Category : Madrid
A cornerstone of Spanish cuisine, the tradition of eating tapas has become one of the country’s greatest cultural exports. It is a fun and easily adaptable way to dine, as it allows the eater to build each meal—from a light snack to a hearty supper—to suit his or her tastes and appetite. In recent decades, the mix-and-match small plates can be found across the globe—but of course, there is no better place to go to for authentic tapas than the great cities of Spain and Catalonia. The options vary from city to city, and from even from bar to bar. However, there are a few mainstays that can typically be found in virtually every tapas bar in Spain.
If there is a bar in Spain that only serves one tapa, that tapa is probably a dish of olives. Far and away the most popular snack in the country, it can be seen as Spain’s version of beer nuts. Sidle up to any bar frequented by Spaniards, and odds are that you will find aceitunas on the menu. Some of the many olive varieties available in Spain include empeltres, arbequinas, and the ever-popular manzanillas.
Catalan cuisine heavily features seafood of many kinds, but especially cod. The fish is commonly served in tapas form as bacalao, salty and usually atop slices of bread with tomatoes.
Boquerones en vinagre
You can tell the caliber of a tapas bar’s cuisine by the quality of the boquerones en vinagre (filleted anchovies in vinegar.) In a more upscale establishment, the tiny fish will be fresh from the sea. However, in a cheaper place, they may just be fresh from the tin.
Spanish calamares, or calamari, are battered and fried, crispy on the outside and chewy inside. The tasty circles of squid are sometimes served with a dipping sauce, but also simply divine with just a squeeze of lemon.
Chorizo al vino
Just as tapas have been embraced by eaters around the world, so has chorizo—that most delicious of cured sausages. A traditional tapa, chorizo al vino is just what its name implies—generous chunks of chorizo cooked in red wine. In some parts of Spain, the sausage is also served al sidra, or cooked in cider.
One thing you probably won’t find a lot of in classic tapas bars are fresh vegetables. In fact, ensaladilla rusa (“Russian salad”) is often one of the few vegetarian options available. It is also one of the most popular dishes among the locals, perhaps because it provides the perfect complement to all of that meat. The salad’s main components are potatoes, eggs and mayonnaise; common additions include chopped green beans, carrots and pickled cucumbers.
Pa amb tomaquet
So simple and easy to replicate at home, pa amb tomaquet is a staple of the Catalan diet—and one that many locals hold close to their hearts. The dish is comprised of rustic bread rubbed with tomatoes and sprinkled with salt, olive oil, and sometimes garlic. It can be served as a side dish, or topped with cod (bacalao) or ham to make a tapa.
Another starchy favorite is patatas bravas, fried cubes of potato in a spicy mayonnaise sauce. No, it’s not healthy—but it is most certainly delicious, and an essential component of a traditional tapas meal.
Pimientos del Padron
Pimiento peppers—yes, those little red peppers commonly found stuffed into green olives—take on an entirely new identity in this tapas dish. The thumb-sized fruits are fried in hot oil, salted, and served as pimientos del Padron (named for the region in Galicia where they come from.) While most are fairly mild, some pimiento peppers are quite spicy—so savor with caution!
The name pinchos or pintxo comes from the Spanish word for “spike.” The dish, typically Basque in origin, includes a small (ie. toothpick-sized) skewer of meat served on a slice of bread.
… Of course, that’s just the beginning! There are many other tasty tapas served in Spanish cities, from Madrid to Barcelona. To find the perfect hotel in Spain to pair with your food, be sure to check out Eurobookings.com—The European Hotel Specialist!
Europe is known more for the horizontal nature of its cities; cities full of ancient architectural treasures that rise tens of metres and not hundreds. To a large degree it’s out of respect for such monuments as the Paris Opera House, Westminster Abbey and the Kremlin that American-style skylines have not emerged to smother their classical beauty. But within the last several decades, there has been a building boom in Europe, resulting in buildings that are not only cutting edge in design… but are very tall. Here are a few of the tallest.
City of Capitals Moscow, Moscow, Russia
More than any other city, Moscow has been leading the charge and now lays claim not only to five of the top ten tallest buildings on the continent, but also to the top three on the list. The tallest of these is the City of Capitols Moscow. Completed in 2010, this shining structure rises 310.6 metres from the street below. This makes it an imposing sight, especially in light of the fact that its neighboring City of Capitals St. Petersburg is only 44.7 metres shorter. Luckily for us, this is one of those skyscrapers offering lots of access to the public, as the upper half of the building offer a 10,800 square metre entertainment complex, including shops, restaurants, movie theatres, presentation halls and a huge 2,480 square metre fitness centre. There’s also 101,440 square metres of large apartments and 80,000 square metres of office space. If you want to sleep with a view of the towers, the two-star Moscow Apartments are right across the river.
