Packing a Punch

Nevis,the jewel of the West Indies.

It’s all about the rum punch in Nevis, everywhere you go the host,bartender or hotel owners are proud of their rum collections and even prouder of their rum punch.

Arriving late off the British Airways flight we were greeted at The Nevis Beach Villas  with a surprisingly stiff and delightful Paradise Punch (ingredients are secret) which certainly did the trick and set us up for our evening ahead.Vivian who is head of guest relations for the property, apart from being delightful and helpful, is also quite a mixologist as we discovered during our stay.This group of luxury villas are situated on one of the most beautiful beaches in the islands. Situated at end of a long beach, while not being entirely private,the picturesque beach is not used by the general public as it is too far from public access areas.Each villa has its own butler and has been designed to provide cool understated luxury for guests staying there. This is the place to stay in Nevis for privacy, luxury and personal service.

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For sundowners and pelican watching there is a lovely beach bar tended by Mervyn the house bartender. Guests convene shortly before sunset to sip cocktails and wait for the “green flash”

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Further south and inland is the historic Hermitage Inn, I had stayed here on a previous trip a few years earlier and I highly recommend this lovely hotel for a person traveling alone and also for families.Run by a family for many years, the owners and staff are very welcoming and the bedrooms are charming.After a grueling day of beach lounging and house viewing we visited the Hermitage bar at six pm the next night to sample their version of rum punch as we had heard that it was one of the best on the island.The original plantation was built in 1670 and the charming inn was created in the 1980’s by its current owners who have retained the charm of a West Indian plantation.The bar does not disappoint and is the focal hub of social life on Nevis for many people. If you pop in for a drink on any given evening you are bound to make acquaintance with a sea captain or another traveler with a story to tell.The rum punch stood the test and was pronounced to be excellent, strong and fruity with a bit of an after kick! The owners son Rick is a rum aficionado and its possible to sample speciality rums at this bar from many different islands and other parts of the world.

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On the walls of the bar are several photographs of horse races on Nevis, stunning images of horses racing in front of the caribbean sea. These races were originally set up by the hotels owners but sadly no longer take place. We heard rumors that the race course would soon be restored to its former glory and decided to investigate the next morning .

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The day started with an alfresco breakfast at Golden Rock, the eclectic and beautifully restored sugar cane plantation on the south side of the island.This hotel is located close by to the magically named village of Gingerland, ginger was once the crop that sustained this area. After breakfast we walked the grounds of Golden Rock although not the entire one hundred acres, and we saw many wonderful tropical plants and trees, however no monkeys this time.

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We then set off to find the race course, driving through a village or two, then down a very bumpy road until we reached the ocean. It was windy here as this side faces the atlantic, we turned a bend and there it was, a relic of former glorious racing days.

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Complete with betting office, bar and stands you should practically hear the horses hooves beating in the sand . Sadly now the only hooves on offer were a drove of donkeys who clearly had the place to themselves.

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By now it was time to find a new place for a rum punch, we had heard that the beach bar of choice was up the other end of the island and decided to take a back road under the volcano. This proved to be rather challenging with more than one dead end forcing us to turn around.When we finally found the right road thanks to a local police man it took us past some wonderful landscapes and charming tropical houses allowing us to discover the charm of hillside living on this island .

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The punch at Chrishie Beach did not disappoint, it was light and refreshing and a perfect midday drink, the food was also excellent. Vietnamese spring rolls, sliced seared tuna and thai shrimps were all delicious. The owners have created a stylish beach bar more likely to be found on St Barthelemy or Ibiza which seems very popular with the local expat crowd.

Sadly we did not have time to go to Lindbergh’s Landing where we hear they serve one of the best “Rum & Coke” we arrived too late and the bar was closed.

Rating the Nevis punch.

Best Rum Punch The Hermitage Inn

Best Paradise Punch The Nevis Beach Villas

Five things to do in Nevis.

Hike the volcano

Monkey spotting

Walk endless white sand beaches

Dance to a live band at Sunshines 

Take a day trip to St Kitts or to St Barthelemy

 

Pinneys Beach

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Beach Bar

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#luxurynevis #escapetohiddenchic #luxurycaribbean #naturalnevis

 

 

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Slow Food and Sweet Siestas The True Spirit of Ibiza

Hidden Travel by Clare

We love the island of Ibiza and its many unexplored special places !So after reading several recent travel articles on Ibiza which focussed on partying at the new Las Vegas style hotels and “clubs” in Playa den Bossa, the southern beach club bling factor with overpriced restaurants serving underwhelming food, we decided it was time to share some of  the real Ibiza where time stands still and you can really switch off.

