Tuesday, 13 November 2012

All around the world in the docklands of London

 I am just back from The World Travel Market - the largest event you can imagine. It takes place in the Excel building in London’s Docklands and every region of every country is represented.  It’s like walking through a sophisticated souk where everyone has something with which to tempt one – sweets, dates, drinks with magical properties, cds of music, pens, hats, sunglasses not to mention the piles of brochures.
The purpose of the World travel exhibition is for tourist boards and suppliers of all aspects of holidays to display their wares to operators like us.
It’s very exciting and of course I can come back dying to show everyone dozens of new places – they all sound so amazing and the suppliers are always so surprised to hear about our activities.
As ever I am excited about far too many destinations to introduce them all in 2014 – they need editing but here’s a sneak preview of what got me excited.

Looks great – attractive villages, coast and monasteries in mountain landscapes.  Flights to Dubrovnik.

Avignon is a region I know from my old cycling days. It’s rich in its art history in addition to being very beautiful – it’s never cheap!

The southern coast looks good for walking and painting with vineyards and nice towns – flights to Venice.

La Gomera
A great winter destination – I was always put off by the need for a boat to the island and the possibility of this being cancelled!  I am now reassured this never happens. Great walking and painting landscapes away from the crowds.

Sri Lanka
This is Linda’s favourite and my wife can’t wait for the chance to get there.  Great historical buildings, temples, train journeys, rural villages and crafts, wildlife parks and a chance to see whales. Another winter destination.

Good quality accommodation away from the beaches and very friendly agents and tourist board. Food should be good and there are lots of flights there.
Istria -the North West corner– near Italy – looks good for painters and walkers but not a big selection of flights. Dubrovnik region is good for flights and the islands are accessible for day trips or for a few nights.
So there’s what’s got us excited for 2004 – there’s obviously too many ideas to introduce them all in 2014 so do please let us know your thoughts and in particular which of the places would excite you.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Beef Tagine...

Beef Tagine


• 600g stewing beef
• Olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• A small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
• 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
• 800ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
• 1 small squash (approx. 800g), deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks
• 100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn
• 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted

For the spice rub

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 level tablespoon *ras el hanout spice mix
• 1 level tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 level tablespoon ground ginger
• 1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika

*Ras el hanout (Arabic for "top of the shop") is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop. The mixture varies depending on who is selling it, but can be a combination of anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. It usually includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root.


I like to think of a tagine as a sort of stew with attitude. It’s really all about the spices and the slow cooking, giving all the wonderful flavours time to develop. What’s great is that you don’t need an authentic Moroccan tagine in order to recreate this beautiful food – a saucepan will still give you great results. Having been to Marrakesh and learnt all the principles, I now feel I'll be able to rustle up an endless variety of tagines at home. Give this one a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight - that way the spices really penetrate and flavour the meat.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.

At this point, add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.

Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.

Why not enjoy some of the delicious local cuisine for yourself on one of our holidays to Taroudant or The High Atlas in Morocco in 2013.

Source: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/beef-tagine

Thursday, 1 November 2012

John's recent trip to Turkey - his thoughts

Distant Goreme and the entrance to the Valley of the Pigeons
 I have just returned from a wonderful 9 days in Turkey with my son Arran. While there I was preparing a new holiday for 2014 and he was practicing his photography, doing homework and playing on his Ipad – actually in the reverse order.

Anyway the good news is that we have met a great local guide with wonderful knowledge and fluent English. Together we explored Cappadocia, the south west coast and Istanbul. Cappadocia and Istanbul were wonderful – the coast was a horrible pile of concrete – or at least that’s my view!

We started by flying to Kayseri and after arriving at midnight awoke to a dawn display of 50 balloons drifting over the strange landscape around Goreme. Over the next few days we went in and out of dozens of hotels, walked peaceful paths through the eroded landscape of fairy chimneys and cave dwellings and took a lot of photographs. The good news is that we found a lovely village, away from the over-developed Goreme, to act as our base with a choice of three good hotels. The village is called Uchisar and it is famous for the hundreds of thousands of pigeons that were kept in the caves and whose guano was used to fertilise the fabulous Cappadocian wine. There are lovely walks up pigeon valley and images everywhere for the painter or photographer.  
Original frescoes in cave church - an inspiration
After a 12 hour transfer, passing though very varied landscapes including an apple growing area that made Gloucestershire’s orchards seem miniscule, we reached the hotel selected for us in Fethiye. Sadly it was raining which did not help but the place was a bit too Spartan. Visiting the coast the next morning showed me that we had landed in an area that has basically been built in the last 20 years. There may be burial chambers in the cliffs from millennia ago but there is no old village. I suppose the occasional earthquake has taken its toll but I suspect developers did their worst. Later that morning I ran away, choosing to spend the remainder of my time learning about Istanbul.

