Couple looking out window of suite on river cruise in Europe
Europe Taster Cruises with Avalon Waterways
Europe: so far away, so much to do, and never enough time... so let Avalon Waterways take care of it for you. When planning a trip to this fascinating continent it’s hard to choose where to go and how to do it. Do you tick off the classic European destinations such as Paris, London and Rome or discover some of the lesser known cities and towns. Do you travel by train or plane? Do you join a bus tour? Do you hire a car? Or do you sit back and discover Europe from its rivers?   River cruising through Europe is one of the most majestic ways to explore this great continent. You experience different countries, cultures, languages and cuisines with complete ease – no need to tackle a map, board a plane, or pack and unpack your suitcase (as clichéd as it is, it’s the true beauty of cruising). As you travel along the mighty waterways considered the lifeblood of Europe, your suite window provides the frame for an ever-changing and fascinating landscape – hillside vineyards, ancient gorges, medieval towns, historic windmills, crumbling castles, half-timbered houses and more. It’s magical, but it’s not always an option for all travellers to Europe… until now. [caption id="attachment_47454" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sit back and relax as you cruise to your next destination.[/caption] Travellers who want to add a cruising component to their European holiday but are time poor – or simply don’t want to spend a week or more on board a ship –will love Avalon Waterways’ new short cruise options for 2020. The luxury river cruise company is the first in Europe to offer ‘taster’ cruises of three, four and six nights, catering to those who want to see Europe from a different perspective in a shorter time, as well as first-time cruisers who want to, ahem, test the waters and learn what river cruising is all about.   Despite being much shorter in length, Avalon Waterway’s new cruises still pack a punch when it comes to experiences. With many smaller towns and villages dotting Europe’s riverbanks and with most sailing done at night, there’s more time for sightseeing and less time spent getting from A to B – which, incidentally, is a delightfully scenic experience on board a river cruise anyway. So it’s a win-win all round. [caption id="attachment_47457" align="alignnone" width="600"] The serenity of cruising through Europe is second to none.[/caption] In just four days, you can experience Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, cruising from Vienna to the brilliant Hungarian city of Budapest on A Taste of the Danube. You will sail through the picturesque Wachau Valley with the choice to bike through its vineyards, take a tour of an 11th-century Benedictine abbey in Melk, stop in the 18th-century town of Bratislava and walk its cobblestoned streets, and enjoy an on board performance by local Slovakian musicians. [caption id="attachment_47455" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll along the Danube in your final stop in Budapest.[/caption] If you have five days, you can explore one of Europe’s most important rivers, the Rhine, on A Taste of the Rhine. Boarding in Amsterdam, you’ll visit the 2000-year-old city of Cologne, sample wine in the hilly town of Rudesheim, cruise through the picturesque Rhine Gorge, and choose to explore the Dutch countryside by bike.   While the six-day Heart of Germany cruises on the lesser discovered Main River and Main-Danube Canal, with optional visits to the historic rally grounds used by the Third Reich at Nuremburg, the old Bavarian town of Rothenburg, and a walk through the medieval town of Bamberg. [caption id="attachment_47456" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience the rich history and culture of quaint Bavarian towns.[/caption] Life on board Avalon Waterways’ ships is all about the balance of luxury and comfort. The cruise company is known for its spacious Panorama Suites, which are 30 per cent larger than most standard river ship staterooms and designed so all beds face the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows. These windows open up to create open-air balconies, the only ones of their kind on Europe’s rivers. And life on the river banks is filled with fascinating experiences from walking tours through historic towns, to active excursions such as cycling and hiking, to immersive experiences such as an art class or chocolate making, to indulgent pursuits such as sampling regional delicacies and wine tasting. [caption id="attachment_47449" align="alignnone" width="600"] Discover vineyards on one of many shore excursions.[/caption] Even if you are travelling to Europe on a whirlwind, Avalon’s new taster cruises are the perfect addition to your holiday, allowing you to view this continent from a different perspective. And if you’re a first time cruiser, it’s the perfect way to discover the magic that is river cruising.   Book now Prices start from $1140 per person for A Taste of the Danube; from $2164 per person for A Taste of the Rhine; and from $2182 per person for The Heart of Germany. Book now for 2020 for the best deals on offer, which include savings of up to $6800 per couple on select Avalon Waterways cruises. For more information head to P.S. Everything is included in your Avalon Waterways’ fare: all meals, which usually comprise of the regional cuisine you are travelling through and include local wine and beer at lunch and dinner, onboard activities and entertainment (such as wine appreciation, historic lectures and live music), land excursions led by local guides, as well as complimentary wi-fi, coffee and tea, L’Occitane bathroom products and access to the on board fitness centre and whirlpool.   Any questions, head on over to
Hotel Review: Good Hotel, London
We test out Good Hotel: a new-breed, social-good hotel, lugged to London over water from Amsterdam. Details Good Hotel Royal Victoria Dock, Western Gateway, London, UK The history A hotel with a cause is not something you come across every day. Especially not one that’s been designed in the Netherlands, before being barged along the North Sea Canal and over to the River Thames.   The eight-million-kilogram Good Hotel spent a year in Amsterdam where about 100 long-term unemployed were trained in hospitality, before it took its mission to the UK. [caption id="attachment_47394" align="alignleft" width="600"] First impressions at The Good Hotel[/caption] I’m all for supporting those who work hard to climb the ladders of life, so I’m on board with the concept before I even see that the hotel fits into the quirky, design-oriented, boutique style I favour.   It turns out chic-budget digs asking under £100 per night are trending in London, and this one is part of the new wave. Plus £5 ($9) from every direct booking at the Good Hotel, per night, is donated to underprivileged kids – even better. I click ‘book’. First impressions A moment’s walk from Royal Victoria DLR station, I’m greeted by what looks like a mass of grey sea containers stacked on a floating platform, linked to the docks by a drawbridge. Pulling my roller bag to the entrance, I feel like I’m boarding an ocean liner, only with large, square windows. [caption id="attachment_47393" align="alignleft" width="600"] Explore the communal 'living room'[/caption] Inside, it’s a freelancer’s dream. Felt chairs mingle with pine stools on sand-hued mats, pastel ottomans and grey couches are strewn with cushions and a mix of statement light shades and Edison globes deliver a decidedly hip vibe to the painted black interiors. [caption id="attachment_47386" align="alignleft" width="600"] The shared spaces are a freelancers dream[/caption] Check-in is streamlined – I’ve pre-entered most things online – with the only disappointment being advice that the rooftop is closed for an event. The room I’m soon in a rather industrial lift heading to my room – one of 148. Its pale grey walls are bare; there’s no TV or USB points but, for London, it’s huge – I wonder if I got upgraded and they forgot to mention it.   My king-size bed is dressed with crisp, clean linen, and there’s complimentary sparkling water and appropriately moral bathroom accessories by FAIR CosmEthics. [caption id="attachment_47391" align="alignleft" width="600"] A deluxe room at The Good Hotel[/caption] It’s pin-drop quiet overnight. I’ve sprung for views and the scene of frigid Brits swimming in the crane-dotted docks the following morning is well worth it.   Before setting off for the nearby Emirates cable car (a cheap and sensational aerial adventure), I’m wowed by the high-end brekkie spread. Fresh blackberries, dried cranberries, mini Bonne Maman jars and French pastries are served among the usual suspects.   The floor is packed with people of all ages from all over the world, all looking as pleased as I am that we chose to be Good. [caption id="attachment_47390" align="alignleft" width="600"] Have a drink at the Good Hotel bar[/caption] The verdict A modern, industrial-chic hotel with double-barrel attractions: it engages in social good while offering some of the most affordable, quality rooms in London. Location: 6/10 It’s a 40-minute, two-tube ride to London’s heart – but the dockside views make up for it. Style/character: 9/10 Budget doesn’t mean boring; trendy communal areas, free fruit and mags invite you to linger. Service: 8/10 Service is impressively polished, and staff have good knowledge of the local area. Rooms: 7/10 Minimalist with limited mod cons, yet my ‘deluxe water view room’ was spacious and the essentials well above average. Food and drink: 10/10 This is one of the biggest and best brekkie smorgasbords I’ve seen, and for £13.50 ($25) it’s worth indulging. [caption id="attachment_47396" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Good Hotel food is a definite highlight[/caption] Value for money: 9/10 London is an expensive city, so anything for £100 ($180) or less is regarded as a bargain – I paid just over.
