Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stag Weekends In Leeds: Rock Harder Than Any Other European City

Hello once again people of the world - hope you are all ok! It certainly feels like a long, long time since I last updated my travel blog and indeed, the main reason for this is that for the time being at least, my backpacking days are numbered. Yes, suffice to say I'm back in good old Blighty (if you don't know this is the slang term for Britain), back at work as an office boy and basically trying to save up my pennies once again for another exciting trip around the great cities that Europe and indeed the rest of the world may have to offer.

Of course, having said this I've realised having returned from my numerous excursions in far away lands that it's all too easy to forget how many fantastic cities that the UK has to offer in terms of nightlife and hot women and none more so than Leeds - the city some say (mostly people from Leeds admittedly!) is "the pride of Yorkshire". I've been lucky enough (or possibly unlucky enough going on the state of my health after previous such occasions) to recently be invited onto the stag do of a very good friend of mine - and as you may have guessed this is set to take place "oop north" as it were in the great city of Leeds. Many people seem to go abroad for stag nights these days, but call me old fashioned - I personally don't think it’s fair to inflict a bunch of drunken English lads onto the most beautiful, historic, and cultured cities in Europe.

For those of you who aren't from England, I feel I should point out that Leeds has quickly become THE place to go out and party in the north of England over the last few years and has arguably some of the best selection of clubs to make any stag do go off with a bang. Whether your tastes are for Dance music and the famous Gatecrasher club, funk and soul at the Hi Fi club or indie and rock nights at the famous Cockpit club then there are undoubtedly very few cities in the country better to take out your mates on a stag do. The locals seem to head down to the many bars on call lane but be wary of this as they only tend to take mixed sex groups. Don't let this put you off a stag party in Leeds though. Indeed, in my experience (and having enjoyed several English stag nights of other friends in the cities of Newcastle and Nottingham), Leeds stag parties simply rock like no other.

Don't forget too that before the hardcore drinking commences you are in a perfect location to enjoy some good team outdoor activities in the Yorkshire Dales - from paintballing to clay pigeons you are sure to find something to get the testosterone flowing. So if one of your mates is thinking of having his big night out in the UK - why not take my advice and get involved with a massive stag party in Leeds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Lake District: The Best Scenic Holiday Destination In England

Wherever I have been on my travels the first thing someone says to me when i tell them I am from is England is "Are you from London?". The answer to this I have to say is a resounding "no" - and let me tell you there is far more to the UK that is worth visiting than it's illustrious and internationally renowned capital city. Indeed, if you are a traveler young or old or are even planning a family holiday or vacation and are thinking of visiting England for the first time but are is looking for an alternative to the usual site seeing trips to the city of London, why not instead look for a more serene and scenic alternative than the hustle and bussel of the capital and instead please give some special consideration to the incredible natural beauty of the Lake District - my favorite area of the British Isles. Situated in the North West of England in the county of Cumbria, the Lake District offers unique scenery quite unique to anywhere else in Europe and is an ideal location for any traveler who loves walking, hiking, cycling, camping or any other outdoor activity as the natural landscape offers the perfect backdrop for any such pursuit.

The Lake District's main claim to fame and also a key attraction for English people and tourists alike is that it has the highest point of altitude in all of England - Scafell Pike - and offers fantastic views of the surrounding area on a clear day. Although modest in its height by even European standards (standing at 978 meters tall) Scafell is an excellent place to take a walk if you ever get the chance to visit the North of England and forms one part of the famous national 3 peaks challenge. In spite of the fact that you may find the idea of climbing a mountain a rather daunting prospect, let me tell you that the beauty of the place is that it is very accessible to anyone who is reasonably fit and mobile and requires no specialist equipment to traverse other than a decent pair of hiking boots and a rain coat if you plan to visit in the summer months. although rain is to be expected and snow is likely near the summit, the paths to the top are very clearly laid out and frequented by many people of all ages every year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Enjoying the Sites and Sounds of Florence - Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance

The city of Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy and a city steeped in rich history and renaissance art. Lying along the river Arno, the city is a sheer delight to behold with its fantastic buildings and architecture. Florence is without question a “must see” for any young backpacker travelling across Europe - although it may not necessarily be the first city that springs to mind when you are planning your trip. Established in the year 59BC by the famous Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, it was originally an army camp for Roman army veterans. However, it is more famous as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance during the middle ages with buildings constructed in the classical “Romanesque” style such as the Basilica Di San Miniato al Monte also helping to define the city of Florence and its architecture.

The main landmark of the city however is surely the fantastic Santa Maria del Fiore - a cathedral famed for its large dome - which remains open for visitors to the city to help them enjoy spectacular views of the city and its ornate buildings from up on high. Along the Arno is the Ponte Vecchio bridge which is also worth a visit for any tourist or traveler in Florence.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Enjoying The Beauty of Venice

Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and physically unique cities in the entire world, the great city of Venice located in Northern Italy presents a travel destination quite like no other for any young backpacker travelling around Europe. Venice is of course most famous for its numerous rivers and canals that help to clearly define the unique and intriguing natural characteristics of this Italian Adriatic jewel.

The city itself is built upon 118 small islands that sit proudly amongst this intense intertwined network of waterways. When you picture the perfect ideal of Venice in your mind you always think of images of romantic boat trips on summer evenings - and travelling serenely along the waterways of the city by the numerous traditional gondolas that can be hired is surely a must have experience for any tourist or backpacker visiting the city and is also a great way of taking in the city's incredible architecture.

Indeed, it is these enduring images and traditions that not surprisingly have continued to make Venice a very popular holiday destination for young couples travelling around Europe.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Best Tourist Attractions To Visit When Traveling To London

The great city of London remains a must see city destination for all backpackers traveling around Europe. England's capital has an extremely rich and ancient history and offers more great visitor attractions than perhaps any other city in Western Europe. London remains the centre of media attention across the world and is famous for typifying new cool trends and innovations with its hundreds of highly diverse modern, fashionable bars and restaurants serving a variety of food, beers and wines from a huge number of countries and cultural influences across the globe. As well as its passion for the modern and cutting edge however, London also has some of the oldest and grandest visitor attractions in the world - making the city the perfect meeting place of the old and the new.

Perhaps not surpringly, the British royal family are a major tourist draw for travelers and backpackers of all ages visiting London, and her majesty Queen Elizabeth the second's current residence at Buckingham Palace is an essential place to visit when making your first trip to London. This fantastically grandeur palace has been the main home of the royals since 1837, and is now well known as the main HQ for the residing British monarchy and her family. Although entering the palace requires special invitation, it is worth going to visit it to see the beauty of the architecture of the building itself, and to soak up some quintessentially British culture and history. While you are at Buckingham Palace, you should also stick around to see the changing of the guard. This highly regimented and ceremonious tradition is quite something to behold.

If your visit to the palace has wet your appetite for more rich English history then you must surely take a trip in to Westminster to see the Houses of Parliament where the British government and members of parliament debated the ins and outs of British politics. This incredible architectural wonder lies on the north bank of London's famous river: the Thames and is truely an epic site to behold for any traveler. It encompasses both the house of commons and house of Lords which are central to Britain's political system. The famous Victoria Tower of the building houses Westminsters famous bells including the vast great bell (more commonly referred to as Big Ben) - weighing a massive 16 tons. The clock tower itself is said to be the largest free standing clock tower of its kind in the world and this year celebrated its 150th year in the month of May.

