The Chichen Itza Experience

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The Riviera Maya has everything you need for a perfect holiday, with beautiful beaches, nature, water sports, adventure and a lot of history. Since I was a child I have a big interest in archaeology and ancient cultures and there was something I had in mind for a long time was to visit Chichen Itza.

Our hotel had its own Tour Desk and we did the booking with them. They offered different options regarding tours to Chichen Itza and you can choose one depending on your budget. Some tours may include breakfast, buffet lunch, visiting the city of Valladolid, or visiting a Cenote. Before going on the tour make sure to bring insect repellent, sun block (the highest factor you can get!), sunglasses, and comfortable shoes. If you booked the tour including a visit to the Cenote you will need a swimsuit and towel. The tour to Chichen Itza takes all day, it’s about two hours journey from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza and before getting there the tour bus stops in a Handicraft Market where you will find souvenirs and you can get snacks too. My husband almost had a heat stroke because he wasn’t drinking enough water, so I advice you to drink plenty of water at all times. The weather in the Riviera Maya is extremely hot, or I should say it is wild!.

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During our bus journey the tour guide tour giving interesting facts about the Mayan culture. The Mayan language is still spoken in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Something curious about the language is that some words are similar to Chinese in pronunciation and reflects the Mayans being distant relatives of the Chinese! It seems to be that the Mayas built their buildings without using the wheel and no metal cutting tools have been found, which is still a bit of a mystery. Itza was the name given to the ancient warriors from the Yucatan peninsula but Itz-a means ‘water wizard’, and Chi-Chen means ‘mouth of the well’. So if we try to translate Chichen Itza into English, then it would be something like ‘Mouth of the Well of the Warriors’.

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On arrival to Chichen Itza we were very excited and ready to explore. And there it was in front of me ‘El Castillo’ a pyramid dedicated to the god Kukulcan. El Castillo is proof that the Mayans were architects, experts in maths and astronomy. It is incredible how the pyramid was built to perfection by the Mayans. People also call it the Kukulcan Pyramid, because of the Mayans serpent god.

Each side of the Pyramid has 91 steps which together with the step on the top give a total of 365 steps and that is the number of days in a year. Perfection!. Many cultures built pyramids on top of another and this is also the case for El Castillo. The Mexican government did further studies and excavations and they found another pyramid or temple buried inside El Castillo. Yucatan peninsula is famous for their sink-holes or cenotes, some could be small and some could be big. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and there are two of them at Chichen Itza. In 2015 archaeologists found a Cenote inside El Castillo pyramid and with this discovery was clear that Cenotes had a deep religious meaning for the Mayans. On the Equionix (on march 20st and September 21), if you watch El Castillo it looks like a snake descends the pyramid when the sunlight hits it and appears to go down to the serpents head that is carved at the bottom of the Pyramid. This represents the god Kukulcan with the start and finish of the agricultural season. It is very cleverly achieved by the shadows cast onto the pyramid on those specific dates and is one more illustration of the Mayans architectural and astronomical skills. Around the Kukulcan pyramid you will find many other buildings such as the Warrior Temple, The Observatory, the Venus Platform, The Ballcourt and The Temple of the Jaguar.

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After the tour we went to a Mexican restaurant to have a delicious buffet lunch and also the tour included a visit to the Cenote Ik Kil near the city of Valladolid. Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans and its believed that getting inside one purifies the body and spirit. We didn’t get inside the Cenote as it was crowded with people diving and swimming. Anyway it was a nice place to have a good rest and enjoy ice creams.

I felt more energized and full of joy after visiting Chichen Itza. The Riviera Maya is a place where adults discover having an ‘Indiana Jones spirit’ and children have fun learning about history. Thank you Chichen Itza for this wonderful experience.

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My Riviera Maya Summer Holiday

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I recently came back from the beautiful Riviera Maya in Mexico, a place that means a lot to me and my family. It was in Cancun where I officially met my husband after our Online Dating romance, and to us its our ‘love nest’ away from home.

