Spend a Day in Tantalizing TALLINN…

Spend a Day in Tantalizing Tallinn…

Surrounded by medieval walls, the UNESCO old down of Tallinn is a sensational display of the historic Baltic Sea. The capital of Estonia is steeped in Russian, Finnish and even history of the Huns.

There are several points in the wall were you can climb the stone staircases into the turrets. The fort is a museum open to tourists, where you can see the old battlements and even stone drop toilets.

Tallinn’s Churches

Home to 4 major churches and numerous small chapels, Tallinn shows a variety of different denominational places at their most beautiful.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the most iconic church in Tallinn. It symbolizes the time of the Russian Occupation in the 1800’s.  The architecture is fabulous, and the orthodox icons are spectacular.

St Mary’s Cathedral is a must see, although it is plain and white it is filled with the real coats of arms of the important families in Estonia, dating back to the medieval times.

St Nicholas’ Church at the center of Tallinn is full of ecclesiastical art, and features an amazing museum with artwork dating back to the 13th century.

There are many more old chapels dotted around, some hard to find. They are full of old wooden panels with painted iconography.

The Vibe of the Town is Terrific!!

This is a town where culture, food and drink come together in a market town square. Cobble stones bounce laughter and clinking glasses with the buildings creating a noisy and atmospheric energy, making the afternoon and evening into a really lively event. The beer is cheap, the food is fulling – I tried an Estonian delicacy of bear stew with a beer. Yes there are a few stag nights, but sometimes this adds a good vibe… even if you have to cringe inwardly on occasion!!

Tallinn has so many hidden alleys offering cafe’s and wine bars so you don’t have to stay in the town center. We found an amazing wine bar off an alley that was lined with old tomb stones dating back to 1500’s!!!

Tallinn is a jewel in the Baltic’s crown. It really does offer history and culture!!

 

Insight Vacations | The Treasures of the Balkans

A Luxury Guided Bus Tour

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Sean and I are very good organisers when it comes to travel around Europe. We are not scared to use the public transport systems or venture off the beaten track. When it comes to the Balkans there is a whole new kettle of fish to consider- ‘interesting'(!!) border crossings, lack of public transport and Cyrillic writing. So, we branched out to a new and unfamiliar form of holiday: The Guided Bus Tour.

Insight Vacations is not really aimed at our demographic. That being said we certainly didn’t feel on the outer dying out trip. In fact we were not the youngest on the tour by far!

Insight Vacations looked after us from the beginning; we were very happy with their updates and attention to detail. As we arrived in Bucharest we were greeted by the tour leader, who had last easy contact d us by email with a welcome introduction.

Staying in great hotels and eating specially selected and local food really made our experience better. There was no guessing- it made the tour so much more relaxing!

Our tour took us through the majestic mountains of Transylvania, across th plains of southern Romania to the old capital of Bulgaria: Veliko Tărnovo.

The new capital of Sophia was surprisingly cosmopolitan and then we were absolutely floored with the newly built Skopje in Macedonia.

Lake Ohrid was spectacular, with the old Byzantine chapel stretching out to the sparkling water.

Albania was a real experience- not to mention the border crossing!

Montenegro and Croatia never fail to please- and with three days to ourselves we had a well needed rest after some packed travelling days.

Bosnia was a real eye opener- we had an amazing experience with a local family in one of the shelled tower blocks. We were able to discuss the siege of Sarajevo with some actual survivors.

Serbia and Belgrade offered some interesting history and we looked over the conference of the Sava and Danube rivers from the Fort.

Finally we made it to Budapest. This was a real Jewel in the crown of our tour, with a Danube Dinner Cruise and an evening at the Gundel Restaurant.

We had a fantastic and unique experience with Insight Vacations, and would not hesitate to travel with again if an itinerary took our fancy!

Sean and I would like to thank Judit (tour leader) and Dario (driver) for making our trip so unforgettable. And we would also like to thank our fellow travellers for being awesome companions!

Peljesac Peninsula 

Peljesac Peninsula

Land of Oysters and Wine

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We took a scenic coast ride along the beautiful Croatian coastline, north of Dubrovnik . The bay of Mali Ston is home for oyster farming in the Adriatic Sea. Ston is also famous for its fortified city walls protecting the 13th century Republic of Ragusa from the Venetians. Why did they need protection?- Ston has ancient salt pans, using the simple method of evaporation to creat a currency once equivalent to its weight in gold.

