Hygge on Holiday – Make Yourself at Home

Hygge on Holiday – Make Yourself at Home

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The Scandinavian countries annually jostle at the top of the World’s Happiest Nation rankings to win the prized title each year. So what are they doing so right? And how can you experience a bit of that Scandi satisfaction they call ‘Hygge’? We think it’s about time we learned a thing or two about making ourselves at home on holiday.

 

Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Norway have a lot to offer, and not just for permanent residents, but for lucky visitors, too. These Nordic neighbours are blessed with wonderful landscapes and a sense of environmental responsibility that means nature is well-guarded and appreciated. Those that choose Scandinavia as a holiday destination are putting themselves in a fantastic position to experience flora, fauna and the great outdoors right on their doorstep.


Whilst winter leaves much of Scandinavia blanketed in picturesque snow, this also means the Nordic nations know how to do a hearty log fire really, really well. Rent a holiday home with all the trimmings to keep out the cold whilst you’re not exploring frozen lakes, taking in the Northern Lights, or visiting authentic Christmas markets. Many of Novasol’s Holiday Homes are well-equipped to deliver the full Hygge experience with plush fire-lit living rooms, saunas and even Jacuzzis.

To channel Scandi satisfaction on your next holiday, call 0333 012 4926 or visit www.novasol.co.uk, where your perfect holiday home awaits.

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MAKE A SPLASH THIS SUMMER WITH A PRIVATE POOL

MAKE A SPLASH THIS SUMMER WITH A PRIVATE POOL

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We can’t think of anything quite more essential on your summer holiday than having a swimming pool.
In fact, holidaymakers gravitate towards the water for all sorts of reasons from dawn to dusk!

Active adventurers arise early for leisurely lengths, whilst sun seekers are intermittently drawn from their loungers for a refreshing dip.
Children splash and compete for their favourite pool float as the designated grillmaster keeps the barbecue stoked.
Finally, once the sun has set, parents can sit and listen to the crickets with a poolside nightcap before bed.

It’s hard to imagine your stylish Spanish finca, rustic Italian farmhouse, or modern Croatian villa without the holiday hub that is the pool.

So where to start? A visit to NOVASOL Holiday Homes’ website is a great idea to help you plan your next self-catering holiday. With 50,000 holiday homes across Europe, many with either a communal or private swimming pool, you’re bound to find the ideal property in the perfect location for you.
For many, a private pool signals splashing the cash, but NOVASOL have an incredible affordable range with prices starting from as little as £299 per property, per week.

Check out their latest video and if you feel just as inspired as we do, head to www.novasol.co.uk to book your next villa holiday.

France’s Best Christmas Markets as recommended by Grape Escapes

France’s Best Christmas Markets as recommended by Grape Escapes

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s tempting to huddle up on the sofa with a warming glass of mulled wine and a good film, and simply watch the world pass by outside your frosted windows. But stop! Don’t do that… there’s so much beauty in the world at this time of year, and one thing everyone should experience at least once at Christmas time is a French Christmas Market! With so many to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to head to for the best, most bedazzling festive experience… so it’s lucky I’ve taken the time to review five of my favourites for you…

Strasbourg

The oldest and most historic of Christmas markets, Strasbourg’s Christkindelsmärik dates back to the 16th Century and has thousands of people flocking to the ‘home of Christmas’ each year! This spectacular market features over 300 small wooden chalets, offering local products and delicacies. You’ll be able to nibble on gingerbread and sip hot mulled wine, whilst wandering around the various squares of Strasbourg discovering what made this market ‘Europe’s Best Christmas Market’ in 2014 as voted by Europe Best Vacation. Each year, a different guest country is welcomed to promote their goods, making the market a true multi-cultural delight.