From the old to the new: while you are in the centre of Westminster you should take a short walk along the famous bridge to visit the London Eye. This huge wheel provides spectacular views across the famous city and can be a beautiful and romantic place to visit with your partner on a summer evening. Towering at 135 metres at its peak, the Eye lays claim to being the biggest ferris wheel in all of Europe and at the time it was built just before the turn of the millennium was in fact the tallest in the whole world. The London Eye has 32 passenger pods - 1 for each of London's Boroughs - and has an individual capacity of 25 people. As you can imagine, this is an extremely popular visitor attraction for travelers and UK tourists alike - so book early to avoid the disappointment of missing out.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Best Boat Trips and Excursions from Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is undeniably in my mind the true beauty and Jewel of the Adriatic sea. The architecture of the Old Town, its rich art and culture, the delicious fresh seafood and overall quality of life found in the city is surely second to none in the region and if you travel there you will already know that the people are always very friendly and hospitable to backpackers. However, as beautiful as it is, there is in my experience much more to a trip to Dubrovnik than just what can be found inland and if you ever get bored of the Old Town, Copacabana beach and the Lapad region of the city, you may be interested in booking one of the numerous boat trip excursions available to the many small islands that are found of Croatia's South Dalmation Coast.

One day whilst traveling in Dubrovnik I took a boat trip to the nearby Elafiti islands. These excursions are widely touted on the main strip of Lapad's bars with many competing companies vieing for the business of young travelers, and if you shop around you are sure to find a good price (I ended up paying a little under £20 for the entire trip and a delicious grilled fish lunch and free wine was included on the boat in that price).

The Elafiti islands themselves are unique and gorgeous to behold in their own right. Our boat trip took us to three of these islands in a single excursion: Kolocep, Sipan and Lopud. I found that each of the islands has its own unique charm - with Lopud in particular a fantastic place to visit. It has a really cool sandy beach (Sunj beach) where you can paddle out to around 80m without the depth going over chest high. This beach is also ideal for snorkeling with lots of fish and crabs to be found near the rocks on the left side of the beach. In the summer season you will find that kayaks can be rented to take a quick trip out into the bay at a few pounds per hour. Lopud also has an old monastery which is well worth a visit.
As well as the frequent cruises and backpackers that visit the city, Dubrovnik is also proving to become increasingly popular with newly married couples because of the unrivalled beauty of its architecture, its stunning sandy beaches and numerous fantastic restaurants which together make the city a perfect romantic holiday destination for young couples. If you have friends who are newly web planning a trip to the city, make sure you give them a great send off with a great selection of beach wedding favors to let them really make the most of their beach wedding or honeymoon trip.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Best Clubs in Prague: The Party Destination for European Backpackers

The city of Prague has become an increasingly popular European backpacking destination over the last decade or so. Its reputation as a party city is well deserved, with its nightlife second to none in Eastern/Central Europe and its numerous and ample hostels offer an easy way for backpackers to crash after a heavy session at very reasonable prices. Check out your options online then you can pre-book to ensure you have somewhere to sleep upon arrival – although with clubs like this you may not get much sleep!

Drinking out in Prague’s bars and clubs, while significantly more expensive than in previous years remains extremely good value (compared to the UK anyway) with bars away from the city centre being particularly cheap at around £1 per pint. However, the more popular and touristy location of Wenceslas Square has more upmarket bars and restaurants that while are generally fantastic places to visit can be a little more pricy. Don’t let this put you off however as this is very much party central for any backpacker. This area of town also features the famous centrepiece statue of St. Wenceslas: Duke of Bohemia in all his glory.

Another extremely popular nightspot for European and American backpackers is the famous 5 story club in Prague: The Karlovy Lazne - which is located extremely close to the town’s well known Charles Bridge. The club as you can imagine is very big (indeed, to my knowledge this is the biggest club in the whole of Prague which is an achievement in itself although it also claims to be the biggest in central Europe) – and with 5 floors to choose from you are bound to find some music to suit your taste and hang out with some cool people. This club seems to be pretty popular with both tourists and locals alike and with so much choice, a very relaxed dress code, the sheer volume of people (at weekends in particular) and good value drinks on offer its understandable why. At the end of the night if you are feeling hungry why not check out a delicious hotdog on your way out! As always, if you have any travel questions about my trips in europe please email me.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Backpacking in Paris: European Centre of Art and Culture

