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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Food, Pubs & Nightlife’

New hotels, restaurants opening all over Italy

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Holidaymakers planning Rome tours and other travel pursuits in Italy this summer will be able to make use of a number of new hotels, restaurants and other establishments opening across the country.

The national tourist board announced details of a host of new developments, including the four-star Hotel Homs in Rome, which was recently renovated to provide new facilities including the Vuda champagne bar.

Another recent addition to the capital’s offering to tourists is the Il Cuoco Nero restaurant in the Salario quarter, which was opened by respected Italian chef Maurizio Santin.

Further north, the Chianti area of Tuscany will this summer host the opening of Castel Monastero, a new country house resort with facilities including a restaurant bearing the name of Gordon Ramsay.

Milan’s culinary scene will be improved with the opening of the new Home Delicate restaurant, while in Perugia holidaymakers will be able to visit the Alla Posta dei Donini spa.

The Art Newspaper recently released an annual ranking of the world’s cultural institutions which named the Vatican Museums in Rome as the sixth most popular museum last year with more than 4.4 million visitors.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19107084-ADNFCR

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Copenhagen restaurants achieve record Michelin rating

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Food lovers on Copenhagen tours can now choose from 13 Michelin-starred restaurants for their evening meals in the city following the publication of the Michelin Guide for 2009.

A record 14 Michelin stars were awarded to establishments in the Danish capital this year, placing it ahead of other European cities including Rome, Berlin, Vienna and Madrid.

Restaurant Kokkeriet in the Nyboder district was among the new additions to the list of Michelin-starred eateries in Copenhagen this year, along with Restaurant Herman at the Hotel NIMB in Tivoli Gardens.

In a unique achievement for a theme park, Tivoli Gardens now boast two restaurants that have been recognised in the Michelin Guide.

Noma, which specialises in creating new interpretations of traditional Nordic cuisine, was the only restaurant in Copenhagen to receive two stars in this year’s guide.

Following a meal at a gourmet restaurant, a night out in Copenhagen offers the opportunity to visit cultural venues including the Opera House and the new Konserthuset music hall.

Special Interest – Nightlife – From an extravagant meal to an eerie ghost walk – plenty of things to keep you entertained after the sun goes down.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19077664-ADNFCR

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Best Places to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day- Boston, Dublin and London

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Beannachtai na Feile Padraig! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Like millions of people all over the world, you too can be Irish for the day on March 17 – St Patrick’s Day. Sport a huge green hat, paint a shamrock on your face, dress up as a leprechaun, and down a few pints of Guinness. It’s all part of the fun wherever folks claim Irish ancestry.

So where are the best places for St Patrick’s Day celebrations? There are plenty to choose from, but three of the best are Boston, Dublin and London. continue reading

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Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Vienna

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OK folks, this is it. I’ve guided you through Romantic Valentine’s Day Excursion itineraries in Paris and Florence.  Still haven’t found the perfect trip idea?

Perhaps you’ve already been to these cities, or perhaps you are looking for a destination that is less of a Valentine’s Day cliché.

I thus present to you, in my final post of this series, the charming, music-filled city of VIENNA.

Smaller and more manageable than Paris, yet with a cosmopolitan edge that sets it apart from Florence, Vienna is the perfect weekend destination for the young, culture-loving couple! continue reading

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Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Florence

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So…what are your Valentine’s Day plans?  Have you been searching all over town for that perfect, charming, romantic Italian bistro?

Here’s a better idea: why not surprise your sweetie with some authentic Chianti and handmade risotto in Tuscany?

Following on from my previous post about Valentine’s Day Adventures in Paris, I would now like to focus on the beautiful, fascinating, historical city of Florence—one of my favourite places in Europe. continue reading

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Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Paris

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Valentine’s day is coming, and romance is in the air! (Or rather, the High Street shop windows are full of red, heart-shaped trinkets and pink, flowery whatnots, and you have succumbed to the pressures of consumer culture…).

Either way, you—the love-struck shopper—have one thing on your mind: what in the $%#! am I gong to get him/her? continue reading

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O2 X Awards and After Party!

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Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the O2 X Small Business Awards and after party with a few of my colleagues here in London. We were thrilled to be nominated for the Technology and Innovation award, and we had a great time!

o2 x awards

Firstly, though, I must say that I had never been to The O2 in Greenwich before—definitely worth a visit! Lots going on in this enormous, climate-controlled, Thames-side dome (it’s so big that you forget you’re actually indoors, which is perfect for London weather).

On any given evening, you’ll find a slew of cinema-goers, leisurely diners (there are 30 odd restaurants), special events attendees, and perhaps, as we did, thousands and thousands of Queen fans spilling out of the O2 Arena…

Our event took place in the brand new, oh-so-trendy Matter night club, where we sipped champagne, enjoyed delicious canapés, participated in on-camera interviews, and mingled with all sorts of interesting entrepreneurs…from eco-friendly fashion designers, to music producers, to Z list celebs (so I’m told)…it certainly was a hip, happening evening for all.

Jess Deepak O2 X Awards

I learned last night that I am definitely not privy to the happenings of British celebrity culture; however, apparently this girl (the host of the awards ceremony) is one import chick:

Holly Willoughby O2 X

So…there’s you celeb snap for the week.  Enjoy!

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Oktoberfest 2008 – share your crazy stories!

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Oktoberfest Prost PhotoI got a lot of responses to the blog about Oktoberfest that I wrote back in July, which emphasized the importance of ‘planning ahead’ – i.e. months before embarking on your weekends of debauchery – so that you would avoid fronting huge amounts of cash, sleeping on train station benches, etc.

