Category : London
While England may not be known worldwide for its culinary prowess, the nation does seem to dominate a certain mealtime: afternoon tea. No trip to London would be complete without an authentic teatime, complete with dainty finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and prettily painted pots of piping-hot tea. And here are five of the best places in the city to do it:
Head Chef Eric Chavot put the Capital Hotel on the culinary map, earning its signature restaurant Michelin stars. Afternoon Tea, at £25.00 or £37.50 with a glass of Champagne, is the perfect way to enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere and cuisine without committing to an entire dinner. Tea per person includes a choice of beverages, delicate sandwiches, homemade scones served with preserves and cream, and other delicious pastries. The ambience is posh and cozy, complete with a burning fire and precious antique furnishings.
The English Tea Room
Aptly named and hailed as one of the city’s best afternoon teas, the English Tea Room at the Brown’s Hotel is a London institution. The décor is as sophisticated as it gets: Wood paneling, multiple fireplaces, Jacobean ceilings, Paul Smith lighting, original works of art and even a baby grand piano set a refined and relaxing scene. There are 17 different types of tea available, including the Brown’s own blend. The price per person for the Traditional Afternoon Tea is £39.50 per person; there is also a Champagne Afternoon Tea for £49.50, and a Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea for £52.50. Yes, the prices are steep—but you get what you pay for.
The Reading Room
Art Deco elegance is enhanced by rich leather columns, lavish banquettes, large mirrors, suede walls and two glamorous cut-marble fireplaces at The Reading Room inside Claridge’s. Consistently voted one of the best in London, the teatime menu features nearly 40 different types of tea from around the world. Freshly baked scones and pastries are also included in Afternoon Tea (£38 per person), Champagne Afternoon Tea (£49) and Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea (£62.) There is also a gluten-free tea set available upon request.
Located within the world-famous Harrods department store, Ladurée brings Parisian chic to London’s Knightsbridge district. The beautiful décor is outshined only by the works of art on display in the pastry cases of the store’s pâtisserie: meringues, chocolates truffles, millefeuilles—and, of course, the brand’s signature macarons. These treats are served all day, but the most popular times to dine here are at breakfast and teatime. Unlike other venues around London, Ladurée allows you to hand-select exactly which delicate indulgences you would like to pair with your cup of tea (and everything is priced à la carte.)
the famous Ladurée Macarons
The Orangery’s location alone sets it apart—the tearoom is housed within a greenhouse designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, in the majestic shadow of Kensington Palace. The atmosphere is appropriately regal, made more so by huge ceilings and expensive works of art. Light lunches like fresh salads and sandwiches are served, but the main draw is really the afternoon tea. Pair your cup with an assortment of finger sandwiches and pastries for about £15, or pay a bit more for the Enchanted Palace Tea (this includes a decadent chocolate granache tartlet and raspberry shortbread, along with scones and sandwiches) or the Royal Champagne Tea. Please keep in mind that reservations may be made in advance—and they are strongly recommended.
Other recommended hotels in London: the Radisson Edwardian Grafton Hotel, The Rembrandt
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.
Most of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions are on dry land. However, that does not mean that we should forget the wonders of the sea. Here are the five best aquariums in Europe that allow you to discover the mysterious depths of the Pacific, Atlantic and other oceans without getting your feet wet.
1. Oceanário de Lisboa – Lisbon, Portugal
The Oceanário de Lisboa is not just one of the best in Europe. It is, in fact, the largest aquarium as well. Its central reservoir is a 1,000-square-metre tank with four gigantic acrylic windows to peer through. Four smaller containers surrounding the main exhibit also contain inhabitants of the Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic and Antarctic waters. There are more than 8 thousand sea creatures and 500 species of plants for visitors to marvel at. On the first floor of the oceanarium, there are an additional 25 thematic aquariums. Major highlights include two spider crabs, two sea otters, Tropical Indian coral reefs, and a rare sunfish.
the Oceanário de Lisboa's prized sunfish
2. l’Oceanogràfic – Valencia, Spain
The largest open-air aquarium in Europe is actually located in Valencia, Spain. It is l’Oceanogràfic, within the state-of-the-art City of Arts and Sciences. The futuristic compound features more than 110 thousand square metres of aquatic exhibits—and even the architecture was inspired by water! The main building was designed by Felix Candela to resemble water lilies. L’Oceanogràfic is home to 4,5000 fish and marine animals from the ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea, the Arctic and Antarctic, and even tropical seas.