Bordeaux

Discover the magical winter wonderland of Bordeaux, where 150 illuminated log cabin stalls line the Allées du Tourny – the perfect spot to while away the hours whilst picking up a few original gifts for your loved ones. Particular treasures you’ll find here include artisan perfumes, bottles of local wine and Landes foie gras. Father Christmas can be found in his grotto for children to visit, and the market also offers free sleigh rides – an enchanting experience!

 

Avignon

Avignon in December is a great place to be if you are looking to discover Provencal Christmas traditions! As well as the usual market stalls lining the streets, overflowing with wooden toys, gastronomic specialities, artisan crafts and jewellery, this lively Christmas market dedicates space for traditional Provence performers to dance, act and sing transforming Avignon into a sparkly performance arena! You will be welcomed to attend a local midnight mass or nativity celebration on Christmas Eve in the city, which is a lovely way to experience Christmas the way the locals do.

Colmar

A second Alsatian offering, which is only fitting when you consider that Alsace is the birthplace of the Christmas tree! In a pretty, fairy-tale setting, the fully pedestrianised streets of Colmar lend themselves perfectly to a typical festive market. The quaint illuminated town welcomes tourists to explore their five different market areas including a Children’s market in Little Venice (look out for the children’s choirs singing carols on brightly lit boats on the canals!), the markets of the Place de l’Ancienne Douane, and Alsatian gastronomic delights at the food markets at Place Jeanne d’Arc. A Christmas ice skating rink at Place Rapp finishes off this spectacular market, where you can enjoy the childlike joy experienced from skating in such a dream-like setting!

 

Reims

Reims is said to be where the first French Christmas celebrations took place in 496BC when King Clovis and his 3000 warriors were baptised on Christmas Day! Reims’ Christmas market involves over 125 fairy-lit chalets, offering Christmas gifts and local produce. Street entertainers such as carol singers and magicians entertain the crowds, and there is a grotto where children can meet Father Christmas. Look out for Biscuits Rose de Reims – ‘pink biscuits’, traditionally dipped into Champagne – the distinctive feature of these biscuits is they don’t break even when wet. They’ll be the perfect accompaniment for your Champagne on Christmas day. It would also be a crime not to visit some of the esteemed Champagne Houses whilst in the region, as well as exploring the smaller producers, where you are able to purchase a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne for as little as €15 a bottle – the perfect opportunity to stock up for the festivities!

Grape Escapes is a specialist wine tour operator offering a broad selection of holidays and trips to the premium European wine regions. Contact the team for more information about wine tour holidays via their website www.grapeescapes.net, on +44 (0) 1920 468666 or email info@grapeescapes.net

 

 

 

Eating the Unknown – A Gastronomic Journey through Europe

Eating the Unknown – A Gastronomic Journey through Europe

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

We could sit here all day and wax lyrical about the benefits of an authentic French onion soup for the soul, a Neapolitan pizza to lift your spirits, or a sunny day in Portugal bookended by a golden and flaky custard tart…well, just because they are delicious and addictive. But the chances are you have been there, done that and bought the recipe book. So today we would like to shine the spotlight on some major culinary contenders around Europe’s dining table that we feel may have been slightly overlooked. We’ve taken an example from Northern, Central and Southern Europe, so gastronomic adventurers, take note – Your tastebuds are in for a treat.

Starting at the Finnish

The Finnish menu is a seasonal celebration of locally sourced ingredients. Expect warming soups, potatoes and salmon with lashings of dill, pies stuffed with bright berries and the stalwart of the Scandinavian cuisine that is rye bread slathered with butter and taken morning, noon or night.

There are also unexpected specialties that set the Finns apart from their neighbours. Halloumi-like Leipäjuusto, for example, is baked over an open fire and eaten with cloudberry jam, producing a satisfying squeak. Christmas lovers may want to avoid Poronkäristys, but vitamin-rich and tender sautéed reindeer meat can be found served alongside creamy mashed potato at any time of year. Sorry Rudolph, but it’s absolutely irresistible.

