Hosting Fashion Flash from the beach

Fashion FLash logo-1

It’s hot, hot on Spain’s Costa Blanca. Like everybody else, the best way to survive is for me  to spend as much time as possible on the beach. Which means, it’s also very crowded, but, the insider always finds a quiet, secluded place on the rocky stretch, where one can  work in peace and enjoy the cool breeze. The ideal background for hosting this week’s edition of Fashion Flash.

 

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Here are the posts of my FF friends:

Josephine of Chic at any age shows us what to wear with a cream jacket to look chic.

josephine-lalwan

Marcia of Beautyinfozone says: Beautyinfozone believes that serums are vital to our skincare regimen and we’ve found one from Vibriance that is a gold medal winner for the two of us.

vibriance

Mary Lou of Second lives club has a great idea:

Here’s a novel idea for a second life: sell your home and become a nomad. It’s doable and Lynne and Tim Martins tell you how.

Lynne&Tim Martins

Deb of NoNonsenseBeautyBlog gives us an fascinating profile.

She profiles the dashingly handsome diet and beauty doctor whose patients included Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson and the Duchess of Windsor.

deb

Erika from Notes from my dressing table:

Looking for a gorgeous new foundation for maturing, dry skin? Erika from Notes from My Dressing Table is feeling the love for Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Stick Foundation and Brush.

erika

Melanie of Society Wellness:

Society Wellness reminds us that there is a wide variety of berries we should be including in our daily diet for optimal health.

Berry-Benefits-585x365

Jackie from Aging Backwards asks:

Still washing your hair daily? Would you try this weird hair trick?

silver

Almonds and Olives in Rural Spain

It’s the time of year where many parts of Spain are covered with a blanket of pink. This lovely image is the result of millions of almond trees which are breaking into bloom right now. Followed by olive trees and hills and mountains covered with multi colored wild flowers, you can imagine the riot of color greeting you everywhere.

Almond tree in bloom

Almond tree in bloom

A scene like this invites to a trip to admire all this up close and there is no better choice than venturing into the country side. One of my best little trips ever was last year to a village in Andalucia called Alfarnatejo. Not only did I get to enjoy nature but I also had the opportunity to sample real home cooked food by being invited into the house and kitchen of a local lady.

Look at that key

Look at that key

It was a group trip, something I don’t do very often, but this one was just so much fun.
Olive trees, almonds and a rural cottage
Our merry band of twenty, consisting of French speaking Canadians, Irish speaking Irish, a couple from Texas with their special brand of language and multilingual me set off in a people carrier, climbing up high into the mountains of the Axaraquia district, some 60 miles north of Malaga.

mountians
It didn’t take long until we reached the first attraction, so the speak: the oldest olive trees in all of Spain, some of them as old as 1000 years and still producing the finest and most sought after extra virgin oil.

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Golden, thick, sometimes flavored with garlic, crusty country bread is dipped into the liquid, sprinkled with a little salt and enjoyed. At an, unfortunately totally modern and fully automated, oil mill, we at least got to sample the outstanding product. And that was only for starters because, you see, this was basically a food trip.

Tasting at the olive oil mill

Tasting at the olive oil mill

Next to the olive trees grow fields and fields of almonds. It is nearly harvest time and we had great fun, pilfering a few trees, cracking open the almonds on rocks and rolling our eyes in delight when we got at the sweet kernel. It does make a difference from buying them ready packaged at a supermarket.

Cracking the almonds

Cracking the almonds

Over a mountain pass we went towards our final destination: Alfarnatejo. A tiny, tiny white washed village with no more than 381 inhabitants, it’s the smallest village in the south of Spain. The central square is the size of a handkerchief and they don’t even have a policeman.

