How to see York – in 48 hours

How to see York – in 48 hours

I love cities that have many layers of history, where the stones speak of grim deeds, majestic events, innovative creations and the odd ghost. If your itinerary allows – spend some time in the atmospheric and elegant city of York, in Yorkshire, the UK’s second mediaeval city. Eat, drink, sleep and play – all budgets catered to.

 Vikings, Romans and chocolate have all left a lasting impression on the historic city of York. Encircled by impressive ancient walls (the City Walls form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse), it has a long and varied history. York has been named the most haunted city in Europe – a fact enhanced by the city’s many ancient and shadowy snickelways (a local term for narrow lanes, passageways and alleys).

York also boasts the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, as well as the largest railway museum in the world, plus it has a comprehensive calendar of events and festivals, including the February Jorvik Viking Festival, March’s York Literature Festival, and September’s York Food & Drink Festival.

Not to forget the world-class horseracing meetings held from May to October each year at York Races – a favourite among racegoers since it was founded in 1731.

The York Minster is a magnificent building inside and outside. Construction in timber began in 627 and stands today as testament to overcoming invasion, war, vandalism, religious persecution and every damn thing humans could throw at it.

 

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Modern day saints

My favourite little statues (above) can be found up above at the back of nave, above the entrance to York Minster. They are actually Semaphore Saints, each of them represents a letter. The twelve headless saints holding haloes are signalling in semaphore. Semaphore is a way of sending a message without a mobile phone! Using two flags, or in this case haloes, each letter of the alphabet has its own signal. Artists Terry Hammill carved these stautues for an exhibition in 2004.

During the sixteenth century Protestant reformers accused Catholics of praying to statues. In a bid to stop this they attacked statues, either getting rid of them completely or making them unrecognisable by removing the heads and haloes and the objects that identified them. There are many instances of this kind of damage in the Minster. The Semaphore Saints pay tribute to all thse that have lost their heads.

The Grand Hotel & Spa.

DAY ONE

Check in:

Set in a charming Victorian rectory, the Parisi is a small, friendly and affordable hotel. Or, with 101 rooms, casual restaurant, and a sumptuous colour palate inspired by York’s chocolate heritage, there’s the InterContinental Hotel Group’s boutique Hotel Indigo York.

And housed in the iconic former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company, The Grand Hotel & Spa is the city’s only five-star hotel, providing fabulous first-class service and facilities.

10:00 Step up to York’s highest point

The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster took 250 years to build, from 1220 till its consecration in 1472. This hallowed landmark impresses with dazzling stained glass, historic artefacts and awe-inspiring architecture. It’s open for sightseeing every day, as well as for regular services, concerts and events (including the famous York Mystery Plays). For magnificent views, climb 275 winding steps, passing medieval pinnacles and gargoyles, to the top of the Minster’s central tower – the highest point in all of York.

11:30 Circumnavigate the city walls

Familiarise yourself with York by taking a walk around the City Walls. At 3.4km long, they are the longest and best-preserved medieval city walls in England. Taking approximately two hours to complete the entire circuit, you may prefer to focus on just a few sections – in which case, the Friends of York Walls website suggests various routes and trails.

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The centre of York is surrounded by walls whose foundations date back to medieval times. There is a wall walk around the city. ‘VistBritain/Andrew Pickett’

13:30 Take away a ‘Shambles’ lunch

While exploring the Shambles, York’s oldest street, grab lunch from Shambles Kitchen. Famous for its pulled pork sandwich, other healthy options include street food boxes, soups and smoothies.

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The Shambles is an old street in York, England, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. This image must be reproduced with the credit ‘VistBritain/Andrew Pickett’

14:30 See the return of a steam-era superstar

The Flying Scotsman (a locomotive flagship for modernity in 1924) in York’s National Railway Museum had a complex and lengthy £4.2million overhaul three years ago. This is the largest railway museum in the world, other attractions include the mighty Mallard, which has held the world speed record for steam locomotives since 1938, the massive Chinese Engine, presented to the museum by the Chinese Government, and the only Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) outside of Japan.

