Archive for May 2017

Exploring the City of St. John’s in Antigua

My wife and I usually take a yacht charter vacation to the BVIs for our annual holiday booking on this site which offers a personalised crewed yacht charter around Antigua and the British Virgin Islands. But this year, for a change, we decided to stay in a hotel St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, a country located in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea.From its colourful streets to its bustling harbour, the city of St. John’s should be explored before relaxing on any of the island’s 365 beautiful beaches.

Antigua is half of a dual-island country known as Antigua & Barbuda in the Caribbean Sea. Part of the Leeward Islands, they are located east of Puerto Rico where the north eastern Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Tucked away in a bay on Antigua’s north western corner is the historic city of St. John’s, which is also the capital and the largest city on this roughly 10-mile-wide island.

According to the Antigua & Barbuda Department of Tourism, the first settlements on the island date back to 2400 B.C. by the Siboney Indians with the arrival of the Arawak Indians about 2,000 years later. But the first European “contact” was made by Christopher Columbus (on his second voyage to the Caribbean) in 1493 when he spotted the island and actually named it after Santa María la Antigua, the saint of Seville. By 1684, an Englishman, Sir Christopher Codrington, helped to create large-scale sugar cultivation on the island that expanded into more than 150 sugar-processing plantations by the mid-18th century. The thriving sugar plantations dotted the island with stone windmills until the industry began to die in the 19th century. Today, many of the sugar plantations are abandoned and there are so many that these unique stone windmills have become synonymous with the image of the island.

For visitors who do not arrive by cruise ship, the V.C. Bird International Airport (named after the country’s first Prime Minister, Vere Cornwall Bird) is located on the north eastern side of the island approximately a 20-minute drive from St. John’s. As stated on the V.C. Bird website, there are both direct flights and connections from North America via San Juan and St. Martin and several weekly flights from Europe.

Most of the activity is centred around and near the busy harbour. Popeshead Street is the main route out of the city and toward the north. Once in the city, there are several attractions that every visitor must see that include:

St. John’s Cathedral – Located on Newgate Street near Church Lane in the northern section of St. John’s, the twin towers of this baroque cathedral is the area’s major landmark both on land and sea. According to Antigua & Barbuda Tourism, the current church was built in 1845, which was the third reconstruction after earthquakes in both 1683 and 1745 destroyed the original structures. The interior has been specially reinforced in design due to its precarious past.

Museum of Antigua & Barbuda – Located on the corner of Long and Market Streets, this informative museum is situated in the former court house that dates back to 1750. It offers exhibits that cover the early history of the islands and its sugar plantations as well as displays of Arawak artefacts, which includes their well-known tools made out of stone and shells that number more than 10,000. It also proudly exhibits the bat of Viv Richards, one of the best cricket players of all time who played on the West Indies cricket team.

Fort James – Located on the northern side of St. John’s Harbour, this is one of the oldest forts on the island of Antigua. It dates back to 1672 when it was built to primarily defend the entrance to St. John’s Harbour. Strabon-Caribbean, in its history of Fort James states that the fort is divided into the both “old” and “new” sections with the newer section dating back to 1739. The fort was never actually used in war, but it successfully used to extract money from passing ships by charging a harbour-entrance fee. Many of its original cannons that once threatened the harbour still exist today.

Markets and Shopping – With the departing passengers from cruise ships in mind, both Heritage and Redcliffe Quays are packed vendors selling everything from souvenirs to arts and crafts. On weekends on the southern edge of the city, there is a popular farmer’s market that also offers a wide array of arts and crafts but also locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Offbeat Cornwall Accommodation

We recently stayed in this fabulous accommodation near Launceston in Cornwall, but Cornwall has more than just cottages, hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses!

Cornish cottages and other accommodation might seem boring when you’ve seen where else you can stay, like a pig-sty, tipi, temple, old arsenic mine or Egyptian house

The Cornish cottage used to be the fashionable thing to book for your holiday, but now it’s just corny. Been there, done that. The converted barn is boring these days, when the entire county is covered in curiosities. For your vacation in the southwest you can stay in anything from a former cattle shelter to an old arsenic mine, so here are some selections to fire your imagination.

THE WILD SOUTHWEST

Mention the Wild West and you’re more likely to think of Kevin Costner than Cornwall. But at Tamar Valley Tipis you can live out that western fantasy by staying in tipis made by the people who did them for Costner’s hit Dances with Wolves. Of Sioux design, the open-plan tipis have wood-burning stoves and barbecues for outdoors.

MINE, ALL MINE

The Okeltor Mine is a former Cornish tin mine, and is walking distance from the Tamar Valley Line, one of the loveliest little train lines in England. The granite Miner’s Cottage was home to a tin miner in Victorian times, though it’s not hard times these days with gas central heating, a TV and video to keep you amused.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE

Arsenic mining was once an industry in parts of Cornwall, though there was apparently quite a large staff turnover. Danescombe Mine might have an eerie past, but its location can’t be faulted. It stands in a wood by a stream which leads down to the River Tamar, the boundary between Cornwall and England, as they like to call it.

