Celebrate Easter Spanish-Style!

Easter is arguably one of the most popular times to visit Spain, or more accurately, Seville, where the average temperature at the end of March/beginning of April is around 22 degrees. The Semana Santa (Holy Week) is undoubtedly the most important celebration on the Spanish calendar and, although each Spanish region has its own particular traditions, the celebrations are arguably at their most elaborate and spectacular in Seville.  If you are planning a trip to Seville for Easter, you will be in for a real treat as, although serious in religious intent, the Spanish do fiestas very well, and you will find yourself drawn into what is an amazing historic and emotional feast for the eyes.

Dating back to the 16th Century, the festivities begin on Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) and last until Easter Monday (Lunes de Pascua), with the most dramatic processions being held on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Associations known as ‘cofradías’ or ‘brotherhoods’ (whose members take part in what are known as ‘penance processions’) parade from their church to the city’s cathedral, their flamboyant parades and intricate religious displays depicting biblical scenes. There are some 58,000 people who parade in the organised processions by day, and the candlelit processions by night. The sumptuous floats with their sculptures of religious figures are followed by ‘penitent sinners’ in monastic robes and pointed conical hoods, which conceal their identity. On the streets of Seville, everyone gets involved in this traditional dramatization of Christ’s death and resurrection during Holy Week. Despite the serious theme, it is very much an uplifting celebratory occasion for participants, musicians, local families and visitors alike.

A modern, more cosmopolitan city, the Easter celebrations in Barcelona may not be as elaborate as Seville, but Semana Santa in Barcelona definitely has its fair share of celebrations too. There are traditional Easter processions in the centre of Barcelona on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, which take a route from the ‘penitents’ home parish church to the Barcelona cathedral, and back. The processions also involve beautifully decorated and adorned Easter floats, known as ‘pasos’. A good place to watch the processions is in the city’s famous Gothic Quarter, close to Las Ramblas. On Las Ramblas or by the Sagrada Familia church, you will also find palmónes and palmas (bleached palm leaves) for sale on the days leading up to Palm Sunday. All churches in Barcelona have Palm Sunday masses, which usually include a ‘Bendición de la Palma’ palm blessing ceremony. At some churches the parish priests will go outside the church to bless people outside carrying laurel branches – ‘ramos de laurel’  or palm stalks and leaves called ‘palmónes y palmas’.

As a capital city, Madrid hosts a huge variety of year-round cultural events, shows and attractions, and Easter is certainly no exception.  From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Madrid fills up with thousands of people who come to the city to watch the parades and the religious costumes, and just to be part of the exciting atmosphere. The biggest draw here is the famous Cristo de Medinaceli (Christ of Medina) procession, which takes place on Good Friday.  It sets off from the parish of Jesús de Medinaceli and wends its way through all of the main streets of the city. The many other processions that also take place on Good Friday include the Jesús Nazareno ‘el pobre’ (Jesus of Nazareth ‘the poor’), Alabarderos (Yeomen of the Guard), and the procession of silence. For the latter the brotherhoods and worshippers walk in silence, which can be a very moving experience for spectators.

We still have apartments available for Easter (2018 dates are 25th March – 1st April) in Seville, Barcelona and Madrid.  Here are some examples:

Seville

Plaza de San Pedro, 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4

 Apartment Triana, 3 bedrooms, sleeps 4 – 5

Calle Diego de Riano, 4 bedrooms, sleeps 8

 Madrid

Edificio Princesa, 3 bedrooms, sleeps 5 – 6

 Calle de la Fuente del Berro, , 4 bedrooms, sleeps 5

 Barcelona

Carrer de Balmes 2, 2 bedrooms, sleeps 4

Calle Commercial, 4 bedrooms, sleeps 8

Barcelona celebrates the opening of Gaudi’s Casa Vicens to the public … providing another reason to visit this great city!

 if a temperate climate, a seaside location, culture, medieval architecture and tapas bars were not enough, there is now another reason to visit Barcelona.  Just on 16th November the city celebrated the opening of Gaudi’s Casa Vicens, the opulently tiled building which was his first residence and a wonderful example of his Orientalist period.  Dating back to 1883, it was originally built as a summer residence for wealthy industrialist, Manel Vicens.

In 1925, the Jover family, who bought the house in 1899, commissioned a friend of Gaudí’s, to expand the property into three separate homes, one on each floor, and almost doubled the square-footage. Further changes were made between 1935 and 1964. In 2005, UNESCO declared Casa Vicens a World Heritage Site, bringing the count of Gaudí buildings bearing that designation to six.  The Sagrada Família, which is expected to be completed in 2026 to coincide with the centenary of the architect’s death, is among the other designated sites. The house was a family home until 2014, when it was bought by the Andorran financial institution MoraBanc, which decided to open it to the public.

