Archive for August, 2012

Well-known for its cafe culture, Italy has some of the best coffee shops in the world you’ll find anywhere. Take a tour of some of the oldest cafes in the world on your trip & get a true taste of Italian history.

Caffe Florian, Venice

Caffe Florian, Venice

Caffe Florian, Venice

Thought by some to be the oldest café in the world, The Florian opened in December 1720 with just two rooms in the elegant city of Venice. Goethe and Casanova were amongst its famous patrons, the latter no doubt attracted by the fact that Florian was the only coffee house in the city that allowed women.

Today, the Caffe Florian has an ever-changing display of artworks from across the globe ranging from classical paintings to comic strips. As home of the Venice Biennale, Caffè Florian is right at the heart of Italian cultural life.

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

Caffe Baratti e Milano, Turin

A visit to Turin would not be complete without a visit to Caffe Baratti e Milano. First founded in 1874, it is a well-known landmark for the City of Turin.

Inside, the cafe’s elegance hints at the splendour of its past. Outside, film buffs will recognise its location on Galleria Subalpina as the setting for the famous Mini chase from The Italian Job.

Order a signature Bicerin – the classic mocha coffee of the region – and enjoy the views of one of the most famous streets in Turin.

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Antico Caffe Greco, Rome

Almost a rival for Caffe Florian in terms of longevity, Caffe Greco first opened its doors to coffee lovers in Rome in 1760. Throughout its 250-year history, the cafe has been popular with musicians and writers, with poets Keats and Shelley regularly patronising this popular café.

The interior doesn’t look like it’s changed much in at least 150 years and outside the views are beautiful. In the height of the Roman summer, get a Paradisi – the cafe’s speciality drink of oranges and lemons – and sit outside to watch the world go by.

Caffe Cova, Milan

Caffe Cova, Milan

Caffe Cova, Milan

Established in 1817, Caffe Cova is one of the oldest paticceries in Italy. Inside, you will find a mouth-watering array of pastries on offer behind the glass. Most notably, Cova is thought to be the birthplace of the modern version of the Panettone, the Milanese cake that’s become popular in the UK at Christmas time.

Although as one of the best coffee shops in the world, popular and gets extremely busy, the charming will make sure you’re not overlooked. The cakes and pastries are particularly tempting, but the cafe also offers freshly-made sandwiches to order. Thickly sliced smoked salmon on fresh rye bread baked in-store will fortify you for an afternoon of Milanese adventures.

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Caffe Gilli, Florence

Second only to The Florian in age, Caffe Gilli opened in 1733 and has been an integral part of Florence’s city centre for nearly three centuries.

The terrace offers some of the best views of Florence’s Piazza Della Republica, but it’s most famous for what it has to offer hungry visitors. Visit early for a freshly baked pastry and the best cappuccino in Florence.

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

Caffe Gambrinus, Naples

The Gambrinus is famous not just only as the city’s oldest café, but also for its famous patrons. Since it opened in the mid-1800s, royalty, artists, and celebrities have visited, attracted by its beautiful interior.

The Caffe Gambrinus has paintings by some of the greatest artists of 19th century, for you to admire over coffee and a cake. There are tables outside, but with such a beautiful interior most choose to stay inside the cafe known as “Naples’ living room.”

Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo

Antico Caffè Spinnato, Palermo

Antico Caffe Spinnato, Palermo

Dating back to 1860, Antico Caffe Spinnato is the oldest cafe in Palermo and offers a range of sumptuous cakes, coffee and gelati as well as sweet marsala wine.

A particular favourite of the locals in Palermo, Antico Caffe Spinnato is popular on weekend evenings where a night of wine and chatter can be rounded off with a fresh brioche to take home up to midnight.

Caffé Mangini

Caffé Mangini

Caffe Mangini

Established in 1876, Caffé Mangini is a relative newcomer to the cafe scene compared to its cousins across Italy. However, it has the rare honour of having served as the location chosen by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Nino Bixio, to celebrate the departure of the expedition of the Thousand at the Antica Osteria del Bai.

Today, the cafe is the perfect place to write your postcards home on the terrace under the watchful eye of Vittorio Emanuele II, whose statue stands over the terrace.

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Thailand is situated in south-east Asia and is a rapidly developing country that combines ancient traditions and cultural values with modern developments and industrialization. Tourism is a key industry here and every year hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit the country for leisure, fun and adventure.

The weather is to be considered good all the year around although some people choose to avoid the short rainy season between July and October. Many people from Europe visit Thailand during the European winter in order to break away from the bitter winter cold at home. The most popular tourist destinations within the country are Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and Ko Samui amongst others.

Thailand Holidays

Thailand Holidays

Each of these destination spots has its own attraction and uniqueness, whether it is the centuries old temples and palaces in Bangkok or the idyllic beaches of Phuket. By western standards, Thailand is one of the cheapest countries in the world to visit and this means that it offers great value for money. In particular, it enables more people to stay at higher quality luxury hotels which can be found throughout the country. For travelers from the UK, there are several flights available to Thailand. British Airways flights from London Heathrow is one of the preferred operators serving the route together with Thai Airways.