We have stayed in the hotel zone area in Cancun in the past but this time we decided to stay somewhere a bit further away. I heard of Playa del Carmen, a small town located about 40 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. We did some research in Trip Advisor looking for a nice family resort to stay at and we found The Royal Haciendas which is suitable for families with children. Cancun Airport has too many shuttle or taxi transfers on the Arrivals area and they will offer you their services but don’t listen to them (even if they insist too much) if you already paid your airport/hotel transport online and follow the instructions of the company you booked with.

Our transfer to the hotel didn’t take too long and we had a very nice chatty driver who was telling us how Cancun has grown economically in the last ten years thanks to the continuing growth in tourism. In 2005 Hurricane Wilma practically destroyed Cancun, but the city, hotels and resorts were rebuilt in short time.

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The first couple of days we decided to just relax and enjoy the beach. In the morning I loved doing Zumba lessons while my husband and son were having fun in the swimming pool. In the afternoons we would be in the beach making sand castles and having walks along the lovely beach. My son enjoyed snorkeling and would spend hours looking for fish. One day while playing in the sea we saw something moving inside the water, not sure about what it was and my son suddenly shouts: ‘Turtle mummy!, its a turtle!’. And he was right, it was a baby turtle swimming near the sea bed and as the tide came in it was covered by sand and we lost sight of it. One of the best places to spot sea turtles is the Riviera Maya and The Royal Haciendas as part of the Royal Resorts takes part in the sea turtle conservation campaign.

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Playa del Carmen town was almost next door and we went for a walk along Quinta Avenida, an avenue with lots of craft shops, boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Xcaret is an echo-archeological park located close to Playa del Carmen. It is a very popular tourist location and one of its many attractions is to swim in the underground river. It is a unique experience!. It is easy to take the ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel Island, the ferrys depart every hour and if you wish you could spend all day in the island which is great for snorkeling and diving. Also near Playa del Carmen you will find attractions like Xel-ha, the dolphins paradise, the archaeological city of Tulum which is well preserved and the Coba pyramids.

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Make sure you carry a bottle of water at all times with you because of the extreme heat. We traveled in August and the highest temperature was 35 Celsius which means bring a lot of sun block with you, mosquito repellent and hats to protect yourself from the sun.

I remember the first time we came to Riviera Maya we visited almost all the attractions but because we ran out of money we couldn’t visit Chichen Itza. So that was something pending to do, and it was like a sort of mission to go there on our second trip. We booked our tour to Chichen Itza in advance and it was a memorable experience, especially for our son who loves exploring and enjoys filming.

On our last day we took a taxi to Cancun, and again we had a very chatty taxi driver. His name was Orlando and for a reasonable fare he dropped us in Cancun and waited for us while we visited the Aquarium. The Cancun Aquarium is small but children enjoy it as they can pet starfish, stingrays and you can swim with dolphins which is optional with a fee. On the way back to the hotel Orlando said life in Cancun is good and there are always jobs available. The city is non stop growing, and there is even a new town resort being built called Puerto Morelos which is between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Taxis are safe as long as you take them from your hotel lobby or with the bell boy. I was more than happy to tip all the taxi drivers, they all were friendly, helpful, they drive safely and they are experts in Mayan history.

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Our last day of holiday was sort of sad. My son said this was the best holiday ever and that he loved Cancun so much that he would love to live there. When our plane took off from Cancun it was not a good bye but more like a ‘see you soon’ with the wish of going back to Riviera Maya again next summer.

The Royal Haciendas, a lovely resort in the Riviera Maya, Mexico

 

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I would like to share our ‘Royal Haciendas’ experience as it was great staying in the resort. This review has been also posted with Trip Advisor.

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The Royal Haciendas is a family and child friendly resort located in Playa del Carmen, in the Mexican Riviera Maya. It is near many tourist attractions and about 40 minutes away from Cancun Airport.

The resort is massive and divided in two areas. Each area has swimming pools for adults and children and two restaurants called the Sol Grill and Luna Grill. These restaurants offer lovely nachos, wraps and burgers. Our reservation was all inclusive in a Deluxe Junior Suite. The suite was big, it was more like a ‘mini flat’, with microwave, minifridge, coffee maker and we had a terrace with a nice garden view. All the hotel has free high speed wifi too.

