Thursday, 30 April 2009

Rwanda, land van duizend heuvels


Rwanda, het land van de duizenden heuvels, van meren, rivieren en uitgestrekte savanne’s. Midden in Afrika, ingeklemd tussen Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda en voormalig Zaïre. Maar ook het land van de afschuwelijkste genocide sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog. In 1994 werden bijna een miljoen Tutsi’s afgeslacht door de Hutu-minderheid. Het strijdtoneel van dit etnische conflict is een land van schoonheid en een grote verscheidenheid aan planten- en dierenleven.

Berggorilla's

Gelukkig is Rwanda na de bloedige burgeroorlog weer uit haar diepe dal gekrabbeld. Vele vluchtelingen zijn teruggekeerd. De situatie in het land is dan ook in tijden niet zo goed geweest.

Rwanda biedt de reiziger veel moois. In het noorden leven de berggorilla’s in het Parc National des Volcans, genoemd naar een zestal vulkanen, begroeid met regenwouden. In het oosten ligt het Akagera National Park, waar leeuwen, giraffen, olifanten en nijlpaarden leven. Het Kivumeer ligt in het westen van Rwanda op de grens met de Democratische Republiek Congo. Hier kun je zwemmen, zonnen en genieten van het uitzicht over het meer met zijn vele schiereilandjes. En in het zuidwesten kun je het prachtige regenwoud van Nyungwe bewonderen.

Parc National des Volcans

Het lijkt alsof ze je aankijken. Daarna gaan ze gewoon weer verder met waarmee ze bezig zijn. De zilverzwarte berggorilla’s zijn misschien wel dé reden om naar Rwanda af te reizen. In Afrika zijn twee berggorillareservaten. Een in Uganda en een in Rwanda. In Rwanda leven de mensapen in het Parc National des Volcans, onder meer op de vulkaan Sabyinyo. De berggorilla’s, die drie keer zo groot als een volwassen mens kunnen zijn, worden helaas met uitsterven bedreigd. Er zijn er nog maar 675 op onze aardbol.

Een keer per dag krijgen de dieren bezoek van maximaal acht toeristen. Iedere toerist betaalt $ 385 voor een bezoek van een uur. Vanuit Ruhengeri, aan de voet van het park, heb je een schitterend uitzicht over de vulkanen. Hier begint onder leiding van een gids de tocht door het regenwoud naar de berggorilla’s. De voettocht naar de berggorilla’s duurt minimaal een uur, afhankelijk voor welke route je kiest. Onderweg zie je allerlei dieren. Prachtige kleurrijke vogels (in Rwanda leven zo’n 670 verschillende soorten) en misschien vang je een glimp op van de zeldzame ‘golden monkey’.

Veel schade

Kigali ligt in het centrum van het land. Het is een kleine, maar mooie stad. Er is alleen niet zoveel te beleven. Musea vind je hier niet. Daarvoor moet je naar het zuiden afreizen, naar Butare. Door de burgeroorlog heeft Kigali helaas veel schade opgelopen. Daarvan zijn nog steeds de sporen te zien. Vanuit Kigali is het ongeveer 1,5 uur rijden naar Ruhengeri van waaruit je de berggorilla’s kunt bezoeken.

Iets ten zuiden van de stad ligt het genocide monument bij Nyamata en Ntarama. Hier kun je de gruwelijke overblijfselen van de burgeroorlog zien.

Nyungwe National Park ligt in het zuidwesten van Rwanda. Hier komen meer dan 100 soorten orchideeën voor! Het geur- en kleurenspel is een lust voor het oog en de neus. Het park is een van de laatste tropische bergregenwouden van Afrika. Hier leven allerlei soorten apen en meer dan 275 soorten vogels. Het park is gemakkelijk toegankelijk en er zijn vele goed onderhouden wandelpaden. Zorg voor warme kleding, want Nyungwe ligt relatief hoog.

Kivumeer

Het Kivumeer markeert de grens tussen Rwanda en de DRC. Hier kun je even uitrusten van je reis: zwemmen, zonnen en genieten van het prachtige uitzicht over het meer met zijn vele schiereilandjes. Aan de noordelijke oever ligt Kisenyi. Vanuit hier kun je gemakkelijk de grens met de DRC oversteken naar Goma, dat ook aan het meer ligt. Wanneer je vanuit Kisenyi in zuidelijke richting naar Kibuye reist, zijn er onderweg prachtige watervallen te zien; Les Chutes de Ndaba. Aan de zuidelijke oever van het meer ligt Cyangugu. Ook hier is het mogelijk door te reizen naar de DRC. Aan de andere zijde van de grens ligt Bukavu. Cyangugu ligt bij het Rugege Forest, een groot bos waar olifanten, buffels en chimpansees leven. Vlak bij de stad liggen de watervallen van de rivier Rusizi en de heetwaterbronnen van Nyakabuye.

Langs de grens met Tanzania ligt het Akagera National Park, vernoemd naar de rivier Akagera, die zich door het park kronkelt. Deze rivier is volgens de Rwandezen de oorsprong van de Nijl. Het landschap is zeer gevarieerd: meren, moerassen, heuvels en savanne. Je kunt er olifanten, zebra’s en impala’s zien, maar ook leeuwen, luipaarden en hyena’s. In de meren leven grote groepen nijlpaarden en krokodillen.

Accommodatie

Ook geïnteresseerd in een avontuur in het land van de duizend heuvels, Rwanda? Surf naar www.medestino.com en boek je hotel!

Island hopping in Greece


What could be lovelier than drifting from Greek island to Greek island under a blazing blue Aegean sky, exploring villages, swimming in clear waters and enjoying a glass of chilled wine at some rustic taverna?

The Greek island experience is legendary and now there's a new way to enjoy it. If time's limited and you want more islands for your money, you no longer have to rely on a slow ferry to chug you along. You can hop by plane from one island to another at a very low price with Sky Express and book a low-budget hotel on www.medestino.com.


Santorini

Why go there?
One of the most romantic of the Greek islands, Santorini has stunning views and plenty of candlelit restaurants. Beaches to the east and the south are very popular. They're blisteringly hot in summer, but will appeal to those who like black volcanic sand.

Must see, must do?

Fira Town: clinging dramatically to the edge of a huge extinct volcano crater, Fira's especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset when the light sets off the white buildings against the black rock backdrop.

La: the prettiest village on the island, it's quieter than Fira and has two picturesque harbours.

Karpathos

Why go there?

Karpathos remains relatively unspoilt because it used to be difficult to reach. A mountainous cloud-topped spine divides the wilder north from the gentler south.

Must see, must do?

Olympos Village Spilling down from a ridge, the village was cut off from the rest of the island for centuries. Today, it's a mix of medieval and modern, its houses huddled in a maze of alleys.

Lefkos: this is the jewel of the island's low-key resorts. It's a stunningly pretty hill village clustered round three horseshoe-shaped bays.

Mykonos

Why go there?

Mykonos is on the up, with a wave of new smart boutique hotels and bars opening in the past year and a revived nightlife. This is the island to pose, preen and party on.

Must see, must do?

Mykonos Town: the clubs, bars and designer clothes stores cater for the hip crowd, while waterside fish tavernas, tiny churches, white alleys and cobbled streets will satisfy traditional holidaymakers. Little Venice is the part of town that currently reigns as groove capital, with lots of waterfront restaurants and the best nightlife.
Beaches: fleets of buses leave the town for the south-coast beaches every morning. Platys Gialos – 3km south of Mykonos Town – is the most popular with families. Those who want to sunbathe nude head for Elia beach, while Super Paradise attracts a mainly gay crowd.

Lesbos

Why go there?

Greece's third largest island is less busy and boasts smaller-scale resorts and less crowded beaches.

Although the countryside is rocky and dotted with thermal springs, its olive groves, shaded oaks and pine forests make it good for gentle walking.

Must see, must do?

Beaches: pine-covered slopes provide a dramatic backdrop to the island's beaches that stretch out either side of a rocky promontory at Agios Ermogenis. Ayios Ermoyenis is a beautiful sandy cove, while Vatera in the south boasts five miles of beautiful beaches.
Natural spas if you're after a rejuvenating hot bath, head for Polikhnitos – a well restored vaulted spa house with separate pink tinted chambers for men and women. Ayios Ioannis, a few miles on, has mixed hot springs in elegant whitewashed rooms.

Also popular:

Skiathos: The hedonist's dream, with more than 62 lovely pine-scented beaches.

Samos: Famous for its countryside, wildlife and vineyards. Walkers love its cobbled paths, while wine lovers head for the villages of Manolates and Vourliotes.

