Olive Picking on Holiday

Have you ever thought what it might be like to go on holiday and pick olives? Since coming to Italy several years ago I have always wanted to see what it was like to pick grapes and olives. Well last week I was able to achieve one of those goals.

I was invited by a friend to stay at her house and help her Italian friends pick olives from their 100 trees. You might think that 100 doesn’t sound that many but believe me it’s hard work and you can get a lot of olives from those trees.

As we were picking in November I wrapped up warm expecting it to be a little chilly. My goodness, was I wrong. The temperatures soared to 21 degrees and luckily enough I had worn a tee-shirt under my jumper. The Italian pickers thought I was a bit mad as they kept their jumpers in place and even had fleeces on. The camaraderie amongst all the pickers is fantastic and a lot of laughing and joking can be heard through the trees.

 
First of all they put the nets under the trees to catch the olives as they fall. For the upper branches they use a special brush like machine to reach the olives, which is quite a lot of fun even when you get hit on the head by flying olives. For the lower half of the tree it’s all hands to the branches to strip them of their wonderful quarry. The feel of olives coming from the tree by your own hands is amazing. You can get a little messy when picking so wearing old clothes is a must. When all the olives have been taken from the tree they shake them to one corner of the netting and then pour them into a basket ready to go onto the waiting tractor.

When all the trees have been stripped they are taken to the local olive press so that all the gorgeous oil can be extracted. In Italy the season of Nouvo Olio is a big one with everyone talking about it and comparing the spicy oil, which is ideal for dipping your fresh bread or for making bruscetta.

I was lucky enough to go to the local olive press to see the next process for the olives. The smell as you walk in is amazing, who would have thought that fresh pressed olives would smell so good? First of all they fall through the hatch and are caught onto the conveyer belt which then takes them to the huge pressing cogs. At this point it is very noisy so I beat a hasty retreat to watch the oil coming out of the pipes and into the awaiting vats.

If you’re lucky the press will offer you a tasting of the fresh pressed oil. This is one of the best parts of the olive picking process, you get to sample the fresh, almost, peppery oil on crusty bread. It’s amazing! Just make sure that you’ve got a drink of water close to hand in case it’s a little too peppery for you.

The press where I went, you could also purchase the oil in a range of different sized containers and bottles, all professionally sealed for you. You can purchase oil in little bottles up to huge 2 litre tins, the little bottles do make ideal gifts.

So if you’ve ever wanted to have a go at picking olives I would highly recommend it to you. Although it’s hard work it’s also great fun and very rewarding.

If you would like to find out more about the wonderful opportunities to pick olives, gather porcini or hunt truffles around the Umbrian, Tuscan countryside or the many other memorable days out you can have, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

 

Author Suzanne Winfield

Wine at the Christmas Markets

With the festive season well and truly upon us, many will be making trips to Europe’s Christmas markets. Veritable fairgrounds of street stalls selling their wares of traditional nutcrackers and wooden toys, with festive music permeating the atmosphere – these markets ooze holiday spirit and promises of sleigh bells jingling their way to every chimney.

Working your way through these twinkling aisles can be hungry and thirsty work, and what is the weary traveller to do other than sample the local delicacies of bratwurst sausages, magenbrot (gingerbread) and glühwein – mulled wine. This warming tipple simply tastes of Christmas with its aromas of cinnamon and cloves – a tasty treat, prepared with local wines. But must German wines be warmed and spiced in this way, or are they of a quality to enjoy on their own merit? Can the likes of Germany, Austria or Hungary offer up any half decent table wine to satisfy the discerning visitor? Well, perhaps surprisingly to some, the answer is yes.

Germany’s wine trade has traditionally been associated with the flat taste and limp body of Liebfraumilch. Developed as an introductory wine, this sweet and cheap drink offers little to the wine drinker, but has had a huge impact on Germany’s wine-making reputation. If we could leave our preconceptions to one side, we would discover that Germany in fact can offer some excellent wines. Most notable would be its superb Reislings, which vary in flavour and intensity across the region – one to suit every palate perhaps. Reisling grapes originated in Germany and are usually classed as one of the ‘big three’ grape varieties used in wine, alongside Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Drier Reislings are noted for their compatibility with a huge range of foods, particularly those seen as difficult to match with a wine – and a nice sparkling variety would be the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas dinner.

Germany isn’t alone in boasting some excellent quality wine, across the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hungary has also suffered from cheap and substandard wines flooding our supermarket shelves over the last couple of decades. Thanks to the privatisation of the vineyards, however, quality has improved enormously in recent years, and there are some lovely varieties available now – particularly those making use of the unusual Cserszegi Füszere grape. What a pity that we could so easily miss the best they have to offer. Across Europe, there are some real gems to be found – don’t make a trip to the fabulous Viennese market, for example, without sampling some of the excellent Grüner Veltliner – look for bottles marked Smaragd, which indicates the finest quality.