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Our fruit basket and red wine

 On our first day the resort gave a us a basket of fresh fruit and a bottle of red wine which was very kind of them. We enjoyed a variety of meals at La Palapa del Sol restaurant. Every night there is a themed buffet with Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Italian, Oriental and BBQ food. There is also a snack/sushi bar called La Rotonda and an elegant restaurant called Los Murales. At Los Murales we ordered for starters the avocado filled with sea food and as a main dish the salmon with asparagus. We absolutely loved it as well as the Ferrero dessert.

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Sea Food at Los Murales Restaurant in the Royal Haciendas, delicious!.

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Ferrero dessert, beautifully made. At Los Murales, Royal Haciendas Resort

The resort has a beautiful beach, it is well maintained and its cleaned in the mornings. If you decide to stay on the beach you will find blue flags that you can use to order food and drinks, we found this great.

Me and the beach, enjoying the Riviera Maya.

You will find hammocks near the gardens, they are perfect for an afternoon siesta, check your Facebook or just relax. There is a Sports desk and Activity Room with many things to do for adults and children. You can book the tennis court, play golf, do snorkelling or do kayaking. They count with an activity timetable for adults and children. You may try doing zumba, pilates, aquaerobics, beach volleyball, latin dance lessons and many more. I would like to thank the zumba instructor for such an enjoyable lesson. I just loved it!.

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Aquaerobics time.

 

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Kayaking in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya.

The resort has a mini market, so don’t worry if you forgot your suntan lotion or any basics. There is a doctor on site, a Spa and a small travel agency that helped us with our trip to Chichen Itza and transfers to the airport.

The resort is near the Playa del Carmen town where you can do shopping or just go for a walk. The resort offers a shuttle and there are also taxis available near the front door, you have just to speak to one of the bell boys. The resort is very safe in terms of checking at all times who gets into the resort.

We booked the resort directly via their web site and we received a discount coupon to spend at the resort but we spoke to different members of staff and it was never clear about how to use the discount. At the end we didn’t use it but a member of reception took note of our case and said they will get in touch with us. Anyway we booked for nine days and decided to extend our stay for two more days because we simply loved the place.

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All inclusive means all the Piña Coladas you want and all the desserts you want. Yummi!!

The staff in general was friendly and polite, the rooms are spotless clean and there is always someone in charge to refill your fridge with drinks. Also, there is someone always late afternoon checking if you need any additional toiletries or towels, which was very nice and shows they look after you. It was nice for them to leave a lolly pop next to your bed every day after cleaning the room. Las Haciendas has everything you need and is perfect for families with small children. My 8 year old son always talks about how beautiful was our holiday, definitely we are considering going back in the future.

The Jedi Training Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Orlando

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My family and I are big fans of the Star Wars saga and we had an incredible time when we recently visited Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and our son took part in the Jedi Training Academy show. I had planned it for months, spent time reading many web sites, specially the web site of the Disney Forum which helped me a lot regarding the park and event information, so once we arrived to Orlando we knew exactly what to do. I have done a priority list for the ones planning on doing the same for their children:

  • Get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios Orlando as early as possible. If you have a park leaflet check on the opening times, for example if the park opens at 8am I would suggest you to be there one hour before. It happens that sometimes the parks open earlier than normal (and they don’t mention this in the leaflets). So if you arrive early you could be one of the first visitors inside the park and avoid long queues.
  • Once inside the park you will have to make a reservation for the Jedi Training at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost located near the Indiana Jones Epic stunt.
  • You will get a special ticket for the Jedi Training Trials of the Temple with your chosen time for the show. Shows are daily between 9:40am and 9:10pm. Once you have your ticket keep it safe like gold!, and don’t be late for your training.
  • The experience is only for children between 4 and 12 years old and the spaces are limited. It is a 25 minutes show next to the Star Tours 3D ride.
  • Parents will be with their children until show time, the little ones will be given a brown Jedi costume and lightsaber which is really cool as they will look like real Jedis!. You can take as many pictures or videos as you want during the show.
  • It is exciting for the children to wait and see who they will fight with, is it with Vader or is it with the Seventh Sister?. At the beginning there will be two lines of children, smaller children go at the front, the older ones in the back, later on they break the lines to do a training circle in the main stage and after that the children are taken to the upper stage and lower stage in a random way. My son was able to fight with the Seventh Sister and he was so happy, he said it was the best experience ever.
  • At the end the children get a certificate saying they have passed the Jedi Training and with this you will hear them talking about the experience for a long long time. If you have a Disney Photopass you will find all the pictures (taken by Disney’s professional photographers) of this event loaded in the card.