Rhodes: The capital of the Dodecanese, with its medieval walled city, is packed with attractions and history.

Kos: It's main town – lined with palm trees and grand, Italian-built public buildings – is like a miniature Rhodes.

Ikaria: Tucked between Samos and Mykonos, it boasts forests and beautiful beaches.

Dubai, the fastest growing city in the world


Dubai is one of the seven states which make up the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has a long-standing trading tradition that has brought visitors from throughout the Middle East and neighbouring regions. Today, Dubai plays host to an increasing number of visitors from the West and the Far East. The city attracts travellers seeking something new and different, offering international facilities combined with the adventure of the Middle East, and exotic destination with a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Dubai is also the undisputed "sports capital of the Middle East", hosting world class international events that attract some of the biggest names in their respective sports, whether in golf, tennis, horse racing, rallying powerboating, rugby, or sailing.

History

Historically speaking Dubai began as a small fishing settlement. Around 1830 the settlement was taken over by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa Oasis led by the Maktoum family who still rule the Emirate today. The Burj al Arab is an impressive hotel which is rated as 7 stars and is built on a man made island. It can be seen as you enter the city from the West and its unmistakable palm tree like shape cannot be missed. Another place to visit is the gold souq (bazaar) where you can see storefronts lined up one after the other with gold jewelry everywhere.

Activities

Four wheeling on the dunes and "wadi bashing" are some other things vistors can enjoy. These activites involve driving up huge sand dunes and through springs called "wadis" in 4WD vehicles, mainly Toyota Land Cruisers. It is a great way to experience the desert from within the comfort of a luxury vehicle. You can even opt to spend the night in traditional bedouin tents in the desert. But be careful when they serve you a hot cup of tea it is full of sugar also boiled with sugar.

Nightlife

Nightlife in Dubai has improved dramatically over the years, with bars and restaurants open to the public in many of the hotels; each specialising (Churchills in City Centre Hotel for example offers a traditional English feel) on a different theme with greater or lesser success. But beware, although Dubai is one of the few Emerates that allow the sale of alcohol it is illegal to carry alcohol on the street unless you have a licence to do so.

Taxi

Taxi's are a cheap and effective way to get around the city. There are two types: City sponcered Cabs (dusty yellow) and private hire cabs (any shape or colour). If you decide to get into a private cab, haggle the price before closing the door.

Air-conditioning

Air-conditioning is everywhere and turned up high; you may want to carry a jumper with you when you go shopping in a mall.

Visit

The city is geared towards tourism and it offers a large number of activities and sights. The rules are quite relaxed and it is probably the best and most clean city to visit in the Middle East. When you want to book a hotel, go to www.medestino.com for the cheapest rates.

Europe, the place to go!

Europe…. An evocative name, but also the name of a continent that many people don´t know very well. We offer you the chance to discover Europe through our website www.medestino.com, that offers a large variety of hotels in various European cities. Our goal? To make you want to visit it by yourself!
You will have to organize your journey according to your personal preferences, your priorities, your budget and the time available for your trip.
Whether you wish to pedal, fly or drive, you´ll find an original, convenient way of travelling around Europe that suits your preferences and at your own pace.

We want you to fall in love with Europe, today and forever.
o You feel like being idle, going to the beach or the countryside, or you can’t resist the lure of the mountains? Europe is the place to go!
o Do you like partying at night and sunbathing during the day? Europe is the place to go!
o Do you like discovering cultural heritage, museums, castles and monuments? Europe is the place to go!
o Do you like doing sport during the day and enjoying operas in the open air in the evening? Europe is the place to go!
o Do you like getting away in nature, discovering varied fauna and flora in national parks? Europe is the place to go!
o Do you like coming in contact with welcoming local people and different cultures? Europe is the place to go!

Europe has taken on the task of making its territories and cities accessible to everyone, and so offers solutions adapted to people with disabilities.

Modern means of transportation let you to travel between different European regions or countries in the shortest time possible: domestic airlines and an increasing number of low-cost companies offer a variety of connections at highly competitive prices. Railways are another fast, ecological option when travelling between European countries: the TGV in France, the ICE en Germany, the AVE in Spain, the Eurostar between Belgium and the United Kingdom through France and the famous tunnel underneath the English Channel, as well as the Thalys train, which operates in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
European hotels, found traditional by some and modern by others, are following the same trend: today, many of them offer an internet connection in every room or wifi access in the whole hotel. In many major cities, wifi access is provided in the city-centre itself, near their most visited districts.

What? You’re not ready to set off yet? Go to www.medestino.com… then pack your suitcases. We’re expecting you!

Prague


For centuries it has been known as Zlatá Praha or Golden Prague - a glittering jewel of art and architecture nestling snugly at the heart of Europe. Home to emperors and kings, artists and astronomers, this beautiful and fascinating city has worked its subtle magic on generations of visitors, and lent inspiration to musicians and writers from Mozart to Dvořák and Kafka to Klíma.

Kidnapped by communism for 40 years, Prague has returned to the capitalist fold to become one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. Largely undamaged by the ravages of WWII, its cityscape offers a smorgasbord of stunning architecture, from the soaring verticals of Gothic spires and the buxom exuberance of baroque domes to the sensuous elegance of Art Nouveau maidens and the chiselled cheekbones of Cubist façades.

There are glitzy shopping malls, designer restaurants and cool cocktail bars galore, a feast of film and music festivals, and a packed programme of opera, ballet and drama. Smoky jazz cellars and rock basements compete with DJs and dance clubs into the small hours - no matter how late it is, there's always a party happening somewhere - and then, heading home after an all-nighter, there's the mystical silence of the mist-shrouded Charles Bridge at dawn.
As well as its cultural treasures, Prague offers another precious commodity - the liquid gold of Bohemian beer. The Czechs have been brewing since at least the 9th century - they invented Pilsner, the world's first clear, golden lager, in 1842 - and Czech breweries still produce some of the world's finest beers.

Above all, Prague is to be explored at leisure, whether venturing along the medieval lanes and hidden passages of the Old Town, strolling through the many wooded parks or taking a leisurely cruise along the Vltava. Everywhere you go you will uncover some aspect of the city's multilayered history - in its time Prague has been the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the first Czechoslovak Republic, the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Communist Republic of Czechoslovakia, and the modern, democratic Czech Republic.

Despite the onslaught of mass tourism, the city's dark and mysterious soul survives, haunted by the shadows of Kafka and communism. For those willing to wander off the beaten track, to risk getting lost in the city's maze of alleyways and courtyards, a deeper, truer experience of Golden Prague awaits.

Visit www.medestino.com

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Canary Islands



It’s all too easy to land in the Canary Islands and, feeling the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair, scurry straight to an idyllic beach resort or quiet rural retreat, not to be heard from again until the morning of your flight out. Yet while we’re sunbathing, swimming, sailing, snorkelling and strolling, the ‘real’ Canaries are chugging along in the background.

Construction is strong in the archipelago; proof of that is the 2.5 million tons of concrete that’s poured annually into hotels, homes and businesses. Agriculture is still alive and well; thousands of Canarios work as farmers, and their growing number of crops (planted across around 520 sq km) are responsible for tasty fruits and veggies and for the often-photographed, well-tended landscapes. New crops such as grapes, avocados, tropical fruits and flowers are contributing to a modern farming miniboom. The fishing industry is also still strong.

Still, there’s no doubt that the prosperity we see in many parts of the islands was brought in large part by tourism. When Spanish dictator Francisco Franco opened Spain to the sun-starved masses in the 1960s, he paved the way for development (and overdevelopment) on the islands. Naturally, this large-scale construction brings its own problems.

With few rivers or sources of fresh water on the islands, getting clean drinking water has always been a problem. Added to that are issues related to erosion, with the depletion of nearby marine life and the general degradation of coasts and tourist areas. Thanks in large part to vocal environmental groups, leaders are beginning to take note. One particularly encouraging step was taken in 2007 by El Hierro, which set in motion a plan to make the island energy self-sufficient, using only renewable energy sources like water, wind and solar power. Less encouraging is what’s happening on Tenerife and La Palma, where projects for new ports, golf courses and hotels are being pushed through over the screaming voices of environmentalists.

These seven islands were long some of the poorest regions of Spain, and only decades ago this territory was practically an afterthought to mainland Spain. Although prosperity has brought the Canaries closer to the mainland, the perceived separation still strikes a real nerve with islanders. Whatever you do, don’t refer to the Iberian Peninsula as Spain – you are in Spain! A minority of islanders, however, argue just the opposite, insisting that the Canaries would be better off as an independent country. This sentiment, although often visible in the form of scrawled ‘Spanish Go Home!’ graffiti, is not a real threat to unity.