No backpacking holiday to Europe can be complete without a trip to Paris. The city is termed to be the ‘City of Light’ and it can be your Mecca if you are a lover of peace, music, fashion, jewellery, dance and much more. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a long and rich history stretching back around 1000 years, and the multi cultural society that it holds adds to cultural diversity and overall unique beauty of the city. It is considered to be of the hot and favorite tourist places to visit around the globe with its structural marvelous and ethnic beauty.

As with most budget backpacking trips, your holiday in Paris can be best enjoyed by touring the city on foot. Travelers can get the maximum enjoyment from the city with the bountiful attractive places which are so close to each other. Indeed, most of the places of interest are within a walkable distance from one another if you are fairly fit. I found even going out for a cup of coffee in one of the city’s many cafes or bars is a nice experience or the serene walk along the coast of the river in the middle of the city can be so romantic for young couples.

The famous galleries and museums are the best part of the city. Some of the much celebrated and high profile museums are The Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musee de Louvre, the Picasso Museum, the Rodin Museum, the Invalides. They symbolize the European art tradition as well as housing the more contemporary arts and collections.

The Eiffel tower is considered to be the embodiment of engineering and is an iconic structural monument. The skyscrapers present in the city are awesome to behold. Walking around the Eiffel tower can be a pleasure in itself. It is estimated that around 6 million people come to pay their visit here making it among the world most popular tourist attractions. Some fitter people cover the ascent by foot or you can alternatively choose to take some of the steps and then complete the rest by using the tower’s lift. The bird’s eye view of the city while climbing up the tower will take any person to paradise and is quite breathtaking.

The Pere-Lachaise cemetery, the catacombs, the Arc de Triomphe, which is a huge arch built by Napoleon to celebrate his victories speak volumes about the history of the city and country of France. The Sacre Coeur, the Sainte Chapelle, the Pompidou Center, the Panteon, the Grand Arche de la Defense are of serene beauty and are not to missed under the light covers. Notre Dame Cathedral and the Basilica of the Sacre C’ur are some of the notable and renowned churches in the city and are worth a visit even for non Disney fans! The Jardin de Luxemberg is a good place to relax and enjoy the nature at its best without having to move to the suburb.

Not to forget the fact, an artwork that many consider to be the epitome of painting is housed in the city: the Monalisa is kept in the museum here in Paris. The boulevard Champs-Elysees is considered to be the hub of high cultured society.

The city night life activities are also truly enjoyable for you party animals. The places around the Bastile prison has now been transformed into a center for night life activities. Far removed from what it must have been like in pre revolutionary France, this is now a great place to go out with a wide range of restaurants, clubs and bars all to be found here.

The city is also famous for its shopping. There are wide range of products available right from perfume, jewellery, wine, gifts and much more to keep you amused - be careful with the price tags though!

Paris is certainly unmissable when traveling around Europe and it can be a fine experience which no body will forget in their life. Paris city can be called as a dream city for many couples as well as for all tourists those who wish enjoyment and pleasure in their life.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eating Out In Madrid – It’s Good For The Locals, It’s Good For You

It’s almost unheard of to have a bad meal whilst in Madrid. The city is very diverse and it’s restaurants, cafés and bars cater to all tastes and budgets. A good way of determining which are the best eating places in Madrid is by finding out where the locals go out to wine and dine. If the locals like the place, chances are that you will love it too.

One place that is certainly popular with the people of Madrid is known as the “Tienda de Comunista”. It is located in Chueca by the square. It is always a good idea to get there as soon as it opens for business at 9pm every night, as it is always packed to capacity with happy diners. I highly recommend it.

If you want to lunch like a true Madrilenian, the place to be is “La Playa”. Having lunch at this place has become a tradition among many residents that has been going on for generations.

