31 May 2012

A Classier Canary

I was pretty snobbish about Lanzarote before I went. I kind of imagined a scene from Benidorm with Brits throwing up on street corners, party games by the pool side, promoters dragging you into bars to drink from fish bowls and restaurants with pictures of full English fry ups outside. Yes I have been to Magaluf!

However, Costa Teguise in Lanzarote was nothing like that. In fact, I was pretty impressed.


Overall the resort, compared to some of the huge Spanish mega builds, is pretty attractive. There are a few ugly 70s and 80s style block hotels, but in the main there are lots of pretty, white buildings interspersed with the black, lava gardens for which the island is renowned. We stayed at the HPB Santa Rosa hotel, which is on the South West of the resort, very near to the Playa Bastian Beach. It's a great hotel. No animation teams organising club 18-30 type games, no loud music and nice and peaceful at night (yes, I am pretty middle aged!)

Playa Cucharas, Costa Teguise
The view from Hennessey's Bar, by Playa Cucharas


The Santa Rosa hotel has lots of bars and clubs nearby. But for me, the nicest bars and restaurants are over to the South East of the resort, just up from Playa Cucharas. 

If you like Tapas, I would really recommend El Bocadito which has an amazing selection, although you might want to bring your Spanish dictionary otherwise ordering can be guesswork! We had a delicious bottle of wine at this restaurant too, Emilio Moro 2008, which I would heartily recommend. The 2007 version is available from Majestic in the UK. Portabello is great for Italian food and if you like nutty, Italian waitresses! If you want to eat by the sea front, El Maestro and La Pesquera share the same owner, and have a lovely chilled out vibe, with cool Spanish music. I had paella and sangria for just 7 Euro. 
Enjoying a cocktail at the Captain Hook Bar, yes, they do come with sparklers!


This isn't the sort of place you'd go for a stag weekend or to dance the night away. Overall, its pretty quiet, principally populated by families and couples. There are lots of bars with fairly naff pub style singers, crooning along to a Casio or a laid down track, and the odd karaoke night. 

For me, by far the nicest cluster of bars is around the Pueblo Marinero area. Built by Cesar Manrique (people are pretty obsessed with him in Lanzarote), the area is a cluster of typical canary style buildings, all white, simple and archy, and designed to look like a Canarian Fishing village (even though it is nowhere near the sea!). We had a drink at the Captain Hook bar, where you can get lots of nice cocktails and they give you a blanket if you get too cold! They have music playing most nights, and the first time we went, we enjoyed lovely live Spanish Guitar music.  

There are also some nice bars down by the Playa Cucharas. We had a very OTT cocktail at Robinson's Bar, and also Hennessey's is nice for a more traditional pint. Both have spectacular views out to sea, but can be a bit windy!


El Jablillio beach
Costa Teguise has five beaches. Probably the nicest one is the Playa Jablillo beach which is a small, horse shoe shaped beach with beautiful turquoise water that's perfect for swimming in. It's a bit more sheltered from the wind too, which seems to constantly blow in Lanzarote. Playa Cucharas is a larger strip of white sand that has more bars and restaurants nearby, it also has a public toilet (but no loo roll!). You'll also be able to watch lots of hot windsurfers charging through the waves! 

It's free to lie on the sand, but to hire two sunbeds and an umbrella costs 10 Euro.

Getting there

The main Lanzarote airport is about a 20 minutes drive away and is called Arrecife airport. By far the highlight of the airport is that you can sit outside at the Carling pub, enjoy the sunshine with a glass of wine and watch the planes land. All airports should have an outside terrace, the perfect way to end a holiday!


Most of the hotels organise day trips, you can also hire a car or book something through the many Last Minute Travel stores in Costa Teguise. There's lots to do and the costs can vary from a few Euro to around 100 Euro depending on the scale of the trip.
Timanfaya National Park, Costa Teguise, Lanzarote
Timanfaya National Park, it's beautiful
I'd recommend a visit to the Timanfaya National Park, where you can see the bizarre looking lava fields and volcanoes. If you love a glass of wine, it's worth going to look at one of the wineries purely because of the unique way they grow their vines. 

