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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Christmas 2012 in Madrid – four things to do

We’ve already taken a look at what Christmas in London will be like this year, so this blog entry we decided to head to warmer climes to see what’s planned for Christmas 2012 in Madrid. And we weren’t disappointed with the selection of nativity scenes, ice rinks, Christmas markets and Christmas lights we found. Here’s our four favourite activities on offer during Christmas 2012 in Madrid.

Go to a Christmas market

There’s several Christmas markets taking place in Madrid, including places like Jacinto Benevente and the Plaza de España. The main one is in the Plaza Mayor, and is relatively tat-free. You’ll find a variety of traditional Christmas-related crafts, as well as some gift ideas, spread over more than 100 stalls. Open from the 24th of November to the 31st of December, from 10 am to 10 pm.

See a nativity scene

Nativity scenes, also called “belenes” in Spanish, are very popular throughout Spain. This year, the City Council’s famed nativity scene will be on display in the CentroCentro Cibeles de Cultura y Ciudadanía (also known as the “5Cs”). It’s free to see, and made up of more than 350 pieces. Open from the 1st of December to the 3rd of February, open during the 5Cs normal hours.

Go ice skating

There’s several places you can go ice skating in Madrid during Christmas. Of these, the large Christmas tree and free entry often makes the Plaza de Callao a natural choice. This year, the skating rink will be open from the 18th of November to the 15th of January, from 10 am to 10 pm all week.

See the Christmas Lights

The best of Madrid’s Christmas lights is normally to be found along the Gran Via and surrounding streets. This year, the honours will be done on November 30th, and the lights will illuminate the streets until the 6th of January, from 6 pm to 10 pm (11 pm on Thursdays and Sundays and 12 am on Fridays and Saturdays).

Christmas in London 2012

Christmas in the British capital is a magic affair. Lights, markets, ice-skating and of course the traditional last-minute Christmas shopping mad dash are all typical of what you can expect. Here’s our quick guide to what to look out for if you’re thinking about spending Christmas in London.

Christmas Lights 2012

  • The Christmas lights in Westfield and Carnaby Streets have already been set to go. If you missed out, don’t worry, there’s plenty more places where you’re arriving just in time for the Christmas lights ceremony.
  • Regent Street (November 13th) will switch on its lights along to a choral performance, and a Team GB Olympics tribute theme.
  • Marylebone High Street (November 14th) will be officially lit up by British TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, as well as local schoolchildren.
  • The streets around St. James will switch their lights on on November 21st.
  • Trafalgar Square (December 6th) will switch on the lights all around a traditional Norwegian tree.

Christmas markets in London 2012

The two largest markets are the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (Nov. 23rd to Jan. 6th), which will feature circus rides, an ice rink and food and drink as well as a market, and the Southbank Centre Christmas Market (Nov. 16th to Dec. 23rd), a traditional German-style market.

The Southbank Centre market will also be featuring a Chocolate Festival (Dec. 7th to 9th) and a Real Food Christmas Market (Dec. 14th to 16th).

Christmas shopping

In 2012, Harrods will once again be putting on its famed Christmas Grotto, although bear in mind that this can only be entered by rewards cards holders. Selfridges and Harrods have in fact already opened their Christmas shops (Harrods
Ice-skatingin particular caused controversy after opening its Christmas shop on the 26th July).

Various ice rinks will be opened in London at Christmas 2012. As well as the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, you can get your skates on at the Natural History Museum (until Jan. 6th), Hampton Court Palace (Dec. 1st to Jan. 13th), the Tower of London (Nov. 16th to Jan. 6th) and the Jubilee Gardens next to the London Eye (Nov. 17th to Jan. 6th).

 

As well as all this, look for the various pantomimes to hit London’s theatres, Santa’s Grottos and all the other wonderful ways there are to celebrate Christmas 2012 in London!

Amsterdam is the second-best place to visit in the world in 2013

What we’ve known for some time has been made official. According to the Lonely Planet’s annual ranking, Amsterdam has been rated as one of the most attractive cities in the world to visit in 2013, falling second only to San Francisco and surpassing tourist hotspots such as Paris, London and New York.

