Monday, April 30, 2012

Best Holiday Destinations in Turkey: Bodrum

With the seemingly never-ending bout of torrential downpours we have been experiencing across the UK over the last 2 weeks it seems we hard working Brits are currently faced with 2 options if we are to save ourselves from misery:

1. Build an Ark
2. Book a holiday abroad! 

As the former seems a little drastic - and perhaps beyond the meagre resources of the average office worker such as myself - we can only therefore look to take the option of seeking out sunnier climes for sources of inspiration, hope and relief from the perpetual gloom of the British Isles.

     When it comes to catching a bit of sunshine this spring, why not look to Turkey as an affordable and easily accessible option? With thousands of people heading to Turkey from the UK each year it is perhaps not surprising that there are many great holiday destinations to choose from in this intriguing and expansive land – but in Bodrum you may find a location that offers much more than just sunshine and beaches and the pleasant refuge offered by its warm spring Mediterranean climate.

     Rich in history stemming from its historical Greek, Persian and Ottoman occupation, Bodrum as a settlement can be traced back to around 600 years BC – meaning there is much to be learnt from the city and its past. Some of Bodrum’s most popular tourist attractions include the impressive medieval period Castle of St Peter which dominates the city skyline. Constructed in the 1500s, the castle is a must see for anyone taking flights to Bodrum this spring.

     There are also some much older areas of historical interest in the city - including the Bodrum amphitheatre - which has been recently restored and carries a capacity of over 15000 - and the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. This was once a wonder of the ancient world, but be warned some may find the remains a little underwhelming – although extremely historically significant in its own right nonetheless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Paris

Paris is known for its exquisite galleries and unparalleled museums. Here are the top five:

1. The Louvre Museum is world famous for its superb art galleries. Under its roof lie thousands of priceless classics as well as masterpieces of modern art. It is revered by all art lovers and is one place everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime. It only costs €10 to gain access and appreciate work from all the ages. There are antiquities from the Near East, Rome, Egypt, and Greece. There is a department completely dedicated to stunning Islamic art and sculpture, as well as masterpieces by infamous artists like Delacroix, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt. It is not an understatement to say that those on Paris flights will not have completed their trip without vising the Louvre.

2. The National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pomidou is the most well-known and important modern art museum in all of Europe. For just €12, visitors can learn about movements such as Fauvism, Surrealism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism. There are, of course, a huge number of works by the masters who created or sparked these important movements. Visitors can stroll through the pieces by Kandinsky, Miro, Picasso, Matisse, and other modern art pioneers.

3. The Palace of Versailles is actually visible to passengers on Paris flights that have begun their descent in preparation to land. Once the residence of King Louis XIV and his descendants, the Palace of Versailles is a gorgeous 18th century building that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 30 years. It is quite possible the most extravagant palace in the world and has been a silent witness to centuries of world-changing events. Also called the “cradle of liberty” for its huge significance in the uprisings against King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the rest of the French aristocracy, the palace is truly unparalleled.

4. The Musee d'Orsay is located just across the way from the Louvre, but it is worlds away in terms of its collections. The museum has the largest collection of paintings, decorative objects, and sculptures that were created from 1848-1914. The works of masters such as Monet, Degas, Ingres, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Gaugin fill room after room. The Musee d'Orsay showcases work from important art periods and movements, some of which are romanticism, expressionism, neoclassicism, impressionism, and art nouveau. The museum has recently acquired some new pieces, one of which is The Circle of the Rue Royale by James Tissot, a painting that has been named a “national treasure”.

5. The Grevin Wax Museum is a wonderful place to go for those who want to see what Paris really looked like at different times throughout history. Not only can visitors walk among life-size scenes of Joan of Arc burning at the stake, King Louis XIV holding court in Versailles, and the assassination of Henri IV. Other famous personalities include historical figures such as Napoleon and Mahatma Gandhi, and movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, Nicholas Cage, Shah Rukh Khan, and Charlie Chaplin. There are also wax figures of famous sports figures, politicians, entertainers, cartoon characters, and more. During their tour of Grevin, visitors can even learn about how wax statues are made.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Guide to Berlin in the Summer

I used to be lucky enough to live in Berlin and, although the promise of snow and wonderful Christmas markets made winter great, summer was, without a doubt, my favourite time of year in the city.