Carrer de les Carolines 18-24, https://casavicens.org/,  Open daily 10am-8pm, €16, concessions €14, under-7s free

A fun way to see Gaudi’s buildings, rather than a conventional tour, is by Go Car, basically a GPS guided tour in a small 3-wheeled open-top yellow car. Once you get over the initial nervousness of negotiating the Barcelona traffic, including buses, it is actually great fun. The custom GPS system shows you the route and the GoCar will talk, telling you about the sights around you. There are three main tours, but we took the Gaudi one, which takes you past the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. Then on to the Torre Bellesguard and the Guell Pavilions including the exceptional ironwork of the Dragon’s Gate. Then back to the city centre for La Pedrera, Casa Battlo and the Palau Guell – and hopefully Casa Vicens will now be added to the route too!

Apartments to rent near Gaudi buildings:

Passeig de Gracia

This luxurious four bedroom apartment has a unique location in the famous Passeig de Gràcia, with a direct view of Gaudi’s Casa Battló. This apartment is historically important because the architect was Buenaventura Conill Montobbio, a Catalan architect who was a good friend of Antoni Gaudi. Buenaventura Conill Montobbio also collaborated with Puig i Cadafalch (the elaborate building right next to the Casa Battló is one of his works) and was a part of the modernist movement during his time. Until now, the apartment has been owned by the Conill Montobbio family but is now available to rent.

Apartment la Pedrera

This spacious and modern three bedroom apartment is on the third floor of a 19th century building in Carrer d’Aragô, ideally located for exploring the elegant shops in Passeig de Gràcia, just a minute’s walk away. Famous Gaudi landmarks, such as the La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia and the Casa Batiló are within a 15 minute walk.

 Carrer de Valencia 3

A contemporary three bedroom apartment in the residential area of the Eixample district in Barcelona, just a stone´s throw from Passieg de Gràcia, the most emblematic street of Barcelona. The apartment benefits from white walls. Wooden floors and large windows, filling the rooms with natural light and giving the apartment a feeling of space. The large open living room has bay windows at one end, with access to a delightful private terrace.

 Carrer de Valencia 4

This beautiful very contemporary apartment is on Carrer de Valencia, just off Paseo de Gràcia just across the street from Gaudi’s La Casa Batlló. With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, the spacious and sunny living room with balcony, has views to the Casa Batlló.

Recommended walking tour ideas for visitors to Venice, Florence and Rome

While researching city tours in Venice to suggest to our clients, we came across Walks Inside Italy, which offers a tantalizing selection of city tours, and well worth investigating further!  As well as more general introductory tours for new visitors to the city, we were particularly interested in their small group art and history themed tours in Venice, Florence and Rome.

Venice, in particular, offers an amazing selection of walking tours focusing on history, art and photography, ranging from visits with art experts to the Accademia, or the Ca’Rezzonico, or the Ca’Pesaro and Fortuny Museum, to the fascinating sounding ‘Titian and Tintoretto: A Tale of Passion and Power’.  This latter tour involves learning about the lives of these two great painters, colleagues and rivals in Renaissance Venice, while walking the streets of San Marco, Cannaregio and San Polo.  You will end up at Tintoretto’s home, and also enter the Madonna dell’ Orto Church, where he is buried.

There is also a tour to the Guggenheim Museum and the Schulhof Collection, a twilight photography trip on the Venice lagoon, and another which will take in the Palazzo Grassi and the Contemporary Art Museum, the Pinault, which was opened in 2009 at the Punta della Dogana. The collection here is currently dedicated to English artist Damien Hirst.  It is possible to do a half day or full day tour to The 57th International Art Exhibition organized by La Biennale di Venezia. Prices tend to be around €270 (in total for up to 6 people) for a 3 hour morning or afternoon tour and €360 for the Biennale (720 for the full day).

 In Florence and Rome, there are also plenty of tempting options for both first time visitors, and for those who want to explore an aspect of the city in more depth. In Florence, as well as art and history focused tours, there is also a full day trip to explore the vineyards of Chianti, including wine tasting.  For food enthusiasts, there is also one called Wine and Food Delights which visits the  San Lorenzo Market and local speciality stores – perfect for those wanting to cater in an apartment in Florence! In Rome, there is also a gourmet tour called ‘What do Romans Eat?’ which takes visitors on a discovery to discover the food and wine culture of the Romans in the 21st Century. 

If you are planning a visit to any of these three wonderful cities, look no further than this inspirational website, just full of ideas to help you enjoy your stay!

Recent additions to our apartment programme – where you might like to stay:

Venice

Palazzo Morosini

A selection of 9 luxurious apartments in a Palazzo, with garden, in the San Polo district. 1 – 3 bedrooms/ 2 – 6 people.

Florence

Apartment Oltrarno

Stunning apartment on the top floor of a Palazzo with views over the Arno, and a roof terrace. 3 bedrooms/ 6 – 8 people

Rome

Colosseum View

A spacious apartment on the third floor of a beautiful 19th century building,  on the corner of a street with ten large windows providing stunning views out over the Colosseum and Fori Imperiali’. 5 bedrooms/ 10 people

 

We love visiting Paris in August, and still have some great apartment availability!