The celebration of 400 years of canals and Van Gogh’s 160th birthday were cited as reasons to consider staying in Amsterdam in 2013. In addition, the Rijksmuseum is set to re-open next year after a series of renovations, and the Van Gogh Museum will also be blowing out candles on the birthday cake – forty of them, to be precise.
As well as these one-off events, Amsterdam is also considered to be a great place to visit due to its multicultural society and the sense of liberty that prevails despite the coffee shop’s closing to tourists. The attractive streets of the city offer excellent public transport options. And let’s not forget the overwhelming friendliness of the people of Amsterdam, who enjoy a reputation for being gentle, pleasant and open-minded.
If you decide to visit the Dutch capital in 2013, we thoroughly recommend renting a hotel room or apartment in Amsterdam and heading out to see the city’s main sights – as well as the museums listed above, why not consider visiting the Anne Frank Museum, the Flower Market, Dam Square, Vondelpark or even taking a tour of the red light district? Or you might prefer to just wander spontaneously through the city’s streets, seeing where the canals lead you and finding out for yourself why the Lonely Planet rates Amsterdam as one of the best places to visit in the world.

Where to stay to sleep

When you are deciding where to stay to sleep, depending of your destination, you can choose, basically, between one, two, three, four or five stars hotels. You can pick an apartment too or a hostel but normally you will stay in a hotel.

But, what type of hotel? Do you know you can find some different hotels? For example, what about a hotel in a tree? You can find them in all world right now (some years ago no but in this time it is easier).

And, more curious. A hotel underwater. Well, this type of hotel is very expensive but, if you are going to get married, you can give you a caprice if you have the money you need to this hotel. They are strange and if you have problems with closed places you can not go to these hotels because you will have a bad moment.

You have unusual hotels to stay in them. One of this hotels could be the Library Hotel in New York City because they use, in its ten floors, the arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. Or The Burj al-Arab hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This hotel was built on an artificial island and you have to take a boat to leave or arrive to the hotel.

As you see, you have some unusual hotels in the world. You have to choose a hotel in base you like it and you can pay it. There are lots of hotels, ones very good and others very bad but you have to decided it, try not to guide for the opinions of others clients because, perhaps, you have not problems with that hotel. Sometimes you have to risk and probe one or other hotel. At last, you have more experience and a good or bad hotel too.

I amsterdam: the Amsterdam City Card

iamsterdam-card Holland is jam-packed full of things to see, so if you’re only on holiday in Amsterdam for a short time, you’ll want to make the most of it. The I amsterdam card offers you a series of discounts and totally free offers to some of the city’s most popular attractions for a one-off set fee of upwards of € 40. And, perhaps most importantly of all, the Iamsterdam card enables you to travel on Amsterdam’s public transport for free, meaning you can get to all those places you want to visit in record time.

The Amsterdam city card offers:

  • Free public transport (excluding train use)
  • Free entry to 36 of the city’s most famous museums, including the Van Gogh museum and EYE Amsterdam (although to visit the Rijksmuseum, you’ll have to pay separate entry).
  • A free canal cruise
  • A 25 % discount on other, more unusual forms of transport, such as horse-drawn carriages and canal pedaloes.
  • A 25 % discount in various of the city’s attractions and shows (such as the House of Bols cocktail museum and tickets to the Boom Chicago English-language comedy show.
  • A 25 % discount in each of the 25 participating restaurants.
  • Various freebies such as a cup of coffee, a free glass of sangria and a croquette roll.
  • As well as these discounts, the I amsterdam card also has deals will companies outside of the capital.

I-amsterdam

See a full list of included discounts and one-off seasonal discounts.

The I amsterdam card costs € 40 for 24 hours, € 50 for 48 hours and € 60 for 72 hours. The city card can either be purchased online or at various outlets throughout the city, including central station.

iamsterdam-app A free city guide is included, which you can download in PDF form here (or in app version for smartphones) even if you’re not thinking about purchasing the I amsterdam card.