Titlis Rotair Switzerland
12 world-record breaking attractions you’ll only find in Switzerland
Switzerland might be a small country that is roughly two-thirds the size of Tasmania, but this country is an overachiever when it comes to breaking world records. You’ve read about the scenic train routes, the picturesque cycling routes and skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn but the Swiss also have 12 world-record breaking attractions you'll want to add to your travel itinerary. 1. World’s steepest cogwheel railway [caption id="attachment_47290" align="alignnone" width="600"] Switzerland is home to the world's steepest cogwheel railway and can be found in Lake Lucerne.[/caption] The cogwheel railway is one of the most popular attractions on Lake Lucerne thanks to its 48-degree gradient. Ascending 1635 metres from Alpnachstad (where the ferry stops), the railway travels 4618 metres up to the fun park of Mt Pilatus. The ride itself takes about 30 minutes and operates between May and November. 2. World’s longest suspension bridge [caption id="attachment_47291" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Charles Kuonen Bridge is the world's longest suspension bridge and connects a hiking trail between Grachen and Zermatt.[/caption] There's nothing like crossing a suspension bridge to get your heart rate up, and you'll find the world's longest in Switzerland. The Charles Kuonen Bridge connects a hiking trail between Grachen and Zermatt and stretches 494 metres in length. The views from the bridge are equally thrilling, being set against the world’s most recognisable mountain peak, the Matterhorn. 3. World’s longest tunnel [caption id="attachment_47292" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Gotthard Base Tunnel is 57-kilometre long; making it the longest in the world.[/caption] The Gotthard Base Tunnel has a long and legendary history originating in the 13th century, but it's the length of the tunnel that breaks the world record. It took 17 years to construct the 57-kilometre tunnel that runs through the mountain at a depth of up to 2300 metres. Not only is the Gotthard Base Tunnel an engineering feat, but it's also powered by hydroelectricity. 4. World’s oldest covered wooden footbridge [caption id="attachment_47293" align="alignnone" width="600"] The world's oldest covered wooden bridge dates back to the 14th century and can be found in Lucerne.[/caption] The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne dates back to the 14th century and was part of the original fortifications of the city. Destroyed in a fire in 1993 , it was quickly restored back to its original form. The bridge is one of Lucerne's most charming attractions and is decorated with pictorial panels that depict historical life in the country and city during the 17th century. 5. World’s first revolving cable car [caption id="attachment_47294" align="alignnone" width="600"] The glacier chairlift of Mt. Titlis, the Ice Flyer, is the world's first revolving chairlift.[/caption] Not far from Lucerne is the 3062-metre-high Mt Titlis, home to Europe’s highest suspension bridge and the glacier chairlift ‘Ice Flyer’. To get up there you'll need to take a 30-minute scenic ride on the Titlis Rotair – which is an experience in itself. As you travel above the spectacular alpine landscape, take note of the fact that you're riding on the world's first revolving cable car. 6. World’s highest consumption of chocolate [caption id="attachment_47295" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Swiss enjoy their own chocolate as even more than the rest of the world.[/caption] They've given the world Nestle, Lindt and Toblerone, so it comes as no surprise that the Swiss are their own biggest fans when it comes to chocolate, taking home the record of consuming the highest amount of the sweet treat in the world. In 2017 alone, the average consumption hit 8.8 kilograms per person. That's a lot of Lindt balls! 7. World’s highest density of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita [caption id="attachment_47296" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Michelin starred Ritzcoffier Burgenstock.[/caption] Switzerland recorded a total of  128 Michelin starred restaurants in 2019, securing its position as the country with the highest number of top-rated restaurants per capita. Pavillon in Zurich and focus in Vitznau are the country's most recent restaurants to make their way into the Michelin guide. 8. World’s longest downhill ski race [caption id="attachment_47297" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Lauberhorn-Wengen FIS Alpine Ski World Cup is the world's longest downhill ski race.[/caption] Attracting an average of 30,000 spectators each year, the history of the Lauberhorn-Wengen FIS Alpine Ski World Cup dates back to 1930 and takes place every year in mid-January. With the downhill course stretching over 4.4 kilometres, run times are usually 2.5 minutes where top speeds reach about 160 kilometres per hour. 9. World’s longest staircase [caption id="attachment_47298" align="alignnone" width="600"] You can climb 11,674 steps to reach the peak of Nieson; making it the longest staircase in the world.[/caption] Located in the Bernese Alps, the pyramid-shaped mountain peak of Niesen overlooks Lake Thun in Interlaken from 2362 metres above sea level. Ascending the peak can be done via a funicular, which departs every 30 minutes from 8am to 5pm, or by the impressive 11,674 steps. 10. World’s only peak-to-peak suspension bridge [caption id="attachment_47299" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Peak Walk at Glacier 3000 is the world’s first suspension footbridge linking two mountains peaks.[/caption] Boasting spectacular views of more than 24 snow-capped peaks of at least 4000 metres above sea level including the Eiger, Monch, the Matterhorn, Jungfraujoch and even Mont Blanc, the Peak Walk at Glacier 3000 is the world’s first suspension footbridge linking two mountains peaks. 11. World’s oldest vegetarian restaurant [caption id="attachment_47300" align="alignnone" width="600"] Haus Hiltl in Zurich first opened its doors in 1898, and it holds the record for the oldest continuously opened vegetarian restaurant in the world.[/caption] Having first opened its doors in 1898, Haus Hiltl in Zurich holds the record for the oldest continuously opened vegetarian restaurant in the world. You can take healthy indulgence to a whole new level at Hiltl, with its selection of 40 varieties of salad, fresh food juices and Indian buffet. 12. World’s best tennis player [caption id="attachment_47301" align="alignnone" width="600"] Roger Federer, who was born Basel, is currently the world's best tennis player.[/caption] Apart from incredible natural assets, impressive engineering feats and talented chefs, Switzerland is also home to the world’s best tennis player, Roger Federer, who was born Basel. The nation’s art and architecture capital, Basel is located on the River Rhine and borders France and Germany.   Planning a trip to the home of the Swiss? Make sure you check out the rest of our guide to travelling Switzerland.
