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This summer. Channel Islands. After successfully managing to avoid spending the summer holidays on a Channel Island (although not intentionally), this might be it. This summer might be the summer I spend my holidays on a British island. The winner? Guernsey, of course! Summer is the best time to visit this island, just off the coast of France because everything is in bloom. St Peter Port is busy with other tourists and while I won’t be the owner of one of the yachts in the harbour, I do hope to get a chance to ride on one… or at least a dingy that floats. The really attraction to this place though are the pretty rugged cliffs, its quaint countryside cottages, beaches and the people, open and gentle.

Spend time at the beaches… and not always the same one

The island has some great beaches and I do plan to visit a lot of them, if not ALL! Vazon, Cobo, Chouet, Pembroke… there’s no doubt that the west and north coast are the best for beaches, all accessible via bus from St Peter Port. Another must, is enjoying a brew at sunset at one of the beach-side cafes.

Explore Herm & Sark

Both of these small islands can be reached by boat and they’re completely car-free. It’s quiet and they’re more small enough to explore on foot, at least Herm. Sandy beaches and a little restaurant and hotel. The boat ride takes about 45 minutes from the port. If you have, bring your bike since the only other form of transportation is horse and buggy (which sounds lovely).

Say, “I love you” at the Little Chapel

Quite possibly the smallest chapel in the world, Little Chapel at Les Vauxbelets ins absolutely adorable and there’s nothing like pronouncing your love at a place like this (ha!). It’s walls are decorated with tiny shells, broken glass, pebbles and old pieces of bone china.

Walk along the South Coast cliffs

Plan some hiking into your trip. The cliffs along Guernsey’s southern coast can be reached from many points but the view is always the same. Stunning. Most days you can see Herm, Sark, Jethou and Jersey clearly, even France if it’s especially good weather. The area is in danger of erosion and visitors are asked to stick to the paths and avoid trying to climb up or down the cliffs.

Rediscover your childhood self at the Rocquaine Regatta

I’m most excited about this event that takes place annually in July at Rocquaine Bay. It takes place on the last Saturday of the month and features a day long of sand castle building competitions, tug of war games and other treats… even prizes to be won! It’s like the county fair goes to the beach! All I need now though is a spade and a bucket, my sun hat and some good ideas for my castle

I’ve already secured by trip there, I found cheap flights to Guernsey with Flybe. I’m always really surprised at how good their deals are. Anyways, even in peak season you can fly there for less than £100… bonus! Where are you heading this summer? Any plans to visit the Channel Islands?

 

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There’s hardly any reason to cook for yourself while visiting Bangkok. This city’s a mecca for cheap eats on the streets and the flavours will leave you craving for more. Don’t worry, eating out while on holiday has never been cheaper than in Thailand. As far as Bangkok is concerned, there’s nothing you can’t find! Don’t believe me? Grab some flights to Bangkok and find out!

If you only eat at one marketplace in the entire city, let it be Or Tor Kor market near the Chatuchak Park metro stop. You’ll find stall upon stall of delicious treats, succulent soups, stir-fry, grilled sausages and fresh noodles. If you want to try some of the local delicacies, don’t miss sai grop (fermented port sausage) that is slowly cooked over a charcoal barbecue.

An essential part of every Thai day is tea time. Tea is drank with anything and everything, even with their daily cup of coffee. At most places when you request a glass of water, they’ll bring you a cup of tea. For breakfast, try a cup of coffee with deep-fried Chinese bread.

You’ll quickly realise the more you walk through Bangkok that the locals love to eat and everything else that happens during the day is just time spend while waiting to eat again. Even the streets look more like food-lined hallways instead of pedestrian walkways. There are more food carts than people sometimes! It just goes to show though that if you want to eat, the easiest place to do it is on the street. If you’re a market newbie, don’t let the rude and rather abrupt style of the markets scare you. Stand tall and get in there!

images: oksidor, lookslikeamy / flicrk cc.

