We are simply delighted to see our latest travel article featured on the home page of the prestigious travel website of The International Ecotourism Society: http://www.yourtravelchoice.org/2012/10/experiencing-mauritius-conservation-stories-through-ecotourism-adventures/
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Tags: Angie Aspinall, conservation in Mauritius, echo parakeet, ecotourism, Mauritius, pink pigeon, rare bird photos
Categories : Travel, Travelogue
Guests at Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort are simply spoilt for choice for great places to dine. You can rest assured that you can happily eat here every day of your holiday, discovering a whole world of new flavour combinations as you go for this is a food-lover’s paradise.
On our first night, we dined at the Gin’Ja restaurant where we were treated to some of the most colourful and mouth-watering flavour combinations I have ever enjoyed and entertainment too, for we had our own Teppanyaki chef for the evening. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cooking using an iron griddle for super-fast stir frying.
Before the frying began, we enjoyed some sashimi and sushi with a cocktail at the bar and then we were escorted to the Teppanyaki area. Our chef gave us a range of mouth-watering dishes to choose from and we opted to share a king prawn and scallop main course.
Watching the Teppanyaki chef was like watching an artist at work: he was almost sculpting the food – crafting, chopping and styling as he fried. Dish after colourful dish was presented to us. It was mesmerising. There were flying eggs, four-second prawn-shelling and butterflying and even flashes of fire (with a touch of flambé). It was easy to forget we were in a lively restaurant filled with other people because it felt as though Gin’Ja was there that night, just for us. Our attention was only drawn away from our ‘floor show’ by the applause from a nearby party who were showing their appreciation for the two five foot trays of sushi which had been prepared for them in the specially chilled preparation room.
Our starter featured beef so delicate it almost melted in the mouth and the scallops, although imported, were as mouth-watering and succulent as any I have tasted. The chef was as meticulous in his cooking style as he was with his food presentation. Teppanyaki, it would appear, is an art form for the neat and tidy.
But, don’t think this is where a culinary experience ends at the Telfair, for nothing could be further from the truth! On our first morning, we breakfasted at the nearby Chateau de Bel Ombre. (There is a shuttle to take you the short distance to this nineteenth century chateau.) Here, we dined in opulent surroundings befitting any French colonial retreat, enjoying a basket of freshly made pastries with tasty preserves, followed by Eggs Benedict, whilst soaking up the view of rolling lawns and distant mountains.
Our next culinary delight followed, hot on the heels of the others as we were about to enjoy the ‘Chef on stage’ experience with the delightful Italian chef, Enrico Rodati at Anabella’s restaurant. What a night! If you know any foodies planning their wedding or honeymoon on Mauritius, then receiving this as a wedding present would be a wonderful way to help them to celebrate. Or perhaps you know a lovely couple of non-cooks tying the knot on the island? They would be able to pick up many handy tips and even get ‘hands on’ with the food preparation. Don’t worry, aprons are provided to keep spillages from spoiling elegant evening wear.
As well as being a top class chef, Enrico is also a charming host and a most likeable chap. Being such a foodie, I was in raptures enjoying this experience and I loved watching, tasting, and taking part. My husband, who enjoys good food and occasional cooking said the thing he most enjoyed about the night was watching me so obviously in seventh heaven. It was such an enjoyable way to spend an evening, swapping foodie stories with Enrico, whilst being served fresh pasta spaghetti and making my first ever tortelloni.
Food is a passion which really brings people together; it crosses the same cultural divides as great art and music and means you never run out of things to talk about. Bringing chefs and food-lovers together in this wonderful open plan kitchen is inspired. Not only do you get to see your own dishes being prepared right in front of you, you are also in the heart of the restaurant’s kitchen and can see how the team works together orchestrating the elegant dishes of food for customers.
The kitchen itself is a stunning space, with great mahogany presses, granite work surfaces and a refurbished cast iron range from Manchester. Guests are welcomed into the kitchen to view the night’s selection of meals – as display versions are available to viewed before orders are placed. I think this is a charming idea as it gives diners the opportunity to look at portion size and presentation before decided what to choose.