What to do in Bern, Switzerland
Bern, the capital city of Europe’s most scenic country, Switzerland, looks as though it is peeled directly from the pages of a fairy-tale book. With the old city surrounded on three sides by the turquoise waters of the flowing river Aare, a sea of medieval buildings spanning the old town and the spire of the Bern cathedral piercing the blue sky, Bern is a sight not to be missed. Staying in Bern Switzerland is renowned for being one of the most beautiful (and most expensive) countries in Europe. Bern is no exception – particularly when considering accommodation. The Bellevue Palace If you have the money to spend, for around $600 a night you can book yourself into Bern’s best hotel: the Bellevue Palace. With five stars and set in the heart of the city, the Bellevue was built in 1865 as an upmarket hotel, and has remained that way. [caption id="attachment_47240" align="alignleft" width="600"] Grand exteriors of The Bellevue Palace[/caption] Luxe red velvet curtains, decorative cornices and bay windows are some of the features of this luxurious hotel, where even sleeping is an experience in itself. Hotel Jardin For a more affordable stay in Bern, consider the Hotel Jardin for $195 a night. Offered in this price is a comfortable queen bed, free tea and coffee in the concierge and free use of public transport throughout the city. [caption id="attachment_47243" align="alignleft" width="600"] Hotel Jardin is a more affordable accommodation in Bern[/caption] With colourful rooms, all the modern amenities and great customer service, this is an excellent and less costly alternative to the Bellevue. Floating on Aare The best experience to be had in Bern, if the weather permits, is to go floating down the crystal clear waters of the fast-flowing river Aare. Dissecting the city, a swim down the river not only offers Bern’s most unique experience, but also some of the best views. [caption id="attachment_47245" align="alignleft" width="600"] The River Aare in the heart of Bern[/caption] The water, flowing from the Upper Rhine, is essentially glacial water making its way down from the mountains, meaning the river is both fast and freezing (and remarkably refreshing).   This activity is not for the faint-hearted, although reasonably safe, with exit points all along the river.   It is advisable for non-so-confident swimmers to engage a flotation device like a ‘Wickelfisch’, which seconds as a bag to store your clothes and shoes. Bear spotting at Bärengraben Legend has it that the city of Bern was actually named after a bear, the first animal that the Duke of Zähringen found on a hunt in the surrounding areas. [caption id="attachment_47246" align="alignleft" width="600"] The bears can be watched from above[/caption] Therefore, visiting the Bear Pit, stationed beside the River Aare, is a fitting thing to do while in town.   The three bears – Finn, Björk and Ursina – can be watched from above, or below (through a glass divider), paddling in the fresh river or scaling the hill to find a good sunbaking spot.   You can also enjoy a delicious dinner at Brasserie Bärengraben, situated above the bear park in a historic building. At this restaurant you can enjoy duck terrine with onion confit, foie gras with wine jam and marinated mussels. [caption id="attachment_47248" align="alignleft" width="600"] Enjoy a delicious dinner at Brasserie Baerengraben[/caption] Explore the old town on foot Only six kilomtres at its widest point, the Bern’s old town is perfect for exploring on foot.   A UNESCO World-Heritage site, it’s renowned for its perfectly preserved medieval buildings and is home to the Bern cathedral and clock tower. These monuments, straight out of the storybooks of your childhood, should definitely be on your Bern itinerary. [caption id="attachment_47249" align="alignleft" width="600"] The old town clock tower[/caption] While in the old city, have a wander through the boutique shops and admire the sculptured fountains, framed by posies of red flowers against the carved stone. These fountains, found all through the Old Town, are the perfect place to wash your face and fill your water bottle, as the water is pumped straight from the glacial waters below. [caption id="attachment_47239" align="alignleft" width="600"] Wander through the streets of this UNESCO world heritage site[/caption] Immerse yourself in Swiss cuisine Swiss food, although somewhat pricey in Bern, is an important part of exploring the city.   Swiss chocolate, the most famous chocolate in the world, is best eaten at Läderach. With three stores in the city, it offers chocolate slabs that come in an immense range of different concoctions. [caption id="attachment_47251" align="alignleft" width="600"] Laderach chocolate is a local favourite[/caption] Try the hazelnut milk (we are talking whole hazelnuts), classic milk or caramel fudge.   To supplement the above food group, head out and try a Swiss rösti. The rösti, essentially a big hash brown, is often accompanied by a range of hearty ingredients. The best rosti in Bern can be had at the famous Kornhauskeller, where they’re served with tomato, bacon, onion and cheese.   Other delectable items on the menu here include boiled beef with smoked ham and bacon, thin-skinned beef carpaccio and grilled sea bass fillets with tomatoes, olive oil and thyme. Not only is the food brilliant, but the Kornhauskeller also boasts baroque architecture and is located in a vault in the centre of the old town. [caption id="attachment_47252" align="alignleft" width="600"] Kornhauskeller is waiting[/caption] Other places to consider a night out are Krone restaurant for a delicious Mediterranean feed and Wash Bar (a trendy bar for ‘coffee, drinks and laundry’) where you can multitask your afternoon away, meeting some locals while you clean your clothes. Satisfy your inner child with a toboggan run down Gurten Gurten, Bern’s resident mountain, has a lot to offer. Standing tall at 860 metres above sea level, you can scale it by train or foot for a fantastic view over the city and three lakes region.   Add toboggan runs for all seasons into the mix – one of Bern’s most loved and cheap-as-chips activities – and you’ll find a day on Gurten is a day well spent.
Where to eat in Paris: an Insider’s Guide
A former Paris resident and restaurant critic gives us the scoop on where to eat in the City of Lights. Whenever I return to Paris, the city I once called home, I always end up eating in the same places – restaurants and bars that I can’t walk past without popping in for a snack or drink.   What follows are my choice picks – I’ll see you at the bar. Au Passage Make sure to book at Au Passage, because this is one hip restaurant.   Situated in the 11th arrondissement shouldering the Marais but feeling more like trendy nearby République, it’s all Formica tables and mismatched chairs, with natural wines taking the lead on the drinks front. [caption id="attachment_47200" align="alignleft" width="600"] Chocolate, salt and olive oil at Au Passage (Photo: Freya Herring)[/caption] The food from chef Luis Miguel Tavares Andrade is out there and changes daily – think smoked pigeon for one course, veal with XO for the next, and salted chocolate ganache drizzled with olive oil to finish.   Address: 1bis Passage Saint-Sébastien, 75011 Le Relais Gascon I used to live near this rickety, timber-clad restaurant in the 18th arrondissement, which serves the food of France’s south-west. It quickly became a firm favourite and now I cannot go back to Paris without eating here; I love everything about it. [caption id="attachment_47201" align="alignleft" width="600"] Picturesque interiors at Le Relais Gascon[/caption] Go in the evening when it’s crowded and utterly Parisian in its vibe. Tables are crammed together (you’ll have to move the table to get in and out of your seat) and voices are loud. Order the salade du béarnais, a heady combination of leaves with tomatoes, heaps of smoky, salty bacon lardons and layers of soft and crisp, garlic-fried potatoes, crowned with melting goat’s cheese.   It’s so huge it would be a miracle if you finished it (I never have), but what a joy it is to try. The original Relais Gascon, just off Place des Abbesses, has a second outpost five minutes down the road.   Address:  6 rue des Abbesses, 75018 Paris Little Red Door Although France is known for its wine, the cocktails in this town are also worth your time.   Step into Little Red Door in the hip 3rd arrondissement and choose your cocktail depending on which artwork you like – they bring you a book of pictures; you pick your fave; a drink appears. It sounds corny and it kind of is, but that’s all forgotten when you get your drink, which invariably boasts Everlasting Gobstopper levels of flavour.   Address: 60 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris L’Arpège If you want to eat at one of the world’s best restaurants, L’Arpège (which has no less than three Michelin stars), but can’t find the coin, then there’s a little secret we should let you in on: go for The Gardener’s Lunch. At €175 ($278), it’s half the price of its evening offerings, and with chef Alain Passard’s famed love for vegetables (he has farms dotted around France, each producing veggies depending on their unique terroir), it might just be the best way to experience his unique approach to cooking. [caption id="attachment_47203" align="alignleft" width="600"] L’Arpège holds no less than three Michelin stars[/caption] Address: 84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris To market Pretty much every day in Paris is market day; you just have to find out where the market is and when. You’ll see locals loading up on their weekly vegetables, knowing that this is better, not to mention cheaper, produce than you can get at the supermarket.   