Kinsale: Colourful town by the bay in Ireland

Kinsale: Colourful town by the bay in Ireland

Have you ever been somewhere so charming, that the minute you arrived you knew that a little piece of you would be left there upon your departure? For me, that place was Kinsale, Ireland.

I backpacked across Ireland for three weeks a couple summers ago and of all the towns and cities that I visited while there, Kinsale was by far the most captivating.

Kinsale is a happy little fishing village along the coastline of the County Cork. The first thing I noticed upon arriving in the village was the picturesque view of the numerous boats and yachts sitting out over the water, and the bright, colourful buildings in every direction.

The narrow, winding streets provide endless shops, restaurants and lively pubs to be explored. With earthy green gift shops and deep blue eateries, every one of the buildings is painted a unique colour. I recall talking to my taxi driver about the many colours of the buildings and he said even the homes are painted this way, his was painted a bright yellow.

The engrossing atmosphere and friendly locals make it the perfect town to explore for the day, or even two. I was shocked to find out that the town also has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife. With the streets so quiet and peaceful during the day, that if a pin were to drop, I swear you’d hear it streets away, I didn’t expect it.

Kinsale: Colourful town by the bay in Ireland

There’s no question, the laid-back people of Ireland love to unwind and chat with close friends once the day is up, and Kinsale is no exception. The many pubs came to life after sunset with live traditional folk music and Guinness on tap, of course.

Another reason many travellers make it out to Kinsale is for the food. The village is self-styled as the gourmet capital of Ireland and has a wide variety of gourmet restaurants for such a little village. It’s a seafood lover’s heaven, and it certainly satisfied my inner foodie.

The place feels like a hidden gem, as its harbour is bordered in and seems almost protected from the chaos of the outside world by a 17th century fortress. Charles Fort is located across the bay, only a short drive from the village, and James Fort is located on the other side of the harbour. These historic forts can be spotted from the village. Their lush green pastures and preserved stone fortresses make for a breathtaking view.

I know it won’t be long before I return to Kinsale, even if only to get that little piece of me left there.

24 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

24 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is the most prosperous and cosmopolitan city in Spain. A replica of Columbus’ ship is in the harbor. Its most picturesque aspect is seen in the old Gothic quarter around the 14th century Cathedral. Midday sundays the traditional local dance, the sardana, is performed in front of the cathedral.

Close by are the Palacio de la Diputacion, seat of the ancient parliament of catalonia, the Ayuntamiento, and many other attractive old palaces and mansions. Barcelona’s 19th century architect, Gaudi, produced the large, but still unfinished Church of La Sagrada Familia, the weird structural decorative designs of which characterize Gaudi’s other major works, the two animal shaped houses in the Paseo de Gracia, his playground at Parque Guell and the Guell Palace (Museum of spanish Theater). A funicular rises to Montjuich Park, where the Palacio Nacional houses the Museum of Catalan art with primitive structed Spanish village.

24 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

Folk art is made and sold at the Pueblo and in summer there are folklore evenings. The Museum of Modern Art in the Parque de la Ciudadela has some of Salvador Dali’s works and Picasso is on show in his museum on calle Moncada. The Museo Taurino, in the Plaza de Torros, is a bullfighting museum. The Plaza de Cataluna is the city center. Barcelona’s major festival is Nuestra Senora de la Merced, celebrated 20-24 September.

The main excursion is to the mountain monastery of Monserrat, founded in 880 AD. The two prides of Montserrat are the Black Virgin, reputedly carved by St Luke, and Escolania, a children’s choir with a 700 year old history. The museum in the village contains works by El greco, Caravaggio and Corrigio.

24 Hours in Barcelona, Spain

Main Sights

The Barri Gòtic (Catalan for “Gothic Quarter”) is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Catalan modernista architecture (related to the movement known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. Several of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.

Barcelona was also home to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the International Exposition for Germany, it is an iconic building that came to symbolize modern architecture as the embodiment of van der Rohe’s aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details.” The Barcelona pavilion was intended as a temporary structure, and was torn down in 1930 less than a year after it was constructed. A modern re-creation by Spanish architects now stands in Barcelona, however, constructed in 1986.

Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture,[56] the first (and as of 2015, only) time that the winner has been a city, and not an individual architect.

Traveling to Larnaca in Cyprus

Traveling to Larnaca in Cyprus

Larnaca is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus and the capital of the eponymous district. It is the third-largest city in the country, after Nicosia and Limassol, with an urban population of 84,591 (2011).

Larnaca is known for its palm-tree seafront, the Church of Saint Lazarus, the Hala Sultan Tekke, the Kamares Aqueduct and its medieval fort. It is built on the ruins of ancient Citium, which was the birthplace of Stoic philosopher Zeno.

