Category : France
It’s not just a European thing, of course—most major cities around the world feature small, self-contained ethnic communities within their urban confines. These subsects act as miniature versions of the city their residents hail from, bringing a proverbial “piece of home” to a new frontier. For locals, the communities are nostalgic and familiar; for tourists, they offer fascinating insight into a specific aspect of a cosmopolitan city’s culture. They also offer an oft-welcome departure from the traditional flavors, scents and sounds found in other neighborhoods. Here are five of Europe’s most charming ethnic enclaves, each a distinct country-within-a-country:
There are actually several Chinatowns (or, in French, quartiers chinois) in Paris, but the largest and most well known is located in the 13th arrondissement. The area actually represents multiple Asian communities, from the Avenue de Choisy to the Porte d’Ivry. It is home to nearly 50,000 Chinese, Vietnamese and Laotian nationals, as well as immigrants from French Polynesia, French Guiana, and New Caledonia. This means that the culinary and retail offerings are incredibly diverse; while the neighborhood may not be an obvious tourist destination, it is definitely worth visiting for its handful of famous landmarks (La Bibliothèque Nationale de France is here, as is the quaint district of La Butte aux Cailles) and fantastic Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.
Recommended hotels in Paris: the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, the Champs Elysees Mac Mahon
Little Venice, Mykonos
Mykonos’ Little Venice (Aleukantras) is easily identified by its rows of brightly painted colors; the intense hues are an obvious departure from the whitewashed façades typically found around Greece. The picturesque neighborhood, located just to the east of the harbor, stretches from Aleukantras’ beach to the old district of Castle. It is widely considered to be the island’s most romantic neighborhood—fitting, considering what its namesake city is most famous for. Little Venice offers spectacular sunset views, a high concentration of art galleries and workshops, and plenty of delicious Italian cuisine.
The Japantown of Düsseldorf, Germany is the largest in Europe; while this may at first be a surprising distinction, it actually makes sense—the European headquarters of many Japanese corporations are located in Düsseldorf, and so the city has become a prime destination for Tokyo’s traveling businessmen. With them, the visitors have brought many customs—and many restaurants. The authentic Japanese pubs and sushi bars are concentrated around Immermastr. This is also where you will find many travel agencies, appliances and other business designed specifically to cater to the expat community. As a tourist in Japantown, you may be most interested in the local grocery stores, bakeries, and ramen shops.
Recommended hotels in Düsseldorf: the Holiday Inn Düsseldorf Königsallee, the NH Düsseldorf City-Center
Little India, London
Southall is literally and figuratively one of the most colorful parts of London. It is where you will find the city’s largest population of Indian and Pakistani expats—you will find women in vibrant saris, strolling past pavement food stalls selling fragrant samosas and Indian sweets, and brightly hued fabrics draped across shop windows. Traditional bhangra music wafts from homes and businesses, added to illusion that you are not in London anymore. The best time to visit the Southall area is definitely during Diwali, the Festival of Lights; however, Little India has a lot to offer year-round. Be sure to pay a visit to the Sri Guru Singh Gurdwara, the largest Sikh temple outside of India.
Little Karachi, Oslo
One of the most up-and-coming ethnic communities in Europe is Oslo’s Little Pakistan, or Little Karachi (or, technically, Grønland.) Quickly growing into a fashionable neighborhood, this part of the Norwegian capital brims with culture and activity. It is home to a number of shops, bars, and restaurants that celebrate the flavors and traditions of Pakistan as well as other parts of the globe. There are also beautiful mosques here, and a recently completed opera house that has contributed to the area’s growing popularity. Today, Little Karachi is a trendy place for Oslo’s younger residents to live, work, and play.
Recommended hotels in Oslo: the Thon Hotel Astoria; the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo
When I started researching “Europe’s Best Hostels, Part I,” I found so many amazing hostels that I was unable to choose the best five. Narrowing it down to 10 was a little easier, but there are many other hostels that didn’t make the list which you can find for yourself on eurobookings.com. In the meantime, here are five more hostels worth visiting.
Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry Gardens, Nice
Ah, the French Riviera. Not the place to go on a budget, right? Wrong! The beach is free. So is wandering through the crooked alleyways of the old city and climbing to the top of Mount Boron. And when it’s time to bed down for the night, you’ll find that the Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry has been voted the Number One Hostel in France and has been the Author’s Choice in Lonely Planet and Top Ten Worldwide 5 times in 5 years! Set in a former monastery, this friendly accommodation starts you with a complimentary all-you-can-eat breakfast. You can gaze at the beautiful stained stained-glass windows of the chapel as you sip your €1 drink in what is now the hostel’s bar, and you can enjoy complimentary 24-hour internet access on 12 computers, along with complimentary wireless Internet access everywhere. You can also enjoy homemade pizza and Provencal cuisine in the glass atrium kitchen. The Hostel Villa Saint Exupéry even has a second location on the beach.