16:00 Go back in time for afternoon tea on a train

Travel back in time to an era of luxury railway dining aboard the Countess of York, a beautifully restored rail carriage stationed in the South Gardens of the National Railway Museum. Its Afternoon Tea is a civilised treat with a Yorkshire twist: sandwiches and savouries include Yorkshire blue cheese and red onion marmalade tart, scones are baked to a traditional Yorkshire recipe, and homemade fancies include Parkin crème brulee. Choose a fine leaf tea by Taylor’s of Harrogate.

17:00 Spot the little devil of Stonegate

Lined with shops, Stonegate is one of York’s most fascinating and photogenic streets. Craftsmen including goldsmiths and stained-glass makers had premises here in the Middle Ages, many leaving their mark on the historic buildings. The little red devil outside No. 33 was a traditional symbol of a printer – a printer’s apprentice being known as a “printer’s devil”.

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18:30 Start dinner with proper Yorkshire puddings

The cousin of Michelin-starred country eatery The Star Inn, stylish The Star Inn The City specialises in authentic and delicious Yorkshire cooking. Yorkshire Puddings were traditionally served before, not with, a main meal – just as they are here. Other local flavours include Whitby crab, confit of east Yorkshire duck leg and plenty of Yorkshire beef. Served until 19.00, their two-course Market Menu is ideal for lunch or pre-theatre.

19:30 Open the curtains on a new production

A leading British theatre, York Theatre Royal has produced great drama for more than 250 years. Reopening in spring 2016 after a major £4.1million redevelopment project, productions include Shakespeare, opera, ballet and plays by famous UK and international playwrights.

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DAY TWO

10:00 Invade William the Conqueror’s ruined castle

William the Conqueror built York Castle in 1068 shortly after the Norman Conquest, to cement his status over this former Viking city. The castle endured a tumultuous early history and its keep, known as Clifford’s Tower, is almost all that remains. Standing high on its mound, this medieval ruin has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time. Once a lookout point for castle guards, the open-air wall walk at the top provides wonderful far-reaching views.

11:00 Experience prison life, the First World War & the Swinging Sixties

An increased demand for prison capacity in York in the 18th century required the construction of two new prison buildings below Clifford’s Tower: The Female Prison and Debtors’ Prison. These now form the York Castle Museum, with exhibitions illustrating York’s social and military history. Popular attractions for all the family include a recreated Victorian cobbled street with authentic shops, schoolroom, police cell and Hansom cab. Other galleries give a sense of prison life, portray the horror of the First World War, and recreate the spirit of the 1960s.

13:30 Confront a Fat Rascal at Bettys

The founder of Bettys Café Tea Rooms travelled on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in 1936, and was so enthralled that he commissioned the same designers and craftsmen to create this elegant café – and it soon became a local landmark. Although there are plenty of tempting treats, Bettys is renowned for the Fat Rascal: an oval teacake with currants and candied peel, it goes well with a cup of Yorkshire tea.

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Fat rascals.

14:30 See a sweet side to the city

While neighbouring towns made their wealth from wool, cotton and steel, York made its profits from chocolate. Some of the world’s best-known names in chocolate were concocted in York. Joseph Rowntree created bestselling brands including Kit Kat, Smarties and Aero, while Joseph Terry gave us the Chocolate Orange and All Gold collection – inextricably linked with York’s social and industrial past, these sweet empires are now part of Nestlé and Mondelēz International respectively. You’ll find evidence of this chocolate heritage throughout York. Goddard’s, the Terry family’s beautiful Arts and Crafts style home, is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. A major visitor attraction, York’s Chocolate Story, tells the rich tale of chocolate and confectionery in the city. There are also chocolate-themed walking trails, chocolate-making workshops, even an annual chocolate festival.

16:30 Get a chocolate retail fix

Chocolate connoisseurs should head to Monk Bar Chocolatiers, York’s longest established artisan chocolatiers.

