Monthly Archives: June 2016

Cuba Guide Tour

Winning Tips

Though homosexuality was legalised in Cuba in 1979, much of Havana’s gay scene, like the best of its culture, is still underground. A great way to see it all is with a guide, and there can be few better than the hugely informative Yunior Crespo. A tour will probably start in the Plaza del Cathedral and end up with mojitos in the heaving gay bars on Calle 23, via an art gallery, a supper club and salsa dancing.

Viñales sunrise hike

While in Viñales this month we joined a group of four for a sunrise hike to Los Aquaticos organised by Villa Los Reyes (Salvador Cisneros 206C), a local casa particular. The views were stunning and we saw plenty of birdlife on the return walk. Our guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and spoke fluent French and English. The tour cost 15CUC (about £11) per person and we just booked it the day before.

Horse riding near Trinidad

The highlight of our stay was a seven-hour ride to a waterfall in the Valle de Los Ingenios, with turkey vultures circling above. Our guide Carlos collected us from our casa, and we followed him and his chestnut mare along the cobbled streets to join our group. We rode to a coffee plantation, and to a finca for lunch: plantain,congri (rice and beans) and fresh-pressed sugar cane. We swam in a natural pool under a waterfall while our horses rested in the shade of Cuban palms. Carlos spoke no English but the ride was varied and the horses were well cared-for. A great day out for £18 each.
Jane McDermott

Local guides in Havana

Backstreet tango dance lessons, cafes thick with cigar smoke and locals drinking rum, a Chevrolet ride though old Havana, a walking tour of the harbour area – all by local guides – are just a few of the exciting options for seeing Cuba From around £34 for groups of four or more, these outings are a great way to experience authentic Cuban culture and you can choose your own guide

Sighteseeing in Viñales

Strange mogotes (rocky limestone hillocks), rich red soil, triangular tobacco drying huts and ox-driven carts: this is Viñales. Go to Los Jazmines (you can stay here) for a spectacular view. Or board the tourist bus, only £3.60, and hop off at the Indian Cave, the Prehistoric Mural and Viñales town. Trek through the lanes, with a guide, to see fields of tobacco and other crops – arrange this at the museum in Viñales’s main street. You can also arrange to visit a tobacco farm and see how the crop is grown, stored and rolled into the best cigars in the world. At the family-run Casa de Caridad botanical garden, you can sample an array of exotic fruits and pay what you wish.

Wildlife at the Guanaroca lagoon, Cienfuegos

We reached the lagoon after a short early morning car journey and a walk through woodland. The guided trip was booked through Cienfuegos’ tourist office. As soon as we started walking we saw many beautiful birds, including the endemic Cuban trogon and the Cuban tody among others, as well as tarantulas and some enormous crabs. From a viewing tower you can see the beautiful mangrove-fringed lagoon with its resident colony of flamingos. Once at the water, we were met by another guide who rowed us out on a little boat towards the flamingos. Being so close to a colony of these beautiful birds, with the gentle lapping of the water being the only other sound, was amazing.

Ibiza Tour Guide

A beautiful approach, meandering down through hills and valleys, brings you to the beach at Benirrás. In Ibiza’s north, this is a pretty stretch of sand and pebbles, with rocks on either side that you can clamber over, and it offers an eye-catching view across the water to an interesting rock formation known as Cap Bernat “the hand of God” to locals.

The sea bed is rocky, which makes it excellent for snorkelling. This sheltered bay is a popular anchoring spot for private yachts and motor boats, which gather in the late afternoon to enjoy the romantic sundown, accompanied on Sundays by the drummers who descend on the beach to “drum down the sunset” it’s a unique Ibiza experience, established over many years.

The view from Sa Talaiassa

Sa Talaiassa, a 1,560ft (475-metre) mountain, is the highest point in Ibiza, signposted from St Josep in the south-west of the island. It offers a breathtaking view from east and west coasts. You can watch the sunset in all its glory, listening to nothing but the sound of nature. To the east, you’ll see the island darkening beneath a beautiful purple sky, while the west is still lit in a deep orange sunset. It’s the most magical way to experience the natural beauty of Ibiza for free.

Teatro Pereyra (live music bar)

This is a vibrant place set within the lobby of the island’s historic former theatre. Pereyra is situated in the Old Town, with jazz, soul and Latin performances on stage from 11.30pm until 3.30am. The varied selection of drinks go up in price once the music kicks in, but you won’t find a better mojito, and there is no entrance fee or silly VIP area. A varied (though not exclusively) mature crowd, real music, no queues and subtle lighting make for a memorable evening.

