Category Archives: Travel

Walking In Thetford Forest

There is something undeniably therapeutic about being in a forest – the greenery is relaxing, the silence, the smells, the general aura of the trees, the feeling of being remote, the shade on a hot day …. Ever since I was a young child I have loved being amongst trees. My woodland playground in them days was Epping Forest, on the fringes of East London and Essex. A woodland setting for a hot July weekend away recently was bliss – destination Thetford Forest.

Mile Marker in Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest straddles the border between Suffolk and Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. It covers well over 19,000ha (47,000 acres). It is the largest lowland pine forest in England, although other trees are present including oak, beech, lime, walnut, red oak and maple. These hardwood trees are found along the sides of the roads acting as fire breaks. This Forest is actually manmade – a fact I was amazed to discover- it was created after the First World War in 1922 to provide a strategic reserve of timber since Britain had lost so many oaks and other slow growing trees as a consequence of the war.

Deep in Thetford Forest

Considering that 4 main roads bisect Thetford Forest and that visitor numbers exceed 1 million annually; the part of the forest we visited was extremely quiet and remote and we passed only a couple of fellow walkers going the opposite way to us. Thetford Forest is a very popular destination for mountain biking – there are several trails to make the most of the experience.

Driving through one of the main roads that bisect Thetford Forest

However, as my youngest son had a broken foot and was on crutches, we didn’t partake. At his insistence though, we did the 5 mile circular walk trail through the forest, starting from Lynford Hall, passing the metal statue of the Lynford Stag at the halfway stage, crossing the Lynford Lakes and back to the hall. The walk is actually a distance of 4.5miles (7.2km) but we did get lost and ventured down the wrong path and had to retrace our steps! As the weather was hot and dry, the paths were easy to walk on (and to use crutches) but there were some areas where the paths were overgrown and my son did have some trouble disentangling his crutches out of the grass!

Half Way – Lynford Stag

Thetford Forest is home to a large population of hares, rabbits, game birds, scarce breeding birds such as woodlarks and golden pheasants, and breeds of deer (muntjac, roe deer & red deer). The air was alive with the sounds of birdsong and you could hear the occasional rustle in the trees … was that a gruffalo?! …. alas we didn’t see any deer but we knew they were close by as we came across piles of deer poo pellets! Ethan was trying to avoid landing his crutches in them! By the lakes we saw a few frogs though…

Part of the Lynford Lakes

The wildlife are able to thrive in the forest because of the Forestry Commission’s strict policies – dogs are welcome to be walked in the area but must be kept on a lead at all times and kept away from the children’s play areas. In the Lynford Arboretum area dogs are not allowed (except guide dogs). Each winter, The British Siberian Husky Racing Association hold several husky racing events in the forest. I have been on a sledge driven by huskies when I was in Finland – they went really fast over bush and logs etc – it was like a rollercoaster! So I can only imagine what fun husky racing can be! Might be something to mark in the calendar….

Thetford Forest

Our start and end destination to our walk was the beautiful Lynford Hall, set in the heart of Thetford Forest. The original Hall was built in the 1800s and belonged to the Sutton family, and sat in its grounds of 7,718 acres. In 1857 Mr & Mrs Lyne Stephens took up residence & began to rebuild the present hall, designed by William Burn. It took 7 years to build, and when it was finished in 1869 it became a grade 2 Mansion. Mr Lyne Stephens made his money by inventing Dolls Eyes that opened and closed. In 1930 it became residence of Sir James Calder who frequently entertained his friend, the then American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, and his son, John F Kennedy, who eventually became US President. Even King Edward VII viewed Lynford Hall as a Royal Residence but chose Sandringham instead.

Nearly finished the walk…. the drive of Lynford Hall

In recent years Lynford Hall has been the setting for many popular TV series including “Allo Allo”, “Love On The Branch Line”, “You Rang My Lord” and “Dad’s Army”. Nowadays it is a hotel that also hosts events and weddings – such a great venue amongst the lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest that adjoin Thetford Forest itself.

Lynford Hall Country House Hotel

When we’ve visited Thetford Forest before we stayed at Center Parcs …. and there are various other lodges and campsites in the forest that offer accommodation in the forest. This weekend though we stayed at Lynford Hall. My boys said they felt very “Royal” ! I didn’t get a picture of my youngest going up and down the grand sweeping staircase with his crutches but I did get pictures of the gorgeous views and gardens…

Ornate gateway of Lynford Hall
A window view, Lynford Hall

One thing my sons were fascinated with was the old gramophone that sat outside our room – I think they were dying to have a go but didn’t! Standing in the ballroom I can just imagine the Royals and other VIPs of the day, dancing to the sounds of the gramophone…

The gramophone At Lynford Hall

What a weekend – a lovely mix of nature and history, peace and romance! Do trees inspire you in the same way?

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

For pinning later
Share This!
Pin It

Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

For Pinning Later

Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Lana KK

Abstract canvas paintings and gigantic world or country maps can help when designing your perfect interior. With basic pastel walls in rooms, which is the current trend, the splash of bright co ordinating colour from a large canvas painting adds not only colour but interest and character. I was lucky enough recently to catch up with Kathleen Kolibius-Konig, graphic designer, artist and owner of Lana KK ….Hi Kathleen..

Hello, I am Kathleen. I am a very creative but still goal oriented person. Besides my life as an artist and company owner, I love nature and animals. I enjoy spending time with my husband, our chicken, dogs and cockatoos. For people who do not know me perceive me as a reserved person, but if people get to know me better the find out that I am a very happy and warm person.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of your company, Lana KK?

I always loved art and design. I always wanted to inspire people to surround themselves with beautiful things.

I love the World Maps and the Wonderland Green Wall Picture particularly caught my eye! To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The world maps are our most successful products, closely followed by the abstract designs. 

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

I really love our world maps. Apart from the fact that the world maps are one of our most successful products, they represent a lot what Lana KK is about. Our goal was to create something new out of the ordinary world map. We thought that a world map could be great piece of art and design that people would love to have in their homes and offices. Picking a real favorite is hard for me as every picture represents a part of my own development.

