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Lovely Lyon, it’s never hard to choose where to go for a short holiday in France with so many choices just about every part of the country has something unique to offer. This year a lot of travellers will be trying to stay local, either because of their budget or for environmental reasons. The whole “buy local” has caught on globally and there is nothing wrong with exploring what’s in your backyard. I wouldn’t say Lyon is in Paris’ backyard but it’s close enough to make a great road trip for a weekend away if you fly.

My proposition: buy local. Even if it means staying home for holidays. Take a short trip away, hire a car (a hybrid is even better) and explore cities you’ve never seen in your own country. Lyon, if you’ve never been is a perfect destination whether you’re travelling solo, with a sweetheart, with your kids in tow, even with your parents!

Lyon is for lovers of food, wine (especially Beaujolais) and picnics in river-side parks. Architecture is at its best at the church of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in La Croix Rousse. The city is easy to enjoy and you shouldn’t waste any time getting to know Lyon’s dining scene: Lyon is second only behind Paris for the most restaurants per square kilometre in Europe. Not just restaurants, but delicious restaurants.

What to see in Lyon:

Musée des Arts Décoratifs – inside an 18th c. mansion is the city’s collection of silverware, furniture, porcelain, textiles and art objects.

Rue du Boeuf – located in Vieux Lyon, Rue du Boeuf has hidden courtyards, spiral stairs, fragile facades and endless towers and traboules. There is a lot to discover ion this street from 15th century houses to renaissance sculptures.

Jardin des Chartreux – a leafy park, it is a perfect place to set down yoru picnic basket while basking in the afternoon sun and soaking in the views of the rivier and Fourvière Hill.

Maison du Crible – one of the oldest mansions in the city, Maison du Crible has a charming courtyard with a rose tower.

Hotel de Ville – a gem designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte after a fire in 1674, the rest of the building dates even earlier than that in the 17th century.

Where to eat in Lyon:

Café 203/Café 100 Tabac – located near the opera, these two sister bistros are really popular for cheap dishes that are served from dawn until long after midnight. You should ask there the names came from. (9 rue du Garet, Presqu’île)

Juliénas – for something classically French, head here. The menu is almost strickly Beaujolais and is priced for those with a budget, even if you order a glass of wine with your meal. (236 rue d’Anse, Villefrance-sur-Saone)

Les Lyonnais – the local celebrities are immortalized in photographs on the walls of this French restaurant in Lyon’s old town. The menu features simple dishes adn tehre is always a plate of the day. (1 rue Tramassac)

Where are you heading for holidays this summer? Have you been to Lyon?

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An elephant standing guard (sxe)

The appeal of travelling to learn something new is becoming more and more popular. Many of my friends, myself included, have studied abroad, taking advantage of our university-organized programs that allow students these days to do this so easily. But many more travellers are choosing their destinations for different types of learning opportunities. A few that come to mind at the moment are yoga retreats, language courses, cooking classes (see my post about Tuscan cooking classes), surf school among more I am sure.

Why not travel to learn something new, a skill to bring back with you? I remember my mom travelled to Malaysia years ago and took some batiking classes, supporting the local women’s culture centre while she was there and being able to bring back some hand-made souvenirs at the same time. She was crazy about batiking afterward. I was recently let in on the best classes to take while travelling to Thailand, a magical escape.

Bangkok is the best place to start. Fortunately for us, tourism is huge in Thailand right now and there are many hotel deals to choose from. Finding cheap flights to Bangkok is a cinch too,  from £358 you can be in Thailand in no time. Bangkok caters to students from around the world, offering many diverse and exciting different opportunities for the foodie, the casual Buddhist, the foreign language expert and the sensual masseuse. Picking up a few tips and tricks along the way are entirely worth it, so here’s my list of the best courses to take while visiting Thailand.

Thai Language – you can take a beginner’s class in Thai language for 100B to 200B (£2-3) an hour to learn some basic phrases and get a small glimpse into the magic of Thai. Check out AAA Thai Language Centre for different classes and schedules. Grab a group of friends and get the group rate. Travelling alone? Try asking some other staying at the same hotel or hostel as you, you’ll probably make some good friends along the way.

Thai Cooking – cooking Thai food is not science, you just need a little practice and some guidance on what spices go with what and how. There are a lot of great cooking school in Bangkok, but I recommend Baipai Thai Cooking School which offers completely hands on classes. There are even 1/2 day ones available for those who really want to see all the sights in Bangkok as well as learn something special. The courses per person average around 1800B (£35).