Paris is wonderful at most times of year, but August can be a particularly good time to visit, with the weather is at its best and the streets less crowded. If is perfect for getting out and about on foot, enjoying the sights, and stopping now and then at one of the many inviting outdoor cafés and restaurants.  In addition, this August, there is an exceptional choice of great exhibitions to visit – we particularly recommend the following:

Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs  

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior with a sumptuous exhibition, spread over a huge 3000m2 of space, covering not only Christian Dior, but also his successors:  Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.  Alongside the dresses is a comprehensive display of atelier toiles and fashion photographs, as well as hundreds of documents, including illustrations, sketches, documentary photographs, letters and fashion accessories, paintings, furniture and objets d’art.  Various rooms capture different settings – a boudoir, a garden, a gallery and a street – culminating in a vast recreation of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palais de Versailles.   Until 7th January 2018.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107 rue de Rivoli, 1e.  Metro: Tuileries or Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre. 

 Montmartre, Décor de Cinema at the Musée Montmartre

The Musée de Montmartre, and the Cinémathèque Française, have come together to create an exhibition dedicated to Paris’s involvement in world cinema, and is a must to visit for film enthusiasts.  In the world of art, cinema and entertainment, Montmartre is undoubtedly one of the most famous areas of Paris, and this exhibition immerses us in many of cinema’s favourite Parisian locations …the Moulin Rouge, Place Pigalle, Sacré-Cœur and the steps of Montmartre.  Including films from the early 1900’s to 2010, and with use of video installations, film posters and scripts, visitors will move through time via film – from English language films such as An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951) to  Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2010); to French masterpieces Baisers volés (Truffaut, 1968) to Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) – all of which pay homage to this fascinating area of Paris.   Until 14th January 2018.

Musée de Montmartre, 14 rue  Cortot, 18e, Metro:  Montmartre

Olga Picasso at the Museé Picasso

This exhibition looks at the relationship between the artist and his first wife, Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, who met the painter in 1917 while on tour with the Russian Ballet, before marrying him a year later. During the early years of their relationship, Olga was the perfect model, with her pensive, almost melancholy poses representing a return to clean, figurative portraiture for Picasso.  Then after the birth of their son in 1921, she depicted motherly softness in his family portraits. Another change to Picasso’s style occurred when the painter met the 17-year-old Marie-Thérèse Walter, the woman who would soon become his mistress. The couple separated for good in 1935 but remained legally married until Olga’s death in 1955. The exhibition takes us through these happy and sad years, offering a selection of paintings, drawings, written and photographic archives that detail this complex relationship. Until 3rd September.

Musée Picasso, 5 rue Thorigny, Paris, 3e.  Metro: Saint-Paul, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart or Chemin Vert.

Kiefer Rodin at the Musée National Rodin

To mark the centenary of the death of Auguste Rodin, the Musée National Rodin has given the contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer free reign to pay homage to the great sculptor.  Having studied Rodin’s work, Keifer presents his pieces as a modern interpretation of Rodin’s achievements, and the similarity between the two artists’ work is made wonderfully clear throughout the exhibition.  Both artists exude an instinctive originality, and drawn by Rodin’s sculpture style, notably the stone monuments following Rodin’s discovery of ‘Les Cathédrales de France’, Kiefer has created a stunning series of entirely unprecedented displays. His portrayal of the cathedrals, highlights the grandeur and fragility of the materials. Until 2nd September 2017.

Musée National Rodin, Hotel Biron, 79 rue de Varenne, 7th.  Metro:  Varenne

Imagine Van Gogh at the Grande Halle de La Villette

This unique and imaginative exhibition depicts the most famous works of Van Gogh projected on screen on a massive scale.  Each is accompanied by music, including Mozart, Bach and Eric Satie, creating a spectacular audio-visual experience.  The most minute details of ‘Sunflowers’, for example, can be enjoyed along with many more  projections of the artist’s paintings and letters.  This feat of technology by the creators, Annabelle Mauger et Julien Baron, along with the music, enables the viewer able to  feel the creative emotions of the artist. This show has appeal for every age group because “the viewer is encouraged to make his own way around the installations – and imagine his Van Gogh.” Until 10th September 2017.

Grande Hall de la Villette, 211 avenue Jean Jaures, 19th. Metro: Porte de Pantin 

Night at Les Invalides

During the summer, the history of Les Invalides is being shown in a magnificent sound and light show. From the creation of the Roman city of Lutetia, to modern Paris, the history of 2,000 years of the city’s history is portrayed in a monumental multimedia show, projected onto the walls of the building. The great figures of the colourful history of Paris including Napoléon, Charles de Gaulle and Louis XIV, are revealed in an informative  narrative in French (on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) or in English (on Monday and Thursday). This is the fifth year of this summer event and promises to provide an even more immersive experience and, utilising the full extent of Invalides’s majesty, the 180-degree projection covers over 250 metres of the building’s façade.  Until 2nd September 2017.

Les Invalides, 15 Rue du Gros Caillou, Paris 75007.   Metro: Varenne, La Tour Maubourg or Ecole Militaire.