Ironically, the islands that have traditionally been sources of poverty-driven emigration are now the recipients of mass immigration. The presence of African immigrants, who arrive almost daily by boat to the islands, is one of the most polarising issues facing the Canaries today. The human drama played out on the beaches here, where sunbathing tourists are at times the first to greet the often infirm and dehydrated immigrants, is heart-wrenching.

Aside from constantly calling on the Spanish government and the European Union for help, the Canaries so far have no solution to this situation.

Romantic getaways for celebrities

Most celebrity relationships follow a distinct pattern: two A-list actors meet while filming the latest blockbuster, they engage in clandestine, off-screen rendezvous, and then tabloids catch wind of the budding romance. In no time, photographs of the hot couple are plastered across every gossip rag from Los Angeles to Sydney, but, for whatever reason, the celebs deny being involved. Eventually, of course, they're spotted on a romantic getaway—because the rumours were, in fact, true all along.

“Celebrities go on vacation for the same reason we do—to get away from it all. And that means getting away from Hollywood, the whole Tinsel Town scene, the paparazzi, and that’s why they choose these really exclusive high-end places,” says Delaina Dixon, celebrity reporter at OK!, the weekly entertainment magazine. “I think celebrities being spotted on vacation together allows them to say ‘we’re together’ without having to say it themselves. After all, a picture says a thousand words. So if they’re spotted together, you can pretty much make the assumption that they’re coming out, and they don’t have to be held accountable to it.”

Rihanna and Chris Brown

In theory, it would seem that hopping a plane for an exotic locale is an easy way to keep a relationship under wraps. But paparazzi are found where you least expect them. In the case of Rihanna and Chris Brown, this happened earlier this year in Jamaica, after Brown was photographed holding the pop star—his face lingering just inches from hers—in a swimming pool.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

If you’re Tom Cruise, apparently not even a private getaway on one of the world’s most exclusive islands on the other side of the globe can keep the gossip at bay. After he split with Nicole Kidman, Cruise rented out an entire resort and invited his sister Lee Anne, "Vanilla Sky" co-star Penelope Cruz and others from the cast to take a break at Fiji’s Wakaya Club. The day after they arrived, Cruise’s publicist confirmed that her client and Cruz had been seeing each other prior to the trip.

“If you know anything about Wakaya, there’s a 60-day cancellation policy, so if you decide not to go within two months of your planned date, you lose your entire payment,” says Dixon. “Tom Cruise, even though he’s rich, is still a smart guy and maybe didn’t want to lose his payment for that fabulous island. He may have just said, ‘Well, you know, it’s already paid for, I might as well take my new girl along and enjoy it.’”

A sighting of Cruise on top of the Eiffel Tower alongside Katie Holmes in June 2005 proved that the superstar is unafraid to show his romantic side in high-profile urban settings.

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel

If you’re like Justin Timberlake, you may want a sporty girl who can keep up. Amid rumors that he was dating his music video costar Scarlett Johansson back in early 2007, JT warmed himself up on the slopes of Park City while snowboarding alongside current gal pal Jessica Biel. Timberlake demonstrated one way to kill rumors of an alleged fling: Be spotted cozying up to her arch nemesis.

“They’re both very active—she’s a workout queen—so why not come out in a beautiful winter wonderful where [Sundance] is all about art and skiing, and they could do a little bit of both,” Dixon proffers. “That’s why I think they chose Utah. It’s also a little bit more highbrow than just frolicking on an island: Here’s a place where we’re talking about artistic work. And they’ve never really come out and confirmed their relationship, so that’s about as close as we can get to that.”


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

What about Namibia, a country that would seem paparazzi-resistant on account of its sheer obscurity? That emerging destination has held obvious appeal for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Says Dixon, "Obviously, Brad and Angelina have proven that if you go to Namibia, or anywhere in Africa really, chances are you’re going to be on lockdown."

But then stars are not exactly like the rest of us: Given the opportunity, some would broadcast their amorous escapades to the universe. Says Dixon of OK!, “When celebrities want people to know they’re together, they go to a place people can still get to, like Sundance. Or let it ‘slip’ that they’re going to be on an exclusive island, like Tom Cruise did, just to let the world know that he’s seeing someone, even if no one can actually get there."
Of course, if a couple isn’t ready to come out yet, you’re not going to know. The original superstar, Greta Garbo, may have said it best: "I want to be left alone."

Do you also want to go on vacations with your celebrity boyfriend or girlfriend? Go to www.medestino.com and book your hotel.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Top 12 luxury destinations



The New York Times recently published a piece on The 44 Places To Go in 2009. Destinations were placed in categories ranging from Foodie to Frugal to Family, but we’re most interested in the Luxury category.
Here are the top luxury destinations that made New York Times the list. Not one of your favorites? Tell us what you think is the top luxury destination not to miss.
1. Beirut, Lebanon – Despite security concerns, Beirut is quickly reclaiming its title as the Paris of the Middle East
2. Fjallnas, Sweden – A historical, luxury, resort once known to host Swedish loyalty.
3. Maremma, Italy – The beautiful coastline in Southern Tuscany is now a top vacation spot for Hollywood, fashion and culinary elite alike.
4. Phuket, Thailand – Some of the most luxurious resorts in the world reside in this tropical island known for amazing beaches, nightlife and diving opportunities.
5. Monterrey, Mexico – An urban hotspot home to a growing arts and culture scene and funky luxury boutique hotels.
6. Bhutan – Luxury meets Eco-friendly and spiritual travel in this Buddhist kingdom.
7. Seychelles – Unbelievably beautiful beaches line this group of islands where privacy and luxury reign supreme.
8. Boracay, the Philippines – Luxury hotels are bringing this small, relatively untouched island into the limelight of top destinations.
9. Cologne, Germany – An architectural playground for new and modern designs, galleries, and hotels.
10. Red Sea, Egypt - The recent increase of luxury properties has made this historic destination a popular site to combine relaxation and exploration.
11. Kazakhstan – A transformation is occurring bringing modern, thoughtful elements of the arts, dining and hotels to this new centre of luxury.
12. Stockholm – Funky, luxury hotels are popping up in this town combining Scandinavian influence with the host of nightlife opportunities nearby.
Do you want to book a luxury vacation? Go to www.medestino.com and you can be in your dream destination as of tomorrow!

Top supermodel getaways

Where the world’s hottest babes go to chill
Heidi in Mexico, Gisele in Brazil, Kate in Spain. In the world of supermodels, no last name is required for complete recognition—and no getaway is too decadent or exclusive.
St. Moritz

Travelers clamoring for a glimpse of these uber-svelte beauty queens will find them at hotspots like Badrutt’s Palace in St. Moritz, where Claudia Schiffer has been a guest. The chic mountain resort is located in the southern part of the Swiss Alps and provides a healthy dose of Champagne-sipping starlets. Badrutt’s has seven restaurants, four bars and deluxe suites that cost up to $19,200 a night in peak season. Liz Hurley and Kate Moss are known to frequent the King’s Club, a star-studded nightspot owned by the hotel.

Kristin Hutton, a Badrutt’s Palace spokesperson, says the palace is popular with celebrities and models because the staff is “accustomed to dealing with high-profile guests who require a certain level of discretion, attention and service.” Indeed, Badrutt’s gives the word “luxurious” a whole new meaning: The hotel provides butlers on every floor, certified concierges and on-site stores like Cartier, Gucci and Versace.

Supermodels yearning for more discreet vacations opt for private villas or boutique hotels at a safe remove from the public, according to Melissa Sarrazin, a manager at IMG Models. Sarrazin says that while “models differ in their ideas of the ideal getaway vacation,” they often “stay away from the large resorts and more commonly prefer renting a charming house.”

Stylist Charles Davis with East Photographic, who has worked with a number of supermodels, agrees. “Villas, boats, and luxury houses are very popular because they mean utter relaxation and the possibility that they can stay in one place in peace for awhile,” Davis says. “You have to remember that for supermodels, a two- or three-week vacation may be the longest period of time that season they don’t have to take a train, plane, or change hotels for various jobs.”

Mallorca

Beautiful bad girl Kate Moss also seeks out low-key getaways. Moss recently made headlines when her Topshop boss, billionaire Sir Philip Green, treated her and rock-star boyfriend Jamie Hence to a vacation worth $200,000 in Mallorca, Spain. In previous trips to the island, Moss has checked in at La Residencia Hotel, a charming hideaway nestled in the hills of Mallorca’s northwest coast. Guests at this picturesque refuge can luxuriate in a four-bedroom villa that comes with its own heated pool and views of the Mediterranean Sea. Moss isn’t the only celebrity in town: aging A-listers Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones all own homes here.

