sábado, 25 de junio de 2011

Peace & Pilgrimage in Bhutan

The word Amankora combines the Sanskrit for peace with the Bhutanese for pilgrimage. That is exactly what you will find in the first luxury hotel to appear in Bthutan. You will also find out why Amankora has featured in such places as the Condé Nast Hot List.

The six nature-linked lodges are nestled in a stunning Himalayan valley. The 72 suites feature natural rammed-earth walls, gently sloping roofs and wood-panelled interiors.
They are furnished with king-size beds, traditional bukhari (wood-burning stoves) and large terrazzo-clad baths. You will enjoy views, either of the fabulous courtyard, the nearby Wangdicholing Palace and monastery, or to the expanses of rice fields and pine forest in the valley. Amankora has everything you need to relax, from a yoga suite to extensive spa facilities.

Bhutan is the sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom. With peaks of 7000 metres in the north to low lying plains in the south, the country offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. To experience the best of what Bhutan has to offer, Amankora can tailor journeys that include a combination of its lodges located in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. The rich topography affords visitors an opportunity for unique journeys of discovery, in an eco-system sustained by centuries of Buddhist philosophy and traditions.

To find out more visit Carte Blanche Travel and book your journey today, by phone +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or email:  info@carteblanchetravel.com

Windows to Paradise, Los Cabos, Mexico

Where the Sea of Cortés meets the Pacific, you will find one of the most intriguing holiday destinations in the entire world. Los Cabos at the tip of Baja California in Mexico is a Mecca for big game fishing, world-class golf, scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. You will find quiet coves and inlets, you will have the opportunity to go horseback on pristine beaches and to relax and rejuvenate in high-end spas.

Los Cabos has over 30 miles of beach and some of the best golf courses in all of North America. 

In the middle of all this wonder, you will find the glamorous resort of Las Ventanas al Paraiso. Perched between desert sands and deep blue sea, this famous resort has all you need to combine a dream destination with a personal experience of a lifetime. 

The resort has 61 suites, private Jacuzzis, dedicated butler services, rooftop terraces and telescopes for exploring the wonderfully clear constellations in the Mexican sky. In addition, there is and endless array of activities on offer, ranging from whale watching and diving, to cookery classes and tequila lessons.

Don’t miss out! Book your perfect holiday right now!
Contact Carte Blanche Travel for further information. Call +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or email us at info@carteblanchetravel.com

viernes, 24 de junio de 2011


The Safari Houses circuit in Zambia makes for one of the most epic experiences that Africa can offer. Don’t miss out: a safari in style is waiting for you at the heart of the continent.

The Luangwa Safari House, Chongwe River House and Tangala House are now jointly offering a 9-night combo at special rates.

It is an excellent opportunity to explore the famed Zambezi River. The area is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant and is an ideal safari base. Properties come fully staffed with a guide, house manager and private chef, who will all help you tailor your private safari and your perfect personal experience. It is a fantastic spot to see the great predators of the continent and it is an excellent choice for family or a group of friends.  

All three of the destinations lie at the banks of rivers, frequented by hippos, giraffes and elephants and the sites offer breath-taking views of the mountainous horizon. What is more, the Tangala House lies only 15 km upstream from the spectacular Victoria Falls.

Even the lodgings are attractions in their own right. Luangwa Safari House and Chongwe River House were designed by architect Neil Rocher, resulting in innovative solutions with traditional materials. In the middle of the bush, these fantastic creations are truly a sight to behold. 

Don’t miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime! Make your booking today. The rate for the entire 9-night combo is only US$6695 per adult

Contact Carte Blanche Travel by telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

jueves, 23 de junio de 2011

Great experiences of a lifetime: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro

Among the truly great experiences in life, few can beat standing atop the “Mountain of Greatness.” Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, it is the highest peak of Africa and, best of all, it is the most accessible to walk of all the great mountains on this planet. 

To help make the dream come to true, Carte Blanche Travel is proud to present Tortilis Camp. At the foot of the majestic peak, Tortilis is the perfect base camp.  And to make it even more perfect, the camp lays right at the heart of the famous Amboseli National Park. The park is home to thousands of Africa’s greatest animals and is considered the best place on the continent to observe free-ranging elephants.  It is also home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife.

