The Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.

Altbier, or “old beer” as it translates to, is one of Dusseldorf’s greatest traditions.  Altbier has been around since the 17th Century and has its roots in the region of Westphalia.  Its top fermentation brewing process is what makes it unique.  In fact, I’ve written about this special beer once before here on the Capella Blog.

Well, I am excited to announce the new Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel, Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour!  Exclusive to hotel guests, this experience introduces the participant to five of Dusseldorf’s oldest breweries with special behind-the-scenes tours and tastings, perfect for both the beer aficionado and the novice alike.

According to Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistant, Malte, this activity is an absolute favorite among guests.  Intrigued, I decided to schedule my own Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour, after all, this is a tradition I already love and wanted to learn more about.

The tour began before we even left the hotel, with a tasting of the hotel’s signature Breidenbach meatballs served with ABB mustard (the Dusseldorf mustard!) and, of course, an Altbier.  Delicious – and the perfect way to start things off!

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.Our first stop was Schumacher brewery, which opened its doors in 1838, making it the oldest Dusseldorf brewery still in operation.  From there we made our way to four other quintessential Altbier breweries, Schlüssel, Kürzer, Füchschen and Uerige breweries.  At each brewery I was able to meet the Brewmaster, who shared secrets of their individual brewing processes.  Of course the highlights were the delicious tastings of each location’s signature brew.

Things weren’t all technical!  I also got a taste for the history and culture of Altbier.  At Füchschen brewery I learned an Altbier Song (definitely best sung after a day of beer tasting!), which of course was the source of much laughter.  And at Uerige I learned the funny history of the brewery’s name.  It seems the original owner, Wilhelm Cürten, was known for his unhappy disposition.  As a result locals began referring to the brewery as uerig, which means grumpy.  Ironically, these days people flock to Uerige in the afternoon for the good beer and great cheer.

Uerige-600The tour was truly a fun experience and by the end I felt like a true Altbier expert.  Be sure to schedule your own Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour experience with your Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistant during your next visit and discover one of the city’s greatest institutions.

Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.

Das Altbier ist eine der großen Traditionen Düsseldorfs. Es existiert seit dem 17. Jahrhundert und stammt ursprünglich aus der Region Westfalen.  Was dieses Bier so besonders macht ist die obergärige Braumethode.  Tatsächlich habe ich über dieses besondere Bier schon einmal hier auf dem Capella Blog geschrieben.

Heute freue ich mich, Euch die neue Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour des Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel vorzustellen!  Diese Tour wird exklusiv für unsere Hotelgäste geplant und gibt Euch in wenigen Stunden Einblicke in fünf der ältesten Brauereien Düsseldorfs.  Mit Blicken hinter die Kulissen der Brauereien ist diese Tour sowohl für Altbier Liebhaber als auch für Neulinge ein perfektes Erlebnis.

Unserem Persönlichen Assistenten Malte zufolge ist diese Aktivität der absoluter Favorit unter unseren Gästen.  Ich war so fasziniert, dass ich direkt einen Termin für meine eigene Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour vereinbarte. Ich mag die Altbier Tradition sehr und wollte unbedingt mehr darüber erfahren.

Die Tour startete bereits bevor wir überhaupt das Hotel verließen.  Als perfekten Einstieg genossen wir die köstliche Breidenbacher Frikadelle mit dem berühmten Düsseldorfer ABB Senf und dazu gab es natürlich – ein Altbier!

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.Unseren ersten Halt machten wir in der Brauerei Schumacher, die Ihre Pforten 1838 öffnete und damit die älteste noch betriebene Brauerei Düsseldorfs ist.  Von dort aus machten wir uns auf den Weg zu vier weiteren bedeutsamen Altbier Brauereien: Brauerei Schlüssel, Kürzer, Füchschen und Uerige.  In jeder einzelnen Brauerei wurde ich von den Braumeistern begrüßt, denen ich interessante Geheimnisse zu den individuellen Brauprozessen entlocken konnte.  Mein persönliches Highlight war jedoch, dass ich in jeder Brauerei das individuell hergestellte Altbier kosten und so vergleichen konnte.

Doch nicht alle Informationen waren nur von technischer Natur!  Ich erhielt einen einmaligen Einblick in die Geschichte und Kultur des Altbiers.  In der Brauerei Füchschen lernte ich außerdem das Altbier Lied kennen (das am besten nach einem Tag mit viel Altbier Genuß gesungen werden sollte!), welches mir natürlich großes Gelächter bescherte.  Und im Uerige erfuhr ich die  unterhaltsame Geschichte, wie die Brauerei Ihrem Namen erhielt:  Der ursprüngliche Besitzer Wilhelm Cürten war bekannt für seine schlechte Laune und so sagten die Stammgäste im besten Düsseldorfer Platt, er sei „uerig“, was übersetzt „schlecht gelaunt“ bedeutet.  Heutzutage besuchen allerdings alle Gäste das Uerige wegen des guten Biers und der guten Stimmung.

