Saturday, 30 March 2013

Budget Travel Guide to Mallorca

Mallorca is a great choice for the budget traveller. At the time of writing, all inclusive holidays for a week in Mallorca outside of the school holidays are available for around or even under £200, if you book the right amount of weeks to make it 'last minute' but not so last minute that the airlines assume that you must be desperate to travel on a certain date and willing to pay anything.

Mallorca has a lot going for it, once you've bagged a dirt cheap deal to get you there. Sure, all inclusive is fun, but you aren't going to spend all week at the hotel. So you'll be pleased to know that Mallorca has a great mix of old towns and tourist traps, beautiful architecture and stately marinas, unspoiled coast, a cycle friendly attitude, beautiful subterranean paradises and tasty Spanish cuisine. And of course, the weather varies between gorgeous and pretty nice the whole year round.

Here are a few ideas of some things you can get up to in Mallorca that will help look after your Euros, but also get you out and about.

Visit a marina

Mallorca is not a very big island, only some 65 or 70km from end to end. This means that there are lots and lots of ports, harbours and marinas for you to explore. Of course, this is free and a very pleasant wander it does make. We enjoyed the contrast between the giant super luxury yachts and the rustic fishing boats. 

We found that marinas sort of took you off the beaten track a little bit, away from the main flow of tourists. There were people working on their boats, the boat lift in operation and other little interesting things happened that made it a very pleasant place to while away an hour.

Mess about on the beach

You don't need me to tell you that hanging out on the beach is a free activity. But aside from paddling, in Mallorca we also saw free exercise equipment, sort of like a kid's playground, but for adults, on the beach. 


There are some nifty areas of rock pools for exploring, and there were even a few sand sculpture artists at work that were well worth stopping for.

Try the tapas

If you're looking for good value drinks and maybe some snacks, you can't do much better than heading away from the tourist bars on the seafront and finding the small cafe bars that the locals visit. We found some lovely ones in the old town area of El Arenal. Some places will offer a Cana (a small glass of beer) with a complimentary tapas for 1 Euro, which is an absolute bargain. 

You don't get to pick your tapas, you get what you're given - this is great because it means you get to try all sorts of new things! My favourite was the one pictured here - 2.70 Euro for a delicious glass of red wine, a cana and a plate of snacks including the most delicious Serrano ham - I think you'd struggle to get that much Serrano for £2.50 in the UK to be honest!

We also got, variously, small fish in oil, vinegar and parsley, deep fried bite sized morsels of breadcrumbed white fish, olives, tiny gherkins, ensalada Russo, ham and cheese croquettes or simply crisps! Trekking round a few small bars can be a great way to have a long and leisurely lunch!

The Boy on his Bike (right)
Hire a bike

Mallorca is absolutely cycle mad. With the island mainly being flat it is great for novices and time triallers alike, and the mountainous region in the north east provides further challenges for the more adventurous cyclist.

We found bikes to hire for 5 Euro per day, which we thought was pretty reasonable. Admittedly, cycling the 10km or so in to Palma it would have been cheaper, just, to get the bus, but significantly less fun. There is a cycle path which runs all the way around the coast from El Arenal up to the capital which is an easy and beautiful route. We found this to be an absolutely enchanting day out, with a visit to the great Cathedral in Palma being a lovely reward for our efforts (and free admission).

I would definitely enjoy going back to Mallorca and hiring a bike for the full week, cycling across the island and exploring some of the small villages. When we crossed the island on the coach it was clear that cyclists were well respected on the roads and the scenery would definitely warrant a closer look!

Creep into the Caves

Stalactites and stalagmites
There are a number of amazing caves on the western end of the island. Although stunning, they are not particularly cheap to visit. However, I would recommend checking out at least one and to make it a little cheaper, we found that there were leaflets in the dispensers in our hotel which offered a few Euros off admission. Combining that with getting the public transport across the island (really easy to do, the transport links are excellent and extremely easy to navigate) we managed to pay half the price for our day trip that we would have paid had we booked it as an excursion with an agent at the resort.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sandergram

This week we popped along to the Leicester Peoples' Photographic Gallery for the launch of Sandergram. This is a fabulous exhibition of photographic portraits inspired by the work of August Sander. It was derived from theARTIST ROOMS: August Sander exhibition at New Walk Museum and the exhibition contains two walls of images, one set created by students at Leicester College and the other submitted by the public via social media.

Although only a small exhibition, the work is really nicely hung and of an absolutely awesome quality. Personally, I preferred the side with the Leicester College student's work on it because I liked more of their pieces and also because that side of the exhbition had a much stronger Leicester vibe to it, even containing portraits of some local characters that I recognised! However, that is not to detract from the public works, because there really are some amazing pieces in there too.

And even if you can't make it to the exhibition, you can still get involved. Visit the website and pick your favourite image and you can nominate it for the People's Prize. Go on, give these wonderful pieces of photography the recognition they deserve. It took me absolutely ages to pick my favourite. I had about 10 favourites on the night and looking at them on the website I noticed new contenders that I hadn't given as much attention to previously!


One of my favourite things about this exhibition is that 21 of the works have been selected and the artists offered the opportunity to have their pieces join the permanent fine art collection at New Walk Museum. I think this is a fantastic opportunity, both for the college students and for the members of the public that submitted their work. It means that when Sandergram closes, on 12 April 2013, that is not the end. Those works will be displayed again in Leicester's museums and could even be loaned and toured to national or even international venues. A fantastic legacy and a great project. The exhibition is free, so go and see it while you have the chance.



Inspiration

I've been at it again! I've only gone and done another Guest Post. This time it was for Flavours of Italy and is all about my ideas for painting inspiration. Pop back when you've read it and let me know what you think - do you guys ever suffer from creative block? How do you get around it?

