Category Archives: News

Time for some wine & food indulgence!

Immediately after the Comic Strip Festival at start of September, European Capital Brussels will get ready for another extravaganza, this time for the connoisseurs of food and wine. From 7 to 10 September this year, Brussels Park will once again serve as the setting for the eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux festival. Twenty Brussels chefs will slave over their stoves to share their signature dishes with the public. Fifty Bordeaux wine growers and sellers will also be on hand to provide the accompaniment for these delicious foods. They will offer the optimal wine pairings to complement the chefs’ dishes. There’s sure to be plenty to delight the senses of their foodie visitors! For its sixth edition, the eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux Festival has once again invited a selection of Brussels’ best chefs to the heart of Brussels Park. There will be new workshops: Wine & patisseries; Wine and chocolate.

Also Read: Comic Strip festival gets bigger, bolder and rewarding too!

Photo: VisitBrussels/ ©E.Danhier

A sixth edition with its fair share of new offerings

  • Restaurant offerings are expanding. Several chefs on the Brussels scene are joining in the fun to present their iconic dishes to the public.
  • A central “square” will be set up right at the heart of the festival grounds. It’s a chance for visitors to partake and socialize with family and friends.
  • This year, the eat! Awards are making their debut. These prizes will be awarded to chefs whose dishes enjoy the greatest success over the course of the event.
  • In this latest edition, several pastry chefs will complement the event menu with dessert plate suggestions.
  • The Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux invites amateurs to discover new wine workshops that focus on patisserie and chocolate.
  • The Tchin Vittel! space will offer cooking workshops to visitors. Accompanied by talented chef Bruno Antoine, they will concoct their “bistronomy” box together, which they will then be able to savour in this friendly atmosphere.

Also Read: Getting tipsy in Belgium

New iconic Brussels chefs are joining the party and enhancing the festival’s offerings. The will offer visitors a signature dish representing their culinary identity at the special price of € 9. Several pastry chefs will also enhance the festival’s menu. They will offer sweets aficionados delicious desserts by the plate at the special price of €9.

The perfect pairing

Vins de Bordeaux, the festival’s essential partners, are coming together once again on this journey through fine cuisine. For the occasion, nearly 50 Bordeaux wine growers and merchants will meet in Brussels to reveal the history and secrets of their wine.

These elegant and unique wines, the fruits of the meticulous blending of several grape varieties, will thrill the public’s taste buds. It’s a singular chance to discover the new Bordeaux reds, fresh and fruity, the dry whites, the rosés, the clairets and the sweet wines that can be paired with all cuisine, whether simple or refined. A wine pairing carefully selected for the occasion will also be offered for each dish, sweet or savoury, presented at the festival.

eat Brussels

The Bordeaux pavilion, the Belgian selection

For the second year running, the pavilion will present the 2017 selection of Bordeaux wines chosen by a panel of Belgian wine and gastronomy professionals. These wines, selling for €4 to €25 are all available in Belgium. eat! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux will be the only opportunity to sample the sumptuousness of this 2017 selection.

The Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux pavilion

The Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux will once again be on hand to conduct a variety of workshops for Wine Pass holders. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the public, expert or novice, to (re)discover Bordeaux wines in an original, fun way and participate in tastings.

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Young tourists look for kicks other than waffles

Well, these are maps which are as good as any tourist guide but actually they are so good that they are also souvenir in themselves. That means, when you are visiting a city then in search of a good souvenir, you first get a souvenir in form of a map. And these are no normal maps. These maps are now turning 10. USE-IT, the tourist info for young people, will soon celebrate its first ten years in European capital Brussels. They’re a household name for city maps made by young locals, with no-nonsense tips for how not to be caught as a tourist in Belgium. (Nope, we don’t have fruit on our waffles.)

These maps are starting to conquer Europe, and the research team Expeditions has measured the impact on tourism in the entire network. Does alternative city info really make people move outside of the city centre? Do they stay longer? And what does this imply for the local economy? The results were very positive, and Brussels stands out. 59% of users say they went further from the centre indeed. Desk personnel at hostels and the tourist infos confirm. 86% think also that off-the-beaten track information boosts the investment in the local economy. Furthermore, 14% of the young tourists extended their stay with one or more nights, and nearly everybody (97%) would like to get the same kind of no-nonsense info on their next city trips.

When asked about their best experience in Brussels, the maps’ local tips are mentioned more often than the tourist classics. Highlights include the panorama on top of Parking 58, the vegetable garden on top of the Albertina library, a walk through Molenbeek, going out at Bonnefooi until the morning, and pissing in the public urinal that’s built against Sint-Katelijne church.

