans for Germany and the world. He explained why they resonated with a populace exhausted from one world war and broken by the privations of the Weimar Republic.

'A Triumph of Will' by Leni Riefenstahl. Nazi Rally Gournds BusTour Nuremberg Germany - photo zoe dawes

‘The Triumph of Will’ by Leni Riefenstahl.

Our first stop on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds tour was the Congress Hall (Kongresshalle). It was intended to seat 50,000 with a self-supporting roof. It was started in 1935 but was unfinished. Left derelict for many years, in 2001, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds) was opened with the permanent exhibition Faszination und Gewalt (Fascination and Terror), located in the northern wing. In the southern building, the Serenadenhof, the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra have their home.

Nuremberg_Aerial_Kongresshalle Aerial photo of Congress Hall - photo Nicohofmann

Aerial photo of Nazi Party Congress Hall – photo Nicohofmann

As we drove into the Congress Hall arena, the sheer size of the edifice took my breath away. It represents the audacity of Hitler’s terrifying vision. A few months’ before, I’d seen the Colosseum in Rome for the first time; this massive monument to Imperial Rome is genuinely awe-inspiring. The Congress Hall in Nuremberg, which was inspired by the Colosseum, is simply chilling. We got out of the coach and had time to wander around and get a feel for what it might have been like in Hitler’s day. Incongruously, the wooden stalls for the famous Nuremberg Christmas Market (Kristkindlesmarkt), are stored on the ground floor.

Zoe Dawes at Congress Hall Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg Germany

Inside the Congress Hall arena

From here we drove past a tranquil park. Through the coach window, I glimpsed yachts drifting round the lake, rowing boats skimming across the water, runners jogging round the perimeter, children playing beside the shore and a colourful mural celebrating Nuremberg’s Volksfest. Behind this tranquil scene loomed the Congress Hall …

Park by Nazi Party Rally Grounds Nuremberg

Next stop was the Zeppelin Field, so-named because in 1909 Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin landed with one of his airships in this location. Werner told us it was one of architect Albert Speer‘s first works for the Nazi Party and was based upon the Pergamon Altar, a monumental Greek structure built in 2nd century BC, now reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin. It was here that Hitler laid on his biggest shows, with seating for up to 200,000 to witness his messianic speeches from the ‘Führer’s Grandstand‘. There used to be a huge gilded swastika towering over the stadium. It was blown up by occupying American soldiers  on April 25, 1945. This clip (uploaded onto YouTube by themadchopper) was edited from the original filmed by L.B. Fenberg.

Werner explained, “Speer designed the stadium to become a “cathedral of light”, created by 130 high-power anti-aircraft searchlights ringing the field at intervals of 40 feet (12m) casting brilliant beams of light high into the sky. For an audience with very little to entertain them, this would have been a stunning spectacle, equivalent to a huge firework display today.” The podiums for the searchlights can still be seen.

Zeppelin Field Grandstand Nuremberg Germany Nazi Party Rally Grounds - photo zoedawes

Zeppelin Field Grandstand

Today it all looks rather shabby. A car with L plates waited for us to cross over to the grandstand. The area is now used for learner drivers,  various sports and races, concerts and festivals. The grandstand is gradually crumbling away, as the German authorities decide what to do with it. ‘Albert Speer … claimed that he had used special building materials to ensure that the complex would be like the remains of the Roman Empire and “last for a thousand years”. He could hardly have been more wrong.’ (The Independent article.)

Nazi Party Rally at the Zeppelin Field Nuremberg Germany

Nazi Party Rally at the Zeppelin Field

Back on the bus, we watched more video clips of Nazi Rallies and Hitler’s speeches to the masses as well as a short clip from Charlie Chaplin‘s 1940 movie ‘The Great Dictator‘. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he could not have made the film if he had known about the true extent of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time.

The Great Dictator- Charlie Chaplin - Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour - Nuremberg - photo zoe dawes

The Great Dictator- Charlie Chaplin

Our final stop was the Great Road (Große Straße), almost 2km long and heading directly towards Nuremberg Castle, which we could see in the distance. It was originally intended as a parade road for the Wehrmacht, the united armed forces of Nazi Germany. We saw the original grey and black granite paving slabs, apparently made to be the exact length of a Nazi goose-step. As we drove back into the city, I glimpsed the remains of stone ‘seats’ where the crowds would sit to watch the troops march past. A chilling reminder of what might have been …

The Great Road - Nazi Rally Grounds Tour - Nuremberg Germany

The Great Road 2017

Returning to the centre of Nuremberg, I wondered what differences there would be in the world today if Hitler had won the war. Impossible to know, but as a couple of friendly locals directed me back to my hotel, I was grateful that he had not achieved his insane vision, and appreciative of a chance to see how modern day Germany is dealing with this sinister legacy.

