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The best travel experiences to have in your 50s
If 50 is the new 40 then it follows that the destination birthday celebration now belongs to the quinquagenarian too. Here, a few suggestions on where to go to celebrate your semi-centenary. Bali What it says about you The good times just keep rolling What to do With well-priced flights and a multitude of accommodation options, you can decide to go small and luxurious with that special someone (try Alila Villas Uluwatu with its luxurious private pool villas and stunning sunset pavilion for Champagne supping) or hire the biggest villa you can find (browse Bali Villa Escapes or Bali Villas) for a party for the ages. Make a wish Organise a traditional sky lantern ceremony to bring the celebrations to a spectacular end. [caption id="attachment_33814" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Stunning views of the Bali surf.[/caption] The Himalayas What it says about you You’re not letting another birthday slow you down What to do One for the adventurous semi-centenarians, heading to The Himalayas (which are most accessible in Nepal, India and Bhutan) means you literally get to celebrate your big day on top of the world. If you have spent a good part of your life hiking you can attempt a climb, or you could just indulge in the peace and remove of the destinations. Make a wish Attend morning puja at a Buddhist monastery and request a prayer be made in your name. [caption id="attachment_22283" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Valley on the way from Monjo to Namche Bazaar in the Himalayas.[/caption] New York City What it says about you Sleep is for 60-year-olds! What to do If the aim of the birthday game is to be spoilt, then the Big Apple is going to do just that with choice: award-winning shows, endless bars and restaurants, shopping to make your head spin, world-class museums and special occasion experiences that just keep on coming. Make a wish Have breakfast at Tiffany’s by booking a table at the Blue Box Cafe in Tiffany’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, and then head downstairs for a spot of present shopping. [caption id="attachment_31952" align="alignnone" width="584"] New York[/caption] Italy What it says about you Only the best will do What to do Where do we start? Eat, drink and be merry would be our best advice, and given Italy’s culinary reputation, winemaking prowess and stunning beaches/islands/countryside/historic sights, it’s a definite can do, from taking an after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel to sipping Chianti over a long lunch in the Tuscan wine region of the same name. Make a wish Hire a villa – try Tuscany (of course), Sicily, Umbria or the Amalfi Coast – and live the dolce vita for a while. [caption id="attachment_25749" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Towering palazzi sits along the beach of Camogli in Italy.[/caption] Antarctica What it says about you Good things come to those who wait What to do With every cruise company worth its salt launching luxury expedition ships into this awe-inspiring destination (Silversea, Lindblad Expeditions and Crystal Cruises to name a few), finding the perfect option is easy. What all have in common though is the once-in-a-lifetime access they offer to the world’s last real frontier, a wintery wonderland of breathtaking scenery and wildlife. Make a wish Book on Scenic and you can see Antarctica from above by helicopter and below via submarine! [caption id="attachment_47592" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Exploring Antarctica is an experience like no other.[/caption] Japan What it says about you Old meets new is right up your alley What to do Stay in a traditional inn, or ryokan – an essential shortcut to experiencing Japanese culture at its most charming and hospitable. As for food, from a tempting tempura bar in an old Kyoto geisha district to bustling markets and barbecue joints in the ‘nation’s kitchen’, Osaka, there's plenty to choose from here. Make a wish Atop the mountain at Izunokuni Panorama Park , you can not only gaze across an incredible vista that stretches from bay to hills to forests to the star of the show, Mt Fuji. [caption id="attachment_48361" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Sunrise over Mt Fuji and Numazu fish market (photo: Jac Taylor)[/caption] Marrakesh What it says about you You're ready to feel seduced by Morocco’s ‘Jewel of the South’ What to do Morocco’s fabled ‘Rose City’ is a mesmerising metropolis fringed by rolling desert, oasis-like palmeries and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Undoubtedly one of the most mesmerising cities in the world, filled with sights, scents and colour, work your way through its fascinating neighbourhoods, past its breathtaking architecture, sampling its culinary wonders and discovering its must-do attractions. Make a wish Secure yourself a spot on the terrace of Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier as the sun begins to set. Order a pot of Moroccan mint tea (a sweet amber-coloured tea made with fresh mint and sugar) and sit back to watch the open-air theatre unfold in the famous square below. [caption id="attachment_47536" align="alignnone" width="1500"] The Ben Youssef Madrasa was once the largest Islamic college in Morocco and remains one of the finest examples of Arabic architecture in the country[/caption] Malta What it says about you You're a trendsetter What to do 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. Make a wish 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_47159" align="alignnone" width="600"] Summer in Malta[/caption]
