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I’m going to Poland for the first time. What shall I see and do there?

We asked Manish Ahluwalia, CEO & Director at SKH Global Travels, a leading travel company based in Delhi. Here are his suggestions to make the best of your Poland trip.

“It’s great that you have picked Poland. This beautiful land showcases the best of Europe’s culture, commerce, colour and cool quotient. You are in for a sensory treat! In four days, you can discover the best of Warsaw and Krakow, Poland’s top two cities.”

DAY 1

ARRIVAL AT WARSAW

12:30 pm: Transfer to Hotel, check in, have lunch and relax.

Poland holiday plan
Warsaw Old Town | Image: http://www.wowcher.co.uk

Post Lunch: Walk out of your hotel and explore the city for a bit. The best way to discover European gems is on foot. With its strong whiff of history and culture, Warsaw will wow you. The city drapes a different beauty at dusk. A 2.5 hour illumination tour will take you through the Royal Route, the Old Town and the city center; all lit up and lovely now. Walk around some more if you like. Round off the evening with dinner and turn in for the night.

DAY 2

EXPLORE WARSAW

Autumn in Lazienki Royal Park | Image: www.123rf.com
Autumn in Lazienki Royal Park | Image: http://www.123rf.com

Explore the stunning Lazienki Royal Park, created by the last king of Poland – Stanislaus Poniatowski. Then take a bus tour across Warsaw’s aristocratic residences, historic churches and famous statues. Post lunch, go shopping around the city square. Let the rest of the evening slide slowly by, over drinks, city lights, and a relaxed Polish dinner.

DAY 3

WARSAW – WIELICZKA – KRAKOW

Krakow poland tour plan
A Chapel inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine | Image: teachandlearn on http://www.flickr.com

Leave early and transfer to Krakow by bus—a five hour trip. After lunch, check out Wieliczka, an over 300 m deep UNESCO Heritage listed Salt Mine. This 2-hour walking tour shows you magnificent underground chapels, lakes and chambers carved from salt. Wieliczka is the oldest salt mine in the world still in operation. Enjoy dinner, relax.

DAY 4

DISCOVER KRAKOW

krakow tour poland holiday
Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica | Image: http://www.suminity.com

Take a city tour of Krakow town. The Barbican and defensive walls with Florian’s Gate, the Main Market Square with Sukiennice Cloth Hall, St Mary’s Church and Town Hall Tower are Polish gems. Post lunch, check out the Jagiellonian University, pass by Archbishop Palace, where John Paul II used to live, as well as St. Andrew’s Church and SS Peter and Paul’s Church to reach the Wawel Hill, where you could visit the Wawel Cathedral with tombs of Polish kings.

We hope this has helped you plan your Poland trip better. Have a great holiday!

This article was first published in the Jan-Feb 2015 issue
of Travel Secrets Magazine.
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Where in Maharashtra is Kalote Lake? Is it worth a visit?

Mansi Ghuwalewalla can help you with this one:

“When we leapt off our rickshaw (10 Rs. per head from the Karjat naka) at the turn for Kalote on the Mumbai-Pune highway, our expectations were quite moderate. We just wanted to find a relatively less crowded lake among the many that dot the Western Ghats during monsoon. Only, there was more in store.

As we followed two headloading village women and a mildly inebriated old man on a short uphill walk, Kalote village slowly revealed itself to us – an almost-still settlement around a lake circled by lush hills and howling wind.

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My friend and I exchanged a look that said, this is not a scene, it’s a place. We were here to celebrate our

birthday, which falls on the same day. The whole thing felt symbolic in the way that it was just another day in this place. This place was itself everyday of its life. It just stayed there being this way. Anyway, our little ‘getaway’ had begun well.

A private property sat on an island in the lake. A couple of understated resorts, followed by a small village and a ‘dabdaba’ up ahead. The rest was all open spaces.

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At the first resort, the lady (hands covered with flour) told us she had no rooms. Having had only ussal pav and chai at Karjat for breakfast, we were famished. At the next resort, Mrs. Khan sat on a swing, breaking coriander. She offered us a ‘package’ of Rs 1500 per head per day, with three meals. When we tried to bargain, she said, “the food is excellent” so matter of factly without as much as looking up from her dhaniya that I believed her. And good that I did. The food, simple and sumptuous, is just by the way in a place like this.

There’s a lot to do in Kalote – walk around, look around, walk around, laze around and look at the lake. You can’t go into it for a swim because that’s where the drinking water for the village comes from. ‘Dabdaba’ is the Marathi word for waterfall, and it’s your free, natural spa! The best part was walking barefoot to and into the waterfall and then becoming one of the rocks.

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Well, that’s what we did for a day and a half. So good.

Even the highway feels like a different place in the monsoon. Especially when you’re in a rickshaw back into town and you know the air is going to smell its familiar smoky texture soon.