Tortilis Camp is multi-award winning ecotourism lodge, collecting accolades from the likes of Condé Nast Traveller. It offers some of the most stunning sights in Africa: The falling sunset across the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru in Tanzania is unrivalled by any other place. The food is unbeatable too: Chefs use home-grown ingredients and dish together the very best of safari dining. All construction is of local natural materials and thatched roofs. The tents are large and spacious, with king or twin beds and elegant en suite bathrooms. The main lounge, bar and dining area is exquisitely built with local skill.

Don’t miss out on the dream! See Carte Blanche Travel for further details and contact us on telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com, and make your booking today! 

Unexplored travel paradise in the Quirimbas archipelago, Mozambique

Ibo Island Lodge is currently running a number of incredible special offers.

Ever imagined a dhow safari, hopping from one tropical island to another on some of the most pristine beaches in entire world? Have you ever dreamt of beach picnics, sunset cruises or tucking into seafood lunches under a Bedouin tent on a small sandy island?

Then you are in luck. That is exactly what is on offer at Ibo Island lodge. It is a completely different type of African safari, and it is delightfully off the beaten track.

The Quirimbas archipelago in northern Mozambique is home to some of the most magical spots in the Indian Ocean. It is a nominated world heritage site and is perfect for families, couples and honeymooners, or anyone looking for that bit of extra oomph and exclusive air.   

You will be housed in magnificent 100-year old mansions with wide verandas, individually designed rooms and a rooftop restaurant, all set amidst fine tropical gardens.

Enjoy snorkelling, scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, sunset dhow cruises, massages or take part in historical guided walks, interactive cultural & community projects, silversmith workshops or bird watching with a professional ornithologist. The list of activities is endless. 

For a rich, yet affordable, and historic travel experience, book your memorable journey today!

Several options are open for island hopping, either by dhow or kayak, or in combination.  To find out more, contact Carte Blanche Travel by telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

See also www.iboisland.com for more information

This is what the press has to say:

"Quite unlike anywhere I've ever visited." - Nick Maes, The Guardian

"I can't think of another place in Africa remotely like it.....an air of romantic dilapidation that Zanzibar possessed until it was lost among crowds of bikini-clad Italians & fumes from 1,000 mopeds. Here we had the streets almost to ourselves" - Kate Humble, The Independent

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011

St Peter's Basilica: Bramante

One of the most prominent names in all of High Renaissance Italy and the most ambitious of all building projects in all of the 16th century; and yet, all we have of Bramante’s St Peter’s Basilica is an engraving on a coin and a floor plan. 

All that was built in Bramante’s time were the central piers, which ultimately proved to be spectacularly inadequate for the task and had to be enlarged and strengthened by successive architects.

Bramante produced some of the most enduring building types of modern European architecture. His iconic Tempietto (pictured above), though not very practical, was copied widely in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Palazzo Caprini, also known as Raphael’s House, set the standard for classical urban buildings across Europe and his Cortile de Belvedere was also hugely influential. 

Raphael’s House has since been demolished and the Cortile has been heavily altered. The basilica was the most ambitious of his projects and was only finished more than 100 years after his death. Its design also evolved significantly during that period. Yet, the essential concept is still recognisable in the completed building.

It is commonly believed that Bramante wanted to rebuild the basilica as a centrally planned structure, and the surviving floor plan supports this idea. The concept was popular with Italian renaissance architects but seldom got off the drawing board. Leonardo da Vinci for instance, who Bramante knew in Milan, made a number of sketches on the theme.

Centrally planned spaces were built from Filippo Brunelleschi onwards but these were generally part of a wider complex. It is in fact possible that this was the case also in Bramante's project. The floor plan could represent a proposal to rebuild the choir rather than the church as a whole.

One of the few churches to be completed on the principle of a central plan during this period is Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi.  

It has been suggested that the central plan represents a shift in philosophy, based on humanism and secularism, but there is little to suggest that Bramante wanted to challenge religious dogma. It is more likely that he saw the central plan as appropriate for a martyrium, a shrine to commemorate the tomb of St Peter. The Tempietto, also centrally planned, similarly marks the spot of St. Peter’s crucifixion.

Given this relationship with the Tempietto, one could expect St. Peter’s Basilica to follow similar lines. However, judging by the engraved coin, that is not exactly what we find.

