Romancing the Charm of Dunedin

Dunedin is the perfect blend of the contemporary and historic. The city charms couples with its bluestone Victorian buildings, hilly suburbs, tempting bars and cafeterias, live-music, wildlife-viewing opportunities, thriving theatres, and pulsating nightlife. This vibrant ‘University City’ is a preferred destination for a romantic day out. It helps lovers strengthen their vows in the beautiful locales of Lamach Castle, Speights Brewery, Tunnel beach, Otago Peninsula and more.

The many delights of Dunedin are best discovered by pre-booking Hertz car rental services. With the best chauffeur driven services at their disposal, couples can look forward to many more relaxed moments as they drive from one sightseeing location to the next –in an easy and convenient manner.

Culture and Character—Close to Nature

Dunedin, set amidst a celestial landscape and fringed by the sea, hums vibrantly with culture, colour and natural bounties alike. Here, nature dominates the innate character of the city and makes it an ideal destination for honeymoons and/ or romantic weddings. Dunedin’s cityscape is punctuated by Edwardian and Victorian spires, neo-Gothic buildings and stately homes. No wonder it reminds visitors of the autumnal charm of New England and the bustling cafés of New York. One of the most popular haunts for tourists of all ages, its city centre boasts of its own distinctive ambience and aptly contributes to the unexpected cultural delights.

Art, Craft and Wildlife!

From fashion design outlets to high quality local art and crafts, professional theatre, orchestra, “Writers’ Walk” through Dunedin’s central areas and quaint marketplaces, there is lot to keep one busy across the day. Additionally, the city’s proximity to wildlife introduces enthusiasts to the world’s rarest penguins, New Zealand’s sea lions and the flight of the royal albatross at the magnificent Otago Peninsula.

Places worth Visiting in Dunedin

A luxurious drive takes visitors in Dunedin to Larnach Castle that sits above the harbour and offers stunning 360° shots of sea, city and its surrounds. The dramatic cliffs located near Lover’s Leap offer landscapes of striking intensity while its Botanic Garden presents a diverse selection of plants in beautiful topographical locations. The other places worthy of a look are the Edwardian Railway Station with fanciful stained glass windows, First Presbyterian Church built way back in 1873, the St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral with 38 Takaka marble steps, University of Otago with picture perfect architecture, Glenfalloch Woodland Garden and so forth.

 In other words, Dunedin rocks—even if you visit it for a day! 

Have you ever been to New Zealand?

Five Reasons Why Lanzarote Should Be On Your Travel Radar

The month of March for me will be centered on the Canary Islands – not only will I be visiting Tenerife for the first time, but I’ll also be heading to Trujillo to redeem a prize from a writing contest, in which I wrote about a memorable meal on Gran Canaria.

For the future, I can’t overlook a Lanzarote Sunshine Holiday, as the easternmost island’s biodiversity, gastronomic treats and jaw-dropping beaches merit an epic road trip around the bean-shaped island.

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And it’s not all golf courses and spas on this vacation paradise – leaving the Tenerife trip planning to my local friend, I began to delve into what Lanzarote has to offer.

The Beaches and Biodiversity

Known to have been formed by underwater volcanic eruptions, Lanzarote has been crowned with a Biosphere Reserve through UNESCO for its richness of flora and fauna, as well as its unique geology. In fact, over 40% of the island has been designated as protected area, the most famous being the moon-like volcanic landscape of Timanfaya National Park.

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There’s also a number of geological sites due to multiple eruptions and underwater volcanic activity. Visit the Jameos de Agua, el Golfo volcanic lake or  the Cueva de los Verdes – they look insane!

And thanks to its miles of coastline, the beaches on Lanzarote are famous for their beauty and their wind sports. Those near Puerto del Carmen are where you’ll find a number of tourist-friendly amenities and all-inclusive resorts, but Yaiza’s white sand beaches and the lunar-like stretches near Tinajo shouldn’t be missed.

The Gastronomy

The gastronomic history of Lanzarote is astounding, rich in vegetables and fish. After tourism, agriculture is the most important industry thanks to its wine-growing regions and tough terrain. This also means that potatoes and yams are widely grown, and the most typical meat dishes are of goat and pork – a fry cry from the paella and sangria touristic ploy.

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Be sure to try a gofio, a simple, traditional gift believed to be eaten by the aboriginal people. Made of toasted grain flour, it’s typically eaten with stews or added to water to make dough. Cheese is also a big deal on the island, and several varieties are made.

The Weather

While most of North America and even Spain are caught in the worst winter weather of, um, decades, the Canaries experience an average temperature of 22° (and the average water temperature is close to 20°!) and about 12 hours of sunlight in the summer months.

