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Gone are the days when the hubby and I could book a last minute package to our beloved Greece, throw a few clothes in a rucksack and stuff a few Euro's in our pocket's for quite a few beers and a meal a day!. Since becoming a mother i've transformed myself into a planner, a fanatical ironer and seeker of quality food to bestow on my daughter in the hope she will have a more varied palate than her father - who unfortunately remains a meat and two veg man despite my protests. So just 2 weeks after giving birth to my daughter last May we decided to return to Elounda in June this year, where we have spent many a happy holiday and 'eventually' married there back in 2004. I had great plans on the Taverna's we would return to... that is until we discovered the Ergospasio on one of our many early morning walks with the little one.
Getting up at 7am we had plenty of time to have a wander and explore the menu's of the many taverna's based around Elounda's beautiful harbour and causeway, I could ummm and ahhh at the dishes on offer without the owner leaping on me and offering me a table.
So the Ergospasio caught my attention firstly because it is positioned next to a 'delightful' establishment complete with magical light shows, water fountains dancing in the sea and mannequins wearing - well let's just say rather dodgy outfits, how on earth could Ergospasio compare!?... easy, it had a set of six simple tables positioned outside, an octopus drying in the sun and a menu I could relate to, bulging with Mezedes... no * (*which indicates which dishes are frozen on a Greek menu - (god help all my local establishments if this is introduced in the UK)). So it is decided... we will return tonight to sample the delights of Ergospasio.
The Ergospasio can be reached via either the main road into Elounda, if travelling by Taxi ask the driver to stop at the top of the bend as you reach the village.. a shout of Mam's (a rival restaurant established for year's) should do the trick... the Ergospasio is situated directly opposite.. If on foot follow the Taverna's along the harbour front until you hit the start of the 'Causeway' an unmade track... Ergospasio is the first Taverna you will meet on the further strip of 'organised' track you meet.
Our Experience of Ergospasio
The hubby and I enjoy chaotic showers whilst trying to keep Madam amused and get her dressed, pack her bag and sort her milk for later in the evening... etc, etc., I emerge from the apartment relishing my evening ahead. We take a short walk before arriving at said Taverna, with a few simple tables and chairs assembled on the quay side and after a few minutes browsing the menu (no... i'm not pounced upon) Costas the owner greets us with a Yassas .... a delightful sound after trying out our Greek on unknowing Eastern Europeans on previous evening's. Costas promptly recommends a table on the gallery upstairs... we as new parents have other ideas but he promptly hoists Madam complete with pushchair up two flights of stairs to said Gallery. We are not disappointed. The views are simply breathtaking... stretching out across the Bay of Mirabello...
A further surprise is the totally stunning interior of the building - the traditional stone walls and archways leading to secluded tables are enhanced buy subtle lighting and fantastic attention to detail... perfectly laid tables and artifacts dotted around. The Ergospasio clearly has a tale or two to tell and we learn from Costa's that the site of the restaurant was once the first state of the art carob processing plant in Crete.
The 'Haroupoergospasio' first opened in Elounda way back in 1938 and continued to operate for twenty years. The carob processing plant operated between August and March and processed 8-9 tonnes of carob per working day. The site manufactured three by-products, most of which were exported across across Europe but some were retained for local consumption. The 'Haroupoergospasio' became a trademark industry in Elounda and in the following years the plant was used to store salt from the saltmarshes surrounding Elounda. To my amazement the carob breaker is still intact enjoying pride of place within the taverna.
So to the Menu....
I mentioned earlier that the menu is buldging with Mezedes... or 'little dishes' designed to tempt the tastebuds and hence leave the diner lingering over the table enjoying good conversation and delicious food .... oh and how I love to pick! so this is heaven for me!. I am not disappointed. So the feast begins and the hubby selects a few meat mezedes 'small meat balls of Grandma Polysenki (her recipe)'.... too die for, minced veal and pork served in a spearmint, basil, oregano, ouzo AND tomato sauce and ample dish which is wiped clean with the selection of local breads and 'Mandi from Epirus' a truely delightful plateful of small filo pies stuffed to bursting with a tasting filling of minced pork and secret spices, this is served with a yogurt side dish.
I add to the mix with a dish of 'Fresh local Beetroot served with Lemon' - I can't resist, as I child I ate my dad's homegrown pickled version by the jarful until my wee turned pink.. but that's another story!. Mounds of grilled Mushrooms... I can never cook them correctly at home, Cretan Sausage.. rough and rustic sausages traditionally smoked and sourced locally and a huge Greek Salad with tomato, cucumber, onion, feta and an ample seasoning of oregano and extra virgin olive oil.
I could of debated over the menu for hours, the meze menu offered 27 dishes!! and that's before I started to browse the salad, pasta, chef's specialities, traditional recipes, plate of the day, meats, seafood and fish menu's.... And a selection of over fifty wines... but we opted for a trusty litre carafe (or two) of local white.
Soon after ordering Costa's arrives at out table with a large basketful of locally baked rustic breads at which little madam chuckles with delight.. she is, afterall bread mad so after allowing her to make her own selection we cover said basket with one of the large linen napkins provided. Nice touch, but i'm even more delighted when he arrived with a tiny and elegant cup of 'soup' compliments of the chef. This was a beautiful clear consumme and a delicious start to our perfectly prepared meal.
Our choices fill the table to brimming and are served at a perfect temperature and we spend a good hour or so sharing our Mezedes whilst listening to a local bazouki player and enjoying the fantastic view.
Our table is cleared and Costa's declares we have yet to enjoy the true delights of the Ergospasio ... a few minutes later we are served 'compliments of the house' with small cups of strong Greek coffee and small squares of a dish resembling creme caramel with a bitter sweet carob topping. Nothing it seems has been left uncovered, the owner pays respect to the building that was once a carob processing plant and now houses his restaurant with a delicious dessert.. on the house.
We ask for the bill and it arrives with a bottle of 'nero' (water) and 2 raki glasses... 'to refresh us before our walk back along the causeway. We chuckle with delight when we find it is not 'nero' but locally produced raki and Costa's gives us a knowing nod and a wink.
I'm hard to please, but needless to say we returned here several times during our time in Elounda, i'm usually uneasy about recommending restaurants as one person's idea of good food is another's hell, but the menu is so perfectly designed it suited the ever picky hubby and an even more picky me! and the bonus being that the majority of dishes are prepared from scratch... no*!. We returned a few evenings later with an ever finickerty grandmother and she still raves about the seafood saganaki.... grandad was happy with the simple cooked greens and mashed lentils, and of course the serving of 'nero' as our meal drew to a close. The menu has enough to cover even the most varied of tastes and Costa's holds a true pride in the service and dishes he offers, it's nice to see someone putting their heart and soul into a business and succeeding.
On another note the toilets are also spotless... the light switches itself on as you enter and off as you leave, and the tap works automatically via a sensor as you place your hands underneath... quirky but nice! it seems Costa's is keen to save the planet too!
The Mezedes range between three and eight Euro's per dish... an excellent table full for your money!. Our bill averaged at around 35 euro's all in.... even with grandma and grandad in tow it only averaged around 50 Euro's... pure class.
Tel........... +30 28410 42082
5 Akti Oloundos street
(on juction to the canal)
This was my first holiday away with my mum (we now go away each year for a week) and one of her closest friends, after browsing through countless brochures we finally chose the little resort of Haraki in Rhodes for the first week in June, staying at the Stella Studios sharing a two bedroomed apartment. We booked a bargain package at £199 each.
We depart from East Midlands airport early evening, and board our 4 hour flight to Rhodes with 'Aegean Airlines'. Mum is in for a shock, when the unusually dressed steward (jeans and a t-shirt) asks what she would like to drink she requests a brandy and soda, 'no brandy', she then requests a whiskey, 'no whiskey'... it appears they either have no alcohol on board or just don't serve it...
We are whisked aboard the transfer coach and arrive in Haraki after a brief 40 minute transfer, experiencing the 'delights' of late night Faliraki along the way! (not nice - no wonder the Mayor is trying to tidy the place up - and Brits tend to have a bad name in Greece).... the less said the better.
We arrived at resort at about 6.30am, myself clad in jeans and denim jacket. To our amazement the sun was already shining, an excellent start to what would prove to be an unforgettable week.
First impressions however where not good - our rep left us at the dusty roadside in the hot sun whilst she escorted other holidaymakers to their chosen accommodation, however we were in for a great surprise, after dragging our cases down a long path were escorted to our home for the week, now first things first I always check out the balcony, for those early morning reads and last drinks before bed!, It was fantastic - our room was set on the small promenade with the beach literally 5 seconds walk away, you could see the whole of the tiny bay and St Johns Castle on the headland above. 10 out of 10 for location.