If you like to eat well while you take your beverages, then Bar Melo is the place to be. It is a very well-known bar also known for its awesome cuisine.

Do you have a sweet tooth? If you answered “yes” then you definitely need to visit Café del Real. It offers a wide variety of chocolate and carrot cakes, served with some lovely local coffee. It is a good place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, like the locals do.

On Saturday evenings, many Madrilenians head to La Taberna de San Bernado. This exquisite restaurant is start off on a quieter note but becomes bubblier as the locals begin to file in.

Casa Perico restaurant is a hidden gem, known only to individuals like an insider secret. Upon entering Casa Perico, you may wonder whether you are in a restaurant or not, but do not be deceived because the food there is marvelous.

You maybe be visiting Spain, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like to have some Asian food made in Spain. If you are not running on a very big budget then I would recommend Wok Chinese Restaurant in Madrid. Yes, you guessed right, the food is cooked in a Wok!

If you would like to partake in history then you will definitely want to visit Restaurante Sobrino De Botin. It is said to be the oldest restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of records. More to this, it offers really delicious food too. However, due to the astounding number of tourists desiring to eat here, you may have to eat your meal in a bit of a rush.

All in all if you travel to Madrid you will certainly not be let down by the huge range of places to eat out!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Backpacking Bratislava: Exploring the Capital's Castle

Although my trip to Bratislava was very brief (I only stopped over for 1 night in a hostel there and the following evening I was back on the inter rail) when on my backpacking trip through eastern Europe, it was certainly quite eventful. I arrived there in just a very rapid 1 hour long shuttle boat journey from Prague - a fantastic way to get to Bratislava if the weather is clear - in the late afternoon and checked in to our lodgings before hitting the old town to enjoy some very reasonable priced mojitos and a rather nice meal in the pretty old side of the city (rather than the rather grubby industrial side of town on the other side of the river Danube).
I have to say Bratislava's old town is somewhat underrated for some reason - and is certainly as beautiful as anywhere else we went in eastern Europe and as you would aspect is comparable to Prague but on a somewhat smaller scale! The city seems to have a bad reputation for some reason but this half of town is well worth checking out.

If you have some time during the day time, by far the best landmark to visit in the city of Bratislava is its impressive castle which towers on a large hill high over the city. I will warn you now, in the heat of summer in Slovakia, walking up this hill certainly can be quite exhausting - even for a reasonably fit 24 year old as I quickly discovered! If you are going to walk up the hill to enjoy the fantastic views over Bratislava, make sure you take some water for the journey as the hill is pretty steep! It is believed that the original history of the castle can be traced back as far as the iron age where evidence has been found of an early settlement in the area. The site has later apparently been occupied by Romans, Germanic tribes as well as by empirical Slovaks and as such has been built and reconstructed on several occasions - most recently in 1953 to restore the brilliant structure that stands their today.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Backpacking and Baths in Budapest

Of all the places in eastern Europe that I traveled to last year I have to say that Budapest perhaps more than any other city offered the largest selection of things to do, places to go out and party and great buildings to see. Perhaps this isn't that surprising, considering that Budapest is in fact technically speaking 2 large cities separated by the river Danube: Buda and Pest - get it? Ok, so maybe its not rocket science to understand, but what it does mean is you effectively have 2 big cities rolled into one giant capital to walk around and explore. How's that for value for money?!

If you have travelled to the city in summer, you will no doubt notice that the temperatures can get pretty high by Europe's standards. I'm not sure if I visited the city in the middle of a heat wave last year but at 38 degrees centigrade it was pretty warm let me tell you. Combine this burning heat with walking about 10 miles a day around the city to avoid paying for public transport and you are no doubt going to be ready to cool off. Luckily, Budapest has some of the biggest and best Turkish baths in Europe - if not the world - which are great places to take a load off. My favourite which I visited was the grandeur surroundings of the Gellert baths built back in 1918.
The indoor pool has one of the most impressive interiors I have seen - intricate and detailed tiles throughout, huge classical style columns and a glass roof.