 

 

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Is your child shy or maybe having double thoughts about taking part in the training ?. I can tell you, my son is a big Star Wars fan but for some reason he was a bit shy and not sure about taking part on the training just one day before the event. But, once he had the reservation ticket in his hands and saw himself together with other children then I could guess he was very excited because he had a huge smile on his face.

May the force be with you, always!.

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Christmas at DisneyWorld and Universal Studios Florida

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My husband and I have been in Orlando in the past as it is one of our favourite holiday destinations. The last time we went to Orlando was ten years ago so we were thinking about going back but this time during the Christmas season. I heard that Christmas time in Orlando is extremely busy with never ending queues in all the Disney and Universal parks but that didn’t put me off about the trip. I liked to plan everything in advance and did my own research about places to visit and things to do. If you are thinking about a Disney/Universal Christmas in 2016 I have some tips to share with you:

Tickets for Attractions: It is up to you buying tickets in advance on a web site or directly at the attractions. A lot depends on how long you are going for, as most UK websites sell 7 to 14 day tickets only. We compared prices on web sites against Disney Parks and Universal Parks but there is not much difference for shorter length trips – some sites do offer some savings compared to gate prices but you have to weigh that against the risks of the tickets not arriving, or not being accepted at the park.

Uber Taxi : It was our fist time using Uber and we are recommending it to all our friends. It is safe, reliable and the cost is less that the typical yellow taxis. All you have to do is add the Uber app in your phone. Uber drivers in Orlando are all friendly, polite and will let you know where about is the Uber location for pick ups at any Disney or Universal Park.

I-Ride Trolley: If you decided to stay in International Drive you will see a cute green bus passing by very often. That is the I-Ride Trolley, they have stops in the International Drive area and you can buy the tickets in selected hotels or just pay to the driver (exact cash). It generally costs a few dollars per day.

Where to Stay: We always prefer to stay in the International Drive area as we like exploring and visiting restaurants, but you could also stay in one of the many lovely Disney Hotels or Universal Hotels if you wish. It depends on your itinerary and how much time you would like to spend at the attractions.

Trip Advisor: Before booking on Expedia, Last Minute or any other web site I would advice to check reviews of your chosen hotel in Trip Advisor. We stayed in the Rosen Plaza at International Drive which has excellent reviews and has recently been refurbished, it is well located for shops and restaurants.

Shopping : Orlando has many shopping centres or malls to choose from, all of them big with many designer shops. I am always looking for bargains and my favourite one is Orlando Outlets at Vineland Avenue. The I -Ride Trolley is very handy as it has a stop in this outlet.

Do a Ride Priority List: Disney and Universal Parks have many rides and there could be long waiting queues, especially during school holidays or Christmas. At the moment the busy rides in Universal Studios are Transformers, Minions and the rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter ( Hogwarts trains also is constantly busy). If you love these movies and want to make it to the rides put them in your priority list as soon as you get into the park to avoid more than one hour wait. During Christmas the parks open at about 7.30 am but this isn’t mentioned in the park leaflets.

Express Tickets: You can skip the regular queues buying a Disney or Universal Express Ticket, the cost depends on which park you will visit. Just in case, Express Tickets aren’t valid at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Harry Potter and The Escape from Gringotts, and The Hogwarts Express. I know this doesn’t sound fair at all, but hopefully this will change in the future.

Using your Credit Card: There has been reports about credit card cloning in Orlando so be extra careful when using your credit card in the International Drive area, especially in restaurants. When paying your bill don’t let the restaurant staff go out of sight with your credit card.

Disney Parks and Universal Studios definitely get better and better with the years, so if like us, you have been to Orlando before, you will realize there are new rides and most of the old ones have been replaced or upgraded. Some people ask me if Orlando is expensive, well for sure you will have to ‘destroy’ your piggy bank. It all depends on how long you plan to stay and how many parks you plan to visit. A Christmas holiday in Orlando is something you must do at least once in your life as it is the most beautiful and magical experience ever. Your children will love it and as an adult you will feel like a child again.