Larnaca is home to the country’s primary airport, Larnaca International Airport. It also has a (both passenger and cargo) seaport and a marina.

Larnaca Culture

Arts

Larnaca has a theatre and an art gallery, which are operated by the municipality. The Cornaro Institute is a cultural centre in Old Town and which stages contemporary art exhibitions and other cultural events.

Music

Local institutions include the Municipal Wind Orchestra.

Traveling to Larnaca in Cyprus

Sports

Local teams include (football:) AEK Larnaca FC and ALKI Larnaca FC. Due to the Turkish occupation of Famagusta, the two teams of Famagusta, Anorthosis and Nea Salamina, are located here.

Local sports arenas include GSZ Stadium, “Antonis Papadopoulos”, and “Ammochostos”.

International competitions held in the city, include the Shooting Shotgun European Championships in 2012, the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH Youth World Championship in 2012, the European Under-19 Football Championship final in 1998 and the European Under-17 Football Championship final in 1992.

Larnaca attracts windsurfers from around the world especially in autumn. Mackenzie Beach hosts windsurfing centre together with an extreme sports centre.

Festivals

Much of the activity is centered around the city promenade during the major festivals. The most important of these is Kataklysmos or the Festival of the Flood, celebrated in early summer with a series of cultural events. The festival used to last for about a week, but, in recent years, with the increased commercialism of peripheral stalls, rides and temporary lokmades restaurants, the festival has been extended to about three weeks, during which the seafront is closed to traffic in the evenings. Lokmades (or loukoumades) is a sweet delicacy.

Museums

Museums found in Larnaca include the Larnaca District Archaeological Museum, Pierides Museum and Kyriazis Medical Museum.

Cuisine

The beaches of Larnaca are lined with nearly identical seafood restaurants catering to tourists. Although there are many continental and international restaurants in Larnaca, visitors do not miss out on indulging in the local food. Many of the staple dishes involve beans, such as fasolaki (French beans cooked in red wine with lamb), and louvi me lahana (black-eyed beans with chard). Some of the standard appetizers are potato salad, kohlrabi salad, and hot grilled black olives.

The next course may include Cyprus village sausage and sheftalia, dolmades and keftedes, kolokassi in tomato sauce, and several aubergine-based dishes. Baked or grilled lamb (souvla) usually appears somewhere in the course of dining, as does some kind of fish.

Limassol: A thriving resort town in Cyprus

Limassol: A thriving resort town in CyprusLimassol: A thriving resort town in Cyprus

Limassol is a city on the southern coast of Cyprus and capital of the eponymous district. Limassol is the second largest urban area in Cyprus, with an urban population of 160,000–176,700. The municipality is the most populous in the country with 101,000 inhabitants (2011).

The Port of Limassol is one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean transit trade and the largest port in Cyprus. It has also become one of the most important tourism, trade, and service-providing centres in the area. Limassol is renowned for its extensive cultural traditions, and is home to the Cyprus University of Technology.

A wide spectrum of activities and a number of museums and archaeological sites are available to the interested visitor. Consequently, Limassol attracts a wide range of tourists mostly during an extended summer season to be accommodated in a wide range of hotels and apartments. A large marina lies near the old town, 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the Limassol medieval castle.

Limassol: A thriving resort town in Cyprus

Limassol was built between two ancient cities, Amathus and Kourion, and during Byzantine rule it was known as Neapolis (new town). Limassol’s historical centre is located around its medieval Limassol Castle and the Old Port. Today the city spreads along the Mediterranean coast and has extended much farther than the castle and port, with its suburbs stretching along the coast to Amathus. To the west of the city is the Akrotiri Area of the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Limassol ranked 87th worldwide in Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey (2015), between Durban and Tallinn.

Discovering Côte d’Azur in French Riviera

Discovering Côte d'Azur in French Riviera

The Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera, is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France, also including the sovereign state of Monaco. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from the Italian border (Italian Riviera) in the east to Saint-Tropez, Hyères, Toulon, or Cassis in the west.

This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales.

In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century, it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II, it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region. Officially, the Côte d’Azur is home to 163 nationalities with 83,962 foreign residents,[3] although estimates of the number of non-French nationals living in the area are often much higher.

Discovering Côte d'Azur in French Riviera

Its largest city is Nice, which has a population of 347,060 (2006). The city is the center of a communauté urbaine – Nice-Côte d’Azur – bringing together 24 communes and over 500,000 inhabitants and 933 080 in the urban area.