I’m a bit of a map geek and your world maps are really gorgeous.  What do you like about maps and why do you think they are popular? 

I think we have found a really good balance between excellent design themes and geographic information. Our goal was to combine a piece of art with the benefits of a world map. Besides visuals, I think our customers love the cork magnetic variants of our world maps as this allows them to interact with the map and keep track of holiday dreams and memories. 

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being an artist or did you have other career plans?

I did not plan to be an artist. Although I always loved drawing, I imagined myself being an assistant or manager in a company. I love organizing things and building processes. Having my own company gives me the opportunity to do creative work and organize things. Win win.

As Lana KK  is based in Germany, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

At the moment, we deliver all over Europe regularly. We also deliver worldwide on request. As you can imagine, especially the shipment of large products, needs some extra planning, but we try to make everything possible for our customers.

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new artwork collection, where would you go and why?

I love places that are as natural as possible. I really enjoy to be astonished by nature in all of its beauty. For me there is no such thing as one single place for inspiration. Most of my inspiration I can draw from small details. I believe nature has always been the greatest inspiration for humans.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love showy and sporty outfits and shoes with a tendency towards elegance. I am always looking for special pieces with a great design. Sometimes I buy high heels just for the design. I do not wear them very often, but if I wear them I do them with pride 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I have no real favourites. Generally, I love sites with well curated offers.

Boots or Shoes?

Both 🙂 In everyday life I often prefer shoes. They are simple and comfortable. My husband and I enjoy walking with our dogs, that often requires the more practical choice. Sometimes I prefer boots, because I just think boots are more elegant and just look better on me.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Lana KK

https://www.lanakk.com/uk/

https://www.lanakk.com/uk/magazin.html

https://www.facebook.com/lanakkart/

https://www.instagram.com/lanakk_art/

https://www.pinterest.de/lanakkart/

Thank you Kathleen for fabulous abstract designs and for taking the humble world map to a new dimension. Dear reader, would you consider having a world map on your wall or do the abstract paintings strike more of a chord with you?

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kathleen (Lana KK)

Share This!
Pin It

Walking In The Saltmarshes

Happy New Year!

I’m lucky to have the salt marshes & mudflats virtually on my doorstep – it is just the place to blow away the cobwebs after days of overeating and drinking during the Christmas/New Year period. In fact, it is a great place to walk whatever season – the marshes change so much and the salty air is so embracing. On New Year’s Eve 2018 the weather was cloudy but mild – unlike previous years where the air was crisp and the skies were cloudless and blue. The ground was a bit muddy underfoot too … very muddy… but nothing that a good pair of wellies or walking boots can handle. So where are these salt marshes?

The green coastal areas are the salt marshes – my walks are at the north of the River Blackwater around the creeks of Tollesbury & Salcot

The Saltmarsh Coast is the 75 miles of coastline and creeks that stretch from the estuary of the River Crouch to the south to the estuary of the River Blackwater in the north, of the Maldon district of Essex in South East England. The Blackwater Estuary is internationally recognised as being an area of outstanding importance for wildlife and conservation – the marshes are habitat for migrant wildfowl and waders; and a magnet for thousands upon thousands of wild duck, geese and wading birds. On Old Hall Marshes it is estimated that around 4000 Brent geese feed here in winter. The site also supports 24 species of butterfly, dragon and damselflies.

No wildlife or birds to be seen today though! When the tide comes in the grasses are under water. Walking along the seawall at Tollesbury.

Historically the Romans were interested in this highly salty area – the Roman town of Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) is only around 10 miles away and the famous Maldon Salt is still produced in the town of Maldon. However, in the 19th century the major industry here was oyster dredging. Small oysters were dredged at Tollesbury and sent along to the Kent coast to mature. There are still small oysters to be found. As the Tollesbury mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, it is a good place to spot oystercatchers, so my birdwatcher friends tell me.

Oyster beds, River Blackwater… I took this photo in the summer from Tollesbury Wick Marshes.

One feature I always photograph whenever I walk the seawall and that is the Tollesbury Tree …. it looked quite lonely this week!

Tollesbury Tree

There were still grasses and berries abound but under the cloud the mud reigned supreme.

I can’t wait to show you the seawall in Spring and in the sunshine….here’s a sneak peak from a previous summer ….

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden; map downloaded from Maldon District Council’s Saltmarsh tourist site.

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Questlog

When I was younger, I used to collect pamphlets, tickets, postcards and all other paraphernalia, along with photographs, to stick in a photo album/scrapbook – memories of a holiday.  Nowadays, the urge to collect memories is still there … but the time to lovingly make up a photo album is not.  That is why I’m thrilled to welcome onto my blog, Frederic… he makes innovative storage memory boxes to keep your travel trip memorabilia in one place and they look more stylish than a row of photo albums taking up space in the loft! Hi Frederic!…

Hi, I’m Frederic,  I’m 29 and originally from the beautiful Black Forest in southwest Germany, where I am also producing the Questlogs. Some days of the week however, I live, study and work in Munich where I also got my business degree.

What exactly is a Questlog?

Functionally speaking, Questlogs are storage boxes for keepsakes collected while travelling. All those tickets, bottlecaps, leaflets, seashells and other souvenirs can find a place in a Questlog. However, on another level, Questlogs are instruments for preserving, enriching and sharing intercultural travel experience. They direct attention on the connection of geography, culture, experience as well as their anchors and manifestationsin the physical world.

What inspired you to start your company, Questlog?

Before I went to Taiwan for an exchange semester in 2013, I was looking for a good gift to bring that had some connection to Germany. Unfortunately, most stuff I could find were products that represented shallow stereotypes or were plain ugly souvenirs. Speaking of, many times when I came back from a trip and wanted to bring some gifts for friends, family and myself, I was staggered by the amounts of plasticky-miniature-landmark-keychain-scrap on display in tourist locations and airports. At the same time, I realized that “the best” souvenirs by definition were all those small items like tickets, bottlecaps etc. and that there was a lack of some attractive way to present them.  Combine those thoughts with the observation that people (me included) seemed to like collecting Starbucks cups, Hard-Rock Café shirts and similar universally designed object with local variations and voilà the basic idea for Questlog was born.

