What to See & Do in Cluj-Napoca

Posted on: June 9th, 2014 Posted by

 

romania

 

With its  unspoilt countryside and picturesque cities, Romania is growing in popularity as a holiday destination for a traveller from across the globe. Cluj-Napoca is a first choice for many visitors to the country – it was once the capital of the renown region of Transylvania and has grown to become a cultural and economic hub. In this blog, we offer just a few suggestions for what to see and do on a  visit to the city.

 

banfy castle

 

Cluj National Museum of Art

Established in 1951, Cluj National Museum of Art is housed within the beautiful Banffy Palace. The 18th century building was built by the architect Johann Eberhard Blaumann in the Baroque style and is considered an important example from the era. Open from 12 noon to 7pm from Wednesday to Sunday, the museum has more than 300 pieces of art and sculpture on exhibit including works by Alexander Popp and Virgil Fulicea.

 

museum

 

National Museum of Transylvania History

With an extraordinary collection of exhibits which tell the story of Transylvania from the Palaeolithic period to present day, the National Museum of Transylvania History is a fascinating place to spend an hour or two. Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm, the museum was founded in 1859 and has a vast collection of objects which range from mammoth tusks and ancient tools, to intricate medieval jewellery, books, print and more.

 

gradina botanica - 1

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Alexander Borza Botanical Garden

Founded in 1920 and now a well-loved landmark in Cluj-Napoca, the Alexander Borza Botanical Garden is an ideal spot to explore on a sunny spring or summer day. The gardens are open daily from 9am to 8pm and are landscaped with different themed zones including a Japanese garden and a Roman garden. The gardens also have tropical greenhouses and a museum and many of the trees and plants are notable for being rare or threatened species.

 

Fortress_Hill

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Fortress Hill

Located to the north of Cluj-Napoca’s old city, Fortress Hill is a must-visit for nearly every visitor to the city. Reaching 60m above the city, the hill is, unsurprisingly, the best spot to get a wonderful view over the surrounding landscape. The hill is named for a fortress which once stood guard over Cluj-Napoca, although now only the remains of its ruins can be seen. Today, the hill is topped by a hotel, and a cross in memory of the 1848 Revolution.

 

Have you visited Cluj-Napoca and what did you think of the city? Or are you planning a trip?

 

 

Six Summer Cocktails To Mix During Vacation

Posted on: June 2nd, 2014 Posted by

cocktail

 

Whether you are staying at home this year during your vacation or travelling to foreign climes, a cocktail is a refreshing and fun way to celebrate. In this blog, we explain how to blend and present five fantastic summery cocktails (plus one alcohol free option) that will tantalise your taste-buds and get you in the holiday mood.

 

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What You’ll Need & Tips

In addition to the ingredients listed for each drink, you’ll need a cocktail shaker and selection of glasses for serving. Remember to have a good supply of ice prepared in the freezer and if you like, a stock of decorative straws and stirrers to add a personal touch to your drinks. And of course, remember that although these cocktails may be very easy to drink, they are also rather potent – so enjoy with moderation.

 

pink cocktail

Flamingo

The Flamingo is a zingy and tropical cocktail with a lovely pink colour thanks to the grenadine syrup included in the mix. To make the cocktail, simply mix two measures of white rum, one measure of lemon juice and one measure of pineapple juice in your cocktail shaker and mix well. In a tall or balloon type glass, add crushed ice, then pour a splash of grenadine over the top before filling with your cocktail blend.

 

coconut cocktail

Tropical Islands

Tropical Islands is a vibrant, sparkling cocktail which includes fresh fruit for a festive touch. Prepare this drink by chopping summer fruits into chunks (we like a combination of cherries, strawberries and peaches) and half filling a highball glass. In your cocktail shaker, mix one measure of brandy and one measure of white curacao, then pour over the fruit. To finish, top up with very cold tonic water.