The Pantheon was widely admired and clearly provided a model for the dome, but the rest of the building seems to look to other sources for inspiration.  

One possibility is Alberti’s San Sebastiano in Mantua, which also represented the classical language in a rather bare form, with pilasters providing much of the surface treatment.

The principal facade is obscured by a domed chapel, which incorporates the entrance apse of the main structure behind it. It is flanked by two towers and above rises a massive hemispherical dome. The latter sit on a drum ringed with columns, making it look like a giant version of the Tempietto lifted on top of another building.

Chapels at the four corners of the main structure are also crowned with small domes.

The multiplication of domes and the towers may suggest an attempt to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which had fallen to the Turks only half a century earlier. It is doubtful, however, whether Bramante had any meaningful knowledge about that building. It is also possible that Bramante used Roman churches from the early Christian period as models.

Nothing quite like Bramante’s St. Peter’s was ever built but his designs did have an influence on contemporary buildings. 

For a sense of how the basilica might have looked, the church of San Bagio in Montepulciano offers some clues. Only one of the towers was actually built in this case but if you can imagine a similar structure on a larger scale, with a heftier dome, and domed chapels at the corners, then suddenly, Bramante’s St. Peter’s almost comes alive. 

Fantastic Cape Combo Offer

A fantastic new combination offer puts South Africa and the Cape at the top of the list for spectacular yet affordable holidays in 2011.


Partners of Carte Blanche Travel; Le Quartier Français, Kurland and Kwandwe Private Game Reserve have joined together to offer a perfect itinerary, tailored to an African experience of a lifetime. The combination is ideal for couples, families and honeymooners alike.  

With bookings for at least 2 of the 3 properties, families can save on free nights while children under 12 stay for absolutely free.

Stay 3 nights and pay for two at the Le Quartier Français, or stay 4 nights and pay for 3 at Kurland or Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, and experience an African journey you will not be soon to forget.

Le Quartier Français is situated right at the heart of the famous Franschoek wine valley and offers the ideal spot for a wine and food safari. Surrounded by breathtaking views and majestic mountains, the valley is also home to the finest of international cuisine that South Africa can offer. Celebrating the Huguenots who settled to grow vines on these slopes over 300 years ago, Le Quartier Français offers organised wine tasting and a kitchen consistently rated for high excellence.  Children will undoubtedly also feel right in the element, with opportunities to visit lion parks, go carting or visit Monkeytown, to name but a few of the many available activities. 

For a relaxing beach holiday, the destination is Kurland. Situated within a massive estate of immense beauty, Kurland also overlooks the coast and Plettenberg Bay. The beauty of the bay is legendary, the awestruck Portuguese explorers of the 16th century knew it simply as Bahia Formosa, or beautiful bay. With only 12 suites, each with a unique design, Kurland has an established reputation as a supreme gem off the beaten track. Activities are endless, including hot air balloon tours, scuba diving, a visit to the many animal sanctuaries in the vicinity, and much more. 

For the dream of any wildlife enthusiast, there is Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. The three safari lodges offer the highest standards of sophistication at the doorstep of some of Africa’s greatest animals, including the big five. It is the perfect start or end to a journey along the breathtakingly beautiful Garden Route, the legendary stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa that no visitor to the country ever forgets.

For more information, visit Carte Blanche Travel or contact directly on Telephone:
+44 (0)20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

The offer is valid from 1 July 2011 – 19 December 2012, subject to availability, excluding the periods: 19 Dec 2011 – 5 Jan 2012 & 2 April 2012 – 16 April 2012

miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011

Inigo Jones: Banqueting House, Whitehall, London

Great Britain was perhaps the last of the significant western powers to embrace classical architecture. Yet, by the mid-18th century, Britain had become Europe’s most committed and dogmatic classicist. Indeed, the country came arguably to lead the way for most of that century in what was later to culminate in the neo-classical movement across the continent.

To understand how this transformation was possible, one name is inescapable: Inigo Jones. To understand how Jones became so revolutionary, two things should serve to illustrate the case.

