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)

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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.

Michelin Star Restaurants in Berlin

October 8, 2008

Over the last few years, Michelin has sprayed a twinkling shower of stars over Berlin resulting in 10 restaurants being newly awarded with Michelin star status. The superb quality of these restaurants also persuaded Gault Millau reviewers to elevate nine Berlin restaurants to the German premier league, placing it ahead of all of its rivals. What is more, in 2007, Berlin chef “Tim Raue” from “Restaurant 44” was named Gault Millau Germany’s Chef of the Year.

Restaurant 44 boasts two fantastic menus, the first a traditional French menu, and the second, a radical Neue Deutsche Kuche. The latter offers delicacies such as sandalwood goat’s cheese with lobster tail. The décor is classy and comfortable and there is a fine selection of wine available. Restaurant 44 is situated on in the Swissôtel, 44 Augsburger Strasse and can be accessed on the underground by line U1 and U9 Kurfürstendamm. It is open from 12-14:30 and 18:00-22:30. The restaurant is not too expensive, with main courses costing between €15-€34. Phone +49 (0) 30 / 220 10 22 88 to make your reservation. Nearby Restaurant 44 there are an abundance of Berlin apartments and hotels in Berlin.

Vau prides itself on an eclectic mix of dishes from all corners of the globe, inspired by the head chef there Kolja Kleeberg, whose meals are some of the best in Berlin. Kleeberg says his secret is keeping things simple, but we found his dishes exciting and interesting; “lobster with mango and black olives with a tapenade and braised pork belly with grilled scallops”. Kleeberg lets his mood influence his dishes, be it French, Japanese, Italian or Spanish… The elegantly decorated interior of Vau; modern art, light wooden panels and gentle lighting has passersby trying to catch a glimpse, and no doubt the delicious smells escaping from the restaurant is the thing that clinches the deal. Booking is essential for this restaurant and it can be found at number 54-55 Jägerstrasse, taking the U6 Französische Strasse. Main courses cost from €78-€110 and the restaurant is open from 1200-14:30 and 19:00-22:00 Mon-Sat. Tel: +49 (0) 30 / 202 97 30.

Margaux is a must dine restaurant in the heart of the city. Head chef and owner of this “new Berlin” dining temple, is Micheal Hoffmann, who, refers to his job as passion rather than work, combines his avant-garde take on classic French cooking with a desire for quality and care in where the food has come from and how it should lovingly be hand prepared, with nothing pre made. On the menu; “Wolf perch with black pudding, duck liver with lavender vinaigrette, or blue lobster with crunchy tripe and cream spinach”. Situated at Unter den Linden 78, entrance Wilhelm Strasse, take the S-Bhf Unter den Linden or walk from Potsdamer Platz. Booking is advisable, phone +49 30 2265 2611 to do so, or visit margaux-berlin.de for further information. In a wonderful part of Berlin, book your Berlin accommodation near to Margaux, you won’t regret it!

Fun Times in Berlin

October 2, 2008

Tiergarten has many playgrounds and welcoming open spaces. It is also possible to hire rowing boats on the Neur See. Along Strasse des 17.Juni, the main road which runs through the park, there is a busy, buzzing flea market every Saturday and Sunday, which sells art and other interesting things. In the furthest bottom left corner of the park, Berlin’s beautiful zoo can be found and its large aquarium. As well as this, the Gemäldegalerie in Matthäikirchplatz runs Sunday afternoon tours for kids! There are plenty of Berlin apartments and Berlin hotels to be found in this part of the city.

The Gemäldegalerie can be found at Stauffenbergstrasse 40, taking the metro U2, S1, S2, S26 to Potsdamer Platz. It is open 10am-pm, Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun; 10am-10pm Thur and admission is €8; €4 concessions. The gallery has a sizeable collection of English, Spanish and Italian art but the real gems are the Dutch and Flemish art.

The Gemaldegalerie houses 20 Rembrandts – the best of which are considered the portrait of preacher and merchant Cornelis Claesz Anslo and his wife, and an electric Samson confronting his father-in-law. Other gems include a version of Botticelli’s Venus Rising and Corregio’s Leda with the Swan. To accompany you round the gallery there is a really useful free English audio guide.

