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Fresh Air in the Cotswolds

Summer 2017: Fresh Air 17 in The Cotswolds (June 11 – 2 July 2017)

Summer in the UK comes and goes without notice, and as a mini-heat wave came upon us last weekend I decided to take my camera to one of the prettiest rural areas in England, Cotswolds!

The Cotswolds is a fairy tale area that lies pretty much in Gloucestershire and Oxford, approximately 90 min from London. The ancient medieval villages, rolling hills, crystal  water streams, thatched cottages, English gardens and flowers will suggest you are visiting Alice in Wonderland!

We headed towards the little village of Bibury to stay at The Swan hotel. The hotel is part of Cotswold Inns Hotels and it is right in the middle of the village.Foto 1 - Fresh Air Getting there after 5 pm was perfect, we managed to enjoy the village without too many tourists around. Bibury is two small villages separated by the river Coln, on one side is Bibury and on the other side Arlington. In the Arlington side, you can visit what is probably the most famous photograph spot in the Cotswolds, Arlington Row. Foto 2 - Fresh Air

 

These cottages became an instant tourist attraction in 2014 after featuring inside every British passport. On the Bibury side we visited St Mary’s church and walked past Bibury Court, probably the most amazing country house I’ve ever seen. Foto-3-4---Fresh-AirThis gorgeous house dates from the 16th century, until recently a hotel but according to one of the many friendly locals it is now the private house of Sir Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple. Apparently he bought the house in 2015, and renovations are underway until 2019!

The following day we briefly stopped at the New Inn B&B in the village of Coln St Aldwyns. We were trying to get a room for the Saturday night but sadly they were fully booked. Bella, the very friendly host, suggested us to visit her village, Quenington and  follow the signs to Fresh Air 17. Fresh Air? Isn’t that everywhere in the Cotswold? Well not this one!

Fresh Air 2017  is a biennial sculpture exhibition in the grounds of Quenington Old Rectory, the private house of Mr and Mrs David Abel Smith. After paying a very reasonable entry fee, £ 5 each, we went into the grounds and gardens. They were quintessential English but full of contemporary sculptures, made the landscape surreal! Artists from all over the world are exhibiting and all sculptures are for sale. Students from various colleges are also invited to take part.

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This unique exhibition has been growing steadily from its original 300 visitors in 1997 to over 14000 visitors in 2015. If you want to be one of the lucky ones in 2017 and see modern and cutting edge contemporary artwork in stunning outdoors you have the chance until July 2!

There is a very classy and beautiful pub close to this exhibition, so if you can avoid weekends you may be lucky to find a room at The Keeper’s Arms

The Cotswold are extremely popular, and deservedly so, however just straying from the beaten track will rip fabulous rewards!

 

Descubriendo el Antiguo Este Irlandes

En donde esta el ‘Antiguo Este’ de Irlanda?

La Oficina de Turismo de Irlanda ha hecho un excelente trabajo de promoción en estos últimos  años. Con la creación de su más reciente ruta Irlanda, el Antiguo Este se busca promocionar indómitos paisajes con más de 5000 años de historia, desde antiguas tumbas neolíticas hasta los guerreros Vikingos!

Intinerario de 3 dias

Nada mejor que empezar a descubrir este histórico Este que visitando el Valle de Boyne, a solo 40 minutos al norte de Dublín. Se dice que este hermoso valle es la cuna del antiguo Este, con uno de los más importantes paisajes prehistóricos del mundo, el equivalente a el Valle de los Reyes en Egipto. Aquí nuestra primera visita fue al Brú Na Bóinne , designado patrimonio de la humanidad en 1993.

Desde el centro de visitas se puede acceder a todos los montículos de tumbas megalíticas, Newgrange, Knowth y Dowth. Visitamos Knowth que consta de un montículo principal y 18 tumbas mas pequeña alrededor. En la sala de exhibición se puede conocer la historia de Knowth y ver claramente el pasaje oriental de la tumba.

Unas cómodas escaleras llevan a la parte superior del montículo. Desde alli se pueden admirar una de las mejores vistas del valle de Boyne. Brú Na Bóinne es ideal para viajes de espiritualidad y viajes holísticos, aqui se siente una inmensa paz espiritual. La energía de estas tumbas ancestrales es abrumadora, más palpable que la del círculo interior en Stonehenge!

