Archive for September, 2008

Krk, Croatia – On the Path of History and Culture.

There is more than one beautiful walled city in Croatia, other than the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik. Krk is another, resting along the Croatian coastline and often compared with Dubrovnik because of its old town beauty.

Many people are confused as to whether Krk is an island or a city? Actually, it is both. Pronounced in English as Kirk; today, it is one of the most sought out Croatian Islands by vacationers.

It holds the regarded Blue Flag, designated by the EU Commission for its beaches; the honor guarantees cleanliness and high international standards of environmental protection. The area is extraordinarily plentiful in cultural and historical heritage.

Krk, the city, has close to 3000 years of history with Romans once reigning here. But just as recently as 1995, an ancient artifact found, proved that the predecessors were the Greeks. Time will tell who came before them, as more discoveries are uncovered. The traditional way of life points towards to the sea, agriculture and sheep rearing as is today.

During the Middle Ages, patrician families established chapels throughout the town of Krk and it seems you can not walk more than a few steps without passing a house of worship.

The best way be In Krk with a vacation home.

The best way be In Krk with a vacation home.

Travel is one of those rare phenomena that connect people and places from all over the world. The Latin motto, “Splendidissima civitas Curictarum” (splendid town of the people of Krk) originated from an inscription on a tombstone from the 4th century and splendid it is.

So while enjoying your island hideaway in a modern vacation home that sleeps 6, a visit to Krk, the city, is in order. A vacation home is a  wonderful opportunity to do things your way.

With so many nooks and crannies to explore, shopping for food is a delight. What better way than to bring home fresh produce from the market? The fresh fish, the shrimp and other shellfish are a must prepared with Krk olive oil.

Rise early one morning and sit in a café along the waterfront, sipping a hot cappuccino. During this tranquil and quiet moment, watch the day progress. First hearing the seagulls and watching them follow the arriving boats of fisherman. Walk to the nearby fish market where the activities begin. You could buy your entree for the evening meal or can always grab a pole, head to the waterfront, be patient, and catch dinner yourself.

A great kitchen to create your fresh seafood feast!

A great kitchen to create your fresh seafood feast!

Of course, with the numerous restaurants, you will not want to miss out on any of them; but it is nice to know you can prepare a meal in your kitchen. The special quality time shared inside your holiday home or out on your veranda overlooking the green hills of the countryside with your companions and family is only enhanced.

Some of the many monuments and sights in Krk of historical purpose include:

• The Main Town Gate and Town Walls
When the town was surrounded by walls, this gate became the main entrance to the town from the seaside. The different layers expose different historical periods from Illyrian times to the fall of Venice.  The first layer is 1st century B.C. The last major reconstruction took place at the end of the 15th century.

• Vela Placa
The main city square, called Vela Placa (Big Square), presents the building of the Town Hall from the 15th century and has a Renaissance fountain. There is a most interesting archaeological site under the square.  Among the findings is the oldest part of the town wall from 4th-3rd century B.C.

• Frankopan Castle
The Frankopan castle is currently used for open-air performances in the summer months.

• Cathedral of the Assumption
The religious architecture dates to the 5th century with the churches of St Margaret and St Quirinus, patron saint of the town (11th/12th centuries), in which there is an exhibition of religious items, and a bell tower from the 18th century.

• The Celebrini House
The Celebrini House is a three-storey building with the facade having baroque elements of around 1700. In the past, the building also served as the seat of the district court.

• Franciscan Monastery
The monastery was originally part of the northern defence wall. The east wing was constructed in 1910 as a seminary. The monastery houses a painting by Renaissance painter Vittoreo Carpaccio of the Madonna and Child.

Krk, the island, has many villages to explore also. In the countryside, visit the Cave Biserujka. According to legend, a smuggler’s treasure is hidden within the cave. Even if you do not discover the treasure, the cave is filled with stalactites, stalagmites and calcite pillars in a comfortable spaciousness without feeling claustrophobic.  

It the past few years Krk has been repeatedly awarded for its high quality in tourism and it is no wonder. Between the many restaurants, cafés, boutiques, art galleries by the sea, in the harbor and within the town walls, Krk is a destination not to put off any longer.

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Switzerland Vacations: Try the Ticino

The Ticino is the part of Switzerland that’s near Italy. In fact, it’s the part that pushes into Italy, like a wedge. You can actually speak Italian there, and the cuisine if full of Italian influences.

Why visit this part of Switzerland? Well, you still have the mountains, the mountain bike and hiking trails, the fresh air, the alpine meadows, the stunning scenery and all that. Then you have Italian and Swiss food to look forward to after.