Alfarnatejo's Town Hall

Alfarnatejo’s Town Hall

What they have though are centuries old farmers cottages, beautifully preserved and maintained. A courtyard awash in flowers and a backroom where goats and sheep were kept right next door to the inhabitants.
Gazpacho festival and multi talent Mari Carmen
The cottage was also the venue where we met our hostess for the day. We got split up into three groups and an equal number of local ladies took us to their respective homes where they had prepared a four course meal consisting of dishes traditionally favored by the peasants of the region.

Mari Carmen in action

Mari Carmen in action

livingroom

patio
My hostess’s name was Mari Carmen and she turned out to be a multi talent. Not only is she a great cook, she is also an accomplished painter and potter. However, she doesn’t sell her products. ‘It’s only for my family.’ She said.

Some of her paintings

Some of her paintings

Small Alfernatejo may be, but it still has an important festival. The Gazpacho Festival at the 1st of August. Gazpacho is the cold soup typical for Andalucia made from a blend of cucumber, tomato, salt, oil and vinegar and a refreshing summer dish. The kids dress up in local costume and gallons of gazpacho are consumed during the festival.

A kid during the gazpacho festival

A kid during the gazpacho festival

Embutidos, puchero and albondigas
My co-eaters were the Irish, a jolly group of a mum and her five, well traveled daughters. We settled down on a long wooden table in the dining room cum kitchen in Mari Carmen’s lovely house and she proceeded to feed her expectant guests for the day.

Ready for the rural feast

Ready for the rural feast

Simple dishes, but oh so good, tasty and fresh. A starter of salad was followed by embutidos variados, a platter of cheese, ham and chorizo accompanied by country bread.

The starter

The starter

Next course was a puchero, a soup/stew made with chunks of meat, chick peas and fresh vegetables.

puchero
And then came albondigas, meat balls in an almond sauce with patatas al pobre, boiled sliced potatoes with finely chopped peppers, laced with olive oil. You can easily see that country people are hearty eaters. ‘Our people like traditional food,’ Mari Carmen explained. ‘They don’t take kindly to burgers and curry. What their mothers cooked is good enough for them’.

albondigas
Thankfully there was plenty of water, red and white wine to wash down the food but even so, I had to struggle to get through dessert. A big slice of water melon which went down easily followed by local pastry, crunchy, soft and sweet at the same time.

pot
Meanwhile Mari Carmen had put on the coffee pot and produced a carafe of berry liquor which, she said with a wink, she had also made herself. As I said, a woman of many talents.
We all chipped in helping with clearing the dishes, something which took her by surprise. ‘Other tourists don’t do that, but thanks very much. It was a pleasure to have had you.’
Well fed and happy we more or less rolled back to our coach and snoozed a peaceful siesta on the way back. Just as well that our driver obviously had a much lighter lunch otherwise this story might not have got written!

On the wine route in Thrace/Turkey

Thrace, the European part of Turkey, has borders with Greece and Bulgaria and a coastline with the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. In between lie mountains, rivers, the Igneada Longoz Forest, Europe’s largest floodplain forest and an astonishing number of vineyards and boutique wineries which carry on the centuries’ old tradition of wine making in Thrace which goes back to even before Roman times.

Barbare vineyards

Barbare vineyards

These vineyards are linked by the Wine Route which reaches from Suvla, passing Tekirdag and north towards Kirklareli. Following this route is a unique experience, something very different to do on a trip to this part of Turkey.

Map thanks to The Thrace Wine Route Project

Map thanks to The Thrace Wine Route Project

I was lucky enough to have been invited on a five day press trip to Thrace by the Trakya Development Agency and two of these five days touched on the wine route.

 

BARBARE VINEYARD
First stop was the Barbare vineyard in Suleymanpasa/Tekirdag not far from the Sea of Marmara. It’s only in existence since 2000, but the 230 acres spread over a small hill and the favorable climate are already producing very fine Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.

In 'my' vineyard

In ‘my’ vineyard

Everything is organic and biodynamic, grapes are picked by hand and immediately transferred to the winery so they don’t lose any juice along the way.
We strolled along the vineyard and were regaled with one of the best Turkish breakfasts I have ever tasted. It was more like a full meal with dish after dish, all washed down….no, not with wine!!! With tea and coffee.

