Hotels.com
6 incredible places to stay in Europe
The Eiffel Tower, the ancient ruins of the Acropolis, and Rome’s Colosseum are undeniably monumental landmarks on a European holiday hit list. But once you’ve checked off these historical and architectural wonders, there are plenty of lesser-known but equally remarkable destinations so we've compiled a list of 6 incredible places to stay in Europe. [caption id="attachment_46676" align="alignnone" width="600"] The perfect place to rest your head.[/caption] 1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany [caption id="attachment_46683" align="alignnone" width="600"] Get your culture vulture on at Neuschwanstein Castle.[/caption] Germany’s past holds a powerful fascination for history buffs. You might be surprised to learn that one of Germany’s most popular attractions is an enchanting castle in Bavaria. Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for inspiring Walt Disney’s fairytale kingdom and it’s easy to see why.   Hotels.com recommends staying at the AMERON Neuschwanstein Alpsee Resort & Spa in the idyllic Bavarian village of Schwangau. This remarkable hotel fuses modern, stylish accommodation with a spectacularly picturesque setting. [caption id="attachment_46699" align="alignnone" width="600"] You're guaranteed to get an amazing night sleep.[/caption] For an authentic Bavarian experience stay at the Hotel Schwansee, loved by hotels.com travellers. Just three kilometres from the town centre and less than two kilometres to the castle, the 2.5 star Hotel Schwansee is comfortable, quaint and full of Bavarian charm. [caption id="attachment_46679" align="alignnone" width="600"] A magical Bavarian escape.[/caption] 2. Prague Castle, Hradčany, Czech Republic [caption id="attachment_46680" align="alignnone" width="600"] Set your eyes to stun at Saint Vitus Cathedral.[/caption] Always ranked highly in the ‘best of European destinations’ lists, Prague is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Hradčany, known as the Castle District, is home to some of the biggest castles and historical palaces in the world, dating back to the 9th century. Prague Castle comprises several palaces, churches, forts, and stunning gardens spanning an area of approximately 45 hectares.   Showcasing all the old world beauty of this World Heritage listed city centre, the 4-star Hotel Golden Star is just two kilometres from Prague Castle making it the perfect place to stay. 3. La Sagrada Família, Barcelona and Alhambra, Granada, Spain [caption id="attachment_46681" align="alignnone" width="600"] 135 years in the making.[/caption] Spain’s balmy Mediterranean climate draws many tourists annually. With vibrant cities such as Barcelona, it’s little wonder the country is so popular. But draw yourself away from the beach long enough to visit the spectacular Basilica De La Sagrada Família and you won’t regret it. The unique temple is the work of famed architect Antoni Gaudí and has been under construction for more than 135 years, with an anticipated completion date of 2026. [caption id="attachment_46698" align="alignnone" width="600"] You'll almost never want to leave.[/caption] Where to stay nearby? Check out the Sensation Sagrada Familia. Comprising 32 stylish apartments and a rooftop terrace overlooking the La Sagrada Família construction site, this 4-star hotel is given a 9.4 out of 10 by reviewers.   For a taste of Spain’s incredible Moorish history, travel south down the coast from Barcelona to gorgeous Granada and visit the historical site of Alhambra. Originally constructed as a fortress in AD 889, Alhambra was converted into a royal palace in the mid-13th century. A selection of hotels less than one kilometre from Alhambra are easy to find on hotels.com. [caption id="attachment_46682" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ola![/caption] 4. Aurora Borealis, Reykjavik, Iceland [caption id="attachment_46689" align="alignnone" width="600"] Bucket list material.[/caption] Iceland has become a favourite with travellers in recent years, and what better reason to go than to see one of nature’s most incredible sights, the Northern Lights. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is where you need to be, on the southern shores of Faxa Bay. The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is in the winter months, between September and March.   Where to stay while star-gazing? Skuggi Hotel by Keahotels is located near Reykjavik’s popular tourist haunts, making it easy to find a vantage point from which to absorb the spectacular Aurora Borealis. 5. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary [caption id="attachment_46691" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hungary at its finest.[/caption] Rated one of Europe’s most idyllic places to live, romantic Budapest is home to countless magnificent monuments. Of significant historical and architectural interest is the 375-metre-long Széchenyi Chain Bridge, built in 1849.   For a luxury 5-star stay in Budapest near the Chain Bridge, check into the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, which scores exceptionally well with hotels.com reviewers. For a more budget-friendly option consider the Starlight Suiten Hotel, a 3.5-star hotel near the Chain Bridge. [caption id="attachment_46692" align="alignnone" width="600"] Afternoon delight.[/caption] 6. The Wadden Islands, Holland [caption id="attachment_46695" align="alignnone" width="600"] Other worldly.[/caption] Spanning the shores of the Netherlands, Germany, and all the way north to Denmark, the Wadden Sea is home to approximately 50 remarkable islands, only five of which are inhabited. This World Heritage Site is a natural spectacle, switching from ocean to tidal flats, where the daily tidal ebb and flow allows you to walk on the seabed.   Accessing each of the islands by ferry is easy; visit hotels.com for several accommodation options. The typically Dutch architecture of the top-rated Hotel Texel makes it an incredibly charming place to bed down, as does its proximity to the beach, its indoor pool and sauna, and full spa service.
A guide to Hong Kong’s best neighbourhoods
Hong Kong is one of the most hyper-lit and compelling cities in the world, a landscape of jutting skyscrapers rendered in metal and glass. But at ground level, the spaces between these futuristic obelisks are populated by bustling communities living life on a much more human scale.   Setting out on foot is the perfect way to see the metropolis in all its colourful, quirky and aromatic glory. Central and Sheng Wan Hong Kong Island is the beating commercial heart of Hong Kong, but it also possesses a sense of soul that is often missing fr om business districts.   One of the reasons for this is its rich colonial history. It was in Old Town Central that the British first planted their flag in 1841; the spot known as Possession Street was once situated on the waterfront but thanks to land reclamation it’s now surrounded by buildings. [caption id="attachment_46686" align="alignleft" width="600"] Old meets new in Tai Kwun[/caption] Any exploration of Hong Kong Island requires a good deal of time spent wandering the streets and alleyways of Central and Sheung Wan, where an eclectic mix of historical sites, restaurants, shops and markets are crammed together in a wondrous harmonious jumble. Hollywood Road The first thing you need to do is arm yourself with an Old Town Central self-guided walks booklet from the Hong Kong Tourism Board and set off along Hollywood Road, the busy main thoroughfare from which you can dart off in different directions depending on your whim. Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Centre Your first stop should be the newly revitalised Tai Kwun heritage and arts centre.   Made up of the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison, the historic buildings now house dedicated museum space detailing the chequered history of the complex; you can wander the old cells and find out things like what the prisoners were fed through interactive exhibits, as well as lofty exhibition spaces and a collection of shops (check out the Taschen store with its shelves stacked with beautiful art tomes), restaurants and bars, including the aptly named Behind Bars, where drinks are served in the old cell blocks.   If it is too early to stop for lunch, make a mental note to return later in the day or in the evening to sample Madame Fu’s imaginative dim sum menu.   