For more details of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds Video Bus Tour, which includes a visit to the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials were held, go to Geschichte Für Alle. Many thanks to Werner Fiederer for his informative and balanced insight into this challenging era and to German National Tourist Board for inviting me to visit historic Nuremberg.

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Nazi Party Rally Grounds Tour Nuremberg - image zoe dawes

May 18, 2017

5 Reasons to choose Crete for your Summer Holiday

5 Reasons to choose Crete for your Summer Holiday

The summer holidays are fast approaching and with so many beautiful holiday destinations to visit, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose. One of the most popular destinations for travelling is Crete. Being the largest of the Greek islands, it truly offers everything a holidaymaker could ever need for a perfect summer holiday.

Agios Nikolaos - Lake Voulismeni,, Crete - photo Artemiy Pavlov

Agios Nikolaos – Lake Voulismeni – Crete: photo Artemiy Pavlov

Here are 5 reasons why Crete should be your next summer holiday destination:

 1.  The Gorgeous Mediterranean Climate

Beach in Crete, Greece

Cretan Beach

Located between the Mediterranean and North African climate zones, Crete offers a warm and dry climate that is moderated with refreshingly cool sea breezes. Being bathed in the warm sunlight throughout most of the year, Crete is known to have one of the best climates in Europe. The sunshine is in no short supply whilst rainfall is nowhere to be found during summer, making this a popular all-inclusive summer holiday destination.

2. A Huge Variety of Activities

Heraklion Archaeology Museum Crete

Heraklion Archaeology Museum

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, offers plenty of natural wonders to explore and a variety of popular resorts to indulge in. Forming a significant part of the cultural heritage of Greece, this island is brimming with fascinating culture and history. For family activities, take a trip down to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum to experience one of Europe’s most fascinating museums. This museum covers over 5,500 years of the island’s impressive history. Head east to experience the mesmerising sea-life at the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos.  Enjoy a relaxing day and admire the gorgeous sea-life, reptiles and rescued animals.

Agios Nikolaos resort is best known for its impressive range of activities. It’s a splendid lagoon with golden beaches, plenty of water sports and vibrant night life. This picturesque port town offers some of the most pristine beaches on Crete, fine restaurants and boutique shops.

3. Luxurious Yet Affordable Accommodation

Villa in Crete Greece

Cretan villa

Summer holidays in Crete allow you to take full advantage of their hugely popular luxury family villas for great value. In every family villa, you can find all of the modern and essential amenities for your family. Experience the indulgent private pools and delicious barbecues whilst the kids have fun in the children’s pool and the playground. One of the top advantages that these family villas offer is impressive safety as all villas need to be certified to meet the required regulations.

The charming city of Chania offers a wide range of fantastic holiday villas. From seaside houses that offer a beautiful view of the natural splendours, to private oases near the beach resort of Maleme.  Whatever your holiday accommodation requirements are, Chania has a huge selection of affordable villas to choose from.

4. Exquisite Local Cuisine

Food on Crete

Cretan Food

Local Cretan cuisine is incomparable with its wide variety of dishes available. The flavourful blend of its unique ingredients with simple Cretan techniques produces a distinguishable taste that leaves you wanting more. For the cheese lovers, Crete has its own signature cheeses which are usually produced from sheep or goat’s milk. Graviera cheese offers a hard, yet sweet taste with nutty flavouring.

5. Friendly Locals 

Market in Crete Greece

Market in Crete

Crete has a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere and this is reflects by the locals. Cretans are very friendly and extremely welcoming to tourists. They are genuine people who love to talk to visitors, so if you have any questions or need advice, don’t be afraid to ask them.

If you would like to visit Crete this summer, then book a summer holiday to Crete with the Midcounties Co-operative Travel.

This post is brought to you by Midcounties Co-operative Travel.

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5 reasons to visit Crete Greece

May 12, 2017

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup

5 tasty dishes that go perfectly with Black Garlic Ketchup
Black Garlic Ketchup - in Menorca

Black Garlic Ketchup – on balcony of my brother’s flat in Menorca

 

Have you tried Black Garlic Ketchup yet? Not heard of it? You soon will. Award-winning Hawkshead Relish have taken one of the latest must-have ingredients, Black Garlic, and turned it into a taste-bomb sauce that goes with a wide variety of dishes. They use only the best Spanish black garlic, made by ‘baking whole, fresh garlic bulbs for 40 days at a very low temperature creating an extraordinary flavour; rich, smooth & bursting with a balsamic sweetness.’  On a recent trip to Menorca I bought a bulb of Black Garlic; not knowing about this ‘baking’ process, I had a surprise to find its cloves a dark gooey texture.