The one thing I did discover is that the boats known as Gulets are huge and a hundred times more comfortable than the old sailing boat I used to have. They can of course sail away from the concrete and there appear to be many pretty bays in which to anchor and swim. As the waters are protected there is no rolling and the en-suite bedrooms are really quite large. I wonder how many guests might enjoy them as a base for singing, painting, walking or photography. If it appeals to you do please let us know.

Then it was time for an internal flight to Istanbul – Turkish airlines are great.

Istanbul was a treat – masses of intense action if wanted (great images for photographers) but calmer quieter areas for others – Mosques, courtyards, gardens, seaside, bazaars both big and small, boat trips on the Bosphorus, sweet shops and hundreds of fishermen.

As ever days were spent in and out of hotels looking at the pros and cons but there was still time to discover the Blue Mosque, explore the Grand Bazaar, and eat great food in magical locations. The Galleta bridge is a wonderful location for a restaurant and as it is two stories high the road users and fishermen are on the top and the restaurant goers on the bottom. This means that as you sit at your table the weights of the fishing lines swung from above come surprisingly close to your table – it was all I could do to stop my son giving the lines a quick tug! 

In love on the Galetta bridge
While we there it was the festival of Ede which made things busier than usual. One wonderfully visual image (though ultimately a sad one) was of the makeshift shooting galleries on the rocks by the sea. These are made by placing bottles, beer cans and strings of balloons on the rocks by the water and then selling 4 shots with an air rifle for one Turkish Lira. The balloons constantly need replenishing – a job one by young boys. The image of the children amidst the balloons is initially wonderfully colourful but there is a sad poignancy about young boys working in setting where the balloons do not represent happiness and the bottles of Coke are all broken.

Children replacing the balloons in shooting gallery on the Bosphorus
The sea plays a huge part in the images and history of Istanbul and you can never forget its significance as there are so many ships constantly passing through the Bosphorus from the Mediterranean to the Black sea (or the other way). It’s great to hear the horns sounding and to see the constant movement of ferries back and forth across the water.  
Ships waiting to pass through the Bosphorus

After 5 days it was time to celebrate the success of our mission and the completion of Arran’s homework – so luckily we found that Galatasaray (Istanbul’s equivalent of Manchester United) were playing at home and we joined them in their 75,000-seater stadium. 
John's son Arran - a new supporter of Galatasaray

Fortunately they won 3-0 so it was all smiles on the trams back home and then next day, with smooth flights, we were walking our dog in rural Gloucestershire – what a rapid change!

Let us know if you would like to be updated on plans for Turkey. info@authenticadventures.co.uk  

Friday, 19 October 2012

Melloreddus alla Campidanese...

Melloreddus alla Campidanese

This recipe has been provided by Cristina who works the Hotel Sa Pischeda in Bosa, Sardinia. She was a fantastic host when we spent a week painting the local town, vineyards, castle and coastline in September, as I'm sure our guests would agree. This recipe for Melloreddus alla Campidanese has been passed down through her family and is a very traditional Sardinian dish.

Ingredients (for 6 people)

• 500g di malloreddus (typical Sardinian pasta)
• 200g of fresh italian sausage
• 100g of greated Pecorino cheese
• 1 clove of garlic
• 500g of tinned peeled tomatoes
• 4 spoonfuls of extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 spoonful of tomato sauce
• 1 small pinch of saffron strands
• 1 bay leaf
• 5 basil leaves, torn
• Salt & pepper


Cut the sausage into small pieces and brown in the olive oil, cook until golden brown before removing them from the pan. [Cook the Malloreddus as usual pasta alongside the sauce.]

Add the garlic, peeled tomatoes. tomato sauce, saffron, salt, bay leaf and basil to the pan and simmer until the sauce is well thickened.

Add the pre-cooked sausage to the sauce mixture and stir in.

Drain the pasta and top with the sauce.