In the old prison exercise yard a resolutely modern building clad in an intricate web of woven metal is an arresting contrast to the historic buildings it sits next to. I find out that it actually houses the infrastructure for the air-conditioning units required to cool the complex to cater to modern tastes; keeping the prisoners comfortable in the past obviously wasn’t a priority. [caption id="attachment_46684" align="alignleft" width="600"] A local temple[/caption] Where to find: 10 Hollywood Rd, Central PMQ Another historic building given a new lease on life is the PMQ, the former Police Married Quarters on Aberdeen Street. [caption id="attachment_46685" align="alignleft" width="600"] Artwork in PMQ[/caption] Built in 1951 on the former site of the first government school in Hong Kong, the mid-century architecture is all clean lines stacked on top of one another and grouped around a central courtyard. The former married quarters that would have housed serving police officers and their families have now been given over to young artists and designers to develop and sell their creations, and well as a number of restaurants, bars and shops. Where to find: 35, Aberdeen St, Central PoHo and SoHo Two of the most interesting neighbourhoods to get lost in are the catchily named PoHo and SoHo. [caption id="attachment_46688" align="alignleft" width="600"] Wandering women in PoHo[/caption] Short for South of Hollywood Road, SoHo comes alive at night with ex-pats and locals heading out to the bars and international restaurants that serve up cuisines as diverse as Lebanese, pub grub, Vietnamese and Italian. During the day the whole scene is quieter, with boutiques and antiques shops to browse.   The charmingly boho PoHo is concentrated around a collection of streets lined with funky little shops, galleries and cafes and teahouses. Where to stay Located on Pottinger Street, known as ‘stone slab street’, The Pottinger is a gracious 68-room luxury boutique hotel with generous rooms and the prettiest lobby I have even seen, filled with chinoiserie vases of flowers and foliage. Afternoon tea in the restaurant if a must even if you aren’t a guest. [caption id="attachment_46687" align="alignleft" width="600"] The graceful Pottinger hotel[/caption] Mong Kok and Prince Edward Arriving into Mong Kok at night is possibly the best introduction you can have to this Kowloon neighbourhood, famed for its bustling streets lit with countless flashing neon signs for every imaginable service and establishment, as well as its density of people.   This is where the workers who flock to Hong Kong Island on a daily basis return to at the end of the day, so the vibe is a lot more local than across the harbour, although the sheer number of people on the streets can be confronting at times. Exploring here and in neighbouring Prince Edward offers up sights, sounds and tastes that are sure to intrigue and delight. The Bird Market One of my favourite places to visit when I am in Hong Kong is the Bird Market, located on Yuen Po Street. [caption id="attachment_46696" align="alignleft" width="600"] Songbirds hanging out (literally!) at Mong Kok's bird market[/caption] Here myriad traditional bird cages containing tiny, colourful songbirds hang in rows, and a weird and wonderful array of bird food can be purchased including live crickets and grubs. Older gentlemen gather here to socialise and show off their prized pets, which trill away in the sunshine while they chat.   The cages on sale at the various stalls are fabulous souvenirs, although they can make for ungainly carry-on luggage on the flight home.   Where to find: 37 Flower Market Rd, Mong Kok The Flower Market Another market worth taking a wander through is the flower market that stretches along Flower Market Road in Prince Edward. The footpaths here are festooned with fresh flowers and plants, creating a heady scent in the air.   Make sure to take a closer look in the stores that specialise in phalaenopsis orchids if for no other reason than they are absolutely beautiful to see.   Where to find: Flower Market Rd, Prince Edward The Goldfish Market Rounding out the trio of fascinating markets in the area is the Goldfish Market along Tung Choi Street North. Each of the shopfronts is covered in bulging plastic bags filled with water and all manner of fish, while inside tropical breeds of every colour and size attract top dollar from collectors. [caption id="attachment_46693" align="alignleft" width="600"] Fish on sale at the goldfish market[/caption] Where to find: 43-49 Bute Street, Bute St, Prince Edward Tung Choi Street One of the best places to see Mong Kok’s characteristic neon lights, which are strung up over the busy streets below in the hope that they will grab the attention of passersby, is Tung Choi Street.   hile the lights alone are enough to mesmerise, illuminating the streets below with their glow, the array of services they advertise is also diverting, from beauty products and cameras to restaurants and hotels. Sham Shui Po One of the latest neighbourhoods to start generating a buzz (and get its own handy self-guided walks book) is Sham Shui Po, a working-class area of Kowloon where you can see locals go about their everyday business, shopping for tofu made fresh on Fuk Wing Street or stocking up on dinner provisions at the local wet markets.   The whole place has a wonderfully worn aesthetic, but at the same time is packed with personality. Where to shop Shopping in Sham Shui Po is one of the major attractions of the neighbourhood, and it’s easy to find exactly what you want given that many of the streets are named for the goods that are found there – Leather Street (Tai Nan Street), Bead Street (Yu Chau Street), Button Street (Ki Lung Street); you get the idea.   One of the most colourful of these shopping streets is Ribbon Street (Nam Cheong Street), where narrow shops display spools of brightly coloured ribbons, rope and cord, as well as all kinds of craft supplies. [caption id="attachment_46702" align="alignleft" width="450"] Toy shops to keep the little ones happy[/caption] The area is also a mecca for budding fashion designers who come here to rummage through the bolts of fabric for sale at the slightly ramshackle Yen Chow Street Hawker Bazaar, or shop for fashion pieces at wholesale prices along Cheung Sha Wan Fashion Street. [caption id="attachment_46700" align="alignleft" width="450"] A wet market in Sham Shui Po[/caption] Another fun street to promenade along, especially if you have little people you are trying to entertain, is Toy Street (Fuk Wing Street), where some 30 stores overflow with dolls, balls, board games and all manner of Disney characters. The Man Fung Building One of the neighbourhood’s most Instagrammed sights is the Man Fung Building, a skinny block sandwiched between nondescript concrete constructions that got a statement-making makeover during HKwalls’ 2016 festival.   Madrid-based street artist Okuda covered the building in colourful geometric shapes, crowned with an animal face (some people think it’s a dog, some think it’s a wolf) that looks out over the streets from a lofty height.   Depending on where you view it from (up high is said to be best) the muzzle of the animal seems to be almost 3D, an optical illusion that has resulted in a wave of Instagrammers risking life and limb climbing over security fences on neighbouring buildings to get a better selfie.   The practice made the newspapers during my visit. [caption id="attachment_46701" align="alignleft" width="450"] Instagram users risk life and limb to get a photo with Okuda's street art animal[/caption] Where to find: 180 Tai Nan Street, Sham Shui Po  Bo Wah Effigies One of the most interesting places to duck into while walking is Bo Wah Effigies, a cramped studio where nimble-fingered artisans fashion paper effigies to be burnt to honour the dead.   The intricate creations are miniature works of art, depicting everything from cars to sushi to vintage coffee flasks.   Where to find: 2C Fuk Wing Street, Sham Shui Po
Where to eat and drink in Hong Kong
When it comes to food, there are not many places on Earth where the locals take more delight in the act of eating, or where they have so much choice of where to go, than Hong Kong; the pursuit of food is almost a national sport here. From one-star Michelin restaurants where a bowl of noodles costs just $3 to fine dining to rival anything in Europe to funky eateries where the locals indulge their love of flavour and design, it’s all on the table here. To eat:  More for less It is ridiculous how many Michelin-starred restaurants Hong Kong has, but the awarding of this culinary accolade need not imply that a meal is going to cost you through the nose. Hong Kong has a raft of local, no-frills restaurants in possession of one Michelin star or a Michelin recommendation (one star adjacent), where the food is wonderfully flavoursome and shockingly inexpensive. Tim Ho Wan You might have heard of this humble chain, who have a number of outlets in Hong Kong serving up some of the best dim sum you are likely to taste. The wait can be long, but it’s worth it for the pork buns alone. [caption id="attachment_46642" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Michelin Star Yum Cha at Tim Ho Wan[/caption] Tsim Chai Kee Expect steaming bowls of noodles and wontons: the broth is delicious, the noodles wonderfully chewy and the wontons plump and plentiful.   Where: Wellington Street, Central Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan Fried Buns A standing-only bolthole serving up pan-fried soup dumplings that are crispy on the bottom and filled with pork swimming in aromatic soup.   