Europe

0 575
Pont Des Arts Paris
Pont Des Arts

Many bridges in Paris have made it into the annals of worldwide fame: Pont D’Alexander, Pont Neuf, and the modern Pont Solferino, to name a few. One favorite is the Pont Des Arts, loved for many reasons by Parisians and visitors alike. The pedestrian-only bridge, which leads directly from the left bank into the Place de Louvre, draws visitors for many reasons during all times of the year. Here are a few reasons why the Pont Des Arts is the liveliest bridge in Paris.

LouvreThe central location of the Pont Des Arts makes it happily unavoidable during a visit to Paris. When crossing the Pont Des Arts from the left bank to right, behind you will be the Académie française. This impending, domed building is home to les immortels, forty academy members who hold the keys to the french language. These members, who are a part of the Academie for life (unless removed for bad behavior), plublish the official French language dictionary. Intimidating, especially for visitors who are still struggling to grasp basic words in the language!

Across the bridge sits the Musée du Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world. Formerly a fortress and palace, the Louvre and the attached Tulleries Garden are a source of French national pride and worth a visit. On the first Sunday of each month from October to March, admission to the Louvre—and select other museums in Paris—is free of charge.

Evenings on the PontOn warm nights, especially in the summer, the Pont Des Arts becomes a gathering place for Paris’ young adults. You will find university students, au pairs, and artists sitting along the edge of the bridge with a bottle of wine, enjoying a picnic dinner. As the night moves on, music fills the air and the dinner groups began to blend and mingle together. It is the place to see and be seen, and the favorite place to kick off a night of Parisian fun- and maybe make a new friend or two!

During the day, the Pont Des Arts lives up to its name as artists and sellers line the bridge with their canvas works and sculpture. Though not as annoying as the peddlers in the city’s parks, it is important to have your wits about you when dealing with them. However, there are a number of talented painters and sculptors who sell their works from the Pont or on either side of its steps, and their work is worth a second look if you have the time.Artowrk

Romantics particularly love the Pont Des Arts because of the famous “love-lock” tradition. Lovers and friends visit the bridge, armed with a padlock, some paint, and a key. The pair writes their names or a message on the lock, then secure it to the fencing of the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. In 2010, the Paris City Hall banned the use of love-locks on the Pont Des Arts, but recently they have begun to reappear. After a railing collapsed in early 2014, glass or wooden panels have replaced some of the traditional railings and wire fencing on part of Pont des Arts to prevent amorous couples from attaching padlocks inscribed with their names, initials or messages of affection.

Whether you’re on your way to the Louvre to ponder La Joconde or simply on a stroll towards the Jardin Luxembourg, try to cross over on the Pont Des Arts- you never know what you might find on the wooden planks of this bridge.

1 97

The Replaced Roses: Belarus

by Klaudyna Szewczyk

I stood far high up above the ground. At least higher than I previously thought. The

distance from the last step off the train to the grass in the ditch below appeared to be at least

3 feet. When the train slowed down, I jumped and suddenly everything stopped. My heavy

backpack hampered my movements. As I hit the ground I dispersed the force of the impact

by collapsing into a crouch: one knee on the ground and my hands touching the cool grass.

I slowly looked up. I could smell the characteristic and familiar smell of the train tracks, a

mixture of rust and steel carried by the wind. A gust of wind swirled around me, carrying a

greeting from this unfamiliar country. I was ready to explore. Silently I accepted the invitation

from Belarus.

Behind me, I heard anxious voices. The train had stopped before arriving at the

platform of the train station. During trips to the East such things cause concern. I also felt that

something was not quite right. I wondered to myself why, without any warning, were we told

to leave the train in such an unorthodox fashion? I looked at the outskirts of the city with its

towering grim buildings surrounded by small clusters of trees. A tingle of fear ran down my

spine. During World War II most of the professors and academics in Poland were captured

and sent to East to work in labor camps or to be executed. Despite my resolve, I could not

help wondering how those who had come here before felt as they were transported to the

labor camps?

