This week… this too shall pass

I’m in a funny mood this week. In the midst of conflicting emotions, I think it’s melancholy. The news continues to be conflicting. On the one hand, we all want a break from lockdown, to continue our life as we know it, or knew it. On the other hand, the WHO warns that the numbers in the pandemic are rising globally. My heart goes out to those who are back in lockdown, those actually suffering this disease, and to those who have lost loved ones. It’s heartbreaking.

The rest of us continue as best we can, one day at a time. Every day is precious and I do my best to make the most of each one, counting my blessings, which are many.

Winnall Moors Nature Reserve, Winchester.

This week I spent some glorious time with my son on the hottest day of the year, with temperatures of 37 degrees. We took a picnic to a nature reserve in the centre of Winchester. It’s an oasis, a haven of wildflowers and butterflies. It was shady under the trees and the River Itchen was cool and crystal clear.

We always have plenty to talk about from films to food, technology to travel, wildlife to wine. There’s absolutely nothing to do in the reserve except walk, relax and watch the butterflies flitting from plant to plant. Heavenly.

Here’s a round-up of a few things that I like this week.

A Greek idyll

Crystal Waters Lefkada Island, Greece. Photo Crystal Waters.

This might be one to try now or savour for later.

Crystal Waters is situated in Lefkada, at the foot of the Skaros mountains between lush greenery on one side and the blue sea on the other. The new luxury resort in the Ionian seas was due to launch when the lockdown commenced but it is now open for visitors and hoping to attract British holiday makers.

The blend of traditional Greek style villa living with private club-like facilities and a private beach, offers locally inspired gastronomy and five-star service. There is around 335km of Ionian coastline so plenty of room to self-distance.

To the eastern side of Lefkada is the private island of Skorpios, where Greek billionaire, Aristotle Onassis, married the glamorous Jacqueline Kennedy in 1968.

Direct flights take just over three hours and are available with British Airways and some other low-cost airlines. The resort is a short transfer to airports Preveza and Aktion.

Experience the essence of the Cornish coast

Pentire botanical non-alcoholic spirit captures the essence of plants on the Cornish coastline.

I enjoy wine and although I don’t often drink spirits, if I’m going to imbibe alcohol then it has to be the real deal. Low or non-alcoholic drinks haven’t really appealed in the past and I’m not fond of fizzy drinks, or juices made from concentrates. Fussy or discerning, take your pick.

It was with a little trepidation then, that I opened a gift from an independent maker of a botanical, non-alcohlic spirit. Alistair Frost, Founder of Pentire wanted to create a drink that harnasses the power, beauty and flavour of plants unique to the Cornwall coastline, due to its special climate of soil pH and air moisture.

I mixed myself a Pentire and Tonic with a twist of lemon.

The branding is sopisticated and everything about Pentire feels beautifully thought through. The booklet offers stylish imagery of the Cornish coast and is printed with a matt finish for an elegant feel.

Pentire Adrift, the Key bontanicals: Rock Samphire, Sage, Pentire Plant Blend, Citrus and Cornish Sea Salt. One of that things that attracted me to try Pentire is that it’s also free from sugar, artifical colourings and flavourings. That’s important to me as I’ve been free from refined sugar for some weeks. It’s also vegan, caffeine and gluten free.

Cornwall coastal plants. Photo Pentire.

I mixed myself a Pentire Adrift and Tonic (which does have some sugar), with a twist of lemon peel in a vintage glass, foregoing any ice as I wanted to really savour the flavours.

On the nose: aromatic with a herbal intensity, offset by citrus. Tasting notes: Complex with an explosion of sage and lemon on the tongue, and an after-taste reminiscent of the soft sweetness of fennel. The flavours intensify with each sip and linger in the mouth.

“I swear too, that I could taste the smell of the sea.”

The tongue senses the four basic flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Often we think we’re tasting something when we’re actually smelling it.

Make no mistake this is an adult drink, distilled with care together with local botanists, distillers and brewers. Where possible, the company use ‘Fair Trade & Organically Certified ingredients, accredited by the Soil Association and extracted naturally.’

Pentire AVC With Tumeric. Photo Pentire Drinks.