Sapphire of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
After Moscow, the number four spot goes to the Sapphire of Istanbul, which weighs in at a height of 238 metres. Of course, some skyscraper enthusiasts like to count the spire, which makes the height 261 metres. Rising 54 floors above ground level, the Sapphire offers lots of shopping, as well as once-impossible views of the Bosphorus. An especially nice way to enjoy your view is while floating in the swimming pool located 33.5 metres up the building. Or how about a game of golf at 163 metres? But what makes the Sapphire unique are the building’s gardens that are found every three floors and the recreation areas that can be found every 10 stories. Since the main purpose of the building is residential, the designers have gone to great lengths to make it livable. The Sapphire is Turkey’s first green building, having two special glass shells which can take the outside air naturally by holes located at every 3 floors. If you want to sleep close to the Sapphire, the five-star Avantgarde Hotel Istanbul makes an excellent choice.
Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt, Germany
Second only to Moscow in the number of skyscrapers, the financial centre of Frankfurt-am-Main boasts two of the top ten tallest buildings in Europe. The tallest is Commerzbank Tower, which passed up the Messeturm upon its 1997 completion. It’s actually difficult to stand out from the competition in the modern skyline that has earned the city the nickname of “Mainhattan.” But at 259 metres and boasting a unique modern design, Commerzbank Tower does just that. Especially when you throw in the signal light on top which increases the height to 300.1 metres. It’s no surprise that the two tallest buildings in Frankfurt are office buildings, thus lacking the creature comforts of the Sapphire. But in addition to its 121,000 square metres of office space, this 56-story building also offers beautiful winter gardens, and the natural lighting and air circulation give it a light breezy feeling. If you want a break from the modern buildings in the Frankfurt skyline, just a block from the Commerzbank Tower is the more classic structure housing the five-star luxury Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof Hotel.
Cuatro Torres, Madrid, Spain
Though Madrid’s entry into the top ten is technically the 250 metre-high Torre Caja Madrid, it wouldn’t make sense not to include the building’s three partners, Torre de Cristal, Torre Sacyr Vallehermosothe and Torre Espacio. All built between 2007 and 2009, these four modern wonders make up the Cuatro Torres. Their proximity and their similar heights (Torre de Cristal is only 89 centimetres shorter than Torre Caja Madrid) make the four buildings part of a greater whole. A brand-new landmark for the grand old capital of Madrid, the towers, set on the north end of the city, are hard to miss, whether you’re landing at nearby Barajas Airport or hiking up the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains outside the city. Located in a business and entertainment district, there are many shops, restaurants and hotels in the surrounding area. But you can’t get much closer than the five star Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel, as it is actually located on the 30th floor of Torre Sacyr Vallehermosothe.
1 Canada Square, London, England
If 1 Canada Square looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it in a movie. Like its American cousins the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, 1 Canada Square has become a cinematic icon, appearing in 28 Weeks Later, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Bourne Supremacy, Johnny English and the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough. Located at the lively Canary Wharf it’s the oldest entry in the top 10, having been completed in 1991, and its 50 stories are spread over 235 metres. But if you want to see it as the UK’s tallest building, you’d better see it fast, as the soon-to-be-completed Shard London Bridge will surpass it upon its 2012 completion. But no matter where it ranks, you’ll be able to enjoy its distinctive pyramid roof which boasts a flashing aircraft warning light, a rarity for buildings in the UK. If you want to stay in a hotel that puts you close to the building and to all the shops, restaurants and nightlife of Canary Wharf, consider the five-star Four Seasons London Canary Wharf.
Ah, the airport hotel. Those drab, personality-free shoeboxes set out somewhere on a lonely road, far from the cities we’ve come to visit. The things we give up for the convenience of being near our flight. But it doesn’t have to be like that! The fact is that there are now many hotels set near airports that give you all the same luxuries, services and comforts of their downtown counterparts – and with the added convenience of an airport hotel. Here are five great examples of four or five star luxury hotels located minutes from your flight.
Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel, London
The Sofitel chain specializes in providing premium accommodation experiences, and the five-star Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel is no exception. Impressively sized with 605 guest rooms, this is the only hotel providing direct access to Heathrow’s Terminal Five via a covered walkway, and Terminals One, Two, Three and Four are minutes away via the courtesy Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect rail connection, which can also have you in central London in just 21 minutes. The full-service ESPA offers five treatment rooms, a relaxation room, a hammam and a Massage Hydro Suite, as well as a steam room, a sauna and a vitality pool. Hungry? La Belle Époque serves classic French cuisine, while Tea 5 serves traditional English tea, coffees, and pastries, desserts and light meals. Then there’s Vivre for casual dining with an open kitchen and live cooking demonstrations in the evening. If you’re looking for nightlife, Sphere is a chic bar and lounge with an distinctive fireplace and Icelandic décor, serving snacks, artesian beverages, tap beers, cocktails, and a variety of wines, and you can also grab a drink at the Library Bar.
