Author Archives: C.C.
Author Archives: C.C.
There are many reasons for you to visit the Basque Country. It is home to among the world’s finest food, beaches in natural settings and avant-garde architecture. This area in northern Spain is an ideal place for an all-round visit, with its privileged location in the south of Europe, in the green north of Spain, and with everything close at hand.
The three Basque regional capitals are good examples of how this identity is expressed. Donostia/San Sebastian is a cosmopolitan city to enjoy the delightful pace of living at the seaside. Bilbao is a culturally rich and stimulating city, which competes with leading European cities in terms of quality and modernity. Vitoria has a rich heritage and modern, well laid out user-friendly urban planning.
The Basque Mountains and Valleys and the quintessential villages dotted around, reflect the thousand year-old history and traditions kept alive. The Basque Coast with its 250 km of beaches, estuaries, marshlands, cliffs and fishing villages, reflects nature which is abrupt yet generous with a living and intensely blue sea.
Situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville has a rich Moorish heritage and used to be a prosperous port that carried out trade with the Americas. The streets and squares in the historic quarter of the capital of Andalusia are lively and busy. They treasure many constructions that have the World Heritage designation, and many districts are full of traditional culture, like Triana and La Macarena.
Museums and art centers, theme parks, cinemas, theatres and clubs are some of the many leisure options that a great city like Seville holds. Without forgetting, of course, the numerous terraces, inns and bars where visitors can practice one of the most tasty traditions in the city—”Going out for tapas”.
GAME OF THRONES COMES TO SEVILLE – Season 5 of Game of Thrones featured the amazing Alcazar in Seville, Spain. It represented the famous water gardens of Reales Alcazares, the royal residences and gardens of the Alcazar which are world renown on their own.
SEVILLE BY DAY – If there were ever a city to get completely lost in, this is the one. Seville’s beguiling maze of streets epitomizes southern Spanish charm right down to the tiled-adorned buildings, abundance of tapas bars, and echo of flamenco. Seville is a place that you need to discover walking. Otherwise, you’ll miss the point. Seville is not only a bunch of magnificent buildings and palaces.
It’s also its people and their passion. The majority of the must-sees are clustered around the Cathedral complex with the so called “Sevilla’s most beautiful daughter, La Giralda”, as it is called the tower of the Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Archivo de las Indias and the Reales Alcazares Palace. Grab your comfortable shoes, an abanico and enjoy this wonderful city. Stay in the city’s old town to explore the cobbled streets of the Santa Cruz quarter.
For tourists, Barcelona is a secret known to everyone. Over the last decade, the capital of Catalonia has been the star of European urban tourism. The heritage bequeathed by Gaudi and the examples of Art-Nouveau (Modernist) architecture in the Eixample, the authenticity of the Gothic Quarter, the legacy of the city’s medieval past, the history and charm of its streets, the offer of its museums, with the National Museum of Art of Catalonia and the area devoted to Picasso, its offer of services and restaurants, its nightlife, its Mediterranean feel, its range of shops with a model unique to Barcelona that combines large international brands with distinctive boutiques lending character to the city; in short, a whole scope of possibilities that has won the hearts of visitors from all corners of the globe.
Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller and Casa Mila—better known as La Pedrera [the stone quarry]—are just some of the buildings which bring together a host of almost unprecedented, exuberant colours and forms. Modernisme can be appreciated throughout the city. Spectacular buildings like the church of the Sagrada Familia—an unfinished work by Gaudi—the Palau de la Musica Catalana and the Park Guell make up, along with other buildings, a legacy of modernisme that can only be seen here.
The Sagrada Familia, the Casa Batllo, the Casa Vicens, the Crypt of Colonia Guell, La Pedrera, have been designated World Heritage Sites, together with the Palau Guell, the Sant Pau, modern exhibition centres, the Park Guell and the Palau de la Musica Catalana. Barcelona is the largest outdoor museum for Art Nouveau architecture, celebrating visual splendour.
BARCELONA BY DAY – Barcelona’s markets are places where you can enjoy a lively, vibrant atmosphere in surroundings where the cries of the market’s stallholders and the daily bustle intermingle. Few cities in the world can boast a network such as that of Barcelona—39 food markets and four markets selling other goods form a unique heritage that should be maintained and preserved. The Boqueria Market, on La Rambla, is one of Barcelona’s best-known markets, and has become a major landmark.