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Do note that if things gets hazy, it’s because of the sand blowing off of the Sahara Desert – Lanzarote is just 125km off the African coast!

The History

Believed to be the first settled island of the archipelago, Lanzarote has long been inhabited by Phoenicians, Romans and the objective of many European conquerors. It was even believed to be Atlantis by Plato!

Teguise is the historic capital of the island and, at one time, the political center as well. The small city has seen skirmishes and pirate attacks, and is now home to the island’s best museums. There’s also a weekly flea market on Sunday, and the city fills to the brim for the event.

Though a fair amount of the Canaries’ citizens is made up of expats, Lanzarote has a smaller concentration of foreign residents. Because it’s different from mainland Spain, the island merits a visit to see its unique way of life.

Getting to and around Lanzarote

The island is served by both an international airport and ferries from nearby Gran Canaria. Once on the island, renting a car is recommended, or you can cycle, surf, hike or even hitch a ride on the guagua.

Have you ever been to the Canary Islands? Any suggestions for Tenerife?

The five best Spanish foods I never knew existed

I’m pleased to give some space to my friend and fellow Midwesterner, Katie Stearns. Our first meeting was serendipitous and mostly based around a shared interest: food. When not working in marketing, Katie is often found in the kitchen or eating out in Seville, and she’s written a post about five of her favorite Spanish food discoveries:

When I think back to my first year in Spain, and even my second, part of me cringes when I think about the things I thought I knew about the country. And when I say country, I really mean the country’s gastronomy scene – a topic that I’m passionate about no matter which part of the world I’m in.

I thought Spanish food was simple. I had this notion that Spanish food was kind of bland. And for some reason or other, I wasn’t convinced that it was anything special. If you’re only going to visit Spain for a short period of time, don’t waste any time in  making this exact mistake, and make sure you leave it to the professionals to help you discover these amazing flavors.

Thankfully, after two more years of living in Spain and thanks to my Spanish boyfriend and his family of amazing cooks, I get it. Spanish food is special. It’s steeped in both flavor and tradition. It’s made with spices and ingredients that have been around for ages and that have continuously produced spectacular food. It’s comforting and flavorful, and because food here is often cooked slowly, the flavors are inexplicably complex.

Here are five Spanish foods I wish I had known existed long before I ever did.

Espinacas con garbanzos is a dish of comfort and flavor. Although I eat spinach in salads, I never knew people really cooked the stuff until I got here, and I have to say cooked spinach is better than raw spinach on all counts. Espinacas con garbanzos starts with frying garlic and day-old bread, which becomes the base of the dish. Then, the spinach is added and cooked down with spices like cumin and a touch of pimentón until, finally, you add the fresh chickpeas. I could eat this dish anytime, anywhere, but it’s really best on a chilly day and served with a piece of crusty baguette to sop up the leftover cumin-laced sauce.

Morcilla. Okay, so I did know what it was, but I had no idea how good it was. Just do yourself a favor, and don’t think about what it’s made of and enjoy the rich and robust flavor of this incredible cured meat. It’s also a perfect touch in classic stews made in Spain with lentils or garbanzo beans.

Caracoles are another food I’d heard of, but again one of those things I chose to politely ignore. When my Spanish coworkers told me the translation of caracoles in English (snails), I felt squeamish. I think now is a good moment to note that I have always been an unbiased and adventurous eater, but after one slimy-snail-related situation at my house almost 15 years ago, I told myself I’d never go back. But I did go back, only about six months ago, and now I keep going back for more and more. Snails here in Spain are anything but slimy. The best snails I’ve ever eaten were in Córdoba, and they were bathed in a yellow cumin-spiced broth. After getting all of the snails out of the little cup, my boyfriend and his parents and I all stood over the little dish  and took turns dipping our spoons in just for that delicious liquid. And in Sevilla, it’s typical to order cabrillas, which are a bit bigger than the normal snails, and drenched in spicy tomato broth. The only regret I have about snails is that I waited so long to try them.

Huevos fritos seem simple enough. They may seem so simple, in fact, that you steer clear from ordering them at a bar or restaurant, just like I did. But to understand why that is a huge no-no while visiting Spain, you must understand that a fried egg here is nothing like a fried egg back home. Actually, when I make fried eggs at home, my boyfriend scoffs at me, and tells me it’s offensive to grill an egg in a spot of oil and still call it frying. He thinks this, of course, because a fried egg in Spain is just that. An egg gets broken into almost a full inch of hot olive oil, and instead of flipping it half-way during the cooking process, the cook simply takes a spatula to splash the hot olive oil on top of the egg. This process leaves the egg cooked to perfection and tasting nothing like the fried eggs I grew up with.