The survey ran in the entire European USE-IT network (more than 40 cities) and Brussels came out on top. Of the 4,000 respondents, one out of three had already used the Brussels map. Strikingly, a large number of them (38%) was also motivated to start up a USE-IT map for their own city.

ALSO READ: Travelling to Where Locals Go

“The creative side of Brussels speaks to many tourists’ hearts, and USE-IT embodies that side well. As Alderman for Tourism it’s important that we support young innovative teams. So we’re proud that these city maps have spread out all over Europe from Brussels,” says Philippe Close, the Alderman of Tourism in Brussels.

The USE-IT headquarters is stationed in the Galerie Ravenstein, where it attracts more than 20,000 travellers per year. Apart from all the European free maps, visitors also get tips about nightlife there from the young Brussels volunteers, or they head out together for a walk along the Anderlecht supporters’ bars or the latest genital graffiti in town. Anything but the Manneken Pis.

Want to have local food while on travel! TTC partners VizEat!

Want to have some authentically local food while travelling abroad, but are afraid of what hotels serve in name of local dishes? Also, you might be interested in having local food in authentically local environments such as homes, but don’t know how to in a new city! Here is a brand new initiative.

The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) award-winning family of brands including Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Contiki, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Busabout and Evans Evans partnered globally with VizEat, the innovative and immersive food experience platform, bringing travellers together by offering immersive culinary experiences with their 22,000 local hosts in 110 countries. In 2014, the app was first launched in Paris and it has now become the world’s most popular meal sharing platform with guests being welcomed into a global network of hosts’ homes while making authentic connections with both locals and travellers.

TTC’s travel brands will be able to connect their guests to these VizEat hosts who are trained chefs and home cooks where they will share their delicious meals and learn about new cultures with other travellers  and foodies from across the globe. They will sample regional specialties and traditional cuisine in unique locations with a relaxed ambience. Travelers can enjoy a pasta making class in Rome, embark on an interactive market tour in Barcelona, indulge in a wine and cheese tasting party in Paris or join a Tuscan chef’s table and sample gastronomic delicacies.

“Our partnership with VizEat will enable our guests from across our 30+ TTC travel brands to discover amazing and fun culinary experiences in each destination which we visit while also interacting with the local people and creating unforgettable memories,” said Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer of The Travel Corporation. “We also share similar values by offering experiential experiences and meeting like-minded travellers from around the world.”

Beginning this summer, TTC’s guests will have an opportunity to enjoy these immersive food experiences on selected trips or as optional experiences through the assistance of their knowledgeable Travel Directors and Tour Managers.

“We’re thrilled to announce this global partnership with TTC and this marks a great opportunity for more travellers worldwide the chance to uncover immersive culinary experiences with locals wherever they go,” said Jean-Michel Petit, Chief Executive Officer of VizEat. “It’s a great match for both of us: TTC family of brands plans the most memorable experiences for their clients and VizEat is aligned in this search for unforgettable and authentic moments.”

The Travel Corporation (TTC) is a highly successful international travel group. No matter what your taste, whether you are a family or a couple, a group or traveling solo – TTC offers something for everyone. Its multi-award-winning portfolio ranges from luxury hotels and boutique river cruises, to independent holiday package companies and a variety of guided travel experiences.

Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit that works to help ensure the environment and communities we visit remain for generations to come. Founded by Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer, TTC, to date TreadRight has supported more than 40 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. As an official Diamond Sponsor of the UN International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, TTC is dedicated to bringing the industry together with a shared goal of benefitting local communities and the environment.

VizEat website and apps are now available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. Anyone can sign up to become either a host or a guest. The mobile apps for VizEat are available for download for iOS and Android. Apple selected VizEat in the TOP 3 Apps of 2016 and  CEO Tim Cook went for a VizEat lunch in Paris early February.

Lost temple discovered after 1,000 years in China

Chinese archaeologists have found a famous temple that remained hidden for nearly a millennium in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. The Fugan Temple, located in downtown Chengdu, was a famous temple that lasted from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317- 420) to the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Daoxuan, a famous Tang Dynasty (618-907) monk, once wrote that an official rite to pray for rain to end a persistent drought was held in front of the temple, and it rained as if the prayers had been heard in heaven.

The story was the record of how the temple got its name, Fugan, which means “perceive the blessing.”  The popular Tang Dynasty poet Liu Yuxi left a poem to commemorate the temple’s renovation, describing its heavenly appearance. The poem further noted the temple’s important role at that time, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. However, the building was worn down during the later period of the Tang and Song dynasties, with all traces of the temple disappearing during wars.