Here are just a few things to get up to when the sun is shining in Berlin:

Go Bargain Hunting

You probably didn't know this, but the Germans seem to be a nation of bargain hunters. Every weekend in the summer, Berlin's pretty squares get taken over by flea markets and if you love nothing more than browsing quirky stalls and picking up odd souvenirs, I suggest you check one of these out.

My personal favourite was held on Boxhagener Platz (in Friedrichshain) every Sunday. Take the U-bahn to Samariterstrasse, walk down Mainzer Strasse and you'll pretty much be there.

Enjoy Brunch

Another wonderful weekend activity that can be combined with a trip to the Boxhagener Platz market! You can go for brunch at any time of the year, but there's something lovely about sitting at a table on the pavement in the sunshine. There are a host of cafes and restaurants on Simon-Dach Strasse (just a short walk from the flea market) where you can enjoy all-you-can-eat brunch, usually for under €10 (£8.40).

Take a Trip to Potsdam

There's nothing stopping you visiting Potsdam in the depths of winter, but it's a beautiful place to explore when the sun's out. You can take the S-bahn from the centre of the city, so it's not hard to get there, and then wander around its amazing collection of palaces and parks.

The architecture is stunning and there are plenty of wide-open spaces to lounge around in. I'd recommend taking a picnic lunch, finding a spot in one of the parks and just relaxing for a couple of hours.

Go to a Beach Bar

Yes, Berlin has not one beach bar, but several, despite being nowhere near the coast! A host of friendly establishments pop up along the banks of the River Spree every spring and stay there until the warm weather finally disappears, so pull up a deckchair, get a cold beer and enjoy.

If you're staying centrally, the most easily accessible is Strandbar Mitte, conveniently located behind Museuminsel. Personally, I'd recommend hopping on the S-bahn to Treptower Park and then strolling along the banks of the river until you reach Badeschiff.

Bring your swimwear as there's a pool floating on the river, as well as the open-air bar on dry land. The fun doesn't end when the sun goes down, either, as the venue regularly hosts concerts and DJs.

This post was written on behalf of, a site offering inspiration and recommendations to help you plan the perfect short break.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Best Holiday Destinations in Northern Europe - Rocking in Riga

Over the last couple of years (having already had the privilege of travelling to many of the more famous and frequently visited holiday destinations in Europe such as Paris, Barcelona and Venice) I have been looking to expand my horizons somewhat, and travel to what may be considered some of the slightly less well known city destinations on the continent - and this is how my friend and I found ourselves in Riga earlier this month. Equipped only with a small amount of Lats (the necessary travel money for Latvia) and a backpack of warm clothes (an even greater necessity for visiting the Baltics in winter) we flew to the city on a voyage of discovery - perhaps not fully knowing what to expect. As we began our descent towards Riga we got a great view of the Baltic Sea and were amazed to see that it was completely frozen over in areas near to the shoreline. It was at that point we realised this was going to be a cold trip!

Arriving in the city it was easy to see why an increasing number of airlines are offering flights to Riga as a holiday destination and more and more people are visiting the city as part of their European backpacking trips. The old town area (or Vecrīga) is a UNESCO world heritage site and has to be one of the most beautiful and intriguing old town centres in Europe - offering up fantastic timber framed buildings side by side with Art Nouveau architecture. The city features an impressive Cathedral (sadly under fairly major repair works during our visit) with many other smaller quaint churches and historical buildings dotted around the Old Town area. Away from the main old town other more modern buildings of note we visited in Riga included the daunting presence of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and the city's towering TV and Radio mast (the tallest building in the entire Baltic region) which dominated the city skyline as we walked beside the banks of the frozen Daugava River.

At night - and particularly during the weekend - Riga really comes alive, with a host of great bars and restaurants offering everything a visitor could hope for in and around the main Old Town centre. For a great local meal at a very reasonable price B-Bar is well worth a visit, and if you fancy something a little quirky then check out Dada restaurant for some freshly made East Asian food in inspiring if not slightly confusing surroundings. During the week we found some great relaxed bars away from the main strip - but if you want to party hard with the local students you should try Shot Bar, which lives up to its name with a massive range of shooter drinks including many made with Latvia's deadly herbal liquor Black Balsam. If like us (being stereotypically English) you just can't bear to miss out on the football then Maloney's Irish bar is kitted out with multiple TV screens showing sport all day long, as well as serving some cheap and decent local and Anglo-American food.