After changing into something more comfortable (definitely not denim!) we just had to venture out to explore this little place basking in the beautiful Greek sun. The owner of our apartments was sitting on the little veranda - no doubt watching the little fishing boats bobbing on the bay. I tried my hand at Greek - wishing him a good morning in his native tongue 'kali mera', which I'm sure resulted in our shots of ouzo later that evening.
We decided to turn right, passing local houses along the seafront with patios full of old olive tins containing brightly coloured flowers, and the odd grape vine here and there. Our walk took us in a very small circle around Haraki, all in all around 10 minutes!!
There are several small supermarkets offering all items to cover your basic needs as well as decorative bottles of ouzi and small souvenirs etc.
Restaurant wise you will find a selection of around ten tavernas, all offering varied menus. Starters from 1-5 euros, mains 4-15 euros and house wine at around 5 euros a carafe. There are also several bars offering snack menus, toasties, breakfasts, coffees etc.
We found our favourite restaurant located on the promenade, a small menu but fantastic food, traditional Meze and good house wine. The place was run by mum and her two greek god like sons, and we were made most welcome by these most hospitable people. The olive oil was made from their own olives which they harvest in winter.
A meal for the three of us which constituted 4-5 mezes (we like to pick), a nice Greek salad, a chicken main course, two long drinks, a lager and water came to around 16 euros. A reassuring thing was that you always saw a lot of Greeks in all the restaurants.
Nightlife in Haraki is very laid back, with only a couple of 'music bars' on offer. Our favourite was 'Dreams and Memories' located on the village square, they have a DJ who will take requests - Zorba as ever was a favourite and after our second night everyone was up and dancing.
The bars pretty much close when the last customer leaves so the option of a late night is always available. Many people venture from Haraki at around 2am to nearby Lindos or Falaraki, we didn't on a night .. preferring a relaxing drink in the resort but the option is there if you fancy dancing the night away at a disco.
Talking of night time you may wonder why I mentioned my jeans and denim jacket?, they were a godsend, after the heat of the day Haraki seemed to get very cold at night - hence I wore the jeans every night apart from one, the breeze picks up and it can feel quite chilly so I would advise you to pack something warm just in case!!!
Out and About....
Getting out and about is quite easy in Haraki, taxis are available from the main square and the local bus runs hourly to Lindos and neighbouring resorts, including Rhodes town (2 euros to Lindos). On our trip to Lindos we got the bus in, and spent the day wandering around the tiny streets which are crammed with shops, ice cream and crepe places, restaurants etc. We chose a roof top restaurant for lunch so we could enjoy the view of St Pauls bay, price wise inevitably it's slightly more expensive (10-20%) (scenery tax!), but you don't mind with a nice view on offer.
Compared to Haraki, Lindos is quite busy and it can be hard work walking around it's tiny streets, especially in the heat - all the more reason to enjoy a calorific ice cream at the end of the day from one of the many stalls dotted around the place. We returned to Lindos by Taxi (10 euros plus tip).
Chatting to locals they informed us there was a fantastic beach only a few minutes walk out of Haraki (this must have been a few minutes in Greek talk because it took us an hour in the morning sun!!!!). If you take the main road out of Haraki about 1/3 mile along there is a right turn which leads you up over the headland and when you reach the top you can see a lovely sandy beach below you, it's well worth the walk but you'd be well advised to take water with you to sip along the way. The sand shelves into beautifully clear water and you can walk hundreds of yards before you reach waist depth, probably a nice beach for kids, but it did get a little windy by mid afternoon. There a several beach canteens offering basic snack menus prior to your walk home!!!. This beach made a nice contrast to Haraki's - which is made up of shingle and large pebbles (jelly sandles are a must when venturing into the sea here!!).
Rhodes has a lot to offer, and I would say Haraki is a good base, a little hidden gem. We weren't so active in our week here but everything is as accessable as you want it to be. We were offered the usual trips, Island Tour (probably cheaper off your own back on the local bus), Greek night (look for a restaurant offering live music), Boat trips, etc etc and on our return we plan to do a bit more site seeing!, but sometimes the beach, clear seas good food and new friends is all you need.
An ideal place for a chilled out week.........I will return
this review has also been published on Ciao
I wrote this for a fellow reviewing friend ... horrified he used jars to make Spaghetti Bolognaise sauce instead of creating the 'real thing'. Several months down he line and he still recreates this recipe and enjoys it very much!.... give it a try, it's simple!
Serves 1 Or a Few
Put your pinny on, pour yourself a drop of your favourite tipple and play your favourite tune (Bananarama's 'Robert De Niro's Waiting... Talking Italian' is always a good choice...) Wash your hands so as not to poison yourself or fellow diners and arrange your ingredients....
1 standard pack minced beef (chop with a sharp knife to create smaller pieces.....which don't represent worms )
1 large onion, chopped (if this usually makes you cry try sucking a spoon whilst you're chopping... it does work)
2 cloves of garlic but preferably 4 finely chopped.... or if you're posh use a pessel & mortar
A large handful of mushrooms (wiped clean) and sliced quite chunky
Tube of Tomato Puree
Tin chopped Tomatoes (break up a bit more by bashing with a fork or potato masher)
2 tbsp olive oil
good pinch of dried oregano
Salt to taste
Glug of Red Wine (a small glass) .... (if you like it!)
What to do!...
Heat up the oil and on a medium heat soften the mushrooms, onions and garlic in a saucepan for (2-4 minutes), stirring from time to time so it doesn't burn!... do not let the onions go black!
Then add the minced beef and cook until it doesn't look raw anymore.... i.e it's brown all over (another few minutes), then add the wine if you're using it and allow it to 'soak' into the mince for a minute or so.
Throw in the tinned tomatoes then add the tube of tomato puree (squeeze it out of the tube first)!. Add salt to taste and a good pinch of oregano.
Bring to the boil then immediately turn down to the lowest heat and allow to simmer, stirring it occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile find a better tune to listen to.... Measure out your spaghetti (don't throw in the whole pack that's just wasteful and the way a packet full expands in the pan will just scare you) place in a pan of boiling water with a dash of oil to stop it sticking together and cook until Al Dente (follow instructions on the pack if unsure).
Once spaghetti is cooked drain and attempt to arrange nicely on a plate and pile high with your Bolognaise sauce. Enjoy with a nice glass of wine!!! xx
Although his diet has improved somewhat in the 12 years we have lived together!, my bloke is the classic faddy eater who's idea of heaven is meat and two veg, not my idea of fun, so I set myself a mission to create more interesting menus based on staple foods from the store cupboard - which he would actually eat!.
Furthermore this recipe is ideal if you have had a busy week at work and no time or energy to visit the supermarket, even better you can add additional ingredients to give it extra oomph (see below) - but the basic version is just as tasty without the added extras. It tastes even better as a quick warm up dinner the next day as the chilli has chance to soak in!!, and I often make this a day in advance if I know I am working late.
1 Tin Budget Baked Beans
1 Mattersons Spicy Sausage Thinly Sliced (or 4-5 normal sausages from the chiller section)
1 Large Tin of Baby Potatoes (use fresh if you prefer) Diced
Good Dash of Hot Chilli Sauce
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Combine all ingredients in a large pan and stir in the chilli sauce, salt and pepper to taste, add 1 ½ tins of water (using the empty baked bean tin). Bring gently to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
Serve with Crusty Bread and Butter
Additional Oomph Ingredients
A few sliced Mushrooms
2 Rashers of Grilled Bacon thinly sliced
A little Grated Cheese to sprinkle on top
The basic dish costs around £1.60 to make:
Matterson's Sausage £1.20
Budget Baked Beans 24p
Budget Potatoes 20p
However you can do it even cheaper using budget sausages but you do loose a bit of the spice!!
Hope you enjoy this strange but tasty one!!!!
This has also been posted on Ciao
A few months ago I did a much needed clearout of my kitchen cupboards and was amazed at how many half empty boxes of cereals I actually had!, rarely finding the time to enjoy breakfast I tend to get bored of the latest faddy cereals on offer, or simply forget they are lurking in the cupboard.
On a recent food shop (a unusually healthy one at that!, but then it is new year! and the health kick begins again) I spotted this little beauty. I must admit that the thing that at attracted me to it was the beautifully designed box - quite a work of art, the product is contained in an elegant matt brown box, with silver and orange detailing, it shouted 'class' - if a cereal can!! And if I was excited by the box I couldn't wait to check out its contents!.....
The box has a fine little cut out detail - you can see the product inside, I decide to try a generous bowlful topped with ice cold skimmed milk. so far so good - It looks colourful and appealing. The blurb on the box promises .. 'no dust' ..this is true .. the quality just goes on and on, it doesn't get lost or disintegrate in the milk and contains a whopping 50% fruit nuts and seeds..