3. The AquaDom – Berlin, Germany
Housed within the 5-star Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin, AquaDom may not be the largest in Europe—but it is certainly one of the most impressive. Rising up from the floor of the hotel’s atrium, the eye-catching cylinder towers more than 25 metres. With a diameter of 11 metres, the tank holds nearly a million litres of water. Within it are over 2,600 species of fish. However, what makes the AquaDom so incredible is the fact that there is a transparent two-story elevator inside of it! Up to 30 tourists can travel at once right through the water, from the ground floor of the hotel to the upper observation platform.
4. Deep Sea World – Fife, UK
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Scottish village of North Queensferry is the Deep Sea World aquarium. It is perhaps most famous for its collection of large sand tiger sharks (also known as ragged toothed sharks or grey nurse sharks) and other species. Another premier attraction is the 112-metre-long transparent acrylic underwater viewing tunnel, which is one of the longest of its kind in the world. The tunnel runs through a tank that contains 1,000,000 gallons of seawater pumped in from the River Forth. Because of the water’s low temperature, most of the animals on display are from around Britain. However, the aquarium also has rock pools containing exotic fish and a new seal enclosure among other attractions.
5. Sea Life London Aquarium – London, UK
Right on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames, you will find the largest collection of aquatic species in London. Sea Life attracts about a million visitors each year, and it is easy to see why it remains so popular. Along with the requisite displays of fish and mammals, the aquarium is also home to eight gentoo penguins that were transferred from the Edinburgh Zoo earlier this year. Other unique attractions include the underwater Shark Walk tunnel and an exhibit of three robotic fish. Additionally, the centre offers classes and is involved in multiple breeding programs (including seahorses, jellyfish, butterfly goodeids, and the Cuban crocodile.)
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.
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.
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.
I started out writing an article about free things to do in London, and when I realized how vibrant the London market scene is and how many amazing markets there are, I decided that London’s markets deserved an article all on their own. Though it seems every US city from Los Angeles, California to Kalamazoo Michigan is just rediscovering the Farmer’s Market, this communal phenomenon has been around in Europe since long before there was a US. And if you’re talking about London, many of the markets have been in the same place for centuries. Some sell produce, others specialize in antiques and others in clothing. But whether you’re shopping or just window-shopping, they all make wonderful tourist destinations.
With over 100,000 visitors every weekend, the Camden Markets are actually one of the capital city’s top attractions. This is the place to go for independently designed clothing and shoes, especially if your taste runs towards the funky. Centered on Camden High Street, Camden Markets are actually six different markets; the Electric Ballroom, which also serves as a music venue, the Inverness Street Market, which started around 1900 as a fruit and vegetable market, the Buck Street Market, known as “The Cages” because of the metal grilles around the stalls, the Camden Canal Market, which is only open from Friday to Sunday, the Camden Lock Market, which features a range of food stalls, and the Camden Stables Market, housed in converted warehouses and linked by cobbled walkways. In case you want someplace close to carry your swag, there are plenty of Camden hotels nearby.
