Passion and independence define Madrid’s booksellers. They don’t just give you a bit of peace and sanctuary from the Emperor’s New Clothes or the likes of J. K. Rowling’s agonisingly alliterative attempts at adult angst or another 50 shades of purple prose. They have a reverence for books born of necessity, not really surprising when you think about Spain’s 20th century political history. Continue reading
A young country that’s indescribably ancient, Morocco is fascinating and exotic and inescapably lovely. Not too much of surprise to find so many influences and cultures clustered across its landscape, Morocco has always been much coveted. Before Independence in the mid 1970’s the country had variously been home to the Ancient Romans, the French, the Portuguese and – in a less proprietorial fashion – some of the world’s most glamorous and famous writers, artists, designers and bon viveur.
The challenge for UNESCO in Morocco has always been to balance their commitment to protect and preserve with respect for the fact that most of the country’s ancient and historic sites are still living and working environments for many Moroccans. The magnificent Medinas, mosques and monuments don’t exist in aspic; they’re at the heart of the country’s culture and commerce. Continue reading
Not so long ago, I shared a collection of spots in Paris where you can find spring blossoming in Paris. Well, now that the seasons have moved on and summer sunshine is dancing off the white walls of Paris’ arrondissements, there really is no better time to explore and enjoy the City of Light. Here’s what a perfect summer’s day in Paris could look like.
A Morning Market
Wake as early as you please and enjoy un petit dej’ of your pleasing from a local patisserie or in the comfort of your own kitchen before slipping into comfortable walking shoes and hitting the streets. Depending where you’re staying, you may find it satisfying just to wander around your local neighbourhood, otherwise you can attack this list of places in Paris to get lost in.
Alternatively if you need a bit of direction and want to avoid the tourists hanging out at their usual spots, the morning is a good time to blend in with locals and enjoy the atmosphere of one of central Paris’ historic markets. There’s the city’s first undercover market at Marché des Enfants, the sea of floral colour on display at Marché aux Fleurs close to Notre Dame, or the traditional favourite French produce for sale at Marché Bastille, this is a great way to start your day.
Coffee (and art) at Cafe du Petit Palais
Not far from Champs Elysee is the Museé des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Art), in the centre of which you’ll find a small oasis of green lined with pillared porticos and the Jardin du Petit Palais café. With mosaics underfoot and a painted ceiling above, this is one of the most beautiful terrace cafes in Paris and a must-enjoy on a summer’s day. Should the weather take a turn for the worse, the museum is a stunning place to seek refuge and the permanent exhibition is always free.
Go to the beach!
Paris has become famous for its city plages and from late July to the end of August you can enjoy three kilometres of sand along the Seine stretching from the Louvre to Pont du Sully. If you’d rather avoid being so central then head north to the 19th arrondissement where you’ll find a pop-up beach at Bassin de la Villette, a man-made lake that few tourists go out of their way to discover. Much more than just a place to sunbathe, you can also kayak or row on the water and you’ll find a plethora of cafes and restaurants lining the promenades on both sides.
Lunch al fresco
If you choose to stay at Bassin de la Villette for lunch you can try get a table on the terrace at 25° Est, a popular Paris restaurant that is a rare combination of perfect location – right on the water – and fairly-priced French fare.
Back closer to the Seine, you can enjoy rooftop dining at Le Georges in the Pompidou Centre or a secret garden alcove at ChantAirelle in the 5th arrondissement; reservations are recommended at both. Other restaurants with open air dining areas include Café A on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin and the artistic-meets-rustic Les Petits Gouttes in the 18th. If you don’t want to plan ahead, your best bet is to head to the Latin Quarter where you can take your pick from street-side dining. Alternatively, use the brilliant website 123terrasse to enter a postcode or street name and find your nearest terrace café!
An Afternoon of Festival Fun
Paris is a city brimming with festival fun in the summer and you can take your pick from music, culture and art events, many of which are free to attend. There’s Versailles Festival from May to July, Festival de Saint-Denis in June, Paris Jazz Festival in June and July and then Paris Quartier d’Été takes over the city in July and August with a wide range of performances and live shows in Paris’ most historic buildings and squares.
Relax and Recline in the Park
Paris parks offer visitors (and locals) the opportunity to sit back and relax, thanks to their famous dark green recliner chairs set out in summer months. You’ll find them in Jardin du Luxembourg, les Jardins du Palais-Royale and in the Tuileries Garden. While you may have to hunt for a while before you find one that’s not already occupied, feel free to move it around the park to find your ideal spot in the sun or the shade.
Cinema En Plein Air de la Villette
End your busy day of walking around Paris by sitting down and watching a movie at the Cinema en Plein Air in Parc de la Villette. Not just any cinema, this opportunity to watch a film outdoors in one of Paris’ more rugged parks is free entry and you can bring your own picnic.
