Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Celebrating the fall of the Berlin wall

March 20, 2009
People celebrating on the Berlin Wall

People celebrating on the Berlin Wall

Exactly 20 years ago everybody in the world could see the same thing on television, a thing that meant the end of an ongoing conflict between kapitalism and communism and a thing that would give many people their freedom back; it was the end of the Berlin wall.

For this reason it is the Berlin-mauer year in Germany and for me a good time to refresh my memory about the history of this 45,3 kilometers long stone wall.

Immediatly after the second world war the city Berlin was divided in three parts of which the eastern part was controlled by the Russians. The cold war meant increasing tensions between the kapitalist west and communist east side and a clear distinction between these two sides of the city arised. Since the creation of the DDR on the east side many people moved to the west side of Berlin, the reaction of the DDR to this was to place fences and guardposts at the border in 1952.

The border build in 1952 was no real strain for many people to still flee the east side, these people where mainly well-educated people like professors and doctors which obviously had a very negative effect on the DDR economy. When in the end the excistense of the country was engdangered the DDR decided to build the concrete wall, starting in the night of August 12, 1961.

When the Berlin wall was finished it consisted of a concrete wall on the border and a smaller one a bit further into the DDR. The space in between this wall was cleared of everything to make it impossible for people to escape, there would be no way for them to hide from the gunfire of guards on this ´no mans land´.

The wall was broken down on november 9, 1989 at the end of the cold war but there are still parts visible in the city. Although it is illegal, many tourist like to brake a piece from the wall to take home. Because of the anniversary there is an accommodation in Berlin who found a solution to this. The Westin Grand Berlin hotel has a special Mauerspecht package. If you book it you get the necessary tools to get a piece from the wall they have displayed in their lobby. I would say, book this accommodation Berlin and enjoy the fun!

Advertisements

Parc André Citroën

November 20, 2008

This park comprises glasshouses, computerized fountains, waterfalls, a wilderness and themed gardens featuring different coloured plants and sounds. An impressive park for far off, it gets better the closer you get to it, and if you plan to spend a weekend away in Paris, make sure you rent Paris accommodation or Paris apartments nearby.

The paved area by the fountains is perfect for walking around the park and really getting a feel for the postmodern design which is so characteristic of this park. The South edge of the lawn is bounded by a monumental canal — the “Jardin des Métamorphoses” — composed of an elevated reflecting pool that reaches through granite guard houses, lined by a suspended walkway. On the North side are two sets of small gardens: the six “Serial Gardens”, each with a distinct landscape and architectural design, and a “Garden in Movement” that presents wild grasses selected to respond at different rates to wind velocity. A 630-meter diagonal path cuts through the park, which constantly changes in its nature.

In addition to this, the park is home to a moored gas balloon operated by the Eutelsat company, which allows visitors to rise above the Parisian skyline. The balloon is filled with 5,500 cubic meters of helium. It is 32 meters high and has a diameter of 22 meters. It is moored to the ground with a hydroelectrically-activated cable. It can rise to an altitude of 150 meters and has a carrying capacity of 30 adults, or 60 children. The balloon provides a view of the Champ de Mars, the River Seine, Basilica of the Sacré Cœur and the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral.

Finally, a bit of history. The park was created on the site of the old Citroën factory, built in 1915 by André Citroën on the banks of the Seine, operating it until it closed in the 1970s.

La Conciergerie

November 20, 2008

This exciting 14th century fortress was the setting for Marie-Antoinette’s imprisonment before the revolution and looks just the part from the outside. Definitely worth a visit if you are planning a trip to Paris, get up early and leave your Paris accommodation or Paris apartments, and make your way to 2 bd du Palais in the 1st arrondissements.

The 13th century Bonbec tower, built during the reign of St Louis, the 14th century twin towers, César and Argent, and the Tour de l’Horloge all survive from the Capetian palace. Here you will be able to see the interior of the castle, including the Salle des Gardes, medieval kitchens with their four huge chimneys and the Salle des Gens d’Armes, an impressive vaulted Gothic hall built between 1301 and 1315 for Philippe ‘le Bel’.