For Driving directions:

Use google maps to search for <18°52’4″N   73°17’3″E >”

Take me to an Irish cafe that the locals love!

Just a few minutes out of Belfast airport, and you have a fiesta of Irish treats laid out for you. Rhubarb pie with homemade ice-cream, to begin with. At a pretty tucked-away place that overlooks the endless sea, and doubles as a local nursery. Called Harrisons, quite simply. Harrisons-Restaurant-201207280453 DSC00590 That pie. It alone is worth a trip to Northern Ireland. The rhubarb is nice and tart, and the pie crust is perfectly crisp. And the ice-cream, it tastes like the cow was milked a few minutes ago and the hens just laid their eggs and all of it was churned quickly together and frozen swiftly up to create this fresh, fantastic dream in cream. Sorry, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re reminiscing about a treat so delicious. DSC00591 Many days after I arrived back in India and Googled it, I was blown away by the story of Harrison’s! It is owned by a family that lives on 90 lush acres of land. The location is called Ards Peninsula, one of Northern Ireland’s most picturesque locations. (But then, I was there for nearly a week and did not see one spot that would not qualify as that! All of Ireland, Northern or not, is an ode to natural beauty.) And I am not the only one determined to go back for that ice cream. Apparently, 30 per cent of its customers drive more than an hour to come and eat at Harrisons. I suspect that statistic will quickly crawl upward soon. I have to admit I wolfed down the entire pie and ice-cream, and those calories were worth lunch and dinner both. And I was too hungry to take photos of the treat! Shubhra Krishan

I’m a hairdresser. Pl suggest a fun name for my shop!

Hair we go!  Inspiration from our Ireland album.DSC00690DSC00708DSC00705DSC00703

A good dhaba in Amritsar, Punjab?

Located a short walk from the Golden Temple, in the Town Hall, is Bharawan da Dhaba, where we ate a hearty meal of chana masala, paneer kulcha, sweet lassi, and have never quite forgotten the taste!

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This divine food is reason enough to go to Amritsar, and no, the dhaba hasn’t paid us to write this for them!

bharawan-da-dhaba

The name literally means “Restaurant of the brothers,” and whoever they are, they deserve a collective pat on their backs for dishing up such amazing food.

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The dhaba is always crowded, and that is a good sign. It only serves vegetarian food, but even if you are a meat lover, it is hard not to fall in love with the hearty Punjabi flavours here. Those lachcha paranthas topped with big dollops of butter…mmm!

Address: Hall Bazar, Golden Temple Out Road, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab 143001

Phone:0183 253 2575

 

I’m looking for an activity-oriented weekend retreat near Pune.

We know just the place! Avanti Kalagram, which bills itself an Art & Health Village, is just an hour away from Pune. Besides a beautiful setting close to the Khamboli Dam, the resort boasts dozens of exciting activities to keep you happily busy all weekend.

avantiTS

Go trekking, try some farming with the locals, or bring out your inner artist with a pottery or painting session. Picinics, campfires, and local celebrations such as the famous Jatra are on the menu, too.

Know Before You Go: The resort is not fancy or luxurious. Expect to enjoy a slice of the village life, while reconnecting with Nature.

waterfallavantiTS

Food at the resort is cooked on the chulha, and local dishes such as Bhakari, Kharda and Pakora are served. If that makes your mouth water, you are sure to find the resort a delightful experience.

bhakriKharda

Can’t wait to book? Get the details on www.avantikalagram.com. And if you have a favourite rural retreat in Maharashtra, do tell us about it!akTS

What’s socca, the famous French street food?

Team TS first heard about–and tasted–Socca in Nice, France.

cours-saleya-market-socca

(Image: www.thegoodlifefrance.com)

Made primarily with chickpea flour and olive oil – ingredients plentiful around the Mediterranean – Socca  is a quick, cheap, and delightful snack served along the French part of the coast and all the way into Liguria in Italy, where it goes by the name Farinata.

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Image: www.myfrenchlife.org

To be authentic, socca should be baked over a fire. It is best served piping-hot, and raked as it is baked, which makes the surface extra-crispy. When the giant disk is yanked from the oven, it should arrive at your table or in your hands seconds later. Don’t wait—dive right in! Pair with a chilled rosé.

And now, a little secret of our own: in India, we make something very similar to socca. It is made with chickpea flour, and we call it cheela or poora. To make this, we make a thinnish batter composed of chickpea flour, water, salt, red chilli powder (we’re Indian!), powdered cumin. It’s cooked like a pancake and best enjoyed with mint and cilantro chutney. 

Something fun for Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh?

Of course! 

Let’s take you to The Elephant House Cafe in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland’s pulsating capital city!

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It looks like an unlikely spot for the blockbuster it secretly housed. But yes, J.K. Rowling sat here, scribbling furiously over cups of coffee and we are sure, Scottish scones.

jkrtwitter

(Image: pottermore-news.com)

Do visit the loo here: the walls are filled with ‘letters’ scribbled to the author from women across the world!