As well as being the preparation area for evening meals, the kitchen is also where guests can enjoy a fine breakfast selection with everything from fresh fruit salads, cold cuts, pastries and crepes to a full fried breakfast.
But, back to our evening: our dessert was prepared by Narvish, the Patisserie Chef, who showed us how to create the lightest, fluffiest soufflé and to serve it straight from the oven with a scoop of ice cream. Enrico asked him to make an extra dessert so he could join us! My husband now has high hopes of me recreating the dishes when we get home and, do you know what – I just might!
Lunch at the Heritage Golf Club was our next treat. The Club House menu complemented that at Le Palmier (the hotel’s ‘feet in the sand’ daytime eatery with stunning views of the Indian Ocean) with a different range of lunch time treats – and a different, but equally spectacular view. Now, I have never before had the inclination to learn to play golf but I have to say that this course looked the most splendid place to take up the sport.
To experience the finest Mauritian cuisine, an evening at The Chateau de Bel Ombre is a must and there’s a free shuttle service for guests of the Heritage hotels, Le Telfair and Awali. As our car pulls up, the staff are ready to greet us and escort us to our table. We weave through the elegantly laid tables in the restaurant and are shown to our table on the terrace.
There’s a surprise in store for the guests yet to arrive at the next table to ours: their table is decorated with the heads of deep pink bougainvillea flowers – and a card in a golden envelop awaits. It’s a wedding anniversary, I am sure they will remember forever.
Our charming young waiter talks us through our ‘Mauritian night’ menu. We’re having a little of everything as a tasting experience and an initiation into Mauritian cuisine. I’m thankful that we are because it all sounds so tempting, I would struggle to narrow down my preferences to just one choice of main course.
The beautifully presented sharing platter soon arrives with our starters. This is the epitome of fusion food: a European inspired Pheasant Terrine, some Mediterranean-style octopus, then a purely Mauritian dish of pineapple and cucumber and a vegetable which has no English translation.
Oh, so many flavours to savour, accompanied by a truly excellent white wine recommended by the Sommelier. We’re enjoying it so much that we ask for a pause before moving on to our main courses so we can soak up the atmosphere.
I’m not usually a fan of live entertainment whilst dining but here the local musicians who moved from table to table serenading diners did actually add to the ambience. We were invited to make a request but, having no idea of their repertoire, we asked them to choose something for us. We were treated to a sweet rendition of the Eric Clapton classic ‘Wonderful tonight’, which we enjoyed before they moved on to play ‘Congratulations’ to the people on the next table.
When we’re ready, the waiter brings us an array of tiny blue casserole dishes, each containing a taster portion of a different main course. He removed each lid in turn, describing each dish for us. I ask which his favourite is and he tells us it’s the venison, but then he hesitates before saying that the fish vindaloo is also a favourite of his. We tried a little of each of those and then some of the wild boar, which for me, surpassed both of the waiter’s recommendations as a great taste sensation. However, the venison curry is a dish we will try to recreate when we get home for it was truly inspired.
The main courses were accompanied by rice and ‘farata’ (a type of flat bread known to us in the UK as a ‘paratha’), which went well with the spicier dishes. The red bean dish was lovely and mild and it stood out as a fine solo artist in a glittering array of stars, although the finest star was perhaps the sumptuous red wine.
Our dessert was a medley of coconut dishes – a panna cotta, a miniature macaroon, a shot glass of chocolate and coconut and coconut ice cream with a pineapple tuile. Each was a sweet-lovers delight and all complemented one another perfectly.
After dinner, we enjoyed a stroll around the formal garden and admired the chateau, with its colonial architectural style, illuminated from within. This was an enchanted evening and one which will live on in our memories for years to come.
