17
Feb
09

Who parked the boat in the middle of the square?

Piazza di Spagna or the Spanish square is situated in Rome and is very well known to travellers around the world. Most people remember it by the monumental staircase that is the biggest and the widest staircase in Europe. Other stories about this place include how it was divided between the French and the Spanish; about the triangles on the ground, the connection between the church (Trinita de Monti) and Basilica di San Marco…

My first association about Piazza di Spagna is the Fountain of the old boat, of in Italian ‘Fontana della Bracaccia’. Legends say many different things; how after the great inundation of Rome in 1588 one boat was left stuck in the mud at that exact place or how Pope Urban VIII wanted it installed because he was impressed by some boat that was brought by the river. What really happened was that Rome was, at that time, often flooded by the Tiber river (Tevere) and people had to move around the area in boats. The Romans didn’t like the fountain for a long time because that area in the 17th century belonged to Spain. And today, it is still mostly Spanish (the Embassy, the church, even sculptures dedicated to Spanish saints).

La Fontana della Bracaccia

So, who really parked the boat in the middle of the square we don’t know, but it is believed that Pietro Bernini designed the fountain. Pietro Bernini was the son of the famous Bernini that designed the monumental square in front of Basilica di San Marco (Vatican City).

Piazza di Spagna is now flodded with people and tourists taking photos every day throughout the year. During summer many people sit on the stairs resting, soaking up the sun.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

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15
Feb
09

Hotels as adventures – different type of travel

Travellers are a lot more demanding these days. In the times when categorization is no longer possible (or needed) and when all attention gets focused on whatever is new and different, we started changing our outlook on vacation. It’s still not hard to be original but, you can always exceed expectations.

Have you ever wanted to do something way different, try something uncommon, something you have never done before? Have you ever thought about hotel stays as adventures?

We all know about boutique hotels and themed hotels…that’s not it. More and more people are opening hotels in unusual places and it’s becoming rapidly popular.

You are familiar with

castles turning into hotels (they have been that way for years in Europe; some located in: Austria, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain…) as well as

historic buildings like monasteries, churches and train stations (located in: Sweden, France, Ireland, Norway, UK, Italy, The Netherlands,Turkey, Belgium, Spain, Hungary…)

It seams like everything can turned into a hotel…and the crazier, the better!

lighthouses (The Netherlands, Norway…)

Norway

tree houses (Sweden, Germany, Turkey)

Woodpecker hotel, Sweden

caves (Sweden, France, Turkey)

Turkey

they can even be found in forests (Sweden)

Sweden

underwater or floating (Turkey, Sweden, The Netherlands, Switzerland)

Utter Inn, Sweden

made from ice (Switzerland, Andorra, Sweden, Finland)

FinlandFinland

as prisons (Sweden, Slovenia)

Langholmen, Sweden

or inside planes and trains (The Netherlands, Sweden, UK)

Jumbo hostel, Sweden

even inside pipes in parks 😀

Daspark hotel, Austria

As you can see, Scandinavia is at the leading edge at the moment. In my opinion, some ideas are quite interesting…why not change the way we look at accommodation and travel. If it can be more fun, more exciting, and if you are up for it, you already have a good choice. It’s definitely changes the concept of travel and adventure…

Are you up for this kind of adventure?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

14
Feb
09

Venice announcement

Walking around Zagreb this last month I couldn’t get away from screaming travel agency windows with offers to spend Valentines Day or Carnival in Venice, Carnival in Rijeka and other usual tours that haven’t changed since 1980s. I wanted to visit Venice again. It’s been a long time since I last visited…and shame on me! because it’s so close. I’m actually really lucky; living in middle Europe, Mediterranean moreover has its benefits – you feel like you’re close to everywhere.

I decided to go to Venice, some time later in the week. My reason for going is to finally take photos of Venice Carnival. I’ve never been there this time of year. On my way home I picked up some itineraries in a few travel agencies to see what they offer. One day itinerary included a guided tour around the city, a couple of hours free to see the carnival and scheduled return home at 5 pm. If you take a two day trip, you arrive later in the day, have a guided tour and return to hotel outside Venice for dinner. The next day you have a tour of Murano, Burano and Torcello and you are off! I know that these tours differ from country to country but, in the end, it’s all the same. It’s a weekend trip.

Where is my free time, what do I do there? Why would you go somewhere, be shown around and then sent home. It sounds more like a museum tour. What happened to ‘travelling meant exploring’?

So, my plan is to take a train Zagreb – Venice – Zagreb. I will arrive around 7.15 am which will give me just enough time to take photos of sun rising upon Venice and of interesting places when they are more or less empty. Then I’ll have a whole day of exploring in front of me but, I won’t  tell you now what I have in mind 😉  The train leaves at 9.20 pm, which is perfect! To avoid the crowds, I won’t go during the weekend.

That’s it.  Venice, here I come!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

12
Feb
09

Local or local travel agency?

There is a topic I have been thinking and wanting to write about for a while now. A common thing in todays travel industry is to go to your local travel agency, pick a destination and book your trip with them. No, this is not another thought on why a personalized travel adventure is the way to go… I’ll try show you something in another way than you probably ever thought of it.

80 percent of spending by travellers and vacationers on package tours go to international businesses. This means that when you go to your local travel agency and buy a package tour, most of your money goes to airlines, hotels and other services. The money doesn’t go to local businesses and workers. Now, this may sound as a sustainable tourism topic, but I’m not writing this for travel writers or to tell you who should get your money. I’m not interested in that, either. My point is that you can get a package tour in most of the cases by the local travel agency in the place you are going to. That is only an indicator that it doesn’t matter much where you book your tour. Online services, guides, companies… The only thing you have to count in is what kind of vacation you want.

If you put yourself in a position to think that way, you can find all kinds of benefits; better service, lower prices, different dates, maybe get suggestions that your local agency wouldn’t give you…because they didn’t know or couldn’t arrange something like it. And just to make something clear…everything can be arranged, just not in the same price range. That is why a different point of view for time to time is a good way to find out what you didn’t know before.

To put all of this into perspective, let me give you an example…if I were to go on a cruise in Finland, I would probably want to contact a Finnish company that organizes cruises on their ships and book with them. No big deal, you can do it all online. Then I would book a return flight. And that’s it. You’ve cut your costs twice: you didn’t have to pay for travel agency’ service and you could choose a low cost airlines if you wanted to, book in advance to get the lower price on your ticket, use your flyer credits… you’ve also benefited by choosing the ship and the company you want to go with. There is never one option.

There are many reasons why do one over the other. The point was to give you an idea, a direction in which you will be able to think while planning your trips and decide which option is, in that case, a better one.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

12
Feb
09

Venice connected

When I think of February in travel, I think of Venice. For the very simple reason – Venice carnival. That is one of the most popular times to visit Venice. In addition to that, many travellers around the world dream to spend Valentines day in this city. But, in this post, I’m not going to talk about what you can do in Venice at this time of year,  I’m first going to show you something that was just launched that will help you plan your trip and stay in Venice.

Venice connected is a new online service that allows you to buy a number of services that might be necessary to you when you come to Venice. The plus side of it is that you can now plan and organize your trip more easily. Since all products and services are organized by season, you can plan your expenses in advance and what is more important, you are not dependable on travel agencies. Venice is the kind of place that is usually more expensive if you travel alone. Now, you can customize your Venice trip, besides hotel, easier. By that I mean, choose the number of days you want to stay, secure a parking space if you arrive by car, etc. It’s not packaged.

Many cities around the world have the option of buying and/or booking tickets online to avoid long waiting in lines, especially where is a limitation on the size of the group. At the end, people didn’t come all that way to stand in line. So, if you’re still not using that option when travelling, start searching, it will allow you to spend a lot more time on something else than standing in lines. Venice connected offers tickets for museums, public transport, securing a parking space and many other. If you buy products for more than one day, you get free internet access via wifi in San Giuliano Park. There is only one catch about Venice connected; you need to buy whatever you might need 15 days in advance. Also, Venice connected offers reduced prices.

Their website has a calendar where you choose your dates  and search for places on marked Google maps. Very simple, with only the basic information. But enough for booking what you need.

Hope this is a helpful source for you!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

08
Feb
09

Design Hotels (TM)

One of the benefits while travelling is staying at great hotels. If you like art and design, you will afford to stay at a boutique hotel that appeals to you. On the plus side, every design hotel is a reflection of culture and art at its best, so wherever you go, you’ll have a different feeling. There are many interpretations, or styles, from which you can choose. In today’s developed (but still not enough) travel industry, there will always be a company to offer special services, discounts, and people and hotels who will remember frequent guests and give you a special treatment because you keep on coming back…no matter where in the world.

Design Hotels (TM) is a company that gathers some of the best design hotels around the world. Most of the represented ones are located in Europe, form capitals to coasts. Once you choose the country and the place, you’ll be shown a list of hotels. Every hotel is presented to you with a description, list of facilities, explanation of the design concept and accompanied by a gallery of exceptional photos. Also, on the right hand side of every hotel page is a booking option so, you can check availability and prices while you are there.

Kruisherenhotel, MaastrichtCasa del mar, Corsica

On the plus side of this (these) company is that they offer better rates and discounts then you would get sometimes when booking directly with a hotel or through some other websites. You can join Desing Hotels Club and Design Hotels discount cardreceive benefits such as 50% discount for new members, special rate as long as you are a member and additional offers from time to time. Recently, Design Hotels (TM) introduced a 10% off for booking 21 days in advance.

Gallery of art, FlorenceHotel J, Stockholm

GO PRIVATE + is a service that offers anyone to book the entire hotel for business meeting or vacations, weddings, gatherings… Whether it’s you with your friends, family, colleges or partners, you can call Design Hotels and let the arrange the booking for you. Sweet!