What is the Questlog made of?

Questlogs are laser cut from FSC certified Finnish birch plywood. Sanding, gluing, treatment with linseed oil and final touches are all done by hand.

When you buy a Questlog what do you get in the package?

Each Questlog comes with a small notebook that features some background texts on traveling, collecting souvenirs and reflecting on travel experience. Also included is a nail for hanging the Questlog on a wall and some information about the campaign we are doing in cooperation with Experiment e.V. to foster intercultural exchange of students.

What sort of “keepsakes” can you keep in a Questlog? Have you heard of any unusual items collected?

Questlogs are big enough for common formats of city maps and flyers. You can put printouts of pictures, handwritten notes, postcards, leftover cash or basically anything that would go in a photo album into your Questlog. On top of that, they provide that extra bit of space, which allows you to put more three-dimensional objects inside.  The most unusual collection I have heard of so far was from an old man at a market I went to. With gleaming eyes, he held a Questlog of Bavaria and said this would be the perfect box for collecting live beetles because they would get enough air in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I definitively spent many hours looking at maps and spinning globes, amazed about the size of it all compared to the tininess of the area that I had set foot on and seen with my own eyes. I remember virtually “flying” from city to city on google maps when it was first released. My dad travelled a lot for business and would always bring back seemingly mundane things like chewing gum and I was fascinated by the differences even in those everyday objects.

What was the first country you visited?

Growing up just ten minutes from the border to France and Switzerland, one of those was probably the first country I went to. The first long distance trip I have somewhat of memories of was to the US in 1995 when I was 7. My parents made amazing photo albums from our trips, which are some of the most precious items to me.  

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Taiwan is for sure one of my favorite places, maybe because I was able to spend almost a year in Taipei as an exchange student. The country has a unique mix of bustling cities, beautiful nature and an extraordinary mix of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous culture. People are extremely friendly, and the food is beyond description. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t been there to go and bring plenty of appetite.

What place is your least favourite and why?

In every place there are some areas and aspects I find more likeable than others, but so far, I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t love to return to and spend more time at. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to do the exploration in every place that it deserves.

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

The biggest surprise was probably also Taiwan. Biased by the “Made in Taiwan” image of cheaply produced electronics, I had put it in a bucket with China, Vietnam and the like. When I arrived at the airport, I expected busy street merchants and taxi drivers trying to rip off tourists. I was instantly blown away by the friendliness, discipline and modernity of the country and people.

What place are you looking forward to visiting the most & cross it off your bucket list?

The UK is definitively in my top five. I have been to London twice and next time I really want to see and explore the countryside and other cities that are laced with monuments of the country’s rich history and epic myths that were some of the first stories I heard as a kid.

As Questlog is based in Germany, are your products available to order worldwide?

Questlogs are shipped to all European countries and also worldwide although the shipping gets quite expensive. However, I am planning to set up manufacturing in other big markets in order to reduce shipping distances.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I wish I had some fancy answer to this question, but truth is that I have never been the most fashionable person and usually resort to jeans, sneakers and whatever the weather dictates to keep my torso at working temperature.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A comfy pair of shoes is the obvious essential but beyond that I have learned to love the benefits of light fabric shorts. And by shorts I mean shorts of a length I would probably not wear in Germany. Especially in humid climates I now feel miserable without them. An accessory I have learned to appreciate is a small foldable extra backpack for short overnight trips out of a major city, so I don’t need to carry my entire gear with me.

Boots or Shoes?

I vouch for shoes because they are just the lighter option but maybe that’s just my practicality and lack of sense for fashion.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog find out more about Questlog.

www.questlog.eu – For information and the shop.

https://www.instagram.com/qulog/ – For pictures of how Questlogs are made and used

Fabulous Frederic – thank you for joining me on my blog!  I am honoured that the British countryside is on your travel bucket list.  I think it is beautiful – but then, I am biased!  I was enthralled by the Black Forest & Lake Titisee when I visited a few years ago – the stories by the Brothers Grimm really came to life 🙂 Travel memories are so precious – and I think your Questlogs really help preserve them.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Frederic (Questlog)

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Donnie Rust

There’s more to my guest this week than meets the eye – and it’s not just the fact that he is 6ft 6 inches tall!  Donnie Rust is co founder, Editorial & Creative Director, & talented Travel Writer with the business and travel site, The Lost Executive.  He came to England in 2003 from Durban, South Africa and since his arrival he has caused a whirlwind … wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his guitar and stage presence; dabbled in the world of timeshares in Tenerife; fulfilled his writing dreams as an author with some fantasy books under his belt; co-founded a successful business & travel site…    so I just couldn’t wait to invite him onto my blog! Hi Donnie…..

Hi! I’m Donnie Rust, co-founder, editorial and creative director of The Lost Executive business and travel site. I am the show off of the team and responsible for much of the creative planning and getting us both into trouble.

Growing up in Durban, South Africa, you arrived in the UK in 2003 & have had some interesting jobs since then including being a timeshare salesman in Tenerife, a naked busker starring in your own show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011, an author of occult-noir genre books and travel writer & co-founder of the website magazine Lost Executive. What made you decide to launch Lost Executive?

My co-founder and I wanted to highlight the importance of bridging the gap between business and leisure while providing a real value to businesses seeking content creation and promotion. Also, it put me in touch with some places offering really good suits. (I love my suits.) I am also a writer by trade and enjoy using words to create something special and useful. Most importantly though, is I love to travel. I love being exposed and plunged into new cultures and social surroundings. Seeing new places. It helps remind me how big the world is and how small my role in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I was very much a geek myself as a child. Having grown up in South Africa I was quite outdoorsy, but preferred to be sitting down either drawing, reading or writing. I wrote my first novel when I was 9 and a half wanting to be published before I was 10, however this was the days of DOS and one glitch on the computer lost everything. I did a great deal of martial arts growing up so I did pay a lot of attention to the orient, I was also very interested in mythology, theology and fiction. Always been bookie I guess. So that covers Greece, Egypt, Rome, Africa and Asia.  Also, South Africa is a young country, it’s a very old place but a young country, it doesn’t have the same sort of heavy history that you find in Europe or the UK. I was fascinated by the idea of castles and ruins that had been up for centuries because all the buildings in SA were new. Culture wise, you won’t find a more diverse country. Being a saffa you’re exposed to the cultural differences from a young age: I had friends who were Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, Indian and white, all with their own backgrounds and beliefs.