Portobello Road Market
To Londoners, Notting Hill is known as more than just a movie with Julia Roberts. In fact, its Portobello Road Market antiques market is one of the most famous in the world. Though the antiques market only runs on Saturdays, the street market goes six days a week. The market started in 1870 and now features a variety of antique stalls there are a whole host of arcades, galleries, shops and cafes along Portobello Road, a narrow street stretching over two miles. In addition to the Antiques Market, there’s a Fruit and Vegetable Market and a Flea Market, where you can find everything from used (as in vintage) clothes, jewelry, books and music to discount socks and batteries. Notting Hill is in central London, close to Hyde Park and Paddington Station, making a Notting Hill hotel a great choice for exploring the rest of the city as well.
Far to the east are the city of Greenwich and its famous Greenwich Market. Open only from Thursday to Sunday, the Greenwich Market is a must-see for those looking for rare antiques and collectables, as well as traditional arts and crafts. The Market is also a popular attraction for families, so expect to see a lot of kids. The other draw for the Greenwich Market is its rich history. Greenwich itself was the location of the monarch’s main palace from 1440 until 1700 and was the birthplace of both Henry VIII and Mary I. In fact, the Royal Charter Market that originally designated it a market was assigned to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital in 1700 for 1,000 years, which means your great-great-great-great grandchildren may be shopping in the very same shops that you’re shopping in today. If you don’t want to make the trip back to the city centre, of you want to explore Greenwich more fully, then let one of the many Greenwich hotels put you up for the night.
Brick Lane Market
If you’re looking for a different kind of tradition, check out the Brick Lane Market. London has always had a vibrant immigrant population, and what started long ago as the Jewish immigrant market has now shifted to one much more Asian in flavor. Known now as Banglatown, Brick Lane, once also home to the newly arrived French Huguenots, is now populated with a large Bangladeshi and Bengali population, giving the Brick Lane Market a truly unique atmosphere. Where else can you buy authentic curries side by side with authentic bagels? Where else can you buy everything from fruit to furniture and from vintage clothing to ethnic music. This is also the place to go if you want to buy a sari. The market is spread out along Brick Lane and spills out onto the side streets. The East London neighborhood around the market is getting trendier and trendier, which is good news for you if you’re looking for eclectic accommodations. Take Boundary, a four-star hip residence that is a member of Design Hotels and features three restaurants and bars, all of which are terribly sophisticated.
Old Spitalfields Market
It’s been a long time since that day back in 1638 when King Charles gave a license for “flesh, fowl, and roots” to be sold in what was then known as Spittle Fields. Much flesh, fowl, and roots have gone under the bridge, and now the Old Spitalfields Market caters to the young and the hip. Open seven days a week, the market gets busy on Sundays and is surrounded by independent shops selling hand-made crafts, fashions and gifts. If rain is in the forecast on your planned market day, this is your best option, as it’s entirely covered. This is also the place to go for jewelry, as the choices are infinite. Ditto on the endless items that can only be described as “junk.” There’s also plenty to eat, from Italian to Mexican to Chinese to Thai to Indonesian, as well as more traditionally British fresh bread, cakes, pies and pasties. If your eyes are bigger than your stomach, you can take the leftovers home. Or just take it back to the fully-equipped kitchen of your apartment at the nearby Clarendon Commercial Street Hotel.
Back when I took my year-long backpacking trip around Europe, my first stop was London. Shocked by the high prices, I quickly resigned myself to dining exclusively on sandwiches of Nutella and blackcurrant jam bought at Sainsbury’s so I could afford to see the sights and eventually gave up, catching a plane for the much-cheaper city of Athens. Little did I know that there are so many things to do in the British capital city requiring not a quid, farthing, British sterling pound or whatever it is they use over there for money. Here are a few.
There are several venues around the city that provide free concerts at various times of the week. For example, the Southbank Centre has lots of free music and other events. You can also enjoy free foyer concerts at the Southbank Centre’s neighbor, the National Theatre. This lively mix of music from around the world happens on the Djanogly Concert Pitch from Monday to Friday at 5:45 PM, Saturdays at 1:00 PM and 5:45 PM, and Sundays at 1:45 PM. Then there are the free Monday lunchtime recitals at the Royal Opera House, free lunchtime concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, and Saturdays at the Notting Hill Arts Club. Free live music is also available in Covent Garden Market.
Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of many London sites that you have to pay to get into. Unless you sign up to see the 700 year-old Ceremony of the Keys, in which the public is allowed to escort the warden as he locks the gates at the end of the day. This formal locking of the gates has happened every night for the last seven centuries and is a hoot to watch. Understandable as they don’t want someone to run off with the Crown Jewels. Between 40 and 50 visitors are admitted to the Tower at 9:30 PM, to escort the Chief Yeoman Warder as he carries a candle lantern in one hand and the Queen’s Keys in the other hand. As he begins to lock the gate, a sentry stops him, saying, “Halt, who comes there?” to which he responds, “The Keys!” to which the sentry responds, “Whose Keys?” to which the Warder responds, “Queen Elizabeth’s Keys” and is then allowed to pass. There is obviously much more to the ceremony, involving a drummer and a bugler, and all parties are dressed in the same uniforms they’ve been wearing since the 14th century.
Walk This Way
While it’s always nice to take a guided walking tour of the city, a cheaper way to do it without compromising too much on the information provided by your guide is to take a Walk This Way Tour. Created to help the London visitor discover all the sites, Walk This Way provides downloadable PDF files of five different walks that come complete with maps and as much information about what you’re seeing as any tour guide. You can choose between Walk This Way – South Bank (From the London Eye to the Imperial War Museum), Walk This Way – Millennium Bridge (From St Paul’s Cathedral to Bankside and Borough), Walk This Way – Golden Jubilee Bridges (From Soho and Covent Garden to South Bank), Walk This Way – Riverside London (From Tate Britain to the Design Museum) and Walk This Way – A Young Persons Guide (A discovery of the Thames, especially written for young people). Or why not try them all? They are free!
Like the Tower of London, you can enter the city’s most iconic site, Westminster Abbey, for free. All you have to do is attend one of the services, as the Abbey never charges people who want to worship. While the idea of attending mass might cause you to stifle a yawn, the fact is that some of the services can provide entertainment that the paying tourist just doesn’t get to experience. For example, attending the Evensong service, you’ll get to hear beautiful music from the Abbey Choir. The Choristers of the Choir are educated at Westminster Abbey Choir School and are as professional as any group of singers you’ll find anywhere. Evensong is at 5:00 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, plus 3:00 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. And nothing is stopping you from exploring this cultural treasure before and after the service.
No, I have not managed to find any place to stay for free. But London is full of hostels that provide excellent accommodation for very little money. And some of them boast some pretty spectacular locations. The London Eye Hostel at 73 Lambeth Walk SE11 6DX is located in the Southwark – Waterloo neighborhood, putting you close to Lambeth Palace, the Imperial War Museum, the Tate Britain and of course the London Eye. They also feature a complimentary continental breakfast, complimentary wireless Internet access and a pool table. Hostel 639 at 639 Harrow Road NW10 5NU is close to the Portobello Road Market, the Royal Albert Hall and the Lord’s Cricket Ground, as well as Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens. Breakfast and wireless is also free here. To experience the inside of a classic London building, the Palmers Lodge Hostel at 40 College Crescent Swiss Cottage NW3 5LB features an incredible lobby in the Hampstead – Camden Town neighborhood of London, close to the Freud Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the Portobello Road Market. They also offer a complimentary continental breakfast, along with a restaurant and a bar for your other meals.