The train finally came to a complete stop and I reached out and helped other travelers

down off the train. We trudged to the only bus stop where the bus took us to the center of

the city. The frightened voices of the group flooded over me like a mounting wave. The

sound drilled into my ears until they reached my stomach and fear set in. A thought sprang

up unbidden in my mind, “All important feelings have their origin in the belly.” At the time,

I did not remember whether they were the words of Winnie the Pooh, Garfield, or Snoopy.

However, if they were true then the dinner which I consumed later should have silenced my

fears instead of keeping them and me awake.

The tension continued to grow later as I sat with a group of educators from my

university in a restaurant within the city. The decor of the room gave the a strong impression

of the essence of the works of Jules Verne. The walls were covered with maps, sketches, and

pictures of models of many strange devices such as flying machines and submarines. The

dinner itself felt more like a play in a theater than a meal. The waiters appeared like actors on

the stage. They played their roles well suggesting dishes as if they were mere props. It was

difficult to decide if this was a great performance or Tea with the Mad Hatter? Certainly, the

design of this place was beautiful but the tension in the pit of my stomach still grew.

Later as we walked through the strange city we passed several dozen groups of

gardeners planting fresh flowers in the city’s public flower beds. Just like in “Alice in

Wonderland” roses were being replaced: red for white or white for red, it was difficult to tell.

The streets, monuments, museums, fortresses… everything was perfect like a set designed

expressly for the ceremony accompanying our visit. Involuntarily I looked around expecting

to meet the Queen of Hearts. We had to take a bus to go visit the city’s ancient fortress which

is usually closed to the public. Suddenly the thoughtful silence of the group was shattered by

softly uttered words, “Do you remember how many Polish intellectuals were murdered here

during World War II?” Panicking, I had not realized that I had spoken my thoughts aloud and

in the shocked silence I could almost hear the roar: “Off with her head!” I looked around to

see how others had reacted to this statement. However, no one looked at me. All eyes in the

room stared at the mousy student sitting dejectedly in the corner seat. With a sigh of relief, I

realized that it was he, not I who had actually spoken the words we had all been thinking

since crossing the border into this country. Do you remember November 6th,

at the mercy of a tyrant much worse than the Queen of Hearts.

A few days later, I stepped out of the train station in my hometown and my brother

took my heavy backpack away from me. As I stood there, surrounded by the familiar and

precious sound of free and uninhibited conversations, the hidden fear I felt during my days in

Brest allowed me to see something that was as natural for me as the air I was breathing. I

finally took a deep breath and the knot of anxiety disappeared from my stomach.

I suddenly felt that until that moment I had never understood the true meaning and price of

strenght and freedom.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

1 65

THE MARCH OF THE LIVING

We drove an hour from Cracow to Auschwitz where we had toured yesterday, but this time we were joined by 15,000 Jews from 46 countries.

We lined up for the March just inside the Auschwitz gate. First in line was the delegation from Israel, which included many students and a group of Israeli soldiers. They were followed by a large group of students and adults from Hungary.

“Why Hungary?” I asked. Then I heard the sobering reason. Seventy years ago in April of 1944 the Nazis rounded up 420,000 Hungarian Jews and brought them directly to Auschwitz. In ten weeks they were all gassed to death. Almost half were children.

I decided right then that I was marching for them.

Indeed I was. Each marcher was given the name of a Hungarian child to march for. I had Anne Zucker from Budapest. She was two years old when she was sent to the gas chamber. TWO YEARS OLD! What could she have done to deserve this fate? How could God have let this happen to her?

I marched for little Annie and my heart ached for her.

In total the Nazis murdered 600,000 of Hungary’s 800,000 Jews.

We marched en masse from Auschwitz to Burkenau “the largest Jewish graveyard in the world.” In every direction I looked I saw masses of people, old and young, a sea of royal blue and white. Many had wrapped themselves in Israeli flags.

As we marched we heard the names of the Hungarian Jews who died in Auschwitz.  I placed a marker in the ground to honor little Annie Zucker. Another one I placed to remember all of my family members who were shot to death and burned at Baba Yar in Ukraine.

