SYDNEY — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have sidestepped a potential row over the use of unauthorised pictures of them and Prince George taken during a break from engagements on their tour of Australia.

The couple were said to be “very relaxed” about photos apparently taken without permission by paparazzi, while telling broadcasters and other media they would prefer them not to be used.

Pictures of the duchess playing with her eight-month-old son on her lap, carrying him on her shoulders and pushing him in a buggy in the gardens of Government House in Canberra during time off have been widely used in Australia. Other photos showed the royal couple, wearing jeans and jumpers, walking hand in hand near Lake Burley Griffin.

Royal aides asked British media not to publish the photographs but seem anxious to avoid controversy during what has been seen as a successful visit to New Zealand and Australia. In 2012, the duchess was photographed topless without her knowledge during a holiday in France, provoking an injunction to stop the pictures — which originally appeared in Closer magazine — being republished.

Today (April 22), the couple will leave George with a nanny in Canberra for Uluru, in central Australia, more than 30 years after Prince William’s parents went there. It will be their second night away this trip from their son. He was the focus of attention at Sydney’s Taronga zoo over the weekend, meeting a bilby — a rabbit-like marsupial — named after him.

Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, is a sacred site for the area’s Indigenous Australians. The royal couple will fly to Yulara, a town close to Uluru, to visit the National Indigenous Training Academy, which helps to train those living near the world heritage site to work in the tourism and hospitality trades. GUARDIAN

Article source: http://www.todayonline.com/world/europe/william-and-kate-very-relaxed-about-unauthorised-pictures

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Serving tea in one of the capital’s salons de the

Ordering a cup of tea in Paris is a bit like asking for pastis in a British pub. You probably won’t get what you came for.

The standard response is a glass accompanied by a small pot of water and a bag. Milk, if insisted upon, normally arrives hot.

For generations in France, the search for an acceptable cuppa has been an obsession of expatriated Brits.

Shops are no help. Supermarkets sell boxes of weak “style Anglaise” tea-bags that wouldn’t pass muster across the Channel.

People survive by buying on the internet, making the trip to Marks and Spencer (thankfully re-opened), or cadging consignments from visiting friends.

And yet all the while, France has been undergoing a silent tea revolution.

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Tea goes excellently with some types of cheese”

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Francois-Xavier Delmas

Hard to believe for a country supposedly devoted to the cult of coffee, but today French blends are the toast of tea cognoscenti from Nanjing to New York.

Backed by multi-million-euro advertising, the Paris-based Kusmi tea is a staple of airport duty-frees, and with its new flagship store on the Champs-Elysees has seen turnover multiply by six in the last few years.

Other historic brands like Mariage Freres and Dammann are also fast expanding, selling online and opening stores across the globe.

And inside France a sudden fashion for tea has swept the middle classes. Specialist tea salons are spreading, in Paris and beyond. People take classes to learn how to taste and to serve. Literally hundreds of varieties and blends are now available for sale.

To be clear – French tea is not British tea.

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Mariage Freres director Franck Desains spoke to BBC News about why tea is catching on again

The tannin-rich dark and heavy brew beloved of the British household finds few takers. A mug of industrially produced brickies’ char would have Parisians gagging.

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When I was a child, there were only two types of people who drank tea in France – invalids and aristocrats”

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Didier Jumeau-Lafond
Dammann Teas

What the French are developing is something altogether more refined and delicate – as befits their gastronomic heritage.

“When you go to the auctions in China, you can spot the British. They are the ones buying 1,000 tonnes of this, 1,000 tonnes of that,” says Didier Jumeau-Lafond of Dammann Teas, based in Dreux, west of Paris.

“When we buy, it’s maybe 10 chests, max! The Brits want the cheapest prices. We just want the best quality. Ours is a niche market, but it’s a niche that is growing fast.”

Dammann is an ancient company. Its origins (so they claim – though it is disputed) go back to the days of Louis XIV. In modern times it helped usher in the French tea revolution by developing a vast range of scented blends.

A woman selects a leaf from a wide range of teas

“My mother was Russian,” says Jumeau-Lafond, whose father relaunched the company after World War Two. “And she loved Earl Grey scented with orange blossom. This became our Russian Blend. Then we started trying all sorts of other fruit and flower fragrances. Some time in the 70s, the Japanese started coming to Paris – and they realised that French tea suited their palates far more than English tea.”

For many years Dammann produced teas (scented and non-scented) exclusively for luxury Paris delicatessens like Hediard and Fauchon. But recently it was bought by the Italian coffee company Illy, and now produces teas under its own brand-name. Exports are increasing by 30% a year.

Meanwhile inside France, a new generation of health- and fashion-conscious consumers has begun discovering the world of tastes that tea can open up.

“The French are always interested in the origins of what they eat and drink, and in the cultures that produced it,” says Francois-Xavier Delmas, founder of the Le Palais des Thes chain of tea shops.

“We see it exactly like wine. We can explore the tastes of tea exactly like we explore the tastes of wine. We can produce different colours, vintages, new growth, single garden, fermented teas – exactly like with wine.

“Today we even advise Michelin-starred restaurants on how to serve tea instead of wine. It goes excellently with some types of cheese. And these days many business-people don’t want to drink alcohol at lunch, so a vintage tea is the perfect alternative.