And why rent an apartment here? Well, food in restaurants can be really expensive in Switzerland. If you had your own kitchen, you’d save big on food, and you’ll probably save on the rooms as well.

Haus Sacha is a rustic home in the north Ticino, in Olivone, or “big olive.” Olivone pass is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. You can rent Haus Sacha for a song. Well, for less than €100 a night anyway, way less.

Casa Leula I, Ticino Switzerland Vacation Rental

Casa Leula I, Ticino Switzerland Vacation Rental

But the prize for scenery might be held by Casa Leula over there on the left. You’re 500 m from the lake. You’ve got your snow topped mountains to look at as you twirl your spaghetti around your fork on the terrace of your love palace.

Casa Leula is in Ronco Sopra Ascona in the south Ticino near Locarno. Shoot, if you need stuff, you can practically drive into Italy to buy it. Like, say, mineral water, which is about a tenth the cost in Italy as it is in Switzerland. I don’t know why that is, but it is.

The per day cost of this apartment is less than most hotels. You can spread out your stuff as you want. You can have your wine out on the terrace of your own place; you don’t have to dress up or get in the car to drive home after.

The Ticino is a great place for active touring. The hills around Bellinzona are home to three castles you can poke around in. You can go to Locarno and watch the beautiful people. Think about it. Switzerland without the heavy hotel and restaurant charges. Your friends will envy you.

Magical,mystical, Mussoorie in India enthralls and delights one and all

The magical hill station of Mussoorie is yet another hill station which was popular as a summer retreat during the many years that the British ruled over India. This charming hill station is located at the foothills of the Himalayas and is situated at an altitude of 2000 meters (6600ft). The boundaries of this utterly enchanting hill station also include the nearby military cantonment area of Landour and as well as the neighboring townships of Barlowganj and Jharipani. Today this city of Mussoorie which is a popular holiday destination falls under the district of Dehradun as it is located only 34 km from the city of Dehradun which is located in the Doon Valley. In fact Mussoorie affords gorgeous views of the Doon Valley and Shiwalik range of mountains.

View of Himalayas from Mussoorie - Photo credit Nagesh Kamath

View of Himalayas from Mussoorie - Photo credit Nagesh Kamath

History

The origins of this enchanting hill station which has often been described as a ‘fairyland’ can be traced back to 1825 when a British Captain called Young along with a fellow Briton who was the Superintendent of Revenues in Dehradun discovered this beautiful wonderland and decided establish a shooting lodge here. Soon many other Englishmen followed intrepid twosome to establish yet another summer retreat for India’s British rulers during the times of the Raj. In fact the British like in other locales around the country were quite adamant that they wanted to keep their summer retreat exclusively for their own folk and soon had signs posted on the main street of Mussoorie which was known as ‘the Mall’ that proclaimed that Indians and Dogs were not allowed on the streets of Mussoorie as well. A few brave locals like Motilal Nehru the father of Independent India‘s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru were openly defiant of this rule and chose to walk the streets of Mussoorie even though they had to pay a fine to do so. In fact the hill station has strong ties with the Nehru family, as Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi often vacationed here and Pandit Nehru’s sister Vijaylakshmi Pandit actually chose to spend much of her life in this magical wonderland called Mussoorie which is often shrouded in mist and fog because of its cool year round climate.

Beautiful,mystical Mussoorie photo credit Michael Scalet

Beautiful,mystical Mussoorie photo credit Michael Scalet

The hill station of Mussoorie also became the home of his eminence the Dalai Lama after he fled the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959. Today however the Dalai Lama and the Government of Tibet in Exile is based in another Indian hill station called Dharamsala which is in Himachal Pradesh,though many Tibetans continue to reside in the Happy Valley section of Mussoorie.

You have a number of choices for your holiday home in Mussoorie and the choice you make depends on the location that you prefer. You can either choose to have your holiday home in the heart of Mussoorie and be close to its main street known as the Mall or you can choose to have your holiday home in one of the resorts located on Mussoorie’s famous Gun Hill where cannons were once installed for the defense of Mussoorie. At your holiday home on Gun Hill you can choose to preserve your privacy while you spend your days trekking and enjoying the bounties of nature in the many hills surrounding Mussoorie or you can choose to ride the cable car and go to the Mall of Mussoorie for many urban attractions of the city it all depends on the type of holiday that you choose to have in this bewitching destination that is Mussoorie.

Your vacation rental at Hotel Green Castle Studio in the heart of Mussoorie

Your holiday home in the heart of Mussoorie

Mussoorie has a wide array of attractions both natural and man-made, which are sure to please all visitors who venture out to this charming destination.

