Building the enormous gothic Seo cathedral began in 1230 and has been going on, more or less, ever since.
Gaudí contributed some typically modernista interiors in the early 20th century but even that has been upstaged by the vast ceramic tableau of cracked mud, fish and skulls in St Peter’s chapel. The work of Mallorca’s foremost contemporary artist Miquel Barceló, it is loosely based on the miracle of the loaves and fishes and was officially opened in February this year.
This might seem like an odd idea but the Alcazar library is honestly an interesting thing to visit in Marseille for those seeking to understand the life of the city.
An old music hall and theatre, which welcomed Jacques Brel, Charlie Chaplin and Georges Brassens before closing, the Alcazar has only been open to the public as a library since 2004. It is part of a scheme to invest in the Belsunce area of the city which, like most of the centre of Marseille, has an overwhelmingly working class and immigrant population.
It is a vast, modern and beautiful building, clean and filled with light and people during its typically Mediterranean 11am until 7pm opening hours.
The contrast is incredible between the cool, tranquil space of the library and the noisy, dirty and sunbaked road outside, where a tram line is currently being built and hundreds of people go in and out of shops and cafes selling Muslim wedding clothes, north African pastries, mint tea, halal meat, and CDs and videos of Moroccan pop stars.
There are constantly changing exhibitions, a press area and frequent film screenings.
Here are some tips for you while you are in Vietnam:
Things to remember:
- It's in your best interests not to drink the tap water, especially after flooding!
-Avoid cycle rides after dark.
-Dress modestly and appropriately when visiting local dwellings and religious sites, etc.
- Leave your valuables behind before a night out on the town, or going to the beach.
- When crossing the road – especially in HCMC – always keep looking to the left and right and walk slowly!
- Don't offer money directly to beggars – instead donate to a local charity or offer a small gift, such as pens.
-However frustrated, don't loose your temper (“losing face”), as it won't get you very far!
I wish you a nice trip to Vietnam.
For travel guide websites for Vietnam, you can visit Dmoz.org at:
The one essential reason to visit Kampong Cham is for the Rana Country Homestay - the most rewarding day of our entire trip to Cambodia. 80% of Cambodia’s population are still subsistence farmers, and this place is unique in giving an insider insight into the realities of peasant life.
The delightful and informative owner takes you on tours of the village and farmlands, in between making delicious home-cooked Cambodian meals (best Amok by miles), and in the evening people from the village come to talk to you about whatever you want.
We found it particularly insightful to have this perspective on the Pol Pot years – especially as most information comes from previously wealthy city dwellers dispossessed by the Khmer Rouge or the horrors of Toul Sleng and the killing fields. Strongly recommend you take the short detour required off the road from Phnom Penh – Siem Reap to visit!
Poprad is so much more than a 'nondescript town in south-west Slovakia' as called in a recent Guardian travel piece. This is both incorrect geographically and unkind.
For a start, Poprad is in the north-east of the country, nestling at the foot of the mighty Tatra mountains making it an ideal base for family skiing, hiking, spa holidays. The town has an industrial past and some blocks from the sixties that are not too pretty but the town centre square has been pedestrianised and painted and is lined with excellent bars, pubs and restaurants.
There are several good museums and the Tatra mountain resorts are 20 minutes ride away on the wonderful elektricka electric train. There is also a 'suburb' of Poprad, the beautiful medieval town of Spisska Sobota which contains some of the best restaurants and pensions in Slovakia.
All in all, Poprad has everything and SkyEurope flies from the UK several times a week.
There is also the fabulous AquaCity, one of the most environmentally friendly spa lido hotel complexes in the world. The Slovak people are really welcoming and the food and accommodation are world-class. The Slovak beer, wine and slivovica must be tried!
The Jorvik Viking Centre in York is a great attraction for all ages.
You travel back to the year AD975 and discover what life was like in Britain at the time of the Vikings.
You may even come face-to-face with a Viking!