Coquinas are tiny little clams that are collected on the coast of Andalucía. I suppose this is a good moment to mention I was born and raised Midwestern. I ate meat of all kinds, while fish and seafood were rarely served at my house. When I moved to Spain, I started learning Spanish words for fish while simultaneously learning them in English, but I rarely ordered fish at restaurants and, in general, had no idea how many delicious things I was missing out on. When I first started dating my boyfriend, we’d go out to dinner together and he’d always gravitate toward the fish on a menu. And as first dates and shyness go, I could never say no. And thus began my love affair with fish and seafood in Spain, and coquinas are number one on my list. The little clams are cooked with olive oil, garlic and parsley until they open right up. They are sweet and soft, and the perfect meal after a day spent at the beach. Like many Spanish dishes, the leftover sauce from the cooking process is the perfect place to dip your bread, soaking up every last drop.

Katie Stearns lives, eats and breathes life in the South of Spain, where she’s going on her fourth year of life abroad. What started out as a nine-month stint teaching English as a foreign language has spun into a career of writing and marketing for Andalucía Inside, a luxury tour guide company located in Seville. All photos are her own.

Cruising: Spotlight on Royal Carribean

My memories of cruises are far from what their marketers want you to think of – days trapped on the kiddy deck while my family cavorted, piña colada in hand, because I was too old for the kid stuff, but too young for the disco. When my father suggested a cruise this winter down the Danube – hitting Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary – I was initilly skeptical.

Then I remembered that I’m now of age.

All of the sudden, I find myself considering cruising as a relaxing, less stressful way to travel. Though we’ll be taking a different cruise line, I thought about the first two experienced I had, one of which was on Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean International is one of the biggest and best-known names in the cruise holiday industry. With their blend of innovative onboard facilities, exciting entertainment and scintillating destinations, there’s plenty to love about cruise holidays with Royal Caribbean.

For starters, they sail to over 260 destinations around the world, ranging from the frozen wonderland of Alaska and the paradise beaches of the Caribbean, to familiar Mediterranean shores and far-flung exotic cities. Some of their itineraries are short 2-night taster cruises, which offer the perfect short break or a great way for first-timers to have a go at cruising. Other itineraries last for a week or even longer.

Depending on your choice of itinerary, you can often find cruise holidays with Royal Caribbean that set sail from the UK, usually Southampton, which offers a flight-free holiday – perfect for anyone who doesn’t like flying! It also means you get to spend more time onboard while you’re sailing to your first port of call, and in that time you can enjoy the ship’s fabulous facilities – be it the rock-climbing wall, the ice-skating rink, the shopping malls or evening entertainment.

Royal Caribbean has helped to revolutionise cruise holidays and is attracting a much wider audience than ever before. With family-friendly cruises, romantic escapes and exciting adventures for thrill-seekers, never before has cruising been so widely accepted – and enjoyed. What’s more, given this wide-ranging appeal, you can now find plenty of Royal Caribbean cruise deals, too. Head straight to the Royal Caribbean website or, for a fantastic range of choice and the chance to compare itineraries across all the major operators, use a travel agent like Cruise Thomas Cook. Take a look at their website here - http://www.thomascook.com/cruise/lines/royal-caribbean/ -  and search for the latest Royal Caribbean cruise deals on itineraries departing this year and next.

In short, whether you’re after a fun-filled weekend away or the adventure of a lifetime, Royal Caribbean can take you there, and beyond.

This guest post was contributed by N. Rudenko.

Any ideas one what to see in Passau, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava or Budapest? I’ll be on a seven-day booze cruise with my family!

The Best Destinations for European City-Breaks

Editor’s note: Just last night, my friend Mickey and I were talking about our travel tastes. While she loves exotic, I prefer a weekend of city life – museums, hip coffee houses and pounding the pavement. Living in Seville, I have the chance to take city breaks every weekend, thanks to no work Fridays and tons of destinations under two or three hours away. Fall is a great time to travel because of the lower cost to fly and stay, and it’s ideal to come to Seville now. Where’s your favorite city break?

A city-break offers the ideal opportunity to glean a glimpse of local life. Indulge in your destination, its culture, history and heritage and enjoy iconic tourist attractions with a one-stop weekend away. Europe boasts a wealth of dream city destinations, just a short flight from UK shores.

With something to offer everyone, European city-breaks promise a weekend away packed with entertainment and enjoyment. With relatively reasonable flights to an array of European destinations, get set to start exploring.

