Walking in a Winter Wonderland – Pamukkale and Hierapolis, Turkey

Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish and visitors come to the mineral-rich springs because they believe the waters can ease the pain of arthritis and high blood pressure. We didn´t visit because of that but because there is nothing else quite like it anywhere we have ever been.

It rained just as we arrived and was unbelievably slippery and almost impossible to stay upright, people were slithering around in all directions. However, the journey got easier after the attendant told us “shoes off, shoes off.” We gingerly stepped onto the strange surface and followed a line of people with shoes in their hands along the wide white pathway.

It may look like arctic tundra; the pools are actually created by underground volcanic activity and as the water flows over the travertines (terraces), it forms ridges of hard, white calcium. These are anything but frigid; the temperature in the pools is a constant 35°C so comfortable to splash around in even in winter.  Following the path towards the top of the cliff is where the real beauty of the terraces reveals itself. Steam rose off cascading pool upon pool from the water that runs into them.

Nevertheless, our visit to the site wasn’t over. Perhaps what makes Pamukkale unique to similar sites are the ruins of the Roman city Hierapolis that once stood at the top of the surrounding pearly cliffs.

Dating back to the 2nd Century AD, Hierapolis was a spa town until destroyed by the Persian army in the 7th century. The city survived in part until in the the 12th century, it was destroyed by an earthquake and forgotten about until 1887 when it was rediscovered. Today, visitors can still walk through the crumbled remains of the theatre, bathhouses and necropolis.

Making our way back down the travertine hillside in our bare feet just as the sun was setting was breathtaking.  It didn´t take much imagination to know why the bride had picked this fairytale setting of dazzling white for her wedding party. The sight (and site) was magical. Pamukkale was a fun and enjoyable part of our trip; we were no longer tourists but kids playing in warm ‘snow’

Pamukkale (6)


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What To Do With Two Scallops and Eight Prawns

Stuck for something to eat and not really wanting to go to the shops I raided the cupboard and came up with a pack of spaghetti and a tube of tomato puree.  Next stop was the freezer where I had 2 scallops and 8 very large prawns.  As I always have onions and garlic both in the freezer and fresh in the fridge I was ready to start.

Prawns an Scallops in Tomato Sauce


Spaghetti 200gm (for 2 servings)
Scallops (more would have been nice but 2 had to do)
8 prawns peeled / shelled
Salt and black pepper.

First make the Tomato sauce
Fry a handful of onions, 2 cloves of garlic (or to taste) in a tablespoon of oil until translucent (not brown).  Add 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree and a tiny drop of water. Heat gently.

Then into a large pan of boiling water add plenty of salt. When bubbling nicely add pasta and stir well to stop the pasta sticking together. It takes about 7-10 minutes depending on the type of pasta used so while this is bubbling away move on to the next stage.

Sprinkle the prawns with salt and pepper.  I don´t do this to scallops because they taste salty already.

In a thick bottom pan pour about 2 tablespoons of oil and heat until sizzling. Turn the heat down and add the scallops.  Cook one side for about four minutes and turn over to cook the other side. The prawns take less time to cook so once you turn your scallops add the prawns to the pan.

You are now ready to assemble.  Taste the pasta to see if it is cooked to your liking and drain well.  Any oil left in the scallop pan can be poured over, then add the heated tomato sauce and finally the scallops and prawns – mix well.  The finishing touch is if you have some Parmesan cheese to serve.

image from the internet

image from the internet

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Now is the time to try Howard’s Smokehouse – Golf del Sur

I had read a review that Howards Smokehouse in Golf del Sur was good. I didn’t know how good because I didn´t know the reviewer but as we were meeting our friend Carol for a long overdue get together, I asked if she would like to try it.

I phoned two days before our visit and spoke to Howard the owner, asking could we sit inside (I didn´t know the set up but being residents we are feeling the chill this time of year).

10-DSC05289When we arrived just before 8.00pm, we were greeted by Sarah, our waitress and escorted to our table. It was by the window and I am sure if it had been daylight, the view would have been magnificent as we could see the lights across the bay at El Medano.

