How to spend 48-hours in Athens
The ghosts of Greece’s venerable ancient history rub shoulders with restless youths, contemporary architecture and lots of graffiti in modern-day Athens to create a heaving city of compelling contrasts, Susan Murphy discovers.
5 design hotspots to visit in Helsinki
Finland punches way above its weight and size when it comes to producing iconic designers and design brands.
Colourful homes Liguria Cinque Terre
Insider’s secrets: the Italian Riviera (Cinque Terre)
Ready, set... GO. Lucio Galletto of LUCIO'S restaurant, Sydney, wants you to know a few things before you book your Cinque Terre dream break. Here's his insider's guide to the Italian Riviera. What is the one thing people should know about the Mediterranean before visiting so they can get the most out of it? As we explain in Coastline (Murdoch Books, $59.95), the western Mediterranean is many countries but also one country – The Land of Olive Oil.   There should be no borders between eastern Spain, southern France and western Italy because their cuisines and their cultures all grew from the Greek traders who landed there 2500 years ago, plus later influences from the Romans, Arabs and the Vikings.   So when you’re travelling along that coastline, it’s fun to spot the similarities and differences, and go to the villages that show how the area used to be.   You’ll be enchanted by the recurring image of olive trees, vineyards, pine forests, solitary houses and fishing villages. [caption id="attachment_38710" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Manarola colorful houses dazzle in the Cinque Terra sun.[/caption] Name three lesser known towns that visitors should see to really own the claim that they have seen the best of this part of Italy.   Of course I’d have to say Bocca di Magra, the fishing village where my family built a restaurant on the seashore in 1950 and where I grew up.   Bocca di Magra means ‘mouth of the Magra River’, and that area was once a magnificent Roman city called Luni, built with the marble from nearby Carrara.   Then I’d say Riomaggiore, one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, with vineyards and brightly coloured cottages cascading down the cliff-face to the port.   And then I’d say Camogli, a beautiful fishing port where many of the buildings have ‘trompe l’oeil’ façades, painted to look like balconies and shutters and elaborate window frames (some with painted cats sitting on a fictitious windowsill). Is there an experience that only locals from these parts know about, and that visitors should search out? Visitors usually seek out the path called Via dell’Amore, which connects the villages of the Cinque Terre, but locals now find that too crowded. I would recommend walking a forest trail called the Via Francigena, which took pilgrims from France to Rome 1000 years ago.   You can get onto that trail near the town of Aulla, on the Magra River. And while you are there try the testaroli. Not to be missed is the beautiful coastal walk from Lerici to Bocca di Magra via Montemarcello. [caption id="attachment_12880" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Each one of the five towns that comprise the Cinque Terre is a gorgeous jumble of houses[/caption] What do locals like to eat and drink here that must be tried beyond the usual fare? In Coastline, we give recipes for Cuculli Genovesi – a kind of dumpling made with potatoes, pine nuts and parmesan; Gattafin, a kind of fried ravioli stuffed with wild greens and ricotta (which is also the national dish of Monaco, under the name Barbajuan); and cheese-stuffed focaccia, which is a speciality of the village of Recco, near Genoa.   Also the beautiful red prawns, often eaten raw from San Remo and the Tigullio Gulf. The most popular local wine is a white called Vermentino. Do you have a favourite restaurant on the Italian Riviera? I’m biased, but I’d have to say my family’s restaurant in Bocca di Magra, which is still run by my cousin Mario Guelfi.   It’s called Capannina Ciccio and it specialises in locally caught seafood (and sometimes the dishes I mention above). When you go, please say hello to Mario for me. What do you recommend doing for the perfect Sunday in Liguria? For locals Sunday is the day of the long family lunch, in your own garden or in the garden of a restaurant, ideally with a view of the sea. It would be a good day to take a ferry ride past the villages of the Cinque Terre, to get a proper perspective on this rugged coastline. What is the one thing visitors should take home after a visit to the Italian Riviera? A sealed jar of locally made pesto sauce, since this is an area that is obsessed with growing the world’s best basil.   And a visit to the Carrara town of Colonnata will result in a number of beautiful white marble pieces, not least of which is the classic mortar with olive wood pestle – heavy to carry but well worth the effort. You may even be lucky enough to find an antique one in one of the many markets.   Want to get more out of the Mediterranean? Cinque Terre like a local… sweet, boutique, unique
Candelaria, Paris.
