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Archive for January, 2010

image from alicehou

So we all know what is coming up in a couple of weeks. I know its not even February yet, maybe its too early to starting thinking about that day filled with red roses, hearts and sweet candies and chocolates. Some people absolutely dread it, others eagerly anticipate sharing a full day with their loves, and others intensely plan the most romantic moment they can think of. I do not think the candle-lit dinner and soft jazz can be overdone, but it happens at our house more than just on Valentine’s Day. I always thought it was cliché to have a Valentine’s getaway but if I had the money, this is where I’d go this year: the Barnsley House. Located amongst the gentle rolling hills of Cotswold, it is a perfect location for a romantic weekend destination away from London. It i just outside of the Roman town of Cirencester. It is relatively small, just eighteen rooms and incredibly intimate. The hotel is decorated with taste and to a minimal, but not the uncomfortable abstract minimalism of some art galleries, this is comfortable and suuuper stylish. The house was built in 1697 by the squire of Barnsley. And is the perfect example of an English garden house.

image from alicehou

This little getaway hotel has a perfect combination of activities for couples to experience. There is the spa, I could always use a good massage, clay pigeon shooting lessons (I could always improve on my shot 😉 hehe ), horse riding through the nearby forest and meadow trails, or a private lunch in their little temple. Everything here looks as if it has been carefully chosen, down to the smallest details.

For stays during the rest of January and February, couple are gifted an 80£ certificate to use in the hotel’s spa which affords for you and your partner a 25 minute treatment. Enjoy their full, and no doubt delicious English breakfast in the morning and at night, relax with a film in their private cinema. Rooms start at 276£ a night. Rent a car from London and drive the 3 hour scenic route to Gloucester to enjoy a weekend of pampering and relaxation at the Barnsley House. (oooh i wish! i wish!)

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This year Poland is celebrating Chopin’s 200th birthday. Not his actual birthday of course. But there are year long celebrations this year in 2010 to celebrate their romantic composer from the 19th century. He was born to a French-Polish family near Warsaw and so the city will hold concerts, exhibitions and special events in his honour, to celebrate his contribution to classical music and sound.

There are also a few organized itinerarys that follow the composer’s footsteps through Poland. These include also performances in several towns and cities. The complete list of events, news, and happenings are listed here on the official website.

A film society in New York City has also offered its collection of Chopin-inspired films from experimental, fiction, non-fiction, to documentary. These films will be screened between January and May at Walter Rayde Theatre, near the Polish Centre in NYC. Cities around the world are collecting material to contribute to a world-wide appreciation of Chopin. Some even call him the greatest melodist of all time.

The year starts off on the 20th of January at the Polish parliament buildings with a performance with the Polish Philharmonic Orchestra. This is a great set of events for the whole family. It is great that travelling to Poland is easy, anywhere in Europe seems close these days. Cheap flights to Warsaw are around 40£ with Wizz Air. Low-cost airlines are making it really easy to get out and participate in events like this. Now I only have to decide which month is the best one to celebrate Chopin with the Poles!

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For now I am just dreaming. I am inspired by an article I read recently in a magazine on this temple in Siam Reap, Cambodia. It totally reminds me of something out of Indiana Jones and that for sure there are secret passages and tunnels, tombs and treasures hidden. Vine covered carved stones and small monkeys crawling around, this place is magical and exotic, the perfect destination for a far away travel. It is not as cheap to travel here than other destinations but there are some reasonable flights to Cambodia which are not too expensive. This place was the last capital city of the Khmer empire and was constructed around the 12th century. It is a chaotic and also poetic collection of temples and statues, each with symbolic form and figurative accents.

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I can’t think of anything more appetizing right now that Italy and more specifically cooking in Tuscany. I found some great classes offered there, I think definitely more tourist aimed but it looks really fun. If you are going to pay out a wad of euros for a fancy dinner in Italy, you may as learn learn how to cook it at the same time, right?

Tuscan cooking is not just Italian, its ITALIAN Italian. Made with fresh herbs, vegetables, oil, fish, meat, and pasta, Tuscan cooking also takes a little magic and a little love.

There are single-day classes around four hours in length during which you learn the techniques of homemade pasta, sauces to accompany it, appetizers and other traditional recipes. Fresh ingredients and a chef to save the burning tomato paste (that will be me!) sound like an afternoon well-spent. At the end of it all, the cooking school serves the meal that you cooked restaurant-style accompanied by a local wine, fresh bread and olive oil. Further than that, they send you home with a recipe book of traditional Tuscan recipes so that participants don’t forget everything they’ve learned.

Prices range from 100-190 euros per person, depending on the cooking school. Its a little pricey but I think that for knowledge like that, it is money well spent. And besides, all the money I can save on finding a cheap hotel room in Florence can be spent on cooking classes. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day while on vacation in Italy except learning the tricks of Italian cooking. Now, I only have to fly to Italy!

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