It’s Lent. Has been for nearly a week now. After the big, bad party of Carnival and Mardi-Gras it’s time to get clean and shiny for Easter with 40 days of ‘self-denial, simplicity, spirituality, contemplation and conversion’. Not such a fun time to take a holiday then?
Well you’d think not, but I’m reliably informed that the real deal about giving up stuff for Lent is to ‘replace vice with virtue’. And let’s be honest, that idea’s pretty open to interpretation. So although foregoing meat for Lent is fairly common practice worldwide, replace that particular vice with fish and seafood and it’s not such a hardship. Bavarian monks came up with a plan to bend the Lent beer ban centuries ago. Most of the earth’s loveliest places do ‘spiritual and contemplative’ as standard. And anyone who’s ever travelled with more than hand baggage knows the true value of simplicity.
So whatever you do, don’t give up travel for Lent, just be a little more virtuous about the places you go and the things you do – here are a few personal Lent Observations to start off with…..
France & Spain for fish
The French verbs ‘to fish’ and ‘to sin’ are almost the same (give or take an accent) so it’s no surprise to find that there’s a certain piscine slant to Lent in France. Even April Fool’s Day here is known as Poisson Avril. And you should watch out for small, shifty children intent on sticking paper fish to your back to mark you as ‘un fou’.
If you prefer your fish without a side-order of humiliation, head for Marseilles. The birthplace of bouillabaisse is where you’ll find my favourite French fish market. Le Marché aux Poissons on the Old Port’s Quai des Belges (not to be confused with the big, wholesale fish market) is where locals head every day between 8am and 1pm to get the pick of the day’s catch fresh off the boats. The vendors will clean your fish while you wait and the sheer choice makes giving up meat for Lent fairly easy.
Lent or not, the average Spaniard eats over 30 kilos of fish and seafood a year and much of it comes from the gorgeously wild Galician coast. This is the place for monumental waves, unspoiled beaches, colourful little fishing villages and ancient myth and legend. The capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, has one of the world’s most important and incredible ‘Semana Santa’ (19th – 27th April) so if you’re up for celebrating the end of Lent with some excess and spectacle you should definitely witness this at least once.
Pembrokeshire for purple
Purple symbolises penitence, so no surprise that it’s the traditional colour of Lent. But, being a congenial and forgiving sort, I recommend you go easy on yourself and just contemplate the natural prettiness of purple this spring. Picton Castle Gardens in Pembrokeshire, West Wales are lovely this time of year and the biggest attraction (literally) is the largest Rhododendron in the world – named ‘Old Port’ for its amazing display of purple flowers www.pictoncastle.co.uk
Bavaria for vice-free beer
Back in the day beer-loving Bavarian monks devised a plan to beat the sobriety of Lent by brewing ‘Starkbier’, also known as ‘liquid bread’. Apparently it was so foul the Pope had no hesitation giving it the okay for Lent since he assumed no one would drink the stuff anyway – how wrong he was. Centuries later the Bavarian capital Munich celebrates those cunning monks and their strong stomachs with the annual ‘Starkbierfest’ (21st to 30th March). The festival has a reputation with connoisseurs so the beer’s obviously a lot better these days – and if the pope says it’s alright … www.muenchen.de
Paris for converts
Paris won’t scream ‘virtue’ any time soon but you can do a bit of vice balancing this Lent with an Autolib Subscription. Autolib’s the city’s electric car scheme and its clean, sweetly silent vehicles are now a common sight on the boulevards and rues of the world’s most visited city. Easy to use and reasonably priced, all you need to convert your carboncentric ways is a passport, European driving licence and a bank or credit card (Autolib’s now in Bordeaux too) www.autolib.eu
Netherlands for simplicity
To truly understand simplicity in all its complex forms, stand perfectly still and contemplate the stark minimalism of a Piet Mondrian canvas. Mondrian is one of the Netherland’s most celebrated artists (and this is the country that gave us Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt) so the lack of a permanent exhibition of his works on home turf has always been a bit of a bugbear for the Dutch. Now the magnificent Gemeente Museum in The Hague houses the world’s largest collection of Mondrian masterpieces along with the work of his fellow countryman, De Stijl. The museum also has major works by Kandinsky, Picasso, Monet and Francis Bacon, exhibitions just for children, fantastic interactive exhibits and it’s just beautifully designed www.gemeentemuseum.nl
Poland for spirituality
It’s traditional in Poland to celebrate the Stations of the Cross during Lent so for many the country is a place of pilgrimage in the weeks before Easter. One of the most revered and visited pilgrimage sites is Kalwaria Zebrydowska in South Poland. The church here was built to mirror the great church of Golgotha in Jerusalem and, along with the monastery, it’s one of Poland’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And whether you visit to worship or just to admire the art and architecture, this is a very peaceful place to appreciate the true meaning of Lent.