19:00 Dine in a former brothel

Enjoy casual yet decadent dining at The Blue Bicycle, a former 19th-century brothel overlooking the River Foss. Couples may share a romantic meal in one of the original private vaulted booths, while old photographs of exotic girls are reminders of the building’s historic improprieties.

20:00 Unearth York’s spookiest secrets

York has a spooky past. Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was executed here in 1739, and local folklore is full of similar tales of tragedy and death. Experience the shadowy side of York on one of numerous nightly ghost walks. These include the Original Ghost Walk of York. The eerie apparitions you’ll hear about include the Grey Lady, the Headless Earl, and the Legendary Legionnaires. Rather not walk? Try the Ghost Bus Tour, a professional comedy theatre company who present a mix of thrills, chills and chuckles on board a former funeral bus.

21:30 Whisky, gin…or a ghostly spirit

Afterwards, steady your nerve with a stiff drink at The Golden Fleece hotel, York’s most haunted pub. Said to have five resident spirits, there have been numerous reports of ghostly apparitions and moving furniture. Or sample a vast range of local and international craft ales at The House of the Trembling Madness, an atmospheric ale shop and inn that also serves pub food, snacks and shareable platters.

Writer’s tip: York is in the county of Yorkshire in the north of England, two hours north of London by train. The nearest international airports are Leeds-Bradford and Manchester Airport. Best to fly into Manchester and catch the train to York– quick as a wink!

http://www.visitbritain.com

 

 

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How to be bold in Boulder

How to be bold in Boulder

I had five hours to spend in Boulder, a city in the grand state of Colorado in the USA. What to do? I couldn’t give you a full-on review of a city I had not explored, nor had been there before. What I did know: it’s a city of just 103,000 residents (almost a third of whom are students at the University of Colorado at Boulder), it has a reputation for packing  punch.

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At 5,430 feet (1657 metres) and generally sunny, it’s a spectacularly beautiful destination that’s been smart (and pioneering) about growth and preserving open space, so it’s a magnet for athletes, bohemians, hipsters, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk.

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With a progressive dining and brewing scene, it’s a breeze to eat healthily and drink locally. Even outdoor music is better in the Front Range: you won’t regret splurging for a concert ticket at Red Rocks, just to the south.

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I won’t go into the hiking, biking, climbing and all outdoorsy activities that are everyday jaunts for the Boulderites (Bouldonians?) as I don’t do outdoors very well. (See link at end of story for more local info.) As I was coming into town I had a total moment of excitement and knew what this Boulder post was to be about – TEA.

My preferred tea late at night cosied up in my bed in Sydney is a brew called Sleepytime Tea by Celestial Seasonings (this is not a sponsored post). We drove past a sign saying Celestial Seasoning – yippee.

Oh joy, the building/factory was open for tours – yes! And it was free. This is the home of my tea!

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Celestial Seasonings is in the northeast of Boulder and looks like any other productive, immaculately clean factory – BUT – it smells so good. Just like a freshly opened box of Sleepytime Tea.

Our devoted tour group donned fetching blue hairnets and began the walk. We watched our fave teas being mixed, packed and boxed. (Apparently, and I concur, it takes three seconds for a machine to wrap a box and 10 minutes to get it off.) And when we walked into the Peppermint room, our eyes began to sting and our lungs began to sing with the sharp, pungent aroma of the precious peppermint oils exuding from the herbs. This room is mostly locked down as the oil could permeate the flavours of the other herbal and fruit teas produced here.

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The company tries to be as sustainable as it can be and the tea bags no longer have strings and the actual bags that contain the tea are biodegradable and one of our guides said she packs her used bags around her garden plants to hold water and dissolve ethically.

A few tasting sips and a major purchase of boxes and away we went most happily. On the driveway out of the complex I saw my first Groundhogs . . . too cute.

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There was a foodies market on in town so we meandered among the food and produce stalls. And in keeping with the tea theme we visited two tea shops (what is it Boulder, craft beer in competition with the humble cuppa?).

