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, 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 Choose the perfect Kyoto Ryokan escape
A stay in a traditional inn, or ryokan, is an essential shortcut to experiencing Japanese culture at its most charming and hospitable. Here’s how to make it happen in Japan’s most tradition-drenched, elegant city.   There are so many different kinds of accommodation options in Kyoto, from hostels to international chain hotels, Buddhist temple lodgings to Airbnbs and super-luxe skyscrapers – but it is the ryokan that conjures up the purest Kyoto experience. Rooms floored with tatami mats, kind kimono-clad hosts and steaming onsen baths characterise this type of accommodation, a world away from the breakfast buffets and cookie-cutter hotel rooms of the Western-style stays.   To plan your own ryokan escape in Kyoto, visualise the final details of your dream experience. Are you looking to try a traditional multi-course kaiseki meal, served to you fastidiously in your own room? Would you like to experience a tea ceremony, performed by a real Kyoto geiko (geisha) or the more colourful maiko (geiko-in-training)? Are you ready to sleep on a futon-style mattress spread out for you on the floor – with or without a fragrant but very firm wheat-filled pillow? Basically, how traditional are you ready to go, and how much are you looking to pay? [caption id="attachment_48167" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hoshinoya, Yamanoha[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48162" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hoshinoya, Tsukihashi[/caption] The money question Although ryokans are available all over Japan, they are most sought after in the heritage surrounds of Kyoto – and that also makes them some of the country’s most expensive. The plus side of this is, you’ll find the ‘ultimate’ ryokan experience here, if you’re prepared to pay. The almost mythical Tawaraya is sometimes referred to as Japan’s best ryokan, yet it doesn’t even bother with a website – it has had aristocrats gracing its rooms since the Edo period 300 years ago. Who needs a website?   In the slightly more earthly side of affordability, both Tamahan and Hoshinoya have made a name for themselves over many generations. The time-capsule Tamahan is a hideaway in a pedestrian-only alleyway, with old-school, incredibly humble service from its owners, offering perfectly kept gardens yet a location right in the centre of the sights of Kyoto. Hoshinoya is set up on the picturesque Oigawa River, meaning a private boat trip simply to reach its more modern but still utterly luxurious digs. In both of these, experiencing the service of a traditional kaiseki meal is very much a part of the stay, but the cost of such fine dining can make for an expensive night indeed. This is one of the big reasons why ryokan prices are generally charged per head – not per room. [caption id="attachment_48171" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hoshinoya, Hashizuku[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48172" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hoshinoya Mizunone[/caption] Not all Kyoto ryokans are in the top price bracket, either. At the other end of the scale, Uemura is also tucked away on a pedestrian-only alleyway, with three simple rooms and only breakfast served daily – fine if you are not after an intricate kaiseki meal; it has an incredible location in the centre of Gion, the old district still serving as the centre of geiko life. Meanwhile, if you’d like to experience such traditional offerings as a communal onsen bath, tatami matted floor and a futon bed, you can find these things for well under $100 at the friendly Kyoto Traveler’s Inn (though they also have Western-style rooms to choose from), in another fantastic location opposite the gigantic Heian shrine torii gate.   The wonderful thing about staying in Japan is that, even at the lowest price points, facilities and rooms are kept squeaky clean as a rule. Location, location For such a well-known city, Kyoto is surprisingly compact. Between its train and bus systems, it is quite easy to get around – but it can still be time consuming if you stay far away from the action. Because many ryokans are generations old, some act as waypoints on an ancient travelling route, or exist as a family parcel of land or a nobles’ retreat away from the city (the riverbound Hoshinoya is a perfect example).   Kyoto’s thousand-odd years in history as Japan’s capital city, however, has given it a few heritage districts where old ryokans remain in the centre of the action – particularly in the Gion district. If you have the time and the purse for it, a stay in a quiet ryokan, followed by one right in the city itself, is a fabulous way to sample the best of both. Kyoto’s many temples and shrines are spread across its giant basin, too, so a single ‘best’ location is not as important as in other cities. Additionally, if you are investing in the experience of a kaiseki meal, which can take a couple of hours to enjoy and is way too good to rush, you won’t be leaving your inn at night in any case. [caption id="attachment_48168" align="alignnone" width="600"] Twin beds at Hoshinoya[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48166" align="alignnone" width="600"] Relax at Hoshinoya[/caption] The rules: what to expect when you stay in a ryokan If you’ve never stayed in a traditional inn before, the unspoken rules that govern everyday life can seem a touch intimidating. Keep in mind that hospitality is one of the most golden rules, though – so don’t be afraid to ask politely for a bit of help if you’re stuck. Your hosts will be thrilled to teach you something new.   Like in most Japanese houses and the more traditional restaurants, you’ll leave your shoes at the door, placing them neatly on a shelf. There will possibly be some slippers left helpfully facing you so you can easily step into them and continue on into the ryokan itself. Shoes never come in, slippers never leave the building. And if you haven’t invested in some decent socks, this is the time to do so – they suddenly become a very visible item in Japan!   Don’t be disturbed if there’s no bed in your room: it will magically appear as you leave for dinner, ready for your return. If you are eating in your room, just go about your business and trust the housekeeping staff to do their thing. It will appear. Likewise, leave it and, as you breakfast or head out to sightsee, it will be spirited away. [caption id="attachment_48165" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hoshinoya, Tsukihashi[/caption] [caption id="attachment_48163" align="alignnone" width="600"] Meal time at Hoshinoya[/caption] Many traditional ryokans will have a hot bath (onsen) on the premises. Check with your host which times of day your gender can bathe: if there is only one bath, they split up the day between women and men. If there are two, they may stay the same, or switch genders through the day. For example, men may get the outdoor onsen in the day, while women get it at night. If you have tattoos, it’s polite to ask if you may use the onsen or not, since they remain a point of controversy in Japan (they are a sign of organised crime gangs), and politely accept the answer. It’s tough for a Japanese host to say ‘no’ to anything, so be kind if they do.   The most fun part of staying in a ryokan, or many Japanese inns – traditional or not? You can swan about in your robe and slippers all day long if you like. Your room will have a cotton yukata (casual version of the more formal kimono) put there especially for you, and it’s completely normal to have meals in it, even in common areas; head to the onsen baths and back; hang out in the reception area or gardens; anything you like. Japan is one of the few countries where it’s acceptable to dress down for dinner – way down. So wriggle your toes in your comfy slippers and enjoy. Read more in our guide to everything you need to know about ryokans in Japan and explore more of Kyoto in our Kyoto travel guide for where to eat and what to do while you're there.