The Chilean Flame raisins are out of this world - fresh tasting big juicy plump ones, they make up a whopping 27% of the product!, in addition to the toasted and malted wheat and oat flakes you'll also find more goodies to tempt your taste buds - decent sized pieces of toasted coconut, apricots, dates and sunflower seeds. No searching through the box for the good bits with this one!! - a crime I am usually guilty of..
It offers a nicely balanced combination of tastes and textures in one bowl - this is not a cereal to grab and go you need to sit down, enjoy and chew.. chew.. chew
This little beauty is also a godsend after a night on the tiles, I tend to offer it to the noisier of my colleagues - it keeps their mouths from talking about last night's telly....and I get 20 minutes of peace when I arrive at my desk.
It's so good I'm now on my second box!! A first for me, so yes I would definitely recommend it and as the box says this really is 'unadulterated breakfast pleasure'
The Boring Bit..........
A 730g, 11 serving box in Asda is priced at £2. Sainsburys also stock it at £2.89
Chilean Flame Raisins (27%), Toasted and Malted Oat Flakes (Oats, Malt), Dates (8%), Sunflower Seeds (6%), Toasted Coconut (5.5%), Dried Apricots (2.5%) (Apricots, Preservative: Sulphur Dioxide), Roasted Hazelnuts (1%).
Contains gluten, nuts, wheat and sulphur dioxide. May contain traces of sesame seeds
per 65g serving (with 125ml skimmed milk) 290 calories, 5.5g fibre, less than 0.1g salt, 9.3g Protein, Carbohydrate 45.4g, Fat 8.1g
Vegetarian Society approved
Dorset Cereals Ltd, Dorchester DT1 3EW
This review has also been posted on Ciao.
My passion for browsing holiday brochures on cold dismal nights continued, the hubby fancied the Cyclades - a group of Greek Islands scattered across the Aegean sea of Greece - for a change from our usual choices of Crete, and Kos etc.- and as ever it was left to me to choose the appropriate dwelling for our two weeks away. I decided on Naxos, only accessible by ferry via a chartered flight to Mykonos (if partaking in a package), the largest Island in the Cyclades.
I booked and paid a small deposit of £90 to Kosmar - a Greek holiday specialist in the UK - the balance of £600 was due the following June - plenty of time to save. The hubby wanted to book flights and accommodation separately but I like the security of a package holiday!
The Outbound Journey
We leave Brum with ample time to spare, chartered flights to Mykonos in the UK only operate from Manchester and Gatwick and we chose Manchester - but tackling the M6 is never much fun!!
We check in with plenty of time to spare and board our flight to Mykonos. After the 4 hour flight we are greeted by the local rep and directed to our transport bus to the port, and are advised we can enjoy a refreshing drink at the 'Yacht Club' prior to boarding the' Naxos Star' which will transport us quite comfortably to the port of Hora - the capital of Naxos.
After a brief coach journey enjoying the splendid scenery of Mykonos, typical Greek Blue and White architecture we arrive at the port - the said 'Yacht Club' looks like Derby bus station - and I promptly trot to the nearby kiosk for 2 cans of Heineken- we celebrate our arrival in Greece in style don't you know!!
The 'Naxos Star' arrives in port following 2 rather nice looking 'Vodaphone' ferries - a local sponsor of ferries in Greece. It is by no means a 'Star' but quite old and rusty and I spend the first 30 minutes after our departure watching my precariously stacked luggage on the back of the boat - expecting it to fall into the sea at any minute. Still the beer helps, and the grumpy bar tender supplies us with more at 2 euros a shot! and I happily sit watching the scenery, and people watching!!. We dock at Paros - and several fellow travellers depart, we then continue on to Naxos - the whole sea transfer taking around 2 hours.
The arrival at the port in Naxos is scary to say the least - it is like a cattle market, we grab our cases and run - there are touts for campsites and hotels everywhere - I thought I was a superstar - i've never had so much attention in my life!!
I find our taxi driver with my name scrawled on the back of what looks like the back of a cornflake packet and breath a sigh of relief. The taxi driver then whisks us some what dangerously to 'Hotel Spiros'
We are spun around so many side streets among an unusual Greek one way system I loose my bearings, however I get a pleasant suprise, the hotel looks clean and fresh..... bearing in mind the price we paid for our package.
I walk into a brightly lit reception with a bar (very important), which I note serves a variety of breakfasts (more importantly ranging from unhealthy fry-ups.. to nice Greek yoghurt .... (depending on what mood I am in) and snacks at reasonable prices. The Bar area has also has a seating area adjacent to the swimming pool - which is small but pleasant and sparklingly clean. Then we are shown to our room.
The hotel is split into 2 sections the 'old' part and the 'new part', consisting of approximately 30 rooms. The new rooms are built around the small clean freeform swimming pool, with brightly coloured doors, and large balconies and look very appealing.
We are allocated a room in the 'old part'..
OK ....so we are over the road from the main building - there are no lifts - but these are rare in Greece (in 2 star accommodation)- and we are shown to a room on the 2nd floor. It is spacious and as ever I run to the balcony to check out the view (important with my coffee in a morning!!) - and spy a spectacular view of St Georgios Beach - I love it....
The kitchen is basic - but am I really going to cook!!, and consists of 2 cooking rings, a coffee pot, 2 plates, 2 cups and assorted utensils. Great.. coffee is all I need!. A wardrobe (not enough hangers but I am wise to this), two single beds (good when you are sweating your pants off), and a maid that visited 3 times a week... (usual removal of toilet paper and a change of sheets, towels, general sweep round etc.]
I must admit I was disappointed at first not to be in the 'new bit' but we only used the room to wash, change and sleep!! so why worry!! Also many of the rooms in the 'new bit' are lower ground floor and below swimming pool level- not ideal for early morning coffees wrapped in my usual bed sheet!
2 minutes from the spectacular St Georgios Beach.. if you like sunsets this is the place to be, I was often found at 7.30 pm in my beachwear enjoying a cocktail or 3 at the Trata bar located on the beach...
10 minutes from the town square.. ideal for lazy evenings when you cannot be bothered to walk too far. A wide range of Tavernas at hand.
12 minutes from the harbour.. if you want a spectacular ice cream to walk home with - 57 varieties (I gained 5lbs), this is the place to be.
15 minutes from the old town. winding streets.. traditional tavernas serving locally caught fish, craft shops, backgammon board shops (we challenge the owner and 'win' a board.) Wicked little cafes serving real potent Greek coffee.
.....Pure bliss if you love Greece!!
The Journey Home....
..... better left unsaid.. due to the ferocious Meltemi wind (common in the Cyclades) we left Naxos a day early and arrived home via a very choppy ferry journey to Paros ... an even choppier ferry journey to Athens, a flight from Athens to Crete and from Crete back to Manchester. and arrived home 24hrs after our expected arrival time - hence my love of a package !! (I did tell the hubby so!!) we had to pay for additional overnight accommodation costs in Paros-(see the small print in the back of the brochure!) but had we been travelling independently we wouldn't have had a leg to stand on and would have had to pay for flights and all....
Enjoy early in the season to avoid the Melteme... unless you don't mind an additional day or two on a fantastic Greek island and a hectic journey home!!
Ag. Georgios, Naxos
Tel: (0285) 24854, 23702..26141
Fax:: (0285) 25003
Thanks for reading! this review has also been posted on Ciao
My partner and I have been travelling to Greece for many years and spend cold winter evenings browsing brochures religiously for a new place to visit. On one particular evening we decided on the charming fishing village of Elounda in North Eastern Crete and settled on the Tasmania Village as our choice of accommodation, which we booked through Kosmar as a package at just under £700 for 2 weeks during peak season.
After landing in Heraklion we travelled for approximately 2 hours along the main coast road until we finally snaked over the precarious hill from Agios Nicholas down into the village of Elounda, past the village square - which is lined with an array of tavernas, bars and shops and the harbour where fishing boats and caiques advertising trips to the nearby Island of Spinalonga bob side by side... we continued through the village onto the road to Plaka where the Tasmania sits on a incline about 15 minutes walk from the town square, with a small jetty and beach just across the road.
If you can't bare to walk the local bus stops hourly (depending on GMT - Greek Maybe Time) directly outside running towards Elounda and Agios Nicolas (excellent on market day) or in the other direction to Plaka a small fishing village a few miles down the coast. Taxi's are also abundant in Elounda costing about 5 euros from the square back to Tasmania Village.
The Accommodation ......Hospitality Greek Style and More...
On arrival we were greeted by Maria and George and their three lively children (who we learned later into the holiday are excellent traditional Greek dancers!!) and invited for a drink at the pool bar which is allocated up a steep path above the accommodation, which consisted of approximately 30 self catering apartments and studios for 2-4 people built in 4 small blocks.