Finally, the Sunday market in Teguise is pretty good for a visit. Alongside the usual fake Fendi Bags and belts are artisan foods and wines, and local arts and crafts. Teguise is also a really attractive little town, and quite different to the beach side holiday resorts. If you do stop for lunch in Teguise, I'd recommend Bodega de Santa Barbara as they have a sheltered sunny terrace, where we enjoyed a platter of salami and goats cheese, accompanied by a super cold glass of El Grifo Malvasia Colleccion white wine.

A vineyard in Lanzarote!


Nowhere is perfect, and there are some downsides to Costa Teguise. The main one is the fact that you can't lie on the beach without getting hassled. Whether from the man selling the sunglasses (and other illegal substances!), the people offering massages or those wanting to braid you hair, it is really irritating and incessant. You get it the most in La Cucharas beach from my experience. 

It's also impossible to get a decent breakfast there, unless you buy it from a supermarket. I love a Spanish style breakfast with meats, cheeses and fresh fruit, or a lovely piece of crusty bread topped with ripe tomatoes. When I went to Ibiza, I found somewhere that did fruit kebabs and champagne for breakfast, which was amazing. However, this is impossible to find. You have a choice of Full English Breakfast, Vegetarian English Breakfast or Superior English Breakfast!

I'd love to hear if you've visited the resort, and what your favourite parts were. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

29 May 2012

It's HPB darling....

I've just come back from a week's holiday in Lanzarote, staying at the HPB Santa Rosa resort, and I thought I would share with you my experience of travelling HPB style. 

Until a few years ago, I'd never heard of a Holiday Property Bond. I'm not a financial expert, and I am not FSA regulated, but this is how it works as I understand it.

You basically invest in a life assurance bond with HPB and this gives you a financial interest in a portfolio of villas, cottages and apartments across Europe. Your investment gives you a certain number of points a year (depending on how much you invest), meaning you can go on holiday as many times a year as you like, until your points run out.

The next year, you get your points back, and you can start holidaying all over again. Some properties cost more points than others, and certain times of the year cost more points than others. But if you invest a good amount of money in your bond initially, and you are clever with when and where you go, you can enjoy lovely holidays a couple of times a year. And, if you want to take your money out, you can, and if you die, the money is gifted to your relatives (jolly!).
The view from our balcony at Santa Rosa in Lanzarote. The HPB terrace is in the foreground.
So, with HPB, you get an alternative to a fixed timeshare. Instead of going to the same place, year on year, you can go to a range of places with a range of accommodation types. In fact, they apparently have over 1,000 properties! The only costs, after your initial investment, are your flights, a small maintenance charge and of course your drinking money! 

And, although it means that you get a fairly cheap holiday, the accommodation certainly is not cheap. To date, I've only been to two and I've been impressed with both.

Before we went to Lanzarote, we looked at the reviews on Trip Advisor of the Santa Rosa resort. Quite a few of them mentioned that the HPB apartment and pool were much nicer than the non HPB accommodation which is situated on the same site. So much so that the phrase of the holiday became "it's not HPB darling" to describe a second rate experience or person.

One of the beaches in Costa Teguise, Lanzarote, a few minutes walk from the HPB site
Our poolside area could not be accessed by the not "HPB darling" people, which made us feel most superior! On the first day, there was a Paella cookery demonstration and we all had Paella and sangria by the pool whilst sneering at the "other" people over the fence! And every now and then, we would pop over to their side, just because we could!

When I booked the room, I was told how many steps there were to my front door, the size of my balcony and also whether I had twin or a double bed. The self catering apartments had every single utensil you could possibly require - more than in my house! There was even a wine cooler, for my El Grifo Malvasia Colleccion wine that I drank while in Lanzarote. Amazing attention to detail, and very HPB.