Archaeologists unearthed more than 1,000 tablets inscribed with Buddhist scriptures and over 500 pieces of stone sculpture as well as glazed tiles with inscriptions. “We have only excavated a part of the temple’s area, but already have a glimpse of its past glory,” said Yi Li, who led the excavation project. He said they have found the temple’s foundation, ruins of surrounding buildings, wells, roads and ditches.

During the excavation, archaeologists found some 80 ancient tombs scattered near the temple, dating back to Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-256 BC). In the temple’s surroundings, they have unearthed large amounts of household tools and utensils and building materials dating back to various periods from the Song to Ming dynasties. Chengdu became an economic and cultural centre in western China during the Sui and Tang dynasties. The temple’s discovery could greatly contribute to the study of the spread of Buddhism in China during that time, said Wang Yi, director of the Chengdu Cultural Relic Research Institute.

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

Chengdu, the capital of China’s southwest Sichuan Province,  is famed for being the home of cute giant pandas. The history of the city can be traced back 2,400 when the first emperor built his capital here and named the city. Through thousands of years its original name has been kept and its position as the capital and as the significant center of politics, commerce and military of the Sichuan area (once called Shu) has remained unchanged. Since the Han (206B.C.-220) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties when its handicraft industry flourished, the place has been famous for its brocades and embroideries. Shu embroideries still enjoy a high reputation for their bright colors and delicate designs, ranking among the four main embroideries in China.

Photo credit: telegraph.co.uk

The city was also the place where the bronze culture, an indispensable part of ancient Chinese culture, originated; the place where the Southern Silk Road started; and the place where the earliest paper currency, Jiaozi (not the dumpling!), was first printed. It is listed among the first 24 state-approved historical and cultural cities and owns 23 state and provincial cultural relic units.

Photo credit: businessdestinations.com

Pop-up & Disappear – First look into Epic Retreats

The first images of Epic Retreats – Wales’ first pop-up boutique hotel – have been revealed and there’s still time to book to become one of the fortunate 200 guests to enjoy the unique, exclusive experience. The eight cabins, which are the focus of a new Channel 4 documentary ‘Cabins in the Wild with Dick Strawbridge’, are all inspired by Welsh legends and will welcome their first guests on June 5.

(I have told you earlier about this. You can read here about ‘Disappearing Hotels of Wales‘.)

Epic Retreats will visit two locations across Wales this summer; Southern Snowdonia from June 5- June 30 and the Llŷn Peninsula from July 10 until September 11. Mid-week guests will also enjoy epic experiences tailored to each location, including private chefs, Welsh music and theatre performances.

Fewer than 200 bookings have been made available for the experience and inspiration for the units includes the legend of King Arthur, the iconic Welsh dragon and the country’s famous industrial heritage. Each boutique cabin includes a double, king size or circular bed, living area with wood burner and hob and en-suite facilities.

(Want to read more about Arthur’s Cave? Click to read about King Arthur Trail.)

All are winning designs, purpose-built for the Epic Retreats project, and chosen through a competitive tender, supported by Visit Wales, which invited architects from across the world to design unique glamping units themed on the mythology, tradition and beauty of Wales. In addition to the eight cabins the ‘hotel’ will also feature a communal area including a fridge for food storage, on-site BBQ and eating area. On arrival guests are provided with a welcome pack containing some of the best produce Wales has to offer, as well as bed linen, hand and bath towels and logs for the wood-burner.

Launched in celebration of Wales’s Year of Legends, Epic Retreats promises to immerse visitors in the most impressive landscapes and adventures the country has to offer. Co-founder of Epic Retreats, Llion Pughe said, “We are excited to finally reveal the eight cabins that make up Epic Retreats. “The unique cabins, complemented by our country’s stunning landscape, make for an unbeatable experience and we look forward to welcoming our first guests this summer who will get to see Wales in a completely unique setting.”

The Epic Retreats project is a partnership between Best of Wales, Cambria Tours and George + Tomos Architects and is part funded by the Welsh Government’s Tourism Product Innovation Fund. Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “Epic Retreats and the unique glamping pods, which all have their own story to tell,  will allow people the chance to experience Wales like never before.

“From art hotels and castles to trendy hostels and boutique B&Bs, Wales offers a wide array of varied and exciting accommodation choices.  The addition of our first pop-up glamping accommodation creates additional potential to attract visitors from far and wide to experience our amazing landscape and heritage during our Year of Legends 2017.”

Now Maharajas’ Express comes with ‘buy one, get one free’ offer!

