Paleokastritsa – Discovering Corfu Part 2

 

Corfu, Paleokastritsa, Greece, Beach, Paradise, Travel

Beautiful Paleokastritsa

Corfu is an island rich in culture, nature, with many places to visit and explore. My family and I did a tour called ‘Discover Corfu‘ which included visiting Kerkyra Town ( mentioned in my last post), and we also visited the north west of the island where there is a village that is like a paradise because of it’s turquoise-blue waters, a village called Paleokastritsa.

Paleokastritsa is one of the favourite places people want to see in Corfu, as it is famous for its unique beauty, and that it something you have to see by yourself. The distance between Kerkyra town and Paleokastritsa is about 25km, so it is a short journey and on the way the landscape is so beautiful, there are many olive trees, cypress trees and lemon trees.

Cave, Corfu, Beach, Travel, Sea, Fish, Diving

In the ‘Deep Blue Eye’ Cave

On arrival we enjoyed a lovely Greek lunch ( a post about Greek food coming soon!), and after that we went for a boat trip to the Paleokastritsa caves. The trip takes about 40 minutes and costs 10,00 Euros per person, we were taken to four different grottos to see the ‘deep blue eyes’ caves. My son was really amazed with the colour of the sea, there were many fish in different colours (he would be looking for Nemos’s and Dory’s look alike!). It was a beautiful trip, a must do for adults and children. You also have the option of doing a trip near the caves on your own and hire a small pedal boat which is more for couples or small groups of about four people. The weather is hot hot hot, and can get easily to it’s 40’s Celsius so I suggest using a high factor sun block, a hat and a bottle of water.

Corfu, cat, monastery

A cute cat having a nap at the Monastery

Paleokastritsa beaches are lovely but sort of crowded so it is up to you if you want to spend the day there. We were in a tour so our next stop would be not far away in the Monastery of Theotokou. This is a 13th century monastery, the walls are in a soft yellow colour, it is  a well maintained and peaceful place with a lovely bell tower. There is a dress code for visiting the monastery and women are given a sort of shawl to cover their shoulders, you may light a candle if you wish and make a donation or visit the souvenir shop.

Corfu, Heart, Love, Travel, Sea, Diving

The Heart Shaped Lagoon

Our last stop was in the village of Lakones, located in a hill not far from Paleokastritsa. Most tour coaches stop here because it is the perfect spot for taking pictures to the shaped heart lagoon, it will definitely take your breath away and it is one of the most amazing views I have seen in my life.

Soon I will be writing about all those delicious meals we had in Corfu, it will be a special post about Greek food.

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Discovering Corfu, Part 1

 

Corfu, Greece, Holidays, Travel, Thomson, Mediterranean

Ready for landing in Corfu

It was our first time in Greece visiting the lovely island of Corfu, and we did so many things that I will be writing more than one post about this amazing holiday.

The flight from England to Corfu takes about 4 hours and we had a pleasant trip with Thomson Airlines. The pilot was actually giving updates of where about we were flying ( Germany and Croatia), and we were told it was very hot in the island. Corfu airport must be one of the smallest airports I have seen in my life, because it had only two runways so the plane was in a queue going in circles, before landing. On arrival Thomsons did the transfers to our hotel, the Iti Louis Grand in Glyfada beach, which is located in the west coast of the island. This hotel is perfect for families with children and recommended for weddings too.

Corfu, Glyfada, Holiday, Louis Grand Hotel

Louis Grand Hotel

Glyfada is a sand beach with a beautiful landscape, the rock formations make this beach exotic and the turquoise blue sea is calm most of the time, so it is safe for small children. There is a couple more of hotels in the beach and small shops that offer snacks, drinks and toys for the little ones. You can hire scooters or bicycles to tour the island, or rent a car, but the roads are narrow almost everywhere so scooters are ideal.

 

Corfu, Glyfada, Beach, Mediterranean

Glyfada Beach

 

We took the hotel complimentary bus to Corfu town a couple of times. The town is small and everything is in walking distance, don’t forget to bring your bottle of water as Corfu is very hot and I remember we had a day where the temperature was 41 Celsius, we were practically melting. Also bring a high factor sun block if you don’t want to end up sun burnt. I read about a saint called St Spyridon and decided to visit his church. St Spyridon is buried there and you are allowed to see the body inside the coffin.