After the royal family moved to the Louvre, the fortress became a prison under the watch of the Concierge. The wealthy had private cells with their own furniture, which they paid for. A list of Revolutionary prisoners, including a hairdresser, shows that not all victims were nobles. In Marie-Antoinette’s cell, the Chapelle des Girondins, are her crucifix and portraits.

Located on the west of the Île de la Cité, near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, la Conciergerie is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes.

You can get to this interesting castle by Metro: lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14 – Bus: 21, 24, 27, 38, 58, 81, 85 and Balabus – RER: lines B and C – Follow the Seine banks to Ile de la Cité. Open from Mar – Oct 9:30am – 6pm daily and Nov – Feb 9am-4.30pm daily. As well as this, admission is €6.50; €4.50 18-25s, with under 18s free when accompanied by an adult.

Zoo Bois de Vincennes, Paris

November 20, 2008

Parc Zoologique de Paris is an exciting place to visit whether you’re a small child or a fully grown adult! The French capital has two zoos, yet Zoo Bois de Vincennes is the official “Zoo de Paris”. Situated in the eastern part of Paris, the zoo can be found within a large, pleasant wooded area where you will find a castle and the botanical garden “Parque Floral” which also has a pretty lake, perfect for renting small boats.

So, leave your central Paris apartments or Paris accommodation and make your way to this lovely place. The zoo is special as it houses more than 200 species of animals. Monkeys leap around the trees, and the Giant Panda is the star of the show. As well as this, over-seven-year-olds can ascend the 65m Grand Rocher – either by lift or by walking up the 352 steps. Furthermore, there are notices at the entrance to the zoo stating feeding times and information about new born animals that you should go and see. One of the rarest residents of the zoo, the Madagascan “Aye-aye” is situated just after the giraffes. Rare due to native superstition, the characteristic long, spindly fingers of the Aye-aye are said to frighten villagers, who view the Aye-aye as a harbinger of evil. Others believe that should one point its long middle finger at you, you would be condemned to death. Some say the appearance of an Aye-aye in a village predicts the death of a villager, and the only way to prevent this is to kill the Aye-aye.

You can get to this exciting zoo by taking the metro to Porte Doree, walking to bois de Vincennes (5mins) then through the park alongside the huge boating lake to the entrance. The zoo is situated at 53 av de St-Maurice, 12th and is open in Summer from 9am-6pm Mon-Sat, 9am-6.30pm Sun and bank hols. During Winter the zoo is open 9am-5pm Mon-Sat and 9am-5.30pm Sun and bank hols.

October 22, 2008

Christmas time in Barcelona is to say the least, very special. This is a time for family, friends and fun, and whether you’re young or old, there is something for everyone to do here. It is important to have things to do at Christmas time because for many of us who have to spend copious amounts of time with family, (namely really old relatives or really young annoying cousins), the festive period can be a bit boring or trying, and thus it’s a good idea to plan ahead a bit in advance. This includes getting your flights and Barcelona apartment or Barcelona hotel sorted!

Then relax in your accommodation in Barcelona and put your Tio Nadal (Christmas Log) on the ground. This little chappy is the Catalan’s answer to Father Christmas and is a small figure with eyes, a nose and mouth. This log has the strange and magical ability to poo delicious treats such as sweets, nuts and torrons. Just like children believe Father Christmas is the one who brings all their presents on Christmas Eve, Caca Tió (the pooping log) brings the childrens’ presents too. When the children have sung the song to Caga Tió, (Caga Tió, almonds and turron, if you don’t poo sardines that are too salty or poo turrones that are the yummiest, Caga Tió, almonds and turron, if you don’t want to poo, I’ll hit you with the stick!) and hit Caga Tió with the stick, they lift up his cloak and underneath a heap of goodies is revealed. However, when the children find out that it is mummy and daddy who hide the sweets under Caga Tió’s cloak just before they sing the song, it is a sad day for all.

Make sure you stick around in Barcelona for 6th January. This special date is something that you should not miss, as it is the night of the Three Wise Men. This night is the night of presents and there are many parades with camels and trucks full of presents through the streets of Barcelona. The children of the city believe this is a unique event and thus every effort is made to pretend that it is only happening in Barcelona. The shops stay open until 12pm for parents to do last minute present shopping, and toddlers are weened off their dummies because they collectively give their dummies to the Three Wise Men.