Spanish Black Garlic - photo zoe dawes

I got my hands on a bottle of Black Garlic Ketchup a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with it ever since, including taking it out to Menorca for my brother to try. I’ve had it with a wide range of dishes, including steak – perfect, risotto – OK and pork casserole – different. All the dishes were cooked at home, although I also tried a couple on holiday. Here are my top 5 plus recipe tips (no measurements or detail) for your delectation.

5 ways with Black Garlic Ketchup

 1.  Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo Zoe Dawes

Fish and Chips with Black Garlic Ketchup

The umami-taste of the ketchup really enhances the flavour of beer-battered cod and goes beautifully with home-made chips and frozen peas.  I’m not a fan of tomato ketchup and usually have mayonnaise with fish and chips, but from now on I’ll be having it with Hawkshead Relish’s Black Garlic Ketchup. Try it with different fish; it could be too overpowering for more delicate types. A glass of chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was my tipple of choice – because that’s what was in the fridge …

Cooking Tip: Perfect chips. Use a floury potato like King Edwards or Maris Piper. Cut into whatever shape and size you like. Par-boil them with their skins ON (for added fibre), pat dry then put them into very hot oil. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon or basket, turn up the heat again and flash fry the chips for a minute or so to crisp them.

2.  Jerk Chicken with new potatoes and asparagus

Jerk chicken, new potatoes, asparagus and Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

My son really loved this combination. The slightly spicy flavour of the grilled chicken was enhanced by the ketchup and the buttery new potatoes got an extra oomph. It would also go well with Canarian Patatas Arrugudas (wrinkled potatoes)The steamed asparagus (which I have with just about everything when it’s in season!) coped well.  We also tried the ketchup with unspiced chicken which was fine, but preferred the Caribbean version.  I had it with a glass of chilled French Reserve de la Saurine white wine.

Cooking Tip: Jerk chicken. Coat chicken breasts with Jerk seasoning – buy it or make your own with dried chilli, ginger, garlic, onion, cumin, thyme. I use a tasty one from Aruba, a Caribbean island I visited last year. Heat a griddle pan until very hot and place chicken onto pan. Quickly sear one side then turn over and cook for about 3 minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. Turn over again and cook for a further few minutes. Serve immediately.

3.  Sausage and garlic mash with peas and sweetcorn

Sausage and mash with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

Sausage and mash is my ultimate comfort food; I’ve loved it ever since I was a child. I prefer local Cumberland or Westmorland sausages, but any good-quality bangers will do. Hawkshead Relish, based in Cumbria, add tomatoes, spices and Anglesey seasalt to this ketchup, which may explain why it goes so well with this meal. I prefer my sausages well-grilled, not fried. My brother gave me a very special bottle of Gran Reserva Spanish Rioja 2005 which was just divine with this dinner.

Cooking Tip: Garlic mashed potatoes. Boil floury potatoes for about 20 minutes until almost falling apart. (I prefer to cook them with skins on.) Drain and put into a bowl with a little milk, butter and a few garlic cloves. You could use black garlic for a twist. Use an electric mixer (be careful not to over do it or the mash becomes gluey), a potato ricer or hand masher and mash until it’s voluptuously smooth.

4.  Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with Pasta

Black Garlic Ketchup Bolognese with pasta

For this dish I used Black Garlic Ketchup in my regular bolognese recipe. I also replaced the garlic I’d usually include, with black garlic cloves. THis definitely changed the flavour, adding a depth and intriguing sweetness to the sauce. I loved it but my son and his dad preferred my usual recipe so I will leave it to you to decide. Argentinean Malbec goes down a treat with this meal.

Cooking Tip: Black Garlic Bolognese Sauce. Fry the onions until golden. Remove from pan. Fry minced beef until browned all over. Drain any excess liquid and add fried onions along with a few black garlic cloves and red peppers. Stir in passata or tomato puree, a good glug of red wine (any plonk will do) and fry for a few minutes. Add some chicken stock and a hefty dollop of Black Garlic Ketchup. Cover pan and simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve with pasta and grated cheese.

5.  Spanish Omelette with salad and sourdough bread

Spanish Omelette and salad with Black Garlic Ketchup - photo zoe dawes

A marriage made in heaven; Spanish omelette, salad and fresh sourdough bread. Eating it reminds me of happy family holidays in Spain. Serving it with Black Garlic Ketchup brings together all the flavours in one deliciously harmonious plate of food. Of course, you should have it with Spanish beer, but I like Peroni from Italy. Any chilled white wine goes well too.