Sunflower Beach Hostel, Rimini
Would you rather spend your time in Rimini partying? Or chilling out on its famous beaches? Known as the “Best Party Hostel on the Beach,” the Sunflower Beach Backpacker Hostel makes it easy to do both. Just 200 metres from the surf and sand, this Adriatic residence is also right in the centre of all the restaurants, pubs, cafés and night clubs, and the historic city centre with its landmarks, train and bus station are only a short bus ride away. This allows you to explore both the vibrant city and its surrounding medieval towns. Here you can enjoy private bathrooms, a 24-front desk and showers, a big communal kitchen, a free continental buffet breakfast, free Internet, both wired and wireless, a pool table, ping pong, a 24-hour bar… and of course the big funky parties which put the Sunflower on the map! Pizza parties, pasta parties and beach parties are what you get, along with a TV Room with a MAXI Screen, satellite and sports programming and DVDs. The hostel even offers language classes in both Italian and English.
Avalon House, Dublin
How many hostels can claim George Bernard Shaw as a past resident? I’m guessing one. The Avalon House occupies a classic 19th century school building that boasted the playwright as a student. Now famous for its friendly international staff and its warm and homely atmosphere, the Avalon House puts you within easy walking distance of Temple Bar, Grafton St, the beautiful park at St Stephens Green, Dublin Castle, Trinity College and the National Museum and Gallery. Your day begins with a complimentary continental breakfast and continues with such amenities as bicycle rental (and storage), a games room, Internet access, ticket sales for all major tours and bus services and a complimentary hostel booking service for that sad day that you’re ready to move on. There’s also a fully equipped kitchen and a reception desk that never closes.
AthenStyle Hostel, Athens
The AthenStyle Hostel is perfectly located for you to make the most of modern and historical Athens. With the ancient Monastiraki at your doorstop and the traditional tavernas, sophisticated chill out bars and lively clubs of Psyrri right around the corner, you won’t have to go far to see either. The hostel itself is a blend of old and new, as it opened in June 2008 in a recently renovated historical building. The eclectic atmosphere is due to the fact that the rooms and apartments were decorated by a variety of artists from around the globe. And that view of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar is something you’ll never forget. While the Parthenon and museums are nearby, AthenStyle introduces you to a whole other side of Athens by working in cooperation with the Athens Art & Culture Association to give you the scoop on all the music, art, street culture, events and exhibitions going on in the city.
Seven Hostel SantAgnello
If you thought you had to stay in a five-star luxury hotel to enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay Naples, think again. The Seven Hostel SantAgnello provides the same views while leaving you with money to enjoy the city. Set in a gorgeous building from the 19th century, the sophisticated surroundings and light and airy atmosphere are not what you would associate with a hostel. Yet here it is. In the daytime, excursions can be booked through the hostel to nearby Pompeii, Capri and Herculaneum. Then as the sun dips into the Mediterranean, you can take advantage of the panoramic views from the terrace bar. Or take in the love music at the café bar. Both places provide a friendly and fun atmosphere to meet your fellow travelers. If you’d like the privacy of a hotel at the prices of a hostel, the top floor is set aside for double bedrooms. A partial list of services: 24-hour reception, wireless Internet, CD and DVD burning facilities, a games room, a common room, a solarium with loungers, air conditioning. You get the picture.
A major staple of European and other diets around the world, bread is oftentimes the unsung hero of the food world. Hearty, comforting, versatile—there are many reasons to love bread. However, not many seem to know much about the substance—its history, symbolism, or ethnological meaning. Learn a bit about bread, and you may in turn learn a bit about the people it feeds. Here are only a few of Europe’s greatest bread museums:
The European Bread Museum – Varnavas, Greece
There are a few of these European Bread Museums throughout Europe; however, this is undoubtedly one of the more interesting. Focused on documenting the cultural journey of bread over the centuries, this museum has all types of exhibits. Most notably, it houses more than 520 species (many decorated) from different parts of Greece and 22 foreign countries. Embroidered designs depict the region of origin and the purpose for the bread’s creation, such as a wedding or major religious festival. Crosses, flowers, branches and wreaths are particularly common within this interactive historical museum. The European Bread Museum is located within a renovated mansion in Varnavas, and it supposedly attracts 40,000 visitors each year.
The Bread Museum – St Petersburg, Russia
In 2007, Moscow was declared the Bread Capital of the World. However, it is in St. Petersburg that you will find Russia’s only bread museum. Founded in 1988 as part of the Bread Production Trust, the museum celebrates the starchy staple as a symbol of mankind’s harmonious relationship with nature. Archaeological and written artifacts have been kept intact to showcase the long journey of bread in Europe. There are special sections devoted to World War II, the siege of Leningrad and other devastating historical events; in the darkest of times, bread became vital as a source of nourishment (both literally and figuratively.) Visitors to The Bread Museum can see a small-scale urban bakery, see examples of baker’s art, and tour unique cultural exhibits.
