Sicilian Charm (Part 1)

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Arriving in Sicily was the start to a fascinating trip that I really had not fully anticipated. I’m not quite sure what I had expected, but the sheer happy days of meeting warm locals, taking in incredible views and indulging in some mouthwatering food clearly outline the signature trademarks of this captivating island.

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Flying into Catania, the rooftops reflecting warm hues of terracotta against verdant hills, captured the essence of our weekend ahead. Smiling locals and a relaxed vibe at the airport paved the way for soaking up this vibrant city and it’s surrounds, abundant with simple treasures for our voyage of discovery!

Hotel Romano House, a relaxed 15 minute taxi drive from the airport (approx 25€) and hidden within the winding streets, was an oasis of contemporary chic. Sophisticated and welcoming, this hotel is central, immaculate and unfeasibly cool. You only have to check out the eye catching ceiling lights in the funky bar to realise you are in the presence of uber-mod meets elegance! Rooms are the same, definitively simplistic, yet with all you need, giant shower heads, mattresses with perfection etched in their souls and of course quirky lighting to further enhance the chic appeal. Breakfast is a veritable feast – the Sicilian oranges delicately sliced to within an inch of their lives were some of the most delicious I have ever tasted. Scrumptious pastries winked at us from the abundant spread of local fare; ideal with the rich, aromatic coffee on tap. Evening drinks, served with huge aplomb, ensured the regional Prosecco was chilled to perfection and served by wonderful bar staff.

A two minute stroll from the hotel, the local market stretches out beyond your wildest dreams. It appeared never-ending, with sections of glorious wares displayed in a myriad of styles, ready to catch your eye and for the stall holder to entice you for a nifty barter. The beautiful fresh produce simply astounded me and was a true feast for the eyes; never have I had the pleasure to see such giant fruit and veggies in the most incredible condition. Certainly not something you’d find in the local supermarket back in the UK…..dream on!

No wonder all Sicilian Mamas are up with the lark, basket at the ready to fill with a charge of sublime produce to feed the family. This daily shopping ritual keeps it real and also ensures the freshest ingredients are consumed, this has to be the true way to follow the Mediterranean diet. Regional cheeses beckoned us with their creamy succulence, aubergines glinted in the sunlight and a rich scent of olive oil and herbs wafted on the breeze. Living in Sicily must be a pure pleasure from simply a gastronomic perspective.

Read more in post 2 coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Car & Keys Combined

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You’re on island time now!

Leave vibrant Cuban influence and glamorous South Beach behind in buzzing Miami and join Highway 1 where you can expect a drive packed with sensory overloads in natural beauty and the opportunity for oh-so-many activity stops!
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The so-called Overseas Highway is an engineering phenomenon, extending over incredible expanses of water, with the Atlantic to your left and the Gulf to your right.
Boasting some of the most fascinating scenery in the state, time spent in Key Largo will ensure refreshed senses in this the dive capital of the world; home to the wreck of the famous Spiegel Grove at Dixie Shoal and a veritable divers’ treasure chest.
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Dinner beside the outdoor firepit at waterside restaurant Skipper’s Dockside for some mouth-watering conch chowder, celebrated key lime pie combined with local entertainment comes highly recommended.
Nearby go to Tavernier and access the Conch Reef, one of the best and most popular drift dives on the Keys. Other sites where the underwater world teems with colourful fish are Hens & Chickens, Pickles and Alligator Reefs!
Visit the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum in Islamorada, where youcan try on antique equipment and see diving machines from the 1700s! At Hawks Cay visitors havethe wonderful opportunity to interact with dolphins in the water and after why not take time out for a legendary lobster Reuben sandwich at Keys Fisheries Market and Marina?
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Drive on to Looe Key, possibly the most popular dive and snorkel destination in the lower Keys due to some dramatic underwater topography: coral reefs rise from the sea bed into underwater banks jam-packed with lobster and moray eels.
If you are looking for a fabulous beach experience, head to Bahia Honda State Park to enjoy the lavish sand oceanfront or, for some back-country paradise, go to the Sugarloaf Lodge Resort overlooking the secluded mangrove lined bay of Sugarloaf Sound and complete with a private airstrip.
Famed for Ernest Hemmingway, art galleries and gingerbread-style houses, Key West is a perfect final journey point. Venture to Tower Bar at Turtle Kraals, take a seat on the 2nd floor, order a Key West Sunset and soak up the distinct vibe with a phenomenal sunset.
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Relax & Unwind

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Get in a flip flop state of mind …..