Have a Google and find out where the nearest market is in relation to your accommodation, and buy your supplies for the duration of your stay. And a hot tip: the hustle and bustle of bartering is part of the joy, so don’t be shy. Le Relais de l’Entrecôte You’ll find l’Entrecôtes across Paris, but the one on the Left Bank (St-Benoît) is the one I always head to. [caption id="attachment_47217" align="alignleft" width="600"] Steak and chips at l'Entrecote[/caption] This is a famous chain of restaurants, so there will be tourists here, but there will also be locals, because it’s that good. There will be a queue, too, so prepare yourself for that, but once you’re in, the service is speedier than a TGV. You don’t order here; you just get. All you need to do is tell them how you like your steak. [caption id="attachment_47204" align="alignleft" width="600"] This place is a local favourite[/caption] They’ll serve you a lightly dressed salad to start, and then load you up with fries and steak doused with their famous, rich, herby ‘green sauce’ for which they’ve never given away the recipe. Everything is delicious. Just hurry up and go. Ma Cave Fleury Off the tourist trail, Ma Cave Fleury is a little bar in 2nd arrondissement where Morgane Fleury serves the sparkling wine from her father Jean-Pierre’s vineyard in Aube. Think Champagne, but not from the region of Champagne itself. [caption id="attachment_47205" align="alignleft" width="600"] You'll find Ma Cave Fleury off the tourist trail[/caption] Her wines are natural and organic, and the establishment, situated on a gritty street lined with sex shops (this is real Paris, baby), has a ‘locals’ feel. Time it right and you might even find yourself in the middle of a jazz performance, which are often held here.   Address: 177 Rue Saint-Denis, 75002 Paris Les Deux Magots There’s no denying it, this is a touristy brasserie. [caption id="attachment_47206" align="alignleft" width="600"] Le Deux Magots is one of the true remaining Parisian haunts[/caption] Famed for being the meeting place for eminent intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, it’s one of the few Parisian hotspots that hasn’t lost its charm.   Every time I’m in Paris I go here, often alone, order its truly excellent tartare de bœuf façon Deux Magots with a glass of its equally delicious Gewürztraminer, and watch the Parisian drama unfold – the tourists; the couples; and yes, even some Parisians. Bliss.   Address: 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris Rue Montorgueil When I lived in Paris, I used to go to this street in Les Halles regularly to peruse the food stores and people-watch – it’s one of the world’s great food streets. [caption id="attachment_47207" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect the ancient equivalent of a supermarket[/caption] Rue Montorgueil is like an ancient equivalent of a supermarket, because everything you need is here: cheese shops, bread shops, fishmongers, fruit and veg… Les Halles is historically the market area of Paris; this is the way shopping used to be.   You could spend all day just walking up and down, tasting as you go, and I can’t help but do just that whenever I’m in town.
Where to find Nonna-style pizza and pasta in Rome
From hole-in-the-wall pizza joints to fine diners and all the trattorias in between: here’s where to find the best traditional cuisine in Italy’s Eternal City. As any seasoned foodie traveller will tell you, a trip to Rome is incomplete without indulging in carbs, Italian-style – you know, the world’s best pizza, pasta, focaccia bread dipped in balsamic vinegar?   The city serves up a maze of authentic and traditional restaurants to discover one bite at a time. From the cheap and cheerful to the inventive and the elegant, here’s your guide to finding Nonna-approved dishes that you must eat, when in Rome. Piccolo Arancio Hidden in the warren of cobbled streets, Piccolo Arancio (meaning ‘small orange’ in Italian) is a well-concealed gem of Roman cuisine. Featuring two wide doors opening onto the narrow street, locals can be spotted dining at dusk within a quaint, quintessentially Italian, interior – chequered table cloths and all. [caption id="attachment_47190" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect quintessentially Italian interiors[/caption] This restaurant is a local favourite located only a two-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain.   While the location is prime and the design is delightful, at this venue, the pasta is the real star. Try the house-made, Nonna-style fettuccini, penne, lasagne and ravioli, which draw a huge following.   For a mouth-watering feast, order the orange ravioli with ricotta, orange juice and zest or the cacio e pepe, a typical Roman pasta dish served with only pecorino cheese and cracked pepper. With a wine to suit every pasta base, this is the perfect place to seat yourself for a night of fine, and immersive, Roman dining – right in the heart of Rome.   Address: Vicolo Scanderbeg, 112, Rome La Fontana di Venere Also a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, La Fontana di Venere is what might happen if Nonna met up with Heston Blumenthal.   The pasta here is naturally made in-house and dishes sport some incredible inventive flair: try the risotto with scallops in vanilla for an unlikely, but utterly surprising combination. Similarly, let the flavours of succulent lamb and saffron cream dance around your mouth with the cannelloni dish or try the ‘little bundle’ of phyllo pastry, buffalo cheese and crispy prosciutto with basil cream. [caption id="attachment_47191" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect adorable pink interiors at La fontana di Venere[/caption] An added bonus of La Fontana di Venere is the traditional Roman design: pale pink walls, ancient Roman art replicas and a classical-style statue displayed as a centrepiece.   Address: Vicolo dei Modelli, 56, Rome Pizzeria Ostiense Situated in Ostiense, an up-and-coming formerly industrial neighbourhood, this pizzeria feels a lot more like a cafeteria than a fine-dining experience. You’ll find exposed brick walls, old fashioned tables, colourful wooden chairs and almost fluorescent lighting – but boy, can they make a pizza.   Expect thin pizza bases, limited toppings (in true Italian style) and a bucket load of flavour.   Order the zucchini flower pizza with mozzarella and anchovies or the classic Margherita with buffalo cheese. The real crowd-pleaser, however, is the capricciosa with the unexpectedly glorious combination of boiled egg, mushroom, artichoke and prosciutto.   With wood-fired bases and expert chefs preparing them, every pizza on the menu promises to be as delightful as the last – just make sure you book enough time in Rome to try them all. Address: Via Ostiense, 56, Rome Felice a Testaccio Traditional Roman cuisine is best had in the exposed brick and chequered-floored interiors of Felice a Testaccio. [caption id="attachment_47192" align="alignleft" width="600"] Exposed brick and chequered-floored interiors plays backdrop to traditional Roman cuisine[/caption] With a menu that changes depending on the day of the week, expect to feast on spaghetti with bacon and egg yolk on Mondays, ravioli with cherry tomatoes, herbs and ricotta cheese on Thursdays. Try something very unique (if you’re game) on Saturday, with rigatoni served with pajata (the small intestine of a dairy calf – a traditional Roman delicacy).   Address: Via Mastro Giorgio, 29, Rome Pizza e Mozzarella Characterised by a hole in the wall and a cow mat, this pizzeria is an unlikely local favourite, boasting some of the best home-style pizza in Rome.   Pizza is charged by weight here, so you can take full advantage of the variety on offer. Options include the usual suspects and more: think Margherita, eggplant and mozzarella, salami, four cheese, and potato and rosemary.   But do not leave the establishment without ordering some supplì (a magical combination of fried risotto rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese). Most options come in at a grand total of €1.30 per 100 grams, meaning a kilo of Rome’s best pizza will only set you back $20.   Address: Via del Piè di Marmo, 32, Rome Imàgo With a Michelin star, views overlooking the ancient city of Rome and red roses and wine buckets adorning the white linen-clothed tables, Imàgo is proof that Nonna has a very fancy side.   The menu is equally as impressive as the establishment, with rabbit and scampi ravioli, fettuccini quail ragout served with pecorino cheese and caviar, and the carb-on-carb dish of pasta and potatoes with baby crab.   This is the perfect place to sip on a glass of red between bites, as you look out upon the curves of the pantheon in the distance. Address: Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 6, Rome  
12 things every first-timer should do in Malta