There is also a shop and many other activities, including brass rubbing and writing your name in Jorvik!
Telephone (booking): 01904 543402
(general enquiries): 01904 543400
JORVIK Viking Centre, Coppergate, York, Y01 9WT
"El Ministerio de Educacion Publica" houses an incredible collection of Diego Rivera murals.
These are his early murals (the 20s) and are on three floors surrounding an open courtyard with jacaranda trees.
Calle Argentina No. 28, Centro Historico, near Donceles. Free admission.
The Vienna Card is a travel pass and discount voucher rolled into one. It lasts for 72 hours and gives free travel on all modes of transport within the central area. It also gives discounts on wider travel and reduced entry for a host of museums etc.
It costs only €16 but remember to get it stamped the first time you use it. Inspectors are few and far between but get caught without a ticket and you'll be fined around €65 and still have to pay for your journey. Buy it at the airport on arrival, it will save you money on the train in.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the new (or renovated) Musée des Arts Decoratifs here in Paris. Set just next to the Louvre on the rue du Rivoli, it has taken the arts & crafts movement to the next level.
Next to 14th century glassware or pottery, you'll see exhibited a similar item made last year. But it's not just about pottery and chairs, the toy exhibit is incredible!
The museum is really well laid out to keep one's interest - is small enough that it doesn't take you all day - and close to many of the other "must see" sights of Paris to make it worth the visit. To get a feel of the variation of the museum, go here: www.parisdailyphoto.com/2007/04/muse-des-arts-dcoratifs.html
Les Arts Décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris France
Official Website: www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/index_gb.html
If you want an authentic experience as to what it was like to live in a 19th century railway community, look no further than a walk around Swindon's railway village.
Arriving appropriately by train, turn right out of the station's main entrance, and in a few minutes you'll be amongst the distinctive architecture of the railway village.
Stroll through the individual streets that were named after locomotives that passed through Swindon, and get a feel for the type of habitat that many of the railway workers dwelt in.
The turreted building is where the town's railway museum used to be housed, and next door to this, you can visit a railway cottage as it used to be in Brunel’s day, and get a feel for how things were for a typical railway worker's family.
In need of refreshment? You'll come across three pubs in the Emlyn square area of the village. I can personally vouch for the Gluepot, a fine selection of real ales along with a bowl of their chilli or cheesy chips will go down a treat.
Make your way to the pleasant open space of Faringdon Park, and then visit St. Mark's church with the modern railway running at the back.
The railway village is a real oasis of tranquillity, in contrast to the busy town centre. In early spring, daffodils and primroses are abundant.
Make your way back along Church Place and Bristol Street. You'll see a sign for Steam, where the railway museum has relocated. You also have the option of shopping at Swindon's designer outlet village, which has tastefully incorporated railway memorabilia into their malls.
As you walk along the underpass, spare a thought for former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman. In the 1960s, he successfully campaigned to save Swindon's railway village from redevelopment. Well played Sir John!
Museum of Valencia History reminds me a bit of the Museum of London, one of my favourite UK museums.
50 display areas taking visitors chronologically through 22 centuries of Valencia history.
However, beware the school groups, there were three in while I was there, which made it hard to concentrate.
This hotel, formerly knew as Nevsky 22, is comfortable, if you desire to spend your stay in the city centre of Petersburg.
In fact, it takes just a few minutes to get to the Hermitage (what a museum!). What is more, Nevsky Prospect is amazing: this boulevard was built in the 18th century and it is full of Italian and French influence: Saint Petersburg is really the union of two different cultures!
10 Bolshaya Konyushennaya St, 191186 St. Petersburg.
Tel: +7 812 3123131
Fax: +7 812 7033861
Check up on Thai manners and customs – this will earn you more respect from the locals. Keep up some dress sense – how you dress in Thailand is quite important. Don’t go topless without checking out if it’s acceptable where you are – usually it’s frowned upon. You’ll notice that Thai women (even sex workers) are very modest in public –they usually swim fully clothed.