Radisson BLU Hotel Amsterdam Airport Hotel, Amsterdam
The five-star Radisson BLU Hotel Amsterdam Airport also does a great job of balancing luxury and convenience with a free shuttle service that can have you at your gate in minutes and distinctively decorated guest rooms. You can choose between Maritime, Oriental and Scandinavian décor, and the public spaces in the 10-story high, 279 room accommodation offer a cutting edge atmosphere with a hint of Art Deco touches, from the gold leaf in the ceiling-mounted disks of light to the marble and black veneer of the reception desk. When it’s time to relax, you can get a massage in the spa treatment room or just melt away in the steam room and the sauna. When it’s time to eat, you can either be in central Amsterdam in minutes (or central Den Haag) or stay in and enjoy gourmet Mediterranean cuisine like in the glow of silver candlesticks at the hotel’s restaurant, Talavera. Grilled Scallops with Flash-Fried Red Tuna is a favourite, a hot-and-cold buffet breakfast is served daily, and summer barbecues are held on the outside terrace. For informal dining, there’s the intimate Lighthouse, which displays paintings by local artists, and Rodolpho’s invites you to enjoy a drink in a bijou armchair.
Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel, Madrid
If you want to spread out in comfort as you wait to catch your flight out of Barajas Airport, the Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel can help by offering you a 37 square metre guest room with floor-to ceiling windows and heated floors. Marble bathrooms, flat-screen plasma TVs and indoor and outdoor swimming pools are some of the other premium amenities that make this five-star, 284-room hotel something special. The free airport shuttle service to the airport also goes to the city centre, so you’ll feel a great sense of mobility. But with the 24-hour gym, sauna, steam bath and hydro-therapy pool, staying in also sounds like a great idea. For dining, the hotel’s La Plaza offers seasonal local specialities like Serrano ham and churros, while the stylish Reserva Grill specialized in grilled Spanish meats and fish, accompanied by delicious side dishes and wine. The Ferrum Bar is more than just a bar, offering one last opportunity to enjoy hot and cold tapas before you head back home, accompanied by an expertly mixed cocktail or a flute of Champagne.
Albergo Hotel, Berlin
The four-star luxury Albergo Hotel may have you a bit confused, as you wonder how you arrived in Tuscany without even getting on your airplane. But what’s wrong with a little bit of Italy near Berlin’s Schonefeld Airport? This sunny accommodation offers a southern flair accompanied by spa facilities ranging from a sauna with its own roof garden, to a solarium to a modern fitness centre, all open 24 hours a day. The Tuscan stylings of the hotel continue in the 50 guest rooms and in the Ristorante Albergo Restaurant, which may make you want to get on a plane bound for Siena, wherever you’re actually going. You can enjoy exotic cocktails in the Albergo’s bar, and you even have time for an extra drink or two, thanks to the shuttle service that can have you at the airport in just minutes.
Residenza D Epoca Pietra di Ponente, Rome
Going from faux-Italy to the real thing, the four-star Residenza D Epoca Pietra di Ponente Hotel is about as far from an airport hotel as you can get but is still minutes away from Rome’s Ciampino Airport. As you sip wine and take in the view of the countryside surrounding Rome and the Eternal City itself, from the hotel’s open air terrace, your flight will probably be the furthest thing from your mind. Offering just 17 guest rooms, this intimate four-star accommodation is set in a historical building, as you can see from the vaulted ceilings, the ancient fireplace and the cellar which now houses a charming lounge. That wine in your hand comes from the hotel’s serene bar, and you can accompany it with the fresh, regional organic produce used in the authentic cuisine being offered by the hotel restaurant. Dine in the restaurant, out on the terrace or in the privacy of your room. Then take a stroll through the hotel grounds. By the time you have to take that free shuttle ride to the airport, they might have to drag you kicking and screaming.
Posted in Madrid on 18. Aug, 2011
Between boat rides on the lake in the Parque Del Buen Retiro, long days spent in the halls of the Prado, Thyssen Bornemisza and Reina Sofia Museums and the thousands of tapas bars and nightclubs throughout the city, Madrid has plenty to keep you busy. But if you can make the time, there are also many things to see surprisingly close to the Spanish capital city that you really don’t want to miss. Here are five of the most noteworthy choices:
El Pardo, 16 kilometres
Though mostly associated with General Franco, as the Palacio Real del Pardo served as the dictator’s residence for much of his rule, El Pardo and its palace have a long history, going back to at least the year 1406. That was the year that the palace was built by King Henry III of Castile. In 1739 the palace played a part in averting a war between Britain and Spain, when it played host to a peace conference, resulting in the Convention of Pardo. Now used as a residence for visiting heads of state, the palace is notable for its luscious interior decoration with its ceiling frescoed by Gaspar Becerra and paintings by Vincenzo Carducci and Cabrera. Besides the palace, the smaller royal residences of the Casita del Príncipe and the Quinta del Duque del Arco are worth seeing, as well as the 17th Convento de los Padres Capuchinos, which boasts a sculpture of Jesus by Gregorio Fernández. And don’t miss the Palace of Zarzuela.
