Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Algarve is Portugal’s most southern region, with 100 miles of coastline that spans from the border with Spain to the western town of Sagres. It is the most popular tourist destination in the country, attracting visitors with its warm Mediterranean climate, beautiful sandy beaches, charming fishing villages, and numerous golf courses.

With over 70 golf courses dotting the shoreline from east to west, it is easy to see why the Algarve is truly a golf-lover’s heaven. Whether you are a weekend duffer or a scratch golfer, you are sure to find a course that will meet your level of play.

The following are a few of the top courses in the area:
  • Monte Rei Golf (North) – Set in the foothills of the eastern Algarve with views of the mountains and the sea. Located in Vila Nova de Cacela (near Tavira). For more information click here
  • San Lorenzo Golf – Joe Lee designed this world class course. Watch out for the 18th hole with its semi-island green. Located in Quinta do Lago (near Faro). For more information click here
  • Quinta da Cima Golf – Designed by Rocky Roquemore, a well know architect. This is a long (6,586 meters) and challenging course. Located in Vila Nova de Cacela (near Tavira). For more information click here
Photo credit: Monte Rei Golf & Country Club / Hole 1

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Checking In…Hotel Guadalmina Spa & Golf Resort, Marbella (Spain)

The Costa del Sol on Spain’s southern coast is a 150 km stretch of sandy beaches that enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and about 300 days of sunshine per year. Marbella is considered the jewel of this coastline, as it is a chic and cosmopolitan town that attracts travelers for around the world with its exclusive harbor and fashionable shops, restaurants, and boutiques.

The 4-star Hotel Guadalmina Spa and Golf Resort is a resort-style hotel located in a privileged location in Marbella, overlooking the Mediterranean. It is set amidst the Guadalmina South golf course, so guests can play at one of the two 18-hole courses or the 9-hole course that surround the hotel, or at one of the many other golf courses found nearby in this golfer's paradise. Non-golfers can lounge on the beach or by the pool, or enjoy the full line of beauty and thermal treatments offered at the spa.

The hotel’s 178 guest rooms all have a terrace, and offer garden, golf or sea views. There are two restaurants to choose from: Cocoa, or Taray. You also have the Acqua cocktail bar that offers light snacks, and the seasonal Beach Club that is set-up overlooking the beach in the summer. For more information on the hotel click here. 

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Next Stop…Sintra, Portugal


Located just 30 minutes from Lisbon, the town of Sintra has long been a favorite destination for monarchs, poets, and visitors looking for a special place to get away. Whether you visit as a day trip from Lisbon, or stay for a few days, you are sure to be captivated by the town that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage Site.  This enchanting town boasts fairytale palaces, incredible vistas, and a castle that was once the summer residence of the monarchs.

The centerpiece of Sintra is the Palácio Nacional de Pena, which was built in 1838. The palace is perched high on a hilltop overlooking the city, and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Other places of interest include Pena Park, the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) that was built between the 8th and 9th centuries, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, and the Quinta de Regaleria (19th C. manor house). For more information on Sintra click here. 

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Checking In…Pousada de Tavira (Portugal)

Located about 30 km. east of Faro, and an equal distance from the Spanish border, the town of Tavira is one of the many charming towns on the Algarve. This gem of a town has been influenced over the centuries by many civilizations, including the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Moors. It is located on the banks of the Ségua and Gilão Rivers, and is sometimes referred to as the town of churches, as it has a total of 21 churches, including the Church of Misericórdia that dates back to 1541.

In the heart of town you will find the Pousada de Tavira. The Pousada was formerly the Convent of St. Augustine, which was founded by King D. Sebastiao in 1569. The renovation restored the beauty of the traditional convent and its interior courtyard that is framed by stone archways.  Modern furnishings and amenities were added, along with an inviting outdoor pool. From this peaceful retreat visitors can easily explore the sites of this charming town, and beach lovers can catch a boat nearby that departs to the sandy beaches on the Island of Tavira. For more information on the Pousada click here.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

On the Menu…Restaurante El Churrasco, Córdoba (Spain)

After strolling through the Judería and admiring the beautiful patios in this medieval Jewish quarter, take a break and enjoy a meal at El Churrasco Restaurante. Established in 1970, the restaurant is housed in traditional Córdoba-style building, complete with a beautiful interior patio.