One young boy whose great grandmothers both had died in Burkenau asked a rabbi if he could have a Bar Mitzvah on the train tracks that brought his great grandmas here. The rabbi performed the service on the tracks with the boy in front of a tearful but cheering crowd.

A very moving ceremony followed the March on the grounds of Burkenau.

The President of Hungary was critical of his own country for not trying to help its Jewish citizens. He asked for a minute of silence for those who died in Auschwitz. He told us that if we took a minute for each individual who was killed here we would be sitting silent for three years!

The Head Rabbi of Israel told us not to let the Nazis win by abandoning our Jewish roots. “Come home” he implored. “Come home to Judaism!”

Israel president Benjamin Netenyahu addressed us by satellite. He reminded us that mourning the dead is important but not enough. We must also pledge to stay strong and support Israel to defend the Jewish people against those want to destroy us now.

The ceremony concluded with a stirring rendition of Hatikva.

More than ever before I am proud to call myself a Jew.

 Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

0 77

After months of planning, the trip was finally happening. I was thirteen years old and excited to be traveling outside the U.S. for the first time. Things did not exactly go as expected.

Our first destination in eastern Europe was Estonia. We had friends who invited us to their little countryside village, and would pick us up in Tallinn. For reasons still unknown to me, we couldn’t get a direct flight. But, we discovered, we could fly into Stockholm and take an overnight ferry to Tallinn. That seemed like it would be fun, I thought. A fitting start to an adventure. And so it was.

Having boarded the ship, the three of us—my mom, my aunt, and I—along with our two suitcases apiece, dutifully took the tiny elevator to the right level and clunked down the dark hallway to our assigned cabin. Erm…

Not that we’d expected a luxury stateroom, but this was a rather dark and miniscule cube, mostly occupied already with the bunks at one end. The wet bath took up most of the rest, leaving a table and a couple square feet of floor. Now it was clear why the woman at the check-in desk had laughed when we’d asked for an extra mattress. Having loaded the bunks with all our luggage, one of us still had to stand in the bathroom in order to shut the hall door. The room was lit by a couple of dismal-looking lamps which did not help brighten the windowless, airless space.

Then the ship must have gotten under weigh, because the noises started. Prolonged clanking noises, almost like—chains.

“Oh my God,” the realization hits. “We must be underneath the car deck.”

“That’s why there aren’t any portholes,” is the second revelation. “We’re under water.”

This reminds us unwillingly of the ferry accident that had been on the news earlier that year, 1999. We all concur on needing some air.

On deck, I zip up my too-thin fleece against the cold, wet wind, and watch the Swedish isles float past, green ghosts in a foggy, rain spattered sea. So this was to be the start of our three months living in eastern Europe, making our way from the Baltic nations of Estonia and Latvia, to Belarus, Ukraine, finally back through Belarus to Lithuania.

And it was an adventure indeed. I never knew it was possible to fit two people on one narrow bunk. Or to sleep listening to the creaking, banging weight of cars shifting above you. Our Estonian apartment was in the newest building, the envy of the village, which included such luxuries as a balcony threatening to fall of the building, and chunks of concrete that already had. We discovered that you have to pay extra for bedding on sleeper trains; in case you neglect to do so, you sleep on wadded-up clothes, and find yourself glued to the vinyl at the end of a night being jostled across two countries. I learned such essential phrases as “where’s the toilet” and “I don’t understand Russian.” McDonald’s became a delicacy—after plain boiled potatoes French fries are a taste of heaven. We became proficient at roach-hunting since our flat in Minsk was infested with them, down to inside the tiny, partially operational refrigerator. Not that there was ever much in it anyway. Our Russian phrasebooks were not very helpful on grocery shopping. Nor, for that matter, on any other topic.