Where to eat in Honolulu, Hawai’i
Hawai‘i hasn’t always been considered a hot culinary destination – but change is afoot, as Megan Arkinstall discovers as she hits the capital’s best foodie spots. Honolulu, the capital of the Aloha State and home to famous Waikiki Beach has long been celebrated as a fly-and-flop tropical destination: one that conjures up images of grass-skirt-wearing hula dancers swaying to the harmonious sounds of the ukulele, longboard-riding surfers gesturing the shaka, and a relaxed national uniform of vibrant floral shirts and leis.   But perhaps one thing you don’t know about Hawai‘i (or at least it’s not at the top of your holiday checklist) is that it has an incredibly unique cuisine that has been born from a medley of cultural influences. (And it has nothing to do with Hawaiian pizza, which – by the way – was created in Canada.)   Here, we give you the lowdown on authentic Hawaiian cuisine, and why Honolulu is one of the USA’s hottest culinary cities.   Beyond Waikiki’s famous streets are some smaller, lesser-known enclaves with some of the tastiest, most creative eateries you’ll find. Kaka‘ako A cool neighbourhood nestled between Ala Moana and Downtown Honolulu with colourful street art, quality boutique shopping and a grassy waterfront park. [caption id="attachment_47770" align="alignleft" width="600"] Explore the streets of Kaka’ako[/caption] Moku Kitchen The menu at Moku Kitchen is seasonal and features dishes such as a fresh island mahi mahi fish sandwich, kalua pork pizza and saimin noodles (a noodle dish with Japanese, Chinese and Filipino influences). Address: 60 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu Piggy Smalls Chef Andrew Le’s Piggy Smalls has an eclectic menu featuring pho, pasta, quiche and porchetta; it’s part of the much-loved Pig and the Lady family. Address: 1200 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu [caption id="attachment_47768" align="alignleft" width="600"] Enjoy a bowl of vegan pho at Piggy Smalls[/caption] Eat the Street food truck rally If you’re in town on the last Friday of the month, be sure to check out the Eat the Street food truck rally.   More than 40 vendors cook up burgers, shrimp and tacos, as well as island-inspired cuisine such as plate lunch (the Hawaiian version of meat and three veg) and loco moco (white rice, hamburger patty, fried egg and brown gravy). Address: 555 South St, Honolulu Butterfly Ice cream For a sweet treat, head to Butterfly Ice cream, which churns small-batch seasonal ice-cream with local flavours such as Kona coffee, Lehua honey and poi banana bread. Address: 324 Coral St #103, Honolulu Kaimuki An eclectic residential neighbourhood to the east of Waikiki, with specialty shops and unique eateries. Ed Kenney Hawaiian-born chef Ed Kenney is a huge pioneer in the local food community. His restaurants Kaimuki Superette (a deli-style eatery selling seasonal sandwiches and sundries;), Town (a Mediterranean-Hawaiian restaurant with a farm-to-table menu) and Mud Hen Water (honouring Hawai‘i’s cuisine through small and large share plates) are all located in Kaimuki and showcase what Hawaiian Regional Cuisine is all about. Koko Head Cafe Hidden down an alley, Koko Head Cafe is a popular island-style brunch house with a menu of inventive comfort food such as a poke omelette, pancakes Hawaiian-style, and the deathly decadent Elvis’s Revenge – peanut butter, banana tempura, bacon, local honey, toasted coconut and sweet bun. [caption id="attachment_47767" align="alignleft" width="600"] Coffee and doughnuts at Koko Head Cafe[/caption] It’s helmed by top chef and ex-New Yorker Lee Anne Wong, a household name in the US who also lends her talents to Hawaiian Airlines as its executive chef. Address: 1145 12th Ave C, Honolulu Chinatown Established more than 140 years ago, this is one of the USA’s oldest Chinatown districts. [caption id="attachment_47769" align="alignleft" width="600"] Honolulu’s Chinatown district is one of the oldest in the State[/caption] Maguro Brothers Maguro Brothers is the place to go for some of the freshest fish on the island. Run by two Japanese fishmonger brothers, this no-fuss stall is tucked away at the back of Kekaulike Market and has a simple menu of poke, sashimi, cooked fish and ramen. Senia Refined but relaxed, Senia is about expertly prepared and artfully presented Modern American cuisine. Guests can dine à la carte or indulge in a US$185 ($260) per person tasting menu at the 12-seat chef counter facing the kitchen. Address: 75 N King St, Honolulu The Pig and the Lady Chow down on Vietnamese fare made with Pacific ingredients and a Hawaiian twist at The Pig and the Lady. The menu features dishes like green papaya salad with fried kuaui shrimp, Hanoi-style fish and poi, and malasadas (a Portuguese confection). [caption id="attachment_47771" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Pig and the lady[/caption] Address: 83 N King St, Honolulu Getting there Hawaiian airlines has direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Honolulu.   Optional upgrades to Extra Comfort seating provide more leg room, priority boarding in Honolulu, a complimentary amenities kit and a wider array of entertainment. Staying there Located right on the beachfront, the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort offers 635 generous room and suites and facilities including the La‘akea Spa, fitness centre, swimming pool, sun deck and whirlpool spa, a trio of signature restaurants and daily Hawaiian cultural activities.   It also offers easy access to shopping and dining at Waikiki Beach Walk and the bustling heart of Waikiki, Kalakaua Avenue.
Train in Switzerland
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.
A first-timer’s guide to Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakech is 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. Morocco’s fabled ‘Rose City’ is a mesmerising metropolis fringed by rolling desert, oasis-like palmeries and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains.   Marrakech’s rich heritage dates back nearly a thousand years; what was once an old caravan town along the sub-Saharan trading routes flourished into one of the great cities of the Maghreb. Nowadays the blush-pink ramparts, soaring minarets and medieval-plan medina are a constant reminder of the imperial city’s storied past.   Artists, writers and musicians have long been seduced by Morocco’s ‘Jewel of the South’. Travellers find themselves entranced by the heady atmosphere, riot of colours and chaotic collision of Berber, Arabic and French cultures that lay the foundations of modern Marrakech. Design lovers will delight in the blend of ancient artistry and today’s thriving creative scene that makes up the very fabric of the city.   Iconic French fashion designer and former resident Yves Saint Laurent famously said, “A visit to Marrakech was a great shock to me. The city taught me colour”. Whilst the maze-like medina, with its tangle of alleyways and bustling souks might overwhelm the senses – one can just as easily find respite in the secret rose-scented gardens, the pools of palatial hotels and terrace cafes with sweeping views over rose-tinted rooftops, palm trees and Moorish architecture set against a bright blue sky.   So if you feel the allure of the exotic, chaotic and utterly enchanting Marrakech, here’s our guide to finding the magic among the mayhem. Getting there  Qatar Airways flies from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth to Marrakech via Doha and Casablanca. Best time to visit Avoid the scorching summer. Visit in spring (mid-March to May) when the roses are in bloom in Morocco, or enjoy a mild autumn (from September to November). Neighbourhoods The Medina This is the Marrakech conjured up in everyone’s imagination. Getting lost in the labyrinthine alleyways is all part of the experience. The 11th-century, UNESCO-listed old town is surrounded by 16 kilometres of rammed-earth walls. Once you venture inside one of the city’s grand gates it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. While the dusty, narrow backstreets are mostly for foot traffic, make way for pack-laden donkeys and buzzing motorcycles. [caption id="attachment_47539" align="alignleft" width="600"] Shopping for Berber rugs is a must in the souks.[/caption] The souks (markets) have barely changed in centuries. Souk Semmarine, the main artery that runs through the medina, is piled high with pottery, fabrics, carpets, leatherwork and antiques. As you delve deeper into the vibrant bazaar you’ll witness workmen noisily plying their trade in the blacksmith’s quarter, the dyers’ souk strung with richly coloured skeins of wool, stalls spilling over with leatherwork and handcrafted carpets as well as the Spice Square heavily perfumed with the scent of amber, musk and orange blossom.   You’ll probably hear the carnivalesque Djemaa el Fna before you see it (hint: follow the drumbeats and Gnawa music). It’s the pounding heart of the medina, brought to life at dusk as hundreds of makeshift stalls are spread across the historic square and locals gather for an evening out. Ville Nouvelle During the French protectorate in the 20th century, the ‘New Town’ was built adjacent to the medina. The wide boulevards lined with tangerine trees, European bistros and Art Deco buildings are in stark contrast to the old town.   