Museum of Bread – Pecinic, Serbia
The origins of the Serbian Museum of Bread are actually quite unusual: The site was first founded in 1995 as a place of research and organization for the painter Jeremija. The topic of religious bread has been a great source of inspiration for him for more than 30 years, and so the museum gradually took form out of necessity and joy. Today it serves to gather, preserve and present objects that were once used in the bread-making process in Serbia. Many artifacts are still functioning, and this interactive aspect is part of the fun. Jeremija’s paintings and articles, recipe collections and exhibits of ethnographic objects and religious breads altogether comprise a total of 2,000 items. You can also find a working bread stove, a belfry dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and a souvenir shop on the property.
Bread Museum – Seia, Portugal
As the only bread museum on the Iberian Peninsula, this landmark incorporates local culture and history. Visitors to the Bread Museum in Seia can learn the traditional techniques involved, see artistic examples, and even make (and taste, of course!) their own bread. Large-scale machines, ranging from antique to modern-day, and handheld items comprise the exhibits. The museum also houses an informative library, a restaurant, and a gift shop filled with household products and souvenirs. There is also a child-friendly section with animated displays and hands-on exhibits. All in all, it is a great place in which to spend an afternoon.
Musée Français du Pain – Paris, France
No tour of Europe’s bread museums would be complete without a trip to France! Of course, the originator of French bread has its own unique attractions. Nestled within a courtyard next to a working mill, you will find the fascinating Musée Français du Pain. Varied historic memorabilia will take you on a journey over the centuries, showing the transitions and advancements made within the bread-making world. Artifacts of note include the world’s oldest surviving communion wafers (from the 17th century!) and seven discus-shaped loaves from a 4,400-year-old Egyptian crypt. The Musée Français du Pain also has grains of wheat from Masada in Israel, antique waffle irons, bread-related letters and correspondence between historic figures, and a collection of “breads of the world.”
To find hotels in St. Petersburg, Paris and other European cities, be sure to check out Eurobookings.com!
Trick or treat.
Though Halloween may be a strictly American holiday, the USA has nothing on Europe when it comes to the scary stuff. Europe is, after all, the continent where vampires, werewolves and witches first showed their evil faces. Dracula is from Transylvania, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are all from England, and let’s not even get started on the Brothers Grimm. And now even the American-style Halloween of costumes and parties and haunted houses is catching on in Europe. So here are some creepy European cities to spend your Halloween.
With its many ancient dark buildings and its crooked cobbled streets, Edinburgh provides the perfect atmosphere for Gothic horror. Edinburgh, like so many other cities, is also steeped in tales of bloody murder and torture, and you don’t have to wait until Halloween to experience it. Your first choice is to visit Edinburgh Castle, which is itself the site of centuries of drama. Your second choice is to let the guides at Auld Reekie Tours show you around. Here you’ll hear many horrible stories about the city’s dark doings of the past, like the famous story of local menial workers turned grave robbers turned murderers Burke and Hare. They also offer a special Halloween Ghost Hunt. If you want to explore Edinburgh’s dark underbelly, you can pay a visit to the the city’s famous Dungeons, covering 500 years of Edinburgh’s gory history on 11 actor led shows and two scary rides.
The City of Lights also has a dark side, and there are three chilling ways to experience it. The Paris Ghost Tour is a walking tour and pub crawl covering the satanic conspiracies of the 17th-19th centuries, the true Sweeney Todd of Paris and the Vampire of Paris, a real life serial killer and cannibal. You won’t need a tour guide to visit Père Lachaise Cemetery. Just buy yourself a map at the entrance and you can see the final resting places of such historical figures as Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde and of course the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. Unfortunately, there are still six feet of dirt between you and all these famous bones. But if you want to remove that barrier, just head to the famous Paris Catacombs, where you can come face to skull with over six million Parisians from centuries past. Here beneath the city in a maze of old tunnels left over from an ancient quarry, you’ll find chamber after chamber of bones arranged in the most artistic ways.
Prague, Czech Republic
Considered by some to be the most haunted city in Europe, Prague is home to the Golem and to the 15th century Old Jewish Cemetery, whose lack of space has led to centuries of bodies being buried atop other bodies until this tangled, crowded mass of graves is now covering up to 12 layers of the deceased. But Prague’s main Halloween attraction actually lies outside the city limits in the nearby town of Sedlec in the world-famous Sedlec Ossuary. A small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints, the ossuary traces its origins back to the 14th century when the Black Death when thousands of people were buried here. When the church was built in the middle of the cemetery, the lower chapel was piled high with the bones that had to be removed, and in 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order. The macabre result includes four enormous bell-shaped mounds of bones in the corners of the chapel, an enormous chandelier of bones hanging from the center of the nave and garlands of skulls draping the vault. Don’t miss the Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms, and the signature of Rint, which are also both made of bones.