You grew up in Durban,South Africa – so apart from your own country, what was the first country you visited?

I suppose that would be Lesotho, but I don’t think that has to count. Officially it would be Britain, England.

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Cape Town is still one of my favourite places in the world. I know I’m supposed to say Durban, and Durban is beautiful but there is something majestic and trendy about Cape Town. I love it because of it’s energy and its buzz and the breathtaking scenery is free to everyone.

I lived in Tenerife for a while, so I like the Canaries. Not a fan of them as a holiday destination because it’s very “all inclusive”, but living and working there was fun, for what I can remember of it.

I like to travel to the Highlands of Scotland whenever I am able, Foyers on the shores of Loch Ness is one of my favourite places. There’s a bnb there calld Foyers House which has a view of the forests and the mists that are absolutely singular. Good place to go for a respite. Especially as last time I went the owner confiscated my phone.

What place is your least favourite and why?

Very difficult question to answer as I try to focus on the good bits. Also any bad experiences usually make the best stories afterwards. To be honest this question has stumped me a little bit. I’m not a fan of Luton if that helps?

Donnie with The Lost Executive crew

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

Norway. Bergen. I went there earlier this year. I’ve never seen a city so clean, so technology intelligent (everywhere took card payments even on top of a mountain), everyone was friendly. The city of Bergen is also very, very energy aware, so at night time the city is dark. So dark that when I arrived by tram (trams are everywhere there), I thought I was in the middle of nowhere. I could see the odd light in a room here and there but otherwise nothing. The next morning I discovered I was in the middle of a gigantic city and that its just that if a light doesn’t need to be on it doesn’t go on. They’ve got a completely different mentality over there, a beautifully intelligent, forward thinking and logical approach based on facts and not speculation.

Also Venice. I went to Venice last year. The touristy parts were what I expected, but my girlfriend and I went off the beaten track a lot and wandered into an artist’s studio and a gigantic modern art display. I was surprised by how many islands there are there that are not inhabited because they can’t be reached without special boats- so you don’t have vandals or graffiti because it would be too much effort and the results are these small islands with these ruins on them that are untouched and unspoiled right in the middle of one of the busiest tourist destinations in the world.

I love travelling & flying but I hate airports! What’s your favourite and least favourite airports?

Norway, Oslo Airport, mostly because they give staff scooters to get around faster. Again, there’s that thinking that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves.

The worst airport was Ljubljana in Slovenia. It was tiny, small, the shops didn’t open at certain times of the day and we had a 4 hour wait for our flight.

Do you have a favourite mode of travel?

I won’t lie, I am a bit of a reluctant flier. I would prefer to drive or even better, a luxury cabin in a train.

You are an author of 3 books in the fantasy/occult-noir genre – I have read your working title series books – with the raunchy titles of “That Time I Did A Favour For God And Was Almost Buggered To Death By A Demon Dog: (A Working Title) Volume 1” and “The Case Of The Woman Who Killed Monsters With Her Bitey Vagina: A Working Title, Volume 2”. As a reviewer of your books stated recently, that you are “bringing all the characters from your childhood nightmares to life”! What do you enjoy most about writing your novels? Where do you get your ideas from?

Some of the ideas are from actual folklore. Others are just pareidolic. I dislike any character to be conveniently talented, one of my first books was “Godhunter” and it explored the price of great power. Real costs in terms of physical, emotional value. My characters suffer their powers and their abilities- like telepathy- 1. You wouldn’t read minds like spoken sentences, they’d be mishmashes of shapes, smells, random thoughts, emotions and images and 2. Why would you automatically be able to control it? So before I look at what makes my character different I look at the costs of that uniqueness and reverse engineer it from there.

Oh and all my characters are heavily flawed.

Donnie as The Naked Busker

Let’s talk Naked. The Naked Busker idea was certainly different. How come you embarked on the act in the first place?

I was a stand up comedian and looking for a gimmick and my girlfriend at the time suggested I get naked because it always made her laugh. It became an onstage act, I’d get up, strip down, do an animated comedic show with just a pair of boots and a guitar, sing songs that were particularly rude and purile. I was semi professional for a little while actually but now the only thing about that is an alarming number of pictures of me on google images.

Starring in your show at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was it all plain sailing or do you have any memorable disasters? Do you still indulge in the music scene?

Ah, the Ed Fringe 2011. I was doing a nightly set at the City Café and someone stole my clothes and I spent the last evening wandering around the city trying to find them. It ended up being a pretty good night because it was the Edinburgh Fringe, nobody even batted an eyelid when a naked guy in a pair of boots and a guitar came traipsing along. I love playing my guitar and singing, but aside from a couple of local open mic nights at some of my friend’s joints I don’t really get involved on stage. I do my bit supporting some of my friends who are far better musicians than I. The likes of Will How and Pirate Joe… I do love being on stage though.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love wearing suits. I get my suits from a local store named Slaters. I’m a fan of waist coats and coats with double buttons that have to be tailored to fit my size. I also often wear jeans a lot and a denim jacket. I like to mix it up.

Do you go shopping for clothes/accessories whilst travelling? If so, which country was shopping a pleasant or otherwise experience?

