Rainbow Architecture of Curacao!

One thing will strike you as you walk the streets of Curacao is its brightly coloured building. Imagine bright pinks, yellows, blues and greens greeting you down almost every street. Chances are, your Curacao accommodation will also be brightly coloured, or at the very least will be surrounded by a range of rainbow coloured buildings.Think Caribbean paint colours with Spanish and African influences, and you will get a picture of what the architecture is like in Aruba. The capital city of Willemstad is the main hub of the rainbow buildings, and is well worth a visit from your Caribbean villa.

The Dutch have been on Curacao since 1634, which is why a lot of the architecture resembles that of Dutch cities like Amsterdam. Fairly recently, the island changed from being part of the Netherland Antilles, and is now actually its own country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The buildings don’t just maintain themselves however, and require a lot of work to keep them as sparkly and bright. It is not an uncommon sight to see a local up a ladder topping up the paintwork of their home.

The entire city of Willemstad has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 due to the fact that the town showed significant town planning and architecture as well as the organic growth of a multi-cultural community.

The most photographed area of the city is Handelskade Punda, and for good reason. The colourful European style buildings are reflected in the waters of the harbour, and is a great place to witness the exuberant mix of cultures, language, history and beauty of such a small island.

But what is the reason for such colourful buildings? In 1817, Governor-general Albert Kikkert got plagued with recurring headaches, which he blamed on light that was glaring off of the white buildings. He passed a law that all buildings must be painted in pastel colours, leading to the rainbow colour explosion of the city. Be sure to visit the streets of Willemstad on your Aruba holiday.


Aruba Festival!

There is always something going on in Aruba, from its lively nightlife to its busy shopping scene. It is no wonder people flock to the island year after year to stay in one of the many Aruba villas on offer.

One of the busiest and most popular towns to stay in is the town of San Nicolas. Although there is likely to be something going on all through the week, Thursday nights in San Nicolas are when the streets really come alive, thanks to the Carubbian Festival. San Nicolas is an old refinery town which the locals lovingly call Sunrise City, and is a great place book accommodation in Aruba.

The festival is a celebration of the culture and heritage on the island and features plenty of dancing and live music shows as well as a colourful parade as part of the finale, where all the spectators are asked to join in and participate.

As well as tradition carnival activities, there are also a range of arts and crafts set up around town, as well as specially organised events for the children. Once you have had your fill of the festivities, there are plenty of food and drink stalls where you can try some of the island’s tastiest delicacies. Local artisans have stalls selling their wares, such as delicious coconut candles whose scent fills the air throughout the entertainment.

The ticket price allows you access to seats for the show, which overall will last around 4 hours, as well as a meal token.

Since its beginning, the festival has been held once a week on a Thursday, but from now on it is set to only take place once a month. If you have not booked a villa in Aruba during the dates of the annual festival, then this makes for a great, smaller scale alternative.


Picnic Spots in Barbados!

When on holiday, you may not always want to splash out on lavish meals at posh restaurants. Sometimes, it is far nicer to pack your own basket of local goodies in your villa in Barbados and find that ultimate picnic spot. The stunning island of Barbados has its fair share of these picturesque spots that make an ideal place to lay down a rug and spend some quality time in the Caribbean air with friends and family.

A few requirements for a good picnic spot includes ample shade, parking, and easy access. It is also handy if there is a nearby shop or deli where you can pick up supplies if there is anything that you have forgotten.

Miami Beach- Miami Beach is a stunning beach on the south coast which is has many trees to supply shade and picnic benches and public facilities. The water is calm and great for swimming on one side, and deeper with more waves on the other.
Bottom Bay- This is a picture perfect image of tropical paradise, and is often used in films due to its natural beauty. There is plenty of shade and refreshments for sale, including fresh green water coconuts, picked from the surrounding trees. The steps down can be a little challenging, but the view is worth the walk.

Bathsheba- A popular surfing spot, Bathsheba offers lunch and a show, with many eager surfers hitting the wave throughout the year. There are plenty of picnic tables and public facilities, as well as parking nearby. In addition to sand, there is also a wide expanse of grass and the surrounding areas provide some lovely walks once you have finished eating.