More on Finnish cuisine: https://www.novasol.co.uk/holidayhome/finland/cuisine

Accommodation in Europe: www.novasol.co.uk

Polish your meal off

The Poles have one of the most comforting, indulgent cuisines and proof of the pudding is in the Pierogi. These plump, pillow-like morsels filled with ground mince and topped with crispy fried onions are practically sacred in Poland. Unlimited to the savoury sphere, Pierogi can even transcend the boundaries of the menu when eaten for dessert with sweet berries and dressed in cream.

Smoked meats and cabbage also feature largely in the typical Polish diet. From Kie?basa and Sauerkraut to Bigos and Go??bki, these ingredients make for very hearty and flavourful fare. Veggies, fear not! There are also plenty of meat-free menu options, including crisp potato pancakes, vegetable soups and a whole host of baked goods.

More on Polish cuisine: https://www.novasol.co.uk/holidayhome/poland/cuisine

Accommodation in Europe: www.novasol.co.uk

Love thy neighbour

Slovenia’s largely landlocked geographical position means traditional cuisine there has familiar elements shared with Italian, Austrian, Hungarian and Croatian gastronomy. The landscape, which includes mountains, fields and even a small Adriatic coastline, offers an enviable bounty. You’ll find everything from mushroom soup served in a hollowed out bread loaf, to dandelion and egg salad (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).

Pasta lovers, we’d also like to introduce you to Žlikrofi – dainty dough parcels stuffed with herby meat and doused in rich rabbit or mutton sauce. Meanwhile the Slovenian charcuterie is nothing to be scoffed at: wind-cured Prosciutto (Pršut), sharply pickled turnips (Kisla repa) and a plethora of impressive cheeses grace the table.

More on Slovenian cuisine: https://www.novasol.co.uk/holidayhome/slovenia/cuisine

Accommodation in Europe: www.novasol.co.uk

Where to stay

The most seasoned food fanatics will know that the best way to get to the heart of a national cuisine is to pack your bags and make the pilgrimage. Whether your Mecca is a particular market, a backstreet restaurant or a vineyard, our number one tip is to book a villa or apartment right in the centre of the action. Our friends at www.novasol.co.uk have over 50,000 holiday homes all across Europe, so you’ll find the perfect base with them for your tasty travels.

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THE REAL CROATIA – A NOVASOL ADVENTURE

THE REAL CROATIA – A NOVASOL ADVENTURE

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

We had been in Croatia for several days exploring Dubrovnik and some of the local coastal villages, and we were nearing the end of our stay.

We asked Ivo, our brilliant host where he would recommend for us to go for our last day, and he suggested that he take us to Cavtat, further along the coast.

Cavtat was all that we had been promised, a perfect Croatian coastal town, full of great architecture, shops and with a splendid beach, with sun loungers and shades to ensure the comfort of the visitors.   We learned that it had originally been a resort for very wealthy Croatians and an inspirational town for artists, before being discovered as a holiday destination, although still relatively unspoiled.

 

We spent an hour or so exploring, and as we were having a coffee at one of the small café bars, Ivo asked us if we wanted to see a more rural village and visit a restaurant for lunch, owned by an old school friend and his family.

As you can imagine, the ultimate holiday dream was about to come true as we set off along winding country roads completely off the beaten track, towards the little village of Ljuta, in the protected landscape of the river by the same name.

Ivo had booked a riverside table at Konoba Vinica Monkovic www.konobavinica.com, the amazing restaurant he had recommended, and as we sat down we were greeted warmly by relatives and staff who immediately brought us liqueurs, a speciality from the grandmother of the family.  We tasted two in small glasses as we suspected their strength, one resembled a light sherry and the other grappa.

Fortunately, we had ordered a feast of a starter so we were able to offset the effect of the drinks with their own cheese and hams, and delicious home-made bread served on a gigantic platter.

The main courses were ‘under the bell’ (slow cooked) pork with cheese and the other finely sliced succulent steak with green vegetables and potatoes – followed by apple strudel with ice cream and their own speciality dessert resembling a delicious crème brulee.  We struggled to eat it all, but managed to finish off most of the meal as it was indescribably good.

