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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 ‘Things to do in Europe’

Game of Thrones – A Tourism Tsunami

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For three seasons, the Game of Thrones has been enthralling the world as they follow the often violent and provocative tale of the seven clans engaged in a war to claim the Iron Throne.  The television series has gathered an avid and faithful following interested in all things related to GOT.

As the fourth season of the gripping fantasy tale approaches, public expectation is rising with the release of teaser trailers.  Similar is the case with the interest in the dramatic and beautiful countryside seen on screen. Much of the outdoor shooting has been around the stunning Northern Irish landscape. The brilliant natural backdrop has contributed greatly to the success of the TV series.

So much so that many visitors to Northern Ireland are keen to explore and see for themselves the location and settings where their favourite characters play out their roles.  There are some exceptional, organised tours that do just that.

In fact the most popular tour is run by the company that provided transport to the crew and cast of all four seasons.  Their close association with the television project has given the staff plenty of behind-the-scenes tales about locations and cast for you to feast upon.

The tour will take you out of Belfast, through Antrim and along the Causeway Coastal Route.  There is no better way to be introduced to glorious Ireland.  It is a region of superb natural beauty, which includes beautiful glens, steep, rugged black cliffs and tiny picturesque villages, enhanced by the ever changing colours of the land.

Ballycastle

Ballycastle

The serene little seaside village of Ballycastle is a setting often featured in the Game of Thrones.  The home of Lady Catelyn Stark, Ballycastle’s green and rolling hills overlook a sweeping bay, a sandy beach and a marina populated by colourful bobbing boats.

You then wind your way along a more rugged coastline to the caves of Cushendun, the setting for the birth of the ‘shadow baby.’  However, this beautiful little rocky section of the tour is not as dark and gloomy as the story.

Another memorable stop on the tour is the steeply descending, rocky and timeless Ballintoy Harbour.  Just five miles away from Ballycastle, Ballintoy is the setting for Pyke Harbour featured several times in the Game of Thrones.  The village itself plays the role of Lordsport in the series.

The chalk quarry of Larrybane is featured in the second season of the series and is the setting for Renly Baratheon’s camp and the Stormlands.  The location also has a duelling scene and a meeting between Renly and Lady Stark.  The area comprises of dazzling chalk cliffs and a tight cove just a short distance from Ballintoy Harbour.

Larrybane

Larrybane

The culmination of your trip is a walk along the dramatic and starkly beautiful Giant’s Causeway.  While this amazing place is not part of the Game of Thrones scenery, it should be as it seems to be made to order.

The Game of Thrones has been credited with giving Antrim and Northern Ireland a great deal of favourable publicity.  When you take a trip along the now famous settings you can understand why.

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1st Day of the New Year in Stockholm’s Old Town

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As New Year's Eve rapidly approached and I was faced with spending it in my pesky home town in grey, boring Finland, a friend and I decided that we needed to get away. The trip to Stockholm from Finland is easy and traversed often by Finns via a cruise liner. This is one of the most convenient ways for Finns to take a small break: a cruise to Stockholm is easy and quick – enjoying the tax free shops on board comes as an added bonus. Our ship docked at 10.30am on the 1st of January and the vessel was eerily, yet understandably quiet. After a night of boogeing on the party boat we were starving and headed out early.

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Ranked #3 on TripAdvisor for things to do in Stockholm, we headed for Stockholm’s Gamla Stan i.e. Old Town. The walk to the area from the port takes about 15 minutes and although there was nothing much of interest to look at along the way, at least we found evidence of a night of heavy partying. 

Celebrations

Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe, and here you can see the Royal Palace with its 600 rooms, Sweden’s national cathedral Stockholm Cathedral and the Nobel Museum. The Christmas wreaths and decorations were still in place and created a cosy atmosphere even post-Christmas.

