Subscribe to isango! RSS feed
World’s leading site for travel experiences - Tours, Activities, Shows, Excursions and more
Find amazing experiences Book before you go. Local rates. Handpicked suppliers Find out more >>
Home Blog Support Why isango!
call us +44 (0) 870 049 2331
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!

Exploring Philadelphia

1

Philadelphia

Whether you are in the mood for food, culture, sports or history, the City of Brotherly Love has it all. Better known as Philadelphia, the large American city, which lies beneath the shadows of New York and Boston, is filled with fascinating events and activities.

 
1. If you are looking to experience the food in Philadelphia, then look no further than the Philadelphia South Street Walking Tour. Located in South Philly, the tour takes you through one of the cities unique and diverse neighborhoods. Starting at a Jewish deli and ending at a popular "cheese steak" shop, the tour includes food markets, street art, historic buildings and more. 
 
2. Need some romance in the City of Brotherly Love? Then take your sweetheart on the romantic Spirit of Philadelphia. A 3-hour cruise that offers a live show, buffet dinner, and a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. With the option of lunch or dinner, spend the rest of your day visiting the Penn’s Landing area. 
 
3. Interested in sports? Philadelphia is one of the most unique sporting cities in America. With wild fans that are passionate about ice hockey, football, basketball and baseball, take the opportunity to go to a game. Make sure you arrive early enough for the parking lot tailgate! Food like hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers are very popular, and inside the event Chickie's & Pete's is a favoured Philadelphia restaurant. 
 
4. Looking for a little bit of education while on your trip, or do you just love history? Either way Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities and there is no better way to see it than through the Colonial City Walking Tour. From the Betsy Ross house to Independence Hall, the tour takes you back in time to where the city of Philadelphia began. 
 
5. Lastly, if history, food, or sports is not for you, give the King of Prussia Mall a try. Philadelphia is home to one of America’s largest shopping malls, located just outside the city, the King of Prussia Mall has over 400 stores to delight your shopping interest. Made up of a Court side and a Plaza side, the mall is easy to navigate and has a little bit of something for everyone. 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

There is more than the Louvre – other 20 Paris museums

3

Paris is a world capital of culture and history so it’s normal to find a wealth of museums there. But if you think Paris museum, you’ll immediately think Louvre. True. What an amazing place: unmissable. But for once, let’s spread the word about everything else. If you have time for a second museum, you’re facing a very tough choice.

We have shortlisted here 20 other Paris museums that we believe are worth checking out (there are actually more than 100 museums in Paris). Many Paris museums are named after their founder or after the street where they are located, so you can’t just guess from the name…

Note: the Paris Sightseeing Pass grants free access to many Paris museums, and it grants “skip the line” privilege.

ART AND HISTORY MUSEUMS

Orangerie museum – Located in the Louvre gardens, this Paris museum exposes masterpieces from Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Monet and Matisse.  A modern display area was opened in 2006 to illuminate the paintings with natural light (yet indoor).

Musée d’Orsay – Mostly focused on 19th century, this Paris museum hosts impressionist painting and photography. The building itself (a former train station) is an immense glass hall worth the visit.

Centre Pompidou – probably the 2nd most recognizable building in Paris after the Eiffel tower, this museum of modern and contemporary arts is an artwork in itself. Boasts the largest modern art collection in Europe, with (as we write) 62229 works from Kandinsky, Giacometti, Man Ray, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso and 5528 other artists.

Picasso museum – Dedicated to the Spanish master, this Paris museum displays a large collection of paintings, sculptures and other forms of creativity from all periods of Picasso’s life.

Musée Rodin- This Paris museum is entirely focused on the life and work of Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor mostly known abroad for “The Thinker” and “The Kiss” statues. The museum has one of the most romantic gardens where the sculptures are displayed.

Palais de Tokyo- Nothing to do with Japan a part the name, this is a creative art lab for contemporary artists finding new ways of expression while mixing gendres and techniques. Always different artists on display, as well as special events and an uber-cool bar and restaurant.

Carnavalet museum – This Paris museum displays furniture from the Renaissance and other key periods of Paris’s history. Not to miss: the keys of the Bastille fortress symbol of the French Revolution of 1789.

Cité de la Musique – Extensive display of anything that has ever been built to produce music and sound, this is an interactive exhibition often enriched by concerts, musical shows for children and live workshops.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY MUSEUMS

Arts et Métiers museum- Literally, “the museum of arts and works” is an amazing collection of scientific and industrial discoveries. From early airplanes and cars, to the very own tools used by the first chemist (Lavoisier and all), to the first personal computer and memories, the first Baudot telegraph, Bell’s telephone, watches, photography, raw materials… all hosted in a magnificent monastery from the 11th century. This Paris museum is dubbed “the Louvre of science”.

Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle – This place is so well known in Paris that it’s just nicknamed “The Museum”. Its roots date back to 350 years ago when monks started collecting and studying plants and animals of all species. Today, thousands of stuffed specimen are assembled in a majestic display telling the story of animal evolution. Unknown to most tourists, the world’s oldest animal park – or zoo – is still in operation here, ask for the “Ménagerie”.

Palais de la Decouverte – More than a museum this is an interactive exhibition center focused on scientific education. New themes and topics are continuously addressed through conferences and real scientific experiences being run on site.