Es Cubells

This tiny village has the best location on Ibiza. Amid olive, lemon and citrus groves, it is perched on a headland with clear, uninterrupted views over the silver-sprayed sea to the island of Formentera. Explore the lovely old church or walk down steep steps to the white sandy beach, before heading back to enjoy the vista from the terrace of family-run Bar Llumbi – it serves fresh fish or paella for €12.

The Fish Shack

Head down the rocky head of Talamanca beach and at the seafront you will find the Fish Shack, where chairs are plastic, the waiters call out the day’s menu, and the fish is fresh. You’re looking at €10 a plate for lemon-topped grilled sea bass, juicy tuna steaks and fat prawns, complete with garlic sauteed potatoes and Med salad.

Eating out in Cala Mastella

We discovered a little gem of a restaurant when we were exploring the many beautiful coves Ibiza has to offer. A bit off the beaten track, Cala Mastella is a tiny cove lined with small, rustic fishing huts. Scramble over the rocks to the left and you will find El Bigotes, a tiny eatery that is always buzzing with people at lunchtime. Only one dish is served here, an amazing fish stew, cooked over a wood fire. Arrive early or you won’t get a table. A true Ibizan experience.

Tuscany On Holiday Tips

unduhan-7I was as surprised as anyone to discover a small-scale sustainable goat farm, with some of the finest cashmere I’ve ever seen, in the heart of Tuscany, close to Radda in Chianti. Owner Nora Kravis (originally from Long Island, in the States) is a character, having lived here for over 30 years and owning more than 200 goats (one named Cappuccino) and 15 dogs. You can arrange a visit – Nora loves guests – and check out her shop and its range of delightful cashmere accessories.

Chiusi’s labyrinths

Escape the crowds and queues and immerse yourself in Tuscany’s lesser-known historical and architectural treasures. Chiusi, on the border with Umbria south-west of Siena, also has excellent rail links. Its gems, aside from its magnificent Etruscan museum, include the intriguingly named, fifth-century BC Monkey’s Tomb with frescoes depicting funeral games, and the Labyrinth of Porsenna. Afterwards, visit Nonna Rosa restaurant on Via dei Tulipani), where you can eat your stuffed gnocchi or wild boar stew sitting astride an old moped, or inside a restored Fiat 500.

Viareggio’s beaches

Many people forget that there are some are great places to stay on the Tuscan coast. Base yourself in Viareggio and you get the best of both worlds: it’s easy to reach by train from Pisa airport, has hotels for all budgets (Hotel Ely has doubles in June from €70 B&B). Swim and sunbathe on soft golden sands and explore the area by train or local bus. Pisa, Lucca, Livorno and Florence are all within an hour on public transport.

Trattorias in Florence

It’s hard to imagine there’s anywhere in Florence to eat good Tuscan food at reasonable prices. But the Florentines just keep the best places secret. A clue is trattorias that don’t bother with a website. Da Ruggero (Via Senese 89, +39 055 220542), just beyond the Boboli Gardens, is the best place in Florence for ribollitaor farinata con cavolo nero, a thick kale soup made from kale and polenta flour and drizzled with intense olive oil. Its pappardelle alla lepre, homemade noodles with hare ragù, is worth the visit alone. Trattoria Sostanza (Via del Porcellana, 25/R, +39 055 212691) probably hasn’t changed since 1869, when it opened. Trygallina bollita, hen poached in intense stock, served with vibrant salsa verde. In central Florence, Natalino does have a website (+39 055 289404). It’s a 120-year-old family-run restaurant that updates Tuscan specialities. A brilliant tortelloni dish deconstructs the classic leaves, pear and gorgonzola salad with walnuts, and turns it into a pasta dish. And don’t miss the revamped Mercato Centrale, with its upstairs food stalls selling dishes made with ingredients from the market below.

Bagno Vignoni village

One of the highlights of our tour around Tuscany was a night in the Bagno Vignoni, a village known for its hot springs. We bought a half-day pass at Hotel Posta Marcucci and enjoyed luxuriating in the warm thermal waters with wonderful views of the countryside. We had dinner at La Parata – great aglione(garlic and tomato) sauce on the pasta followed by amazing grilled chicken. We stayed at La Locanda del Loggiato, a comfortable B&B run by two sisters, with a great breakfast.