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Image: niamhinlondon.tumblr.com

Besides inspiration, the Cafe also serves full breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the menu are pizzas, salads, pasta, Haggis, Neeps and Tatties (Scotland’s national dish), and something called Lucas of Musselburgh Ice Cream which we did not taste but are sure is a delicious secret in itself!

http://www.elephanthouse.biz/

21 George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EN
Tel. 0131-220-5355
Fax. 0131-220-4272
contact@elephanthouse.biz

Tell me a Venice, Italy secret few know about.

If you are a book lover, here’s a secret you are going to love!

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy: The translation is “library of high water.” It’s spread out through various rambling rooms; one room with a gondola stacked with books, other rooms are packed with rowing boats & bath tubs full of old second hand atlases, dictionaries, art books, biographies and history books.

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There’s something for every one, you just have to look long enough. In the back room you can look out to one of the channels, which makes this place even more special.

libreria-acqua-alta-facebook-1

Location: Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa

Hours: 9.00 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

Point me to Sicily’s most exciting cities.

Tough one, considering how vast and wonderful Sicily is. Laid-back and lush, this is a land that enjoys the best of earth and sea.

Team TS was there last week, so we do know the right places for you to explore in Sicily.

The queen of the region is Palermo, a gorgeous city that offers everything that a good city should: lots of shopping, serious history, and abundant nature just a heartbeat away. Our first impression when we hit Palermo was one of pure surprise. Here is where the rural-at-heart Sicily suddenly turns glam girl, and seduces you with street style and nightlife that can compete with the best of Europe.

Street_Palermo_Sicily

Just a few minutes away from the city, you stumble upon scenes like this! Postcard views, daring your fingers to stop clicking:

 

palermo

Our wonderful and well-informed guide Andrea Calabrese of Mosaica Travel, himself a Palermo man, told us how the people of Palermo like to spend their entire day by the sea, enjoying the delicious Mediterranean weather and home-cooked lunch. Sure enough, we saw scores of happy families dotted across the golden sands, taking their fill of the stunning land they inhabit. Only a sprinkling of these were tourists, which in our book makes a place even more charming.

After all that driving, we were hungry, and the good Andrea knew just the place to take us to. The heart of the city, where locals sat enjoying street food.

The words stop in my mouth when I try to describe those flavours. Being vegetarian, I tried potato and chickpea-based snacks, named Cazilli and Panelle respectively.

 

The potato fritter is light and fluffy, and the chickpea pancakes are soft and pillowy. They are gently salted and absolutely divine. For meat lovers, of course, this is paradise. You MUST read this blog entry before going to Palermo; it will tell you all you need to know about the street food of this wondrous city.

cazilli

Time to let you into another secret here: do not miss walking down the open farmers’ markets in Palermo: they house some of the freshest and most prized herbs and spices, and you won’t find those friendly prices anywhere else in Italy!

levy-yadid-vucciria-market-palermo-sicily-italy-europe

 

Then there is Catania, sitting under the moody Etna. While the volcano fumes, the city rocks. The nightlife here is high-octane, and during daytime, you can drive up to Etna where the landscape is dramatic and sobering.

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And Taormina, a short drive up from Catania, will charm you with its winding lanes and vibrant shopping. It’s the quintessential European town, best explored on foot. It is ridiculously easy to fall in love with the delicately named Taormina, which drapes itself sinuously up on the Tauro mountain. The climate is beautifully balmy, and the views of the sea are exceptional.  Taormina lies on a terrace, with a view of the ancient Amphitheater against a backdrop of citrus groves with Mount Etna close by and the Ionian Sea beyond.

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We have so much more to tell you about Sicily’s secrets. Watch this space!

How can I make the best of Pune in a day?

Adventure seekers to history buffs, fashionistas to crazy foodies – the queen of the Deccan has a lot in store for all. Here are a few secrets to experience the best that Pune has on offer.

Breakfast

There can be no better way to kickstart a Punekar’s day than with an early morning meal of Kanda poha and chaiAmruteshwar at Nalstop offers poha tossed with the traditional tempering of mustard seeds, chillies and curry leaves. Now we’re talking Maharashtra!

Image: wishpicker.com
Image: wishpicker.com

 

Recommended:

Amruteshwar

Warje Malwadi Rd, Apex Colony, Erandwane, Pune, Maharashtra 411004

Phone:099 22 687268

Hours: 2:45 am – 12:00 pm

Hangouts

Pune is called the Oxford of the East, and very aptly so. The city is brimming with colleges. The population is relatively young and the atmosphere invigorating. Don’t hesitate to lose yourself in the lovely lanes of Law college road.