 

red cocktail

Mad Summer

With an unusual and distinctive combination of flavours, Mad Summer makes a great palate refresher between courses at dinner. Make Mad Summer by mixing three measures of whisky and one measure of tequila with three measures of watermelon juice. Pour into a tall glass and serve with a slice of watermelon and plenty of ice.

 

bellini cocktail

Mango Bellini

For special occasions, the Mango Bellini is a wonderful, exotic cocktail that is very easy to make. The trick with this one is to make sure all the ingredients, and the glasses are chilled before starting. Then simply mix cava with mango juice, and serve in flute glasses – no decoration needed!

 

blue cocktail

Blue Lagoon

With an enticing blue colour that is reminiscent of the ocean, Blue Lagoon is a classic holiday favourite. Blend one measure of blue curacao with one measure of vodka, and pour over crushed ice in a tumbler glass. Top up with lemonade and serve with sprigs of fresh mint – magnificent!

 

cocktail by pool

Sunny Sunday

Those who prefer not to drink alcohol don’t have to miss out on the flavoursome fun of cocktails – try a Sunny Sunday instead. Make this delicious cocktail by pouring a generous splash of grenadine over crushed ice, before topping up with a 50/50 mix of ginger beer and apple juice. Serve with slices of apple for a decorative touch.

 

Which of our selection of summer cocktails do you like best? Do you have any delectable cocktail recipes to share?

 

 

Orlando – More Than Just Theme Parks!

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 Posted by

orlando

 

Mention a holiday in Orlando, and for the majority of us, what comes to mind are the city’s numerous, world-famous theme parks. However, Orlando has much more to it than Disneyland, Universal et al. In this blog, we check out a selection of fascinating things to see and do that are ideal for when you get theme park “overload” and need a break, or if you simply want to skip those types of attractions altogether.

 

MennelloMuseum

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Mennelo Museum of American Art

As one of the best cultural attractions in Orlando, Mennelo Museum of American Art offers a comprehensive introduction to works from a diverse array of genres, eras and artists. With a pretty location on the banks of Lake Formosa, just outside of Downtown Orlando, the museum building was once the private home of Howard Philips and exhibits both a permanent collection and temporary shows, as well as displaying sculptures in the surrounding gardens.

 

wekiwa springs

 

Wekiwa Springs

A beautiful and popular state park, Wekiwa Springs is a brilliant choice for a family day out with a difference. Pack a picnic and your swimming togs, and head down to the park early to enjoy getting close to nature in wonderful unspoilt surroundings. Fauna including squirrels, turkeys and bears are frequently spotted in the park, there are dozens of walking and cycling trails, kayak hire is available and the springs that the park is named for offer a memorable wild swimming opportunity.

 

orlandosciencecenter

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Orlando Science Center

Educational and fun, the Orlando Science Center will be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. Spread over six floors of exhibition halls, themes include dinosaurs, the human body and the weather, and is sure to capture your families imagination. The museum also has an ongoing schedule of events and workshops throughout the year, a high-powered telescope, plus a choice of superb 3D theatres showing nature related films.

 

More Inspiration

Orlando has plenty more to offer visitors who don’t want to be tied to the hustle and bustle of amusement parks. Anyone who fancies an action packed holiday will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of activities on offer – indoor sky-diving, paddle-boarding, trapeze lessons, hot air balloon rides and sport fishing are only a few of the options available. Those who prefer a slower pace are also spoilt for choice – vineyard visits and tastings, designer shopping outlets, luxurious spas and foodie gourmet tours offer something for every interest and personality.

 

Have you been on vacation in Orlando and done something “different” – why not tell us about your experience? 

 

 

Refreshing Soups for Chilled Out Summer Dining

Posted on: May 19th, 2014 Posted by

 

family eating

 

Are you looking for a tasty and easy to prepare dinner party starter? Or perhaps you are looking for healthy and refreshing dishes to serve your family during the summer holidays? If so, we have a treat in store for you. In this weeks blog, we look at a selection of cold soups from around the world. Light and fresh in flavour, these summery soups bring seasonal ingredients to centre-stage and are a delight on the palate.