Only part of the breakfast

Only part of the breakfast

The proud owner then took us to the winery proper, explained the process and let us admire the barrels, bottles and specially designed corks. No screw top wines for this brand. And, strangely, no wine tasting either.

bottles

case

barbare

corks

 

ARCADIA VINEYARDS
The next stop, Arcadia vineyards in Luneburgaz/Kirkareli turned out to be quite an adventure.

As the winery sports also a brand new boutique hotel which opened only four months ago, we were scheduled to spend the night there. If only we would manage to arrive! After Kirkareli we turned off the main road, darkness fell, no street lighting, no other buildings, not even a village in sight and we could only hope that our driver knew where he was supposed to go. In the end, he did, but it was a long drive and I can only recommend to any future visitors to undertake this part of the wine route in daylight.

 

Hotel Arcadia

Hotel Arcadia

What lay in store for us was well worth a spot of anxiety along the way. The owner who greeted us was as friendly and helpful as could be. He explained to me that his aim was to make his guests feel like members of his (large) family and to enjoy the unique combination of a luxury boutique hotel in the middle of 200 hectares of vineyard which also include a farm, chickens, rabbits and a very friendly dog.

dog
The luxuries didn’t take long to appear either. A large pool, glorious hamam and sauna and best of all, a outdoor Jacuzzi which you could slip into in the middle of the night and look at the stars or in the early morning and watch the sunrise.

Jacuzzi on the right

Jacuzzi on the right

After yet another fabulous Turkish breakfast we were shown the winery and listened to explanations as to how Arcadia employs the most advanced methods to produce Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon without the use of any chemicals or pesticides whatsoever.
On our departure we learned a very special Turkish gesture: a glass of water was thrown after our coach. The water symbolizes that we should have an easy journey just like water flows and should return soon equally just as water does.
As far as I am concerned his wish for my return may well come true.

Amazing Tenerife

Rumor has it, that renowned explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt fell to his knees in awe when he first caught sight of Tenerife´s Orotava Valley. True or not, it would certainly be understandable because this fertile valley in the north east of the largest island of the Canaries is filled with banana plantations, vineyards and field upon field of the famous black potatoes, a specialty of Tenerife.
The amazing thing about Tenerife is, that the island is, as far as landscape and climate are concerned, practically divided into two very different parts. Whereas the south with its black beaches and rock formations like Los Gigantes has a near desert climate and harsh vegetation, the north is humid, with lush green pine forests and quite a lot of rain. The divider is the volcanic mountain chain of El Teide, a huge lava and rock covered area which is also a nature reserve. Pic de Teide is dormant but might become active again at any time.

Teide nature reserve

Teide nature reserve

Pic de Teide

Pic de Teide

Tenerife has two international airports, Tenerife south being the one most used by visitors and tourists who want to enjoy all inclusive holidays.  The most popular resorts in this part of the island are Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and Adeje. Whereas the first two are mor suitable for families, Adeje has become more up market and a resort which offers luxury  holidays. The sand of the beaches is black because it comes from the lava of the Teide mountain chain.

Black Beach Playa de las Americas

Black Beach Playa de las Americas

Tenerife does have one ´white´beach though, Las Teresitas, close to the charming capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife. A cruise ship stop, Santa Cruz has a flamboyant Marina, a beautiful promenade, many parks with an abundance of palm trees and flowers and an array of elegant 19th century town houses and several churches. Here is also Tenerife´s other airport which mostly connects the island to Spain. A paradise for shopping, eating and taking in a show or two Santa Cruz is definitely worth a visit.

Las Teresitas Tenerife´s white beach

Las Teresitas Tenerife´s white beach

Park in Santa Cruz

Park in Santa Cruz

Roof of a townhouse

Roof of a townhouse

Traditional clothes

Traditional clothes