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El campo de Batalla de Boyne fue nuestra próxima visita. Esta fue una batalla fue entre el rey William III, el rey depuesto James II de Inglaterra y el rey Luis XVI de Francia por lo que dio origen a su otro nombre, la batalla de los tres reyes en 1690. En el centro de visitantes podrás descubrir todo lo referente a esta importate batalla. Representaciones de caballería y armas de fuego utilizadas en esta batalla se pueden todos los domingos de Junio a Agosto.

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De allí al Beaulieu House & Gardens a las orillas del río Boyne. Esta casa irlandesa fue construída a finales del siglo 17, es habitada por la misma familia desde hace más de once generaciones.  Perfecto ejemplo de casa señorial, se pueden apreciar finos interiores, exuberantes trofeos barrocos, armas, retratos familiares y uno de los más impresionantes frescos de techo. La visita a sus jardines está incluida en el precio!

 

 

 

Finalmente, en Dublín y después de reponer energías con una deliciosa pinta de Guinness, Epic Museum nos esperaba. Es un nuevo museo interactivo sobre la inmigración irlandesa, una verdadera explosión visual para conocer, apreciar y disfrutar su cultura y todo lo que es irlandés alrededor del mundo.

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Al día siguiente nos despedimos de Dublín para visitar otra monumental casa señorial, Russborough House & Parks A solo 40 min de Dublín esta espléndida casa al pie de las montañas de Wicklow está inmersa es una de los paisajes más dramáticos del Este Antiguo. La casa también contiene importantes obras de arte, antiguedades la y salones que parecieran haberse congelando en el tiempo.

 

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En camino a Kilkenny pasamos por Jerpoint Park  el ‘pueblo perdido’ de San Nicolás. Jerpoint, es un pueblo medieval en ruinas a las orillas del hermoso Río Nore. Según la leyenda en este pueblo medieval se enterraron y protegieron los restos de San Nicolás. Sus dueños Joe and Maeve O’Connell nos guiaron hasta las ruinas de la Iglesia y la efigie de su tumba. La leyenda cuenta que hace más de 800 San Nicolás fue traído a Irlanda desde Bari, para protegerlo de la guerra entre islam y cristianismo. Siendo Irlanda el punto cristiano más lejano de la zona de conflicto fue el lugar ideal para su eterno reposo. Aquí además disfrutamos de unos deliciosos dulces en el salón de té y de las habilidades de Joe ordenando a su perro ovejero a controlar su rebaño.

 

Kilkenny joya Medieval

Kilkenny fue un gran final para este primer recorrido por el Antiguo Este. Este pequeño pueblo fue en su momento la capital de la Irlanda Medieval, por lo que refleja una rica herencia en cada uno de sus rincones.

Sus origines comenzaron con un asentamiento monástico fundado por su Santo Patrón, St Canice en el siglo sexto, de allí el origen de su actual promoción ‘La Milla Medieval’. Caminar por el centro de Kilkenny es fácil y se puede hacer en poco tiempo, pero si se quieren admirar sus angostas calles, arcos, caminos de piedra y bellos paisajes puede tomar todo un día.

Que puedes visitar en Kilkenny

El recién inaugurado ‘Museo de la Milla Medieval’ . La construcción del museo tomo 5 años de excavación y renovación en la Iglesia St Mary, en pleno corazón de Kilkenny. Este museo expone de una manera dinámica e interactiva el trabajo y vida en Irlanda a través de 800 años de historia. Además, se puede apreciar réplicas de las altas cruces de casi más de 4 metros de altura y la más larga colección de tumbas del renacimiento.

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En Kilkenny el entretenimiento nocturno es muy animado. Diversidad de pubs, bares y eventos musicales lo hacen un destino popular para grupos de despedidas de solteros. Los fines de semana puede ser tan bullicioso como en su mejor época medieval!

La principal atracción es el Castillo de Kilkenny es su castillo. Ubicado en un promontorio con altura estratégica aqui se pueden admirar las mejores vistas de Kilkenny y el Río Nore. En sus 800 años de existencia ha experimentado adiciones y alteraciones, por lo que hoy en día en una compleja estructura de varios estilos arquitectónicos. El castillo fue el asentamiento de una de las más poderosas familias de la zona, la familia Butler. En su poseción desde 1391 y no pudiendo mantener su costo, en 1967 lo vendieron  a un comité de restauración por tan solo 50£.

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¿Lo mejor de la zona? Su gente sin ninguna duda. Cuando ya pensaba que no había otra razón para enamorarme más de Irlanda conocí el Antiguo Este!