The once-quiet fishing town of Montauk, N.Y., is another destination rapidly becoming a favorite among fashionistas, with the new Surf Lodge leading the movement. Since its opening in June, the relaxed hotel designed by Robert McKinley has already attracted male supermodel Tyson Beckford. The 32 modern rooms flaunt views of the water, private decks adorned with a hammock, and glass-walled spa bathrooms. Combining the laidback spirit of Montauk with the Hamptons’ stylish (if sometimes stiff) elegance, it’s no wonder Ralph Lauren, Cynthia Rowley and Donna Karan are also fans.

Brazil

With a salary hovering north of $33 million and one of the world’s most stunning female figures, it’s no surprise that Brazilian bombshell Gisele Bündchen often chooses her native Brazil to vacation. The supermodel reportedly spent New Year’s Eve 2007 on the island of Florianopolis, located just off the southern coast, where fellow Brazilian beauty Adriana Lima also hangs out. When in Rio, Bündchen is said to favor the spacious penthouse at Marina All Suites, a luxury boutique hotel situated across from the ocean in the affluent neighborhood of Leblon. The hotel’s colorful décor captures Brazil’s sexy charm, and enormous suites offer panoramic views of the sea. Naomi Campbell has also been spotted here.

Mexico

Perhaps more than most supermodels, Heidi Klum’s business acumen has dispelled the myth that models are lacking in the intellect department. As a Victoria Secret starlet, executive producer of Project Runway, wife of musician Seal, and mother of three children, this German wonder-woman is no stranger to success. Klum and Seal own a villa in Costa Careyes, Mexico, an upscale development located on a 30,000-mile nature reserve between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Favored among well-heeled celebrities for its unspoiled beaches, exotic architecture and bohemian spirit, the 50-villa community has been seducing the likes of Christie Brinkley, Claudia Schiffer, Uma Thurman and Giorgio Armani since it opened. Wayne Hudson, a representative of Costa Careyes, the company founded by Gian Franco Brignone that builds and rents villas in the area, says that privacy is “the single biggest appeal” of the development to stars like Klum and Seal. “In Careyes, which is a small isolated community, they have extreme privacy from the outside world. And the Careyes residents who are VIPs for a variety of reasons just treat them as another member of the community.”

Do you also want to be treated as a top supermodel? Go to medestino.com and book your holiday!

The Festival de Cannes



Cannes is a fashionable seaside resort in the south of France, the Côte d’Azur. Every year in May the famous Boulevard de la Croisette transforms into a spectacular setting, with flashing cameras, limousines, international movie stars and a distracted public: Film Festival de Cannes.


The Festival de Cannes is the most important film event in the world, with more than 4,000 journalists among the 30,000 accredited, representing the entire spectrum of the motion-picture industry.

The Festival de Cannes reflects the dual nature of cinema at the crossroads of art and industry, and favours both cinema revelations and professional encounters. For if the Festival principally evokes the surprise of the Selection and the expectation of the final awards, it is equally the privileged rendezvous of all motion-picture industry professionals who attend its Marché du Film.

The Festival, moreover, develops actions in support of cinematic creation throughout the world. Twenty years after having created the Caméra d'Or, the prize awarded to the best first film, all selections combined, the Festival created in 1998 the Cinéfondation to accompany young filmmakers along the various stages of their creative careers, from their projects to the making of their films.

The role of the Festival de Cannes has thus grown rich over the course of the years to the rhythm of the evolution of cinema itself: selecting and promoting films and artists, welcoming professionals, implementing new sets of dynamics in support of creation... in a word, serving the cinema in all its dimensions.

This year, the Festival of Cannes takes place from 13th until 24th May and is already celebrating its 62nd anniversary. Besides spotting movie stars and enjoying the top films that are shown, this is also a good period to visit the beautiful city of Cannes and to explore its surroundings. Wander through the picturesque streets around the church in the old town where you have a panoramic view over the harbour, the bay and islands. In the area there is always much to do. The exhibition of Picasso 1945-1949, l'Ere du Renouveau and the picturesque circuit of the Côte d'Azur is also worth a visit.

Medestino.com offers a great variety of hotels throughout Europe. Visit the website and see for yourself!

Doha, the Capital city of Qatar



Qatar is fast developing as a major Mid-east destination, after opening its doors to tourism since 1989.

A visitor who descends into Qatar, will be welcomed by the eye-catching view of the capital city, Doha. The landscaped, crescent-shaped corniche, the sandy desert backdrop and the sparkling blue waters of the Gulf, are the first glimpse of what awaits a tourist, who arrives for a vacation in the sun-kissed country. Doha is a place filled with desert escapades, water sports, shopping indulgence, modern sporting equipments, historical museums, fine-dining, luxurious attractions and other natural attractions.


Situated on the bank of the Arabian Gulf, Doha, the Capital city of Qatar is one of the most chosen destinations to visit and live. Teeming with activity, Doha for long has been known as one of the most 'eventful' pearl fishing villages in the South East Arabia of the Persian Gulf.
Qatar houses major historic forts, modern luxury hotels, impressive seascapes and sandunes and is home to the Al Jazeera headquarters, the Arab world’s answer to CNN.

Tourists can explore the natural environment of Qatar by taking an exciting desert safari, relaxing at the many beaches and pools or just enjoying their favourite sport, be it bowling alleys, tennis, snookers, billiards, golf courses, or ice skating rinks. There is something for everyone in this wonderful place.

There are several lodging options available in Doha and in addition to the few luxury hotels one can also choose from several other options available. Recent construction ensures that Qatar is well served by first-class hotels. Several 3 star & 4 star hotels are also available which offer reasonable accommodation. For more information, go to www.medestino.com.

Ibiza, paradise for youngsters



Ibiza is the most extreme of the islands, in landscape and visitors.
The Greeks called Ibiza and Formentera the Islas Pitiusas (Islands of Pine Trees). The landscape is harsh and rocky, and the island receives little rainfall. Alongside the hardy pines, the most common crops are olives, figs and almonds. Perhaps surprisingly, about half the island (especially the fairly unspoilt northeast) remains covered by thick woods. Indeed, driving around the back roads of the north is to plunge into a rural idyll – not what one associates with Ibiza at all!

A rugged coastline is interspersed with dozens of sandy beaches, most consumed by intensive tourist developments. A few out-of-the-way beaches remain, but in summer you won’t be doing much solitary swimming.

Ibiza’s beaches and laid-back attitude first became a major drawcard in the flower-power heyday of the 1960s – while North America’s hippies were ‘California dreaming’, their Euro pean counterparts were heading here to tune in, turn on and drop out. It’s hard to believe that in 1956 the island boasted only 12 cars!

Initially for the hip and fashionable, Ibiza (a mixed World-Heritage site because of Ibiza city’s architecture and the island’s rich sealife) soon latched on to the money-spinnerof bulk tourism and started shipping in summer sun-seekers by the thousand. Today the island populace of 111, 100 watches on as millions (more than four million passengers are registered annually through the airport alone) of hippies, fashion victims, nudists, clubbers and package tourists pour through S’Illa Blanca (the White Island) each year.

Birthplace of the rave, Ibiza is home to some of Spain’s most (in) famous clubs. The outrageous summer scene is complemented by a diverse collection of bars.

Away from the bars are the woods, coastal walking trails and quiet (if not deserted) beaches that allow you to elude Ministry of Sound–style madness. Places such as Santa Eulària d’es Riu and the small resorts and coves of the northeast are ideal for family holidays.

Around about 20 beautiful and comfortable hoteles rurales (rural hotels) in renovated country houses are scattered about the island’s north.

If you want to book a hotel in another exciting city, go to www.medestino.com.

Costa Blanca



The long stripe of the Costa Blanca (White Coast) is one of Europe’s most heavily visited areas. If you’re after a secluded midsummer beach, stay away. But if you’re looking for a lively social scene, good beaches and a suntan…
It isn’t all concrete and package deals. Although the original fishing villages have long been engulfed by the sprawl of resorts, a few old town kernels, such as those of Xàbia (Jávea) and Altea, still survive.

In July and August it can be tough finding accommodation if you haven’t booked. Out of season, those places remaining open usually charge far less than in high summer.
Most buses linking Valencia and Alicante head down the motorway, making a stop in Benidorm. A few, however, call by other intervening towns. Renfe trains connect Valencia with Gandia, while the FGV narrow-gauge trains and trams ply the scenic route between Denia and Alicante, stopping at all pueblos en route.

Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca by Derek Workman describes in detail and with flair 20 one-day car excursions into the interior. Pack too his Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain if you’d like to linger and spend the night away from the crowds.