The Gueliz district is the locale for high-end restaurants, expensive boutiques and numerous art galleries, whilst the upmarket Hivernage, on the western edge of the medina, is where you’ll find the ultra-luxe hotels such as La Mamounia and the Royal Mansour. Mellah The separate 15th-century quarter is where the Jewish community once resided. Remnants of its Jewish history are the Miaara Jewish Cemetery and a few remaining synagogues. Kasbah Bab Agnaou is one of the most impressive gateways into the old citadel. The medina’s southern district is known for its stately Saadian architecture and arty cafes. [caption id="attachment_47544" align="alignleft" width="600"] Locals gather in the medieval walled city[/caption] What to do Sip mint tea overlooking Djemaa el Fna 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_47549" align="alignleft" width="600"] Tea is served at Riad Yasmine[/caption] There’s a dizzying spectacle of soothsayers, snake charmers, magicians, fire-eaters, drumbeat dancers, airborne acrobats and mischievous monkeys performing tricks. Cooking Moroccan cuisine Learn how to make a tasty tagine, as well as other local favourites at La Maison Arabe’s cooking school. The half-day workshops are run by the historic riad, which was the first in Marrakech to open a restaurant for foreigners and entertained notable guests such as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Jackie Kennedy.   Your efforts will be rewarded at the end of class when you get to tuck into a feast of Moroccan flavours in the elegant dining room. The workshop costs around $88 per person. Hit up a Hammam A hammam (bathhouse) is a unique Moroccan cleansing and purifying ritual. For first timers, it’s advised to visit a hammam tailored to tourists. Splurge on a spa day at the splendid Royal Mansour, even if it’s just to see the other-worldly, white-laced interiors. Opt for the 75-minute signature treatment. [caption id="attachment_47547" align="alignleft" width="600"] The lush courtyard here is its crowning glory[/caption] Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakech’s headline-grabbing attraction opened its doors in 2017. The museum is dedicated to the life and work of celebrated French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. The building has a wow factor of its own – curvaceous lines, intricate lace-like brickwork, as well as an earthy terrazzo and terracotta facade. Berber Museum The small but fascinating museum located inside Jacques Majorelle’s former studio is a great introduction to Berber history and culture. The space exhibits over 600 Berber and North African objects collected by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. La Maison de la Photographie The former fondouk (merchant warehouse) has been repurposed into a gallery for vintage photography. Beautifully curated exhibitions showcase Morocco through the nostalgic lens of the past. Café Clock Located deep within the Kasbah district Café Clock is as much a cultural hub as it is a cafe. Events include hikayat (traditional storytelling) evenings and Berber-style music and dancing. If you do stop by for lunch, order the legendary camel burger. Secret Garden The recently renovated Le Jardin Secret has opened its doors to the public. It’s a true sanctuary in the Moussaine district of the medina. Find shade beneath the elaborate pavilion, take a stroll through the palatial grounds and admire the gardens brimming with lavender and fruit trees – olive, pomegranate, fig and date to name a few. There’s an admission fee of about $7 for the gardens. Jardin Majorelle The botanical oasis dreamt up by French painter Jacques Majorelle is a must-visit for fashionistas as the iconic blue villa later became the home of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The couple found inspiration in the dreamy setting, where whimsical grounds are bursting with vivid bougainvillea, bamboo pathways and lofty cacti. [caption id="attachment_47541" align="alignleft" width="600"] Inside the Jardin Majorelle, with its signature blue villa.[/caption] Beldi Country Club A charming hotel favoured by glamorous jet-setter types, Beldi Country Club is a mere 15 minutes away from the city centre on the outskirts of Marrakech. Here you’ll uncover an eco-chic paradise – a sprawling five-hectare retreat with swimming pools, ancient olive trees, rose gardens and a glorious greenhouse. Where to shop Travellers have no trouble parting with their dirhams in this city. After your first spin around the souks, you’re likely to have walked away with a Berber rug under your arm and a pair of butter-soft babouche (leather slippers) on your feet. Once you’ve exhausted the souks, here are some worthwhile retail alternatives. Leave room in your luggage. In fact, bring an empty suitcase! Souk Cherifa A hip galleria-style shopping spot with boutiques sandwiched among the traditional souks. The stores are located in Mouassine neighbourhood, a somewhat up-and-coming design district within the medina. [caption id="attachment_47542" align="alignleft" width="600"] Exploring the souks of the medina is a quintessential Marrakech experience[/caption] Chabi Chic It won’t surprise you to know that two very stylish Parisian women are behind this contemporary store in the heart of the medina; it sells pottery, tableware, decorative objects and fashion accessories. Mustapha Blaoui This long-standing emporium is a treasure trove of beautiful Moroccan pieces; from intricate lamps, quality carpets to larger furniture. La Maison ArtC A high-end boutique in Gueliz run by Israeli designer Artsi Ifrah who lives and works in Marrakech making one-of-a-kind pieces from vintage fabrics. Historical sites El Badi Palace Visit the scattered ruins of a Saadian sultan’s 16th-century palace. The grand scale of the complex hints at El Badi Palace’s former glory, meanwhile beauty can still be found in the shimmering pools and sunken gardens. [caption id="attachment_47543" align="alignleft" width="600"] The ruins of 16-century El Badi Palace[/caption] The Saadian Tombs Said to be the only remains of the Saadian dynasty that ruled over Marrakech during the golden age of 1524–1659. Impressively laid with Carrara marble and decorative plasterwork, the extravagantly embellished tombs were long forgotten until they were rediscovered in 1917. Romantic spots A riad is a centuries-old Moroccan mansion transformed into a guesthouse, typically with an interior courtyard. Marrakech is the mecca of Morocco’s hip riad scene, with hundreds of atmospheric and often very affordable lodgings in the heart of the ancient medina. Hidden behind nondescript doors, many riads vaunt lush gardens, idyllic pools and sun-soaked rooftop terraces. [caption id="attachment_47545" align="alignleft" width="600"] Riad Yasmine’s photogenic plunge pool[/caption] El Fenn This eye-catching riad is luxuriously outfitted by Vanessa Branson (sister of Richard Branson) and Howell James. El Fenn remains a perennial favourite for aesthetes as each corner of this exquisite guesthouse pops with jewel-like colours and contemporary art. L’Hôtel Marrakech The passion project of British designer Jasper Conran, where guests sleep in luxe salons, each with a four-poster bed. The swoon-worthy interiors recall the glamour of the 1930s and boast Conran’s own personal collection of antiques. Dar Kawa Talented Belgian tastemaker and textile designer Valérie Barkowski transformed her Marrakech residence (formerly a 17th-century townhouse) into an intimate guesthouse. A sophisticated monochrome palette of black and smoky-grey is set against a bright, white backdrop. Riad Yasmine If you don’t mind sharing the sun loungers with a few posing Instagram influencers, taking a dip in this picture-perfect plunge pool is one of the perks of staying at Riad Yasmine. Riad Secret Jardin As the name suggests this is a peaceful haven, cleverly concealed behind heavy cedar doors. It’s owned and run by former French fashion duo Cyrielle and Julien, and while the saffron-yellow tadelakt (plastered) walls, stucco arches and filigree balustrades all impress, it’s the lush courtyard that makes it truly special. [caption id="attachment_47546" align="alignleft" width="600"] On the roof at the peaceful haven of Riad Secret Jardin[/caption] Riad Mena & Beyond This six-room riad is a design-enthusiast’s dream, with individually bedecked rooms that combine mid-century minimalism with Moroccan style. Plus, it has Philippe Starck-designed bathrooms, a heated outdoor pool and a bougainvillea-draped courtyard. [caption id="attachment_47540" align="alignleft" width="600"] Tranquil spots are easy to find at Riad Mena & Beyond[/caption] Where to see architecture  Ben Youssef Madrasa This 14th-century masterpiece was once the largest Qur’anic school in North Africa. It remains one of the finest examples of Arabic architecture in Marrakech. Koutoubia Mosque While non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques in Morocco, you can admire the towering minaret from across the city and listen as the muezzin’s call to prayer echoes throughout the walls of the medina. [caption id="attachment_47538" align="alignleft" width="600"] The towering Koutoubia Mosque[/caption] La Bahia Palace The opulent 19th-century palace was once home to the harem of notorious vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed, with sumptuous rooms for his four wives and 24 concubines. Exceptional examples of Moroccan craftsmanship can be admired in the details here.