The pool is of medium size with ample sunbeds and a section for children and boasts a snack bar with a wide and varied menu from traditional English breakfast, healthy Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, burgers, omelettes, Greek salad and sandwiches.
We accepted a cold Mythos beer poured into a glass straight from the freezer (bliss) and relaxed after a tiring night flight and enjoyed the spectacular view over to the Island of Spinalonga, which is a former leper colony and provides an interesting trip for inquisitive tourists interested in this colony which housed lepers from all over Greece until the 1950s.
So far so good, now for the rooms. Our studio consisted of twin beds covered with crisp white cotton sheets, a small wardrobe - with never enough coat hangers!!!, 2 small towels each and a basically equipped 'kitchen' - a two burner hob, a few utensils, pots and pans but not really enough to create anything more than a cup of instant coffee and a quick sandwich... but no worries - I was more tempted by the selection of tavernas in the village offering a delicious selection of fare for all tastes.
The bathroom was traditionally Greek - no shower curtain or tray just a drainage hole in the floor - nothing new. The maid visited daily to empty the dreaded bin in the bathroom - something you have to put up with in Greece - no toilet roll down the loo unless you want a nightmare!! and our sheets changed once a week.
We had a large balcony with table and chairs overlooking the bay and again Spinalonga, excellent for watching the sun rise and set!!
Generally the room was rather dated but sufficient for our needs, in international terms it would possibly be classed as a 2.5 rating.
The family were great - providing a traditional Greek bar-b-que once a week offering a feast of pork chops, salads, chicken, traditional salads and starters, tsatsiki, rice etc etc, a few games, endless wine and the Zorba - a good laugh after a few shots of complimentary Raki!!
Towards the end of a fantastic holiday the owner George took us out on his fishing boat to hunt for octopus and on our return his wife Maria lovingly cooked our catch of the day - quite an experience all in all!!
Points to Note...
Guests at the Tasmania Village consist of a high percentage of 'repeaters' - people who return year after year, so this gives a good indication as to how enjoyable a stay here is!! We returned the following year for two weeks.
If you are wondering about the strange choice of name for the property i'll let you into a secret - the Greek family owners returned to Crete from Tazmania where their parents had emigrated in the 1950s and built the property - naming it after the place which was once home - this would also explain why they were so good at 'barbies' !! and ice cold beers
The location would make the Tasmania village unsuitable for those with walking difficulties, as the paths up to the accommodation and pool are quite steep and the complex has a lot of steps.
Although there is a children's section to the pool I feel the Tasmania is more suitable for couples - the third bed is a simple camp bed - which would make the studios rather cramped, and the location would make this that little bit too far out of resort for anyone pushing children in a pushchair although the pavements into town are wide and well constructed.
Another point to note is that some of the rooms are built slightly lower than ground level - so I would recommend you request a high room although this, of course cannot be guaranteed.
We didn't return a third time as on our second visit the family where planning to build several more blocks of accommodation on the hillside above the pool - and we didn't think the pool would cope with the numbers - not that we ever used it that much.. but sometimes you have to search for another piece of holiday heaven.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this insight into the Tasmania Village. It's well worth a visit!
This review has also been posted on Ciao.
When it comes to my girlie week away with my mum we are inadvertently a bad influence on each other - putting of any sight seeing or daytrips with the comment 'do you fancy it tomorrow' - if you have ever visited Greece you will now doubt have experienced 'GMT' - Greek Maybe Time - hence we are very, very lazy...this Greek GMT attitude rubs off on us, but why not! I work 48 weeks a year and one week of rest never hurts anyone....a nice healthy Greek breakfast of yogurt and honey - a few walnuts if I'm feeling very adventurous, a good book and a sunlounger until lunch... a gentle stroll in search of a nice taverna serving a selection of mezedes and cold Mythos.. i'm made until nightfall... more Mythos, Metaxa.. etc etc..
That is until I challenged a local (god forbid) to a game of Backgammon - Tavili.... The Challenge.... If I won I promised to visit his village, Zia - teetering on the edge of Mount Dikeos - the highest mountain in Kos (by all accounts).. (I hate hills)... I took the challenge - i'd never win.. the Greeks are fed on backgammon from birth!.... However.. I won, maybe I won by my backgammon expertise - or maybe I was just fooled into being lured into the hills...
So This Is My story of Zia......
It is Sunday Evening....I dress with respect - Black trousers, Black top hoping I will fade into the humdrum of local village life with my 'blackness', mother does the same. Dinner is to be served in the local backgammon players Yaya's(grandmother's) taverna at 8pm, so we set off with plenty of time to spare and book Yannis the local cabbie for 6.30pm.
So we leave the village of Tingaki and head for the hills - quite literally... mum counts 20 hairpin bends until I tell her to STOP - I feel sick, I don't like heights and 'edges' at the best of times... Yanni deposits us at the foot of the village 20 minutes later. All I can think of is how on earth I will make it back down that hill - maybe a few Metaxas will help?.
In the first instance it doesn't look much until we turn the corner and venture down the main street of the village... An array of traditional retail therapy, locally produced thyme honey, olive oil and spices and stories to tell by the friendly villagers... they are 'typically Greek' so friendly and a few words of the local lingo on my part go a long long way. I was on a mission to find Blue glass eyes - or the 'magic eye' predominant in the folklore of Greece - and Kos especially, these icons are believed to ward off evil and evoke good luck.. and as my wedding in Crete was imminent I wanted to purchase a few of these for our guests...
We continue down the street in a lazy bend, I purchase my lucky charms and a wine carafe for the hubby back home.. the carafe looks like those beakers you got at school in the seventies - brightly coloured and made of tin.. ideal for winter nights like these... mum purchases some honey. Then we see the beauty of Zia ahead... I'm emotional as it is ...what with my wedding coming up.. but I want to cry... all I can see is the most spectacular sunset over Bodrum in Turkey and the neighbouring Greek islands of Kalymnos and Pserimnos. I have looked at this view many times from the other side.. Turkey.. Bodrum.. as I spent several months there many years ago.. and I was touched by a bit of longing to say the least, happy memories, youth lost and joy in the fact that this is where I met the man I was about to marry!!. Mum suggests a beer in the taverna 'Sunset' to calm me down... this probably has the best view of the sunscape in the whole village and I sit and reminisce and take a few pictures (which never came out)....
8pm is approaching... so we slug our beer and head back up the lazy curve which forms the village street, no touts dragging you in.. this village life.. just a happy smile - as if to say 'thanks for visiting' and we arrive at Ya ya's 'no name' taverna...up the hill on the right - towards the village houses if you ever visit.
Just what I like, plain and simple. Mother and me are greeted with open arms (afterall I did beat the prodigal son at backgammon) and we are served a feast of spit roasted goat!, delicious when served with locally produced Raki.. Traditonal postcard bloke of Greece poses at the bar.. and I have to remind myself that this is real, and not a postcard. A few servings of mezedes (little dishes of delicious bits and bobs to eat) later, along with a few glasses of Ouzo we are up and dancing with the locals.. traditional Greek folk music...toddlers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces and us dancing together .. what fun and a sense of togetherness.. locals and newcomers alike. And I reflect on Greek life.. the importance of family and traditions
'Local bloke' is a gentleman.. (dragging me up for the Zorba with gusto).. and at the end of the night deposits a bottle of his mothers olive oil in my arms and a promise of a rematch of the backgammon tomorrow....
Yannis collects us in his Taxi and returns us down the hill and I don't care about the hairpin bends and edges.. I have good memories.
I will definitely return to this village again... if I am lucky enough to return to Kos.
Head for the village on a clear, haze free day to experience the best sunset..
Avoid Monday, Wednesday & Friday if you want to steer clear of Tour Buses from all over Kos... (who charge around 10 euros per person)
Negotiate a return journey with a local taxi driver to avoid misunderstandings..
Never Beat A local to Backgammon - unless you want the time of you life!!
* This review has also been posted on Ciao
The other half and I take it in turns to pick a new holiday destination each year and it so happened that a couple of years ago we decided to go away for New Years Eve and as it was my turn to choose I had to think of something pretty special, not hard as ever since I can remember I have had a certain curiosity about the Caribbean island of Cuba (Ernesto Che Guevara, the smell of cigar smoke and Mojito's.... not necessarily in that order).
After many a winters evening browsing endless brochures I finally booked a twin centre holiday with Thomas Cook consisting of 3 nights B&B in Havana (which I will review separately) and ten at the beach resort of Cayo Guillermo staying at the All Inclusive Melia Cayo Guillermo. The total price was £1120 per person - a bargain!