 

Being only thirteen, this was all extremely educational for me. I hauled luggage that weighed as much as I did, learned to navigate public transportation and took in a confusing new language on the fly. I saw castles and monasteries and catacombs. I learned how, underneath our cultural differences, all people want the same things. We all love, we all dream, we all hope for a better life. I have traveled internationally several times since then, but that was a summer vacation I will never forget. And I will always be grateful for the experiences I encountered there, for the people I met, for the countries I saw, for an expanded perspective that taught me to appreciate the truly important things of life.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

1 93

Gratitude opens the world—it is the lingua franca of our species. Even if we grasp no other words in a foreign tongue, we will always strive to master please, thank you and where is the bathroom? the last of which implies the very definition of gratitude in its hoped-for relief of urgency. Once removed from the safety of familiar landmarks and customs, we come to value kindnesses of all size, but particularly small ones: the tip of a hat or the words buon giorno offered on the quiet streets of Verona in the early morning hours.

When we plan for travel, we study how to communicate our gratitude for exchanges both large and small, most especially for these moments when a stranger’s altruism brightens our sense of a nation. In Venice, a passing businessman notes our struggle and lifts my friend’s gargantuan red suitcases without a word, one in each hand, at the foot of a steep arch. The cases weigh over fifty pounds each. He carries them up and over to the bus station for us, departing with a quick wave goodbye.

 Pulling out of Rome, my mobile phone is dead. I cannot reach our host to inform him of our arrival in Orvieto, where he is to meet us that evening. I appeal to a woman on the train, who hands over her cell phone without the slightest hesitation that I might steal it. When I thank her profusely, she shrugs as if it happens all the time.

In Paris, we discover that our bank cards will not allow us to withdraw cash. At the end of dinner at a tiny brasserie in the Rue Cler, the owner informs us that he does not accept credit cards. For the first time in our lives, we cannot pay the bill. We panic. Will the owner call the police? The couple next to us, overhearing our plight, offers to pay for our meal, insisting that we can mail them a check when we return home.

A passing shower in Glasgow sends me dashing into a dark pub, my legs exhausted from walking all day on hard stone streets. As I settle into the high-backed bar stool, the damp afternoon sojourn has me missing loved ones back home. I say something to this effect when the bartender slides a pint of ale across the mahogany counter. When I request the tab, he smiles and says it’s on him.

With every trip, there is kindness. It need not be monumental to matter. Passersby in Seville lend directions to my hotel when I appear lost; in London, a man in a dapper blue suit holds the doors to the Tube when he sees me running to catch the train; en route to Amsterdam, a flight attendant moves me to the front row so that I’m first off the plane. Our flight is an hour late leaving Seattle, and there are hundreds of passengers to care for, but she watches out for me. My heart swells with gratitude when I make my connection, just barely, thanks to her. 

What good do I do in exchange for these gifts? At first, I cannot conjure grand evidence of my own compassion, at least, not enough to warrant the host of charmed adventures I’ve had. Then I reflect on the kindnesses I’ve learned to practice, inspired by those who have been generous to me on the road. At my regular coffee shop near King Street Station, I buy pay-it-forward drinks for strangers I will never meet. When visitors forget mittens and bumbershoots on the bus, I chase them down to return them. When walking downtown, I meet the searching eyes of tourists who inevitably want to inquire about the direction of Pike Place Market.

The more we travel, the more we see humanity in each other’s eyes. Our journeys not only reveal new customs and languages, they make us more obvious to each other. In exploring the world, we are granted the opportunity to be kind, and the opportunity to receive kindness from others. We are bound to each other by nothing but the human race, and somehow, despite all the ill in the world, this connection triumphs.

Years after an adventure, our struggles recede and gratitude remains. Our memories narrow to the moments when we overcame a challenge, often with the aid of a native—we were safely ferried, arm in arm, through the twisting labyrinth of an ancient city; a conductor lifted us by the hand aboard the train as it pulled away; we were invited to dine upstairs with a family just as their restaurant closed for the evening. Aid arrives when it is needed most, as if someone is watching out for us, and so our greatest adventures are fed with human kindness, and they end, if we’re fortunate, with eternal gratitude.

About the Author:  Gabriela Denise Frank is the author of CivitaVeritas: An Italian Fellowship Journey. Her work appears in The Wolf Skin, ARCADE and Behind the Yellow Wallpaper: New Tales of Madness, an anthology by New Lit Salon Press. Her next trip, which can’t arrive soon enough, is to Australia and New Zealand.

Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Gratitude Travel Writing competition and tell your story.

1 89
Photo Credit: SonOfJordan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SonOfJordan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SonOfJordan via Compfight cc

Meteora literally means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above.” Along with Mount Athos, it is one of the most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox Monasteries in Greece. Due to the outstanding geography of the area, the feeling you get when you arrive is surreal; as if the place was specially created to make you feel close to God.

There are six monasteries which can be visited. Some of them require a tiny entry fee (1 euro or 2 euros) and you can always make a donation. Remember to cover your shoulders and knees. Yes, all Orthodox Monasteries require visitors to abide to a dress code.

The monasteries date from the 14th -16th centuries and have been renovated over the years. Unfortunately, tourism has also impacted them and sometimes you may not exactly feel very contemplative here (and this happens in pretty much any church / monastery which has been opened for mass tourism).

Kalampaka (alt spelling: Kalambaka) is located at the foot of Meteora. If you are looking for an overnight to explore the area better, then this is the place to look for a place to stay. Plus, the city in itself is filled with history and there are interesting places to see: from the ruins of an ancient Greek temple to old churches.

Tip: should you want to come here to any Orthodox major holiday (Easter being the most important), make plans way in advance!

Meteora is located closer to Thessaloniki then Athens. So if you are looking for the easiest way to get here, then you’d want to fly into Thessaloniki. Sure, there are buses and travel agencies which organize trips to Meteora but to fully grasp the magnificent area, it’s better to be driving on your own.

Attention: if you are not used to driving in hectic European towns, you’d want to let someone more experienced to do the driving for you. Plan breaks and stop when you feel tired.

The winding roads and the backdrop of the mountains make it an interesting and beautiful drive. And since there are areas along the way where you can park, take advantage of them to both stretch your legs and take photos.

Map Thessaloniki - Meteora

The drive from Thessaloniki takes about 3-4 hours, depend on how often you stop, of course.

The drive from Athens is about twice as long. However, there is a very interesting stop along the way which would totally be worth it. Do plan to break the trip though. Drive from Athens to Delphi , visit the sanctuary, then spend a night in the coastal village of Glaxidi before driving further to Meteora.
Make sure to leave Athens in the morning – especially if you drive during summer. By the time you reach Delphi it would be noon and hot.

Map Athens - Meteora

The archeological site of Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In ancient times, it was the home to the most important oracle of the God Apollo. The archeological site and the museum are located within walking distance of modern Delphi, so you can easily find a parking spot and cover the rest of the distance on foot.

Depend on how long you spend visiting the site and the museum, you’d want to stop for an overnight rather than continue to Meteora.

0 142
English Cottage

English CottageEngland is famous for its lovely, pristine natural environs with pretty backdrops. Quaint villages surrounded by green hills and rustic coastal towns are characteristic of the English countryside. Doesn’t “English countryside lifestyle” conjure images of idyllic stone and thatch roofed cottages, rural farms, unspoiled landscape and scenic ocean views? In other words, the perfect escape from the hassle and bustle of city living!

DorsetThe next time you plan your vacation, you may want to check out English self-catering holiday cottages to live that dream of a blissful retreat in a home away from home.

A wide selection of cottages, country homes, farmhouses are offered for rent throughout England. These lodgings have retained their character and many, their period charm, despite being restored to provide modern conveniences. Many are of high standard with excellent facilities. The best choice for you will depend on your interests and preferences.

Beachy Head SussexIf you love the sea, get a cottage located in England’s coastal areas. There are cottages with picturesque sea views, near the beach or fishing harbors in the counties along the Southern coastline, from Cornwall to Kent, including the Jurassic coast in Dorset, which is a world heritage site. Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to the smell of fresh sea breeze, laze around or walk with your dog on the beach during the day, have your fill of authentic fish and chips and end your day watching beautiful sunsets?

Countryside PoolFor some freshwater relaxation during your stay, get a cottage with a private pool or one that is shared with other tenants of adjacent cottages.