The Berlin zoo was opened in 1841 and is Germany’s oldest zoo and with almost 14,000 animals, it is considered one of the most important zoos in the world today. It also houses more endangered species than any other zoo, save for the zoo in Antwerp. Here you will find creatures great and small, including hippopotami, elephants and penguins. This well designed zoo is perfect to visit on a rainy day with the children, as much of it is indoors. The zoo was designed by Martin Lichtenstein and Peter Joseph Lenné and it is really striking, with pretty landscaping, cafes and architecture. The highlight of the zoo over the last few years has been the polar bear “Knut” who was born on 5th December 2006 and was the first polar bear to be born in Zoo Berlin in over 30 years. In 2004, the bear enclosure was increased to make more room, as has the birds of prey enclosure and the blah. Make sure you visit the crocodile enclosure and the Elephant Gate, which can be found on Olof-Palme-Platz. Visit; zoo-berlin.de/en/ for more information.

Kreuzberg is definitely worth a visit as it is full to bursting with pretty boutiques, high quality good value restaurants and a child friendly atmosphere. Kreuzberg is home to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, particularly enjoyable for older children, it gives an insight into the lives of those living in East Berlin, and displays the old cars and balloons people used to try and escape from the DDR by getting around the Berlin wall. For more information visit mauermuseum.de and why not book your Berlin accommodation too?

Walking the Berlin Wall

October 2, 2008

Possibly one of the most exciting and fulfilling things there is to do in Berlin, walking the Berlin wall and learning about its history is imperative whilst on a trip to Berlin. This guide aims to show you how to make the most out of your visit to the Berlin, by booking your Berlin apartment or Berlin hotel early, and seeing the bits of the Berlin wall that are still left!

Understandably, most of the wall was demolished between June and November of 1990 after reunification. The wall represented separation, desperation and the inhumanity of the East German regime and it was for this reason that the wall was crushed and reused for road fill.

However, starting at the wall on the southern border of Wedding, you can get a feeling for what the wall was like. On the way you will see some of the remnants including the restored segment at the Gedenkenstätte Berliner Mauer and gain an impression of just how dividing this monstrosity was.

Although the wall divided the city and particularly during the first 20 years, strict patrolling of the wall to stop residents coming was high, towards the end of the Cold War, Berliners increasingly saw the wall as a joke and a symbol of the backwardness of the USSR which eventually crumbled in 1991. With this in mind, people became less and less scared of the authorities and graffiti began appearing on the wall at the start of the eighties. As well as this, the wall they painted on was a wall erected in 1976 by East German Border Troops, known as the ‘Border Wall 75’. This concrete Wall was 3.60 metres high and painted white. Although painting was not allowed, the complete Wall system was on the territory of East Berlin many artists begun to paint on the Western side. There is lots of Berlin accommodation available, make sure you book in advance though!

Start at Invalidenstrasse, continue eastwards, a little further on is the Sandkrugbrücke, a former border crossing into East Berlin. A stone by the bridge commemorates the death of Günter Litfin, the first person to be shot dead attempting to escape to West Berlin. Turn left down the promenade by the canal continuing to the Invalidenfriedhof. The wall once ran through this graveyard and you will notice that the headstones of many graves are missing, done so as not to impair the sightlines of border guards. Victims of air raids and the Battle of Berlin are buried here and it is also the sight that West Berlin police shot dead an East Berlin guard to save a 15 year old boy who was in the process of escaping in 1962. Between here and Chausseestrasse there are few traces left of the wall, which ran roughly parallel to the canal before veering right. At the end of the street, pavement markings indicating the Wall’s former course. A short section of the wall appears before the railway bridge at the junction with Gartenstrasse and left on to Bernauer Strasse is where many desperate escapes took place.

Language Courses in Berlin

October 2, 2008

Ever wanted to know how to say a little bit more than “Wie bitte?” “Dankeschön” or “Die Rechnung bitte”? If you are planning a trip to Berlin, or maybe staying there for a while, why not book your Berlin apartment or Berlin hotel, then freshen up on your high school German and take one of Berlin’s many language courses.

There are many language courses available, lasting from just a few days to six months and they are specifically tailored to your needs. For those of you traveling on business and need to be able to say, negotiate in German, there are courses guided to help you with this.