5 secret bars in Paris and how to find them
In theory, going out for a cocktail in Paris should be a thrill in itself, discovers Ruby Boukabou. Yet sometimes it can be disappointing – rude service, a crowded bar but with no actual mingling and an un-inventive cocktail list.   However, thankfully, things are changing on the cocktail scene in the French capital, and it’s not just the service. Secret cocktail bars have sprung up through central Paris where you arrive through restaurant kitchen doors, pizza fridges and even via a washing machine in a laundromat.   Not only do these establishments promise exciting entrances, but also thoughtful, themed decor, delicious cocktails and friendly (!) French mixologists. Welcome to the other side.   (NB: Most open at 6pm so if you want to be sure to grab a good seat and have time to chat leisurely to the bar staff, arrive early; if you prefer to arrive when there’s plenty of action, it’s after 10pm. Most close at 2am, some later on weekends.) Moonshiner [caption id="attachment_44355" align="alignnone" width="600"] Moonshiner cocktail. Image via Pierre Lucet Penato[/caption]   How to get there Push through the walk-in fridge inside Da Vito pizzeria in Bastille, 5 rue Sedaine, 75011 (right near metro Bréguet-Sabin, or a five-minute walk from metro Bastille). Vibe Very dimly lit prohibition speakeasy style with couches, an old record player and 1920s-style decor. A cool crowd, quite a few groups of friends, busy and fun. Signature drink Go for a classic Old Fashioned. Candelaria [caption id="attachment_44354" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Outside Candelaria. Image via Fabien Voileau.[/caption]   How to get there   Through an unmarked door at the back of the tiny, popular taqueria in the Marais at 52 rue de Saintonge, 75003 (metro Filles du Calvaire). Vibe   Candlelit, shabby-chic, small, cosy and low key with relaxed staff and a DJ. Date friendly. Signature drink   ‘La Guêpe Verte’ – The Green Wasp! Tequila Altos Blanco with chilli mixed with cucumber, coriander, agave and lime. Bar a Naan [caption id="attachment_44356" align="alignnone" width="600"] Baranaan, Paris.[/caption]   How to get there   Push through the door with the tiger artwork down the hallway inside the Indian canteen-style restaurant Elaichi, situated near the Porte Saint-Martin at 7 rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 75010 (metro Strasbourg- Saint-Denis). Vibe   Imagine the swinging dining carriage of a train travelling through India (video footage of the view from the window is screened on the walls and there’s dining car-like booths). It’s festive and friendly with delicious, inventive cocktails, a naan oven by the bar and flamboyant, bindi-wearing staff. Signature drink   Try the Casa del Kali (Kali is an Indian divinity and the cocktail lives up to its name). It combines Tequila, Mezcal, Campari, lime juice and more surprises. Made with love. Lavomatic [caption id="attachment_44357" align="alignnone" width="600"] Signage outside Lavomatic, Paris.[/caption]   How to get there   Climb through a washing machine (!) at the Laundromat at 30 rue René Boulanger, 75010 near metro Republic (don’t worry, you’ll know which one and won’t get tangled up in someone’s wet washing as the bar is now quite popular and there’s security controlling numbers –  so get there early, or be patient). Vibe [caption id="attachment_44358" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside Lavomatic, Paris.[/caption]   Colourful, appropriately sparkly clean and rather like being in someone’s trendy apartment (low tables, benches, stools, books to browse and swings to kick back in). You’ll find a young, hip French and international crowd. Signature drink [caption id="attachment_44359" align="alignnone" width="600"] A fruity cocktail inside Lavomatic, Paris.[/caption]   Many to try, but the Basil Instinct is pretty delicious and refreshing with cucumber, elderflower, lemon and gin. La Mezcaleria  + Malicia [caption id="attachment_44360" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside Mezcaleria, Paris.[/caption]   How to get there   Through the kitchen behind the hotel bar at the Inka (1K) hotel at 13 Boulevard du Temple, 75003 (metro Filles du Calvaire or Oberkampf but also a short walk from Republic). Vibe   You’re instantly transported into a cool, laid-back bar in Oaxaca in Mexico, known for mezcal. If you’re a little claustrophobic this is the one for you – with high ceilings and space to move (and you may want to after a mezcal or two as its playlist is pretty groovy). Signature drink   The Rangolada cheekily combines mezcal and rum, but before diving in, check with the expert mixologists behind the bar who can talk you through the various options to match your taste including frozen slurpy-style mezcal creations.   