Magerit, ‘land rich in water’. This is what the Arabs called this area, located on the central plain of the Iberian Peninsula, close to Sierra de Guadarrama, where King Phillip II of Spain later established the royal court. Afterwards, it grew into the big city we know today. The first historical record of Madrid dates back to the year 865, when Emir Muhammad I commissioned the construction of a fortress in the village of Mayrit, on the banks of the river Manzanares. ‘Mayrit’ means ‘plenty of waterways’ which is why the city’s first recorded coat of arms read, ‘I was built on water / My walls are made of fire / This is my flag and my coat of arms’. Madrid belonged to the Islamic world until 1083, when Alfonso VI of Castile took over the city.
Few vestiges have remained from this era. On Calle Mayor, next to the Institute of Italian Culture, there used to stand the Grand Mosque and, most probably, as in every Muslim city, the souk. On the site of the former mosque rose the Church of Santa Maria, of which some remains can still be seen. Close by, on Cuesta de la Vega, there are parts of the old town walls that enclosed the medina or citadel. It was inside these walls that the Christians found a statuette of Virgin Mary with a candle that had been burning for over 400 years at the time they seized the area. Almudena, derived from the Arabic al-mudayna that translates as ‘the little city’ or ‘citadel’, has since then been the name mostly used by Madrilenos to refer to the Virgin.
In the Medieval district of Madrid you can go to the National Archaeological Museum and experience a really interesting collection of decorative objects from the Visigoth Kingdom of Toledo to the Late Middle Ages. The rooms dedicated to Medieval and Renaissance art in the Lazaro Galdiano Museum and the Prado Museum are well worth a visit too.
MADRID BY DAY – The Royal Palace, whose architect drew inspiration from the sketches by Bernini for Paris’s Louvre, is a must-visit in a tour of traditional Madrid. You can’t miss taking pictures in Plaza Mayor or the Kilometre zero marker in Puerta del Sol, from which the national roads starting in Madrid fan out. The plaque is located facing the former Royal Post Office building, currently home to the Regional Government of the Region of Madrid.
The square is the epicentre of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Madrid. On 31st December every year, people gather to watch the huge clock that dominates the square ticking down to midnight. El Oso y el Madrono, a statue depicting a bear eating from a strawberry tree that also appears in the city’s coat of arms, is also in Puerta del Sol.
On your walk towards El Retiro Park, you’ll see the Cibeles Fountain, one of the symbols of Madrid, and Puerta de Alcala gate, a triumphal arch that is one of Madrid’s most photographed landmarks. If you’re an art lover visiting the capital of Spain, the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum (MNCARS) are places you can’t miss. The stars of the collection in the Prado are Goya’s The Nude Maja and Velazquez’s Las Meninas, while the collection at the Reina Sofia includes Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, an artwork that can be described as a synthesis of the Avant Garde Movement. In this moving painting, the artist conveys the suffering caused by the bombing of Guernica in 1937.
Manu Allaya is the resort situated in the heavenly beauty of nature, where on the one side sparkling and clear water of beas river flows and on the other side there is a tranquil beauty of the mountains covered with timber which can take anybody’s heart away. The resort is equipped with the modern infrastructure to provide the 5 star experiences to its guests. “The brand new luxurious Turkish Hammam at the quaint Manu Allaya, The Resort Spa in Manali will take your breathe away”. Spread across an area of over 10,000 square feet, Tva Spa by Tattva at Manu Allaya Resort is a wellness destination that resonates with the serenity that Manali is famous for.
Tattva has designed a range of therapies and treatments for Tva Spa to pamper the Indian and global traveller alike and is one of the few destinations in India to offer the experience of the Turkish Hammam. At Tva Spa, the guests can indulge in a plethora of Indian and International massage selection as well as luxury beauty therapies such as “Argyros Holistic Massage”, that involves the use of a specialty oil from Tattva with “25 herbs”, that is sure to add 25 years of vitality to your life. It also offers Couples Spa to celebrate togetherness. Other famous therapies include Green Tree & Kaip Vriksha body exfoliation. Hot Stone Therapy, Anti Cellulite Massage, Foot Reflexology and much more. The immensely rejuvenating journey ends with a Active Vitamin facial pack for detoxification and glowing skin. Pure bliss!