Cape Town was superb. Generally whenever I go back to South Africa I’ll fly over with an empty bag and just the clothes I’m wearing and will come back with it filled with clothes. They have a summerly fashion sense there because it’s never really winter, so you can pick up some really cool clothes for less than half the price of UK. They also make clothes to fit big guys. I’m 6ft 6 with shoulders which makes me about average size for a South African and so I find clothes no problem. Also, it’s an awesome place to buy sunglasses and hats.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A hoody. A pair of loose fitting jeans. A breathable pair of socks and a Handycosy neck pillow. Boxers never briefs.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots if I’m going out for a night. Shoes if I’m wearing a suit.
Boots last longer, they don’t let water in and if you have to do any sudden running with them or freestyle parkour you know your ankles will at least be protected. Shoes with a suit because it makes you feel cooler and also because the boots I wear don’t work well with suits.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow you & Lost Executive.

twitter.com/lostexecutive
twitter.com/donnierust
https://www.facebook.com/ourdonnierust/
facebook.com/thelostexecutive
instagram.com/Donnie_rust
instagram.com/thelostexecutive

I agree with you, Donnie, about the luxury train travel option … certainly a fantastic way to travel – 5 course meal, wine and sitting a luxurious armchair whilst admiring the landscape out of the picture windows – absolutely heavenly.  I was lucky to have had that experience a couple of times – once on my honeymoon and several shorter trips on the British Pullman and Northern Belle trains. Many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Donnie Rust.

 

Share This!
Pin It

5 Fashion & Beauty Camping Case Essentials For The Newbie

Happy New Year!  Have you made any New Year Resolutions?  More importantly, are you sticking to them?! According to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2018, everybody should put “Spend 24 Hours Outdoors” on their New Year Resolutions list.  Various researches from organisations such as The Camping and Caravanning Club and the World Health Organisation have revealed that camping is generally good for your your mental health; it makes people feel happier; it’s a great social leveller; it’s a great way to make new friends (especially for children); and children are more than likely to encounter new experiences eg kite flying, tree climbing, den making and cooking on a campfire.

Location, location, location …. there are many different types of campsites in the UK from the glamping spots; the really deserted one tent in a field spots; adapted farms that have become campsites in idyllic locations, with modern shower blocks & facilities such as a pool, shop, restaurant, launderette, bar;  and some which are part of a holiday village with full entertainment & other amenities. 

 

So, your children have persuaded you to buy a tent and book a camping holiday … put the tent up beforehand to practise and to check that it is in fact waterproof … (we’ve had to buy a new tent day 2 into our 14 day camping holiday when a torrential downpour overnight left our old tent uninhabitable!  Thank goodness our site had a launderette and I was able to use the dryers to dry our damp clothes & bedding!)

And here’s some tips to help you pack those all important fashion & beauty essentials:

1. FOOTWEAR.  Hiking/Walking Boots. To wear all the time when you are not in the tent.  I use my motorbike boots.  Camping fields can get extremely muddy, especially if it rains.  Make sure the boots are comfortable, sturdy & waterproof. For tent wear: slip on trainers, ballet shoes or flip flops. 

2.  ONESIE.  I’m cringing as I type this.  I rarely feel the cold but I must say, that even in  August, it was cold and damp at night in the tent.  I did wrap up under a  duvet but I couldn’t help but think that wearing a onesie would have been preferable at that moment in time.  I did visit a local store looking for a onesie but being August, and it was warm during the day, the shelves were full of swimming costumes not fleeces.

3. MAKE UP/BEAUTY PRODUCTS.  Being outdoors gives you a healthy glow.  Being on a campsite means that the shower facilities/lighting/mirrors are not really ideal to perform your normal make up and skincare morning and evening routines.  I would suggest packing shower gel, 2 in 1 shampoo, moisturiser, BB cream (to replace primer, toner & foundation), waterproof mascara, lip gloss and eye make up remover pads.

4. COMPACT MIRROR.  At night you should really take off make up but when camping, it is rather off putting to go to a dimly lit shower block armed with your torch to help you navigate your way.  Having a compact mirror means that you can take your make up off in your tent ( and apply your morning make up after your shower in privacy, if you wish).  I used my mirror to make sure I didn’t have too bad bed head hair in the morning as I travelled across the field to the shower block!

5. HAIR PRODUCTS.  Your brush. Ditch the straighteners, hairdryer, tongs, hairspray … go for the tousled look instead. 

With those essentials packed, you are ready to fully embrace the outdoor life with your family – we walked for miles, went shell collecting on the beach, visited the local swannery, did some kite flying, rope swinging… 

Are you going to add “24 Hours Outdoors” to your list this year? Are you a camping guru… or newbie?  Any camping stories you can share? Do tell …

Linda x

The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2018 takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from 20 to 25 February.  Prices are from £7 for adults; children under 15 go free. Tickets are on sale now – for more details check their website: www.ccmshow.co.uk

All photos are by Linda Hobden.

Share This!
Pin It

Destination Rocamadour

Set in a gorge above the River Alzou, a tributary of the River Dordogne, in the Lot Department of South West France, lies the small cliff top village of Rocamadour.  Rocamadour attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has done for centuries – famous pilgrims from history include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England; Kings Louis IX, Louis XI & Charles IV of France. In summer, this little village in the middle of nowhere, is jammed packed with visitors.  Apart from its stunning location, Rocamadour is known for its Cite Religieuse complex of religious buildings, accessed via the Grand Escalier Staircase. The complex includes the Chapelle Notre Dame, with its Black Madonna statue and the Romanesque – Gothic Basilica of St Sauveur.

In August, Rocamadour’s campsites (of which there are many), are invaded also by music lovers – the Festival de Rocamadour include chamber music, orchestral music and soloists.

Interesting though the village is, for families with children, the prospect of climbing the steep stone stairways viewing ancient buildings in the August heat isn’t really appealing.  BUT, Rocamadour to me and my family isn’t really the village – we head to the north east corner of the village to a magical place we first discovered in 2006. This place is La Foret de Singes (Monkey Forest), a park where around 150 Barbary Macaques (aka Magots) live and roam free in a forest environment. 

The Barbary Macaques are an endangered species, originating from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The idea of the park is to provide the apes with natural living conditions as close to their native conditions as possible in order to preserve the species and once numbers increase and they are no longer endangered, they will be ultimately reintroduced into the Atlas Mountains. 

