Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town – Mother City and the most beautiful city in the world

Cape Town is known as the Mother City and is situated on the Cape of Good Hope, the southern gateway to South Africa. A unique and fascinating city, Cape Town is located in the Western Cape and is hugged by the iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding park, all the while gazing over Table Bay.

The city of Cape Town came to the attention of the world when it hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is also known widely as being the location where the late former South African president Nelson Mandela spent his years of incarceration.

The view of Table Mountain from the sea has always been an amazing sight and the area now occupied by the city has a varied and complicated history. It was first mentioned by the Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias back in 1486. Another Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama also recorded a sighting of what is now known as the Cape of Good Hope in 1497.

A natural harbor, Table Bay then became a regular stop over for Danish, Dutch, English, French and Portuguese ships in the late 16th century, as they headed to the Indies. They reportedly traded copper, iron and tobacco with the local Khoikhoi people in exchange for fresh meat to nourish them on their voyages.

Cape Town, South Africa

Photo Robben Island by South African Tourism/CC BY 2.0

Today Cape Town is a modern and cosmopolitan city with plenty to offer the tourist. Obvious sites to visit are the infamous Robben Island, prison home to Nelson Mandela from 1964 to 1982. Mandela then moved to first Pollsmoor and finally Victor Verster prison in the city until his release in 1990. The island can be accessed by boat from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, allowing visitors to view the cell where Mandela spent so much of his life.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (or V&A Waterfront as it is popularly known) is a fairly recent addition to the existing shipping and fishing harbor of Cape Town. World-class shopping is available along with many restaurants offering all types of cuisine, as well as sailing, fishing and other boat trips out into Table Bay.

Cape Town, South Africa

Photo by Slack12/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Table Mountain itself, bracketed by Devil’s Peak and the iconic Lions Head and Signal Hill, is a fascinating visit and can be accessed by cable car from the city below. A stroll around the top of the mountain offers incredible views from all sides, of the city itself, out into the Atlantic Sea and of the surrounding beaches and mountains.

Speaking of beaches, the coastline on both sides of Table Mountain offers endless sandy vistas, rock pools to explore and great sunsets over the Atlantic Sea, along with some of the best surfing conditions in South Africa. Heading one way along the West Coast, a visitor can experience Bloubergstrand and Milnerton, both offering the popular postcard view of Table Mountain.

Cape Town South Africa

Photo Camps Bay by Loren Kerns/CC BY 2.0

Going the other way, a different experience is available in the beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard, including Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay – all a definite must on a Cape Town vacation. Further along there is the False Bay coastline, which offers a long sandy beach running from Gordon’s Bay through to Muizenberg.

Cape Town, South Africa

Photo Bo-Kaap by Alf Igel/CC BY-NC 2.0

The city itself offers a varied shopping and dining experience, with local delicacies and fresh fish available along with all types of international cuisine. To see a little of Cape Town’s past, a trip to Bo-Kaap is fascinating, with its multi-colored houses a living museum of the Cape Malay culture. The area dates back to the time when slaves were brought in from Maritime Southeast Asia. The people were mostly Javanese from what is Indonesia today and spoke Malayu, hence the name Cape Malay was born. The Bo-Kaap is now a multi-cultural area where visitors can sample the delicious Cape Malay cuisine and purchase the various spices used in the culinary delights.

The winelands of the Western Cape are located not far from the city of Cape Town and offer spectacular scenery, coated in the red and white grapevines and with many wine farms available for a wine tasting, delicious meal or even an overnight stay. The historic towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are well worth a mention, with their attractive Cape Dutch buildings and restaurants serving the delicious Cape cuisine, all washed down with an excellent South African wine.

Cape Town, South Africa

Photo Stellenbosch vineyard by Dave Bezaire/CC BY-SA 2.0

Anyone keen on the game of golf, deep sea fishing, water sports of any kind, or just a relaxing day on the beach is spoiled for choice in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape. The endless adventure, excitement and fun on offer in the area make it an ideal destination on a South African vacation.

Featured photo by Vitorcius/CC BY-ND 2.0

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Magical painted forest of Oma

Magical painted Forest of Oma in Basque Country, Spain

The Basonda and Oma valleys, situated on the banks of the River Oka in the UNESCO listed Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, combine as a scenic and beautiful area to hike and stroll. However, there is more than just beautiful scenery to enjoy in this lovely spot. An artist has made a landscape here, unlike any other.

Located to the northeast of the small town of Kortezubi, the Forest of Oma has been made into a magical landscape by Basque artist, Agustín Ibarrola. This is one of his best-known works and is an example of what has been dubbed “land art,” a creative trend started in the 1960s which literally takes art into nature and uses the countryside as its frame and medium.