Costa Blanca is in the province of Alicante. It consists of around 200 km of Mediterranean coastline though its borders aren't strictly defined.

To the north it includes the popular resorts of Gandia, Javea and Denia and to the south it extends to the ugly development of Torrevieja. Around here marks the beginning of the
Costa Calida.

A number of smallish resorts such as Moraira, Altea and Calpe are particularly popular with Spanish tourists. In contrast the high rise resort of Benidorm attracts some 5 million foreign and national tourists every year, the vast majority British.

Until the 1960s Benidorm was a sleepy fishing village, yet today in Europe only London and Milan have more skyscrapers than this mega resort (the Gran Hotel Bali is 186 metres high).

So what's the attraction?

Benidorm offers attractions to suit all age groups from young children to OAPs. In the summer the majority of visitors are young Brits looking for craic whilst the low season is appealing to older couples escaping the north European winter. The resort boasts three first class (blue flag) beaches, entertainment for all, countless bars, restaurants and discos and the Terra Mitica theme park on the edge of town which is one of Spain's most visited tourist attractions. All of this within easy reach of Alicante airport.

Few sun worshippers escape the beaches and bars but the ones that do are in for a treat if they head into the stunning interior. Here you'll find one of Spain's great undiscovered gems, an area growing in popularity with walkers, cyclists, birdwatchers and nature lovers in general.

If you want to book a hotel in another exotic city, go to www.medestino.com.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Helsinki

Helsinki is a sea-town par excellence and an exciting, dynamic place. Half the city seems to be water, and the tortured geography of the coastline includes any number of bays, inlets and a speckling of islands. The harbour is the heart of the city, and watching the giant ferries glide into port is a defining memory and essential Helsinki experience.

Helsinki is cool without - as yet - being self-consciously so. Unlike other capitals, you sense that people go to places because they enjoy them, not to be seen. Much modern décor is ironic and humorous, and achieves stylishness by daring to differ rather than trying too hard.

While not an ancient place, much of what is loveable in Helsinki is older. The style of its glorious Art Nouveau buildings, the spacious elegance of its cafés, the careful preservation of Finnish heritage in its dozens of museums, restaurants that have changed neither menu nor furnishings since the 1930s are all part of the city's quirky charm.

It has a very different feel to the rest of Finland, partly because before the days of the hi-tech society it was the country's sole point of contact almost with the rest of the world.
Like all of Finland, though, Helsinki has a dual nature. In winter you sometimes wonder where all the people are. In spring and summer they are back again, packing green spaces and outdoor tables to get a piece of blessed sun, whirring around on thousands of bicycles and kicking the city's nightlife into overdrive.

Culture

The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.

The Finnish National Gallery consists of three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings, whereas the highly modern Kiasma is probably the most debated building in Helsinki.

Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teatern. The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair centre.

Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in Northern Europe, many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Norther, Wintersun, Ensiferum, HIM, The Rasmus, The 69 Eyes, Hanoi Rocks, Apocalyptica and Stratovarius.

Places of a lifetime

Have you ever dreamt of visiting any of your favourite places? Most often, you will hear these words from your friends, family members or any others. Every one of us desire to visit our favourite places in our lifetime. It is the dream of every human being.
In Europe there are many beautiful cities that one person should certainly visit during his lifetime. For many people, it's arguable that nine cities exhaust the list of essential visits in Europe: London; Paris; Amsterdam; Rome, Venice and Florence; Madrid; Athens; and
Berlin.

Here are the 9 wonderful places, which you can plan to visit in your lifetime.

London

The United Kingdom’s capital city—covering 610 square miles—is huge. Founded in A.D. 43, it’s also old. And powerful. London is a hub of culture, business, and politics—and centre of the once glorious British Empire that can still throw its weight around the globe. Served by a fabulous subway system, numerous tour buses, and the iconic black taxis, London is not difficult to find your way around in. And despite the city’s enormity, the centre is small enough to make walking a good option—don’t forget people drive on the left side of the route here.

Paris

It is the most beautiful city and also the capital of France. Springtime is the best time to visit Paris. Paris is the city of life, love and light. You will find romance and magic when you visit Eiffel tower to Mona Lisa and from the bustling Champs Elysees to the winding streets of Montmartre.

Amsterdam

Often promoted as the gateway to Europe, the Netherlands’s largest metropolis has always been one of the continent’s most progressive and cosmopolitan capitals, and nothing much has changed since the city first came to glory as a trading centre in the 17th century. You can still relive that Golden Age. Stroll, boat, or bike along the city’s canals, lined with gabled houses, to experience one of Europe’s best preserved, photogenic, and intact historic city centres, or visit the Dutch master paintings in the Rijksmuseum. But don’t stop there. Always looking ahead, and reinventing itself, Amsterdam has recently emerged as a 21st-century style centre.

Rome

The Eternal City is one of Europe’s most ancient urban centres, dating back almost 3,000 years. Rome’s early inhabitants left behind a trove of architectural masterpieces, including the massive Colosseum. The Italian capital also boasts an unparalleled concentration of world-class art, from Michelangelo’s Sixteen Chapel to the baroque Trevi Fountain, and teems with restaurants, trattorie, osterie, pizzeria, enoteche, cafés, bars, and gelaterie. It is home to the animated, good-humoured Romans, who live to eat, drink wine (and espresso), and hold forth on everything from politics to soccer, fashion, food, and films.


Venice

Venice is one of the Italy’s greatest tourist places. You will be surprised by hearing how the city is built up. The city is built on 317 small islands and has 150 canals which are connected through 409 bridges. During the spring time, Venice is completely filled with tourists. At that time it is very difficult to find the accommodations.

Florence

A city-size shrine to the Renaissance, Florence offers frescoes, sculptures, churches, palaces, and other monuments from the richest cultural flowering the world has known. But to see the Tuscan capital simply as Europe’s preeminent city of art would be to ignore not only its role as a dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis, but also to overlook its more unsung charms—Italy’s most visited gardens (and its best ice-cream parlour), idyllic strolls on balmy summer evenings, a broad range of specialty shopping, sweeping views over majestic cityscapes, eating experiences that range from historic cafés to the country’s most highly rated restaurants, and the kind of seductive and romantic pleasures that somehow only Italy knows how to provide.

Madrid

Like the best tapas bars, Madrid offers a selection of delights so tempting it reduces even the most seasoned traveller to giddiness. On one glorious stretch of boulevard, it houses three of the world’s greatest art museums. It boasts Western Europe’s largest Royal Palace and its most audacious gay pride parade. Madrid is a city that locals proudly claim never sleeps. Except, that is, during siesta. Do like they do and take a nap—it is key to truly living la vida madrileña.

Athens

Modern Athens is a major European city, vibrant and safe, where history meets with comfort an fascination. The Acropolis is one of the world’s most famous landmarks and Greece’s history and culture, combined with the nightlife, a wonderful climate, traditional cuisine and renowned Greek hospitality are just some of the countless attractions Athens has to offer. They provide a unique opportunity for those visiting the cradle of the concept of democracy, an experience, you will never forget.


Berlin

Berlin has had a more wrenching history than most cities on Earth. It’s been ravaged by war, enslaved by fascism, bisected during the Cold War, and rejoined at the fall of the Wall.

Out of such chaos has grown a city that’s adaptable in the extreme. But Berlin is also a place of incredible beauty in its forests, rivers, and historical sites. Culture blossoms everywhere, and dining is an international smorgasbord. You’ll find any version of Berlin you envision and, in the process, perhaps find a new version of yourself.

If you are planning a visit to one of your favourite cities or countries in Europe, go to www.medestino.com, where you will find a large variety of hotels in Europe.

Newlyweds seek alternative Honeymoon destinations



When it comes to honeymoons there are certain choices which are going to be inevitably popular.

A honeymoon in the Seychelles, Paris or Rome are classic romantic destinations which make the ideal spot for a couple to share their first luxury holiday together as man and wife.
However, the trends are changing to find a unique experience for a honeymoon which breaks the mould and offers something exciting and different. Here are a few quieter, undiscovered gems of honeymoon exploration to give some ideas for honeymoon bliss.

The Italian island of Sicily is a great alternative to the overcrowded tourist hotspots in the north around Tuscany. The region is rich in history and culture along with some of the finest wines the country has to offer.

The cuisine at the Sicilian restaurants is a delight; they don’t call it “God’s Kitchen” for nothing. Sicily is famous for its orange and lemon orchards and nothing could be quite as romantic as a gentle walk among the fruit trees.