Immerse yourself in Italy’s capital

From culture vultures and art enthusiasts to fans of fine dining and superlative shopaholics, Rome has something to astound every visitor. Steeped in history, Rome is a city of culture with iconic attractions at every corner. From the Vatican to the Colosseum, prestigious landmarks prevail. So much so that the entire old city centre is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Help make your holiday money go further. Find affordable flights here and make your selection from a variety of convenient departure points. Soak up the cafe culture or hit the shops with your savings.

Romantic Rome offers some of the most iconic historical and cultural experiences in the world so enjoy the majesty of this Italian jewel with an unforgettable weekend away.

More: Where to eat in Florence and Bologna.

Discover Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a Croatian coastal delight, steeped in history – and one which is becoming increasingly popular. This walled city is home to Baroque buildings and medieval fortifications and overlooks the sparkling Adriatic Sea so it’s hardly surprising that Croatia’s tourism numbers were up to 6.6 million for January-July 2013!

Beautiful beaches and astounding architecture vie for attention and combine to create a varied choice for a spectacular city break. With everything on offer from superlative seafood to adventure sport facilities, visitors will want more than a weekend away to enjoy this fantastic destination fully!

More: read about walking the Dubrovnik City Walls and chowing down on spicy cevapi.

Soak up some Spanish culture

Barcelona remains a popular destination, combining heritage and history with contemporary and cosmopolitan city life. The historic quarters of the city intrigue with a network of narrow streets and the tree-lined, pedestrian street, La Ramblas proves ever popular as a destination.

The Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell showcase some of Spain’s finest feats of architecture. Several of Gaudi’s monuments are classed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and sit comfortably alongside Barcelona’s bustling modern districts and beautiful coastal location.

Plus, there are some pretty sweet hotels and apartment rentals to stay in while in the Ciudad Condal.

Read more: Barcelona’s whimsical Parc Guell, visiting the Sagrada Familia or Day Trips from Barcelona.

Where are you headed on your next trip? Or, since it’s a long weekend in Spain, where are you now?

Trekking the Barranco de Masca in Tenerife

Something inside me changed the day Hayley and I started on the Camino de Santiago – I starting to like walking! Ever since getting back, I’ve been scoping out places to take Pequeño Monty to strap on my boots and trek. Carly did the hard work for me – she found a cool hike in Tenerife. Julie, is your couch free one weekend so I can come stay?

For most people, Tenerife conjures up images of crowded beaches, bars overflowing with young holidaymakers looking for cheap drinks and a good time. However, there’s so much more to this wonderful island! Having found a cheap flight to Tenerife in 2013, I decided that this would be the year I would visit the island and discover some of these hidden gems. I decided I wanted to take a trekking holiday around the island, because I knew there was a whole ton of fantastic scenery just waiting for me to feast my eyes on. I only had a few days off work, so with a little bit of research, I came up with a plan to hike the Barranco de Masca. ‘Barranco’ means ravine, so this was essentially going to be a walk along a deep slice through a collection of overwhelming cliffs towards a rewarding beach bay at the end.

I started off in the remote village of Masca, which was essentially unreachable by car until the 1960s. Before that, visitors could only get there by a series of winding paths. The village itself is pretty tiny and surrounded by huge mountains on all sides. If you’re driving during your visit, then you can access the town by car, though the road is pretty treacherous. There’s a bus service that runs there from Los Gigantes though, which takes around 30 minutes.

From here you head out of the town to the well signposted route, then all you need to do is walk downhill – it’s pretty impossible to get lost here! You’ll pass over dry waterfalls as you head towards the coast. The sound of the rushing ocean was really exciting as I couldn’t wait to get into the water for a dip after sweating away in the barranco! Like most of the other people who were walking the trail, I decided to get the boat back to Los Gigantes as the walk back would have been twice as difficult as it was all uphill! The boats stop mid-afternoon, so make sure you plan in advance so you’re not forced to hike back.

The walk itself is gruelling, so if you’re inexperienced, prepare to be quite challenged. It took me around three hours, but it might take up to four hours if you want to be a little more leisurely. I had time for plenty of pictures though, so I wouldn’t say I rushed it. You should of course take your hiking boots with you – the road can be slippery at times and a fall could be pretty disastrous. Be aware that there is some light scrambling required, so if you aren’t comfortable with that, this walk may not be for you. Also be sure to pack enough water to sustain you. It’s a really hot walk, especially if you go early in the day, so take at least two litres. There isn’t really anywhere to buy food along the way either, so be sure to pack lunch and snacks to keep you going.

Carly Deevers is a woman who enjoys solo travel and the excitement this involves. She has travelled throughout Europe and Africa is next on her list. 

Images by Andrea Baldassarri and pululante used under creative commons licence

Any ideas for other great hikes in Spain?

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