Uerige-600Die gesamte Tour war wirklich sehr unterhaltsam und danach fühlte ich mich wie ein richtiger Altbierexperte!  Bei Eurem nächsten Besuch im Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel in Düsseldorf solltet Ihr daher auf jeden Fall Eure eigene Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour bei unseren Persönlichen Assistenten buchen und so eine von Düsseldorfs größten Traditionen kennenlernen.

St. Lucia’s Castries Market

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Sometimes when I travel abroad, I long to experience and taste the local culture and cuisine of the country that I am visiting.   This beautiful island of Saint Lucia is home to many local dishes prepared from produce grown right here on the island.  The one place where you can get all that your heart desires, is the Castries market place located about 15 minutes from Capella Marigot Bay.

The best day to go to the market is Saturday, when the city of Castries is bursting with activity.  This is the day that many local farmers and arts and craftsmen assemble to sell their produce and product.  The market is divided into two segments.  One segment hosts the local produce section and the other has locally crafted work on display.

rsz_12photoThis past Saturday, I needed to get some local produce for my culinary class with Capella Marigot Bay’s Chef Garrido, so I proceeded to the produce section.  The market is filled with different colors.  It is so amazing to see so many different types of fruits and vegetables in one place.  Most of the fruits are seasonal and I was fortunate enough to pick out a few papaya fruits as I am fascinated by the health benefits of the papaya.  I picked up a few green bananas, some green seasoning peppers and a few ground provisions.  As I continued further, I could not help but notice this bright orange pumpkin.  Already in my mind I knew I would use this for the soup dish I would prepare for my class.

I love listening to the vendors carry on in local creole, momentarily stopping their conversations to greet me as I walked by their stalls.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting and it isn’t unusual to be offered a sample of locally grown orange or some other tasty seasonal treat.  Prices are reasonable and bartering is common practice.  All of this adds to the experience of visiting the lively marketplace.

rsz_2photoThe craft section is equally impressive.  There are so many beautiful items to choose from.  Handbags, jewelry, flags, key rings, t-shirts and musical instruments are just some of the items you may find.  And the same rules of bartering that applied on the produce side apply here.  There is something for everyone and you are sure to find the perfect souvenir to remember your visit to St. Lucia.

If you are interested in visiting the Castries Market here is St. Lucia, please let your Capella Marigot Bay Personal Assistants know!  They would be more than happy to organize a visit or even a tour for you.

Capella Pedregal’s Signature Todos Santos Day Tour

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There are so many wonderful towns in and around Los Cabos and visiting them is something both locals and tourists love to do.  One of the most popular day tours is a trip to the idyllic town Todos Santos, which translates to All Saints.  According to legend, the city takes its name from the saints hung outside local’s homes.  Marina, Capella Pedregal‘s Lead Personal Assistant, invited me to try the Signature Todos Santos Day Tour. I gladly accepted so I could experience it myself and tell you everything you need to know about this unique experience.

rsz_323Fabrizio, certified guide and driver, picked me up at 9:00 am from the hotel in a beautiful Escalade (not a bad way to travel!), and we began our journey.  The town is located about 45 miles north of Cabo San Lucas and is a peaceful and relaxing town that shines for its art community, surfing and unique natural beauties. This small town is an oasis located where the desert meets the ocean and Sierra la Laguna Mountain. The Mexican Tourism Secretary named Todos Santos a “Pueblo Magico” (Magical Town) in recognition of their efforts in keeping the cultural and historical wealth of Mexico. The beauty of this special town has attracted a large number of Mexican and international artists who find inspiration in its surroundings. Todos Santos is now considered a destination for artists, musicians, poets, and surfers.

Our first stop on our way to Todos Santos was to a local blown glass factory, where the glassmakers showed me the process of making a glass heart.  This was especially interesting, because this glass heart is used as decor around Capella Pedregal!  We spent about 30 minutes at the factory, as  I wanted to try and blow glass myself. It was such an interesting process and admittedly, much more difficult than it looked.  Moving forward, I’ll leave it to the experts!

Artist Carlos Diaz Castro , Indigo Gallery

Artist Carlos Diaz Castro , Indigo Gallery

The drive to Todos Santos is complete with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the desert and cactus on the other.  Once we got there, our first stop was Hotel California, founded in 1950.  For several years, it was the only bar and hotel and therefore the house for surfers and people looking for a special place to relax and unwind.  The hotel is famous for the Eagles song “Hotel California,” although there are no records or proof that the musicians were actually there.  There is a photo of one of the band members that was taken during his visit to Todos Santos.  If you listen to the song carefully, you find a lot of similarities that make fans believe the hotel is the one.  Each day, tourists go there looking for souvenirs and to listen to the famous song that plays in the gift shop throughout the day.

Steps away, you will find the Mission of Todos Santos, from which the town adopted its name. The mission contains the statue Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of Todos Santos’ main festival in October each year. A must see!