We still have good availability for August dates at some of our most beautiful apartments in central Paris, including …

 Palais Royal Gardens

This truly stunning, newly renovated, 3 bedroom  apartment is in an elegant Parisian building that is part of the original Palais Royal, dating back to the 17th Century.  It is located directly on the gardens of the historic Palais Royal and a short walk from the Louvre Museum.

Rue Lord Byron

This newly refurbished 2 bedroom apartment is situated just behind the Avenue Champs Elysées. It is tucked away in a quiet little street away from the crowds, yet just a couple minutes’ walk from the metro Georges V. The apartment is on the 6th floor (with lift access) and overlooks Paris from a 20 square foot terrace.

Odéon Apartment

A luxurious and traditional 2-bedroom apartment in a wonderful location, in the heart of St. Germain. You will be surrounded by charming Parisian cafés, restaurants, bars and boutiques. The Seine river is also close by and, across it, the Louvre museum and Tuileries Gardens.

 Rue de Sevigne

This lovely 1 bedroom apartment is ideally located for enjoying the fashionable Marais neighbourhood, characterized by its charming original shop frontages, delightful old buildings and winding streets. The apartment directly overlooks a courtyard with trees on one side. The interiors are filled with natural light, with very high ceilings and tall windows, with the warm grey and white colours lending both a sophisticated and calm ambience.

3 Unforgettable Flamenco Shows in Madrid Today

If you are staying in Madrid, there is one thing you just cannot miss, and that is experiencing authentic flamenco. In fact, Madrid has unwittingly become the world’s capital of flamenco. It is true that Andalucia is the unarguable cradle of flamenco, but every aspiring flamenco artist needs to move to the capital to ‘get a leg in the door’. Moreover, Madrid is home to flamenco establishments that have been active for over 100 years, something you can feel in every wall and on every tablecloth. We at Flamenco Route Madrid, are pleased to give you the best places to enjoy Flamenco in 2017.

Corral De La Moreria

This magnificent tablao is run by award-winning Blanca del Rey, wife of founder Manuel del Rey, who opened this space in 1956, opening the door to the most important artists in Flamenco history. Nowadays, the owners put special care into the programme, and you can always find pleasant surprises that change each week or each fortnight. World-class dancing and a Michelin-Starred chef make ‘El Corral…’ an unforgettable place. This is the place where all stars, kings and celebrities choose to see Flamenco in Madrid. A classic!

Tablao Las Carboneras

Located underneath a palace, this space revives the essence of flamenco every night. Its style is somewhat Avant Garde, as illustrated by the idea of associating the dance with the plastic art exhibitions that dance on the walls at the rhythm of anything that unfolds on stage. Their a la carte menu follows the rules of simplicity and quality, so even the almonds served as tapas are delicious. You can watch the show enjoying a drink or even stay for dinner.

We personally recommend you consult us if you go to this tablao, because there are artists who will absorb you so much, your dinner will turn cold!  We would recommend you dine before the show.

Pablo Ruben Maldonado’s Backstage

This award-winning artist has been running this innovative flamenco project for several years. Each Saturday he has a different team of dancers and singers. Occasionally, an exceptional percussionist or artist joins from the audience, because Pablo loves to improvise, just like any ‘proper’ flamenco artist does.

The space is actually a school, but you can enjoy a drink while you watch the show. And worry not, if you need privacy, you will have it. The dim lights will invite the magic of flamenco to drop by, close to you and your company.

In addition to these spaces, we could point you to some other places of recognised quality, but occasionally the quality of shows may falter, so, in order to make sure your experience is of the highest standards, let us consult you and design ad hoc flamenco experiences. We guarantee you that it will be something you won’t forget.

Amalia Hornero is the artistic director of Flamenco Route Madrid, an innovative journey throughout the history and the present of flamenco in the Spanish capital. 

Guest Blog by Flamenco Route Madrid

Where to stay in Madrid?

Calle Claudio Coello 1, 2 bedrooms 

One of our favourite apartments, both for its location in popular Salamanca, with its great shopping, bars and restaurants, and also its spacious and very tasteful open-plan design.  The interiors are decorated and furnished a classical style with columns in the living room, wooden vertical support beams, wooden floors and large windows opening to small balconies.

El Rastro apartment, 2 bedrooms

A character-filled apartment in a charming 300 year old ‘corrala madrilena’ (a building with apartments and balconies encircling a central courtyard). The nearby area of La Latina is famous for the tapas bars, also with a festive atmosphere on a Sunday. The apartment has been recently renovated, retaining the original wooden beams in the high ceilings, a 1920’s counter in the kitchen, and an original iron sliding door in one of the bedrooms. In the living area, modern exposed pipes give an industrial warehouse feel. It has two wrought iron balconies facing the street.

 Calle Juan Bravo, 2 bedrooms

 This new rental apartment is in an unbeatable Madrid location, at the heart of the Barrio Salamanca district, close to the Retiro Park. There are great view of the Barrio de Salamanca from either of apartment’s two terraces. The spacious interiors feature high ceilings, original wooden flooring, lacquered woodwork, and original mouldings.