Because we had not seen Carol since July, we had a lot of catching up to do. Sarah realised this and once she had taken our drinks order was happy to wait while we chatted.  She said when you are ready let me know…. We thought this was a great attitude because sometimes restaurants make you feel you have to read the menu as soon as it is given, but we were not the least bit rushed.

We were unaware that there would be entertainment so a nice surprise was to see that Colin Stevens would be spending the evening with us.  I last saw him in Palm Mar and knew he had a great voice and sang our kind of music.  Once we had placed our order Colin came over for a chat and we realised how animal mad we all were.

Right from the off our initial impressions were to say the least very good. Howards is a palpably personal operation where charming staff with pedigree try very hard to meet the customers’ needs.

So to the food. For some this is the most important part of a restaurant review, (although as you know for me it is only one element – other equally important things make a place memorable).

We ordered our starters, Carol had the prawn fountain, I went for the camembert with red currant jelly that has a small but very tasty side-salad and Jim after thinking he might have the stuffed mushrooms finally decided on the spicy tomato soup, which had a real depth of flavour.

We all went for the fillet steak. The meats are good here – classics done well and the accompaniments were a welcome surprise – really crispy roast potatoes or chips, cauliflower cheese and green beans. Our meals turned out to be spectacular! With all the meat available, you’re unlikely to go hungry.  I checked out the burger on the next table it was huge as was the fish (I think the lady said Cod Mornay). But back to our meal….  I was happy with the way they were simply and cleanly served, it suits the low-brow smokehouse decor and is infinitely better than putting everything on chopping boards that these kind of establishments often think is trendy.

Now if you are looking for cheap, then you had better continue walking because Howards is not cheap, however based on the ample portions served, pound for pound it is not expensive either.  I would budget approximately €30-35 per person.

Only Jim had room for dessert, the strawberry cheesecake.  It looked delicious but I was too stuffed to even try a mouthful.

09-DSC05288At the end of the meal Howard who has a discreet presence and Louise, his partner stopped by our table for a chat. Louise is normally the head chef but it was her night off and she was, like our group, enjoying Colin Stevens quiz.  It was therefore down to Howard to do what great chefs are supposed to do – cook quality food consistently and this he did with each course and apparently total ease, as everything worked perfectly.

I always used to think the Golf was a pretty deadbeat place to eat, but it’s improved a lot in recent times, in part thanks to businesses like Howards.  This is one of those rare establishments to which we’d like to return as it’s hard not to like any restaurant which clearly has a big heart and that’s a test this place passes with flying colours.

I would suggest as Howards Smokehouse is getting more popular by the day to ensure you have a table call 634 300 958 or 922 738 793



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Is This What Love Looks Like?

Turkey  is filled with ancient cities and after visiting a few, it can be difficult to differentiate between them.  Before our recent trip, top of our ‘must see’ list was the ruins at Ephesus. It is probably at the top of most peoples’ list and without doubt, it is worth a visit.  However, the place that impressed me the most – I could say I fell in love (pun intended) was Afrodisias, the ancient temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Aphodite temple (11)

When we arrived, the site was breathtaking as it basking in the morning sunshine, the heat bringing out the scent of oregano and basil. It covers a large area and paths disappear into thickets and over dazzling stretches of bright green hillside.

There are no large tourist crowds, which makes it easy to imagining life in the Afrodisias of old. Before the Romans, the Greeks in the 8th century BC built the once thriving city. Large houses have been unearthed that reveal a wealthy and prosperous community that revolved around the massive columns and roofless temple dedicated to the Goddess of Love Aphrodite.

When the Romans arrived, the focal point of the site became the amphitheatre. Sitting half way up on a cool marble bench and looking down at the stage, you are transported to a bygone world that you can feel all around you.

Nearby is the stadium – what a remarkable sight. The information plaque describes it as “the largest ancient stadium in the world and one of the best preserved”. That may be true but it doesn´t do it justice. Standing at one end, the other seems so far away. At times 30,000 people would have filled these seats, shouting and cheering as animals were baited; gladiators fought, wrestled and raced each other or threw javelins into the distance.