The Levante Parliament, ViennaPuro, Mallorca

Which design hotel did you stay? Which ones you would like to go to?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

06
Feb
09

Monocle

In my last post I started talking about travelling as staying in touch with the world and as “staying in touch with ourselves”. Today, I want to talk to you more about the “pre-part”, about gathering information. Personally, I never use/read travel magazines; I try to avoid arid, same, told over and over again stories by different people as if they all experience the same place in the same way. We all don’t enjoy the same things, that is one of the reasons I started this blog. To show you a lot, told for my perspective, and to then let you pick a little of this and a little of that.

cover 20Today you have websites to tell you the facts and people to talk to about their experiences…or, at least, that’s the way it should be. One of my so-called resources is a UK magazine Monocle. Some of you probably know it and are thinking what does Monocle have to do with travel? It’s just news from all over the world… Well, that’s exactly why. Monocle includes Affairs, Business, Culture, Design and Edits category, every of which end with a Briefing – shortcuts on various topics. The reason why I believe it’s a good resource is because, well, except that I don’t perceive travel as sightseeing, it has a different outlook on the country, city, place… Without the usual “you should go there” and “Oh, it’s so beautiful…” you get to form your own opinion after you’ve read the article.

That is how I’ve found out about The Faroe Islands, that you can get there by helicopter, about the society faced with many challenges, their plans for the future and about the distinctive landscape. Also, where will you find out that Paris is building a new sculpture park, that 20,000 immigrants enter Italy illegally every year, about an interesting graphic retail in Barcelona or the art of making kimonos? The positive and the negative sides, they are all in Monocle.  Monocle magazine

Monocle has also opened its first shop, not long ago, in London. They offer a range of products created in partnership with leading design brands, some of which are very appealing to travellers. If you’re in London, find Monocle shop in 2A George Street.

What are your travel special resources? What is your area of interest?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

05
Feb
09

Travelling – staying in touch with the world

Travelling is a way of staying in touch with the world, of following the changes, of finding that perfect place. In our “quest” to absorb the foreign world around us, we travel every day…we read a book, a magazine, visit an exhibition. Travelling is a way of gathering information. If you’re not away somewhere, you are preparing yourself in a way; doesn’t matter  if you have a definite date or no.

Every time you take a magazine or  a book and  just leaf through and find a happening, a story, that is of interest to you, remember it. The next time you decide to travel, recall of those things – that is what you should do or where you should go. Organize your trip from those little parts. In my experience, it always works out the best. Yes, I will still see some of the usual sights, go shopping…whatever is “inevitable” but only because it’s what you like.

Northern Ireland

For example, when I went to Ireland, I set out to have a different experience. Before going, and even knowing I was going to take that trip, I read about the legends, seen many many photos, fell in love with the green, the shores, the cliffs… when the time came, I didn’t take the usual bus tour around castles. One of the days spent in Ireland, me and my friends took a roadtrip and went to places we wanted to go to, those we explored. We went and searched for places that no one would have shown us. So, a thousand kilometers, hundreds of photos, runs on the beaches and standing on the high edges amazed by the strong and painstaking ocean later I got the best experience of my life. I felt so happy and exhilarated because that was – me.

Do you know what experiences inspire you the most? Do you ever go that extra mile to have the greatest time even though you might be afraid or instead of saying: “Nah…that’s just not for me…I’m not going to do that…”

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

03
Feb
09

AirBed&Breakfast

AirBed&Breakfast is a newer online service for renting accommodation. I came across it searching the web quite some time ago but wanted to see how it was going to unfold. So, what is it all about…

AirBed&Breakfast official websiteI would explain it as an interactive online service where you can rent accommodation as a traveller or rent accommodation to other traveller coming to your city. AirBed&Breakfast offers travellers around the world to find Parisaccommodation all over the world, whether it’s just a room or a whole apartment. When you search for your stay, you can see the pictures, the description, information like breakfast and internet access, profile of a person who rents their place,a map and testimonials. The point is to get as much information and to communicate with each other. That way, you can choose the right stay and the right person you want to stay with. Another goal is also affordable accommodation. Depending on the location and the size and quality, you can find a stay for as low as €20 a night.

The service provides you all the booking options, as well as, cancellation one day in advance with a full refund. Payments can be made via credit cards and Paypall. As a host, it’s a great opportunity to make extra money or to present your room or any type of accommodation if you are already renting. You will receive a payment after providing the service via Paypall or a check. The great thing about it all is that every guest and every host must write a testimonial about each other that will be available for everyone to see. So far, people are mostly satisfied with the experience, being safe and inexpensive.Greece

The idea came from the US; most of accommodation available is still across the pond but it’s slowly spreading all over Europe and other parts of the world.

In my opinion, having a host can be a very good idea. You have someone give you first hand information, meet local people and maybe even be shown around. But, the way I see it is private accommodation rental (you would search for somewhere else) put online where you can get to know a little better your host or your guest before you meet, or before you accept their request for stay. Not so bad, right? 🙂

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

02
Feb
09

Berlinale Film Festival 2009

This morning, tickets for one of the most prestigious film festivals in Europe went on sale. The 59th Berlinale Film Festival opens on February 5 and lasts till February 15.

Berlin traditionally opens the winter term and partially serves as a European premiere for American film just before the Oscars. Berlinale came forward, during the last seven years, on the map of Europe and hosts today the largest audience of any film festival in the world, around 200,000 viewers. With up to 400 films every year of every genre, lenght and format, it’s comes as no surprise that it attracts the audience from around the world who come to witness this spectacle.

But what would be a film festival without the awards…Silver and Golden Bears are awarded to all category winners by the international jury. The official Berlinale awards are given to winners of “Competition” (major international films), the Panorama” (independent and art-house cinema), the “Forum” (experimental section), the Generation” (aimed at young audiences) section and Alfred Baner Prize for a film that opens new perspectives in the art of filmmaking. As well as Berlinale Shorts section and Christal Bears for the “Generation” section. In earlier years of Berlinale, the audience was the highest jury; but since the festival was given an “A-status”, the international jury became the highest even though the audience still has a possibility to vote.

Berlinale Film Festival poster

Festival films will be shown in a number of cinemas around Berlin as it’s written in the programme. Tickets can be bought on central ticket counter every day (starting today, February 2), through Eventim network with € 2 surcharge or they can be booked online (limited amount) with € 1,50 surcharge. Tickets range from €3-€15, depending where the film is shown.

Berlinale hosts films for all parts of Europe and the world every year. Though, it seams like it’s gaining it’s popularity for a combination of European directors and Hollywood actors.

None the less, it’s a great opportunity for all film enthusiasts to visit and enjoy Berlin during this two-week period.

Some of this year’s competitors:

Mei Lanfang (Chen Kaige, China)

Eden e a l’ouest/Eden is west (France, Greece, Italy)

Mammorth (Sweden)

Tatarak (Poland)

In the electrical mist (France, USA)

Berlinale has introduced and offers another advantage; guests and visitors are able to receive all contents of this year’s film festival on their mobile phone as well as a guide for an interesting selection of galleries, museums, wellness spots, and other sights. Everything is going online and is getting more accessible. Congrats to Berlinale organization!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

01
Feb
09

Where did the word “bankruptcy” come from?

Some travel stories are told over and over again, by travel guides or books. Some travel stories are told by locals….but other travel stories you don’t hear so often, because there aren’t a lot of people who know them.

They can be about anything or anyone, and even though this title “Where did the word “bankruptcy” come from?” doesn’t sound at first as a travel story, it is. Let me tell it to you, I’m sure you don’t know this one…

In Ancient Greece, bankruptcy didn’t exist. As the time went on, people started gathering on different public places, usually near busiest areas in cities around Europe, especially Italy. That is where they would put their benches, which would represent and be used as their work space. Their job was to lend money. The borrower would return the money in certain amount of time with interests. You can see them as usurers, which they were, but they created a concept from which banks derived.

the street from which the term "Banca rotta" derived

Of course, since they started individually and had to lend their money, many of them have very quickly found themselves in an unfavorable position – they went bankrupt. In that situation, the precursors of today’s tax collectors would come to their bench and smashed it with an axe. That was your official bankruptcy; you were out of business. Since the Italian word for “bench” is “banca” and for “ruined” “rotta“, that is where the word “bankruptcy”, as you know it today, came from.

It is also believed that the term “banca rotta” was created in this particular street (you can see in the photo) in Rome, Italy. The street is located near Piazza Navona. For ones who want to see it when they visit Rome, or for the ones who know Rome better, it’s located near Via della Pace.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

28
Jan
09

Sirmione, Italy

When you’re on the road in Europe, travelling from place to place, you make occasional stops. Sometimes those are just restaurants by the road, and sometimes you’ll stop in a smaller but popular tourist destination. If you’re passing through Italy, you will probably stop to take a bite at Autogrill, or visit Pisa, Siena, Ravenna or Verona. But what about other small places that are not as popular but are also interesting and beautiful; places that are not crowded with tourists or traffic, where you can take a walk and stop for lunch or dinner.

When I was driving back home from Lugano (a town in Switzerland very dear to me), passing through Italian region of Lombardy, I turned and made a stop in Sirmione. Northeast part of Italy and Switzerland are beautiful because of many lakes in the area. Sirmione is situated on Lake Garda. This area was a favorite resort to rich families from Verona and other nearby cities from 1st century BC. During the Roman era Sirmione became a fortified strongpoint defending the southern shore of the lake, partially due to its position (look at the map). Over the centuries it came into possession of different kingdoms are republics. At one point the noble family of the Scaliger (Scaligeri), who were lords of Verona, took over the leadership. They built this castle below which is today about a thousand years old.

me in front of Scaglieri castle in Sirmione

Sirmione is a nice town to visit. There are a number of churches besides the Scaglieri castle and the ruins of Catullus residence. Maybe you read Gaius Valerius Catullus poetry and know who he was (he was an ancient Roman poet who lived in Sirmione). It was summer time when I visited. I took a walk, made some photos (as usual), stopped in some local shops to see what crafts they occupied with (mostly pottery and blacksmith)  and went to a local gallery.

local shopme in the local gallery

One of the things I liked the most is this house…looks even more unbelievable when you see it n front of you…

All in all, Sirmione was great. The amazing view of lake Garda, calm atmosphere of the town and a few interesting places were just right…

Did you make a stop in a smaller town that left an impression on you? Which is it?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

27
Jan
09

First Cafe in Europe

Do you know what was the first cafe in Europe? Where did it open and what is the story behind it? If you didn’t, I’m here to tell you about it…

The first cafe in Europe was, and still is, Cafe Pedrocchi. You probably already recognized it’s located in Italy by its name. But some of you may suppose it’s in Rome, maybe Venice…but it’s not. It is in Padua.