Check out this ‘foodie paradise’ in Mauritius: www.heritageletelfair.mu
Direct flights from Heathrow Airport are available from Air Mauritius: http://www.airmauritius.com/
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Tags: Bel Ombre, Chateau Bel Ombre, Enrico Rodati, Great food Mauritius, Le telfair, Mauritius
Categories : Food blog, Journalism, Travel, Travelogue
On a recent trip to Mauritius, I had the opportunity to indulge in a few days of spa experiences whilst my husband was scuba diving. I thought I would make the most of being a ‘dive widow’ and enjoy some yoga lessons and massages rather than just lounge in the sun reading my Kindle. It’s always good to learn something new on a trip and I was looking forward to learning yoga on this one.
Le Méridien Ile Maurice, in the North West of Mauritius, is an ideal place for couples to stay if one loves to dive and the other loves to ‘spa’. (Whilst the main hotel is family-friendly, we enjoyed the exclusive ‘adults only’ Nirvana wing.) Whilst my husband (who is a professional underwater photographer) was off discovering wrecks and photographing rare Mauritian Clown fish with Jonathan from Easy Dive, I was getting to grips with my ‘Sun Salutation’ and some breathing exercises on the peaceful veranda of the Explore Spa with Dr Shaji.
I had booked some individual yoga lessons but, when it came to the day of my first lesson, I was a little nervous and started to wonder if I might have been better hiding at the back of a class after all. However, I needn’t have worried – I loved it!
The whole point of yoga (apparently) is focusing on the moment: your posture, breathing, feeling to warmth of the sun on your skin so, there is no time to worry if you’re not doing it as well as someone else or if you look a bit hot and bothered as you go through your moves. The individual attention also means you immediately get any corrections you need to the posture to ensure that you are doing it correctly. I found the one-to-one lessons an excellent way to learn techniques to do at home. I swear my posture improved greatly and I felt fantastic just after one session.
As well as learning how to warm up properly and how to do the Sun Salutation, I also learned some breathing techniques. The rapid breathing was really challenging: I never knew you could feel out of breath from breathing but by the end of it, I felt like I’d been on a run. It was an excellent work out and one I have also been able to practise regularly since coming home.
After all that exertion, what better way to reward myself than with a massage at the spa? During our stay at the hotel, I had four different types of massage – three of which I had not seen offered at UK spas so, I was looking forward to some new experiences inside the spa as well as the yoga lessons outside in the sunshine.
A great feature of the spa is the offer of double treatment rooms for couples. We booked one for our first spa experience and both had an Ayurvedic massage, which uses Indian herb oil to enhance circulation. I felt secure in the knowledge that I had completed a full health assessment form prior to my arrival and I noticed that my therapist, Nasseem had taken notice of my individual needs/preferences.
The Ayurvedic massage is all about long, fluid strokes – no knuckles or digging with the thumbs. I really enjoyed the gentle rhythm: it was so relaxing that my husband said he almost fell asleep during his treatment. And, the accompanying head massage was so good, I immediately booked an Indian head massage (also known as Champissage) for another day.
Unlike the Indian head massages I’ve had elsewhere, the one at Explore Spa started with a back massage. Bonus! My neck and shoulders were also thoroughly worked on before Nasseem started working on my head. As well as using pressure points, she also used a traditional technique of ‘flicking/scratching’ with her fingertips (which I assure you, is far more pleasant than it sounds). The rapid on/off action was incredibly powerful in making me feel re-energised after the massage.
My third massage was the most unusual but it was incredible. It was called Kizhi Kizhi, which also known as Pinda Swedam. It uses boluses (cloth bags with a single handle forming a ‘lollipop’ shape) filled with Indian herbs and dipped into warm medicated oil to massage all over the body. Dr Shaji and a female therapist delivered this deep massage which aims to help with long standing injuries (like the whiplash injuries that left me with ongoing back problems). The boluses allow the therapist to add heat and pressure throughout the massage.
After some minor manipulations of the spine, the female therapist massaged the back of my left leg with oil and, as she progressed to the right leg, Dr Saji started to use the boluses on the left leg. The heat and gentle pressure was particularly soothing on the back of my troubled knee and, after all the trekking we’d done earlier in the holiday, it was sorely needed.