Aphodite temple (15)

We spent a long time at the impressive on-site museum and checking out the sculptures and interesting objects around the grounds, before moving on to lunch in a nearby tavern. We had the Turkish equivalent of pizza and cheese straws, which were OK, nothing special unlike the grounds which were beautiful.

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K9 December Newsletter

As we move from autumn into winter, I would like to thank everyone, from the volunteers who help daily, to the people who stop by the shelter and find a new family member. It does make all the difference as we can see from the letter we received from Savanna who joined us in June and is now enjoying her forever home.

Dear K9, I’m writing to thank you for the wonderful care you gave to me while I was at the refuge. I was frightened I would never find a forever home, then last month at the K9 Open Day, it finally happened.  I chose my new mum. She thought she chose me but it was really the other way round.  Although it took a few days training, she learned quickly and in return, I let her know I recognise my name and come immediately I am called. I enjoy my walks and adore my food, so much that I have put on weight and needed a new collar. I was house-trained in a very short time, which is great as I progressed from the laundry room to the living room to my favourite place sitting on Mum’s lap…. She is putty in my paws but then I am quite a looker!

Well, I’d better close as it’s time for me to sleep with mammy on her bed, she takes up a lot of room but I put up with it as I think it’s a security issue for her. Speaking of which she keeps looking at me and saying something I don’t understand. “Heaven on Earth.” Let me know if you can figure that one out… Please tell my friends back at camp that I said, “Hello” and try to find them great homes too. Thank you again, you really helped to make my new Mum so happy. She needed me.   Savanna xx

Savanna before pamering

Savanna before pamering

So one happy customer but still many that need a place to call home and until they do, you can help support our cause by visiting the K9 Shop in Alcala Plaza, open each day from 10am until 2pm, except Sunday.  If anyone wants to donate something for the shop and it needs collecting, please contact either 611352881 or 646561035 to arrange collection.

We have a clothing stall at Alcala market each Monday and a second hand bookstall each Thursday at Fañabe Market. Both are mornings only, all monies raised go towards the care of the many dogs and cats at the K9 refuge.

‘Swallows’ can contact Jim on 600314712 and arrange to meet – he will bring a car full of books €1 each or 3 for €2 he also has DVDs at €1 a disc to help while away your winter months on the island.

Finally, K9 want to extend a giant heartfelt thank to our wonderful donors and volunteers, please know that we do appreciate your generous and selfless contribution. The support we receive from our community does not have to be financial, we appreciate your time in exercising the dogs or giving a bag of dog or cat food which can make a huge difference to the animals in our care.

This message is just a simple reminder that without YOU K9 Animal Refuge would not be possible. We always strive to do our best and see that every animal no matter how big or small will be loved and cared for both physically and emotionally until their forever home is found. If you would like to visit or have the time to walk a dog, the kennels are open EVERY day from 11am until 2pm. The number is 667638468.

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Ridiculously easy to make Moussaka

A zillion years ago, when I was working in the Barbican I used to go to the Hat and Feathers on the corner of Clerkenwell Road for what I then thought was the ultimate in pub grub.  I also felt very sophisticated when I went back home and told the folks I had been eating Moussaka, a rich mince, layered with aubergine in tomato sauce.  40 odd years ago in the north of England aubergines might as well have come from Mars as few had heard of them and they were impossible to buy.

It was several years later after I was married and moved to Newbury that I spotted aubergines for sale on the farmers market. I bought a couple and took them home. There was no such thing as the internet in those days so I spent hours scouring cook books until I found a recipe for Moussaka. The result I thought was superb, but Jim hated the aubergines so I did what I thought was crazy and swapped them for sliced potatoes. The end result is a recipe that whilst I don´t make it very often every now and again I dig out the crumpled sheet of paper, straighten it out and get transported back all those years. In recent times, I have adapted it by replacing the mince with quorn and the tomatoes with frito but it still has the rich taste of the original Greek-style dish I fell for back in the swinging 60s.