FC Road eateries Image: www.panoramio.com
FC Road eateries Image: http://www.panoramio.com

A list of the best hangouts in Pune would be incomplete without the Fergusson College Road. FC Road is a fashion geek’s paradise – available here are pretty and cheap trinkets, footwear and a wide assortments of fashion wear. Also, quite a few restaurants here are to die for. You wouldn’t want to miss Vaishali’s finger licking south Indian food, Café Goodluck’s Irani chai and bun maska or Peter’s Pan’s heavenly chocolate waffles.

Find out more about FC Road hangouts here

History

Take a trip down the historical and architectural lane of Maratha history. Sinhagad Fort; meaning the Lion’s Fort is a fortress located 30 km southwest of the city of Pune. It is a much loved haunt of photographers and trekkers alike.

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Cabs to and fro can be booked in advance to Sinhgad.(Wings cab- +91 20 40100100)

Know before you go: It is advised to avoid the fort during peak summer months. Sunscreen is a must. Also, do not forget to put on your best trekking shoes.

Sinhgad Fort

Thoptewadi, Sinhagad Ghat Rd, Pune, Maharashtra 411025

Phone– 020 2612 6867

Recommended for– History Buffs, Experience Seekers, Photo Fanatics

Entry fee– Rs. 20 for two wheelers, Rs. 50 for four wheelers

Timings– Seven days a week; 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Shopping

If mall-crawling is on your mind, Amanora town centre is where you should be headed. It is a stylish and uniquely designed expanse spread over one million square feet to be dubbed as Pune’s largest mall. You will find the finest Indian and international brands in fashion, lifestyle and entertainment.

Image: www.skyscrapercity.com
Image: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

Amanora Town Centre
Opposite Magar Patta City, Mundhwa-Kharadi Rd, Hadapsar, Pune, Maharashtra 411028

Phone:020 3057 0405

Hours: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Party Place

The most happening place in Pune is undoubtedly Koregaon Park. Explore the beautiful bungalows and parks, plus the lounges, pubs and eateries here. The famous German BakeryChabad houseOsho Ashram and Bund Garden are also located in here. Another fun way to spend the evening would be to attend a gig at the The High Spirits café here.

Image; www.buzzintown.com
Image; http://www.buzzintown.com

Recommended: The High Spirits Café

North Main Rd, Pune, Maharashtra 411001

Phone: 093 71 006430
Hours: 12:30–3:00 pm, 7:30–11:30 pm
Expense: Rs. 1500 for two people with alcohol

More info here

Desserts

The local favourite, Pooran Poli is a must-have for dessert. Situated in the bylanes of JM Road, Sukanta restaurant known for its quick service, serves delicious Pooran Poli.

Image: thecookscollection.blogspot.com
Image: thecookscollection.blogspot.com

Recommended: Sukanta

636, Deccan Gymkhana, Pulachi Wadi, Pune

Phone: 020 25530077, 020 66013222

Cost of Thali: Rs 250

(Inputs by TS writer Tanushree Nigam)

Want to explore Pune more? Check these out:

www.cityblogpune.com

Eating out in Pune – Another Pune food blog

Places around Pune – Preeti’s Travel Blog

 

I am touring the south of France. Any must-try street foods here?

Yes. Did you try Socca – the signature street food in the south of France?

Farinata
Image: annmah.net

Made primarily with chickpea flour and olive oil – ingredients plentiful around the Mediterranean – Socca is a quick, cheap, and delightful snack served along the French part of the coast and all the way into Liguria in Italy, where it goes by the name Farinata.
To be authentic, socca should be baked over a fire. It is best served piping-hot, and raked as it is baked, which makes the surface extracrispy. When the giant disk is yanked from the oven, it should arrive at your table or in your hands seconds later. Don’t wait—dive right in! Pair with a chilled rosé.

Find a recipe here

 

I’m off to California. Some San Francisco secrets, please?

“Poetry readings at the City Lights Bookstore, organic vegetables at the Ferry Building Marketplace, and daily technological advances by new startup companies are just a few things that come to mind when I think of San Francisco—the heart of America’s west coast.” – says our Japan correspondent Ted Grinewich-Yonashiro who gathered these exciting city secrets on his recent trip there. 

Here’s a list of fantastic recommendations from him on places to visit, food to taste, and experiences that are unique to this culturally rich city by the bay.

The Warming Hut: A cute little cafe in Crissy Field, a public park in the northern part of the city that offer freshly made warm soups, sandwiches, and great coffee. Also, enjoy a picture perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge while you sip your cuppa.

Image: insidescoopsf.sfgate.com
Image: insidescoopsf.sfgate.com

Blue Bottle Coffee: Located in the Ferry Building just down the road from Fisherman’s Wharf, this famous cafe serves up drip coffee made from organic coffee beans that are ground, portioned, and brewed to order. Try the spicy snicker-doodle cookie that comes wrapped in a brown coffee filter too.