If you were enchanted by the idea of sprawling hills and glacial lakes from The Sound of Music then Austria is an unusual getaway for a honeymoon which can guarantee incredible mirror-like lakes and quiet, unhindered exclusivity.

The lake of Traunsee in the north of the country is a wonderfully serene place to escape the hustle and bustle of mainstream tourism.

Finally, there are many Caribbean destinations which are easily overlooked in place of the popular choices for honeymoons in Barbados or Jamaica. Dominica is just one of the less toured islands mainly because its beaches are not as silvery white as some of its Caribbean brothers.

However, Dominica does offer some amazing walking, snorkelling with the marine life and incredible natural beauty.

If you want to find a hotel in other alternative cities in Europe, go to www.medestino.com.

Malawi, the warm heart of Africa



Flick through the glossy tourist brochures and the clichés come thick and fast. Malawi is ‘the warm heart of Africa’, or ‘Africa for beginners’; and its lake ‘the lake of stars’. It all seems too good to be true, but, with stunning and varied scenery and supremely friendly locals, along with the relative ease of travel here, Malawi really does live up to the hype.

Malawi’s big draw is the lake: a magnificent shard of crystal water stretching some 500km along Malawi’s eastern border, separating it from the wild and mountainous coast of Mozambique and Tanzania. Isolated villages pepper the northern lakeshore and the beautiful Liwonde National Park rests at its southern tip. Around 500 species of fish inhabit the lake and the freshwater diving and snorkelling here are excellent. Malawi’s not just for water babies and sun worshippers though; there’s plenty here to keep you active and Malawi’s landscape is surprisingly diverse. Head for the misty heights of Mount Mulanje or to the Nyika National Park, where you'll find sheer escarpments, dramatic peaks, endless rolling grassland and some of the most enjoyable hiking routes in the whole of Africa.

Many travellers only pass through the country for a couple of days, intent on racing through to Africa’s ‘bigger’ attractions. This is a shame, as Malawi has much to offer. Take time to explore the highland wilderness, dive and swim in the lake’s warm waters, or simply soak up the vibrant local flavour and you’re sure to find yourself seduced. Tempted to go to Malawi? Go to www.medestino.com and book your hotel.

Not convinced yet? Below you can find more information about the major cities in Malawi:


Lilongwe

Lilongwe is hardly awash with excitement; it’s a sleepy little city that while perfectly pleasant, isn’t particularly interesting or memorable. The quiet buzz of the Old Town, with its craft stalls, market, a nice little cafés and drinking holes, is at its heart, and this is where you’re likely to spend most of your time. The more modern city centre has little to offer – it’s a soulless collection of banks, office buildings and embassies.

Blantyre

Blantyre – the commercial and industrial capital of Malawi – is a more happening city than Lilongwe, although that’s not saying much. It stretches for about 20km, merging into Limbe, its ‘sister city’. Most travellers stop only for a few days to send or receive mail, buy maps and books or pick up a visa for Mozambique. This is probably long enough to check out some interesting sights, the most global selection of cuisine in Malawi, several enjoyable bars, and a fair selection of places to stay.

Mzuzu

Mzuzu is the largest town north of Lilongwe and the transport hub for all north-related activities. The town is centred around a grand tree-lined avenue. It has banks, shops, a post office, supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations and other facilities, which are especially useful if you’ve come into Malawi from the north.

Authentic Destinations!



National Geographic Traveler Magazine places Ghent third in its global ranking of authentic destinations!

National Geographic Traveler Magazine is a reference for anyone who enjoys travel, fine photography and insightful journalism. At the end of November 2008, the magazine published a top 109 of the most authentic destinations worldwide. The historic city centre of Ghent ranked third!

What a surprise! Not that Ghent is an authentic, real city filled with excellently preserved buildings, monuments and art treasures, but the real surprise is that the city is recognized for these qualities! And there’s more. Ghent is praised for its “brilliant mix of a wonderful past and a contemporary, vibrant city”.

Ghent can boast the title of highest-ranking city, being preceded only by Austria’s Wachau Valley and the area around the Rideau Canal in Ontario, Canada. In Ghent’s wake are prestigious destinations such as Lyon, York, Dublin, Istanbul, Cape Town, Munich and many others.

Below you can find the top 10 of the global ranking of authentic destinations:
1. Austria: Wachau/Melk Abbey (score: 88)
2. Ontario: Rideau Canal corridor (score: 84)
3. Belgium: Historic Center of Ghent (score: 81)
4. Japan: Nikko historic areas (score: 81)
5. Austria: Graz (score: 80)
6. Sweden: Stockholm's Gamla Stan (score: 80)
7. France: Aix-en-Provence (score: 80)
8. Germany: Potsdam historic areas (score: 80)
9. France: Dijon and Bourgogne region (score: 80)
10. Argentina: Mendoza wine estancias (score: 79)
If you want to visit one of these beautiful authentic cities, you can easily book a hotel on www.medestino.com.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Bratislava, capital of Slovakia



Not only is Bratislava the largest city in Slovakia, it also serves as the state capital. Furthermore, Bratislava is the seat of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, the Government of the Slovak Republic, national ministries and the other central bodies of the state administration of the Slovak Republic. It is situated in the centre of Europe in the southwestern part of Slovakia.

Bratislava is one of the youngest capitals in Europe and few people know that during the time it was called Pressburg. It was one of the most important cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bratislava was a mixing pot of various nations and nationalities who lived together in peace and harmony. There is a saying that a true ‘Pressburgian’ speaks four languages: Slovak, German, Hungarian and Mishmash. Even as recently as the 1980s you might hear how older Pressburgians in the street would say two words in German, two in Hungarian and two in Slovak all in the space of one sentence. That is what we mean by “mishmash”.

Bratislava’s location on the banks of the River Danube and at the crossroads of ancient trading routes right at the heart of Europe predestined it to become a meeting point of various cultures. It was the home of the Celts, the Romans, and the Slavs ... The reign of Maria Theresa is regarded as a golden era in the city’s history. She was crowned Queen of Hungary in St. Martin’s cathedral in Pressburg, just like the 10 other kings and 8 royal partners over the course of 300 years when Pressburg was in fact the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The rich mix of cultures and nations not only left its mark in the language spoken here, but also in the customs, cuisine and lifestyle. Just like the Viennese, the people of Bratislava also enjoy promenading through the streets of the city centre, taking time out for a coffee in any of the many cafes. This part of the city is referred to as the Korzo and combines elegance with charm. Visitors say that the city has a relaxed Mediterranean type atmosphere. Bratislava is a seaside city without the sea.

Nowadays Bratislava is experiencing a boom once more. Buildings are popping up, deals being made, people studying, and everything is on the move. Experts regard it as one of the most dynamically developing and most prospective regions in Europe. It welcomes tourists, business people, and investors, who are attracted to this blooming city and its lively atmosphere. There are many cities in Europe that can boast their own special unique charm, and Bratislava is definitely one of them.

The old city and the castle are the best parts of Bratislava. The old city is packed with museums and palaces. The castle, built above the Danube, was a frontier post of the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 5th century. Climb up for the great views and to check out the very interesting Slovak National Museum expositions within. The Natural Sciences Museum of the Slovak National Museum and the Slovak National Gallery on the river are also worth a visit.

Hviezdoslavovo nmestie (square) is a convenient orientation point, with the old town to the north, the Danube to the south, and Bratislava Castle to the west. The Old Town offers numerous good places to eat and a rich nightlife.

If you are planning a trip to this beautiful city, go to www.medestino.com where you will find a large variety of hotels at reasonable prices.

Hostels: The cure for expensive, lonely travel


If you want to save money while travelling, consider hostelling. Several thousand hostels provide beds throughout Europe -- in cities, towns, and the countryside -- for $20 to $40 per night.

For this rock-bottom price, you get "no frills" accommodations in clean, stark dormitories. The good news for couples and families is that many hostels have a few doubles and some family rooms. It's a great way to enjoy some privacy while saving money.

You may assume hostels aren't for you because, by every standard, you're "old." Well, many countries have dropped the word "youth" from their hostel organization's name, and for years Hostelling International has given "youths" over the age of 54 a discount on membership cards. Even the last holdout, the German state of Bavaria, finally dropped its youths-only restriction. If you're alive, you're young enough to hostel anywhere in Europe.
Somebody told me: "My partner and I stayed in a 'youth' hostel for the first time by Lake Como and thought we'd be the oldest people there. Not so! At our table was a 60-ish couple from Sydney and a 79-year-old British woman who was backpacking alone through Europe. All three were a delight, but especially the backpacker, who said she stays in hostels for the evening company."

