The Hunt is on in Tuscany – for Truffles!

Do you like truffles as much as I do? Just imagine a steaming plate of tagliatelle, white truffles shavings over it, a little butter added and nothing else! Mix, inhale and dig in. Foodie heaven.

trufflepasta

This fall you can enjoy this treat in Tuscany, but what’s more: you can hunt for the lovely things yourself, under the watchful eyes of an expert of course, and then learn which culinary treats to prepare with them. Surprise, surprise, it isn’t pigs which do the sniffing out but the cute Lagotto Romagnola dogs. You might be tempted to adopt one.

If this sounds good, head for Villa Lena in Tuscany.

Truffle Hunting at Villa Lena

Autumn 2016

 

This Autumn, Villa Lena in Tuscany will be hosting truffle hunting expeditions in celebration of the white truffle, trifola d’Alba Madonna, which grows amid the roots of oak, ash, and white poplar trees in their own forests.

 

Guests will learn to forage on the estate with the specialized agriculture team and Lagotto Romagnola dogs. Villa Lena’s chefs in residence will then instruct on preparing and cooking the truffles at the farm-to-table restaurant, which will of course, be followed by a chance to enjoy multiple courses and variations of this Tuscan delicacy at degustation meals customized by the Chef.  As always at Villa Lena, guests are included in the community of resident artists and musicians who host special cocktails, concerts, and creative workshops alongside the other activities on offer.

 

In September, Chef Alexis Delaney from Franny’s in Brooklyn, will host cooking classes with truffle hunting and foraging tours with the estates ‘wild plants specialist’ Stephane Meyer.

 

In October, the new chef in residence Peter Klein, from the critically acclaimed Olamaie restaurant in Austin USA will host the truffle experiences. Klein has spent his career putting a contemporary twist on American Southern cuisine and has worked on artisanal, locally sourced American fast food at Bark Hot Dogs in Brooklyn, as well as at a number of farm-to-table restaurants in the US.

 

Both chefs will be offering one-of-a-kind experiences at Villa Lena; exploring the picturesque 500 hectare estate with the truffle dogs, hands-on cooking classes and unforgettable ‘family-style’ Italian meals with a unique twist.

 

The truffle experiences on offer will be;

 

A la carte

Truffle tours – €15

Truffle lunch – €35

Truffle pasta, mixed truffle antipasti and salad
Extra truffle/gram — market price

Cooking Class – €50

Learn to make fresh tagliatelle and truffle butter followed by lunch with mixed truffle antipasti and salad

Truffle day package – €60
Spend the morning foraging for truffles followed by an afternoon learning to make fresh pasta, and a lunch of fresh truffle pasta, truffle antipasti and salad.

 

For further information on Villa Lena, please visit the website www.villa-lena.it

Images by Villa Lena.

Disclaimer: I have not received any payment or other sponsorship from Villa Lena.

4 Wildlife Parks in Sydney Every Nature Lover Will Appreciate

Sydney is home to breathtaking scenery, great-tasting food and wine, glorious beaches, as well as awe-inspiring tourist attractions. Most travellers would love to set foot and explore this dream city. It is actually one of the ideal destinations to spend your vacation and have the best time of your life with family or friends.

 

Unknown to many, Sydney is also an animal lover’s paradise. More than those impressive tourist spots it offers to all its visitors, this vibrant city also has numerous wildlife attractions that you will definitely love. Nothing really beats the Australian wildlife, which visitors from across the globe swoon.

 

Because of the vastness of parks in Sydney, it’s counter-intuitive to travel by public transport. A pro-tip advice is to find a car rental in Sydney airport once your plane lands. Renting cars are pretty common among tourists because it saves them money and time.

 

Ready to explore the wildlife parks of Sydney? Here are some astonishing spots that you should visit:

 

Taronga Zoo

One of the ultimate destinations for animal lovers is the Taronga Zoo. Apparently, it is Sydney’s most popular zoo, which is situated on the shores of Sydney Harbour. It is a non-profit organization that fully supports wildlife conservation. Moreover, it houses 4,000 animals from more than 350 species; some are world’s most beautiful creatures. If this won’t excite the animal-loving heart of yours, we’re not sure what would?

Taronga Zoo entrance

Taronga Zoo entrance

 

Wild Life Sydney Zoo

Formerly known as Sydney Wildlife World, Wild Life Sydney Zoo is Australia’s one-of-a-kind wildlife park that features entertaining everyday shows, interactive displays, guided tours, and feeding sessions. It is conveniently situated at the heart of the city on Darling Harbour. Each visitor will surely have an amazing animal adventure inside this zoo. Additionally, tons of species are only found in here, which makes it really unique.

 

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Located in Doonside, Sydney, Featherdale Wildlife Park is a privately owned Australian zoo that specializes in native wildlife and birds. It started out as a poultry farm and now has evolved into one of the greatest wildlife parks in Australia. Featherdale is committed to both environmental and animal education. In addition, this zoo runs free encounters with kangaroos and koalas for its visitors.