WORLD CULTURE MUSEUMS

Musée du Quai Branly – The name doesn’t mean anything else than its address, but this is the latest addition to the “big” Paris museums. Opened in 2006, it is dedicated to ancestral arts from Oceania, Africa, Asia and Americas. Next door to the Eiffel Tower.

Institut du Monde Arabe -Also known as “IMA”, this organization is dedicated to Arabian cultures and has been setup in cooperation between France and 22 Arabian countries. Around a museum spanning history from pre-islamic to arabian-muslim civilizations, there are temporary exhibition, movies, language centers, and an immense library.

Musée Guimet – The museum of Asian arts, displays artworks from south-east Asia, China, Korea, Japan and India.

SPECIAL INTEREST MUSEUMS

Opera Museum- Not well known, located within the Opera Garnier, this Paris museum displays sceneries, costumes, booklets and jewelry used in opera performances, same dating back to 300 years ago.

Cinematheque- This movie library is home to 40000 movies and a nice collections of memorabilia costumes and sceneries. But the highlight is the building itself – a Gehry new-classical-cubist building reworked to fit 4 movie theaters.

Immigration museum – Quite an unusual idea, this museum is a place made to remember the life of immigrants across centuries. It is a showcase of hope, dream, courage, creativity and sorrow.

Galerie des Gobelins – Formerly the manufacturer of France’s royal tapestries, it has now turned into a museum displaying antique tapestries and furnitures. A must if you’re into tapestries.

Musée du fumeur- The smokers’s museum… a surprising Paris museum where you can find, unsurprisingly, cigarettes, cigars, pipes and other smoking gadgets.

Musée Galliera -The fashion museum, displaying haute couture and accessories from the most famous French fashion designers. The themes and collections change very often to prevent fabrics deterioration.

As mentioned, there are so many other museums in Paris. Which ones do you suggest as worth mentioning in our future post for the next 20 museums?

Daniele

[This post has been syndicated from the isango! Travel Blog]

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Memories of C.S. Lewis

2

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…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

WIN YOUR ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ (Seriously!)

0

Ok folks, it’s finally that time of year – the time when you wake up on a rainy, chilly ‘summer’ morning and realise that you were a fool for economising in ’08 and using your holidays to visit Auntie Maeve in Birmingham for her mid-August birthday…boring!

There’s still time to plan an adventure, and there’s a way to do it…and cheaply.

Here’s how:

1. Dream up your wildest, most intriguing/ creative/ exotic/ romantic/ adventurous/ whimsical holiday EVER.

2. Write it down (before you share the idea with any of your friends/family—they will just think you are crazy, thus stifling your creative genius/globe trotting aspirations. For example, my mum wasn’t so keen on my brilliant idea to become a Bollywood dancer in Bombay, so I had to settle for a 4 week course in Mayfair. If only this contest had existed then! ).

3. While we are certain that you would all make fantastic novelists—and would love to jumpstart your careers as travel journalists—we ask that you please reduce the text to 200 words or less and come up with a short, catchy title.

4. Go to the contest website, paste your text in the entry window, and enter to WIN £500 of isango! credit towards your dream holiday.

Click here to enter the Isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest.

We will be posting our favourite entries on the blog throughout July/August, with the shortlist posted here for public voting in early August.

The Grand Prize Winner of the £500 isango! voucher will be announced at the end of August!

Good luck!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

The Fountain of Youth.

2

Fountain of Youth Ponce de LeonFountain of Youth Ponce de LeonFountain of Youth Ponce de Leon

“When I arrived, I was 135 years old, and now I feel 60 again!” remarked my father after tasting some authentic, sulphur-saturated water from the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida.  Our tour guide assured us that, had Spanish explorer Ponce de León not been shot in the thigh during battle circa age 60, he surely would have, given his daily Fountain bathing regimen, lived to be at least 100, too…

And no, the sexy diorama above—complete with a statue of old Juan in his fatal, thigh-exposing get up (“the shorter the skirt, the higher the nobility!” –  our tour guide)—is, sadly, not the actual Fountain of Youth, but rather, a tourist mock up.  The actual historic site of the famed, bubbling source of vitality, as sought and discovered by Juan Ponce de León in 1513, now appears as a pit in the ground; the rejuvenating “Water of Life” is currently filtered through a man-made tap for tourist-consuming purposes.  Ever smelled and/or tasted warm sulphur water on a scorching summer day? Yummm…

Fountain of Youth tour guide

The Fountain of Youth Park in St. Augustine actually provided several hours of amusement for my not-so-keen-on-sightseeing parents (and for my super touristy self!).  I actually did—as cheesy as it sounds—feel somewhat connected to my country’s 400 + year old history of European inhabitation while perusing the 15 acre grounds. 

Upon entering the Park, you will be brainwashed—i.e. “America is so old” and “La Florida came first!”—as the resident historians emphasize their favorite take home lesson: Chris Columbus may have “discovered” the “New World,” but it was good old Juan who established the first European settlement on American soil—St Augustine.

And what a charming little city he left behind!

Do take the St. Augustine historic trolley tour and stop off at the Fountain of Youth Park, which provides enough activities to entertain a family of 10— an archaeological park, a planetarium, and a discovery globe, to name a few.

Oh yeah, and there are tons of beautiful peacocks (which are actually kind of scary, in my opinion…).  Stay tuned for the upcoming peacock blog if you would like to view some more images of these fascinating creatures!

In conclusion:

Gracias, Sr. Ponce de Leon….queremos beber de la fuente de la juventud cada día!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS