Not the one at the Che memorial but the one outside the communist party HQ just down the road from the train monument. Not only is it brilliant, but you can also have your photo taken next to a life-size Che without any bother as there's no guard.
Stationed outside the Capitol building in Havana you'll find some brilliantly restored convertible Cadillacs. These are available for one-hour tours for about 30 CUC. Not cheap by Cuban standards but, once you've seen them, you may just not be able to resist.
Barcelona, Havana, Cuba
+53 7 8637861
Google map: bit.ly/x1b8HR
When it comes to workouts and hiking, I appreciate that there are far more glamorous locations than this, but there's a recession on!
The section of the Hadrian's Wall national trail between Chollerford and Walton is a proper two day workout - especially so if you carry a full pack with you. Unrelenting ascents and descents over about 30 miles - if you mean business, this is a perfect two day walk with time to explore the odd Roman fort. If you're in poor fitness I wouldn't try to do it in two!
The beauty of it is that you can exercise in stunning surroundings with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. And if all the exercise gets too much for you, there are some excellent country pubs along the way to tempt you to break your new years resolutions!
www.nationaltrail.co.uk/hadrianswall/index.asp?PageId=1 the national trail website has links to maps and transport information - there are lots of stations on the local Newcastle to Carlisle route that will drop you off near the trail.
www.hadrians-wall.org/ has a helpful set of brochures of each section of the trail that lists all the accommodation available - from quirky bunkhouses to top notch B&Bs.
Not just for Napoleophiles (who will definetely think they've died and gone to heaven), this is set in a huge hilltop mansion with glorious views over Havana. Also boasts Havana's most charming tour guides and the field glass Napoleon used at Waterloo.
Calle San Miguel No. 1159 esq. a Ronda. Ciudad de La Habana
+53 7 8791412
Google map: bit.ly/w3FUwz
The church of Saint Samaan is beautiful and any visit to it will be a moving one. The huge cave that holds the church has been carved out of the Moqattam hills that overlook Cairo on the eastern edge of the city.
Moqattam is home to a large Coptic Christian community who collect the city’s rubbish and sort it by hand for recycling. There are various charity projects running in the area to help this marginalised community make a fair living. The Association for the Protection of the Environment (APE) is one of them, and they can organise visits into the area to see the church and their workshops where they produce recycled paper and cloth goods.
* Alip is our Been there local for Cairo. Her page is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/cairo-local-alice-allsop.jsp and you can follow her tips directly here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/alip
If you are in the traditional "white villages" of southern Spain during the Christmas holidays, you can experience many traditions based on religious beliefs. There are "belens" (nativity scenes) set up all over the villages - spot the "caganer" figure with his trousers down squatting in the traditional scene! In the bars, you may see a travelling group of shepherd musicians playing and dancing. On Christmas Eve, families have meals including special treats like turron, and little oil lamps sparkle in the windows of the houses. There are processions through the villages, most noteably on Three Kings day on 6th January when children leave out their shoes for the kings to fill with presents - as they pass by, the kings give out sweets and gifts. Best of all, the weather is warm and pleasant and if you're lucky, you could spend the 25th of December on a sandy beach ...
Google map: bit.ly/uAx09a
The port of Cochin in Kerala is home to one of India's largest communities of Christians. Untroubled by Akbar the Great and his descendents, southern India took its influences from China, Africa and Europe. Vasco da Gama first arrived in Fort Cochin in 1498 and in 1524 returned to die on Christmas Eve. He was buried in the church of St Francis. This refreshingly unfussy building – the first European church to be built in India – still stands amid the banyan trees and cricket greens of Fort Cochin (unlike Vasco da Gama whose remains were removed to Portugal).
Like any UK high street, outlets selling tasteless decorations mushroom all over the city from the end of November. In the Yuletide run-up Cochin buzzes with pre-Christmas shopping euphoria. Several times I have been pushed out of the way by sharp-elbowed nuns searching for the perfect Christmas tree bauble along Broadway in Ernakalum's market area. Unlike the UK it's always a festival atmosphere and it is not uncommon to be offered a high-spirited Keralan welcome and cup of tea in the middle of the scrum.
From the 24th December Fort Cochin ratchets up the party with a seven day carnival. Expect fireworks every night (and sometimes in the day), elephants, dancing, games, food, general revelry and more fireworks!
NOTE: I've been based here for 18 months and have only ever heard it referred to as Cochin by the locals. Nobody uses Kochi except in correspondence.
