Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to spend an unforgettable New Year's Eve?

Made any plans yet for New Year’s Eve? No? Why not spend it in Italy and live “La Dolce Vita”?! At the end of the day… you only live once. The place to be this time of the year is Orvieto. This town is the setting for the Umbria Jazz Winter festival (the smaller sibling of the biggest jazz festival in Italy, held every year in Perugia, in july). Fly to Rome, rent a car or take the train to Orvieto and your unforgettable New Year’s Eve trip can begin!

In case you’re a wine or architecture lover, you’ll probably know Orvieto. It’s a small town on top of a tuff stone cliff and it’s famous for its white wine (Orvieto Classico), its beautiful medieval cathedral with frescoes by Luca Signorelli, various Etruscan relics, etc. In summer it draws swarms of tourists… in winter on the other hand, it is a quiet little provincial town… until the “jazz circus” arrives! Musicians, journalists, photographers, jazz lovers, groupies… they’re all there!

A jazz fan will only need one glance at the festival programme to know that Orvieto is the perfect location to celebrate New Year’s Eve. More about that later. For everybody else: let me guide you through this wonderful part of Umbria. I have to admit, it’s small, but Orvieto has a fantastic rural cuisine, mouthwatering wines, nice little shops with local delicacies and handicraft such as ceramics, wood carving and tablecloths. Need I say more?

The day starts with a cappuccino and a delicious pastry at Bar Montanucci. A bar-slash-bakery which is a feast for the eyes! Try their homemade chocolates in the form of Pinocchio’s nose. They’re all beautifully wrapped, so they’re perfect souvenirs. After breakfast you can start sightseeing and shopping. And who knows… maybe you’ll bump into a famous jazz musician!

As I said, there is a wide range of cute little shops. Let me name a few. For special gifts I can highly recommend Menabò (espresso cups, keychains and magnets among other things).
The main street is filled with souvenir stores that sell local ceramics, but if you’re looking for something special, check out Ceramicarte Orvieto in Via Duomo. Furthermore, you do not want to miss the many “delicatessen” stores. There you’ll be able to buy truffles, sausages and of course that renowned wine!

Oh and how about all those shopwindows displaying red lingerie…?! In Italy it’s a tradition to give each other red underwear for New Year’s Eve, wear it the 31st… and hope that it will bring you good luck in love in the year to come! Especially at Intimissimi you’ll find sexy, as well as funny red underwear for both him and her.

At 11:30 a.m. there is a street parade in the historical centre. The italian band Funk Off has been a regular guest of Umbria Jazz and has a large fan base ever since. Funk Off gets everybody in the right mood early in the day! At noon you can go to several concerts, either in the impressive Palazzo del Popolo or in the more subdued and very elegant Museo Emilio Greco (to listen to Danilo Rea, Massimo Moriconi and Tullio de Piscopo playing a tribute to the late Renato Sellani).

Then it’s time for lunch! One of my favourite restaurants is Trattoria dell’Orso. It’s not only a cosy place but they also serve fabulous food! Tantalizingly delicious dishes like stirfried “forgotten” vegetables, pasta with zucchini or truffles, grilled meat… ahhh.

In the afternoon and evening there is a number of jazz venues you can choose from. And really, there’s something for everyone. Founder and Artistic Director of Umbria Jazz, Mr Carlo Pagnotta, has discovered many “gems” over the years. (Many musicians came to Europe for the first time thanks to him and subsequently played in Perugia and Orvieto.)

This year famous musicians like Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, Anat Cohen, Chiara Civello and Nicola Conte will play in the magnificent Teatro Mancinelli. Not only the music, but also the balconies and paintings will take your breath away!

If you want to hear trumpet player Fabrizio Bosso, Doctor 3, Jon Batiste or Davell Crawford, you’ll have to go to the ancient Palazzo del Popolo. Don’t forget to pass by the merchandise stand after the show to buy a nice Umbria Jazz sweater as a souvenir. They usually sell like hot cakes and it would be a shame to “miss out” on them.

For some tasty snacks & drinks and at the same time great live music, you should go to the Palazzo dei Sette. That’s the building in the main street with the bell tower. By the way, everything is within walking distance… you’ll find it in a heartbeat. Otherwise just follow the music! K.J.Denhert has become a familiar face in the Palazzo dei Sette over the years. This year it’s also the venue for Four Vegas who will bring the house down!

For a more formal jazz lunch or dinner one should go to Ristorante al San Francesco. On New Year’s Eve this is the place for a sumptuous dinner while enjoying one great show after another. Bring your best suit or your sexiest dress and your dancing shoes… because boy oh boy, those Italians can party! That’s what I meant… La Dolce Vita!

If you have any energy left after midnight… you can go to either the theatre, Palazzo del Popolo, or Palazzo dei Sette where there are concerts and jam sessions until the middle of the night. Last but not least, make sure you’ll be able to attend mass the next day… Mass? Yes! At 5 p.m. on the 1st of January there is an unforgettable New Year’s Mass in the Duomo, accompanied by glorious gospel music. Talking about finishing in style…!

Without a doubt I must have forgotten venues and musicians, but there is simply too much to mention. Or as the italians say: “C’è l’imbarazzo della scelta”.

For information, please visit:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Affordable Holiday Gifts

December is just around the corner... and with that.... the Holiday Season! You may think it's still early to worry about gifts, but time flies when you're having fun. Whether you're looking for an affordable gift for Thanksgiving, Sinterklaas or Christmas, I got you covered! Here are some suggestions for the sweet tooth in the family, the fashionista, the Peter Pan, the dreamer and the book lover.

Christmas chocolates by River Island:
Mulled wine (or glühwein) spices by Marks & Spencer:
Refreshing foot balm by Rituals:
Nativity scene from Peru:
Christmas earrings by Accessorize:
Book "Sycamore row" by John Grisham:
Reindeer sunglasses by Gisela Graham:
Mug by Le Creuset:
Mini soap bars (saponcini) by Carthusia:
Adjustable pearl ring by Zara:

Photos: all rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

El Parador de Moray, Peru

El Parador de Moray is a restaurant that I will not easily forget. On our way to the Sacred Valley, me and my travel companions made a stop in the middle of nowhere. Or so it seemed... Restaurant El Parador de Moray is located next to an incredible Inca site. A place where time has stood still.

The archaeological site in Moray is an impressive example of the ingenuity of the Incas. In fact the enormous terraced cavities seem to have been a laboratory for agricultural experiments. The temperature on the different levels varies a lot, giving the Incas the opportunity to grow crops that were not indigenous. 

What the Incas and the current inhabitants of Moray have in common, is their love for good food! El Parador de Moray offers only the best local produce, such as corn, quinoa, potatoes, beans, chicken, pork and trout. The mouthwatering dishes are served in buffet style.

You can start with a hearty soup to warm up your body (much needed in the mountains!), followed by a healthy salad, quinoa tabbouleh, vegetarian causa and then on with the grilled meat and fish. For those with a big appetite there's even a variety of desserts... but that was simply too much for me.

I can honestly say that my best meal in Peru was here in Moray. What an amazing restaurant! Pure, delicious food, very good service, a cosy atmosphere, tasteful interior decoration, a fireplace, stunning views... what more can you ask for?

For more information, please visit:

Special thanks to PromPeru and USP Marketing PR.