Italy | Milan

If you are a lover of Paris you need to visit Milan. Two cities currently fighting for my top spot.

Given that Napoleon built a highway connecting the two, it comes as no surprise that they bear a few similarities.

Both cities have monumental Arch’s and iconic streets and, Milan is like pretty like Paris but on a much grander scale.

I am a sucker for history and this city is just dripping in it. From walking down roads built by Napoleon to passing through old city walls. There is a piece of history standing boldly and beautifully around round every corner.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horse

Beyond the Parisian similarities there are many unique characteristics to Milan including a castle which was used as the city’s protection before providing a home to the Lords of Milan; A palace that housed Napoleon on his stays; a 7ft sculpture of a horse by the Leonardo Da Vinci and, Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forest, to name a few.

The Vertical Forest was actually one of my favourite sights. So unlike anything you have seen before, a great touch to dress up a skyscraper and the autumnal colours add an extra hint of elegance.

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get the chance to take my own photograph so I have borrowed this one.

 If history and sightseeing isn’t your thing, Milan still has plenty to offer.

Being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world, Milan provides a stunning collection of luxury designer shops combined with some popular high street shops.

The shopping experience here is beyond our wildest dreams.

Not that we would expect anything to the contrary from the fashion capital of the world!

Having said that, I am a girl who loves to shop but shopping was the last thing on my mind.

Especially when we reached the Cathedral. A landmark which Milan is famous for and after seeing it with my own eyes, I can totally understand why.

Milan Cathedral

 

It quite literally takes your breath away.

Considering we told our tour guide that we weren’t too bothered about seeing the Cathedral (oops) and stumbled upon it by accident, I’m really glad we did!

There are just no pictures that could do this beautiful building any justice whatsoever, let alone capture the atmosphere.

I got a quick video snippet of the Cathedral surrounded by hundreds of people with musicians playing in the square – I will post it on my Instagram (@contourallure) so you can get and slight feel for the place.

One thing you should be aware of is the sheer volume of people here, even in comparison to London. It is extremely busy. So when lunch time rolls around, queues  for food are the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen! I mean they were so long it would probably be quicker to go home and cook a meal yourself! The food is delicious though so I can totally understand all the commotion that seemed to be going on in pretty much every eatery.

I love that the pizza slices are bigger than my head!

 

I truly enjoyed this city and I can’t wait to return. It definitely ranks highly on my list of places to recommend.

Well of course it does. Offering huge amounts of culture, shopping, food, history, unique little quirks and not to mention being totally picturesque – why wouldn’t you want to visit?

One of the many quirky little features lining the streets.
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Italy | Lake Como

​After many years of saying I’m going to go to Italy this year, my feet have finally touched down on Italian soil. 
We were picked up by private transfer and chauffeured to the Grand Hotel Britannia Excelsior on Lake Como.

If I asked you to think of an Italian cliché what would you come up with? Well, mine would be the phrase Mama Mia so you can imagine the humour on my face when our driver kept shouting out Mama Mia at the traffic. oh we have definitely arrived in Italy!

Our first glimpse of Lake Como.

Even in the absence of the sun, the beauty of this place shines through. The attitude that comes with the low lying clouds is mysterious and endearing.
This was our very first view of the much coveted destination of Lake Como. A place which hosts celebrities such as George Clooney, Richard Branson and, my idol and her husband – Posh and Becks! (Oh the fan-girling that would ensue should I bump into the Victoria Beckham!)

The Beckham’s house is that pretty impressive white one at the water front.

Down the very narrow and winding roads is the town of Como.
It was recommended to us that we visit the Como markets. 

I have to say that they were quite disappointing.  It may have had something to do with the heavy rain but in all honesty, I won’t be recommending them. There was the odd cute stall but nothing to really shout home about.
We strayed down the cobbled roads to head to the main square. There was so much beauty around, so much detail gone into each architecture, each sculpture and, each window display that we never actually made it to the town square.

A quaint yet luxurious looking chocolate shop called Diamanti played a big role in keeping us from the town centre. The temptation was just too strong to resist.

Now let me tell you, if I could capture any smell and share it with you, this would be the one. The aromas of freshly made chocolate and coffee mixing in the air was just something else. 