Sculpture Benito Ortega Vargaz showing us a mold

Sculpture Benito Ortega Vargaz showing us a mold

We continued our tour visiting Indigo Gallery and Galeria Logan were we found artist Jill Logan painting. We also met local sculptor Benito Ortega Vargaz and pottery artist, Ruben Gutierrez.  Every corner of this town has something interesting!  After exploring and enjoying art, we stopped at a traditional Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Fabrizio gave me the option of having some free time for shopping or visiting Cerritos Beach.  I decided to finish the tour with a little of both.  I did not want to miss a thing!

If you are interested in experiencing the local culture of Todos Santos, please be sure to talk to your Personal Assistant at pa.pedregal@capellahotels.com. They would love to help you!

Capella Singapore’s Insider’s Guide To Singapore

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Singapore, often synonymous with its tall skyscrapers and giant shopping centres, also has a rich tapestry of culture and history that is sometimes overlooked.  However, to fully appreciate present day Singapore, it is essential that we look back to the past and appreciate the firm foundations on which our future has been laid.  It was an honour for me to help put together and attend a curated tour of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam, called the Insider’s Guide to Singapore, especially designed for Capella Singapore’s guests.

The tour began with a visit to Singapore’s oldest temple, Thian Hock Keng temple. While at the temple, I learned how Taoists and Buddhists worship together, side-by-side.  Thian Hock Keng temple, built in 1841, is also significant because, prior to land reclamation, it sat right at the shoreline allowing Chinese sailors to pray to the gods the moment they came ashore.  As sea sojourns in the past were often perilous and fatal, sailors risked their lives to come to Singapore in search of a better life and were so overwhelmed with thanksgiving when they arrived that they donated money and goods to the temple, allowing it to continue operations until present day.

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The two gods of death, 黑白無常 (Heibai Wuchang) work together to bring people to the afterlife. Legend has it that they are easily distracted by cigarettes and alcohol which is why believers leave cigarettes by their altar!

After the temple visit, I had a personalised tour of Little India where I walked through the busy streets taking in the sights, sounds and scents.  The tour shares much about the importance of gold in Indian culture and includes a visit to several old family-run goldsmiths.  Gold, which signifies purity, prosperity and fortune, is still a form of dowry and savings among the Indian people.  But gold wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye in Little India!  I also had the opportunity to choose and wear our very own traditional Indian flower garland.

Lunch was the next stop.  I could choose between a Muslim Malay lunch and a Singaporean Chinese lunch.  The Muslim Malay food option allowed me to dine in an authentic Minang-style house.   Minangkabau, an ethnic group indigenous to Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has people scattered throughout the Indonesian and Malay peninsular cities and towns, including Singapore.  The Chinese option gave me the chance to eat my favourite, Bak-kuh-teh, a rich herbal soup brewed with pork bones.  This soup is popular with Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.  I decided to go with the Muslim Malay lunch and dug into a plate filled with rich flavourful curries.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After my belly was full, my walking tour through Kampong Glam and Arab Street began.   One of the most interesting experiences was being able to create my own perfume at Muslim perfumery Jamal Kazura AromaticsMinyak Attar is a natural oil based perfume derived from organic sources.  The owner, Jamal Kazura, gave me the opportunity blend scents, creating a one-of-a-kind perfume that is unique to me.   Jamal Kazura Aromatics traces its origins back to the early 1920s.

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(Photo courtesy: Singapore Tourism Board)

After a culturally rich day, it was time to head back to Capella Singapore.  It was truly a unique experience being able to walk through history with my very own personal guide and one I would recommend to others.  

This tailor made Insider’s Guide to Singapore can be enjoyed by booking the Capella Experience package or directly through your Capella Singapore Personal Assistant.

Easter Bonfires in Dusseldorf

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Easter is just around the corner and with it the great traditions I love.  When I was younger, Easter was one of the most exciting holidays to me.  I couldn’t wait for my dad saying “the Easter bunny was here, let’s see if he left some chocolate eggs!”  I would run out into the garden to gather as many eggs as I possibly could.  And while I no longer look for chocolate eggs, I still look forward to Easter celebrations!

rsz_easterToday, my favorite Easter activity are the bonfires.  Maybe you have already heard about the Easter bonfires  in Germany, a tradition where huge piles of wood are burned in the countryside?  There are different stories about this tradition but I’ll tell you the story I like most.  Usually, in Dusseldorf we celebrate the Easter bonfire the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  Large bonfires are erected and music is can be heard throughout the countryside.  I’ve heard that this tradition stems from the 16th century and is meant to dispel the winter.  In the past, the resulting ash was then used as fertilizer for the crops.  It feels very cozy and peaceful to watch the fire glomming with people you love, your family or friends.  Grabbing a cool drink, sitting next to the fire laughing, talking and listening to the music – this is the perfect way to usher in Easter.

It is hard to describe the amazing atmosphere while you are sitting next to an Easter bonfire, so I think you should come to Dusseldorf for Easter one day to experience it yourself.  Just ask the Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistants to show you the best bonfire places during Easter to make sure that you will never forget these Easter holidays for the rest of your life!