Alcatraz is definitely worth a visit. From the ferry trip to the atmospheric walk round the prison buildings, it’s a great experience not to be missed. The audio tour, narrated by ex convicts and guards, is excellent.
A warren of underground streets and houses hidden beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Costumed guides take you around this amazing site, revealing the stories of the former residents. Very eerie and supposedly very haunted. Great for adults and older kids alike.
Mary King's Close, off the Royal Mile;
Bookings: 08702 430 160;
Block Arcade is an old shopping arcade tucked away in the inner part of Melbourne. It has been refurbished and all its 19th century fittings restored. It originally was a place to shop but these days also has the obligatory cluster of cafes (lots of them!)
Melbourne city centre, between Collins St and Little Collins St (a short walk from Flinders St station);
Take a day trip to Sintra, a short train ride from Lisbon. Hike to the Moorish castle for fabulous views of fairytale palaces, with the Atlantic and Lisbon in the distance.
Regular trains from Sete Rios station or Entrecampos station (Estação Rossio closed at time of writing). Journey time is less than an hour;
It's easy to miss the Hippodrome, in a sense, because it's the space between buildings. It's well worth paying attention to, though.
The space still retains the long shape of the chariot racing track which was famous in antiquity and was the site of a famous riot. The fans of the racing teams were as obsessed as modern day football fans.
In the centre, the late Roman and Byzantine emperors displayed numerous antiquities hauled to Constantinople from all over the empire, including Egyptian obelisks and the serpent column from the sanctuary of Delphi in Greece, which was set up to commemorate victory over the Persians by the Greeks in 480 BC. Only the column is there now, but it used to support a giant tripod (bowl on three legs) - a fitting symbol to put in the Hippodrome since tripods were, like modern 'cups', the usual prize in athletic games.
The Egyptian obelisk is from Karnak, brought to Constantinople by Theodosius I, and placed on a relief-decorated base. The base shows the imperial court and Hippodrome scenes, and around it is the original ground level of the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome is between the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Islamic Art. A row of tea shops next to the Blue Mosque looks onto it
The palace is the former home of the emperor of the Austrian empire, and is open to the public for guided tours. It is the grandest palace that I have ever seen, and a fine example of how Vienna used to be. In contrast to the faded grandeur of much of Vienna city centre, this palace has been restored to its full glory, and is a must on any visit to the city. The gardens by themselves are worth making the trip for and, unlike the guided tours, are free.
Take the U4 (green) underground line towards Hutteldorf. Alight at Schonbrunn station and follow the signs
Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Wien; Tel: +43-1-81113 0; www.schoenbrunn.at
This hidden gem is considered by many to be one of Europe's finest memorial gardens. It was designed by the great English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. It's dedicated to the Irish dead of the first world war. It is beautifully maintained, a real little oasis by the River Liffey, across from Phoenix Park.
South Circular Road, Islandbridge. It's about 10 minutes walk from Heuston Station (Intercity rail and Luas stop)
Newly restored, this glorious Nicholas Hawksmoor designed baroque church towers over the streets of Spitalfields. It's a thriving parish church, but you can also visit on Tuesdays and Sundays to marvel at the beautiful Purbeck stone floor, soaring pillars and decorative wood carvings.
In December it plays host to Spitalfields Winter Festival. There seem to be many musical treats in store from 12-21 December, from choral classics, via medieval music, to a community carol service. Some concerts are free.
This is a fascinating museum with some wonderful exhibits. The highlight is probably the collection of sarcophagi discovered in 1887 at Sidon in Lebanon. The "Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women" has wonderful decorative friezes and the remarkable Alexandria Sarcophagus is covered in intricate raised friezes on which some of the original colours can still be seen.
There is a collection of fine Roman statues and in the Museum of the Ancient Orient colourful glazed brick friezes from Babylon.
Osman Hamdi Bay Yokusu
Opening Hours: 9.00am-4.30pm closed Mondays
A romantic, fairytale castle just outside Cardiff. Rebuilt from a medieval ruin, its gothic interior is crammed with ornate murals, lavish gilding and elaborate wood carvings.
If you like this over-the-top style, you might also want to visit Cardiff Castle in the centre of the city. Both were designed by William Burges.
On the A470 at Tongwynlais, about five miles north-west of Cardiff.
In the late 17th century, when the Portuguese Bandeirantes (literally standard bearers or pioneers) discovered gold and precious stones in Minas Gerais, a safe deep water port was required to ship these riches back to Europe. The calm, sheltered waters of the Baía da Ilha Grande, accessed by the precarious Indian trails that traversed the Serra da Bocaina, were ideally suited for this purpose. Thus, in about 1670, the settlement of Paraty was founded and within 20 years was one of the most prosperous ports in the Iberian Colonies.