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The area isn’t huge and perfect for a leisurely wander along the cobbled streets, peering into crowded passageways and gazing up on the medieval buildings, the surfaces of which look powdery and ancient. There are so many little details on the buildings you'll be snap happy throughout your stroll. Gamla Stan is unsurprisingly very touristy with the appropriate offering of souvenir shops, sweet shops and bric a brac – none of which tickled our fancy. However, we did stop over for a tasty lunch in one of the little cafes that dot the streets.

Gamla Stan is definitely worth checking out when in Stockholm, but head over early morning to avoid the crowds!
Keen on a bit of Stockholm sightseeing beyond the Old Town? Take a bus tour of the city and get your bearings from day one!

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Romantic Winter Getaways (Part 2)

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This is the second and final part of our feature on romantic experiences around the world. You can read part one of this feature here

1)    DINNER ON THE GRAND PEARL FLOATING RESTAURANT, BANGKOK

Wat Arun Temple at sunsetLeave Bangkok’s chaotic traffic behind and whisk your loved one for a delightful cruise along the Chao Phraya river in Thailand’s capital city. On board the luxurious Grand Pearl floating restaurant you will be able to marvel at famous Thai landmarks – Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace; shimmering in the night while you enjoy sumptuous Thai and international cuisine with your partner in a candle lit ambience.   

2)    PORTRAITS IN PARIS PHOTO SHOOT, PARIS, FRANCE

Portrait in ParisWrap yourself in the beauty and romance of the City of Love by booking a professional vacation photographer to capture your love story. Packed with charming vintage locations, Paris is a lover’s fantasy and a photographer’s delight. Get your photos taken in the most eclectic neighbourhood of Paris. Latin Quarter is situated on the left bank of the Seine, in the 5th and 6th arrondissement of Paris. There is no better setting to capture your engagement, honeymoon or anniversary photos.  

3)    MOUNT PILATUS EXCURSION FROM LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND

Cable car to the Swiss AlpsWith the snow-capped Mount Pilatus towering over the city, and the pristine Lake Lucerne in the heart of it, Switzerland is everything that a romantic getaway should be. After you and your partner are done gallivanting through picture perfect Swiss villages, medieval walled towns and enchanted castles, take a panoramic cable car ride (40 minutes) to Mount Pilatus, at an altitude of 2132 metres. Enjoy the vibrant skyline of the Swiss Alps and the snow decked slopes of Mount Pilatus while you savour traditional Swiss cuisine from the delectable restaurants or on the terrace where the views are to die for.

4)    METROPOLITAN OPERA & DINNER – WITH PRIVATE TRANSPORT, NEW YORK

When in New York City, a visit to The Metropolitan Opera is a must for Opera lovers. Make it extra special for our beloved by booking a luxurious package that includes a limousine pickup from your hotel, a meal at the popular Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, drinks, and opera tickets for your favorite production. This is perfect for an elegant proposal or a Valentine’s Day treat!

5)    ROMANTIC PRIVATE HELICOPTER TOUR FROM QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND

Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New ZealandThe magnificent scenery and views around Queenstown can only truly be experienced from the air via a scenic helicopter flight which will fly you over the highpoints of Lake Wakatipu. Look down on snow-capped peaks, dense forests and gleaming blue waters. The highlight of the luxury helicopter tours has to be shutting down on a remote alpine peak to take some time out to enjoy a delicious gourmet picnic and sparkling wine while you take in the pristine beauty of the alpine landscape. Perfect for couples looking to celebrate a special occasion. 

6)    ALHAMBRA PALACE GUIDED TOUR AND HAMMAM EXPERIENCE, GRANADA, SPAIN

Hammam in Granada, SpainThe city of Granada has one of the most dramatic locations in Spain, poised right below the magnificent “snowy range” Sierra Nevada. It is the perfect setting for one of Europe's most stunning monuments – Alhambra Palace, a romantic palace-fortress of the Nasrid Sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Muslim Kingdom. This red castle in Granada contains some of the world's finest examples of Moorish architecture. Relive the charm, magic and opulence of Alhambra’s glorious past by dipping in Arab-style public steam baths or ‘hammam’ where you and your partner can unwind in warm thermal baths complete with an exotic oil massage. 