How to spend 48 Hours in Cape Town
The South African city’s dining scene serves up everything from artisan coffee to buzzing bazaars, hipster eat streets and fine diners. Embarks on a food safari. DAY ONE 9.30am: Coffee confidence “Do I look focused?” asks Nasha, star graduate of Origin Coffee Roasting’s barista school and a self-described modern coffee wayfarer. “Well, I am.” The Zimbabwean loves an audience, and coffee-tasting demonstrations here provide a pre-converted one. [caption id="attachment_47404" align="alignleft" width="600"] Meet Origin Coffee Roasting’s expert barista Nasha[/caption] “Mum had a white friend who used to drink coffee obsessively and I was fascinated because we didn’t drink it,” he says. “When I came here, I saw it everywhere. I thought, I’m gonna be an expert.”   The fact that 12-year-old Origin, on Hudson Street in the trendy De Waterkant district, lays claim to being the city’s original ‘good coffee’ place tells you just how recent the ‘scene’ here is. The 22 year old raves about the relative merits of the aeropress versus the yama siphon, and then explains why Rwandan and Tanzanian beans are better than the altitudinally challenged local ones.   “I’m just an expert in ratio and time,” he says. The brews he serves up over the post-industrial counter confirms his substance matches his style. 10.45am: Looking for ‘bunny’ Nowhere lays this city’s cultural idiosyncrasies on the table better and faster than Eastern Food Bazaar on Longmarket Street in the city centre. To the sheltered traveller, the canteen is a cave of chaos, but it has its own natural flows and rhythms; queues sprout and wither equally speedily in the dual-entrance mall.   Ten shops purvey shawarmas, tandoor dosas, local sweet biryanis et al, celebrating Cape Town’s Asian and sub-continental food heritage. Local carb-and-curry overload ‘bunny chow’ best represents this: a loaf of white bread, de-cored, then filled with the not-too-spicy, fragrant and sweet Cape Malay curry.   It should sate a couple comfortably for 50 rand ($5). 12.30pm: Bree there or be square Legend has it that if you walk from one end of Bree Street to the other, at least one brand-new boutique will have sprung up by the time you walk back down it again. This is Cape Town’s coolest foodie corridor, a breath of culinary fresh air compared to tourist-magnet Long Street, a couple of blocks over. [caption id="attachment_47407" align="alignleft" width="600"] Stroll buzzy Bree Street[/caption] The pick of Bree’s eateries is Chefs Warehouse and Canteen, with its ever-changing tapas menu. It doesn’t take reservations, but you can wait at No Reservations bar for a free table. For a side of something different with your lunch, check out cafe and art space Red! The Gallery or FOLK COFFEE ANTHROPOLOGY, which has plenty of books to thumb through over coffee.   Or join the Cape’s beautiful people at Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room, with its fresh juices and all-day breakfasts, or at purveyor of ‘slow fast food’ Cafe Frank. Don’t miss nearby Bree Street institution Jason Bakery, where you can tuck into a ‘bacon chilli popper’ sandwich with freshly baked bread, a hand-made bagel with all the works, a filled brioche doughnut or carrot cake cheesecake. [caption id="attachment_47402" align="alignleft" width="600"] Don’t miss a sweet treat from Jason Bakery on Bree Street[/caption] 3.45pm: Grown-up shakes Where Bree Street peters out to the south, pop over one block to the Fire and Ice bar at Protea Hotel on New Church Street to peruse the ‘grown-up’ milkshake menu. Distrust your initial instincts; the marshmallow, caramel and pumpkin milkshake is the bomb. No, really. 6.45pm: Sushi surprise This may be the first time that I’ve recommended dinner at a shopping mall restaurant, but always eat where the locals do, as the maxim goes. Walk past the well-heeled stores at the Gucci end of Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre (V&A Waterfront) to the weirdly sophisticated Willoughby & Co for hands down some of SA’s finest sushi.   The ‘4x4 rainbow reloaded’ selection is on another level, especially the spicy and creamy rock shrimp roll. If sushi’s not your thing, try the line-fish curry.   There may be a queue, but you can order (and drink) a glass of wine to make the time fly. 8.45pm: DRINK IN the View Head back to your accommodation on the V&A Waterfront for a nightcap. The five-star Silo Hotel is located above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (which houses Africa’s largest collection of contemporary African art), in the elevator portion of a historical grain silo. [caption id="attachment_47406" align="alignleft" width="600"] Spend some time on the V&A Waterfront[/caption] The hotel’s new-look exterior was designed by Heatherwick Studio, its 28 rooms are funky and art-focused, and its sixth floor Willaston Bar – serving cocktails and local and international wine – affords majestic views of the city and Table Mountain through its pillowed glass windows. DAY 2 9am: Pastels with flavour Working-class Bo-Kaap (literally, ‘above the Cape’) district has the prettiest gathering of pastel houses in Africa, which will live long in your Instagram feed. Traditionally the hue of each house represented the trade of the householder (or which colour paint was on sale that day, so goes the local gag). [caption id="attachment_47405" align="alignleft" width="600"] See the colourful houses of Bo-Kaap[/caption] Start your morning’s exploration of the area on a high at Harvest Cafe & Deli, an airy plant-filled space that serves beautifully presented dishes so tasty you might forget they’re good for you too.   Try a signature smoothie bowl (think spirulina, avocado, lime and banana with homemade salted chocolate granola, pomegranate and coconut) or pumpkin fritters with Greek yoghurt, berries and maple syrup, a twist on a South African classic. Best enjoyed on the building’s rooftop, with its panoramic views of Bo-Kaap and beyond. [caption id="attachment_47403" align="alignleft" width="600"] Eat breakfast at Harvest[/caption] 11am: Visit mom and pop Bo-Kaap, where freed Malay and mixed-race slaves settled, also happens to be its own mini food safari.   The trick is to poke your nose into all the little mom-and-pop cafes and tuck shops. Atlas Trading Company is a nice education in Cape Malay spice culture. Don’t miss the wee corner shop next to Biesmiellah restaurant for a traditional koeksister (deep-fried doughnut with honey glaze). 11.45am: Garden of eatin’ For the first time in 300 years, edible plants return to the Cape’s CBD. The traditional botanic Company’s Garden (the old Dutch East India Company property) hosts allotments for nearby Bo-Kaap families. [caption id="attachment_47409" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Old Biscuit Mill is a hub of art and cuisine[/caption] The permaculture veggie patches overflow with everything from gooseberries and grapes to wild garlic and sour figs plus a plethora of indigenous plants used in the prolific home-remedy industry.   It’s supposed to be look-but-don’t-taste, unless of course you chat to one of the gardeners. 1.15pm: The Devil’s drink Frankly, you’d have to be an idiot not to find a quality bottle of wine in Cape Town, but traditionally the same could not be said for beer.   