Sunset with a view
Photo by Liz Bennington
Alternatively let nature put on a show and watch the sun go down on Paris. Prime locations for watching the sunset include the western tip of the Ile de la Cite, the open space of Place de la Concorde – with the Eiffel Tower framing your view – or you can join the other romantics on the steps of La Basilique du Sacre Coeur. Alternatively, if you’d like a cocktail in your hand as the sky changes colour, head to Wanderlust, a huge restaurant-bar-nightclub complex that also has a floating terrace on the river, which it fondly describes as a “playground on the Seine”.
Have you ever visited Paris in summertime? What was your favourite thing to do?
As we head into a summer of sporting events like Wimbledon and the World Cup, let’s not overlook alternative feats of physicality which demand years of training, tough competition and offer the spectators hours of entertainment. I’m talking about eating contests!
From downing hot dogs on Coney Island to piling in the pies in Wigan, here’s a whole slew of contests around the world where you’ll see champion eaters competing for pride, for money or maybe just because they’re really, really hungry.
Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, Coney Island, USA
credit: Nate Smith
Consider this the Olympics of speed eating. Last year, current champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnutt ate a kidney-quaking 69 hot dogs in ten minutes to win his seventh consecutive title. Held annually since the 70’s, this 4th July event is now something of an international phenomenon and its fame keeps the crowds coming all year round to Nathan’s famous hot dog restaurant. In recent years this part of New York has become more popular with locals and visitors in summer months, something that the hot dog contest perhaps played a small part in as it’s watched by over a million people on TV too.
Oyster Eating Contest, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
If Chestnutt is the Superman of eating contests, Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas is the Wonder Woman. She’s the current reigning champion of the Oyster Eating Contest held each year at New Orleans’ Oyster Festival. Eating 40 dozen (yes, dozen) raw oysters in eight minutes, Thomas actually looks like an athlete with her slim physique and baseball cap. While New Orleans is typically a festive place to be around in spring thanks to Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, the Oyster Festival is one of many food festivals and celebrations of local culinary heritage in this vibrant city.
Pie Eating Contest, Wigan, UK
The focus isn’t on quantity but speed at the Wigan Pie Eating Contest, with the challenge being how quickly contestants can eat one pie. The reigning champion, much to Lancashire’s pleasure, is a local man called Ian Coulton who saw off international competitors by devouring his freshly baked pie in a winning time of just over one minute. Pies are something of a national institution in the UK and upon winning the Bradley Piggins Trophy, Coulton humbly said he enjoyed every bite. You can eat one of the pies too – and take as long as you want– by popping into Harry’s Bar on Wallgate in Wigan.
Curd Eating Contest, Patna, India
This beautiful city in East India is more famous, perhaps, for hosting visitors who’ve come to ‘find themselves’ in the nearby River Ganges, which one can only assume possesses a highly reflective sheen. There were nearly 500 contestants lined up to take part in the 5th annual curd eating contest here. Or rather, they were sat down as is traditional. With the winning man and woman consuming 3.8kg and 2.6kg respectively of ‘dahi’ or curd in just three minutes, there was also a children’s competition in an event that is sponsored by a local dairy company. What is not clear is how many people leave the contest wanting to actually eat more curd.
Cream Puff Eating Competition, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
It seems only right to loop back to the US for dessert at the cream puff eating contest at the Wisconsin State Fair. I’ll defintely have to say messy, because this is a hands-free competition where contestants have to navigate their way through an oversized cream puff using just their mouths, nose, face (and probably neck, hair and ear lobes) by the end of the competition. The winner is whoever can dispose of their cream puff the quickest and parents will be pleased (or really, really not) to hear that kids can enter too.
World Ice Cream Eating Championship, Lakeland, Florida, USA
One can only imagine the brain freeze felt by eaters at the ice cream munching contest in Lakeland, Florida. 2014’s competition was in April and the winner was a familiar name, Joey “Jaws” Chestnutt ate 15 pints (7 litres) of ice cream in six minutes. The name of the city should allude to the surrounding area inland of Tampa, full of lakes and of course the famous beaches of St. Petersburg and Clearwater aren’t too far away. And at least you know you should be able to find some ice cream easily too.
While I know you’re all feverishly checking out the new listings that get added to HouseTrip every week, I’m also aware that you’re just as eager to know about new routes on offer from Europe’s low-cost airlines. After all, if you can grab a bargain flight and affordable accommodation this will leave you the maximum amount of spending money for your holiday. So, I did a little research and here are some of the best new low-cost airline routes you may want to consider for your next city break or summer holiday. Continue reading