Fishing enthusiasts on the other hand will delight in cottages located in Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Hampshire Avon. Those with children and looking for easy catch in a laid-back environment will enjoy private fishing in stocked carp ponds. For avid game fishers, South Devon along the River Dart is the best base.

Forest of DeanIf you’re a Robin Hood fan, a forest cottage would be the ideal choice. There are charming cottages in woodland areas in central Europe and you can even take an excursion to Nottingham for an up-close encounter with the legendary English folklore hero’s adventure land.

Thatched CottageThose who fancy luxury will find lavish accommodations, most located in historical areas, truly gratifying. There are exquisite places in the illustrious towns of Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon and Ludlow. Romantic cottages in Dorset are great for couples looking to renew allure in their relationships.

For those who want to experience laissez-faire closer to London, rentals in Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire would be the best fit.

Charming Farm HouseWhether for a short weekend break or for a month, for a couple, a family or a group of friends, self-catering accommodations suited to your taste (and budget) should be easy to find in England all year round. It may be good, though, to avoid peak periods like around summertime (April to September) and November to January, particularly during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Yet, if you plan your trip early enough, you should not have difficulty getting yourself billeted in a place best to your liking.

*****

Photo credits:
English Cottage: Karen Roe via Flickr
Dorset: Hardo Müller via Flickr
Beachy Head Sussex: YorkshirePhotoWalks via flickr
Countryside Pool: Kyle Taylor via Flickr
Forest of Dean: European Environment Agency via Flickr
Thatched Cottage: Supermac1961 via Flickr
Charming Farm House: David Sim via Flickr

Peel Tower

Manchester is a great jump-off point for a European vacation. Vacationers can fly direct from New York, Miami, Orlando and Las Vegas and then hop on to other popular tourist destinations like Turkey, Spain, Greece, the Canary Islands and other countries on Thomas Cook flights.

But before you move on to the other spots, first discover Manchester and the Greater Manchester area. After all, it is not the third-most visited city in the UK for nothing. Consider including these activities in your itinerary to make your Manchester visit more stimulating and worthwhile:

Peel Tower

1. See the panorama from Peel Tower
Climb up to this iconic 1852 memorial on Holcombe Hill in Ramsbottom and be rewarded with spectacular views of Greater Manchester and its surrounding areas, including the Pennines. The tower is a tribute to Sir Robert Peel, British Prime Minister in the 19th Century and founder of the metropolitan police force. While in the area, take time to discover the heritage of the village of Ramsbottom and if you happen to be there in summer, take the opportunity to go on an excursion on board one of the preserved locomotives of the East Lancashire Railway.

Peoples History Museum

2. Trace the 200-year march to British democracy at the People’s History Museum
Accommodated in a refurbished Edwardian Pump House, Manchester’s People’s History Museum features documents and artifacts of the fight for democracy in the UK, of which the city played a significant role. Britain’s political history is brought to life through interactive exhibits while the riverfront cafe at the ground floor provides a taste of the tumultuous past with its wartime menu.

MediaCity

3. Take a tour of MediaCity UK
This 81-hectare waterfront development is the new northern home of BBC. Visitors can see the network’s set-up and sets of some TV programs on a guided tour. Tickets for some TV shows are also available for those who would like to experience being part of the audience. Visitors can also see the latest films in state of the art cinemas. Other cultural offerings include the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra concert studio and the Imperial War Museum North. Sports enthusiasts can try playing football or netball at The Pitch, engage in watersports from wakeboarding to open water swimming at the Salford Watersports Centre, visit the Greenhouse where The Rugby Football League is based, or watch a game of cricket at the Old Trafford ground of the Lancashire Cricket Club. Of course, a trip to a “city” wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the local cuisine and shopping, which are offered at The Lowry Outlet, which also features weekend markets offering arts and crafts aside from locally sourced food.

National Football Museum

4. Have an up-close Football encounter
Football fan or not, a visit to the National Football Museum should turn out to be fun, with its interactive displays and games, aside from the FIFA and FA collections. Behind-the-scenes football stadium tours of Manchester United and the City of Manchester Stadium can prove to be exciting as well.