Cafe Pedrocchi from the back side

This is Cafe Pedrocchi from the back, right from the building with gotic arches, the one with doric order.

Tourist agencies usually combine Padua and Verona, since they are close, as one trip and leave less than a day in Padua. But that doesn’t mean that is anything less worth the visit. There is the inevitable statue of venetian knight Gattamelata by Donatello, Donatello’s house (he lived in Padua), Basilica di St Antonio di Padua with the oldest Magnolia tree in Europe in the court of the monastry….

Cafe Pedrocchi is a result of bringing together two incredible talents; the ones of Antonio Pedrocchi and Giuseppe Jappelli. Antonio Pedrocchi inherited a little cafe from his father. In just a few years he succeeded in accomplishing his ideas, combining art and architecture. He invested in an ambitious project of his friend who was an architect – Giuseppe Jappelli. Pedrocchi wanted to create two different places in this amazing neoclassical building. One that would be a cafe, open 24 hours a day and be open to all guests, and another, reserved for “la creme de la creme” of Paduan society. It would be a place where parties and balls were hosted, same as mason and other business meetings. Very exclusive and luxurious.

Cafe Pedrocchi

Antonio Pedrocchi succeeded, he made his dream come true. And even more that a decade later Cafe Pedrocchi is still a successful cafe with the closest philosophy and is well-known as one of the biggest and best cafes in Europe. It really looks amazing when you see it with your own eyes.

It’s incredible how a story always enriches every place…don’t you think? Sometimes it seams like we travel to hear stories…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

22
Jan
09

A day in Graz – Squidoo lens

Town Hall in GrazI’m happy to announce that my “A day in Graz” lens was finally published today. It took me some time to write out the whole story in one piece and to present it in a way that anyone who hasn’t been there can easily get the idea of what it’s like to visit Graz…as I always try to do the same here, on my blog.

Here is my lens about Graz!

Enjoy and spread the word…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

21
Jan
09

Residenza D’Arte, Tuscany

Spring is approaching and it’s already time to start at least thinking about where you going to spend your next vacation. So to inspire you a little, I’m going to show you an amazing place in Tuscany, because I know Tuscany is a dream to many travellers.

Residenza D'Arte

Since I like to give a little edge to the travel experience, combine art most of the times and so on, I picked Residenza D’Arte as a perfect place in Tuscany. It’s located in SienaTorrita di Siena, 14th century village near Siena and other interesting towns close by. But even better, you have entire Tuscany to explore…Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Arezzo… The best way to get here is to take a flight to Florence, maybe spend a day there, if for no other reason than to be stunned by the complex of Florence cathedral; a combination of romanesque, gothic and reneissance architecture which was built by great artists like Arnolfo di Cambio, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti and Giotto. And then take an hour drive to Residenza D’Arte.

There isn’t much I can say…the pictures speak for themselves. The amazing views of nature, the park around this retreat and the colours! Residenza D’Arte was completely restored into a modern stay but with stone walls, arches and wooden beams continues to capture the tradition of Tuscany. All suites and rooms are furnished and decorated with contemporary art and design.

room-woman

Each suite is unique and specially decorated. You can choose from Suite, Superior room and Junior room, which are all very spacious and comfortable. They are accessible from that park which is also decorated with sculptures by Anna Izzo, as is the rest of Residenza D’Arte.

park

While you’re there, you can switch from just being and observer and participate in painting and cooking classes, explore local places and savour the best Tuscan wines, enjoy in thermal center of Montepulciano, go horse riding, rent a bike or a car. And what’s Italy without shopping?! The perks of staying here extend to having an outlet center that houses big designer names like Gucci, Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo etc. You can hire a driver or rent a private car.

This is my perception of an ideal place to relax and enjoy, to renew yourself…amazing art, stunning scenery, quietness.

What do you think? Is it already on your list? 😀 😉

What is your idea of perfect, relaxing vacation?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

20
Jan
09

Travel is broadening

How many times have you heard someone say that expression? Maybe you have said it yourself sometimes. I consider myself lucky I guess because I had the opportunity coffee-and-journalto travel outside my home country since I was just three years old. That way you easily get to love it and it becomes your lifestyle.

I remember when I first said this expression. I was still a kid, 12 years old. Spending three weeks in France for the first time, where I was “thrown” among other French kids to learn the language, I came back with a completely different experience than ever before. Well, I wasn’t completely alone, there were a few other kids from Croatia too, but we had different activities through the day and got split from each other, same as in our rooms. We did all kinds of sports, acting, dancing, social games, brain teasers and visited nearby places. What a way to learn the language! Better that sitting in any classroom, anywhere is all I can say…

But it wasn’t only a great way to learn the language. When they asked me how was in France, I said: “You know what, I have changed a lot, I’m a completely different person.” 🙂 Three weeks is a long time for a vacation but you don’t need three weeks to see the difference. Travel is so broadening because you take the time to live in a place that is in so many ways different than the one you live in, because you immerse yourself in another culture,  you learn about the place, the art, the people , the food. You interact with strangers, exchange opinions. Consciously or unconsciously, you learn and you change. While you’re away travelling, you are more open to the experiences and to absorbing all the pictures and all that is happening around you. So even a day or two will be enough to make a change, to deepen your insights.

Travel isn’t only broadening because you learn about what you see. One of the main reasons is also relaxation. This time I’m not talking about physical relaxation, I’m talking about relaxing your mind. Have you noticed the difference, how you forget about everything you had on your mind by then? And how some of your points of view and opinions have changed, how now you feel like you know a lot more, how you can speak about some things from your own experience and realize the difference before now and then? Do you remember how energetic you are when you return, how everything seems easier? Try writing when you return from your trip. It can be about anything really…you’ll be surprised by what you see.

Do whatever you like while travelling, explore, have fun with your friends or family. Whatever your definition of fun is, it doesn’t matter, the experience will be broadening. Some are life changing, some are a little changing, but they’re all yours.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

19
Jan
09

Paris exhibitions – winter of 2009

Some cities don’t have a best time to visit, there is always something interesting going on. If you are in Paris this winter and visiting Le Centre Pompidou, or popularly called Beaubourg, you have more reasons to be there then to see this amazing piece of architecture.

Le Centre Pompidou

Le Centre Pompidou hosts at the beginning of 2009 many interesting exhibitions. One of the artists that exhibits his work at the time is Ron Arad. He is a well-known British industrial designer and an architect. Being one of Carlton room divider/shelving unit the most outstanding contemporary designers, he is known by his expression with sinusoidal, elliptical and oval forms. To see a display of Ron Arad’s work exhibited at Centre Pompidou, go here. Open till March 16, 2009.
Except Ron Arad, you’ll be able to also see an exhibition of
Ettore Sottsass’ work (Hommage a Ettore Sotsass). He was an Italian architect and designer that influenced a major shift in international design in the 20th century. He is best known for his Carlton room divider/shelving unit, “Casablanca” sideboard and “Valentine” typewriter. Open till March 31, 2009. Damian OrtegaAnother great artist exhibiting at Centre Pompidou is Damian Ortega. A Latin American artist and one of the most prominent artists of the new Mexican generation. His work explores specific economic, aesthetic and cultural situations and in particular how regional culture affects commodity consumption. He is inspired by a wide range of mundane objects which are transformed into remarkable pieces of art, sculptures and mobiles. Exhibition open until February 9, 2009.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

18
Jan
09

Shops & more book review

Every time I travel to a bigger city,there are some things that I research in advance. Since I’m the kind of traveller that is passionate about architecture, art, design and culture, and I like to take my time to enjoy, you are probably starting to get the picture of how it all looks like. Except from visiting smaller art and photographic galleries, I sometimes know in advance about the shops or even the specific things I want to search for. If you are a so-called design conscious traveller, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

londonParis coverBerlin coverBarcelona cover

Just one of my many resources is a series of books called Shops & more. I’ve already written about Hotels & more in one of my earlier posts. Books, or better yet guides, are published by Taschen and include only four destinations; London, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. The cities are, same as in the other series, divided in a few areas of which each starts with a hand-illustrated map with shops marked on it. Those shops are then presented with great photos and in the end listed with some information like working hours,  X-factor (like a special feature) and a sentence more about the ambient since most is covered in photos.

Paris mapBarcelona review

Shops & more don’t only include fashion shops but everything including interior design, hats, hand-made cosmetics, tea & coffee, chocolate, gourmet food, bookstores, cookware, hand-made umbrellas, jewelry… there can even be an address for the local market.

There are a few things I always know; like what bookstore I’m going to in London, which designer studio I’m looking up for a bag, where am I going to buy “mini monuments” in Paris etc. And for the places I don’t have guides, I make my own. But when it comes to shopping, most of the things I leave to case because something will always surprise you…

paul-smith-furniture-shop-londonharry-lehmann-berlin

Usually, I’m very critical when it comes to guides in general, even with these “picture books” because I don’t believe all of them are great. But with Shops & more I’m really satisfied as far as the variety of places it includes. They know how to use photos to present and explain everything you need to know. So I would definitely recommend to look them as up and maybe use them as one of your shopping resources.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

15
Jan
09

Orient Express today

Very early, during the World War I, Orient Express service introduced new routes. Since the usual route from Paris to Istanbul was suspended, a new route over Milan, Venice and Trieste was allowed instead. Soon after, the Orient Express was running parallel services.

Orient Express trainToday, Orient Express, no longer offers the original well-known route. They are running somewhat shorter routes all around Europe but with the quality and the experience that stays remembered by anyone who takes one of those remarkable trips. The closest route to the original Orient Express that you can take today is the one that starts in Paris and then passes through Budapest, Sinaia, Bucharest and ends in Istanbul.  But there are many other that include The UK, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Watch the video of an old English couple traveling through The UK on Orient Express train Southern Belle.There are some really great scenes that show the landscapes.