Camel Back Road

 

This is a scenic trail located in Mussoorie which stretches over 3 Km between the Kurli Bazaar near Rink Hall and Library Bazaar. It is called Camel Back Road because it resembles the hump of a camel when it is viewed from a point near the gate of the Mussoorie Public School. The entire promenade is lined with lush trees and is a popular spot for morning and evening walks with the local populace. It is also a favored spot to see the sun setting in the magnificent Himalayas.

Kempty Falls

Located at a distance of 15 kms from Mussoorie on the Chakrata Road are the spectacular Kempty falls which are also discovered by a British officer called John Mekinan in 1835. The locale of these thundering falls was a popular picnic destination for the British officers who were stationed at Mussoorie. The falls are located at an altitude of 4500 feet and present an impressive sight though there are some other magnificent falls in the area as well like the Bhatta Falls, the Jharipani Falls and the Mosey Falls.

Sir George Everest House

This edifice is also known as Park Estate and it is located at a distance of 6 km from Mussoorie. This building houses the laboratory of the first Surveyor General of India, Sir George Everest. The highest peak in the world is in fact named after him and the house is located in an extremely scenic location which affords gorgeous views of the Doon and Yamuna Valleys as well as the Himalayas.

Your holiday home on Mussoorie's Gun Hill

Your holiday home on Gun Hill in Mussoorie

These are just some of the many attractions of this charming hill station of Mussoorie that you will have the chance to explore when you choose to book your holiday home here.

 

All You Need is an “Appetite for Life” – Kenmare, Ireland

“An Neidín,” the Irish Gaelic name for Kenmare, translates as “The Little Nest.” With a population of only 7000, the ancient name still remains apropos with its position off of Kenmare Bay. But the nest has expanded and welcomes all to enter.

What you may not be aware of is Kenmare is home to one of the largest food festivals in Europe, known as “Appetite for Life”.  The festival is held in October each year, as the fall season comprises an array of gastronomic stands, each offering dishes by local suppliers from oysters to spiced beef. Gourmets and culinary experts from throughout Europe arrive in droves and add their gourmet fare to the festival using the local produce.

The core of this busy festival takes place during the day and, after sunset, a party atmosphere descends on the town with festive celebrations playing long into the night   and, of course, more food abundantly available. What can be better than a night of traditional Irish music with great food and drinks?  You’ll end the night with both heart and belly pleasantly full and you won’t need to re-fuel for that morning hike in the countryside!

Even if you miss the “Appetite for Life” festival, Kenmare is known for its fresh produce year round. The very best of locally grown and raised food will fit the bill for a hearty meal in your very own Irish stone cottage set on the Ring of Kerry sleeping 6 in your party.

The Stone Cottage is ideal during your visit to Kenmare.

The Stone Cottage is ideal during your visit to Kenmare.

There is nothing like living as a local as it allows you to appreciate the culture and lifestyle of Kenmare fully.

Besides being a walker’s paradise with breathtaking scenery, Kenmare offers the visitor the challenge of two golf courses, canoeing and motor boat charters that allow you to explore the natural wonders of Kenmare Bay for the day.

It is a perfect destination for the entire family; children will delight in pottery making and clay art classes held each day.  There is a lace museum that lets you try, hands on, creating a few stitches. The nearby, Bonare National Park, allows you access for a picnic lunch while venturing among wild fauna, archaeological artifacts and historical sites within.

With a heavy application of restaurants in the area, ranging from home cooked family style seafood to steak houses, you certainly will never starve in this delightful location in the Emerald Isle. Perhaps you have finally found the “pot of gold” the leprechaun’s spoke of.

Fontainebleau: Forest and Chateau

55.5 km from Paris is Fontainebleau. A mere suburb? Non. Surrounding the town is the Forest of Fontainebleau, a very popular place for folks from Paris to come catch some fresh air and see the wonders of the natural world. Of course there is also one of France’s finest and largest Chateaux, the Palace of Fontainebleau. You’ve probably heard of it.

While the current building you see on the site was constructed between 1522 and 1540, it was Napoleon who had Fontainbleau fixed up after it had been emptied in the French revolution, then went into exile there in 1814 before being hauled off to Elba. The grandeur you see in the palace today is largely do to efforts of the diminutive emperor.

Paris/Fontainebleau holiday get away

Paris/Fontainebleau holiday get away

You will seek out some grandeur of your own when planning your Paris/Fontainebleau experience, won’t you? There’s that sturdy looking place over there to the right in St Germain sur Ecole, 18 km from Fontainebleau. You’ll have your own swimming pool and fenced grounds as well.