NB: If you see the famous Ben Tyler (slim with tats and often darting around somewhere in the background), tell him Ruby sent you and if it’s possible, he may sneak you into Malicia – another secret bar – behind this secret bar. Très mind bending! Le Ballroom du Beefclub How to get there   Head through the fire escape-looking door next to the Beef Club restaurant (in central Paris near metro Chatalet/Les Halles) and wind down the fairly light-lit concrete stairs to arrive at this very cool bar run by the reputed Experimental Group. Vibe   Prohibition speakeasy feel with dark colours and dim lighting through three intimate rooms, the bar staff clad in waistcoats and a DJ playing on weekends. Perch at the bar or get cosy on a couch.  A good place to discuss life, love and the universe. Snacks are available. Signature drink   The Lillibiscus – made with Mezan Guyana 2002 rum, homemade hibiscus syrup and ginger ale.        
The 'Sleeping Beauty' castle, (Deutsche Märchenstraße) in Hofgeismar on the Germany Fairytale Route.
The iconic German places that inspired your favourite fairytales
Have you explored the fairytale route yet? Explore the place where Cinderella and Rapunzel were born... One of Germany’s most enchanting scenic routes, the 600km German Fairytale Route transports you to the magical world of the Brothers Grimm, who travelled around Germany 200 years ago collecting and recording stories that were to become some of the world’s most famous.   Officially beginning in their birthplace of Hanau, just outside of Frankfurt, and ending in the north-western city of Bremen, travellers can lose themselves in the winding streets of medieval towns, the grottos and bewitching castles – the very places where stories such as Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood were born. [caption id="attachment_7282" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Just off the Fairytale Route is the enchanting Rothenburg ob der Tauber Plönlein square.[/caption] Spend the night in Sleeping Beauty's castle The heart of the Fairytale Route lies in the numerous towns surrounding the city of Kassel, where the brothers lived and worked for many years.   Head to the areas surrounding Marburg, where they studied, to see Rapunzel’s tower and many other motifs which appeared in the illustrations of the famous fairy tales.   In Hofgeismar, you can even stay overnight in Sleeping Beauty’s castle.   Within Kassel is also the stunning Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a UNESCO site and Europe’s largest hillside park. [caption id="attachment_7283" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe along the German Fairytale Route[/caption] Visit the home of the Pied Piper To be discovered further north along the route is the town of Hamelin, home of the Pied Piper. As the story goes, a rat catcher was called to the town in 1294 but was subsequently cheated of his fee. In revenge, he lured the children from the town by playing enticing melodies on his flute and they were never seen again.   To pay homage to the town’s connection to the tale, the pavements in Hamelin are painted with thousands of rats leading visitors through the winding lanes, the timber-framed houses and sandstone buildings to the main attractions of the town, many of which date back to the Renaissance period. [caption id="attachment_7284" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Bremen Rathaus (or Town Hall) and Roland Statue, Germany[/caption] What do you get when you cross a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster? End your fairytale journey in Bremen, a cosmopolitan, maritime city with more than 1,200 years of history. This city was the destination of the famous Town Musicians: a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster, who left their respective farms to try their luck as musicians in a city known for its freedom.   Nearby to the main market square is a bronze statue of the animals, and touching the donkey’s leg (with both hands!) is said to bring good luck.   All the way along the route, it is possible to lose yourself in a realm of German fairytales, sagas, myths and legends which are still widely celebrated and kept alive; open-air plays, puppet theatres, fairytale festivals, themed meals and medieval Tafeleyen feasts are often hosted in several towns throughout the year, where you might even bump into some of your favourite fairytale characters.   A place for the young and the young at heart, the journey along the German Fairytale Route is one of those delightful experiences where childhood dreams and memories can very much come true.   Click here for more information on the German Fairytale Route. [caption id="attachment_7286" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Grimm Fairytales from 1819 at the Grimm Museum, (Stadt Kassel, Kulturamt)[/caption]
The Western Front.