Solo travellers find a family in every hostel, and can always find a new travel partner. The hostel's recreation and living rooms are most people’s favourite hangouts. People gather, play games, tell stories, share information, read, write, and team up for future travels. The lights may go out by 11 p.m., but bunk-bed conversation rages long after. You'll find yourself propped on your elbows staring intensely into the darkness, passing around travel tales like a bucket of popcorn.

Some hostels serve hearty, super-cheap meals, often in family-style settings. A typical dinner is fish sticks and mashed potatoes seasoned by conversation with new friends from Norway to Namibia to New Zealand. The self-service kitchen, complete with utensils, pots, and pans, is a great budget aid that comes with most hostels. Larger hostels even have a small grocery store. International friendships rise with the bread in the kitchens.

Still, hostels are not hotels -- not by a long shot. Many people hate them. Hostels can have strict rules. Some lock up during the day (usually from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), and a few may have a curfew at night, when the doors are locked.

Unless you snare a double or family room, you could have lots of company. Dorms have from 4 to 20 beds. Many independent hostels have both segregated and mixed dorms.
School groups can turn hostels upside down, typically on weekends during the school year and weekdays in the summer. The sounds you'll hear just after everyone's turned in might remind you of summer camp -- giggles, burps, jokes, and strange noises in many languages. Snoring is permitted and practiced openly.

Theft can be a problem in a few hostels, but try this simple safeguard: Wear your money belt and don't leave valuables lying around. Use the storage lockers that are available in most facilities. Other typical hostel services include Internet access and a self-service laundry.
Hostels come in all shapes and sizes, and some are sightseeing destinations in themselves.

There are castles (Bacharach, Germany), moored ships (Stockholm), alpine chalets (Gimmelwald, Switzerland), huge modern buildings (Frankfurt), lakefront villas (Lugano, Italy), former prisons (Ljubljana, Slovenia), medieval manor houses (Wilderhope Manor, England), former choirboys' dorms (St. Paul's, London), country estates (Loch Lomond, Scotland), and former royal residences (Holland Park, London).

Young backpackers can overrun big-city hostels. Rural hostels, far from train lines and famous sights, are usually quiet and frequented by a more mature crowd. If you have a car, use that mobility to leave the Eurail zone and enjoy some of Europe's overlooked hostels.
Some travellers love them and will be hostellers all their lives, regardless of their budgets. Hostelling is a philosophy. You trade service and privacy for a chance to live simply and communally with people from around the world.

Go to www.medestino.com to find out more about hostels in and other forms of accommodation in Europe.

Best of Moscow in ....

Best of Moscow in 3 to 10 days


Moscow is one of the oldest and most beautiful Russian cities. The emperors, or tsars, made the city their base of rule until 1712, when the capital was moved to Saint Petersburg. Moscow was restored as Russia's capital in 1918, and it served as the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1922 until 1991. Since then Moscow has been the capital of the Russian Federation.

Moscow has a long and dramatic history. The city has been completely destroyed and rebuilt again many times throughout the years. Its most ancient wooden buildings disappeared in fires. Each time the city was resurrected from the ashes, it became more and more beautiful. For every rebuilding, the most talented and famous architects were invited from around the world to restore Moscow.

This history of reconstruction Moscow has undergone is part of the reason she has absorbed the many different and diverse styles that visitors experience here. Stalin's epic and monumental buildings neighbour with small two-store nineteenth century town houses, while splendid cathedrals peer out from behind modern skyscrapers. Even in the heart of Moscow, in the Kremlin, old churches compete with the immense Congress Palace for space.
To see all of the main sights of Moscow and its environs you need at least two weeks. Add another week to that if you want to do a thorough job of exploring the city's many museums along the way. If your time is limited, you'll have to be very selective in planning excursions.

If You Have 3 Days


Start with a stroll across Red Square, a tour of St. Basil's Cathedral, the shopping arcades of GUM, and, if you're a devoted student of Soviet history and/or embalming techniques, the Lenin Mausoleum. Then walk through Alexander Garden to reach the tourist entrance to the Kremlin. Plan on spending the better part of your first day exploring the churches, monuments, and exhibits within the grounds of this most famous of Russian fortresses. On the second day, spend the morning sightseeing and shopping on Tverskaya ulitsa. In the afternoon, head to Kitai Gorod; this neighbourhood has churches and historic buildings on Varvarka ulitsa, which extends from the eastern edge of Red Square, just behind St. Basil's. Try also, toward the end of the day, to squeeze in a stroll across Teatralnaya Ploshchad to see the Bolshoi and Maly theaters. Devote the third morning to the Tretyakov Gallery, which has the finest collection of Russian art in the country. In the afternoon stroll down the Arbat, where you can find plenty of options for haggling over Russian souvenirs.

If You Have 7 Days

Follow the three-day itinerary above. On the fourth day explore Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa, with its enchanting mansions. Devote the fifth day to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and an exploration of some of the streets in the surrounding Kropotkinsky District. Come back the next day and walk from the Russian State Library to the Kropotkinsky District. Be sure to include the Pushkin Memorial Museum and a walk along the Kremlyovskaya naberezhnaya (the embankment of the Moskva River) in the late afternoon for the spectacular views of the cupolas and towers of the Kremlin. Depending on whether your interests tend toward the religious or the secular, you could spend your last day visiting either the New Maiden's Convent and the adjoining cemetery or Gorky Park and the Tolstoy House Estate Museum, where Tolstoy once lived.

If You Have 10 Days


After following the seven-day itinerary above, plan on traveling farther afield on day trips to visit the cathedrals and museums of Arkhangelskoye, Ostankino, Kolomenskoye, and the Golden Ring towns. Depending on your interests, you could also use this extra time to visit some of the numerous smaller museums devoted to the lives and accomplishments of prominent Russians, such as Pushkin Apartment Museum and Lermontov House Museum, the former homes of the writers Pushkin and Lermontov, respectively.

Tirana



Tirana is the capital of Albania. It enjoys a beautiful setting between the ranges of Dajti mountain from one side and the coastal plains on the other one. Tirana was founded in 1614 by Sulejmen Pashe Bargjini, feudal lord of that time from this region and proclamated capital in 1920. However the area has been inhabited as early back as the Neolitic period. The ruins of the castle of first century A.D. which is likely to be the castle mentioned with the name Tirkan by Byzantine historian Procop (VI century) have been unreathed in the foot of Dajti mountain.

Still rapidly growing Tirana is a busy commercial and administrative center with several comfortable hotels, restaurants, discos, pubs as well as modern facilities for conventions and conferences.

City attractions include the monument of National Hero G.K.Scanderbeg in the busy Scanderbeg square, the Mosque of Ethem Bey (1798 – 1823) and the Clock Tower (1830) , 35 meters high . From its top the visitor can observate a wide view of Scanderbeg Square.
Worth mentioning are also the monuments of Tabakeve Bridge ( first half of XIX century) , and the monument of Mother Albania at the Cemetery of National Marthyrs.

It is always nice to have a walk in the Grand Park, lying in the southern part of the city and extanding over an area of 250 hectars with an artificial lake included. It has 120 kind of plants, decorative shrubs and flowers of various colours.
Tirana hosts several museums, artistic and scientific institutions, among which the most important are National Historical Museum, Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Nature Sciences, Opera and Balet Theatre, Drama and Variety Show, the Gallery of Fine Arts, the International Center of Culture, The Palace of Congres and Exhibition Halls.

Only a short drive east of Tirana there is Dajti mountain (25 km). It offers numerous opportunities all year round for excursions and recreation. Its unspoilt nature attracts many visitors during all seasons. Dajti is also a National Park, rich in diversity of flora and fauna.
One of the most interesting places to see round Tirana is Petrela village with its fortress. Only 15 km southeast of Tirana, Petrela has been known as a dwelling place as early as back 2000 years ago in the ruins of the Illyrian town of Presqopi. In that time the town is supposed to be used as a residential place for Illyrian King, Glauk. The most interesting object is the medieval castle, rising on a rocky hill. This castle has been under the command of Mamica Kastrioti, the Scanderbeg sister. The area round Petrela offers a unique landscape of broken hills covered by olive trees. In the south east direction from Tirana near the gorge of Erzeni river there is a carstic cave, colled the Black Cave or the Dove Cave. It is located only 18 km far away from the capital.

If you want to book a hotel in this lovely city, go to www.medestino.com.

Cyclades Islands




The Cyclades islands, Greece, are composed of 39 islands of which 24 are inhabited. The Cyclades are islands to dream about; sun-kissed outliers of rock and dappled earth lying scattered across the glittering Aegean Sea. Their characteristic white cubist houses, golden beaches, olive groves, pine forests, herb-strewn mountain slopes and terraced valleys make for an irresistible mix. Throw in a dash of hedonism, and a culture that draws vividly on ancient and modern themes, and the Greek Island dream can become reality.