Check out Paris/Fontainebleau holiday get away – Sleeps 07.
Why not live like a king? You never know when the next revolution will happen. We can’t go on bailing out the rich forever, can we?

If you’re planning a trip for next year, The Pays de Fontainebleau Tourist Office and the Ministry of Justice are organizing guided tours of the National Museum of Prisons as of next February. While you’re inside, unshackled preferably, they say you can read the handwritten letters of the Marquis de Sade.

You don’t get to do that every day.

Need a place in Paris before you venture off to Fontainebleau? Make sure to find your short term rental in Paris from iStopOver!

 

Sognefjord/Nordfjord,Norway – No Matter What the Season.

It is not too late to take a fall vacation that can be as easy as finding a high-altitude lookout point in a heavily wooded area, a lake, hiking trails and plenty of eye catching scenery. The added bonus is the world’s longest and deepest fjord at your doorstep. The answer to all of the above is Sognefjord/Nordfjord.

Don’t let others try to convince you that a visit should be restricted only during the summer. You can see all the extraordinary beauty for yourself without the crowds. Visit to the most famous and scenery parts of the Sognefjord/Nordfjord by taking a day cruise. A day cruise offers both cultural and historical fjord cruises. The boats sail between Kaupanger, Lærdal and Ofredal and between Lærdal, Kaupanger, Flåm, Undredal and Styvi.

What’s more, the day cruises also carry fishing equipment on board, so you might just bring back to your vacation home a freshly caught fish for dinner.

That is truly the most efficient way of staying in this area, to discover nature’s wonder, with a holiday home in the Sognefjord/Nordfjord area at an affordable price and at a leisurely pace.

Wake up to this view each day with your vacation home

Wake up to this view each day with your vacation home

One such property is this home with panoramic views that can accommodate the whole family as it sleeps 7. The fjords and villages and more can be experienced at an affordable price and at a leisurely pace by having a vacation home. There are over 125 properties available, so your choice is waiting for you.

Autumn is a great time to walk the numerous nature paths. In autumn, the Sognefjord takes on its blanket of attractive red, orange and brown hues Many people consider this the best time for hiking with exhilaratingly clear air and the ground is dry and firm. 

Of course, December may bring on the snow, but don’t let that stop you for a visit, since the snow paints the landscape white adding a new dimension to the area. Besides, the fjord ski lifts and ski tows open during Christmas holidays for you are a ski buff. Not only that, they remain open until the Easter holidays.

After Easter, spring arrives with the landscape changing once more by cascading waterfalls, hillsides and meadows showing their green and the mountains with a cap of snow. The apple blossoms in the orchards add that touch of sweet fragrance in the air.

Summer brings long, sunny days and bright summer nights. This is the season that makes the fruit and berries unusually good and is a must to add to your grocery list. Summer does profess the most visitors and it is a good idea to book your holiday home for the summer season in advance.

A holdiay home is the best way to expereince Sognefjord/Nordfjord.

A holdiay home is the best way to expereince Sognefjord/Nordfjord.

So when should you venture to Sognefjord/Nordfjord? Think about picture taking, once in a lifetime opportunities, that will be available to you no matther the season.

Besides scenery, fishing, hiking and skiing, there are many special corners in the Sognefjord/Nordfjord region blessed with Stave churches dotted within small villages.

And no visitor should miss the Flam Railway, zig-zagging along the fjords from Flam to Myrdal. This service runs all year round, whereas, you can get off at any stop along the way and discover on your own what is not described in the travel guides.

Fancy a cuppa? then head to the hill town of Darjeeling for some champagne tea and more

If you enjoy a good cup of tea, then its likely that you are well acquainted with Darjeeling tea which is also known as the champagne of teas and which when brewed properly actually yields a thin-bodied, light-colored liquid which has a wonderful floral aroma. Darjeeling tea is especially popular in the UK and other countries which were once a part of the great British Empire.

A cup of Darjeeling tea- the champagne of teas

A cup of Darjeeling tea- the champagne of teas photo credit adulau

This much coveted Darjeeling tea is produced in the hills of the district of Darjeeling which is located in the state of West Bengal in India. The district of Darjeeling is actually located in a range of hills which is known as the Shivalik Hills and these hills are a part of the lower Himalayas. During the years of the British Raj( the years that the British ruled the subcontinent between 1858 and 1947),this charming town of Darjeeling, came to be developed as ‘hill station ‘ or a summer escape for the British residents who were stationed in India during that time. Up until the time that the British came to rule in Darjeeling, this hill town was ruled intermittently by the kingdoms of Nepal and Sikkim and in fact the British acquired Darjeeling from Sikkim in 1835.