Finally add the grated cheese, sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately.


2007 Carignano del Sulcis 'Grotta Rossa' Santadi, Sardnia Italy. This sauce is the kind of dish that Italian reds were designed for. Many are high in acidity and provide the perfect antidote to the fatty sausage and similarly acidic tomatoes. As the pasta hails from Sardinia, the is the ideal opportunity to open this savoury, fragrant red from the island!

Why not join Cristina at the wonderful Hotel Sa Pischedda in Bosa, Sardinia and enjoy the local cuisine for yourself on one of our 2013 holidays.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Mechoui Lamb...

Mechoui lamb with carrot and orange salad


• 1 shoulder of lamb (approximately 2.5kg)
• 50g smen (may prove difficult to get hold of) or butter, at room temperature
• 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, plus extra to serve
• 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander, plus extra to serve
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• A small handful of fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
• A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 bulb of garlic
• 4 flatbreads
• Seeds from ½ a pomegranate
• 250g Greek yoghurt
• 4 tablespoons harissa


I’m really proud of this beautiful dish. I’m not sure what the mechoui man I met in the market in Marrakesh would make of it, but I like to think I’m respecting the way he cooks, by using local ingredients, and linking it back with touches like the carrot and orange salad. What’s great is that you can easily make this dish at home and totally get that authentic taste of Morocco. The only thing you might not be able to get hold of is smen, a type of fermented butter, but the normal stuff will work just fine.

Preheat your oven to full whack. Place the lamb shoulder in a large roasting tray, skin side up. Rub your smen or butter all over the meat until completely covered, then sprinkle over your cumin and coriander. Pound your salt and thyme leaves in a pestle and mortar and rub all those flavours all over the lamb, along with the rosemary leaves and a few good pinches of pepper.

Smash your garlic bulb open, separate the cloves and push them into the butter on the lamb. Pour around 100mls of water into the bottom of the tray and snugly cover the lamb with a double layer of foil. Put the tray into your hot oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. You’ll need to cook a shoulder this size for around 3 hours in total. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of cooking. When the skin is nice and crisp and the meat is falling off the bone and deliciously tender it's ready.

Leave to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, covered loosely with the foil. While it’s resting, make the salad. Using a speed peeler or mandolin, or the grater or julienne cutter of your food processor if you've got one, shred your carrots as finely as possible into a bowl. Dress them with the orange juice, a good lug of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, the mint leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper, then toss and take to the table or divide between your plates.

Use forks to shred the lamb. Warm your flat-breads in the oven or a hot dry pan for 30 seconds or so on each side until warm and soft, then sort of scrunch each one into a rough cone shape, like in the picture. Lift up the top pocket so you can stuff in some lamb, and top with a few pomegranate seeds. Dollop some yoghurt on the side of the plate, drizzle with a little harissa and a pinch of cumin and coriander and you’ve got a killer meal.

Why not try some delicious Moroccan cuisine for yourself on one of our 2013 holidays to Taroudant or The High Atlas.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

My Favourite Walks...

North Exmoor, following the East Lyn

A perfect walk for a sunny autumn day, the walk from Brendon in Exmoor through Rockford and Watersmeet down as far as Lynmouth follows the East Lyn and is one of John’s favourite walks. In autumn   the route offers a gorgeous golden-brown backdrop to the flowing river complete with jumping salmon.

The walk between Brendon and Watersmeet, where the East Lyn and West Lyn come together, is the most tranquil section of the walk and the less treaded tracks are dotted with fisherman’s paths, which, if followed often lead to waterfalls where salmon can be seen leaping from the water (John has never failed to see them!). So a tip for those walking this route – explore any path that heads towards the river!

The riverside walks between Watersmeet and Lynmouth are more popular, which of course means that although there are more walkers about, naturally the underfoot conditions are friendlier.

Along the way there are two hearty country pubs, The Rockford Inn and The Staghunters Inn both of which offer accommodation. The Rockford Inn was included in ‘Best British Pubs’ providing accommodation by the Sunday Mirror, praising the combination of nature (including red deer and otters) with a warm, country welcome.

The walk is a dream for everyone from walkers to painters and photographers, with gorgeous colours and light surrounding the encapsulating movement of water over moss clad rocks and through picturesque bridges, which act as tripods for slow shutter speed shots or a place to rest for an afternoon’s painting.