While the Sicilian capital of Palermo doesn’t actually boast any real-life zombies, it does boast the Capuchin Catacombs (Catacombe dei Cappuccini). Here you’ll have the closest to a zombie experience as is possible as you walk past centuries-old monks and other Palermo citizens who have all been mummified and await your visit, standing up and in their Sunday best! The bodies were dehydrated, sometimes washed with vinegar and sometimes embalmed. Originally reserved for the monks, the catacombs became a very fashionable place to spend eternity, and families would fight for the best spots to be seen by future generations. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in favorite outfits and even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals. There are thousands of mummies in different states of decay, stretching back over 500 years.
If you’d like your Halloween experience to be a little less authentic, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens Amuseument Park is closer to the US model, presenting Halloween chills and thrills similar to Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios. Surrounded by thousands of pumpkins, hay bales, spiders and scarecrows, you’re invited to experience such attractions as the Witches Circus, Thriller Mini-Disco and a daily Halloween parade. The action takes place between October 14 and 23. That’s when the park’s playful witches are waiting for you at The Old Mill in the Halloween Village, where they brew magic potions and sing witchy songs. Kids of all ages can carve their own jack-o-lanterns and thrill to the sight of Denmark’s largest pumpkin. This is also the site of the Danish Pumpkin Championship.
Whether you’re strolling along London’s West End, Paris’s Champs-Élysées, New York’s Times Square or the star-covered sidewalks of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, we all love to happen upon a celebrity sighting. But celebrity sightings are so rare, even if you’re taking a tour of the stars’ homes. In fact, there’s only one foolproof way to ensure having a celebrity sighting, and that’s to go to a celebrity cemetery. Here are some of the most celebrity-filled final resting places in the world.
Located in north London, the Grade I-listed Highgate Cemetery is also on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. Opened in 1839 as one of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries to ring the city, Highgate contains many beautiful old buildings, elaborately carved Victorian mausoleums and some stunning landscaping using trees, shrubbery and wild flowers. Of course, that’s not why we’re here. We’ve come today to see stars, and there are plenty to see, from celebrities from the distant past like the wife and parents of Charles Dickens to those of the present, like Sex Pistols manager and co-creator Malcolm McLaren. Though the cemetery is mostly known for its oversized bust of Karl Marx, you’ll also find “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams, iconic actor Sir Ralph Richardson, iconic director Carl Mayer and Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian exile who so famously met his end at the hands of Russian agents several years ago. In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, Lucy Westenra is buried in Highgate Cemetery, where she awakes to prey on young children. If you don’t mind being so close to vampires, there are plenty of great London hotels where you can spend the night.
Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Visiting the grave of Jim Morrison and leaving the Doors singer gifts has become almost as popular a Paris activity as climbing to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral. But the Lizard King is only one of many famous citizens of the world buried in France’s premier celebrity cemetery. The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in the 20th arrondissement is reputed to be the world’s most-visited cemetery and features not just one but three World War I memorials. Other musicians found here include the Polish-born Frédéric Chopin, whose heart is entombed in within a pillar at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw. Punk rocker Stiv Bators reportedly has his ashes sprinkled on Morrison’s grave. Here you’ll also find writers like Honoré de Balzac, artists from Eugène Delacroix to Gustave Doré, actors from Sarah Bernhardt to Yves Montand and of course the world’s most famous mime, Marcel Marceau. Another unique grave belongs to Oscar Wilde, whose visitors are known to kiss the grave while wearing lipstick. Two-star Hotel Paris Gambetta offers economical accommodation in a classic building, right next to the cemetery and its Metro stop.
Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Crossing the Atlantic, we land in New York City’s borough of Brooklyn, where we find the beautiful Green-Wood Cemetery. Founded in 1838 as a rural cemetery, it now boasts an impressive gate and a chapel that was designed in 1911 by Beaux-Arts masters Warren and Wetmore, who also designed Manhattan’s iconic Grand Central Station. The cemetery has been quite popular among mobsters, including Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia of Murder, Inc. and Crazy Joey Gallo. Laura Keene, the star of the play Lincoln was watching during his assassination is buried here, as is Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the Morse Code. Though Theodore Roosevelt rests elsewhere, his first wife Alice, mother Martha and uncle Robert are all here, as are Horace Greeley, founder of the New York tribune and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. There’s plenty more to see in Brooklyn and plenty of Brooklyn hotels from which to see it.
Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles
And now we come to the Mecca of celebrity cemeteries, the top of the heap, the Pantheon: The 1899 Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Once called Hollywood Memorial Park, this place is so Hollywood that its south side borders Paramount Studios. A lively place, it hosts outdoor movie screenings during the summer during which thousands of young hipsters sip wine and dine on cheese while watching movies projected on the wall of Rudolph Valentino’s mausoleum. As beautiful as a movie set, the cemetery has its own lake with a bridge going out to an island. Nearly anyone who was anyone in Hollywood can be found here, from directors John Huston and Cecil B. DeMille, to stars Douglas Fairbanks (who has his own reflecting pool) and Tyrone Power, to rockers Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, to Columbia studio head Harry Cohn. Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and a thousand other Warner Brothers cartoon characters has a fitting epitaph; “That’s All, Folks.” A celebrity in his own right, Bugsy Siegel is also buried here. Hollywood historian Karie Bible leads cemetery tours, and if you want to experience a little bit of old Hollywood in your accommodation, consider a stay at the Hollywood Historic Hotel, set in a classic building right down the street from Paramount Studios.