 

 

Travelling to London this Summer? Our 10 top suggestions for things to see and do in July and August!

1. V&A Museum

Always worth a visit anyway, but there are two highly recommended exhibitions taking place this summer:

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains

13th May – 1st October

The first retrospective of one of the world’s most pioneering and influential bands, the exhibition offers a spectacular audio-visual journey, chronicling the music, design and staging of the band from their debut in the 1960′s through to the present day. It has been produced with active involvement and collaboration from the three surviving band members, and includes artefacts such as instruments, music technology, original designs, architectural drawings, hand-written lyrics and artwork.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

27th May – 18th February 2018

Also showing at the V& A, this exhibition examines the work and legacy of influential Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, one of the most revered and influential fashion designers of the 20th century. His unique and forward-thinking vision of female beauty, innovative use of textiles and ingenious pattern-cutting, shaped the modernity of 1960s fashion and continues to shape fashion today. The exhibition will take an in depth look at the craftsmanship behind Balenciaga’s designs and will explore his impact through designers who worked with him and those who show his influence today. The exhibition also marks the 100th anniversary of his first fashion house in San Sebastian.

2. Courtauld Institute: Bloomsbury Art and Design

Until 24th September

This exhibition features a large selection of works held by the Courtauld Institute, many of which were bequeathed by the artist and art critic Roger Fry (1866 – 1934) in 1935. Through exhibitions in 1910 and 1912, Fry introduced the British public to modern European painting, including works by Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso. Fry also helped bind together a group of like-minded British artists, including Duncan Grant (1885 – 1978) and Vanessa Bell (1879-1971). They were inspired not only by these continental artistic developments, but by their appreciation for art from further afield, including Africa and China. They became known as the Bloomsbury Group, after the central London district where they initially lived and worked.

3. The Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park: Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

8th June – 10th September

This summer Grayson Perry, one of the most astute commentators on contemporary society and culture, will present a major exhibition of new work. The works will touch on many themes including popularity and art, and the current cultural landscape.

Perry said: The new works I am making all have ideas about popularity hovering around them. What kind of art do people like? What subjects? Why do people like going to art galleries these days? What is the relationship of traditional art to social media?”

4.  Regents Park Open Air Theatre

19th May – 16th September

Always a treat, in such beautiful and atmospheric surroundings. Set within landscaped grounds, the theatre boasts its own picnic lawn, barbecue and the West End’s longest bar, stocked with all your favourite summer drinks – including plenty of Pimm’s!

Treats this year include A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and Jesus Christ Superstar.

5. The Royal Academy of Arts:  Matisse in the Studio

5th August – 12th November

Matisse drew his collection from the far corners of the world: Buddhist statuary from Thailand, Bamana figures from Mali, textiles from Polynesia. This sumptuous exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired. Seen together, they reveal how Matisse’s masterful vision of richness, balance and vital, fluid energy first stemmed from the collage of patterns and rhythms which he found in the world of objects.

6. Natural History Museum: Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Until 10th September

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London, is an international showcase of the very best in nature photography, and regarded as being the ‘Oscars’ of the wildlife photographic calendar.  With spectacular shots of landscapes, and images which capture all aspects of the natural world, this exhibition is well worth a visit.

7. Somerset House: Summer Series

This year’s Summer Series at Somerset House presents a world-class line-up in the stunning surroundings of one of London’s most iconic landmarks. Performers include Nora Jones, Damian Marley, Cinematic Orchestra and Goldfrapp.

8. South Bank: Tate Modern

Don’t miss a trip to the South Bank, where there is just so much to choose from – home to the National Theatre, the BFI,  the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery and the Tate Modern.

The latter is hosting the UK’s first major retrospective of Alberto Giacometti for 20 years, from 10th May – 10th September. Celebrated as a sculptor, painter and draughtsman, Giacometti’s distinctive elongated figures are some of the most instantly recognisable works of modern art. Through unparalleled access to the extraordinary collection and archive of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris, the exhibition brings together over 250 works. It includes rarely seen plasters and drawings which have never been exhibited before.

9. On the South Bank this summer, there is also a Nordic Festival, Nordic Matters, a year-long exploration of arts and culture from Aland Islands, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Encompassing music, dance, theatre, literature, spoken word, visual art, design, fashion and food from the Nordic countries, this includes a floating textile installation that artist Outi Pieski describes as a ‘drawing in air’ and, for children, Adventures in Moominland, an exploration of the internationally renowned Moomin stories through the life of its author, Tove Jansson.

10. British Summer Time Hyde Park outdoor concerts and much more!

Experience the award-winning festival in beautiful Hyde Park.  Headlining the two weekends of live music are Green Day, Phil Collins, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Killers, Kings of Leon and Justin Bieber.

In between the two weekends of music, there will be outdoor movie nights, tennis screenings live from Wimbledon, street food stalls from all over the world, pop up bars serving draft & craft beer, wine & cocktails, live music and entertainment, the Moretti Gran Tour Soho Radio live broadcasting, Chickenshed Theatre and more.