 

gazpacho

Gazpacho

Originating from the province of Andalusia, gazpacho is the perfect antidote to the extreme temperatures and dry, dusty climate of Spain in summer. Concocted from a base of tomato, onion, garlic, cucumber and bell pepper, gazpacho is blended with olive oil, water, vinegar and salt, for a intense flavour and sometimes thickened with stale bread for a more substantial texture. Often served with ice-cubes and a garnish of diced vegetables, this traditional Spanish dish also has the added bonus of being rich in vitamins and minerals, so it is as healthy as is is delicious.

 

ajo blanco

Ajo Blanco

Spain is also the home of our second cold soup, ajo blanco, or white garlic, soup. Like gazpacho, ajo blanco was created in Andalusia – some say in Seville and others in Malaga. As its name suggests, garlic is a key ingredient, but don’t let this put you off. The garlic is combined with almonds, bread, olive oil and salt to create a creamy textured soup which is surprisingly subtle. The soup is usually garnished with grapes or melon, which adds an exciting contrast of flavour and texture.

 

vichyssoise

Vichyssoise

Our third cold soup is vichyssoise – considered by many to be a traditional French dish, although some food historians suggest that it may actually have been invented in America! Vichyssoise is a chicken stock based soup, which also features leeks, potatoes and cream for an exquisite flavour and velvety mouth-feel. Unlike other cold soups, vichyssoise can also be served warm – but we think that it is at its best when chilled and served with a garnish of chives.

 

borscht

Borscht

Our final cold soup recommendation comes from Central and Eastern Europe, where is is very popular during the summer months. Borscht is made from beetroot, including the leaves where possible, which is chopped and boiled, before being mixed with sour cream or yogurt. This results in a beautiful, pink coloured soup that has a delightful and unusual flavour. Borscht is often garnished with hard-boiled eggs and radishes.

 

 

Have you tried any of these cold soups? Or have you discovered another cold soup that you think we should know about? Comment and let us know.

 

 

A Guide to Camp-fire Cookery

Posted on: May 12th, 2014 Posted by

camp fire

 

Planning a camping holiday for your summer vacation? If so, then this week’s blog is for you. We’ve put together a camp-fire cookery guide which covers everything you need to know to cook delicious meals that go way beyond your typical barbecued sausages and burgers. Follow our tips and tricks and your fellow campers will be salivating at the enticing aromas emanating from your camp!

 

chopping board

 

The Basics

Whether cooking indoors or outdoors, food safety and hygiene is always an important consideration.

  • Make use of insulated storage boxes and ice-packs to keep fresh ingredients chilled.
  • Wash your hands regularly, or use an antibacterial hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • Avoid using the same chopping boards, plates etc. for raw and cooked foods, especially meats.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check that foods are cooked through before serving.

 

As you’ll be cooking on an open fire or barbecue, you’ll also want to bear the following points in mind.

  • For the best flavour always use charcoal or quality fire wood as cooking fuel.
  • Use utensils and equipment which are designed for cooking on an open flame.
  • Always fully extinguish the fire when you are finished cooking and never leave it unattended.

 

kebabs

 

What To Cook

Cooking on a camp-fire is very different from cooking in your home kitchen, and sometimes involves some creativity to get tasty results. One pot dishes such as stew, chilli con carne, curry, Boston beans and soup are all great options. Hearty enough to satisfy the hunger brought on by all that fresh air and fun, and convenient when you have lots of mouths to feed, one pot cookery also means there is minimal clean-up afterwards. Another idea that we love is making individual “all in one” meals of meat or fish, potatoes and vegetables wrapped in parcels of aluminium foil and cooked on a rack over hot coals. You can even make desserts using the same idea – try mixed summer fruits such as strawberries, plums and peaches, or for each person, split a banana along its length and place a few pieces of chocolate and marshmallow inside before wrapping and cooking until soft. Another option is to use barbecue skewers (metal is best, but if you have wooden skewers, soak in warm water for a couple of hours before use to prevent them from scorching). Let each person concoct their preferred combination of meat, vegetables, seafood and fish, and marinade or season to taste before cooking over hot coals. You can even try making the traditional camp-fire bread “twist”, which is a simple dough made from flour, water and salt or sugar, twisted around a skewer or stick and cooked until golden!