We continued through the steep slopes with ambling vineyards for some wine and grappa talking. We visited Vina Vukas and started with the grappas- I loved the pomegranate, almond and herb grappa. They were all flavoured with fruits from his frond garden!

We then went on to taste his wine. The white wine was very crisp and dry, with lightening acidity (I sound like I know what I am talking about ;)! ) And the premium red was also very rich and fruity.

We went back to Ston along ‘Napoleon’s Road’ for our oyster lunch at Vila Koruna. We feasted on fresh and battered oysters, muscles, whitebait, ink risotto and seafood spaghetti- all washed down with some Peljesac wine. Delicious!

The Slipway Hotel

The Slipway Hotel – Port Isaac, Cornwall

The Slipway Hotel, image link

Situated in the heart of the Georgian village of Port Isaac is The Slipway Hotel. Made famous by the British ITV show ‘Doc Martin’, the village now experiences a bustling tourist trade, but this is also due to it’s quaint, idyllic setting.

The Slipway Hotel was our resting place during the New Year’s celebrations of 2014/2015. We booked the accommodation on Booking.com, and were delighted when the hosts at the Slipway Inn rang us personally to invite us for New Year’s dinner at their restaurant.

New Year’s Dinner is a bit of a thing in Port Isaac. There are only a couple of restaurants in the small town, and there are some serious seafood feasts to be had. Some can be quite pricey at £100 a head. The Slipway was much more reasonable.

There is a fantastic bar in the front of The Slipway Hotel, featuring local beer. I would say that there are some exclusive local beer, but the beer is so good that it is actually available all over the country!!

Stayed

 

The Slipway Hotel dates backs to 1527. It was a shop in the 19th century selling all types of ship supplies and provisions out of what is now the two tiered restaurant. The Slipway was converted into a hotel in the mid twentieth century and has been gradually upgraded into its present state.

There are 10 rooms available, and the rooms at the front feature views of the harbour.

The breakfast is cooked and continental, a real treat compared with standard hotel breakfasts.

It is an amazing base for exploring the northern Cornish coastline, with Bude, Launceston, Tintangel and Padstow within easy distances.

We visited Rick Steins Fish restaurant in Padstow for lunch. That was something really special!

Port Isaac, Cornwall

Cornwall

Port Isaac aka ‘Port Wenn’

 

RnSCornwallSean and I love the TV show ‘Doc Martin‘. The ideal of the quaint Cornish fishing village has always left us wanting to visit such a romantic place.

We visited Port Isaac at New Years 14/15. Sean and I took turns driving from London on the long journey through the Cotswolds and the western moors.

The beautiful Cornish country side is littered with old tin mines, Georgian buildings and narrow hedged lanes. The drive down to the village of Port Isaac is a tight and windy one. The buildings in the town almost touch each side mirror on the car, and the right angles of the house corners are a challenge to navigate!01ce45a6b6b2d846c0fa32ecc8cc4fedba32876dae

We stayed in the Slipway Hotel, with wonderful views over the harbour. The New Year’s
meal was served in their restaurant in the
second level of the Georgian building. There is a great bar at the front of the hotel, serving local beers.

The coastal walks along the cliff edges are breathtaking. We saw dolphins and seals, prolific bird life, with colonies of shags on the rocky cliffs. The geological striations of slate, with quartz arteries is amazing to see. Entire rock faces are built up upon layers and layers of thin roof tiles!P1000813

Arthurian is the religion of Cornwall, and a visit to Tintagel Castle is the pilgrimage. The skeleton of old walls lines the edge of the island, jutting out of the coast. A single suspension bridge links the castle to the main land. You can imagine what it was like returning home from a long journey to the giant gates, embrace of the walls and freshness of the sea.

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Merlin‘s Cave is a sheds a mystical light from one end to the other. The sea beats into the shore and echoes through the wide space of the cavern. As your eyes adjust to the darkness you can notice small ledges and outcrops where you can imagine an elderly wizard reading books and talking to creatures of the night.

Seduced by the rugged romance of the northern Cornish coast, I let my mind go free. The sea air filled my lungs and the cold wind whistled in my ears. Poldark was shirtless in the fields, while Louisa gazed lovingly from the School, over the bay at Doc Martin.

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