We saw the large tea/cafe emporium, Boulder Dushanbe Tea house that is most exotic but packed to the teapot brim on market day.

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So into the main mall here for an elegant tea experience at Ku Cha House of Tea. We settled on an ethereal white tea that was delicate and totally tea-zen.

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So, this busy bee little city with its outdoorsy attitude and athletic ambience can turn on the tea charm, and sit quietly and contemplate the Colorado big sky and the art of sipping a cheery brew.

Writer Bev Malzard has just finished her tea that she purchased in June. Damn! Best head back to Boulder, sooner than later.

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Visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/lifestyle/vacation-ideas/things-to-do-in-boulder/

Visit: www.celestialseasonings.com/visit-us/

Visit: www.boulderteahouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnam & Singapore take the cake

Vietnam & Singapore take the cake

It’s time to talk about cake again. Classic high tea doesn’t have to be taken in an English country garden. These two teas enjoyed in Asia take the cake!

When I’m travelling I always plan an afternoon tea experience into the itinerary mix. I think it is the most civilised and friendly ritual anyone could indulge themselves it.

My two standouts for last year (2018) are both set in Asia. The first was in Hanoi, Vietnam (yes, there’s so much more than pho) and the second was in Singapore (hold the chilli and pass the cakes!).

Hanoi

To stay in the Sofitel Legend Hanoi Metropole Hotel is to be treated like royalty and to be immersed in Hanoi’s long and complex history. The French carved out a colony in Vietnam from 1887 until its defeat in the First Indochina War in 1954 when independence was claimed for the country.

After that Vietnam couldn’t catch a break and until the mid 70s war between North and South with many other nations putting their oar in, raged until peace at last.

The French left many beautiful buildings especially in the north – Hanoi has the lion’s share of splendid, restored colonial villas and public buildings. The Queen is the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, gleaming white, brass polished as a shining ritual and all things here, tres bon. The staff still greet each guest throughout the hotel with a warm “bonjour”.

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The hotel includes 364 rooms and the historic Metropole wing has 106 guestrooms and three Legendary Suites. The suites are named after famous residents and visitors to the hotel (Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham).

Afternoon tea here is best entered into with a stout heart and a competitive spirit.

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Every day, between three and 5.30pm, an irresistible chocolate library opens in the Club Bar. Praline, ganache, éclairs, mille-feuille pastries, chocolate fountain, a selection of every imaginable kind of French pâtisseries and delectable chocolate in all shapes and form appears and appeals seductively to the afternoon tea fanatic.…its reputation has spread well beyond the borders of Vietnam.

Made from the finest Vietnamese grown cocoa, the Metropole Ganaches are carefully prepared to make the finest grade couverture chocolate. The chef here was dipping tiny matcha nougat squares in chocolate while we watched. There were two of us and we decided to share the love. One of us would take the High Tea and the other would take up the Chocolate Library challenge. This is a buffet extraordinaire – try one of everything – chocolate truffle, mousse and ice cream, macarons, a chocolate fountain and a hot chocolate for good measure.

The High Tea comes on a layered stand – where to start? From the bottom with savoury snacks including baby quiche Lorraine’s and tiny sandwiches. Up a level and the scones call to you. Jam and cream of course and decorated fruit tarts – on top now – a display of wee cakes to slip delicately into one’s mouth.

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There are other wonderful restaurants here – but don’t book on the same day as you have the High Tea.

From the Paris-inspired cafe La Terrasse, to the popular poolside Bamboo Bar or Vietnamese restaurant Spices Garden, the multi-award French restaurant Le Beaulieu or the stylish Italian-influenced restaurant and new lounge Angelina – the hotel promises a gastronomic journey.

And did I mention cakes?

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SINGAPORE

I once read a food travelogue that described Singapore as the ‘world’s best restaurant’. Every Asian cuisine melds with all world food here and whether you eat at markets, food courts, hole-in-the-wall treasures or five-star gourmet extravaganzas – there is not a dish that you could miss out on here.