Malta might not be at the top of your European bucket list, but perhaps it should be. Discover the highlights of this under-the-radar archipelago here. Malta, the underrated gem of the Mediterranean, is a hub of history, culture and pristine waters.   From its tiny UNESCO World Heritage capital of Valletta and time-warped hilltop city of Mdina to its traditional fishing villages, natural wonders and prehistoric temples, this small island nation is a microcosm of all Europe’s best bits. Here’s what not to miss while you’re there. Explore Valletta: its streets, tunnels and St. John’s Co-Cathedral With narrow streets, made mostly of honey-coloured limestone and religious monuments on street corners, it’s clear that Valletta is the cultural centre of Malta as well as the capital. Just walking through the city feels artistically enriching. [caption id="attachment_47155" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Valletta port is a popular tourist attraction full of cafes and restaurants[/caption] If you want to delve deep into the fascinating history of Valletta, take a tour of its tunnels. Initially dug by the Knights of Malta, in reaction to an invasion by the Ottoman Empire in 1565, the tunnels have been multifunctional in protecting their inhabitants ever since. [caption id="attachment_47156" align="alignleft" width="600"] The cathedral was built in honour of saint John the Baptist between 1572 and 1577[/caption] Another key component of Valletta’s history is St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Built by the Knights of Saint John, and in honour of John the Baptist, the Baroque cathedral is adorned with delicate stone carvings and gold-leafed ceilings. It’s worth a visit just for the famous Caravaggio painting, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Go snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon Just a boat ride from the seaside resort of Sliema on Malta (the archipelago’s main island) is the small island of Comino. Here, you’ll find the Blue Lagoon – well worth a trip for its crystal clear, turquoise waters. [caption id="attachment_47157" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a snorkel in the blues[/caption] You could just position yourself on the rocks beside the water and sunbake the day away, but with an abundance of sea life under the water it’s worth grabbing some goggles and going for a snorkel.   An ice-cream boat is sure to be patrolling somewhere along the shore, so keep your eyes out for a sweet treat when you’re finished exploring the underwater realm. [caption id="attachment_47158" align="alignleft" width="600"] Panoramic views of the Valletta Skyline[/caption] If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-packed trip, consider a powerboat ride around the island, taking in its caves and Elephant Rock. The boat seems to jump over the choppy water, creating the sensation of being in flight. If you’re game, opt for the round trip from Sliema for around $70, which includes a four-hour stop for swimming, snorkelling and cruising the Crystal Lagoon. Take a boat trip around the Blue Grotto Another blue-themed activity is a visit to the Blue Grotto. Comprised of seven caves on the southern coast of Malta, it boasts the most luminous cobalt water thanks to the sun reflecting off the white seabed underneath.   The best way to see this phenomenon is on the water. Departing from the village of Wied iz-Żurrieq, a local Maltese guide can take you on a 20-minute tour through the caves on a traditional fishing boat. [caption id="attachment_47159" align="alignleft" width="600"] Summer in Malta[/caption] For a high-octane venture to the main arch, why not just abseil down it? Book with Malta Outdoors for a truly unforgettable way to see this landmark. [caption id="attachment_47160" align="alignleft" width="600"] Walk through the streets of Malta's old capital city[/caption] There are also some prime locations for a photo of the Blue Grotto from above, with the Blue Wall and Grotto viewpoint just a short walk from the main road above. Meander through the Silent City Mdina, the former capital of Malta, has a long history dating back 4000 years as a fortified city protecting the Maltese from invaders. The hilltop location, in those days of warfare, was perfect: with the view from the bastions, the inhabitants could see foreign ships approaching their kingdom.   With its wonderfully preserved medieval and Baroque architecture, the walled city makes you feel like time has stood still. Aside from the few cars owned by a limited number of residents, the only vehicles permitted to enter Mdina are horse-drawn carriages, creating a sense of calm that contributes to the nickname the Silent City. [caption id="attachment_47161" align="alignleft" width="600"] Mdina, The Silent City at sunrise on a crisp winter morning[/caption] While you’re here, make sure you visit the Mdina Glass Shop to buy some famous hand-blown glass. Although glass is a tricky souvenir, the attendants are more than helpful and bubble wrap (twice) the items for their international visitors. Stop in at the Fontanella Tea Garden for a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of its famous chocolate cake. Eat as much pastizzi as is humanly possible A traditional savoury Maltese pastry, the pastizzi is usually filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. This Maltese specialty costs a grand total of 60c each at your average pastizzi counter: they might be heavy on your stomach but they’re light on your pocket. [caption id="attachment_47163" align="alignleft" width="600"] Pastizzi: Homemade Maltese pastries[/caption] Discover Malta’s megalithic temples If you think St. John’s Co-Cathedral is old, wait until you see one of Malta’s megalithic temples. Originating 6000 years ago, these temples were constructed by the earliest inhabitants of Malta and consist of upright slabs of rock, surmounted by horizontal blocks. [caption id="attachment_47166" align="alignleft" width="600"] Interiors of Mnajdra Temple[/caption] This structure suggests that the temples were once roofed, and tells a story of a civilisation that existed many lifetimes ago. [caption id="attachment_47164" align="alignleft" width="600"] A Megalithic Temple and the surrounding area[/caption] There are seven in total, but the main megalithic temple sites to visit are Hagar Qim, Skorba and Tarxien. Take a trip out to Marsaxlokk Bay A traditional fishing village on the south-east of the main island of Malta, Marsaxlokk Bay is characterised by a fleet of coloured fishing boats moored in the harbour. [caption id="attachment_47167" align="alignleft" width="600"] Famous multicolored fisherman's boats in Marsaxlokk[/caption] Visit its daily markets along the quay, where you’ll find a collection of locally made crafts: bags, fabrics and toys. Take the time to have a chat to some of the locals, even if it is in fragmented Maltese.   There’s also a daily fish market, where the local fishermen (Marsaxlokk has the highest volume of active fisherman in Malta) sell their produce. At this market you’ll also find other homemade treats, made by the local women of the village. Enjoy the candy-coloured hues of the Popeye Village Originally built as the ramshackle fishing village film set of the 1980 musical production Popeye (starring Robin Williams), this charming pocket of Malta has been converted into a quirky adventure park themed around the cartoon sailor. [caption id="attachment_47168" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a stroll through Popeye village[/caption] Perhaps the best part of Popeye Village is not the activities that take place here – which include meeting Popeye, of course – but actually the coloured wooden houses perched on the harbour. You can see them in their glory from a viewpoint across the water if you don’t want to pay to visit the fun park itself. Have an adrenaline-filled day on the ocean With cultural and epicurean delights in spades, it’s easy to get tied up in the easy life in Malta. To mix things up a little, try your hand at some water sports with a range of companies that deliver some seriously good aquatic activities.   Oh Yeah Malta will provide a day out on the ocean you’ll never forget. Offering jet skiing for €88 an hour, water skiing for €55, and parasailing for €80 an hour, these activities will definitely add some variety to your holiday. See Saint Mary Magdalene Chapel on the Dingli Cliffs While travelling through the barren landscape between Marsaxlokk and Mdina, a local guide took us to the chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene.   The chapel stands humbly on the edge of the famous Dingli Cliffs. [caption id="attachment_47169" align="alignleft" width="600"] Saint Mary Magdalene chapel stands humbly on the edge of the famous Dingli Cliffs[/caption] Characterised by only four limestone walls, a front door and a circular window above it, this chapel was built in the 1600s to honour the saint.   Looking beyond the chapel, to the ocean, offers a spectacular and uninterrupted view. Lounge around at Ramla Bay on Gozo Arguably the best beach in Malta, Ramla Bay sports red sand and yellow sunshades. Perfect for snorkelling, swimming and sunbaking, you’ll find it on Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago. [caption id="attachment_47170" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Dingli cliffs in all their glory[/caption] It’s fabled that Roman remains lie beneath the sand, but what is certainly known is that there was once three batteries to prevent enemies landing on the island. The remains of one such battery are still to one side of the beach.   Follow a path from the Ramla Bay car park to the viewing platform of Calypso’s Cave. This cave was reportedly referred to by Homer in The Odyssey, where Calypso entertained the shipwrecked Ulysses for seven years before he journeyed back home. The cave itself is closed and inaccessible currently but the walk affords a great view back to the bay. [caption id="attachment_47171" align="alignleft" width="600"] Scenic view of beautiful Ramla bay from Calypso cave[/caption] Book yourself into the Hilton Malta The Hilton, a modern five-star hotel in the seaside town of Saint Julian’s, is the perfect place to base yourself during a Maltese holiday.   With giant chandeliers adorning the ceilings, marble staircases and indoor fountains, the interiors of the Hilton are exquisite. Equally as impressive are the three pools that back onto the crystal clear ocean, and the five-star service from the concierge.   Also with great access to any part of the island (and the island’s islands), the Hilton is a great base for exploration: take a taxi to Mdina (20 minutes) or a taxi boat to Valletta (just across the pond). Jet skis are also for hire for a day of exploring via the water.