The walk is best done as a linear route, John would advise walking downstream with the river on your left. The distance between Brendon and Lynmouth is just less than 12 miles as a return trip, so is perfect for a day’s walking, interrupted, perhaps, by some wholesome country grub. For a slightly more relaxed days walking, you can always turn around at Watersmeet, which leaves you with about half of that distance to walk.

So if you find yourself in Devon this autumn, why not find out for yourself why this is John’s favourite walk.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Rosa's first workshop goes down a treat!

Rosa Roberts joined us earlier this year and enjoyed her first workshop at the V&A in London last month. The one day workshop is about experimentation, practising your drawing skills and learning new techniques. 

Rosa is a tutor who is experienced in explaining and breaking down the complexities of line and ton
e. On the day, as well as treating her class to new and innovative techniques in charcoal and other media, Rosa's charismatic personality shone throughout.

Feedback on the workshop has been superb and it seems as though we have found a fantastic tutor in Rosa. Rosa specialises in pastel, watercolour, oil, drawing, acrylics and mixed media, and her brilliant attitude to painting and teaching is very apparent in this quote:

"I like to encourage a spirit of experimentation with materials and have developed and continue to develop techniques that encourage people to connect with drawing and representation in new, more exciting and tactile ways."

This was beautifully reflected by feedback we received of the day by one of our valued clients who wrote:

"When you go on these painting, drawing, whatever trips or workshops you hope that, maybe, you'll pick up the odd tip or two, to learn how to improve on something...You don't expect to learn something completely new, something you've never done, never seen done, never read about. But that's what happened on Saturday...I came away on cloud nine, honest!"

Such a great response from Rosa's first workshop is fantastic and we are looking forward to running many more workshops and holidays with her in the near future!

Rosa will be heading off on two exciting trips in 2013, firstly to Montsant in Spain in May, then to Cinque Terre, Italy in October. Before then though, Rosa is running the second of her two day workshops at the V&A on 16th September 2012 and she still has places available. So come and join our brilliant new tutor on one of these dates.

For more information about Rosa and her holidays, visit http://www.authenticadventures.co.uk/painting-holidays/ or call the office on 01453 823 328 with any queries or to request a brochure.

Friday, 17 August 2012

John visits the fascinating Saxon villages of Romania

Shepherd  moving to new pastures

In July of this year, John visited Romania to see how it would fit into our walking and photography programme in the coming years. John was based around Transylvania for a week and visited a number of intriguing villages during his time there.

Transylvania has a fascinating history dominated by the Saxons. Under huge threat of invasion from the Turks, the Hungarians, who were living in the area at the time, invited the Saxons to live in their villages and protect them. The Saxons were awarded great privileges and in return fortified the villages with incredible walled citadels and fortified churches, where families and food were kept safe.

The villages are much sleepier since those days, especially since a mass exodus in the 90's after the execution of overthrown communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, in December 1989. Many of the Saxons were of German heritage and returned there as the regime of Ceauşescu came to an end.

Carpentry is supported by Prince Charles'
Mihai Eminescu Trust

In recent years, The Mihai Eminescu Trust, set up by Prince Charles, has had a fantastic effect on the villages surrounding Transylvania such as Viscri and Sapartoc, both of which John visited. The trust's aim is to enable villagers to maintain their way of life and to create work for them. Blacksmiths, carpenters, craftsmen and jam producers are all supported by the trust. This creates a wonderfully charming and friendly atmosphere around the small, picturesque villages and somewhere that is ideally suited to the Authentic Adventures ideology.

A great example of the trust in action, was in Viscri, where John and tour guide Adina, met a gypsy who made charcoal for a living. The process of the job is quite incredible, huge piles of logs are burnt under a layer of hay and mud (in order to starve the fire of oxygen) to produce 15 tonnes of charcoal at a time. The man would usually have three burning at a time, each for a ten day period.

Hay ricks in Sapartoc
Once John had got settled with Adina and the locals, he set off on a trial walk, up through the forest heading for Sapartoc. Being July (later in the year than our tours will operate), the heat was blistering, reaching temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius, but the scenery made it worth while.

John headed through the glorious rolling hills, flower carpeted meadows and giant beech trees, buoyed by the promise that he would be unlikely to meet a local bear! John came across an old bailing machine working on the hills, a bee-keeper roaming the lands and a shepherd accompanied by an extraordinarily loud herd of sheep, whose combined chewing made a huge, deep chorus across the fields.