Once you begin your journey, your personal steward will show you your compartment and help you with everything you need. All dishes are freshly prepared on board andOrient Express restaurantOrient served in front of you. Breakfasts and afternoon teas are served in compartments. Special requests, like asking for vegetarian or vegan menu, can be made at the time of booking. In the evening your steward will transform your compartment in a bedroom. And, of course, except from the spectacular scenery and amazing menus, you can enjoy the bar and the boutique. Here is a video from the Orient Express passengers about their experience while travelling…

Remember there is only one rule, you can never get overdressed and never enjoy too much…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

14
Jan
09

History of Orient Express

Probably the most popular train in the world travels through Europe. You already know its name – it’s Orient Express. I believe many travelers around the world have at least once wanted to get on board and travel the famous route, taking the role of a passenger that travelled that way at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. I know I have…

The original journey, as we know it, started in Paris and passed through (Strasbourg, Munich) Vienna, Budapest, Bucharest and ended in Istanbul. It first ran in 1883. But the route changed many times. During World War I Orient Express service was even suspended. At the end of the war it ran again, but changed it’s route; Istanbul – Sofia – Belgrade – Venice – Milan – Lausanne – Paris. During World War II, similar thing happened. It couldn’t run properly because some areas were closed and in other parts it was sabotages because of political issues. Eventually it was cut to Venice to Paris part only.

Orient Express histoireMurder on the Orient Express, first edition cover 1934The coaches of the authentic Orient Express were the place of many historical scenes and intrigues. One of the sleeping coaches, no. 3309, was a part of the train that was in 1929. stuck in snow for 10 days about a 100 km from Istanbul. The passengers only survived because the locals from the villages in the neighbourhood helped. Some of the coaches were a German loot during World War II. Even Bulgarian king Boris the Third was a train enthusiast and sometimes drove it himself.

But I’m sure that a lot of you remember Orient Express by Agatha Christie’s novel Murder in the Orient Express. Another amazing story led by the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The journey with Orient Express was called “The birthplaces of the Empires”. Very early its name became a synonymous of luxury travel. Today, the train is, of course, completely restored but the route from Paris to Istanbul no longer exists.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

13
Jan
09

Train travel enthusiast

railway in ItalyBy now you probably  know I love travelling by train. Very often when someone asks me what is the best way to see the countryside, or how to get to know more of the country except the final destination, I suggest the train. Well, there are always the benefits and the limitations. Looking at the overall picture, when I was reading a blog called cool travel guide where Lara was talking on a series of posts about it, I got myself into thinking why I liked it so much…

There’s always the dreamy, romantic point of view that reminds you of the long hours spent travelling, looking out the window, getting inspired by the amazing scenery. Some might add a book, some might write, but sometimes a cup of coffee or perhaps a glass of wine with a little cheese is just what you need to make your journey special. Maybe I’m taking it too far now, but I just remembered the movie “French kiss” with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. It’s an old one, do you remember it? When they travel by train in France to Cannes where he plans to grow his own vineyard?? That does it for me…

Other than that…do you like travelling by train? What is your favorite thing about it, why do you do it? If I compare it to other types of travel…hm, lets see. Travelling by car is tiring and can be stressful if it’s a long trip. It Munich to Churget uncomfortable but you have the freedom that you don’t have when you’re travelling by train. I don’t like buses at all, so that rules them out. 😀 Travelling by plane is quick and comfortable…well, depends where you are sitting. I like when a plane takes off and lands. Some of you right now are probably thinking “What?? Are you kidding me?!”, but I do. It’s interesting at first, then you easily become bored of the clouds and mountains or if you’re stuck flying for hours and hours over Syberia, I think you get the picture. And finally…cruising. Not the biggest fan though I think it all depends on the size of the ship and where you are cruising. People most of their cruise spend inside, not being aware that they are on the sea. It’ s just one big open space. What I can recommend for sure that you’ll enjoy is Croatian side of the Adriatic sea and Norwegian fjords. Nothing like it…

And here we are, at the beginning again… the ever changing scenery that you can only experience travelling by train wins. It’s the best way to get the know the country a little better, to see and experience more of it all.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

12
Jan
09

Backpackit – organize your travel information

Web applications can get as addictive as computer games. I’m giving you a little heads up at the begining so that you can decide if you want to read this post or you are already assuming what’s going to happen and you want to stop before it does.

Backpackit is a web application that allows you to organize your information in many useful ways. Since my blog is about travel, I’ll give you an example on how to use it to organize your travel info, but you can use it for whatever you want, too. This application allows you to create your own webpages about your trip. You can add notes, to-do lists, files and photos. That is great to plan your trip. You can make a page about it, include your hotel info, transportation, departure and arrival dates, list of places you want to visit with notes, links and pictures, include interesting stories you found out about, add some ideas and wish  lists… you will have all your trip information in one place in no time and the great thing about that is that you can share your pages with your friends, family or colleagues; with people you are travelling with. Or you can keep it all private. It’s not a social network, but because it’s on the web, you are able to share it.

page

Another great thing about Backpackit is group communication. That’s a virtual place where you write a note, your oppinion or a suggestion and other people, with whom you share it, can leave comments. That’s another great way to plan your trip, you don’t have to send a bunch of emails back and forth.

You can create calendar entries, alone or share a calendar with others in your “group”, that are colour-marked by types of events or people that use it. This means that you can plan every day you are spending travelling and set remainders, for you or others, that will be sent by email or sms.

message

If you do decide to share your pages and other information with your friends and collegues, and you can decide which ones and what exactly are you sharing, you can monitor the changes in a so-called newsroom. Every change and new entry will pop in your newsroom where you can see what your friends are doing at the moment or what they did through the day. That way you won’t do something that has already been done to organize your trip. It looks like Facebook feed.

It’s really easy to get addicted to it once you start creating pages, but it’s also a very useful tool. The best thing is that you can use it for whatever you need. If you are running a business, especially online, it’s a great way to keep your group organized and productive and to be able to monitor the progress. It’s a great application for students, school projects, running a charity organization…anything you can imagine!

…I told you so! 😀 😉

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

P.S. Try it out and let me know what you think of it.

11
Jan
09

Delikatessen Frankowitsch – Graz, Austria

Another place in Graz I want to steer your attention to more closely is Delikatessen Frankowitsch. There are two reasons for it. First, while travelling people have very different habits, what they eat, when they eat etc. I know that when I’m travelling somewhere only for a day, I tend to eat light if I sit in a restaurant  for lunch but I usually skip lunch, mostly because I forget about it.  So if I don’t sit in a restaurant, I take about half an hour to eat a little something, and I try to search for something local. On the other hand, if I’m travelling for a longer period of time, I enjoy going to restaurants. The second reason is that many people search for local food, to buy a little something to take home.

Delikatessen Frankowitsch

That is why Delikatessen Frankowitsch is a great place to show you. It is very easy to find, just off Herrengasse up Stempfergasse, you can’t miss it.

The place is divided in two parts. When you come in, on your right side you’ll see shelves and shelves of jams, honey, tens of different pates, pickled vegetables and mushrooms, olives, breads and sauces. In front of the shelves is a long refrigerator with probably every cured meet and cutles you can and cannot imagine; different sorts of cheese, salads and fresh pates. On the left is a great choice of wine, champagnes and beer. Oh, and don’t forget chocolate, olive oils and much more…

Delikatessen Frankowitsch inside

As you pass to the second part of Delikatessen Frankowitsch, you enter the buffet/bar where you can order any of their products and enjoy a quick meal, a drink or if you like some of their confection, a pastry or a cake. The place is always full of people, locals and tourists so don’t hesitate to drop by.

So what are your eating habits while travelling? Is this a kind of place you would look for?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

09
Jan
09

Cafe Sacher in Graz

Getting to any place is easy. Knowing what to do then is  the harder part… With Graz has always been easy for me, especially because I get the chance to revisit very often. Then you don’t have the feeling of urgency and the strict list of things to see. That’s why, if we aren’t coming back to a city or any other place more than once, we want to know how to get both; enjoy our destination without panic and visit great places we found out about that we probably wouldn’t otherwise.

Matea in front of Cafe Sacher

In Graz, Cafe Sacher is one of those places. For some the tradition they started back in the 19th century will be enough. But let me give you the other reasons you should visit Cafe Sacher…

Cafe Sacher interior

When you enter Cafe Sacher, you actually enter a passage. There are two different areas of Cafe Sacher. The first one looks onto the street (Herrengasse) and is modern, dark, with dark wooden stools and tables. It has a classy touch, like a blend of the old atmosphere and modern, but very simple interior. That part is just a cafe and it’ s the one I prefer. When I came there last time, it was already full. Down the passage, under the barrel vault and lighting from the floor covered in stone,  you’ll enter the other part of Cafe Sacher that partially also serves as a restaurant later in the day. This part has the feeling of past times, with secessionist furniture, marble tables and dimmed lights.

Cafe Sacher atmosphere

The staff on Cafe Sacher is really friendly and nice, and most important of all, they make amazing coffee. You can go for stronger or lighter tastes, or Austrian mixes with different alcohol beverages. The freshly brew their coffee and make fresh, “home made” cream. Of course, what would be a real European cafe without cakes?! Their menu changes, but what you should try your first time there is the Sacher cake or the Apfel strudel.  Sacher cake is a traditional Austrian chocolate cake with apricot jam and Apfel strulel is a kind of light pasty with apple.

original Sacher torte

Lovely place, don’t you agree?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

08
Jan
09

A day in Graz – Part 2

…As it was already afternoon and we decided to take a walk by the river Mur. You can enjoy the amazing views of the city, its diversity, the blend of the old and the new architecture. Lendkaiisland-on-mura-from-the-south

The second picture presents the Mur Island. Under the shell is an open-air theatre, a playground and a cafe run buy Sorger! Remember Sorger? The bakery I’m praising so much?? It was planned and built as one of the buildings for the year 2003 when Graz was the culture capital of Europe. At night, it lights up in purple and looks really interesting.

over MurKunsthaus

Looking at the other side or the river, you’ll see another odd looking glass structure. That’s Kunsthaus, Museum of Contemporary Art, also built by 2003 and with right earned the title of European culture capital. Due its looks, it is popularly called The Alien.At the time, Kunsthaus didn’t host any interesting exhibitions, so I’ll talk about the interior,  how your ticket is actually a sticker etc. some other time. Crossing the bridge, you are leaving behind one other landmark of Graz, Schlossberg. It’s a tree-clad hill with a castle which actually gave Graz it’s name. Gradec or Graz meand “little castle”.

schlossbergYou can either climb the stairs up or use Schlossbahn, a funicular. It’s especially beautiful in the spring when the trees are green and the sky is clear. Untill spring, I will just show you the stairs…a photo taken by a student living in Graz, which is amazing, the colours…quite sureal.