Manchester Central Library

5. Enjoy an evening of arts and culture at the Central Library
Manchester’s newly refurbished Central Library’s Library Live offers a program of performances and social activities worth checking out, from live literature, music, open-mic evenings to film nights.

Manchester Town Hall

6. Take a guided tour of the Town Hall
Manchester’s Town Hall is a one of the finest examples of neo-gothic architecture. It has grand ornate interiors and has a tall bell tower that houses several bells. The Clock Bell named Abel Heywood is the main attraction. Visitors can see stunning views of the city from here. Take a stroll around Albert Square to see interesting buildings and relax at an English pub after.

Ordsall Hall

7. Have a glimpse of medieval living at the Ordsall Hall
A 13th century manor house, the excellently restored Ordsall Hall in Salford area is a magnificent showcase of a household in the medieval times. It served as residence of families from varied occupations and social status, from nobles to mill workers. It is rumored to have ghost occupants at present and is not only open to the public but also available for overnight stays for those willing to take their curiosity a step further.

Manchester Canal Cruise

8. Cruise the canals
Several boat trips are available for those who want to experience cruising the canals and learning about their history. There are trips up to Liverpool that pass through lovely countryside and historical industrial areas. This is a relaxing way to discover Manchester’s history.

After you’ve done all of the above, you may end up wanting to stay longer in Manchester before flying to your next destination!

*****

Photo credits:
Peel Tower: Andrew via Flickr
People’s History Museum: Neil Turner via Flickr
MediaCity: RHL Images via Flickr
Manchester Central Library: pedrik via Flickr
Manchester Town Hall: mark andrew via Flickr
National Football Museum: tatchie via Flickr
Ordsall Hall: Bernt Rostad via Flickr
Manchester Canal Cruise: Duncan Hull via Flickr

2 105

I discovered Costa Garganica by chance. Two years ago, I had my first taste of the beautiful drive when coming from Rome to a tiny city on the Adriatic Coast. I was hooked, although my stomach wasn’t pleased with all the curves and bends in the road. In 2013 I did another part of the coast by car.

A bit of geography

Costa Garganica stretches from Mattinata (Italy) to Hvar (exactly , Croatia) . And thank you , Google, as I didn’t know exactly where it stops. I’ve been exploring only a small portion of it, from Mattinata to Peschici via Vieste.

For the best views of the Adrian Sea and Costa Garganica, you should be driving on SP53, then move to SP54 (those lovely curves!) , then back to SP53 and then follow SP52 all the way to Peschici.

Confused much? See the map below.

ItalyMap

Two of the most visited places on this amazing coastal drive are Vieste and Peschici. Manfredonia is also among the favorites in the region of Gargano although not technically on the coast (but do make sure to visit the castle).

A drive on Costa Garganica

Starting our drive in the wide gulf of Mattinata , we go north following the coastal line , to discover some very interesting places, each with its own cultural heritage. Make a point to stop at one of the towers on the road – close to the entrance to Vieste – to take photos of the sea and coast.

_1010812

Pictured above is “Arco di San Felice” which can be seen as you are standing in front of Torre din San Felice. Coming from the water , there’s a nice angle in which you can see the Tower right inside the arch.

Your next stop should be Vieste. Its old town is a pleasure to visit. Just try to make your way here during the tourist season. It may be busy but it’s also bustling with life and you will enjoy it. From the many small stores selling every souvenir imaginable , to the pizzerias which will make your mouth water and to the incredible architecture…all will make your stop worth while. Find the Belvedere. You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the sea.

Expect to spend anything from 2 hours to 5 hours in the area. And you should consider an overnight.

Start your next day with cappuccino and cornetto in one of the cafes. Then , you can enjoy a bit of time one Lungomare, the longest beach on the Garganic Coast.

Continue your drive to Peschici, although I can recommend another stop right when the sign to exit Vieste is placed. Chiesa San Lorenzo or the Church of San Lorenzo. Unfortunately it is never open but the views towards the city and its commercial port are just amazing. Now you can continue to Peschici.