Where to Stay:

Drayton Gardens, SW10

A lovely two bedroom apartment,  convenient for many of the famous city sights, including the Natural History museum, the Albert Hall, Hyde Park and the Saatchi Gallery. 

Green Park Apartments, W1

Beautifully maintained serviced apartments located in a quiet cul-de-sac between Green Park and St. James’ Street, just off Piccadilly, close to the famous Ritz Hotel. The shops, bars and restaurants of the West End are within a short walk, and other areas of London are easily accessible by tube. There are a range of apartments from studios to 3-bedroom apartments. 

Kensington Court Apartment Six

This apartment is one of six luxuriously private apartments located in one of London’s most prestigious addresses, directly across the road from Kensington Gardens and Palace. The individually designed apartments combine the space and authenticity of renting a private home with the service, facilities and security of a five star hotel. In the building there is also a gym and resistance swimming pool, and sauna, which is available for use by guests. This apartment can accommodate up to 5 people.

Introducing the beautiful Villa Arcachon!

Whenever we get asked to suggest a villa suitable for a wedding or another special event, Villa Arcachon is one of the properties which springs immediately to mind!  It sits in an exceptional location in the heart of the Bassin d’Arcachon, with its own direct beach access.  The property dates back to 1903 when it was built, in the style of an Italian lodge, for M. Germain Cumenge, Prosecutor of the Republic of Bordeaux. More recently the current owners have renovated both the house and its 4500m2 parks to all its former glory.  Sleeping up to 15 people, the property is also perfect for a holiday with extended family or friends, and outside high season shorter stays of less than week are accepted.

There are an extraordinary variety of advantages to be enjoyed during a stay at this property. Not only are you within easy reach of the many vineyards in the Bordeaux region, and the city itself, but apparently there are also health benefits. The particular blend of pine forest and ocean air here is very beneficial for the heart and lungs, and the thyroid glands benefit from the release of iodine which takes place here when the sea is at low tide. There are also numerous sporting activities to be enjoyed in the area, including sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding, golf, tennis, cycling, horse riding, fishing … and for those who are more interested in relaxing, you can enjoy a massage in the privacy of your own room at the villa, or a full luxury spa session at Les Sources de Caudalie, in Bordeaux, based on grapes and vines.

If you prefer the idea of tasting the grapes on vines, the staff at the property can facilitate VIP access for guests to exclusive wine and food matching tastings, wine workshops and visits to famous vineyards.  Due to the owner’s extensive contacts in the wine industry, they can also organize private access and wine purchase to chateaux which generally do not sell direct to individuals.

Culinary delights on site include enjoying mouthwatering dishes using the best of local French produce prepared by a private chef.  Everything from a small intimate dinner, right through to a special celebration can be catered for, depending on guests’ requirements. Wedding and other event planners are available to help plan the event to make it ultra-special.

Don’t forget too that the Bassin d’Arcachon is the birthplace of over 80% of the oysters produced and consumed in France. Special visits can be arranged to oyster farms where you can enjoy fresh oysters and other seafood straight from the Atlantic. Aquitaine is also the centre of sturgeon farming in France, with the resulting caviar competing with the world’s finest.  You can visit a farm to discover ethical breeding techniques and production of caviar, and taste test the exquisite harvest with matching wine. More foodie enticements include food shopping at speciality shops and local markets with a chef, and also a fun-filled Culinary Master Class at the villa with an experienced chef.

Finally, let’s not forget Bordeaux itself, just a 45 minute drive away, and a famous centre of culture, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. As well as being known for its art, music, theatre and opera, visitors will enjoy exploring on foot the beautiful architecture in the quartier of St Michel, dating back two centuries, and the more recent development of the quays along the Garonne River. Bordeaux has more than 350 classified buildings and buildings listed as Historic Monuments.  A private city/monument heritage tour can also be arranged by the villa staff. 

A Great New Rome Discovery for Food Lovers

Rome is one of those cities you can visit over and over again, walk miles, and still feel you have only just scratched the surface. The streets are steeped with evidence of the city’s long and, often turbulent, history at every turn, making Rome one of the most rewarding cities to explore by simply getting out and walking everywhere. Definitely one of our favourite city destinations, all our apartments here are centrally located, offering plenty of opportunities to discover both the tourist sights, and also culinary and other delights of your own local neighbourhood.

On our last visit, very much with the culinary experience in mind, we decided to look into food orientated options, including visits to food markets, and also cookery lessons, with a Roman flavour.

As a result, we discovered the wonderful In Rome Cooking School, located in a unique venue, just off the Piazza Navona. Situated in what was originally a Cardinal’s apartment, dating from the 17th century, complete with hand-painted frescoed ceilings, it has been sympathetically renovated to house all the modern conveniences associated with a professional kitchen.  The two English speaking Italian chefs here hold a variety of cooking classes, ranging from groups to private classes, and from pizza and pasta making to gelato and tiramisu classes.  They will also do special children’s classes, and even family cooking classes, if all the family want to get involved. Their pizza making and gelato class is always a great success with children.    