Image: www.tripadvisor.com
Image: http://www.tripadvisor.com

Chowder Hut Fresh Grill: Just outside Boudin’s Sourdough Bakery experience two of the Bay Area’s delicacies for lunch – the crab chowder in a sour dough bread bowl costs less than $10. The simple but filling meal will give you a chance to sample the Bay’s fine crab along with Boudin’s famous sour dough. Try to get a table outside on the patio, even if it is cold— space heaters make the air not so chilly. Here you can enjoy a great view of the bay, as well as Alcatraz. Also do some people watching as tourists and locals mill around Fisherman’s Wharf.

Image: http://www.fishermanswharf.org/
Image: http://www.fishermanswharf.org/

Muir Woods: Located over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, it takes a while to get here by car and might take one day to visit if you are staying in the city limits of San Francisco. But if you love nature, the trip is well worth the time. The park is maintained beautifully and is full of history, both natural and cultural—plaques can be found along the paths that wind throughout the woods. The deep quiet, even with the number of people visiting the park, is breathtaking. The redwoods of the park tower over you as you walk through the cathedral-like forest. If the weather is chilly, be sure to bundle up—Muir Woods can get quite cold even on a sunny day. Though the Park might be a beautiful place for a picnic, food is not allowed to be brought in. On the
day you visit, plan on having a hearty breakfast and an early dinner.

Image: http://www.sftodo.com/
Image: http://www.sftodo.com/

Hook & Ladder Winery: In the Northern Bay Area, Sonoma County is known for fantastic wineries and beautiful scenery. We chose Hook & Ladder for a complimentary wine tasting. We went through at least six different wines with an easy-going staff who explained the different flavours of the wine. If you are not experienced wine connoisseurs, the staff will help you with the wine-tasting vocabulary. The Hook & Ladder Port is a sweet red dessert wine, great sipped after dinner with steak or tomatoes. It also complements a cup of hot cocoa if a bit is poured into the mug.

Image: www.tripadvisor.com
Image: http://www.tripadvisor.com
This review was first published in the March-April 2014 issue of Travel Secrets Magazine.
Digital copies available online at Magzter.com

Want more local secrets from San Francisco? Check these out:

http://www.san-francisco-travel-secrets.com/san-francisco-things-to-do-off-the-beaten-path.html

Infographic: Travel Like a Local: San Francisco’s Best-Kept Secrets

http://sf.eater.com/archives/2013/09/24/san_franciscos_most_underrated_restaurants_mapped.php

Bay Area Blogger, Daughter Tracks Down Tiny Hidden Doors In San Francisco, Berkeley

Q. I’ve heard of Tomatina. What other exciting festivals does Spain have?

Plenty!

San Fermin

Image: www.boston.com
Image: http://www.boston.com

A week-long festival celebrated annually during the first half of July in the city of Pamplona. The highlight: the iconic bull run which despite much protests from animal rights groups, has continued to gather enthusiastic crowds from all over the world. Although the entire run from the bottom of Santo Domingo street, all the way up to the bull ring lasts no more than three minutes, it is a highly energetic and exciting event where scores of dare-devil runners test their speeds against  raging bulls.

 www.sanfermin.com

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival

Image: www.sancar.ro
Image: http://www.sancar.ro

The true spirit of Spanish fiesta is best showcased at this carnival. Every February,  a parade complete with beautifully crafted floats, music concerts and dances is held in Santa Cruz de Tenerife the capital of the Canary Island. The central attraction of the Carnival which makes the audience remember its Brazilian counterpart, is the group of performers, mostly girls,  dressed in vibrant and flamboyant costumes.

www.carnavaldetenerife.com

Las Fallas de Valencia

Image: www.introitismo.es
Image: http://www.introitismo.es

A treat for the fire-loving revelers and craftsmen, Las Fallas is another unique Spanish fiesta which showcases the local craftsmanship in the form of gigantic satirical puppets that are stuffed with fireworks and set ablaze at midnight. The day-time celebrations feature bull fights, beauty pageants and parades. The highlight: lighting up a string of special firecrackers known as mascletá which are extremely loud with a rhythmic thunderous sound.

 Valencia City Guide to Fallas festival

Watch this video to get a taste of the festivities

Los Indianos

Image: wodumedia.com
Image: wodumedia.com

Probably the dry version of La Tomatina – Los Indianos is another popular Spanish carnival where instead of a ripe, squashed tomato, people fling huge quantities of talcum powder on each other. The carnival moves through the old streets of Santa Cruz de La Palma, accompanied with numerous street performers including strolling minstrels and one-man bands.

Read more about it on the La Palma Island blog

Haro Wine Festival

Image: www.cokebartrina.com
Image: http://www.cokebartrina.com

Another variation of La Tomatina is La Batalla de Vino de Haro or simply, the Wine Fight. This unique festival is celebrated every year in the small town of Haro where people drench each other with wine pouring out of buckets and water pistols alike. The festival also includes traditional dances and music concerts.

www.winefight.com

So, what’s your favourite – bulls, carnivals, fireworks, wine or talcum powder?