The well in Sapartoc

4 litres of water later, a parched John found himself in the especially quiet town of Sapartoc, which had almost no sign of life. He eventually came across a house that looked occupied, from where a Hungarian man came to greet him. The two struggled with the language barrier at first, until finding common ground in Spanish. He was extremely friendly and, after fetching John some water from the well and showing him around his house and garden, sent him on his way with 2 litres of home-made lemonade and the recipe for it to boot.

Romania provided a wonderful adventure for John this summer and we can't wait to set off for the Saxon villages next year in the company of Adina Camara and our brilliant new photography tutor Hamish Scott-Brown. We will be running photography and walking holidays in May and June of next year respectively and would love to treat you to an adventure of your own.

For information on our holidays in Romania and a range of other fantastic destinations please visit our website at www.authenticadventures.co.uk or call us on 01453 823 328 with any queries or to request a 2013 brochure!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Olympic Profile: Cuba

With the London 2012 Olympic Games one day away now, we thought it would be interesting to see how some of our destinations have fared over the years since the first Olympic Games took place in Athens 1896, with 241 athletes from 14 countries. The games have grown enormously since then and London 2012 will host closer to the 10,500 competitors from 204 countries in Beijing 2008, today's featured country is Cuba.


Cuba has an intriguing Olympic history involving boycotts and medals in abundance, especially in recent decades. Cuba first participated in the games in 1900 and since then have sent teams to 18 of the 26 Summer Olympics. They were part of a famous boycott of the 1984 games in L.A and also opted out of the following games in Seoul. They boycotted L.A '84 along with nations such as the Soviet Union, East Germany and Bulgaria due to safety concerns and the attitude of the United States. Cuba's decision to boycott the games came as a shock to the States and they said it was a "serious blow to boxing and baseball."

Cuba really excel in Boxing, and they have an incredible record at the Summer Olympics having amassed 63 medals in the sport. 
32 of these medals have been gold, although they endured a disappointing games in Beijing 2008 as they failed to win a single gold, despite winning 8 boxing medals in total. 

The late Teofilo Stevenson, a legend of Cuban boxing
 Raul Fernandez has been training the nations top boxers for three decades and is sure that they will return from London with a better haul of gold medals this time round. Teofilo Stevenson was a legendary Cuban Olympic boxer and he became the first boxer in history to win 3 gold medals in the same class, winning in 1972, 1976 & 1980, Stevenson sadly passed away earlier this year, aged 60.

Boxing plays a huge role in Cuban society and fighters are often put into the ring at the age of 9. There is no professional boxing in Cuba and their boxers are taught to box for the love of it and to do their families and country proud. Fernandez says that this will and heart is worth a fistful of medals and so it has proved in decades gone by.

Dayron Robles (right), powers to Olympic gold in Beijing
Star Athlete & Medal Hopes

Along with a long list of medal hopes across a range of sports including many in boxing, Cuba have a real star on the track in the 110m hurdles. The 110m hurdles should prove to be an incredible spectacle in London, with the three fastest ever sprint hurdlers set to go head-to-head.

One of those three is the world record holder, Dayron Robles of Cuba who has gone as quick as 12.87 over the distance. Robles won gold in Beijing, but one of his closest rivals, Lui Xiang, also the home favourite limped out in the heats. That proved to be Cuba's only gold medal in athletics and they would hope to build on that in London.

We have a range photography and singing dates available for you to enjoy the soulful rhythm of Cuba for yourself in 2012 & 2013, all accompanied by our fantastic professional tutors and local guides.

For more information on our Cuba holidays or any of our other destinations please visit: www.authenticadventures.co.uk or call 01453 328 823 to order a brochure, make a booking or with any other enquiries.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Olympic Profile: India

With the London 2012 Olympic Games getting under way this Friday, we thought it would be interesting to see how some of our destinations have fared over the years since the first Olympic Games took place in Athens 1896, with 241 athletes from 14 countries. The games have grown enormously since then and London 2012 will host closer to the 10,500 competitors from 204 countries in Beijing 2008, our first featured country is India.


India's first Olympic medallist in 1900, Norman Pritchard

India first participated in the games back in 1900, where they won two medals in athletics, both courtesy of Norman Pritchard. However, it was not until 1920, in Antwerp, that they sent a full team to the Summer Olympic Games, although they have done so in every single games since then.