 

Do you have a camp-fire cookery tip or recipe that you’d like to share with other readers? Comment and tell us about it!

 

3 Reasons to Try Glamping

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 Posted by

 

tipi's glamping

 

Over the past couple of years a large number of sites providing “glamping” accommodation have begun to spring up throughout the UK and beyond. From stays in shepherd’s huts to authentic Mongolian yurts, glamping is becoming a major self-catering trend and a fascinating alternative to normal holiday accommodation. In this week’s blog, we suggest three reasons why you might like to consider glamping for your next family vacation, couples getaway or group break.

 

glamping

 

Enjoy Outdoor Living in Comfort

The word glamping itself means glamorous camping – which might start to give you an idea of what this type of holiday is designed to offer. One of the main ideas behind glamping is to give everyone the chance to enjoy the good parts of camping, while getting rid of the less pleasant elements. When you glamp, there is no need to worry about the struggle of setting your tent up, and you can forget about sleepless nights on rocky ground. Glamping accommodation generally is all set up and fitted out with all the kit needed for a camping break, so that all you need to do is turn up on site and let your holiday begin. From double beds and bed linen, to camping stoves and kettles, glamping gives you all your home comforts in a beautiful natural setting.

 

wind power

 

Go Green

Many, although not all, glamping sites are set up to allow guests to enjoy a fun holiday while taking steps to protect and maintain the environment. Some eco-friendly glamping sites use alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, and many are off the grid (meaning that the accommodation is not connected to mains electricity), helping to reduce the carbon footprint even further. Another popular feature of green glamping sites is compost toilets – a highly efficient and clean system which dramatically reduces the amount of water used to process waste.

 

camping fire

 

Spend Quality Time With Family

Another great thing about glamping is that it creates an experience that encourages everyone to participate and have some real quality time together. With no TV or internet, you’ll find yourself taking time to enjoy the good things in life – interacting with the ones you love and making memories together. Cooking together, sharing stories around the camp-fire, checking out local attractions and trying new activities are all ways that a glamping break can help you disconnect from the stresses of everyday existence and reconnect with the special people in your life.

 

Has this our blog inspired you to book a camping holiday? Have you already tried glamping? Comment and let us know your thoughts and experiences.

 

Top Family Attractions in Portsmouth, England

Posted on: April 28th, 2014 Posted by

 

portsmouth

 

Famous for being the UK’s only island city and for being a significant port over the centuries, Portsmouth is a fascinating destination for a short family break or day out. Located on the south coast and 64 miles from London, the city is easily accessible by public transport or by car, and has a great range of things to see and do. In this week’s blog, we have selected just a few of Portsmouth’s top attractions for families and kids.

 

clown fish on reef

 

Blue Reef Aquarium

A great choice for those days when the weather is not at its best, Blue Reef Aquarium is one of Portmouth’s leading family attractions. The award-winning aquarium has a diverse array of underwater creatures in 50 amazing exhibits which will delight youngsters and grown-ups alike. Highlights include sharks, otters and a vibrant coral reef, as well as a tank of native species found on the British coast. The aquarium is not only fun but educational too, with demonstrations and feeding displays on a daily basis.

 

spinnaker tower

 

Spinnaker Tower

The iconic Spinnaker Tower is located on Gunwharf Quay and offers visitors to Portsmouth the chance to see the city from great heights! A masterpiece of architecture and design, the impressive tower reaches 170 metres into the sky and provides unbeatable views over the city and beyond. Visitors to the tower don’t have to worry about a long march to the top either – the first two observation decks are accessible by lift, which is ideal if you have small children with you. Highlights include the fun I-View Interpretation system which helps visitors to spot local landmarks and the Sky Walk – a 7m glass floor located at 100 meters above sea level.