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I love jazz. Growing up, it was always on the radio and I’ve never lost my taste for soulful voices, double basses and fanciful piano melodies. Some friends will travel low cost to Montreal this summer for the biggest jazz festival in the world and even though I’m not joining them, I figured why not write about the best of the best jazz festivals to go and see. Maybe a trip across the Atlantic won’t happen this year but at least there are smaller festivals this summer happening, in Oxford, that I can check out.

New Orleans – Louisiana

Jazz was born here so it only seems fitting that it’s one of the most popular cities for jazz concerts and festivals in the world. The local favourite is Dixieland which started here in the 20th century and quickly spread to bars in Chicago and NYC. A must-see is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Montreal – Canada

In 2004 Montreal worked its way into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest jazz festival in the world. Every year the festival showcases 3,000 artists from 30 countries. There are more than 650 concerts (450 of which are free!) and more than 2.5 million people visit! This is a huge deal for Montreal and is the highlight of the year. The whole downtown core practically closes down for 10 straight days to pedestrian-only traffic and to host street concerts and parties. Montreal International Jazz Festival is a must for any serious jazz lover.

Copenhagen -Denmark

The Danes love jazz too! The first jazz festival happened in the 1970s and hasn’t stopped since. There are more than 100o concerts to see during the festival week making it the largest music event in Europe. This summer, 2011, the festival will take place from July 1st to 10th and include faces like Keith Jarrett and Sonny Rollins. The concerts take place at the Copenhagen Opera House, the Royal Danish Theatre, Tivoli Gardens and the Jazzhus Montmartre.

Montreux – Switzerland

As the most famous music even in Switzerland, Montreux Jazz Festival attracts quite the crowds to the shores of Lake Geneva every July. It’s the second largest music festival in the world, after of course Montreal. This gets me thinking, people must really love jazz if it attracts millions from around the world!

London – England

Closer to home and a little bit more intimate, the London Jazz Festival (LJF) is held every November and takes place in a number of small venues around the city. LJF started out as just a Jazz Week added to the Camden Festival in the 1970s. Today it’s a 10 day event and has become one of the most popular music events in the city.

Have you been to a major jazz festival? Where was it? Who is your favourite jazz artist?

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I have yet to go but I’m just yearning to take off to Poland this summer and explore its forests, old cities, communist architecture and especially Krakow. Everyone I have met that passed through there loved it, so what is this mysterious culture hub all about? Home to artists, musicians, the first bagel, fashion designers… Krakow seems to have it going on!

Krakow at night

I’m not what you would call a typical traveller. That being said, I like to experience places like a local would, and if winter lasts 6 months of the year (or all year) then I want to visit that place in the winter. I’m planning a trip to Siberia next year. In January. People tell me I’m crazy. I went to Finland this winter, froze my butt off, but I loved finding out how the locals handle the cold and spend a relaxing week in a sauna. Now that’s not something you would do so much in the summer!

I think Krakow would be a great place to visit in the winter. Covered in frost and snow! In December the city hosts a Christmas market with stalls selling “bigos,” a thick and meaty stew (mmm) and mulled wine (double mmm). You can’t beat the prices in Poland, which is why it’s such a great place for backpackers and twenty-somethings. Shopping and eating out, no problem. If it’s more than a city jaunt, then summer is definitely the best time to visit. I’m still toying with dates, but I’ve already started my flight comparison homework! Thankfully there are some low cost airlines flying from London and flights are cheap.

As for sights, Wawel Castle and a stroll along the river banks come highly recommended. The city is spotted with churches, almost at every street corner. But if you go inside just one, it should be the Basilica of St. Francis with a really beautiful art nouveau interior. The Nationam Museum also is known for its 20th century collection on the top floor. Modern art? Bunkier Sztuki is the place.

What did I tell you? Bagels.

I heard once that the first bagel was made in Krakow. I loooove bagels. It’s one of the things I miss most about travelling to New York City. Fresh, bakery-style bagels. Jama Michalika is an old pre-war hangout that still serves the same snacks nad drinks! It hasn’t lost it’s edge and the original artwork and art nouveau thing it has going on is very cool.

Have you ever been to Krakow? Would love some tips for my summer trip!

Where are you heading this summer for your holidays?

Images from bazylek and leafer, Flickr creative commons.