Indian athletes have won 20 medals in total, the majority coming in field hockey. For a huge period of time, India's men's field hockey team was dominant in Olympic competition, they won eleven medals in twelve games between 1928 and 1980. This run included six successive gold medals from 1928-1956.

Beijing 2008 & London Hopefuls

India's first Olympic Gold Medallist, Abhinav Bindra
The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was the most successful games ever for India. They won three medals across three different events, including their first individual gold medal in the history of the games, won by Abhinav Bindra in the men's 10m rifle. Bindra has since become a national hero in India and been granted, amongst other honours, with the freedom of India's railway for life, as the nation voted his gold medal it's 'greatest sporting feat of all time.' He is aiming to repeat the incredible feat at the London games.

MC Mary Kom from Manipur is a five time world boxing champion and mother of two! She has been boxing for ten years and is also gunning for a gold medal, in the women's flyweight category (51kg), at this summer's games.

Authentic Adventures' Activity Holidays in Kerala

We have a range painting, photography, singing and walking holiday dates available for you to enjoy the magical sights of India for yourself in 2012 & 2013, all accompanied by our fantastic professional tutors and local guides. 

For more information on our Kerala holidays visit our website: http://www.authenticadventures.co.uk/destinations/india/kerala.aspx or call 01453 823 328 for more information, to order a brochure or to book an authentic adventure!

Photography Master-class with Julio in Wanderlust Magazine!

Our charismatic photography guide in Cuba, Julio Munoz features in a fascinating article in Wanderlust's annual magazine 'Take Better Travel Photos 2012'. The article, entitled 'Capturing Cuba', takes you through a day in Julio's street photography boot camp, around the streets of Trinidad, Cuba. The article encapsulates the soul of Cuba and the fantastic, unique attitude of Julio. 

Julio with two of his students on the streets of Trinidad, Cuba
The article comes under the sub-heading 'Get Inspired' and there are some truly wonderful tips as given by Julio. His character beautifully depicted with the quote "You can learn from the master," as he demonstrates his craft by taking a perfectly composed shot complete with worker, spade and Dalmation that his class of photographers all missed.

Julio has a unique gift for street photography that has developed over the years working with some of the best street photographers in their field; such as Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey and British photographer Keith Cardwell.

Julio says of this shot "Unless the shot shows the barber
 with an instrument, as you eventually captured, that man could
have been killing, slapping or massaging that man."

It is, however, his personality that brings the historic streets of Trinidad to life during his boot camps and the article contains some fantastic quotes that set Julio apart as such a special photographer and personality.

"The idea of street photography is to work quickly and unseen, like a ghost"
"Your right arm should work like a tripod. Imagine you're shooting with a rifle"
"Reading the camera manual will make you depressed"

This is why we love to introduce Julio into your photography lives on our Cuba holidays!

Julio's casa, complete with his horse!
Our 10 night holiday to Cuba gives you a real insight to Cuba and allows you to learn so much about the art of street photography in great company. As well as gaining unique photography tips and experience on our tour, our local guides, along with Julio, open up the real Cuba for everyone to enjoy. We take you to both Havana; with its crumbling walls, gorgeous colonial buildings and historic streets, and to Trinidad; with Julio's gorgeous casa, cowboys and charming streets.

If this tickles your fancy, y
ou could still go out and join the remarkable Julio in Cuba along with our equally charismatic tutor Jonathan Perugia, as there are still limited places available on our November photography trip to Havana and Trinidad.

For more information on our photography holidays visit our website www.authenticadventures.co.uk or call 01453 823 328 for more information, brochures and bookings.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Amazing Aracena

Aracena Natural Park remains one of our most beloved destinations after hosting over a decade of our holidays. In June, Roger Jones returned with yet another happy bunch of painters and walkers, and it made me want to know why Aracena is such a great destination for Authentic Adventurers, year in and year out? Roger tells us a little about his most recent Aracena experience and why it is such a special location to paint.

Above Alajar, the village where we stay
Alajar was our destination within the Aracena Natural Park on this occasion, and it provides everything an Authentic Adventure holiday aspires to. Alajar and the nearby villages lie amid a green oasis of cork and holm oaks within the valleys of the Sierra de Aracena, north of Seville. We've brought painters and walkers to this area before, and we now have a fantastic family hotel, run by Angel and Lucy, to cater for us. The hotel offers a welcoming and serene environment  boasting outstanding comfort and local cuisine, not to mention a pool to bask beside to boot!