Spoilt for Choice of Unspoilt Beauty

Thailand has a great deal to offer the tourist and so it might be hard at first deciding on where to stay and what to do. Those people seeking a simple beach holiday might prefer to visit the small islands of Ko Chang and Ko Samet, both of which have undergone considerable development in recent times. For unspoilt beauty, the island of Ko Lipe with its reefs and beautiful beaches are an excellent choice.

Phang-nga Bay

Phang-nga Bay, Thailand

Exploring Thai Heritage & Culture

Anyone interested in the ancient culture of Thailand will undoubtedly first spend some time in Bangkok but would then need to travel further afield. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ayutthaya is a UNESCO world heritage site and was also the old capital of Siam.
  • Kanchanaburi is home to numerous second world war museums and the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai.
  • Sukhothai, which was Thailand’s first capital, contains some of the most amazing ruins in the country.

Places to stay – from Backpacking to utmost Luxury

There are a number of accommodation options throughout the country, which range from the most basic, appealing mostly to backpackers, to luxury five star hotels. Bangkok alone boasts dozens of five star hotels, with the most exclusive being the St Regis Bangkok and the Sukhothai Hotel Bangkok. Most of the top hotels offer spa facilities where of course the famous Thai massage can be experienced.

Tuk-Tuk

Tuk-Tuk

Local Cuisine at its Best

Thai Cuisine has gained a lot of popularity throughout the world over the last ten years or so and experiencing some of the fabulous local dishes is an essential part of any holiday there. There are numerous colourful dishes, featuring curries and stir fries, noodles and soups. One word to listen out for is “phet”. This means hot, and if a choice is available, most tourists should avoid it unless you are a lover of hot food of course!

Thailand is a wonderful country to visit, with friendly, welcoming people, a unique culture and great weather. It is suitable for every taste and need – whether for visitors seeking a spa break, a relaxing holiday on an exotic beach resort or for those who interested in exploring the historical and cultural treasures the country has to offer. The choices are manifold – Thailand is truly a hundred holidays in one.

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Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and is Greece’s capital and most populous city. The food, vibrant street life and relaxed lifestyle are popular drawcards, however Athens is known foremost for its remarkable history, mythology and spectacular ruins.

There are many things to see and places to explore in Athens – these are just a starting point.

The Acropolis and the Parthenon

The Acropolis and The Parthenon

The Acropolis and The Parthenon, Athens

Perched high above the city of Athens, is the Acropolis – a symbol of Greece and the Greek Empire. The Acropolis is home to the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena, and a fantastic (must-see) museum.

Make your way up the hill and explore. The structures leading up to the Parthenon are beautiful and the Parthenon itself is striking with its white marble pillars – it’s hard to believe that it was built in 438BC. From here, wander down to the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus and then on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which begun construction in the 6th century BC and took more than 600 years to complete.  The size of these structures is unbelievable – they are massive! Also visit to the Roman Stadium which hosted the first Olympic Games of modern times in 1896.

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece

Syntagma Square, Athens

Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece

Syntagma (or Constitution) Square is the heart of modern Athens and well worth a visit. Lined with luxury hotels and cafes, Syntagma Square is a great place to relax, enjoy a traditional Greek coffee or snack, people-watch and soak up the atmosphere as locals go about their day around you.

In the area between the square and parliament, you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, every hour there is a changing of the guard ceremony – on Sundays it is especially impressive.

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, Athens

Plaka, at the base of the hill topped by the Acropolis, is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. Head here in the early evening and wander the maze of cobblestone streets – filled with restaurants offering amazing Greek food (try the moussaka), live entertainment, and a range of shops to find the perfect gifts or quality souvenirs.

You can’t travel to Athens without visiting the famous (and colorful) Brettos distillery – offering ouzo, brandy and the most amazing range of liqueurs. While exploring these beautiful streets, grab a Greek souvlaki wrap from one of the takeaway stalls – they are delicious!

National Archaeological Museum

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

To gain a true appreciation and understanding of the amazing ruins and Greek history, visit the National Archaeological Museum. Originally built to house and protect finds from 19th century excavations in Athens, it is now filled with an impressive collection of treasures from all over Greece. This amazing collection traces the history of Greek civilization from the beginnings of Prehistory to Late Antiquity.

Monastiraki, Athens

Monastiraki, Athens

Monastiraki, Athens

This bustling and vibrant quarter is filled with many restaurants, cafes and bars; it’s also home to the daily flea market – here you’ll find clothing, shoes, bead shops, jewellery, and antiques – bargain with the locals to get the best prices. Monastiraki has a great atmosphere, cheap food, and live music – stop, explore and get lost in the rambling streets.

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus is the seaport of Athens and makes the list because it is the gateway to many of the stunning Greek islands. Watch the sunset and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the dockside restaurants, before heading off on a ferry to discover these breathtakingly beautiful islands, for what will be an unforgettable experience.

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