The town of Darjeeling which is located on an elevation of 6,982 ft (2,128 m) enjoys a very agreeable climate which is characterized by five seasons mainly spring, summer, autumn, winter, and the monsoons. Summers in Darjeeling are usually mild with temperatures summer hovering around 25°C (77°F) and it is for this reason that the British decided to establish the town of Darjeeling as one of their summer capitals. They could then retreat to this summer capital to escape the sultry and oppressive heat of the plains. Over years the town of Darjeeling, became the favored summer destination of many wealthy Indians as well especially the maharajas and the zamindars( land owners) from the neighboring city of Calcutta who like the British chose to vacation in the pleasant environs of Darjeeling.

Your holiday home at Sterling Darjeeling close to all the 'tearrific' sites

Your holiday home at Sterling Darjeeling

If you choose to have your holiday home in Darjeeling you will be able to explore the many delights of this enchanting hill town which has a rich culture and history. Your holiday home in Darjeeling can be a studio, a one bedroom or a two bedroom depending on your individual preference. No matter what kind of holiday home you choose to have in this Queen of the hills, it is ensured you will have easy access to the wondrous sights of this quaint and historic town

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The British actually were responsible for a lot of the development in Darjeeling and in 1881 they established The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway here which continues to run until today over a route that stretches over 80 km (50 miles) from Silguri to Darjeeling was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. It is only the second railway in this world to be bestowed this honor and it is one of the prime tourist attractions of Darjeeling. Though nowadays many these locomotives are powered by diesel engines and the only steam locomotive (affectionately known as the ‘Toy train’) that operates is the on the route from Kurseong to Darjeeling

The famous 'Toy Train' of Darjeeling photo credit Joe Gratz

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway -Photo Credit Joe Gratz

The Tea plantations

The British also realized that Darjeeling’s unique topography and temperate climate was also conducive to the cultivation of tea and they established a number of tea plantation here which specialized in the production of many black teas and other blends. Darjeeling teas are often considered by tea aficionados to be the finest teas in the world. Many of these tea plantations which date back to the mid nineteenth century continue to operate in Darjeeling until today and employ much of the local population. They are well also established tourist attractions.

Lloyd’s Botanic Gardens

Located below the market place, is this green oasis which is yet another renowned attraction of Darjeeling. The Lloyd’s Botanic garden displays the lush alpine vegetation which is native to Darjeeling and it has verdant lawns which have poplar, birch, oak, and elm trees all of which are found in the forests that surround this hill town. These gardens are also famous for many varieties of orchids which are housed in a hot house and attract scores of visitors to the gardens.

Pamaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park

Darjeeling’s zoo is famous for the conservation of alpine animals and it also excels in the captive breeding of animals such as the snow leopard and the endangered Himalayan wolf and the Red Panda.

The spectacular Kangchenjunga sunrise Photo credit aaron ostrovsky

The spectacular Kangchenjunga sunrise Photo credit aaron ostrovsky

Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill is one of the highest hills surrounding the town of Darjeeling. It rises 8500 feet above sea level and is a popular tourist attraction for awe-inspiring views that it affords of the majestic Himalayan peaks. People love to come out to Tiger Hill in the early hours of the morning to watch the sun rise over the Himalayas .As day breaks, the twin peaks of the Kanchenjunga mountain are first colored pink and then orange by the early rays of the sun and present a truly magnificent sight which is easily accessible to you when you book your holiday home in Darjeeling.

Ghum Monastery

Darjeeling is home to a multi ethnic population who follow a number of religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. As a result of which a number of beautiful monasteries, gothic churches and elaborate temples can be found here. The Ghum Monastery which is built at a height of 8000 feet and is located 8 km from the main town of Darjeeling is one such monastery which is frequented by the many visitors who flock to Darjeeling.

Elite Boarding Schools

Apart from the railway and tea plantations, the British were responsible for yet another important development in Darjeeling and this was the development of excellent boarding schools which were initially built and established in this quaint town by Scottish missionaries who wanted to ensure that the children of British residents had access to the same education that was imparted in some of the best public schools in England like Eton, Harrow and Rugby. St. Joseph’s College, Loreto Convent, St. Paul’s School and Mount Hermon School are some of these historic erstwhile colonial schools many of which are now over a century but continue to attract students from all over India and other countries of South Asia until today. Today these schools are run either by the government or by private and religious organizations or trusts and are yet another popular attraction of Darjeeling.


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