7)    NEW YEARS EVE IN GRINZING – TOUR FROM VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Celebrating in a traditional tavernCelebrate the end of the year in one of the most famous wine growing villages in Austria. Just minutes from Vienna lies the wine hamlet of Grinzig with its traditional taverns serving local wine and hearty food, often accompanied by live Viennese music. The district of Grinzing is full of such beautifully preserved establishments that lend the whole district a magical feel. Numerous vineyards are located nearby and make a great place for a tranquil, romantic walk. Welcome the New Year in a traditional tavern, with "dinner à la Grinzing", sparkling wine and classical Viennese music.

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Romantic Winter Getaways (Part 1)

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In this first of a two part series, we feature romantic experiences around the world, handpicked by us for you and your loved one to experience in the cold cold months. We’ve covered all geographies and topographies so you have a diverse set of experiences to choose from. We’ve hit the Arctic Lapland, glamour capital Miami, canals of Venice, sunny Mexico, Scottish Highlands and artistic Budapest. 

1) SEEING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS AND REINDEER SLEIGH SAFARI, FINLAND

Northern Lights in FinlandCreate memories of a lifetime as you and your partner witness nature’s finest lightshow in Finnish Lapland.  Aurora Borealis or the northern lights paints the night sky in greens, violets and blues in the darkest winter months. Be part of this mystical phenomenon by chasing the lights between December and April, when all you have for company is the frosted forest, a blanket of snow, stories of the Arctic from your guide and Finnish style hot berry juice by the campfire.  For more fun in the Arctic wilderness, be sure to visit the reindeer farm and dash through the snow on a reindeer sleigh safari

2) PRIVATE GONDOLA RIDE FOR TWO, VENICE, ITALY

Venice by eveningA private gondola ride for two in Venice is the perfect occasion to pop the question. Wait till early evening when the crowds are gone and the light is right. On this gondola ride you glide through your own private Venice far from the hubbub of modern tourism. Glide through hidden canals, cross landmark bridges amongst Venetian gothic architecture and reflect on once upon a time grandeur. Prebook your gondola ride without having to haggle for the price at the destination.


3) LOBSTER DINNER CRUISE CANCUN,  MEXICO

If your perfect romantic getaway involves being surrounded by clear turquoise blue waters and walking on white sandy beaches then head to Cancun - Mexico’s premiere coastal destination. Opt for a sunset cruise on board the Spanish Galleon Colombus where you and your partner can enjoy gorgeous views of the Caribbean sea while you dine on delicious seafood and unlimited fine wine as the relaxing music of saxophone fills the air.  

4) MIAMI BEACH WEDDING, FLORIDA, USA

Tropical beach weddingIf you both love the outdoors, why not exchange your wedding vows in an outdoor wedding ceremony with soft sand under your feet, gushing ocean waves and cool sea breeze for company? The warm glow of the setting sun will give you lush photo opportunities to capture your special day. 

 

5) LOCH NESS, GLENCOE AND THE HIGHLANDS DAY TOUR FROM EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

Scotland castlePerfect getaway for couples who relish myths, folktales and legends – Scotland is abundant with such stories. Experience the rugged beauty of the Highlands as you walk through ancient ruins of magnificent palaces and fortresses strewn along the coast. Soak yourself in the misty beauty of Glencoe, voted as Scotland’s most romantic glen in a poll. Centuries of Scottish history shall come alive as you pass from one charming town to another, crossing many a lochs in the stunning Scottish landscapes.

6) THE CHAMPAGNE REGION: TASTINGS AT MOET & CHANDON AND HOUSE OF MUMM, CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

Champagne in the vineyardWe know that Paris never gets old, however a short day trip from Paris to the  Champagne-Ardenne region encapsulates a quintessential French experience unlike no other. Start your day exploring the quaint streets of Reims, known throughout the world for its sparkling wine, Champagne and follow it up with a guided tour of Reims UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral. Journey through Rheims Mountain Regional Park in the Epernay region where you can get a tour of the Moët & Chandon wine cellars. Get a real sense of the history and how the champagne is produced, along with tasting sessions and plenty of opportunity to stock up on your favourite champagne! 