“The joy is that it is all for the French a re-discovery. For centuries we have had no real contact with tea. So unlike you British, we formed no habits. This means we can learn about tea as a pure, new product.”

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In the 19th Century there were more salons de the in France than in the UK – but that is because the British drank at home”

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Gilles Brochard

The French – it turns out – have a tea tradition that is every bit as venerable as the British. It’s just that they lost it.

Tea first came to Paris via the Dutch in the 17th Century, a few years before it arrived in London.

Originally it was used as a health-giving drink. Cardinal Mazarin – chief minister to the young Louis XIV – took it for his gout.

Later the famous court letter-writer Madame de Sevigne wrote of how a certain Monsieur de Landgrave “drank 40 cups every morning” and that though he was very ill it “brought him back to life before our eyes”.

Madame de Sevigne is also often quoted as providing evidence that the French were the first to put milk in their tea.

In fact what she wrote was that Madame de Sabliere “took tea with her milk”, which is not quite the same thing.

By the time of the revolution tea had become part of the aristocratic way of life, and it was beginning to spread to the bourgeoisie.

In 1796 Napoleon would write to Josephine: “Not one cup of tea have I taken without cursing the glory and the ambition that keeps me away from the soul of my life.”

An indication of how common the drink was is that a right-wing political newspaper of the time went by the name of Le Thé.

‘Le The a l’Anglaise’ (Tea served in the English fashion, salons of the Four Mirrors, Paris, 1764)

According to Napoleon’s biographer Philip Dwyer, newspaper hawkers were able to play on the title by yelling out “Qui veut du the? Il est fort le the!” (Who wants some tea? It’s strong stuff, The Tea!”)

In the 19th Century – with its periodic outbursts of Anglomania – tea became a passion for the well-off, who indulged themselves with expensive porcelain tea-sets and visits to “salons de the” in Biarritz and on the Riviera.

“Strange to say, there were more salons de the in France than in the UK. But that is because the British drank at home. We had to go somewhere special to take it,” says tea historian Gilles Brochard.

And therein of course lies the great difference. In the UK, tea was and remains a genuinely popular drink. In France it was the preserve of a wealthy few – and in the first half of the 20th Century, even their interest began to dwindle.

“When I was a child, there were only two types of people who drank tea in France – invalids and aristocrats,” says Jumeau-Lafond.

“But then about 20 years ago, first of all there was a spate of articles in the press about how coffee was bad for you. People started looking for a replacement. They tried tea, and found they liked it.

“And then there’s the snob element. People love to have something that is a bit different. And there are so many French teas, you will always find one particular blend or flavour that is yours.”

So the answer to the frustrated British expat is clear.

Stop looking for what you are not going to get. Buy the “a la Francaise”. It’s almost certainly far better than anything you have had before.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26962095

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Keeping in view the importance of culture and history, German National Tourist Office has announced its new campaign theme for 2014 – ‘Germany – UNESCO World Heritage destination’. This year the destination will offer plenty to look forward with their new campaign.

Germany over the years has been significant for its history, heritage and engineering prowess. Adding to these facets that establishes a unique identity for Germany, the destination in itself has been popular as a tourism hub in Europe with its 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites fostering Germany within top 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Europe. With the new theme, Germany will aim to strengthen its image as a cultural destination by promoting awareness of World Heritage sites and their surrounding regions.

The German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner said: “Germany stands not only for excellent cars and high tech, but for much more: Vibrant, reunified Berlin, modern design and world heritage with magnificent monuments that have stood the test of time – just take the castles in Potsdam or the Cologne Cathedral. More than 615.000 overnights from India in 2013 alone show: Germany is trendy and a top destination for high end business and leisure.”

Romit Theophilus, Director, Sales and Marketing, GNTO India speaking on the occasion said: “We have been consistently placed amongst top three most popular European destinations out of India. Last year we recorded a growth of over 5 % in Indian visitors to Germany. Our 2014 campaign is focussed on increasing the cultural diversity and supporting cross-cultural dialogue between Germany and other countries across the globe. We hope to bring back the fond memories of the country’s past history. Today, Germany has flourished through the journey providing a picture perfect destination for one and all, ensuring the memories of their visit will be etched in the hearts for years to come.”

“We are targeting an approximate 8 to 10% growth from all visitor segments from India and will be investing to the tune of 500,000 € into the market in 2014. We are confident of Germany maintaining its position as one of the most favored European destination’s by Indian visitors and hope to see the Indian fan following grow for destination Germany”, concluded Romit.