 A particularly appealing option for us was the choice of gastronomic tours of the city’s markets and speciality food shops, accompanied by the chef, then preparing a classic 3-course Italian dinner (pasta, main course and vegetable side dish, and a dessert) back at the school. 

More recently, a couple of new and very popular market experiences have been added to the school’s portfolio.  The first is a visit to the lively neighbourhood of Testaccio, often missed by tourists, but known by locals as the bastion of Roman culinary history. Participants will discover arguably the best food markets in Rome with a local guide, and have the opportunity to sample classic Roman dishes, such as Cacio al Pepe and Pollo alla Romana.

The second tour is the Rome for Foodies with Pasta Making, which takes guests to the Campo de’ Fiori market for some tastings. In a historic bakery you will see how the Roman pizza speciality, Taglio al Forno, is made, as well as sample suppli (fried rice balls with mozzarella cheese, similar to Sicily’s arancini), and also enjoy salami and cheese tastings. This is followed by a pasta-making class back at the school, followed by a wonderful pasta lunch.

True to Italian hospitality, you will receive a very friendly welcome on arrival at your class, with a glass of prosecco and some antipasti and, whichever class or tour you choose, we don’t think you will be disappointed!

The school has also recently bought a new restaurant just around the corner from the school, Ristorante Caravaggio, which visitors to Rome might also like to try – particularly during the summer months as it has two lovely terraces, one overlooking Piazza Navona.  The chef, Raffaele Apreda, has created a fabulous menu inspired by the fish of the Mediterannean and Roman specialities.

Where to stay near Piazza Navona:

 Via dei Soldati, sleeps 2

A bright and elegant apartment in a charming and historical building,equidistant between the Tiber River and the Piazza Navona.  It is also within an easy walk of the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Corso del Rinasciamento, sleeps 6 – 8

A luxurious and spacious apartment, on the second floor of a Palazzo, and with wonderful views over the Piazza Navona. 

Valentine’s Offer in Paris!

For any Bookings at Paris Apartments throughout February, we are offering a luxury ‘panier’ with a romantic theme for couples.

Celebrate a special occasion with flowers, champagne and little luxuries, including a gorgeous scented candle, bath oil and chocolates – and a confirmed booking at a recommended romantic restaurant.  This is what you will have to look forward to on arrival at your Paris apartment!

Here are some of our favourite Romantic Apartment suggestions below, but feel free to browse through out Paris Apartment listings, in case something else appeals more …

Quai d’Orléans 2, 4e

This stunning studio apartment is situated in a quiet side street near the Quai d’Orleans, on the Ile St Louis.  With luxurious furnishings, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling French windows, it opens to a balcony which benefits from fabulous views of the Seine, the Left Bank, Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral.

Rue Chanoinesse, 4e

In a wonderful central location on the Ile de la Cité, this apartment is full of light and charm. You will be close to the Sainte Chapelle, the Palais de Justice, the Hôtel-Dieu and the Conciergerie, and just an easy walk from the Louvre Museum, The Pompidou centre, and the Latin Quarter.  Moreover, this apartment has a stunning roof terrace offering a 360° view on the major monuments, including the Notre dame, The Eiffel tower, Bastille, Sacré Coeur and City Hall. The terrace is furnished for dining or relaxing outdoors.

Rue Saint Dominique, 7e

Situated close to the Esplanade des Invalides, and only a 10 minute walk from the famous rue Cler market, this lovely apartment is also less than 10 minutes walk from the prestigious Champs Elysées and equidistant (approximately 15 minutes) from the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Also nearby is the Bon Marché department store and the heart of St Germain des Près, The apartment is located in a charming XIXth Century Parisian building, this very quiet bedroom is situated on the courtyard side of the apartment.

Quai de Bourbon 4, 4e

This apartment is situated in one of the most prestigious addresses in Paris, right on the western tip of the Ile Saint-Louis overlooking the river Seine. The building was built during “La belle époque” after the style of Baron Haussmann in the second half of the 19th century. One of its nicest features is the long balcony offering stunning views on the Seine River and Ile de la Cité, which can be accessed by six French windows within the apartment.

 Odéon Apartment, 6e

Right in the heart of St. Germain, you will be surrounded by charming Parisian cafes, restaurants and bars, while the area is also fantastic for shopping. The Seine river is also close by and across it, the Louvre museum and Tuileries Gardens. The apartment is located in a classical Parisian building, and elegantly furnished throughout in lovely warm colours, enabling you to feel like a real Parisian in your own home.

Rue de Sévigné, 3e

This beautiful apartment is ideally located for enjoying the fashionable Marais neighbourhood, with its delightful old buildings and winding streets with a great selection of boutiques, cafés, restaurants and bars, as well as the Place des Vosges, and the both the Picasso and Carnavalet Museums. The apartment overlooks a courtyard with trees on one side, and the spacious interiors are filled with natural light, with very high ceilings and tall windows.. The warm grey and white colours lend the apartment a sophisticated and calm ambience.