A date with my husband and Dirty Soul

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The Beatleweek in Liverpool is a must event for all Beatles fans. With many bands from the UK and around the world coming to perform in the city it is a huge celebration. I was especially waiting for Dirty Soul, a Peruvian Beatles Tribute band. They came for the very first to Liverpool last year and I am a big fan. The band already has many followers in the UK, and many like me have been waiting to see them again in Beatleweek 2015. Dirty Soul won the contest as the ‘Best Latin American Band in 2013 in Argentina and also Carmen Calle won the best drummer award.

I have been following Dirty Soul via their Facebook page and via The Cavern Club web site, so I knew they were invited to participate in the Beatleweek this year. They are special to me because they are from my homeland and I have promised myself to see them every time they come to Liverpool. I was looking forward to go to see them with my husband but because of work he wasn’t sure about coming with me.

Finally it was Wednesday afternoon, I made plans to leave work early and just before leaving the office my husband texted me. He was on his way to Liverpool as he left work early too, that made me very happy as we were going to have a ‘Beatles Date’ with Dirty Soul. We arrived to the Cavern Pub a bit early and I had the opportunity to greet the members of the band. I was feeling a bit shy to approach them because they were busy getting ready for their performance.

Dirty Soul performed for about one hour, with people of all ages dancing and singing along. The Cavern Pub became a ‘tardis’ with Dirty Soul, they have the music power in them, the Beatlemania is alive, and thanks to them we had a unique Beatles experience. I remember my husband whispering in my ear: ‘Wow they are amazing’.

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I could not leave without greeting Carmen Calle in person, she is the drum player in the band and I waited patiently for her after the show, as I wanted to say hi and have a picture taken with her. She is a lovely pretty lady and has many followers herself. I loved the tshirt she was wearing, it said : ‘Yes, I am the drummer, yes I am a woman’.

Thank you very much to Dirty Soul for bringing rock and roll and happiness to this side of the world. You are definitely ‘The Peruvian Beatles Ambassadors’, great musicians with great hearts. It meant a lot to me to see you again and my husband is already a fan too!, many thanks guys, you are fabulous. I am sure you will be back to Liverpool, so see you again soon!!.

A 70 Year Old Girl

 

My mum at Penrhyn Castle, North Wales.

My mum at Penrhyn Castle, North Wales.

It has been a while since writing in my blog, and this is because my mum was visiting England and we spent quality time together, she is not just my mum she is a good friend too.

This is the third time my mum visits England, she is in her 70’s with a bit of health issues but nothing to worry about. It takes more than 14 hours the flight between Peru and the UK but she is used to it now. She is an adventurous girl, a good traveller and she isn’t scared of the long haul flight but she always carries her rosary.

She doesn’t usually travel with dad, and she doesn’t say that she misses him but when she speaks over the phone with him, I can guess by the tone of her voice that she really misses him. My dad isn’t a frequent flyer as my mum, he says that is because he doesn’t speak English and that is the reason why he isn’t interested in travelling abroad. I’m in the process of making him change his mind.

My mum learnt English when she was a teenager in Peru, but she hasn’t practice the language in years. She understands what is going on around her when she is here, tries to read the newspapers or magazines with my help but she struggles when talking to others. It was interesting to see her trying to speak to my mother in law, it was more like a ‘spanglish’ conversation, so funny, and somehow they understood each other. My mother in law and mum are friends and that makes me happy.

We went for a walk to Liverpool city centre and she was telling me about her memories in the 60’s with the Beatles fever. She said ‘Sweetheart, the fans would scream like lunatics and some of them would faint of excitement!’. We also went to Wales as she loves the castles, we visited Penrhyn Castle and when we were walking in the castle gardens she said: ‘ If a castle would be able to talk, can you imagine all the stories that it would tell?’. She loves trees, and she likes to hug them, she always says ‘ its good to hug a big tree, old trees are full of energy and that’s good for the human body’. She is catholic but she has her spiritual side too.

My mum is the one who gave me all her support when I met my husband, as a good friend she would always listen to me when telling her about my ‘cyberboyfriend’. She knew I met this guy on a Online Dating site, he lived in the UK, I was living in Peru, and at that time I would never imagine getting married with him. One day when I was deeply sad my mum said to me : ‘If he really loves you he will show it, and the distance between you and him won’t be a problem’. She was right.