El Churrasco is well known for its grilled meat dish - the restaurant's namesake - but also turns out a selection of classic Córdoba dishes, including gazpacho blanco de piñones (cold white gazpacho made from pine nuts), berenjenas crujientes con salmorejo Cordobés (crispy fried eggplant with salmorejo - see sidebar for more info), and rabos de añojo (bull's tail stew). Fish lovers will also delight in the variety offered, including tuna, swordfish, cod, and shrimp. For dessert try the pastel Cordobés, a cake made from puff pastry, sweet pumpkin filling and bits of Serrano ham.
  • Calle Romero, 16
  • Phone: (957) 290 819
  • Córdoba, Spain
  • Website: El Churrasco 
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Next Stop…Estremoz, Portugal

Located in the Alentejo region about 170 km east of Lisbon is the town of Estremoz. The region is known for its vast rolling hills, cork production, and marble quarries, and Estremoz is the largest of the marble towns that dot this region.
Today the town is known for the charming clay figurines that are still handcrafted locally. You can shop for the figurines and other local earthenware pottery and cheeses at the Saturday market that is held in the Rossio Marquês de Pombal square.  It is one of the largest markets in Portugal. There is also a Rural Museum that displays archaeological finds and a unique collection of painted clay figures from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The centerpiece of town is the 14th C. castle that was built by King Diniz for his beloved Queen, Saint Isabel. This royal palace has been converted into the Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the town. For more information on the Pousada, click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sites to See…Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Spain)

The Mezquita (mosque) was built between the 8th and 10th centuries, at a time when Córdoba was the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. For several centuries it served as a striking symbol of the Moors’ conquest of the peninsula and Córdoba’s importance as the center of Muslim power in Spain.

Besides its massive size, the Mezquita’s most distinctive features are the 856 red- and-white double arches made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite that soar overhead. The arches were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had previously occupied the Mezquita site.

After the Christian Reconquest in 1236, the Mezquita was converted to a church, and successive kings made changes to it, including adding chapels within the mosque, as well as converting the minaret to a baroque bell tower. Today the Mezquita is the Cathedral of Córdoba, officially known as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. This truly unique example of Spanish Moorish architecture has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is a must see for anyone visiting Córdoba. For more information, click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Checking In…AC Ciudad de Toledo (Spain)


A visit to Toledo is a must-see for visitors to Spain.  It is located just an hour southwest of Madrid, and is easily reached via car, bus or train.
The city is best known for inspiring some of the famous works of El Greco, and for its magnificent 15th C. Cathedral, which is considered one of the greatest Gothic structures in the world.

Just across the Tagus River and 5 minutes from the historic center of town is an area known as Los Cigarrales. A cigarral is a private estate that is typically a large, multi-story house, often rustic in style, that has a garden and orchard. From this side of the river you can enjoy the majestic views of the city in a tranquil setting, but still be able to reach the historic sites within a few minutes by car, or in a short walk.

To experience the tranquility and beauty of this area first-hand, travelers can check into the 4-star AC Ciudad de Toledo Hotel, located in Los Cigarrales. The hotel evokes the style and tradition of a cigarral, and from its hilltop location you can truly enjoy the incomparable panoramic views of Toledo.

The hotel has a total of 49 rooms, and offers Standard rooms, Superior rooms with a terrace and views of the city, and spacious Suites that have a living room area. The rooms are all furnished in a rustic country house style that is both comfortable and elegant. For more information, click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sites to See...Cathedral of Seville and the Giralda, Seville (Spain)



Built on the site of the Great Mosque, the Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic building in the world and the third largest in Europe. No visit to Seville would be complete without touring its great expanse, marveling at the 15th C. stained glass windows, numerous works of art, and the tomb that is reported to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus. Inside the Cathedral you can visit the Sacristy of the Chalices and the Royal Chapel.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Giralda. This iconic Moorish minaret tower has come to symbolize Seville and is the only part that remains from the Great Mosque. Follow the 35 ascending ramps inside the Giralda (there are no stairs) to the top of the tower, and from there you can enjoy the breathtaking views of this enchanting city.
  • Avenida de la Constitución s/n
  • Phone: (95) 456 31 50
  • Sevilla, Spain
  • Website: Catedral de Sevilla
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Friday, March 23, 2012

On the Menu…Bodega Santa Cruz, Seville (Spain)

Take a break after touring the impressive Cathedral of Seville and have a bite to eat at the Bodega Santa Cruz, which is very close by. The locals who frequent this lively tapas bar call it Las Columnas (the columns), which refers to the large stone columns you'll find at its entrance.

Once inside, look for the blackboard next to the bar to see the selection of tapas being offered. If you're a meat eater, you have to try the pringá, which is a popular meat sandwich that is typical in rural Andalucía. Other favorites include the berenjenas con miel (eggplant with honey), jamón ibérico (Spanish ham), and of course the local favorite soup, gazpacho (chilled tomato soup). Whether you just have a few tapas, or make an entire meal of it, you will enjoy both the food and the atmosphere at this local institution.

Calle Rodrigo Caro, 2
Sevilla, Spain
Phone: (954) 21 16 94

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Checking in...Hotel Villa Jerez, Jerez (Spain)

The city of Jerez is a traditional Andalusian city that dates back to Moorish times. Much of the charm and aristocratic air of the city can still be seen and felt today in the casco antiguo (old town), the wide streets, and tree-lined squares. Jerez is perhaps best known for the fortified wine (sherry) that takes its name from the city. No stay in Jerez would be complete without visiting one or more of the bodegas (wine cellars) that are open to the public, such as Gonzalez Byass, Pedro Domecq and Sandeman.