Article source: http://voyagersworld.in/article/2014-see-germany-heritage-destination

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LOS ANGELES, April 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Luxury cruise innovator Crystal Cruises is expanding its roster of active, immersive experiences ashore with 16 bicycle Crystal Adventures in 2014.  Throughout Northern and Western Europe and the Mediterranean, travelers can enjoy some of the world’s most striking architecture, charming villages, spectacular seaside views and historically profound sites, often best – and sometimes only – accessed on bicycle.  Offered with May-September voyages aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, the half- and full-day excursions combine fitness with new, intimate perspectives on favorite destinations such as:

  • Malta – A 12.5-mile route travels through countryside only accessible by bicycle and along the western coastline toward the highest point in Malta, the Dingli Cliffs – dramatically sheering straight down to the Mediterranean Sea and providing spectacular panoramic views.
  • Tallinn – Guests will seemingly cycle back in time as they ride to the Baroque palace and summer home of Peter the Great, and around the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the city’s Old Town, complete with ancient walls, cobblestone lanes and 16th century architecture – including a pharmacy that has been in business since 1422.
  • Copenhagen – In one of the world’s most bike-friendly cities, guests can truly experience the sites as the locals do, including a winding, five-mile ride through a forest en route to a 500-year-old amusement park (the world’s oldest), Bakken, where they’ll have time to play and explore.
  • Bordeaux/Bassens – Along a nine-mile combination of flat and hilly roads in the quaint village of Saint-Emilion – whose entire wine “jurisdiction” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – where guests will enjoy views of beautiful chateaus and expansive vineyards of such premier estates as Chateau Angelus, Figeac and Cheval Blanc. 
  • Barcelona – An invigorating five-mile ride through the city’s bustling streets affords the opportunity to admire the profoundly impressive architecture of the cathedrals and other icons, while also enjoying performances from street artists that liven up the La Rambla boulevard.
  • Guernsey/St. Peter Port – Along a six-mile stunning coastal path, travelers can marvel equally at L’Ancresse and Pembroke beaches and the Le Dehus Dolmen, home to Neolithic-era tombs that resemble a miniature Stonehenge.

With Crystal’s 2014 European voyages, bicycle adventures are also offered in Valencia and Mallorca, Spain; Corfu, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Helsinki, Finland; Holyhead, Wales; Kotor, Montenegro; Skagen, Denmark; St. Tropez, France; and St. Petersburg, Russia. 

“Many guests have become increasingly interested in more athletic pursuits that allow them to enjoy a destination in a more up close and personal way,” says John Stoll, vice president of land programs.  “The bicycle excursions not only foster personal connections with the scenery and surrounding cultures, but also with each other.  Each cycling group builds a special camaraderie as they share these experiences.” 

With all the details of the bicycle Crystal Adventures arranged by Crystal’s staff and expert partners ashore, including helmets, bottled water, refreshments in most locales and terrain-appropriate bikes, prices for bicycling excursions in Europe range from $89 to $249 per person. 

In 2014, the line’s luxurious ships will sail 23 European voyages of 7 to 14 days, with shorter “Crystal Getaways” and extended combination cruises also available.  Until April 30, 2014, all-inclusive “Book Now” cruise fares for the line’s European sailings start at $1,730 per person.

Crystal’s passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences are cornerstones of its Crystal Adventures program, earning the line top ratings for two decades.  Bicycle trips are also offered in North America this fall, from Halifax and Bar Harbor to Key West and Cabo San Lucas.

Stoll adds, “For many, it is a lifelong dream to cycle through Europe’s most beautiful landscapes – a dream one wouldn’t necessarily expect to fulfill while on a cruise.”

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.

CONTACT: Mimi Weisband or Susan Wichmann, 310-203-4305, mediarelations@crystalcruises.com.

VISIT: Crystal’s Media Center and engage with us at www.facebook.com/crystalcruises, www.twitter.com/crystalcruises, and www.youtube.com/crystalcruises.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140415/73279

SOURCE Crystal Cruises

Article source: http://www.sys-con.com/node/3059183

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PRODUCTION design sketch for the film

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” recreates what appears to be Eastern Europe between the two world wars and is easily set to be the director’s most visually appealing work to date.

Ralph Fiennes plays a concierge named Gustave H who works at a famous European hotel and has been framed for murder after a priceless Renaissance painting housed in the hotel had gone missing. He teams up with the lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), to prove his innocence.

Anderson set his tale in a fictional spa town in the imaginary country of alpine Zubrowka, for which he created not only a complete visual aesthetic but also a cohesive 20th-century history mirroring Eastern Europe, complete with a fascist takeover in the 1930s and a Communist period after that, but also a more distant past in the vein of the belle epoque.

The extensive planning of the film began with finding just the right location for the Grand Budapest.

The search started with Anderson perusing the archives of the US Library of Congress, which holds a large collection of photocrom images from the era of classic European travel.  But after scouting some of the resorts in the photos, and discovering most to be torn down or too extensively renovated, Anderson chose to shoot in no hotel at all.


DIRECTOR Wes Anderson

Instead, he discovered an unexpected kind of back lot: a vast, turn-of-the-century department store smack at the intersection of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, in the Unesco World Heritage town of Görlitz.

It turned out Görlitz had far more to offer than just the department store, including architectural influences from the Gothic and Baroque to the almost-modern curves of Art Nouveau.

Anderson and his production designer Adam Stockhausen ultimately decided to create the hotel exterior as a beautifully elaborate miniature in the workshops at Babelsberg. It was also there that they built and filmed much of the cable-car and ski-chase sequences, building miniature models in the workshop and then moving them outdoors to be shot under natural light—often pushing a camera on wheels through real miniature trees—allowing a greater feeling of naturalism than you’d normally achieve with a model.