Westwood Village Memorial Park
As you gaze up at the modern office buildings rising up all around the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, it’s hard to imagine any cemetery in the area, let alone anything green. Yet tucked away in a tiny lot surrounded by high-rises is the Westwood Village Memorial Park, which packs more star power into a smaller space than anyplace else on the planet. This place is tiny, and most of the dearly departed are in the walls as opposed to being under the ground. In this tiny oasis of peace and quiet in busy Westwood, you’ll find Donna Reed, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Carroll O’Connor, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, Eddie Albert, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, George C. Scott, Burt Lancaster, Eve Arden, Carl Wilson, Eva Gabor and Truman Capote. But that’s not what brings visitors to the cemetery. Westwood Village Memorial Park’s number one attraction is that actress who was born as Norma Jean Baker and ended up becoming Marilyn Monroe. Just feet from the cemetery, one of those modern buildings is the Crescent at Legacy Hotel.
Posted in France on 26. Aug, 2011
France’s third-largest city and gastronomic capital is known across the globe for its world-class restaurants. However, if you stray from the haute cuisine of the trendy Presqu’île area, you will find another side to culinary Lyon: Some of the city’s best restaurants, markets and cafés must be sought out within secret passageways, hidden alleys, and secluded courtyards. Tucked behind the impressive façades of the finest hotels in Lyon (like, for example, the Best Western Crequi Lyon Part Dieu and the Park & Suites Prestige Lyon Part Dieu) are what really compel traveling gourmands to return to the city.
If you love chocolate (and really, who doesn’t?), you should definitely pay a visit to Chokula in Lyon. The recently opened shop/laboratory, helmed by Sébastien Bouillet, is practically a shrine to the beloved confection. Upon their arrival, visitors are greeted by a wall of liquid chocolate—and this use of chocolate as décor does not stop there. Of course, the main reason to visit Chokola is to buy chocolate—and the store carries a mind-boggling assortment of the sweet stuff! From traditional bars to one-of-a-kind novelty items, you will find something for every sweet tooth you know. And if you don’t, head to Bouillet’s famous patisserie; it is located within easy walking distance.
La Cave Valmy
Its close proximity to the vineyards of Côte du Rhône and Beaujolais makes Lyon a great destination for any wine connoisseur. The city is filled with well-stocked wine bars and merchant shops; among them, La Cave Valmy still manages to stand out. Co-owner Marie-Jo acts as an expert guide to help you select the perfect wine. For the ideal outing, cap a tour of the neighboring wineries with a visit to this fantastic store. Pick up a bottle or two to enjoy that evening—or many months later, while you are back home, fondly remembering your holiday in Lyon.
Le Poêlon d’Or
Lyonnaise restaurants have long been hailed for their excellence. However, a new movement is now competing with the city’s world-class culinary pioneers: Bouchons—small restaurants known for serving traditional, rustic dishes like bone marrow, tripe and donkey snout—are experiencing a bit of a revival in Lyon today. No trip to France’s gastronomic capital would be complete without a meal in one of its twenty-odd authentic (and officially certified) bouchons. One of these is Le Poêlon d’Or, where the most beloved recipes have been passed down through generations. Try the ground fish dumplings (quenelle) or the chicken liver cake.
While Lyon’s thriving culinary scene is predominantly French, it also incorporates cuisines from other countries. The Supermarché Asie, a gigantic market filled to the brim with exotic fruits and vegetables, beautifully showcases Asia’s influence on Lyon’s palate. It is located in the city’s Chinatown area, which is the third largest Chinatown in France (the first two are in Paris.) The epicenter of the neighborhood is a few blocks around rue Pasteur and rue Passet, in the Guillotière quarter. Eateries and shops offer a refreshing—and delicious!—change of scene in Lyon.
Fancy another trip around the world while in Lyon? Then head to Bahadourian, one of the city’s more unusual (and fragrant!) food stores. The family-run delicatessen and wholesale caterer has been in operation since 1929. To this day, it remains a culinary landmark. The original owner created this legendary reputation by traveling across the globe in search of the finest exotic spices, aromatic herbs, fresh fruits and flowers. Bahadourian is still stocked with rare teas and spices that bring the flavors of the Middle East and Asia to France. The colorful souk atmosphere adds to the shopping experience.
For one week a year, each of the world’s fashion capitals are filled with fancy parties, beautiful people and full runways, both at the airport and in multiple venues around the city. Welcome to Fashion Week, where top designers unveil their new product lines and give people a sneak peak at what everyone will be wearing in six months. This is where industry decides what’s “in” and what’s “out” for the season. Fashion Week takes place twice a year, and 2011’s second Fashion Week is in the Fall, from September to October, which is just around the corner. We’ll be covering the four fashion capitals of the world: New York City, London, Milan, and Paris, and we’ll throw in Los Angeles for good measure.