Wherever you visit this Christmas, there is much to be gained in sampling some of the local wine … even if it is warmed, spiced with cloves and cinnamon and decorated with orange pieces. You could even leave out a glass for Father Christmas – he would certainly enjoy it.

Prost!!

Asgar Dungarawalla is a bon viveur & wine expert from Champagne Gifts 4 U that offers champagne gifts for all occasions.

Cardiff Bay’s Outdoor Art Gallery

One of the aims of Cardiff Bay’s development was to create a vast open-air art gallery of public sculpture. The idea was to have modern, accessible images that would inspire and engage with visitors to the area. This they have achieved and so much more as the bay and surrounding area are full of imaginative and thought provoking sculptures for anyone touring the foreshore to admire.

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The artworks come in a variety of materials from ceramic tile, wrought iron, stone, cast bronze and wood and ranges for the largest building to the smallest bench. There are also fabulous exhibition spaces too such as the Crafts in the Bay gallery and the Old Norwegian Church and the futuristic, Millennium Arts Centre, which also provides areas for the occasional show.

People, Places and Work

People Like Us

The works celebrate Cardiff’s people, famous contributors and the stories that made Cardiff great. There are statues to the multicultural heritage of the Docks, memorials to the sailors and Scott of the Antarctic as well as a tribute to Ivor Novello and local hero, Captain Ernest Willows who pioneered balloon flight.

Sculptural Buildings

There are illustrations to poems, strange optical illusions and plenty of ships and sails. Many of the buildings around the bay have a sculptural quality to them as well. Many demonstrate a nautical feel, the waves of the Atlantic Wharf Entertainment Centre, the Atradius building shaped like a ships prow or the sails on top of the St David’s Hotel.

Millennium Arts Centre

One of the most sculptural buildings is the Millennium Arts Centre, with its slate sides echoing the cliffs of South Wales and the quarries in the north. The golden copper façade is inscribed with tall, towering letters over the entrance.

Waterside Statues 

The most popular sculpture can be found at Mermaid Quay, “People like Us” explores the diverse, multicultural nature of old Cardiff Docks and has a couple with their dog standing looking out over the fresh water lagoon as if posing for a family photograph.

Knot

Other groups of people remembered in bronze around the bay are the original Celts with a large Torc necklace by Harvey Hood at Roald Dahl’s Plass, the Miners represented in John Clench’s piece “From Pit to Port” in Britannia Park and the work of the Dockers is celebrated with Andrew Row’s 2000 sculpture “Rope Knot” in car park behind Techniquest and “Ship in a Bottle” by Melissa Gibbs at the end of Windsor Esplanade.

Seamen’s Memorial

Lost at Sea

The more poignant work is the touching memorial created by Brian Fell to the sailors of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic Ocean during the Second World War. This wonderfully tender piece features a face at peace that morphs into the hull of a ship as you walk around it.

Swiss artist Felice Varini has created a mind boggling optical illusion on the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Taken in isolation they just look like meaningless yellow marks, as if the council’s road workers had gone off on one. However, when viewed from a particular point the marks converge into a massive series of concentric circles that engulf the barrage.

Artistic Poems

Drift of Curlews

Poetic interpretations can be found in the more playful and functional works of Gwen Heeney using Dylan Thomas’s poem “Ballard of the long legged bait” they take the form of benches scattered around Britannia Park and beside Roath Basin. “Cargoes” by Brian Fell is a series of 22 plaques on the walls of the Mermaid Quay that take inspiration from John Masefield’s work on Cardiff Docks.

Trawler Weather Vane

The whole bay area is awash with sculptures both great and small, from the large, mirrored pillar in front of the Millennium Arts Centre to the delicate Willow’s clock tower at Mermaid Quay or the decorative weather vane on top of Woods Brasserie. As you take a leisurely stroll around the rejuvenated bay, keep your eyes open and discover the wonderful, outdoor art gallery that covers all corners of Cardiff Bay’s environs and it will take you on an adventure of your very own.

Sculpture Around Mermaid Quay


Follow the link to an interactive map of Cardiff Bay, with details of the sculptures location, artist, date and a description.