Here's the magic linky...

I quite like being invited to write these guest post thingumees, helps to expand my repertoire and think of new things to write - inspiration!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Flavours Holidays recipe: Ravioli di Ricotta



 This is a guest post from Flavours Holidays - one of their favourite Italian recipes, written by Vivienne Neale.


I have to confess my first brush with ravioli emerged from a tin! I can barely type that sentence, but at the time it all looked very exotic and appealed, smothered on buttered toast, much more than traditional canned sardines had done. Call me impoverished but I have made up for my poor start, rest assured.

In the 1960s my mother started work as a secretary in London and consequently would often come home armed with all kinds of goodies she had purchased from markets and specialist shops near her office. I will always remember the day she arrived with a packet of ‘real’ ravioli. I watched with interest as she unwrapped the greaseproof paper and then seeing sheets of perfect ravioli packets gently dusted, with what must have been semolina, to keep them from sticking together. This was taking things to another level indeed!

After this our family was obsessed with fresh pasta and became regular visitors to Italian delicatessens whenever the opportunities presented themselves. I then went on to learn to make pasta and perfected the art on a cooking holiday in Italy which brought things to a neat conclusion for me.

It seems I am not the only one who has a love affair with ravioli and Flavours holidays agreed when selecting the very best recipe for a quick but delicious light meal.


Italians do not, in the main, spend hours in the kitchen surrounded by drying pasta sheets these days and we have all come to appreciate the quality and convenience of top notch dried pasta these days, which, if I am honest, can knock spots off badly made fresh pasta.

Yet there is something very special about ravioli and it is hypnotically soothing to make. Anyway the time you use making this perfect packet of lusciousness the less time you will have to spend on the actual cooking, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

Therefore, imagine the scene: a marble top and a view of distant cypress trees dotting a Tuscan landscape. A waft of warm breeze blows through the kitchen as you mix the liquid into that Vesuvius cone of flour. Soon the floury texture has vanished and you gently roll any pasta from your fingers and start to knead the dough. The smell from the cooking holiday kitchen is intoxicating and a faint scent of Jasmine enters now and then as the light wind rises and falls.

This is the memory I brought back from the Flavours Italian kitchen and there are many more tales to tell of kindred spirits spending a passionate week experimenting with Italian flavours, techniques and food traditions.

If you want to replicate that day in your own kitchen then try out the recipe we have here. If not, then check out the cooking courses in Italy for 2013 here and come home armed with skills which will serve you forever.

RAVIOLI DI RICOTTA
 

For pasta:
  • 250g semolina flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 spoon oil
  • olive oil
  • salt and water

For the filling:
  • 500g fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 spoon parmesan and Caciocavallo cheese
  • marjoram
  • salt
  • 1 egg

  1. Make a well in the flour, place a small amount of oil, egg and tepid water then mix in.
  2. Knead dough well until it is glossy. Let sit for one hour.
  3. Roll out the dough until flat and thin.
  4. Mix the filling ingredients together. Place a teaspoon of the filling on the pasta sheet, fold pasta over the top and seal well, pushing out any air pockets. Cut the ravioli to shape.
  5. Cook in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes to cook the ricotta.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Mother's Day Gift


San's face in toast
This is my entry into the Style Rawr's Next Mother's Day competition. The idea is to come up with an outfit that you would present to your mother as an extra special gift for Mothering Sunday. Now, you all know that I am lucky to have the best relationship ever with my mother in law, hopefully you will all remember that thanks to my mother in law, I am a world record holder, for making her a giant toast birthday card. So it comes as no surprise that it is her that I would pick to give an extra special outfit to.

At the moment, I know she has been spending long hours thinking about what to wear in June. It is a very special day, my sister in law is getting married, so Sandra will be mother of the bride - a great honour indeed. She absolutely must look the part and for some reason, she has already asked me for some support so I have already spent long hours trawling the internet as well as local boutiques to start looking for that one perfect outfit. I think if I could present her with the ideal outfit as a Mother's Day Gift then I would win ultimate brownie points!



I must confess that I hadn't thought of checking the Next website for inspiration. Now I'm glad I did. I have styled an outfit for Sandra that has on trend navy as its colour focus - keeping the colour blocked to make it classical and elegant. She likes to wear royal and midnight blue dresses already so I think this is something she would pick. I have managed to find the perfect cut for Sandra's figure, a chiffon wrap dress that will accentuate her womanly 'assets' but draw attention away from the areas she is more self conscious about. It also shows off her excellent legs - if you've got it, flaunt it!
I kept the colour consistent in the shoes and bag, but with some fun floral embellishments that give the outfit a bit of a fun lift, inm line with San's personality and the occasion. 

I also accessorised the outfit with beautiful, eyecatching Jon Richard jewellery, including this beautiful crystal comb to add some extra bling to her special up do. I picked silver accessories so they really lift and brighten the whole outfit. The earrings I picked are not Jon Richard - I don't like to have accessory overkill with just one brand represented as I think that have everything matching can look a bit naff. That's why I picked the lovely Shimla earrings. They are glitzy and glamourous but still understated, perfectly in keeping with the rest of the outfit.


With her pale mother of the bride buttonhole I think this outfit would be a total show stopper and I would love to give this as an extra special Mother's Day gift to an extra special mum who is about to be even more generous with her love and her time by becoming a foster carer.




In summary, the outfit is composed of the following elements: navy chiffon wrap dress, £40 ,navy corsage demi wedges, £45, Made with Love navy cluster purse, £16, Jon Richard Crystal Comb, £18, Jon Richard Grace Crystal Necklace, £25, Jon Richard Grace Crystal Necklace, £20 and the Shimla Crystal Ball Earrings, £16.50. The total outfit cost is £190.50.

Silentsunday





Silent Sunday
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