Alcalá de Henares, 34 kilometres
The first of many UNESCO World Heritage Site close to Madrid, Alcalá de Henares is famous for many things. It is the birthplace of Don Quixote author Miguel Cervantes, and the house of his birth is now a museum. Another historical site worth seeing is La Catedral-Magistral, one of only two magisterial cathedrals in Europe. Inside is la Cripta de los Santos Niños, a tomb for persecuted Catholic children. The Corral de Comedias in central Plaza Cervantes is one of the oldest “Corral de Comedias” theatres in Europe, and the House of Hyppolytus is a Roman archaeological complex with well-preserved mosaics dating back to the 3rd century. The 14th century Archbishop’s Palace is also quite amazing, as is the House of the Interview, a Franciscan convent founded in sixteenth century. But what the city is really known for is la Universidad de Alcalá, a venerable old institution founded in 1499 by Cardenal Cisneros and the centre of Spain’s academic excellence in the 16th and 17th centuries.
El Escorial, 56 kilometres
Paris has Versailles, Berlin has Sanssouci, and Madrid has El Escorial. You may find this magnificent palace more somber than the others, but that’s because it was constructed by pious Philip II in the 16th century to serve as the royal monastery. You may be surprised to see how Spartan his own quarters are, but you will be bowled over by the gardens outside, the chapel in the centre and the ornate rooms and halls throughout the building. Now wonder that it too has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the windows and the balconies, you can just make out Madrid in the distance, and you can imagine the delight of the royals over the ages being able to see from one palace to the other. Speaking of the royals, one of the most impressive sights in el Escorial is the royal crypt downstairs, where nearly all the Spanish kings and queens can be found in a cool, somber chamber glistening with many colors of marble. After all that walking, you can stroll to the town centre of San Lorenzo del Escorial for a nice meal in a sidewalk café.
Toledo, 89 kilometres
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient walled city of Toledo was a rarity in that it was (for awhile anyway) one of the only places in Christian Spain where Muslims, Jews and Christians actually got along – in large part because of Alfonso X. Though the peace did not last, you still get to reap the benefits, as in addition to all the Christian monuments (such as one of the most impressive Cathedrals you’re going to find anywhere, there are still many remnants left behind from Toledo’s Moorish and Jewish inhabitants. For example, the Synagogue del Transito awaits in the old Jewish Quarter, now home to the Sephardic Museum, and the Tornerías Mosque dates back to the 11th century. Now owned by the Catholic Church, the Santa María la Blanca is the oldest Synagogue in Europe still standing. Toledo’s other claim to fame, besides its famous city walls and gates, is that it was home to El Greco. His presence is still felt everywhere, especially in the Museo de El Greco. The ancient Alcántara Bridge across the Tagus River takes you back to the time of the Romans, and for an unforgettable experience, you can just put away the guide book and get lost in some of the windiest Medieval streets in the world.
Cuenca, 168 kilometres
Not quite as famous as its Andalusian counterpart Ronda, the city of Cuenca is nonetheless quite impressive with its casas colgadas “hanging houses” defying gravity perched up there on top of those cliffs. Halfway between Madrid and Valencia, Cuenca can be accessed by high-speed rail, making it easy to visit. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is not the ideal place for those afraid of heights. But for the stout-hearted, many rewards are waiting. This gem in the province of Castilla La Mancha offers a beautiful baroque Town Hall, built by Charles III in 1762 and supported by three Roman arches. Though the Cathedral is incomplete after an unsuccessful nineteenth century refurbishment, it is still quite beautiful, and one way to get into two of the hanging houses is to visit the Museum of Spanish Abstract Art, which has occupied them for the last several decades. The Archeological Museum reveals many Roman finds in the area. But in the end, the main reason to visit Cuenca is for the breathtaking views of the Huecar River Gorge from its 15th century casas colgadas.
El Pardo: Four-star AC Hotel Monte Real by Marriott
Alcalá de Henares
San Lorenzo de Escorial
With Minnesota’s 390,000 square-metre Mall of America and the 570,000 square-metre West Edmonton Mall in Alberta Canada, not to mention such iconic malls as the Sherman Oaks Galleria, you would think that the world’s best malls would be found west of the Atlantic. But the Old Country still has some tricks up its sleeve, and whether you’re looking to find that one special bargain or you just want to shop till you drop, Europe boasts some awesome shopping venues. European malls not only provide you with the full spectrum of shopping and dining options, but many also boast some unusual attractions for the non-shopper. As we will see…
Madrid Xanadú, Arroyomolinos, Spain
A fine example of a mall offering more than shopping can be found 30 kilometres from the centre of Madrid in the countryside just outside of the town of Arroyomolinos. In addition to offering over 222 shops and restaurants and the 15-screen Cinesa Movie Theatre, Madrid Xanadú is also one of Spain’s most popular places to go skiing and snowboarding. How, you may ask? Simple. The mall plays host to Madrid SnowZone, a huge covered ski slope with artificial snow. The mall, which is anchored by Spain’s famous mega-store, El Corté Inglés, along with its Hipercor at El Corté Inglés, was built in 2002 with the SnowZone opening in 2006. Most Madrid hotels will be able to help you find easy transportation to the mall.
Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin, Ireland
Though its 80,000 square metres makes it smaller than the Mall of America, Dundrum Town Centre is Ireland’s biggest mall, featuring over 160 tenants. These include Tesco Ireland, Marks and Spencer, House of Fraser, Next, Karen Millen, Harvey Nichols, GAP, Timberland and Penney’s, as well as its own petrol station at the shopping centre. A full list of tenants is available on the shopping centre’s website. Dundrum Town Centre’s claim to fame indirectly derives from its origin as a Pye television factory. It may be the only mall that has its own TV and radio stations. Dundrum South FM 93.9 is a local community-based radio station for South Dublin, which predates the mall by nine years, and the TV station, Dundrum Television is operated by RTE. Students from local schools get involved in the action, gaining valuable media experience. Dundrum Town Centre may also be one of the only malls to be blessed upon opening by the local clergy. Fifteen minutes from the heart of the Irish capital, the mall can be easily reached from your Dublin hotel.
Il Vulcano Buono, Nola, Italy
Though Il Vulcano Buono offers a choice of 155 shops, along with some restaurants and bars, the shopping is not what makes this 2007 shopping mall unique. Can you guess looking at the photo? Set right near Mount Vesuvius, the unique design by architect Renzo Piano is meant to represent a volcano itself. Its gently grass-covered slope blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment as it pays homage to the area’s most prevalent natural feature. There’s also a multiplex theatre and a gallery here, and its 160-metre circular centre, which is modeled on the Naples Piazza del Plebiscito, is used for concerts and events. The open sky allows light to enter through the “rim” of the volcano, and there are also skylights fitted with solar double-pane glass. The entire establishment occupies an area of approximately 450,000 square metres. Your best accommodation bet is to stay in the charming town of Nola.
Gasometer City, Vienna, Austria
Another unique mall that is more than a mall is Gasometer City, a community that boasts a 3,000 person music hall, a movie theatre, a student dormitory, 800 apartments and a shopping mall. All within a series of four brick gas tanks dating from the 1890s. Used until 1984 to store gas and then natural gas, Gasometer City is one of the most creative re-use projects in the world. Completed in 2001, this is a city within a city, featuring offices as well as residences and shopping, providing residents with everything they need without every stepping outside. Many theses and dissertations in psychology, urban planning, journalism and architecture have been written about the place, and even if you’re not in the mood to shop, it’s still an interesting Vienna attraction and not far from most Vienna hotels.
Mall of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria
Though the Mall of Sofia located at the central intersection of Aleksandar Stamboliyski Boulevard and Opalchenska Street would not draw much attention if it was located in any western European or American city, it is an indication of just how far capitalism has come in formerly communist Eastern Europe. This modern glass and steel shopping centre opened its doors in 2006 and also boasts distinctive office space in its attached Sofia Tower. Four-stories tall and taking up 70,000 square metres, the mall and office complex offers up a lot of shopping. There are 130 stores, a supermarket, pharmacies, a beauty salon, an Internet café and DVD and video rentals. And to drive herald even further the arrival of the west, just look at some of the food options. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut are all there, along with Cinema City, a 12-screen multiplex cinema featuring the first 3-D IMAX theatre in Southeastern Europe. Set prominently in the city centre, the mall can be easily reached from most Sofia hotels.
In these belt-tightening days when the price of plane fare alone is enough to keep you from traveling, cutting costs is more necessary than ever. Still, you have to get to your destination, and once there you have to sleep someplace. So why not try a hostel? Unlike the old days when hostels were exclusively the domain of rowdy young backpackers, more people are taking advantage of these no-frills budget accommodations. And many times you’ll be surprised at the many amenities and the wonderful locations that a hostel can provide, all for that same low cost. Here are some prime hostel picks. But remember that rates listed here may be higher or lower than what you find, as they change all the time.
Hostal Bahía, Madrid Spain
The centre of Madrid and thus the centre of Spain is the Puerta del Sol, and the Hostal Bahía invites you to sleep there for prices as low as € 25 per night. Double rooms can be converted into triple rooms, and while there are no Jacuzzis, infinity pools or Shiatsu massages, there are vending machines, a first-rate tour desk and complimentary wireless internet access. Of course with all of central Madrid’s tapas bars and cafes just outside your door, you many never notice those vending machines. And you can spend the money you save at the hostel on some real meals. The Royal Palace and the Plaza Mayor are a short walk in one direction, while the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums are a short walk in the other direction, with the Parque del Buen Retiro just further.
City 54 Hotel Berlin, Berlin Germany
Though the € 50 single room rate approaches that of a regular hotel, € 72 for an apartment is quite a deal. Especially with its spot less than 10 blocks from the Tiergarten, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the famous Museum Island with its Cathedral. You can cut that walking time down by renting one of the hotel’s bicycles, and for points further afield, the nearest S-Bahn station is three blocks away, and the nearest U-Bahn station only two blocks. But before sending you on your way, the City 54 Hotel Berlin treats you to a complimentary buffet breakfast. The hostel also offers the convenience of a 24-hour reception desk and the beauty of a courtyard garden, and all the rooms refurbished in 2008. There are also vending machines and wireless internet access – though here it will cost you. There’s also a tour desk here, and this hotel that prides itself on being gay-friendly also welcomes the whole family – including the family pet.