Alternative walking tours of London

London is a city full of many different things to see and centuries of history behind it. If you’ve already checked out the obvious things, like Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, and you fancy getting off the beaten track, here are some routes through London that will allow you to see a different side to the City.

Alternative tours through London on foot

Rock tours

sex-pistols-bollocks London has made a name for itself around the world for artists huddled in dingy bars contributing to its world-famous rock music scene. Tour operators London Walks allow you to see everything from the Rolling Stones’ studio of choice to the place where the Sex Pistols first played. Rock on.

banksy-london Graffiti tours

London is a vibrant city that’s famous for its urban art, attracting subversive modern graffiti artists like Banksy. If you think that art should be on the streets instead of hung up on a wall, operators such as Aerosol Planet and The Alternative London Tours will take you to the city’s most brightly-painted crevices.

Jack the Ripper tour

jack-ripper If you want to see the dark side of London, Jack the Ripper Walk tour operators will help the trace the steps of one of the most famous assassins in history. The tour begins in Tower Hill, and takes you through darks streets to the pub The Ten Bells, where some of his victims had their last drink. For added spookiness, this tour is held during the night.

The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum in Amsterdam

The marijuana museum in Amsterdam is open from 10 am to 11 pm every day. Tickets cost € 9, and children can enter for free.

marijuana-amsterdam Yes, we know, Amsterdam is about much more than marijuana, parties and prostitutes. However, there’s no denying that this somewhat unholy trilogy has for many years been, for better or for worse, a major tourist attraction of the city. It might be the case that, now that non-residents are no longer allowed to access coffee shops, things might change somewhat. However, getting your hands on information about the culture and history hidden behind marijuana consumption has never been so simple.

cannabis-medecine The marijuana museum in Amsterdam (or the “Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum”, as it’s formally known) was inaugurated in 1985, and since then, every year receives around 75,000 visitors. It’s a small museum which documents more or less extensively everything related to marijuana culture.

bongThe museum of marijuana in Amsterdam gives information about the therapeutic properties of this plant, as well as more harmful aspects of its consumption. During a visit, you can learn about production processes, the different roles that cannabis has played over time in medical practice, agriculture and the impact the drug has had on different communities and religions. On your visit, expect to see a host of photographs and paintings, unusual objects and other diverse marijuana paraphenalia.

The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148-1012.

NEPAL-HINDU-RELIGION-FESTIVAL

Public bike rental in London, Paris and Barcelona

bike-retro-girl What better way can there be to discover a city than to rent a bike and cycle through with the wind in your hair and the scent of freedom (and possibly less savoury odours) in the air? Many major cities, including London and Paris, offer visitors use of communal city bike rental for a small fee. Here, we give the lowdown on European city cycling.

Rent Boris Bikes from London

boris-bike Black cabs, red buses, and now blue bicycles! The London bikes are commonly known as the “Boris Bikes” after Mayor of London Boris Johnson. You can rent a bike in London with any Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card. All you need to do is enter your details at the station. Bike rental either lasts 24 hours (£ 1) or seven days (£ 5), and the first half hour of your journey is free(after about 1 h, prices rise fairly sharply, so be careful!). Find a full price plan, as well as service maps and other useful things, on the Transport For London website.

Rent Velib’ bikes from Paris

velib-paris A chic shade of grey has been chosen for the Velib’ bikes in Paris. Similar to the London scheme, you pay first for access (€ 1.70 per day) and also an increasing amount according to your journey time (again, the first half hour is thrown in free). You can do rent bikes with a debit or credit card, and failure to return the bicycle incurs an € 150 fee on that card.

Bicing bike rental in Barcelona

bicing-bike Many of us have eagerly watched those cheerful red Bicing bicycles in Barcelona and wondered how we can get out hands on one,. Bad news, I’m afraid. The Bicing bicycles are only available to residents of the city. If you already have a DNI/NIE resident’s number, you can sign up for a smartcard which allows access to the bikes on the Bicing website. If you’re not a city resident, you’ll find plenty of private bike companies, especially in the gothic quarter and along the seafront.

These are some of the main ones, but you’ll find other public bicycle rental schemes in Copenhagen, Lyon, Oslo, Dublin and Corfu to name a few!