There is a different side to this magical island which makes traveling here a must for lovers of luxury travel and slow food. While an evening at Lio Cabaret may be on most peoples list and while we will happily rent you a luxury villa in Ibiza there is so much more to this island than what is commonly perceived.

Ibiza-17 Ibiza fields in spring

The amazingly vibrant countryside and farmlands of the north combine with stunning cliff shrouded beaches, pine covered peninsulas and…

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Slow Food and Sweet Siestas The True Spirit of Ibiza

We love the island of Ibiza and its many unexplored special places !So after reading several recent travel articles on Ibiza which focussed on partying at the new Las Vegas style hotels and “clubs” in Playa den Bossa, the southern beach club bling factor with overpriced restaurants serving underwhelming food, we decided it was time to share some of  the real Ibiza where time stands still and you can really switch off.

There is a different side to this magical island which makes traveling here a must for lovers of luxury travel and slow food. While an evening at Lio Cabaret may be on most peoples list and while we will happily rent you a luxury villa in Ibiza there is so much more to this island than what is commonly perceived.

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Ibiza fields in spring

The amazingly vibrant countryside and farmlands of the north combine with stunning cliff shrouded beaches, pine covered peninsulas and fishermen’s coves to make this island a very special place to visit and enjoy its history and its nature. Here are our top places for families and friends alike to siesta and enjoy local produce cooked the way we like it in the true spirit of Ibiza.

 

The Agroturismo

On our recent trip to Ibiza we made a wonderful discovery, the Agroturismo Can Domo, which we had not visited for twelve years turned out to be a hotel and restaurant we would highly recommend. The pretty hilltop hotel is a renovated finca with very attentive service and eight charming bedrooms – ask for the upstairs suite with its private terrace with sea and campo views. The bedrooms are all decorated in muted pretty tones with well appointed en suite bathrooms. The big bonus here is the owner’s husband Pau is a fabulous chef and the menu consists of light, creative dishes using organic and local produce. Lunch and dinner are served on the shaded pool terrace and at night you watch the moon rise from your table.

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The owner and her husband the chef
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Night time dining at Can Domo

 

The Boat

Octapus C is a beautifully restored sailing yacht it sleeps six people comfortably and is available for day cruises for up to ten guests. If you choose to request a picnic on board the food comes from the farm kitchen at Can Pere Musson, organic fresh food is sourced from their kitchen garden and delicious salads quiches and cold pastas are served for lunch with a lovely cold glass of rose. The perfect vessel for a day cruise to small coves for swimming or an overnight trip to Formentera. The crew are charming and you can waterski or ride a doughnut from their dinghy.

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Octapus at sea

 

The Beach Restaurant

Our favourite place by far for lunch at the beach and a swim is the small bay of Xucla near San Joan in the north of the island. The beach shack which is run by two brothers and their sister serves up fresh salads and fish just caught in a nearby creek the same morning. The crystal clear cove is a brilliant place to swim and snorkel and the vibe at the restaurant area is definitely relaxed. Local residents come down for sunset and its not uncommon to find a few of them strumming guitars as the sun slides below the horizon. The restaurant is also open in the evening on request, pretty candles line the walk way to the beach and on a full moon there is no better spot to dine and celebrate the beauty of Ibiza .

The Finca with Chef

New this year and nestled in the countryside within walking distance of the village of San Carles is the small  Finca del Campo with four double bedrooms and a possible fifth single bed. The setting is charming and quiet and while the rooms are simple its extremely peaceful and a great place to switch off. The owner is a chef and cooks amazing dinners for his guests all with locally sourced fish meat and produce and breakfast is served daily on the porch of the finca.

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Charming Finca with a Chef

 

Dinner and a Chupito

It used to be that no matter where one went for lunch and dinner a chupito (after dinner drink) was offered on the house. With the advent of the trendy and overpriced restaurants that have sprung up in the last five years this tradition is disappearing.

My dinner spot Can Cires in San Mateu is chosen for being authentic and serving great food. Recently on Easter Sunday we were served a local dish of roasted leeks which have to be eaten with surgical gloves and a bib! The food here is really good and the chef cooks meat and fish dishes in a simple traditional fashion. The large terrace is spacious and the clientele consist of many regular diners. The after dinner (or lunch) chupito to ease you into the siesta or nocturnal activities is offered automatically at the end of each meal.