 

Corfu, Island, Travel, Mediterranean

Mouse Island and Vlaherna

A lot of people visit the church and light a candle when making a wish to the saint. Corfu town has many narrow streets with shops and restaurants, the buildings and houses are very Italian, and in some places you will find yourself walking in marble pavement, Venetian style streets. In what is called the Esplanada it is the Palace of St Michael and St George, inside you will find the Museum of Asian Art with a beautiful collection of Japanese Art, well this is something I didn’t expect to see in Corfu and I loved it.

Achilleion Palace, Corfu,

Achilleion Palace

 

Corfu, Achilleion Palace

The church at Achilleion Palace

Not far from Kerkyra (Corfu’s town) is the Achelleion Palace but before getting there we stopped at Kanoni, a lovely peninsula with restaurants and a great view of Mouse Island and Vlaherna, an island that has a convent. The Achelleion Palace was built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as Empress Sisi. She was an unhappy woman, many terrible things happened in her life so she built the palace in Corfu and named it after her idol Achilles.

The palace has many Greek mythology statues, and one of them is the statue of Dyimg Achilles. Inside the palace there is a chapel with a lovely painting of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and the ceiling is also covered in paintings. The palace was built by Italian arquitect Raffaele Caritto.

In the north west of Corfu there is a town called Paleokastritsa which is well known for its clear turquoise water and amazing caves. We did a separate tour and I will tell you all about it in my next post.

Erdigg in Summer

Erdigg, Wales, Summer, National Trust, Summer, Holiday, Walking, Travel

There is a place my family and I love for doing weekend picnics and it is called Erdigg. It is located in North Wales  in the city of Wrexham, and it doesn’t matter if it is a rainy day or a sunny day because this place is perfect for doing walks, especially during the summer months.

Erdigg was for many years home of the Yorke family and the mansion now belongs to the National Trust of England. It is possible to visit the mansion or do a tour to see the rooms that have 20th century furniture, ceramics and textiles. Something special is the collection of servants portraits, the ones who worked very hard maintaining the house and grounds for many years. My favourite room is the kitchen, because it is really spacious and it had everything you needed for doing big banquets. Something you don’t expect to see is a small collection of carriages,old cars and vintage bicycles. Also the children would be happy to see horses in the old stable yard and they can also pet them while a  lady tells  about the life of the horses and how they look after them.

Gardens, Erdigg, Summer, Daisies, Flowers

The mansion has massive gardens with a great variety of plants and flowers. There are also many fruit trees, like apple trees and to my surprise also small banana trees as  they usually grow in warm climate countries. There is also a big pond with fish and ducks, that is one of the favourite spots to stop for a picnic.

Wolf, Children, Wales, Erdigg, Games, Holidays, Walking

When walking by the gardens you will find  a sign for the ‘Wolves Den’, this is a place with games for children, all made of old trees that have fallen and have been shaped. Children love this place and there is an ice cream kiosk near the entrance to the den.

If you don’t want to bring a picnic there is a restaurant and tea room with lovely cakes freshly made. Erdigg is dog friendly and has some areas where dogs are allowed, so you can bring your little canine friend with you.

Uncle Tetsu’s is fabulous!

Cheesecake, Japan, Uncle Tetsu, dessert, food

The one and only Japanese Cheesecake

For many years I have been a big fan of the classic American Cheesecake, which is something you cannot find easily in England. So everytime I travel to the United States I look for a place that sells the delicious cheesecake. I wouldn’t imagine any other cheesecake better than the American one, but since coming back from Canada I have a new favourite cheesecake. In Toronto there is a place where they have a unique tasty cheesecake and it is called Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Angel café. I was having a walk around Toronto City Centre with my niece and nephew when we saw the shop located in Dundas Street.

I remember we saw this guy with a paper bag of Uncle Tetsus in an icecream parlour, and he was the one telling us how much he loves it and gave us the address.

Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake was born in 1985 in Hakata, Japan. The cheesecake is very soft in texture, it is not so sweet and this is good as this makes you enjoy the delicate cheese taste. In Toronto there are four Uncle Tetsus cafés, which shows how popular and successful Uncle Tetsus cheesecake is. I went to the one in Dundas Street and the first thing that caught my eye was the cute character that appears in the shop logo which is a chubby angel holding a heart in one hand and a cheesecake in the other. This logo is the one that also is stamped in the cheesecake itself.

Cheesecake, Uncle Tetsu, Food, Dessert, Japan

And the cheesecake comes inside this bag.

I have seen videos in You Tube of people queuing to get cheesecake early in the morning, and maybe I was lucky because I didn’t need to queue when I went. It is interesting to see the staff making the cheesecake, and this shows you that the product is definitely fresh. The cheesecake costs CAD10,00 Canadian Dollars which is about GBP 6,00, and it can be shared between a party of 5 or 6 people, unless you like it so much that you decide to keep it for yourself.

Uncle Tetsus is very popular in Asia and expanding not only in Canada (there is four shops in Toronto) but also in the USA, Indonesia and Brazil. I really hope they open shops in the United Kingdom soon too.

Flash Break in Toronto

Toronto, Canada, Travel

Landing in Toronto

This was my first time in Canada and it was great!. I did a last minute booking and I travelled with only carry on luggage to make the trip easier. There was a very important family celebration with my niece getting married in Toronto, and that was the main reason for me travelling. I couldn’t stay very long in Toronto because of work reasons and I only had a four day short break.

Toronto, CN Tower, Canada, Travel

On the way to Toronto City Center

Toronto is a big and multicultural city, it is safe, clean and people are friendly. I was staying with family so it was easy for me to get around thanks to them. The weather in Canada is similar to the English weather so it is always good to have an umbrella handy.

One of the many places you can eat sushi.

I was very curious about Chinatown as my niece said I would love it and she was right. It was exciting to go for a walk to Chinatown and I felt like being in China. I was surprised by the many shops, restaurants, markets and spas, all with signs written in Chinese and English, but mainly Chinese. I was told there are eight Chinatowns in Toronto itself, so there are many Chinatowns to explore and there is also a Koreatown. I am a food lover, especially when it is about Asian food, and it is fascinating to see so many varieties of restaurants in Toronto Chinatown. We were walking along a road with signs for Korean food, all you can eat Sushi, Vietnamese Restaurants, and many more.

Toronto University

We also went for a walk to the grounds of Toronto University, located in Queens Park. The University buildings are lovely with a Gothic style, it is just beautiful and looks like a small Hogwarts. There are black squirrels running everywhere and they seem to be friendly, maybe they expect you have nuts for them!. It is nice and peaceful to walk in Toronto and, after a long walk we stopped to have something to eat. We went to Kenzo a ramen restaurant where I had the best ramen ever! Also we went to Tsujiri, famous for their matcha icecream. Not far from there is Uncle Tetsu’s shop, an Asian franchise with the best Japanese Cheesecake. The cheesecakes are fresh and you can actually see how they make them.

ramen, Japanese, Toronto, food

At Kenzo, a place with a very good ramen.

On another day we went to the Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese mall in North America and it is located in Markham. It is a place where you can get many products at a good price, like Korean beauty products, Japanese and Chinese candy, Anime toys, clothes and gifts. My nephew and niece invited me to have lunch and I had a lovely Chicken Katsu meal, with rice and vegetables, it wasn’t very spicy and I really enjoyed it. After that we went to Happy Lemon where they have drinks you never imagined existed! like Salted Tea Cheese and a variety of lemon tea drinks. I tried the Mango Green tea and I loved it!

Cats, Neko, Japanese, Toronto, Charm

A shop that sells only Maneki-Nekos! or lucky charm cats.