After my legs, back and arms had been thoroughly massaged, Dr Saji retired from the room leaving me to have a gentle head massage. This massage followed a particularly strenuous yoga session and, afterwards, I was almost an inch taller and measurably happier.
My final massage was with Nasseem and I followed her recommendation and had a Balinese massage. This featured some of the long strokes of the Ayuvedic massage but it also involved some thumb and palm work and skin rolling. Like the other full body massages at the Explore Spa, this one also finished with an amazing head massage. My worry now is that I may have been spoilt for all other spa experiences!
I did ask Nasseem if I could take her home with me as I’m sure that one of these massages once a week would ensure my health and well-being – but she had a better idea: “Perhaps you could move to Mauritius.” Now, there’s an idea!
Thank you to Dr Saji, Naseem and the rest of the team at the Explore Spa by Méridien, where not only can you learn yoga and have world class massages, but you can also enjoy a hydrotherapy centre and a fully equipped gym. Thanks also to Jonathan at Easy Dive for distracting my husband while I enjoyed the spa.
For more information about the hotel Le Méridien Ile Maurice, please visit: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/
Information about the Explore Spa: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/en/spa
Information on diving at Le Méridien Ile Maurice: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/en/diving
We flew to Mauritius direct from Heathrow with Air Mauritius: http://www.airmauritius.com/
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Tags: Le Meridien Ile Maurice, Mauritius, spa Mauritius, Starwood hotel, Starwood preferred list
Categories : Journalism, Travel, Travelogue
As travel writers, we are occasionally invited to events promoting certain hotels or destinations but Hotel Chocolat and Cap Maison’s latest gathering was something different – tantalising the taste buds as well as capturing the imagination. This promotion boasted ‘rum and chocolate tasting’ to give guests a taste of their rum and cocoa indulgent holidays. Could this job get any better?
Hotel Chocolat and Cap Maison have joined forces in order to attract foodies from around the world to visit the jewel of the Caribbean – St Lucia. Choclatier, retailer, estate owner, restauranteur and hotelier, Angus Thirlwell explained the concept behind the holidays and how the hotel in the Hotel Chocolat family came into being.
He spoke with such passion about the Rabot estate where Hotel Chocolat’s cocoa is grown and the beautiful island of St Lucia and how a book from the 1920s inspired him to explore the idea of Hotel Chocolat growing their own cocoa – which no other chocolatiers seem to do any more – and then on to the development of the hotel. But being a passionate, driven entrepreneur, he didn’t stop there: Angus and co-founder Peter Harris also created spa and restaurant.
Being environmentally conscious, the Hotel Chocolat team likes to let nothing go to waste and they have created some innovative cocktails incorporating the pulp from between the pod and bean. Apparently, they make a mean Mojito: now that I would like to try! In the Boucan restaurant too, the chef uses the pulp, which reportedly tastes like lychees, in his exotic recipes. Cacao is featured as a seasoning throughout the menu in creative, innovative and subtle and subtle ways.
In the spa too, the theme continues with offers of ‘gentle cacao exfoliation, fresh local cacao and banana face mask and then cacao butter hydration’ and the bananas are also grown on the estate, naturally.
Guests interested in cocoa production are invited to chat with anyone who works on the estate at any time but a holiday to Hotel Chocolat would not be complete without the ‘Tree to bar experience’ – a guided tour which offers guests the unique opportunity to see the whole chocolate production from planting, propagating, growing, harvesting, roasting and blending. But, best of all, guests can roast their own beans and produce their very own chocolate bars and truffles. Now, what serious foodie could resist that? But, this special holiday is not just about chocolate: there’s also diving, sailing, hiking and of course – rum!
Cap Maison Director, Adam Gobat, explained his that his wish to tempt foodies to his native St Lucia stemmed from his desire to create something truly special for their guests. The Cliff at Cap restaurant , like the Buchan, is atypical because it is not a ‘hotel restaurant’, but a ‘stand alone’ restaurant, attracting locals and non-residents in addition to guests at Cap Maison and Hotel Chocolat.