Cooking Tip: Spanish omelette, quirky style. Cut waxy new potatoes (skins on or off) into thick slices and fry gently in olive oil with thinly sliced onions, for about 30 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. Whisk eggs (one per person) and pour over potatoes, with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes then, if you feel brave, turn over omelette and cook a couple more minutes. I finish it off under the grill and serve with a grating of Menorcan cheese.

Spanish omelette in frying pan

Finally, for something quite different, check out this recipe for Aubergine and Black Garlic hummus. You can buy Black Garlic Ketchup online or at their Hawkshead shop in the heart of the Lake District. Many thanks to Maria at Hawkshead Relish for giving me a sample to try; the views (and recipes) are my own.

May 2, 2017

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingos and cocktails on Renaissance Aruba Resort private island

Flamingo in front of Mangrove Beach Bar - Renaissance Aruba

Luxury hotels around the world vie with each other for a Unique Selling Point that differentiates them from the rest of the very luxurious herd. Well, the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino has an ace up its highly-coutured sleeve. Its very own private island … with its very own flock of flamingos. And Flamingo Beach on Renaissance Island is adults-only so the kiddies don’t pester the birds. I have been fortunate to stay in some of the loveliest hotels in the world but this one tops them all for sheer gorgeousness with a quirky twist.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba flamingos - photo zoe dawesThere is something delightfully bonkers about flamingos. With their spindly legs, sinuous necks, hooked beaks, salmon pink plumage and weird yellow eyes, they look like something designed by Salvador Dali. I first remember seeing a picture of a flamingo in Lewis Carrol’s surreal story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; she had a large flamingo tucked under her arm. It was looking understandably cross as she was using it a croquet mallet. I’ve seen them in zoos but never, until a truly memorable holiday in Aruba, had I seen them in their natural habitat.

Flamingo on Renaissance Aruba island - photo zoe dawes

Well, actually it’s not really their natural habitat as they have been brought in by Renaissance Aruba to add some quirky colour to the island. There were seven of them when I visited, very tame and very fond of cocktails! They seemed especially fond of Aruba Ariba, a heady mix of local liquer Coecoei, Caribbean rum and a lot more. Visitors can buy flamingo food from the beach bar and it’s a novel experience to sit in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sipping a cocktail and have a flamingo peck from your hand 🙂

Feeding flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Renaissance Aruba has two hotels on Aruba; I stayed in the adults-only Renaissance Marina Hotel in downtown Ornajestad, the island’s capital. The Renaissance Ocean Suites across the road, has comfortable suites perfect for families or couples. Both hotels have access to Renaissance Aruba Private Island via the hotel launch which runs regularly from morning to evening. It’s a real treat to step onto the boat INSIDE the Marina Hotel lobby, emerge into the Caribbean sunshine, pootle past the millionaire’s yachts to the Ocean Suites to pick up more guests then whizz across your every own private island.

Renaissance Aruba Private Island paradise

There are two main beaches; Iguana Beach is for families and Flamingo Beach is for adults – and flamingos. Sun beds and hammocks entice visitors to relax and forget about everyday cares. Spa Cove is ideal for full-on pamper sessions and Papagayo Bar and Grill serves simple meals, including excellent wood-fired pizzas with beach waiter service.  At the Mangrove Beach Bar you can get one of those popular Ariba Aruba cocktails the flamingos are so fond of. (You can watch one necking back a cocktail in the video at the end of this article …)

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Ariba Aruba Cocktail

Renaissance Island offers a range of water sport activities, beach-tennis courts and a fitness facility. You can even watch the planes land at Aruba Airport opposite. The 40-acre island has mangroves all around and a nature reserve at one end. I saw lots of iguanas including a bright blue bobby-dazzler and a friendly pelican perched very close to my hammock one day.

Hotel Renaissance Aruba Island pelican

However, it’s the flamingos that make the island so special and the reason I’d book to stay at the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino, as opposed to any of the many other excellent hotels here. There are plenty of things to do on Aruba but without doubt, my favourite was relaxing on a beach with a little flock of quirkilicious flamingos …

Watch Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Island

Want to see the flamingos up close – and quaffing a cocktail? Here you go!

Special thanks to our host Amayra Boekhoudt, who looked after us on behalf of Aruba Tourism. If you’d like to find out more, visit Aruba website and follow their hashtags #discoveraruba and #onehappyisland on Social Media.

Find out more things to do on Aruba here

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Flamingos on Renaissance Aruba Private Island

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