Many of you probably missed the blog or ignored my advice. Totally fine by me, as long as you will now share the details of your crazy adventures with us!  Who has the best story to tell?  What did you lose?  Where did you sleep?  Who did you meet?  Did you manage to experience some cool parts of Munich?

Tell us, tell us. (By posting below…)

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Memories of C.S. Lewis

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Why is it that we remember the most tangential and hyper-specific scenes from our childhoods (personal examples: playing with the lace trim on my red and white polka dotted crib bedding; the yellow raincoat decal that I used to attach to my nursery school class’s ‘weather bear’ on rainy days)…yet we so often forget the name of an acquaintance that we discussed the election with last week? Or, even better, which drawer we placed our keys in 3 minutes ago?

Do you actually remember the design on your 4th birthday party cake, or have you just watched the home video 50 odd times?

What about your favourite childhood book? Do you recall what the cover looked like? Where the characters lived?

Last weekend, I was exploring the quaint, picturesque streets of Malvern, England—the town where C.S. Lewis (who happened to be favourite author as a child) went to school—when my knowledgeable guide asked me if I had enjoyed the recent film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Having just listened to his engaging overview of the famous Lewisian haunts and Narnia landmarks scattered throughout this lovely countryside town, I wanted to discuss a range of parallel cinematic moments. But I quickly realised that, actually, I couldn’t. Yes, I had seen the film (in fact had rushed to the cinema like an excited child when it came out 3 years ago), but I could not even cite my favourite scene.

I realise now that my wires had gotten crossed. I could not answer because I could not differentiate between two visual memories—the first being the imagery that I had generated in my 8-year-old mind whilst reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the second being the imagery that Disney had delivered to my local cinema, 14 years later.

To add to my moment of mental convolution, this was the second Brit lit expert, in the second quaint, historic English town that had made enthusiastic claims regarding Lewis’s sources of creative inspiration.

Hmm…

You see, I’d been told that Lewis devised his plots whilst wandering the streets of Oxford. But now, it seems to me that perhaps Malvern had an equal, if not greater, impact on his writings. For, apparently, the Narnia gas lamp is located in front of a Malvern College dormitory…

So, then, which is it? What town, which landmarks, and which people inspired C.S. Lewis to create the allegorical fantasyland that continues to engage children, adults, filmmakers and tourists today?

We can only speculate which memories and life experiences may have, consciously or subconsciously, inspired Lewis in his vivid creations. I will now trace some of the most famous landmarks that I have encountered, which have been linked to his writings….

Tracing the footsteps of C.S. Lewis…

1. The Malvern Hills.

This most picturesque area of Worcestershire, UK is the perfect daytrip destination from Birmingham, Oxford or London (1, 1.5 and 2.5 hours by train, respectively). It’s no wonder that Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and co. embarked on frequent retreats to the Malvern Hills for years after Lewis completed his schooling at Malvern College 1916.

It has been said that the friends enjoyed leisurely walks through the hills to soak in the stunning panoramic scenery of the region, which has doubtlessly inspired artists for decades. (Apparently, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Wales!)

2. The Unicorn Inn, Malvern.

Lewis’s scenic treks typically ended at this charming, hillside pub, presumably with all of the activities that we would imagine—philosophical debates, pints of ale, visions of white, magical, single-horned creatures, etc.

Unicorn Pub Malvern

Sadly, when I visited, the plaque commemorating Lewis’s visits had been dismounted. Hopefully this was just a temporary move, and you will have better luck!

3. The Eagle and Child Pub, Oxford.

The informal, weekly meeting place of the ‘Inklings’ literary discussion group (comprised of Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams and several others), this popular watering hole is one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks.

Definitely worth stopping here for a pint to check out the framed ‘Inklings’ memorabilia…but often difficult to secure seats, especially for large parties. Though I suppose if you drop in on a for some Tuesday morning rounds, as the Inklings often did, you won’t have much of a problem.

4. Magdalen College, Oxford.

Last, but certainly not least…a place that I cannot stop writing about.

magdalen-cloisters_resized.jpg

The idyllic meadows, the lazy tributaries, the stunning architecture, the gorgeous spring foliage…all of the wonderful things that comprise this 550-year-old Oxford College make it feel like a fantasyland.

I can only imagine what Lewis, a former fellow of Magdalen, was dreaming up when he strolled around the college’s deer park…alongside the gondola-esque punts…through the weeping willows…perhaps pausing to gaze back at the colourful sunset framing the college’s majestic bell tower…

It’s no surprise that Lewis stayed at Magdalen for nearly 30 years!

The trail continues…

These are only a few, noteworthy places that I have personally experienced: the list of landmarks goes on, including sights in Belfast, Lewis’s place of birth, and Cambridge, where he served as a departmental chair until a few months before his death in 1963.

Your ideal Narnia adventure will, of course, depend on the way in which you imagine or remember Lewis’s stories. You’ll never see the world as he did, but you sure can try to match your memories of his work with an interesting travel experience.

In honour of my Malvern adventure, I (re)watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe last night. I now remember (or at least, I think I remember…) exactly what I was thinking when I watched it the first time: I must go to the place where these beautiful Narnia landscapes were filmed.

New Zealand, anyone?

A blog for another day…

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Mahiki’s Famous Treasure Chest

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My sincere apologies for the delays in posting photographs—I’ve been having some technical difficulties…

If you missed yesterday’s blog about Mahiki, which is, apparently, Prince Harry’s favourite London night club, you can read it here.

Right, so I’ve decided that a photograph doesn’t do Mahiki’s signature concoction much justice, but, nonetheless, here it is:

Mahiki Treasure Chest London

…those straws are about to do a lot of damage!

Crazy, right?

End story: Mahiki is a fantastic venue for a hen party or a stag, if you can foot the bill?

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