Thankfully, the whole micro-brewery party is underway in earnest. On the cusp of mercurial Woodstock, you’ll find taprooms for party-starter Devil’s Peak Brewing Company, a vanguard that helped instil in South Africans that there is more to life than Castle lager.   The hero of the five micro-brew-and-food pairing is the nuptial between the zesty King’s Blockhouse IPA and extra-zesty Sriracha chicken. The view over actual Devil’s Peak (mountain) becomes more intense with every sip. 3.45pm: The Woodstock revival (for the rest of the day) Woodstock used to be the wrong side of the tracks (literally), a seedy side of town to say the least. Artists started to colonise it during the early noughties, redefining the vibe, until the multicultural neighbourhood became an artisanal circus of cafes, gin distilleries and galleries, with something different happening every night of the week. [caption id="attachment_47401" align="alignleft" width="600"] Dine in the ‘Light Room’ at experimental Test Kitchen[/caption] All roads lead to cuisine-and-art-hub The Old Biscuit Mill. Shop for presents of thought-provoking homewares in its artsy shops, then take a tour of the bean-to-bar Cocoafair for some pre-dinner Fairtrade 71 per cent ginger dark choccy.   Fortuitously, The Old Biscuit Mill happens to house two of South Africa’s most innovative and best restaurants, both brainchildren of chef Luke Dale-Roberts. The star is craftily designed Test Kitchen, which as the name gives away, is ‘a creative world of experimentation’.   Suffice to say, whether you choose this one or the Pot Luck Club – where sharing dishes are divided into five basic tastes: salty, sour, sweet, umami and bitter – this last stop on your food safari should be booked thoroughly in advance.
The ultimate Grand Canyon travel guide
For many, Grand Canyon National Park is a sightseeing coach stop, a natural tonic for the lights of nearby Las Vegas and a ‘been there’ photo opportunity. But the world’s most famous canyon in Arizona, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a national park, deserves better. As you’ll see here, it’s been home to people for thousands of years, and it took millions of years for the Colorado River to expose billions of years of geological history as it scoured a path down into the bedrock.   Bordered by several Native American reservations, the World Heritage site is steeped in Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapai culture and you can spend days walking trails with vistas of unparalleled scale. Perhaps you should pop to Vegas for a day and spend a week here instead… Getting there The Grand Canyon is split into two distinct zones, the North Rim and the South Rim.   It’s about a four-and-a-half-hour drive to get from one rim to the other, so ensure you  plan your trip accordingly. [caption id="attachment_47355" align="alignleft" width="600"] Toroweap Point – a jewel of the North Rim[/caption] If you’re keen to visit the North Rim, your best bet is to fly to Las Vegas, then drive the four and a half hours to the park.   If you're heading to the South Rim, from Phoenix it’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive.   For those without a car, the Arizona Shittle runs vans from Flagstaff to to the village three times a day. When to visit The best times to visit the Grand Canyon are March through May and September through November, when the crowds have shooed and daytime temperatures are predominantly cool.   If you decide to visit during the summer (the park's peak season), be prepared for hordes of tourists and very limited lodging availability. What to bring When travelling through Grand Canyon National Park, it's best to over prepare with your packing. We suggest sunscreen, a water bottle, optimum snacks, a camera, a small first-aid kit and a backpack to carry it all in. What to see Fit these natural and woman-made wonders into your Grand Canyon itinerary. Havasu Falls You’ll need to reserve a permit to hike to this natural spectacle in the Havasupai Indian Reservation.   A 30-metre waterfall cascades into a brilliant aqua-blue plunge pool that owes its colour to the high levels of calcium carbonate in the water, forming a stark contrast with the steep ochre cliffs of the creek. [caption id="attachment_47356" align="alignleft" width="600"] Havasu Falls – a view from the top[/caption] The 16-kilometre trail to the campground takes four to seven hours to hike, passing through the village of Supai. Horseshoe Bend See the Colorado River at its dramatic best from this vantage point on the rim of the Grand Canyon.   A view of the river carving a tight meander through the red rock, it’s perhaps the best spot to see how the power of water has hewn the steep sides of the Grand Canyon over millions of years.   Just outside the northern confines of the park, take a short walk from the highway to reach Horseshoe Bend and get snapping. Mary Colter architecture You wouldn’t think that architecture should be on your Grand Canyon agenda, but you’ll find the works of architect Mary Colter, who designed gift shops and other tourism structures sympathetic to the landscape here in the first half of the 20th century.   One of the few female architects of her day, she was the pioneer of a rustic style that incorporated Native American touches and traditional pueblo design. Make sure you head to Colter’s Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower. Tusayan Ruins Having marvelled at 20th-century faux Pueblo Indian architecture you can see the fascinating remains of the real thing at the 800-year-old Tusayan Ruins, a snapshot into the lives of people here before European settlement.   The low stone semi-circular walls of the main living area, storage rooms and a kiva, a ceremonial space, can be explored with a guide or by yourself on a short trail.   The Tusayan Museum here is a reconstruction of a Hopi Indian house. Whitewater Rafting One of the most spectacular places on the planet to go rafting, the Colorado River surges and at times sedately pours past gargantuan cliffs. Take a multi-day trip with experts in the field like advantage. Go Hiking The South Kaibab Trail gives you a taste of the gradients that make this place so special, rewarding you with the best views for your efforts.   It winds down the canyon to a campsite on the Colorado River, taking about four to five hours each way. [caption id="attachment_47353" align="alignleft" width="600"] Views from a hike in the Grand Canyon National Park[/caption] Desert view drive Rent a convertible for this one, a scenic drive that affords sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon dotted with pull-over viewpoints along the way.   Plus it takes in the Tusayan Ruins and Museum, and Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower. Animal spotting Mountain lion You’ll be fortunate to spot the biggest predator in the park, aka the cougar; don’t worry, they’re not interested in humans. Tarantula The Aphonopelma behlei, a species of the world’s biggest spiders, lives here. Watch you don’t step on the four-inch beasts. Gila monster Like miniature Godzillas, these lizards have orange and black blotchy scales and lounge around in the surrounding deserts. Tiger salamander Look out for this striking black and yellow amphibian in pools and creeks around the Grand Canyon’s rim.  
