This is a slightly unconventional vegetarian/ vegan cafe and bar in the heart of West End, an inner-city suburb that has traditionally tended to attract community-minded people.
The Forest was set up by a small group of friends who wanted to create a place where locals could gather and chat without having to spend loads of money. Seating is couches around coffee tables. It's BYO alcohol and you can often catch live music and even local short films at night.
The cafe's main thrust seems to be providing cheap, yummy, organic (as much as possible) wholefood, and a chilled atmosphere that welcomes and respects all.
Cologne has a rich Roman history. If you're really interested in it, visit the Romano-Germanic Museum. It's packed with well preserved artifacts from the time when Cologne was a major centre in the Roman Empire. And if you're just a bit interested in this history, keep an eye out for the remnants of Roman engineering that are still standing around the city's Old Town.
The Kölner Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, dates back to the 13th century and is Cologne's best-known landmark. It's a fascinating historical building - about as Gothic as Gothic can be, and close examination of the intricate internal carvings reveals even the odd pagan symbol.
For those in good health, I recommend climbing the stairs of the spire. Sure, it's a particularly touristy thing to do, but climbing the spire is to Cologne as climbing the Arc de Triomphe is to Paris - it gives you a view of the city from a central vantage point, atop an amazing structure.
Geothermal activity abounds in Taiwan, and it's clearly evident around the suburb of Beitou.
I tried the more expensive, private hot springs experience, but preferred the public option. As well as being much cheaper, I felt more comfortable at the outdoor public baths.
While the private baths are segregated according to gender to allow for "uninhibited" nudity, the unisex public baths, where patrons wear swimming costumes, seemed a lot more laid-back and I felt there was a much more genuinely local vibe. Get down and relax with the people, I say.
Zhongshan Road, near Xin Beitou MRT train station
This YHA is set in a grand old mansion. When I was there, the elegance of the common dining and lounge areas was enhanced by the presence of rather bookish types ranging in age from their mid-20s to 50s, rather than the unsettlingly young and just-discovered-alcohol kind of guests that hostels can attract.
Set on one of Bath's most presigious streets, on a hill leading up to the university, it has lush green grounds and is far enough from the city to feel secluded. But it's just a short walk down to the town centre. Don't walk along the road; ask the staff about the shortcut that follows the edge of nearby pastures - with views across the city - and crosses lochs before reaching the town centre.
Staff are friendly, food is good value, and the rooms are cosy and - given that your roommates are obliging - comfortably quiet.
Bathwick Hill, take the number 18 bus from the bus station, or it's a 15-minute walk from the centre of town.
www.yha.org.uk/hostel/hostelpages/85.html; 0870 770 5688
Of all the things that beguiled me in Barcelona, this did it the most. This botanical garden on the sea-side of Montjuic (the headland at the southern end of Barcelona's coast) would be better suited the pages of a Dr Seuss book than to this world. The species themselves, some of which stand at well over two metres in height, come from all over - Central and South America, as well as Africa.
Take the cross-harbour cable car to Monjuic Park. Once you alight and are facing Mirabella, turn left and you'll find the garden
Merce is the city's patron saint and this festival falls around her feast day in late September. Though its roots are religious, it's a celebration of all that's best about Catalan and Spanish culture.
The most thrilling event is the Fire Run, a Catalan tradition held on the Friday night of the weekend festivities. The people of the city pour into the streets, while mischievous devils dressed in red come running along, brandishing tall poles that spew forth fireworks.
The aim is for the people to defend the city from the invading devils - amid the hilarious chaos, you find yourself gathering with others to ambush a devil, then jump up and down a few times chanting something (I was doing that "rhubarb rhubarb" thing), and finally pinning the devil down on the ground. Then everyone gets up and does it all over again - many times. The closer you get to the devils, the less chance you have of getting hit by the fireworks. Meanwhile, duelling bands of drummers come in waves down the street playing very dance-able Brazilian-style beats.