I’m a sucker for simple old-school chicken and rice and anything that is presented from Little India and have always been on the hunt for the perfect afternoon tea.

On my most recent visit I finally got to enjoy afternoon High tea at the famous Fullerton Hotel.

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The magnificent Fullerton Building is a grand neoclassical landmark built in 1928. Gazetted in December 2015 as a National Monument, it was once home to Singapore’s General Post Office, the Exchange Room and Exchange Reference Library, and the prestigious Singapore Club. Today, The Fullerton Hotel is a stunning 400-room heritage hotel in Singapore.

Located in the Fullerton Hotel Singapore’s vast sunlit atrium lobby, The Courtyard (North and South sections) is the lively restaurant setting for all-day dining, whether for a light meal, a signature Japanese or Indian curry buffet, leisurely afternoon tea with unlimited replenishment of your tiered contents and free-flowing coffee and tea; or an elegant cocktail.

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We stuck with the afternoon tea and despite the generous offer to replenish . . .we only ordered extra scones, they were that good!

Tastefully furnished with plush sofas and a friendly ambience – the tea event was being enjoyed my many other High Tea aficionados.

Our tea arrived as the lovely silver art deco three-tiered stand arrived laden with all that is good under heaven. The scones are a little exclusive and like to be served away from the rest of the sweet treats – they arrive on their own plate, jam and cream to the side.

Small sandwiches, finger style were filled with egg, smoked salmon and smoked duck. Brie cheese with plum jelly on a hazelnut cracker was devoured without a second thought. Little samosas, miniature pies covered the savoury offerings and the various layers of all types of cakes and patisserie beckoned. Chocolate éclair, lemon tart and English fruit cake were savoured slowly.

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A special, traditional Singapore cake is the Kueh Lapis. The cake has, it is reported, to have its origins in the Nonya cuisine or the Indonesia cook book, who knows? The delicate cake is a layered cake, sometimes called the thousand-layer cake – or ladder cake. No matter where it comes from, it was delicious, light and geometrically perfectly layered.

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Writer, Bev Malzard continues her arduous quest in search of the perfect afternoon tea or slice of cake. She’s probably found it/them but is usually in a sugar coma and doesn’t know cake from a meat pie. 

                                           Doing my best to be ladylike.

This article was originally published in http://www.mydiscoveries.com.au

 

 

 

Morocco gets on my goat!

Morocco gets on my goat!

This is not fake news or fake photos. There we were, driving along a flat, dry part of the western Moroccan landscape dotted with small farm houses and solitary argan trees (agania spinosa), endemic to Morocco.

I squinted at the tree in the distance, with its limbs spread out in the sun and great clumps of wooly white stuff mid branches.

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As we drew closer I doubled up with laughter – goats up a tree. I had never seen such a thing.

On top of a tree! Here, in the south-west of Morocco, in North Africa where the plants and trees are far apart and fewer, goats use their climbing skills to find their food. Here the animals have climbed up an argan tree to get to the fresh fruit at the top. They can climb an impressive 8-10 metres to do this.

The good oil

Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta.

Argan oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and has moisturising, anti-aging and antioxidant properties. … in short, it promises results as a powerful anti-wrinkle cream. (I hope this works!)

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Moroccan argan oil is made from the seed of the Argan tree), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and Algeria. While the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk, some Berber women will hand-pick and open the nut to get at the seed.

The trees often grow to up to 8 metres and the goats have no qualms about moving along the thorny branches in search of the tree’s bitter fruit.

The argan fruit resembles a shriveled golden apple. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel and contains the fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that looks like a dried olive.

The crazy tree goats love the pulp. They eat the whole fruit despite the fact that their bodies can’t digest the nut. Greedy goats!

The argan nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats and once they are excreted, people gather them from the droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside.