The best and brightest hotel openings around the world
The latest and greatest hotels, resorts and unique stays to check into and check out right now. Kāmana Lakehouse, Queenstown, New Zealand Kāmana Lakehouse is the latest addition to Queenstown’s hotel offering. [caption id="attachment_47314" align="alignleft" width="600"] The beauty of the Kamana Lakehouse[/caption] Located high above Wakatipu Lake, the boutique property’s 73 rooms feature contemporary design (inspired by the Kāmana bird and its natural habitat) and luxe amenities, while the Living Space provides guests with a convivial social space complete with fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows with views to the lake and the surrounding mountains. LUX North Male Atoll, Maldives With bright jolts of colour that pop against the endless blue of sky and sea, LUX* North Male Atoll in the Maldives sets itself apart from other properties in this paradise. [caption id="attachment_47313" align="alignleft" width="600"] Walk the jetty at the new Lux Maldives[/caption] Its 67 two-storey residences sit on the beach or over water, each boasting a rooftop area, private pool and butler-style host. There are numerous restaurants, one overseen by the Maldives’ only Peruvian chef, Beach Rouge with its pool-club vibe, and an over-lagoon wellness spa. Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong Reflecting Phuket’s unique history and culture through its decor and guest experiences, the 180 spacious and vibrant rooms of Hotel Indigo mimic the area’s tropical location and buzzy nightlife. [caption id="attachment_47310" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take in the views at The Cloud rooftop swimming pool[/caption] There’s also a 24-hour fitness centre, authentic local dining experiences and a Muay Thai boxing ring with professional trainer on site. Four Seasons Bengaluru In the Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), Four Seasons has installed the 230-room Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru and Four Seasons Private Residences into the hospitality, retail and corporate Embassy ONE development. [caption id="attachment_47309" align="alignleft" width="600"] Outside the Four Seasons[/caption] Conveniently located 30 minutes from the airport and well connected to the CBD, the sleek hotel features a selection of dining options, a pool, lush botanic gardens and spa. Iraph Sui, Okinawa Located in Japan’s unique tropical paradise, the luxurious rooms of this boutique property all have balconies overlooking white-sand beaches, with several boasting private pools. Plus the spa incorporates local Okinawan ingredients. [caption id="attachment_47311" align="alignleft" width="600"] The pool at the Iraph Sui[/caption] Tengile River Lodge, South Africa Luxury safari and experiential travel company andBeyond has recently opened the brand new Tengile River Lodge, a luxurious lodge in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and boy is it magical. The nine-suite lodge offers a high level of exclusivity and sense of tranquillity with a contemporary bush design. Each of the suites features a private deck with a swimming pool, an outdoor lounge and a master bedroom that opens out onto a luxurious bathroom with an outdoor shower and views over the river. Built with an extremely light footprint, using sustainable construction materials and an environmentally friendly design, the lodge has also been cleverly positioned on a bend of the Sand River, so that each suite is nestled in the tree line along the riverfront and boasts a magnificent view out over the Sand River, an area inhabited by a world-renowned diversity of wildlife. The elegant design concept is based around blending luxury with the natural landscape and bringing the outdoors inside, drawing inspiration from the textures of the surrounding bush. Pullman Luang Prabang, Laos This new five-star resort is located 10 minutes away by car from Luang Prabang’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town. [caption id="attachment_44535" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Located in Luang Prabang, it is within 2.9 miles of Night Market and 3 miles of Mount Phousy[/caption]   Its 16 hectares encompass 123 modern guest rooms with large terraces, a two-bedroom villa and a healthy scattering of infinity pools and streams. The Pullman Luang Prabang is now the largest hotel in town, but its low-rise architecture – which draws on traditional Laotian influences – sees it blend in well with the surrounding natural landscape.   Guests can dine on international cuisine at L’Atelier and sink a cocktail overlooking paddy fields at the Junction. One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda   Promising a real once-in-a-lifetime experience, One&Only Nyungwe House sits within the dense Green Expanse of a tea plantation, next to Ancient Montane rainforest.   Wild experiences such as chimpanzee Trekking or walking among majestic mahogany trees allow guests to max out the incredible setting.   The 23 rooms and suites combine local African craftsmanship with a contemporary look and feel, Plus there’s a Spa that uses natural products from luxury brand Africology. FREIgeist Göttingen, Germany   Located in the historic university town of Göttingen, in Germany’s Lower Saxony, Hotel Freigeist is a relentlessly modern new build (and a member of Design Hotels) featuring 118 rooms.   The décor continues the theme, with wood and copper fittings throughout contrasted against a palette of grey bricks, neutrals and shots of blue, and Basquiat-inspired artwork.   The whole thing has a Nordic vibe (enhanced by the on-site sauna), but in Intuu, its signature restaurant, it’s Japanese/South AmericaN Fusion all the way. Omaanda, Namibia   Omaanda is nestled in the Namibian savannah in the heart of the Zannier private animal reserve. Its 9000-hectare footprint, which offers lashings of peace and quiet and natural beauty, houses 10 luxury huts inspired by traditional Owambo architecture.   Ambo Delights restaurant offers cuisine inspired by the best local produce, while the bar at the edge of the heated swimming pool has views over the savannah. The Shangai Edition    A perfect blend of old and new Shanghai, the 145-room Shanghai EDITION sees Nanjing Road’s 1929 Art Deco Shanghai Power Company building fused with a new-build skyscraper.   Its various food and drink options include star chef Jason Atherton’s HIYA (translated to ‘clouds in the sky’), a Japanese izakaya-inspired eatery on the 27th floor. Six Senses Maxwell, Singapore   The Six Senses group has had a busy year, having already opened properties in Singapore and Fiji; now comes Six Senses Maxwell.   A sister property to Six Senses Duxton, the wellness brand’s first city hotel, the 120-room property is also retrofitted into a historic Singapore colonial-style building and features Euro-chic interiors courtesy of French architect and designer Jacques Garcia. The Apurva Kempinski, Bali   The first Kempinski hotel to open in Bali is a suitably grand reflection of Balinese architecture and craftsmanship.   Situated in the Nusa Dua area of the island, the hotel boasts 475 rooms, suites and villas and all the requisite inclusions expected from the luxury brand, from five dining options to a 60-metre swimming pool to an ocean-facing spa and a cigar and shisha lounge.   It even has its own beachfront wedding chapels.  