(Input: TS intern Preeti Sharma)

The best shopping street in Edinburgh, Scotland?

That Edinburgh is one of the world’s most elegant and beautiful cities is no secret.  That it has enough museums and castles to tick off your list is also common knowledge.

What a lot of tourists tend to miss is this: feel-good country-style shopping in the city! And that’s where we come in.

Stockbridge. Call it a street or a self-contained little village inside Edinburgh, this is a secret you need to discover, shopping or not.

After you are done with your morning coffee and scones, head for Stockbridge, a vibrant street with lots of pubs, cafes and yes, shops!

Everyone will point you toward Edinburgh’s ‘Royal Mile,’ which of course is lovely and lively. But if you’re looking for little treasures for your window-sill or your bookshelf, you need to go to Stockbridge.

A string of stores with vintage and charity goods to pick from.Beautifully packaged Scottish soaps and creams, cute curios, rare books—you never know what you might find, for just a few euros!

Set aside a whole morning for browsing Stockbridge. Read more here.

The best pizza in Toronto?

Honest answer: we can’t say. Our team has toured Toronto twice and enjoyed some good slices of pizza, but a few days in a city cannot make you an authority on its best eats.

Having said that…

…We know the best resource where you can learn not only about Toronto’s best pizza, but also its best bars, bakeries, bistros, bubble tea and more!

Here it is.

BlogTo, in their own words, are: ” Toronto’s most-visited web site for local news and culture, best of lists, restaurant reviews and events. Founded in 2004, we’re a growing and diverse team of artists, baristas, bakers, tech geeks, DJs, fashionistas, comedians and people who take daily multi-vitamins. ”

About the best pizza: check out their list, and you will know where to go.

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What are the sweet delicacies of Egypt?

Egypt is known for its hot deserts. But does it also have good desserts? Yes! Here is our list of their top 5.

Roz bil-Laban

Image: eaudespice.wordpress.com
Image: eaudespice.wordpress.com

A simple yet delicious  dish made with just rice and milk. Something like the Indian Kheer. You can find them in households or small restaurants. Top them up with cinnamon and nuts, and stick into the fridge for a few hours. You will forget all about ice cream.

Find recipe here

Basbousa

Image: flitzyphoebie.blogspot.com
Image: flitzyphoebie.blogspot.com

A sweet cake with a wheat and cereal base . One look at it getting dipped in orange or lemon flavoured and rose scented syrup makes your mouth water. Topped with various nuts to make the taste even more delicious. Semolina, flour, sugar and butter is all that you need to make it.

Find recipe here

Qatayef

Image: acontentedfoody.wordpress.com
Image: acontentedfoody.wordpress.com

Dumplings first boiled and then fried in bubbling hot oil. Filled up with a thick cream or custard which flows like jelly into your mouth as you bite into it. ‘Arabic pancakes’ as called in foreign lands, they are found in every street corner especially during the Ramadan.

Find recipe here

Umm ali

Image: avocadobravado.net
Image: avocadobravado.net

A scrumptious Egyptian dessert which reminds me of bread pudding. The odd name literally means the “Mother of Ali”. It is made using puff pastry, milk and water; intricately decorated with whipped cream and ice cream. Top it up with nuts to make it crunchy and crumbly. A great dish for sunny days.

Find recipe here

Kanafeh

Image: www.skyscrapercity.com
Image: http://www.skyscrapercity.com

Cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup – you can find  it nearly anywhere in Syria and northern Egypt.  Sold in two forms – both comparable to any western dessert. One is made with a crust of thin noodles and the other made with dough. Top it up with raisins , nuts and cream for an unforgettable taste.

Find recipe here

What is your  favourite Egyptian dessert? Tell us!

(Input: TS intern Jai Khajuria)

What are the upcoming events at Davos Klosters, Switzerland?

Dreaming of snow in this sweltering heat? Head for the mountains! Discover Davos Klosters in the Swiss Alps and enjoy their year-round events and activities. Here’s what you can look forward to  in the coming months.

Image: en.graubuenden.ch
Image: en.graubuenden.ch

At Davos in Switzerland, a sports eldorado, health resort, business city, and cultural metropolis merge together to transform Europe’s highest-altitude Alpine town into a destination of a thousand possibilities. Located on the  Landwasser River, in the Swiss Alps, between the Plessur and Albula Range, Davos could be your ideal summer getaway. It is also home to one of  Switzerland’s biggest ski resorts and hosts the annual Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament. The high valley town also offers 97 kilometers of pistes for cross country skiing and the largest natural ice skating field in Europe. Summer transport in the six main ski areas to the peaks are available  from mid May until end of October. 