22 things to do other than skiing in Switzerland
Skiing and Switzerland go together like a hand and (ski) glove, but there is so much to do when the weather turns cool and the land is blanketed in snow... Read on to see what other activities you can do outside of skiing in Switzerland... 1. Head up in a hot air balloon Go hot air ballooning at Château-d'Oex, the venue for the International Hot Air Balloon Week every January, when around 90 balloon pilots take to the skies. Flights are available all year round, and encompass the whole Alpine landscape from Mont-Blanc to the Eiger, taking in the Grand-Combin, the Matterhorn and the Jura, as well as the regions around Lake Geneva and the canton of Fribourg. 2. Watch a White Turf horse-race Attend White Turf, the annual horse-racing meet in St. Moritz that takes place on ice instead of turf every February. 3. Zipline with First Flyer Reach speeds of up to 84 kilometres an hour ziplining on the First Flyer down Grindlewald First. With 800 metres of steel cable and up to 50 metres high, ziplining provides an exciting journey through stunning winter scenery, and comes to an end thanks to a giant spring device. [caption id="attachment_28333" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Paragliding in Grindlewald is a perfect way to see the spectacular Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains.[/caption] 4. Ice-skate on Lake Zurich Ice-skate at Lake Zurich at the Seehotel Sonne’s Live on Ice. Located in the gardens of the hotel, right next to Lake Zurich, the rink is open from early November until early February. After you are finished on the ice, you can warm up at the mulled wine stand. [caption id="attachment_28303" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Fairy lights, candles and mulled wine; Seehotel Sonne’s Live on Ice in Lake Zurich is perfect for couples.[/caption] 5. Hike with a Saint Bernard Try hiking with a Saint Bernard; every weekend from the end of December until the end of February, the Barry Fondation (owner of the 300-year-old breeding kennel from the Great Saint Bernard Pass Hospice – the Holy Order of the Great Saint Bernard Monastery) organises walks accompanied by Saint Bernard dogs in the Valais mountain village of Champex-Lac. You walk the dog, and little people can take a sled ride pulled by them. 6. Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to Lake Lauenen in the Bernese Oberland. Leaving from the pretty village of Lauenen, the tour takes roughly one hour and fifteen minutes, gliding through the pristine Rohr nature conservation area to Lake Lauenen and then back again. Each sleigh takes up to six months to make by master craftsmen Ernst and Ueli Reichenbach; sheepskin rugs keep you cosy on route. 7. Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Meiringen, close to the fateful Reichenbach Falls where the fictional detective met his end. The museum is located in the basement of the old English church in the heart of the village. It features exhibits relating to the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, including a faithful reconstruction of the living room at 221B Baker Street. 8. Experience a dogsled ride Jump on a dogsled in Speicherschwendi with Christine and Michael Hanselmann and learn how to handle a team of sled dogs, before experiencing the pure exhilaration of slicing through the snow behind these mighty malumuts. Also try Huskystuff in Alt St. Johann or a Husky Lodge near Lucerne. 9. Strap on snow shoes Strap on snow shoes and go walking (not skiing) in the snow. There are endless destinations across the country where you can hike through exquisite villages and scenery for anything from a few hours to a few days. Choose a trek that involves overnighting in a mountain hut for a true Alpine experience. 10. Para-glide down a mountain Jump off the side of a mountain. After taking a gondola up Grindlewald First, you’ll strap in for a tandem paragliding flight back down again, taking in the spectacular vista of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. 11. Get on a Toboggan Toboggan through mountain scenery. After a leisurely post-bus ride through the beautiful Rosenlaui Valley, jump aboard a toboggan and start your rather more adrenalin-packed descent at the foot of the mighty Wetterhorn. The Eiger Run, which starts at Alpiglen and ends at Brandbegg, is also a great option. Many toboggan runs are lit up at night, adding a new element of loveliness. [caption id="attachment_28311" align="alignnone" width="1000"] A breathtaking view while strolling up the mountain for a toboggan ride. Switzerland.