Heading back we bought “maroni”; it’s a sweet chestnut but bigger. You have to try them if you visit Graz (or anywhere in the area) in autumn or early winter. There are big stalls, smuldering and the sweet smell is spreading through the streets. We had a few more places to stop by, the places we always go to… like The Body Shop, a place to buy hand made cosmetics…

The Body ShopBody Shop goodies

Moser bookshop – with huge section of magazines from all over Europe, but the rest are mostly books in German so don’t get too carried away…

Moser bookstore

And the inevitable Haller for this time of year. Haller sells all kinds of glass Christmas decoration. One look at their window and you are sold…

Haller

When we left Graz, bringing home some sweets and presents,  it was already dark. We were happy that we spend our day exactly the way we wanted and we were surprised by the impression Graz left on us this time. When you stop chasing whatever you thought you should and just relax and start following what you’re interested in when you see it, while you’re there, that’s when you’ll understand what the place you are at is all about. I hope I succeeded in presenting Graz to you. It’s a lovely place and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Austria.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

07
Jan
09

A day in Graz – Part 1

The day finally came; Matea and I set off to Graz early, that Saturday morning. We arrived just around 9 am when shops started to open and the town was becoming more alive. It was pouring rain, unfortunately no snow as I had hoped for, so we decided to go to Cafe Sacher, our first stop. If you go to Graz, you have to go to Cafe Sacher; consider it a landmark. Their coffee is delicious, people are very nice and friendly and the Cafe has been around for a long time. Anyway, with already heated coffee machines and the smell of freshly brewed coffee, we had no problem waking up and being ready to walk the streets of Graz yet again.

Matea in front of Cafe SacherEspresso & Wiener Melange

When we came out, the rain was still falling, but significantly less than when we came. The whole idea of this trip was to rest, to take the time off and to spend it in a place we already knew but just enjoying the Christmas atmosphere and seeing Graz in a way we didn’t before, wandering the streets and discovering interesting places. Walking up Herrengasse, the main shopping street, we quickly came to the place we already knew – Sorger bakery to buy some delicious pastry. With no defined agenda we continued up the street just talking and laughing and making photos…

down Sporgasse

Graz is full of great bakeries; the old, the new, the ones with tradition… Explore them if you get the chance. All the pastry, bread and cakes are a delight for all your sences. Just like this one…

hofbacherei

Once you get a little further away from the center and the main shopping street, that’s when you start discovering those special places that are worth the visit, and, in the end, that make the city special. One of those places is Delikatessen Frankowitsch; a place to buy the best of cured meet, cutlet, cheese, bread, all kinds of cold salads and pickled vegetables, pates, olives, virgin olive oil, vine, champagne, beer, chocolate, and so much more. While you’re there, you can sit in a buffet/bar, order a drink, some food or even patisserie.

delikatessen-frankowitsch

In the neighbourhood you can find some interesting design stores. I would highlight Mur, a really great store with interior design goodies and nino d, which sells kind of different, but hip accessorize.

Mur windownino-d

Most of the squares in the center are Christmas markets and most of them aren’t anything special, in fact, you can find anything and nothing really. But since most markets around Europe are the same way (except the big popular ones), it didn’t bother me. I enjoyed more the colors and photographing people, than I ever would in any market.  There were some interesting handcrafts, especially from wood. But, that’s just my point of view. Matea and I loved the little wooden spiral spoons, which were a decoration..see the pic below.The only thing that will surprise you is the sweet cinnamon smell of hot wine that you can feel everywhere you go…

Matea on FarberplatzFarberplatz stand

As it was already afternoon and we decided to take a walk by the river Mur…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

05
Jan
09

Sorger – bakery in Graz, Austria

So one of the perks of going to Graz is being able to buy something delicious in one of the bakeries in Graz. My friend Matea and me have a little tradition, since we lost count of how many times we’ve visited Graz together plus all the times besides those,  of going to Sorger. We arrive early in the morning and to start a great day Sorger is our first destination.

sorger

Sorger is located in the center of Graz; the best to find it is to walk to Hauptplatz and then find Sporgasse where the bakery is. Sporgasse is a street going uphill and Sorger is just a few steps away on the right side.

The interior is elongated with wood pannels on the wall and stone one the floor. It looks cosy and warm. But I’m sure you’ll be taken over by amazing bakery goods a lot more than the simple interior. All the sandwitces, pasty, bread  and cakes will make your choice a lot harder. It all looks delicious! And don’t let me tell you how delicious it is… Our recommendations are Chocko-vanille hornetten, Mozart croissant or one of those integral rolls (try the one with cornflakes on top…crazy combination!). For you who don’t know what Mozat filling is, it’s the same as Mozat kugel, a small layered ball of chocolate, nought, pistacio and marzipan. It’s a traditional chocolate from Saltzburg, where Mozart lived. But more obout the some other time.

Sorger's pastrySorger breadSorger cakes

In the extension of the area is a place that looks like a cafe, where you can sit are eat what you bought in the bakery, order a cup of coffee and enjoy. Especially if it’s cold outside as it was when we visited Graz last time, before this Christmas…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

09
Dec
08

City maps

Every time you start preparing your trip, you probably head to the book store to search for some guides and maps because you get more engaged and you want to get a better idea of where you’re going. Sometimes it means getting a little bit further from that dreamy outlook that you had when you decided to travel to that destination. You start planning more specific things, finding sights, restaurants, museums on the map, trying to figure out transportation etc. Some of us buy a guide and ignore the bad map in the guide saying “We won’t get lost, we have travelled before and we were just fine…” or “Why would we need a map? We don’t plan, we like to wander around more…” That’s all great, and you definitely won’t get lost, you can wander all you want but you start changing your opinion when you are at your destination or when you come back home and realize you haven’t seen anything or done much.

It’s about time management. What does that mean??

berlin-2london-2florence-2

Some of you may have bought a city map. One of those pretty, colourfull, rainproof paper maps with some information on the side that at first looks  “cool”, but later you find it to be just an attraction factor, nothing useful. The thing is, it’s not easy to know what you should be looking for if you are not an experienced traveller; or if you don’t know much about the place you’re going to. These maps start to loose their charm once you search for a street that is not marked, once you are having trouble folding and unfolding that huge map, or when you really wish you knew where your stations and stops were or how to get to where you want to go.

If you’re like me, you probably thought of downloading and printing out public transportation maps from the net. That might be a good idea if you already bought your guides and maps. The tricky part comes when you’re on the spot, trying to find the map you need 😀 Just kidding… but if you don’t like a million papers, go for National Geographic Maps of cities. Except the city map, they include:

– regional map florence-map-2florence-back-side-2

– points of interest

– airport diagram

– public transportation map

There are things you should find by yourself and mark them on your map such as stores, restaurants, bars, hotels, museums and sites you want to visit. And things that you should get marked like public transportation information, all sights, legend, time maps and useful phone numbers.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

08
Dec
08

DOPPLR – share your travel plans

While writing my blog, I want to tell you about things that are related to travel, like travel gadgets, services, sources and books, besides travel destinations, plans and stories.

With the web changing every day and rapidly becoming the main source of, now, quality information and services, it’s time to start using it the way it is imagined. These changes are making a huge impact on the travel industry and very soon that will show as a big difference.

mid-2008-travel-outlook

Dopplr is an online service for frequent travellers. When you become a member, you can add your trips which will be shown on a map, and enter details of your itinerary; even your multi-stop trips. Once you’ve done that, you can find what other people suggest. It’s based on coincidence; the people you might meet, and most of the data is generated by your travel destination. Since you can keep your profile private or public, it can be used in many ways. You can share your travel plans only with people you trust. What I like about Dopplr is that it’s serious about member’s privacy which shows that they are a service first and a social network second.

interface

How to use Dopplr? Invite your friends and plan trips together by leaving them your information to see, find out where you can meet your friends and colleges next, read or add tips about different places, share your trips with people who might not be a part of your Dopplr network yet through Groups and stay informed. You can even use something they call “guest passes” to send specific trip information to someone who is not a member yet, and they will receive it in the way you  see it in your profile. But you are not restricted in information by the place you are planning to visit; search through City Profiles to answer questions, give/find tips and search for people who live or are travelling there.

dopplr-paris

As a social network, everything is pretty much familiar. You can add a Dopplr box on your Facebook profile and upload your Flickr images for every trip on Dopplr.

Check out Dopplr, you might like it. They started in December 2007 and looking at the way they are developing, there is a lot more to come I’m sure. Who knows, you might bump into me, say Hi and I’ll be happy to share my travel plans with you… 😉

Stella – European Travelling Advosor

*all images from Dopplr’s blog

04
Dec
08

Annie Lebovitz exhibition in London

img_annieleibovitz_150In mid October an exhibition opened at The National Portrait Gallery in London. It showcases a huge selection of Annie Lebovitz work from 1990 – 2005. If you find yourself in London by February 1, 2009, pay it a visit. I know I might just do the same…

Annie Lebovitz is one of the world’s revered portrait photographers. Her career thrived while she was working for the Rolling Stone Magazine, from which she later moved to Vanity fair where she still works today. She photographed some of the most important and well known public figures of the world; actors, musicians, presidents… Demi Moore, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Al Pacino, Mikhail Baryshnikov, etc. A lot of her photos have a requisite staging or a clear message.

nicole-kidman

The exhibition comprises more than 150 photographs that show her work with celebrities, her personal life and some of her reporter work during the siege in Sarajevo and Hilary Clinton senate US elections. It is said that the exhibitions brings a narrative into her work as well as an insight into her personal life. Since every showcased photo was chosen by Annie Lebovitz herself, it ads a very personal note to the way it’s laid out and the overall impression.