 

portsmouth dockyard

 

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Learn about the history of Portsmouth and its significance as a naval port at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This large attraction has so much to offer that it is a day-out in itself and visitors should allow plenty of time to make sure that they fit in everything they want to see and do. The dockyard incorporates seven exhibits, including the HMS Alliance, where you can try a real periscope, and the recently opened Mary Rose Museum, where visitors can watch the ongoing restoration of an authentic Tudor ship.

 

boats

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Miniport

Miniport has two locations – one at Portsmouth Historical Dockyard and the other at Gunwharf Quays. Offering a unique and memorable family boating experience, visitors can hire a choice of quirky, specially-designed electric-powered miniature crafts, including a replica ferry, destroyer and life-boat. Each boat can be “crewed” by up to five, and needs no previous experience to pilot – its a safe and fun way to get out on the water and try a new skill!

 

 

Have you visited any of Portsmouth’s attractions?Tell us about your favourite. Or perhaps you are planning a trip to the city later this year – what will you do during your visit?

 

 

A Visit To Perth, Scotland – What to See & Do

Posted on: April 22nd, 2014 Posted by

 

Perth on river tay

 

With a history that stretches back to the prehistoric period, and a central location that is ideal as a base for exploring the Perthshire region, Perth is a great choice for couples and families looking for a different vacation destination. The bustling and friendly city sits on the banks of the River Tay and is an important cultural and economic centre, with lots to see and do. In this blog, we take a look at some of our favourite attractions in the Scottish city.

 

scone palace

 

Scone Palace

Perth’s most prestigious attraction is Scone Palace, the ancient crowning place of 42 kings of Scotland. With a rich history full of fascinating twists and turn, this historic house offers a unique way to learn about the Scottish history. Visitors can tour selected rooms of the main house, where antique furnishings, porcelain, art and heirlooms are on display, as well as the extensive grounds and gardens. The Palace also has several kids play areas, including a maze, and a souvenir shop which also offers a wide selection of locally sourced foods.

 

rhododendron

 

Branklyn Garden

Owned by The National Trust for Scotland, Branklyn Garden is a surprising haven filled with beautiful and unusual plant varieties from across the globe. Open daily throughout spring, summer and autumn, the garden is spread over two acres on Kinnoul Hill, with excellent views over Perth, and can be easily accessed on foot or bicycle, by car or bus. Highlights include blue Himalayan poppies, a magnificent rhododendron collection and the National Collection of Mylnefield Lilies. The Gardens have a small shop selling gifts and plants, with a pleasant outdoor area where visitors can enjoy a refreshments and coffee.

 

scottish bridge

 

Fair Maid’s House

If you are looking for something a little different to do on your visit to Perth, be sure not to miss out on Fair Maid’s House. Run by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and housed within the oldest secular building in Perth, this attraction is free to enter (although donations are appreciated). The exhibits focus on geography and geology, using superb audio-visual technology to present a whole array of fascinating facts. Highlights include a 3 billion year old rock and the Explorers Room.

 

Are you planning a visit to Perth or have you already spent time in the city? Tell us which attractions you hope to see there, or which most impressed you – we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

New Zealand Food Specialities

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 Posted by

 

new zealand

 

New Zealand’s cuisine is distinguished by a blend of European, Asia and Polynesia flavours in unique dishes which are made from local, seasonal ingredients. In this week’s blog, we take a look at the history of the nation’s cuisine, from traditional Maori cookery to the influences of other nationalities, and discover the food specialities that any traveller to New Zealand must be sure to try. Read the rest of this entry »

A Quick Guide to Menorca

Posted on: April 7th, 2014 Posted by

 

The most northerly, and second smallest of the Balearic Islands is Menorca, less well known than its sisters Majorca and Ibiza, but equally appealing for holiday-makers seeking out some spring and summer sun. Measuring around 47km in length and 19km at its widest point, Menorca has over 200km of coast-line, and its name comes from the word “minor”. In this blog, we guide you through what there is to see, the best local food and what to buy during a stay on the island. Read the rest of this entry »