One really good language school is “GLS” (German language School) was founded in 1983 by Barbara Jaeschke, and operates the GLS Campus in Berlin for adult students as well as several  summer camps for juniors in & near Berlin and Munich. It is a member of European Association of Quality Language Services, International Association of Language Centers, Global Work Experience Association, Fachverband Deutsch als Fremdsprache and Association of Language Travel Organizations. (Trustworthy and experienced!)

German courses for students aged 18 – 80 take place Mon – Fri, starting at 9:00am with 20 lessons per week and 6 to a maximum of 12 students per group. Business German classes are also available, as well as German for lawyers, journalists and teachers. The standard practice is 10 or 20 lessons per week one-to-one covering general German and business/professional German is covered during one-to-one lessons. For more information, visit; gls-german-courses.de/1987.html.

If you are looking for a quick, intensive language course, try prolog-berlin or even Iberika, which offers tailored, informative courses which consist of 20 classes per week and take place from 10 till 1.30 p.m. The groups are made up of a maximum of ten students and serve as preparation for the official TELC exams. If you just want to learn a bit of the language, and have no exams to pass or any pressure, why not meet some German speaking people in Berlin through conversationexchange.com or zuiop.com.

Finally, some interesting and quirky phrases that you might want to know or use when you arrive in Berlin follow. These idioms sound strange to us, but make perfect sense in German!

A commonly used word by Germans is “arsch”, as an amplifier and to express anger or distaste. Weather can be described as “arschkalt” (very cold) and goods are often described as “arschteuer” (very expensive)… Another favourite word of ours at Oh Trip is “schwein” meaning “pig”, and in particular, “Ich habe Schwein gehabt!” (I’ve had luck!) or if someone is sulking, why not tell them: “Sei keine beleidigte Leberwurst!” (Don’t be an insulted liver sausage!) So, now you’ve got your Berlin accommodation and Deutsch sorted, you’re ready to go!

Auf wiedersehen!!

How To See Barcelona with (Seemingly) No Effort

September 25, 2008

So, you want to take a weekend break to Barcelona? Be smart, book your Barcelona apartment or Barcelona hotel as early as possible. Also, book flights as far in advance as possible, because no matter what people tell you, the more seats that are taken on a flight, the more expensive the price gets…

Research where you want to go before you head off. A weekend is not that long and even if you’re going for a long weekend, that’s still only four days with travel included. I would recommend that you do a shortlist of important places to see. For me, these would include;

The famous works of Antoni Gaudí; La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllò (fantastic interior and spectacular roof) or La Pedrera (famous for its ornate mosaic chimneys) and Parc Güell. La Rambla (make sure you got to La Boqueria market here), Port Vell/Barceloneta, Parc de la Ciutadella, Plaza Espana, Montjuïc and the Picasso Museum are all must sees too. By doing this you can schedule in a bit of shopping, a lovely meal and a bit of tapas at the top floor restaurant of El Corte Ingles!

To accompany your top 10 list, it is always a good idea to jot down the metro line needed to get there and or any information with it beforehand. This means you can relax and take your time with no need to stress about getting lost when you get there. Luckily, we’ve done this for you!

1) La Sagrada Familia – L2 Sagrada Familia, 10€ entrance fee, 8€ for students, open 09:00-18:00 (Oct-Mar) 09:00-20:00 (Apr-Sep), go round to Calle Mallorca 401 to enter.

2) Casa Battlò – L3 L4 Passeig de Gracia, (Address: #43 Passeig de Gracia, (+34) 93 216 03 06, infovisites@casabatllo.cat, 16.50€ with 20% discount for students)

3) La Pedrera – L2 L3 L4 Passeig de Gracia (Address: Provenca, 261-265, 08008, 9.50€ entrance)

4) Parc Guell – L3 Vallcarca then follow street signs

5) La Rambla – L1 L3 Catalunya or L3 Liceu (further down la Rambla)

6) Port Vell/Barceloneta – L4 Barceloneta

7) Parc de la Ciutadella – L4 Ciutadella Via Olympica

8) Plaza Espana – L1 L3 Espanya

9) Montjuïc – L3 L2 Para-lel, then take the vernicular up to the top, then a further ski car upto the castle.

10) Picasso Museum – L1 Arc de Triomf, L3 Liceu, L4 Jaume I (Address: Montcada 15-23 08003, (+34) 93 256 30 00, museupicasso@bcn.cat)

Once you’ve got that sorted, you can sleep easy in your Barcelona accommodation, enjoy a cracking paella at Barceloneta and be inspired by the amazing works of Gaudí!