Where: Lyndhurst Terrace, Central Hidden gems Mrs Pound  There are restaurants and bars to be found down every alley in Hong Kong, but a true hidden gem is Mrs Pound in the Sheung Wan neighbourhood, a speakeasy hidden behind a lock shop. Inside there’s a street food inspired menu.   Where: 6 Pound Ln, Sheung Wan [caption id="attachment_46643" align="alignleft" width="600"] Laksa prawn dumplings at Mrs Pound (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Yat Lok A lowkey, unassuming joint that fits in among the many food haunts in Hong Kong Central. Line up for the roast goose – which garnered its reputation for its shatter crisp skin and delicious flavour.   [caption id="attachment_46644" align="alignleft" width="600"] Award winning goose at Yat Lok in central (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: 34-38 Stanley Street, Central Djibouti Remember that “open a restaurant in an alley trend”? Well, Hong Kong invented that. And one of the first was Djibouti. Even now, the restaurant/bar attracts a cool crowd attempting to get their hands on the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Come for the baba ganoush, stay for the lavender-based cocktails.   Where: Shop 1, G/F, 2 Landale Street, Wan Chai High end RyuGin It has long been a boasting opportunity for Hong Kong travellers to say they have enjoyed a meal at RyuGin. Located on the 101st floor of the ICC, Hong Kong’s tallest building, the modern Japanese restaurant offers lucky diners panoramic views of West Kowloon’s harbor and Hong Kong’s skylines. As for the food, Michelin star chef Seiji Yamamoto flies ingredients from Japan on the daily, with the ten-course Kaiseki meal earning the restaurant two Michelin stars.     Where: West Kowloon, Hong Kong L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon If it's French fare in small portions you're after, you'll feel right at home at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.   Located within The Landmark (HK's luxury shopping center), the restaurant is owned by legendary chef Joël Robuchon, who holds the most Michelin stars in the world.   Where: Shop 401, 15 Queen's Road Central, Central To drink: No matter what you choose to drink, there’s guaranteed to be an outlet close by dedicated to serving it up in style. Cupping Room Coffee culture is thriving in Hong Kong, where the locals like their brews served strong. Cupping Room has four cafes serving up its own beans roasted in Hong Kong. Filters Lane At Filters Lane in Central the young staff busy themselves creating the perfect cup of brewed coffee from the beans they have roasted in the New Territories or imported blends. Even the decaf is thick, dark and robust.   Where: 111 Caine Rd, Mid-level, Hong Kong Craftissimo If your taste runs more to beer, you are going to want to visit Craftissimo in Sheung Wan, a dedicated craft brews bottleshop, or search out Craft Brew & Co. that has craft beers on tap. [caption id="attachment_46645" align="alignleft" width="600"] Craftissimo for dedicated craft brews (Photo: Leigh-Ann Pow)[/caption] Where: Tai Ping Building, Shop D, G/F, Sheung Wan, 22-24A Tai Ping Shan St, Sheung Wan
The best street art and graffiti in Hong Kong
It's no secret that Hong Kong's street art scene is starting to take off. The city is home to some of the most exciting and innovating street art and graffiti installations the world over – if you know where to find them of course... Graham Street It is early in the morning and I’m standing on the corner of Graham Street in the Central neighbourhood of Hong Kong Island looking at one of the most Instagrammed sights in the city.   It’s a street artwork by artist Alex Croft, commissioned by the celebrated Hong Kong design brand Goods of Desire (G.O.D), whose Hollywood Road store it adorns the side of, depicting the now demolished Kowloon Walled City. [caption id="attachment_46632" align="alignleft" width="600"] Local artist Alex Croft’s colourful mural of old townhouses has probably popped up on your feed once or twice[/caption] Where to find: Opposite The Globe, 45-53 Graham St, Central. The history The depiction of the hotchpotch house fronts of the former unsanctioned housing development is not the biggest, the brightest or the most detailed of the street art daubed across walls and buildings in this part of the city, but something about it has captured the collective imagination of locals and visitors alike.   Or so I am told, because at this time of the morning I am the only one looking at it as I stand with my tour guide Alexandra Unrein of Hong Kong Street Art Tours. A former Lufthansa flight attendant, the Berlin-born ex-pat has married her passion for Hong Kong with her love of art, and is a wealth of knowledge about the thriving street art scene here. [caption id="attachment_46631" align="alignleft" width="600"] A shop front utilises its own version of street art to sell sugar cane juice[/caption] As we start to walk she tells me the story of how the whole street art movement was jump-started with the staging of the first HKwalls event in 2014 in the Sheung Wan area of the island.   Founded by Stan Wu and Jason Dembski as a reaction to the lack of representation and respect for street and graffiti artists during the gallery-focused, ticketed events of HK Art Week (now Hong Kong Arts Month), HKwalls was established with the aim of transforming nondescript city walls throughout the city into vibrant original art, with visiting artists from around the world invited to create large-scale works in public spaces that would be accessible for everyone. [caption id="attachment_46636" align="alignleft" width="600"] Hong Kong street art is a fabric in its own right[/caption] The democratisation of art proved a winner with locals and visitors alike, and this year’s festival, the sixth, will be the held in the frenetic Wan Chai area from 23 to 31 March. Shing Wong Street As Alexandra leads me along Hollywood Road she stops routinely to point out works from the 2018 festival: a pair of floating carp on Shing Wong Street by Danish artist Christian Storm, whose distinctive signature covers a metal roller door next to his finished piece: a hazy, rainy night scene of taxis and neon down a narrow side street by British artist and muralist Dan Kitchener, aka Dank. [caption id="attachment_46634" align="alignleft" width="600"] Storm's arresting work for HKWalls 2018[/caption] Where to view: Shing Wong Street at the junction with 82 Hollywood Road.   Elsa Jean De Dieu There’s the work of Elsa Jean De Dieu, a French muralist who studied fine arts and interior design before becoming a street artist, a vocation that seemed inevitable when you find out her grandparents were street artists as well.   Where to view: 11D, Man Lok Building, 89-93 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Szabotage Alexandra points out a bright orange and blue koi by British artist and interior designer Szabotage; the fish forms a theme of his work, with most irreverently flipping the bird with one of their fins. New York-based artist Jerkface paints abstract interpretations of beloved cartoon figures influenced by a childhood spent watching Saturday morning cartoons. Cinta Vidal On the side of a building (complete with a window) we come across a dreamscape of twisted, interlocking architecture floating in space by Catalonian artist Cinta Vidal. Instead of using spray paint she painted it by hand in the traditional mode of a muralist. [caption id="attachment_46633" align="alignleft" width="600"] Artist Cinta Vidal painted this with traditional paint instead of spray paint[/caption] Where to view: 52-56 Staunton Street, UG/F, Central, Hong Kong The London Police We find a work by The London Police, two guys from Essex named Bob and Chaz, framed by recyclable rubbish from a neighbouring restaurant waiting to be collected.   The group of comical smiling people they call LADS make the slightly dishevelled street scene almost endearing. Zoie Lam One of my favourite works is a bright abstract of primary and day-glo colours painted on a wall behind a narrow inner-city garden bed. It is by Zoie Lam, a fashion designer turned artist whose signature inclusion on all her works is a cast of blobby figures who inhabit the planet she creates called Zlism. Vhils One of the last pieces we come across is truly impressive: an entire two-storey house that has been chipped away at to create destruction graffiti. The artist responsible for this almost 3D effect, Lisbon native Vhils, has etched out faces on the concrete shell of the building.   Viewed from a distance the effect has a slightly sepia, nostalgic feel; up close you can see the hand-drawn sketch lines that mapped out the work, hinting at the intensity of labour it took to realise his vision.   Where to find: Pak Tin Par Street (Tsuen Wan District), Hong Kong   -   While many of the street artworks have become tourist attractions in their own right, to be searched out and appreciated for their artistic merit, to the locals they are just part of the fabric of life in the vivid, constantly changing cityscape, passed by on the way to somewhere else they need to be.   Reverence can’t be paid to each and every creation on a daily basis when you’ve got other things to do.