Norway landscape
4 travel hotspots you need to explore this year
Norway, Antarctica, Greece and the UK – four of the hottest destinations on the planet right now. Bentours and Tempo Holidays are ready to help you tick them off your bucket list. Norway Experience everything the diverse land of Norway has to offer, from majestic mountains to deep fjords, the wild Norwegian Sea and more. Discover the country’s prettiest towns and most dramatic landscapes on an unforgettable scenic rail journey, then be welcomed aboard a Hurtigruten cruise liner for an 11-day coastal cruise through the intricate archipelago of the Lofoten Islands. It’s all part of the Complete Norway tour – and it’s all done in effortless style thanks to Bentours, the Scandinavian and Polar specialists. United kingdom [caption id="attachment_46912" align="alignnone" width="600"] Make your way out of the cities and into the picturesque UK countryside[/caption] To truly experience the UK’s rich history, you must travel beyond the cities. Ancient sites such as Hadrian’s Wall – a Roman fortification stretching 117 kilometres from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth – lie waiting for you in the Yorkshire Dales. And while you’re venturing north through the Lake District, why not cast your eye towards Scotland and Wales, the land of Celtic culture and castles? Some lie in ruins, others have been home to the same family for generations, and some have been transformed into magnificent hotels for you to explore. Antarctica [caption id="attachment_46911" align="alignnone" width="600"] A once in a lifetime expedition[/caption] Antarctica’s abundance of wildlife and stunning landscapes are simply awe-inspiring. As you cross the Antarctic Circle and approach the shores of the great white continent, the air temperature dips dramatically – but the breathtaking scenery and unique fauna of this frozen wilderness make it all worthwhile. Marvel at some of the highest and most spectacular glacier walls, or be inspired by the Lemaire Channel that is so beautiful it has been dubbed ‘Kodak crack’ by photographers. Greece [caption id="attachment_46914" align="alignnone" width="600"] Visit the iconic ancient site of Olympia which hosted the inaugural Olympic Games[/caption] If you love history, sunshine, amazing food and classic postcard images of crumbling temple ruins or whitewashed houses with blue shutters, Greece cannot be equalled. Imagine having the chance to explore 4000 years of history at iconic sites such as the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Then imagine what it must have been like for athletes from a different time, striving for glory at the ancient Olympic Games site at Olympia. Then just lie back and relax by the sea on one of Greece’s stunning islands, contemplating which Mediterranean culinary delight to sample for dinner.   For tailor-made holidays, package tours, expedition cruising and more, visit and or see your selected travel agent.
Where to find the best dessert in Rome
Italy is home to the some of the world’s most decadent foods – and dessert is no exception. Creamy Italian gelato and classic cannoli are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Italian desserts available for your consumption… [caption id="attachment_46792" align="alignleft" width="600"] Rome is a plethora of sweet[/caption] The below list sifts through the best nooks, hole-in-the-wall dessert bars and fine dining restaurants to experience the sweet side of Roma. Gelato An Italian ice-cream, made of whole milk, sugar and egg yolks, paired with a wide range of flavours (think traditional, more than a few seasonal and even some experimental). Gelateria Del Teatro Gelateria Del Teatro is one of three gelaterias owned by Stefano and Silvia Marcotulli in Rome, and is home to (arguably) the best gelato in the city. [caption id="attachment_46782" align="alignleft" width="600"] A heavenly hole in the wall[/caption] Featuring a delightful frontage of hanging pot plants and crates of produce visible through a glass window, and situated on a cobblestone street in true Roman fashion, this establishment is true to its heritage. This also extends to the flavours represented on the menu: including traditional cottage cheese gelato, with either sour cherries and butter crumble or almond and fig.   The ‘laboratory’ out the back of their main gelateria also offers a few inventive flavours. Try the ‘white chocolate and basil’ for a surprisingly delicious combo, the ‘Amalfi lemon’ made with organic lemons from the Amalfi coast or the ‘Grandma Cream’ boasting Italian caramel pine nuts.   Address: Via dei Coronari, 65/66 Giolitti A stone’s throw from the Pantheon, and not too far from the Trevi Fountain, this gelateria is a convenient excuse to stop and reenergise before getting back into tourist mode.   Italian accents adorn the interiors, with marble floors, wooden panelling and chandeliers aplenty. [caption id="attachment_46784" align="alignleft" width="600"] Italian architecture at its best[/caption] The main feature, however, is the gelato.   Creamy, cold and creative are the best words to describe it. And with flavours like yoghurt, whisky cream, walnut and coconut there is every reason to get yourself to Giolitti (maybe on the way to the Pantheon and on the way back?).   Address: Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40, Rome   Other honourable mentions include Fatamorgana, Gelateria Fassi and the local favourite La Neviera. Tiramisu A classic dessert made from savoiardi, or ladyfingers – biscuits doused in coffee (and sometimes also rum) – layered with mascarpone and fresh egg custard dusted with chocolate powder. Da Enzo A classic Italian trattoria, Da Enzo serves a range of Italian delicacies. Try the fried artichoke and the fettuccini with pecorino cheese and pepper, but, whatever you do, save room for a tiramisu dessert. [caption id="attachment_46785" align="alignleft" width="600"] One of Rome's most charming dessert stops[/caption] Served, simply, in a curved glass, this tiramisu is void of the superfluous flair that often attracts tourists – but boy is it delicious. Creamy and sweet, with a hit of coffee and mascarpone that begs you to take another bite.   You have the option to share, but I wouldn’t suggest it.   Address: Via dei Vascellari, 29, Rome Zum Dedicated to the Italian delicacy, this is the best place in Rome for both traditional, and quirky, tiramisu desserts. [caption id="attachment_46786" align="alignleft" width="600"] Zum is dedicated to the Italian delicacy[/caption] You cannot go past the original (with only a layer of hazelnuts deviating from the traditional recipe), but if you are feeling a little experimental try the pistachio-, strawberry- or rum-flavoured tiramisu.   Like us, these guys are obsessed with the dessert, to the point of a new creation – the tiramisu cookie.   You can eat in, at the stylish, bar-like establishment, or grab-and-go, savouring the flavour as you meander the old streets of Rome.   Address: Piazza del Teatro di Pompeo 20, 00186, Rome. Cornetto A crescent-shaped pastry, similar to the French croissant (but the Italians argue it’s better!). Antico Forno Roscioli This is your one-stop-shop for the humble cornetto. With a crisp pastry exterior, and the slightly sweet, slightly chewy middle, this is the best in Rome. You can have your cornetti plain, or filled with jam, cream or Nutella – best enjoyed between sips of a cappuccino before the morning rush.   Address: Via dei Chiavari, 34, Rome   Also try out the cornetti at Pasticceria Barberini, for an equally delicious breakfast. Cannoli A sweet, tube-shaped, pastry filled with sweet, creamy ricotta filling. I Dolci Di Nonna Vincenza Nonna is the namesake of this restaurant and it shows.   Hailing from Sicily – home of the cannoli – the owners of I Dolci Di Nonna Vincenza know how to make an authentic cannoli. Try the traditional ricotta cream filling, dipped in pistachio dust, sprinkled with icing sugar – yum!   Address: Via dell'Arco del Monte, 98/A/B, Rome Ciuri Ciuri Hailed as the best cannoli joint in Rome (by the locals no less!), Ciuri Ciuri is the destination for value, flavour and fresh pastry. [caption id="attachment_46793" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals know this place as the best cannoli joint in Rome[/caption] The house favourite is the pistachio cream cannoli, best served with one end dipped in crushed pistachios and the other in chocolate chips (although you do get a choice of several toppings). Chocolate chip cream, mascarpone cream and chocolate hazelnut filling are other honourable mentions for an unforgettable cannoli experience in the city’s Monti district.   Address: Via Leonina, 18/20, Rome
