A Quick Guide To Venice

Is Venice the most romantic city in the world? It’s certainly hard to beat, especially when you’re staying right in the centre of things.

Where is it?

Venice is a city built on water – just off the north east coast of Italy, facing the Adriatic Sea – and is famed for its canal network, opulent palazzos and beautiful religious buildings and art. It has an airport on the mainland but from there, you need to take a water bus to reach the city.

Where can I stay?

The best way to experience Venice is in a cool, quiet and sophisticated hotel. These small but beautifully designed hotels offer you respite from the tourist throng and the sort of service you would expect from much more expensive locations. Try Ca’ Pisani, a small palazzo that has been sympathetically renovated and decorated to provide a haven of tranquillity, or the Ca Maria Adele, an eclectic boutique hotel in one of Venice’s most exclusive quarters.

What can I see?

For a relatively small city, there’s a lot to pack into a short visit. The central area of St. Mark’s Square with the Doge’s Palace and the Campanile is a great place to hang out and soak up the atmosphere, although bars and cafes here can be expensive. Instead, visit the churches, galleries and restaurants that are slightly off the beaten track, where atmosphere and tradition are still rich. If you have time, visit the nearby islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, all historically and culturally worth a visit.

How do I get around?

One of the beauties of Venice is that it has no road network. Most tourists use the waterbus (Vaporetto) system, which is regular and fairly cheap. Those who are looking for romantic Venice can hire a gondola at a greater cost. By far the best way to explore the city, however, is on foot. This way, you can reach the parts of the city that most waterbuses don’t travel to and discover architectural and shopping delights along the way.

A Guide to Traveling London through King’s Cross Station

For visiting London, proximity to King’s Cross is the perfect location. An intersection of six tube lines, including the Northern, Picadilly, and Circle Lines, to name a few, can get you virtually anywhere from King’s Cross. King’s Cross is also a train terminal, in the case that you are planning to visit the north of the UK. But let’s not get off track and get back to seeing London via King’s Cross. London, the cultural melting pot that it is, offers amazing and varied shops of anything you could desire. Located near the major shopping zones of London, both commercial and artisan, King’s Cross is a convenient place for a shopping tour in London. The city is also a magnet for great and creative minds, as is well known by all the thinkers, writers and artists who both came to and from London. The wide range of museums and galleries reflects this intellectual breeding ground, and again, King’s Cross is a skip, hop and a jump away from many of these world-class museums. Less conventional tours to start from King’s Cross could include a round of the city’s parks, exploring the wide web of the tube itself, or the nearby nightlife hotspots. So, whether it’s shopping, rich culture, or any fun explorations that you’re after, King’s Cross will guide you there quickly and efficiently.

For the shoppers! Have an early and hearty breakfast (you will need the energy) and put yourself on the Northern Line, heading for Camden Town, where you will find open air markets selling art, crafts, clothes, accessories and much more. It’s best to spend time here in the morning, as the area isn’t the safest at night. After you’ve stocked up on original craft gifts at the market, head back to your hotel, drop them off, and back on the tube! Via the Picadilly Line, head towards Covent Garden, a famous indoor market, and the surrounding area, full of boutiques, shops, and nice cafes. This picturesque market makes a nice lunch stop, with some cozy restaurants nearby. Picadilly Circus comes next: very commercialized, with many well-known brand stores. Picadilly is a fun place to return to at night, as the lights and pubs draw partiers to them like moths to the flame! Head on to Knightsbridge to see the world famous Harrod’s Department store. After this detour, it’s on to Oxford Circus to join the crowded throng admiring and buying the riches of Oxford Street, which is equivalent to New York’s Fifth Ave, a street of fancy department stores interspersed with chic shopping boutiques. If your spending needs are still not satiated, check out other markets, such as Portobello, or just by walking through London, you will find hidden gems of stores throughout the city. If, however, Oxford Street sums up the shopping day nicely for you, head back into the Oxford Circus tube, and the Victoria Line will conveniently take you right back to King’s Cross.

For the culture seeker, you will start your day heading in the opposite direction of the shopper. Head south on the Picadilly Line to Russell Square, and just a few blocks south of the shady square is the British Museum. After your explorations, you may also enjoy Covent Garden for its history and theater – check out the listings as they may draw you back in the evening. Nearby is Trafalgar Square, home of the National Gallery. From here, continue on to Green Park, and gasp at the size and beauty of Buckingham Palace. Changing of the Guard takes place nearby, so check the season’s schedule if you are interested. Slide down the Jubilee Line to Southwark, and enjoy the neighboring Tate Modern and Globe Theatre. Make your way back north of the river to Tower Hill, and explore London’s Tower. Take the Circle line back to King’s Cross to conclude the cultural loop.

The adventurer who wants to learn the city by randomly coming across the interesting things may enjoy traveling from park to park, always great for people watching and discovering the wide variety of London’s inhabitants. Regents, Hyde, Green, and St. James Parks are the main ones, each with distinctive personalities. The Tube itself is extremely interesting, and it’s worth reading the entertaining advertisements of the tube, listen to some talented and not-so-talented musicians, pick out who the tourists are and who the natives are… the tube can be really enjoyable during your voyage. Take advantage of being in this unique London sub world! King’s Cross is also nearby to Leicester Square and Picadilly, both popular night out areas. Or try traveling round Circle line and seeing how many pubs you can manage to stop at… after which, see if you manage to find your way back to King’s Cross on this concentric line!

