The San Isidro Festival in Madrid

san isidroAs a tourist it is sometimes difficult to really get to know a city and its people. Sure you get to see all the sights and interact with the locals on a purely superficial level but do you really get to know the people, their customs, traditions and what makes them tick?  More often than not the answer is no.  Which is why local festivals are a great way to see the locals letting their hair down and ge a bit of an insight into their lives. The best festival to see and experience the culture of Madrid is the Fiesta de San Isidro.

Celebrated in Madrid during the month of May it combines all that which makes the capital of Spain special, music, costumes, food and bullfighting. Here are few things you can’t miss.

san isidro 1On the Pradera de San Isidro is where the festivities get underway. Thousands of people wearing the traditional chulapos and goyescos gather to participate in a small pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Isidro followed by a picnic where the main aim is to have a good time eating drinking and dancing. The Pradera is on the opposite side of the river of the Atletico de Madrid football stadium.

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Aside from the all the eating and dancing the other main event is the San Isidro bullfighting festival which is undoubtedly the best in all Spain. Lasting from the 9th of May until the 8th of June it attracts the biggest names in bullfighting and the most prestigious fighting bulls. Definitely not an event for the faint hearted, it won’t leave you feeling indifferent.

For more information about the San Isidro Festival contact the Madrid Tourist Board or simply take to the streets of the capital and see what you find.

Take a trip to Formentera, a Spanish Paradise

yacht charter formentera hopyachtsMany people that search for chilled out beaches to spend their summer vacation have fallen in love with Formentera over the years. It’s not by chance this island’s called “the last Mediterranean paradise”. If you want to find a special yet relaxing place with wonderful weather, you should try this tiny island.

You can only access Formentera from another well-known island, Ibiza. But while Ibiza has discos and parties almost every day in summer, Formentera has its virgin nature and its quiet beaches as a claim. Not in vain it’s been a favorite place for hippy culture in the sixties, and nowadays you can find traces of this in its leisurely way of life. You can also find samples of its ancient inhabitants: villages, archaeological pieces, Roman and Moorish remains… Formentera is a great place to discover and learn a lot about Mediterranean history and traditions.

Traveling by regular boat is a cheap mean to access Formentera; remember you can only get to the island this way. But there are other choices: for instance, you can spend a delicious time navigating your way around the island thanks to agencies like yacht charter formentera hopyachts. Don’t hesitate to give this agency a chance; you’ll find an excellent way of enjoying Formentera from another point of view. There are yachts available for any needs, whether you’re looking for a relaxing trip or a luxury one. Just take a look at its online catalog and simply choose the one that suits you best.

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We suggest for instance Sun Cat. It’s a 22m long cruising catamaran. The four members of the crew will help you to have the best experience possible by attending all your requests. Sun Cat has room for 100 passengers, including the crew, and has other services like DJ, catering and even a massage salon.

Do you really want to enjoy your trip to Formentera? Don’t forget to visit its incomparable green zones and take a look at the depths of its past. And when the time to relax arrives, think of being cradled by the waves on one of these yachts.

What to do in Central Park

When New Yorkers want to relax and escape the confines of the city they head to Central Park. It is the perfect place for a picnic, to exercise, to meet with friends the choice of activities on offer are endless. Let’s take a closer look at some of the activities, lesser visited places and must do things in Central Park.

snow leopard central park zooCentral Park Zoo- Home to over 130 species of wild animals the zoo is the perfect place to while away the time. See the endangered snow leopard in a recreation of their central Asian habitat. Penguins, sea lions, bears and a wide range of reptiles are also on display. There is a petting zoo where children can get up close and personal with 30 different species of animals including cows, goats and sheep.

central_park_picnic Pack a Picnic- Central Park is blessed with numerous picnic spots from the secluded to the over popular. If you are looking for a quiet picnic head to the East Green if you are with the family there is a playground nearby and you are just across the way from the Zoo. If you are looking for a romantic picnic spot then Cherry Hill, overlooking the lake, is the perfect place to spread out the blanket and enjoy the sunshine. Join the hoards on Sheep Meadow if people watching, kite flying and ball throwing are your favourite pre and post picnic activities.