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The Caribbean islands epitomize what many believe is the ultimate yacht charter destination; home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. You are guaranteed breath-taking tropical islands, swaying palm trees and fascinating coral reefs galore. The climate is warm and welcoming with gentle winds, encouraging that special rum cocktail overlooking the sea at sundown. This combination makes sure the Caribbean islands are at the top of so many people’s go-to list. To be honest, wherever you go in the Caribbean, you are guaranteed to find the perfect island that fits the bill. Each group has its own distinctive characteristics – there are subtle differences but each has unique appeal.  With great international transport links across the majority of the islands it means that it has become a breeze!

In the Bahamas take time to take a trip over to Pig Island, or Big Major Cay as it’s official name. Being blessed with a natural water spring and gaining shelter from neighbouring islands, pigs swim happily in the sea and sunbathe on the white sands! Thought to have been introduced to the island by passing sailors, they have set up home very happily here and are regularly fed by passing boat crews.

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Beautiful Grenada is known as the Spice Island. Main exports are nutmeg and mace, supplying around 20% of the world’s market together with vanilla, clove, cinnamon and ginger. The intoxicating fragrance of spices seems to linger in the air wherever you go.

Everybody has an opinion on who makes the best rum cocktail, of course, but a Killer Bee from Sunshine’s in Nevis is a sure candidate. It’s made from a very secret recipe that seems to include rum, oh and more rum!

Why not go diving in crystal clear waters to explore one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks, the Royal Mail steamship, “Rhone” off Salt Island; featured in the movie The Deep. She sank in the area in 1867 and was one of the first propeller driven vessels – apparently, according to recent divers, the huge propeller is still intact!

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Within just a 37-square-mile dual-sovereignty area there is an island of two halves – St Maarten is Dutch and St Martin is French. Abundant with tempting beaches, outstanding restaurants and enticing shopping, amazingly enough there are 17 casinos – all based on the Dutch side!

Can you feel the sun on your face and the sand beneath your feet yet?

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Venice – where time stands still

Venice is one of the prettiest and most fascinating places in the world. Amazingly enough it has changed very little in some six hundred years. Although it is visited by over 20 million tourists every year, this slice of paradise has truly kept hold of its romantic charm.

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Renowned for the beauty of its setting, Venice is lucky to possess several marinas located near to its historic centre and a great location to berth if you arrive by yacht. Having your own yacht it also makes it very easy to visit the numerous less visited islands within the Venetian lagoon.

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“Must do” historical places to visit in the centre include: The Doge’s Palace, which is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city; The Piazza San Marco, the principal public square; and Saint Mark’s Basilica, the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture.…or maybe you would prefer to just relax, chill out, sip an espresso and appreciate the wonderful views at one of the many cafes and restaurants offering spectacular waterside terraces?

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It goes without saying that a mini cruise around the canals on a gondola, whilst being serenaded by a gondolier, against the stunning backdrop of Baroque buildings, is something not to be missed! If you are feeling energetic, a shopping trip could also be in order. Whether you are looking to buy some Murano glass, Burano lace, a new handbag or a carnival mask you’ll be delighted to know that you will be spoilt for choice.

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Big swimmers – turtles galore!

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Ancient, endearing and intelligent, observe the gentle sea turtles in the Andaman Islands.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are inhabited by a variety of marine cultures, but the most treasured are the sea turtles. During the winter months every year, the largest turtles in the world choose to nest here, flocking in their thousands.

Kalipur Beach in Diglipur is the only beach in the world boasting four types of sea turtle that specifically come to nest. These protected species are the Leatherback Turtle, Olive Ridley, Green Turtle and Hawksbill. From December to February they lay their eggs and local forest officials duly collect them and bury them in a completely safe location to ensure not damage and guaranteed hatching. After 45 days the babies emerge, the guards collect them for brief observation then release them into the ocean.

It is an incredible sight to see these tiny turtles independently speed across the sand towards the water and swim away, their heads just visible above the water. The officials say that the amazing thing about the babies is it’s very rare they travel back up the beach, but instinctively head for the waves! A magical experience to be part of, Andaman Islands conservation work for turtles is helping mother nature ensure these exceptional creatures are given every opportunity to thrive.

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