COW’S WEEK

Was Whiteford Temple really a temple? No-one knows for sure what this 1799 building was used for, although it is known that before it was restored it has a corrugated iron roof, an earth floor and was a cattle shelter. It has been done up since then and now it sleeps two people in the one large room, with a kitchen off one side and a bathroom off the other.

SOUND CHOICE

Don’t stay in the beautifully-named Song of the Sea if you don’t like the sound of the sea as this former fort is only a few feet from the water’s edge. Fort Picklecombe was built overlooking Plymouth Sound in 1860 and converted into apartments in 1977. Book through Classic Cottages.

TOOT AND COME IN

The Egyptian House is on Chapel Street in Penzance, a 3-storey town house with startling Egyptian-style frontage. It was built in the 1830s when there was a vogue for this ornate décor after Napoleon’s 1798 campaign in Egypt. It now has one apartment for three people and two apartments for four people through the Landmark Trust.

BACK TO SCHOOL

History buffs will love going to The College, in Week St Mary, halfway between Bude and Boscastle. It was built in 1506, founded by a remarkable woman named Thomasine Bonaventure, one of the first schools in England to be founded by a woman. Some of the original building remains. Book through the Landmark Trust.

 

The best places in Spain for a springtime escape

If you haven’t yet had the chance to enjoy the Easter holidays or you simply like to travel at less busy times of the year, then this article is for you: we present the 7 cities or places in Spain that are perfect for a great springtime escape, away from the traditional zones of mass tourism.

Madrid. In the Old Town of Madrid, you’ll discover a more traditional side of the city. Yes, it’s true that every year it becomes less authentic but there still remains zones that have not lost their charm and deserve to be enjoyed like in past times. An example is Las Letras neighbourhood, near to the Gran Via where you’ll discover places full of history and tradition like the Quevedo tavern that serves delicious tapas, without all the frills and flounces. Enjoy the more authentic establishments. The cava offered in La Latina is perfect for a springtime escape to Madrid. Snack and enjoy a vermouth in the sun and welcome summer in the liveliest part of Madrid. Both of these form the perfect plan for a weekend trip away with friends. Combine dinners and vermouth with lots of turnabouts round the emblematic city, taking great photos along the way. In terms of accommodation, opt for something close to the city centre so you don’t have to travel much. Hotels on the Gran Via offer reasonably-priced stays like the Petit Palace Cliper Gran Vía  as well as those located in the zones of Chueca, Malasaña, Plaza de España and Lavapiés. Any of these zones are perfect for a relaxing escape.

Majorca. Forget about Majorca in July and August. It’s impossible and you won’t get to see the true side of the island. The truly calmer time of year is in May and June when the Mediterranean Sea starts to get hotter, the beaches are havens for relaxation and the waters are crystal-clear, without them being laden with bottles of sunscreen and yachts like in summer. (Yes, Majorca offers much more than just beaches, beach bars and clubs). If want to stay on the island and are looking to spend a long weekend there, then Palma and the beach zones closeby to the capital are the best choice. Most of the hotels in Palma city centre are very expensive but if you avoid the Old Town you will find that accommodation prices become a lot more affordable. Palma is a city very easy to manage and very nice for beach days, enjoying a nice stroll or going on a bike ride in practically any neighbourhood.

Salamanca. Dining, culture and eternal nightlife. This was and still remains Salamanca; always. A destination that you shouldn’t miss out on during spring. This city is only 2 hours away from Madrid by car and offers more than just the normal cliché things to do. Just walking through its Old Town is enough to enjoy a pleasurable stay. Sunday mornings in the plaza Mayor square, picnics on the Tormes River, an afternoon full of shopping, a visit to the Calisto and Melibea gardens when the sun begins to show itself, the university, the cathedral and the Rúa. Everything in Salamanca looks like a fairytale story and the evenings are even more magical. Without a doubt the perfect place to go with friends. You should try to stay in the city centre as, even though the prices of most hotels are quite high; the quality makes them worth it.

Barcelona. The most cosmopolitan way to spend spring in the Mediterranean. Shop, visit the modern art museums and street expositions, see the hipsters and trendy people filling up the streets and terraces, appreciate the improvised events, enjoy the parks full of lights and games for the little ones and head to the trendiest bars and restaurants. The benefit of heading to this urban destination is that you can also turn it into a a sun & beach weekend trip given that Barcelona’s coast is one of the best places to disconnect and relax right on the seafront. The city centre is for the proper party animals: with an endless amount of festivals, gastronomic routes and art & vermouth sessions with perfect weekends for going out and dancing till sunbreak. Apolo and Razzmatazz are perfect for live music shows or enjoying gigs of the best well-known djs. In terms of accommodation, the centre and the surroundings are perfect for if you’re only going for a few days. Some hotels also offer special offers for spring like Petit Palace Barcelona which is in the zone of the Plaza de las Glorias square.