 Conservatory Garden- Wander through the history of European gardening taking in French, English and Italian style gardens. Flowers, fountains and statues line the paths as they weave their way through the gardens. Entrance is free.

running central parkGet Fit- Central Park is the perfect place to get fit, join the locals as they run around the park, cool down with a free yoga session on Great Hill, or explore all the hidden nooks and crannies of Central Park on a bicycle.  There are also lots of team sports on offer like softball and kickball and if you are an adrenalin junkie you can do some bouldering in one of three spots in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Galata Bridge

 

galata_bridgeUsually the image of sitting under a bridge enjoying a quiet drink is associated with someone who has fallen on hard times however in the Turkish city of Istanbul this has a different significance. Under the Galata Bridge are various bars and restaurants, perfect for a late afternoon drink whilst watching the comings and goings on the busy river below.

Spanning the Golden Horn the Galata Bridge joins the two sides of European Istanbul. The first recorded bridge joining the two sides was built during the reign of Justinian the Great in the 6th century, in the following centuries there have been a total of five bridges including the current bridge which was completed in 1994 and the market area and first floor were inaugurated in 2003.

Fishermen Galata BridgeToday the Galata Bridge is a bustling hub of people and traffic as they go about their daily lives. Fishermen stand on the bridge day and night line cast over the side occasionally reel in a fish only to have it stolen by the ever vigilant seagulls. Istanbul locals flock to Galata Bridge to eat, smoke nargile water pipes and spend the day with their family. Ferries are continually coming and going disgorging passengers who stop at the myriad of food stalls offering everything from sandwiches to corn on the cob. There are also lots of restaurants under the bridge serving some excellent seafood but be careful of the prices they can quickly become quite outrageous. For a more economical meal grab a fish sandwich from one of the local street vendors for about 5 lira.

If you are looking for an authentic Istanbul experience spend a few hours on Galata Bridge and it will seem the whole world comes to you. It will definitely be a highlight of your trip to Istanbul.

 

 

 

 

Salou’s night festival

salou-magical-nightsSalou is a city located in the southern part of the Spanish region of Catalonia. It is known for its beautiful beaches of golden sand and because of its touristic appeal.  However, although the days are beautiful there, nights are also a great attraction.

During the month of August Salou celebrates Les nits Daurades, Catalan for The Golden Nights. This is an intense and popular festive event with the objective of taking advantage of the beautiful and warm Mediterranean nights that Salou has to offer its visitors.

During this festivity traditional activities merge with modern ones. So in one same day you might be able to see the traditional Tarragonian fishing technique in the afternoon and then enjoy a concert at night. At the same time there are always many bars open in the evenings and throughout the night where one can taste wonderful Mediterranean dishes.

The Golden Nights include activities for both adults and children, so they are a perfect environment for families. In fact, one of the main attractions in the fireworks spectacle, which amazes the youngest and the oldest in a mix of color, magic and joy.

So if you are looking to spend a splendid vacation in the Costa Dorada, you might want to consider renting an apartment in Salou and having the chance of enjoying a beautiful summer festival near the sea.

 

Valencia Erotic Festival

Salón Erótico de Valencia - del 06 al 09 de junio en Feria Valencia

After the success of the Barcelona Erotic Festival organisers have decided to embark on a new project the Salon Erotico de Valencia. The inaugural Valencia Erotic Festival will take place from the 6th-9th of June 2013 in the Feria Valencia. It is a celebration of eroticism complete with loads of activities and the chance to see some of your favourite adult movie stars up close and personal.  The Valencia Erotic Festival will also pay homage to Spain’s most famous adult movie star Nacho Vidal.