 

7) NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATIONS IN BUDAPEST

What can be more romantic than welcoming the New Year on a boat on the Danube? Partake in the bonhomie created by live Hungarian gypsy music, and traditional folk dances. Watch the illuminated landmarks of the city from the comfort of your boat, while you tuck into some delicious Hungarian food. A boat trip on the river ensures a memorable New Year's Eve party in the Hungarian capital.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this feature…

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Brussels Nightlife Guide

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Brussels Nightlife Guide

brussels

Having lived in Brussels for 9 months and frequenting pubs and bars nearly every weekend (sometimes two nights in a row) I like to think myself a connoisseur of Brussels after dark. Some of the best places for a drink can be found conveniently located around the city centre and for some you might have go the extra mile, but it will be worth it. Whether you’re in the hunt for the best margarita or just a place to dance until your legs feel like jello, Brussels will deliver.

Le Corbeau

Good for: Dancing on tables

If you go to one place in Brussels, go to Le Corbeau. Get there before 10pm and you will see people casually enjoying their dinner with a few drinks in a charming old-Brussels setting. Stick around and you will be surprised. At approximately 11pm the bartender goes around removing lamps from tables, the volume goes up and suddenly you will see someone scrambling onto the table they just had their dinner on – soon the whole place is up on tables, grooving to the music and you have no choice but to try it yourself. I’ve never had a bad night here even though the fight for the best table spot can sometimes get a bit heated. Wearing heels is not recommended, you will need all the balance you have!

http://www.lecorbeau.be/

Mappa Mundo

Good for: Pre-drinks

Mappa Mundo is one of the many gems of the Saint Gery area. In the summer the cobbled St. Gery streets are filled with the sound of chatter and clinking glass as tables are spread outside and the bars open their windows wide to let some of the cool air in. Mappa Mundo has a wonderfully cosy, warm atmosphere. The lights are dim, the seats and setting comfortable and the music varied. Here you can have a quiet drink and catch up with friends or gear up for a night out in the livelier bars of the area.

http://www.mappamundo.com/?lang=en

Havana

Good for: Cocktails

This Cuban place is superb for cocktails; here is where I fell in love with margaritas. They make them super tangy and sweet, and during happy hour you get 2 for 1! If you’re into Latin music you can easily spend the whole night dancing here, but you can also catch the last bus into central Brussels at around 11pm if you’re looking to explore the city more.

http://www.havana-brussels.com/home_r.html

Delirium

Good for: Beer

This place is incredible. Even if you're not into beer you have to appreciate the fact that when you ask for the drinks menu, you will receive a book as heavy as The Lord of the Rings. As you leaf through the pages you will realise that the best option is to just close your eyes and poke your finger at the menu at random to choose your beer. They come in all tastes here, in over 2400 varieties from smoky to deliciously fruity. If you're finding the surplus of choice overbearing just ask the bar staff to recommend you something: they will give you a taste first before filling up the glass.

http://deliriumcafe.be/

Bonnefooi

Good for: Late, late hours

After all other bars in central Brussels close, there is always Bonnefooi. A favourite among nighthawks, this is where the party's at – even at 7 in the morning. The place gets a bit grubby in the early hours of the morning, but if you're hell-bent on not retiring to bed, Bonnefooi is there for you. Seen as it will probably be about 5 or 6 in the morning once you get here, have your wits about you and keep an eye on your belongings. I once had my bag stolen here right under my nose within the space of 5 minutes even after having carefully hidden it under a pile of jackets and keeping vigil right next to it.

http://bonnefooi.be/index.php/

Celtica

Good for: Cheap drinks

If you’re out to find that laid-back Irish pub feel and your main goal of the evening is to get sufficiently intoxicated, Celtica is your place. The drinks are cheap and the dancefloor upstairs crowded and pumping out the latest tunes to grind to. The place will become packed so be prepared to stand around with your drink. Certain nights kick off with live music, and you will most definitely hear a drunken singalong rendition of Wonderwall. Celtica is nothing fancy but it does the trick with the added bonus that the doors stay open til very late.

http://www.celticpubs.com/celtica/celticabxl.html

Fuse

Good for: Clubbing

One of the (very) few clubs in Brussels, this is where you can come all dolled up to bust a move.