[/caption] 12. Try out a fatbike Rent a fatbike and get riding. As the name implies, fatbikes have extra-wide tyres that are designed specifically for riding in the snow and on ice. Currently taking the country by storm, there are lots of places you can indulge, including Andermatt, Valais and Gstaad, where the third annual Snow Bike Festival will take place on 17-22 January next year. 13. Go on a Mount Titlis Cliff Walk Walk Europe’s highest suspension bridge, the Mount Titlis Cliff Walk, at 3041 metres above sea level and 500 metres off the ground. Not for the faint-hearted, the bridge is just one metre wide, 100 metres long and suspended by steel cables. It even sways! This isn’t for anyone with a fear of heights! 14. Climb a glacier in Interlaken Go ice-climbing on a glacier in Interlaken with specially trained mountain guides who will instruct you in the safe use of ropes, ice axes and crampons. There’s no need to be a bodybuilder: routes of differing grades will be set up on ice walls so everyone, big and small, can try it out. After the effort of going up, rappelling down the deep crevasses is pure fun, and all gear is provided. swissalpineguides.ch 15. Ice-kart in Verbier Feel the need for speed? Try ice-karting in Verbier, driving karts specially designed for the snow with studded tyres, adjustable bucket seats for children, roll bars and a fitted safety remote control which allows the staff to control the speed of the karts if necessary (especially handy when children are on the track). 16. Chocolate at Confiserie Isler Stay warm with some hot chocolate at Confiserie Isler in Stäfa, and learn about the fine art of chocolate-making. You’ll make and decorate chocolates, produce your very own moulded Easter bunny, and Finish off with an aperitif. 17. Do a Snow tube run Launch yourself down well-groomed tracks atop an air-filled tyre. You can go snow tubing at Titlis Glacier Park, which has groomed runs that have you spinning in circles before coming to a bumpy but safe stop. 18. Learn about the wildlife Go wild for wildlife in Val Müstair, where game warden Jon Gross will take you hiking through the landscape to observe the habits of numerous animals that are found there. 19. Admire the alpine night sky Do some stargazing at Alpine Astro Village in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Val Müstair, from three-hour night sky observations to a seven-day New Year’s Stargazing in the Alps program of gazing and photography throughout the long clear Alpine nights. 20. Warm up at a Ski resort Enjoy some après ski action, even if you don’t ski. Ski resorts are fun places to be after dark when restaurants and bars fill up with visitors and locals and a convivial atmosphere prevails. Warm up from the inside with local staples like fondue and Glühwein. 21. Stay at the luxurious Whitepod Check into Whitepod, an eco-luxe hotel made up of 15 individual self-supporting pods sitting 1400 metres above sea level at Les Cerniers, with magnificent unobstructed views of Lake Geneva. Each one has a pellet-burning stove and all the comforts of home, with breakfast served in the central pod-house, and endless nature just beyond each pod’s adjoining deck. [caption id="attachment_28313" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Whitepod is an eco-luxe hotel in Les Cerniers with magnificent views of Lake Geneva.[/caption] 22. Catch the Cricket on Ice Watch Cricket on Ice in St. Moritz at the premier event on the Swiss cricket calendar (who knew there was one?).
6 unique and unexpected things you can do in London
Once you tick off London’s iconic attractions there is a whole host of unexpected experiences to uncover. Big Ben and Westminster; the London Eye and Buckingham Palace; icons like red phone boxes and black cabs. All are among London’s classic drawcards, yet the UK capital offers much more than what meets the eye. Dig under its surface and you’ll find some unexpected locations and experiences that will open your eyes to a different kind of London, the kind that Londoners love. Here is how to explore the unexpected in London. 1. Get under the rails Once home to industrial storage, motor services and shady characters, the railway arches of London look very different today. Most visitors exit the London Bridge tube station with the Shard as their goal, before wandering towards the River Thames to explore the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Unbeknownst to the crowds, the old and dirty brickworks of the railway arches just a few streets behind these attractions have been transformed into some of the most popular local hangouts. live with markets, microbreweries, bakeries and gin distilleries, these arches are now the place to be. Check out the popular Maltby Street Market for amazing gourmet street food, bars and cafes, or keep going along the other side of the railway line and join the Bermondsey Beer Mile to sample London’s finest