After a rather uneventful but cramped 10 hour flight (always, always request an aisle seat each if you do economy long haul) we finally touch down at Jardines del Rey Airport and step off the plane into the glorious Cuban late afternoon sunshine and into what seems like an endless queue leading to small cubicles which you enter on by one and have your passport and visa checked by security staff. As we stand patiently a uniformed Cuban taps the other half on the shoulder and asks in impeccable English 'what do you do for a living?' an odd question, maybe it's because he looks a bit shady with yesterdays No 1 haircut?...
Finally we exit into the area containing the luggage carrousels and as our fellow passengers collect their cases I begin to wonder if ours has got lost en route, just then it appears and before we have chance to collect it a large yellow sticker is slapped on it and it's carried to a table, we follow but the handsome Cuban shoos me away and commences to empty the contents of our case whilst chatting to the other half about it's contents, the impeccably ironed clothes are now in untidy piles.. I think I'm going to pass out. The handsome Cuban seems very interested in a particular Tom Clancy novel.. note to self do not pack any novels with dubious looking dust jackets. After what seems like hours (10 minutes in fact) the handsome Cuban gives the other half a dazzling smile, shakes his hand and proclaims loudly 'welcome to Cuba my friend' with face like thunder and clothes spilling out of the sides of the hastily shut suitcase the other half joins me and at last we exit to our transfer coach for the 20 minute journey to our hotel, which is accessed by a causeway. A knowing Cockney chucks us a can of Mayabe - a locally produced lager - each and tells us to 'chill'... as we are in for a nice surprise....
After the usual scramble for cases I manage to make a very unladylike entrance into reception skidding in 'spectacular ' fashion across the marbled floor and landing in what can only be described as a travel worn mess and no the floor was not even wet, despite this check-in is very well organised and within 5 minutes we are escorted to our second floor room by a cheerful porter and hence the tipping process begins...
We have booked a standard room and I am pleasantly surprised. There is a large bathroom with sink, bidet and bath with overhead shower (with good water pressure). Ample towels are provided and there are also 2 nice comfy robes (beach towels are provided daily in a hut located near the pool, so need to pack your own). Adjacent to the bathroom is a dressing area containing the wardrobe (inside of which is the safe), twin sinks with lit mirror and hairdryer (ladies be warned take your own, I didn't and well lets just say I regretted it and spent 10 days sporting the windswept look).
You will also find the mini-bar which is well stocked with water, beers and soft drinks daily, if you require more just ring reception and ask.
The main bedroom is large and spacious and tastefully decorated with murals depicting the local landscape and wildlife, 2 queen sized beds pushed together with a bedside cabinet, lamp and telephone either side, a TV and dressing table. As ever I race for the balcony to check out the view and yes I can see the sea!!. The balcony is furnished with a low table and two chairs.. Perfect for a sun downer.
The maids visit twice daily - cleaning in the morning and creating exquisite swans out of bed sheets in the evening. We retrieve now crumpled clothes from our suitcase, freshen up and head out for the evening... a stroll down to the ocean, even in the dark it looks amazing, the sky is clear and the waves are gently lapping the sand.... nice
The hotel offers a selection of 4 bars each of which serve a selection of internationally branded drinks including Jack Daniels, Bells & Gordon's, local spirits & beers, teas, coffees and an extensive list of cocktails including of course the famous Cuban concoctions of the Mojito and Daiquiri to name but a few!!, it would be a mean feat to work your way through this little lot in 10 days, all of which are included within the All Inclusive Package.
The Lobby Bar adjacent to the large reception area is open 24 hours and can get quite busy in the evenings but the staff are excellent and it never takes long to be served, the tip on the first night may have helped this process along a little. In the entrance there is an extravagant display of champagne flutes piled high and bottle upon bottle of champagne, try and pour a glass without knocking the lot over if you dare. There are ample tables and chairs, and from 10pm onwards there is twinkly piano music. Snacks are served at midnight... why you'd want a snack at this time I'll never know but the offer was there.
The Beach Bar 10am - 6pm and is located just off the beach in what can only be described as a dilapidated shack, but proved to be an excellent meeting point with the friends we made including the lovely Cockney who had the only backgammon board on the Cayo's. You will find a pool table and a selection of board games should you wish to seek shade from the intense midday sun. Ennie the barman was wonderful but watch out if he offers to make you a Zombie... you could well 'lose' a few hours as a result of his wicked concoction of 7 types of rum etc, etc.. Drinks here are served in nasty plastic cups so if you're fussy take your own.. and be sure to sample a cheese and ham cob!.
The Pool Bar 8am - 6pm is funnily enough located next to the pool - which is a vast affair offering ample sun loungers and a very loud animation team who work very hard throughout the day to keep guests entertained with various games, competitions and dance classes and as a result it tended to get quite hectic hence we avoided at all costs unless we were trying our hand at the Salsa... . I hear the toasted sandwiches were to die for.
The Disco Bar 10pm until late.. we never made it this far, I'll blame that on the Mojito's then. The stage is situated in this area and the animation team continue their work here in the evening performing various shows.
Buffet Restaurant open for breakfast 7.30am - 10.30am, lunch 12 noon - 2pm and dinner 7pm - 9pm
Breakfast consisted of the usual, cereals, yoghurt, breads, ham and cheese along with a variety of fruits. In addition there where several cooking stations with gorgeous chefs offering cooked to order eggs in every variety imaginable. The other half could be considered to be one of the faddiest eaters in the world.. just imagine his delight when faced one morning with nothing other than sausage and mash... now this had me hiding under the table cloth but he though he was in heaven, I just thanked my lucky stars there was no ketchup available, school dinners are not an option for me especially when ketchup turns mash pink...
At lunchtime you can find a variety of soups, breads, baked dishes usually based around fish or meat, and again the cooking stations, where said gorgeous chefs were usually cooking up Chinese or Italian dishes. The food was quite basic but always well cooked and presented. The only thing missing for me was a salad bar, however rather than moan about it as many of the fellow guests did I chose to remember where I was... this is Cuba after all....
In the evening it was much of the same, however should you feel the need for a dessert there is an 'island' in the centre of the dining room where a chef makes a great show of creating flambéed crepes.... Enough said.
In addition to buffet there are 3 other restaurants which operate on a ticket system. This became my only chore of the 10 days, each morning I would wait in line to be handed these little gems which allowed access to the nicer restaurants for dinner.
The Italian open for lunch 12 noon - 2.30pm and dinner 7pm-10pm
The restaurant is located adjacent to the pool area and is decorated in a Cubans idea of Italian style, small tables situated close together with crisp red and white checked table cloths. The waiters are attentive giving you time to peruse the menu which offers a wide selection of starters, pasta, pizza and meat main courses whilst replenishing your wine glass before it was half full. We chose a different starter and main each with a view to sharing.... but had a giggle because it all tasted the same, this said it makes a nice change from the buffet. The pizzas were a different story all together, authentic and cooked to perfection.
The Rancho - Beach Grill open for lunch 12 noon - 2.30pm and dinner 8pm - 10pm
Our favourite by far. At lunch time I could find the salad I had been seeking along with freshly cooked fish or chicken. The other half happy with the soup and 'chipped' potato selections on offer.
In the evening this came into it's own, a simple three course menu based around meat, fish and duck dishes and a vegetarian option. It was always quiet with the same attentive waitress serving. Here you could enjoy a romantic evening relaxing with a nice bottle of wine and listening to the ocean or be serenaded by the occasional Cuban band should you wish, pure bliss... after a few nights I gave up on the serenading and purchased a CD instead.
The International open for dinner 7pm - 10pm
Although you can put your glad rags on and wonder in awe at the extensive menu you will unfortunately be running for the safety of the buffet within 15 minutes of eating your starter, the restaurant is unfortunately situated above a mosquito infested swamp like affair and if you value your flesh and your sense of smell I'd advise against this venue which is such a shame as the chef was certainly well trained, the waiters excellent and the ambience of the place intimate.
In addition to the daily activities provided by the animation team the hotel offers a small gym and tennis courts for which you can book a slot in the beach bar. Massage is available in a hut near the beach...$20 (which I avoided at all costs after previous experiences), snorkelling, diving, horse riding and deep sea fishing to name but a few.
So deep sea fishing... we got cajoled into this by the crazy Cockney his partner and two mad Brummies after a Mojito or two and the following afternoon 6 of us were driven to a small Marina to join our vessel. Not known for being as nimble as a mountain goat I soon realise my footwear is inappropriate for the occasion when I see that I am expected to launch myself off the quayside to the deck 2.5 metres below.. this is going to be fun. Sea faring legs I do possess however and we had great fun watching the Blues fan filling a sick bag... I have never ventured out in such a choppy sea (so do feel a little sorry for him) but wonder how I am going to make it to the back of the boat and sit myself down .. Iet alone reel in a fish without making an ass of myself in the process, I have already ventured through the cabin down to the 'ladies' to powder my nose and this involved strenuous acrobatics... I decide to go last.. and make a fantastic show of reeling in the biggest tuna ever (I swear I have pictures to prove it) (the others caught mere Yellow Finned Dorada) and I am happy in the knowledge that I have fed a large Cuban family for at least a week.
