Extreme Self-Catering

Posted on: August 23rd, 2010 Posted by

Whether you tend to go on holiday within the UK, within Europe or in far-off lands, chances are most of us have been on a self-catering holiday. They’re great fun and usually allow you to save a great deal on accommodation costs, but what about when we want to take our own self-catering on holiday that little bit further?

The obvious answer would be to forage for our own food, find our own ways of cooking it and even build our own shelter. Anyone can go out into the wilderness and do that Bear Grylls-style, but there are also plenty of ways to hire accommodation with the opportunity to find your own food and create your own entertainment.

If you’re really looking to get down to nature and test your stamina then a hunting and/or fishing holiday in Canada may be just the ticket. Places like Eagle Lake, Ontario have a number of private log cabins, big enough to house a family for a fortnight, that allow visitors to kill and cook their own meat and fish. The location is remote enough to mean that you need to ensure your own self-sufficiency, but it’s also only a three-hour drive from Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Extreme self-catering needn’t mean a holiday in isolation, however, as there are many self-sufficient communities that welcome visitors within their walls too. The area where this kind of practice is most popular has to be Israel, where Kibbutz houses are an incredibly popular destination. The ideology and history behind Kibbutzim is lengthy (not to mention interesting) so we won’t go into it here. The main point is that anyone can book a holiday stay in a Kibbutz community and take part in their daily life, helping with the agriculture, preparing food and helping to grow it too. In fact, many young people take their gap year in Kibbutzim to give their university applications leverage, because these places are so far removed from commercialism and dependence on large industries that the experience is particularly eye-opening and rewarding.

‘Eco tours’ and holidays are a relatively new travel phenomenon, whereby groups are getting together and going self-sufficient in all areas of the world as a holiday. Many of these involve working on eco-friendly projects (for example replanting trees that have been culled or protecting endangered wildlife), and some even involve luxury accommodation but without all the home comforts. The Telegraph published a particularly useful article on Eco holidays in the UK, just last year. Take a look and you’ll find a wealth of destinations, from Cornish seaside cottages to guesthouses in the northern Welsh mountains of Gwynedd.

Extreme self-catering holidays won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It all depends on what you find to be relaxing; some people enjoy getting stuck into nature, while others enjoy being pampered, without having to worry about where the next meal might come from. If you fall into the first category then don’t limit your options to within your own country. There are destinations all over the world where you can learn how to live in a completely new environment, and more importantly do so without relying on your tour operator or hotel staff.

A Guide to the Best Celebrity Chef Restaurants

Posted on: August 16th, 2010 Posted by

We see celebrity chefs on our televisions all the time, and over the past five years they’ve gone from being stuck in their their rather pristine home kitchens, to working in and around their restaurants. Visiting one of those restaurants can make a really great night out, and while the majority of celebrity chef restaurants are dotted around London, there are some that are located as far west as Cornwall.

Speaking of which, a restaurant in Cornwall is the gastronomic center for Oxfordshire-born, fish expert Rick Stein. Named ‘Stein’s Fish & Chips’, Rick’s restaurant is a quaint, typically seaside-eque place in Padstow, Cornwall. It’s been open since 2009, and the television chef was keen to keep it a traditional Cornish pub. Carrying on the traditional British theme, fish and chips can either be eaten in or taken away, and at a modest price too. Battered cod and chips will set you back just £7.95, and the most expensive fish on the menu is grilled/battered monkfish and chips, at £12.45. We love the idea of being able to visit a celebrity chef’s restaurant, and still feel like you’re on a British holiday at the same time.

Also in Cornwall is one of Jamie Oliver’s reputable ‘Fifteen’ restaurants. You’ll also find one in Shoreditch, London, one in Amsterdam and one in Melbourne, Australia. The principle with each and every one of Jamie’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurants, is that a registered charity in the area (in this case CFoP – Cornwall Foundation of Promise) takes fifteen disadvantaged young people from the area, and trains them to work in the hospitality industry, some through the restaurant as chefs. For a very reasonable £55 per person, you can have the Dinner Tasting Menu, which involves five courses, followed by coffee and chocolates.