The quality of entertainment at Merce is outstanding. Among the performers playing free concerts last year were Ben Lee (at a small, out-of-the-way square) and a trio of Spain's most prominent flamenco musicians.
All over Barcelona
This bar has always had street cred and so it follows that it's always attracted some amazing performers to an intimate space. It was first set up by two women who had little cash but a big desire to promote emerging musical talent. When I first went there in 1993, the walls were covered with graffiti and there was no licence to sell liquor. Instead, the bar staff served SodaStream and patrons brought their own Eskys of beer. Now, the graffiti's gone and the bar serves alcohol, but the cool reputation lives on - deservedly so.
This may not be the most hi-tech museum, but it tells a compelling story about Australia. That story, so sensitively and thoroughly expressed through words, pictures and installations, begins with an uninhabited land, which goes on to see the arrival of Aborigines, then British colonialists, Chinese gold miners and merchants, and European exiles of the 20th century, among many others. It gives you a strong sense of what it was like for those who set off from faraway nations to begin a new life in a strange land.
400 Flinders Street
This fortnightly reggae/soul/dub club is unpretentious, friendly, fun and cheap (usually about £5 cover charge). But the best thing is, everyone goes there for the music, because the music is so good! The club is run by Soul Jazz Records which puts together some classic Studio One compilations, among other albums. But at the club you'll see the best of what's happening in this scene now - DJs, MCs and a crowd that happily skanks along in a cosy garage space.
Electrowerkz, 7 Torrens Street
Nearest tube: Angel
If you're low on cash and keen on jazz, this family-run community arts space - located in a converted railway arch under Herne Hill station - hosts a free jazz night every Thursday. The musicians - of quite a decent calibre - usually play from around 9.30pm to midnight. The studio also hosts poetry nights, like Penned in the Margins, which include open mic sessions. There's a little bar, local art and lounges.
Milkwood Road, Herne Hill
Train: Herne Hill station
Nearest tube: Brixton
If you're in Shoreditch and feel like getting away from the hyperactivity of most of the bars and crowds in the area (especially on a Friday night), this is a fantastic option. The owners are adept at creating an intimate and personal space (they also own the more swanky basement bar, Friendly Society, in Soho).
The Commercial's interior is cosy but far from claustrophobic, quirky and comfortable, having been lovingly decked out with retro and hand-painted furniture. The choice of music is always startlingly suitable for a quiet drink (last time I was there they were playing the theme from Taxi Driver) and the bar staff are unusually friendly.
Oh, and historically it's associated with the Elephant Man, who is said to have lived in the caverns beneath.
142-144 Commercial Street, Shoreditch
Nearest tubes: Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, Whitechapel
Catch a ferry up and down the Rhine. The trips vary in length, the longest going all the way to Dusseldorf. But even on the shortest voyage available, I found boating on such a mighty and iconic river well worth the few euros.
Another good view of the river can be found by walking along the bank opposite the old town. There's a wide flood plain that offers the opportunity for a peaceful riverside hike that lasts for a good couple of miles.
Catch ferries from the wharf near the Old Town.
If you're interested in the pre-Chinese history of Taipei and you're in the Beitou district, this indigenous museum is well worth a visit. Along with photographs showing how indigenous people traditionally looked, dressed and lived, you get a sense of the old aesthetic through art and craft displays. A warning that signage is in Mandarin Chinese, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment.
Zhongshan Road, near Xin Beitou MRT train station
Here you'll find a place called Duff Reserve, just over the hill from Rushcutters Bay. It's on the bank of a deep-water point of the harbour so you can watch boats passing within a stone's throw of the shore. The gardens here are a popular spot for weddings, and couples often picnic and canoodle by the water.
This may sound like a cliché, but nothing can prepare you for the exhilarating feeling of cycling on Dutch country paths made especially for you (the cyclist), through forests, along the coast, and - for the pièce de résistance - through fields of tulips in full bloom. The flowers only bloom for four to six weeks and the best time to see them is May.
Take the train from Amsterdam Central Station to Alkmaar
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