The best places to celebrate Remembrance Day in France
Avoid the crowds and experience some of France’s fascinating, but offt-overlooked remembrance destinations   ***This article was created in partnership with Atout France*** For many historians, the First World War is seen as the first time the fledgling federation of Australia announced itself on the world stage. But for many of those who fought in its slow-advancing battles, the four muddy years of the 20th-century’s first conflict were characterised by the monotony and fatality of trench life. No countryside withstood more trench warfare than the 700-kilometre stretch of contested land known as The Western Front, on the borders of Belgium and France. And while many of those trenches have since been filled in, returned to rural life and lost to time, there are areas of Northern France that are forever sanctified as memorials to those who lost their lives on French soil, including 60,000 Australians. To visit the area’s lesser-known memorials is a fascinating and sobering experience, one that is often free from the crowds that surround the more prominent sites. The best starting point is the pretty Gothic city of Amiens, in the heart of the Somme district.   Day 1-2: Amiens For the first couple of days of your visit, base yourself in Amiens, not only is it geographically centric for many WWI museums and battlefields, it’s also home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in France. The most obvious place to visit for any Australian is the imposing Australian National Memorial in the Villers-Bretonneux military ceremony. Only a short drive (or 20-minute train ride) from Amiens, the huge monument commemorates the thousands of Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium, and it is the site of the increasingly popular Anzac day ceremony every year. Nearby is the newly opened Sir John Monash Centre, which tells the story of the war through the voices of those who fought in it. Download the multi-layered app before visiting to get more out of the experience. On day two, venture north to the Underground City of Naours – limestone caves that were frequented by soldiers trying to forget the horrors of the frontline. They are home to over 3,000 examples of contemporary graffiti by British and Commonwealth soldiers, including 1800 Australian markings. A new museum is due to open there next year. Not far from Naours is the new Vignacourt 14-18 Interpretation Centre, which gives a little insight into the daily life of conflict with photos of the many soldiers that passed through the village. [caption id="attachment_44302" align="alignnone" width="600"] The beauty of grand Amiens Cathedral[/caption] Day 3-4: Soissons Leaving Amiens, head south to the Oise region to visit the immense Musée Territoire 14-18. Set out over 60 kilometres, the open-air museum offers hiking trails, guided tours, exhibitions and other smaller museums. Start your visit at the Rethondes Church, the bells of which first rang in the Armistice until they cracked, and plan your visit according to your interests. Stay overnight in the lovely city of Soissons, which saw heavy fighting during the war. On day four, head to the Forest of Compiègne (also know as the Glade of the Armistice) to see a replica of the railway carriage where the Armistice was signed in 1918. Hitler symbolically blew up the original some 20 or so years later. Next to the carriage, which is set up as it was during the signing, the Armistice Memorial Museum includes nearly 800 photos of the war effort. [caption id="attachment_44303" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside the beautiful Amiens Cathedral[/caption] Day 5-6: Saint Quentin Leave Soissons early and travel south to the Château-Thierry American Monument, three kilometres west of Château-Thierry. Erected in 1929, the impressive monument commemorates the first engagements of the US Army in France. The monument and the new interpretive centre both stand as a reminder of the importance of American strength and resources to the war effort in 1917. Driving north-east for an hour, you’ll enter the lush green Chemin des Dames region, which was the site of significant battles in 1914,1917 and 1918. It’s also home to the unique Caverne du Dragon, which was a former quarry that was converted into underground barracks that you can still visit today, an eerie and worthwhile experience. Overnight in Saint-Quentin, where Australians played a huge part in breaking through the German frontline during the war. Spend your last day exploring the historic city of Saint-Quentin, which was occupied by Germans early on in the war and used as part of the defensive Hindenburg Line. Visit the beautiful Basilique Saint-Quentin, which still bears the scars of the war on its medieval walls, or visit the underground Somme 1916 Trench Museum in nearby Albert, an hour away, on your way back to Amiens. How to get there Air France flies from seven Australian cities to Paris daily, with connections to Amiens. Accor Hotels have accommodation in Amiens, Soissons and Saint-Quentin. For more information visit: For your chance to win a trip to France, head to:
Romantic Switzerland
6 of Switzerland’s most romantic stays
From fairytale towns to vertiginous heights, these just might be the most romantic destinations in not just Switzerland but all of Europe. 1. An igloo stay One of the most romantic forms of accommodation in a country with an abundance of grand hotels is an igloo stay. What could be cosier than snuggling up with your significant other in a room made entirely from ice and situated in a winter wonderland of white?   There are various Igloo Villages scattered around the country, including in the resort town of Gstaad and in Engelberg, near Trübsee Lake at the foot of the mighty Titlis.   Book the Romantic Igloo, which features unique snow art, two-person sleeping bag, and thick sheep skin rugs. 2. Restaurant Schloss Bottmingen Located 15 minutes from Basel, the Restaurant Schloss Bottmingen is the ultimate candlelit-dinner location. It’s a 13th-century castle surrounded by a moat and rambling gardens where you dine on the finest French cuisine. [caption id="attachment_28154" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Entrance to Restaurant Schloss Bottmingen, it's a 13th-century castle in Switzerland that serves French cuisine.[/caption] It is after dark that the castle really sets hearts aflutter, when intricately draped fairy lights sparkle and reflect off the still waters of the castle moat. 3. Wildflowers spotting Each year from mid-June to mid-August the spectacular Bernese Oberland erupts in a blanket of colour and fragrance. [caption id="attachment_28156" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Blanket of fragrant and pretty wildflowers in Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.[/caption] To really indulge in the beauty of it all, base yourself in the lovely town of Grindelwald and hike to surrounding towns like Meiringen and Adelboden. 4. Stiftsbibliothek St. Gallen Book-lovers will swoon at the sight of the Abbey Library at St. Gallen. [caption id="attachment_28155" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Majestic ceiling and soaring book shelves of Switzerland's Abbey Library at St. Gallen.[/caption] While the Abbey itself dates back to the eighth century, the sublime Rococo library was constructed between 1758–67. It is widely considered one of the best in the world, with burnished woodwork and delightful ceiling frescoes.   Among its roughly 170,000 priceless pieces are illuminated texts, prayer books and biographies of the saints dating from the ninth century.   The Abbey precinct, including the library, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 5. Mount Pilatus Mount Pilatus is regularly listed as one of the best places to propose in all of Europe. It certainly makes for a memorable experience: the peak is traversed via the steepest cog railway track in the world (or you can take a gondola). [caption id="attachment_28152" align="alignleft" width="1000"] View of a romantic sunset from Mount Pilatus over the Lake Lucerne.[/caption] Once at the top, the panoramic view, which has been marveled at by the likes of Richard Wagner and Queen Victoria, takes in 73 peaks and stretches on forever.   True romance requires Champagne: book a table at Hotel Pilatus-Kulm’s outdoor terrace for lunch. 6. Water Castles Water castles, as the name implies, are moated castles; what isn’t hinted at from the name is how evocative and ethereal they are.   Chillon Castle, located on a rock on the banks of Lake Geneva near Montreux, is the most visited historic building in the country but, for a less crowded experience, try Hallwyl Castle near Seengen. [caption id="attachment_28151" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Ethereal Hallwyl Castle in Seengen, Switzerland.[/caption] Easily accessible from Zurich, every three years an opera is held here on the grounds, with the floodlit castle as a spectacular backdrop.   Meanwhile Castle Hagenwil in Amriswil, another impeccably preserved castle, has an à la carte restaurant for dinners à deux and its annual festival in August has a roster of theatre and events in the delightful castle courtyard.
The Viking Orion feels so unlike a cruise ship – and that’s precisely the point
Iconic art and understated style: Imogen Eveson on why the Viking Orion has made her a cruise convert.
Cathay Pacific is offering $1000* return flights to London and here’s how to get them
Prepare your passport and hankering for all things British, because this Cathay Pacific flight news is going to have you booking a flight to London ASAP.
The four best American food joints in London
From calorie-laden burgers to New York-style pizza and southern soul food, our pick of the best American food joints in London. As if anyone really needs an excuse to indulge in gourmet fast food, the UK celebrates National Burger Day on the last Thursday of August each year: look out for discounts on burgers as well as limited edition recipes (burger flavoured ice-cream anyone?) in restaurants across the country.   In honour of this icon of American cuisine, here’s our pick of the best American food joints in London.   NY FOLD   [caption id="attachment_44028" align="alignnone" width="600"] Delicious pizza from NY Fold, London.[/caption]   Bringing New York to the streets of London comes easy to Annabel and Michael Wheeler and as New York natives, it’s certainly no surprise. Residing in one of the chic streets of Soho in London’s West End, this gourmet and trendy pizzeria encourages you to fold your pizza for the ultimate double-dose-of-pizza-goodness.   [caption id="attachment_44029" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dessert pizza from NY Fold in London.[/caption]   If you like your pizza that little bit fancy, try the Montauk; with tuna, olives, 100 per cent aged mozzarella, onion, olive tapenade and boiled egg. If you’re a fan of simplicity try the Grandma’s Pie; a combination of mozzarella and pecorino cheese, garlic oil, tomato, parsley and oregano. Either way, Bob’s your uncle! You’ve got yourself on the guest list for pizza heaven that’s open till late with a killer DJ. NY Fold’s sister eatery, Fold, opened in trendy London Fields earlier this year.   DIRTY BONES   [caption id="attachment_44023" align="alignnone" width="600"] Famous fried chicken and waffles from Dirty Bones in London.[/caption]   What do you get when two mates eat and travel their way through New York? They bring a piece of the Big Apple back home with them.   [caption id="attachment_44027" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Mac and Cheese burger from Dirty Bones, London.[/caption]   American-style food that is home-made with a whole lotta love, the guys behind Dirty Bones know how to impress the hungry locals. Boasting bottomless brunch cocktails, Brooklyn-inspired beats and naughty-but-nice American food including tasty vegan-friendly tacos and burgers, it’s certainly no surprise that they’ve expanded, with locations spanning Kensington, Soho, Shoreditch, Carnaby and Oxford.   [caption id="attachment_44024" align="alignnone" width="600"] Succulent glazed wings from Dirty Bones, London.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_44025" align="alignnone" width="600"] Famous tacos from Dirty Bones, London.[/caption]   If the word ‘diet’ is a forbidden word in your vocabulary, then you’re going to love its cheesy truffle fries and crispy fried chicken with freshly baked waffles and maple syrup. After something a little more sweet? Try their homemade cinnamon sugared donut paired with the coffee gelato. On a diet? Don’t worry, you won’t be after you’ve dined here.   [caption id="attachment_44026" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sumptuous delights from Dirty Bones, London.[/caption]   THE DINER   [caption id="attachment_44030" align="alignnone" width="600"] The impressive pancake stack from The Diner in London.[/caption]   If you’re after the good ol’ traditional American Diner, like your pancakes large and your burgers even larger, you’re going to love these diet-busting joint.   Located in various locations across town including Carnaby Street, Dalston and Camden, The Diner, as its name suggests, has a casual and relaxed vibe, perfect for over-indulgence and eating a day’s worth of calories in one sitting. If you didn’t come hungry, that’s OK. There’s salad. But who goes to a diner to eat salad? The three-stack banana pancakes with butterscotch sauce might change your mind. If that won’t do it, then the strawberry and chocolate pancakes certainly will. Oh yes, these little babies are drenched in chocolate with strawberries – you know, just in case you need to kid yourself you’re eating something remotely healthy.   Travelling on the savoury side? Don’t go past their finger-lickin’ good ‘Diner Dirty Double Cheeseburger,’ paired with two beef patties, US cheese, pickles and Diner burger sauce. Wash it down with the Creamy Nut Hard shake; a combination of Bailey’s Irish cream, hazelnut and pistachio ice cream. Vegan? No problem! The Big V Dog with French mustard; a vegan twist on the traditional American hot dog, is also a crowd pleaser.   STAX   [caption id="attachment_44022" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A delicious spread in Stax, London.[/caption]   Fancy taking a trip down to the American South? If you thought you knew what cheat day was, then you haven’t dined in at Carnaby’s STAX Diner. Taking feed your soul to an entirely new level, this comfy and modest space has a wonderfully tasty not-so-modest menu; and that’s exactly why you should go there.   If you want to get straight into the southern specialties, you can’t go past the Stax Po Boy; Cajun spiced popcorn shrimp on an organic buttery soft bun with spice comeback sauce, lettuce and tomato. If you fancy yourself some traditional southern fried chicken, then the Spicy Hot Chickadee burger is the way to go, with its buttermilk marinated fried chicken breast, American cheese, onion rings and ranch dressing.   If you’re after something small, try the Classic Buffalo Hot Wings with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks or the fried green tomatoes. Feeling super hungry? Then why not enter the Ultimate Stax Challenge to see if you can finish a five-beef-patty Stax cheeseburger, basket of Cajun Boardwalk fries and a super-sized milkshake in under 15 minutes.   National Burger Day takes place in the UK annually, around August or September.
Barcelona architecture Antoni Gaudi Casa Mila
Barcelona: four important things to know before you go
With a plethora of architecture to marvel at, plenty of souvenirs to collect and a variety of delicious Spanish fare to fill your belly, you wont run out of things to do in Barcelona. But it's also a place that's steeped with history, below we've listed four fun facts about this spirited city. 1. Who is Antoni Gaudi? Barcelona’s architecture is some of Europe’s most intriguing, thanks to Antoni Gaudí, famed for designing nine of the city’s structures including Casa Mila, Parque Güell, and his magnum opus La Sagrada Família, which he started working on in 1883 at the age of 31. [caption id="attachment_45667" align="alignleft" width="600"] Casa Batllo (House of Bones) is a building designed by Antoni Gaudi in the center of Barcelona[/caption] Though plans for the cathedral were already drawn up, the architect imposed on it his eclectic style of curves, shapes and ornamentation, a unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement. [caption id="attachment_45668" align="alignleft" width="600"] Sagrada Familia is a catholic church in Barcelona[/caption] Consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, construction of La Sagrada Família continues to this day and is set to be complete by 2026, 100 years after Gaudí’s passing. 2. An historic change in 2010... The year Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, became Spain’s first mainland region to ban the ancient tradition of bullfighting on animal cruelty grounds. 3. Care to dance? The incredibly fast-moving Flamenco is often considered Spain’s national dance, however in the Catalan region the traditional dance is the Sardana, performed by a number of people in a circle to a band of 10 wind instruments.   It dates back as early as the 16th century and, as the symbol of Catalan culture, it was even banned during the Spanish Civil War. Head to the Catedral de Barcelona to see locals perform the Sardana on Saturday evenings and Sundays at noon. 4. Did you know? Gustave Eiffel originally wanted to build the Eiffel Tower in Barcelona for the 1888 Universal Exposition but the plans were rejected because the tower did not fit in with the plans of the city. It was built in Paris a year later.   MORE... What to do in Barcelona with one day spare
No wheels, no worries: Best way to explore Switzerland? Sans car