A cutie!

A cutie!

 

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

If you love the underwater world, then Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is the perfect wildlife destination for you. This wildlife attraction is one of the best in Australia, for it contains a wide range of aquatic life. In fact, it displays over 13,000 individual fish and other sea creatures from more than 700 species. Certainly, you will enjoy your visit here as you marvel the underwater realm. Its numerous aquariums and zones, including its oceanarium, will take your sea world experience to the next level.

 

Australian wildlife is something to look forward to when you are in Sydney. You may visit the incredible wildlife parks mentioned above once you get to spend your holiday in this diverse city. Animal lovers should definitely have Sydney in their travel bucket list!

 

As for people who are not really fond of petting and seeing animals? There are still plenty of activities the parks can offer for you. The thrilling wildlife experience these parks are also one for the books, so grab the opportunity to visit these destinations now and have a memorable experience with animals of all kinds.

Rainforest, caves and beaches in Thrace/Turkey

I have lived for several years in Turkey and spent most of my time traveling up and down the country, but for some reason I have never been to the European part, with the exception of crossing the bridge in Istanbul, that is.
Therefore, I was absolutely thrilled when an invitation from the Trakya Development Agency brought me to this, so far, unknown destination.It turned out to be a revelation.
Before setting off, I had done my homework but I am still amazed at the incredible variety of things to do and see in this part of Turkey, bordering Greece and Bulgaria as well as the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
From prehistoric settlements to Ottoman mosques, caves, rain forests, vineyards, cities and small villages to beaches and oil wrestling, the list can go on and on. And I haven’t even touched on the cuisine and the local arts and crafts.
Today’s post is dedicated to nature and Thrace’s efforts to preserve it. Follow me on a tour of three outstanding gifts of Mother Nature.
Igneada Longoz National Park

Located near the border with Bulgaria in the Black Sea region this huge national park is a rare ecosystem which combines seasonal flooded forests with swamps, five fresh water lakes, rivers and coastal sand dunes.

water

coast
The typical trees growing in the forest are alder, ash, beech, oak and linden which make this a l forest where sunlight filters in as opposed to the darker aspects of dense pine forests. Because of the protection which this unique ecosystem receives, it is also the habitat of rare wildlife such as snow cats, black storks and butterflies.

birds

snowcat

You can hike the forest to your heart’s content but you need a guide as otherwise it’s easy to get lost, not least because it is so vast.
We were lucky to meet with representatives of the environment protection agency in Demirkoy which works closely with European Greenbelt and to see a video presentation of the flora and fauna of Igneada Longoz and the efforts which are made to preserve this piece of pristine nature. Because of this you may be able to see a snow cat and admire orchids , butterflies and hundreds of species of birds.
Dupnisa Cave

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a cozy cave, but the Dupisna cave, which is actually three caves located at a distance of some 30km from Demirkoy certainly deserves this moniker. You can only reach the caves by traveling through the Igneada Longoz forest which allows you to combine two of the most beautiful attractions in Thrace.
It is estimated that the caves are approx. 180 million years old and the complex consists of three caves, the Kuru Cave, the Kiz Cave and the Sulu Cave, interlinked on two different levels.

Easy access

Easy access

The entire system is some 2,7km long, but only a rather small part is open to the public and accessible since 2003. Some of my co-travelers were concerned that they might get claustrophobic venturing into the caves and that’s why I call them cozy. The caves are easy to negotiate, although you have to climb a bit, the paths are well maintained, the steps aren’t slippery and nowhere along the way do the walls or ceiling close in so that you might feel trapped.

cave

Which makes is suitable for people who otherwise might get anxious.
Stalactites and stalagmites of various shapes and length can be admired and are literally highlighted by very clever lighting.

cavelights

stalag

ice
Underground creeks and lakes add to the fairy tale atmosphere and if you are lucky you can even see a few of the 60.000 bats which inhabit the caves hanging upside down high above your head.
If you continue to the end of the path, you alight on top of a small hill, if you go down the same way, you find a pleasant picnic area with a kiosk and facilities.

pinic
Beaches
Forget for a while about the more famous beach resorts on Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coast and head for Thrace instead. There is plenty of choice and we were happy to enjoy the beach at Tekirdag on the Sea of Marmara and, as we were visiting the forest and caves anyway, had a fabulous fish lunch in a pretty little harbor town near Demirkoy and then proceeded to the marvels of 20kms of golden sand at the Igneada Beach. Even gold dust has been found in the sand but don’t bank on getting rich.

Demirkoy

Demirkoy

Located on the west side of the Black Sea the Igneada Beach and Spa resort is a great place to stay, getting pampered in the beauty center or enjoying swims in the shallow and very safe waters or long walks along the beach with the mountains in the background.

beach

 

spa

pool
Whether it’s art, history, nature, beaches, wine or glorious food which you fancy, there is something for every taste to be found in Thrace.