5 secret bars in London and how to find them
Hidden in London’s rabbit warren of streets – between the old pubs and office buildings, trendy cafes and quirky shops – are some stellar secret cocktail bars to get acquainted with. The Blind Pig Hidden above Michelin-star restaurant Social Eating House in Soho is the American underworld-themed bar The Blind Pig. Named after American slang for a drinking den during the Prohibition, this has strong whiskey and cigar vibes reminiscent of 1920s New York.   All dim lighting and mahogany trim, this establishment is decked out with vintage fittings, an antique mirrored ceiling, reclaimed wooden chairs and a copper-topped bar. Boasting cosy leather bar stools and booths, and a drinks menu of strong spirits, quality cocktails and craft beer, this is the perfect London hideout.   Cocktails are also named after your favourite childhood tales: think The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 5 a Day (Patron Silver tequila, lime cordial, apple, pears, plums, strawberries and oranges); Harry Potter’s Best Bottle Butter Bitter (Scotch whisky, beer, butterscotch, bitters, thyme and citrus); and Jemima Puddle-Duck’s Fowl Play (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, blood orange, honey, herbs and spices). The menu is an artwork in itself, with each cocktail description paired with a gorgeous illustration to feast your eyes on.   Finding this gem of a bar, from street level, is a challenge. Look for the vintage, neon red and white ‘Optician’ sign, and below you will find a brass, blindfolded pig doorknocker. Once you find this, you’re in. Just don’t tell anyone.   Address: 58 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR Discount Suit Company Named after the tailor’s shop that was based at this spot, and whose sign is still (mostly) mounted on the brick corner of the old building, the Discount Suit Company is an underground bar with the best of everything: in the heart of London, very intimate and home to the best exotic and classic cocktails. [caption id="attachment_46741" align="alignleft" width="600"] With the original sign (somewhat) in tact, the Discount Suit Company holds plenty of history[/caption] With exposed brick interior walls, wood furnishings and ambient lighting, this bar blends romance with a touch of grunge. The dressmaker’s mannequin in the corner of the bar is a true tribute to the bar’s former life, but I am very sure the space is happy with this new breath of life.   Nibble on artisanal cheeses from London’s own Neal’s Yard Dairy as you sip your Wooly Back (pisco, white Port, coconut, jasmine, citrus and vitamin C) or your classic Piña Fumada (mezcal, Velvet Falernum, pineapple, lemon, honey and club soda).   Locating the entrance is tricky, and once you do, watch your head on the steep descent into the basement (and be even more careful on your way out, half intoxicated).   Address: 29a Wentworth Street, London E1 7TB Experimental Cocktail Club Found in the depths of bustling Chinatown behind an old door with peeling paint, the ECC is an easy one to walk past on first go, but a hard to resist once you’ve found it.   Spread over three storeys, the establishment’s industrial bones – pressed-metal ceilings and exposed bricks – are offset by minimalist interior design, mirrored walls and blackout curtains to atmospheric effect. It’s the perfect combination of lively and intimate, but make sure you book in advance – this is a popular spot. [caption id="attachment_46742" align="alignleft" width="600"] Brooding interiors at The Experimental Cocktail Club[/caption] Experimental cocktails include the Stockholm Syndrome (Ketel 1 vodka infused with cumin and dill, Linie Aquavit, lemon juice, syrup, pink Himalayan rock salt and bitters) and the Grandaddy (Buffalo Trace bourbon, Cynar, lemon and grapefruit juice and rosemary-infused honey). Classics are also on the menu, with a choice of 50s, 60s or 70s gin in your vintage martini.   Address: 13a Gerrard Street, London W1D 5PS Milk & Honey A member’s bar with a yearly fee, this is an upper-class club with a lot of sass. Serving a bunch of house rules with their amazing cocktails, you are expected to dress a certain way and act a certain way as a condition of entry.   As a non-member, you can still frequent the bar if you book a table in advance, preferably earlier in the week. There are non-member specific spots in the three-storey establishment, housing chesterfield couches, low lighting (aided by candles scattered through the bar), and pressed-metal ceilings. Just stepping in this exclusive bar makes you feel like a politician, a movie star or a someone who plays golf on a weekday.   The Bumblebee cocktail is divine, with dark rum, honey, lemon and angostura, and Satin Sheets tastes like it sounds, with a combination of tequila, falernum and lime. Of course, this bar also serves a range of fancy Champagne and wines, and a grazing menu worthy of kings. Try the homemade tuna samosas, the buttermilk-fried chicken bun or the cured meat board.   With no signs, the big metal door is the only signifier that Milk & Honey really exists. Check left and right, make sure no one is looking, and then enter. Voilà, you’re in!   Address: 61 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR King’s Head Members Club Positioned in the hip East End suburb of Hoxton, this bar is hidden behind the facade of a rundown British pub – but don’t be fooled: inside is another story. Its opulent and eclectic interiors are characterised by a startling collection of exotic taxidermied animals, including a cheetah standing atop an antique cabinet.   Thousands of butterflies line the dining room and peacocks are scattered around the bar; an assortment of antique furniture, much of it lined with red velvet, create a luxurious ambience. [caption id="attachment_46743" align="alignleft" width="600"] Unexpected interiors at The Kings Head[/caption] The King’s Head is another private member club and non-members need to score a spot on the guest list to gain entry – whether that’s to the bar or one of the club’s many events, from life drawing to burlesque shows. Emailing in advance to scope out what’s on is your best bet for getting in.   The club is home to some knock-out cocktails including the Goose Lemonade (Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, fresh raspberries topped with lemonade) and Aviation (Bombay Sapphire Gin, Maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and lemon juice).   Great drinks, an eccentric theme and unique events make for a marvellous time at this exclusive and secret London bar.   Address: 257 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AS
The Royal Clipper
Star Clippers cruises: a truly unique way to visit the world’s best destinations