Inspired to travel during Lent? Well it’s guaranteed you’ll enjoy some very creative cooking in most places (Italy’s love of meat means new heights of ingenuity for the next 40 days). There’s plenty to contemplate as always. And the less devout of us can just put our own spin on ‘vice for virtue’ – as ever. But, on a final note, I’d just like to remind everyone: giving up Brussels sprouts for Lent doesn’t count.
“She hates travelling and will make a mess.”
“What if he runs away?”
Video, pictures and words from The Planet D, exclusively for Trip+ as part of our #housetripping series.
Travelling with a group of people can be a lot of fun. You can enjoy the experience together, see the sights together and go out on the town with your best mates. If you share costs like food, transportation and accommodation, you will also save money. Renting an apartment with HouseTrip is the best way to do that. Imagine renting a large multi bedroom apartment in the coolest neighbourhood in town with your closest friends. At the end of each day you can kick back in the living room with a glass of wine and then retire to your own private space for a good night’s sleep.
Berlin is one of the hippest and most vibrant cities on the planet, and if there is one place I’d like to hang out with my friends while traveling, this town would be it.
But travelling with friends can also be difficult. Travel can sometimes make or break a friendship. So if you do decide to head out and see the world with your closest buddies, there are a few things that you should take into consideration.
1. Make sure to choose an apartment to suit the size of your group. Having your own space is important so decide on how many bedrooms you will need. Privacy is important. If you want to get away from everyone to have a nap, relax or simply read a book, you will want your own space. Sharing a room could save you extra money but it won’t save your sanity. When you choose an apartment, you have the option of privacy.
2. Clean up after yourself. You may be a slob at home, but when you’re traveling with a group of people, keep it clean. Don’t leave a mess in the bathroom. There is a toilet brush there for a reason. And in the kitchen be courteous and put your dishes away when you’re done eating. Most HouseTrip apartments have dishwashers so you won’t have to work too hard after cooking a meal anyway.
3. Split the cost. It can be a fun day to go to the local market to buy groceries for the week ahead. Everyone can pitch in and buy their favourites for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You don’t have to eat in every night, but making the choice to eat in at your apartment a couple of times during your trip will save you tons of cash.
When you do cook your meals, have everyone pitch in. It shouldn’t just be one person slaving behind the stove. Designate someone to chop, set the table, cook and clean up. Bring some local beer and wine home with you and you’ll have fun in the process.
4. Budget. Make sure you are traveling with someone on a similar budget. Do you want luxury or are you seeking a more budget friendly option? HouseTrip has apartments for all budgets, so discuss how much you want to spend on accommodation, sightseeing and food from the start. If you are constantly worrying about money or constantly the one picking up the tab, that will put a lot of tension into the vacation and the friendship. Discuss the budget before you book your trip. That way you can choose your apartment appropriately and not have to worry about what the other person is thinking.
5. Communicate. You’ll be spending a lot of time together so make sure you communicate how you like to travel. If you like to explore on your own, but your friend likes company, you may not be the best-suited travel companions for each other. Before you go talk about what you expect. What sights do you have your heart set on seeing and how much do you want to party or stay in? Make sure you choose people who have a similar travel style and communicate just how much or how little time you want to spend together on the road. Communication and proper space will make for a great vacation.
Spices from Egypt, fresh Italian seafood, a German hog roast. What are some of your favourite local food finds? What about asking a famous food blogger? Surely she’ll know of a few to help you make the most of your holiday eating.
Do you like the idea of quizzing a foodie and getting some tips? What about learning how to make the most of the kitchen in your holiday rental?
Renowned food blogger Niamh Shields of eatlikeagirl joins us this Friday the 16th of August at 1pm (UK time) for an exclusive Google+ Hangout, where we’ll be asking her your questions live and on air.
We will be chatting with Niamh about all things food and travel related, including delicious recipe tips, her favourite fresh produce and cities with amazing food markets.
The Hangout will be streamed live via our HouseTrip YouTube channel. To join in, follow our Google+ page and confirm your attendance to the event. We will update the event page 15 minutes before we go live (at 12:45pm UK time) with the unique URL for you to follow so that you can watch the Hangout live.
Do you have any questions for Niamh?
Tweet your questions to @housetrip with the hashtag #foodietravels
Post your questions in the comments below this blog post’s entry
Ask your questions in the comment box for the event
Ask your questions in the comments below!
Featured image by The Travelling Bum.
You may have already seen one or two or three of the excellent travel videos Dave & Deb, video bloggers of theplanetD, have made for HouseTrip. They do something for a living that many people crave; travelling the world, making movies, learning and then teaching about a place we’d like to discover.
So if you’re looking for a drastic career change, or just want to learn a few tips to shoot your own amazing travel videos, join Dave & Deb this afternoon for a Google+ Hangout hosted by HouseTrip.
It’ll be fun. Even if you don’t have a webcam, type your questions into the chatbox and we can ask Dave & Deb for you.
So log on for 20 or 30 minutes, ask them any questions you have and get inspired with a few ideas to make your next holiday movie even better.
We start at 3pm (GMT).
We’ll email you later when the Hangout starts. We look forward to seeing you there!
Your HouseTrip Team