The image of Vinales is one of verdant fields of tobacco and deep red soil, but a journey of just one hour takes you to one of Cuba’s finest beaches. Cayo Jutias is easily reached on a day trip from Vinales, and is well worth it. A white sandy beach, clear blue water, mangroves, and very few other visitors make for a relaxing time. The Cubanacan package includes transport and lunch at the only restaurant on the beach.
A hike through Vinales Valley is much more than just a nature ramble, it is a cultural experience. The valley is stunningly beautiful, with limestone karst “mogotes” rising straight up from the fields, lush green fields and rust-coloured soil that produce tobacco and coffee. But it is also home to caves, thatched tobacco houses with leaves drying from the rafters, farmers who roll cigars on their knees, and the 120-metre Mural de la Prehistoria on the side of a mountain. There are several guides that can be arranged to lead a tour that takes in all of the above, plus a stop for coffee in a local farmhouse, but Omar comes recommended.
Arrangements: Cubanacan office on the main street, or ask at your Casa Particular.
In a town replete with casas particulares it is hard to stand out in Vinales, but Casa Brunilda manages it handily. Aside from the nice room and outdoor sitting area, the main reason is the woman herself: Brunilda has a great sense of humour, loves to chat, and is the best cook in Cuba. Seriously. Each meal was a banquet, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was all whipped up on stoves in the back garden. Insist on trying the bean soup...
A lively, buzzing local restaurant in Vedado that does good pizzas and has – of course – great live music. Just a block from the Hotel Nacional, during the afternoons Sofia attracts a nice combination of locals sharing a bottle of Havana Club and visitors drawn in by the infectious sounds. The service is not the fastest, so best just to order a drink and relax.
Calle 23, El Vedado (one block from Hotel Nacional).
Google map: bit.ly/ezySIa
Hackneyed though it may be, the hop on/hop off tourist bus in Havana makes a lot of sense. First off, in a city where transport is pricey for tourists, these CUC$5 are well spent if only as a means of getting around. Secondly, while you won’t be using the bus to explore the crumbling splendour of Havana Vieja’s side streets, you will hit other more distant spots like the Plaza de la Revolucion, with its somewhat scary murals of Che and Camilo Cienfuegos, and the artisan market. But nicest of all, in a city where much of the life (and best photos) happen one floor up on the bustling, colourful balconies, the open-top bus gives you some of the best views in town.
From the Hotel Inglaterra in the Parque Central, and various other points around the city.
Google map: bit.ly/e5glFN
Atmospheric outdoor bar/restaurant on Calle Obispo, not far from the Parque Central. The food is nothing to rave out, but a great band and draught Bucanero in huge tankards more than make up for it.
Location: Calle Obispo, a couple of blocks from La Floridita.
A little slice of Cuba in the heart of Prague’s Old Town. This cigar bar has a vibrant, chatty atmosphere and an easy-going charm, epitomised by the customer graffiti that covers the interior. The writing is on the wall at the Bodeguita.
Address: Kaprova 5, 110 00 Prague 1 (short walk from Old Town Square).
Telephone: (420) 224813922.
Beer, beer, beer. From giant, four-litre cylinders with their own tap delivered to your table, to tiny eight-part taster sets, served in a knacky little wooden frame; from traditional dark to coffee, vanilla, even banana flavour – brewery-bar-restaurant Pivovarsky Dum has it all in beer. It also serves up great hearty Czech fare in warm (non-smoking) surroundings, copper brewing kettles and all.
Address: Ječná/Lípová 15, 120 44 Prague 2.
Tel.: (420) 296216666.
Miss Sophies is a clean, modern hotel/hostel on a quiet side street a short walk from Wenceslas Square. No breakfast, but the rooms are excellent and the price for its location is hard to beat.
Address: Melounova 3, 120 00 Prague 2.
Telephone: (420) 296303530.
A superb hiking track, historic buildings and battlements, natural forest and amazing views, and all right in the centre of the city. The Monschberg track runs around the waist of the eponymous mountain, taking in the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Museum of Modern Art.
Getting there: There are various points at which to join the track, including the steps from the old town and the elevator from below the museum.
Salzburg is a city of many virtues, but you are unlikely to feel them in your wallet. Which is why finding a spot that is economical while serving up great portions of good food in a central location is a true discovery. Humboldt Stubn is a traditional bar/restaurant just off the main street that offers excellent fare you can wash down with a large glass of beer. The steaktoast is recommended.
Address: Gstattengasse 4-6 (
Telephone: (43) 662 84 31 71
Take the elevator up to the bar on the roof of the Hotel Stein, order a cocktail, sit down and enjoy the view over the river, old town and Hohensalzburg Fortress. Treat yourself.
This YHA hostel may be a little outside the city centre and a tad severe, but it provides clean, modern rooms at a reasonable price, and that is not to be sniffed at in Salzburg.
Address: Aigner Strasse 34.
Telephone: (43) 662623248.
Getting there: A 20-minute walk along the river or a No. 7 bus from the centre.
Google map: tinyurl.com/md8gc8
The perfect base for exploring the beautiful lake district outside Salzburg. A lovely town on the edge of Fuschlsee, it offers a variety of hikes from the leisurely stroll around the lake to long taxing routes toward San Gilgen. Fuschl has several hotels, a well-run camp site, and Edenbergers restaurant.
Getting there: Bus No. 150 runs every hour from Salzburg bus station.
Google map: tinyurl.com/pwh2hz
Austria suffers from no shortage of beer kellers, but drinking underground is not everyone’s mug of beer. But the Stiegl Keller, located below the walls of the Hohensalzburg, lets you to sup while seated outdoors, enjoying some of the best views the city offers.
Cachilas is worth a visit for the ferry ride across the estuary alone. But take the time to have a look around (it’s not too pretty, but very different from Lisbon) and sample some of the excellent seafood down at the port while you are there.
Ferries: Every 20-40 minutes from Cais do Sodre.
Great little traditional restaurant with azulejo décor, a menu of Portuguese staples and friendly service. No wonder it’s packed full of locals at lunchtime.
Location: Near the top of the Elevador, on Calcada do Combro.
A buzzing outdoor terrace, quality coffee, history and that atmospheric, cavernous interior – damn the critics, this Brazilian lady is a Lisbon classic.
Address: Rua Garrett No. 120, Largo do Chiado.
Telephone: (351) 213469541.
Boasting one of Lisbon’s best views, at U Terracao you can enjoy the panorama of this elegant city from a comfortable chair with the beverage of your choice at hand. Take a break from the climb up to the castle and have a look at where you are.
Address: Calc. Marques de Tancos No. 3, Lisbon.
Telephone: (351) 508507413.
Even for non-football fans, a trip to one or other of Lisbon’s two sporting cathedrals is a must. The Estadio da Luz is a legendary arena that has hosted great Benfica teams through the years and was once lit up by a youthful George Best. The Estadio Alvalade is altogether different. Built for the Euro 2004 tournament and home to Sporting Club de Portugal (aka Sporting Lisbon), it is a colourful modern, art-deco delight. However the venues have plenty in common - above all a passionate, warm atmosphere that draws you in. Buy your scarf outside and enter for a slice of Lisbon life.
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at the stadia, at kiosks outside, or in advance at the ABEP kiosk on Praca Restauradores.
Getting there: For the Estadio da Luz, take the metro to either Alto dos Moinhos or Colegio Militar/Luz; for the Estadio Alvalade, take the metro to Campo Grande.
Website: www.portugoal.net has fixtures and other information.
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