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Lunch at Can Cires

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The Grocery Store

The owners of the farmer’s market store Viva Flor on the road from San Carles to Es Canar take great pride in explaining where their produce is sourced. Much of it is local grown by them or in nearby organic vegetable gardens. Their eggs are from their own hens and they have fresh flowers and plants for sale every day.

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Fresh organic and locally grown produce at Viva Flor

Opening Hours are from 08.00 until 14.00 For a more extensive selection of fruit vegetables meat and fish the market in Santa Eularia offers a great selection with local vendors selling everything from fresh chamomile for tea to local cheeses and a large variety of fresh fish, vegetables and fruit.

The Best Piece of Fish

Our intention was to write about affordable places that cater to the more discerning palate however I have to include the restaurant at Es Torrent in this blog. In a typical Ibiza beach cove setting under pine trees and shady umbrellas next to a sandy swimming beach this restaurant serves the most incredible grilled fish and fabulous seafood paellas. It’s not cheap but it’s so worth it.

The Olive Oil

Ses Escoles is a wonderful addition to the restaurant scene, set in a restored school house the owner Miguel has created a charming environment for a drink, a meal or an olive oil tasting. Their organic oils are made from olives from their farm  and all the produce used at the restaurant is organic and local.

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Organic Olive Oil and Fabulous Food

 

This Month’s Private House

We can offer many lovely private homes for rent from Fabulous Finca’s to Luxury Villas. We prefer to represent real homes that are cared for and loved, so when you stay there it feels like a home away from home. In the theme of the Spirit of Ibiza we would elect Can Calma as our home of the month as it represents the ultimate stylish yet chilled environment.

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Can Calma Ibiza

 

The eclectic comfortable design, the stunning views from the groovy roof terrace combined with the organic vegetables from the kitchen garden and the amazing Asian cuisine served by Anita the housekeeper all combine to make this the perfect luxury home for a fabulous relaxing stay.

A trip of a lifetime in Kenya helps protect endangered animals

Our recent trip to Kenya was a re introduction to what has to be one of the most beautiful and fascinating countries in Africa . I had spent time in East Africa in the 1980’s but since then had not been back. So when we were sent an invitation to travel to a wonderful private estate on the foothills of Mount Kenya in the Central Plains we decided it was time to return. Having recently read West with the Night and Out of Africa my imagination was filled with visions of windswept farms and grandiose landscapes full of wildlife, I was not disappointed.

The best way to travel there is to fly in to Nairobi and then charter a small plane onwards. If you arrive at night you can stay in two or three charming hotels close to Wilson Airport and then jump on your charter the next morning. Should you land in the morning the best choice is to charter directly from the Nairobi international airport.

Nairobi is a very busy city but it’s not without a certain charm if you know where to look. It is essential to book a reliable driver before arriving as the traffic is very bad and driving is erratic at best.

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Nairobi Bolthole for your first night

Five things to do in Nairobi if you stay there :

Visit Giraffe Manor for tea or a gin and tonic:

Go to the Masai Market and stock up on kikoi’s

Buy colorful baskets from the street vendors near the German School

Climb up to the Longonot crater and spot some giraffe

Explore the area near Lake Nivasha

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This takes a little courage

Once you embark on your charter or commercial flight to the north, away from the madding crowds of Nairobi you start to feel the expanse and grandeur of this ancient country. The short flight to Nanyuki takes about thirty minutes and should you charter directly into the private estate its about forty minutes. Nanyuki airport is small and sleepy but it has a great little airport cafe and gift shop and is well worth a visit.

The private estate we visited is set in a conservation area that has been privately owned by the same family for over one hundred and fifty years. Here you stay in the grand house which is one of the most luxurious and well run private homes we know. This is a luxury rental in the true sense of the term.

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Kenya Estate 2. The Ultimate Kenyan Safari Conservancy Experience

The staff greeted us with such enthusiasm and took us to one of the beautifully appointed guest bedrooms. Once we were settled in it was time for a swim in the pool which overlooks the estate and the bush beyond.

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Every day before lunch the most excellent bloody mary’s are served on the dining terrace following a tradition started by early settlers here at the beginning of the last century.

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The Bloody Mary Spot

Dinner is served every night in the dining room which has a large fireplace and roaring fire to keep you warm on cool Kenyan nights. The cook is very creative and the food and house wines were delicious.

There are so many daily activities possible here that it is hard to list them all. Suffice it to say you can do as much or as little as you like. Morning game drives or game walks can be done each day , rising before sunrise, you track lion, elephant or rhino through the bush which is very exciting! We were always accompanied by experienced game keepers and drivers on these excursions . Bush Breakfasts are set up by the watering hole and Sundowners are organized on hilltops with majestic views over the estate. For lovers of fly fishing it is possible to travel to the lakes on Mount Kenya spend the night in a cabin and fly fish in two different lakes. Short excursions in tented safari camps to other locations are also possible to organize from this property.