Tickets cost between £9.00 – £11.00 and need to be booked in advance!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

03
Dec
08

Resort Boutique Hotels

Although having the same philosophy as city boutique hotels, resort destinations bring significant differences. Location is still one of the most important things, but now they are not situated as close as possible to populated places. It’s the opposite, well-hidden places are more appreciated. That doesn’t mean that they have to be on desert islands, on the contrary, they can be anywhere.

room4small-pool

Resort boutique hotels are usually smaller in size and more intimate. Location and a small number of guests allows you to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and relax. One more thing that is the complete opposite from hotels in cities is the technological aspect. There are no electronic devices for entertainment or communication. Resorts are oriented toward rest and relaxation, a way to escape the city hustle and bustle. And they are serious about it. 😀

dinningpavilion

Santa Teresa Resort, Sicily

One the other hand, resort design hotels need to be more distinctive, more recognizable than those in cities. In this case, design is again not enough. The attraction factor then becomes local produce, cuisine, special spas or activities like ridding and art workshops (painting, sculpture…). Boutique hotels can be owned by anyone. What’s important is that they are a reflection of the local community. As an example I took these pictures of a boutique hotel in the Sicilian archipelago (shown above). It is situated half-way between Europe and Africa which is recognizable in design and atmosphere, same as food: fish, couscous and Arabic sweets.

Sometimes resort boutique hotels are closed during winter time. That refers to warmer regions only. Because, as I said before, resort boutique hotels are not reserved for tropical islands only, they can be anywhere in the countryside, even close to cities.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

02
Dec
08

City Boutique Hotels

There is one thing that always comes first about city boutique hotels. It’s location. Many would say it’s logical, location is always important; the closer you are to the city center, the more attractive you are. But, there is more to it. In today’s vibrant cities, certain neighbourhoods are considered the popular ones, or the fancy ones. And they are different in a way because they have something that others don’t; it’s an artist’s area, it’s well-known because of the old architecture, it has a beautiful park in the area…and with all that come chic places, like cafes, restaurants and galleries. Again, the reflection of culture but this time, inside one city.

foayer2-2

Technology is also an important factor. There isn’t a city designer hotel that doesn’t have rooms and suites equipped with flat-screen televisions, (computers with) high speed internet connection, cordless phones, dvd players. Some go a few extra miles with sensor lights, universal remote controls, special showers and music and TV in the bathroom. When you think a little better about it, every five-star hotel should have a few of those first things, it’s the 21st century! But the sad truth is they don’t; some are making it possible because they are realizing that the time of pretty little soaps and candies on a pillow is long gone.

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The Hempel Hotel, London

The third criteria is entertainment. Only live music in bars doesn’t do the trick any more. Hip restaurants, lounges and bars, in hotels, with exceptional themes and design are what attract people and make them feel great.

Today, what’s considered good is no longer good. What’s considered safe is actually risky. We are all searching for something new, something different, looking for ourselves by taking what appeals to us. Hotel business, same as travel, is rapidly changing, and it’s reacting to what we have to say. This is where it’s taking us now.

What do you think about it?

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

01
Dec
08

Design hotels

Travel has changed. There are no unfamiliar places any more. Demands have increased and so did the choices. Now, travelers are able to persue travel experiences on a more individual level. Travel is not only about sightseeing any more. Every travel destination is defined in a way by a new approach in architecture, design, art and entertainment.

Boutique hotels, or popularly called design hotels, are one of those ingredients that can give your travel experience a more individual feeling. Boutique hotels are a lot different from chain hotels, in design, service, ownership and most of all, philosophy. They are operated by individuals or companies with a small collection and usually don’t have a large number of rooms. It depends on the location but the number is between a few and 150. Just enough to be unique and create a connection between customers and hotel staff.

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Hotel Sezz, Paris

Design is the first and most important determinant when we are talking about boutique hotels. Most attention goes to interior design; furnished in a period style or modern, with different accents. Sometimes every room in a hotel is furnished differently to give a unique look and feel for every guest. It also happens that a particular hotel guest books the same room every time. Except styles, artwork and popular designer pieces, usually 20th century design, makes them so appealing. That’s where the term design hotels derived from and became more used than boutique hotels.

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The George Hotel, Hamburg

They are not only a fancy place to stay in, they have a deeper meaning. Every place, that being a vibrant city hotel or a small resort, is a cultural reflection. As art and architecture, people are trying to distinguish themselves through designing new places; hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. So each of them has a story to tell, a story told in their own, unique way.

Next time you travel, add a personal note, in every aspect! 😉

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

29
Nov
08

Thoughts on (Christmas) travel

Everyone that is a part of travel industry has “an obligation” to write about Christmas and Christmas travel in a way it’s been done for such a long time. It became “an obligation” only because they made it one. As far as I know, travelers didn’t ask of them to do it, they didn’t force them. And every year thousands of magazines, websites and bloggers write the same stories, talk about the same subjects and put up the same pictures. You get bored. We all get bored! Don’t you just ignore them all??!

The second thing that happens is that they all start talking about some “exotic” destinations. This year, I’ve seen articles about Mexico, Indonesia, Nevada…and some other crazy destinations that have nothing to do with this time of year.

Isn’t it all about your opinion, your view of Christmas?

Christmas is not here or there. It’s where you find it in little things…in a cafe you coincidentally find and like, in a certain room of a certain hotel, in a park that looks special in winter time, in skating under bright Christmas lights, in shopping at a fancy department store. Your winter dream, your Christmas dream.

In the way that travel agencies and travel magazines present it, makes it boring, it makes them boring. There is never anything new; you read and re-read the same lines, about the same places every year. Don’t you think you can write those articles too?!

I’m asking what’s new? What’s different? What’s special? That’s what I want to know. Don’t you? And don’t ask me, what is in my opinion, a great Christmas travel destination, or any time anyway. I’m telling you now, I don’t know. I can only share my knowledge and my ideas. That is where you come in and find yourselves in small specifics – that’s when you put the pieces together, you take all the things that appeal to you and combine them together. That’s called travelling, because that’s when you enjoy it and remember it. It’s not a pin on a map or a country added to a number in your head.

And if you get to a point when you don’t know how to put all the pieces together, you can always ask me for advice…

I can’t write about Christmas travel the way that they do. I had a day when I made myself do it. It wasn’t a mistake, it only showed me it wasn’t my thing; it’s not my philosophy, it didn’t make me feel good. It was fake. I don’t write about places I haven’t visited, I don’t give my opinion about something I don’t know. I let others do it. Because I don’t want you to fake your travel. I want to help you find what you like about travelling and help you decide with the stories I tell and the places I show you. I want you to create your own travel experience and remember it for a long time with a big smile on your face. 😀

Be creative…you can make it magical! 😉

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

26
Nov
08

Takashi Murakami in Frankfurt

murakami1After MOCA in Los Angeles and Brooklyn Museum in New York, © MURAKAMI exhibition came to Europe. MMK Museum fur Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt is presenting the most comprehensive retrospective of Takashi Murakami’s work, 1991-2008. The whole museum was transformed into an exhibition space for Murakami’s pieces, and so the name of the exhibition is © MURAKAMI Museum. You can visit it until January 4, 2009, when it will be moved to Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao as the last platform where the work will be presented.

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Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist who combines stylistic characteristics of traditional Japanese art with pop culture. He became famous in the early 1990s with his theory called Superflat. It’s a self-proclaimed art movement that refers to expansion and exploration of two-dimensional medium of anime, Japanese animation through painting, photography, video, animation etc. He is one of the most influential artists in the recent decades because he is trying to create a link between high and mass culture.

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His work includes paintings, wallpapers, installations and films. Throughout years of work, Murakami created his characters and, with that, fantastic iconography. Along success came a company called Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. that produces T-shirts, calendars, plush creatures and other sorts of Japanese kitschware. Kaikai and Kiki are the white and pink duo that appear in sculpture and paintings, too. Murakami also worked under artistic direction of Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton and created the famous monogram.

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Takashi Murakami’ s activities include, not only his artwork and Kaikai Kiki, but work as a curator, editor, event organizer, radio show presenter, author, and a newspaper columnist as well as a manager of young artists.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

25
Nov
08

A cup of coffee in Graz

It’s official! I’m going to Graz with my best friend Matea. 😀 I’ve been working really hard lately and I still have a lot more to do, so I didn’t plan any trips in the near future. That was the cold truth, lol, because I travel very often.

graz-plansketch by Daniel Belasco Rogers

So a few days ago, I met Matea for our usual cup of coffee (which always lasts for modest three hours 😀 ). I don’t remember what we were talking about at that point but she said: “Why don’t we go to Graz?!” Totally out of the blue, unrelated to anything! “Really, why not!”, I said. It was the trip we usually took twice a year but, for a long time now, we didn’t go. It’s not far, anyone who knows the distance between Zagreb and Graz, know that it’s about 2 hours by car and a little more by bus. Actually with the new speed limits in Slovenia, it might take us a lot longer, lol! 😀 Because it’s so close we very often say: “Let’s go to Graz for a cup of coffee!”

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We always have a great time and it’s only for a day; the 24 hours I can always take out of my schedule. It’s our way to escape the rush in our lives and thoughts and to just enjoy. The date is set for the second week in December. That’s great news for you too! I have decided to make special photos to put on my blog (maybe even some of the others), tell you a story about the Christmas market, take you for a walk around town and show you a few special places that I have in mind!

Every time we went to Graz, it was nice and sunny. This time, I’m hoping for snow…just to set the mood. Shhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell Matea… 😉

For great travel ideas and even better friends!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

23
Nov
08

Cafe Gerbeaud in Budapest

I love visiting Budapest in winter. Especially now, before Christmas, walking around the city of beautiful architecture and art, soaking the great atmosphere. There is a place that I love to go to, that for me represents Budapest and where I feel like one of the artists from around hundred years ago, drinking good coffee and drawing in the warm corner of the cafe.