Superbude Hotel & Hostel & Lounge, Hamburg Germany
The draw at the Superbude is the quadruple room which can get as low as € 123. And then there are all the amenities, hostel-style. Like the in-hotel cinema, furnished with jean-sofas and the Sportsroom, where you can play Wii. Yes, this is a more youth-oriented accommodation, offering bicycles, board games, Nintendo and even the rental of Skype phones. The hostel’s innovative design won it Best Interior Design Award in 2008, and the interiors alone are worth a peek, with shelves made out of water pipes, furniture made from thick ropes and pallets and your choice of six room colours. Like a regular hotel, your room comes with a flat-screen TV with a range of data ports, and in the morning you can choose from the early-bird breakfast and the sleep-in breakfast. There’s even a gift shop, a fitness centre and a ticket service, as well as a complimentary wireless connection.
Ulisse Deluxe Hostel, Sorrento Italy
With double and twin rooms as low as € 50, the Ulisse Deluxe Hostel’s goal is to change the conception of the hostel. They do this by providing public spaces that are as grand and elegant as the city of Sorrento itself. And with the many hotel-like amenities. The wellness center offers a sparkling indoor swimming pool, a fully-equipped gym, a Jacuzzi and even a massage service. Other amenities you might not associate with hostels are the childcare services, the room service and the currency exchange, as well as that old stand-by, free wireless internet access. The Ulisse Deluxe strives to create a chic sophisticated ambience in the rooms and in the bar, where you can choose from a variety of cocktails. And then there’s the location. Right in the centre of the city, the hostel is just a short walk from the Piazza Tasso and the fishing village Marina Grade.
Candy Hotel & Hostel, New York, USA
Let’s jump the pond and land in the surprisingly green upper part of the island of Manhattan and the Candy Hotel & Hostel. Switching currencies, the Candy has done the remarkable by offering dormitory rooms for US$ 25 singles with shared bathrooms for US$ 54. Just two blocks from lovely Riverside Church, the hostel is also easy walking distance from Grant’s Tomb, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and even Central Park. All the iconic attractions of Mid-town and Lower Manhattan are also easy to reach via nearby subways and buses. You can also rent a bike and ride south along Riverside Park or north to the Cloisters. The Candy itself offers an on-site film room for your entertainment, as well as a business centre, a billiards table and a tour and ticket desk, making it a great budget choice for business travelers as well as leisure travelers.
Posted in Amsterdam, France, Frankfurt, Germany, London, Madrid, Netherlands, Paris, Spain, The UK on 30. Sep, 2010
The ideal European holiday typically involves a lot of down time—leisurely afternoons in which to shop and tour art museums, nights solely dedicated to fine dining and drinking, and late mornings free of business obligations. However, sometimes this indulgent experience is simply not possible. For those occasions when one needs to travel in and out as quickly as possible, nothing beats an airport hotel. Here are the five busiest airports in Europe, and the best hotels near their terminals:
London Heathrow Airport
The largest airport in the United Kingdom actually handles more international passengers than any other in the world. Whether you are visiting London or just passing through, chances are high that you will land in London Heathrow. The airport is actually located in the Borough of Hillingdon, 14 miles (22km) west of Central London. However, that does not mean that hotels near London Heathrow Airport are not great home bases from which to explore the city! Try the elegant Arora Hotel Heathrow, or the reliable Holiday Inn London Heathrow.
Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport
Situated to the northeast of Paris, this bustling aviation centre is the principle hub for Air France. It therefore handles a lot of international traffic; in fact, it is the second busiest airport in Europe. Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport (also known as Roissy Airport) can be found within several communes 16 miles (25km) to the northeast of the city centre. The Pullman Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel and other hotels near Charles de Gaulle Airport are therefore convenient places to stay.
The busiest airport for passenger traffic in Germany is undoubtedly Frankfurt’s, located 7.5 miles (12km) southwest of the city center. Additionally, Frankfurt Airport is close to several other important destinations. The city of Cologne, Stuttgart and the Ruhr Area may all be reached within two hours by ground transportation. Therefore, the greatest hotels near Frankfurt Airport (like the NH Frankfurt Airport and the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers Conference Center) are excellent places to stop along the way.
Madrid – Barajas Airport
Since first opening in 1928, Madrid – Barajas Airport has grown to be the fourth busiest in Europe. Unlike other international hubs of aviation, Barajas is actually located within the limits of its namesake city. It can be found 5.6 miles (9km) from the financial district, and 8.1 miles (13km) from Puerta del Sol (the historic centre of Madrid.) Hotels near Barajas Airport, including the upscale Clement Barajas and the more affordable Hostal El Cruce, are quite close to local tourist attractions.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Whether you prefer a 4-star establishment like the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel or an economical option like the Yotel Schiphol Airport, you will find your ideal home base among hotels near Schiphol Airport. The major hub of international transportation is actually located in the municipality of Haarlemmermeer, 5.6 miles (9.1km) southwest of Amsterdam. It can be reached in 20 minutes by car or public transportation, and is therefore quite close to business centers and tourist attractions.