 

Desperate times need , desperate strategies! Believe it or not, but the ‘buy one, get one free’ marketing strategy has reached to most unlikely of places. At a time, when other illustrious luxury trains in the north are finding it difficult to sustain themselves, India’s premier luxury train Maharajas’ Express has come with this unique offer. And, that is not all. They have come up with a few more.

The Indian Railway PSU, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) has decided to start two new circuits of their flagship luxury train Maharajas’ Express, this year. These two new trips have been named as “Southern Sojourn” and “Southern Jewels” which will cover prominent destinations in West and South India. The Southern Sojourn will cover Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Ernakulam, Kumarakom and Trivandrum. The Southern Jewels will cover Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa.

Maharajas’ Express is known for recreating the royal journeys of yesteryears.  Though the regular trip of these two new journeys will take place in September 2017 for this year, however two new tour circuits with a view to cater especially to domestic travellers are being planned during monsoon period of June/July 2017.

Mayur Mahal restaurant of Maharajas’ Express

Tariff in Indian Rupees has been introduced for the Monsoon Special itineraries. Lucrative offers to attract domestic travellers have also been planned. On the booking of first adult on twin sharing at full cost, the second adult sharing the same cabin will be on Complimentary Basis. Moreover, a guest booking a Deluxe Cabin gets a chance to upgrade to a Junior Suite by paying only 50 % of the difference in tariff between Junior Suite and Deluxe Cabin. For the very first time part journey has been introduced in the Monsoon Special itineraries of Maharajas’ Express. Passengers are allowed to avail part of the total journey on a fixed price of  USD 500 / ₹ 33250.00 per day per person on twin sharing basis. On single occupancy basis the charges would be USD 800 / ₹ 53200.00. The prices are exclusive of taxes and limited to a maximum of 2 nights 3 days

Presidential suite os Maharajas’ Express

The Southern SojournMonsoon Special shall start from Mumbai on 24th June 2017 & stop at Goa, Hampi, Mysore, Cochin, Alleppey before terminating at Trivandrum. The Southern JewelsMonsoon Special shall depart from Trivandrum on 1st July 2017 and terminate at Mumbai covering Chettinad, Mahabalipuram, Mysore, Hampi and Goa. Each journey shall be of 8 Days/7 Nights duration. The regular trip of Southern Sojourn will start from Mumbai on 9 Sep 2017 and Southern Jewels will start from Trivandrum on 16 Sep 2017. In addition to visits to monuments and sight-seeing at each destination under these trips, the guests shall have an opportunity to enjoy traditional cultural performances at Cochin, visit a Coir Factory and enjoy a cruise with lunch at Alleppey, savour traditional Chettinad Cuisine demo and much more on these fabulous journeys.

Presidential suite of Maharajas’ Express

For Guests booking online or directly through phone, a special facility is being offered free of cost in the form of redeemable voucher of USD 250 (approx Rs. 16000/-) for each individual guest. Although the vouchers cannot be encashed they can be redeemed against all off-board optionals, liquor bills, on-board boutique purchases and laundry bills.

Luxury unlimited at Maharajas’ Express

Maharajas’ Express commenced its operations in 2010, and since then the train has become the Leading Luxury Train of the World with comparisons to the Royal Scotsman and the Eastern and Oriental Express. The train is the recipient of the coveted Leading Luxury Train of the World Award for the last five years in a row since 2012.

Read: World’s leading luxury train

The 23 coach long Maharajas’ Express, with a capacity of 88 guests, is a cut above other luxury trains in each aspect – the cabin experience, onboard dining, the excursions and events organized for guests. The train has state of the art features with on-board water filtration plant, spacious cabin sizes with no bunk beds, two bars cum lounges, two restaurants and of course a well trained on-board team to cater to global expectations.

Get closer to the movie with King Arthur Trail

Imagine some supernatural caves, mighty boulders, crumbly castles, sorcery courses and stone circles.

Fit for a king and with the option to leave no stone unturned, a new trail across South West Wales aims to bring to life the mystery that surrounds the story of Britain’s best and bravest knight, the legendary Arthur. Perfectly timed the new Arthur Trail launches just ahead of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword release (12 May), so the question of whether Arthur was a real Excalibur-wielding man, make-believe, or a bit of both is more pertinent than ever. The new trail showcases the mighty Arthur with Arthurian legend related experiences across the counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Swansea Bay and Neath Port Talbot.

Visitors inspired by Charlie Hunnam’s rugged sword wielding Arthur portrayal in the big-screen version of the tale can head off on a quest to see wizard and warrior related sights and sounds (listen for Merlin’s groans on Merlin Hill) using the new trail.