“First, there were endless amounts of research into what hotels looked like in the time period, and then the details that really spoke to us began to bubble up to the surface, and we’d say, ‘That stairway’s incredible, that elevator door’s incredible’ or ‘that concierge desk is incredible,’” Stockhausen said. “And as those pieces started to gel into a shape, pretty soon we could say, ‘OK, this is starting to feel like our hotel.’

“Wes [Anderson] likes to shoot in complex camera moves, so the physical space really had to line up. We ended up building the 1960s version of the hotel first, and then we shot backwards, peeling away layers to expose the earlier period hotel within.”

Many of the film’s key props were made by local artists and artisans in Görlitz, including the Courtesans au chocolat, made by local baker Anemone Müller-Grossman, Monsieur Gustave’s signature pinky ring, and the porcelain pendant that Agatha (played by Saoirse Ronan) wears.

The design of the film emerged from the collaboration between Anderson and Stockhausen. The latter, who had also worked on “The Darjeeling Limited,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and recently Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” knew this film would be a creative experience unlike any other.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls cinemas nationwide starting April 19 (Black Saturday).

“GRAND Budapest,” starring Ralph Fiennes, is set in a spa town in Eastern Europe between the two world wars. For the imaginary hotel during the classic era of European travel, director Wes Anderson chose a vast, turn-of-the-century department store smack at the intersection of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, in the Unesco World Heritage town of Görlitz.

Article source: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/157051/unesco-world-heritage-german-town-utilized-in-wes-andersons-grand-budapest

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Inspired by the idea of traveling some not-so-well known destinations thanks to a recent trip to Fernando do Noronha in Brazil, TPG asked Madrid-based European correspondent Lori Zaino for some of her recommendations for some lesser known, emerging European travel spots.

One of the best things about living in Europe is having access to so many great places, most of which are only a 2-3 hour flight away from Madrid, where I am based. In the six years I’ve been living aboard, I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most well known European destinations, and also some that aren’t quite as popular. I watched Dubrovnik and Porto emerge as a hot new destination spots a few years ago, and here are my picks for some emerging vacation spots in 2014.

Flickr / Alison Quine

Chania Harbor, Crete

Chania, Crete, Greece

When you think of the Greek Islands, Mykonos comes to mind for its endless summer parties or Santorini for its picturesque sunsets and romantic hilltops. Crete is a gorgeous Greek island that is completely overlooked in my opinion, and also has plenty of idyllic beaches, sunsets and partying if that’s what you are looking for. The island is the largest of all the Greek islands and is separated into four regions, Heraklion, Rethymno, Chania, and Lasithi.

Arrival: There are actually two airports on the island, one is Heraklion and the other in Chania. Several low cost airlines such as Easy Jet, Germanwings, Volotea, Vueling, and Wizz Air operate summer seasonal flights to Heraklion. Aegean, Condor, Alitalia, and Air Berlin also fly there from select European spots. Seasonal flights begin on April 1, 2014 on Ryanair to Chania from Bergamo, Billund, Bologna, Bournemouth,Bremen, Bristol, Charleroi, Dublin, East Midlands, Eindhoven, Glasgow-Prestwick, Hahn, Katowice, Leeds/Bradford, London-Stansted, Marseille, Memmingen, Moss/Rygge, Pisa, Rome-Ciampino, Stockholm-Skavsta, Treviso, Vilnius, Warsaw-Modlin, Weeze, Wrocław. Aegean, Finnair, Easyjet, and more also fly to Chania airport. From the US, connect on Aegean from Athens, or first stop in one of many European cities and get a low cost flight over to either airport.

Accommodation: I recommend staying in Almyrida in the Chania region, where I stayed in a no frills apartment called Ansi Apartments. Just 100 steps away from the beach, Georgio and his wife welcomed us into their apartment building with traditional Greek Pasteries and a bottle of wine. The sunset views from our balcony were breathtaking and the apartment was clean and basic. I was intrigued at the fact you could rent two beach chairs and an umbrella, that also come with a large bottle of water, for just 5 euros (less than $7) on the unspoiled, uncrowded beach. This is definitely not Miami at $20 a chair!

I suggest ordering fresh seafood at Lagos Taverna and make sure to enjoy your free shot of ouzo afterwards. For 20 days, I didn’t see a single other American tourist, though I have a feeling that may change now that I have spilled the beans!

Chania is my favorite of all the regions, for having some of the most beautiful beaches and small clifftop towns, and for having a mixture of authentic local flavor and tourism. Chania is actually a small city within the region (25 minute drive from Almyrida), and its winding streets and ivy trellised colored apartment buildings is reminscent of Trastevere in Rome or Verona, Italy. Located right on the water, the city boosts a Venetian lighthouse, historical old town, and countless terraces and outdoor hot spots where you can watch the sunset, dine, and drink the night away. The small and winding streets lined with shops and bed and breakfasts are romantic and charming (a few of my personal favorites are the Fatma Boutique Hotel, the Evgenia, and the Palazzo Duca). A short drive from Chania in either direction, you can find any style of beach your heart desires, small and untouched, busy and bustling, rocky areas perfect for diving and more. Great spots are Elafonnisi, Kissamos beach to watch the sunset, or tiny seaside village Loutro.