Alongside activities offered by the hotel the holiday representatives offered a wide programme of excursions, including overnight trips to Havana, visits to the City of Moron etc.
The hotel is situated in immaculately tended grounds so please spare a thought for the hard working gardeners, one of which made me a cracking hat out of coconut palms. The beach is fantastic much as you would expect of the Caribbean, pure white sands and crystal clear seas. The hotel sports a rather long jetty from which you can fish or jump off and endure the choppy swim back to shore.
A craft market is situated near the beach bar daily where the locals are allowed to sell their wares, hence the strange wood and rusty metal sign that adorns my kitchen wall declaring Mojito and Daiquiri recipes. There is also an impressive art gallery on site, if you do purchase a painting please make sure you get a stamped certificate from the seller for customs purposes.
The hotel does have a shop which provides the bare essentials, and general tourist 'trinkets', a dehumidified cigar shop selling the finest in the world, buy here not from the sellers elsewhere.. as these crackle like fireworks (apparently it's the maggots?)
Mayabe my best holiday by far, after spending a hectic three days in Havana the Melia Guillermo provided the perfect opportunity to chill out, sit back, relax and enjoy the delights of the Caribbean.
The average wage for a Cuban when we visited was $12 per month... we took pens, toiletries and other 'basics'.. leave your beach clothes behind (it saves on the washing on your return home) and convert Sterling into Cuban Peso's.
On our last morning the other half wakes up and asks 'so where are we dining tonight...' faddy eaters of the world unite.. 'my gaff I reply'... we head to the beach to say goodbye to Ennie who supplies one last Mojito or two... for the road.
Cayo Guillermo - Jardines del Rey - Morón Ciego de Ávila, CUBA
Tel: (53) 33 301680- Fax: (53) 33 301685-
Go enjoy a Mojito (or two) xx
This review has also been posted on Ciao
After spending 20 minutes in our local Comet store discussing some very irritating little gadget with 'the bloke' I find myself wandering off and edging towards some rather nifty looking irons, sad I know....
I was particularly drawn to a rather snazzy purple and pink one and spent a few minutes scrutinising it before I am informed by 'the bloke' who has appeared behind me that it is no good as it has a stainless steel sole plate.... this astounds both me and a fellow female customer and the way he is pointing out the pros of a ceramic sole plate against the stainless steel one you would think he is the king of ironing... oh I wish, I made the conscious decision years ago to avoid much pain and anguish and excessive electric bills (and many a crease) that I would take responsibility for the wonderful chore that is ironing, the deal being that in return I have no responsibility for any car maintenance full stop.
So after testing out the weightiness (an iron needs to be heavy to bash out creases) I select the rather boring white and turquoise coloured Tefal 2810 Pressing Compact as does the fellow female customer (I think she is in shock) complete with 'Ultra Glide Diffusion' sole plate at the price of £74.99.... (actually it's not ceramic so there!!)
On leaving the shop with a big bulky box and considerably less cash in my pocket I cannot believe I have spent that much money on an iron and it was on half price offer at that, however having given up smoking in January I am now like a woman possessed by the housework devil.... anything to take my mind of cigarettes, so in some way I can justify such a ridiculous purchase, but will the iron live up to it's price?...
So how does it work?....
The iron sits on a 'steam generator', which is basically a bulky 1 Litre tank which generates a steam pressure bar of 2.5 which by all accounts is quite feisty. Fill it up, plug it in and away you go... well nearly, the iron takes a whole 8 minutes to heat up so if you're in a rush forget it - make sure you have a spare iron hidden under the sink for those last minute emergencies.
The steam generator and iron are ready to use when the iron's thermostat light and 'steam ready' light's go out. Baring in mind the length of time it takes to heat up it is best to go the whole hog and do a mammoth session of ironing in one go. (In recent ironing championships held in our household I currently hold the record for 19 shirts, 6 trousers, 2 sets of bedding and all the scraggly bits from the bottom of the ironing basket (which have resided there for ever because I simply could not be bothered with the pain) in 67 minutes without refilling the tank, yes I timed it and the cord is long enough to iron at ease without dancing around the ironing board to reach the bits at the edge. The steam generator button located under the handle delivers a blast of steam continuously until the button is released, you can also iron without steam just keep your finger away from the button.
and the wedding day... Back in March we attended the wedding of two of our closest friends and wanting to look my very best I ensured my outfit - a gorgeous pink silk dress was dry cleaned well before the big occasion, with no worries I left it hanging in it's plastic cover in the spare room. The big day arrives and I have an early appointment at the hairdressers on returning home all I need to do is take said dress out of wrapper and slip into it.. at least that's what I thought...
I return home in a bit of a flap as the appointment had run over and I now have less time than I thought.. I carefully slap on some make-up, take said dress out of wrapper, put it on and look in the mirror. This can't be right this is NOT the gorgeous dress I tried on in the shop, it's twisted into a weird shape and looks like I have been cleaning the windows using it as a Windowlene rag. Being the Best Man the bloke has already left and rather than rant at the cat I race round to my favourite neighbours wearing the mangled dress.. she doesn't have to say a word, her horrified face says it all.. the only thing for it is to try and rectify the problem with my new iron.
8 minutes later and it's ready to go. Now previously I have only used the iron on turbo setting i.e. Cotton/Linen so am unsure about the worthiness of the 'Silk' setting. Popping on a freebie shower cap... this iron generates steam like a Chinese laundry and I do not want to look like a bedraggled cat for the wedding do I? I set to the task in hand.... oh if the neighbours could see me now... oops she can and stifling a giggle at my expense she pops the kettle on whilst I perform the task and before the tea has had time to mash the dress looks like a dream. I raise a toast to my domestic goddess....10/10
The stuff that hides at the bottom of the ironing basic for so long you have to wash it again....Charles Tyrwhitt and I have had many an argument at the ironing board... 'the bloke' has a bad habit of buying difficult to iron shirts so much so that a couple of years ago I managed to put a hole through one said shirt (only a little one) and a large dent in the ironing board by throwing a bit of a hissy fit, yep linen can bring me to the brink of tears. So how will the Tefal 2810 live up to linen?.
It's put to the test prior to our Cuba trip... I adore linen, it's cool in the heat and looks nice on but in the past it has always proved to be a swine to iron. However I wizz through 2 weeks worth of holiday clothes like a breeze and only have to refill the tank once, a word of warning here though, once the tank has run out of steam switch off the iron and give it a good twenty minutes to cool prior to filling up again unless you want burnt fingers and a blast of steam in the face. 9/10
Hands up who is guilty of owning shiny black work trousers?.. it's Friday and you've been so disorganised that you have to iron something to wear for work ten minutes before you have to leave the house and before you know it the iron is too hot and you've created nice shiny stripes where there shouldn't be any? or worse burnt a hole?. I'm glad to say that since this investment I have ironed the nastiest of synthetics with the steam on full pelt with spectacular results... straight neat and tidy creases down trouser legs are so easy to achieve.. and no more tell tail shiny bits 9/10
It's worth mentioning that it's easier to sort your ironing into fabric types at this stage... i.e. synthetics first, linen last so you can use the iron at the most suitable level increasing the steam as you go along. The tank needs rinsing out after every ten uses to prevent any nasties building up, just fill it up jig it about a bit and chuck the water and any residue down the sink, the instructions also recommend you do not add any additives to the water.
If you are going to invest in this iron you will also need a vented ironing board to allow any excess steam to escape (and there is a lot) if you have a solid one the result will be wet clothes and if you have a chipboard one forget it.... it will look like the leaning tower of Pisa in no time.
The iron does allow you to carry out vertical steam ironing with a vertical shot of steam... but why you'd want to do this I'll never know and needless to say never ever attempt it whilst wearing the item.
It's quite a bulky contraption so you'll need to sort out some extra cupboard space to accommodate it. There's no automatic shut off so make sure you switch it off at the mains after each use.... do not get half way to work in heaving rush hour traffic and think 'now...did I turn that beast of an iron off?'.
All in all yes life is too short for ironing but if you want to cut your ironing time by (nearly) a half I'd thoroughly recommend this.... it truly is a domestic goddess... and on a grander scale 'the bloke' now has no excuse whatsoever NOT to iron... this makes it so easy!
Please note I draw the line at ironing pants and socks....
(Not Sure where the battery talk time comes into this? so i've given this category 1 star!)
This review has also been posted on Ciao
Back in 2004 I was lucky enough to celebrate the New Year in Havana the capital city of Cuba and vowed if ever I were to return I would spend a few days staying with the lady that is proclaimed to be 'The Jewel of Havana' better known as the Hotel Nacional De Cuba. Needless to say during that first trip I fell in love with the people, the music and the overwhelming ambience of the country and of course Che Guevara (all over again).
