Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Paco de Calheiros: a beautiful mansion on the Atlantic coast of Portugal

I am awake in a baronial bedroom with lacework, heavily carved furniture and tiled floors – not what I’d choose for home but one doesn’t want home on an adventure.

After 7 hours of driving, I know that beyond the thick curtain of rain lies a marvellous valley full of visual treats and history that will provide lovely riverside walking and gentle vistas for the artist.  As the owner of the large country mansion in which I am staying knows many local musicians and choirs and the house has its own chapel, I am pretty sure this place will be a magical base for our singers too. The gardens are enormous and full of formal gardens and covered walkways – from the French doors of my bedroom and through the curtain of rain I see a knot garden of azaleas and camellias.
I have wanted to discover the Minho region for several years but at last I am here. The house in which I am staying is called Paco de Calheiros and is just outside the ancient town of Ponte de Lima.
We are about 20 minutes in from the Atlantic with apparently empty beaches and the gentle hillsides are terraced with vines.  Going east I believe I will discover more beautiful old towns built on the river as I climb towards the hill country from which it springs.  The Lima brings many memories of our local river Severn – its currently and unsurprisingly in flood and it carries Salmon and Lampreys – the Severn being the only river in which I have ever seen a Lamprey.
Granite is the predominate stone – reminiscent of Galicia on my honeymoon – a perfect stone to stand strong against the Atlantic – and a wonderful building material for the old granary stores that stand amidst the old farmsteads.
Photos are going to be hard as the forecast is rain for every day I have here – and its photographers I have in mind immediately as I’ve been asked to find a location for a few days of fine art nude photography – a private group we plan to bring here in September to coincide with the big festival by the river.
Breakfast is approaching and there will be just two us at the 30 foot long table – hope I can reach everything!
Written by John Brough on a research trip to Ponte de Lima, West Portugal.
Watch this space!

Congratulations! You've won a holiday to Spain!

Congratulations Rachel Beard!
You've just won a holiday to Grazalema, Spain!
We couldn't be more pleased, and in a few months time, you'll be sitting in the sunshine with an easle in front of you, sketching a stunning landscape!
You'll be joined by a group of other artistic types, including our wonderful VIP guest Manfred Welling who has already travelled with us fourteen times. This holiday will be his fifteen which is serendipity, as it's our fifteenth anniversary trip! 
Our very first trip back in 1997 was a walking holiday in Andalucia, and we’ve been going strong ever since!  We never thought back then that we’d be taking our walkers, photographers, painters and singers to India, Cuba, Morocco and Greece! So this year, we thought we’d have a proper celebration by inviting one lucky Authentic Adventurer on holiday with us to glorious Grazalema, Andalucia, where it all began, and give them an experience they’ll never forget! In addition to a weeks holiday with a wonderful itinerary, exceptional art tutor, fabulous weather and a cheerful local guide, we will be hosting a party on the final evening of the holiday. Expect delicious food and wines, and a toast from the Director, John Brough. 


John says, “We’ve moved on a bit since 1997! It’s about giving people a variety of places to go, providing them with an adventure where they meet other like-minded people and share that experience. Meeting people was always the memory I took back with me, even more than photographs, and I’m sure that’s what our guests remember too.”

I love the fact that each trip has the potential to be different and 'authentic'......over the years Authentic Adventures have joined in festivals, attended christenings, weddings and even entered local watercolour contests! Thanks to our wonderful local guides, you are privy to the real life and culture of a region. Wine tastings, cheese tastings, olive oil, Prosecco in Cinque Terre, Rum in Cuba, Champenoise style tastings in rural Transylvania.....the list goes on.

Not forgetting that Cath Moore, Harri Crocombe and David Haffers are the runners up and have won £50 of Cotswold Outdoor vouchers www.cotswoldoutdoor.co.uk - they may want to buy a raincoat or snow boots!

Don't forget, you can always call us for an informal chat about a holiday on: 01453 832238
or email us: info@authenticadventures.co.uk

They'll be plenty more competitions to enter, so keep a look out on our Facebook page!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Put the kettle on! How to make Moroccan mint tea.

As Kevin Scully, our painting tutor and Hamish Scott-Brown are getting ready for their trip to Taroudant, on 16th March, I thought it only appropriate that we put the kettle on at work....and make a Moroccan mint tea. How refreshing! Although in Morocco it's usually served at the end of a meal as a kind of sweet digestive using lots of sugar, and of course pouring it from a great height to achieve the special 'foam' on the top. The beautiful Moroccan teapots are a staple in every home, usually ornate, with curving sides they have a handy inbuilt strainer.


10 fresh sprigs or mint (or one large bunch)
3 teaspoons of green tea
3 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to taste)
4 cups of water-ish

Warm your teapot - you can do this by pouring a bit of boiling water in the bottom and swilling it around. Very important that the teapot starts off warm! Combine the mint, green tea and water in a pan adding the sugar afterwards and brining to the boil - this ensures that the sugar dissolves properly for maximum taste! Pour into your teapot and leave to brew for three minutes or so.

Pour your tea through a strainer from a good height (carefully!) into Moroccan tea glasses.


Tea seller, Marrakech painted by our Senior Painting Tutor, Roger Jones.
Join us for another trip to Morocco in 2014!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Win a painting holiday with Artists & Illustrators magazine!


WIN a Maltese painting holiday

Enter this month’s prize draw for the chance to spend a week painting in the glorious Mediterranean sunshine

We have teamed up with Authentic Adventures to offer one lucky reader the chance to enjoy a seven-day painting holiday to the Maltese island of Gozo, worth more than £1,300.

• Return economy flights between London Gatwick and Malta, and return transfers from Malta to Gozo
• Full-board accommodation and a single supplement for the hotel
• Full-time services of a painting tutor and tour manager
• Visits to various local destinations in air-conditioned vehicles
Malta’s prettier little sister, the tiny island of Gozo is a painter’s dream, with spectacular sea cliffs and inlets, profuse spring flowers, and brightly painted Phoenician-style fishing boats. Other gems include its citadel capital, Victoria, and Ggantija Temple – the oldest freestanding structure on earth.

This trip to Gozo is just one of hundreds of painting, photography, walking and singing holidays arranged by Authentic Adventures every year to destinations as varied as Tuscany, India, Cuba and Morocco.

For more information about the holidays they offer, call a specialist on (01453) 823328 or visit www.authenticadventures.co.uk.