Tips and Tricks: Car rental is pretty crucial if you want to explore Crete, especially if you want to visit other regions or big tourist attractions like Knosses Palace or hike the Samaria Gorge. Beware, as few speak English here, make sure to zone in a couple key Greek phrases during your travel. There is also total disorder at the Heraklion airport, so I highly recommend getting to the airport 3 hours in advance during high tourist season. We arrive a little over two hours and had to run to catch our flight, security is a total mess.

Flickr / Weli’mi’nakwan

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is a surprisingly charming city that is becoming more up-and-coming by the minute. Its picturesque old town is a UNESCO Heritage Site with tons of Jewish cultural sites to explore, and was also selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2009.

Arrival: The Vilnius Aiport is located just a few miles outside the city center. It is mainly serviced by low cost airlines such as Wizzair and Ryanair and also has flights from LOT, Aeroflot, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, and Finnair. The cheapest and easiest way to arrival from the U.S. is to fly direct to Frankfurt and continue on to Vilnius, or you have the option of going to Warsaw or Brussels nonstop and then routing to Vilnius. Another option is to fly on SAS and connect through Stockholm from Newark. From many other cities like London and Barcelona you can fly low cost nonstop.

Accommodation: The Stikliai hotel is a wonderful local and authentic hotel. It was once a glass-making factory — the name Stikliai means glass makers in Lithuanian. The owners, Anya and Alexandr are always on site and very welcoming and the hotel is a very charming experience. The onsite restaurant has one Michelin star and the Stikliai Tavern has incredible draniki or “potato pancakes.”

Throughout the old city center, there are several beautiful churches, plus a cathedral and the castle to visit. Wandering around is a lot of fun, as there are so many little shops and cafes and of course, lots of beautiful and historic architecture to stare at. The rather creepy Gruto garden is an outdoor exhibit consisting of 86 statues by 46 different sculptors, is organized into spheres. Each of the statues features a Soviet or socialist activist, many of them ethnic Lithuanians. The exhibit is haunting and intriguing, giving visitors a look into Soviet culture.

If you are a beer lover, Vilnius is one of the best cities to be in! This is little known, but Vilnius is known for its locally brewed beers within the Baltic region. Bambalyne is a great cellar beer bar and shop where you can get many different varieties of local beer. Vilinus has everything it takes to be a popular European travel destination … time will tell!

Tips and Tricks: Beware of taxi drivers overcharging, this commonly occurs here. A bike tour is also a great way to get to know the city, so rent one yourself or sign up for a tour.

Michela Simoncini / Flickr

Alghero, Sardinia

Alghero, Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia is usually overlooked in favor of its well-known sister island, Sicily, which gets most of the attention. However, this Mediterranean gem is well worth a visit. The walled city of Alghero is located on the northwest cost of Italy and it’s a charming, sleepy, medieval beach town.

Alghero is unique because it was actually once an outpost of the Catalan kingdom, therefore the Alghero dialect is a mix of Sardinian Italian with Catalan and Spanish mixed in. Alghero is and has been a hot destination for Italians living on the mainland, especially from Rome, as it’s quite close.

Arrival: Alitalia flies there from Rome and Milan, and Ryanair from several destinations around Europe. When I was searching for flights from Madrid, I found Ryanair for 100 euros roundtrip nonstop approximately 2 hours, or Alitalia for 400 euros, with a layover in Rome, entire trip approximately six hours. Obviously, I chose the Ryanair! The city is abuzz with excitement as Ryanair has been expanding, connecting Alghero nonstop with more and more several cities in Europe, therefore increasing tourism. However, if you are flying from the USA, you could fly on Alitalia to Rome or Milan and connect over to Alghero. Wizzair also flies to Alghero from Romania.The Alghero airport is only a 20 minute bus or taxi ride to the historical city center.

Accommodation: I found a perfect apartment on my favorite apartment search website, which I have been using for the past six years before Airbnb even existed, called Owners Direct. I love this site because it doesn’t charge any extra fees to rent. The fees are actually paid by those advertising their properties, which I prefer. Not only is it fee-free for me, but I think the renters are more serious as they have to pay to advertise their property. Luigi’s studio, in the “centro storico” number IT1432 was perfect, though the medieval walls were so thick I had trouble getting a phone and WiFi signal inside, actually a common problem in most areas of ancient city.

Recently, it’s seen a growth in tourism from visitors around Europe and Russia, and even for Americans. The old city is hilly with cobblestone lined streets overlooking a large port-boating and fishing is a huge industry for Alghero. There is a lot of dried algae on the beaches, hence the name “Alghero.” I spent six weeks roaming this town last summer, taking Italian classes at Pintadera (which I highly recommend if you would like to learn Italian) and exploring the Algherese community, trying to interact as much as possible with locals. Not to be missed is the trendy “Le Bombarde” beach. Filled with scantily clad young 20-40 somethings, this stunning beach is well known among locals for those wanting to suntan, meet with friends and try their luck at windsurfing.

Another hotspot is Stintino, about an hour drive from Alghero, which is one of the top beaches in all of Italy. Try some pizza at Bella Napoli in the Piazza Civica, or for even more authentic Italian fare, make sure to visit an agriturismo. “Agriculture tourism” or Agriturismo consists of small farms located inland that offer a fixed menu dinner, usually from about 20-40 euros, and most of the food they serve is locally grown on the farm. Some also offer accommodation as well.

