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Why you need to explore the world with Gate 1 Travel
Founded in 1981 with just three employees, Gate 1 now boasts more than 400 staff in their international offices that offer around-the-clock support for travellers, with a promise to deliver more of the world for less by developing quality, affordable holidays for Australians.
Why you should be booking a Beyond Travel cruise through Russia
Established in 1994, Beyond Travel have over 24 years of expertise helping Australian travellers experience the best that Russia has to offer. Renowned leaders in travel to this fascinating country, in 2019 we are pleased to present the largest range of Russian river cruises available, with a dedicated Cruise Russia website and brochure.
Everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean
Cruising holidays have changed. Ships are bolder and better – so we have compiled everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean in one handy guide
The Western Front: how to plan your visit
Lucy E Cousins commemorates 100 years since the end of the First World War by visiting the battlefields and monuments most significant to Australian history.
Bizarre but scrumptious foods to try while exploring Scotland
Want to try Scottish fare but can’t quite stomach the idea of haggis? Here are some bizarre but scrumptious foods to try as you explore Scotland, by Kara Murphy.
Bern, Switzerland: Essential city guide
The Swiss capital, Bern, is a delightful mélange of history, politics, great coffee and ghost stories, discovers Leigh-Ann Pow. Come find out the where and how...
Christmas in Europe: seven reasons to choose the festive months
If you love more traditional Christmas fare, the richest of hot chocolates and complete festive spirit, you need to get to Europe this December…
This Parisian river cruise is an art and history lover’s dream
Gliding through the landscapes of the French Impressionist painters on a cruise along the river Seine is an art and history lover’s dream...if this Scenic river cruise is anything to go by... With flamboyant statues and gargoyles, archways and towers, the Rouen Cathedral soars to the heavens as clouds scud across the sky playing hide and seek with the sun. Although I’ve never been to Rouen before, this imposing cathedral looks strangely familiar. My memory is jolted when our entertaining guide explains that it was the subject of more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet. “Light is the most important person in the picture,” he used to say. “You never paint the same thing twice because of the changing light.” Monet sometimes set up 14 canvasses at a time in front of the windows in a second-floor lingerie shop across from the cathedral (much to the chagrin of its customers) so that he could move from one canvas to the next as the shifting light transformed the cathedral’s pale stone. The series was such a commercial success that Monet was able to finance his beloved Japanese garden at his home in Giverny, alongside the Seine. Fortunately, we also have the opportunity to spend an entire morning there on our 11-day Normandy & Gems of the Seine cruise on the Scenic Gem. [caption id="attachment_42759" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The Scenic Gem is one of the only river cruise ships small enough to sail into the old Honfleur port[/caption] Leisurely cruising along this meandering river from Paris to its mouth at Honfleur and back again offers an entrancing way to immerse ourselves in a landscape which, ironically, was frozen in time by the very painters who were fascinated by the evanescent. Impressionists like Monet, Pissarro, Manet and Boudin, and other giants of French art such as Bonnard, Gauguin and Van Gogh, have all made their mark here. Sadly, this image of France can often collide with its modern reality. The experience of getting stuck in traffic jams between the airport and Paris or being stranded with train and airline strikes does not mesh well with the fantasy of France that many of us carry around in our heads. But let me tell you, La Belle France is alive and well, hiding in plain sight on a river cruise along the Seine. Here you get a ringside seat to the history and culture, the geography and, dare I say, the very soul of France. From the first night when you toast the lights on the Eiffel Tower before gliding out of the French capital, the entire experience is transporting; precisely because you don’t go very fast. Along the way, you explore grand chateaux like Chantilly and Vaux-le-Vicomte, vibrant medieval towns such as Rouen and Honfleur, and beautiful, undulating green countryside. And you learn about the country’s grand heroines like Joan of Arc, and yes, even its grand and terrible theatres of war, from the battlefields of the Somme to the D-Day landing sites. Rouen, we discover, has been the setting for many twists and turns in French history. Mooring right in the city centre, the Scenic Gem offers guests a guided walking tour that starts from the boat and meanders through its narrow cobblestoned streets framed by half-timbered buildings that are so typical of Normandy. [caption id="attachment_42758" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The picturesque Seine lapping at Notre-Dame.[/caption] Exploring inside the soaring cathedral, our guide reveals many wonders including the fact that buried here is the heart of the French-speaking English king, Richard the Lionheart, son of the all-powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine. We learn that France and England were perennially at war, and a little over 200 years later in the early 1400s, the young Joan of Arc led the French king Charles VII to victory against the English. Later captured by the enemy, she was tried for heresy and burned at the stake as a witch right here in Rouen. We visit a soaring memorial cross that marks the spot on the Place du Vieux-Marché. A mere 25 years later a court pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr. Today, you can learn all about it at the fascinating Historial Jeanne d’Arc museum, which sits inside Rouen’s Archbishop’s Palace. And at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, we admire one of Monet’s cathedral canvasses and discover that the Impressionists were not just painting poppies en plein air but were intent on capturing life as it was. For them, Rouen symbolised change, a city that blended the beauty of the Old World with the dynamism of the New. Pissarro, for instance, painted many of Rouen’s new bridges with smoke from factories in the background. Back on board, we follow les boucles, or loops, of the Seine as it meanders to the sea. There may be locks to navigate and factories like those recorded by the Impressionists, but there are also chalk cliffs, rustic hamlets, lime-green hillocks dotted with contented dairy cows, great flocks of seagulls, and willows whistling in the wind by the slow-moving river. It is mesmerising to sit, red wine glasses in hand on our private deck, and savour the passing panorama. [caption id="attachment_42763" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Paris at sunset from the Alexander III bridge[/caption] For art lovers, there are so many opportunities to walk into the images that grace museum walls around the world. In Honfleur, we hear stories of how its native son Eugène Boudin inspired Monet to paint landscapes from nature, both producing vibrant images of the pretty little port whose narrow, brightly coloured houses still frame its boat-dotted harbour. In Étretat, we walk the same white chalk cliffs captured in ever-changing light by Monet, Boudin and Pissarro. And in Auvers-sur-Oise, we discover the simple house where Van Gogh lived at the end of his life. In another world entirely, at the exquisite Château de Chantilly, we explore the remarkable treasures of Henri d’Orléans, the son of the last king of France. Its Condé Museum is home to the second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre, including stunning canvasses by Ingres, Raphael and Poussin, as well as a remarkable library housing 19,000 volumes and 1500 manuscripts, of which many are illuminated. All this beauty and all these sublime landscapes that survive to this day make it all the more sobering to visit the D-Day landing beaches to see where the largest armada in history, more than 5000 vessels carrying 156,000 Allied troops, arrived on 6 June 1944 to liberate Europe from Hitler. Their casualties are mind-numbing. Ten thousand soldiers died on the first day. [caption id="attachment_42760" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The distinctive half-timbered houses of medieval Rouen[/caption] Interminable rows of white gravestones cover those rolling green hills. On our cruise back towards Paris, the ship moors at the pretty little town of Vernon, and we learn that a British regiment crossed the Seine here to liberate a wide swathe of Normandy in the advance against the Germans. Today, the setting is once again bucolic as we cycle leisurely on e-bikes past a half-timbered millhouse, where Pierre Bonnard lived and painted, and on to Monet’s rose-pink, green-shuttered home of 43 years in nearby Giverny. The Impressionism industry can turn his trailblazing work into a nightmare of souvenir knick-knacks, but if you drown out the commercial noise, it is fascinating to reflect on how this giant of painting was also a committed gardener and interior designer. Wandering around his yellow dining room and blue kitchen, his cornucopia of cottage garden flowers in the Clos Normand, and the serene but radical-for-the-time Japanese Zen garden lush with water lilies makes you realise how much he was a visionary of diverse talents. [caption id="attachment_42757" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Glide right up to the colourful houses of Honfleur port[/caption] On our last day in Paris, the ship is moored on the Left Bank not far from the Eiffel Tower. I spend the afternoon looking at some of Monet’s masterpieces. From the collection donated by his son Michel at the Musée Marmottan to the five facades of the Rouen cathedral at the Musée d’Orsay, and to Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie (Monet’s gift to the French State as a symbol of peace at the end of the First World War), I feel immersed once more in the elusive, ever changing light of Normandy. And I can’t imagine a place I’d rather be than following the languid, lazy path of the Seine as it wanders to the sea. Details Getting there Scenic’s 11-Day Normandy & Gems of the Seine sails round-trip from Paris and stops at Les Andelys, Rouen, Honfleur, Caudebec-en-Caux, Vernon and Conflans. Playing there Offering an all-inclusive luxury experience for just 128 guests, the Scenic Gem is specifically designed to sail along the river Seine from Paris right into the port of Honfleur at the river’s mouth (many other river cruise ships must dock up-river and transport their passengers to Honfleur by bus); $6645 per person twin share for a standard suite and $9290 per person twin share in a balcony cabin, departing Paris on 10 October 2019. Fares include all on-board meals and drinks, shore excursions, complimentary mini-bar, free wi-fi, butler service, airport transfers and all tips and gratuities.
The things every visitor needs to do in Belgium
From Renaissance art to world war history and cutting-edge fashion, Lucy E Cousins discovers three incredible experiences not to miss in Belgium.
The best global co-living spaces under $50 a night
Travel + work = welcome to the life and style of a digital nomad… words by Michelle Tchea.
Here is a list of the best luxury hostels in the world
Forget backpacker horror stories, Michelle Tchea discovers how hostels are stepping up their game and catering to the luxury traveller. If you thought luxury travel and hostels could not co-exist, think again. Call it a trend or perhaps a 'disruption' in the hotel industry, aided by the rise of the digital nomad, a new breed of hostels is demystifying stereotypes of living thrifty, and giving budget-conscious travellers a chance to indulge in hotel perks for hostel prices. Think designer furniture, technology-driven amenities and a private suite with a flat-screen TV and. Imagine a rooftop pool with views of Hollywood, a spa and wellness centre overlooking the Swiss Alps and even a stargazing chalet in the middle of Scotland. And all for some loose change. Here are some of the best luxury-inspired hostels to help you plan your next holiday destination. The Salty Pelican Yoga and Surf Retreat, Cascais, Portugal Address: R. Madrid 6, 2765-419 Cascais, Portugal [caption id="attachment_45365" align="alignnone" width="600"] The grand exterior of the beach retreat.[/caption] Yoga-junkies and surf-heads, this one is for you. If you thought yoga retreats came with a hefty credit card bill, venture over to the golden bays of Cascais in Portugal and stay at The Salty Pelican. Created by three backpackers and powered by well-known surf brands Roxy and Quiksilver, expect everything you love in an expensive yoga retreat but for a fraction of the price. Opt for a variety of packages, including the seven-night surf and yoga package from $753 in low season, or simply kick back and relax for a few nights on the cheap: its dorm rooms start at $30 per night and private rooms overlooking the sea from $155. With free wi-fi and daily buffet breakfast, it’s a haven for beachgoers on a tight-budget. [caption id="attachment_45364" align="alignnone" width="600"] Colourful bunks.[/caption] TOC Barcelona, Spain Address: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 580, 08011 Barcelona, Spain TOC Barcelona puts trendy Japanese pod hotels to shame. A unique hostel in the heart of Barcelona with designer furniture and excellent hotel-like amenities. There is a terrace with a swimming pool, as well as free wi-fi, bar, kitchen, game zone and technology-charged rooms. [caption id="attachment_45391" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just one of the stylish common area of the TOC Barcelona, Spain.[/caption] Double superior suites come with private terraces and panoramic views of the city from $120 per night; shared rooms start from $47 a night. Freehand Los Angeles, USA Address: 416 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014, USA With Freehand in Los Angeles, you can see the city of stars on a budget. Live it up like an A-list celebrity in downtown L.A., with spacious suites and upscale shared rooms which do not look like regular bunk rooms at all, thanks to local designers Roman & Williams. The private loft and largest suite, Burroughs Suite, are extremely spacious and equipped with free wi-fi, retro cinematic furnishings and a giant LED television. There are four bars and eateries to choose from: don’t leave without enjoying a cocktail at the Broken Shaker, located next to the rooftop pool deck. [caption id="attachment_45381" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous rooftop pool, Freehand, Los Angeles.[/caption] Rooms start at $86 a night. WellnessHostel4000, Saas-Fee, Switzerland Address: Panoramastrasse 1, 3906 Saas-Fee, Switzerland If you ever dreamed of a white Christmas and wanted to do it in style – Switzerland would be the first choice, right? Rather than breaking your budget in St. Moritz or Montreux, give your wallet a break and visit WellnessHostel4000 in Saas-Fee. The contemporary architecture and high-quality upscale Swiss amenities – which include fitness centre, spa and award-winning restaurant – leave other hostels in the dust. A Finnish sauna, bio-soft sauna and whirlpool are just the beginning of the relaxation and wellness facilities on offer in this state-of-the-art hostel. You might not even feel inclined to leave the hostel and hit the slopes. [caption id="attachment_45387" align="alignnone" width="600"] Chic and simple digs at the WellnessHostel4000, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.[/caption] Rooms from $100 per night. Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria Address: Schubertring 10-12, 1010 Wien, Austria [caption id="attachment_45363" align="alignnone" width="600"] The grand bunks of the Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria.[/caption] Spread out over seven floors, the Grand Ferdinand’s 188 rooms range from opulent suites to elegant single rooms but the pièce de résistance is the hostel-like rooms attached to the historical hotel. The eight-bed dorm room is decked out in rich mahogany and marble. Rooms start at $45 per night: affordable luxury comes easily for Grand Ferdinand guests. At your doorstep are all the museums, monuments and coffee houses of Vienna’s old town, as well as the leafy Stadtpark and its golden Johann Strauss memorial. Bookings for the dorm rooms are available via Airbnb. Generator Hostels, across Europe [caption id="attachment_45382" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside the common area of the Generator Hostel in Hamburg, Germany.[/caption] A powerhouse of a chain, the Generator Hostels group is known for its one-of-a-kind hostels in cities typically populated with expensive hotels. In Paris, one of the newest Generator Hostels is located in the hip 10th Arrondissement and gives travellers a stylish Parisian escape without breaking the bank. [caption id="attachment_45384" align="alignnone" width="600"] The stylish bunks at the Generator Hostel in Venice.[/caption] Close to the art galleries of Canal Saint-Martin, the hostel has its own rooftop bar that overlooks the trendy Montmartre neighbourhood as well as a notable restaurant, Café Fabien, to entice hungry travellers after a day spent exploring Paris. [caption id="attachment_45383" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside one of the rooms at the Generator Hostel in Rome.[/caption] The private suites are spacious and come with a terrace and hammock, but the shared dorm rooms are a bargain and not to be scoffed at, starting at $27 a night. Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland Address: Åkerlundinkatu 2, 33100 Tampere, Finland [caption id="attachment_45362" align="alignnone" width="600"] Breakfast is served. Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland.[/caption] If you thought you could not see Finland on a budget, consider your dream reborn at Dream Hostel. The hostel is attached to a hotel but if you want to save a couple of dollars, the cheaper hostel rooms are equally delightful. A warm Scandinavian design resonates throughout the hostel and the perks of free wi-fi and free dinners on occasion make it more than ample for the average traveller. [caption id="attachment_45361" align="alignnone" width="600"] A two-bed private room. Dream Hostel, Tampere, Finland[/caption] Bunks start at just $36 a night. PLUS Hostel Berlin, Germany Address: Warschauer Pl. 6, 10245 Berlin, Germany Berlin has some really great upscale hostels but if you are looking for something truly spectacular, check into PLUS Hostel Berlin. The rooftop bar and a variety of wellness options, which include yoga classes, are great for travellers with lots of energy. But it’s the glittering swimming pool that sets this hostel apart from the rest. All rooms come with their own private bathroom and the restaurant, Opera, serves excellent cocktails to wrap up a great stay. [caption id="attachment_45386" align="alignnone" width="600"] The incredible pool inside PLUS Hostel in Berlin, Germany.[/caption] Dorm rooms start at just $24 a night. Star Hostel Taipei, Taiwan Address: No. 50號, Huayin Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103 Consistently voted as one of the best hostels in the world, Star Hostel Taipei is known for its clean setting and designer-vibe within a rather bustling and gritty city. Free breakfast, tea and wi-fi are great calling cards but the Scandinavian minimalistic feel to the cosy rooms make it a hostel worth staying in. Wooden timber panels encase an urban garden which doubles as a social hub. The private suites are worth splurging on for some extra privacy, and don’t forget to book yourself a bubble tea making class in the hostel to feel right at home. [caption id="attachment_45388" align="alignnone" width="600"] Cosy, interesting sleeping suites at Star Hostel Taipei, Taiwan.[/caption] Dorm rooms start from $30. Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Skye, Scotland Address: The Old School, Portnalong, Isle of Skye IV47 8SL, United Kingdom If you find yourself in the middle of the Cuillin mountain range located on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, do yourself a favour and stay in the Skyewalker Hostel. Private suites come in the form of Jedi Huts where you have your own private oasis in a wooden cabin to experience a full glamping experience. The glass solar-dome is a favourite, with excellent views of the night-sky. The hostel is within reach of a whisky distillery, sea eagle-spotting and access to the exhilarating Cuillin mountain range for avid and experienced hikers. [caption id="attachment_45385" align="alignnone" width="600"] The famous glass dome; a popular hangout for guests of the Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Skye, Scotland.[/caption] Dorm rooms start from $30 per night.
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