Samoa To Sua ocean Trench
Explore Samoa three ways: for couples, families and adventurers
With its rugged beauty and vibrant, 3000-year-old culture, this South Pacific island paradise packs enough punch to have something for everyone. Long known for its pristine beaches, rainforest-covered volcanic mountains and fringing coral reef, Samoa’s 10 postcard-perfect islands offer a multitude of experiences for every kind of traveller – often in vastly different environments. Samoa for families Forget the old school ‘drop and flop’; the beauty of Mother Nature’s playground will turn the youngest of travellers into New World explorers, whether its swimming with turtles in the peaceful waters of a lagoon, enjoying the natural waterslides at Papaseea Sliding Rocks or playing a spot of kilikti (Samoan cricket) with the local kids. [caption id="attachment_46500" align="alignnone" width="600"] Samoa offer fun for the whole family.[/caption] Will they find buried treasure among the lush jungles surrounding your resort? Will they come across pirates in the watering holes in which they play? Get their hearts racing and imaginations ignited by visiting the restored colonial homestead-turned museum of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of much-loved children’s book, Treasure Island. It could provide the inspiration for a trip of a lifetime. Samoa for lovers Dreaming of reconnecting with your partner (or celebrating your honeymoon) away from the hustle and bustle of the summertime crowds? Picture a frangipani-scented paradise filled with deserted beaches (perfect for that picnic for two) and azure water holes where your only company is the odd rainbow pop of tropical fish. Out here, it’s just you, your partner and a magical backdrop made for romance. [caption id="attachment_46501" align="alignnone" width="600"] A picture-perfect romantic escape[/caption] If you can force yourself to leave your over-water bungalow (and yes, it can be a struggle), navigating the winding jungle trails through emerald forests hand-in-hand should make the list – but only if it’s bookmarked by a fresh seafood lunch and a relaxing Samoan massage. And repeat. Samoa for adventurers Bust out your inner Indiana Jones and give yourself over to the thrill of conquering a wild landscape filled with lush jungles on steep volcanoes, cascading waterfalls and mysterious lava caves begging for exploration.   There’s nothing to suggest one need turn their holiday into a caffeinated drink commercial; those looking for ‘action lite’ can enjoy an afternoon of kayaking with turtles, touring the islands by bicycle or taking an organised snorkel trip. Others may prefer diving her coral reef, surfing her breaks or hiking three kilometers through dense rainforest up to Volcanic Crater Lake. [caption id="attachment_46504" align="alignnone" width="600"] Conquer your fear of heights in lush tropical surrounds.[/caption] Whatever you do, just don’t miss experiencing the Falealupo Canopy Walk in Savaii, a thrilling walkway 40 metres above the rainforest floor among giant Banyan trees. It’s a Samoan highlight.   For more information visit www.samoa.travel
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. 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.  
Airbnb’s top 10 most popular stays have been revealed
Itching to discover where the most diehard wanderlusters among us are wish-listing? We’ve got the lowdown on the 10 stays around the world that have caught the attention of the people – and for good reason. Amalfi Coast villas, Joshua Tree cabins, Marrakech riads and even a secluded Aussie property, these Airbnb gems clocked up the most likes on the site’s Instagram page in 2018. And when you see the images, it’ll be crystal clear why each of these incredible places deserves a spot in the top 10.   So, the only thing left to ponder is… will you bag yourself a stay before everyone else does? Fingers and toes crossed for you. 10. The Triangle Siargao – General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines Got a grown-up fascination with teepees? Well this life-sized A-framed cabin in the Philippines is sure to tickle your fancy – it sure did for the 45,000-odd people who liked it on Instagram. Thanks for the pic, @thetriangle.siargao! [caption id="attachment_46224" align="alignleft" width="600"] The magnificent Triangle Siargao[/caption] Tucked away in the jungle, this property may look a little secluded, but you’ll have more than enough to live with, two friendly dogs as your welcome party and an indoor swing to pass the time. Pretty cool, eh? 9. Exclusive Villa with Private Dock and Swimming Pool – Piano di Sorrento, Italy Well, this is living, isn’t it? A cliff-side Amalfi Coast property that’d make anyone want to pack their bags and head for Italy. It’s not hard to believe this blue-soaked shot by @lizbedor received over 49,000 Instagram likes. [caption id="attachment_46223" align="alignleft" width="600"] A private oasis in Italy, anyone?[/caption] The property has its own private dock: the ideal starting point for a daily of sailing or the setting for a simple stroll after your private pool swim – whatever you prefer really. 8. Incredible Apartment & Views! Pool! – Perledo, Lake Como, Italy Was there ever any doubt that a Lake Como property would feature in this list? Not in our book; it’s one of the most magical places on Earth – and this photo captured by @sssoph90, which garnered almost 50,000 likes shows you why.   Situated high above the village of Varenna, you can see why visitors are itching to stay here, and we haven’t even mentioned the property’s three balconies, which happen to be just perfect for stargazing. 7. Vintage Design and Contemporary Art at Casalibera – Trastevere, Italy This could be the only balcony in the world where you don’t mind staring into the neighbour’s – and vice versa.   Set in Rome’s trendy Trastevere neighbourhood, this stylish apartment is the perfect place to sit with a good book and a glass of wine and watch the world go by. It’s no coincidence that the photo, taken by @jonisan, amassed more than 50,000 likes.   The apartment feels serene but is also within walking distance to all things Roma, which means – you guessed it – incredible pizza is never too far away. 6. The Boat House – New South Wales, Australia Hooray, Australia made the cut! Yep, a blissful little oasis on the NSW Hawkesbury River that can only be accessed by boat. Imagine laying out on the sun-kissed deck all day long, winding down the clock with a glass of wine.   It’s no wonder this pic, taken by @sarahlianhan, racked up over 55,000 likes. [caption id="attachment_46222" align="alignleft" width="600"] Some pretty nice Australian real estate[/caption] All we want to do is lay out on the property’s private pier and swim to the secret beaches scattered around the home. 5. BEAUTIFUL RIAD – Marrakech, Morocco Well this is not your average poolside by any stretch of the imagination. This stunning Moroccan homestead is your own private piece of heaven during your stay, ideal to curl up with a good book in, and waste the day in utter bliss. [caption id="attachment_46221" align="alignleft" width="600"] Moroccan paradise[/caption] The photo taken by @theresatorp was liked on Instagram just under 60,000 times and we can see why, we feel positively peaceful just looking at it. 4. Joshua Tree Campover Cabin – Joshua Tree, USA Tell us, where on Earth can you stay at a place with a lookout reminiscent of a setting of an old Western movie? Looking at this photo, you almost expect Clint Eastwood to ride by on horseback, tilt his hat in your direction and say, ‘nice digs’. [caption id="attachment_46220" align="alignleft" width="600"] Joshua Tree perfection[/caption] It’s no surprise this image taken by @alalam100 received over 65,000 likes on Instagram.   The Joshua Tree cabin is the perfect spot to appreciate the calm of the Mojave Desert and provides pretty much undisturbed daily sunrises and sunsets. Bliss. 3. Willow Treehouse – secluded, unique, and romantic – Willow, NY, USA A modern version of Robin Hood-style dwellings, this treehouse gives guests that ‘you’re on your own’ feeling in a somehow soothing way. During your stay, the swimming pond nearby will be your best friend, before you ascend up to your bedroom loft and take in the stars.   The treehouse is located near Woodstock in New York state and this image alone shows you why visitors are drawn to this woodland escape.   2. Lazzarella Room in Old Mill – Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy Like something out of a romantic movie, this Ravello property perched above the Amalfi Coast screams ‘Italy’ in every stereotypical sense – and we couldn’t be more pleased about that.   The vine-strung window looks out to the quaint town and hillside, and immediately gives you both the feeling of peace and the thirst to get out and explore.   The image is taken from the dining room of an old mill that has been turned into a homestead, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Amalfi Coast.   1. LUC 22 Boutique Alpine Retreat – Queenstown, New Zealand Imagine staring out a window from the comfort of your bath tub and seeing this. By ‘this’ I mean a stunning vista of horizon-stroking mountains, a smooth pool of bright blue water and a crisp, cloud-covered sky. That’s what you’ll get when you choose to take your baths at this Queenstown alpine retreat, which overlooks the stunning panorama of Lake Wakatipu. [caption id="attachment_46218" align="alignleft" width="600"] The most impressive AirBnB view of all[/caption] It’s not hard to determine why this place scored the number one spot with almost 110,000 likes. Can we stay?! Image taken by @chachi86.