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The production and marketing of argan oil is a valuable resource for Morocco – economically and for education. Stats (compiled by the University of California) of enrolment data from 1981-2010 concluded that the rise in production of argan oil is directly linked to an increase in Moroccan girls being able to attend secondary school.

And back to goats in trees  . . . even after feeding their faces, the goats hang around on the branches of the trees just looking out at the horizon . . . excellent for photography and tourism.

Writer, Bev Malzard was smitten by the goats-in-trees phenomenon and grabbed a baby goat to cuddle while standing under the tree. She took the goat to Marrakech, bought it dinner, a new cardigan and a phone card. But nothing persuaded the animal to get on a plane to travel to Australia. Goat’s loss! Malzard is currently under arrest for trying to smuggle a baby donkey into Oz, will she never learn?

Travel to Morocco with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

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Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee clutch or . . . get some caffeine into you.

Coffee snob? Think that cafe latte is the one and only? When you take a sip of this beautiful beverage it’s about the shot, the kick, the blend, so take a chance and discover other coffee styles.

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Australia has one of the most eclectic, thriving food scenes around and a cafe culture to match. So naturally, we don’t mess around when it comes to coffee. But do we know our way around the world’s coffees? Read on.

1 ITALIAN CAPPUCCINO

This splendidly evolved cuppa is named after the Capuchin friars’ cloaks. The word ‘cappuccio’ means ‘hood’ in Italian, and the ‘-ino’ ending makes it what’s called the ‘diminutive’.

In other words, instead of just meaning ‘hood,’ ‘cappuccino’ means ‘little hood’.

It’s because of the hoods worn by a particular order of Franciscan monks which was founded in the early 16th century that they were given this moniker – Capuchin monks, or “Cappuccini” in Italian.

The wonderful beverage is: double espresso with steamed milk creating a lovely ‘crema’. (Italians do not drink cappuccino after midday.)

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2 GREEK COFFEE

This is a strong brew, served with foam on the top and the grounds in the bottom of the cup

Strong ground powdered coffee spooned into a briki (Greek coffee pot), water added with a little sugar, boiled and stirred roughly. The ‘crema’ is a shiny foaming surface. Served in tiny cups and downed in two sips. (Order cafe metreo for a little sugar included.)

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3 VIENNA COFFEE

An indulgent traditional drink made with two shots of black espresso in a standard size cup and infusing the coffee with a generous amount of whipped cream. Swirl the cream and dust with chocolate sprinkles. Expect this elegant coffee to arrive at your table served on a small silver tray accompanied by a glass of water.

https://www.wien.gv.at/english/culture-history/viennese-coffee-culture.html

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4 NOUS-NOUS, MOROCCO

“Nous-Nous’ is Arabic for ‘half-half’, half coffee, half hot milk. A strong, tasty drink served in a little glass tumbler.

5.VIETNAM’S EGG COFFEE

Everyone at Hanoi’s humble Cafe Giang have come for “cà phê trúng,” or egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty of a creamy soft, meringue-like egg white foam perched on dense Vietnamese coffee. Nguyen Van Giang invented the recipe while working as a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in 1946. There was a shortage of fresh milk then, so whisked egg yolk was used as a substitute.

“All the foreigners and the Vietnamese in the hotel liked it,” says Van Dao. So he decided to leave the hotel to start selling egg coffee and create his own brand.

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6 BALI COFFEE

Or ‘Cat Poo’ coffee. Kopi luwak is the world’s most expensive coffee, produced from the coffee beans which have been digested by a civet cat that selects the finest, ripest coffee cherries to eat. It can’t digest the stone (the coffee bean) and poos them out, its anal glands imparting an elusive musky smoothness to the roasted coffee.

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And for coffee fiends there’s so much more . . .the heady Turkish coffee, Kahve; the Ethiopian Ceremonial coffee; the Ipoh white coffee of Malaysia . . .and the all-time great Australian flat white. A shot of espresso and hot milk, no adornment. Drink up!