During my post Christmas blues this year I booked a return trip. We spend a relaxing day in the NH Crystal Resort in the Cayo's and enjoy a 'few' Mojito's before joining the transfer coach which will take us on the 30 minute journey to Jardines Del Rey Airport and after a smooth check in we board our ATR42 Cubanacan flight (which needless to say is an experience in itself if you know your aircraft) for the late afternoon flight. We are served black coffee during the 40 minute flight which is so strong it manages to counteract my earlier 'few' Mojito's.
The lights over Havana are sparodic as we touch down and we depart the airport into the balmy late evening and one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen. Cubans mingle around the small kiosks outside - which sell small cartons of rum and little else and head for our awaiting 'taxi' - a souped up stunning pre 1960 Chevvy painted in a lovely shade of lilac which will be our ride through the suburbs and into Havana and our hotel the 'Nacional De Cuba'. With our luggage loaded safely in the boot we settle into the back seat and our driver Ramon proudly flicks on the air con 'this is the only taxi in Havana with air conditioning' it splutters and coughs and he promptly switches it off again.
The suburbs are alive with people (not surprising when you learn Havana has over 3 million inhabitants)- either waiting for buses (large camel shaped contraptions) or chatting with friends on dimly lit street corners and Ramon gives us a running commentary throughout pointing out famous landmarks and places we should visit during our stay. The final stretch of our journey leads along the Malceon - the stunning seafront of Havana which stretches for many kilometres, here you can see the once stunning facades of houses now battered by years of salt water erosion and fisherman trying to make a catch for a hearty evening meal. About 8 kilometres out of old Havana we see the Nacional sitting proudly above us and our Chevrolet navigates us along a spectacular palm lined avenue to the entrance.
Before my seat belt is unfastened the bell boy is holding the car door open and our cases are extracted from the boot and we climb the steps to the entrance of the hotels bustling Grand Lobby reception area where I am immediately struck by the sense of pride and nostalgia that seems to breath from every pore of the place - the walls are lined with sun bleached pictures depicting the stars of the revolution and the whole scene makes you think that time has stood still and you have been transported back to the opening night of December 30th 1930. Although the hotel underwent general restoration in 1992 the original decor is intact along with the original Otis lifts, stunning chandeliers and colonial styling complete with mosaic tiles covering the three arches that make up the ceiling. We are escorted to the check-in desk where our passports are quickly checked by the friendly and smart reception staff, given our key and have our first trip in the splendid Otis lift up to the second floor.
Now I must warn you that on exiting the lift you may well imagine you are an extra in 'The Shining'.. when faced with a vast vast corridor that appears to be never ending. We note that certain rooms have plaques portraying previous inhabitants and I'm honoured to learn that we have been selected to stay in the room of a distinguished Buena Vista Social Club member! - that is until we open the door. The room smells slightly odd to say the least and we conclude that the guys socks are still lurking in the room somewhere (we never did find them). However we open the window and the mini bar to ease the pain. The window opens onto an inaccessible terrace overlooking the magnificent gardens and we are treated to the unmistakable sounds of a Cuban beat from the band playing below.
Despite the socks the room is remarkably comfortable, in the hallway (adorned with more pictures of the previous resident) a doorway to the left leads to a large bathroom which thankfully has undergone some modernisation accommodating a large bath with overhead shower a vanity unity which is well stocked with an array of soaps, toothbrushes, body lotion and aftershave (which we later distribute amongst Cuban friends we made on our first trip to Havana) ample towels and 2 robes. There is also a large mirror and hair dryer (ladies and/or gents be warned - this seriously lacks power so allow extra time for styling your travel damaged mop) if you decide to take your own remember to pack a 110/220v adaptor, and lastly there is of course a toilet and bidet.
To the right of the hallway is a large wardrobe with ample hanging space which also houses the safe the use of which costs of 3CUC per day and I'd advise you invest in this to store your valuables. The main bedroom is rather grand with an original dark oak dressing table a table and 2 chairs, bedside tables complete with lamps and a bed large enough to accommodate a small family. A small TV and telephone. Some visitors would say the rooms are outdated but for me the original furnishings and Bakelite light switches only added to the charm and nostalgia of the hotel - definitely not 5 star luxury but bare in mind that this is Havana. The maid visited daily throughout our stay leaving us a small note and gift each day which was a nice touch and on our departure we left behind a large pile of T-shirts and toiletries which I hoped would be of some benefit to her and her family. Eager to explore we quickly unpack, shower and change and head back down to the bustle below and on leaving the room I'm rather disgruntled to find that the former residents of the room adjacent to ours were non other than Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner - well you can't win them all!
The hotel boasts a total of 6 bars which open at varying times throughout the day however probably the best introduction has to be the Galeria de los Jardines which is located on the huge stone pillar lined terrace behind the Grand Lobby and looks out over the hotel's extensive grounds complete with peacocks, fountains and palm trees. Here I watch as the barman dressed in a crisp cream evening jacket meticulously prepares my Mojito. If you have a liking for rum you certainly will not be disappointed the cocktail menu boasts a staggering 20 cocktails based on the national drink of Cuba! alongside internationally branded whiskies, brandies and cognacs. They also serve superb coffee - something we learned after experiencing the worst coffee in the world at the breakfast buffet! and a selection of sandwiches should you feel like a snack after spending a day exploring Havana. We settle on one of the comfortable sofa's and are happy to people watch and again feel we are stepping back in time and spending an evening in the presence of Winston Churchill (who incidentally celebrated his 21st birthday here), Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway to name but a few, visit in the daytime and you can conjour up images of such celebrities sipping Mojito's in the dappled afternoon shade. A stroll in the gardens is pleasant in the evening after the heat of the day has gone and from here you can hear the chatter drifting up from the Malceon where dating couples meet.
On our first morning knowing we have a busy day of exploring ahead we get up early and venture down to breakfast which is served in the buffet restaurant located under the Grand Lobby, walking down the winding staircase the walls are adorned again with faded pictures of previous visitors alongside newer ones of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Breakfast is an informal affair where you select your own table, pour your own badly made coffee from a machine and choose your own food which is surprisingly good. There are several cooking stations where chefs prepare fresh eggs cooked to your liking. A large fruit and cereal bar and a hot buffet providing everything from hash browns to chick peas and black beans. All in all it is a pleasant experience despite some guests giving the impression they haven't eaten for a week and a toaster that takes several attempts to toast bread. Due to my inability to function without a good strong coffee first thing we head outside to the terrace and the Galleria bar for a leisurely and superb black coffee before the adventures of the day begin.
On our second evening in the hotel I am ravenous after a long day and on our return we book dinner in the Nacional's Comedor de Aguiar Restaurant for 8pm. Apparently this is reputed to be one of the best restaurants in Havana so after a long needed shower we put on our glad rags and head down to dinner. The restaurant is situated at the right of the Grand Lobby and the architecture within is stunning, I find myself gazing up at the ceiling constantly to catch the twinkling of the chandeliers and a talented pianist plays the Grand Piano throughout our meal. The service is impeccable and the Maitre D' attentive and considerate. After browsing the extensive menu, which incidentally offers a good selection of vegetarian options we order a starter each and a Chateaux Briand as a main course (something I am a little dubious about as Cuban's tend to undercook their meat), however it arrives at our table cooked to perfection served with fresh seasonal vegetables. The Chilean wine is superb - chosen under the waiters recommendation but a word of warning here it's actually more expensive than the meal!. However with the total bill coming to 77 CUC we cannot grumble. For me this was one special evening and i'll cherish the experience forever.
Venturing out into the grounds one day 'the bloke' wanders off with the camera to get a shot of the skyline of Havana - whilst I find myself being lead down the garden path by an ageing Cuban gentleman! we enter a cave and he explains in broken English that the bunkers leading from it where built during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The cave displays much history of the Crisis, however non of the documentation is translated into English so I would thoroughly recommend taking the guided tour which is offered by the hotel offered daily at a cost of 5CUC which offers an informative insight into the history of the hotel and is well worth the money if you have a couple of hours to spare - you even get a sneaky peek at the Suite de la Republica where Churchill stayed. You also get to visit the basement cigar factory located under the lobby where a former employee of the world renowned Partagas Cigar factory expertly rolls cigars, sorry guys forget everything you've been told about virgins rolling them on their thighs this chap is well into his 70s and rolls them on a desk.
The hotel also arranges 'city tours' where you are designated a personal guide and driver for several hours I'd recommend doing this if this is your first trip to Havana as they can offer a wonderful insight into the city and it's history plus you have the added benefit of not getting lost! which is easy to do in Havana with it's block and grid system - similar to that used in New York.