As before, we call upon the skills and extensive local knowledge of Peter and his wife 'MJ' as our walking leader and tutor's assistant. Alajar and the surrounding area has always been one of my favourite painting locations, more so now I've added the hamlet of Cabezuelo (a gem of a place), to a mix that so well represents, scenically, what we can offer our guests.

Cabazuelo - 'a gem of a place'
Alajar deserves to remain on the Authentic Adventures radar as it is such a satisfying location for painters and walkers alike; and it runs so smoothly with all those involved. It is barely two hours from Seville (closest airport) and in spring can rival anywhere I know in Spain or Italy with its beautiful flowers and, even further afield, the scenery of Gozo, Malta.

Aracena Natural Park encapsulates our philosophy of how holiday locations should be. Whether walking or painting, it combines stunning scenery with a sincere and friendly welcome, a taste of local cuisine, comfort, contentedness and, to make it even more magical, meeting local friends of ours along the way. Angel will show you how to carve, others can show you how to make your own fan or offer you the local delicacies (the finest cheeses & ham!) all, of course, washed down with the local wine!

Roger with one of his oil painting demos
Those who were tutored by Roger in Aracena seem to share his opinion of the region and the holiday, here is some of the feedback we received upon their return:

"I really felt we discovered authentic Spain."

"Quite superb hosts & cooks, we hope they do really well!"

"Excellent company and a superb holiday."

We have a host of upcoming dates to Aracena as well as a range of other exciting destinations, including those led by Roger in Sardinia, Gozo, Jersey and hopefully a return to Alajar!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Gozo & Comino recieve a Gold Award in the Quality Coast Awards 2012

In May, Torres Vedras in Portugal played host to the Quality Coast Awards where the president of the Quality Coast jury, prof. Francesco Taveira Pinto awarded certain regional government representatives with the 'Quality Coast Gold Award'. Among those to receive the Gold Award was Gozo, one of Authentic Adventures' favourite painting and walking destinations, along with Malta's other sister island, Comino.

At the event, the Quality Coast Top 100 was also revealed; highlighting the hundred holiday destinations that best maintained their local identity, their natural and cultural heritage, their scenic beauty and a clean environment. Gozo & Comino came 3rd, behind only the Azores and Ierapetra (Crete) who were 1st and 2nd respectively.

Quality Coast is a programme of the European Coastal and Marine Union, supported by the European Union. The Quality Coast Top 100 is the result of extensive research and a rigorous assessment of nearly 1000 coastal and island destinations, so this really is a great list to feature so highly on!

You can experience the cultural heritage and scenic beauty of Gozo for yourself on one of our fantastic walking or painting holidays, for more information visit:    http://www.authenticadventures.co.uk/destinations/malta/gozo.aspx
or call: +44 (0)1453 823 328 for information on any of our holidays or to order a brochure

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Brian Steventon returns from his first Authentic Adventure to Subbetica

Subbetica was the destination for our new tutor Brian Steventon on his first outing as a tutor for us. Brian has provided us with a brief summary of what he got up to and how he enjoyed his maiden trip.

Spoilt for choice at the Hacienda
I arrived in Zuheros two and a half days before the clients were due. We set off on a series of reccies and were spoilt for choice, choosing two very painterly locations to add to our itinerary. I had a few hours to spare on the Saturday so did some drawing and painting amongst the gorgeous scenery, I was even treated to a stunning spectacle as two huge eagles drifted above, a great start to the trip and I was very excited to meet the clients the following day.

Lunch in the gorge
After meeting & greeting the painters on their arrival at Malaga Airport, it was clear that we had a fantastic bunch and could really look forward to a brilliant week of painting and socialising. I couldn't have chosen a more diverse yet cohesive group and as the days moved on they began to produce some excellent work. Day one was spent painting in the Miradors around Zuheros, where we were based, the small streets and alleyways provided a very picturesque scene. The following days incorporated the ruins on the hillside near Zagrilla, the washed out houses and running water of the square in La Fuenta and the gorgeous painting opportunities looking back at Zuheros amongst the olive groves (accompanied by a delicious picnic!). One of many highlights of the week was the Hacienda Mirador, a converted olive farm with Moorish arches and an abundance of character. 

