Malta

Malta - Designerella

Malta is a small island nation that lies between Sicily and the north coast of Africa.  At 122 square miles it is the 10th smallest nation in the world by area. Remarkably I have also visited the 8th smallest (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and the smallest, the Vatican City. Lying in the center of Mediterranean Sea, it has been a prized possession of many nations including, the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and even the British. Since 1974 the island has been an independent republic.

Marsaxlokk is a quaint fishing village lying on the southeast side of the island. Today fisherman still use the colorful Maltese fishing boats known as luzzu. These boats can be found anchored in the harbor daily. Notice the eyes painted on the bow of the boat. This practice dates back thousands of years to when the Phoenicians ruled the island.

Malta - Designerella

Malta - Designerella

Back in the largest city in Malta, Valletta, is the powerful fortifications of Fort St. Elmo. The fort sits on a point that separates the two main harbors of Valletta. Many battles were fought here, none as damaging as the Ottoman siege of 1565. However it has not always been about war in Malta, the city of Valletta has many magnificent historical buildings.

Malta - Designerella

Malta - Designerella

Malta - Designerella

Malta - Designerella

Malta - Designerella

Malta is a fabulous jewel in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is must visit for anyone looking for a different type of Mediterranean vacation.

Palma, Spain

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Mallorca is an island that lies off the east coast of Spain. Palma de Mallorca is the main city and it has the most breathtaking cathedral. The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma is the official title, but locals affectionately referred to it as La Seu. Before the Cathedral there was an older mosque at this location. It is understandable why they were built here as the location itself is exquisite, sitting right off the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The cathedral has magnificent architecture and many fine details that make it a remarkable structure.

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Old Quarter. The narrow meandering streets are remnants from a time before the automobile. It is an excellent spot to become lost and while exploring the amazing shops. Christmas is coming and the city of Palma already has beautiful Christmas ornaments decorating the historic streets and modern plazas.

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Palma, Spain - Designerella

On the opposite side of the cathedral is the Jardins de s’Hort del Rei. With its greenery and fountains, it provides a place to quietly reflect upon this amazing city.

Palma, Spain - Designerella

Churros con Chocolate!

¡Hola! I am back in Vigo, España tasting some of the best local treats while exploring the city.  Late November in this part of Spain brings chilly weather.  This provides the perfect excuse to sample a local dessert. There are no words to describe the perfect combination of churros when pair with thick hot chocolate. The chocolate is nearly as thick as pudding and is used to dunk the churro. For all those chocolate lovers out there, this is a recommended treat whenever you visit the country of Spain.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo has a nice historic center. Rua dos Cesteiros is one of the classic narrow streets in this part of the city. The name of the street literally means street of the basket weavers. The shops have all kinds of woven products from the widest variety of baskets to chairs.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Outside the history center is a much more modern city. Despite being car-friendly, it still was very pedestrian friendly. The locals shops and cafés are very inviting and tourist friendly making the city a delight to explore.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Thanksgiving at Sea

North Sea - Designerella

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your time celebrating with family and friends.  I wanted to share with you one of my favorite sea pictures that I captured during my travels.  Everyday I enjoy the beautiful sea and it is where I am mostly at peace.  I absolutely love water.  The sound of the ripples in each wave helps me gather my thoughts and appreciate what a beautiful life we all have. This is what I am thankful for.  I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

True Taste of Galicia

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Some locations are synonymous with great wine–Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa. One more should be on that list, Galicia. As those of you who routinely follow my blog notice that I have a the privilege of visiting many fabulous wineries all around the world. (Hint: click on Vino in menu bar to the right to see all my wine postings.) The Galician wines are very similar to the Porto wines located just south of here in northern Portugal. One of the areas renowned wineries is the Agro de Bazan Winery, located north of Vigo in España. The winery grounds were nearly as fabulous as the tasty wines.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Granbazán Ambar, Granbazán Verde and Albariño Contrapunto are all three excellent wines. There is an immediate visual appeal when pouring the golden colored Granbazan Ambar. This wine also gives off an pleasant aroma of sweet fruits and flowers.  Granbazan Verde a typical Albariño wine that is made with white grapes. It has a slightly salty after-taste and has an aroma with hints of green apples and fennel. Albariño Contrapunto has fabulous fresh fruit aromas.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Cambados is another port city on the Spanish Atlantic coast. This village is a charmful town with lots of character. Being on the coast, fish is a large part of the economy and diet here. Unfortunately I arrived too late in the day and missed the daily fish market which is said to be superb.

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Vigo, Spain - Designerella

Lisboa, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Cristo-Rei watches over the city of Lisboa from across the Tagus river on its hilltop perch in Almada. The Cristo-Rei was modeled after the Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The nearby 25 de Abril Bridge itself appears to be modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But not everything in Lisbon is modeled after things elsewhere. There are many unique treasures hidden in this wonderful city.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Just north of Lisbon is the small hilltop village of Sintra which has some of the classic old-world charm. Residents hang their clothes out to dry in the warm sun, while people wander through streets so narrow and steep, cars do not even dare to drive. Throughout Portugal hand-painted tiles are used to decorate the exterior of the homes. Traditionally the tiles are white with blue paint.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

There are several palaces covering the nearby hills. One of them is the Sintra National Palace. With its tall white walls, it is a beautiful structure. It is treasures like these that have made Sintra a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Nearby on the Atlantic Ocean is Praia do Guincho. This is a premier surf beach with some of the best conditions for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. For those wanting to relax there is an amazingly wide stretch of sand leading out to the water. From this beach you can see Cabo da Roca–the most western point on mainland Europe.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

The nearest town to Praia do Guincho is Cascais. Cascais was originally a fishing village, but it has transitioned into a resort town. The resort nature of the town dates back since the 1880s when then King Luís II used it as a summer retreat. Soon the city became a must visit for rich and famous people across Europe. This created building boom, much of which is still standing today. This gives the city a very unique vibe of being a modern tourist town with wonderfully historic buildings.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

Thankfully the village of Cascais has done much to maintain the feeling of a fishing village. The men head off fishing each day and bring their catch back to the local restaurants. This fresh catch is served at many fine seaside eating establishments.