We washed it down with local wine – all the time insisting that Ivo stayed with us throughout to enjoy the food, as he had looked after us so well.

I have since discovered that it is described on Trip Advisor as ‘the best restaurant in Croatia’, and I have to agree that it would take a lot to beat it.

The afternoon seemed to go in a flash, and as we were ready to leave, Ivo asked us if we wanted to visit his parents’ old house where he had spent his childhood, as it was on the way home.

The house was set even further up into the mountainous region offset by dense woodland, where he had fond memories of running freely as a child, through the trees even higher into the steep terrain.

The house is now his studio and a place of inspiration for his art, and where he often brings his young family to experience the solitude and tranquillity of nature.

Before we left this house, Ivo produced bottles of olive oil, made from his own home grown olives, and later that evening, his wife Ela sent us a local delicacy of a large cake, made from a recipe from her own grandmother, and bottles of local wine to take home.

This was our last day of our Novasol adventure, and we will treasure the memories of that special experience for a very long time.

There are many varieties of holidays on offer, and we all have different tastes and expectations.  I personally felt the adventure of our very special trip was testament to the experience and dedication of Novasol – and which is why after fifty years of practise, they provide such unique hand-picked holiday homes in so many stunning destinations.

Check out the great deals for yourself at https://www.novasol.co.uk/

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THE PEARL OF THE ADRIATIC – A NOVASOL ADVENTURE

THE PEARL OF THE ADRIATIC – A NOVASOL ADVENTURE

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Once we had spent a couple of days in Orasac, Croatia, checking out the local area and finding out more about its history and culture, we were becoming more fascinated by the country and were completely in love with the choice of location.

The Novasol villa in all its glory, with is amazing views of the sea and bay was a great base for us, and and our gracious host Ivo had offered to show us around Dubrovnik just 15 minutes along the coast. As Ivo drove us toward the old City, he began to tell us more about the history, and how it had become an UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been founded in the 7th century.

As we entered the city at the Pile Gate we strolled around in sheer admiration of the ancient alleyways and architecture.  We visited the Rector’s Palace which has a vast history of surviving war, fire and earthquakes, but has now been restored to its natural splendour and the History Department of the Museum of Dubrovnik has operated in the palace since 1872.

We then stopped for lunch at Poco Loco, situated in a little square, just around the corner from the old port, serving fusion food and cocktails.   We ate a delicious light meal and sipped at one of their local recommended wines, before stepping out again to explore the rest of the City.

There seemed to be Street artistry at every corner, and it is no wonder as Artists and Performers are attracted to the sheer magic of the City as it has become an inspiration for all forms of creativity.  It is an uplifting experience to just wander around within its 2km walls, and has earned its name Pearl of the Adriatic, as there is nowhere else in Europe that could compare to its captivating spirit.

Ivo had arranged to pick us up later in the afternoon, giving us plenty of time to explore the City.  As we drove back along the coast we again marvelled at the wonder of the landscape, as we had on our first day in Croatia.

The following day we were recommended to visit a restaurant close to the Villa, and so we ventured to Taverna Arka just three kilometres from ‘home’.

There was no need to book as we were slightly off season, but were greeted by Peter the owner as if he had known us for decades.  The young waiter who was friendly and caring, took time to explain each item on the menu to us, and the produce was fresh and sourced from local farms and fishermen.

We decided on the wild mushroom risotto and oysters followed by a steak and seabass main course, all specialities of the house, and we hardly had room for the desserts, but there was a good selection, which were also quite delicious.

In the Summer the roof terrace is open and overlooks the bay of Zaton where it is situated, and the views again are quite exceptional, and a great attraction for both visitors and locals.

We were now beginning to feel the benefits of the region, and were still on a mission to discover more.

See later more gems of the Adriatic on our Novasol adventure.

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