Something I discovered is that people in Canada aren’t interested in Starbucks, and this is because they are all in love with Tim Hortons, a coffee franchise that not only sells amazing coffee but have their own delicious donuts. It didn’t surprise me to see Starbucks practically empty when Tim Hortons is next to them with a lot of happy clients. Well, I brought to England packs of Tim Horntons coffee, Japanese candy and Canadian Maple tea boxes, tasty souvenirs.

Toronto, Holiday, Travel

A day exploring Toronto Downtown

I would like to say thanks to Antonella and Dan who were fantastic tour guides and I enjoyed their company very much. I haven’t finished exploring Toronto, so I will be back and next time will be a proper long holiday.

Peruvian Alfajores on Valentine’s Day


Food, Alfajores, Peru, Dulce, Dessert

Its Valentines day and my husband and I celebrate it our own way. We don’t like spending money on expensive gifts and instead we like to do simple special things. Yesterday when I arrived home from work, my husband got these beautiful roses for me and I thought of doing something special for him too.

My husband and I love Alfajores, they are a traditional dessert in Peru, and I wanted to surprise my husband by making them for Valentine’s Day. Alfajores are two biscuits (sometimes up to three) put together and filled with toffee fudge (‘dulce de leche’ in Spanish). They became popular in South America with the arrival of the Spaniards and the word ‘Alfajor’ has Arabic roots as it refers to the filling inside the biscuits. Most alfajores are filled with dulce de leche, but others are filled even with chocolate fudge or nutella. Alfajores are usually round but as you can see in the picture I made the heart shaped version.

In Peru you can find many different types of Alfajores, the biscuits could be made with sweet potato flour or corn flour, it depends on the region. For example in the North of Peru you will find what is called ‘King Kong’ a giant rich alfajor filled with dulce de leche (called ‘Manjarblanco’ by Peruvians), fruit jam and peanuts. In Argentina the production of Alfajores is massive, and they are made in cities like Santa Fe, Cordoba, Tucuman and Mar de Plata. Alfajores are also produced in Chile, Colombia,Costa Rica and Mexico.

Alfajores are always delicious together with a cup of coffee. So now you know about alfajores and remember to try them when you visit South America.

A Winter Short Break in Tuscany – Day Three in Lucca

Lucca, Italy,  Cathedral,

Lucca Cathedral

It is our last day in Pisa and we decided to visit the walled city of Lucca. The city is about 20 minutes by train from Pisa, so it is easy to get there. Lucca has beautiful churches, and it is the place where composers Boccherini and Puccini were born.

The walled city is a perfect place for a long walk or a bicycle ride. My family and I love walking so I studied the city map and did our own walking plan. We started by visiting the Duomo at the Lucca Cathedral, also called Saint Martin. Inside we saw sculptures and the walls had many beautiful paintings. we follow the road ahead to a small Piazza where we there was an ice skating ring, it has been a long time since the last time I went ice skating and my son wanted to give it try. There were many families with children ice skating and having a great time.

Vespa, Cat, Italy, scooter, Lucca

An Italian cat sunbathing in a Vespa

The streets in Lucca are quiet, clean and there are many gift and ceramic shops, churches, buildings with balconies ( Rome and Juliet style ones), and there are many trattorias. It was lunch time and we were looking for a place to eat when we found this lovely trattoria called L’Oste di Lucca. The trattoria has walls with stones and bricks from years ago which makes the place very special, it is beautifully decorated. We had the biggest pizzas to share, one with Italian sausages and onions and another with prosciutto. This popular trattoria and offers home made pasta and many Tuscan dishes.

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After lunch we went to see the Roman Amphitheatre, well it was a proper Amphitheatre long time ago and now houses have been built on site. The old arches are still kept in place with a nice piazza or square. We realized it was siesta time in Lucca as many shops were closed when we were on our way to the Torre Guinigi, a 14th century tower. I have seen pictures of Torre Guinigi before and I have been curious about the trees showing on the top of the Tower. It is a very old tower and my husband and son were not very happy about going up, this is because to be honest the stairs look so fragile it was like they could break anytime. Once we arrived to the top we knew it was worth it as the tower has an incredible view of Lucca and the mountains near by. There is a small garden on top of the tower with Holm Oak trees, people say they symbolise ‘a new beginning’.