Fort Cochin (also Fort Kochi) and Ernakalum, Kerala, India
Google map: bit.ly/rYaskG
If you really want to understand London at war you need to visit the Churchill War Rooms. Seeing the intricate labyrinth of underground bedrooms and offices, and the maps marked with strategic plans really brings home how real the threat of invasion was. You feel the tension in the air. A large part of the museum also details the life of Winston Churchill and political life during the war. While this is interesting the best aspect of the museum is in sharing a space with one of the most iconic men of recent history.
Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ
Google map: bit.ly/rThsFi
* Sophie is our Been there local for London. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/london-local-sophie-mitchell-intro.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/SophieMItchell
An enterprise that turned the underground, the arcades and what nots of the vintage bull fight arena, into a self called leisure center. The indoor venue was already known for rock shows. Also a place for some quality time, on weekends. People riding on top of sightseeing bus will always hold their cameras up.
The eastern, Indian, moorish, whatever. Since the fascist tests on Tibet, it can all be, in a nut shell, trendy. So everybody can be inspired by the lifestyle, whether in the shopping center or in the museum, near Lisbon's founding castle outskirts and gothic monastery surroundings.
Beirut is an amazing city but after a few days there I kept wondering about certain things like how the civil war affected the city, why there were parts you couldn't go through and why some buildings were still in a state of ruin. All those questions and more were answered when on the penultimate day of our stay we did the Walk Beirut tour. I only wish we had done it on our first day instead.
The cosmopolitan city of Berlin is a great place to spend Christmas. Wrap up warm and set out in the snow to explore this fantastic city with its mix of ancient and modern history. Call in at the Christmas markets in Potsdamer platz, see the beautiful Sony Centre lit up in blue lights. Try an alternative Christmas dinner – the Berlin classic currywurst (a curried sausage) and a beer then join a million people for the famous New Year's Eve party at the Brandenburg gate complete with a fairground, live music and the midnight fireworks - Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Mr Woods Fossils sells exactly what it says (and no crystals.) There are large slabs of rock with a lot of fossils in them and huge ammonites but also plenty of interesting smaller specimens as well as some which are pocket money sized. There are also usually the most amazing fossils of fish and shrimp like creatures. When you've done the tartan and whisky bit in Edinburgh this is the place to go.
Known to locals as “the Gladstone,” this hotel is located in the trendy Queen Street West area, where there is an abundance of arts and design studios and galleries. The hotel attracts both tourists and locals on a daily basis, hosting art exhibits and music gigs every night of the week.
The café also has menus for any time of day or night.
The most original hotel rooms in the city can be found here: there are 37 unique, individually designed rooms by local Toronto artists. The Biker Room features furniture and accessories influenced by motorcycles and biker culture. The Canadiana Room has an antler chandelier with forest wallpaper on one wall and cedar paneling on another.
Built in 1889, the Gladstone is Toronto’s oldest continuously operating hotel, with one of the last hand-operated elevators in the city. A true gem. Prices start at C$165, about £104 or 120 €.
1214 Queen Street West Toronto, ON M6J 1J6, Canada
+1 (416) 531 4635
Google map: bit.ly/vUC8Tw
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
Essaouira beach offers an amazing bohemian mix of experiences. Kick back and soak up the sun, or go surfing. Watch young Moroccan men play football and head-to-toe clad ladies supervise their children playing in the waves. Or ride by camel the length of the beach and gaze out at the ruined fort in the ocean that (allegedly) inspired Jimi Hendrix's 'Castles In The Sand'. When the sun gets too much head up into the (UNESCO heritage) town. Stop for fresh grilled fish by the harbour and then into the souks for mint tea and shopping, or walk the fortress ramparts and stop at the wood-carvers' workshops for aromatic Thuya wood items. Nowhere else on this planet offers such a unique beach experience.
Google map: bit.ly/sfYDBN
The Sabatini Restaurant is in the heart of Trastevere opposite the Basilica of Santa Maria. This area is a must when visiting Rome, as it is one of the oldest parts of the city. There are great shops and restaurants and it is in walking distance of the Vatican and Piazza Navone. There are frequent shuttle buses outside of Ciampino airport which take only about 20 minutes to arrive in the center of Rome, whereas from the larger airport Fiumicino, the train takes about 30 minutes.