King’s Cross, recently made famous through Harry Potter’s platform 9 ¾, is more than a fictitious train platform. It’s a station that literally will get you anywhere in London (and beyond) very conveniently. If you’re visiting London to shop, to learn its culture, or just to explore it for face value, King’s Cross is the best starting and ending point. You will get to where you need to go quickly, and at the end of the long day, you won’t have to wait long to be back at your London home, sweet home.

A Country Within A Country: Travel To Barcelona

The distinctive regional culture of Barcelona is largely due to geography and a plentitude of national pride and elitism. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous states. The regional language is Catalan, along with the national language of Castilian Spanish. There has long been pressure from the Catalonian government and nationalists to earn complete autonomy from Spain. Consequently, the exclusive culture can be difficult to adjust to and there is significant animosity towards foreigners around the main tourist street of Las Ramblas. To thoroughly enjoy the sweet life and gentle hospitality of Barcelona, leave this busy area and explore the many diverse districts, endless with possibility.

Café Life and Nightlife for the Night Owl
Barcelona is truly a city that never sleeps, particularly during the warm Mediterranean summers. Avoid standing out like a sore thumb by eating dinner when the locals do: after 10 p.m. It is common to see children, grandparents and the family dog gathering at the outdoor cafes at these hours when the day’s work is finished and time for friends and family has commenced. Since Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, the city has been revamped with visitor friendly attractions such as the massive Olympic Village, a string of swanky restaurants, state-of-the-art nightclubs and boutiques along the beach. Most nightclubs do not get going until after 1 a.m. and club-goers typically wander out onto the beach around 5:30 to watch the sunrise over the Mediterranean.

A Modernista Mecca
The architectural wonders of Barcelona will keep even the most novice eye bewildered and intrigued. Antoni Gaudi decorated Barcelona with his treasures of modernism as a painter on a canvas. The grand boulevard of Passeig de Gracia is lined with elaborately adorned Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, both with the most intricate rooftops known to modern architecture. Arguably the most stunning of Gaudi’s work is the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia. Each of the church’s facades are meticulously designed with different themes and styles combining nature with religion and the soaring towers topped with mosaic grapes are built around a conch-like coiled staircase that visitors may choose to take instead of the elevator. Another tribute to Barcelona’s artistic heritage is the Palau da la Musica Catalana. A view of the glass and mosaic inverted chandelier on the ceiling of the theater is alone worth the visit. Daily tours are offered in addition to the regularly held musical performances. Afterward, get lost in the tiny twisting passages of the surrounding historic Gothic Quarter.

Traveling Barcelona Right Not Your Weekend Visit
It is best to avoid traveling to Spain in August, when most of the locals (and most of Mediterranean Europe) take their vacations. Chances are that the restaurant you wanted to visit will be closed and museums will have extremely curtailed hours. August can also be uncomfortably hot.

Barcelona should be traveled with care and patience. The only disappointment visitors have is the inability to see all of the city’s landmarks and hidden corners in a realistic amount of time.

10 Must-Dos When In Barcelona

High spirits and vitality govern in abundance when in Barcelona. This infectious capital of Catalonia, and second largest city in Spain, exudes soul and energy, living life to the full. Barcelona’s verve is matched by its magnificent architecture, characterised by one man’s signature, Antonio Gaudi.

1. Las Ramblas

Running from seafront through to Placa de Catalunya, Las Ramblas is a fusion of market stalls and street entertainment. Watch out for the mime artists, though keep a hand on your wallet.

2. Sagrada Familia Church

In progress since 1882, La Sagrada Familia is perhaps Antonio Gaudi’s most magnificent achievement. As yet unfinished, the ongoing construction of this gothic masterpiece is financed through tourism.

3. Picasso Museum

Born in Malaga, Pablo Picasso moved to Barcelona during his teen years. Though many of his greatest works are in private hands, the Picasso Museum on the Carrer Moncada is well worth a visit.

4. Casa-Museu Gaudi

A pink, Alice-in-Wonderland house is the setting for the Gaudi museum. Gaudi lived in this surreal location between 1906 and 1926 with his niece. Exhibits in the museum include furniture, drawings and portraits designed by the great man himself.

5. The Poble Espanyol

Completed in 1929, the ‘Spanish Village’ is a compilation of buildings representing the collective architectural characteristics of Spain. A celebration of all things Spanish, the village has become a gathering place to dine and be entertained.

6. Bishop’s Palace

After being destroyed by fire, Bishop Juan Bautista Grau i Vallespinós commissioned Antonio Gaudi to design a new, more magnificent palace in 1887. Upon the bishop’s death, and consequent interference from the diocese, Gaudi abandoned the project. It was not inhabited until 1961.

7. Gothic Quarter

On the site of an ancient Roman village, the Gothic Quarter is a contrast of contemporary and medieval architecture, incorporating the magnificent 14th century cathedral.

8. Olympic Stadium

During 1992, the eyes of the world focused on the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona as they hosted the Olympic Games. Today a popular athletics facility, the stadium was a redesigned version of the original built in 1929.

9. Passeig de Gracia

As one of the major shopping areas of Barcelona, Passeig de Gracia caters for the modest, and also those who prefer the more sophisticated boutiques. Bars and restaurants also line the thoroughfare.

10. Lover’s Day

On behalf of those looking for romance, Barcelona obliges with its own version of St Valentines, known as Lover’s Day, celebrated every April 23rd.