A few tips make all the difference!
Our free day was split between a few people heading into Cordoba by taxi, and the rest remaining in the village to continue painting, I was very happy to stay around the village and help anyone that wanted to do so. We had a variety of experienced artists and those that were less well seasoned but with my help, and that of the group the standard really improved throughout the week and it showed in the final exhibition, which was fantastic. 

We had lots of fun along the way and I am sure that we will all remember the week with great fondness as time goes by, I must also mention our hotel (Hotel Zuhayra) for the fantastically helpful service and great food they provided, a great first trip!

Those who joined Brian in Subbetica seem to agree that the trip was a great success! Brian now has two more holidays confirmed for next year, Cinque Terre in May and Sardinia in September of next year (2013). Follow the links for more details, or to look at Brian's profile.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Having just returned, Christine tells us why she can't wait to head back out to Madeira

Christine's gorgeous first piece of work from the trip, a pastel of Camara De Lobos
From February of next year Authentic Adventures will be running a painting holiday to Madeira in Portugal. Christine Russell, our talented and lovely tutor, has just returned from an exciting trip to the archipelago to see what it has to offer.

View from a room in the Hotel Pousada Dos Vinhaticos
I was so impressed by everything about my short stay in Madeira and very excited about sharing it with painters and walkers at the start of next year. I stayed at the Hotel Pousada Dos Vinhaticos (the hotel we will use), which has absolutely breath-taking mountain views from every room (see photo, right) and staff that simply can't do enough for you! There are rooms in both a main house and separate log cabin which are cosy and well equipped, without being overly lavish. The food on offer was delicious and presented with Carlos the chef's unique artistic flourishes (see below); not only is he passionate about cooking, he also an enthusiastic artist!

Artistic flare!
There are some beautiful and varied painting locations within 45 minutes of the Pousada such as Sao Vicente, a peaceful village to the north of the island, with its pretty church, cobbled streets and dazzling white-washed houses, shops and cafes. Camara De Lobos is a pretty working fishing village with colourful boats painted in primary colours, more white-washed houses, cafes & bars and racks of bacalhau drying in the sun (see below). We will be half following in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill who painted there more than half a century ago. Another spot I hope to visit is a deep river valley, only a short drive from the hotel. I named it the Valley of the Bullfrogs, since, when I was there in May the bullfrogs were making quite a racket! The mountain scenery close to the hotel is also just begging to be painted....I could go on!

Bacalhau are the fish hanging to dry above this boat
An option for our free day of the holiday will be Funchal, a small city that offers a vibrant flower, fruit & fish market, a cable car that takes you to the beautiful Botanical Gardens, possibly followed by a downward trip on a wicker toboggan - optional and not for the faint hearted! A visit to the cathedral could be followed by a relaxing stroll along the esplanade, pausing for refreshment, or a leisurely lunch at one of the cafe/bars beside the marina. Similarly, meander through the narrow, picturesque streets of the old quarter, the Zonha Velha, and stop of at the Fortaleza de Sao Tiago, now a museum of contemporary Portuguese art.

There are many more picturesque places to explore and I am really looking forward to heading out again in spring next year, I hope you can join me!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Visit Ron at The Wildlife Art Society International Exhibition this June

Spring Meadow, Ron Swanwick

On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of June, one of our fantastic painting tutors, Ron Swanwick, will be demonstrating at an easel at 'The Wildlife Art Society International' exhibition.

The exhibition will run from the 2nd till the 10th of June between 10am and 5pm each day at the fabulous Nature in Art museum in Twigworth, Gloucestershire. It is a great opportunity to meet Ron, see the way he teaches and the work he has done, as well as seeing an array brilliant wildlife artwork.

David Shepherd (Wildlife Artist of the Year 2012) will be giving a talk on the evening of Saturday 9th and  displaying his work from the 7th-10th June. There is also a chance to 'Walk with Hawks' on the 4th June.

More information can be found at www.twasi.com or www.nature-in-art.org.uk.

Alpujarras Village
If you want to join Ron in rather sunnier surroundings, on 22nd September of this year, he will be the tutor on our painting holiday to the beautiful Alpujarras Natural Park in Spain.

You'll have to be quick as there limited spaces available! For more information on all our painting holidays visit:  http://www.authenticadventures.co.uk/painting-holidays/