The Pentire website lists stockists and more ideas for cocktails. My thanks to co-founder Ed Grieg-Gran.

Great train journeys

Travel Italy by train with

More of us are taking flight-free holidays with travelling by train the most popular method of transport. It’s not only a sustainable method of travel but relaxing and offers scenic discoveries. Last summer I took the Eurostar to Toulouse and the train up to Yorkshire in autumn, and will be doing more of this type of travel in the future. It was far less stressful than driving and when I wasn’t catching up with some reading and my social media, I enjoyed the scenery.

Italy offers good rail links with the country’s modern high-speed rail network connecting the major cities. Like the UK, smaller towns are reached by slower local trains with some picturesque journeys. From the UK to Italy take the Eurostar to Paris, then on to Milan or Turin. 

Journey by train. Photo

I was scheduled to join the Rocky Mountaineer through the Canadian mountains this September. The press trip, part of a larger gathering, has been cancelled by the organisers, understandably, due to the pandemic. But naturally I’m disappointed. So a slow train adventure with Citalia sounds very attractive.

They offer three train journeys including the Venice Simplon-Orient Express and a journey to Viareggio. However, it’s the holiday at Lake Garda that I like the sound of. I’ve visited the Lake once previously when touring, and in the middle of August it was too busy and we stayed only one night.

So I’d like to return and take things slower. The train journey passes through some of Italy’s most stunning alpine scenery. Scheduled stops include Paris and Milan, and some time in Verona before moving on to its final desination at Lake Garda. Verona was another cancelled trip this spring, part of a cruise. In the past I enjoyed a couple of days’ stay in the romantic city and would like to return.

An eight-night holiday with Citalia from London to Lake Garda costs from £1,959 per person. Accommodation at Lake Garda is at the five-star Hotel Aqaulux Spa & Suite. Based on 23 September 2020 departure. For full details visit their web site.

Sail away

The Bessie Ellen. Photo Venture Sail Holidays.

The green light to start sailing again has come too late for many charter boats. After cancelling this season for their fleet of 20 plus classic ships and adventure vessels, and to help some of their heritage boats stay afloat, VentureSail Holidays is hopeful that a handful of vessels in the West Country can salvage some income for this year. Bessie Ellen, Agnes, Escape, Lynher and Pilgrim of Brixham are able to offer either private charters for families or bubble groups, or day sails, sailing from Fowey, Falmouth, Plymouth, Dartmouth and Brixham. Sounds like a fun way to have a mini adventure right now.

Guests can enjoy a day, weekend or longer on the water, learn the ropes and enjoy hidden anchorages for the ultimate secluded getaway. Prices start from £130per person per night, all-inclusive.

In my inbox

The Algarve will be hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix this Autumn at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimao. The last time Portugal hosted a Grand Prix was 24 years ago at Estoril near Lisbon. Portugal’s tourism minister Rita Marques promises there will be spectators and that they are “working on a number of scenarios depending on the health situation”. It’s hoped that the event will help to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on tourism this year. (23 to – 25 October).

Portimao was inaugurated in 2008. The circuit was designed by Ricardo Pina, and was completed in just seven months, at a cost of just under 200 million Euros. There’s a karting track, a five-star hotel, and a sports complex. It has been certified as an FIA Grade 1 circuit for over a decade and The Algarve was the base of the legendary Artyon Senna, amongst others in their early years.

A typical scene in Portimao.

The Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal, framed by a 200km coastline. A road trip back in the 80s began at Mallorca (where I was living) to Sagres, just 50 minutes from Portimao. Along the route we stopped at Seville and Granada. I remember exploring Alhambra, the magnificent palace and fortress, in sweltering heat in the high 30s and moving from one shady tree to the next! Pre-social media and iPhones, I didn’t take many photographs back then, I was too busy enjoying life!

That’s all for this week. I wish you peace and happiness wherever you are in the world and whatever your circumstances. Stay safe and well!

As always please check the Foreign travel advice web site for the latest on international travel guidelines.

As always unless otherwise stated, I have no affiliation with the brands mentioned but simply aim to share places and products that have caught my eye.

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