There are many things Italians are famous for and coffee is right up at the top of the list. On the barrista’s recommendation a round of macchiato con cioccolato was ordered.

The drink was very similar to a mocha except that the chocolate at the bottom was real, rich, thick chocolate and the coffee was so strong that if it wasn’t served in the tiny cups it came in, it would have been dangerous.

If ever you have the pleasure of visiting this town, Diamanti is a must for a coffee stop.  I Daren’t try the chocolates for fear of being unable to stop but I have no doubt that they taste as delicious as they look.

There was definitely plenty more that this town had to offer but time flies when you’re having fun. As the sun set over this beautiful city it was time for us to leave.

Our attendance was requested for a black tie gala at Lake Como this evening so back we headed to change into our gowns and bow ties ready to dance the night away.

And we did indeed dance the night away…

  

La Manga | The end of something beautiful

It’s true what they say you know, time really does fly when you are having fun.

We have reached the final night of the holiday. 

Wanting to end it with something fun, mountain biking was on the agenda. Arriving at the shop to discover it closed early today which didn’t leave us enough time to warrant the trip worthwhile. 

Instead of creating a stressful situation creating other plans (as happened on Tuesday) there was a quick assessment as to what had been enjoyed the most over the week spent here. It was La Cala. 


Having already been twice this may seem tedious to you but each time we were there for a total of one hour and the second time we literally remained in the restaurant for food. 

Back at the beach it had that private feel to it again. There was just Chris and I.

Taking up residence on a sun lounger, we watched the waves crash. Today they were the biggest I’ve seen. Most likely to be remnants of yesterday’s storm. It was a little intimidating actually, looking out over the vast waters and seeing the size and reach of those waves didn’t let you forget how powerful this entity is. A couple of times the water came right up under our sun loungers causing us to have to move back.

Remember in the first post about La Cala and I told of how it boasted a beautiful, rocky surrounding? Well, it may not have been one of my brightest ideas but the urge to explore was much stronger than my levels of resistance. Equpped with strap up sandals and in a bikini I scaled those rocks with Chris (who more sensibly had trainers and shorts on). 

The rocks we scaled and we continued on round the cove

Risking my ankles was definitely a worthwhile expedition. The views, the wind, the sounds – oh what an experience! If you ever head this way make sure you do this! I mean, wearing more appropriate clothing to reduce risk of injury would probably be smart also but it’s up to you.

La Cala had become kind of our escape. There was just something about this beautiful spot that resonated with my soul.


In the evening, the final barbecue and awards night was hosted at one of the villas. 

A fantastic paella spread was put on with a whole host of cakes and magnums to follow.


The awards were given and the tournament winning team was announced. Mama Gee was in the winning team for the second year running! Go team! Next year is going to be her hat trick year!

We said our goodbyes and thanked everyone for including us in their plans throughout the week. Meeting different people is something I really enjoy and I am constantly in a state of awe and fascination as I listen to their life stories.

Back to the hotel for our final night in paradise. I’m not ready to leave yet. 

The final time…

La Manga | Cartagena and Lightening storms 

Wow, the weather forecast certainly wasn’t wrong. It was most definitely raining but nonetheless our trip to Cartagena was going ahead. 
On the advice of the concierge we asked the taxi driver to take us to El Corte Ingles under the impression that this was an indoor shopping mall. Unfortunately, we were a little to eager and arrived before it opened.

The taxi driver very kindly offered another suggestion of the port and the row of shops along there so that’s where we headed.

On the drive up I was not expecting much from this little town but actually I judged too prematurely. It was actually quite beautiful. The floors were made of beautifully decorative stone, in the wet they were also a tad dangerous being that they were so slippery but the beauty outshone the danger. The street was surrounded by some simply stunning architecture and decorative fountains, on a dry sunny day I’m sure the beauty of this area is quite mesmerising. 

The beautiful streets of Cartagena

As the weather wasn’t so today however, our plan was to browse the shops in the hope that the rain died off just long enough for us to explore the roman ampitheatre, sadly the rain wasn’t so obliging. 

Not to worry though, I was treated to pair of shoes which I just adore. 

