A pleasure trip to Dakar
With its fairly dry and moderately warm climate, December is the perfect time to go to Dakar. The Mamelles neighbourhood, named after the volcanic hills which overlook the city, makes an excellent base for exploring the Senegalese capital. The African Renaissance Monument, one of the symbols of the city, stands on one of these hills. This almost 50 metre high work in bronze will leave a strong impression on you.
You stay at the hotel du Phare les Mamelles, whose citrus and pastel coloured walls promise you a colourful holiday. In your room, the beds are covered in traditionally patterned fabrics, and you have direct access to a patio from where exotic floral fragrances drift. Go and drink a bissap, a hibiscus flower juice, at the rooftop bar. This evening, a DJ is hosting a musical aperitif. Still on the rooftop, you order a pizza cooked over a wood fire at Gino & Gino and enjoy the mild Dakar night to the full.
The following morning, the echo of the waves draws you to the beach, accessible via a small path. You relish your dip in these delightful 26° waters, before being lulled by the strains of reggae music, as you drowse on a deckchair. Reinvigorated by this lazing around, you are ready to tackle the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Head to the Kermel market. This elegant rotunda shaped building stands in the heart of old Dakar. Immerse yourself in this location, overflowing with life and run by female vendors who wear traditional dress. Follow the scents and colours of the stands weighed down with peanuts, chilli peppers, ginger and thiof, a type of grouper fish which is served in thiéboudiène, the Senegalese rice and fish dish.
This abundance of fresh produce gives you an appetite. Hurry to La Calebasse, an excellent restaurant serving Senegalese specialities overlooking the ocean, located near the Clinique des Mamelles. You enjoy a skewer of king prawns, accompanied by corn fritters, and really fall for the teak plate. No problem, all items and accessories are for sale! After this exquisite lunch, you unearth a ritual mask or a wooden statuette in the shop downstairs.
For a well-deserved break, why not go for a coffee on the patio of Loman Art House? Local creativity is showcased in this constantly evolving art gallery. Here you will find the amazing creations of Loman Pawlitschek, the gallery's owner, whose work superimposes paint and metal lacework.
To finish your stay in Dakar on a high note, go and admire the collections at the Théodore Monod African Art Museum, Dakar's cultural crown jewel. In this elegant neo-Sudanese style building, masks by the Jola people from Casamance, statuettes by the Bambara people from Mali and 1,000 other pieces from all over the African continent make up a fascinating collection.
Hotel du Phare Les Mamelles
36 Cité des Magistrats, Les Mamelles
+221 33 860 30 00
La Calebasse Restaurant
Route de la Corniche
+221 33 860 69 47
Loman Art House
Villa 1, Mamelles Aviations
+221 33 868 12 99
Théodore-Monod African Art Museum
Rue Place 18
+221 33 823 92 68
Ecotourism in the Dominican Republic
A mention of the Dominican Republic brings to mind beautiful beaches with rows of palm trees fringing transparent waters... The start of the dry season, in December, is a great time to enjoy the resplendent nature of this Caribbean country.
On your arrival in the old town of Santo-Domingo, you check into a room at the elegant Casas del XVI boutique hotel, consisting of five meticulously restored 16th century houses. Its setting of weathered stone and brick arches transports you to the golden age of Spanish colonisation. Feeling rested after a cosy night, you take the road to the south-west of the island where you arrive in the region of Barahona, famous as an ecotourist's paradise.
After a three-hour journey peppered with verdant hills and colourful houses, relax on the beach of Los Patos, a fishing village on the road from Enriquillo to Paraíso. You won't believe your eyes when you see this idyllic site. The Los Patos River, the smallest river in the Caribbean, forms a natural pool and flows into the sea a little further on. Take a dip in these crystal-clear waters with the local children, then go and sample the catch of the day at the restaurant of the Mami River Beach House Hotel. Delighted with your lunch, you gladly follow the owner to his coffee plantation, perched at an altitude of 900 metres. Here, you enjoy an organic arabica coffee, opposite the jungle-clad mountains plunging steeply into the sea.
Another hour or so on the road, and you arrive at Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge. You have chosen this charming hotel for its isolated situation on a hill, in the heart of a tropical forest. On the horizon the Atlantic Ocean sparkles. You have a pleasing sensation of being on the other side of the world. At the Casa Bonita Tanama Eco Spa, concealed amidst the vegetation, awaken your senses with a coconut pulp wrap. Then, help to pick the produce which will be prepared and served for your meal. In the mild starry night, you dine on a delicious grilled rock lobster with vegetables from the garden and a herb butter.
During your stay in this paradise, a guide from the hotel accompanies you to explore some breath-taking sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jaragua National Park features caves decorated with pictographs, hieroglyphic drawings created by the Taino Indians, the first inhabitants of the island. This exploration worthy of an adventure film continues with a boat trip to an enchanted location: crystal-clear water, seven kilometres of white sand, and rocky islets…Reaching Bahia de las Aguilas beach is a challenge, but you're not likely to forget it!
Casas del XVI
Calle Padre Billini n°252
+1 809 688 4061
Mami River Beach House
Carretera de Enriquillo, Pedernales
+1 829 815 5940
Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge
Km 17 Carretera de la Costa, Bahoruco
+1 809 540 5908
Three magical Christmas markets in the old continent
Have you been dreaming of a magical break during the Christmas holidays? You will be captivated by the magical and convivial atmosphere of the Strasbourg Christmas market. Amidst a profusion of Christmas lights, the capital of Alsace will thrill you with its large Christmas tree erected in Kléber square, its 300 small wooden chalets and its bredele (traditional Alsace biscuits). Not forgetting its craft market which celebrates craftsmanship. In the Gothic cathedral, a living crib presents the Nativity scene. Seen from the quai des Bateliers, adorned with a myriad of lights, you will be dazzled by the most beautiful façades of the city. And in the district of la Petite France, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Off market invites you to take advantage of the opportunity to consume in a spirit of social responsibility and fair trade.
A little further north, from 29 November to 5 January, the wonderful Grand-Place in Brussels is dominated by a giant Christmas tree. You will be astounded by the abundance of lights on its historic façades and the chalets selling steaming waffles in its famous market. You will be overcome by the joyous, good-natured atmosphere of Plaisirs d'hiver, a two kilometres stretch of gift stands, amusement rides and street performances…From the Stock Exchange to the place de la Monnaie, with a detour via the place Sainte-Catherine, you are regaled by Christmas songs, tuck into some nice hot chips, the local speciality, prepared on site, and plunge into “The Maze”, an illuminated maze with psychedelic shapes and colours.
As for Germany, Munich takes its Advent festivities very seriously. The Christmas market tradition in the Bavarian capital goes back to the 15th century.
For a stress free experience of this delightful hustle and bustle, avoid the immense Marienplatz Square and opt for calmer atmospheres. In the large inner courtyard of the Residenz, the former palace of the kings of the city, sample some stollen, a brioche loaf with dried fruit and marzipan, while your children admire the pretty puppets. Right next to the Chinese Tower, a brass band playing Christmas tunes draws you to the English Garden, home to Munich's most romantic market. Amazed, you find some great gift ideas amongst the stands selling crib figures, warm gloves and Christmas tree decorations. Further away from the city centre, you fall for the tranquil charm of another market, the Rotkreutzplatz, with its chalets arranged in a circle around a fountain.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Entrance to the “Capital of Christmas” area
6-14 Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons
Brussels Christmas Market
Munich Christmas Market
+49 89 29 06 71
Menzinger Strasse 65
+49 89 386 66 390