Mount Hillaby- If you are up for a bit of a challenge, Mount Hillaby is the highest point of the island, standing at 343m above sea level. From this picnic vantage point you will be rewarded with stunning views of Barbados and the coastline. You may even be able to spot your Barbados accommodation.
Cherry Tree Hill – The road leading up Cherry Tree Hill is lined with mahogany trees and offer an excellent view of the ‘Scotland District’. Once you have filled yourself up with picnic goodies, be sure to explore the St. Nicholas Abbey Plantation and the on-site run distillery.


St Nicholas Abbey!

When in renting a villa in Barbados, a visit to St Nicholas Abbey is a must. Located in the parish of St Peter, the abbey was built back in 1658, and is now only one of three Jacobean mansions in the whole of the Western Hemisphere.
A trip to the mansion offers a full day out. The great house is the main attraction, built by Benjamin Berringer it is one of the finest historic sites on the island. Characterised by elaborate multi-curved gables, decorative chimneys, Tudor arches and casement windows, it is an architectural wonder. Guest can get a full tour of the property for a more in-depth view of its history, which includes antiques and artefacts that span the home’s 350-year history.
The rum distillery is another popular attraction. By embracing its longstanding traditions, the plantation aims to preserve its history while still creating a sustainable legacy for future generations. You are able to explore the steam mill and run distillery, which are currently in full operation to produce the finest St Nicholas Abbey Rum, which among other products, can be purchased at the gift shop and taken back to your Barbados accommodation.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Abbey offers rum experience tours, where guests have access to a guided tour of the Great House, a personal tour of the Factory, Steam Mill and Distillery. The best bit is, you will be invited to try a range of Nicholas Abbey Rums!
The grounds are also well worth a look, all of which are beautifully landscaped with tropical flora, with the natural gullies filled with Mahogany and Silk Cotton trees. Cherry Tree Hill is located to the northeast of the Greta House, and offers stunning views of the island’s rugged east coast. Overall, the estate of St Nicholas Abbey spans over 400 acres of undulating sugar cane fields, forests and gardens.
During opening hours, you can enjoy lunch and a drink at the Terrace Café, which overlooks the plantation and other tropical plants. So make sure you put this on your list of attractions when looking into villas in Barbados.


Best viewpoints in Barbados!

Barbados has some fantastic natural landscapes, and there is no better way to see the island in all its glory than by visiting some of its most stunning viewpoints. No matter where your luxury villa rental is located, you are sure to have one of these viewpoints nearby. As the majority of them are quite remote, they are easiest to get to if you have a hire car, so you can include them in a day trip exploring the island.

Animal Flower Cave

Located in the upper part of the island, the Animal Flower Cave offers stunning views of the wide expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll feel on top of the world standing on the cliff edge that looks down into a foaming natural pool. You can enjoy a meal at the cliff top restaurant or take a guided tour of the caves below.

Bathsheba


This is one of the most other worldly of all the views in Barbados. Stunning boulders fill the area which are actually rock formations that have broken away from ancient coral, and add to the unique landscape. It is a must see for anyone renting a house in Barbados.

Cherry Tree Hill

Even the name of this viewpoint sounds attractive. The steep climb up the hill will be well worth when you reach the top, it as you will be rewarded with stunning views of the whole of the east coast of Barbados. The road that leads up to the hill is lined with mahogany and offers some beautiful photo opportunities.

Ragged Point Lighthouse

If you want to see the beauty of a Caribbean sunset, then Ragged Point Lighthouse is the place to be. With the sea stretching out in front of you, and the Barbados countryside all around, it should definitely be on your list of scenic viewpoints to visit on a day trip from your Barbados villa.


Where to view Havana’s world-famous street art

The city of Havana has been known to give off a slightly old-fashioned vibe with its classic cars, colonial architecture, and remnants of history wherever you look. But these features don’t stop Havana from having many modern elements dotted throughout the city, especially when it comes to the art scene.The street art in Havana is exploding with ingenuity, and you can find some spectacular pieces so long as you know where to look. Let’s take a look at three great examples, all of which are easily accessible from your Cuba accommodation.