At one stage, Mama Gee ended up dancing in the rain to the music of a busker. It was quite funny and I caught it all on video! 

On our return to the now open, El Corte Ingles it turned out that this was more a department store than a shopping mall. Fortunately, there was a shopping mall on the way back to the hotel; Espacio Mediterrano. We stopped her before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our evening meal.

Off to another villa tonight. One of the ladies who was hosting us was vegetarian so she catered for myself and herself whilst the other lady whom was not vegetarian catered a meat dish for herself and the others. How perfect! We all had the relevant paella dish tonight, it was lovely and finally we were all eating Spanish! 

The walk up to their villa was quite comical though. We walked round a one giant circle before realising we were lost. Each road in La Manga doesn’t look much different from the last. Eventually we found our way and headed up a great hill. The rain had died off but thunder and lightening had set in. 

As we sat on their rather large balcony for our meal, the lightening coming from behind the mountains in electric blue rays made quite a wonderful setting. I tried to capture it on camera but as Chris very cleverly left ours at home the only device to use was my iPhone 5 and the camera was just not good enough to capture but take my word for it, it was stunning. Mid sentence a few times we all wowed at some of the lightening strikes. 

A snippet of lightening captured at the bottom left hand corner

La Manga | When all else fails 

This week is fast becoming the week of failed plans and we are now the masters of back ups.

Initially, the idea was to get up early and head down to the tennis courts for a hit in the morning before heading to Cartagena, a historical city a short journey from the resort, in the afternoon but I had a really broken nights sleep so when morning came round I was not ready to rise. By the time we were ready to make a move it was too late to go play tennis.

Then came yet more rearranging, the trip to Cartagena has been postponed because today is a bank holiday in Spain (Wednesday seems a fairly odd day for a holiday don’t you think?) so all of the shops and attractions would be closed. 

Tomorrow we are due rain so the tennis is cancelled but our adventure to Cartagena is still going ahead because well, we are British so pretty used to dealing with the rain! 

So after all the rearranged plans, we decided to make the most of the still glorious weather (not sure I believe it’s going to rain actually) by laying on a sun lounger with a good book. So cliched but it should definitely come under the definition of holiday. 

At the arrival of Mama Gee and her friend, we took them to La Cala. They had yet to go so we thought it would be good to encourage a change of scenery on their break and we got lunch at a hotel endorsed restaurant there.

Back to the beach

As soon as we arrived it was a very different experience from Monday, the waves whilst still on the gentle side were crashing much more frequently and a little higher, the tide came in a little further and there were more people so it felt a little less private, but still spectacular. The gleaming sun, the sparkling water and the sound of he waves has to be one of the most relaxing settings.

The food at the restaurant is probably the best food we have eaten here so far, looking out over the water at the cruise ships on the horizon, we had a range of seafood between us which was cooked to absolute perfection. It brought me to realize that I was yet to really enjoy any food here but thankfully, today I did!

Gorgeous views from the restaurant

The slight change in aggression of the waves was a definite indicator of the change in weather, rain was forecast for the afternoon and by the time we were back at the hotel the sun was behind clouds and the breeze was picking up.

We made the most of it by spending a couple of hours at the pool before heading up to the gym for a chest a triceps workout.

Mid rep and struggling

Of course, we just had to indulge in the spa again whilst we were up that way. Especially with the change in weather and the setting of the sun it was great to experience the change in atmosphere and scenery. 

Views at sundown

As I already mentioned, it was Spanish Bank Holiday today and we weren’t sure which food establishments were going to be open. 

The shuttle bus driver drove us a different route back to the hotel but we hopped out a little earlier after driving past a restaurant called ‘Si!’ It was more like a sports bar with TV’s in every line of sight and a different sport playing on each one but the menu got me excited.. ‘vegetarian lasagne’. The first time I have seen the term vegetarian incorporated into a menu here! It was also delicious! 

We were all feeling absolutely wiped by the time we left, I think between the spa and the weather, which was now a bit chilly and raining, all the energy had been drained. This called for one thing and one thing only, a good old early night all round. Tomorrow will be a whole different kettle of fish, we will be refreshed and ready for the adventures ahead come rain or shine! 

Good night