Ingredients – Serves 6
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves finely chopped
450g minced beef or quorn
100ml beef stock (from cube)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground mace
1 carton tomate frito
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 heaped tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
500g potatoes

For the topping
2 eggs
300g Greek yogurt
50g parmesan, grated

Heat the oil add the onion and garlic, and fry until turning golden. Stir the meat into the pan and cook until brown. Pour in the stock then add the cinnamon and mace and mix well.  Now add either a tin of tomatoes or tomate frito plus the tomato purée.  Add the oregano and parsley, then simmer on a low heat stirring occasionally until thoroughly cooked, about 20 – 30 minutes

To prepare the potatoes slice into 1cm thick slices and par boil and then gently brown in a frying pan until soft. If you are using aubergines, there is no need to parboil, just slice, brush with oil and fry until soft, then set aside.

Add the meat mixture on the bottom of an ovenproof dish then a layer of potato/aubergine and continue until both meat and veg are used up. Beat the eggs and cheese into the yogurt and spread this over the meat to cover it and bake for 30 minutes until golden.

Take from the oven, cut into squares and serve with a salad.

For those who noticed that the dish with meat is different to the dish covered with sauce, I make the full quantity above as it is ideal to freeze without the topping.

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Stands Out from the Crowd, No-Nonsense Buena Paella

We were excited when we heard that Buena Paella had moved to Los Cristianos. It used to be located in Puerto Colon and called the Vista del Mare.  When there, it overlooked the sea and served quality food at unbelievably cheap prices.  It is the sister company of the ever popular tourist restaurant Gran Paella Valenciana although the Vista was always my preferred choice when eating in the area.

We were meeting friends who were staying in Los Cristianos for an evening meal and had already decided that we didn´t want anything elaborate, just good wholesome food.  I had my fingers crossed that the new restaurant would fit the bill as I had previously checked that it was the Puerto Colon restaurant and that the staff, the chef, the menu and even the prices were still the same.

It is still early days at this location and word must not have spread about its reputation, as when we arrived it was busy but not totally packed.  Even though I had only been there the previous evening to book the table, we were welcomed like old friends and regular diners.

The menus we were given are extensive and we asked was it possible to have the garlic prawns that were listed as a starter as a main course served with bread.  Of course! came the reply.  We then changed our minds after the tangy sea smell of fish ’n’ chips wafted past us to the next table.  Nele said I’ll have those, little realising the size of the portion. When her meal arrived it was two large pieces of fish, a better than average salad and chips.  Karel opted for the half shoulder of lamb which is a speciality and pretty good it was too, cooked perfectly and with a robust flavour, it came with mixed vegetables (I can’t be certain but to me these looked as if they may have been frozen) but he said they were good.  OH and I went for the chicken breast, the nice hand-cut chips made a good accompaniment and I enjoyed the salad but Jim doesn’t do ‘rabbit food’!  We washed this down with two glasses of wine, two bottles of water and rounded off with four coffees.

When the bill arrived, €32 Karel said quick pay and run, because they haven’t charged for everyone.  They found the prices and the quality unbelievable when compared to what they would have to pay at home.  Meeting them later in the week they said that although they had eaten at some really nice places the meal at Buena Paella was the best they had had so far on their holiday.

To sum up, the setting might be unpretentious but it is comfortable, this is, surpassed however, by the tastiest of solidly fare, served by a great team at excellent prices, and whether you are on a budget or not it is, IMO well worth a visit.

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Today’s Big Q : Is this the real thing?

If you are a devout Catholic the House of the Virgin Mary is probably high on your want to see list. I’m long lapsed but as it was included in our Turkey itinerary I was happy to see what is believed to be the place where Mary spent the last years of her life. What I didn´t know was that Muslims also believe in the virgin birth and recognise Mary as the mother of the ‘Prophet Jesus’ so they also join the hordes of people flocking to this humble abode and whether you believe or not the location is spectacular.