craft beers. [caption id="attachment_48189" align="alignnone" width="600"] Where the locals hang out (Photo: Amy McPherson)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48188" align="alignnone" width="600"] Maltby St Market (Photo: Amy McPherson)[/caption] 2. Street art of the East End London’s East End was not traditionally considered glamorous. Once notorious for pirates, prostitution and – in more recent years – dodgy curry houses, its cheap rents first made it a haven for artists and creative types in the 1990s and the area has since transformed into one of the city’s coolest. [caption id="attachment_48190" align="alignnone" width="600"] Street art prevails in East End[/caption] Today’s East End is a sassy gourmet hot spot, full of fashionable boutiques and mixed with an edginess that still lingers in the atmosphere. The community of artists have transformed it into an open gallery of street art, which is best discovered on foot. Go for a walk along the famous ‘Curry Mile’ on Brick Lane and venture through the narrow alleyways and car parks for the best graffiti in town. Even better, combine it with a culinary experience at Eating London Tours, to get a true taste of a part of London that was once neglected. You might even stumble upon a Banksy on your stroll. You just never know. 3. Yoga on the bridge Catching a double-decker bus across the iconic Tower Bridge is a rite of passage in London. As is photographing it from the riverbanks of the Thames. But you’ve probably never thought to do your morning yoga session along the walkway at the top of the bridge. Well, now you can! [caption id="attachment_48191" align="alignnone" width="600"] You've probably never thought of finding zen in the middle of a bridge...[/caption] On a selected day every month you can sign up for a session of Yoga in the Walkways. Not only will you be energised for another day of sightseeing, you’ll be treated with great views of the city while saluting the sun. Sessions are limited so book early. 4. Enjoy Jane Austen era’s high society It is compulsory to mingle with high society on every trip to London. What does that mean exactly? Enjoying the best high teas London has on offer. If you’d like to keep it traditional, book your afternoon high tea at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at the prestigious department store Fortnum & Mason. For a more modern experience, make your booking with a London Landmarks architecture-themed afternoon tea at The Kensington hotel. [caption id="attachment_48192" align="alignnone" width="600"] Fortnum & Mason tea salon[/caption] Granted, having high tea isn’t the most unexpected thing you can do in London, but here’s where things get extra special. Once you’ve had your fill of the delicious sweet treats, it’s time to get your dancing shoes on. Attention fans of Jane Austen: Mrs Bennet invites you to dance at a ball! Yes, this is a proper regency dancing class that will have you dancing like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in no time. Mrs Bennet’s Ballroom classes are run in Surbiton, Fulham and Camden. Book your class in advance and pencil in some extra time to explore the neighbourhood while you’re there. 5. Hang out by the canals King’s Cross station isn’t just a gateway for the cross-Channel Eurostar trains, it’s also the perfect place to start exploring the Regent’s Canal. Stretching all the way from Paddington in central London to the River Thames at Limehouse in the east, the canal was once used to transport London’s cargo throughout the country. [caption id="attachment_48194" align="alignnone" width="600"] Canal book shop (Amy McPherson)[/caption] Kick off your canal tour by stopping in at the London Canal Museum and learn the history of the canals, as well as the stories of the people who once worked and lived there. Around the corner you’ll find the Word on the Water floating bookshop: a repurposed 1920s Dutch barge and surely the most unique bookstore in London. Continue along the footpath to find the narrow houseboats that line the canal, and for something a bit more adventurous you can tour the waterways on a kayak with London Kayaks. 6. Get drinks in an underground loo Going to the loo has a very different meaning in London these days. You’ll find some of the city’s trendiest bars and restaurants are now located in old underground public toilets. Don’t let their former function put you off. You’ll want to start your morning with a cup of quality coffee at Attendant in Fitzrovia. The former loo is still decorated with the original troughs and flush. For an amazing selection of fine wines, meats and cheeses, head to the WC in Clapham Common. If you’re planning a night out on the town, you can’t go past Ladies and Gentlemen in Kentish Town. Choose from a selection of inventive cocktails in what were formerly – you guessed it right – public ladies and gents! Alternatively, for all things public toilet related, why not try a quirky way to get to know London intimately by taking a Loo Tour? It really does exist, and is surprisingly fun and informative!