Cap Maison is located in the north of St Lucia and boasts some of the best beaches on the island and some of the best views of those beaches are from the roof terraces on Cap Maison’s luxury villas. Cap Maison’s Rum and Cocoa holiday includes a rum appreciation evening at Cliff at Cap’s rum bar. And, having sampled both rum flavoured chocolates and four different pairings of chocolate and rum – under John West’s expert guidance – I can honestly say it’s a combination which really works. The twelve year old rum slips down like a good cognac and I can imagine easily slipping into the routine of drinking this as an after dinner digestif.
This year, Hotel Chocolat is bringing over some of the farmers to visit the flagship stores in the UK. We would love to be there to photograph that experience. And if the welcome we received from staff at the Manchester store was anything to go by, they can be sure of a warm welcome.
Listening to Angus and Adam speak so passionately about St Lucia was enough to make me want to visit – even before I’d seen the photographs of luxury lodges and villas or tasted the rum and chocolate combination. Now, I have to say, it’s top of my ‘must visit’ list. Rum and chocolate holiday anyone? Yes, please!
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Tags: cacao, Cap Maison, Fusion food, Hotel chocolat, Rum and chocolate, Rum and cocoa, Spa St Lucia, St Lucia
Categories : Travel
If I told you we’d just spent the weekend overlooking a marina with the sun twinkling on the water and the yachts looking their sleek and splendid best; we dined watching sharks and then went for a walk on the beach to do some excellent bird-watching; then stayed on a farm and ate delicious locally reared steak, where would you think we’d been?
Yes, that’s right – Hull!
Did you know you could do all that in a weekend on the East coast of Yorkshire? Well, you can.
We stayed (not for the first time) at the Holiday Inn at Hull Marina - the finest spot to stay in Hull, as it has the very best views. We had an executive room, with all that you’d expect from a top chain hotel: bath robe, toiletries and a TV bigger than the one we have at home and we also got a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk with our welcome tray.
Why had we chosen to come to Hull you may ask, well, that’s simple: we had come to dine with the sharks.
Even though we’ve visited The Deep many times (check out their annual passes), we still experienced a thrill in being allowed in after hours. Diners are able to take advantage of a relaxed stroll through part of the aquarium, watching the inhabitants in the atmospheric subdued lighting.
As we dined on an excellent array of expertly cooked and beautifully presented dishes such as slow cooked Morrocan-style lamb and a little-known fish called an Atlantic Char (a cold-water fish in the Salmonidae family), we watched the red-tailed catfish start to settle down for the night. (We were dining in front of the freshwater tank.) We did get to check out the sharks at night too and see all the display tanks’ lighting change from daylight, through dusk, to night time.
Even if you’re not that interested in fish (to look at), I would still recommend the Two Rivers Cafe as a place to dine. The food was excellent, the service was impeccable, the staff were incredibly friendly – and above all, it was excellent value for money. Oh, and the chef’s shortbread was second to none!
If you live near Hull, I’d say, use it as a regular restaurant and if you don’t live near Hull, you should consider making a special trip.
As one of the presents I’d bought my husband was membership of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, we thought we’d make the most of it – and the unseasonably good weather – and spend the day at Spurn Point, where we did some walking, beachcombing, stone-skimming and bird-watching. We then took advantage of the Trust’s cafe and had a bite to eat.
Then it was off to our farm stay at West Carlton Guest House where we were greeted with a warm welcome – both in terms of friendliness and the real fire in the guests’ lounge. We were given a quick tour of the large Georgian house before being shown to our lovely, spacious room.
Our host, Caroline, had kindly reserved a table for us at the local pub and even gave us a hand-drawn map so we wouldn’t get lost. The Falcon Inn turned out to be a great recommendation, serving hearty pub food like steak and chips, which was just what I needed after all that walking.
After a well-cooked breakfast, it was time to wend our way home, wishing ’happy tenth birthday’ to The Deep.