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Arriving at the Bush Breakfast on horseback
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Sundowner View

The big pull here is that you are staying in a conservation area which is extremely well organized. This is a not for profit organization whose main aim is to protect the endangered animals.

Never before has conservation in Africa been so critical, and never before have our iconic animals been so threatened with extinction. The conservancy is blessed with some incredible resources, but they still need your help to protect this wildlife for generations to come. Clearly tourism remains the single largest contributor to the cost of underwriting secure habitat and it is hoped that their commitment to cycling revenue directly back to the conservancy will guide peoples’ decision in choosing this location as a preferred destination. We are the generation that has the choice and responsibility to reverse the damage and therefore we also encourage any and everyone to get directly involved in the conservation effort.

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The “other” south of France

Everyone has read and heard about the mythical French Riviera, La Cote D’Azur. Visions of Brigitte in her bikini or perhaps these days Naomi of a mega yacht come to mind. There is however another part of the coast that is less bling and for more discerning types who wish to avoid the masses that descend on St Tropez, Cannes or Antibes, a viable choice.

The french coastline  between Ramatuelle to the east and Toulon to the west is the summer playground of established french society and families. You won’t find a Nikki Beach here with its magnums of champagne, sparklers and dancing girls , what you will find are glorious coves with good beach restaurants in between smaller coastal villages and interior country walks with superlative views.

Walks in the Parc National
Walks in the Parc National

The best airport to arrive in is Toulon, tires on the tarmac and within minutes you are in your rental car. Drive east to Hyeres and here you have your first decision to make. Drive out to the peninsula and catch a ferry to Porquerolles, one of the three main islands in the Iles d’Hyeres or continue on the coast towards Le Lavandou. Should you decide on Porquerolles there are many charming hotels to chose from, most are situated around the Place D’Armes where on summer evenings a game of petanque or two is de rigeur. In town I recommend The Auberge de Glycines www.auberge-glycines.com. Further up the island is the Mas du Langoustier http://www.langoustier.com  a provencal residence situated in a peaceful spot in the pines between two crescent beaches. They now have a fabulous swimming pool and spa and their restaurant awarded one michelin star is worth the detour.

The island is car free and the most popular mode of transport is a bicycle. If you chose to stay in town, after a leisurely breakfast in your hotel you can pack a picnic and bicycle through the forest to beaches further up the island and out of range of day trippers. Alternatively you can hire a boat and go fishing or go on a scuba dive to Port Cros, a nature reserve said to be one of the best diving spots in the mediterranean. The aperitif is taken back on the square followed by dinner in one of  the many restaurants in the small town.

Further along the coast before arriving at Le Lavandou, take the D42  from the main road and drive through Le Leoube, passing vineyards and truly lovely countryside. Here you feel like you are in a place that time forgot. Once in Le Lavandou there are several choices of places to sleep along  the sea front, or you can splash out and rent a stunning villa on the extremely private Cap Benat.

Villa on Cap Benat
Villa on Cap Benat

Along this stretch of coast you will discover beach after beach, some sandy and larger with more activities for children ( Le Lavandou ) and some smaller rocky coves with crystal clear water for swimming and snorkeling . The best beach restaurant we found was Le Tamaris  in Pramousquier, it had a distinctly local feel about it and on a Sunday in April the atmosphere was festive!

Les sardines grillées
Les sardines grillées

Behind this beautiful coastline are hectares of national park, drive up early in the morning to walk on the route forestiere des cretes  before the heat of the day descends, or simply drive the small roads along the “crete” between Bormes les Mimosas and  Rayol Canadel stopping of to enjoy nature here and there and take in the sweeping mediterranean views. This is a wonderful place to take a picnic too.

My last port of call would have to be in Gigaro where you can check in to the stylish and yet simple Pinede Plage http://www.pinedeplage.com with its marvelous terrace and beachside bar. They have their own beach with sun beds  and the feeling here is very much laid back luxury. A short walk along the sea front brings you to a few restaurants and other beach bars. Le Couleur Jardin is a good place for a romantic dinner overlooking the sea.

Do explore the back country.

Do have lunch at The Tamaris in Pramousquier

Do take swimsuit and binoculars for bird watching.