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Five Nature Trails in the City

Cardiff is a great place for walking and outdoor exploration; even right up into the town centre itself. The course of the river and the Taff Trail, which stretches from Cardiff Bay, 60 Km north to Brecon, provide some gorgeous Welsh scenery to walk around and its numerous parks, gardens and nature reserves are a joy to stroll through. So for nature enthusiasts, spending time in the capital where can you go to get a spot of fresh air?

Cardiff Bay Trail

Cardiff Bay Trail – Since its rejuvenation the bay has been steadily growing as a destination for walking. When the Ponte Werin People’s Bridge was opened last year it completed a circuit that circumnavigates the fresh water lagoon of Cardiff Bay. Over its 5.5 miles of track you can follow the shoreline, walk through the old docks area and take in the Nature Reserve at Windsor Esplanade, explore the Sports village and marvel at the wonder of the barrage itself. If you don’t feel quite up to the full circuit there are regular river buses along the route that could cut your journey in half and still leave you feeling like you’ve explored this historic area of Cardiff.

Bute Park – Situated behind Cardiff Castle forms a marvellous gentrified country walk in the heart of the city. The trail has footpaths that criss-cross the landscape and traverse the playing fields, then you can meander through the riverside woodland which gives you a peaceful journey along the River Taff, across Blackwier, past the football pitches on Pontcanna Fields to the County Cricket Ground at Sophia Gardens. This is a surprisingly tranquil stroll considering you are in the middle of a busy city.

Wenallt Hills – Looking north from Cardiff you will see the majestic hills of the Wenallt framing the skyline, stretching from Tongwnlais with its beautiful Germanic looking Castell Coch right the way over to the suburbs of Newport. The hills are an area of unspoilt natural beauty that have been preserved and left in tact for people to enjoy. A walk here covers ancient forests, pastures and rugged scrubland. It has steep challenging runs and easy flat sections, a destination for walkers of all abilities. And from its peaks you have unsurpassed views across Cardiff, the Severn estuary to the Somerset Levels.

Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve – Below the Coryton roundabout on the M4, just off the A470, you will find this mile long stretch of the old abandoned Glamorganshire Canal that once linked the city to Merthyr and the Rhondda valley. This area of natural wetland has long been the perfect city habitat for many birds, animals and plant life native to the area.  There are plenty of hides and trails for visitors to view the wild life and take stock of  this natural setting in the city landscape. Along with the remnants of the canal is a section of the old coal tramway and the pastoral pleasure of Forest Farm Country Park, all nestled neatly along the banks of the River Taff.

Roath Park – This is a 130-acre, classic Victorian park on the eastern suburbs of Cardiff, laid out in 1894 it has four distinctly different green spaces. The southern edge holds “The Rec” playing fields, this is followed by a formal garden, glass house conservatory and arboretum. The main feature of the park is the large lake with its lighthouse memorial to Captain Scott and the crew of the Terra Nova, which set sail on its fateful voyage from Cardiff Docks. The area to the north of the lake has been left unspoilt as a natural woodland habitat. The park still has an elegant feel to it and has a traditional café, paddleboats and rowing boats for visitors to enjoy during the summer months.

Map showing the locations of the Parks in Cardiff

If you would like to find out more about exciting day trips and tours around Cardiff or the Welsh  countryside or the many other memorable festivals, please contact Travelling Content for more information.

Out and About at Cardiff’s Mardi Gras

Well you’ve worn a feather boa in Rio, caught beads in New Orleans and dressed with a papier-mâché head in Sydney so what LGBT Festivals worthy of note are left? Well one of the most lively and unlikely of destinations is Cardiff in South Wales. Despite having the reputation of rugby, mining and choir singing it has a vibrant and active gay and lesbian scene.

Every year on the first weekend in September, more than 40,000 LGBT revellers descend on the city for a weekend of glittering entertainment with fun and raunchy cabaret. The main party area is the massive expanse of Bute Park behind the gorgeous old Victorian Castle. Here there are marquees, stalls and stages a plenty where people perform and dance the night away.

There are also a number of gay friendly venues throughout the city that are hosting events ranging from theatrical groups, performance and sedate tea dances. There will be a selection of films on show at the Chapter Arts cinema. You are bound to have a weekend swamped with impersonations of Shirley Bassey and Lliza with two “LL’s”, this being Wales and all.

This year you missed the comparing excellence of Fanny Dazzle, Bella Endez and Kitty and Marcia. There were performances from Cardiff based group Fine Line and an exhibition of Urban Freestyle Display on their BMX bikes. As this is Wales you’d have to see the Gay Men’s Chorus and Madis Gras wouldn’t be the same without emo disco, this year provided by Bright Light was a must.

So if you are wondering where to be out, about and proud next year, put September in your calendar for a weekend of top quality free entertainment.