Nice is home to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, France’s third-busiest airport (after Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris-Orly), which is on an area of partially reclaimed coastal land at the western end of the Promenade des Anglais. A second airport at Mandelieu was once the region’s commercial airport, but is now mainly used by private and business aircraft. The A8 autoroute runs through the region, as does the old main road generally known as the Route nationale 7 (officially now the D N7 in the Var and the D6007 in the Alpes-Maritimes). Trains serve the coastal region and inland to Grasse, with the TGV Sud Est service reaching Nice-Ville station in five hours and a half from Paris.

The French Riviera has a total population of over two million. It contains the seaside resorts of Cap-d’Ail, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël, Fréjus, Sainte Maxime and Saint-Tropez, It is also home to a high-tech/science park or technopole at Sophia-Antipolis (north of Antibes) and a research and technology center at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. The region has 35,000 students, of whom 25% are working towards a doctorate.

The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d’Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50% of the world’s superyacht fleet, with 90% of all superyachts visiting the region’s coast at least once in their lifetime.

As a tourist centre it benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.

Yerebatan Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Yerebatan Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey. The cistern, located 500 feet (150 m) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

The name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. Before being converted to a cistern, a great Basilica stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic centre. The basilica was reconstructed by Illus after a fire in 476.

Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Hagia Sophia. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city.

Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern. The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

Yerebatan Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

Yerebatan Basilica Cisdern In Media

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian, and is located under the Soviet consulate. Its real-life location is a considerable distance from the former Soviet (now Russian) consulate, which is in Beyoğlu, the “newer” European section of Istanbul, on the other side of the Golden Horn.

In 1969 the cistern was used as a setting in Pawn in Frankincense, the fourth of the Lymond Chronicles books by Dorothy Dunnett.

The finale of the 2009 film The International takes place in a fantasy amalgam of the Old City, depicting the Basilica Cistern as lying beneath the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which, in the film, is directly adjacent to the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The cistern is featured in Clive and Dirk Cussler’s 2010 Dirk Pitt fiction novel, Crescent Dawn and The Navigator.

In the 2011 video game, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, the player controlled character, Ezio Auditore, is given the chance to explore a section of this cistern in a memory sequence entitled The Yerebatan Cistern.

The cistern is also featured in Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s film thriller Brotherhood of Tears (2013). In the sequence, the lead character, acting as a transporter (played by Jeremie Renier), delivers a suitcase to a mysterious client (played by Turkish actor Ali Pinar).

The cistern with its inverted Medusa pillar was used prominently in the climax of the new Dan Brown novel Inferno featuring Robert Langdon, where the antagonist planned to make his attack.

In the young adult Marvel novel Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, published in October 2015, the climactic scenes take place in the cistern and in a secret lab hidden behind it.

Traveling to Mykonos and Santorini Islands in Greece

Traveling to Mykonos and Santorini Islands in Greece

Greece, of course, has the most instantly recognizable vernacular architecture: not only the white-cube style of the Cyclades, so beloved of tourist posters, but the jaunty red pantiles of northern Greece and the neoclassical pediments of the Dodecanese.

Greek handcraft articles are a good buy in any part of Greece and include woven fabrics and small fabric bags from Arahova (near Dephi); woodcarved articles from Metsovon and Vitna (near Tripoli); island knit-wear; textiles from Mykonos; handmade silver jewelry from Ipiros; gold and silver ornaments from Rhodes; ceramics and alabaster from Crete; Sykoros pottery; handwoven shirts and dresses; sandals; sponges; honey; ouzo; brandy; brass and copper; worry beads; embroidery; flokati (long pile rugs in vivid colors).

Traveling to Mykonos and Santorini Islands in Greece

Despite their touristy ambience, Santorini and Mykonos have the two supreme white-cube towns, and nobody can deny that, of the two, Santorini’s has the more dramatic situation, clinging a thousand feet up to the precipitous lip of a sunken volcano. It makes a perfect cruise-ship stop, and the view is a must for first-time visitors; but for me, that is where the attraction ends. Santorini’s town, so pristine and peaceful from a distance, is unexpectedly tacky at close quarters.

The treadmill of backpackers and sightseers arriving briefly to register the view before squeezing onto the narrow black sand beach gives it a feeling more of a transit camp than of a lazy Greek island. Mykonos, too, suffers from an excess of visitors, but it manages to receive them with a sense of style and chic that has been lost on most other major tourist islands. On my trips to Greece, I always enjoy spending a few civilized days on Mykonos, but “Been there, done that” is my normal response to Santorini.

Welcome to Luxembourg

Welcome to Luxembourg

Luxembourg City, founded in 963, was once one of the strongest fortresses in Europe and you can still walk through the Casemates a 14 mile long network of underground passages hewn out of solid rock. The city has 91 bridges, the newest being the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge, 178 feet high, which limks the city with the Kirchberg Plateau.