Magical painted forest of OmaAccording to a Spanish travel blog, the artist took to the trees, quite literally, painting shapes and figures in colors of every hue. Walking through this forest, the patterns and figures painted on the trees change as you move and while some of the paintings are on one single tree, others are spread over several, making one view them as a whole and varying depending on the direction from which they are viewed.

Ibarrola created this work of art so that it changes and transforms in this way, making every visitor to the forest a protagonist of the artist’s work, with everyone seeing these gorgeous scenes in a slightly different way.

As for the artist himself, Ibarrola was born in Basauri (Biscay) in 1930. His first attempts at art were purely self-taught, but in 1948, he received a grant that enabled him to travel to Madrid, the Spanish capital where he went further into art, exploring cubism and constructivism. His art of choice was to break away from the norm and produce what were termed as less pure, more social forms of art.

Magical painted forest of OmaThe art of the Forest of Oma is typical of his artistic outlook, where he produces public art to be shared with the people, and not hidden away in a museum or art gallery. He started this work in 1982 and Ibarrola says that the work represents the social reality, “the light that entered the forest and stayed there,” as well as “the eyes of our ancestors.”

The image above is a composite of three scenes within the forest and does not truly represent just how wonderful this artist landscape is in reality. Bizkaia.net offers a range of photos of the various parts of this magical forest and audio and visual guides to download prior to visiting.

When traveling to northern Spain, the Urdaibai estuary and Biosphere Reserve are a beautiful visit in themselves. However, make sure to take some time out for a visit to the magical and beautiful Forest of Oma.

In the meantime, enjoy a virtual tour of the Forest of Oma in the video included below.


Photos CC by-SA Danel Solabarrieta

Benalmádena Pueblo, on a hillside overlooking the sea

Benalmadena Pueblo

An evening stroll in Benalmadena Pueblo, Costa del Sol, Spain

Benalmádena Pueblo is a beautiful, white-washed village perched on a mountainside, overlooking the Costa de Sol in southern Spain.  One of the famous Andalusian pueblos blancos or “white villages”, Benalmádena Pueblo is the original village from days gone by, which has since spread its way down the hillside to the popular seaside town of Benalmádena Costa.

While holidaying in the area, possibly the best form of accommodation is to stay in one of the lovely Costa del Sol villas, either in the pueblo itself or the surrounding area.  Once established and comfortable, it is time to get out there and explore the town.

Benalmadena Pueblo

La Niña de Benalmádena

Walking the narrow and winding streets of the pueblo takes one back to older times when the Moors inhabited these hills.  The sound of song birds can be heard coming from the balconies of the houses in these streets, which are draped in colorful geraniums and bougainvillea.

Restful tree-lined plazas are to be found as well as interesting water features and statues including La Niña de Benalmádena, or “The Girl of Benalmádena,” pictured right.

Every corner seems to offer a welcoming café, bar or restaurant, offering rest and respite from explorations of the town.  Delicious, traditional Spanish food and those famous tapas or snacks are available everywhere.

The following are just two of the major attractions available in the pueblo, a town that offers something for everyone:

Benalmadena Pueblo

Museo de Arte Precolombino Felipe Orlando

For the art lover, the Museo de Arte Precolombino Felipe Orlando will be of interest.  Established in 2005, this museum displays a large collection of Pre-Columbian Art, which was left to its benefactor, Felipe Orlando, by his father.

To give him his full title, Felipe Orlando García-Murciano was of Mexican origin and an artist himself, as well as an art lover and collector. Orlando was a close friend of a former mayor of the pueblo, which inspired him to leave his collection to the town that he loved so much.

Among the art on display, beautiful work from Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru can be found.

A permanent exhibition in the museum, called “Felipe Orlando. Magia y Color” (Magic and Colour), displays the work of the benefactor himself.  These are paintings made by Orlando back in the 1960s when he decided to settle in Spain.  Besides the paintings on show, the museum has an archaeological section, displaying Roman artifacts that have been discovered on the Costa del Sol.  Admission to the museum is free.

Benalmadena Pueblo

Enlightenment Stupa in Benalmádena Pueblo copyright Anne Sewell

The Enlightenment Stupa in Benalmádena Pueblo is a both fascinating building to see and also a magnificent viewpoint over the coastline to Fuengirola and beyond.  This is a Buddhist monument, built to promote harmony, peace and prosperity, and also as a place to meditate, learn and reflect.

Everyone is welcome to attend the regular meditation classes and Buddhism talks held here on a weekly basis and the Stupa offers a gift shop and café during the summer months where it is possible to relax and enjoy that spectacular view.