 St Germain Penthouse, 7e

A beautiful penthouse located in the heart of the sought-after St-Germain neighbourhood, and ideally situated within easy walking distance of the Seine, Musée D’Orsay, Ile St Louis, the Louvre, Luxembourg Garden, and all of St Germain-des-Prés. The apartment’s most unique feature is its 100 square foot rooftop terrace. With a dining table seating four, this is the perfect place for enjoying a meal or glass of wine, while enjoying the incredible 180˚ views of the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Musée d’Orsay and the city’s famous rooftops.

The Ultimate Madrid Wine and Tapas Experience!

When the taxi dropped me off in one of Madrid’s main squares, the Puerta del Sol, on Wednesday evening, and I made my way to the pretty tree-lined Calle del Arenal, all decorated with Christmas lights, I had little idea of the great evening ahead!  I was in Madrid, primarily to see our apartments there, but had come across Devour Madrid’s website in advance and, being a foodie/wine lover, I couldn’t resist checking out their tours.  Moreover, it was my first visit to Madrid so I really was starting with a blank canvas.  I can now unequivocally recommend that a food and wine tour with Devour Madrid, is definitely the best possible way I can think of for getting to know the city and its gastronomic culture!

Our guide for the evening was Luke, who has lived in Madrid for many years and has a genuine love of the city, as well as an impressive knowledge of Spanish wine, food and Spanish culture generally.  The tour lasts around three hours, and covers about 1.5 kms in total around the Plaza Mayor area, between four iconic taverns.  Our first stop was Casa Labra (Calle Tetuán, 12), where we started the evening with Spanish  sweet Ruez vermouth, on tap, and one of the tavern’s famous codfish croquettes, which was delicious.  Dating back to 1860, the tavern retains an authentic, traditional atmosphere, and apparently was also where the Spanish Socialist Party was formed in 1879, as well as being a favourite of the poet, Lorca.

Next stop was the Mercado de Jamòn Ibérico (Calle Mayor, 80), a family-run deli and tapas bar.  Here we tasted a wonderful variety of cured and semi-cured Manchego cheeses, jamòn Ibérico de bellota, jamòn Serrano, salchichón, chorizo and Iomo.  As the taverna’s name suggests, the jamòn is definitely the star here, where we watched it being expertly sliced before tasting, and washing it down with a Canals Canals Cava Reserva from DO Cava.

Two interesting facts learnt here is that Cava is far closer to Champagne (in terms of taste) than Prosecco, as made the same way but with different grapes.  I also hadn’t realized that Spain is actually the third largest wine producer in the world, and with the most land dedicated to vineyards.

We then moved on to Bodegas Ricla (Calle Cuchilleros, 6), a small family tavern, dating back to 1867, with the two sons running the bar, and the mother, Ana, preparing the delicious tapas.  Here we tasted freshly pickled anchovies in garlic and parsley, smoked cured beef from Leòn and Ana’s homemade beef meatballs.  We tasted two wines here a Pardevalles albarin white wine from DO Tierra de Leòn and Cuatro Pasos Mencia rosé wine from DO Bierzo.

La Casa del Abuelo (Calle de Toledo, 11) was our final stop, and another delightful family run tavern, still run by the family that founded it in 1906.  The menu is based around hot, off the grill raciones, mainly comprising different shrimp and king prawn recipes, with their specialty being the gambas al ajillo, shrimp with garlic, olive oil and pepper.  The wine tastings were three red wines of varying ages from the family vineyards in DO Toro.  This was all followed up by a delectable chocolate covered fig, and a glass of  El Abuelo sweet wine.

As the website says … ‘enough tapas for a hearty dinner paired with 8 Spanish wines … enough to be glowing by the end’!

Other tour options available with Devour Madrid include an evening tapas and flamenco tour, an evening tapas, taverns and history of Madrid tour, a daytime Huertas neighbourhood food and market tour, and a daytime ultimate Spanish cuisine tour.

Where to Stay:

Calle de Ayala

Definitely one of the stars of our Madrid apartment programme, this stunning, very stylish and spacious 4-bedroom apartment is situated an aristocratic building in the heart of the Barrio de Salamanca. Salamanca is arguably the most sought-after districts of the capital, known for its upmarket hotels, excellent transport links and many high-end shops, chic cafés and restaurants. The beautiful Retiro park just a 10 minute stroll away makes this also an ideal location to go with children.

Calle Claudio Coello 1

I loved this 2-bedroom apartment, also in Salamanca, with its layout comprising a continuous flow of connected spaces, giving a wonderful feeling of space. It is decorated and furnished a classical style with columns in the living room, wooden vertical support beams, wooden floors and large windows opening to small balconies.

 Calle de Libertad

For a location with a more ‘alternative’ vibe, this beautiful and very appealing 3-bedroom apartment is situated in the heart of the trendy Chueca district.  Very centrally located, it is approximately one kilometre from El Prado, the Serrano shopping district, and the elegant Barrio of Salamanca.