Lucca, Italy, Trees, Guinigi

Torre Guinigi

It was time to go back to Pisa so we took the train feeling a bit sad as we wanted to stay for a few more days. Tuscany has much more places to visit like, Siena, Chianti, San Gimignano, Cortona, and the list of towns is big. I miss Italy, the beauty of the towns, the delicious food and the kind friendly people.

See you soon again Tuscany!.

A Winter Break in Tuscany – Day Two in Florence

Florence, Cathedral, Italy

Florence Cathedral

Some people prefer renting a car during holidays and some would use public transport, just like me. I enjoy walking, and I think renting a bicycle and travelling by train is fun. I have been witness in how difficult is to park in Italy because of tourists parking somewhere they shouldn’t. The Pisa Centrale Train Station was about twenty minutes walk from our hotel in Pisa and we decided to get train tickets to visit Florence.

Italy has a good network of trains and they are very punctual. It takes about 40 minutes to get from Pisa to Florence by train and the journey offers lovely views of the Italian landscape, the green fields, rivers, and farms. Florence is a charming big city, and I knew it would be impossible to visit the entire city and all attractions in just one day, so that meant we had to be careful regarding the time would spend there . Florence is a city where museums and galleries are everywhere and at a short distance so it is easy to walk from one place to another. First we visited the Duomo and Cathedral, and we were very impressed in how big the Cathedral is, and after making a long queue we got inside to see the beautiful paintings and frescoes. After that we went to look for a place to have lunch, and not far from the Duomo we found a restaurant called ‘Tavernetta del Battistero’ in Via dei Servi. My husband and I ordered sea food spaghetti and our son ordered a giant calzone filled with meat and sausages. We loved the food, the service was excellent and I found myself speaking in Italian with our waiter who was very kind.

Food, Italy, Florence, Sea Food

Sea Food Spaguetti

After lunch we visited the Leonardo da Vinci museum which is a small museum but it is perfect for children as they can actually interact and play with the machine displays.

There are massive museums and galleries in Florence and in order to visit all of them you would have to spend maybe between three or five days in the city. You could try to get the tickets for the museums near The Duomo but there are very long queues and the numbers of tickets are limited so they sold out quick. We were told it is far better to pre-book the tickets in advance online, like two or three months before our next holiday in Florence.

Florence, Italy, Ponte Vecchio, Holidays

 Ponte Vecchio

It was middle afternoon and we went for a walk to Piazza della Reppublica which is a very colourful and busy square. We walked along a street with many high street shops like Versace and Gucci, and shortly arrived near the Arno river. There is this special place in Florence where couples in love get engaged, and it is a bridge called Ponte Vecchio. The bridge has many tiny antique shops, and it has a sort of magical feeling, it is like the bridge is enchanted.

Florence, Love, Ponte Vecchio, Italy

Locked in Love

We were short of time and we had to make our way to the train station but before that I wanted to stop in a coffee shop, so that’s how I found the little Caffe Corsini. I couldn’t leave Florence without having a nice cup of coffee. We would love go back to Florence and next time stay for maybe a week to keep exploring and visit the other side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Italy, Coffee, Florence, Holidays

Coffee Time

After visiting Florence we went back to our hotel in Pisa, we were knackered but happy! And it was time to rest as we would visit Lucca the next day. So my next post will be about the city of Lucca.

A Winter Short Break in Tuscany, Day One in Pisa

The view from our bedroom balcony.

The view from our bedroom, best view ever!.

Every time I visit beautiful Italy is like having a perfect holiday. The north of Italy has been in my list of places to visit, so I thought it would be special to go there during the Christmas season, and I did a booking for a 3 day short break in Tuscany for my family.

Many may ask, what can you do in three days when Tuscany is so big?. Well, you can actually do a lot, and that involves walking, so you don’t have to worry or feel guilty about eating pizzas or calzones because you will be doing a lot of walking and burning calories. There are many places to visit in Tuscany so we decided to go to Pisa, Florence and Lucca.