Tips and Tricks: Most of the time I spent there, I used a bike to get around to and from the city beach, and for a longer ride out to Le Bombarde beach. I rented a scooter for a few days to explore the caves of Neptunes Grotto and Capo Caccia, and a car to visit Stintino, but a car rental is not absolutely necessary. Really, depending on your cup of tea (eg relaxing beach vacation, medieval city, yachting adventure) all of Sardinia is up-and-coming, so make sure to add it to your list of places to see.

Flickr / Corinne Cavallo

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland

Everyone is saying how Krakow is the new Prague. Cheap and relatively unknown, Krakow has that cool Eastern European vibe that Prague had many years ago and Budapest is still grasping for. Why the comparison? Prague is heavily touristy and slowly becoming more expensive, and Krakow is still rather untouched, in spite of its medieval roots. The delicious restaurants here are cheap, there are tons of museums and historical sights, and the city is considered Poland’s art, theater and culture capital.

As the second largest city in Poland, Krakow dates back to the 7th century and is rich in history, especially Jewish history. The historic city center is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Arrival: Getting there is easy — John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice is located approximately 15 km from the city of Krakow. From the U.S., you can fly nonstop to Warsaw and connect on to Krakow, and from other European cities, you can fly via Ryanair, Easy Jet, Alitalia, Air Berlin, Lufthansa, Vueling, and more. Ryanair flies direct from Madrid, so it was a no-brainer for me.

Accommodation: There are a variety of different hotel choices here, from budget hostels for backpackers to uber luxury digs, but as it’s a big city, if you have Starwood points, you can stay at the Sheraton Krakow for just under 10,000 Starpoints per night. If you are looking for something more boutique with a local feel, try the Hotel Stary.

Of course you have to begin with the Market Square and wander around Krakow’s city center and then the old Jewish quarter called Kazimierz. For a more local feel, I rented a bike and rode around the Planty Park, which a two and half mile stretch of greenery that was once the wall around the city. The wall was torn down in the 19th century and replaced by a small moat, grass, and trees and hooks around the Old Town. There are museums and monuments all throughout the city but I most enjoyed simply wandering the streets and getting lost in the historical center, and the castle is a beautiful spot as well. For a cup of coffee and traditional polish pastry, try Vanilla, and for a hearty Polish meal at a great price in a trendy atmosphere, try Bombonierka in the Jewish quarter.

Some day trips include visiting the Wieliczka salt mine or the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum. With both options you can go on your own by bus or train, or get a guided tour.

Tips and Tricks: Make sure to validate your train or bus tickets. You will get a fine if they catch you! Also be aware that the tap water is not always drinkable, so make sure to confirm with your hotel whether or not it is safe, or just stick with bottled water during the trip if you are concerned.

Flickr / michael.manz

Formentera, Spain

Formentera, Spain

The tranquil sister island located next to Ibiza, this place has always been calm and underdeveloped compared to the other three Balearic Islands in Spain: Mallorca, Menorca and Ibzia. Perhaps it’s because you can only arrive by boat, as there is no airport on the island. Formentera was virtually unknown until the 1970′s and now it’s a haven for Spanish vacationers who want some serious relaxation. It’s a huge leap from the German tourism of Mallorca or crazy partying in Ibiza, and is slowly growing each year.

An increase in boats from the mainland recently (from Denia) has also helped to increase tourism, and people are starting to rave about this beautiful beach destination.

Accommodation: For a more resort feel, try the Formentera Insotel Playa, and for a more boutique feel, the Hotel Entre Pinos. Another option is to rent a villa or apartment.

Arrival: From the US, your best bet is to fly into Barcelona and then either fly or boat over to Ibiza. It can easily be combined with a trip to Barcelona or a visit to the other Balnearic islands. A speedboat or ferry over to Formentera from Ibiza is only 30 minutes, short enough for a day trip if you don’t fancy staying overnight or would rather be partying in Ibiza.

There isn’t much to do here but beach. The island itself is only about 12 miles long. Rent a bike and spend your days here relaxing. Playa Illetes is the most popular beach here, and has been compared to the Caribbean, as it has white sand and soft blue water. For watersports, try Playa Es Pujols, which is also the biggest resort area of the island. Find fresh and delicious seafood at Es Moli de Sal. I find that this town is extremely “Spanish” in the sense the locals and tourists alike really just love to relax and enjoy. It has a much more authentic feel than any of the other Balearic islands.

Tips and Tricks: Remember that just as many smaller towns do in Spain, most shops are closed during “siesta” time, usually around 1 or 2 pm to 4 or 5 pm. If you desperately need to get the post office/pharmacy/grocery store, keep that in mind. Many places are also closed on Sundays.

Flickr / Jos Dielis

Engelberg, Switzerland

Engelberg, Switzerland

Most skiers have never even heard of this small ski town just an hour and a half south of Zurich, hidden deep in a valley of about 3,500 inhabitants. The great thing about Engelberg is that it’s pretty much guaranteed snow cover, and for some reason it’s fairly unknown and therefore continues to be well priced. Engelberg also has the first revolving gondola—the 1993 Rotair—that takes adventurous skiers all the way to the top of Titlis, which is a 3,020-meter (10,000 feet) peak. The mountain top even offers a bar (you may need something to calm those nerves before you tackle this!).