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 find Nonna-style pizza and pasta in Rome
From hole-in-the-wall pizza joints to fine diners and all the trattorias in between: here’s where to find the best traditional cuisine in Italy’s Eternal City. As any seasoned foodie traveller will tell you, a trip to Rome is incomplete without indulging in carbs, Italian-style – you know, the world’s best pizza, pasta, focaccia bread dipped in balsamic vinegar?   The city serves up a maze of authentic and traditional restaurants to discover one bite at a time. From the cheap and cheerful to the inventive and the elegant, here’s your guide to finding Nonna-approved dishes that you must eat, when in Rome. Piccolo Arancio Hidden in the warren of cobbled streets, Piccolo Arancio (meaning ‘small orange’ in Italian) is a well-concealed gem of Roman cuisine. Featuring two wide doors opening onto the narrow street, locals can be spotted dining at dusk within a quaint, quintessentially Italian, interior – chequered table cloths and all. [caption id="attachment_47190" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect quintessentially Italian interiors[/caption] This restaurant is a local favourite located only a two-minute walk from the Trevi Fountain.   While the location is prime and the design is delightful, at this venue, the pasta is the real star. Try the house-made, Nonna-style fettuccini, penne, lasagne and ravioli, which draw a huge following.   For a mouth-watering feast, order the orange ravioli with ricotta, orange juice and zest or the cacio e pepe, a typical Roman pasta dish served with only pecorino cheese and cracked pepper. With a wine to suit every pasta base, this is the perfect place to seat yourself for a night of fine, and immersive, Roman dining – right in the heart of Rome.   Address: Vicolo Scanderbeg, 112, Rome La Fontana di Venere Also a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain, La Fontana di Venere is what might happen if Nonna met up with Heston Blumenthal.   The pasta here is naturally made in-house and dishes sport some incredible inventive flair: try the risotto with scallops in vanilla for an unlikely, but utterly surprising combination. Similarly, let the flavours of succulent lamb and saffron cream dance around your mouth with the cannelloni dish or try the ‘little bundle’ of phyllo pastry, buffalo cheese and crispy prosciutto with basil cream. [caption id="attachment_47191" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect adorable pink interiors at La fontana di Venere[/caption] An added bonus of La Fontana di Venere is the traditional Roman design: pale pink walls, ancient Roman art replicas and a classical-style statue displayed as a centrepiece.   Address: Vicolo dei Modelli, 56, Rome Pizzeria Ostiense Situated in Ostiense, an up-and-coming formerly industrial neighbourhood, this pizzeria feels a lot more like a cafeteria than a fine-dining experience. You’ll find exposed brick walls, old fashioned tables, colourful wooden chairs and almost fluorescent lighting – but boy, can they make a pizza.   Expect thin pizza bases, limited toppings (in true Italian style) and a bucket load of flavour.   Order the zucchini flower pizza with mozzarella and anchovies or the classic Margherita with buffalo cheese. The real crowd-pleaser, however, is the capricciosa with the unexpectedly glorious combination of boiled egg, mushroom, artichoke and prosciutto.   With wood-fired bases and expert chefs preparing them, every pizza on the menu promises to be as delightful as the last – just make sure you book enough time in Rome to try them all. Address: Via Ostiense, 56, Rome Felice a Testaccio Traditional Roman cuisine is best had in the exposed brick and chequered-floored interiors of Felice a Testaccio. [caption id="attachment_47192" align="alignleft" width="600"] Exposed brick and chequered-floored interiors plays backdrop to traditional Roman cuisine[/caption] With a menu that changes depending on the day of the week, expect to feast on spaghetti with bacon and egg yolk on Mondays, ravioli with cherry tomatoes, herbs and ricotta cheese on Thursdays. Try something very unique (if you’re game) on Saturday, with rigatoni served with pajata (the small intestine of a dairy calf – a traditional Roman delicacy).   Address: Via Mastro Giorgio, 29, Rome Pizza e Mozzarella Characterised by a hole in the wall and a cow mat, this pizzeria is an unlikely local favourite, boasting some of the best home-style pizza in Rome.   Pizza is charged by weight here, so you can take full advantage of the variety on offer. Options include the usual suspects and more: think Margherita, eggplant and mozzarella, salami, four cheese, and potato and rosemary.   But do not leave the establishment without ordering some supplì (a magical combination of fried risotto rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese). Most options come in at a grand total of €1.30 per 100 grams, meaning a kilo of Rome’s best pizza will only set you back $20.   Address: Via del Piè di Marmo, 32, Rome Imàgo With a Michelin star, views overlooking the ancient city of Rome and red roses and wine buckets adorning the white linen-clothed tables, Imàgo is proof that Nonna has a very fancy side.   The menu is equally as impressive as the establishment, with rabbit and scampi ravioli, fettuccini quail ragout served with pecorino cheese and caviar, and the carb-on-carb dish of pasta and potatoes with baby crab.   This is the perfect place to sip on a glass of red between bites, as you look out upon the curves of the pantheon in the distance. Address: Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 6, Rome  
12 things every first-timer should do in Malta
Malta might not be at the top of your European bucket list, but perhaps it should be. Discover the highlights of this under-the-radar archipelago here. Malta, the underrated gem of the Mediterranean, is a hub of history, culture and pristine waters.   From its tiny UNESCO World Heritage capital of Valletta and time-warped hilltop city of Mdina to its traditional fishing villages, natural wonders and prehistoric temples, this small island nation is a microcosm of all Europe’s best bits. Here’s what not to miss while you’re there. Explore Valletta: its streets, tunnels and St. John’s Co-Cathedral With narrow streets, made mostly of honey-coloured limestone and religious monuments on street corners, it’s clear that Valletta is the cultural centre of Malta as well as the capital. Just walking through the city feels artistically enriching. [caption id="attachment_47155" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Valletta port is a popular tourist attraction full of cafes and restaurants[/caption] If you want to delve deep into the fascinating history of Valletta, take a tour of its tunnels. Initially dug by the Knights of Malta, in reaction to an invasion by the Ottoman Empire in 1565, the tunnels have been multifunctional in protecting their inhabitants ever since. [caption id="attachment_47156" align="alignleft" width="600"] The cathedral was built in honour of saint John the Baptist between 1572 and 1577[/caption] Another key component of Valletta’s history is St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Built by the Knights of Saint John, and in honour of John the Baptist, the Baroque cathedral is adorned with delicate stone carvings and gold-leafed ceilings. It’s worth a visit just for the famous Caravaggio painting, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Go snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon Just a boat ride from the seaside resort of Sliema on Malta (the archipelago’s main island) is the small island of Comino. Here, you’ll find the Blue Lagoon – well worth a trip for its crystal clear, turquoise waters. [caption id="attachment_47157" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a snorkel in the blues[/caption] You could just position yourself on the rocks beside the water and sunbake the day away, but with an abundance of sea life under the water it’s worth grabbing some goggles and going for a snorkel.   