Google map: bit.ly/shp4Op
We have been coming to Sorrento for many years and it a wonderful place for a holiday with lots to see and do. Only 20 minutes by train from Sorrento is Pompei, which is really worth a visit, and also Herculaneum a lesser known town a little further than Pompei. Capri is only about 30 minutes on the ferry from the Port in Sorrento and much cheaper buying the boat ticket directly at the Port.
Capri is expensive but worth going to see for the day, with the blue grotto and beautiful views. We did the chair lift a few years ago which is good fun. This year we rented a house about 20 minutes from Sorrento in Massa Lubrense and it was a great experience. The house had a little garden and we sat outside in the evening, which we loved. The owner Lucia went out of her way to make us feel welcome and even took us to visit Puglia which is about three hours from Sorrento. The Amalfi drive is about 30 minutes from the house we rented and we went there three times, once going to Positano and the other times to Amalfi. We managed to go to Ravello getting a local bus from Amalfi and spent the afternoon there.
For a break from the more obvious tourist souvenirs, or if you have underestimated the brutality of the Prague winter, pay a trip to Model Praha Klobouky off Wenceslas Square and buy yourself a hat.
This delightful shop, tucked away on an arcade leading off Wenceslas Square, seems to hark back to a time where nice young ladies donned hats and gloves each day before leaving the house. Perhaps this is due to its impressive stock of TONAK hats – world renowned felt hats of the highest quality. TONAK is a Czech manufacturer with a legacy stretching back to the mid-19th century, which is borne out in all of its creations.
Model Praha stocks top hats, fedoras, ladies headwear (suitable for weddings and the races) and a small selection of fur.
The ladies who work here are charmingly patient, and speak enough English for everyone to get by without too much difficulty.
A great place to invest in a little piece of Czech fashion history, starting at a very reasonable 450 czk.
Václavské náměstí 28, Praha 1
Nearest metro: Mustek or Muzeum
Mon-Fri 09.00-19.00, Sat & Sun 10.00-17.00
Google map: bit.ly/vto0Vg
* Helen is our Been there local for Prague. Her page is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-helen-ford.jsp and she has her own blog here: czechingin.wordpress.com/
The Citadel and the mosque of Mohamed Ali gaze over the dusty city by day and shimmer beautifully in green and gold at night. There is much to see and do in the Citadel complex (it has several museums and re-furbished buildings to visit) but the highlight of a visit really is the view you get over the city.
On a good day you can spy the Cairo Tower and the pyramids in the distance, but don't feel disappointed if the Cairo smog puts their form out of reach as your eyes will be kept busy picking out the colour and movement of daily life as it flits across the grey canvas of the city below you. You can see the cars glistening as they drive along the Autostrad road, and this silvery streak through the city almost looks like a branch of the Nile. See if you can spot the different historic minaret styles that give a clue to the date of each mosque’s construction in he surrounding area.
If you can visit the Citadel on a Friday then do so: although you aren't able to go inside the Mohamed Ali mosque during Friday prayers, you can time a visit to experience the striking sounds of the call to prayer as it rings out across Cairo. To be looking out from the Citadel when the call to prayer goes out in the city of a thousand minarets is breathtaking.
There is no nearby metro station, so you will have to take a taxi to the Citadel. Try to take a "white" taxi as these have meters, which mean you avoid any confusion over payment. Ask for “gamaa Mohamed Ali” (Mohamed Ali mosque) or “il all ail qalla” (Citadel)
Bab Zuweyla is in the heart of Islamic Cairo, but actually marks the Southern gate of the old city (Bab meaning “gate”). The gatehouse has been restored, but the original arch and towers remain inside. You can enter the building to see the old gate, swing mechanism (including what are claimed to be the earliest examples of ball bearings in the world!), pottery and other fragments found by archaeologists. The main reason to visit, though, is to climb the gate towers to get a great view over this historic district of Cairo.
Your first pause for breath is at the top of the gate, where you can walk around at roof-level and peer down onto the streets below as boys cycle with balanced racks of bread on their heads, and women hang out their washing from the windows or on roofs that are also home to the family goat or pigeon coop. Then climb the dark and narrow spiral staircase in either of the two towers, to the first or second balcony and even braving the final few metal rungs if you have a head for heights and nerves of steel. Up here you can see the Citadel and Al-Azhar park, and can continue to marvel at daily life as it goes by like a busy scene in Where’s Wally.
Sharia Mu'ezz li-din Allah Darb al-Ahmar
Google map: bit.ly/vmYJBz
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