Arrival: Getting here is much easier than a lot of other ski destinations, as it’s located a short drive from Zurich, and most other ski resorts are located much further away along the border of France or Austria (again, befuddling why no one seems to have discovered this place yet!). You can fly to Zurich from several US destinations and then take a bus, train or rent a car to get you 50 miles to Engelberg.

I think I have discovered the problem — that the town is really not built for skiing. A two-minute shuttle bus ride or fifteen minute hike on foot to the main lift station seems less than convenient. However, when you consider the 10,000-foot glacier that lies ahead, it seems more valid. Beware … major growth is coming soon. There is a plan to form a lift link with the Meiringen ski region to the west would put Engelberg up there with the big guns, making a large international impact. So head here soon before it Engelberg gets too cool and too expensive.

Accommodation: Stay at the Ski Lodge Engelberg. This resort was opened up by two Swedish ski bums who loved the charm of the tiny village. This cozy lodge features a restaurant and they even offer transfer services to the Basel or Zurich airports.

The village operates the lift all year round, so this can also be a great destination for hiking and other warm weather activities. Also worth a visit is the Engelberg Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1120. The Alpenclub is also a nice hotel and even better a delicious restaurant. Same goes for the restaurant and hotel S pannort.

The town is slowly growing and isn’t the same nightlife scene you might find in one of the bigger, more well known ski resorts, but it has its own charm … and judging by their plans, it may not stay small much longer!

Gilad Rom / Flickr

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, pronounced Lublanschna (if you practice about 20 times, you might get it) is the capital of Slovenia. Slovenia is a small country sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Switzerland. The country was a part of Communist Yugoslavia until 1991, and entered the European Union in 2004. This city has also been compared to Prague for it’s immense cultural offerings, cool bar scene and quirky details (like the shoes hanging from telephone wires all over the city — apparently students toss them up when school lets out!). The architect who build Prague’s famous castle, Jože Plečnik , is actually from Ljubljana and is a responsible for creating much of the old city’s unique architecture, including the Triple  Bridge. However, in contrast to crowded Prague, for some reason this city has remained relatively un-touristy, and rather authentic, perhaps overshadowed by its glamorous neighbors like Croatia, Italy, and Austria. Slovenia also remains the cheapest country that holds a range of the Alps.

Arrival: Jože Pučnik Airport, also known as Brnik Airport (LJU) is located 17 miles north of Ljubljana. Unfortunately you cannot fly direct from the US. However, Adria Air is a member of Star Alliance so you can get to several other cities like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London or Paris on a partner airline and then continue on via Adria Air to Ljubljana. You can also get there nonstop from several cities in Europe on Easy Jet and Wizz Air.

Accommodation: If you want some local flavor, stay at the Vander Urbani Resort, a local boutique hotel located smack in the pedestrian center of Ljubljana. The hotel is sleek and urban, while still holding onto some of that Eastern European charm. This hotel is also a Visa Signature, so if you’d like those extra benefits, book through them.

The first thing you should do upon arrival in Ljubljana is take a free walking tour. This is a great and cheap way to get to the know the city from a local viewpoint. Usually these tours are led by students with a bright outlook and positive attitude, and I have always have a great time doing these types of tours. Plus, they are free! Tip as you wish.

The city center is small and you can get around by foot or renting a bike. The city’s bike rental program offers special rentals for just 1 euro ($1.38) for an entire week, but you can only use for 60 minutes at a time or you will be charged more. You can book and pre-pay this on your credit card here.

Another cool resource is the Ljubljana card. If purchased online for either 24, 48 or 72 hours  it costs just 20-30 euros ($27-$42), and you have access to all the museums and tourist attractions in the city at no charge, get free WiFi around the city, free bus rides, a free boat tour along the Ljubljanica River and more.

The city features some beautiful squares, a unique castle, and even Roman ruins. Art Nouveau was big here in the 19th and 20th centuries so there are many beautiful, colorful buildings to see. Pass through the Tivioli park or visit a variety of different museums with history about Slovenia or art. There is also an opera house to check out where you can still see opera in the evenings. The city has a lot of quirky, cool things like small antique shops, vintage boutiques, used book stores and more. Even the bar scene is a little different. For example, Pr’Skelet Bar is a dungeon bar with decorated with skeletons where you can get one of a kind cocktails. For eats, try the intimate bistro Marley Me, or if you prefer dining with a view, visit the restaurant Strelec on top of the castle with top chef Igor Jagodic. Spajza restaurant has a beautiful outdoor courtyard.

Do you know any great destinations that are a little off the beaten path or haven’t been “discovered” yet? Have you already visited any of the aforementioned destinations? If so, share in the comments section below!

This post originally appeared at The Points Guy. Copyright 2014.

