Spain-The Lesser Known

Article on Spain: Travel or Travellers section

Spain- the lesser known

It is probably fair to say that most people only have a limited knowledge of this large and diverse Country. Everyone has heard of the Balearics, Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol and perhaps Barcelona but few have visited the Rioja, the delights of Valencia and Tarragona or discovered the unspoilt Costa de la Luz or the Tabernas region on Costa Almeria where the famous “Spaghetti Westerns” were filmed. Few have probably visited the famous Monastery in the peculiar but breathtaking mountains of Montserrat or ventured inland from Torrevieja just 30 minutes into the mountains to visit unspoilt Spanish villages now popular with Brits.

My advice to the new traveller of this country as well as the frequent flyer is to stay away from the heavily populated tourist areas and venture into the interiors of Spain itself. Here you will find your own treasures and experience the real Spanish way of life.
Of course if the coast is essentially what you want then lets try and tempt you to a hitherto unknown area rather than into the suburban sprawl.

Costa Calida to the west of its illustrious neighbour the Costa Blanca and to the North of the large Costa Almeria is one of the smallest Costas in Southern Spain, and still boasts many unspoilt villages and coastline. Travel the coast between Mazzaron and Aguilas and there are beaches where man does not daily tread even in July. Discover the villages in this area and find the Tapas bars to tempt the discerning palate.
Travel tip: avoid the end of July to the 3rd week in August. This is when the Spanish take their holidays and clog the roads and hotels in their own quest to find their favourite location.

Spend sometime in the Province of Alicante, but not in the usual haunts occupied by the frequent traveller or holidaymaker. Venture into the inland areas behind the mountains that gently welcome the airborne into Alicante airport.
Here you will find the small medi-evil town of Sax with its ancient castle posturing on the mountain top itself and overlooking the mountain and valleys below it. Wander through the narrow cobbled streets and breathe the rarefied air. Surrounding Sax you can make your way to many other interesting smaller villages that are spread over this unspoilt area with its outstanding night views and excellent local cuisine.

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Expect the Unexpected at Cafe Parfait, Southampton

Well, Cafe Parfait in the centre of Southampton – most famous for being the place that Titanic departed on it’s ill-fated journey. Its the normal large city, industry, big business, retail centres and some historic buildings. There are also the usual hotels that mostly cater to the overnight stops for those taking an ocean cruise.

This is how we stumbled upon Cafe Parfait, quite by chance. The lavish interior gives the impression of a glamourous Parisienne Cafe seen in old movies. Despite the expensive interior, it has a warm and hospitable charm and we were welcomed like long-lost friends. After experiencing the ‘molecular’ cocktails served by barman Stu – were were won over – who could resist Sambucca Ice cream, created in a mist of swirling liquid nitrogen – this was no ordinary bar, but a place of sheer indulgence. We were easily persuaded to book in for a private dinner that night.

We were not disappointed. The ten course tasting menu, – the chef Ian and barman Stu choreographed the whole thing. It was all simple, delicious tastes – combined to give us incredible tastes and experiences – the influence was Mediterranean Tapas/Antipasta type dishes that just kept on coming. On top of this one of the resident DJs played subtle house music and a live sax accompanied to create something of a ‘jam’ session. The whole experience for just 18 of us took around 3 hours, we were made to feel like kings and left after sampling some great coffee and one last nightcap from Stu.

The next day some of our friends left for the cruise, whilst the rest of us returned home. A great re-union made very special by the atmosphere and staff of Cafe Parfait.

Since our reunion dinner, a few of us have returned, this time to sample ‘Le Cirque Musical’ which happens every Saturday and is something like a mix between Moulin Rouge and Les Cirque du Soleil. Corset clad bar staff managed to pull off a great look and were utterly charming and knowledgeable. Another absolute triumph for the owner – you should expect the unexpected from this venue – such an innovative idea to mix club music with live jazz, indoor pyrotechnics, trapeze artists and fire breathers and of course, those cocktails.

This is a place we will return to – again and again – it should certainly be a place to aim for when visiting Southampton.


Savouring the Delicious Flavour of Cocktail Music

I just got back from a fabulous trip to Australia. One night in Cairns my husband and I returned to our hotel to the sound of music…

We had just spent the day scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef so we were exhausted and worn out. But the music coming from the hotel restaurant was so jazzy that you couldn’t help but perk up. I peaked through the palm fronds to see a pianist and a sax player creating magic.

I slipped back to our room, poured myself a delicious glass of Australian Chardonnay and sat on our covered porch. I watched the palm trees sway and thought…

“This is PERFECT”

The Plantation is an open air restaurant completely decorated in white with rattan chairs and glass tabletops. I began to picture it filled with the joy of a wedding. The guests milling around in their white, wispy linen ensembles and the bar serving sweet mojitos and champagne… the bride and groom, slip onto the dance floor for an impromptu first dance.

“If Music Be The Food Of Love… Play On” – William Shakespeare

Well, old Bill got it right. There is nothing like music to set the mood of any event be it a wedding, a road trip or a girl’s night out.

Music can bring you up, or it can take you down. It can make you cry, laugh, and smile all within the same song. Generations are defined by the music. Think, Summer of Love, Woodstock, Nirvana and the grunge movement… Madonna.

So Why Aren’t You Picking the Music for Your Own Wedding??

When I married my husband, music was THE MOST important aspect of our celebration. We had met during our time in Toronto when I was working on the team planning the Juno Awards and he was working at an independent artist record distributor. Our poor DJ (after my husband had fired the first two- they were really generic and not open to our ideas) received a full list of songs we felt would set the mood for the party.


The music at our celebration was soulful, jazzy, upbeat, sentimental, romantic, fun, and LOUD! Apart from the DJ mixing up our playlist based on the mood of the crowd and throwing in a couple of requests, our party thrived on our music selections.

Here are 5 ways to create a delectable, scrumptious wedding reception… with music!
Choose a DJ or band open to your suggestions and open to working with you to create the desired atmosphere- Yes, you need a professional involved but they have not been there throughout your relationship. They cannot begin to guess what music has influenced your lives and your relationship
Keep in mind your theme and choose songs appropriate to the atmosphere established by your décor- If you have decked your reception out in black, white, and green with mojitos and martinis then play some acid jazz or something with a Latin beat. Don’t start pumping in Vanilla Ice!
EVERYONE, including your Gramma wants to dance at your wedding- Don’t pick songs that are better suited to blaring out the loud speakers of your car stereo while you go 110km down the highway. While you can choose some of your favourites to include (that’s the point), ask around for help. What did your parents dance to at their wedding? What song gets Uncle Albert out on the dance floor grooving with Aunt Kathy? Remember that you are throwing an affair that includes multiple generations so throw in some classic beats even if your songs are untraditional.

Make a list of the songs you fell in love to- You can’t tell me you haven’t listened to a certain song OVER and OVER again because it reminds you of HIM.
Do all this TOGETHER- As much as some men love letting their brides (YOU!) plan the perfect wedding, many realize the importance of the music. Discuss your musical inclinations together. It will be FUN!!

Bridal Advice:

I challenge you to step beyond the traditional wedding music boundaries and chose more than your first dance. Create the atmosphere you desire with a strong musical beat. But I’m NOT saying, “Cut out the DJ and the band.” These are professionals and you NEED them. I don’t care how GREAT your ipod is… no piece of technology has the ability to read a crowd and keep your party flowing like a seasoned professional.

Love and Bridal Bliss,

Ciara Daykin