The Ducal Palace, built 1580 and renovated in the 19th century, is not open to public. One of the oldest parts of the City is the Marche aux Poissons (fish market). Here are the Museum of History and Art, and the Natural History Museum while in Luxembourg Park is the J P Pescatore Museum.

Children will enjoy a trip to Bettembourg, seven miles to the south of Luxembourg City, where the Parc Merveilleux has a miniature zoo and farm, a fairy wood and a mini train and boats. Not far to the North East is Walferdange, which also has a children’s park, and Senningen where is a zoo.

Luxembourg Culture

Luxembourg has been overshadowed by the culture of its neighbours. It retains a number of folk traditions, having been for much of its history a profoundly rural country. There are several notable museums, located mostly in the capital. These include the National Museum of History and Art (NMHA), the Luxembourg City History Museum, and the new Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art (Mudam). The National Museum of Military History (MNHM) in Diekirch is especially known for its representations of the Battle of the Bulge. The city of Luxembourg itself is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, on account of the historical importance of its fortifications.

The country has produced some internationally-known artists, including the painters Théo Kerg, Joseph Kutter and Michel Majerus, and photographer Edward Steichen, whose The Family of Man exhibition has been placed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, and is now permanently housed in Clervaux. Movie star Loretta Young was of Luxembourgish descent.

Luxembourg was the first city to be named European Capital of Culture twice. The first time was in 1995. In 2007, the European Capital of Culture[132] was to be a cross-border area consisting of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland in Germany, the Walloon Region and the German-speaking part of Belgium, and the Lorraine area in France. The event was an attempt to promote mobility and the exchange of ideas, crossing borders physically, psychologically, artistically and emotionally.

Luxembourg was represented at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, from 1 May to 31 October 2010 with its own pavilion. The pavilion was based on the transliteration of the word Luxembourg into Chinese, “Lu Sen Bao”, which means “Forest and Fortress”. It represented Luxembourg as the “Green Heart in Europe”.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner in Amsterdam

Breakfast, lunch and dinner in Amsterdam

Breakfast will not leave you wondering how you will last out until lunchtime; the Dutch believe in statring the day with a hearty meal. The first meal of the day always served in your hotel in Amsterdam, is nearly always included free in the cost of your hotel room.

There are cafes and restaurants near Dam Square, round the red-light district and Leidseplein. You’re expected to tip. All cafes and restauruants include service in the check. This can be vary from 10 % in snack bars, 10 % – 15 % in most restauruants and to 27 % in expensive ones – but you’re still expected to leave a tip. Leave a further 5 % – 10 % depending on how you rate the service.

Most of the Dutch go in for a koffietafel, as evening meals have a tendency to be very high in carbohydrates. The best advice is: follow their example at lunchtime. There are over twenty-six types of cheese. There are numerous regional specialities to sample; one of the best is groene haring. Follow the example of the Dutch and eat it from the street stalls. It’s at its best during the first few weeks in May and makes a welcome change from hamburgers.

All About Finnish Sauna with Beer

All About Finnish Sauna with Beer

The Sauna, the world famous Finnish bath, is a part of every Finnish home. To be nvited a sauna party is to meet the Finn at his most hospitable.

Finnish beer comes in light or stronger grades. Next to beer the national drink is Finnish Vodka, drunk as Schnapps and like the Finnish berry liquers Mesimarja (Arctic bramble) and Lakka (Cloudberry) is usually served ice cold with meals. Scotch and American whiskies are available. Restaurants (mostly licensed) and bars open until 1 am or 2 am; night clubs open until 4 am.

The Finnish sauna is a substantial part of Finnish culture. There are five million inhabitants and over three million saunas in Finland – an average of one per household. For Finnish people the sauna is a place to relax with friends and family, and a place for physical and mental relaxation as well. Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.

Many different types of sauna can be found in Finland. They can be classified either by the sauna building itself or by what kind of stove it uses.

The main division of saunas is between once warmed and continuously warmed stoves. All smoke saunas are once warmed, but there are also other type of ovens that are once warmed.

Once warmed stoves have larger amount of stones that are warmed up before the bathing. This can be done by burning wood, with or without chimney, oil or natural gas. Continuously warmed stoves have lower amount of stones that are heated during the bathing. The warming can be done burning wood, oil or natural gas, or electrically.

The temperature in Finnish saunas is 60 to 100 °C (140 to 212 °F), usually 70–80 °C (158–176 °F), and is kept clearly above the dewpoint despite the vaporization of löyly water, so that visible condensation of steam does not occur as in a Turkish sauna.