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Vorosmarty square

Just walking into Cafe Gerbeaud, you’ll feel like you have walked into a different time. With marble floors, wood panneling on the walls, rococo plaster work on the ceiling and sparkling chandeliers, the interior is even more that you expect looking at the beautiful building in the center (Pestum). Connoisseurs will recognize secessionist style furniture and a little french influence.

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The magic continues once you open the menu…you have to order a coffee and a piece of cake. Coffees are delicate and fine, and cake selection is completely exceptional. Try a well-known Hungarian Dobos cake or Esterhazy cake.

esterhazy-cakeEsterhazy cake

Cafe Gerbaud is also know by their bakery goods that they have diligently perfected since they opened their doors in 1858. So if you stop by in the morning for breakfast, to read the newspapers, it will be as appealing. French brioche, English apple pie with vanilla sauce of traditional pogatscha with cottage cheese will spoil you. But those are the little pleasures we should all enjoy. 😉

You can take a part of that experience back home with you. Cafe Gerbaud will offer you, in the Green Salon, handmade bon bons, house jams, preserved fruits and cakes beaufully packaged. It won’t be an easy choice…

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…and you will keep on coming back…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

22
Nov
08

Must visit places

Europe is about a lot of things. So many places, cultures, languages, people and styles to explore and enjoy. Wherever you choose to go, you will be enchanted by something that catches you in the moment and as soon as you start living and breathing as the people around you, your vacation will feel too short but nevertheless irreplaceable.

So which are those places? Is it Paris? Rome? London? Florence? Barcelona?… That’s what everybody thinks of  when we ask what are the “must visit” places for you in Europe. We all know these cities and they are at the top of the list for most travelers. Since we all know that, there is no need for me to talk to you about something that you already know. 😀

I’m here to talk to you about places smaller in size but bigger, more special in impression or feeling they create. Places that take you to another time, sweep you of your feet with their charm or just make your heart beat a little faster because of great design, shopping, amazing food or views. Places that you might not have heard of or you might not find while walking the streets. Those are the places that you will enjoy, that will help you experience the spirit of the city and remember your trip as a more special one.

I hope that you will enjoy more in reading about and finding these little places rather than chasing popular demands. Because that’s what travel is all about; taking what you like the most of the city, or any place and enjoy it, make is your own, make it your unique experience…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

19
Nov
08

Christmas markets in Germany

Germany has so many beautiful Christmas fairs, you couldn’t count them all! They have a strong and lasting tradition…but among them all, let’s see what makes them so special…

berlin41Berlin Christmas Market (Berliner Weihnachtszeit), one of the most visited Christmas fairs in Europe, actually consists of a number of different markets spread throughout city squares. Nostalgic Christmas Market (Opernpalais) sells jewelry, glassware and ceramics. Another market is held on Brietscheidplatz from where you can continue your Christmas shopping along Kurfurstendamm (Berlin’s leading shopping street). If you have kids, take them to Alexanderplatz. They will be overjoyed with the fairyland, a train for children, a 40-meter-high ferris wheel, a series of merry-go-rounds which might even get you on there. It will also attract you with a 20-metre-high spruce, two huge Christmas pyramids and more than 150 Christmas stalls with arts and crafts. Berlin’s Christmas market is also well know by many master craftmen and artists. And for a real traditional Christmas market experience head for Splandau (NW suburb of Berlin).

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Things to look for: mulled wine, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, toys

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gingerbread

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is visited by 200,000 visitors every year and when you see the nurembergHauptmarkt square all decorated and buzzing, you understand why. If you are looking for a traditional Christmas market to visit, this is the right place to be. Organizers have banned funfair and rollercoasters so the visitors could enjoy in the local traditional festivities. Local choir and other performances will enrich the atmosphere and give you the real Christmas feeling.

Things to look for: spicy gingerbread, fruit loaves, wooden crafts, figures made from dried prunes

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

18
Nov
08

Christmas markets – hot wine, pastries & gifts

ulm-germany2The time of Christmas markets is quickly approaching, travel agencies have already offered two – three days long arrangements to most popular destinations around Europe that attract thousands of people every year. Maybe you are thinking of visiting one of those places as we speak.

The idea of Christmas fairs is generally the same, though there are some differences between regions and countries. East Europe is well-known as a destination that every traveler puts on his travel map at this time of year. Visiting some of the best fairs in Germany like Nurberg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Etfurt or Dresden you cannot miss, as well as Vienna’s market in Austria, Budapest’s in Hungary or Prague’s in Czech Republic. All the markets open on the last week of November and last till Christmas Eve, marking the weeks of Advent. They work from morning to late evening, around 8 or 9 pm and are usually held on main squares.

Christkindlmarkt, Vienna

Christkindlmarkt, Vienna

Particularly attractive during late afternoons and evenings, when it’s dark and all the lights and people create the seemingly warm atmosphere, Christmas markets turn into shopping bazaars. The original concept was to present and sell hand-crafted work typical for that region and for the period (Christmas time). But nowdays, you’ll find things such as hand-crafted work, Christmas ornaments to gloves and scarves, candels, jewlery, sweets and more. So don’t believe everything you hear! 😉

booth, Vienna's market

booth, Vienna

The second reason why people visit Christmas markets is because of the food. There is always something typical for the region you are in but where ever you go, you will find the inescapable grilled suasages, deep-fried potato cakes and hot mulled wine. Just to keep the winter cold away… And where there is food, there is music too. Coming out of the numerous wooden booths or sometimes as live performances in the later hours of the day. Kids won’t be neglected either. With so many sweets to choose from and shows to watch, you will not have to worry about the little ones.

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Erfurt

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Nurberg

My disclaimer is that you really don’t have much to do there for three day. Have fun, enjoy the atmosphere and then take a walk around the city, go shopping or sit in one of the local cafes or restaurants. In the end, all you want to do is to experience the Christmas spirit…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

16
Nov
08

Approaching the Christmas season…

Finally it got colder… you can feel the Christmas season approaching. With the temperature down, the white mist and all the works quickly coming to an end, you can almost feel that buzz on the streets. Most of the city is decorated with thousands of lights, booths are almost ready and installed, we are just waiting for everything to light up and add color to the winter before us.

I love winter. Walking the streets, taking photographs, laughing with my friends…and then, when you feel really cold, when you feel the wind on your cheeks and when you can barely feel your fingers, sit in a warm cafe, under the yellow light and drink hot tea, one of those special coffees or even hot chocolate and share stories like these.  There is nothing like it…

Staying at home makes it as good. Gazing through the window and listening to the music whether you’re enjoying the moment or waiting for something to come. It’s almost time to read Christmas Carol again. To refresh the memories of Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, and to remind us the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.

Enjoy the days that are coming, dream big dreams and translate your story into travel if you have a chance…

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

10
Nov
08

Renting a hybrid

Taking the idea of renting a car to travel a step further, you might stumble upon high gas prices. Considering how much that would cost you, especially if you are renting for a longer period, that might not sound as the greatest idea, right? So where does that lead you…

I leads you to renting a hybrid. They might have a little higher daily rate but there is a significantly less fuel priusconsumption. Depending on the how much kilometers you’ll pass or for how long you’ll rent it, you might just need to partially refuel the car. When you add environment protection to it, it makes you feel even better. Although it sound great in theory, it’s somewhat more challenging in practice.

Finding hybrids at rent-a-car companies is still a rare miracle these days, even though they have been around for quite some time.  A tip for searching them is to look in larger cities and countries with the biggest network or in countries that are oriented to environmental protection and development. The expansion of environment offerings around Europe should be an important part of every rent-a-car company since that is what customers are demanding more and more, since gas prices are high, automobile industry is making a huge turn and  the green movement is finally making people conscious.

Now, officially, Avis takes the first prize when it comes to renting hybrid cars.The launch of the 20 Prius vehicles onto the UK fleet follows the announcement, in February, that Avis Germany introduced natural gas VW Tourans to its fleet at 19 locations in 15 cities across the country.

Avis Portugal introduced hybrid cars to its fleet in 2005 and currently operates 50 hybrids across the country, reducing its CO2 emissions by over 50 tonnes. Avis Scandinavia also offers customers the chance to rent environmentally friendly vehicles with over 400 ethanol-powered Saab 9-5 BioPower cars, 75 Ford Flexi-fuel and 20 Toyota Prius vehicles on its fleet. “ *

A few more Priuses can be found at Europcar and Alamo but that’s about it. What car rental companies can offer you is lower emission vehicles as a green choice. So be clear what you want and what you are asking from them.

One more tip…when you’re booking online, hybrids can also be found under prestige category.

Happy hunting!

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

* from Avis News

08
Nov
08

Car rental – crossing country borders

After surviving the technical stuff, let’s focus more on what happens when you decide to expand your travel appetites and cross country borders.

First of all, most of the time when you book online (in advance), you get a better deal. But booking online to roadtrip-frtravel abroad will need a telephone confirmation so that the company can prepare everything for you. If you’re renting a car in the UK and want to travel to Ireland or continent, that might bring high surcharges. In that case, for crossing to the continent, you will get a return ticket for Channel Tunnel. Though I wouldn’t recommend, as an alternative, taking a train or a ferry boat and then rent again, it’s possible. There is one more thing that makes your life more complicated when crossing from the UK to the continent or the other way around…which side of the road you are driving at. Avis arranges a switch for you, from right-hand drive to left-hand drive. Which is great but don’t expect that service from everyone. Think how that would influence your driving and, above all, if you are ready to switch sides of the road.