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Oh it is so heavy! : )

We arrived to Pisa early morning which gave us plenty of time to check in at our hotel and explore Pisa the first day. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Duomo which is well located near the attractions in Pisa. The hotel is very old but charming and it gave me a feeling of staying in a mansion because of the wooden walls, paintings, leather sofas, and chandeliers, I just loved it. Something very special about the hotel is the bar they have in the top terrace, there you will fall in love with the view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, especially at night it is absolutely beautiful.

Of course Pisa major attraction is the famous Pisa Tower, and it is located in what its called ‘The Field of Miracles’ or Campo Dei Miracoli and there you will find other places of interest like Pisa’s Cathedral and The Duomo, the museum and Baptistry and Camposanto. You will need to purchase a ticket to access the attractions from the Tourist Office near The Duomo.

Our favourite place to eat in Pisa is called Ristoro Pizzeria Da Antonio, in Via Santa Maria in front of the Gran Hotel Duomo. They have lovely pizzas, many popular pasta dishes at a good price and it is child friendly. We loved it so much that it became our favourite place to have dinner every night.

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Tiramisu, you are so yummi!!

I think Pisa is a good start point if you plan to travel around Tuscany by train. It is about twenty minutes walk from Pisa to the Train Station, and from there we purchased our train tickets to Florence and Lucca. Pisa is a quiet charming little city and at night it was nice to walk between the Pisa Train Station and our hotel. During Christmas the streets are lovely decorated, people are doing shopping, or walking their dogs or having ice cream (yes it was freezing cold but it doesn’t matter, ), and my son didn’t hesitate to try an Oreo flavoured gelato. Well and of course it is a must to stop in one of the many coffee shops, because cappuccino and cake are extra special in Italy.

My next blog will be about Florence, so I am looking forward to share it with you.

How Learning English changed my Life.

I was starting my first year of high school when my mum told me it was time to learn English. At that time I was living in Peru, a Spanish speaking country where schools teach English but lets say it is more like a basic language holiday lesson. My mum said that learning English would be very important for my future, so I started having intensive English lessons in a British Institute outside high school.

My English lessons were always very early morning and I would practically run to catch the bus to make it in time from the institute to the high school. I had a special authorization from the school head teacher to arrive a bit late. It didn’t took very long for my classmates to realize that I was good at English and they would ask me for help when doing homework or when having a test.

In the 80’s we didn’t have Internet so I had penpals in order to practice English writing. My first penpal was a girl from Kent, England. We used to exchange postcards, stamps and posters of music idols. She would be the one who sent me a magazine page with the picture of Rick Astley and he would become my idol, I learnt the lyrics of all his songs and still now I am a big fan. In Peru I didn’t listen to radio stations in Spanish and instead I preferred to listen to radio stations that played songs in English, that actually helped me a lot into understanding the language. On Saturday afternoons I used to spend time at the British Institute library where I was fascinated with the books in architecture and history.

Years later I traveled for the first time to the United States where I struggled a bit because I was speaking ‘British’ and at times people would tell me I was saying things wrong (when I wasn’t) and it didn’t bothered me. American and British English have different vocabulary and also sometimes grammar could be different. For example: A ‘butty’ in British is a sandwich, the ‘petrol station’ in America is the gas station, and British go to the ‘toilet’ not to the bathroom. A very useful book about how to speak British is called ‘The very Best Of British’ by Mike Etherington, this book is a must read if you come to visit England.

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Definitely speaking another language helped me with job opportunities. At a very young age I worked for important companies speaking English and Spanish, met new people who became great friends, and suddenly I found myself travelling to many places for work and pleasure. My love life was not good and it wasn’t going anywhere, so I forgot about ‘normal’ dating and decided to look for love in a very different way. It was time to find Mr Right so one day I subscribed to an Online Dating site. I was very serious about it despite one or two people who thought I was doing something really crazy. There was something special and sexy about flirting in another language, the long distance issue was not important and that is how I met my husband.

I think it is never too late to learn a language, actually I learnt Italian a few years ago and I have been thinking for a while about starting Japanese lessons. Learning languages open doors leading to opportunities in life and I truly believe it can even change people destiny.

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