Azamara Pursuit Cruise Ship
7 reasons to take a trip aboard the Azamara Pursuit
Not your average mode of transportation between Ol’ Blighty and marvellous France, but as I learnt, climbing aboard the Azamara Pursuit is absolutely the best way to do it, and there are a few reasons why… It should be made clear before you read another word, that I, Olivia Mackinnon love cruising.   It’s in my DNA, you see. My parents actually met while working on board what they called, ‘The Love Boat’, but I suspect it was just a regular boat, with no links to TV cruising royalty whatsoever.   So for as long as I can remember, I have been wooed by the incredible grandness of cruise ships, and up until recently, I’d never been lucky enough to board one in the Azamara fleet.   The brand new Azamara Pursuit was setting off for her maiden voyage, and I had been invited on the two-night journey to experience all she had to offer… Grand is an understatement [caption id="attachment_46070" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Azamara Pursuit is grand in scale[/caption] Landing in London and then travelling to Southampton, UK, I was instantly desperate to climb aboard Azamara’s newest ship, Pursuit as soon as I clapped eyes on her. One of my favourite things to do aboard a ship is familiarise myself with the facilities: ‘Where is the restaurant, how far is my cabin from the pool, where is the spa?!’ I’m simply not satisfied until these questions are answered. However, aboard Pursuit I was enamoured with the luxury feel of the ship. The detail in every hand rail and piece of art. As a small-time cruiser, I simply didn’t feel worthy.   The common areas were furnished with incredible plush chairs, decorated with velvet trimmings and chic finishes, while the restaurant took the whole ‘white tablecloth’ dining experience to a new level with a sense of European style I haven’t ever seen on board a ship before. [caption id="attachment_46073" align="alignnone" width="600"] Spending time in the common areas was a joy thanks to this stunning and comfortable arrangement[/caption] The cabin The feeling of luxury was extended down the hall of the starboard side – as I’m sure it was on port side – and all the way inside my cabin. The bathrooms had more sink space than I was accustomed to. There was an established seating area, a roomy balcony and a beyond-comfortable bed. In fact, with the deluxe sheets combined with the gentle sway of Southampton’s River Itchen, I don’t know if I’ve ever slept so soundly.   I was particularly fond of the colour palette used in the cabins, a mix of moody greys, deep woods and a touch of blush. The marble finishes added a chic cherry to an already delectable cake.   Also, the shower pressure was near-normal – maybe even on par with what you’d get at home. Anyone who has ever cruised before will understand what a big deal that is. A Titanic experience, minus the tragedy What excited me about this trip was that I was going to get the chance to arrive in an entirely different country by the time I woke up in the morning. Yep, we were en route to Cherbourg, a port city in France where you could delight in both French naval history and quality croissants for the day. I also learned that this was the place the Titanic made its final stop on its fateful journey to America – but I tried not to focus on that as I disembarked. [caption id="attachment_46074" align="alignnone" width="600"] The furnishings were elegant, comfortable and luxurious[/caption] If that sounds appealing to you, visitors to Cherbourg are encouraged to visit Cité de la Mer, one of the port’s main tourist attractions, where you can find out more about the infamous ship’s final visit. The on (and off) board delicacies The Pursuit frequents many European ports during its varied itineraries, which means the food always complements your destinations. During my day in Cherbourg I was treated to fresh crepes, soft cheese, macarons and sparkling wine. I pretty much had to roll back to the ship. [caption id="attachment_46071" align="alignnone" width="600"] There are many sights to take in and they aren't all experienced from the ship's deck[/caption] Back on board, passengers celebrated the ship’s maiden voyage with a decadent oyster and Champagne buffet dinner. Chefs were ready and waiting at a personalised pasta station, ready to combine fettuccine with pesto, or spaghetti with carbonara sauce if your heart so desired. It’s differences like these that showcase the level of care – and luxury – you can expect to experience on board an Azamara ship – and from what I hear, the Pursuit’s elegance is certainly no exception to its sister ships: Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey. The pool Despite being August, the weather was a little cooler during our short cruise, and I’m almost certain that I was the only guest to brave the ship’s water amenities. I swam not only in the pool’s accompanying spa on the main deck, but also in the larger spa provided to guests before their scheduled treatment, as an indulgent precursor to what is already guaranteed to be a ‘cloud nine’ level of pampering.   Due to the lack of company in the spas, I felt there was more than ample room – my only gripe would be that they could be made a little warmer – however on a standard August day in Europe I imagine the cooler temperature would ordinarily be ideal. Destination Immersion experiences [caption id="attachment_46072" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just because you're on a cruise ship doesn't mean you don't get to experience the culture of the ports you travel to and from[/caption] The thing that makes the Azamara fleet different to regular luxury cruises is its desire to get passengers off the ship at port and truly immerse them in the activities and culture of that destination. This is what they call their ‘Destination Immersion’ programming.   For example, during my time in Cherbourg on the Pursuit’s maiden voyage, in addition to being treated to iconic French delicacies, we were also wowed by a side-splitting performance by a French dance ensemble. The short itinerary meant that while a full-day of exploration wasn’t an option, Azamara brought a taste of Cherbourg’s culture to us at port – and we loved every second of it.   Sailings with longer itineraries can expect even more incredible immersive experiences. From a three-day/two-night stargazing experience in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to exploring the inside of a volcano in Iceland, they somehow manage to make it about guaranteeing you have as great of a time off the ship as you will on board. They get around, a lot As of 2019, Azamara’s very first Melbourne departure will take place – and the list of destinations worked into their itineraries is longer than ever. This year, the ships will visit a record 250 ports across 69 countries with 94 overnight stays and 145 late-night stays – meaning you get the most out of the places you want to visit. Plus, this year marks the first visit to Alaska – yippee!