Why is it also important to tell upfront the rent-a-car company where you’re planning to go? Because there is an imaginary border between Western and Eastern countries. What happens is that you might get a cheaper car and have to pay for extra insurance. That doesn’t apply to all Eastern Europe only to some. What irritates me sometimes is the label, that people who don’t know anything about countries in Eastern Europe, put no matter what.

roadtrip2Always ask at the car rental for unfamiliar law in countries you plan to visit. Signs are the same but speed limits, headlights, safety seats for children etc. are not. European superhighways come with tolls. Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia have a system of vignettes that you buy after you cross their border. Vignettes are valid for a period of few months up to a year. Prices are reasonable except in Slovenia which has extremely high prices. EU is pressuring them to cut the cost for tourists but they haven’t answered so far. On the other hand Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Croatia (Mediterranean countries) have toll booths on highway exits.

Don’t let all of this discourage you. Now you know what you can expect and is not as bad as it sounds! 😉

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

07
Nov
08

Car rental

drivingOne more idea to on how to travel around Europe or just a single country is by renting a car. There are many benefits like setting your own itinerary, deciding where you want to go, how much time you want to spend somewhere, stops, comfort, even listening to the music you like 😀 …ok, ok, but it’s true!

I’m sure you’re all well aware of that but making a decision to rent a car won’t come from knowing a few benefits…and believe me, there are things you should know about it.

The first dilemma is which company to choose since there are so many. Big-name companies, I have to say, have their big name for a reason. And no, they are not more expensive than smaller ones, it’s usually the other way around. They have a lot bigger network, meaning they cover vast number of countries and places where you can rent and return the car. Every time you rent a car, it will be a new one because after a vehicle reaches 10,000-12,000 km they put it out for sale. Cars are always cleaned upon their return and the services are far better. I have also heard someone say that big-name companies charge more than consolidatiors because they compare rates, find the best deal and issue you a voucher with which you can pick up your car. That’s wrong. I did my research, of course, and just to give you an example, I compared a “big-name company” and the most popular consolidator for Europe. I took the same dates, same time, same pick up and return office, same car! and got the result that said that the consolidators took around 100 more! The choice is obvious.

Prices vary not only between companies but between months and countries also. Age limit is a very important factor; to rent a car in Europe for most companies you have to be 25. Some of them allow 23 but always check so that your plan doesn’t fall through. Your age can also influence on which type of car you will be able to rent. Different countries have different rules, upper age limit is between 69 and 80. If you’re planning to spend many hours on the road, it would be wise to report another driver for which there will be surcharges by day.

Rent-a-car companies don’t need the international driving permit, in fact you can’t rent a car if you only honister-passhave the international permit, you need your driving permit that you use at home. But, that you don’t say one day I didn’t mention it, if a policeman stops you, he can ask for the international permit and if you don’t have it, he can write you a ticket.

The good thing is that you can rent a car at one place and leave it at another, even in another country. Sometimes there will be surcharges for it. A day is a 24-hour rental period but you have 59 minutes of so called “grace period”. Max. lenght of rent is around 28 days, after that, you need a new agreement. Before you drive off, check the car; if you find a scratch, something torn or similar, report it before you leave. It needs to be written in the agreement or you will have to pay for it. Before returning the car, check it inside and outside.

And that’s just the technical stuff…

So far I have had the best experience with Avis Europe; they own Avis and Budget. Cars are great, usually brand new, best service I have ever experienced with car rental companies and never had any problems.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

23
Oct
08

What are your travel interests?

Just scratching the surface about European travel and some of the tips, I hope I have made you think a little bit more about your travel interests. You probably have an idea what would you like to know more about. Since I started this blog to be about you, to bring you the information you didn’t know or wasn’t sure of, I would like to focus my writing more on topics that you are particularly interested in. I want to make this blog more interactive so I’m starting with a poll:

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

22
Oct
08

Interview for Karen Bryan from Europe a la Carte Blog

In my initial search for European travel information on the internet, I wasn’t surprised by the quantity of the content out there, but the quality. I found it hard enough to find a small number of blogs that provided readers with good tips and recommendations.

One of them I have been tracking for about a month now and I think you should keep an eye on it too. What I like about Europe a la Carte Blog is that Karen Bryan, the author, brings you her experiences and most importantly, her opinion about the places she has visited. And she does it in a way that you can get a clear picture about the place and the opportunities it offers, stating the benefits and doubts.

Covering a lot of different subjects, Europe a la Carte Blog has a clear common thread. Searching for a travel ideas, Karen will show you a lot more then just a few capitals; she will take you to places you probably haven’t thought about visiting and you will see why it’s sometimes better to visit a not-so-popular destination. Watch out for the tips and recommendations because you will never get better ones than form an experienced traveler.

Karen Bryan asked me to do an interview for Europe a la Carte Blog which I gladly accepted. We talked about the European Travelling Advisor concept, my goals for this blog and the way I perceive travel.

I would like to say once more thank you to Karen Bryan for inviting me to do a guest interview. I was my pleasure.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

20
Oct
08

DesignArt London

Need a reason to put London on your travel list in autumn? Here is a good reason to do so…

DesignArt London is London’s first design art fair devoted exclusively  to modern and contemporary furniture and decorative arts. The context of the event gathers only the finest collection of twentieth and twenty first century design. Curated by the world’s foremost gallery owners (including Paris, Milan Brussels, Copenhagen, New York, Chicago addresses), DesignArt London defines its place at the top regardless of its second edition. More than half of the 32 art galleries came from Paris in 2008 which tells a lot about design important destinations.

The event presents an impressive array of collectible classic pieces from Le Corbusier, Jean Prouve, Arne Jacobsen, to more contemporary ones with signatures of Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson and Ron Arad; but also creations by rising design stars as Junko Mori, Fredrikson Stallard, Sebastian Erazuriz and others. Curators made sure that every piece was rare and esthetically beautiful, showcasing furniture produces as one-offs or limited edition.

The things sold on the fair aren’t just extravagant and expensive. They maintain the integrity of creativity and function, presented for someone who understands design and its products. Art and design collectors will not miss because galleries’ selection includes a range of prices so that even a novice collector will find something of lasting value for himself and with such a selection, I can say you will be entering the haute couture of the design world.

This year the organizers of DesignArt London have decided to exhibit only limited editions, unique vintage pieces and the creme the la creme of contemporary design. Everything had to be closely related to the theme “Design as Art” so most of the pieces had elements derived from both tradition and innovation.

In the future DesignArt London will “…provide a showcase for those designers and dealers whose creativity and social consciousness rewards new technologies, a respect for the environment, and a dearing sense of humor.”*

DesignArt is held in October every year since 2007, at Berkly Square in Mayfair. Ticket price for the entire event is £15.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

* from DesignArt London press release

17
Oct
08

Paris Autumn Festival

Travelling to Paris in autumn is a great choice. Except the beautiful and lively city with an unfailing scene, it never ceases to surprise with new events from the art world.

Paris Autumn Festival is an event that has been occupying the stakeholders since 1972. The festival rapidly became a crossroads for avant-garde and forward looking artistic creation. It takes place from September to December every year on numerous places around Paris like Centre Pompidou, La Cinematheque Francaise, Jeu de Paume, La Maison Rouge (Antoine de Galbert foundation), La Maison de la Culture du Japon a Paris, Opera National de Paris Bastille, Odeon and many, many other theaters and venues.

If you are already in Paris consider going to this festival and actually visiting some of this amazing places. As I always say…you can walk around the city and see all the architecture, but until you come in and participate, you haven’t really experienced it; you’re just another tourist with a guide in your hand and with an answer to a question “Why did you decide to go to Paris?”, “because it beautiful”. And I will ask you: “Are you serious?!” Because the better question would be…what are you passionate about that you can find and do in Paris and what do you want your Paris experience to be?

The Autumn Festival activities fall into four categories

– to present original works not previously produced in France

– to commission new work, often in collaboration with leading French, and European institutions and North American partners

– to provoke and to present experimental work

– to provide access to non-western cultures, featuring major presentations from different countries and civilizations, including Japan, China, Australia, Morocco, India, Korea, Egypt, South Africa, Iran…

The program includes events relating to visual arts, theater, dance, music, cinema and other. It’s very dynamic and with a range of performances on different subjects, it will be a tough to choose one show over the other. But Parisians live and breathe art and culture, so gratification is guaranteed.

*The Paris Autumn Festival lasts from September 13 to December 21 this year.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor

15
Oct
08

October events in Europe

Except numerous festivals around Europe, there are some very popular events and fairs that are worth visiting.

Frankfurt Book Fair

For all book lovers Frankfurt is a place to be in middle October. Frankfurt Book Festival is the largest of its kind in the world with a few hundred thousand visitors in just days. This is the 60th year of the popular event that takes place from October 15-19, 2008. Fair covers all topics and genres; from antiquarian books, fiction, non-fiction, scientific books, comics, children’s books to audio books, film and TV, translations etc. Key focus is put on education and its development for the future.

Every year a Guest of Honour is introduced. For 2008 it is Turkey who takes the role. That’s the opportunity to present its literature, culture and history. This always goes beyond the Book Fair, other events like theater performances, readings, exhibitions, music events and educational courses take place around this time. One day ticket is 18 for students, every day. On special days (Oct 18-19), public visitor’s ticket is 12.

FIAC La Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain = International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Paris

This event gathers 180 international galleries on three exhibition places in Rive Droite of Paris. Le Grand Palais which is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design, La Cour Carrée du Louvre gathers artists of tomorrow and new tendencies, and le Jardin des Tuileries imagined as an open exhibition space for sculptures and installations.

Except this interesting exhibitions, this event lately introduces different performances influenced by theater, dance and music. Programs are held in different places around Paris.

Venice Biennale Architecture

This Biennale is held every two years and lasts for about two months. This year it’s held from September 14 to November 23. Every biennale has a theme for which architecture studios around the world design their projects from biennale to biennale and enter a competition. The award ceremony takes place at the beginning of the event and 10 winning projects + 40 honorable mentions from around the world are displayed as a part of exhibition gathered around one theme; this year’s theme is “Out there, Architecture beyond building”. Visitors can also see various installations, experimental work of numerous international firms.

Biennale encompases a variety of other topics that are presented throught national pavilions. You can take educational guides or participate in concurrent events. Ticket price is €15, for students €6; it is higher only if you incorporate passes for other events.

Stella – European Travelling Advisor