Para itinerarios, hoteles y servicios contáctanos a info@ndlbeurope.com

After a fabulous Fam Trip I could not leave Molise without seeing its famous coast in the Adriatic Sea. A few days after finishing our mountain trip I rented a car in Naples and drove all the way to Termoli. From here I knew I could explore the short 39 kilometers of Molise’s coast.

Driving up to Termoli, I found myself once more immersed in the majestic Molise mountains. After driving pass Campobasso landscape certainly change, softer hills and valleys were emerging. This main road towards Termoli goes over the Guardalfiera Lake, apparently the longest road over water in Europe. Just driving across this beautiful landscape was worth the visit!

My fist visit was to a family owned vineyard, Borgo Di Colloredo  in the town of Nuova Cliternia. The Di Giulio family arrived from Abruzzo to Molise in 1960 to start a new life, planting their first vineyard and never looked back. Nearly 70% of their wine is now exported to Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. They produce the typical southern Italian grapes varieties such as Aglianico, Greco, Trebbiano, Malvasia and Falanghina but they are also experimenting and innovating with other varieties.

Molise II 1They also have a stunning luxury retreat call Masseria Le Piane. This is a private rural house with 4 rooms, restaurant, swimming pool and quite the best views of the Adriatic Sea! It is so secluded and peaceful that the only way you can reach it if by driving into a ‘Tratturo’. What is a Tratturo? Molise’s ancient roads where shepherds used to move their herds between Abruzzo and Puglia. Today these wild roads are quite popular to explore the region, lots of  travel companies organize adventure tours by foot, jeep or horse riding.DSC_4307

Next stop? A visit to an award-winning olive oil factory in Ururi, the Marina Colonna Factory . My first impression was that I had arrived into a natural conservation area, the sound of birds in the trees surrounding the main house were incredible. Signora Marina kindly show me around her estate. The business is being in her family for over 200 years. Her factory produce four different oils from 18000 olive trees. You could also stay in this charming estate. Ms Marina has a luxurious two-bedroom private apartment in her stately family house.

I drove back to Termoli eager to see what somebody said was the most colorful sunset in Italy. With camera in hand I walked around the very small old town. It took less than 5 min to find the perfect spot, a little balcony behind the main square overlooking the bay. It was quite spectacular, friendly locals were stopping all the time to reassure me I was in fact in the best place to see their sunset!Molise II 2

Waking up very early next day to an even better sunrise I walked around the beach, towards the only surviving Trabocco. These are old wood constructions over the water designed by fishermen in the 18th century, most of them now close to the public. The sea in Termoli is one of the cleanest I have seeing in Italy. Their spectacular shades of aquamarine and emerald colors reminded me of ‘Palafitos’, over water bungalows in my beloved Venezuela.

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My final destination were the towns of Carovilli, Guadiarola and Sepino. In Carovilli I had the best meal of this trip, at the Masseria Monte Pizzi Here Nadia and her family will prepare delicious meals with local and homegrown products and if you would like to enjoy their excellent wine you could also stay in one of their four rooms overnight. In this Masseria you will enjoy without a doubt the best views of Molise and the Apennine mountains!Molise II 5

In Guardiarola I visited Barak’s Casale Kolidur is another enchanting rural house in the Molise mountains. The owner Barak runs many different activities, from Yoga retreats to private sailing excursion to the Tremiti Islands. Final visit of the trip was to Saepinum, today known as Altilia. This was a Samnites town (600 BC) capture by the Romans in 293 BC. Remains of the city walls, theater, temples of Jupiter and Apollo plus other city buildings can be explored and you can go as close as you like! Free entrance.

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Now you know, Molise is an Italian region full of history, beautiful nature, amazing landscapes, divine food, great wine, award winning olive oil and extremely friendly people. If you want to feel true Italian hospitality and reasonable prices head towards this hidden gem of Italy!

For itineraries, hotels and services please contact us at info@ndlbeurope.com

Last minute invitation!

Last weekend I had a last-minute invitation to Molise by the Italian Tourist Board. First thing people asked when I said I was going to Molise was: where?

Molise is one of the smallest and probably lesser known regions in Italy. It’s Italy’s 20th region and the last to be created, in 1963, after they decided to separate from Abruzzo. Its borders are with Abruzzo, Lazio, Campania and Puglia and if you don’t know your Italian geography that well, it is kind of above the heal of your Italian boot map. I’ve been curious about this region as in all my years in the travel industry Molise has never been promoted, no wonder why the hashtag #MoliseEsiste is popular! (Molise does exist!)