One of the pioneers in the field of luxury camping and soft adventure, Banjara Camps and Retreats was started 23 years ago by Captain Ajay Sud and Rajesh Ojha as a labour of their love. With soft adventure family holidays as their main focus, Banjara believes in reintroducing city folk to the wonders of nature in its purest form. Their various off-beat Himalayan destinations, far away from crowded touristy places, offer people the chance to get acquainted with nature and the outdoors in a refreshing and phased manner.
Banjara Camp & Retreat – Sangla – At a height of 2,700 mts, the Banjara Camp & Retreat is surrounded by towering mountains on all sides and is set on the banks of the Baspa River that surges through the valley.
Banjara Retreat & Cottage – Sojha – Sojha is a little village at about 5 kms from the Jalori Pass that links the Shimla and Kullu districts. The thickly wooded mountainside, densely populated with conifers, deodars and toosh characterize the beauty and uniqueness of Sojha. With unending slopes of emerald forests, verdant and pristine, nature is at its most alluring. Located in Seraj valley, still undiscovered by many, Sojha is a breathtakingiy beautiful place.
Banjara Orchard Retreat –Thanedar – Thanedar is 80 kms from Shimla on the old Hindustan – Tibet road. Set at an altitude of about 7700 ft / 2350 M, from here unfolds a magnificent panorama of mountains. One can still see the ‘Starking Delicious’ apple orchard that he planted there. Nestled amongst the acres of apple & cherry orchards that drape the mountain slopes in this region, is the Banjara Orchard Retreat – an eco-friendly getaway that will enchant nature lovers. There are fully furnished rooms, family suites and independent log cabins with attached baths and a well-equipped kitchen.
Looking for a tranquil holiday with healing time for frayed nerves and that horrible out-of- sorts feeling that life is getting ahead of you? Maybe it’s time you headed for one of the Niraamaya Retreats which focus ‘on unique and hand-crafted guest experiences delivered by experts’. Well they have several options you can choose from, including the spanking new Niraamaya Retreats Backwaters & Beyond at Kumarakom, which features 28 luxurious villas designed to thrill you immensely with the stunning vistas of Lake Vembanad.
Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam – Regarded as one of the loveliest beach destinations in the country Kovalam is the way to go— and with Niraamaya Retreats— the best of both world, as they say. Sequester yourself in the tranquil haven of the spa here and set yourself apace for a range of sensory journeys with the best of traditional Ayurvedic and International therapies. A touch of yoga, overlooking the sea will surely lull you into a feeling of untrammeled bliss as the sound of the sea waves wash over you like a repeat mantra.
Niraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club – The setting of this lovely property is the pristine environ of Thekkady. Sequestered in the solitude of a 9-acre expanse cardamom estate it holds the promise of both a laid back sojourn and an adventure tour of its surrounds. Scattered amidst this fragrant verdure is the 6-cottage retreat whose windows open usher in Nature in all her glory. Superb meals are summoned up by the resident chef.
Spa treatments in the excellent surrounds of the Retreat have a charm of their own. You can work out the kinks of an adventurous trek or jeep safari in the nearby forests in the spa’s cool and tranquil surrounds under the expert care of Ayurveda and other international wellness therapies specialists. The Spa offers a wide range of therapies, so choose what works for you best. In the end not only will you feel squeaky clean and rested…you’ll also be invigorated enough for another jaunt.
Mountain Club, Munnar is the best and finest luxury resort in the evergreen mountains of Munnar, Kerala, and India. It is located on a quite hillside in a small hamlet called Chinnakanal. From the early days of the 18th century, Munnar has been the favorite holiday destination of the erstwhile royal families, celebrities and nobles from India and abroad. The mesmerizing natural beauty and the weather is really unique. Mountain Club, Munnar is a real tribute to a typical type of architecture which is prevalent in the hill stations of Kerala. The exterior walls made from pure stone and the typical Kerala roof tiles provides the rustic look. Surrounding the resort are acres of extensive tea gardens and mountains with nature trails.