Granada. Granada and spring go together like horse and carriage. It’s one of the best places in Spain to treat yourself to a few days of laughs and good company. Enjoy the tapas, culture, history, rich heritage and the best people you could ever meet. In order to enjoy a few worry-free days, a good hotel is the best way to go about this. If going with friends, you could rent an entire house to fully appreciate the typical architecture of Granada. You could also stay in the city’s Old Town to fully immerse yourself in the authentic ambiance of Granada.

Bilbao. Enjoy the silver colour of its spectacular river reflecting the spring sun, the vermouth and tapas in its squares and its 7 main streets in the Old Town as well as the way the residents are always so happy and welcoming. Bilbao is one of the most magical places in the north to plan an escape with friends for 2 or 3 days. It’s the ideal place for eating and drinking but also for enthusiasts of authentic and traditional culture. Live music is also a great advantage as this city boasts one of the biggest music venues in Spain and, in summer, one of the best festivals in the industry; BBK Live. In terms of accommodation, Sercotel hotel is one of the best places to stay at in the city: for price, quality and service.

Seville. In the southern most tip of the mainland. The meeting point for lovers of the “true art” of tapas, beer, terraces, laughter and good music. Seville is majestic and rockabilly; it’s cultured and open to everything; it’s a place where you don’t have to be young to have a good time. Its people and traditions are the main reason why people enjoy coming here: no-one will let you get lost in Seville, the people are here to guide you and show you what their city offers, with nothing left behind. In exchange, all they ask for is a smile. Discover the capital of Andalusia without prejudice, launch yourself into the culture of Flamenco; smile and stroll around, admire the religious art and its buildings that commemorate a thousand and one civilisations; and enjoy the nights with the only limit being your imagination. If you’re looking for a place to stay then head to the Murillo gardens where, in the entrance of the Old Town, you’ll find the Murillo hotel. And if you head towards the emblematic neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, next to the cathedral, you’ll find the Petit Palace Santa Cruz hotel.

Interesting Information About Spain

This article was supplied by Lets Buy In Spain, a site with houses and properties on offer in Spain.

Spain is one of the most popular destinations in the world. The official language of the country is Castilian, but the Spanish Constitution, acknowledging that the “wealth of the different language variations of Spain is a cultural heritage,” officially recognizes others, primarily Catalan, Galician and Euskera (the official language of the Basque region). While the cultural diversity of Spain gives the country a wide-ranging personality, all Spaniards are united in their love for good food, celebration, late nights, art and history.

Night Culture

Spain is a country that gets going after nightfall. Most Spaniards don’t eat dinner before 10 p.m., and many dine much later. This is one reason that tapas are a culinary way of life for the Spanish, who eat these small meals throughout the day to stave off hunger until dinner. After eating, it’s not unusual for the majority of city dwellers to go dancing, and not just on the weekends. Long nights often end with a small cup of hot chocolate and churros (sweetened sticks of fried dough).

Aqueduct of Segovia

It’s hard to find a better example of Spain’s long, rich history than the well-preserved Roman aqueduct of Segovia, also known as the Devil’s Bridge. Standing as high as 93 feet and running for 8 miles, the aqueduct was completed around A.D. 50 to supply Segovia with water from the Ro Fro (Cold River). One of the most interesting aspects of the aqueduct is that the large blocks used to construct it fit so well together that the Romans didn’t need to use any mortar.

Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family

The most-visited monument in Spain is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Famlia (Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family) in Barcelona. Construction on this expiatory church—which means that it is funded entirely by donations—began in 1882, and its projected completion date is 2020. Spanish architect Antoni Gaud spent most of his career designing and working on the church, and current builders continue to use his plans. The massive church has a sanctuary that seats 13,000 people. Its eight exterior towers are especially striking, and 10 more towers are under construction.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago is a modern-day pilgrimage rooted in the 9th century that travels through northern Spain. The official starting point of the pilgrimage, which is also known as the Way of the Stars because the Milky Way is visible along the route, is in Roncesvalles. Pilgrims looking for a way to change their lives and experience Spain at a slower pace take a month or more to complete the 486-mile journey to Santiago.

Languages

Castilian Spanish, or Castellano, is the official language of Spain. “All Spaniards,” notes the Spanish Constitution, “have the duty to know it and the right to use it.” Spain also officially recognizes Catalan, Galician and Euskera, among other languages. Catalan is spoken in the Baleares Islands as well as in the Catalua region, the capital of which is Barcelona, Spain’s second most populated city. This means that Catalan is spoken by a large number of Spaniards. Galician, also called Gallego, is spoken by people in Galicia, the region directly north of Portugal. Euskera is spoken throughout the Basque regions of Navarra and Pas Vasco.