7 Moves Smart Travelers Never Make

Article source: http://www.businessinsider.com/7-amazing-european-destinations-that-probably-arent-on-your-radar-2014-4

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By Irene S. Levine, Next Avenue Contributor

Taking a vacation to improve one’s physical, emotional and/or spiritual well-being is an old concept — the Bible mentions the Dead Sea’s therapeutic waters and 18th century elites felt the lure of Europe’s healing mineral baths, for instance.

Today, the words “wellness” and “vacation” are spoken in the same breath with unprecedented frequency. Over the past decade, this type of vacation has become incredibly diverse and democratized.

While spas were once the epicenter of wellness tourism, the industry has mushroomed to include healthy hotels, holistic cruises, hiking and backpacking trips, weight loss clinics, creative and spiritual retreats, weight-loss programs, medical tourism and more.

(MORE: 6 Travel Tips for Midlife Adventurers)

study presented at the first Global Wellness Tourism Congress in October 2013 estimates this type of travel is now a half-trillion dollar market, accounting for 14% of all tourism revenues.

Why Boomers Are Wild For Wellness

It’s not surprising that boomers are captivated by the concept of wellness. With longer lifespans, a greater emphasis on health and fitness and the accelerated pace of life precipitated by the technological revolution, boomers are more apt to seek out vacations that allow them to unplug, de-stress and recharge. They don’t want to return home feeling sluggish and weighing five pounds more than when they left.

“The market is more health-conscious,” says Bob Diener, former president of Hotels.com and now president of Getaroom.com, a website specializing in hotel deals. Diener estimates that 18 percent of his visitors, most of them boomers, are interested in wellness travel.

“Vacations concentrating on wellness are compelling because everyday commitments create obstacles for people to do what they would like to do for their health,” says Dave Aidekman, founder of The Trip Tribe, a website connecting like-minded group travelers.

Boomers want meaningful experiences, whether that means adventure, exercise, self-improvement or service. “Wellness travel can include voluntourism [volunteer travel], slow travel and many other existing tourism products that provide meaning,” says Camille Hoheb, a wellness travel expert and founder of Wellness Tourism Worldwide.

(MORE: Why Cruising Is the Perfect Multigenerational Vacation)

What Wellness Vacations Look Like

Wellness vacations take many different forms, from rustic to luxury. Here are some examples:

Spiritual Retreats

  • The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, N.C. offers lodging, meditation facilities, a holistic spa and hiking trails to promote “personal transformation and service to humanity.”
  • Located on 21,000 acres in north central New Mexico, Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center is set amidst the red rocks that once inspired painter Georgia O’Keeffe. With more than 200 workshops ranging from paleontology to memoir writing, guests can also hike, kayak, walk a labyrinth designed as a “path to the center of the soul” or simply relax.
  • The Silent Stay Retreat Hermitage in Vacaville, Calif. is an outgrowth of a similar program in Assisi, Italy run by the same owners. Guests are encouraged to meditate, remain silent and reconnect with themselves and nature.

Exercise and Fitness Vacations

  • To promote fitness and weight loss, Fitpacking is a slow-travel program that brings people to national parks and forests for one- or two-week guided backpacking adventures.
  • The goals of Mountain Trek, a boutique fitness retreat, are weight loss and improved overall health. At two locations in British Columbia and Baja California, small groups of guests participate in backcountry hikes and other activities (e.g. healthy eating, detox, yoga and stress management) designed to promote lifestyle changes.

Destination Spa and Wellness Resorts

  • Rancho La Puerta is located in Baja California, a half-hour from San Diego. At this 3,000-acre property, the first fitness resort and spa in North America, guests take part in fitness activities, outdoor recreation, cooking classes, personal training sessions and health and beauty treatments.
  • The mission-style Omni La Costa Resort Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., once a playground for celebrities and athletes, now offers a weight-loss and fitness boot camp, spa with treatments to decrease anxiety and uplift mood and a “reflexology path.” The resort also houses the Chopra Center for Wellbeing that helps groups incorporate wellness into their workplace and personal lives.
  • Often called a luxury camp for adults, Canyon Ranch has offered “life-enhancement” programs for more than 35 years. At properties in Tucson, Ariz.; Lenox, Mass.; and Miami Beach, Fla., guests participate in activities ranging from ballet-barre workouts to cardio-boxing, pick-up basketball games and courses in “great sex.”
  • Mindfulness — living in the present moment, conscious of the unique intersection of mind, body and spirit — is the core of the philosophy of Miraval Resort Spa (located in Tucson with another property soon to open in New Jersey). The goals of a stay include healthy lifestyle changes, self-discovery and transformation.

Wellness Tours

  • Pravassa is one of a growing number of companies offering wellness tours. Two such tours are planned to New Mexico and Thailand in fall 2014, both centered around physical activity, spiritual connection, stress reduction, food education and cultural involvement.
  • Amazon-Andes Sky runs meditation and yoga retreats in Ecuador. For example, during one retreat, guests can go horseback riding, visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, learn about medicinal uses of local plants and “explore their inner landscapes” through instructional and guided meditation.

More Healthy Choices

Historically, individual hotels and resorts, like The Breakers Palm Beach in Florida and The Greenbrier in West Virginia were known for their world-class spas. But many more hotel brands are joining the wellness wave.

Marketing Ploy or More?

Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/04/09/boomers-feed-growing-wellness-vacation-industry/

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