At the other end of the scale, and as far as inspiration and sheer creativity go, there’s not one restaurant in the UK that beats Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Fat Duck’ restaurant in Bray, Berkshire. Go ahead and google the restaurant’s ‘Taste Menu’ and take a look at the various blogs people have written about the gastronomic experience. ‘Experience’ is probably the best way to describe it, as dishes like whiskey wine gums and truffle toast served with a tray of moss and dry ice (for effect, not for eating) are served over a four hour period. You can expect to pay around £150 per head (not including wine), so it’s a special birthdays-only kind of treat, but one that’s well worth it if you’re a foodie fanatic.

We’ll finish off with the celebrity chef that we’ve all seen within a restaurant and restaurant kitchen setting: Gordon Ramsay. Gordon has a huge number of restaurants all over the UK, from his prestigious Boxwood Cafe in London (it’s moving location soon within the capital, so keep your eyes peeled) to ‘Plane Food’ – a restaurant at Heathrow Terminal. We recommend you try out Boxwood Cafe in its new location later in the year, and also the aptly named ‘Gordon Ramsay’ restaurant on Royal Hospital Road, London. Do be aware, though, that Gordon’s restaurants are all located in London.

Hopefully these examples have given you some inspiration on where to take your loved one for their anniversary, or where to go for your next birthday meal. It’s unfortunate that the two centres for celebrity chefs appear to be Cornwall and London, but thankfully they are two places that Britons love to holiday at, so chances are you’ll be able to visit one soon. If not, hold tight and put up with Gordon’s effing and blinding some more – he’s got his fingers in a lot of pies already and seems to show no signs of stopping.

Countryside Self-Catering for City Dwellers

Posted on: August 3rd, 2010 Posted by

City life, for many people, is completely fulfilling. There’s a sense of community and yet anonymity that can be found nowhere else but in a city, and that’s not to mention the sheer amount of activities there are to keep us entertained, the amount of job opportunities and amenities that lie right on our doorsteps.

Yet for a lot of city dwellers there’s something missing. The nagging feeling might rear its ugly head every few years, or every six months, but for most it’s a longing for peace and tranquility: a rest from the constant city energy. Luckily for those people, getting out to the countryside and into a self-catering holiday is easy.

A countryside holiday doesn’t have to mean staying in a quaint thatched roof cottage in Cornwall, or in the rain and wind of northern Scotland. There are all kinds of holidays, including activity holidays and even beach holidays in the UK that are remote and unimaginably quiet. Donkey Cottage in Rhydwyn, Anglesey for instance offers one double and two twin self-catering rooms on beautiful farmland, not a half an hour walk from Church Bay, and various surrounding small and private beaches. Anglesey is a particularly quiet and rural place.

If you’re an active kind of holidayer then don’t get swayed by the holiday parks and extreme sports resorts that are dotted around all over the place, unless you want to be back in a busy place surrounded by people all over again. There are activity-based holidays that are still located in rural areas, and while there will be people around, it’s not hard to get out there and on your own. In these cases, you might want to travel a bit further to a European ski resort (La Chapelle d’Abondance in the French Alps, for example).

Within the UK you could opt for a boating holiday or hire a canal boat for optimal views of the British countryside, whilst enjoying your own self-catering at the same time. The option is ideal if you get fed up of one place quickly, as you can simply sail on to the next town or village. Orienteering, hiking and horse riding are also rife within the UK, so don’t assume that a quiet, countryside holiday has to mean sitting around having picnics and watching birds (not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand).

To put it simply, you shouldn’t need to jet off to a remote exotic island to ‘get away from it all’ nowadays. City life may be very far removed from living in the sticks, but it only takes a few hours to get there and still feel like you’re a million miles away.