When Does Camping become Glamping?

The latest craze in camping fun is the attractive activity of glamping, camping with glamour. However, when does the  back to nature and living on the edge, take on an air of luxury and elegance?

Much has been made of the up scaled version of slumming it under canvas but to truly be considered a glampsite there are certain necessaries with which you must provided. Otherwise it’s just camping without erecting your tent.

A bona fide glampsite must first have spacious canvas constructions; yurts, tepees or massive tented safari lodges seemingly fit the bill. They have to be large enough to comfortably stand up in and easily move around. There should be no crawling over sleeping bags or having to push your rucksack into the corner. Ideally they will also be mounted on a wooden platform that extends to give its guests their own private verandah. This will help too protect you from the worst of any mud or rain.

Stylish Camping

Furnishings too should be at a luxurious premium. No inflatable beds and plastic patio sets, this is glamour camping. Any self-respecting glampsite should offer guests a proper sturdy wooden or cast iron bedstead, there should be wardrobes and side tables and a couple of comfy lounge chairs. Otherwise you may as well rough it with the rest of them.

Elegant Camping

All quality glampsite feature a log burning stove, providing heat, and somewhere to boil up a cuppa. Often there is a BBQ pit outside, this is great for the boys to play fire but for internal style there has to be a fitted stove. Buckets of water and large plastic water containers are also out; you need a functioning kitchen under canvas, a nice sink with draws and cupboards to store your utensils and supplies.

Glamorous Camping

Although shower blocks have come along in leaps and bounds, a glamper should expect an on-suite shower and flushing toilet. There’s no glamour in communal ablutions. A modern yurt or tepee should also be tastefully decorated with rugs and mats, cushions and wall hangings or pictures. Just because you are staying in a field, doesn’t mean you have to live like a caveman.

Glamping

Now if the site you choose to visit isn’t offering these modest requirements then surely it’s just 3-star camping, for it to be glamping you need a little extra. Any site description that has a chandelier, flushing toilet and running water, now that is real camping in style.

Glamping in the UK

Why rough it when you can go glamping? Glamping is the stylish, elegant way to go camping in ultimate luxury. Tents are spacious affairs with high roofs, proper sumptuous beds, large wardrobes, relaxing armchairs and all the comfort of home. Many glamping sites have large yurts in which to sleep, these lattice frames are covered in canvas and have been provided accommodation for nomadic tribes of Central Asia for centuries.

Other camping options include well kitted out, old-fashioned bell tents as traditionally used by the army of yesteryear, tepee constructions or ultra-modern pods. Glamping accommodations also tend to have an independent power supply, carpeted flooring and come complete with wall hangings and pictures to complete the homely feel.

Six sites where can you glamp in the UK:-

 · East Thorne, Nr Bude, Cornwall

Mongolian yurt comfort in the Cornish countryside, each tent comes with its own sturdy beds, log burning stoves and internal furnishings. They all have their own wooden decking porch, so no muddy feet problems and a sheltered outdoor cooking area. The nearby village of East Thorne has a supermarket, two pubs and a Chinese, so everything you need is close at hand.

  • Springhill, Sussex

Another yurt resort on an organic farm just on the outskirts of Forest Row in Sussex. This site is situated in an area of outstanding beauty on the edge of the Weir Wood Reservoir and Ashdown Forest. The six-berth yurt comes with a comfy sofa bed and inflatable beds for additional people, fully functioning kitchen and electricity supply.

  • Cedar Valley, Hampshire

Take a holiday in safari style in the Hampshire countryside on the Bereleigh Estate. These canvas lodges have their own cane furniture, quality beds and wooden decks on which to relax. They have their own showers, flushing toilets and functioning sinks, set in 350 acres of splendid woodland of the South Downs National Park.

  • Cyfronydd, Welshpool, Powys

This small 10-acre site has three yurts each with a modern kitchen, private porch, toilet and shower. The site makes for a great base from where you can discover the gorgeous Powys countryside without the hassle of erecting a tent.

  • Freshwater Bay, Isle of White

High quality glamping on the Isle of White, each tent comes kitted out with strong wooden beds, cupboards and natural floorings and rugs. You can order supplies of fresh organic food and relax in the orchard at the café. At Freshwater Bay you can have a totally green holiday experience, with the owners encouraging visitors to leave their cars at home.

Eco-pods in Cornwall

The pods come with king size beds, foam mattresses and cotton sheets, solar lighting, kitchen area, BBQ, private shower and flushing toilet. This is all set in 26 acres of marvellous Cornwall, with plenty of places to visit within easy reach, alternatively just relax on your own sun deck and unwind.