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The Valencia Erotic Festival is going to bring together more than 130 international and national artists with the two stars of the festival being Nacho Vidal and Cicciolina. Over the four days of the festival anything related to sexuality and eroticism will be on show be it a product, service or activity.

cicciolinaParticipants at the Erotic Festival in Valencia will be able to see more than 1200 live shows featuring some of the hottest stars of the adult industry, speak to more than 130 national and international artists.  Aside from the spectacular live shows there are going to be sections about erotic art, a BDSM zone where Ama Monika will introduce participants to the world of sadomasochism, an area designated exclusively to the sale of adult material, toys and the like, workshops, body painting, massage, gay area plus much more. The city of Valencia will also be getting fully behind the festival with events taking place all over the city leading up to and during the festival.

The Valencia Erotic Festival promises to be not to be missed event for all lovers of eroticism. Come and explore your wild side you might just find that it isn’t that wild after all.

The Rastro Market in Madrid

The centuries old Rastro Market in Madrid is Spain’s most famous outdoor market. Whatever it is you are looking for you can find amongst the numerous stalls, the hustle and bustle of the hawkers and visitors and the numerous antique shops surrounding the area.

The origin of the name of the Rastro Market  is an interesting one. Centuries ago the area  was occupied by various tanneries close to the abbatoir, when the dead animals were dragged to from the abbatoir to the tanneries they left a trail of blood or a rastro, hence the name.

Rastro in MadridThe Rastro occurs every Sunday and public holiday in the Embajadores neighbourhood between the Cascorro Square and Ribera de Curtidors. From early in the morning until three in the afternoon the 3.500 stall holders set out their wares inviting visitors to buy or find that elusive bargain. The Rastro has often been compared with famous markets like the Encants Market in Barcelona or Portobello in London, but to tell the truth it has its own special character.

Rastro Market in Madrid At the Rastro Market in Madrid you can find a number of new and second hand articles, among them antique watches, perfumes, hand made jewellery, oil paintings, ceramics, comics, pet food, hammocks, plants, books both new and used, vintage clothing, musical instruments and many more things.

The best time to go is early in the morning, avoiding the crowds and getting in first on some great deals. After spending the morning wandering the market the best option is to stay in the neighbourhood enjoying some great tapas and beers and soaking up the atmosphere of Madrid.

Where: Calle Ribera de Curtidors and surrounds.

When: Sunday’s and Public Holidays 9am-3pm

Getting There: Metro L5, La Latina Station. L1 Embajadores Station 

Czech Beer Festival in Prague

Czech_Beer_Festival_PragueA visit to the Czech Republic is a beer lovers dream. It seems wherever you go there is a different beer to try and at an unbelievable price, we are talking really really cheap. No wonder the Czechs drink more beer than any other nation in the world. So how does the birthplace and current world number 1 beer loving nation in the world celebrate? Why with a beer festival of course.

Czech-Beer-Festival-02 Whilst not in the same league as its more famous and more popular cousin, Munich’s Oktoberfest, the Czech Beer Festival held in Prague offers the visitor to experience the Czechs love of beer in one venue. Lasting for 17 days this event draws together beer connoisseurs from all over the world who come together to sample the wares of more than 70 brewers. Huge marquees with capacity for 10,00 people are erected and women wearing traditional costumes weave their way through the crowd laden down with huge litre containers full of liquid gold serving the beer faithful.

czech beerThe festival is primarily about beer but there are lots of other events occurring as well, the main one being the Rock ‘N’ Beer Fest, 56 bands performing over the 17 days are sure to keep the well lubricated public happy and drinking into the early hours of the morning. The Czech Beer Festival in Prague also brings together some of Prague’s finest restaurants offering succulent local cuisine to festival patrons, think of a whole cow roasting on the spit and you have an idea of what to expect at the festival.

The Czech beer Festival in Prague begins on the 15th of May and finishes up 17 booze filled days later on the 1st of June in the Prague Exhibition Centre. Fortunately there is a park nearby where you can have an afternoon nap if you have indulged yourself too much at the festival. Na Zdravi (cheers)

Taormina: the most beautiful city in Sicily

sicilia_taorminaDefinitively, if you go on a cruise, you will stop in one of the most beautiful islands of the  Mediterranean Sea: Sicily. Normally you can stop in Palermo, the capital, or  if you are coming from Naples in the port of Messina. Well, a good plan if you are going to spend some time in here, after visiting Messina which is quite small, is to book a private shore excursion to Taormina and Siracusa. Why do we suggest these two cities? Because if you want to know all the characteristics of the Italian island, you must go to those cities as their features are unique and really emblematic.