Posted in Barcelona, Belgium, Brussels, Dublin, France, Frankfurt, Germany, Ireland, Italy, London, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Spain, The UK on 23. Sep, 2010
If you thought that high-end outlet malls were only to be found in the USA, then think again. Less than an hour from nine European cities are the nine shopping venues belonging to Chic Outlet Shopping, known collectively as “The Villages.” Each one is a destination in itself, an open-air shopping Mecca hosting between 50 and 140 European luxury brand outlet boutiques, from Abro to Zoo York. The shops range from European to international, with each also featuring shops representative of the host country. Each is easy to reach from its host city via a shuttle. The store directories and shuttle information can be found on the website for each village.
LONDON (Bicester Village)
Bicester Village offers over 130 outlet stores, all set in the village of Bicester in the heart of the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. The Village has its own Italian and French restaurants, and also provides the perfect excuse to explore all the attractions of Oxfordshire. London itself is only 60 minutes away, and the shops at the village provide you with up to 60% discounts on the recommended retail price. You can either make Bicester Village a daytrip from your London hotel or stay closer to the action in a Bicester hotel.
DUBLIN (Kildare Village)
Just an hour from Dublin, in the heart of County Kildare you’ll find many horse farms and horse-racing venues. You’ll also find Kildare Village, home to more than 55 luxury boutiques. Kildare Village specializes in providing you with a broad selection of the collections of the previous season in famous international names in both fashion and homeware. Discounts here also reach up to 60% of the retailers’ recommended price. The charming village of Kildare offers one hotel, and nearby villages like Newbridge offer other accommodations. Or you can always stay in the vibrant capital city of Dublin itself.
PARIS (La Vallée Village)
It should come as no surprise that the fashion capital of the planet for the last several centuries would play host to a luxury outlet mall. La Vallée Village is just 35 minutes from the City of Light. And if you need something to calm the kids down while you shop, you can promise them a trip to Disneyland Paris, which is just five minutes away in the neighboring city of Marne-la-Vallée. In the meantime, you can lose yourself among the 90 luxury outlet boutiques where you’ll find low prices on Paris’s finest. There are many Paris hotels, as well as closer hotels in the town of Bailly-Romainvilliers, which plays host to La Vallée Village, and neighboring towns like Magny-le-Hongre and Serris.
MADRID (Las Rozas Village)
Set right between the Spanish capital Madrid and the amazing El Escorial, the residence and final resting place of many Spanish kings and queens, Las Rozas Village offers up to 60% reductions in over 100 luxury outlet boutique shops. Many Spanish brands are represented, along with international stores. The Village is located in the Madrid suburb of Las Rozas de Madrid, which boasts some fine hotels. But if you’d rather enjoy the excitement of the capital city that never sleeps, many Madrid hotels are only 30 minutes away.
BARCELONA (La Roca Village)
Located in the heart of Catalonia, La Roca Village provides not only international designer brand outlet boutiques and not only their Spanish counterparts, but also the unique opportunity to buy from authentic Catalan designer shops. The stores at La Roca Village offer discounts of up to 60%, and the location is also excellent. Only 40 minutes from Barcelona’s vibrant city centre, La Roca Village puts you on the road to the beautiful Costa Brava, so you’d better be sure to buy a swim suit while you’re there. La Roca Village is located in the town of Granollers, which offers a selection of hotels. Or maybe you’d rather spend the night in a hotel or apartment in Barcelona itself.
MILAN (Fidenza Village)
Residents of Milan might take exception to the designation of Paris as the fashion capital of the world. And after a day in Fidenza Village, you might end up agreeing with them. While the shops of Milan itself are notoriously expensive, Fidenza Village offer up to 70% reductions in more than 100 luxury outlet boutiques. The world’s leading Italian and international fashion brands are available, and Fidenza Village is an hour away from both Milan and the exciting university city of Bologna. Milan offers a wide range of hotels that are convenient to the Village shuttle. Or you can stay in the Hotel Astoria or Hotel Fidenza in the town of Fidenza itself.
BRUSSELS (Maasmechelen Village)
Though known more for its chocolates and its beautifully preserved medieval core than for its fashion, the city of Brussels is just an hour’s drive (or shuttle ride) from the 95 luxury outlet boutiques of Maasmechelen Village. Here you can save from 30% to 60% off the recommended retail price on the previous season’s collections from leading Belgian and international names in fashion, homeware and home décor. Set at the beautiful green intersection of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, Maasmechelen Village can be combined with many international daytrips. You can use the B&B Basil in Maasmechelen as your homebase, or stay in one of the many luxurious Brussels hotels nearby.