The set-up is spacious and the music loud, providing all the essentials of a club night. The place lacks the great atmosphere you will find in smaller Brussels bars, but if clubbing is your thing, this is where you need to be. Be sure to bring change: every time you want to use the loo, you will need to pay.

http://www.fuse.be/

 

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Montserrat – A Rocky Ensemble

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Montserrat monastery

There are many reasons to visit Montserrat. It could be religious, musical, architectural, historical, ‘must see; must do,’ discovery, hiking, rock climbing, or just good old fashioned sightseeing. Whatever your compulsion you will be gratified and probably get more than you expected.

Montserrat in Catalan literally means "saw (serrated as the teeth of a handsaw) mountain."  They are the handy work of nature’s sculptural efforts over millions of years. The multiple peaks rearing up to its highest 1,236 metres (4,055 feet) at Sant Jeroni are simply spectacular.

This rocky ensemble is just 50 kilometres (31 miles) northwest of Barcelona. The trip takes about an hour by train or ninety minutes by road. The route takes you through some truly beautiful Catalan landscape and along the Llobregat River.

Once you get to Montserrat itself there are a number of ways you can get up to the various delights that the place has to offer. You could drive up; take the cable car or the rack railway.

The Aeri de Montserrat cable car is a dizzying 5 minute ride. Since these are always full you could wind up squashed in the middle and miss out on the stunning views as the car crawls up to the halfway stage. The Montserrat Rack Railway is a 15 minute joyride taking you back to child-like thrills. Or you could take the road – bus or car.
 
The first phase of your rise up to the Montserrat experience ends at the roughly halfway mark. This is where the 1,000 something year old Montserrat Monastery (Benedictine Abbey) and the Montserrat Basilica home of “La Morenta,” the black-faced Madonna have been built.

Viewing the Madonna can be a bit of a chore. It has been placed in a tiny alcove reached by a narrow corridor and up a staircase on the right side of the Monastery. You may have to inch your way forwards for more than an hour. More than two million people visit the shrine every year and you only get a few seconds in front of it before you are forced to move by the visitors behind. If you can get there by 9am then there are not many people around.

The Basilica is where the Montserrat Boy’s Choir (l’Escolania) sing every day at 1pm.  Their musical performance is enough to fill your soul to overflowing. Across the Basilica and underground is an extraordinary museum with a superb collection of paintings by the likes of El Greco, Caravaggio, Sisley, Picasso and Dalí. It also houses valuable artefacts and items from ancient Egypt.

From the plaza in front of the Monastery you can go to the top of the mountain via the Funicular de Sant Joan. This is a veritable archaeologist’s delight. The mountain face is pockmarked with the caves of hermit monks who once populated the place. There are also several chapels, stairs and pathways.

The Funicular de Santa Cova is another rack railway that takes you down to the cave, which is the original location of “La Morenta. This grotto is where visitations by the Virgin Mary were first reported back in 880 AD.

If hiking is your thing, then the slopes of the Montserrat hills will be a joy for you. There are six recognised hikes with the longest one to Sant Jeroni. The walk starting from either the mountain base of the top of the Sant Joan Funicular will reveal breathtaking views of the surrounding plains and the Pyrenees.

There are interesting features for nature lovers because of the geology and plants along the way. All of the trails offer amazing views and the locals boast that on a really clear day you can see Mallorca.

Just so you are prepared keep in mind that the funicular railways don’t run in March and carrying a coat is advisable. Montserrat often has strong and chilly winds.

For me the trip to Montserrat was the highlight of my visit.