Those punctual, hardworking Swiss have thought of everything – after all, where would we be without velcro, the World Wide Web (invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN) and… LSD? But there’s one thing you’ll never have to think about when it comes to travelling through their picture-perfect country: a hire car. Of course plenty of the population drive their fuel-efficient cars on their impeccably-designed motorways, but for travellers, a car is about as useful as a pair of knitting needles on a Swiss Army knife. Although the country is compact at around two-thirds the size of Tasmania, Switzerland’s public transport network is unrivalled, weaving a hyper-punctual web of rail, trails, river boats and buses across the land using one integrated pass – the Swiss Travel Pass. This is how you can keep your travels clean, green and lean while exploring Switzerland’s natural beauty by any means but car.   Why drive when you can first-class train? You’d be hard pressed to find a destination in Switzerland not serviced by a train. One with wrap-around panoramic windows and tea service, at that. There are 29,000 kilometres of public transport routes crisscrossed across the country and you can buy a blanket Swiss Travel Pass or individual region passes, depending on where you’re going. Just getting from A to B? You’ll truly understand the term “Swiss efficiency” after touching down in Zurich and zipping to the other side of the country in two hours flat. However, for most people, it’s all about the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – an experience in and of itself, which attracted a 48% increase in bookings in 2017. It combines eight different routes including iconic panoramic journeys like the Glacier Express (travelling across the Alps) and GoldenPass (with its beautiful Belle-Epoque GoldenPass Classic). With a Swiss Travel Pass in hand, you’re not only covered for train journeys but the entire network of boats, buses and city transportation along with many mountain cable cars and free admission to over 500 museums. [caption id="attachment_43969" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland – where you can journey through the Glacier Express.[/caption] More cycling trails than the Tour de France The circuit of the Tour de France may clock 3500 kilometres but Switzerland has over 12,000 kilometres of signposted cycling trails, making it one of the most cycle-friendly countries in the world. They’re now even shutting down roads so you can ride in the shadows of snow-capped mountains. Select mountain passes will be closed to motorists between May and September for Ride the Alps, a cycle series that allows cyclists to freely ride through the storybook landscape without fear or inconvenience of passing cars. But it’s not just the Swiss who are nuts for two-wheel transport – almost two million visitors to Switzerland will cycle during their holiday, with around 30% opting for the ease of e-bikes. Companies like Rent a Bike allow you to pick up wheels in one spot and drop them in another while you’ll also find bike-storing facilities on public transport, and for the serious lycra-lovers, there are even bike hotels where you’ll find handy facilities like bike repair workshops, e-bike charging stations, and luggage transfer services.   Food on foot There’s nothing more quintessentially Swiss than to hike throughout the day before retreating to a traditional fondue house for schnapps, rösti and raclette. However, there’s more to Switzerland's culinary landscape than chalets of cheese. In Zurich, explore the up-and-coming Zurich-West quarter on foot with fellow foodies on the Zurich Food Tour and you’ll taste your way through some of the city’s top restaurants and try freshly brewed Zurich beer. Continue your explorations and you might stumble upon Max Chocolatier. The artisanal chocolate house, which has its flagship on the banks of the River Reuss in Lucerne, offers private chocolate tastings to learn about the origins of their cocoa and other natural ingredients. Wandering is also the best way to discover the makers within Basel’s Markethalle (Market Hall), which operated as a local market from 1929 until 2004. After laying dormant for a decade, it was rejuvenated and re-opened in 2014 with a line-up of food stalls and a weekly market on Saturdays.   Just staying there gives you free transport Rather than transport costs gobbling up a good chunk of your holiday budget, many major cities within Switzerland provide a discount card when staying in one of its hotels. You’ll generally receive unlimited access to the city’s public trains, buses and trams, but some cards include additional extras, which make the argument for leaving the car in the rental bay even stronger. On top of free transport, the Basel Card for example gives holders access to free Wi-Fi at 17 spots around the city; and 50% off admissions to Basel Zoo, a two-hour sightseeing bus, a walking tour of old town and scheduled river cruises. In Bern, airport transfers are thrown in. And in Lausanne the Transport Card also grants holders discounts at selected shops, theatres and museums.