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I’ve been on a museum-binge lately, checking out some new exhibitions and finally getting to the permanent collections I’ve been meaning to see for a long time. It’s no sense living in a place like London and not appreciating what’s right in your own backyard. When is the last time you went to the Tower of London, visited the British Museum (which is free by the way!) or purposely rode your bike past Buckingham Palace? While many Londoners wouldn’t waste their time with such “trivial touristy things” I had a lot of fun doing it. It got me thinking (to make a long story short) about some of the best museums I’ve been to and ones I’d like to go to as well.

So, here you have it, the top 15 museums in the Western World

  1. The Louvre – An easy first choice? I’ve been once to this mega-art hub in Paris and without a doubt it is the world’s most famous museum. You can even take an online tour of the place! If you’re lucky and the crowds aren’t that big when you visit you might even get up close to the Mona Lisa by the Leonardo da Vinci.
  2. The Met– The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is one of the best museums in North America. It’s collection is strong with American art from all genres as well as an impressive collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. You need a whole day (and then some) to see even a part of this place.
  3. British Museum – It’s the big one in the UK and considered one of the best museums in the world for Ancient arts and antiquities from around the world. The collection’s time line starts around Ancient Egypt and goes right up to the Middle Ages.
  4. The Vatican Museum – While I’ve never been it is without a doubt impressive. The Sistine Chapel alone or Rafael’s The School of Athens is worth visiting Rome to see. While Catholic art isn’t my forte, it would be worth seeing.
  5. The Hermitage Museum – Russia’s gem, it holds the largest art collection in the world with more than three million pieces of art. If that alone isn’t impressive enough, this place is huge!
  6. Kunsthistorisches Museum – Vienna is certainly not left out of this equation. This Austrian museum is most famous for its collection of European paintings as well as its stunning collection of antiquities. I haven’t been past the lobby (a little embarrassed to mention this)!
  7. National Gallery in London – Paintings and more paintings! While the British Museum focuses on artefacts the National Gallery has the most complete collection of European paintings ranging from the thirteenth century to the nineteenth.
  8. MOMA – The Museum of Modern Art in New York is where you’ll find the best of the world’s contemporary art and modern art. Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon hangs here as does Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Just these two would be worth a trip to NYC to see, don’t you think?
  9. The Cairo Museum – Most appropriately the Cairo Museum has the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian art and artefacts. The most famous piece is of course Tutankhamun’s Tomb which was first discovered in 1922.
  10. Museo del Prado – As Madrid’ biggest museum, it’s also the best one in all of Spain. You’ll find the most complete representation of Spanish painting traditions in the world behind its doors. Most notable is Velazquez’s Las Meninas.I’ve been several times to this museum but there is always something new going on.
  11. Musee d’Orsay – Paris’ other famous museum is the home of impressionist and nineteenth century French painting. here you’ll find artworks from the likes of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh (although not French, he produced many paintings while he was living in Paris).
  12. Uffizi – Florence, some say, is where European art was born. Hundreds of “masters” came out of this northern Italian city. It’s hard to know why but every art-lover should make a stop at the Uffizi Museum to see Botticelli’s Venus and Giotto’s Ognisanti Madonna as well as pieces by Caravaggio (my favourite on display here is his circular shield with the face of Medusa on it).
  13. Tate Modern – Not trying to play London favourites here but we’ve just got a lot of cool museums! The Tate Modern is iconic for its modern and contemporary art. Not unlike the MOMA in NYC, the Tate Modern has a much more European collection than American. Get your fix of Bacon, Lichtenstein and Pollock and don’t overlook the temporary exhibitions, they’re curated by some of the best in the world.
  14. Art Institute of Chicago – Good art is easy to find outside of New York, head to Chicago’s Art Institute and you’ll find it! Seurat is well represented here. His Island of La Grande Jatte is on display alongside many other famous European and American artists.
  15. Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam has many good museums but this one is the king. Unfortunately I have yet to make it to the Dutch capital (shame on me) to see its collection of Dutch paintings (the most important in the world) [double shame]. Nightwatch by Rembrandt is the main star.