The trail aims to help visitors decide who they think Arthur really was while enjoying the stunning coast and hills of South West Wales. From the boulder he is said to have tossed 11 miles from Llanelli to Gower to his burial place in the Preseli Hills and the supernatural caves near Neath, the trail guides visitors through everything from a day out in one region, to a five night break spread over all four, hunting for clues to Arthur’s existence. For those who just want to indulge in the playful side of Arthur’s tale there are fun attractions – from owl experiences to wizard themed afternoon teas – throughout the four counties.

The trail has been designed so that visitors can cherry-pick sites that interest them most or take in the whole lot on a road trip over a mini-break or longer. There are accommodation suggestions as well as alternatives to Arthur attractions should you get distracted by beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and welcoming pubs and cafes on route.

Time to sit at your round table and plan your trip to Arthur Country. Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.

Carmarthenshire

Start at the very beginning in the town of Carmarthen, birthplace of Arthur’s wizard Merlin. Carmarthenshire is a great place to lose yourself in legends and even be a sorcerer’s apprentice! Sign up for a magic course inspired by Merlin himself where your teacher will join you in your holiday cottage or hotel for a night of magic. Or take The Creepy Carmarthen Tour for a blast of local history and magic, combining real events from the town’s past with magical experiments in mind-reading and extra sensory perception. Then spend a ‘night’ under the stars at the magical Faerie Thyme Hill campsite with its own mysterious stone circle and giant dream catchers.

 Pembrokeshire

Here the Arthur trail takes in wild headlands, medieval strongholds and hilltop stones. Arthur’s Quoit, on St David’s Head, was said to have been hurled from nearby Carn Llidi by the king and it marks the remains of a single-chambered Neolithic burial chamber that’s up to 6,000 years old. The capstone is about 20ft long and supported by one upright stone and the site can be reached only on foot. Bedd Arthur (or Arthur’s Grave), high on the Preseli ridge on the rocky outcrop of Cerrig Marchogion (the Rocks of the Knights) is also said to mark the spot where the mythical boar Twrch Trwyth slew several of Arthur’s knights and turned them into stone. Base yourself in St David’s and there’s the small Penrhiw Hotel, a short walk from St David’s Cathedral. St Non, mother of St David, patron saint of Wales, was the niece of King Arthur. For accommodation worthy of a king, try the luxurious Roch Castle Hotel, near Haverfordwest.

Port Talbot Neath

Not far from Neath is Craig y Ddinas and legend has it that Arthur and a thousand of his warriors are fast asleep in a hidden cave there! While Margam Country Park, the 850-acre estate, used extensively as a filming location for the Merlin TV series, is steeped in history and natural beauty. There’s a haunted castle here and a whole range of medieval events taking place throughout the year, from archery to knights displays as well as a cute 3 bedroom stone cottage to stay in, with its own secret door into the park.

Swansea Bay

Swansea Bay brings together castles, pubs and hotels all with an Arthurian link. Sitting in the hills of the Gower Peninsula, within handy walking distance of the King Arthur country pub with rooms in Reynoldston, Arthur’s Stone is said to be another pebble that bothered the royal warrior. The disgruntled monarch angrily hurled it all the way from Carmarthenshire to the top of Cefn Bryn, and it magically grew in size on the way! And for something a bit out of the ordinary and in the absence of Merlin to teach us survival skills, join Dryad Bushcraft for an introduction to bushcraft course where you’ll learn how to think like a survivor, set traps, forage wild food and shelter build all in the wilds of Gower!

Fit for a King Accommodation – How to book it!

Those embarking on a full tour can opt to spend 2 nights in Port Talbot Neath and 2nights Pembrokeshire or straddle a stay over Swansea Bay and Carmarthenshire. Two miles from Port Talbot down a country lane enjoy a quiet cottage base within the grounds of Margam Park at Ivy Cottage (2 nights from £535, sleeps up to 5 –www.holidaycottages.co.uk/wales/south-wales/ivy-cottage-at-margam-country-park), then head west to Pembrokeshire and stay in a luxury castle for two final nights (doubles from £200 a night with breakfast – www.rochcastle.com). This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £467 per person based on two sharing.

Alternatively, live like a legend on Gower for two nights at The King Arthur Hotel (doubles from £80 a night with breakfast – www.kingarthurhotel.co.uk), then head inland to Llety Cynin (doubles from £86 a night with breakfast – www.lletycynin.co.uk), an eight-room converted coach house on a working dairy and sheep farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire. This recommended luxury five day trip with two nights at each property would be priced from £332 per person based on two sharing.