Holidays with cake!

Being inspired by The Great British Bake-Off, I’ve been looking at baking inspiration overseas!  The contestants like using unusual ingredients from all over the world – Mediterranean and Moroccan ingredients seem to be the most common ‘foreign’ additions so far.  Is food important to you on holiday?  Of course, it is.  But do you like to explore the local cuisine and find out more about the local specialities?  If so, here are a few ideas.  But there’s lots more…….

(in no particular order, all opinions are mine!)

  • A seventies favourite enjoying a revival in some quarters – Black Forest Gateau.  According to Wikipedia – the cake is named not directly after the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) mountain range in southwestern Germany but rather from the specialty liquor of that region, known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch (wasser) and distilled from tart cherries. Typically, Black Forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings.   The Black Forest can be reached by plane easily from the UK.  Fly into Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport – on the borders of 3 countries.  Then hire a car and explore this lovely area.  Freiburg is an old university town, still with many original features around the Cathedral, great market daily.  I went there last year in the autumn, good time to visit.
  • Pavlova – claimed by both Australia and New Zealand as their own creation, but who cares when it is so delicious.  The argument seems to be leaning towards the Kiwis as the home of the cake – so best eaten there, I think!  http://www.newzealand.com/travel/media/features/food-&-wine/food&wine_real-kiwi-pavlova-trail_feature.cfm
  • The French are well-known for their patisserie – on Sundays, its very much a tradition to buy an elaborate cake to take with you when visiting friends or relatives.  Patisseries are always busy at weekends, with yummy crème patissiere creations tempting you through the windows!
  • Another delicious French cake is Gateau des Rois – eaten on Twelfth Night.  Sticky with almond paste and if you’re lucky enough to find one of the ‘gifts’ therein, you’ll be King (or Queen) for the night.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/recipes/9780514/Baking-club-French-Epiphany-cake-recipe.html  If you’re spending the early part of January in France ski-ing, then these cakes will be easy to find in the patisseries.

To book a holiday to any of these destinations (breakfast included, but no cakes), just ask Olein for some more inspiration.

All prices quoted subject to availability at the time of booking.  Diamond Travel, agency S0466, acts as The Global Travel Group plc in connection with the sale of travel products.  Unless specified as the operator, The Global Travel Group plc is the agent of ATOL Protected Tour Operators and other principals.

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Ranch holidays and others in the USA

Having loved our USA road trip this holiday, I’ve started thinking about other types of USA holidays I can offer to my clients.  The ‘road-trip’ is just one of many ideas I have.  As we loved Texas and the wide open spaces in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, I thought it good to start with holidays here.

The obvious one is a ranch holiday – we saw lots of cattle while we were driving and a few cowboys (although not enough!!).  Here at Diamond Travel, we deal with a couple of companies who offer ranch holidays.  For example, we offer ranch holidays to adult-only and family-friendly ranches, there are even ranches with no single supplements. Stay on a working ranch in a guest cabin with those welcome modern touches including Internet and phone access, hot showers and laundry facilities. But you’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy your life on the trail, sitting round campfires and swapping stories. For the real cowboy experience, try a cattle and horse drive ranch holiday. Add in extra thrills with a white water rafting trip and you can even combine a ranch holiday with a city break. We can make sure your real life Wild West adventure comes true.

It will take you back to your favourite western films, whether you prefer John Wayne or Clint Eastwood!  If you combine a ranch holiday with a city break, you can even wear your Stetson in the casinos at Las Vegas.  Nothing is ever out of place there.  The picture was taken at the Elk City Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma.  DIGITAL CAMERA

Our favourite memories from the trip in this area – the laid back atmosphere and the friendliness everywhere.  Everyone was very proud of their hometown and eager to tell us more wherever we went.  The Big Texan in Amarillo is a must – even to get picked up in the limo with the cattle horns on the front is part of the experience.  However, you have to be brave to try the 72oz steak!  The roads just went on and on – a straight road as far as the horizon in many areas – fantastic to drive on and beautiful countryside all around us.

As well as ranch holidays, you can relax with city breaks in some places that you might never have considered before – Oklahoma has museums, art galleries and nightlife.  Amarillo is much bigger than we thought – worth exploring the Palo Duro Canyon about 30 miles away.  Santa Fe – great music and art scene, loved sitting in the square listening to music on the band stand. Albuquerque, the Old Town area was lovely and it’s also the Hot Air Balloon capital of the world.  Plus the location for Breaking Bad.  Flagstaff – great for hiking and mountainous scenery, the Grand Canyon isn’t too far away.  Very much an outdoor city.

Just get in touch with Olein at Diamond Travel for more information about ranch holidays in the USA and Canada. All prices quoted subject to availability at the time of booking.  Diamond Travel, agency S0466, acts as The Global Travel Group plc in connection with the sale of travel products.  Unless specified as the operator, The Global Travel Group plc is the agent of ATOL Protected Tour Operators and other principals.