Unfortunately for the good burghers of Paraty, but happily for the modern traveller, by 1720 a much shorter trail had been blazed from the prospecting towns of Minas to Rio de Janeiro. Despite a brief disturbance during the coffee and sugar booms of the 19th Century, this historical accident, and the fact that Paraty only became accessible by motor vehicle in the 1950s, left the region in its own development-free time bubble.
Today Paraty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its former wealth is reflected in some of the most beautiful and assiduously preserved colonial architecture in the whole of Brazil. The Centro Histórico is a masterpiece, with its baroque churches, roughly cobbled streets that flood with the rising tide and graceful merchants’ mansions. Set all this man-made elegance in a heart-stopping setting of rainforest-clad escarpments, the dramatic Costa Verde coastline, dozens of near deserted beaches and the tropical islands of the Baía and you have a combination of sophistication and natural exuberance that is hard to beat anywhere in Brazil.
It has to be said that, as a popular weekend retreat for the well-heeled of São Paulo and Rio, Paraty is not cheap by Brazilian standards but if anywhere around Rio is worth a bit of a splurge, this is it. One lower priced accommodation option is the Cigarras Pouso Familiar near the bus station. It is a popular location for makers of period movies and novellas and has en suite rooms including breakfast at R$100 and small self catering apartments for around R$150. My personal favourite, however, is the gorgeous Mercado de Pouso, Paraty’s former coffee market, on the old quayside beside the Santa Rita church, where a double room with air conditioning, ceiling fan and bathroom with breakfast included will set you back around R$250. The hotel also has its own 80 foot schooner and organises dolphin spotting, diving and beach cruises to the islands. For the truly budget minded, camping is available at the Camping Club do Brasil a short distance out of town beside the Praia do Pontal.
One of the real pleasures of Paraty is its bewildering profusion of excellent restaurants. In a high class field there are two that really stand out. The Restaurante da Matriz is situated in a colonial house on the main square, Praça da Matriz. It is rightly famous throughout Brazil for its deliciously authentic Caiçara dishes, named after the natives of this coastal region. Try the mouthwatering sea bass and shrimp moqueca, a traditional fish stew spiced with ferociously piquant dendê oil, or the prawns fried in batter with ginger and mango sauce.
If that doesn’t take your fancy, on Rua do Comercio you will find Merlin o Mago, an award winning establishment with an idiosyncratic fusion style that incorporates the best of Europe, Asia and Brazil. The restaurant is aptly named as its chef, the German-born former restaurant critic, Hado Steinbrecher, is truly a magician. His onion ice cream (yes, that’s onion ice cream) dumplings on tomato with grilled goat’s cheese are a sensation and you’ll have to go a long way to find anything to beat the lobster in orange sauce.
A good, if expensive, time to visit Paraty is during the low season months of July and August when two events draw visitors from all over the world. Every August since 1972 the town has organised the Festival da Pinga. Time was when the town and surrounding area had over 200 distilleries, or “alambiques”, producing Brazil’s sugar cane spirit, cachaça, the principal ingredient of the ubiquitous caipirinha. Whilst the alambiques are somewhat less numerous today, Paraty is still a major producer and the festival attracts some 20,000 aficionados who take their cachaça as seriously as any single malt whisky drinker.
For those of a less bacchanalian disposition, for four days every July Paraty becomes a sort of tropical Hay-on-Wye as it presents the annual Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty. Run by Bloomsbury Publishing founder, Liz Calder, the festival has played host to the likes of Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie and, after only three years, is already established as one of the world’s premier literary events.
Do bear in mind that accommodation prices can double and even triple during these busy periods and hotel bookings should be made weeks, if not months, in advance.
As far as activities are concerned, clearly the sea plays a major role. A number of companies offer skippered sailing and motor yacht charters in modern, well equipped boats and Paraty is also one of Brazil’s scuba diving meccas with a host of companies to choose from. On the other hand, if just lazing on a palm-fringed beach is your thing, the boat ride to Praia do Sono is an absolute must. Quite simply, they don’t make beaches any lovelier. Praia do Sono and the larger, busier beach at Trindade can also be reached by bus.
Paraty’s other major attraction is the Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina, which straddles the border of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and is home to endangered species such as spider and howler monkeys, harpy eagles, tree porcupines and giant anteaters. Four wheel drive and horseback tours of the Park and the Trilha de Ouro (gold trail), with English speaking guides, can be arranged at the Centro de Informações Turisticas on Avenida Roberto Silveira.