Raising public awareness about threats to the species is another aim.  Entering the park there are strict regulations for visitors – both for the safety of the visitor and the apes.  The park is well secured… there are gates to enter in and out of the forest itself .. but other than that, no other zoo like feature exists.  Regulations include not going too close the apes, especially the babies as the parents could consider the visitors as a threat; the young apes are prone to taking food out of people’s pockets/bags and hats off heads  – the young ones are braver and will approach you to take food off your outstretched hands.  You can get bags of popcorn at the entrance so you can feed the apes you come across as you follow the paths through the forest – and there are also set feeding time  areas where the rangers feed the apes whilst explaining (mostly in French) their work, the apes and the conservation aims.

Wandering through the forest, some places reminded me of scenes from Disney’s Lion King – I was expecting Simba the lion to appear on a rock and roar! 

The highlight of the day for us all was being able to feed the apes, although on our first trip my eldest son was very wary and was too scared to participate – but the others were a lot braver and enjoyed the experience.  Outside the gated area is a shop with the inevitable shelves lined with soft cuddly Barbary Apes; and a cafe where you can get a well deserved ice cream – or have a picnic indulging in freshly made baguettes with the local goats milk cheese, “Rocamadour”, which was awarded AOC status in 1996! 

As a family, we’ve always visited in the height of the season in August – the roads to get into Rocamadour are often congested but away from the centre, as you head to the forest the traffic is fairly light and the park itself, although busy, does not feel crowded even at lunchtime.  If you get a chance, just along the road is the Dinosaur Park – a cleverly laid out park winding down a hillside featuring some fabulous dinosaur statues – very pushchair/wheelchair friendly and wasn’t crowded whenever we’ve visited, either. 

The La Foret de Singes was opened in 1974  – it has other parklands in the “group” in Europe where you can experience the work of the Barbary Macaques conservation associations.  These are: La Montagne des Singes (France); Affenberg Salem  (Germany); Trentham Monkey Forest (England).

If you wish to visit the forest, it is open March – November. 

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden. 

 

Share This!
Pin It

Destination Boa Vista

I have had Cape Verde hovering around the top of my bucket list for a quite a few years.  I was wooed not by photographs, as at the time I hadn’t seen any.  I only knew two people who had been there – both said it was very windy and not much there apart from sand. Neither showed much enthusiasm.  No, I was fascinated by these islands because of their location and they were “new” to the travel scene, fascinated as only a geography/travel/map geek could be.  Over the last couple of years, Cape Verde has crept into those holiday brochures – pictures of exotic pools with swim up bars, palm trees …. and I was sold. Sort of. What I didn’t realise was that Cape Verde was made up of 10 islands and the main “tourist” island was an island called Sal.  However, just south of Sal is the island of Boa Vista – just opening up to tourism – and that was the island I was lucky enough to be visit  in August this year.

Cape Verde lies midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The island of Boa Vista, nearest island to the African mainland, is the 3rd largest island, but it is still tiny, taking just under one hour driving from end to end  – roughly 240 square miles … the size of the city of Chicago, in fact.  The population of the entire island, according to the official Cape Verde website, in 2010 was just 8,564. In fact it is the least populated of all the islands – the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, is on the island of Santiago.  Most people on Boa Vista live in the capital, Sal Rei … in fact my hotel located in the extreme south of the island, the biggest Rui hotel in the world, was bigger than the villages and towns! 

Diego Gomes, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape Verde Islands, way back in 1456 – they were all totally uninhabited. By 1587, Cape Verde became a Portuguese colony.  The Portuguese used the archipelago as a stopover for slave traffic between Africa and America. From 1620, slaves were employed in the salt mines – processing the salt in the mountainous areas, hidden from pirate attacks.  The salt pans are still here, although more common on the island of Sal, but the industry has dried up due to the technical advances in the industry in other parts of the world. Cape Verde declared independence in 1975. Today, the population is mostly a mixture of Creole, African & Portuguese … with small pockets of Italians, Spanish & Chinese. The signs are all in Portuguese but the people speak a Creole language – the atmosphere is pretty laidback and has a Caribbean vibe in Boa Vista;the other islands have a more European feel.  

“Inside” the airport’s departure lounge

Most people on Boa Vista work in tourism in some way – either in the hotels, as tour guides or souvenir sellers.  Date-farming too. The airport, the grandly named Aristides Pereira International Airport, was opened in 2007.  The International Airport on Sal has navigational runway aids (runway lights) and looks like an airport – whereas the airport on Boa Vista is on the edge of the desert, is open air and has no runway lights.  The flight time from the UK is just over 6 hours – the plane is not large as the airport is too small to accept the modern Dreamliner jets.  There are only 3 or 4 planes landing a day so long queues rarely exist! Expansion plans are already being made.  As Boa Vista is hot and dry all year round, having an open air airport isn’t really a problem apart from the fact that it is hot and shade is limited plus at the end of August/September is Boa Vista’s “rainy” season (short sharp showers about 4 days a year!) so if it does rain, you’ll get wet! The airport is located in Rabil, the 2nd largest town and former capital. Rabil is known for its pottery and the longest river in Cape Verde, the Ribeira do Rabil, flows through it. Well, it should on the map look as though it should flow, but in reality it was a puddle with some trees around it (planted in the 1990s).

My sons sand boarding in the Viana Desert

Boa Vista is known for the sand dunes and moonlike volcanic landscapes of the Viana Desert.  The desert was formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara.  The sand dunes in this desert are vast. One morning we travelled to the Viana Club Restaurant for an early breakfast of “catchupa” – the national dish, a sort of corn stew, served with fried egg and spicy sausage – and a refreshing glass of iced hibiscus tea. We then hit the dunes for a sand boarding session. It was hot, it was sunny and it was lots of fun!