Muraleando

This particular piece of street art is located just 10 minutes outside of the city in a community called Lawton. The project started as a workshop for local children who were interested in the art scene, but in 2001 when there was no room for them in the only community hall, they had no choice but to move to the streets. The drab concrete walls seemed like the perfect blank canvas, and it wasn’t long before they were covered in colourful murals that captured many elements of Cuban life.

Fusterlandia

This is likely to be the most well-known project of street art in the city. Funderlandia was created by Jose Fuster in the early 90s. The artist started with his own home in Jaimanitas neighbourhood, decorating the entrance to his house with colourful mosaics. It wasn’t long before others started requesting the same for their own homes. From there the idea spread, and Fuster and numerous other artist friends transformed the once rather drab neighbourhood into a mosaic-covered wonderland. Even if your vacation rental in Havana is the other side of the city, this is something you don’t want to miss.

Callejon de Hamel

Located in the very heart of the city, this example of Cuban street art will be the easiest of the three to visit if your Havana holiday rental is more centrally located. The project was started in the 90s by artist Salvador Gonzalez and features not only brightly coloured murals, but also a number of sculptures made from a range of items such as bathtubs, hand pumps, and pinwheels. The artist described his style as a mix of cubism, surrealism, and abstract art.

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Cuban cooking classes

Cuban food is varied, fresh, and plentiful, full of strong flavours and natural produce. Although there is a huge range of restaurants and bars around the country where from you could sample some Cuban delicacies, there is nothing better than being able to cook it yourself in the comfort of your accommodation in Cuba.

In many of the main cities and towns, you will find local markets that stock all the ingredients that you will need for Cuban dishes, the majority of which would have been grown in the immediate area.

One of the best ways to learn how to cook Cuban style is to take a cooking class. Although you will find classes no matter where your Cuba villa rental is located, the hub of cooking class activity seems to be Havana. There are countless tour operators that offer this as an excursion, and it is easy to find one that meets your preferences.

Taking a class is great way to learn about the daily life of a Cuban, that starts first thing in the morning with a trip to the local market. In Havana, these markets are names mercados, and it is where Cuban people purchase their fruit, vegetables, and meat. Once you have purchased everything you need for the dishes that you will be cooking, your tour guide will take you back to the kitchen to begin your culinary adventure.

There are a range of Cuban dishes that you can try your hand at making, the most common of which include:

  • Ropa Vieja – This is a Cuban-style shredded beef dish that is often served with rice and accented with olives and capers.
  • Chicken Stew – This is not chicken stew that most people know; it draws flavours from the alcaparrado and contains a mix of pimento-stuffed olives as well as capers and sweet raisins.
  • Fish with Escabeche Sauce – Made with lots of garlic, sliced yellow onion, bell pepper, and bay leaves, this dish is a Cuban favourite.

Once you know how to cook some of these amazing dishes, you will never have to leave your vacation rental in the Caribbean again!

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Havana’s ‘Golden Mile’

While there are many wonderful locations to rent a house in Havana, many long to stay as close as possible to the Golden Mile, right in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The Golden Mile is located at the Paseo del Prado end of the Obispo, a busy pedestrianised street that’s a true hub of activity. 

The Golden Mile is where you’ll find some of Havana’s best restaurants, most lively bars, and even the Tourist Information Office, which can be useful if you can’t remember how to get back to your Havana accommodation. It’s arguably one of the best preserved parts of the Old Town.

When you picture Havana in your head, you picture the Golden Mile. This is a place of old, cobbled streets that feel uneven underfoot, it’s a place of colonial architecture of days gone by, and it’s a place where the  Havana holiday home waits to welcome visitors to Cuba.

Street musicians fill the Golden Mile with soft music, and flower sellers add a touch of colour and vibrancy. Cuba is very much a country where old meets new, and that’s exactly what you get when you stroll along the Golden Mile.