Check out table manners – Thais tend to eat from communal dishes in the centre of the table – don’t pour everything onto your own plate! Don’t knock the royal family – even in jest. Don’t point your feet at people – the body is seen as hierarchical and the feet are the lowest part and should not be waved about (this is like a “fingers up” sign). It’s not necessary to “Wai” people - the Thai greeting - as you’ll probably get it wrong. If they Wai you, you might wai back. Remember, this is the Land of Smiles and you will find everything goes much better when you have a smile on your face - whatever the situation.
I never realised Catalonia was different from Spain. It has its own language, culture and traditions and some of the most incredible festivals I have ever seen. One of the most authentic I saw was in the Pyrenees Mountains in July. 150 locals ran down the mountain side carrying enormous flaming logs to ward off evil nature spirits. From the valley we saw a red snaking line, and when the log bearers reached the village music started and everything went haywire! There are so many other awesome festivals, with human castles, devil fire runs and giants. Definitely try to see one as these are authentic real life rituals, some of which are 1000 years old. Pagan traditions are definitely alive in Catalonia, so if you're a Travel Troll like me - head out of Barcelona into the rural Catalan villages.
There is a company that organizes small group trips to Catalan festivals for English and Spanish speakers: www.cultourabcn.com
Nit in Vela is Valencia's answer to the White Nights that have taken pace in other European cities, such as Rome, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona in recent years.
On the 31st of March, from 8pm, for over eight hours several of the major thoroughfares and plazas, and particularly the Rio Turia, Valencia's wonderful Park, will see over thirty spectaculars. From theatre to music to dance to acrobatics and fireworks. It's all to celebrate the beginning of the America's Cup, which takes place from April to July in the port.
The historic centre of Valencia, For much more information on the event and all things Valencia. www.thisisvalencia.com/newinvalencia.html
Although Trollhattan has historic links with hydro-powered industries, it is a relatively young city. It started as a settlement for wanderers seeking shelter from the rough northern winds in the hills overlooking the river. The area is rich as a source of food and water, but the currents are strong, and were not easily navigated in olden times. The earliest reference was in 1413, when it was neither a city nor a town, but more of a geographical area with falls and inaccessible rapids. Historians believe that this area is Mimir’s Well in Norse mythology, and that the town eventually took its name from the small islets in the river that look like hoods of trolls. Trolls were very real to the locals in those days, but even today the area is ripe with tales of mystical creatures.
The falls soon became a place for mills and hydro-power: an industrial area though without the pollution and pain often associated with early industry. Hydropower substituted coal furnishes to a lesser or greater extent, so there was very little pollution, not to mention that the pure volume of water cleared the air, adding a freshness often only associated with coastal towns.
In the 1800s, Eduard Leopold Albert visited the falls and fell in love with the views and the beauty. He had amassed a fortune as an engineer constructing the Russian rail network and impulsively bought a huge plot of land on the western side of the canal overlooking the falls.
He parcelled out his land to new inhabitants and planned the town thoroughly, catering for sanitation, transport, shops, streets, education, faith and even drew up bank loans, easements and regulations. Businesses were only allowed in special quarters, and overnight visitors and drinking were not allowed at all or with special permission. He called the area Stromslund – “the forested grove by the swiftly-flowing waters”.
Stromslund, one of the few remaining places in the Western world where socialism is successfully and firmly anchored in house ownership. It might be a midget in the eyes of the world, but is indeed a giant when it comes to mixing traditions with steadfast progress. Like the rooks on the Tower of London, the crows of Stromslund guard the old and encourage the new.
Prague Jewish quarter is one of the most popular areas of Prague. There are several kosher restaurants, Prague Jewish community, apartments with kosher breakfast and you can also have a very interesting tour of Jewish Prague. Prague Jewish museum is one of the most visited museums in Prague. Probably the most famous places are the Old new synagogue (the Maharal shul) and Old Jewish cemetery with all the known Rabbis from Prague Jewish history.
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