Writer, Bev Malzard could not find a picture of Morocco’s nous-nous nor has she ever tasted it . . . but . . . next month she’ll be in Morocco and will hunt this coffee down. Watch this space.

All images from @unsplash http://www.unsplash.com

 

 

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Bali: then and now

Bali: then and now

NEWS . . .NEWS . . .NEWS . . .Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach becomes the first 5-star rated Hotel Indigo in the world. The five star rating is from LSU Pariwisata Bali Mandiri, a tourism association in Bali responsible for all Indonesian property ratings, which is part of the National Accreditation Committee in Indonesia.

Following is a post from last year, and after the accolade for Hotel Indigo – thought it time to rerun . . .

Our car swept into the hotel’s large arrival pavilion, and we walked into a vast, endless gallery of light and space, a breezeway of extraordinary proportions dotted with chairs of differing design and wonderful hanging objects of light shade designs.

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This was the recently opened Hotel Indigo, Seminyak Bali. A five-star beauty. In the heat of the day we were offered a cooling drink, wet towels and sincere smiles of welcome.

Our room’s hero was the enormous bed, the bathroom had a shower with a nod to old Bali with a large, gold pitcher mimicking the ‘mandi’ style of the simple Bali way to bathe.

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It was then it hit me, how things have changed, Well, of course I have changed in 30 years and so has Bali! I arrived here with a presentable piece of luggage and not a world-weary backpack. I was wearing linen pants and not a long cheesecloth skirt. And I was immediately unashamedly in love with this hotel.

Bali for a beginner

An earlier visit for me was a spontaneous decision to go to Bali when I found I had a secret stash of $500 in an old bank account. I had been back in Sydney for 10 months after living in Europe for three years. I was restless and needed to get away again. Bali it was. That $500 was a bloody fortune then.

I stayed at el cheapo places along the way when on the island; motels. guesthouses and losmens (a bit like homestay but in a family compound). The places cost no more than $2 a night. Came with a room, simple furnishings if any, a bed, overhead fan and a mandi. A mandi is a divine way to clean yourself. Usually round about a square metre concrete tub filled with clean water. You stand outside the tub, soap up then dip a pale or pitcher in the tub, scoop up the water and pour it over your head and body.

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Cheeky monkey, and a minute later he grabbed hold of the top of my dress and dragged it down about my waist.

Travelling solo I met up with other girls and we ate together, went to the beach and one of them (from Canada) and I ended up in a tiny truck, sharing the back with large bundles of bamboo, a pig and an old lady with large holes in her pierced ears that held her rolled up money (notes). She kept on plucking at the blonde hair on my thighs and chuckling for the long journey

We arrived in Singaraja, an old Dutch port in the north of Bali to see a river crowded with rubbish and filth. This was my first encounter with a polluted river. Not much has changed in Indonesia.

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River pollution in the 1980s . . .and it gets worse, right into the 21st century.

The beaches along the coast up north have black sand and the sea is warm. There were few tourists in town back in the day and most restaurants were tiny shopfronts selling basic but good nasi goreng and sates. But there was always a good breakfast even at the cheapies, fresh fruit, strong Bali coffee and flakey pastries.

Back down south to what was to become known as Bali’s cultural heart, Ubud. It was a sleepy village then, where bullock drawn carts crackled though the dirt roads, someone would be churning ice in a roadside cart making ‘icejuices’ (ice, condensed mild and fresh fruit) and where women still comfortably walked around with bare breasts as they went about their daily chores and placed pretty Hindu votives on the side of the road and at entrances to homes and shops.

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Hardly another tourist in sight.

After two weeks in Bali I had $150 left over and ended up giving it to a guy with a motor bike whom I had hired to drive me to all the sites in and around Ubud. His response surprised me, he said that the money would keep his two daughters in school for a year. Sometimes you don’t know when you do a good deed.

Years on and $500 wouldn’t go so far. But Bali is still quite inexpensive.

And no longer do I sleep under rickety fans, eat for 50c at the beaches or get a baby oil massage on the sand and fry like a hot chip!