The 5-star Hotel Villa Jerez is a boutique hotel housed in an 18th C. mansion that was formerly owned by the Domecq family, and evokes the charm and elegance of Jerez. It is located in the heart of the city, close to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The mansion-style hotel is set amidst palm trees in an acre of subtropical gardens, which makes you feel like you are staying in a tranquil country estate.

The intimacy and charm of the Hotel Villa Jerez can be felt throughout the property. Its 18 rooms are each uniquely decorated with elegant fabrics and furnishings, and many offer a balcony or terrace. The Junior Suite is very spacious, and has a living room, separate bedroom, bathroom with hydro-massage tub and separate shower, and balcony or terrace. For more information on the hotel click here

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Next Stop…Figueres, Spain

Whether you are looking for a day trip outside of Barcelona, or planning to explore the Catalán region, Figueres is the perfect place to include in your itinerary. Located about an hour and a half north of Barcelona (86 miles), Figueres is easily reached by car via the A-7 highway north towards France. There are also a number of trains from Barcelona that currently make the journey in about 2 hours; this time should be reduced in 2012 when service is added from Barcelona to Figueres on the AVE, which is Spain’s high-speed train.

Figueres is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, the surrealist artist who was born in 1904. The main attraction in town is the Teatre-Museu Dalí, which incorporates the town’s theater from when Dali was a child, and the Torre Galatea, which is where the artist spent the latter part of his life until his death in 1989. You can visit Dalí’s crypt in the basement of the museum.

Visitors to the museum will see the largest and most diverse collection of Dalí’s works, including paintings, sculptures, 3-dimentsional collages, and furniture, gathered primarily from the artist’s own collection. There is also a gallery that exhibits an impressive and unique collection of jewelry that was designed by Dalí.  For more information on the museum click here

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Checking In...Pousada de Óbidos (Portugal)

Óbidos is an enchanting medieval walled city rich in history, and only a short drive (80 km) north of Lisbon. The charm and beauty of the town was so endearing that the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, presented the town as a gift to his wife, Queen Santa Isabel, in 1148. The white washed houses and stone streets offer visitors an exceptional "back in time" experience. Beyond its natural beauty, the town has a number of museums, and hosts several wonderful events such as Holy Week, the Ancient Music Festival in October, and the International Chocolate Festival in March.

In the fortified town of Óbidos is the 12th C. Castelo de Óbidos, which was the first historic monument to be converted into a Pousada in 1951. On July 7, 2007, it was selected as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. The 12th C. castle sits atop the charming town of Óbidos, with its winding, narrow stone streets. Entering through the Porta da Villa gate, guests are transported back to medieval times. Make sure you book your room early, as the hotel only has a total of 9 rooms (try and book the turret rooms). For more information on the Pousada click here

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Sites to See…The Alhambra and the Generalife, Granada (Spain)

No visit to Granada would be complete without touring the Alhambra palace that sits atop a hillside overlooking the city.

Built in the 14th C. as the primary residence of the Nasrid Sultans, it is one of the most famous examples of Moorish architecture, and the most popular tourist attraction in all of Spain.

Set aside a few hours to visit the various parts of the palace, including the Alcazaba (military fortress), the Palacios Nazaríes (Nasrid Palaces), and the Generalife Palace and Gardens. The Alcazaba provided defense for the royal family, and is the oldest part of the complex, dating from the 9th C.

You will marvel at the handiwork of the Moorish craftsmen that produced the most exquisitely decorated function rooms, courtyards, fountains and patios found in the Palacios Nazaríes. The smaller Generalife Palace served as the summer retreat from the main palace, and is known for its lush gardens.

Tickets for the Alhambra can be bought at the ticket office, but due to the high demand for tickets and the restricted number of visitors allowed per day, advance ticket purchase is recommended.

For more information on types of tickets available and for online purchase of tickets, visit Turismo de Granada.
Patronato de la Alhambra y el Generalife
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Checking In...Hotel Meninas, Madrid (Spain)

The Hotel Meninas is a 4-star boutique hotel that is housed in a historic 19th C. building in the heart of the city, just steps from the Opera House, Royal Palace, and Plaza de Oriente, in an area known as Madrid of the Habsburgs. Many of the buildings in this area were built between the 16th and 18th centuries, when the area was the favorite place of nobles and the bourgeoisie, due to the proximity to the Royal Palace.

The hotel building, along with the others on this charming cobblestone block, have been restored to showcase the classic style of the buildings and their wrought-iron balconies. The interior of the hotel and its 37 rooms have been fully restored to include modern amenities. The hotel offers Individual and Standard rooms, as well as Junior Suites. The Junior Suites have a separate living room area and can accommodate up to 3 people. Located on the top floor of the hotel, the Special Junior Suites are perfect for families, as they can accommodate up to 4 people. For more information click here

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