I try to visit a good number of museums when I travel, at least a combination of the major ones as well as some smaller independent art galleries. Which of these have you visited? Which would you like to visit? I’ve been to NYC but alas my trip was short (just a weekend) and I didn’t have any chances to see any museums. It’s really a shame. All the more reason to get out my Lonely Planet book for the USA and start to compare compare cheap flights from London to JFK. There are always sales on this route (good for me!).

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I don’t know whether it’s the spring weather, the latest run of Fashion Weeks in my favourite cities or my thirst for travel right now but I’ve got shopping on my mind. More precisely I’ve got shopping in Lisbon on my mind. While not the first city I think of when it comes to fashion and style, Lisbon has a secret that it can’t keep much longer. This city has style! As for shopping, there is a lot of chic hiding here!

If you think of shopping in London in the 1940s, you’re pretty close to what it’s like to shop in Lisbon’s city centre today. Polished wooden counter tops where dainty hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, bed linens and towels hang behind polished glass. Handmade leather gloves, shoes, hats are all ready to try on, antique display cases shine and your packages are wrapped in kraft paper and twine as you leave.

Romantic isn’t it?

Lisbon’s newly revamped Waterfront is a mecca for design shops which are taking a turn back to the traditional arts and crafts which once made Portugal famous. The city hosts a new generation of hand-crafters and if you’ve got a keen eye for something different, something old yet with a touch of the contemporary, then you’ve got to check out Lisbon.

Top things to buy: leather, linen, silver, Old World trinkets…

Where to shop:

Luvaria Ulisses (Rua do Carmo, 87a) – selling hand-made gloves since 1925

Joalharia do Carmo (Rua do Carmo 87b) – selling 18th century styled jewellery and silverware

Paris em Lisboa (near Rua Garrett) – selling monogrammed linens, starting at £7

Café a Brasileira – the city’s most famous coffee house. Latte and sweet, just £2.20

Casa das Velas (Rua do Loreto) – selling candles since 1789, a pair of ecclesiastical candles for £15

Chapelaria Azevedo Rua (Rossio Square) – hand-made men’s fedoras, £57

As you can see, you can find some beautiful treasures here for a fraction of the price they would cost you in London, even Paris. It’s incredible that Lisbon isn’t so popular among shoppers. Ladies, really you’ve got to get on this. The best time to visit is spring, May of course when it’s not too hot and when the spring flowers are in full-bloom in the streets. The beach is just a 30 minute train ride away as well. As well, Lisbon has plenty of cheap hotels but the real deals are found outside the city centre. For something chic, check out the places within close reach of Rossio.

image from: http://weheartit.com/entry/6261500

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Who doesn’t like cake?

I’d like a show of hands.

Just as I thought. Not a single hand was raised. Everyone loves cake. We pig out on it at least once a year when our birthday rolls around. Whether you are blowing out candles or taking your mum out for a treat (yes, my mum loves cake too) or cheering yourself up after a downer day, cake is the solution to many of life’s problems. I don’t mean this to be an ode to cake. Just an introduction to one city who knows cake, really really well: Amsterdam.

Who is the king of the cake castle?

The two gents behind De taart van m’n tante. Siemon and Noam don’t make just any kind of cakes, they make pieces of art. Their tasty creations have actually been on exhibition before at the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, Van Gogh Museum and Utrechts Museum. It’s serious business, cakes.The pair opened the café in 1990 and since then have exploded with success, locals aren’t the only ones apparently who love cake. It’s a special spot to visit if you’re in Amsterdam. I know at this point you’ve already searched for flights to Amsterdam

I already can’t wait to get my hands on a slice of their magic. What’s more, the cake shop is also a Bed & Breakfast. There are three rooms upstairs, each with its own theme. There is a communal kitchen, living room and wireless internet. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the smell of delicious cakes being baked just underneath? Mmmm…. sweet dreams indeed!

Where can you find them?

Ferdinand Bolstraat 10
1072 LJ Amsterdam
Open: 10:00-18:00 daily

In their own words, “A life full of cake – how magnificently delicious!”

In your opinion, which culture does the best dessert? Which sweet have you tried abroad that you just wish you could eat everyday at home?

For more info, check out their website.

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