It is easy to find your way around as it is all well signposted. First, you will come to the small house that consists of a bedroom, kitchen and an altar, with images of Mary and candles. You can light a candle and kneel to pray if you wish but because of the queues it does feel as if you are being herded onwards.

2-DSC04802 5-DSC05378

You come out of the house and enter the gardens that are quiet and serene and contain arches that have taps dispensing spring water.  Several of our group filled their water bottles as the spring is believed to have healing properties and miracles have been reported. Personally after sipping directly from the tap I didn’t find any miraculous cure, my feet were still aching.


There is also a wall where people have tied hankies, scarves and small personal items. The purpose being as you tie your object you say a prayer and your wish may be granted.


The History…

According to scriptures as Jesus was dying on the cross he entrusted the care of Mary to St John and as time passed Mary and John relocated to Ephesus to live out their days.

In 1812 a German nun Sister Emmerich, awoke with the stigmata and had visions that included the Virgin Mary and St. John travelling from Jerusalem to Ephesus and she described a stone house, that John had built for Mary. It had a bedroom, which had a spring running through it. The nun went on to say that Mary died at the age of 64 and her coffin was buried in a cave near her house.

Years after Emmerich’s visions, a French clergyman travelled to Ephesus to find the House. He found a house matching the nun’s description and sent word to the bishops in Rome. They in turn sent two priests to the house and they found a small chapel in ruins with a damaged statue of the Virgin.

Of course the actual house you see is a reconstruction but based on reports from archaeologists who have examined the building they believe it dates from the 6th or 7th century. However, its foundations are much older and could well date from the 1st century AD, the time of Mary.  The coffin was also found, however when it was opened it was empty.

I’m saying nowt!

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Things to do in Tenerife in December 2014

What to Expect

Although December is one of the cooler months of the year it is still warmer than most other destinations in Europe making it a popular destination for British holidaymakers wanting to escape the winter gloom back home. The promise of year round sunshine is tantalisingly good and whilst sun cannot be guaranteed EVERY day, average temperatures for the south of the island are approximately 22°C during the day and 17°C at night.


At this time of year the difference between north and south is getting more noticeable and daytime temperatures there can average 16°C with lows being a chilly (but not by comparison with northern Europe) 8°C.  It is therefore still possible to spend some time on the beach wherever you choose to go. Tenerife in winter attracts a very different clientele from summer. These in the main are older and increasingly more discerning in their tastes.

Celebrations in December

Despite the main Navidad (Christmas) celebration not being until January there is plenty of Christmas cheer around with sparkling lights and beautiful decorations making the streets come alive.  Like the rest of Europe New Year’s Eve is a spectacular evening with cava, grapes and fireworks not only in the resorts but every outlying village.

Christmas and New Year in ….

Arona and Adeje – always put on a good show, with concerts, markets and to my mind the best end of year party on the island when Los Cristianos vies with Las Americas to outdo each other with the biggest and best fireworks displays.

Santa Cruz – If you are heading for the capital then the big event is the free Christmas Day concert by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra at the port.

Most  towns will have Christmas programmes planned and the tourist offices and cultural centres are best places to find full details.

December Highlights – The Best Music and Theatre

Entertainment in Tenerife is not just limited to bars, tribute acts and karaoke, there are plenty of live shows to suit all tastes.  Below is a tiny selection of what for me are the highlights showing around the island this month. Check out THIS PAGE for a list of theatres as well as links to the latest programmes.

The Moscow Ballet ‘Swan Lake’ (3rd at 21.00 and 4th December at 18.00 and 21.30, Teatro Leal, Tickets from €25)

At Christmas time there is nothing better than a bit of Gospel to get the toes tapping and the hands clapping.

Mississippi Gospel Chorale “Oh Happy Day Tour” is a selection of both traditional and contemporary tracks of black American music and is especially intended to be performed before a European audience. (7th / 8th December, Teatro Leal, 20.00 Tickets from €12).