The outdoor pool has been recently improved and updated and is in itself something great to behold, with a wave machine that is just like standing in the sea being pummeled by the real thing! No doubt that there is a lot of great fun in the sun to be had in there. There are also a lot of more relaxing chill out areas with benches outside and a smaller, very warm pool to relax in - perfect for the hung over backpacker. When visiting Gellert baths you really can't miss out on the thermal baths either. This unique experience is apparently very good for the skin - but watch out for the transition between the baking steam room and the freezing plunge pool. I felt that the baths also offer very good value entertainment - although I'm told that Gellert is the most expensive of the baths I still spent the entire day there and it only cost me around 10 quid!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Beautiful Barcelona: A Guide To Europes Capital of Art

Barcelona is capital of the Spanish province of Cataluna and is situated on the beautiful Mediterranean coast in the North East coast of Spain. The city has become an iconic centre of culture with its history of fine art, architecture, food and sport. Perhaps amongst the most famous in his field, the artist and architect Antoni Gaudi designed the huge cathedral that has become the cities most famous iconic landmark - a truly ornate structure quite unique to anything I have seen across the world. The intricacies of its decoration are quite fantastic to behold - and at just a short tube journey from the central street of Las Ramblas this really has to be worth a visit. While on Las Ramblas you can take the time to check out the numerous cafes, bars and restaurants that line the street - and don't forget to check out the fantastic fish market which produces some of the finest and freshest seafood in Europe. Why not follow Las Ramblas down to the sea front and see the famous bridge and picturesque docks and harbour.

Fans of football the world over know and fear the name Barcelona - a club enshrined by legendary status in the sport. The Spanish giants look set to regain the La Liga title this term and face Chelsea in the Champions League Semi Final. You can watch some of the worlds best players such as Messi, Etoo and Henry at the huge and magnificent Nou Camp Stadium here in Barcelona and even take a tour of the ground during the day to see the huge selection of trophies the club have won over the years. I found attending a match at the 120,000 capacity ground quite awe inspiring and when the crown are behind their team for a big game such as against league rivals Real the noise and atmosphere can be deafening.
If you are looking for a good, friendly hostel in which to stay I can highly recommend "Hello BCN". The hostel has friendly staff, a large common room with a bar and table tennis, gym and excellent internet access from either the free WIFI or the computers provided. At around 20 euros a night it wasn't the cheapest I'd stayed in, but it has an excellent location and the facilites are worth the money.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cracking Krakow: Poland's Party Town

Although only the third largest city in Poland, I have to say that Krakow was for me, by far the best place we visited - and one of my favourite cities in Eastern Europe. The city has it all: a beautiful old town square with a superb market, great nightlife, friendly and fun people, and in summer at least some very nice sunshine and temperatures into the mid 30s. It is also still relatively cheap once there - in spite of large price increases in the last few years due to the growth in tourism in the region. Heading just out of town there are still places where we managed to grab a 1 litre stein of beer for around £1. Prices are a little higher in the square but still very reasonable in both the bars and restaurants which can be found in abundance in this area. There are also great places to visit nearby such as the salt mines with its huge underground cathedral decorated with ornate salt carvings. You can also take a very inexpensive guide to the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz which is not far from the city. I personally found this to be a very humbling and often distressing experience and it is certainly not for the faint hearted or young children. If you are backpacking as I was when I last visited and are looking for a great hostel I would suggest the NEW (as their are 2 hostels of the same name!) "Goodbye Lenin: Lets Rock" Hostel situated around 3 minutes from the old town square. An excellent hostel with great facilities and staff is yours for around 12 quid a night including breakfast - a very reasonable rate!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Travel Guide to Europe

Keep checking this blog over the forthcoming months for information and advice about travelling and across some of Europes most exciting cities and holiday destinations.