Do try the many local rosé’s

Vineyard by the sea
Vineyard by the sea

8 things to know in Ibiza and Formentera this summer

Formentera barefoot and beautiful
Formentera barefoot and beautiful

Summer is here and for all of us spending time in the lovely Balearic Islands this means sampling the old and the new as its constantly changing here . I have been in Ibiza and Formentera over the last few months so have had the chance to try out a few new places and to check in with a few “old faithfuls”.

There have been massive investments made in the last 5 years and it might seem scary that there are now several beach “bars” which cost more than a good night out in London or Los Angeles  and restaurants charging prices that make Paris and Tokyo look reasonable !

In Ibiza lets start by the water:

1. Xucla is my favorite beach shack, hidden away in the north of the island this small hut run by a brother and sister team serves great tasty dishes using fresh produce. Spend the afternoon there , order a cocktail and watch the sunset then wander up to the charming candlelit “shack”. They are open for lunch & dinner and you do need to reserve +34 679 670 599.

2. Babylon Beach Bar is now in its second year and has a swimming platform which makes swimming in the beautiful blue water there much easier. They have stylish and comfortable beach beds and the food is consistently good. This summer they added a more sophisticated restaurant for the evening with a very sexy bar! Babylon Beach +34 971 332 181 http://www.babylonbeachbar.com

Babylon Beach Bar Rose de Provence
Babylon Beach Bar Rose de Provence

3. The legendary waterfront Chiringuito on Tagomago Island ( once run by Roger Middleton and frequented by princesses and local artists alike ) has re opened this week. Thanks to Johnny Beach a well known DJ and entrepreneur in the event and restaurant world the little chiringuito will be open for lunch and dinner all summer from July 25th. The hours are 12.00- 22.00 and they accept cash only. John told me they are serving fresh produce and local sea food accompanied by wine and cocktails- bring your boat or have them pick you up in Pou des Lleo.

Tagomago Chiringuito
Tagomago Chiringuito

4. Aura has been a favorite night time stand by for anyone living in the north of the island so when I heard that it was changing hands I was slightly concerned …I did not need to be. I happened to go there last Monday for the opening night of Sacca as it is now called, the interior design is stylish and contemporary. The cherry blossom canopied bar is now in the center of the terrace, where it always should have been, as it provides a great nucleus, and place meeting point. The sushi and sashimi menu is fabulous as is the ambience. They still have a DJ and dance area and all in all I think its a great addition.

Several new places have opened on Formentera my tips are as follows:

5. Dont go to Juan and Andrea instead book in at Beso Beach also on Illetes and sit with your feet in the sand enjoying their service and great food. http://www.besobeach.com/besobeach.htm

6. Try the new and lovely Chez Gerdi for dinner – great italian dishes

7. Las Banderas on Playa Mitjorn is still serving great food and is a marvelous setting for lunch and swimming. They have also improved the rooms ever so slightly.

8. The police are out in force in Ibiza , sadly not so much to protect as to fine us, so drive responsibly and respect the local laws. There have been a spate of burglaries and hand bag theft so try not to walk around with the family heirlooms, keep it low key and you will avoid being noticed by those with bad intentions.

PS : I heard about a little bar in Cala St Vicent called Hidden – I have not been there yet but its sounds like fun.

Umbria in autumn

Driving through Umbria to see a farmhouse we recently acquired, I needed to stop off and spend the night. I don’t like staying in remote places or large impersonal hotels when traveling solo so I picked an Inn with rooms…what a find. The Locanda del Molino is situated on the outskirts of Cortona…and has only a few bedrooms. Mine was large with a high ceiling an adjoining bathroom with a view over the small stream behind the hotel. The location of the Inn is perfect for discovering the back country of Umbria and the valleys beyond.

Locanda del Molino
Locanda del Molino
The room
The room

I ventured down to dinner, after struggling with the lack of internet access, anticipating a light supper and early bed. The owner who is also the chef immediatly came to my table and made some fabulous suggestions, which I had to sample. The Gnudi ( Gnocchi without the flour and made with a spinach base ) were sublime as was the fish. Meal finished with canducci and a local sweet wine – I slept well. The breakfast the next morning was equally amazing.

Breakfast at Locanda del Molino
Breakfast at Locanda del Molino

Do ask for a room on the back

Do expect to eat dinner in

Dont count on the internet !

Further into Umbria I drove to view a  farmhouse belonging to a friend, it is set in the on a hilltop with spectacular views  and the house is wonderfully stylish, the perfect place to spend a week or two.

Views of the Farmhouse
Views of the Farmhouse
The Vineyards
The Vineyards