Events and activities in Davos Klosters

Image: www.davos.ch
Image: http://www.davos.ch

June 2014

GWunderwald Heidboden Davos: Explore Davos through its vibrant flora, fauna, forestry, hunting and landscapes. The natural adventure trail has 30 different stations along the route and is equally interesting for both the young and the young-at-heart.

For more info, visit: www.gwunderwald.ch

Image: www.davos.ch
Image: http://www.davos.ch

June – October 2014

Biking in Davos Klosters: Explore Davos on two-wheels with Hotel Grischa’s guided bike tours. Trained mountain bike guides are available for groups of four to eight. Get to know Davos Klosters as a biking destinations and learn a few handy tips to stay safe on two-wheels.

For more info, visit: www.bike-academy.ch

Image: vagabondimages.in
Image: vagabondimages.in

21 – 28 June, 2014

AlpenFieber Davos: Open air concerts and hiking around town – AlpenFiber is all about experiencing Davos culture. Tune into some folk music during the day at special locations like Sertig, the Schatzalp, Lake Schwarzsee and the Seehofseeli. Get cozy within the walls of your hotel for the evening concerts, after a long day of walking around the Davos countryside. 

For more info, visit:  www.davos.ch/ferienshop/alpenfieber-davos

Image: www.davos.ch
Image: http://www.davos.ch

21 June – 21 September, 2014

10 Years of Sculpture Symposium: A massive exhibition to celebrate the anniversary will feature about 100 sculptures, guided tours on the arts on the Stafelalp, moonlit walks and artists‘ workshops at the resort. Discover the local art and crafts.

For more info, visit: www.hart-events.ch

What kind of food do they eat in the Balkan Regions?

Ex-Yugoslavia is the new booming European destination hitting the headlines of travel websites. The Balkan countries, which take their name from the Balkan mountains,  may not boast the great cultural heritage and the stunning views of Western Europe, but brandish what they are the best at – their traditional hospitality and the excellent food. Our Serbia correspondent, Anna Rostokina lays out a rich buffet of Balkan delights. 

Balkan cuisine

The oriental cuisine in the east and the fine central European specialties in the west, the organic vegetables and the delicious lovely home-made groceries in the north and the seafood with a Mediterranean flair in the south – food from the Balkan region is as diverse as its snow-covered mountains, vast valleys, great rivers, lakes and the Adriatic coast. Not only are the goodies fresh and delicious, but the people here truly know how to enjoy food – and they are eager to share their skill.

Balkan cuisine is naturally eclectic because the region has experienced so many influences throughout the ages. From ancient Romans who strarted olive oil production to the Ottoman Turks in the Middle ages and finally the Italian and German influences have made their cuisines and gastronomic customs more sophisticated. However, the true spirit of the Balkans is in their mountains.

ćevap Image: www.truelocal.com.au
ćevap Image: http://www.truelocal.com.au

The food is simple but it will warm up your stomach and your heart.

Meat is the main ingredient: grilled, baked or smoked. In Christian countries they mainly eat pork, while Muslims prefer beef. There are about half a dozen meat specialties known under the common title of “roštilj” or “skara”, which comes from the name of the specific type of grill on which these meals are prepared. The most popular one, called ćevap (derived from the Turkish kebab), has quite a peculiar geography. Several Balkan cities compete for the title of the Balkan ćevap capital.

When in the southern Serbian town of Leskovac, be prepared for the ultimate gourmet experience called “the Leskovac train” – a course of five different meat specialties that waiters bring in one after another, which in a way reminds one of train coaches.

In Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, try local ćevaps, served in a bun, with a hearty lot of sliced chopped onions and a spoonful of kajmak, a traditional dairy product. Baščaršija, the old Turkish bazaar in the city serves the best experience.

Banja Luka, in the north of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has its own distinctive cevap variety mainly known for its shape: several kebabs stick together to form small rectangular portions of meat.

Balkan cuisine ajvar

Another traditional Balkan specialty is roasted meat. No Balkan festivity is complete without roasted pork, lamb or beef. The carcass of the animal is seasoned with salt and roasted whole on a spit, then cut into small pieces. Unlike roasts in other cultures, in the Balkans this type of meat is often eaten cold, which is understandable because no good celebration lasts for less than two days.

The most authentic vegetarian Balkan dish are baked beans. It is such a basic meal that when Serbs want to say that something is simple they call it “as simple as beans.” This dish comes under a number of different names depending on the country but the essence is the same: white beans cooked with onions and then oven-baked in a ceramic pot with an appropriate seasoning. What gives them their remarkable taste is the red pepper. Red bell peppers are the main ingredient of ajvar, a popular relish eaten either as a side dish or a sauce. Besides roasted pepper, it may contain eggplants, garlic and chili peppers.