Our Itinerary

You can reach the region by flying into Rome or Pescara. We flew into Rome and drove two hours south east until we reached the town of Castel del Giudice. This in what is known as ‘alto Molise’ (top of Molise) right next to Abruzzo. My first impression was how green and unspoiled the landscape was, it didn’t look anything like the other surrounding regions I know very well. Our first day started full of promise in a 4 x 4. Alessandro and Michele from Molise Explore were taking us for a drive around a valley full of wild horses, cattle, wild flowers and no roads! . The Montenero Valcocchiara valley is ideal for enjoying this wild and unique landscape. A glimpse of the snowy Apennines mountains in the background was a bonus!

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From here we head towards the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, the Park is right in the middle of these three regions. Our first visit was to the workshop of a leather artisan, Marruca  in the little town of Pizzone. You can visit her workshop for a couple of hours and learn how to do your own leather sandals. If you rather have your own made to measure leather shoes then she will happily take your measurement and post it wherever you are.

We continued to travel south, briefly stopping this time at the piazza of Castel San Vincenzo, where we enjoyed one of the most stunning scenery overlooking its beautiful lake and Mainarde mountains.

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After a few pictures and an expresso we went to visit its famous Abbey. The original Abbey was built in the 13th century and the entire monastery spanned few hectares, sadly it was destroyed on many occasions by the Saracens, so a new church was built in 1963.

Alessandro then drove all the way up to Monte Marrone, in the heart of this National Park, in pursuit of the best Italian picnic I’ve ever had! We stop near the top where we found the owners of la ‘Bottega dei Sapori’ (Scapoli) twins Alessandro and Antonio cooking ‘al fresco’ the most unique pasta dumpling I’ve ever tasted, the famous ‘raviolo scapolese’. This raviolo is filled with potato, meat, dried sausage, chard, mozzarella and parmesan, so each raviolo weights nearly 100 grams, a couple will be more than enough to keep you full all day!

Finally, and quite slowly after our big meal we were on our way to Scapoli. Our first visit was to get a ‘digestivo’ at the Rufo Distillery, one of the few distilleries in the region. Here owner Emanuele produces a large variety of typical Molise liquors and grappa. My favourite one the ‘trignolino’ made from wild berries, is quite like my beloved Spanish Pacharan! We then walked around this small old town to visit the Sampegna Museum (bagpipes), the most iconic instrument of the Molise music and folklore.

 

Our last stop of the day was in one of the prettiest towns in Molise, Fornelli Molise 4. As like most towns in Molise, it is a medieval town, and at 530 mts high altitude it is immersed in enchanting natural scenery. You can walk around on one of the best preserved castle walls I’ve ever see. The best time to visit is late afternoon as the sunset in this place is not to be missed! A famous quote in Fornelli says ‘unhappy the man who has never see the sun going down in Fornelli’. Here we also had one of the best meals on the trip, at the recently opened ‘La Vecchia Torre’, please do not leave without trying Ms Rosa’s heavenly Tiramisu!

On our second full day, we visited the town of Agnone, quite well known for the Marinelli Bell Foundry, one of the most ancient artisan bells producers in the world. This family business has been making artisan bells for over 900 years, you can visit the factory/museum to learnt how they are made. They use the Papal Coat of Arms in their bells as they were granted this privilege by Pope Pio XI in 1924 Molise 5.

After the visit we had another delicious picnic waiting for us, this time in Agnone’s countryside, the Verrino valley. Mr Leone and his two dogs were waiting for us to go truffle hunting. Yes, Molise is quite famous for its truffles, 40% of the Italian truffle market comes from Molise, white or black! May is not the best month to eat them as they are not as tasty but we found few of them and Michele added  to a delicious scramble egg.DSC_4096

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a wonderful farewell dinner enjoying a few bottles of delicious Tintilia wine from Torresacre Winery live music and dance we said goodbye to our hosts. The organizers, Molise Region, Molise Explore  and Omega Travel went beyond duty to make our stay a memorable one,.Their passion and love for this land was infectious. We visited many places of interest and saw the most incredible unspoiled natural landscape, I honestly didn’t expect much of Molise but left with a strong wish to come back to discover more of its land and culture. I am already planning another trip to the coast next week!

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