Primal Scream in Barcelona!

September 22, 2008

This concert was absolutely great. It took place near to l’Hospital in Barcelona in the middle of the street, in what is known as a “manzana” which was packed out to the max! A completely free concert – I couldn’t believe my luck when I read “Primal Scream” on the official La Mercè programme for 2008.

I left my Barcelona apartment at about 9:30 and the concert began shortly after 10:30. There was an enormous crowd there already and we pushed our way in to get a good view. The band started off with a few favourites of mine; “Echo Dek”, “Vanishing Point”, “Can’t Go Back” and “XTRMNTR”. A real mix of songs from different albums, which is something that I really liked about the concert. They saved Country Girl for last, a song which will always be one of my favourites…

Perhaps one of the coolest things about this concert was that it was based right next to the Estrella factory in Barcelona. The factory opened its courtyard and had set up lots of bars selling all types of beer for 1€ each – absolutely fantastic! It made me laugh so much because in Britain, at an event like this, you would be absolutely rinsed for a pint of beer… concert time is prime time to milk us poor students dry, no?

So, the beer was flowing freely, the crowd was really hyped and Primal Scream were on top form. They played for about an hour and a half in total, coming back onto the stage two times to blast us with some more tracks from their most recent album –“Beautiful Future”. I mean, we were in Barcelona at the end of September in our shorts and t-shirts, it couldn’t really have got any better! If you are thinking of coming out here, make sure you book your Barcelona accommodation or Barcelona hotel early on for next summer…

If you haven’t seen this band live, you’ve got to. Or if you don’t even know who they are, make sure you download some of their tunes… Primal Scream formed in 1982 in Glasgow by Bobby Gillespie (vocals) and Jim Beattie. The current lineup consists of Gillespie, Andrew Innes (guitar), Martin Duffy (keyboards), Gary “Mani” Mounfield (bass), and Darrin Mooney (drums).

Many people would tell you to give their album Riot City Blues from but I would recommend you decide for yourself, I particularly like the track “When the Bomb Drops”.

Don’t miss the festival of La Merce!

September 16, 2008

This festival takes places during 19th til 28th September in the centre of this fantastic city at various sites. A festival not only dedicated to the cultural aspect of Barcelona, but the fun aspect, this festival has been running since 1902 and is definitely worth a visit! Don’t miss out on this amazing festival, Barcelona apartments and Barcelona hotels get booked up quickly around this time.

This street party is held in honour of held in honour of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona. Perhaps my favourite part of the festival is the Giants Parade (23rd to 24th). These giants with effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets of Barcelona. These huge figures tower above the crowds and spin around and around so the crowds can see them in all their glory. The Parade is often accompanied by small percussion groups that beat out a rhythm on drums as the Giants go by.

Don’t miss out on the festivities, book your Barcelona accommodation in time and in particular, make sure you visit Montjuïc castle, as lots and lots will be taking place there, see: http://www.bcn.es/cgi-bin/cllista_ag.pl?v=merce&tema=0012004011003010009&lang=catala (although the timetable is only in Catalan, you will see the times and places). The circus will be the main attraction at Montjuïc Castle, another new festival site. Magic, gesture theatre, acrobatics and workshops will all feature at the castle, which was recently returned to the city and is now a public amenity. Some of the performances taking place at the castle include titles such as; “Espectacle ‘Les Enfants’, a càrrec de la Cia. Traüt Espectacles” “Electrikmim’, a càrrec de Manolo Carambolas”and “Freaks’, a càrrec de la Cia. Cikaros & TinCanCompany”, so I think it is safe to say there will be a huge variety of performances to see. This year marks the 800th birthday of the Catalan King Jaume I and as a result, another new site for this year will be the Moll de Barcelona wharf as the Jaume I Tower is there.

The poster for this year’s festival is bigger and brighter than ever. Designed by Peret, the 1998 National Design Award winner, the designer has tried to reflect the festive, naughty side of a smile to create the image of La Mercè this year. Singer-songwriter Jaume Sisa will give the opening speech at the festival, which starts on Friday19 September and continues to Wednesday 24 September. He will also be the star of a galactic night in Plaça Catalunya.