Lisbon, Portugal - Designerella

A Camel Ride in Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria is the third largest of the Canary islands and, as the name suggests, it is a grand place. The main port on the northeast side of the island is Las  Palmas de Gran Canaria which is the co-capital of the  autonomous region with Santa Cruz that located on the nearby island of Tenerife.  This island is part of Spain and is located about 93 miles off the northwestern coast of Africa. The island of Gran Canaria supports many different climates, but the city of Las Palmas has a subtropical climate with mild to warm temperature throughout the year.

In a recent conversation with my sister, she asked what activity I was most looking forward to?  The answer was easy–a camel ride. Gran Canaria provided me the opportunity to fulfill this wish.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have experience my first camel ride on this grand island. Camels are magical and kind animals.  These tall furry creatures are magnificent!  Riding the camel and soaking up some of the tropical sun made me feel like a child exploring the world.

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

While the island of Gran Canaria has many adventures like riding camels, most vacationers come to soak up the beach sun. On the south side of the island is Maspalomas which is the oldest tourist town on the island.  It is easy to see what drew the first tourists here, the most beautiful beaches. Today there are the beaches, amazing cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. The natural reserve of Dunes of Maspalomas has existed since 1897.  The area also contains the world famous Playa del Inglés.

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria, Spain - Designerella

Gran Canaria–an island of adventure I will always look forward to visiting!

The Road to Mount Teide…

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

Tenerife is the largest of the seven Canary Islands that belong to Spain. Upon arrival in the main town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I set off on an expedition. It certainly was not a long expedition considering how small the island is, but the trip was otherworldly since I was headed to Mount Teide. Known to the locals as Pico de Teide, it is the highest point in Spain. As it is also a volcano, its height makes it the third highest volcano in the world. It is an active volcano, last eruption in 1909, which creates an landscape which seems alien.

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

It is remarkable that this volcano is sitting on an island on which thousands of people live. Thankfully there was no one around 500,000 years ago when a massive landslide created La Orotava Valley. Before this landslide there were many other volcanic peaks or edifices. Today the three remaining, collectively called the Cañadas edifice, are highly unstable.

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

One of the more unique rock formations is the Roque Cinchado. This rock formation is a symbol of the Canary Islands.

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

While the landscape is barren, it is the different colors of soil and rock which produce the beautiful scenery. I look forward to having another out-of-this-world experience on this beautiful Spanish island!

Tenerife, Spain - Designerella

Fun in Funchal!

Hello from Madeira again!  Instead of heading up the mountain, I decided to stay in the port city of Funchal to capture some of the urban highlights. The trees that line the streets have long meandering branches that give a Mediterranean feel to this island off the west coast of Africa.  Another characteristic of the town is the basalt (black) and marble (white) stone that are arranged into intricate mosaic patterns for both plazas and pedestrian walkways. This provides functional and beautiful spaces within the city.

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

The best way to find some hidden beauty is to enter some  local churches. Hidden up on one of this hills in the city you will find the Igreja de Sao Pedro, or Saint Peter Church in English. While the church may look plain from the exterior, the interior is magnificent with the historical gold altar and hand painted Portuguese tiles that cover the walls and ceiling.

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

It is always fun in Funchal and I cannot wait until my next visit!

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Tobogganing of the African Coast in Funchal

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Olá (Hello in Portuguese) from one of Portugal’s finest islands, the island of Madeira. This island offers something for everyone. From beaches, to mountains, to shopping, to visiting wineries, to climbing a volcano, to hiking in rainforests, it is amazing the variety of adventures you can find on this small island. However there are two things which are a must do on the island. The first is to take the cable car from the port of Funchal to the town of Monte which is 1,800 feet up the mountain. This 15 minute ride provides the most breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

It is not a cable car in the San Francisco sense. It is more of a closed gondola that hangs from a rope similar to a ski lift.

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Upon reaching the top you will find the best attraction on the island–the toboggan ride! That is right, ride a street toboggan down the mountain in the most amazingly wonderful experience!!! Two people may sit in the wooden toboggan wagon, while two experienced men steer you safely down the steep mountain roads. Since the 1850s this has been the best mode of transportation down these steep cliffs. The guides are remarkable as they manage to bring this basket down the mountain while all the cars pass by. This mile-long thrill ride beats most roller coasters. Reaching speeds of 30 mph it seems much faster as you have neither seat belt nor a helmet. So, say a prayer and hope these Portuguese guides have a successful journey for you!

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

This picture captures the steepness of the hill. Halfway down this hill brings you up to full speed!

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

The semitropical environment with the volcanic soil give the grapes of Madeira a very distinct taste. These of course can be used to create wonderful wines, making the island a must visit for all the wine lovers out there. One of the island’s finest wineries is Blandy’s which has an incredible selection of wines from the white sweet all the way to the dry. As always, my favorite is the dry red wine. Unwinding by sipping some of Blandy’ dry red is a great experience after the thrilling toboggan ride.

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella

Madeira, Portugal - Designerella