Macedonian pastrmajlija
Macedonian pastrmajlija

Then there are the pies. Made of delicate paper-thin dough, layered with different fillings, crunchy on the outside and juicy
inside, they are the typical Balkan breakfast, complete with yoghurt or sour milk. The most common filling is minced meat
or cheese. Such pies are called burek. Other popular varieties are include potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage and pumpkin. There are also sweet pies filled with cherries, apples, plums, walnuts, etc. Probably the most sophisticated of all is the branded Slovenian pastry prekmurska gibanica, or Prekmurian cake, which contains ricotta, apples, walnuts, raisins and poppy seeds. As far as pastry is concerned, I cannot skip the Macedonian pastrmajlija. An oval-shaped bread and meat pie which originally comes from Turkish cuisine, it is a great oriental pizza alternative, simple but rich and tasty.

The mountainous parts of the Balkans are home to delicious cheese and dairy products. One of the most widely-appreciated cheeses
comes from the Croatian island of Pag, where sheep feed on sage, which gives the milk a specific taste. One more dairy must-try is kajmak, a milk product with creamy texture and a tender, slightly salty taste. It is used as a surplus ingredient in many Balkan dishes, from cornmeal to grilled meat.

Montenegro pršut
Montenegro pršut

On the Adriatic coast, in Montenegro and Croatia, they often put an extra touch on the local cheeses by keeping them in olive oil, often with herbs, to give them a delicate taste. There is plenty of excellent fresh seafood too. When in Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, don’t miss the local smoked ham called pršut – is said to be the best starter (alongside with cheese and olives) to go with the local red wines.

If you are keen on dessert wines, make sure to try bermet, the much-appraised specialty of northern Serbia’s Fruška Gora wine
region. It owes its intricate taste to the maceration of 20 different herbs and spices and the recipe is held in secret by a handful of
local families.

However it is not the wines that tell the most about the Balkans but the traditional strong spirits commonly called rakija, a brandymade from fruit such as grapes, plums, pears, apples and quince. Some rare varieties include raspberry and mulberry, but the truly traditional rakija flavors are plum and grape.

Balkan sweet plum dumplings
Balkan sweet plum dumplings

A tour around the cuisines of Ex-Yugoslavia would be incomplete without an insight into the Balkan “dolce vita”: the exciting blend of oriental and European desserts. The oldschool sweet shops in the southeast of the Balkans feature traditional Turkish pastry soaked in honey or sugar syrup, usually eaten with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of boza, a flour-based drink with a rather unusual taste. The most celebrated sweet is probably the baklava, which can have as many as 70 layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts, raisins or cherries. In the west and the north of the Balkans, where the local cuisines have been influenced by those of Austria and Hungary, you will find a wide range of strudels, rolled cakes and kuchens. My favourite dessert from this part of Europe are the sweet plum dumplings, which are surprisingly delicious for something so simple.

Real the full-story in Travel Secrets Magazine's March - April 2014 issue.
Digital copies available on Magzter

I am new to Mexican cuisine. Can you suggest some delicious dishes?

Fiery, flavourful, fabulous: Mexican cuisine guarantees non-stop excitement for your taste-buds. Our California correspondent Kristen Cashman has picked her favourites from the region’s cornucopia of culinary delights – you could try these too.

Guacamole and tortilla chips

guacamole_20538757
A scrumptious mash-up of avocados, sea salt, tomatoes, onions, lime juice, and cilantro, guacamole is most commonly served with tortilla chips. Tortillas — flat, disc-shaped breads made from corn or sometimes flour —form a mainstay of the Mexican diet. When deep-fried, they become a crispy vehicle for dips and salsas.

Fish tacos

Crispy-Fish-Tacos
Top a tortilla with deep-fried or grilled catch of the day, pile on some condiments, fold it in half, and voilà! The condiments include shredded cabbage or lettuce, lime juice, diced onions, and a variety of sauces — known as salsas — of chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocados, sour cream and/or mayonnaise.

Mole

mole-poblano
With dozens of regional varieties, mole is considered a national treasure. This rich, complex sauce of chile peppers and spices can contain up to 30 ingredients, including chocolate, and it takes a whole day to prepare by hand. Usually topping poultry or pork, mole has a deep flavour that enlivens any meal.

Huevos rancheros

huevos-rancheros-5
This breakfast masterpiece consists of fried corn tortillas topped with fried eggs and a salsa of tomatoes and chiles. When pierced, the runny yolks ooze into a sublime union with the refried (that is, cooked and mashed) pinto beans and rice that fill the rest of the plate.

Nopales

nopales
As you survey the Mexican desert, it’s hard to imagine eating a prickly pear cactus, but when peeled and de-spined, the plant becomes a unique delicacy. Commonly served in salads or with eggs or meat, nopales have a tart flavor and a texture reminiscent of grilled bell peppers or overcooked green beans.

The article was published in Travel Secrets magazine's July - August 2013 issue. 
To subscribe, visit Magzter

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