Me, on Santa Monica beach

Boa Vista has a stunning coastline – it’s most coveted beach is the Santa Monica beach (named after the Californian beach) which extends 18km from the island’s westernmost point to the southernmost point. It is said to be one of the top 20 best beaches in the world.  Currently, the beach is devoid of hotels but not for long as a large hotel resort/spa  is being built – due to finish in the next 5/10 years.  In a decade, Boa Vista will be unrecognisable – I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not – on the one hand more tourism will help to raise living standards but on the other hand, Boa Vista will lose its uniqueness.

Launderette in Sal Rei

Cape Verde has only just been upgraded from Third World category to Second World category – it is still pretty poor.  When visiting the capital, Sal Rei, the “launderette” was a row of concrete slabs where women scrubbed their clothes as they have done for centuries.  My guide said that the Chinese have recently introduced washing machines  but they are not widespread as yet. Next to the washing area was the water station. Water is scarce on the island so people come to the water stations with their wheelbarrows to collect their daily water tanks. The richer people can afford to have their water delivered. Our hotel had its own water desalination plant for its needs.

Santa Maria

Another nice beach was in the far north of the island, renamed Santa Maria, after the MS Cabo Santa Maria, a ship that ran aground there in 1968. The ship was carrying gifts from the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on its way to Brazil and Argentina – the gifts apparently included sports cars! Thankfully, the crew escaped unhurt and the goods were salvaged. The wreck is still there, just a rusty shell now, slowly crumbling away after years being battered by the wind and constant waves.

I was mesmerised by the waves – the Atlantic breakers were very powerful and during my stay the red flag was constantly flying. Managing to paddle, the water was as warm as bath water – around 28 degrees centigrade.  I expected the sea to be colder. That is not the only thing that surprised me about the temperature.  The climate is warm all year round – August to October are the hottest (and wettest months) and the temperature hovers around 32/33 degrees during the day falling to around 27/28 degrees at night – what surprised me was that it was such a humid heat – I had thought it was more a “dry” heat like I’ve experienced in the Mediterranean. The humidity was often around 80% which meant that the constant breeze was a cooling blessing indeed although it was a false blessing as the island’s location meant that the sun’s strength was equatorial, and Factor 50 liberally applied was needed.  Tropical island – but I didn’t see any mosquitos but I did see plenty of wandering goats and the odd cow! Sea turtles are known to nest on the shores, while the coastal waters are a route for migrating humpback whales.  

Boa Vista has a few mountains, the highest being Mount Estancia at 1,270 feet.  Cape Verde does have an active volcano – on Fogo – which last erupted in 2014.  On the slopes of the volcano Fogo coffee is grown …absolutely delicious! 

Route 66

The roads.  The road from the airport to the capital and the roads in the towns/villages are mostly cobbled. There is a small patch of tarmac, south of the island, which was built by the Rui hotel chain to try and establish a good route from the south to the airport and Sal Rei. However, it is not finished and quickly goes from tarmac to unmade road. Some routes are not signposted but are tiny tracks meandering through the desert, naked to my eye.  Drivers drive on the right but, to be honest, it really depends on which side has the least potholes. I didn’t see one private car – I did see a police car, a couple of motorbikes, quad bikes, tour guide jeeps, tour buses, buses and the odd truck and taxi.  Boa Vista has another American equivalent – they have a Route 66 too – the cobbled road doesn’t lend itself to smooth riding on a Harley Davidson though! 

Estoril Beach

Food & Drink.  The RUI hotel I was staying in imports all its food and drink from the Canary Islands.  This is quite a sensible idea because the island doesn’t produce enough to cater for the number of tourists staying at the hotels. However, it does mean that those people staying put only in the hotel miss out on discovering the island’s cuisine.  The national dishes are quite hearty – stew features a variety of meat and fish – I tried the octopus stew which was very tasty.  

Lobster at Morabeza Beach Restaurant

At the Morabeza Beach Bar Restaurant  we ate freshly caught lobster served with exquisitely cooked vegetables …and drank Coconut ponche and Cape Verdian white wine.  It is the first restaurant I’ve been to where you can eat with your shoes off, the floor is the beach, and reggae music is playing in the background. It was here we watched fire eaters do their thing and my sons had impromptu African drumming lessons!

Guest House Migrante
Library Guest House Migrante

Apart from the big Rui hotels, the island has a couple of smaller hotels, apartments and guesthouses – mainly on the beaches around Sal Rei. I stopped off at the Guest House Migrante – a delightful guesthouse with a distinctly European flavour with a bar/cafe attached. It is the grandest looking building in Sal Rei and they serve the most delightful coffee (from Fogo) and grog (Cape Verdean rum).   The guesthouse had a gorgeous library area and an inner courtyard.  In Boa Vista I found that when it came to food and drink, you should never judge a bar/restaurant by its outside look – inside these places are clean and the food is out of this world – ask the locals for restaurant recommendations too.

Like any place in the world, people’s viewpoints on the same place differ vastly, and not everybody is going to fall in love with a place.  Boa Vista attracted me and is now engraved in my heart because of its ruggedness, its beautiful desert scenery and the people are so smiley.  Where else would you high five the airport officers as you board your plane home? Where else would you see brightly coloured birds tweeting in the passport control area as you land?  Where else would you see miles of untouched white sand beaches not lined with hotels? The hotel was gorgeous and clean but to be perfectly honest, being by the pool, you could be anywhere hot and sunny in the world. What made the holiday was the chance to explore outside of the hotel.  Boa Vista is not like the Canary Islands, despite the glossy holiday brochure pictures – but perhaps in 10 years it will be. 

If you enjoy self catering, then Boa Vista isn’t the place for you yet.  In Sal Rei, there is a small working fish market and a small fruit/vegetable market & a couple of shops where essentials can be found.  

Street Life

If you enjoy walking from your hotel to restaurants/bars, pick a hotel close to Rabil or Sal Rei where you can walk along the beaches to beach bars.  The RUI Tuareg at the south of the island is in a fab spot but it is only surrounded by desert scrubland.  The hotel has plenty of bars though! Alternatively, look at the neighbouring island of Sal, which is more geared towards tourism.

If you can afford it, splash out on the trips either operated by your tour operator or by Giggling Geckos ( a tour company on the island)    and see the island away from the hotels.  Quad bike tours have been highly recommended too. 