New York has been leading the charge ever since they held the first Fashion Week back in 1943, at the height of World War II. In fact, it was the war which was responsible for Fashion Week’s creation, as it was meant to distract consumers from the fact that those working in the fashion trade were unable to travel to France, making New York the de facto fashion capital for the US. New York’s Fashion Week is also known by the name of its major sponsor, which alternates between Olympus and Mercedes-Benz, with the car company taking its turn in 2011. High-powered media moguls and Hollywood movie stars are in abundance, along with the other 100,000 attendees. Local fashion fans who can’t make the festivities can watch over 150 hours of coverage on local TV channel 25, and of course for out of town visitors, there are hundreds of great New York hotels from which to choose.
The day New York’s Fashion week ends, London’s begins, so you’ll have to catch a quick flight to make both. Organised by the British Fashion Council for the London Development Agency with help from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, London Fashion Week has many organisers, and Mercedes-Benz is also quite present here. London launched its first Fashion Week in 1984, and it presents itself to funders as a trade event attended by over 5,000 press and buyers, with an estimated £40m to £100m trading hands. Foremost among the many Fashion Week venues is Somerset House in central London, where a large marquee in the central courtyard hosts a series of catwalk shows by top designers and fashion houses. Many other venues are also used, so chances are your London Hotel will be close to some events. Spring 2010 also saw London hosting the first Fashion Week to be broadcast live on the Internet.
Established in 1958, Milan’s Fashion Week is put on by the non-profit Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (National Chamber for Italian Fashion), which promotes the development of Italian Fashion. Here you’ll find Gucci, Armani, D&G, Prada and many other top international designers offering a peek into the future. The major fashion shows for women include Milan SS Women Ready to Wear and Milano Moda Donna. Though you need an invitation to see the catwalk shows, the rest of the city is booming with fashion tourists and there are glamorous parties everywhere throughout the week. One great place to admire the theatrical shop windows, and watch fashionistas and beautiful locals posing as you enjoy cappuccino and biscotti is on the pedestrianised Via Della Spiga. Be sure to book your Milan hotel early, as they can fill up fast.
September 29-October 6
It’s no surprise that Paris, the fashion capital of the world hosts one of the four most important Fashion Weeks in the world. This is the granddaddy of fashion, the city to which everyone looks. Fashion has been a prime cultural export of France since the seventeenth century, and the city of Paris was the inventor of modern haute couture in the 1860s.The city is now headquarters to premier fashion houses Balenciaga, Céline, Chanel, Chloe, Dior, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Hermès, Lanvin,Rochas, Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent. And Paris’s Fashion Week never fails to impress. Even the venue, the Carrousel du Louvre is beautiful. The dates of Paris’s Fashion Week are always determined by the French Fashion Federation, and Paris is always sure to be the anchor of Fashion Month, always coming at the end. There are many excellent Paris hotels available as well.
But wait! There’s more! Though not one of the Big Four, Los Angeles, home to the world’s largest film and television industry, is also a player in the fashion world, making its Fashion Week more than just an epilogue to Fashion Month. More low-key than its more famous namesakes, this Fall’s Fashion Week has been timed to coincide with LA Market Week, which takes place in apparel showrooms and trade shows at the intersection of 9th Street and Los Angeles Street in downtown LA’s Garment District. One of the more interesting venues is the Sunset Gower Studios, site of the very first movie studio in Hollywood. Some highlights: Simply Stylist, an event for celebrity and editorial stylists; Concept Fashion Week, a downtown indie production, The Green Initiative Humanitarian Fashion Show and The Nightclubbers, an independent fashion/music/art experience at the Avalon dance club. Again, no matter what part of town your hotel is located, you’re sure to be near a Fashion Week event.
The Mona Lisa. The Starry Night. Michelangelo’s David. These are some of the works of art you can find in Europe’s top museums. Places like the Louvre, the Uffizi and the British Museum are on everybody’s itinerary the first time they travel around Europe. But what about the 101st visit? Just as it’s full of a wide variety of people, ranging from the eccentric to the downright strange, Europe also boasts a wide variety of museums filling the same range. Here are some of the strangest.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Husavik, Iceland
For those of you who don’t know right away what the word “phallological” means, here are two hints: It describes something men have got and ladies haven’t; something that is necessary for the continuation of every species on the planet. That’s right. Tiny Husavik, Iceland, one of the northernmost cities in Europe is home to the largest penis museum on the planet. Speaking of largest, the Icelandic Phallological Museum offers several samples from whales, as well as horses, cows, dogs, wolves and every animal you can imagine, right down to the lowliest interest. Not surprisingly, the one species they’re missing is man. But according to the proprietor, who has spent decades amassing his collection, he has had quite a number of customers offer to leave him a “gift” after they kick the bucket. Husavik is also home to whale-watching and also boasts a few cosy accommodations.
Currywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany
Is it in bad taste to go from a penis museum to a sausage museum? It might be, except for the fact that currywurst tastes so darned good! Welcome to the museum that honors Berlin’s greatest culinary passion. The ketchup-red Currywurst Museum gives you the opportunity to get behind a sausage stand and see what it’s like to spread joy to your fellow human being. Here you can learn all about the currywurst’s illustrious history, as well as what goes into it. Whatever you think of the exhibits, the Currywurst Museum is probably the best smelling museum in the world, with the currywurst sizzling, just waiting to be covered in a sauce of tomato, curry powder, spices and Worcestershire sauce. If you have any doubt of the importance of currywurst to the locals, just consider the museum’s location, right next to the prime tourist attraction of Checkpoint Charlie. The museum is also near many great Berlin hotels.
Elvisly Yours, London
London and Memphis are about as far apart in just about every way you can imagine. Well, expect one. They both have museums celebrating the King of Rock and Roll. And while Elvis never actually lived in Elvisly Yours, as he did in Graceland, this kitschy museum certainly has its heart in the right place. Here you’ll find just about every kind of Elvis memorabilia you can imagine. Elvis jewelry, Elvis sunglasses, Elvis T-shirts, Elvis art posters, Elvis clocks, watches, calendars, magazines and stamps. And of course the Elvis music never stops. But if you’re a US citizen, I have some bad news for you. Because Elvis Presley Enterprises has a government-protected monopoly on Elvis products, the museum is not allowed to sell you any souvenirs. So before you hit the check-out, be sure to brush up on your British accent. While you won’t find a Heartbreak Hotel anywhere nearby, there are still hundreds of London hotels from which to choose.
Catacombes de Paris, Paris, France
If you want to rub shoulders with Parisians from the 18th century and beyond, there are over six million waiting to meet you just below Denfert-Rochereau. Welcome to the Catacombes de Paris. Where else will you find room after endless room of bones piled up and artfully displayed in every configuration you can imagine? Just 286 steps down a narrow spiral staircase you’ll be greeted by a sign stating “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort.” (“Stop! This is the empire of death.”). The sign doesn’t do much to keep tourists out, and the catacombs, which were stocked after Paris’s cemeteries passed their capacity in 1810, were also used as a hiding place for the French Resistance during World War II. Only a tiny portion of the 300 kilometres of catacombs (that’s 11,000 square metres) are open to the public. But that’s plenty enough to get the feel of the place. The entrance is just opposite the Denfert-Rochereau metro station, and if you don’t mind sleeping atop all those old Parisians, the Hotel du Lion is the closest hotel.
Museum of Witchcraft, Bocastle, England
Known more for as a destination for innocent beach holidays and communing with nature in the picturesque countryside, Cornwall also has a darker side. This can be explored in the Museum of Witchcraft. Located in the charming town of Boscastle for the last fifty years, this is the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related artifacts and paraphernalia. The founder of the museum, Cecil Williamson, is nearly as interesting as the museum itself. A dabbler in the occult, Williamson was also an undercover agent in the MI6 during World War II who collected information on the occult interests of leading Nazi military personnel. The museum offers exhibits on everything from devil worship and Satanism to the persecution of witches, along with
old-fashioned dipping chairs and a library of over 3,000 books on witchcraft and the occult. And don’t miss the Richel Collection, one of the world’s best collections of ritual/sex magic artifacts that has been in the museum’s collection since 2000. Just be sure when you check into your Boscastle hotel that you avoid black cats and that you don’t go under any ladders.
How ironic that the walls built around European cities centuries ago to keep people out are now drawing them in. Part of what makes European walled cities so special is that finding one with its walls intact is extremely rare. But when you do find it, it’s like finding a time machine and traveling back to the distant past. Here are some European walled cities that you’ll never forget.
Not only does Avila have its medieval city walls intact, but it’s also got one of the largest collections of Romanesque and Gothic churches anywhere. Known as the City of Song and Saints, this city in Castile-Leon boasts walls dating from the 11th century. You can get up close and personal every day as the wall walk (Passeig del la Muralla) is open daily from 8 am until 10 pm. If you want views of the walls rather than from them, then take the Passeig Arqueologic, which circles the walls from outside. Located just 115 kilometres northwest of Madrid, Avila makes a wonderful daytrip from the capital city, and as the rest of the city doesn’t have too many sights to offer, you can combine it with a visit to Escorial, which is on the way. If, however, you want to linger, there are many great Avila hotels as well.