Exclusive Food and Beverage outlets, conference halls, meeting rooms and a host of recreational facilities matching first class standards is available to make your holiday a truly amazing experience. Mountain Club, Munnar has many firsts to its credit. Each of its cottages contains a cozy and spacious living room and a bedroom. For those who are traveling with families and friends, we have two bedroom cottages, which have a living room as well. Every cottage is equipped with a fire place. Needless to mention, we have provided all amenities in our cottages. Take a dip and laze around the one and only swimming pool in Munnar. The resort has the largest conferencing facilities in Munnar.
The charm of holidaying on a boat is truly special. You close proximity to a lake or a river… watching the world slip past as you gently, effortlessly float away…encountering the local communities as they go about their daily life… These vignettes need treasuring surely…? Ever since Lakes and Lagoons became operation in 1997 it has just not looked back… The delights of living on their traditional Kerala houseboats — Kettuvalloms (rice boats) was an enduring allurement for tourists passing their way in the rivers and backwaters of Alappuzha, Kollam and Kottayam districts in Kerala State.
They pioneered the air-conditioned houseboat back in the day…though now people take these things for granted. What a lift that must have been for business. The Kerala Governments stamp of approval is framed in the GOLD STAR classification of their beautifully appointed houseboats. Part of their well-oiled operations comes from adhering to the guidelines of the Tourism Department and the registration of all the houseboats and all the crews with the DTPC Alleppey, with the requisite Certificates. Its 26 houseboats fall under two categories— Deluxe and Premium with a choice of 1 to 4 bedrooms—very convenient for guests.
Each one comes with sundeck, private balcony with comfortable chairs, kitchen and toilet with WC. In addition there is also separate rest room for the crew. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. There are single bedroom houseboats for two people and two bedroom houseboats for four people. Lake Royale is the premium brand of houseboats. The cuisine is traditional Kerala with the local specialties.
The hospitality firm has recently launched a resort of its own near Marari Beach. This spanking new property—EL OCEANO BEACH VILLAS, offers 14 rooms. It’s also the GSA in Kerala state for Palma Laguna— the 5-bedroom luxury serviced villa located on the backwaters of Vembanad at Ponnad, in Alleppey, as well as for the Blue Jelly Cruise— a recently launched ultra-luxe houseboat. It has an extensive network with tour operators country-wide and the popularity of its products and services are richly endorsed with plenty of repeat business.
The charms of Varkala, amongst one of Keralas leading holiday destinations today, are best explored at the Hindustan Beach Retreat launched by Hindustan Textiles Group, based in Kannur as leading exporters since 1935. The success of their business interests ranging from the US to Europe has provided an excellent base for their understanding of a traveller’s needs… not just from home but abroad as well —and this is amply reflected in the running of the hotel— in the quality of amenities and personalized service— and the demand for whose rooms continue apace with a slew of prestigious clients.
Each of the 27 guestrooms at the beautifully designed Hindustan Beach Retreat, atop a spur overlooking Papanasham Beach, surrounds you in an ambience of comfort-giving luxury— allowing you to enjoy the spectacle of Varkala’s gorgeous natural environs and serenity at your leisure. A popular gathering place for the guests here is the poolside— from where you get superb views of the Arabian Sea while enjoying a couple of lazy laps around the pool.
Barbeque evenings are loads of fun, while you watch the sunk disappear in the purpling sea and the stars come out to play on a velvety black sky. The Poolside Restaurant, marked by its glorious wood work and picture windows with sea views, serves up an array of Indian, Chinese and Continental specialties. Delicious meals await too at the Rooftop Restaurant from where also you can enjoy wonderful views of the sunsets and sunrises. Tuck into their great array of fresh seafood delicacies, both ethnic and Continental.
Fortified by the excellent meals and relaxing ambiance of the retreat set off for a leisurely tour of one of Kerala’s sublime secret destinations. Varkala with its fiery red cliffs, offset by coconut palms and stretch of backwaters and pretty springs, lies just 55km away from state capital Thiruvanathapuram. Explore the golden sands of Papanasham Beach and the black beach of Thiruvambadi, while sampling seafood at the food stalls here—then catch a Kathakali performance at the Varkala Cultural Centre.