If you’d like to visit the East Coast of Yorkshire, there’s more information available from: http://www.visithullandeastyorkshire.com/
To dine with the sharks at The Two Rivers restaurant, visit: http://www.thedeep.co.uk/restaurants-hull.php
For more information about The Deep, go to: http://www.thedeep.co.uk
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: http://www.ywt.org.uk/
To stay at the Holiday Inn at Hull Marina, go to: http://www.holidayinn.com/hotels/us/en/hull/huynh/hoteldetail
To stay at West Carlton, visit: http://www.west-carlton.co.uk/
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Tags: Dine with sharks, East Yorkshire coast, Hull Marina, Marine conservation, Spurn Point, The Deep, The Deep charity, The Deep Hull, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Categories : Days out, Food blog, Marine conservation, Travel, Travelogue, Triggerfish Photography, UK Accommodation, Uncategorized, Underwater images
I’ve just been flicking through some travel photos and thought I’d share these pictures and memories with you of one of our many visits to Andalucia.
On this trip, we stayed at Torre del Aguilón in Albenuelas in the Lecrin Valley, where our hosts, Ann and Nick looked after us very well. The well-stocked kitchen was a real ‘foodie’ delight. Ann even gave us some of their home-made olive oil and dried herbs. Everything you can think of is provided to make it a home from home and the view from the lounge, across the valley, is simply spectacular. Ann kindly organised a horse-riding expedition for us with the Mayor of Albenuelas, which was an unforgettable experience and one to be highly recommended – but not for the faint-hearted as the trail took in both the valley and the very high ridges.
Albenuelas is easy striking distance to Granada, and the fabulous Generalife at the Alhambra. It’s also well located for a trip to the mountain village of Pampeneiro close to the area made famous by Chris Stewart’s book, Driving over lemons. It’s also possible to have a full day in the Sierra Nevada and be back in Albenuelas in time for supper.
Closer to the pretty beach of Herradura is Itrabo Hills, which is situated in another tiny, authentic (non-touristy) village, where we had some of the finest food we’ve ever eaten, cooked by our lovely host. Well worth a visit!
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Tags: Andalucia, Andalucia holiday, Aspinall Ink, Itrabo Hills, Lecrin Valley, Torre del Aguilon, Travel writers Aspinall Ink
Categories : Travel
If you fancy an eco-friendly holiday in Greece, we’ve a recommendation for you on the island of Lesvos: Pyrgeli House, near the picturesque harbour town of Molyvos. What a privilege it was to stay in such a lovely house. It’s so light and airy and has great views out to sea. The sunsets are amazing! If you want to relax, unwind and recharge your batteries, then this is the place for you.
Pyrgeli is also a foodie’s perfect getaway: as well as fresh eggs daily (from the chickens in the adjoining plot), there’s olive oil and plenty of herbs provided too. Also, all the cooking utensils you’ll ever need are provided in a spotlessly clean (and enviously spacious) modern kitchen. Pyrgeli house is surrounded by a working garden so, depending on the season, you may get very local produce. All the cleaning products, detergents, loo roll, etc are are eco-friendly too.
Karen is a delightful hostess, ensuring that you’ve everything you need from beach towels and eggs – to directions to the best places of interest.
Pyrgeli is perfectly situated just a few minutes’ drive from Molyvos – a spectacular coastal town (and the best place on the island for restaurants and tourist shops).
Lesvos is a popular destination for walkers and bird-watchers and it is easy to see why. We did some great bird-watching whilst on Lesvos: some of the best of it without leaving Pyrgeli’s terraces! All in all we saw, Bee Eaters, Crested Larks, Black-headed Bunting, Red backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, and Wheatears: the latter, nesting at Pyrgeli.
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Tags: Aspinall Ink, Bird-watching holiday Lesvos, eco holidays, Eco house Lesvos, Greek holiday, Lesvos, Pyrgeli House, Travel review, travel writing, Walking holiday Lesvos
Categories : Travel
We’ve been taking photos together for about 7 years. Even though we’re taking photos at the same location, our pictures are always different. Individual perspective is everything in photography…
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Categories : Travel
If you’d like to see more of my photos of Rome, please check out our Travel page or contact: Aspinall.Ink@hotmail.co.uk
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Tags: Rome travel photos
Categories : Travel