With Europe’s most complete 6th, 7th and 8th century walls, Carcassonne provides an experience unlike any anywhere. Whether you stay in a Carcassonne hotel in the old town surrounded by history or along the river below, with its romantic view of La Cite lit up at night, Carcassonne offers many unforgettable views. The walls actually span a much longer time period, with a section dating back to the Romans and a tower (one of many) dating from the 13th century Inquisition, which is still known as The Inquisition Tower. There’s even a good old-fashioned drawbridge, and if you want to experience the dark side of the dark ages, you can visit the Musée de la Torture to see some of the original torture devices used by the Catholic Church. Inside the city, be sure not to miss the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, the Cathedral and the Church of St. Vincent.
If it’s a moat you want, you’ll find it surrounding the medieval walled City of Rhodes. Along with seven gates, a castle and lots of leftover cannon balls. Though that ancient wonder of the world, the Colossus of Rhodes is long-gone, you can still see the 15th century Grand Master’s Palace, walk down Knights Street and see all the ancient crests and visit the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, named for the city’s 1522 conqueror. It’s no wonder that one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. For a special treat, head to the ancient Byzantine Harbour, which was recently excavated, uncovering shipwrecks spanning the centuries. One of the most unique experiences is wandering the crooked stone walkways of the old city at night, after the shops have been shuttered and with nothing but the occasional electric light to tell you that you’re in the 21st century and not the 12th. This can be easily achieved by staying in a Rhodes hotel.
Nowhere is Germany’s famed Romantic Road more romantic than in the walled city of Rothenburg. One of the country’s favorite tourist attractions, this ancient city offers a large collection of traditional half-timbered houses and a large town square that offers concerts in the summer and delicious food all year round. There’s even a Puppen und Spielzeugmuseum featuring dolls and toys. If you need a break from all the good feelings and charm, you can head to the Kriminalmuseum and get an exhaustive view of 1,000 years of judicial punishment, which takes the form of instruments of torture and information about the witch trials for which they were used. Ah, yes. The walls. Rothenburg’s ancient covered walls are open to all who want to walk them. Which is easy when you stay at one of Rothenburg’s many hotels.
If you’re looking for the United Kingdom’s best preserved city walls, you’ll find three and a half kilometres worth surrounding the medieval city of York. Set between London and Edinburgh, York was always a strategic city, which explains why it boasted such impenetrable walls. It also explains its mind-boggling array of 45 towers. Don’t miss the famous York ginnels, which are fifty-plus small thoroughfares within the walls which can be used as medieval short-cuts to explore the city. And don’t miss all the historical treasures inside the city, from the iconic cathedral to the York Dungeon to the York Castle Museum to the world’s largest Railway Museum. Though the modern city has far outgrown its walls, many of York’s hotels can be found within the old city limits.
Posted in France on 01. Jul, 2011
We’re all familiar with the glamorous French Riviera—just the phrase conjures images of multi-million-dollar yachts, sprawling seafront villas, and crowds of celebrities bedecked in designer gowns. But don’t expect to find any of that on the Cap Ferret. Here, you are more likely to fishing boats, quaint cottages and groups of local children riding their bicycles along rocky, dirt roads to the beach.
Simply beautiful and completely lacking of pretense, the Cap Ferret is a favored haunt of Paris and Bordeaux residents. However, it has until recently remained undiscovered by other travelers. This is because up until about a dozen years ago, the Cap Ferret did not have any hotels. Unless you owned a summer home along the lovely coast, you were not able to visit with any degree of convenience. Slowly, the Cap Ferret is building a hospitality industry. Like the rest of its charms, this remains quiet and laidback—ideal for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of crowded cities in France and beyond.
Perched at the tip of a picturesque presqu’île (which literally translates to “almost an island”), the Cap Ferret is best reached by boat. You may also take a tour by boat around the entire Bassin d’Arcachon, which typically takes about two and a half hours. Landlubbers may fly into Bordeaux, and drive directly into Arcachon via the N250.
Once at the Cap Ferret, you will find a number of delightful things to see and do. First and foremost, you will want to head to the gigantic, red-tipped lighthouse that dominates the Pointe du Cap—the tip of the coast. Le Phare du Cap Ferret is undoubtedly its most famous landmark. Climb the lighthouse’s 258 steps, and be rewarded with spectacular views. Avid hikers should also consider tackling the Dune du Pilat, a 3km stretch of sand that forms the largest dune in all of Europe. Many other trails meander along the coast and farther inland; they are great for leisurely walks and cycling tours.
As a place where much of the land is protected by conservation societies, this presqu’île is proud of its natural beauty. The most popular activities therefore take place outdoors. Golf, tennis, and mini-golf courses are plentiful in the area, and there are even more unusual facilities like death-defying ropes courses.
The maritime charm of the Cap Ferret is also alive and well. Water sports like surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, waterskiing, boating and others are what bring many of the Cap Ferret’s tourists. Throughout the spring and summer, the weather tends to stay warm and welcoming. The coastal oasis takes advantage of this fact by hosting outdoor celebrations like the Festival du Cap Ferret (a famous music festival) and other events that honor the area’s maritime history and one of its greatest exports—oysters!
To find excellent hotels near the Cap Ferret, you know where to go—Eurobookings.com.