Where to eat, stay and play in Brittany, France
Boasting Megalithic monuments, extensive, pink granite coastline and fortified cities, France’s north-west region of Brittany (or Bretagne to the French) is so diverse in landscape and rich in history that it is well worth a diversion from Paris. Saint-Malo Famous for its medieval ramparts that circle the city, and the narrow, cobbled streets within, Saint-Malo is the perfect place to explore during your French getaway. Dating back to the first century BC, this port city boasts a storied history of pirates, a ‘Mad War’ between the French and the Bretons before Brittany became part of France in 1532, and German occupation in the Second World War. If only these walls could talk. [caption id="attachment_48130" align="alignnone" width="600"] Grand Rue in Mont Saint Michele[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48128" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beauty of Le Mont Saint Michel[/caption] Where to eat Le Cambusier and Maison Hector Being a coastal town that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Saint-Malo has no shortage of fresh seafood. Head to family-run Le Cambusier to try the best of coastal French cuisine, with a menu boasting dishes like fresh sea bream fillet in seaweed butter with creamy artichokes and pan-fried scallops, with fettuccine and maple syrup. Address: 6 rue des Cordiers, Saint-Malo Maison Hector, Gaufrerie et Sandwicherie Head here for a sweet treat. It serves an amazing range of crepes, ice-cream and doughnuts, but of all the incredible desserts at this tiny establishment, the Nutella doughnut takes the cake. Do not leave Saint-Malo without trying one, but please do grab a napkin on your way out. Address: 11 rue Porcon de la Barbinais, Saint-Malo Where to stay La Maison des Armateurs La Maison des Armateurs is one of few hotels located within Saint-Malo’s fortifications. Situated in a traditional building, but will full modern amenities (think granite exterior with lush velvet interiors), you can immerse yourself in the history of the city while staying in luxury. Rates start at $140 per night. Address: 6 Grand rue, 35400 Saint-Malo [caption id="attachment_48126" align="alignnone" width="600"] Saint Malo[/caption] Where to play Mont Saint-Michel Although there are plenty of things to see and do within the walled city, an hour’s drive from the centre will land you at the foot of one of France’s most historic, and awe-inspiring, monuments. Located on an island just off the north coast – and technically in Normandy, Brittany's neighbouring region – the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel was built as a tribute to the Archangel Michael in the eighth century, and has served as a perfectly preserved religious monument ever since. From a distance, the spires of the abbey – which has housed knights, monks and paupers for centuries – can be seen looming over the city. You can choose from several tours while in this small medieval town, but the best investment is in a ticket to the top of the abbey. Setting you back €10 per adult, the ticket allows you to make your way to its summit, exploring its history and taking advantage of the views across the marshlands below. If you make it early enough in the morning you can witness the monks in song, as they participate in the morning vespers service. [caption id="attachment_48129" align="alignnone" width="600"] The courtyard of Mont Saint-Michel abbey[/caption] Rennes The capital city of Brittany, Rennes is a cobbled-street city with impressive open squares, period buildings and great boutique shopping. History buffs will also want to explore the nearby mythical forest of King Arthur while in Rennes. [caption id="attachment_48152" align="alignnone" width="600"] Rennes Saint Peter Cathedral[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48151" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beauty of Rennes[/caption] Where to eat La Saint-Georges creperie Breton crepes are arguably the tastiest in all of France and are best eaten at La Saint-Georges creperie. Make your selection from the novelty menu theme of famous Georges throughout history. You can order a George Clooney, served with spinach, tomato, basil, goat’s cheese and scoop of cucumber sorbet, or the George Michael, with ham, cheese and button mushroom, among many others. This creperie is also one of the finest furnished restaurants in Rennes, with green velvet chairs, a fireplace and black walls reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy. Address: 11 rue du Chapitre [caption id="attachment_48150" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through Renne's cobblestone streets[/caption] Where to stay Balthazar Hôtel & Spa Rennes – MGallery by Sofitel A culmination of modern and vintage design, this five-star hotel is the perfect place to base yourself when in Rennes. Located in the city centre, the Balthazar has spa facilities, crisp decor and a rooftop patio overlooking the city. The underground pool, a luminous blue, is an oasis of quiet. When you’ve finished up your swim, why not go and relax in the sauna? Rates start at $281 per night. Address: 9 rue Maréchal Joffre [caption id="attachment_48149" align="alignnone" width="600"] The mighty cathedral[/caption] Where to play King Arthur’s Forest Head 30 kilometres west of Renne to explore King Arthur’s Forest: the mythical woodlands of Brocéliande, today known as Paimpont Forest, where many scenes from Arthurian legend played out. In the forest you’ll find the historic Château de Comper, which houses the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien. [caption id="attachment_48154" align="alignnone" width="600"] Intricate windows at château de Comper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48153" align="alignnone" width="600"] Brooding mystery at King Arthur's Forest[/caption] Between March and October, the centre hosts exhibits exploring the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot, the