But the Old Town isn’t just about the Golden Mile. In fact, there are many reasons to rent a villa in Cuba in this part of Havana. Not only are you near the city’s cultural district by the Paseo del Prado, which features a number of museums, but you’re also just a stone’s throw from the grand El Capitolio building.

Although there are some travellers who enjoy staying close to The Malecón, others prefer being close to the Obispo, and the Golden Mile. However, whatever location in Havana you choose, it’s hard to go wrong. The city is such a fascinating place, with something new to see around every corner!

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Cuba’s long history of baseball

Baseball is the national sport of Cuba (even though many young Cubans would now say it’s football!), and if you’re on holiday in Cuba during the high baseball season between November and May, then it’s well worth catching a game and cheering on the local team.

A Long History

There is a very long history of baseball in Cuba, and interestingly it’s one of the only major aspects of Americana that survived the revolution. There was, however, a very noticeable and dramatic shift from a professional to an amateur system to remove monetary incentive, with revolutionists firmly believing that money was corrupting the sporting world. Baseball remains an amateur system in Cuba to this day.

The Industriales

If you’re relaxing at your Havana villa on a game day, you’ll undoubtedly hear the cheers for the local team: the Havana-based Industriales, or the ‘Blue Lions’ (so named for their blue uniforms). The Industriales are said to be the city’s most successful baseball team, having won the Cuban National Series 12 times between 1963 and 2010. The team’s home turf is the Latinoamericano Stadium, which holds 55,000 people. It’s located in Central Havana, close to many Havana holiday rentals for quick and easy access.

Seeing a Game

If you’re keen to see the Industriales in action, then aim to rent a villa in Havana during the peak season. Bear in mind that schedules can — and do — change regularly.Tickets can be purchased in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) from the stadium.

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Five lunch stops in Puerto Plata

When you’re lounging at your Dominican Republic vacation rental, soaking up the sun and enjoying a relaxing holiday, it’s easy to rely on your kitchen’s contents for a sustainable meal. But if you’re craving some authentic Dominican food or simply want the dishes you would find in your own home town, it’s best to hop in your rental car and drive to the town of Puerto Plata for the widest culinary variety. Here are five great places for you to grab some lunch in Puerto Plata!

Views from Big Lee’s Beach Bar.

Big Lee’s Beach Bar

If you’re seeking traditional American fare, try Big Lee’s Beach Bar! It is run by an American from Chicago who retired in Puerto Plata seven years ago. You can enjoy a beach view while you eat, not to mention the relaxed and playful atmosphere that always surrounds the beach area. Try their specialty of beer-battered fish and chips, featuring their freshly-made French fries.

Kaffe

Looking for indoor/outdoor seating in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere? Look no further than Kaffe. They have a beautiful outdoor area, half uncovered and open to the warm Caribbean sun, the other half covered by a patio. From the lush, tropical vegetation to the quaint, antiquated furnishings, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience. They serve Caribbean-style cuisine, with some International influences as well.

Green Jack Restaurant

Sleek, modern and beautiful are the best words to describe the Green Jack Restaurant. With fantastically decorated indoor and outdoor seating, you can enjoy a cool lunch inside, or check out the ocean breezes outside, surrounded by lush greenery. The food is mainly Caribbean-style but the menu also has vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. It is part of the Playa Dorada complex with friendly waitstaff, unique food, and delicious drinks.

Playa Dorada.

Sebastian

Craving Italian on your island adventure? Check out Sebastian! Their covered patio seating area is brightly colored, clean, and fresh. You’ll get cool breezes with a beach vibe, though not on the beach. There is a full bar, amazing Italian cuisine, and delicious desserts.

Los Charros y Los Pinches Chaparros

Mexican and Latin food are all the rage at the Los Charros y Los Pinches Chaparros restaurant. Their beautiful, clean interior offers a full bar and delicious dishes for everyone to enjoy!

With your palate satiated, head back to your vacation villa in the Dominican Republic for a long, satisfying siesta.

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