Last leg of the Route 66 trip

Having left Las Vegas via the roundabout route (I.e. we got lost again!), we found the outlet stores and did a little shopping. Then started the longest drive of the trip to Santa Barbara. As there is only one main road out of the city to California, it’s incredibly busy. Climbing several thousand feet though the mountain ranges and over the desert. We decided not to stop in Calico, where John and I had photos taken years ago (with him as a confederate general). Good job we did, or we’d never have made the hotel before nightfall. Our last R66 stop was in Barstow where there’s a great food stop with Macdonalds and others in converted rail carriages. The freeways in LA are almost at a standstill. How does anyone get around? We eventually made it to SB and our last hotel for 2 nights. Very comfortable Castillo Inn at the Beach. Just walked down to the harbour for a meal as we were too tired to go any further. Next morning, walked down to the pier and took the trolley to downtown and then walked back down the street to the pier again. Very relaxed and laid back atmosphere. Then walked down the pier and watched the pelicans flying round. We were told in the Moby Dick that seals were on the buoy, so binoculars ready and there they were. Decided to go for dinner at the Toma, which was just round the corner from the hotel – 2 reasons, couldn’t walk any more and it had #1 rating on Tripadvisor. Well deserved rating, our meal was delicious and celebrated John’s birthday in style. This was always our dream, to be back in Santa Barbara on a special date!

Now us being us, we were on the road early this morning, but the flight isn’t until 10pm tonight. Stopping off for a last minute shop at the Outlet Mall in Camarillo. Then down to Santa Monica where we hoped to have a photo opportunity at the end of R66 – not to be, unfortunately. LA traffic conspired against us. We found the Alamo car return easily and they took us to the airport in our car to save Sharon getting out again. Excellent service. Now sitting waiting to leave in the departure lounge – delayed by an hour, worse luck.

Its been a brilliant trip! Friendly and enthusiastic locals, happy to tell us more about their town or area. Good hotel rooms throughout and far too much food! Plenty of walking to counteract that though. Even better were the laughs we had – from the taxi ride in Chicago with a wheelchair on our laps to the Stetson shop in Amarillo, we’ll never forget it.

Update on 12 August – the connection in LAX was rubbish, so I thought I’d posted this, but obviously not!  The plane delay was 2 hours and it was a hassle getting Sharon onboard.  Worse still was the lack of communication by Virgin as to what was going on while we were waiting.  The rescheduled time passed and no news.  Back home again, and I’ll post a reflection on the trip soon!

Nearly finished our trip on Route 66

Day 14-Las Vegas. We left Flagstaff after such a good night out. Now heading for Las Vegas. Landscape becoming more desert-like. Temperatures rising rapidly. Stop for a photo opportunity at a scenic view stop over the Colorado, hundreds of feet below us. Next stop was at the Hoover Dam, you can just drive through and stop with no charge, out of there to Lake Mead. It’s the middle of the desert and people are sailing! Round and round in circles, or so it seems to find our hotel. Best room of the trip so far, we have a room at the end of the tower, so lots of windows. Our view is over the pool, Les’ view is over the golf course. Only ‘room only’ basis hotel, apart from Chicago. Try charge for everything here – only hotel to charge for wifi ($13.99 for 24 hours) and coffee in the room is $3.50. Get the monorail to the strip, but its still quite a walk once you get there. The MGM Grand is the last stop and you leave the monorail straight into the shops and casino. Next morning, as breakfast not included at the LVH, we got the monorail to The Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace, I believe) where the monorail listed the cheapest weekend breakfast buffet on the Strip. John and I left the others to their own devices (I.e. the slots!) and explored the strip on our own. We started at the end – the Mandalay Bay – great sandy beach and tidal wave in the pool area. None thing we noticed was that pool areas are restricted to residents and ticket holders only, good security. Next was the Luxor, amazing pyramid and sphinx to look at from outside, but the rooms are in the pyramid on the outside walls. The Excalibur is shaped on the outside like a fantasy castle from Disney. There’s a free tram to take you from the Excalibur to the Mandalay Bay, well worth it in 100 degree temperatures. Ran out of energy to do the rest of the hotels on the strip! So just wandered up to the Bellagio in time for the fountain show. Then back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and a margarita in Happy Hour. Went out to Circus Circus for the evening, with the acrobats and fun fair. Last episode to be posted tomorrow

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More than half way through our Route 66 trip

Day 11-13 Albuquerque to Flagstaff. Very straightforward route, along the I-40, interspersed with R66. Stopped off at Grants for coffee in Macdonalds. Once again a great visitors’ centre with loads of information and enthusiastic staff. Went along further to the Continental Divide and had a geography lesson! Rain or snow that falls on the east towards the Atlantic and on the west towards the Pacific. Along the route, also are the Red Rock cliffs. Beautiful colors. Stopped at Red Rock State Park for some pictures. On to Gallup. Dip in the pool and jacuzzi which the three of us had to ourselves. Dinner at El Rancho, old hotel and restaurant where the stars used to stay when filming nearby. Then into town for the Native American dances. Great fun and very interesting. Downside of the good location is that we’re near the railroad, and trains run all night! Detour to thenPainted Desert and Petrified Forest – fantastic colours. Off to Arizona, unfortunately we got the monsoons en-route, so not many stops. Flagstaff is a great town. We went to see the Meteor Crater this morning, which was awesome ‘as our American cousins put it! Then back to wander around the gone. We came back into Flagstaff for a night out. First Friday here is great fun, lots of art galleries and music everywhere. We checked out several bars and had a veery enjoyable evening, topped off by a taxi driver who played rugby. Nice vibe in this place.

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