 

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Tomorrowland Music Festival 2013, Belgium

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Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland is a massive electronic music festival that occurs in the town of Boom, Belgium, since 2005. Organised by ID&T, Entertainment and Media Enterprise, this 3-day music festival – described ‘A trippy technicolour fantasy’ – is amongst the biggest electronic and dance festivals in Europe. You’ll have the world’s biggest DJs playing to the world’s best crowd in this fest.

Decoration and Stages
Each year, the organisers invest a lot of money and manpower decorating the festival area that contributes to the total Tomorrowland experience. The artistry of the decor is as much of an event in itself.

Tomorrowland has close to 20 stages – each designed to suit the personality of the artists. It also has lots of lakes and trees, with a ride on the paddle boats a popular choice.

Tomorrowland 2013
This year’s festival will take place from 26–29 July, 2013 at De Schorre National Park in Boom, Belgium.

Fifteen stages cover all genres of dance music, in an astonishing main-stage set-up.

Line-ups for this year include: Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Carl Cox, Sebastian Ingrosso, Fedde le Grand, Avicii, Steve Aoki, Hardwell, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Nervo Twins, Headhunterz, Arty, Markus Schulz.

Official Anthem

Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike have officially released the anthem for this year's festival, "Chattahoochee," named after the TomorrowWorld site in Chattahoochee Hills, GA.

Tickets

Tickets for the 3-day full madness cost €198.50 this year. Each ticket comes with a special bracelet that’ll allow you into the festival. Make sure you get the correct one.

To purchase the ticket, you’ll need your passport details; which, security verifies at the gate that they match with those given when purchasing the tickets.

There is VIP Comfort Pass that allows access to the raised viewing platforms. Also remember, this is an 18+ event.

Opening Hours

• Friday 26 July 2013: 12:00 till 01:00
• Saturday 27 July 2013: 12:00 till 01:00
• Sunday 28 July 2013: 12:00 till 01:00

Little Trivia about the Festival

• Ticket Sell Out Times: (2013: 1 Second; 2012: within the hour).

• The festival was intended to be Europe’s answer to the amusement park setting of America’s popular Electric Daisy Carnival when it started in 2005.

• Tomorrowland is run by the Dutch event and entertainment company ID&T — the largest dance music company in the Netherlands.

• The festival has won many awards including “Best European Festival” and “Best Belgian Summer Festival” as well as being nominated for “Best Global Festival”. At the 2012 European Festival Awards the event won ‘Best Major Festival’.

• The 2012 festival welcomed 180,000 revellers who all safely returned to 75 different countries, with the live stream clocking up 7,933,661 views.

Believe us; you don’t want to miss this festival for the world! Let the MADNESS begin!

 

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Pflasterspektakel Festival 2013, Austria

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Pflasterspektakel Festival

The Pflasterspektakel (pavement spectacle in German) is a very popular street art festival celebrated annually in Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. It is truly a world-leading art festival with participants coming from more than 30 countries.

The festival is a 3-days event that takes place every second half of July – with artists performing at around 40 locations throughout the city of Linz – around the mains square and the Landstraße. Only in case of rain does the event move to the old city hall and other indoor locations.

In its very first year in 1987, about 150 musicians took part. Today, there are more than 400 different acts, coming from all over the world.

Features of the street festival

The event starts with an opening ceremony on a Thursday at 4 p.m.; and at 2 p.m. on the following Friday and Saturday until midnight. Partying and other informal activities carry on into the morning hours.

The main features of this festival include musical acts, juggling, acrobatics, pantomime, magic shows, improvisational theatre, clownery, fire dancing, painting, puppet shows, samba parades, theatre in caravans, wooden marionettes etc.

It also has various small parades and a variety of events and programmes for children.

Sponsorship and Donations

The event is funded by the municipality along with Radio Oberösterreich, local newspapers, and a bank.

The artists derive their main income from the visitors’ donations; except for their travel costs, accommodation, breakfast, and 25 Euros of cash for their expenses per day. So make sure you donate generously so that we can keep this unique event alive for the future generations to enjoy.