Buddhas in a row in Bangkok (WV Jazzman via flickr)

Meditation / Massage – want to learn how to meditate from the real masters? Many Buddhist centers in Bangkok are open to Western travellers and focus on insight meditation methods called vipassana. Try Dharma Thai for different meditation courses and workshops. For massage, learn some new tricks that your friends and special friends will definitely enjoy. The best place to go first is Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School which holds classes frequently. A 30 hour class costs around 8500B which is £165.

Muay Thai – this is a traditional style of boxing. Many foreigners head to Thailand to learn this style which is known to be rigorous and extremely strict. A real work out for your body. If you’re interested, check out Sor Vorpin which offers one-day and weekly training sessions for foreigners. Their half-day session costs 500B (£10).

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I can’t think of anything more appetizing right now that Italy and more specifically cooking in Tuscany. I found some great classes offered there, I think definitely more tourist aimed but it looks really fun. If you are going to pay out a wad of euros for a fancy dinner in Italy, you may as learn learn how to cook it at the same time, right?

Tuscan cooking is not just Italian, its ITALIAN Italian. Made with fresh herbs, vegetables, oil, fish, meat, and pasta, Tuscan cooking also takes a little magic and a little love.

There are single-day classes around four hours in length during which you learn the techniques of homemade pasta, sauces to accompany it, appetizers and other traditional recipes. Fresh ingredients and a chef to save the burning tomato paste (that will be me!) sound like an afternoon well-spent. At the end of it all, the cooking school serves the meal that you cooked restaurant-style accompanied by a local wine, fresh bread and olive oil. Further than that, they send you home with a recipe book of traditional Tuscan recipes so that participants don’t forget everything they’ve learned.

Prices range from 100-190 euros per person, depending on the cooking school. Its a little pricey but I think that for knowledge like that, it is money well spent. And besides, all the money I can save on finding a cheap hotel room in Florence can be spent on cooking classes. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day while on vacation in Italy except learning the tricks of Italian cooking. Now, I only have to fly to Italy!

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The restaurant was founded in 1766 in a private mansion on the banks of the Seine River. The place has kept its yesteryear charm and still offers the opportunity to immerse oneself again in a private room’s unique atmosphere. Enjoy our traditional cooking renewed by our Chef.

The most romantic place in Paris is said to be the Lapérouse. This restaurant has existed since 1766, and owns two private dining rooms each containing a sofa, a table and a mirror. According to a legend, the seats have been sit by French Senators and Victor Hugo as well. Waiters stay in the background until you ring for them – total privacy ensured! A dinner is around €100 per person, but lunches are more budget-friendly.
Address: 51 quai des Grands Augustins, 6th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-26-68-04.

For more spectacular than scandalous settings, you might visit a brasserie. Le Grand Colbert, Julien, Bofinger all have delightful interiors and their menu prices vary between €25-35.
Le Grand Colbert, 2 rue Vivienne, 2nd arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-86-82-38.
Julien , 16 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-47-70-12-06.
Bofinger, 7 rue de la Bastille, 4th arrondissement, 011-33/1-42-72-87-82.

For a romantic rendezvous, go to La Fourmi Ailée, near Notre Dame. This cosy and intimate place has warm lighting and a friendly staff. You can have a dinner here for less than €12. After dinner, you can stroll along the Seine — in summertime, take the direction of Berthillon Ice-cream Cone on Ile Saint-Louis!
La Fourmi Ailée, 31 rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 4th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-29-40-99.

As for airline tickets London – Paris, there are cheap flights available for £69.93 already.

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Dublin, the capital of Ireland is a perfect place for autumn holidays. The City of Dublin is both the capital and the largest city in Ireland – an important cultural centre, with wonderful mingling of ancient and modern Gaelic art.

lighthouse ireland

It has a maritime climate with mild winters and moderate summers, with raining almost all the year round. Among the best deal hotels I had found on a price-comparing website, there is Dublin IMI Residence, a prestigious 3 star hotel located right in the heart of the city, offering 50 spacious and tastefully decorated rooms, available from 57 euros per night. I’d rather opt for a cheap hotel in Dublin, mainly because of financial reasons, and also to stay near the National Museum of Ireland or the National Gallery, but also within walking distance of the Temple Bar district and its famous nightlife… J Bewleys Hotel Ballsbridge is another 3 star hotel from the list that has excellent brewery and a renowned gourmet restaurant. To spend an extraordinary day outside the city, why not go to Shelbourne Park or Leopardstown to bet on a horse race or greyhound? You could enjoy the last moments of your stay walking along the banks of the Liffey, where you can see many wonders, like the Christ Church Cathedral or the Ha’penny Bridge. If you stay in the IMI Residence, the luxury hotel in Sandyford Road, you’ll be closer to these monuments but you will be to pay 60 euros per night to enjoy the impeccable services and the beautifully decorated rooms. For further information visit: http://www.gov.ie/en/

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