wizard Merlin and Vivien, Lady of the Lake. A ticket will set you back $11 per adult. After a tour through the castle, consider a meander through the forest. Head to the Valley Without Return, where King Arthur’s half-sister and sorceress Morgan Le Fay, is said to have banished unfaithful lovers, or to the Tomb of Merlin, where the wizard is said to be buried. Signs and information posts are scattered all throughout the forest, making the experience an educational as well as mystical one. Dinan Another small historic town, Dinan boasts the title of the most well-preserved small town in Brittany, with a warren of streets hosting local craft shops, bakeries and boutiques. The buildings – some dating to the 13th-century – are divided by a river, lined with waterside restaurants. [caption id="attachment_48141" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dinan streets appear frozen in time[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48142" align="alignnone" width="600"] Building facade[/caption] Where to eat Chez Odette Bongrain Situated directly on the river La Rance, in a medieval, exposed beam and clay establishment, Chez Odette Bongrain is a testament to French cuisine. With cream and herbed mussels, doused in white wine and Champagne tossed salad with goat’s cheese and baguette, both tradition and imagination are used in the creation of dishes. Head to 9 rue du Quai for the best meal in Dinan, but make sure you book in advance. [caption id="attachment_48135" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cobblestoned street in Dinan[/caption] Where to stay Hôtel Arvor Dinan This hotel, formerly a convent, has a history of its own. With polished stone walls, period interior and attention to detail (please take note of the gorgeous key cabinet in the concierge), this hotel is perfect for any visitor wanting to fully immerse themselves in the history and culture of this medieval town. Great service and even better location. Rates start at €134 euros per night in peak season, and €84 in low season. Address: 5 rue Auguste Pavie [caption id="attachment_48137" align="alignnone" width="600"] Your bed awaits...[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48136" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beautiful facade[/caption] Where to play Dinan Castle and the streets of the old town Head to Dinan Castle, and walk the 13th-century ramparts or explore the streets of the old town, soaking in the medieval, half-timber, half-clay homes with thatched rooves. If you are lucky enough to be travelling through Dinan in July, the town is host to a medieval festival. Residents and visitors dress in costume and stalls line the ramparts. Beware though, Dinan in summer gets very hot (especially under layers of period costume). [caption id="attachment_48139" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Dinan castle[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48138" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through the medieval old town[/caption] Carnac Renowned for its megalithic stones of the same name, Carnac is another glorious beach town that is a must-see on your trip to Brittany. [caption id="attachment_48145" align="alignnone" width="600"] The glorious beach town of Carnac[/caption] Where to eat Restaurant La Calypso La Calypso is one of the best places in Brittany to enjoy the pearl of the ocean, having been in the oyster business since 1880. Renowned as one of the best restaurants in the region, La Calypso boasts equally delicious stuffed scallops and grilled lobster, for those who aren’t fans of oysters. Address: 158 rue du Po Where to stay Hôtel Les Salines de Thalazur Carnac Unlike the other towns in the Brittany region that offer period-centric accommodation, this hotel in Carnac screams modern. With all the modern amenities you’d expect and only a stone’s throw from the major attractions, Les Salines is a great place to centre yourself while in this glorious town. Address: 2 Avenue de l'Atlantique Where to play The megalithic Carnac stones and Carnac-Villes Museum of Prehistory The 6000-year-old monuments known as the megalithic Carnac stones are not to be missed on a trip to Carnac. The story has it that the 3000 stones, almost all standing to attention in lines, were once a legion of Romans marching before they were frozen in time. Other stories suggest that the Neolithic people used the stones to map the stars and to decide when to plant and when to harvest their crops. [caption id="attachment_48144" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Megalithic Stones of Carnac[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48143" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take a stroll through the French fields[/caption] Regardless of the purpose of the stones (which is still disputed) the Carnac stones are a magical monument worthy of a half-day of exploration. To complement your trip to the megalithic stones, and to learn more about them, head over to the Museum of Prehistory – an authentic experience that’s well worth the $11 entry fee. Saint-Cast-le-Guildo Saint Cast, another coastal town in the north of Brittany, is the perfect place to settle in for a romantic getaway. With a quiet, local ambience, it’s arguably the region’s most relaxing holiday destination. Where to eat Bar Restaurant Le KNell’s Being a quiet local town to the west of Saint-Malo, food in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo is authentically French. Le KNell’s, a restaurant and bar directly on the beach, offers the world’s best mussels in a pot of white wine and cream sauce. Enjoy your dish as you sit on the sand, looking out to beach Pen Guen. Address: 40 Avenue de Pen Guen Where to stay Airbnb it Make the most of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo’s enviable coastal location by finding an Airbnb property to call your own right on the beach. ‘Maison Familiale avec Vue Splendide sur la Mer’ is a beautiful old house perched on a hill above Pen Guen beach. It is spread over three floors and, with the capacity to sleep 10 people, offers great value for money with rates starting at $280 per night. Complete with its own rose garden and just a half-minute walk to the sea, you might find you’ll never want to leave. Where to play Surrounding beaches and Fort La Latte Beaches are the main attraction at Saint-Cast-le-Guildo: head to Pen Guen beach or Pointe de la Garde and plonk yourself on the shore with a book and a picnic. If you’re up for a bit of physical activity you can trek to Fort La Latte, also known as Château de la Roche Goyon, for another fortified building experience and history lesson. [caption id="attachment_48133" align="alignnone" width="600"] The ocean at Pointe de la Garde Guérin[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48134" align="alignnone" width="600"] Trek to Fort La Latte[/caption]