If you fancy a bit of Cha Cha Cha and don't want to venture to the famous 'Tropicana' the hotel is reputed to have an excellent cabaret show the 'Parisien' running Friday to Wednesday 10pm - 2.30am and although we didn't visit fellow guests had an excellent night there. The hotel boasts two outdoor swimming pools, 1 art deco and one modern a sauna, steam room and gym. There's also a shop selling, rum, rum and a bit more rum and the usual touristy T-shirts depicting Che Guevara and an art gallery located under the Grand Lobby however you'd be much better off saving your pennies and spending them at the Feria del Tacon craft market located near the the Cathederal in Havana Vieja.
General / Location...
Located in Vedado the Centre of Havana it's 8km from Old Havana where you will probably find you spend the majority of your days - however this is only a 40 minute stroll down the Malceon or hop in a little yellow Coco Taxi a ride which is sure to blow away any rum induced cobwebs for 5CUC. Standard taxi's are always available outside the hotel and are plentiful in town for your return journey.
The hotel is owned by the government run venture Gran Caribe Group and has 457 rooms and 15 suites. We paid £79 per person for a three night stay booked as part of a 14 night package. All in all the Nacional De Cuba offers a perfect introduction to the delights of Havana and I'd certainly return at the drop of a cigar and/or Mojito should I be lucky enough to visit Havana again.
The Convertible Peso was valued at around 1.87 against Sterling at the time of our stay.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Calle 21 y O, Vedado, Plaza, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba
Postal Code: 10400
Switchboard (53-7) 836 3564
This review has also been posted on Ciao
My hubby and I take it in turns to pick a destination each year (we rarely go out and save hard for these luxuries!), last year was my choice - delightful Cuba, this year the hubby chose the Maldives, however I did get to choose the resort.
After much agonising I picked Kuredu, mainly because it is one of the largest islands in the Maldives and I felt it would offer a wider choice of activities and nightlife, I didn't want to travel all that way and just laze on a beach all day - I can do that in Greece
After a knackering journey, we are greeted at Kuredu by banging drums - quite novel and a nice touch, but after 2 weeks of hearing the drums bang new arrivals in daily it can get a bit tedious!! . Check in was smooth, no complaints, then we were directed to our room. Wow, an hexagonal pine built villa with four poster bed and an outdoor bathroom!! .. very, very, nice indeed
Kuredu offers a variety of accommodation options but we decided to upgrade to a beach villa, which cost an extra £740 on top of the standard Beach Bungalow price. The villa located directly on the perfect sandy beach consisted of a large balcony with table, chairs and sun loungers leading to an hexagonal shaped bedroom with large 4 poster bed, mini bar, table, chairs and wardrobe with steps leading to a luxurious outdoor bathroom with a large shower, double sinks and an enclosed garden. Plenty of towels and toiletries were provided.
I considered this money well spent ... after a walk round the Island on our second day we found that the bungalows and Sangu water villas are located on the windward side of the island, which is covered with dense coconut palms, and the ocean is considerably choppier which leaves the bungalows in the shade - quite literally, but if you are going to the Maldives to dive, or relax in a water villa with your loved one what more do you need? and wherever you stay you are still in paradise
There are 3 buffet restaurants, 1 exclusively for Sangu guests, 1 which accommodates residents of the beach bungalows and 1 for guests of the beach villa's.
Breakfast consisted of the usual, cereals, yogurt, breads, ham and cheese along with a variety of fruits, the bananas where particularly small and sweet!. In addition there where two cooking stations offering cooked to order eggs in every variety imaginable.
At lunch time a wide variety of salads, soups, breads, baked dishes usually based around fish or meat, and again the cooking stations, which always offered a pasta choice and a meat or fish dish made to order each day - the steak sandwiches were spectacular.
In the evening it was much of the same, however the chef often incorporated theme nights - Curries, Italian, Chinese etc. The hubby is so fussy but he didn't starve so that says it all really (and I gained 4lb in weight!!).
In addition to the all inclusive restaurants you can always treat yourself to one of the paying restaurants - François a 'traditional Italian' offering pizzas & steaks (yummy), the 'Beach Grill' delicious fish dishes and steaks (don't eat all day if you plan to visit) or the 'Far East' - traditional Thai - although I can't comment as it was closed for a refurb
Atiki our favourite for chilling out, located next to reception on the beach, chilled out - and wicked barmen, Abi was a star although he was rubbish at backgammon (sorry Abi)
The Pool Bar - nice for a (payable 6 dollar each) cocktail, and chilling out before dinner
The Golf Bar (open until 10pm) good after a hard slog on the driving range (practice for the Texas Scramble), pretty quiet but excellent service.
Babuna - dark and dingy but good if you want a late one and some entertainment, evryone seems to gather here after a hard day in the Maldives.
Sangu - exclusive to Sangu guests, as I wasn't a Sangu guest I cannot comment.
In the all inclusive package all beers, wine, gin, rum, vodka, campari and brandy are all inclusive, cocktails and speciality coffees are not included!! although the Pool Bar offer special cocktails at 5 dollars a throw if you want a treat.
So what do I do with the knowledge that I may never have the opportunity to return to the Maldives again?Act like lady and undertake A Spa Treatment...
After browsing through the comprehensive and detailed guide I am tempted by the 'Coconut and Coffee Detoxifying Scrub' and after leaving hubby playing volleyball (5.30 on the dot everyday) I duly book myself into the spa for this treatment at 10.30 am the following morning - that is after spending 15 minutes wondering around the interior of the island trying to locate the spa - not too well signposted... I spot several other Brits also wondering around looking a bit lost (and agitated with each other considering they are on honeymoon and are planning to undertake a 'his & hers massage (with champagne') to celebrate!)
Next morning I find myself listening to soothing tinkly music sitting by a lovely little pool in which petals are floating and am greeted by my therapist who leads me to a small equally soothing room telling me to undress and put on a pair of 'panties' - and swiftly departs - oh my god I have never seen anything like it - a pair of black paper things designed for someone the size of Mrs Beckham, which I tug and tug until they rip - how nice.
The therapist returns to gently cleanse me with a lavender wash and then proceeds to rub me down with some concoction of coffee and coconut, after several minutes I am instructed to take a shower in the outdoor bathroom and dry off. The lovely Sri Lancian girl then instructs me to 'take off my panties' and 'drop them to the floor!!' before massaging me all over with a delicately scented cream.
Blimey this is supposed to be a relaxing experience, maybe i'm just not used to it, call me an ungrateful cow but next time i'd give this a miss and spend my money on a manicure!! still I can say I had a spa experience in the Maldives!! I scarper from the spa after gulping down my 'relaxing ginger tea' and join my hubby for a well deserved pint of Tiger, I know ladies shouldn't do pints but boy did I deserve it!!
Golf and...........The Lesson
I'd been made redundant a few weeks before our trip and was feeling a little dejected. So decided I'd make the effort and try something new. I'd been planning this in my mind since the morning..... TUESDAY - BEGINNERS GUIDE TO GOLF'. We have a leisurely breakfast - me trying to me good with yoghurt and fruit - the hubby has eggs and bacon. Afterwards we try and catch a sea turtle on camera to no avail and venture to the bar for a coffee or two. 5.30 approaches.... and I walk the ten minutes or so to the Kuredu golf Club ( the only golf course in the Maldives)
James (the rather hunky golf pro) takes about 30 of us over to the driving range... I know i'm crap at maths but i'm sure they got the measurements wrong... . Anyway we are taught how to hold a golf club correctly, it was a No 8 if I remember rightly, and how to hit a shot. Not so hard after all, and I get to talk to some other golf widows to boot.
The next day we sign up for the Texas scramble, you play as a pair, playing the best shot out of the 2- what a laugh!!, I'm a bit rubbish to be honest but who cares!. I DID WIN THE HUBBY AT GOLF LATER IN THE WEEK!!
We did two guided tours which were fantastic (attempted 4 but cancelled due to bad weather0, I have to admit I was a nervous wreck stepping onto the snorkel boat for the first time but the guides were brilliant and I saw marine life I will never see again.
Kuredu has an excellent dive centre run by 'Pro Divers' they offer a wide range of PADI approved courses for beginners through to experienced with a wide range of dive sites on offer. Visit the dive centre for a chat in regard to your requirements, you will not be disappointed.
The usual tourist tat (dare I say it) however there is a tailor on site if you require something special made to measure!
Plenty to do if you want too. Excellent dive centre (does not apply to me as I'm a scaredy cat!!) watersports, diving, gym. golf, spa. I cannot complain - I got my piece of paradise. If you like to shop don't do it, otherwise just chill and enjoy the delights and sights of Kuredu!!
Kuredu Island Resort
(Also posted on Ciao)