This year’s event will make its 27th festival edition; and will take place from the 18th to 20th July 2013.

 

Image credit: Gnal

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10 Facts about Bastille Day and its Celebration

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Bastille Day

Bastille Day —celebrated on 14 July—is a special day for France as it symbolises the beginning of democracy and freedom of the people. It is the French National day and is called La Fete Nationale in French.

The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. On July 14, 1789, an outraged group of Parisians stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event of the French Revolution—marking the beginning of the end of the French Royalty and the beginning of the modern republic.

Events and Tradition
The day is celebrated with military parades, fireworks, festivals, communal meals, parties and dances.  It also includes large picnics and musical performances.

Although every city, town and village throughout the country celebrates the day, the largest celebration is in Paris, where a parade marches past the famous Champs Elysées, in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests. At the end of the parade the French President and many foreign ambassadors wait and greet the military.

The day then ends in style with an awe-inspiring fireworks display at the country’s most iconic landmark – the Eiffel Tower.

10 Facts about Bastille Day
1. Bastille comes from the French word bastide, which means stronghold. It was formally known as the Bastille Saint-Antoine.

2. As the opening victory in the revolution, the storming of the Bastille is today celebrated as a national holiday.

3. The French National Anthem called la Marseillaise is a revolutionary song.

4. France's tricolour flag (blue, red and white) was introduced during the Revolution. The three colours represent the ideals of the French people – Liberte Egalite Fraternite (liberty, equality and fraternity) for all citizens.

5. There were only 7 prisoners at the Bastille when the people of Paris stormed on July 14th, 1789.

6. The Man in the Iron Mask was a Bastille prisoner from 1698 to 1703.

7. The famous philosopher and writer, Voltaire, and The Marquis de Sade were also prisoners of the Bastille.

8.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a large Bastille Day celebration downtown that lasts four days. They even have a 43 foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower! Other US cities famous for their celebrations of this day include New Orleans, New York, and Chicago.

9. The famous bicycle race —the Tour de France—takes place during Bastille Day.

10. The Key to the Bastille was presented to George Washington in 1790. It was built by Charles V between 1370 and 1383.


Happy Bastille Day!
 

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Algarve Safari Tour

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Algarve Safari Tour

Taking a jeep or 4×4 buggy safari through the Algarve feels like you are bumping along some remote dusty North African desert region. That sensation is in the name too. Algarve is a translation from the Arabic meaning “the West.” The Algarve is at the southern tip of Portugal and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were not in Europe.

That exotic feeling is further accentuated by a sense of adventure as you jolt and jounce in your jeep across pebbly streams, through sandy, dusty and scrub dotted tracks. It doesn’t matter from where you start your Algarve Safari you have about 2,090 square miles of potential fun and excitement. It is also the best way to see this region and get you away from the beaches and the crowds.

There is one thing you learn very quickly as your open vehicle roars through the fabulous scenery – you shouldn’t have worn white! The dust thrown up your jeep and the others in the convoy will soon change it.

Going on an Algarve safari is an opportunity to see spectacular parts of the country you would not otherwise have seen or imagined. Adventure and thrills aside the safari will take you into the interior with its winding un-metalled roads; tiny white-washed villages that pop up out of nowhere; past orange and lemon orchards interspersed with stands of eucalyptus.

Another one of the attractive aspects of getting on an Algarve tour is the chance to have lunch in a traditional village or a local restaurant – a meal that includes the famous chicken piri-piri. If you are up to it you could try out a glass of medronho – the potent local “firewater.” You will see how the rural people of Portugal get along and glimpse their way of life.

There are several versions of an Algarve safari. Some will combine a boat trip along with the jeep ride. Others include a day surfing and swimming in the itinerary. There is a half day tour that starts in the evening. This one is best enjoyed if there it is a moonlit night.

There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way as the jeep drivers make regular stops when you can sip some refreshment and (possibly) give one’s bottom a break from all the bouncing. It is also a great time to bond with your fellow safari travellers.

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