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Ready to roast. What were we thinking?

At Hotel Indigo I swam in beautiful pools, sat in the shade under tropical foliage around one of the pools and the sun didn’t stand a chance with my 30 plus sunscreen.

BALIXOLOGY

Instead of drinking ‘java’ on the roadsides I sipped on Earl Grey tea in the beautiful Pottery Cafe at Hotel Indigo. Here all types of coffee is roasted and served. Choose from the wide variety of beans grown throughout Indonesia. But for me, it has to be tea in the afternoon because you have to eat scones, jam and cream with your soothing cuppa. The main restaurant is large and inviting with a visible kitchen and after experiencing dinner and breakfast (lunch was lazy hot chips by the pool), I could see how the hotel has lifted Bali’s culinary offerings. Beware the breakfast menu! After fruit, toast, eggs, and a few other delights, you think you’ve finished, then a sneaky fella turns up at your table with fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolat au pain – what can you do? And with the coffee roasting next door, a large cup is mandatory!

The hotel is opposite the beach at Seminyak, separated only by the road. So, with local design ambience and colour, the hotel has a typically local feel, but  . . . everything is better on this side of the road.

Time flies, and my early hippie days were fun and frivolous, but older and not wiser now, the comfort of a beautiful hotel, the kindness of Balinese staff and the indulgence of a five-star experience beats the past. And if I feel nostalgic for the old days, I’ll just fill my elegant pitcher in my shower and pour water over my head.

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Writer, Bev Malzard was a guest at Hotel Indigo Seminyak www.hotelindigo.com/Bali

And despite age and moving on from the past, she can still rock a cheesecloth skirt, but refuses to have an afro perm – one of her appearance fails in the early 1980s.

Make mine a Michelin

Make mine a Michelin

Travelling across the arid plains of the autonomous region handsomely called Extremadura, in Spain, there are sleepy, medieval towns that have not been pillaged by 21st century tourists. The classic three towns that not only have character, personality, history and more than enough charm to capture your imagination are: Trujillo, Cacares and Merida (settled in 258BC).

We meandered into Cacares at a Don Quixote on an old donkey pace. The old stones in the preserved building glowed like old gold in the midday sun and the welcome was warm.

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Caceres has been named Spain’s Gastronomic Capital and as a special treat we are to have lunch at a two-star Michelin restaurant, Atrio.

This complete, ancient city from the Middle Ages oozes solid confidence – and so it should as it has embraced, been attacked, colonised and endured with tenacity a blended mix of Roman, Islamic, Northern Gothic and Italian Renaissance civilisations throughout history. And here stand the buildings to prove it. About 30 towers still remain from the Muslim period in Caceres. And as we step over cobble stones and steps that have been polished by thousands of feet, we walk in to Atrio Restaurant Hotel in the Plaza de San Mateo.

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A tour of the hotel with its cutting edge flair; the building following a canonical design in harmony with its surroundings we visit rooms with a simple ambience of neutrals and natural light. The terrace offers views of distant mountains and the neighbourliness of historic Caceres.

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Before we were actually served our endless degustation we met with chef Tono (Juan Antonio Perez) a charming, modest man with an impish grin and a sparkling personality. He and his partner Jose Polo are behind this splendid, felicitous complex where we were about to encounter the essence of Cacares.
Our lunch followed a perfect pattern of delightful, imaginative dishes served with a light flourish. From a delicate bisque, to silvery slivers of tuna cappaccio and on and on and on until dessert, a dash of foam, fruit crème and a fine stick of chocolate.

What a privilege for my eyes and stomach to be so gastronomically rewarded – for what I know not, but I’ll happily accept the prize.
Writer Bev Malzard travelled to Spain, flying Emirates from Sydney to Dubai then in to Madrid. Visit: http://www.emirates.com

Visit: http://www.visitspain.com

Visit: http://www.turismoextremadura.com

Hola! (Extremadura means Hard and Strong.)