Taormina was a Greek settlement. Later, it was conquered by Romans, Arabs and many others. Today it is a charming town, well known for its famous international resorts; a place with an endless style and some luxury: actually there are refined shops and interesting galleries. If you like ancient history and archeological settlements, you should visit the Taormina amphiteatre, one of the most important ruins in Sicily, with its breathtaking views over the coast. On the other hand, if you prefer nature and landscapes, there is tons of unspoiled natural beauty to enjoy. You can also take the “funicular”. From the top to the shore and see, from above, all the many gorgeous beaches, the caves, and the coast on the eastern side of this wonderful island. Book your private shore excursion to Taormina with Papillon Service, easily and online, and get to see some of the best natural scenery of the Italian peninsula.

Another option is to go to Siracusa. Like Taormina and all the South of Italy, it was first Greek and then Roman, Arab and Norman. Each one of these populations left its own architectonic and cultural mark; today, these different features are the main characteristics of the Sicilian cities, and you can enjoy this historical mix while walking or in the gastronomy too, as the flavor of many dishes can be similar to the Greek or the Moroccan ones. Siracusa was the homeland of one of the most famous mathematicians of all history, Archimedes. If you book a private shore excursion to Siracusa you can go and see not only to this beautiful city, that is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, but also to the Necropolis of Pantalica, in which archeologists have found approximately 5,000 tombs dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC, most of them cut in the rock. So, don’t waste your time looking for the best option for your tours while you’re on the land. Book your private shore excursion to Siracusa and enjoy all the beauty of Sicily. You can customize your tour and the English speaking drivers will explain you everything you want to know about all the points of interest. They will take you wherever you want, stopping when necessary and giving you the time to enjoy the landscape, the food or the relaxing moment during your trip.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Entering the Field of Stelae is a sombre experience, the uniform grey, undulating pattern, narrow passageways between the more than 2,700 concrete blocks evoke a feeling of immense solitude. The further you enter inside the Field of Stelae the more you are cut off from the sights and sounds coming from outside, walking amongst the blocks which sometimes tower over your head and others are no more than few centimetres off the ground, light fades and temperatures drop it is easy for the visitor to become disorientated an enforced feeling of isolation sets in,  an attempt by the architect for visitors to experience , albeit in a very small way the sense of isolation, disorientation and horror experienced by the Jews during World War II.

Located in the heart of Berlin, the Field of Stelae, forms part of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a memorial which honours the more than 6,000,000 victims of the Holocaust.  The tour information centre begins with an overview of the Nationalist Socialist policy between 1933 and 1945, featuring images and texts at the final of the starting hall there are six large portraits representing each age group and gender of the holocaust victims.

The Room of Dimensions outlines the enormity of the Holocaust, quotes from Holocaust survivors and victims speak of the atrocities committed against them, the perpetrators of the atrocities strove to ensure that there was no record left of the people they exterminated. The diaries, farewell notes and letters shed light on the feeling of desolation, horror and suffering they experienced.

The Hall of Families follows the fate of 15 Jewish families, before, during and after the Holocaust. Documents and photographs highlight the separation, expulsion and destruction of these families.

The Room of Names is an attempt to put names to the victims of the Holocaust, the names, year of birth and death are projected onto the walls of the room. It would take six years, seven months and 27 days for all the names of the victims to be projected on the walls of the room.

 The Room of Sites shows the 200 localities of the persecution and destruction of the Jews, films and photographs show mass shootings, extermination and concentration camps, forced marches and deportation routes. The seven largest extermination camps are shown in detail and audio stations have witness accounts from the time.

A visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a sombre reminder of the atrocities that man is capable of committing against man and a must see to ensure that the Holocaust is never repeated.