Firstly, British architecture in the 16th century was insulated and relatively conservative. 
Before Jones came on the scene in the early 17th century, British architects still built castle-like structures, onto which classical elements were added for the most part as features of exotic décor.
At the beginning of the 16th century, France had led the way in this trend of importing classical novelties like pilasters by tacking them onto essentially medieval structures. Britain initially followed suit. Yet when France moved on to a more mature national classicism by the mid-century, Britain stayed the original course, and continued do so throughout the century, and initially into the next. 
The classical elements that found its way to England were, in any case, second-hand only, and had to be filtered through French and Dutch models 

Inigo Jones was the first English architect to bypass the influence of these two countries entirely and go straight to the source of contemporary classicism: Italy. The result was a giant leapfrog, but it also undermined the national vernacular. 
Secondly, Jones was important in another respect, which made his significance not simply exclusive to the trajectory of British architecture, but which potentially sowed the first buds of neo-classicism. He found himself at odds not only with French and Dutch deviations from the classical model, but also with that of contemporary Italy itself.

He expressly condemned the innovations of Michelangelo, and approved only of the works of Palladio that conformed or seemed to conform to ancient Roman models. He, thus, introduced a puritan version of classicism, which had room for modern innovation, but which put a premium on recreating the spirit of Roman works.

The most reliable guide to Roman building in Jones’ time was the Four Books of architecture by Andrea Palladio. Jones may also have had opportunity to study Roman ruins directly during his tour of Italy. The link to Palladio is important and has always been recognized as such. When the example of Jones re-emerged in the shape of the Burlington school in the 18th century, the subsequent style came to be known as English Palladianism.

Indeed, when we look at the original plans for Jones’ chief design, The Banqueting House, we find that he proceeded from a Palladian model.     

The building is two-storied, the windows are capped by pediments, triangular and segmental, and the design of the elevation is separated by simple verticals and horizontals: pilasters or half-columns and entablatures. In the original drawings, the elevations look as if copied directly from Palladio’s book. They feature a central pediment, of a kind that Palladio often used. However, the decision of Jones to break the entablature and push it forward above the columns seems to have convinced him that the central pediment had to go. The top of the building that was actually built was, therefore, crowned with a flat balustrade instead, and the sloping roof was thus hidden. In the old designs, you can even see where Jones had started to fill in the breaks under the central pediment. But his lines are feint as if wavering, as if he had seen in the process of sketching that the combination would not work very well. The swags in the top-storey also make an entry at this point.

The result is a work where all the elements are borrowed from Palladio, but the manner in which they are assembled can be said to be original. The original windows were mullioned, not sash, and the building was later refaced with Portland stone. The original provision had called for Portland, but for some reason Jones had to make do with lesser types of stone. Apart from that though, the building stands as it did during Jones’ time.

Whether Jones intended the hall as part of a larger palace to be extended later is not clear. Later drawings of a very large Whitehall palace have been attributed to Jones. In addition, the sides of the building reveal exposed brickwork, possibly done intentionally with a view to expand the structure. 

In any case, the impact on British architecture was immense, though a modified vernacular tradition continued to thrive for most of the century. The most important English architect of all time, Christopher Wren, was not averse to borrowing elements from modern baroque architecture, from both France and the Netherlands. However he seems to have borrowed a preference for the Roman from Inigo Jones. The Burlington school went even further in their puritan approach and made no secret of who was the idol of their ‘restoration.’ To the extent that this led the way to neo-classicism, the conclusion follows that the importance of Inigo Jones is even more important than what he is generally given credit for.

The church of St Paul at Covent Garden goes much further than Palladio ever went in re-creating what was assumed to be ancient Roman design principles. Palladio recreated Roman models on paper, but what he actually built made no pretension of being anything but modern, despite the heavy use of column and porticos.  Jones was the first to attempt to cross that line, the line into neo-classicism. He was also perhaps the first to think a classical portico, a Tuscan one in this case, would work on a church. In this he was using an order associated with an archaic form, perhaps in a deliberate way, to suggest that the reformed Anglican church embodied the primaeval and true teachings of Christ.
That it is one of the first attempts at archeological re-creation was, therefore, potentially charged with a great deal of symbolism.

With the groundbreaking work of Jones, Britain could move from the insular tradition inherited from the age of the Tudors to a style, which in the 18th century, French visitors found to be a pure copy of the Roman, or Italian as they labelled it. This criticism is not fair in all respects, but it did remain true that Britons had become the most enthusiastic followers of Roman classicism. By the turn to the 19th century, virtually all of Europe had followed a similar path, and flirted with Greek as well as Roman prototypes.