I had the pleasure to visit Peschici in 2013. I loved the tiny cobblestone streets, dotted with souvenir shops and , of course, pizzerias. Yes, it’s a touristy town. But it is lovely.

Make sure to visit the Castle with its torture chamber. And don’t forget to go in the gardens. Now, take a look at the beach and at the sea.

Tired already? Right at the entrance to the Old Town there is a gelateria. And although I am not much of a foodie, I am certainly a big fan of some Italian staples: pizza, gelato and cornetto. And Italy does all of these great!

Amsterdam Canals

Vivid images of colorful countryside and rustic villages come to mind when the Netherlands is mentioned. It is a stark contrast to the other highly urbanized places in Europe, and is a delight to visit for those looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. Not to be missed are the following:

Amsterdam Canals

1. The Canals of Amsterdam
The wealthiest city in the world during the 17th century, Amsterdam is the commercial center and is the capital of the Netherlands. Its most popular attraction is its extensive canal system, measuring a hundred kilometers. Take an Amsterdam Canal Cruise Holiday to better appreciate the rich maritime history of this “Venice of the North” and see the beautiful ancient architecture, age-old windmills and picturesque parks along the way. While in Amsterdam, visit the Van Gogh Museum, home to a large collection of the works of Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh and some of his contemporaries.

Keukenhof Gardens

2. Keukenhof Gardens
Located in Lisse, southwest of Amsterdam, the magnificent Keukenhof Gardens is the largest flower garden in the world. It is a stunning showcase of the Dutch floricultural industry, and boasts of seven million spring flowering bulbs in lovely colors. Open only during the first two months of spring, Keukenhof also features its own art collection and hosts exhibits.

 

Windmills of Kinderdijk

3. The Windmills of Kinderdijk
Aside from canals and tulips, windmills may be the most iconic attraction of the Netherlands. The windmills were built as a flood control system, a big part of Holland being below sea level. The village of Kinderdijk in South Holland is a UNESCO World Heritage site with its well-preserved collection of 19 windmills dating back to 1740.

 

Muurhuizen Wall House

4. The Walls and City Gates of Amersfoot
Amersfoot is a well-preserved medieval city, with 13th century defensive walls and gates still intact. A visit to the town will give you a sense of how life was during medieval times. The Muurhuizen wall houses, which are houses built into the city walls, are amazing.

 

Grote Markt of Haarlem

5. Grote Markt of Haarlem
The main town square of Haarlem, Grote Markt or Grand Market is an interesting mix of impressive centuries-old architectural masterpieces including the town hall, the Grote Kerk or Great Church, the Fieshers’ Hall – the old fish market which is now a gallery for modern art, and the Vleeshal – the old meat market which is now home to the National Archive.

 

De Burcht Castle

6. The Canals and Castle of Leiden
Just like Amsterdam, it has a quaint canal system that offers beautiful sights. The oldest university in Netherlands found in 1575 is located here. From the city’s famous 12th century De Burcht Castle, one is rewarded with panoramic views of the old Rhine.

 

The Peace Palace

7. The Buildings and Mansions in The Hague
Although Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is the seat of the government. It has a cosmopolitan vibe and has stately buildings and grand mansions, including the majestic Peace Palace, which houses the International Court of Justice. Known as the “Royal City by the Sea,” the Hague is home to many members of the Dutch royal family.

 

Delta Works

8. The Delta Works of Zeeland
Considered the world’s best and biggest storm barriers, the Delta works have been called the “8th wonder of the world.” These were developed after deadly flooding hit the town in 1953.

*****

Photo credits:
Amsterdam Canals: Lyn Gateley via Flickr
Keukenhof Gardens: Robert Lyle Bolton via Flickr
Windmills of Kinderdijk: bertknot via Flickr
Muurhuizen Wall House: Jynto via Flickr
Grote Markt of Haarlem: Floris Looljesteijn via Flickr
De Burcht Castle: Paul Morris via Flickr
The Peace Palace: Roman Boed via Flickr
Delta Works: Jinterwas via Flickr