Gospel Festival IX Canary Islands – Arona, The Latonius with D Star Choir. (6th December, Auditorio Infanta Leonor,  21:00 pm Tickets €12)

The Georgia Mass Choir – Gospel Tribute to Whitney Houston The magic began in Macon, Georgia, in 1983 and now the Choir are back in Tenerife. (14th December, Auditorio de Tenerife Santa Cruz, 20.00 Tickets €22)

Ballets de Tenerife Christmas Gala (12th December, Auditorio Infanta Leonor, 20:30 Tickets €10)

The musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ A new and updated review of the celebrated Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (26th to 30th December, Auditorio de Tenerife in Santa Cruz, various times, Tickets from 15 to 25 Euros)

Keroxen Festival with music, dance, visual arts performances (Until 5th December at El Tanque Espacio Cultural Tickets from http://keroxen.com/)

Farra World Festival (7th December, Siam Park starting at 15.00 until late. Tickets from €55 from Website) See the teaser video below for what to expect.

International Piano Festival music lovers may enjoy a repertoire that ranges from widely popular to some lesser known pieces. (to 6th February 2015, Castillo San Felipe, Puerto de la Cruz )

Other Events in December

International Storytelling Festival, (to 7th December – Los Silos). This year is the 13th edition with the participation of dozens of guest narrators and a huge program of related literature and readings, art and creative activities. Programme

PIT (Children and Youth Park Tenerife) (19 December to 5 January, Recinto Ferial Santa Cruz) undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events for children in Tenerife every Christmas. A huge exhibition dedicated to fun activities designed especially for the children and young people. Info HERE

Arona Folkfest - Traditional Canarian music, dance and Canarian Food (to 27th March 2015 – Every Thursday at the Harbour, Los Cristianos – 8.30pm, Every Friday at CC City Centre, Las Americas – 8.30pm and 2nd Saturday of each month Las Galletas – 11.00am)


Degusta.Me (Try Me) (Second Saturday each month Plaza España Adeje – from 6.00pm) There will also be an excellent selection of food and wines on offer accompanied by live music.

VIII Tapas Route ‘Mandate una tapa’ (to 15th December in El Medano, Los Abrigos, San Isidro, Charco del Pino and Granadilla)

Tenerife – Attractions

Tenerife offers a wealth of attractions follow the LINK to get just a few ideas.

Tenerife – Tours

Guided tours both free and private as well as numerous excursions are available throughout the year. For a few ideas follow the link to Tenerife Tours and Days Out

Tenerife – Sporting Activities

Year round temperatures averaging 22 degrees combined with a low level of rainfall provide an ideal climate for outdoor ventures. Whether on land, at sea or in the skies, Tenerife provides outdoor adventure for all types of travellers. Check them out HERE

Tenerife – Markets

Everyone loves a market and the island is home to a wealth of covered, outdoor and street markets. Many specialise in a particular type of goods while others selling the same product move from site to site. Most open early in the morning and close early afternoon. Follow this link for a list of Tenerife Markets

Tenerife – Museums

The museums of Tenerife are accessible to all sections of the community regardless of limited mobility or communication. Follow the link to find a comprehensive list of Tenerife – Museums

For weather & news updates around south Tenerife check Queenies Daily Snippets
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Updating, Tweaking and Generally Faffing Around.

As a couple of people have already noticed, I have been updating the pages that sit just below the header at the top of this blog.  I decided rather than bore everyone with my holiday snaps, I would give them a section of their own so anyone interested could brows and they wouldn’t get in the way for anyone who just wanted to read.  You will find these under the Gallery heading.  I only have a few places listed at the moment, but a couple are broken into sub-sections. I am also adding to this as I tidy up my laptop and delete or archive old holiday snaps.

I have also added and expanded the Just Tenerife page as I am asked on a daily basis questions about the island, so for me this was an easy way to guide people with queries to specific links.

Recipes and Restaurant Reviews are updated usually when I remember but every once in a while I have a twinge of conscience and do a mass update.  They do now though have nice header pictures :)

Do have a nosey around, if you feel anything needs adding your suggestions are always welcome.

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