FRANKFURT (Wertheim Village)
One of the business capitals of Europe now offers the opportunity to shop like crazy with the 110 luxury outlets of Wertheim Village 50 minutes away. Like some of the other Chic Outlet Shopping venues, Wertheim Village offers up to 60% off on the previous season’s collections, and like the other venues, you can get access to both international and German companies. Wertheim Village is also located right at the gateway to the famous Romantic Road, making it a convenient stop on your way out of Frankfurt or on your way back in. Wertheim hotels make a great Romantic Road homebase, while Frankfurt hotels put you in the middle of the action.
MUNICH (Ingolstadt Village)
And last but certainly not least are the 100 boutiques found at Ingolstadt Village, which is located just 50 minutes north of all the beer gardens, churches and Bavarian charm of the city of Munich. This lively city also has a thriving cultural scene with more art galleries and theatres than any other city in Germany. The easiest way to enjoy the 60% discounts at Ingolstadt Village is to stay at an Ingolstadt hotel, though the shuttle from central Munich makes it possible to stay in a hotel in Munich.
Whether you consider yourself to be an art lover or not, you probably know that Spain has produced some of the world’s greatest masters. You may even know that the country is home to one of the most extraordinary art museums on earth, the Prado. However, that is not the only landmark in which to discover Spain’s amazing artistic legacy. Here, four of the country’s most legendary artists and the places to go to find their most celebrated works:
Probably one of the most famous painters in the entire world, Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881. He studied in Barcelona and Madrid before eventually moving to Paris at the turn of the century. Although France became his permanent home, the father of Cubism is always closely identified with Barcelona. Take a tour of the world-famous Museu de Picasso to see some of the painter’s early work, or head to the Museo Reina Sofia to see the Guernica. Great hotels in Barcelona include the Catalonia Ramblas and the Hotel Icaria Barcelona.
Picasso's most famous painting, "Guernica"
Francisco de Goya
Francisco de Goya was born in 1746 in Fuendetodos, but he spent much of his life in Madrid and Italy. Goya is often called the last of the “Old Master” painters, and his most famous works do stay true to that old-fashioned style. Many of the painter’s celebrated pieces are scattered across the globe, in popular art museums around Europe and beyond. However, his legendary The Third of May 1808 may be found in Madrid’s Prado Museum. Recommended hotels in Madrid include the Hotel Rex and the Husa Princesa.
This 17th-century painter was born in 1599 in Seville. Throughout his life, he accumulated an impressive body of work. However, Diego Velazquez is probably best known for his striking realism—especially within his portraits. Members of royalty and other important figures commissioned Velazquez to depict themselves and loved ones. His most famous painting, Las Meninas, is of one of the king’s young daughters and the staff who waited on her. It hangs in the Prado in Madrid to this day.
"Las Meninas" by Velazquez
Everyone knows the surrealist signature of Salvador Dali—his melting clocks and morphing figures are easy to identify. After being born in 1904 in Figueres, Dali went on to study Cubism and Dadaism in Madrid. His unique brand of modern art can be found all across the globe. In particular, his most famous painting (The Persistence of Memory, full of melting clocks) hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Visitors to Spain should check out the Teatre-Museu Dali in Figueres, entirely dedicated to the legendary artist. And, of course, you know where to find excellent hotels in Figueres!
Who in their right mind does not like potatoes? Baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato skins, potato chips, potato soup … the possibilities go on and on.
Today’s Food Day Friday post is all about patatas bravas, which is a dish commonly served in Madrid. Main ingredient? You guessed it. Potatoes.
The concept is pretty simple. Take potatoes, chop them into chunks, then deep fry them. The trick is getting the “brava” sauce right.
The best way to describe “brava” sauce is a mayo base, with a kick. Some recipes use chili sauce or Tabasco sauce. (Patatas Bravas is Spanish for “fierce potatoes.”)
A basic recipe for patatas bravas is as follows:
First, wash and peel your potatoes, then cut them into 1″ chunks. Boil them for a few minutes to get them soft, then carefully put them in hot oil to deep fry them. Watch them and remove them when they reach a nice golden brown color.
To prepare the sauce, heat one tablespoon of EVOO over medium-high heat, coating the pan. Then, add 1 cup of diced onion and 1 cup of bell pepper, and saute until tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, and an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce. Feel free to add Tabasco sauce to taste. Cook for a few minutes to blend the flavors together. Then, remove from heat and pour the mixture into a blender. Remove the middle part of the blender lid (to help the steam dissipate) and place the lid on the blender. (You can use a loose towel or paper towel over the hole to keep the mixture from splattering out.) Gently pulse until smooth.
You can either pour the sauce over the potatoes, or use it as a dipping sauce on the side. Either way, you will fall in love with the taste of Madrid.
If you are planning a trip to Madrid, you can find this authentic dish served up in local bars. It shouldn’t be too hard to find someone enjoying a plate, just make sure you have a tall glass of your favorite beverage handy in case it is a little too spicy for your tastes. Enjoy!