Paraty is a magical, almost unreal place with a delight round every corner. From the moment you arrive your senses will be overwhelmed by a heady confection of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that few places in the world can equal. Don’t take my word for it, though. While anchored in the Baía da Ilha Grande during his second South American voyage of 1501, Amerigo Vespucci wrote in a letter home, “Oh God! If there was a paradise on earth, it would not be very far from here!” He was not wrong.
To reach Paraty from Rio, take an air conditioned coach from the Rodoviária Novo Rio bus station. The journey time is about four hours. Here are some useful websites: Paraty, www.paraty.com.br/iindex.asp. Mercado de Pouso, www.mercadodepouso.com.br/. Cigarras Pouso Familiar, www.paraty.com.br/cigarras/ICIGARRA.HTM. Merlin o Mago, www.paraty.com.br/merlin. Restaurante da Matriz, www.paraty.com.br/matriz/index.asp. For yacht charters, Coconut Yacht Adventures (www.geocities.com/bra1868/) is a reliable German run company and for diving, Mr. Big Paraty (tel. 024/3371-1327) has a good reputation.
Visit this museum after Ellis Island and continue in the steps of the immigrants after finally making it onto American soil. The museum is an unrestored tenement building with authentic furnishings and the guided tour gives a fascinating glimpse of the life and hardships faced by the first immigrants. A real treasure of a place.
97 Orchard Street (Delancy Street) www.tenement.org/
Barcelona's most romantic square is, somewhat ironically, suffused with a rather sad history. Underneath it lies the city's old cemetery. Barcelona's most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí, was on his way to visit the church there when he was run over by a tram in 1928. The square's ghosts are peaceful ones, however, and in the early evening light of a summer's day there can be no more beautiful spot in the city.
Newly opened in May 2005, the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe occupies a vast site immediately south of the Brandenburg Gate. It's made up of more than 2,700 giant concrete slabs. Don't hop on them: it annoys the guards. The underground information centre is very good and well worth the queue.
Stresemannstraße 90; nearest S-Bahn: Unter den Linden; www.holocaustmahnmal.de
This is a new restaurant which is known as the best seafood restaurant in Sultanahmet. The food is outstanding, you should ask the staff for the special of the day.
The restaurant is on the shore of Marmara Sea with a view of Turkish islands. The "Boukoleon" name comes from the 5th century. There used to be a "Boukoleon Palace" standing right where you sit.
Now you can easily see the archeeological heritage of the old time palace. If you are interested in history, looking for a nice Istanbul view and also outstanding food, I would highly recommend you go to this restaurant.
Hagia Sofia, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
It's a big, accessible green space with good paths largely through mixed woodland which also features an early ringwork if you're in to archaeology. There are also gardens. Look out for kingfishers along the White Cart Water. There's a programme of family events and the kids will like the heavy horses and the highland cattle herd. There are also mountain bike courses through the woods for beginners to advanced level.
And if it rains, the Burrell Collection is on site - marvellous antiquities and art and entry is free. Or you could visit Pollok House, an 18th century mansion house in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Both venues have restaurants.
If going by car, park by Pollok House rather than by the Burrell if you want to avoid parking fees.
Pollok Country Park
2060 Pollokshaws Road
Nearest train station Pollokshaws West
Buses 45, 47, 48, 57
This is a storming place to see in all its glory. When the sun beats down on you it is a wonderful and cool refuge. Once inside, you will be utterly amazed at the wonders that lie in store here.
The Golden Alter at the centre of the cathedral is something that you just cannot miss even if you tried.
Must be seen to be believed.
Besides the obvious walk through the stones, go up the small hill right oposite the archeological site and behind it you will find a nice slide of stone and a small field away from guides and tourists! Great for a picnic or siesta.
Sacsayhuaman, take a taxi from the main square in Cuzco to the site, 5 min from Cuzco, don't pay more than S/.5 and get the taxi driver to come and pick you up later, for another S/.5. You need a ticket to get in, S/.35 but gets you into more than 8 other sites.
Take a trip outside Dublin to Glendalough (glen of the two lakes), a village in County Wicklow complete with lake and an ancient monastic settlement from the 6th century. A very magical place not far from Dublin city.
This was the largest public swimming pool and was ruined in the 60s. The ruins remain just at the entrance to the park. I went on a windswept day and was amazing.
Also, there is the Cliff House right beside it with shop, cafe and bar - amazing. I went after going to the Legion of Honour art museum. Very compact but sweet, and the best baristas - very friendly, in an incredible location
1090 Point Lobos Avenue, near Lincoln Park;
tel: (415) 386 3330;
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org