It is always difficult to say good bye to mum, at the airport my heart breaks to see her leave. She has an English family in this side of the world, my husband and son love her to pieces and we are making sure she enjoys life. She says that thanks to us her dreams as a child about visiting England came true.

We love you mum!.

 

Peruvian Invasion

Platter at Brujas de CachicheThe Peruvian cuisine has become very famous in England with London suddenly having Peruvian restaurants like Ceviche, Lima and Coya. So now there is a good reason to visit London, tour around the big city, do some shopping and enjoy the best of the latin american gastronomy.

But what is so special about Peruvian dishes that even celebrities have been spotted visiting restaurants in London. The main ingredients used in cooking Peruvian food are actually native like quinoa, maca, giant corn, aji and yellow potatoes, ingredients that give a distinctive flavour, both quinoa and maca are considered ‘super food’ with benefits for the health. Lomo Saltado

One of my favourite Peruvian dishes is Anticuchos which means ‘Cut Stew Meat’, but it is not simply meat as it is made with cows heart marinated in vinegar, cumin, aji, pepper and garlic, served with roasted potatoes and giant corn. Yes, and when I say ‘giant’ corn is because the corn from Peru is far bigger to the ones in any other country. Another unique Peruvian dish is Ceviche, this one is made with fresh raw fish marinated in lemon juice and has onions, aji, red peppers and is served with sweet potatoes.Giant Corn with Huancaina Sauce and Chicha Morada

From the UK you can fly to Lima with KLM via Amsterdam, Lima is located in the coast of Peru nearby beautiful beaches where you can find restaurants like Astrid y Gaston, Brujas de Cachiche, La Rosa Nautica, El Rocoto and many more, the list of restaurants is very long, Pardos Chicken and La Caravana are popular restaurants that offer a good variety of dishes but it is the ‘Pollo a la Brasa’ one of the favourites in their menu, it is chicken cooked in charcoal with pepper and cumin, but people says that its unique flavour is because of a secret recipe.Japanese Peruvian Fusion at Sr Llimon

If you travel to Cuzco you will have the opportunity to try Roasted Guinea Pig, Olluquito con Charqui, also dishes made with Llama, the well known Tamales and why not trying the pizzas cooked with local cheese from the Andes. The national drink of Peru is called ‘Pisco Sour’ and it is made with lemon juice and Peruvian brandy, it has a lovely taste but be careful that just one single glass of Pisco Sour will make you feel extremely happy!.Pisco Sour, Algarrobina Cocktail and Chicha Morada at Vivaldi Restaurant in Lima

So if you are planning to visit London or you are already in London forget about the diet and dont hesitate to experience the Peruvian Invasion and enjoy the food of the Incas.

Sardinia is in my Heart.

It is getting colder in the UK, the summer is  gone so my family and I decided to spend holidays somewhere still warm and sunny, somewhere we have not been before. I have always wanted to visit Sardinia and I have kept a picture book about the island for years, I have been in love with the beaches without knowing them so I reserved the flights, hotel, rented a car, started to polish up my Italian and got ready to travel to Sardinia.Il Refugio D'Ogliastra

Our destination was the city of Jerzu which is on the East Coast of the island, it took 2 hours drive from Cagliari Airport to Jerzu and we stayed in the Hotel Rifugio d’Ogliastra, a hotel sorrounded by mountains, nature and not far from the beaches.

If you are looking for a peaceful place where to stay then this hotel is the one for you, the rooms are spacious and immaculate clean, they have a balcony with stunning views of the mountains and the hotel restaurant offers a good variety of pizzas, we tried the cowboy pizza, the four cheese and the sausages and chips pizza and all of them were lovely. The sea food is a must, as it is fresh and really tasty, and if you want to try something typical of the region you should try eating goat, it was my very first time eating goat and they cooked it beautifully with roasted potatoes, and do not forget to try the Sardinian beer and for dessert try ‘Seadas’ which is made of cheese, honey and lemon zest, it is absolutely gorgeous.

View from my bedroom balcony.

