Archive for the ‘Destination Tips’ category

Get to Know the Beautiful Villages

February 7th, 2013

The tourist circuit of Gran Mendoza includes several departments of Cuyo region, formed by many picturesque towns and quiet villages.

The department of Las Heras spreads from the northern Mendoza city to a region called Alta Montaña (High Mountain). Its core is over San Martin Avenue, including El Challao, the camp and the Plumerillo Airport, to the village of Villavicencio.

Next to the doorway to San Martin Park, we can get to El Challao, a pretty recreatinal area. Through the Libertador Avenue until the third roundabout, past the university campus; then the track splits and we take the Marcelino Champagnat Avenue up to the north until it reaches La Colina Road. That is a residential zone called Dalvian, and turning left is the entrance.

On the peak of Mount La Angostura we can find the “Cristo de los Cerros” (Christ of the Hills), rounded by pines and eucalyptus trees. It is a cross with an image of Christ blessing the Mendoza, settled on an esplanade that offers a wonderful viewpoint.

El Challao goes from the San Martin Park to the Cordón de Las Lajas. This small town has every service required for for camping, leisure, hotel with hot springs service, discos, pubs, biking circuits, motocross and a watering place known as Challaoland, which has amusement park, lifts, horse riding and picnic places.

The Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes consists of an old chapel with its walls upholstered by promises of its devotees, and a modern amphitheater with a capacity of about four thousand people. During the night of February 11th, hundreds of devotees leave Mendoza city and walk along the extensive path to the sanctuary. » Read more: Get to Know the Beautiful Villages

The Joy of Rail Travel in South Africa

February 7th, 2013

It’s a corny phrase, but I really buy into the “romance of rail travel”. I was chatting the other evening with someone about overnight train journeys, and he hit the nail on the head: they force you to slow down, and that’s their beauty. You’re not hurrying to get anywhere, you’re not about to be late for anything and there is literally nothing expected of you. Even when you’re on a holiday, trying to relax and unwind, there is often that niggling voice at the back of your head telling you to get out, explore, see something of the country you’re visiting. But when you’re on a long train journey that voice is silenced: your time is absolutely 100% yours to do as you wish, and that is a wonderful sensation and allows you to truly relax.

South Africa boasts two world-famous luxury trains that are the ultimate indulgence for the traveller looking for a special, unique experience: The Blue Train, and Rovos Rail. They principally ply the rails between Cape Town and Pretoria, although other journeys are possible, and offer a wonderful way to link up stays in the north and south of the country. It’s such a relaxed alternative to flying: no check-in queues, no endless security checks, no fears about who you might be sat next to. You have your own private cabin which serves as somewhere to sit during the day and sleep at night, although there are also lounge and observation cars where you can relax with a refreshing drink, watch the scenery glide by and get to know your fellow passengers a bit.

Both the Blue Train and Rovos Rail offer off-train excursions: so as well as seeing the country pass by the window, you can legitimately claim to be seeing some of South Africa (to finally silence that niggling voice!). Excursions are offered at Kimberley and Matjiesfontein. Kimberley is famous as the diamond mining city where Cecil John Rhodes made some of his fortune amongst the prospectors, characters and villains of the diamond rush. The legacy of that time is clear – the Big Hole, the vast open-cast diamond mine, dug by hand and now the centrepiece of a museum recreating the sights and sounds of diamond-rush Kimberley. Matjiesfontein is an altogether more genteel place, a Victorian spa town that seems frozen in time. An ancient double-decker bus tours the historic buildings before depositing you at the Lord Milner for a quick drink in the 19th Century before reboarding the train. » Read more: The Joy of Rail Travel in South Africa