Fireworks light up the sky, and at a certain time during the night, a special event takes place at the Town Hall, the mayor comes outside and presents the Three Wise Men with a huge magical golden key so that they can unlock all the doors of the city to bring the children their presents…

Tibidabo in Barcelona

October 22, 2008

This Magic Mountain can be seen from many different view points in the city of Barcelona and looks particularly striking at night when it is lit up and shines like gold. The Mountain of Tibidabo is 512 metres in altitude and is the highest point of the Collserola hills. Up until recently the amusement park there was in disarray but has recently been restored by the Generalitat of Catalunya. Famous for its hall of mirrors, it’s old charm and the fact that it was created 100 years ago, Tibidabo amusement park now has new attractions such as; the Plane, the Carrousel, the Automata Museum, the Talaia, the Panoramic and three children’s rides Les Llaunes, Pony Rodeo and Río Grande.

There is also a 12minute film, subtitled in Spanish and English in the Cel building which tracks the history of Tibidabo over the years starting from the 1920’s to the present day. It primarily celebrates the 100th anniversary of Tibidabo and shows its close links to the history of Barcelona. The amusement park dates back to 1899, to the founding of the “Tibidabo Company” by the pharmaceutical pioneer Salvador Andreu. One of his aims was for people to have somewhere in the city where they could come and relax and thus created this special recreational area on the hilltop.

After leaving your Barcelona hotel or Barcelona apartment, make your way over to Tibidabo by train (L7) to “Av Tibidabo”, then take the funicular, Tramvia Blau or Tibidabo Bus up to the top. You can also catch the Tibibus from Plaça Catalunya, which runs from 10:30 everyday. The Blue Tram and the Funicular were inaugurated on 29th Oct 1901, and shortly afterwards the first attractions were installed on Tibidabo. The park still conserves some of the most significant ones that have filled it during its hundred years of existence: for example, the Castle of Terror and the Big Dipper. One of its most unusual items is the aeroplane, which dates from 1928 and is a replica of the model that made the first flight between Barcelona and Madrid.

If you want to see a bit more than just the amusement park, Tibidabo is home to other interesting sites such as The Fabra Observatory and the Experimental Physics Museum.
As well as this, the two buildings erected between 1901 and 1905: the first by Camil Fabra, the Marquis of Alella, who built the astronomical observatory which bears his name, designed by Josep Domènech i Estapà, and the latter, nearby, in 1905, built by Ferran Alsina; the museum of experimental physics named “La Mentora”, which, due to the great interest of its collection of scientific apparatus of the time, has been conserved to the present day. Finally, in 1908 the slopes of the mountain were converted into a municipal park and it is lovely to take a walk here and leisurely make your way back to your Barcelona accommodation.


Fish and Chips in Barcelona

October 13, 2008

Finally, a little taste of England has come to Barcelona! On Rambla del Raval 26 has graced us with its presence. For those of you who don’t live in Barcelona as a Brit, you won’t know the craving that we get every now and again when think about what we would be eating if we were at home in England on a Friday night, or when we really cant’t be bothered cooking but don’t really fancy an Indian or Chinese. Yes, it’s that kind of hunger that only a lovely portion of home made chips, mushy peas and a lovely battered cod can fill. Make sure you get your Barcelona apartment and Barcelona hotel near to this wonderful smelling restaurant!

This fish and chip wittily named; “Fish and Chips”, has only recently opened and is the creation of two mothers; blah and blah. The cuisine here is taditional, authentic fish (just how we like it), where typical fresh cod in batter and chips made from freshly cut potatoes as well as all of the extra side dishes such as mushy peas, baked beans, curry sauce and much more are served. There are British drinks too, such as the lovely sugary obligatory drinks Vimto and Lilt, and for the Scots out there, good old Irn Bru and to add a Spanish touch you can even get a beer or a glass of wine with your meal.