Milan Piazza Duomo
How to live la dolce vita in Milan
Discover the unforgettable treasures and simple pleasures of Italy’s cultural capital. While Rome is the historical heart of Italy and Florence is home to its artistic soul, Milan is the cultural capital where all the good things meet; fashion, food and the arts. Its treasures aren’t as obvious as those of other Italian cities, you have to dig a little deeper to discover them – but that makes them all the more satisfying. Shop like you mean it [caption id="attachment_46052" align="alignnone" width="600"] For the best of Milan's high street shopping you'll want to head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II[/caption] If you fancy a designer bag or three, Via Montenapoleone is where it’s at. This narrow street houses all the luxury brands in one handy location. Visit for the window shopping and people watching alone.   Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is also a designer haven and the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is where to find all the high street brands. [caption id="attachment_46051" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II[/caption] La Rinascente is a luxe department store stretching over 10 floors while 10 Corso Como offers a tightly edited mix of designer fashion and art. Think Milan’s version of Paris’ famed, now closed, Colette boutique.   For a designer bargain, the top of Via Manzoni towards Archi di Porta Nuova is where you’ll find designer outlet stores such as DMag. Wander the Navigli [caption id="attachment_46050" align="alignnone" width="600"] Explore the canals of Naviglio Grande.[/caption] Venice isn’t the only Italian city with canals. A 10-minute metro ride from the centre of Milan to Porta Genova will take you to the Navigli, a set of intersecting canals which were once the city’s main trading routes with Europe.   These canals were fed by two different lakes, Maggiore and Como, so the water levels weren't even. Enter Leonardo da Vinci who designed chiusuras, or dams, so the boats could travel along them.   You can take boat rides along the canals or simply spend the day strolling beside them and soak up the charm of the area’s boutiques and bars. At night, it’s a buzzing hub of people taking aperitivo by the water. Discover Brera The boho artists that called Brera home have made their stamp on this little corner of the city and it’s still an art hub. As well as cool independent galleries you’ll find the impressive Brera Art Gallery or the Pinacoteca di Brera, which displays one of the most comprehensive collections of Italian art.   There are also chic boutiques, upscale restaurants and picture-perfect cobblestone pedestrian streets such as via Fiori Chiari. Peruse the work of Leonardo da Vinci [caption id="attachment_46049" align="alignnone" width="600"] Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is on display within the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie[/caption] His most famous artwork, The Last Supper, is a mural in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Seeing it in a book doesn’t do it justice. Stand up close and let the details slowly reveal themselves to you; the folds in the tablecloth, the veins on the hands of the apostles, the use of light to tell the story of good and evil.   Book ahead. Numbers are limited to protect the priceless piece and if you turn up on the day, you might miss out.   The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana also pays homage to Da Vinci. It’s the caretaker of the Atlantic Codex, over 1000 pages of his notes and sketches. The display, which changes every three months, showcases about 10 pages at a time and can cover anything from his theories on soundwaves and music to the optic nerve and how sight works.   His notes are hard to decipher, until you learn that he was a lefty who wrote from right to left in mirror script. It’s an intimate insight into the great man’s mind. Visit La Scala The sumptuous red velvet and gilded gold interiors of this iconic opera house are enough to make you swoon, even if you’re not a fan of the theatre. But if you are, it’s worth splurging for a ticket to the opera or ballet. Then there’s the more-affordable behind-the-scenes tours. [caption id="attachment_46048" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience one of the opera at Milan's iconic La Scala.[/caption] Composer Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Otello and Falstaff premiered here and the stage has hosted performances by the greatest opera singers such as Maria Callas and ballet stars including Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Fondazione Prada Miuccia Prada is considered the most intellectual woman in fashion and this sprawling contemporary art museum may be a bigger legacy than decades of shaping how we dress. Housed in a former gin distillery, the privately-funded collection is open to the public and is more a cultural compound than regular museum.   In addition to the 13,000 square metres of exhibition space, there are cinemas, bars and a new restaurant Torre, which opened in 2018 and has sweeping views over Milan. Indulge in aperitivo The Italian tradition of pre-dinner drinks and snacks originated in Milan thanks to the popularity of the bitter liqueur Campari, which was distilled nearby. The idea being that it whets the tastebuds and gets the digestive juices flowing.   From about 5pm till 8pm you’ll see people sitting outside enjoying a spritz or negroni with a few nibbles before they head off to dinner.   Order a negroni at Officina 12, a hip gin bar in Navigli, head to the top floor of the Rinascente department store and enjoy an aperitivo while overlooking the spires of the Duomo or hang with the locals at Morgan’s, a dive bar in the historic centre just off Via Lanzone. Eat up [caption id="attachment_46047" align="alignnone" width="600"] Rovello 18 serves up their own inspired version of risotto Milanese al salto.[/caption] The city’s most famous dish is the saffron-hued risotto Milanese, served on its own as a primo or with ossobuco as a secondo. For something a little different, try risotto Milanese al salto, where the risotto is cooked then fried so the outer edges of the rice cake crisp up. At Rovello 18, it’s served in little patties while Antica Trattoria della Pesa does a giant disk as big as the plate.   You’ll find fabulous seafood at El Brellin and Langosteria if budget permits, or the more accessible Langosteria Café.   For a taste of luxury, Italian celebrity chef Carlo Cracco opened Ristorante Cracco inside the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II earlier this year.   For something truly dolce, the original Marchesi Pasticceria has been satisfying sweet tooths since 1824. Sleep with the stars Fancy staying in the same room as composer Giuseppe Verdi, singer Maria Callas or author Ernest Hemingway? They were all famous guests at the five-star Grand Hotel et de Milan and the suites they called home all have a personal touch: from the desk Verdi wrote at to a copy of Hemingway’s visa framed on the wall. [caption id="attachment_46046" align="alignnone" width="600"] Follow in the footsteps of some of history's biggest names and spend a night at the Grand Hotel et de Milan[/caption] This family-owned property is part of the Leading Hotels of the World Group and has an unbeatable location just a block from La Scala and a stone’s throw from the start of the shopping mecca, Via Montenapoleone. More information Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano   La Rinascente, Piazza del Duomo, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 88521 La Rinascente   10 Corso Como, Corso Como 10, 20124 Milano www.10corsocomo.com   DMag Outlet, Via Alessandro Manzoni, 44, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 3651 4365   Pinacoteca di Brera, Via Brera, 28, 20121 Milano Pinacoteca di Brera   Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milano www.legraziemilano.it   Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Piazza Pio XI, 2, 20123 Milano Phone: +39 02 806921 www.ambrosiana.it/en/   Teatro alla Scala, Via Filodrammatici, 2, 20121 Milano www.teatroallascala.org/en/   Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano Phone: +39 02 5666 2611 www.fondazioneprada.org   Officina 12, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 12, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 8942 2261 www.officina12.it   Morgan's Milano, Via Novati 02, 20123 Milano Phone: +39 02 867694 www.facebook.com/Morgans-Milano   Rovello 18, Via Tivoli, 2, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 7209 3709 www.rovello18.it/en/home-en/   Antica Trattoria della Pesa, Viale Pasubio, 10, 20154 Milano Phone: +39 02 655 5741 www.anticatrattoriadellapesa.com   El Brellin, Vicolo dei Lavandai, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 14, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 5810 1351 www.brellin.com   Langosteria, Via Savona, 10, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 5811 1649 www.langosteria.com   Cracco, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 20121 Milano MI Phone: +39 02 876774 www.ristorantecracco.it/en/   Marchesi Pasticceri, Via Santa Maria alla Porta, 11/a, 20123 Milano www.pasticceriamarchesi.com/en/   Grand Hotel et de Milan, Via Alessandro Manzoni, 29, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 723141 www.grandhoteletdemilan.it/en/