How to see Europe and only unpack your bag once
Taking a Grand Tour of Europe used to be a rite of passage for aristocrats – accompanied by heavy trunks of clothes and possessions, a chaperone, manservant, you name it: the whole entourage. Of course, we’ve pared down travel over the years so it’s not just for aristocrats, but the logistics of a multi-country itinerary in Europe can still be a challenge (especially without the manservant). How to make it easier [caption id="attachment_47989" align="alignnone" width="600"] Luxury at sea.[/caption] That’s where cruising comes in to make it simple. Unpack once in your cruise cabin and you’re suddenly free to step off the ship into country after country, port after port, with just a camera and the clothes on your back. For example, MSC Cruises is the largest cruise line in Europe (as well as the Arabian Peninsula, South America and South Africa) and cruises the Mediterranean all year round. A fleet of 10 ships permanently based in the Mediterranean means you’re looking at weekly departures here, and you can even combine their East and West Mediterranean itineraries to make a 14-night Grand Mediterranean adventure; free coach transfers between Genoa and Venice make it easy. Cruising destinations The quintessential Greek island tour – including the white and blue wonderland of Santorini of course, plus Crete and Corfu – departs every Friday from Venice on the rather appropriately named MSC Magnifica. [caption id="attachment_47990" align="alignnone" width="600"] Glistening water.[/caption] For those wanting to discover the Eastern Mediterranean, MSC Liricahas is set for a 12-night cruise, again on Fridays from Venice, sailing to Croatia, Greece, Montenegro and Italy (starting from May 8 to June 12, 2020 and from September 18 to October 23, 2020). The highlight of this one is a long stay in Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, Corfu and Cefalonia/Argostoli in Greece, Kotor in Montenegro and, new for 2020, at Trieste in Italy. There is an amazing 12-night cruise available, too, covering an astounding amount of Mediterranean highlights during one very clever itinerary. Leaving on Mondays from Venice from 22 June to September 7, 2020, this one sails to Croatia, Greece, Malta and Sicily, and counts among its most Instagram-worthy stops: Dubrovnik in Croatia, Corfu and Cefalonia/Argostoli in Greece, Valletta in Malta and now Siracusa/Sicily in Italy too. Yet you’ve still only unpacked that suitcase once – how absolutely glorious. Time at port Just as glorious is MSC Cruises’ extended port times on most of its itineraries so there’s no need to rush through each port’s top 10 sights and rush back to your cabin at the end of the day. Deep-dive into the culture and history of those places over a couple of days; after all, you’re visiting incredibly ancient and story-filled lands once visited via sea by conquerors, explorers, kings, emperors… and now you. What’s more, many of these destinations are hard to reach by land – this is the huge advantage of choosing to cruise. [caption id="attachment_47991" align="alignnone" width="600"] Perfect holiday.[/caption] Flexi-porting is an option Cruising is a much more flexible offering these days too, since the wonder of flexi-porting has become a thing. MSC Cruises brings the ship to you, in a sense, since you can embark your cruise where your holiday has taken you, even if it’s a different port to the one listed on Day 1 of your cruise’s itinerary. You will still complete the same number of cruise nights from your embarkation port, but that can be any city you like, including Athens, Ancona, Bari, Barcelona, Brindisi, Rome, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Kiel, Marseille, Naples, Southampton and Warnemunde. That amount of flexibility is impressive for such a large cruise line but, when it comes down to it, MSC Cruises is family owned and enjoys welcoming more than 170 nationalities on its ships. And you can book their cruise holidays through local contacts in Australia and New Zealand through Cruiseco, an organisation with more than 250 specialist travel agencies including cruise experts who love to put together bespoke cruise holidays. [caption id="attachment_47992" align="alignnone" width="600"] European treats.[/caption] Ask the experts MSC Cruises is one of more than 50 cruise brands they can liaise with for you to make that next amazing cruise holiday happen just the way you dreamed. There are new destinations and itineraries added all the time, so it makes sense to get your holiday happening with cruising experts to help you. For instance, new for next season, MSC Cruises are adding longer cruises to experience the best of Ireland and the North Cape. This year the Mediterranean, next year Ireland? Pack that one suitcase and enjoy your Grand Tour. For more information visit cruising.com.au/europe-msc-cruises or call the Cruiseco concierge on 1800 270 747 to find your nearest Cruiseco Cruise specialist travel agent. AND, for those keen to get the CruiseCo and MSC Cruise treatment, you can WIN a $6,500 European cruise for two by clicking here...