In May 2008, the very special restaurant was featured in that months edition of Easy Jet Inflight Magazine and the two ladies who run the British food hot spot had their say. Julie, 43, who ran a bar in Liverpool, while Julia, 40, was in marketing in London, before they moved to Barcelona seven years ago.
After setting up a nanny service in the city, Tender Loving Canguros, the women seized upon the idea of running a fish and chip shop late one night, while trying to come up with money-making plans to ensure they need never leave Barcelona. (Aren’t we all!)
Besides the joys of the usual chip shop fare —everything freshly battered, cut, peeled and cooked on the premises—the Catalans have also been initiated into the pleasures of crumpets, haggis and English pies.

“As something new in Barcelona, it’s created a lot of excitement,” says Julie. “We’re the first stop for a lot of people straight off the plane. Some people come in every day and some find us at the end of their stay. We’re also fully licensed and sell the cheapest pint in town.”
“We haven’t had a day off in nine months, but we love it, especially now the weather is warm and we can chat to customers outside on our terrace. We also hold regular themed parties—Easter, Halloween, Christmas. All the locals watch us with amazement,” she laughs.
So, be sure to visit this spot on your trip to Barcelona, and right by it you will find a fine selection of Barcelona accommodation.

Dance Classes in Barcelona

October 13, 2008

I don’t know about you, but the end of summer and the start of the dreary, drab winter months makes me feel depressed, cold and chubby. Eating stodgy meals, wearing thicker clothes and getting the metro everywhere has certainly made me feel that I am not getting enough exercise. Luckily, one of the most exhilarating forms of exercise – dancing, takes place in bars across Barcelona all year round, keeping the heat and passion of summer going. Make sure you get your Barcelona accommodation booked and make the most of the dance classes Barcelona has to offer.

Take salsa for example. I can’t think of a more passionate, hot and lively form of dancing and it is for this reason that I decided to do a bit of research into what is available in Barcelona. To get an idea of some of the best ones, you simply have to try. Some classes will be more suited to your style and tastes, but needless to say, you’re bound to have a good time once you get the hang of it. Barcelona has an abundance of salsa classes for you to try out if you are living here or if you are staying in a Barcelona hotel or Barcelona apartment as a holiday maker.

With this in mind, I also thought about learning a bit of burlesque dancing… sexy, lively and definitely good for toning up your muscles, Barcelona is suprising low in the number of burlesque dance classes available. On the 9th October 2008 at 10pm there is a show with Little Victor and Dj Nino plus British Burlesque star Miss Polly Rae at Apolo. Burlesque dancing is certainly becoming a major form of entertainment and exercise, if not in Barcelona, in Paris. With the increase in traffic to websites such as suicide girls, which promote the average woman as beautiful and the ideal, not skinny models with no figure, the “burlesque look” is definitely making a comeback.

Buenavista is a specialist Salsa and Latino dance school who can mould your unrestrained energy (that I know I have and its fighting to get out), into something more artistic. To begin the only thing necessary is to have rhythm and enthusiasm although later on you might decide to buy some dance shoes. There are a range of different classes from beginners to experts. Dancing is always done with partners although you can attend the classes by yourself as the dance school will pair you up if necessary. Classes are run on a ten weekly basis and cost €10 for one hour. (Salsa courses: http://www.salsabuenavista.com C/Roselló 217, Tel: 932376528 / Salsa Clubs: http://www.mojitobcn.com)

Vintage Clothes in Barcelona

October 13, 2008

Are you desperately trying to search for some cool vintage clothing in Barcelona? I’ve been living in this fantastic city since June, and I must admit, although I’ve wanted to, I haven’t done much exploring of the city’s second hand and vintage clothes, simply because there is so much to do… That is, until now. If you want to check out what Barcelona has on offer in the vintage section during your holiday, make sure you stay in the centre in a Barcelona hotel or Barcelona apartment.

To my joy and amazement, Barcelona is full of pretty little boutiques and funky, Aladdin’s cave-like vintage clothes and furniture shops, you’ve just got to know where to go and how to seek them out… I started off with a trip to Raval, Barcelona’s slightly dingy but cool part of town, where the coziest bars and friendliest restaurants can be found, not to mention the millions of beer sellers who line the streets shouting; “sexy beer” “cold beer”. Raval was stocked with little vintage clothes shops, as well as second hand shops which are my favourite.