Oh, and did I mention about the free wifi?
The HPB St Brides property with its sweeping driveway
I've also been to a property near St Davids in Wales called HPB St Brides. We went for a family Christmas and it was lovely to stay in 99 acres of parkland, by a castle which you reached via a long, sweeping driveway, flanked with spectacular views of the sea.

As you can see, I'm a bit of a fan! I've just booked Turunc in Turkey for October, which also looks lovely so I'll let you know how I get on.

Please note. I do not work for HPB and I am not FSA regulated. Therefore, if you are interested to invest in HPB, I would suggest you visit their website or ring them to talk it all through, as I am sure there are a range of exclusions such as minimum investment etc they would have to go through with you: http://www.hpb.co.uk/howitworks/

11 May 2012

A welcome change to a traditional curry

I've always loved going for a curry. Traditionally, this has been at the end of a night out, accompanied by several pints of lager with the food temperature as hot as possible!

Don't get me wrong, I still have a lot of time for that sort of curry experience, and sometimes, there is nothing better than a lamb rogan josh and a pint of Cobra. Recently though, I've been introduced to the world of gourmet Indian dining, which is a completely different way of enjoying Indian cuisine.
chickpeas and baby aubergine curry in gujrati spices

Chickpeas and baby aubergine curry in Gujarati spices from the menu at Anokaa

I've been to a few of these restaurants near where I live in the South of England. Included among the best is Kuti's Brasserie in Southampton which is on Oxford Street and serves great food with a friendly atmosphere. Hox Brasserie near the train station in Salisbury is excellent. I would recommend the Goan Fish Curry as it is exquisite. And you generally get a free liqueur (fake Baileys) at the end of the meal at Hox, which I would never turn down!

However, for me, there is nowhere like Anokaa on Fisherton Street in Salisbury, and it is probably my favourite restaurant in the area. 

Their strap line is "Style. Sophistication and Sheer Seduction" and Anokaa apparently means "exceptional" in Hindi which may seem a little over the top. But this place holds a special, little, romantic place in my heart, so for me, couldn't be more accurate.  
soft shell crab - with kumquat chutney

Soft shell crab - with kumquat chutney, from the Anokaa menu

The restaurant is modern in decor, but in an interesting juxtaposition, the staff all wear traditional clothing. The food is a fusion between Indian flavours and spices, and British classics. So think steak cooked Asian style, or Welsh lamb in a stir fry. And all the food comes beautifully presented, like a piece of artwork on your plate, with an array of saucy chutneys, dips and drizzles. 

Whenever I go, I either have the soft shell crab, or the mixed fish platter for starter. And last time I had the aubergine and chickpea curry which was so beautiful it seemed a shame to eat it, and I would also recommend the char grilled halibut with tomato and shrimp broth served with curry leaf quinoa. 

Often you think beer is more suited to a hot curry, but I think a good red can go really well. There is a wide selection of wines at Anokaa and this time we had a lovely bottle of MAN Vinters Pinotage from the Stellenbosch region. I promise myself that I will only have one bottle, but I always end up having another and they never rush you though your meal so you can sit back and slurp away.

MAN Vinters Pinotage, enjoyed at Anokaa

One restaurant that I thought was very disappointing was the Coriander Lounge in Southampton. I'd been recommended to eat there by several people and was looking forward to going. However, despite making a reservation, we had to queue to be seated, and there was no area for waiting in, so we were literally had to stand in a line by the door. When we were finally shown to our table, we were asked what we wanted to drink before we even opened the menu. This set the precedent for the rest of the meal, where we were rushed through service, which offered a thoroughly uncomfortable dining experience.

Having said that, I must concede that the food was delicious. I enjoyed the Tandoori Mackerel and my friend had the coriander monkfish which was also exceptional. Just sort out the service.... please!