11 Europe travel hacks that will save you BIG money
Travelling is an expensive hobby, especially when travelling tourist hotspots in Europe. But there is hope!   Whether you’re headed on a romantic trip to Paris, a meander along the canals of Amsterdam or on a discovery of the castles and estates of Britain’s countryside, this is a must-read guide on how to save – BIG time. Make a list Here we start a list with making a list, in true traveller fashion.   The first list you should make is of the places you want to visit, this allows correct planning of your holiday to optimise travel from east, to west and north to south. This also allows you to research which method of travel will be most effective: train (and if so can you buy a five- or 10-trip train pass?), coach or plane?   The second list should consist of all the things you want to do in each place. In Paris, you may want to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, take a bike tour and go out for a French degustation. Planning your to-do list means that you are less likely to get stuck in the trap of filling your holiday with touristy (and expensive) activities. This doesn’t mean you can’t live in the moment while overseas, but gives you the option to stay traveller savvy. Free museum admission Do your research on entry to Europe’s most famous museums, as most offer free or reduced entry on specific days.   The Louvre offers free entry to the museum on the first Saturday of every month from 6pm to 9.45pm, and free admission to under 26s on Friday evenings from 6pm until close. At €17 euros a ticket, this is a saving close to $30 per person. The Prado Museum in Madrid also offers free entry to its collections from 6pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays from 5pm to 7pm. [caption id="attachment_7660" align="alignleft" width="1000"] The Pyramide at Musée du Louvre.[/caption] Other museums including the Berlin Wall Memorial and the National Gallery in London always have free entry and are well worth your time. Skip the hotel Hotels, although delightfully convenient and reminiscent of luxury holidays, can cost you the earth in a main city in Europe. Other alternatives, such as Airbnb, youth hostels and campervans can save you a motza, and can even offer a more authentic European experience.   Airbnbs to look out for are the ones with rave reviews, close to the main amenities. Try and stick to places that have a ‘superhost’ status; this means that the host is not only experienced in the game, but they also have been really well rated by their previous guests. If you pick a humble, but well-kept place, you are bound to save $$$.   Hostels, with both shared and private rooms, can cost just a fraction of the price of a good hotel. Try Hostel One Camden in London, The Yellow Hostel in Rome and Coco Mama in Amsterdam.   Campervans, although not ideal when city hopping, are the best way to visit the countryside, especially in places like the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland. Spaceships’ compact and easy-to-drive campervans are an ideal place to start, with a bed, fridge and cooking gear all in the back. Only setting you back around $100 a day, these are the best combination of bedroom and transport. Pack a picnic. Every. Damn. Day. Eating, perhaps the best part of any European holiday, is very expensive.   Most meals out cost an excess of $30 per person at a restaurant, and when you think about the fact that eating is necessary more than once in a day, the money mounts quickly.   The best practice to exercise is packing a picnic lunch, with a collection of items purchased at the local grocery store.   In France, pack some fromage and jambon to put on a baguette, in Spain pack some chorizo and cheese or in Malta just grab a few 60c pastizzi, and sit yourself in a glorious park.   This not only saves money, but allows you to soak in the ambience of your locale. Join the National Trust Picnics are best had in the gardens of historic estates, whilst you admire outdoor fountains in the foreground of period homes.   These estates can be found all over Europe, particularly in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and the Netherlands. To enter these estates costs between $20 and $40 per entry, and can add up to be an expensive experience.   Joining the National Trust in Australia, however, means that you can pay a one off fee (of $110 for adults, and $90 for concession) for a yearly membership. With reciprocal visiting arrangements with heritage organisations in other countries, membership allows access to 800 heritage sites outside of Australia.   An added bonus is that these estates are also a great place for learning about the history and culture of the country, as well as an excellent photo op. Free activities Every single city or town in Europe has a range of things to do that are absolutely FREE. [caption id="attachment_19367" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Promenade des anglais in Nice[/caption] These are often activities in the natural environment: go for a hike in the Black Forest in south-west Germany, float down the fast flowing, turquoise waters of the river Aare in Bern or go for a swim on the pebbled beach of Nice. Hire a bike Not only reserved for the streets of Amsterdam, bike riding is a great way to both see a city and get around it.   Hiring a bike, at around $20 a day, is a great way to avoid paying for buses, cabs, trains or trams. [caption id="attachment_28164" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Use a bike to travel around cobblestoned town squares[/caption] Also, let’s cut to the chase: while travelling in Europe the exercise certainly wouldn’t go astray.   You can usually hire bikes from local bike shops, or from mobile, dockless bike hiring platforms such as Santander bicycles in London. Check out Airbnb Experiences   Not always the cheapest (although sometimes they are!) Airbnb Experiences offer authentic, locally run and reasonably priced experiences. Ranging from equestrian tours through Tuscany to cooking classes in a home kitchen in Paris, there is something for everyone on this app.   These experiences are usually far superior to the heavily tourist centred activities found in main cities, and for the same price often offer a lot more. Research passes in each city Passes, be it for a collection of museums or for travel around a city, can be a great way to save money.   Some notable passes are: the I Amsterdam card, which you can buy in iterations of 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 hours from between $95 to $180, offers free access to 60 museums including the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, a free canal cruise and free public transport; the Eurail pass (for international travel between European countries via train); and the London Pass, which allows access to 80 famous attractions across the city with iterations ranging from one day for $123 to 10 days with travel included for $429.   Make sure that you are only purchasing passes to places you actually want to visit (remember your list!). These passes are not ideal if you were only looking at visiting the Rijks museum on your trip, but got roped into all the other because it seemed like good value. Don’t frequently withdraw money abroad Avoid costly ATM withdrawal fees on your travel money card by nabbing your cash while still in Aus.   Carrying wads of notes abroad can be daunting, so if you do have to withdraw cash, make sure you do a week’s worth at a time. Or alternatively, try to shop and eat at places that deal only in Eftpos transactions.   Also investigate cards that offer money back on ATM fees, even overseas. ING offers money back on ATM fees globally, if you meet the minimum requirements of the card ($1000 deposited and five transactions made each month). Make sure you claim your GST refund! If you’re an avid shopper, make sure you keep all your receipts – you can claim the tax back at the airport on your way home!   Make sure you have your forms and receipts stamped by each country’s officials before departing, and when heading home ensure that all mentioned products are accessible in case the officials need to see them.  