An ice-cream boat is sure to be patrolling somewhere along the shore, so keep your eyes out for a sweet treat when you’re finished exploring the underwater realm. [caption id="attachment_47158" align="alignleft" width="600"] Panoramic views of the Valletta Skyline[/caption] If you’re looking for a more adrenaline-packed trip, consider a powerboat ride around the island, taking in its caves and Elephant Rock. The boat seems to jump over the choppy water, creating the sensation of being in flight. If you’re game, opt for the round trip from Sliema for around $70, which includes a four-hour stop for swimming, snorkelling and cruising the Crystal Lagoon. Take a boat trip around the Blue Grotto Another blue-themed activity is a visit to the Blue Grotto. Comprised of seven caves on the southern coast of Malta, it boasts the most luminous cobalt water thanks to the sun reflecting off the white seabed underneath.   The best way to see this phenomenon is on the water. Departing from the village of Wied iz-Żurrieq, a local Maltese guide can take you on a 20-minute tour through the caves on a traditional fishing boat. [caption id="attachment_47159" align="alignleft" width="600"] Summer in Malta[/caption] For a high-octane venture to the main arch, why not just abseil down it? Book with Malta Outdoors for a truly unforgettable way to see this landmark. [caption id="attachment_47160" align="alignleft" width="600"] Walk through the streets of Malta's old capital city[/caption] There are also some prime locations for a photo of the Blue Grotto from above, with the Blue Wall and Grotto viewpoint just a short walk from the main road above. Meander through the Silent City Mdina, the former capital of Malta, has a long history dating back 4000 years as a fortified city protecting the Maltese from invaders. The hilltop location, in those days of warfare, was perfect: with the view from the bastions, the inhabitants could see foreign ships approaching their kingdom.   With its wonderfully preserved medieval and Baroque architecture, the walled city makes you feel like time has stood still. Aside from the few cars owned by a limited number of residents, the only vehicles permitted to enter Mdina are horse-drawn carriages, creating a sense of calm that contributes to the nickname the Silent City. [caption id="attachment_47161" align="alignleft" width="600"] Mdina, The Silent City at sunrise on a crisp winter morning[/caption] While you’re here, make sure you visit the Mdina Glass Shop to buy some famous hand-blown glass. Although glass is a tricky souvenir, the attendants are more than helpful and bubble wrap (twice) the items for their international visitors. Stop in at the Fontanella Tea Garden for a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of its famous chocolate cake. Eat as much pastizzi as is humanly possible A traditional savoury Maltese pastry, the pastizzi is usually filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. This Maltese specialty costs a grand total of 60c each at your average pastizzi counter: they might be heavy on your stomach but they’re light on your pocket. [caption id="attachment_47163" align="alignleft" width="600"] Pastizzi: Homemade Maltese pastries[/caption] Discover Malta’s megalithic temples If you think St. John’s Co-Cathedral is old, wait until you see one of Malta’s megalithic temples. Originating 6000 years ago, these temples were constructed by the earliest inhabitants of Malta and consist of upright slabs of rock, surmounted by horizontal blocks. [caption id="attachment_47166" align="alignleft" width="600"] Interiors of Mnajdra Temple[/caption] This structure suggests that the temples were once roofed, and tells a story of a civilisation that existed many lifetimes ago. [caption id="attachment_47164" align="alignleft" width="600"] A Megalithic Temple and the surrounding area[/caption] There are seven in total, but the main megalithic temple sites to visit are Hagar Qim, Skorba and Tarxien. Take a trip out to Marsaxlokk Bay A traditional fishing village on the south-east of the main island of Malta, Marsaxlokk Bay is characterised by a fleet of coloured fishing boats moored in the harbour. [caption id="attachment_47167" align="alignleft" width="600"] Famous multicolored fisherman's boats in Marsaxlokk[/caption] Visit its daily markets along the quay, where you’ll find a collection of locally made crafts: bags, fabrics and toys. Take the time to have a chat to some of the locals, even if it is in fragmented Maltese.   There’s also a daily fish market, where the local fishermen (Marsaxlokk has the highest volume of active fisherman in Malta) sell their produce. At this market you’ll also find other homemade treats, made by the local women of the village. Enjoy the candy-coloured hues of the Popeye Village Originally built as the ramshackle fishing village film set of the 1980 musical production Popeye (starring Robin Williams), this charming pocket of Malta has been converted into a quirky adventure park themed around the cartoon sailor. [caption id="attachment_47168" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a stroll through Popeye village[/caption] Perhaps the best part of Popeye Village is not the activities that take place here – which include meeting Popeye, of course – but actually the coloured wooden houses perched on the harbour. You can see them in their glory from a viewpoint across the water if you don’t want to pay to visit the fun park itself. Have an adrenaline-filled day on the ocean With cultural and epicurean delights in spades, it’s easy to get tied up in the easy life in Malta. To mix things up a little, try your hand at some water sports with a range of companies that deliver some seriously good aquatic activities.   Oh Yeah Malta will provide a day out on the ocean you’ll never forget. Offering jet skiing for €88 an hour, water skiing for €55, and parasailing for €80 an hour, these activities will definitely add some variety to your holiday. See Saint Mary Magdalene Chapel on the Dingli Cliffs While travelling through the barren landscape between Marsaxlokk and Mdina, a local guide took us to the chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene.   The chapel stands humbly on the edge of the famous Dingli Cliffs. [caption id="attachment_47169" align="alignleft" width="600"] Saint Mary Magdalene chapel stands humbly on the edge of the famous Dingli Cliffs[/caption] Characterised by only four limestone walls, a front door and a circular window above it, this chapel was built in the 1600s to honour the saint.   Looking beyond the chapel, to the ocean, offers a spectacular and uninterrupted view. Lounge around at Ramla Bay on Gozo Arguably the best beach in Malta, Ramla Bay sports red sand and yellow sunshades. Perfect for snorkelling, swimming and sunbaking, you’ll find it on Gozo, the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago. [caption id="attachment_47170" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Dingli cliffs in all their glory[/caption] It’s fabled that Roman remains lie beneath the sand, but what is certainly known is that there was once three batteries to prevent enemies landing on the island. The remains of one such battery are still to one side of the beach.   Follow a path from the Ramla Bay car park to the viewing platform of Calypso’s Cave. This cave was reportedly referred to by Homer in The Odyssey, where Calypso entertained the shipwrecked Ulysses for seven years before he journeyed back home. The cave itself is closed and inaccessible currently but the walk affords a great view back to the bay. [caption id="attachment_47171" align="alignleft" width="600"] Scenic view of beautiful Ramla bay from Calypso cave[/caption] Book yourself into the Hilton Malta The Hilton, a modern five-star hotel in the seaside town of Saint Julian’s, is the perfect place to base yourself during a Maltese holiday.   With giant chandeliers adorning the ceilings, marble staircases and indoor fountains, the interiors of the Hilton are exquisite. Equally as impressive are the three pools that back onto the crystal clear ocean, and the five-star service from the concierge.   Also with great access to any part of the island (and the island’s islands), the Hilton is a great base for exploration: take a taxi to Mdina (20 minutes) or a taxi boat to Valletta (just across the pond). Jet skis are also for hire for a day of exploring via the water.

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