What better way to learn about the hearts and minds of a culture than by examining how the people have chosen to visually represent themselves? Perhaps you are an anthropologist with an interest in the way social norms and collective identity have been historically represented through wearable art… Or maybe you just like clothes. Either way, you would do well to check out the UK’s finest costume museums:
Victoria & Albert Museum – London
Widely considered to be the world’s best collection of art and design, the Victoria & Albert Museum is not entirely dedicated to fashion. However, it does contain one of the world’s largest and most impressive collections of costumes dating from c. 1630 to present day. The iconic destination also routinely hosts exhibitions that honor a particular style of dress, time period, or fashion designer. Right now, from March 10th through July 10th, the Victoria & Albert invites visitors to learn about one of the most influential and enigmatic fashion designers of the last forty years: Yohi Yamamoto. From Yamamoto’s custom-made textiles to photographs depicting the designer’s unique process to awe-inspiring gowns and other apparel, this exhibition encompasses his entire legacy.
the exterior of the Victoria & Albert Museum
Recommended hotels in London: the Saint Georges Hotel, The Rembrandt
Fashion Museum – Bath
Housed within the magnificent Assembly Rooms in Bath, the Fashion Museum is one of the city’s prized possessions. It can be found next to the Royal Crescent and Circus, in the Upper Town area, not far from the world-famous spa waters. Bath’s pedestrian route, which cuts through the heart of the city, will lead you right to it. On the way there or afterwards, you may shop for clothing on stylish Milsom Street. The fashions on display at the Fashion Museum depend upon when you choose to visit; exhibits rotate frequently, so there is always something new to discover. Most special exhibitions are held in the largest gallery, on the lower ground floor of the building. However, the grand ballroom and the Great Octagon have also hosted some truly spectacular exhibitions (including Pick of the Bunch and Travilla – the man who dressed Marilyn Monroe.) Current displays in one on 17th-century gloves, Helmut Lang, and the Top Trends for 2011.
Gallery of English Costume – Manchester
Since recently undergoing a £1million renovation, the Gallery of English Costume is again open to the public. It is part of the much larger Manchester Art Gallery, whose displays comprise the city’s most important collection of art. The Gallery of Costume is located in the elegant Platt Hall—an ideal home, considering it was once an 18th-century textile merchant’s residence. The exhibits depict the history of fashion, tracing what men, women and children wore from the 17th century onwards. While most exhibits are of an haute couture nature, there are also some interesting items (antique clogs, Lancashire weavers’ shawls) that represent what England’s working class once wore. The massive collection is divided into categories like “Sexuality” (lingerie) and “Sports and Leisure.”
Even the guidebooks are fashionable.
Recommended hotels in Manchester: The Palace Hotel, the Brittannia Hotel South Manchester
Abington Park Museum – Northampton
The diverse exhibitions of the Abington Park Museum are housed within a beautiful Grade I listed building in a park in Northampton. Amid the peaceful acres of well-kept scenery, the museum features displays that honor the local heritage. Along with original works of art and artifacts, the Abington Park Museum specializes in all things fashion-related. Original costumes and jewelry from the 19th century are highlights, as are two of the museum’s more unusual galleries: the Museum of Leathercraft, which is international acknowledged as having one of the finest collection of leather goods in the world, and The Shoe Collection. The latter is the largest collection of shoes in the world, ranging from examples of ancient Egyptian footwear to contemporary designs.
Shambellie House National Museum of Costume – New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway
As part of Scotland’s National Museums collection, Shambellie House is proud to offer its own perspective of the country’s history—one that sees through the eyes of fashion, of course! Currently open for its summer season, the National Museum of Costume has a brand-new exhibition (Land Girls and Lumber Jills) and fresh displays. Past exhibitions have included Marriage in the Movies (which included the bridal gowns worn by some of the world’s most famous fictional brides) and Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon (in which sketchbooks, patterns and original designs told the story of one of Scotland’s most legendary designers.) Shambellie House’s permanent collection is divided by theme and into rooms; beautiful formal gowns from the 18th century overlook the romantic ruins of Sweetheart Abbey, while children’s costumes and antique toys fill the house’s old nursery. The museum also has a shop and a lovely tearoom onsite.
an exhibit at Shambellie House
Recommended hotels in Dumfries and Galloway: the Clonyard House Hotel, the Well View Hotel – Inn