 

Penguins, artists and the great outdoors-False Bay has it all

If you decide to visit South Africa, you better plan for a prolonged stay. It´s not a country you can take a peek at for a few days just to get ´an impression`. It´s just so manifold, from safari parks to deserts, mountains, rivers, the ocean, quaint little villages and thriving cities, vineyards and fields, native treasures and modern architecture, not to mention a sin fin of water sport activities, you will be spoiled for choice.
One of my favourite areas is False Bay, because it offers a bit of everything. It is an approx. 40km wide body of water in the extreme Southwest of SA. The northern shore is sandy with marvellous beaches, whereas the eastern and western parts of False Bay are mountainous. Cape Town, SA`s glamorous metropolis lies to the North within easy reach by either car or railway.
One of my first stops is always Muizenberg, practically a suburb of Cape Town. The main attraction is the miles long beach with its array of colourful beach huts. Muizenberg is the centre for surfers in South Africa. Steep cliffs rise in the background which are popular with rock climbers, although certain cliffs are off limit during breeding periods for birds. Ocean on one side, rocks on the other, the great outdoors at its best.
Cecil Rhodes also thought that this was a great holiday place which is why he bought a small cottage, today a museum. Muizenberg is also home to one of the oldest buildings in South Africa, the Posthuys which dates from 1725. Lovingly restored ,you can visit this quaint monument to SA history.

beach
Follow the coastline roughly in the direction of the Cape of Good Hope and visit other remarkable locations, like Simon´s Town, Kalk Bay and Boulder´s Beach.
Simon’s Town is a naval base and home of the South African Navy. Full of the colourful wooden houses, so typical for the area, it is a lovely place to visit.

200px-Simonstown

It’s probably also the only place where a dog got a monument: Just Nuisance was a ship dog and here he stands all on his own in bronze and in the middle of Simon’s Town.

99px-Justnuisancestatue
Not far away you come to Boulders Beach, home to a colony of the African penguin. Coves full of white sand are the home and breeding place of these utterly funny creatures. They waddle along happily and seem not to be shy of human contact. But, be careful, they bite and, yes, they stink and shriek. The locals are far less happy about them than the tourists are, because they are nosy too, invade and destroy gardens and such, but still, they are a unique sight.

penguins
And after that, you reach my favourite town, Kalk Bay. Ocean on one side and steeply rising mountains on the other, Kalk Bay is just so pretty. The mountains contain a chain of caves, a rarity for South Africa.

220px-Kalk_Bay_2

The southern right whales are attracted to the reef and during whale watching time you can often see the giants peacefully rolling on the surface.
Small wonder then, that Kalk Bay has attracted many artists and painters and you can find their galleries along the tiny main street, cafes with live music in between.
A great way to explore False Bay is taking the train from Cape Town. The line follows the ocean, often just yards from the waterfront and you can get on and off wherever you please.

When the tents come flying- Orihuela´s Medieval Market

One thing is for sure – everybody can travel in good weather. The real adventure starts , when you set out to visit a much awaited festival in brilliant sunshine. And then, half way there, the sky turns black and the heavens open.
My friends Darlene and Mary and I were on our way to the most important festival in Orihuela, a city about 60km distant from Alicante and inland. Every year at the last weekend in January, a Medieval Market is held, an event which lasts for three days and is full of entertainment.
Orihuela´s main attraction is the medieval town center which lends itself as a natural stage to the market.

santgood

kloster

Starting from the town hall, a big part of the center is transformed to give an impression of what life was like in the Middle Ages.
Stall after stall line the streets, selling everything from food to trinkets, jewelry and clothes. Decorated with red and green bunting, the vendors all wear period costumes.

knifes
Whole suckling pigs roast on spits and for those who don´t eat meat there are huge pans of roasting vegetables and potato slices, one more appetizing than the next. Freshly made churros with or without chocolate are to be had as is a great variety of cheeses, bread, sausages, sweets and much more.

pigs

paella
But it´s by no means all about food, although filling your stomach plays an important part. Falconers are as much an image of the Middle Ages as are knights and their armor. After some doing and asking a very helpful (and extremely handsome, I might add) policeman, we found the birds of prey and their masters. Sitting on their perches they just regally watched the passers bye, probably wondering what all the fuss was about.

uhu

hawk
Musicians walk the streets and a puppet theatre was set up to entertain kids of all ages with a play. Another alley is dedicated to the trades of the time, with bakers, weavers and stone masons demonstrating their skills. And yet another street is converted into an Arabic bazaar, including camels offering rides and a belly dancer, shimmying down the street.

drummer

sonemason

bellydancer
By then, the rain had stopped, to be replaced by fierce gusts of wind which sent the stall holders into hiding and their wares flying.
Palm trees bent over to near breaking point and we were playing hide and seek with a huge blue tarpaulin which had broken free. It was slightly chaotic but quite exciting at the same time. Nobody was injured and no major harm was done, so we let ourselves be blown from one place to the other, having fun like kids. It all came round full circle, when we left, the sun was out full force again.