And try the local grog … apparently after four shots you end up talking fluent Creole …..

Linda x

All photos by Linda Hobden

Share This!
Pin It

An Interview With Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda

Holiday season is in full flow so there is no better time than to introduce onto the blog a rather special hotel in sunny Portugal. Originally the 17th century home of a noble family, the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda, is now a member of the “Healing Hotels of the world” – the emphasis here is on health and relaxation with a holistic and sustainable approach to life.  Furthermore, this hotel is one of the few hotels that I have come across that has a special package that introduces no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost. And the food – Mediterranean fine dining with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes available.  But don’t just take my word for it as I’ve been talking to Vera Gaspar, the Assistant General Manager, to find out more about this delightful place. Hi Vera!

Hello! My name is Vera Gasper and it has been my privilege to have been the Assistant General Manager of the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda for 2 years. It is my responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the hotel and that our guests enjoy the vacation of their dreams.

The Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda has introduced a no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost – so, what made the hotel decide to buck the trend and introduce this no single supplement?

We have seen a growing trend in people choosing to travel alone, the main reason being to enjoy total peace and tranquillity, re-energising the body and soul away from busy urban life. Why make this more expensive simply because someone chooses quality “me” time? As well as no single supplement we provide personal airport transfers if travellers take advantage of our solo offer. As a small family business we can offer our solo guests that little extra personal service.

The hotel is a member of the “Healing Hotels of the World” group – what can guests expect from the hotel being a member of the group?

For us at Vivenda Miranda, holistic health means to understand the body/mind relationship in respect to health and healing. Recognising the relationship between mind and body, our guests seek to spend relaxation time in an environment that allows them to regain emotional balance and the joy of life.

We host a series of health, fitness and wellness breaks and courses year round and our restaurant prides itself on serving healthy Mediterranean cuisine with many vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. With health and nutrition in mind, we use seasonal produce that is organic or locally sourced, and has been grown in or reared on fertile, healthy soils with no chemical involvement.

Award winning Ethical and Organic Neal’s Yard Remedies of Covent Garden, London (NYR) is our Spa health and wellness partner. In fact we were their first overseas health and beauty Spa. What you put on to your skin is just as important as what you put into your body, so only the purest organic skincare elements are used in our Spa that contain no added parabens, GMOs or nano- technology. All are 100% vegetarian and not tested on animals.

What would you say is the most popular attraction of the hotel?

Without question our location! Nestled into the cliff top amidst beautiful lush Mediterranean gardens it occupies a secluded peaceful location with stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic coastline and endless sky – A peaceful oasis of calm and tranquillity it really takes your breath away. I would also say that guest love the authentic, unique character of our Vivenda Miranda. It was once the home of a British noble family in the 17th century and retains much of its historic charm albeit with a comfortable modern twist. All our rooms are individually styled and decorated by our own in-house interior designer so I think our visitors feel they are guests in a comfortable, luxurious home.

The Food… based on artisan gastronomy, the restaurant has nutritious plant based menus and offers Mediterranean fine dining cuisine based on organic or locally sourced ingredients, including vegetarian, vegan and RAW dishes options. What dishes are most popular? 

Our menus are seasonal and we find that our Chef’s Daily Menu is very popular rather than one particular dish – although the Cataplana which is a traditional, regional dish is always in demand. We are finding that more and more people are choosing the vegetarian/vegan options…. Especially in summer time when the light dishes and salads are very popular…

The hotel has an ethical organic Neal’s Yard Remedies Spa – what spa treatments are most popular?

Our range of massage treatments, especially the Aromatherapy, Indian Head and Ayurveda are always very popular. With our skilled therapists and the ensured quality of Neal’s Yard Remedies organic essential oils we know our guests are in good hands. Our spa days, where we offer treatments with a complementary lunch menu that’s designed to support and enhance the treatment element, are also regularly enjoyed by our guests as well as people living in or visiting the area. We are currently developing this treatment/food synergy approach further, to offer our guests and day visitors even more health benefits and wellness knowledge.

The hotel was originally the home of a 17th century noble family that has been lovingly restored by its present owners. The pastel colours of the buildings provide a peaceful oasis and the rooms are decorated in a contemporary boutique chic style with a classic comfort twist. What was the inspiration behind the hotel decor?

We wanted to create an authentic, charming but at the same time contemporary ambience that reflects our stunning setting. So by using both classic and modern elements in the decoration and bold colours with unexpected artistic wall paintings not normally seen in hotels we believe we have achieved style, comfort and the wow factor! Every single room is different in layout, furnishing, colour scheme and decorative features. It’s an artisan concept we try to promote throughout the hotel. This approach of integrating the old and new is appealing to an ever younger generation.

As a wedding venue, what do you think makes the hotel the ideal location?

I know I am biased, but it really is the perfect place for the wedding of your dreams. With our stunning location enjoying amazing views of the sea, sky, beach and cliffs set amidst beautiful gardens – What could be more perfect? Especially if you include our amazing bridal suite which is ideal for the wedding party to get ready in and of course enjoy the wedding night! Our menus have been created to please every palate, and the intimate restaurant and secluded ambience of the sun terrace enables the wedding party to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. It is even possible to reserve the Vivenda Miranda for exclusive use providing bookings are made well in advance of course!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda and booking information

www.vivendamiranda.com
https://www.instagram.com/vivenda_miranda/?ref=badge
https://www.facebook.com/boutiquehotelvivendamiranda

http://vivendamiranda.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/vivendamiranda
https://www.pinterest.pt/vivenda_miranda/ 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/129763807@N07/albums

To contact us for reservations or any questions:
Email: info@vivendamiranda.com
Tel: +351 282 763 222
Address: Rua das Violetas, Porto de Mós, 8600-282 Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

For pinning later

Have I whetted your travel appetite, dear readers?  Have you been to Portugal, or indeed have you visited the hotel? Have you done any solo travelling? Do share your stories, I’d love to know!

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Vera Gaspar/ Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda.

Share This!
Pin It