5 reasons to add Ludlow to your UK itinerary
Every second couple featured on UK show Escape to the Country wants to move to this idyllic market town (or so it seems), and we can see why... Something happens to you as you walk the picturesque streets of Ludlow, known off-record as one of England’s prettiest towns.   One minute, you’re an urbanite trying desperately to find a flat white that doesn’t convince your soul to just keel over and die, and the next, you’ve soaked in enough of the South Shropshire countryside to find yourself wandering around in a middle-aged, pearl-and-twin-set haze saying things like, “It has real chocolate-box charm, doesn’t it?” and “Ooh, look at those lovely exposed beams!”; it all feels like a still from Escape to the Country (you know you know it). This is the power of Ludlow.   For the uninitiated, the medieval town is located bang on top of a cliff overlooking the River Teme and surrounded by the Welsh Marches, as well as that aforementioned gorgeous green countryside. It’s famous for its food and wine, including the annual Ludlow Spring Festival that promises revellers over 200 varieties of real ales plus cider, perry (similar to pear cider) and wine, more than 60 local food producers, live music and hopefully, a decent flat white or two.   And here are five more reasons to stick Ludlow on your itinerary… The Ludlow Food Festival We could talk about the lengths members of Ludlow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce went to in order to boost the image of Ludlow and surrounding areas or how the popular festival, established in 1995, helps promote the area’s terrific artisan food and wine producers against the backdrop of the town’s historic castle, but instead we’ll just say: sausage trail, cake competition, ale trail, pork pie competition. [caption id="attachment_45559" align="alignleft" width="600"] The festival features a huge range of top quality food and drink producers[/caption] There’s a reason the town’s population doubles from its usual 10,000 at this time of year – why not make it 20,001? Ludlow Castle  In England, it’s hard to visit a simple corner store without tripping over a castle, but gosh this one is pretty. [caption id="attachment_45557" align="alignleft" width="600"] The construction of the Ludlow Castle started around 1085[/caption] Construction on this privately owned castle began in the late 11th century and over the centuries it hosted everyone from Prince Arthur, brother of Henry VIII, who honeymooned here before his untimely death, to Henry’s daughter Mary Tudor, who spent three icily cold winters here. Although it fell into decay, many of its buildings still stand and historians note that it’s a castle where its history is very much reflected in its varied architecture (everything from medieval to Tudor). Top tip? Rug up because it is seriously cold at the top (also a good rule of thumb for life, kids) and warm up afterwards by sipping a hot tea at the Castle Tea Room beneath. Ludlow Food Centre It’s difficult to put this delicately, so here goes: come all the way to Ludlow so you can experience the world’s greatest truck stop.   It’s not just any kind of truck stop, of course, but a gourmet wonderland located on the Earl of Plymouth’s 3000-hectare Oakly Park Estate just off the main road on the outskirts of town, which features a play and picnic area, the Clive Arms restaurant and boutique hotel (highly recommended), and on-site cafe Ludlow Kitchen (also highly recommended). [caption id="attachment_45561" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow is famous for its selection of fresh produce[/caption] There are countless reasons to stop by the food centre, but the number one reason is surely Ludlow Pantry, a delicatessen that will leave you gasping at the wonders of culinary life. Just think of a smart food hall filled with the smell of freshly baked Cornish pasties, serving up hundreds of varieties of cheese, meats, baked goods, fresh produce and conserves.   More than 30 per cent of the food sold here is handmade on site, with a further 30 per cent sourced from Shropshire and its surrounding counties. Load up your suitcase; it’s worth making an appearance on Border Security for. The locals I’ll admit it, I’m a big fan of the English.   Not only is my husband originally from England, so are many of my exes and some of my best mates. But I have to say the locals are some of the best people I’ve ever encountered. To illustrate the point, here’s a short tale: I fell in love with what could be the world’s craziest hat at Ludlow’s open-air market, yet walked away without buying it. [caption id="attachment_45556" align="alignleft" width="600"] Famous architecture[/caption] When I went the following day to purchase said hat just before I was due to leave town, the vendor was not there. The story could have ended there, but it didn’t. [caption id="attachment_45555" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow, in South Shropshire, is one of the most attractive towns in England[/caption] Another vendor who heard my woolly plight alerted Tony, the market manager who then called vendor after vendor at home until he found the maker, Heather, who then drove 40 minutes from her home to meet me with a bagful of hats slung over her shoulder. She then drove 40 minutes home, happy that I’d reconciled with the World’s Craziest Hat. That’s Ludlow. Ludlow Walking Tours On paper, Dorothy Nicolle is a qualified Blue Badge guide for the Heart of England region, and a local author, but to me, she’ll forever be known as a national treasure, ready to put herself on the line when it comes to promoting the exquisite towns of Shropshire. [caption id="attachment_45553" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow was famously described by John Betjeman as “the loveliest town in England“[/caption] Rather than wandering aimlessly around town, engage the services of Dorothy and she can run you through one of her extensive, and incredibly thorough tours that include everything from ‘Shropshire’s oddities’ (of which, she informs me, there are many), to ‘People immortalised on pub signs’. [caption id="attachment_45560" align="alignleft" width="600"] Explore the picturesque city on foot[/caption] I went on the standard Ludlow tour that takes in the streets lined with quaint boutiques, cheesemongers and traditional pubs, and the scenic countryside around nearby town Ironbridge. Contact Dorothy at nicolle.me.uk
Wadi Rum desert, Jordan UNESCO
The 5 most epic UNESCO World Heritage sites
UNESCO's World Heritage list is a beacon for curious travellers and a boon for the site itself. These 5 stand tallest in both splendour & cultural oomph . 1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (natural site, 1981) Comprising of 1.5 million hectares of seemingly endless savannah, Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania is home to two million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras, who make their annual migration to Kenya’s Maasai Mara every year – one of the world’s most incredible natural phenomena. [caption id="attachment_29219" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Room to graze: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, covers 1.5 million hectares.[/caption] The UNESCO recognised park is also home to at least four globally threatened and endangered species: the black rhinoceros, elephant, wild dog and cheetah. 2. Old Town of Lijiang, China (cultural site, 1997) The Old Town of Lijiang was an important trading centre in the 12th century as it is where the Silk Road joined with the ancient Tea Horse Road.   At an elevation of 2400 metres in southwest Yunnan province, the historic townscape’s meandering maze of narrow laneways and timber houses with slanted tiled roofs, has unique and well-preserved architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties.   The surrounding mountains, rivers and trees are also well-preserved with an ancient ingenious water-supply system still in function today. 3. Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland (natural site, 2004) On the west coast of Greenland, 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the Ilulissat Icefjord is around the same size of 66,000 football fields.   This massive collection of icebergs sits at the point where the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the fastest moving in the world, calves into the sea. [caption id="attachment_29222" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Stranded icebergs in the fog at the mouth of the Icefjord near Ilulissat, Greenland.[/caption] This awe-inspiring phenomenon has been studied for more than 250 years to help develop an understanding of climate change. 4. Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan – (cultural and natural site, 2011) Located near the border of Saudi Arabia, this 74,000-hectare site represents millions of years of desert landscape evolution. [caption id="attachment_13309" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Wadi Rum in Jordan, ranked #62 in our countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime'.[/caption] Along with its spectacular natural attractions – narrow gorges, natural arches, soaring cliffs – Wadi Rum possesses archaeological remains, some 25,000 rock carvings and 20,000 inscriptions to indicate 12,000 years of human occupation and the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity. 5. Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland (cultural site, inscribed 1979) Located an hour west of Krakow, the two concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau were the biggest and most notorious established by Nazi Germany.   Around 1.5 million people were premeditatedly starved, tortured and murdered here between 1942 and 1944, and as such the site is a symbol and evidence of the inhumane cruelty towards fellow human beings.   The site retains a high level of authenticity in its fortified walls, barracks, gas chambers and crematoria, and possesses many personal items of the victims.

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