Amongst these I found the shops with the most variety to be Gallery on Carrer Torrent d’Olla and Lailo on Riera Baixa – this shop was amazing, not only because it sells clothes from as far back as the 1900’s, but because the jewelry it sells there is truly beautiful. Retro City – a shop that can be found in Gracia and Raval is a good place if you are looking for one off pieces in order that no one can steal your look, and Le Swing near Pintor Fortuny focuses on clothes from the forties Fifties and Eighties.

As well as this, there are many chains of second hand/vintage shops in Barcelona, although one off shops outside the Gracia or Raval area are few and far between. One of these; Moda Amiga, works in conjunction with the Obra Social de Caixa de Catalunya and is special in that like a charity shop, it sells people’s unwanted items but you deposit your unwanted items in bright orange bins which are then sorted out and many will end up in the Moda Amiga shop. The shop in Carrer Sant Salvador in Gracia caught my eye as it is a lovely shop that immediately invites you in due to the bright colours and exciting display in the shop itself. The prices here are quite high, many of the unwanted clothes are designer and the look of the shop is definitely retro, but you’ve got to bear in mind that this shop is a job creation scheme. Cheaper versions of this shop such as the one in Cornellà or Mollins de Rei will not sell designer or retro gear.

So, now you’ve got your vintage clothes sorted, go book your accommodation in Barcelona!

Halloween in Berlin

October 8, 2008

Looking for a friiightening night out in Germany’s capital? Look no further, this guide will tell you all you need to know about making the most out of your Halloween this year in the ultimate party city – Berlin. This night is when everyone comes out to have fun, Halloween in Berlin is not only geared towards the kids, but adults who would normally be seen in smart attire in the capitals offices, shops and cafes, and for many, this night has been hotly anticipated by Goths, punks, fetish lovers and extreme piercing and tattoo fans, this night is really something spectacular. Don’t forget to book your Berlin apartment or Berlin hotel in the centre to make the most of this night.

There are many people out there who see Halloween as something overly American and over rated but Berlin has grabbed this occasion with both hands and see it as a night for fun, frolicking, and primarily dressing up. If you plan to be in Berlin this Halloween, seek out one of Berlin’s many fancy dress shops, on 25th October “The Long Night of Shopping” is going to take place, where the shops around the boulevard Kurfürstendamm will stay open until midnight…

With regards to what to do on All Hallowed Eve, there will be big parties underway including the gruselige Halloween Party at Knaack Klub, situated at Greifswalder Straße 224, Prenzlauer Berg. This night is set to be amazing, with performances from the Fistfits who will perform Misfits’ cover songs whilst the clubs other dancefloors play a mix of everything. Starting at 22:00, the barmen will be serving bloody innards, which you’ve got to try! Plus, entrance is €2 if you come in a scary Halloween costume; otherwise, you’ll have to shell out €5. So enjoy getting ready at your accommodation in Berlin, then saunter down to the club in your corpse bride or Frankenstein outfit!

At Marlene-Dietrich-Platz in the Tiergarten, the Halloween masquerade will take place on 27th October. The theme: How the American tourist … Sir Rob Youngblood is to survive the night in the wild and crazy Adagio castle of 1920s Berlin. There’ll be cool music: DJ Polla Disaster in unheiligen hain (the unhallowed grove) and DJ Super Zandy & Funk@Delic in the charming schlossgarten der untoten (castle garden of the undead). If Adagio’s gore isn’t done up well enough for you, visit the highlights of horror cinema in the Horror Classics Lounge. Entrance to the masquerade is €15.

Furthermore, Berlin offers lots for children to do as well…For example; Halloween is a night that Legoland in Berlin celebrates in syle. From 1st October until 14th November, Legoland will be holding model building workshops, face painting, and many surprises. On Halloween night, Friday 31st the Halloween Party will commence at 17:00 and finish at 20:00, with a kids disco, face painting and Gruesome Buffet and much more.