5 of the best train journeys in Switzerland
Known for its unrivalled beauty and spectacular panoramic rail journeys, Switzerland is the ultimate destination for nature-lovers and train enthusiasts. For a country just two-thirds the size of Tasmania, you might be surprised that you can actually embark on an epic journey through a series of majestic mountains, endless verdant valleys and glassy lakes via 1200 kilometres of tracks, encompassing four language regions, passing through more than 90 tunnels and over about 295 bridges in just 10 days! [caption id="attachment_47657" align="alignnone" width="600"] Switzerland at it's finest.[/caption] Whether you pick the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, which can be completed in a leisurely 10 days, or the specially designed Ultimate Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, which not only takes 13 days, but also includes hotel stays at some of the country’s most on-trend establishments, the sheer magnificence of the landscape will have your jaw dropping. Here, we’ve highlighted some of the most incredible journeys on rails. 1. Jungfraujoch: Top of Europe A ride up to Europe’s highest-altitude railway station, sitting at 3,466 metres above sea level, Jungfraujoch, connected to the Top of Europe building, is where you will enjoy unobstructed views of the regions’ snow-capped peaks and glacial valleys. While you may want to marvel at the view outside, you won’t want to miss the Ice Palace ice caverns on the inside either. Make sure you allocate some time to appreciate the many ice sculptures on display here beneath the glacier. There is even a bar made of ice, if you want to take time out for a beverage or two! [caption id="attachment_47658" align="alignnone" width="600"] Switzerland has ice like nowhere else.[/caption] 2. GoldenPass MOB Panoramic The GoldenPass MOB Panoramic is an ideal sampler of Switzerland’s premium panoramic train routes for the more time-poor traveller. This short and sweet 1 hour, 48 minute journey links the quaint village of Zweisimmen in the Bernese Oberland with Montreux, the charming French-speaking town that was once home for Queen singer Freddy Mercury, and is still home to the world’s second-largest jazz event, the Montreux Jazz Festival. [caption id="attachment_47659" align="alignnone" width="600"] Wild perfection.[/caption] For the ultimate travel-back-in-time Orient Express experience, jump on the charming ‘Belle Epoque’ train, which runs daily from Montreux to Château-d’Oex, Gstaad and Zweisimmen. For the full experience in these beautifully kept carriages, a cold dish can be requested during reservation. 3. Glacier Express A 7.5-hour journey between Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest train journeys. Thoroughly scenic from start to finish, the views through the wide panoramic windows and skylights make the most of the slowest express train in the world as it crosses an astounding 291 bridges, passes through 91 tunnels, and ascends up to 2033 metres (the highest point of the track). A large part of the Glacier Express also travels along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Rhaetian Railway. [caption id="attachment_47660" align="alignnone" width="600"] Flowers in full bloom.[/caption] Adding to the already impressive experience is the sheer comfort and class of the modern train service and the delicious hearty meals offered on board. 4. Bernina Express A four-hour journey between Chur in the north and Tirano in the south, the Bernina Express is another unforgettable Swiss train experience. Regardless of your start or end point, you will be utterly gobsmacked by the contrasting scenery from icy glaciers to leafy palm trees. The journey stretches 122 kilometres, passing through 55 tunnels and crossing a series of 196 bridges and viaducts, including the Rhaetian Railway. In summer, there is also an extended service on the Bernina Express bus that connects Tirano to Lugano in three hours. 5. Gotthard Panorama Express Operating twice a day from April to October, the Gotthard Panoramic Express is an unforgettable three-hour cruise and rail experience. The itinerary travels between the historical city of Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Lugano and Bellinzona in the sun-kissed Mediterranean south. [caption id="attachment_47661" align="alignnone" width="600"] Picturesque rivers.[/caption] Highlights en-route include the historic paddle steamer ride on Lake Lucerne; the church of Wassen from three different angles, thanks to the loopy railway layout; and the journey past the Rütli Meadow, which saw the founding of Switzerland in 1291. Whether you choose to experience part of the suggested journeys or the full itinerary, by the end of your tour, you will no doubt have a much better understanding and deeper appreciation for Swiss engineering as well as the country’s pristine scenery. [caption id="attachment_47662" align="alignnone" width="600"] River deep, mountain high.[/caption] To enjoy these journeys, you’ll need a Swiss Travel Pass, which then allows you unlimited access to all the country’s public transportation system of trains, buses and boats, up to 50 percent off mountain and cableways, and free entry to more than 500 museums. Children under 16 travel for free with an accompanying adult using the Pass. [caption id="attachment_47663" align="alignnone" width="600"] Is this the prettiest country in the world?[/caption] See here for more information on rail packages.
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 avalonwaterways.com.au 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 avalonwaterways.com.au
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.
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
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