The hotel is near the town of Ulassai where you can visit a big cave called ‘The Grotta Su Murmuri’, it takes one hour to tour the cave and we really enjoyed to see the bats flying freely in their habitat, the cave is a very famous one in Europe. When driving around Ulassai, Osini, Gairo and Ussassai you will recognize something unique, the ‘tacchi’ or ‘heels’ of Ogliastra. The ‘tacchi’ are limestone rocks and their name comes from the heel shape that they have, many visitors come to Ogliastra to practice climbing and trekking in the mountains.

La Grotta Su Murmuri

It is easy to drive to the beaches of Tortoli and Santa Maria Navarrese, they are about 40 minutes away from Jerzu, the beaches in Sardinia are all beautiful and are famous because of the pristine sea water and enchanting landscape. You could also stop at Arbatax to go for a walk and see the ‘Red Rocks’. We really enjoyed driving so we decided to head further to the north to a beach called Cala Gonone, it took about 2 hours to get there, we loved the mountain scenery and we saw pigs, goats and cows walking along the road, and before the city of Dorgali you will find the sign post for Cala Gonone, a small but beautiful beach and harbour, from here you can hire boats to explore isolated beaches and caves in the Gulf of Orosei.

Santa Maria Navarresse Beach

I wished I could have stayed longer in the island, there are so many places to visit and I am planning to go back next year, Sardinia is an island waiting to be explored and I feel like I brought a little piece of Sardinia inside my heart.

Something about Venice

 One of my favourite places to spend a short break is the city of Venice, so enchanting, rich in culture and romantic, it is a small city with so many beautiful places to visit and many things to do.

When you start looking for a place where to stay it will be clear that most of the hotels in Venice are expensive and it is a bit of a headache to be walking up and down bridges with your luggage looking for your hotel, in fact when you arrive to Venice you will see more than one person doing it!. But there is always a second option, and I decided to stay in the outskirts of the city, there are many hotels and you will find out that they dont cost as much as staying in Venice itself.

View from the Grand Canal

The Crown Plaza located in Quarto D’Altino is ten minutes away from Venice Marco Polo Airport (they have a free shuttle but you have to book it in advance) and its location is convenient as there is a train station just 5 minutes walk from the hotel and it takes between 15 – 20 minutes to get to St Lucia train station in Venice. The hotel has very friendly staff, it is very clean and the guest rooms are big and nicely decorated. The hotel restaurant called Il Campiello offers regional dishes and it has a quiet relaxing atmosphere. I was really pleased with the service, the hotel is lovely and they offer good deal packages.Lovely sea food!

Venice is the perfect place for the ones who like walking as you can easily explore the city by foot, on the other hand you can also use the Vaporetto ( boat bus) if you wish, it connects points along the Grand Canal to the city and islands. There are many churches, palaces, galleries, monuments all around Venice, I planned my own route and discovered how beautiful is to explore all the little streets, go up and down the bridges, see the gondolas passing by, it is a city you will fall in love with, and as you keep on walking suddenly you will be in front of the famous Piazza San Marco with stunning views of the Basilica and the Campanile. I do recommend you to have lunch at the restaurant in the Hotel Concordia located in Piazza San Marco, they have a good selection of pizzas and sea food. Also near San Marco it is ‘Harrys Bar’ a well known place to have a drink called Bellini which was invented there and it is a place that for years always has famous Hollywood visitors, so who knows and you get to see one of your favourite actors or singers there.IMG_0249

In the neighborhood of Santa Croce it is the Museo di Storia Naturale, a place you should visit specially if you are travelling with children as they have a huge exhibition of fish and whales, and near the museum there is a little ice cream shop called ‘Bar Rosa’ where we tried peach and tiramisu icecream, you will definitely have the best icecream in Venice.The Gondola experience is a must for everybody, but specially for the ones in love that want to have a special moment hearing one of their favourite Italian songs. Shopping in Venice is a luxury, you will find the best in fashion and the best brands, but something really unique are the shops selling Murano glass and the shops where the Venetian masks are made and you can actually see people painting them.

Ca d'Oro

If you are looking for a city break then Venice is one of the places I would suggest because you can spend two or three days exploring the city and if you wish you want it to be a long holiday then you could take the train and visit cities like Verona, the Lake Garda and Milan.

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