It was Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche, a Buddhist Master who hails from Bhutan, who inspired the construction of this fascinating building, which was opened in October 2003.

Enjoy your stay on the Costa del Sol and don’t forget to head up from the beach to visit the lovely Benalmádena Pueblo during your holiday.

Benalmádena Pueblo

Plaza de España, Benalmádena Pueblo

Sources:

Benalmádena Pueblo

Museo de Arte Precolombino Felipe Orlando

Wikipedia

Photo credits:

  1. Evening stroll through Benalmádena Pueblo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Nico
  2. La Niña de Benalmádena, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic r Terry Wha
  3. Museo de Arte Precolombino Felipe Orlando GFDL Miwipedia
  4. Enlightenment Stupa in Benalmádena Pueblo by and copyright Anne Sewell
  5. Plaza de España, Benalmádena Pueblo CC by-SA Bjørn

 

Staying Fit With A Walking or Activity Holiday

CC photo by: Russavia - wikimedia

CC photo by: Russavia – wikimedia

We are all reminded to keep fit or stay fit in our daily lives, but how about when we go on holiday? Well there are now activity holiday & tours companies which cater for people who are looking for an active lifestyle whilst on their next holiday.

So, if like me you are looking for something different or a little more engaging during your next holiday, then an activity holiday may just be a great way to see some wonderful places whilst staying fit in the process. Activity holidays are not just for young people either, as many of the people who enjoy activity holidays these days are from a wide variety of age groups and are enjoying walking holidays, trekking holidays, cycling holidays & even sailing holidays. Continue reading

A Holiday To See The Northern Lights

Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis,

photo by: Tim Newton Syms, wikimedia

With more and more people looking for alternative or unique holiday desinations, winter time sees many people heading to Scandinavia or Iceland or even Lapland to witness one of the natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights (or the Aurora Borealis). Northern Lights is one of the natural wonders of the world and it is one of the planet’s most extraordinary sights.

As you would expect many tourists travel with one of companies who are dedicated Northern Lights holiday specialists, offering package holidays specifically for tourists who want to experience this unique natural occurrence. Continue reading

Ideas For Choosing A Safari Holiday

CC photo by: PJ KAPDostie, wikimedia

CC photo by: PJ KAPDostie, wikimedia

Have you ever wanted to go on an African safari? Well there is not better way to experience the beauty and splendour of the African countryside, as well as getting up close and personal with the wildlife there. For most of us an African wildlife safari presents a holiday of a lifetime, one which will offer an unforgettable experience and memories to last a lifetime.

Here are a few simple things in this simple guide to consider when booking an African safari, here we take a look at just some of things you may want to consider or look forward to when you enjoy your African wildlife safari adventure. Continue reading

Wine Tourism: A Wine Tasting Adventure in New Zealand

A Vineyard in Awatere Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand

CC photo credit: Phillip Capper, wikimedia

Where are you going on your next holiday? Well why not join the growing number of tourists travelling to many of the wine regions around the world.

Here we take a brief look at just some ideas, travel tips and things you might want to consider when you are planning a holiday as a wine tourist to New Zealand.

Firstly, do a little homework and research the many locations, vineyards, wineries and variety of travel options on offer to wine tourism visitors. Make sure you consider the time of year you are planning to travel and the climate for that time of year, as this can sometimes affect the overall price of your holiday or what is on offer in the locations you plan to travel to. In comparison to Europe the growing season for New Zealand is opposite; hence harvest time will be around February – April in the Southern Hemisphere. So if you planning to visit some of New Zealand’s vineyards during the grape picking season you will have to visit during the early part of the year. Continue reading

City Guide: The Spa City of Bath in Somerset

The ancient Roman Baths in Bath Spa

CC photo credit: HDiliff, wikimedia

Are you looking for a unique and captivating English city break visit?

Well, the Spa city of Bath in Somerset offers visitors a truly remarkable visitor experience, as there is something for everyone in this beautiful city.

On first arriving in the city, you can’t help see and feel the influence of the Georgian & Roman architecture which presents itself throughout the city. However it is the naturally occurring geothermal Spa waters of Bath and their therapeutic properties which have made this such a special and significant place over the decades.

Historically it was reputed that therapeutic Spa waters were first discovered by ‘Prince Bladud’ in around 863BC, as he found that after bathing in these special spa waters helped to cure the skin disease he was suffering from. After this point in time these naturally occurring geothermal spa waters were later enjoyed by the Celts, Romans, Saxons, Georgians and now in the new millennium the visitors to Bath today are still enjoying the effects of the natural spa waters at the city’s beautiful Bath ‘Thermae Spa’. Continue reading