With its fleet of extraordinary, unique and authentic clipper ships, Star Clippers invites you to visit some the world’s best destinations in the style and comfort that can only be found aboard a private yacht.   About Us Small enough to venture into the more intimate, seldom-visited areas around the globe, yet large enough to offer superb service, inviting public spaces, fabulous cuisine and all the luxurious accommodations of the finest modern yachts, the fleet carries only an intimate 170 to 227 guests – creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendliness on board each vessel. Showcasing the fleet is the Royal Clipper, the largest square rigger in the world, harking back to the grand age of sail, where guests balance grandeur, adventure and tradition seamlessly. Enjoy comfortable and inviting cabins, beautiful lounges and bars, expansive open decks for indulging in warm weather and tropical cruising, plus delightful culinary creations surpassed only by the friendly service of the ships’ warm crew who take care of everything. With itineraries designed for absolute destination immersion, Star Clippers’ Mediterranean cruises span the entire Middle Sea – including the Adriatic, Croatia, Montenegro, Venice, Greece, Italy and France. Closer to home, Star Clippers offers year-round tropical discoveries encompassing Thailand, Malaysia and the fascinating, rarely visited islands of the Indonesia archipelago – plus, new for 2019, journey to wild Borneo or in 2020 uncover Cambodia. [caption id="attachment_46721" align="alignnone" width="600"] Those star qualities.[/caption] The Facts Unique sailing adventures – tradition and romance of a tall ship, with all the comforts of a thoroughly modern ship. Environmentally focused – genuine clipper ships, able to hoist the sails and use wind power, the greenest of all propulsion. New ship in 2019 – the magnificent Flying Clipper joins the fleet in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Focus on destination – many cruises boast no full days at sea, visiting a new port every day. Surprising value – luxury small-ship cruising with attractive early bird fares. Best Cruise Croatia & Montenegro 7 nights from $2,860 per person Proving year after year to be Star Clippers’ most popular Mediterranean cruise destination, in 2020 you will discover no fewer than seven 7-night Croatia & Montenegro cruises departing round-trip from Venice. Not only will Star Clippers get you closer to the must-see medieval treasures of Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar and Kotor, you’ll also visit Zadar, Rovinj and Vis in Croatia. A new destination every day! Early booking (before 31 January 2020) fares start from $2,860 per person, twin share. Ask about the 10- and 11-night Adriatic sailings between Venice, Rome and Athens.     For bookings email; visit; or call 1300 361 012
Airbnb’s top 10 most popular stays have been revealed
Itching to discover where the most diehard wanderlusters among us are wish-listing? We’ve got the lowdown on the 10 stays around the world that have caught the attention of the people – and for good reason. Amalfi Coast villas, Joshua Tree cabins, Marrakech riads and even a secluded Aussie property, these Airbnb gems clocked up the most likes on the site’s Instagram page in 2018. And when you see the images, it’ll be crystal clear why each of these incredible places deserves a spot in the top 10.   So, the only thing left to ponder is… will you bag yourself a stay before everyone else does? Fingers and toes crossed for you. 10. The Triangle Siargao – General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines Got a grown-up fascination with teepees? Well this life-sized A-framed cabin in the Philippines is sure to tickle your fancy – it sure did for the 45,000-odd people who liked it on Instagram. Thanks for the pic, @thetriangle.siargao! [caption id="attachment_46224" align="alignleft" width="600"] The magnificent Triangle Siargao[/caption] Tucked away in the jungle, this property may look a little secluded, but you’ll have more than enough to live with, two friendly dogs as your welcome party and an indoor swing to pass the time. Pretty cool, eh? 9. Exclusive Villa with Private Dock and Swimming Pool – Piano di Sorrento, Italy Well, this is living, isn’t it? A cliff-side Amalfi Coast property that’d make anyone want to pack their bags and head for Italy. It’s not hard to believe this blue-soaked shot by @lizbedor received over 49,000 Instagram likes. [caption id="attachment_46223" align="alignleft" width="600"] A private oasis in Italy, anyone?[/caption] The property has its own private dock: the ideal starting point for a daily of sailing or the setting for a simple stroll after your private pool swim – whatever you prefer really. 8. Incredible Apartment & Views! Pool! – Perledo, Lake Como, Italy Was there ever any doubt that a Lake Como property would feature in this list? Not in our book; it’s one of the most magical places on Earth – and this photo captured by @sssoph90, which garnered almost 50,000 likes shows you why.   Situated high above the village of Varenna, you can see why visitors are itching to stay here, and we haven’t even mentioned the property’s three balconies, which happen to be just perfect for stargazing. 7. Vintage Design and Contemporary Art at Casalibera – Trastevere, Italy This could be the only balcony in the world where you don’t mind staring into the neighbour’s – and vice versa.   Set in Rome’s trendy Trastevere neighbourhood, this stylish apartment is the perfect place to sit with a good book and a glass of wine and watch the world go by. It’s no coincidence that the photo, taken by @jonisan, amassed more than 50,000 likes.   The apartment feels serene but is also within walking distance to all things Roma, which means – you guessed it – incredible pizza is never too far away. 6. The Boat House – New South Wales, Australia Hooray, Australia made the cut! Yep, a blissful little oasis on the NSW Hawkesbury River that can only be accessed by boat. Imagine laying out on the sun-kissed deck all day long, winding down the clock with a glass of wine.   It’s no wonder this pic, taken by @sarahlianhan, racked up over 55,000 likes. [caption id="attachment_46222" align="alignleft" width="600"] Some pretty nice Australian real estate[/caption] All we want to do is lay out on the property’s private pier and swim to the secret beaches scattered around the home. 5. BEAUTIFUL RIAD – Marrakech, Morocco Well this is not your average poolside by any stretch of the imagination. This stunning Moroccan homestead is your own private piece of heaven during your stay, ideal to curl up with a good book in, and waste the day in utter bliss. [caption id="attachment_46221" align="alignleft" width="600"] Moroccan paradise[/caption] The photo taken by @theresatorp was liked on Instagram just under 60,000 times and we can see why, we feel positively peaceful just looking at it. 4. Joshua Tree Campover Cabin – Joshua Tree, USA Tell us, where on Earth can you stay at a place with a lookout reminiscent of a setting of an old Western movie? Looking at this photo, you almost expect Clint Eastwood to ride by on horseback, tilt his hat in your direction and say, ‘nice digs’. [caption id="attachment_46220" align="alignleft" width="600"] Joshua Tree perfection[/caption] It’s no surprise this image taken by @alalam100 received over 65,000 likes on Instagram.   The Joshua Tree cabin is the perfect spot to appreciate the calm of the Mojave Desert and provides pretty much undisturbed daily sunrises and sunsets. Bliss. 3. Willow Treehouse – secluded, unique, and romantic – Willow, NY, USA A modern version of Robin Hood-style dwellings, this treehouse gives guests that ‘you’re on your own’ feeling in a somehow soothing way. During your stay, the swimming pond nearby will be your best friend, before you ascend up to your bedroom loft and take in the stars.   The treehouse is located near Woodstock in New York state and this image alone shows you why visitors are drawn to this woodland escape.   2. Lazzarella Room in Old Mill – Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy Like something out of a romantic movie, this Ravello property perched above the Amalfi Coast screams ‘Italy’ in every stereotypical sense – and we couldn’t be more pleased about that.   The vine-strung window looks out to the quaint town and hillside, and immediately gives you both the feeling of peace and the thirst to get out and explore.   The image is taken from the dining room of an old mill that has been turned into a homestead, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Amalfi Coast.   1. LUC 22 Boutique Alpine Retreat – Queenstown, New Zealand Imagine staring out a window from the comfort of your bath tub and seeing this. By ‘this’ I mean a stunning vista of horizon-stroking mountains, a smooth pool of bright blue water and a crisp, cloud-covered sky. That’s what you’ll get when you choose to take your baths at this Queenstown alpine retreat, which overlooks the stunning panorama of Lake Wakatipu. [caption id="attachment_46218" align="alignleft" width="600"] The most impressive AirBnB view of all[/caption] It’s not hard to determine why this place scored the number one spot with almost 110,000 likes. Can we stay?! Image taken by @chachi86.