Other realities can be a touch more down to earth, at least for native islanders, who have often struggled for a living through centuries of deprivation. Beneath the tourism gloss, many still raise livestock and grow food on reluctant soil, or chase a diminishing supply of fish from seas that are regularly rough and dangerous. Winters are often grey, bleak and unforgiving.

The Cyclades range from big fertile Naxos, with its craggy mountains and landlocked valleys, to the tiny outliers of Donousa, Iraklia and Anafi, where the sea dominates, with attitude, on every side.

The beaches of Mykonos, Santorini and Ios are awash with sun-lounger society and raucous diversions; their main towns seethe with commercialism. All of this has its appeal, but other islands, such as Andros, Amorgos and Sifnos, have kept tourism to a more sedate scale.
The Cyclades are so named because they form a kyklos (circle) around the island of Delos, one of the world’s most haunting ancient sites. Closing that circle is still one of the most rewarding experiences for the dedicated traveller.

Santorini

Fantastic, fabulous Santorini deserves all the superlatives. Even the most jaded traveller succumbs to the awesome drama of this surreal landscape, relic of what was probably the biggest eruption in recorded history. That you share the experience with hordes of other visitors is inevitable. Embrace it all.

The caldera and its vast curtain wall of multicoloured cliffs is truly awesome. If you want to experience the full dramatic impact it’s worth arriving by a slower ferry with open decks, rather than by enclosed catamaran or hydrofoil.

Santorini is famous for its spectacular sunsets. The village of Oia on the northern tip of the island is a hugely popular sunset viewing site because there is an uninterrupted view of the sun as it finally sinks below the horizon. From farther south down the caldera edge, the last of the setting sun can be obscured by the islands of Nea Kameni and Thirasia. Take your pick, however. You can enjoy most of the sunset from almost anywhere along the rim of the caldera, especially if you want to avoid the sometimes feverish crush at Oia.

The main port, Athinios, stands on a cramped shelf of land at the base of Sphinxlike cliffs and is a scene of marvellous chaos that always seems to work itself out when ferries arrive. Buses (and taxis) meet all ferries and then cart passengers through an ever-rising series of S-bends to the capital, Fira, which fringes the edge of the cliffs like a snowy cornice.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

De Dordogne: fantastische bestemming voor wie er even tussenuit wil




Om te beginnen is het er heel mooi: de Dordogne wordt niet voor niets ‘Frans Toscane’ genoemd. Het is er groen, met mooie akkers, prachtig beboste heuvels en tussen al het groen kronkelen vriendelijke rivieren en riviertjes. Het is er puur, zuiver, onbedorven: het Franse land op zijn best!

Dordogne maakt deel uit van de regio Aquitanië. Het departement is verdeeld in vier gebieden:

Le Périgord Noir:

Le Périgord Noir of de Zwarte Périgord dankt zijn naam aan de sombere kleur van de uitgestrekte wouden met groene eiken.

De Zwarte Perigord, tussen het dal van de Vézère en het dal van de Dordogne, is rijk aan cultureel erfgoed:

De Vallée de la Vézère telt 147 gisements en 25 beschilderde grotten, waaronder de grot van Lascaux. De grotten van Lascaux behoren tot de 28 Franse plaatsen die op de Werelderfgoedlijst van de UNESCO opgenomen zijn (met 15 beschermde sites). Het Musée National de Préhistoire in Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac bezit de grootste collectie paleolithische schatten van Frankrijk.

De Vallée de la Dordogne is beroemd om zijn karakteristieke dorpjes met lauze-daken van platte leisteen, de middeleeuwse kastelen en de middeleeuwse stad Sarlat. De stad voert het predikaat ‘Ville d’art et d’histoire’ (plaats met een interessante historie) niet voor niets: de middeleeuwse huizen en renaissance herenhuizen, waarvan er maar liefst 77 op de monumentenlijst staan, zijn werkelijk prachtig.

Le Périgord Pourpre:

De Purperrode Perigord heet naar de kleur van de wijn. Dit is het land van de wijngaarden, het Pays de la Vigne, van de bastides en Cyrano de Bergerac.

De wijngaarden van Bergerac op de oevers van de rivier de Dordogne vormen na de regio Bordeaux het grootste wijngebied van Zuidwest-Frankrijk. De streek brengt 13 AOC-wijnen voort. De stad Bergerac, de stad van Cyrano de Bergerac, is een ideale uitvalsbasis voor de route des vins de Bergerac, die 4 verschillende parcours telt waarlangs u de wijnboeren en het culturele erfgoed van de Périgord Pourpre kunt ontdekken.

De rijke en bewogen geschiedenis van de Périgord Pourpre heeft een groot aantal bezienswaardigheden nagelaten: de bastides van Monpazier, Beaumont-du-Périgord en Villefranche-du-Périgord en een aantal middeleeuwse en renaissancekastelen.

Le Périgord Blanc:

In het hart van het departement ligt de ‘Witte Perigord’, genoemd naar de witte kalksteen uit de streek die bij beeldhouwers zeer geliefd is.
Hier ligt ook de hoofdstad van de Périgord, Périgueux. De stad is beroemd om de markten met lokale gastronomische specialiteiten, maar ook om het buitengewoon rijke architectonische erfgoed dat hier in meer dan 2000 jaar geschiedenis is ontstaan.

Le Périgord Vert

In de ‘Groene Perigord’, het noordelijkste deel van het department is een hoofdrol weggelegd voor de ‘natuur’. Hier vindt u beschermde gebieden en volop mogelijkheden voor outdooractiviteiten als vissen en wandelen.

In de Périgord vert is verrassend erfgoed te ontdekken zoals de watermolens in het dal van de Dronne, romaanse koepelkerken en ambachtswerkplaatsen als de smederij van Savignac Lédrier. In het glooiende groene landschap liggen pittoreske dorpjes verscholen als Brantôme of Saint-Jean-de-Côle, grotere bezienswaardigheden als de kastelen van Puyguilhem en Jumilhac en de grotten van Villars.

If you want to book a hotel in another interesting city, go to www.medestino.com.

Zambia, the butterfly in the heart of Africa



If you’re out to experience the ‘real’ Africa, Zambia is that diamond in the rough. The country boasts some of the continent’s best wildlife parks, and shares (with Zimbabwe) some of the region’s major highlights: Victoria Falls in Southwestern Zambia, Lake Kariba as well as Lower Zambezi National Park in Southeastern Zambia. It is also an angler’s dream, as fishermen hail from all over the world to try their luck on the mighty Zambezi River with the hopes of landing a toothy tigerfish or the rare, giant vundu. Avid birders also flock to Zambia to glimpse its fabulous diversity of birds, most notably Chaplin’s barbets.

For independent travellers Zambia can be a challenge: distances between major towns and attractions are large, and getting around by car or public transport takes time and patience. But for many, this challenge is part of Zambia’s appeal. Save Lusaka and Livingstone, this is the ‘real’ Africa, so rare among the increasingly developed and Westernised parts of the region.

So if you like your travel easy and your wilderness neatly bundled into a homogenised and Westernised version of ‘Africa’, then much of Zambia may not appeal. But if you enjoy a raw edge and an Africa with few tourists, Zambia is the place you’re looking for.

Lusaka

The capital of Zambia is Lusaka, a small city, part modern and part traditional African, where dusty markets sit alongside Soviet-looking high-rise blocks. Although Zambia is a fascinating country, Lusaka will never be a highlight for tourists. There are few notable buildings, monuments or other sights, but it does boast a lively ambience and genuine African feel. The markets are good, there’s a decent arts scene and the nightclubs throb at weekends. If you have to be in Lusaka for a few days you’ll have no trouble passing the time pleasantly enough. You can easily book a hotel on the website www.medestino.com.

Sights
• Dutch Reform Market: The Dutch Reform Market features artisanal goodies that are a step up in quality from markets elsewhere.
• Henry Tayali Visual Arts Centre: Check out Henry Tayali Visual Arts Centre if you're in a buying mood for local contemporary art.
• Kalimba Reptile Park: A bit of a schlep northeast from town, Kalimba Reptile Park is not only a crocodile and snake zoo (not for petting!), but is also a pleasant place to grab a beer and a crocodile sandwich, though you'll need a 4WD to get there. To get there, go east on the Great East Rd 13km from Arcades. Then make a left at the Caltex filling station, take the road to the end (11km) and the park is on the right.
• Lusaka City Market: The Lusaka City Market is large and lively, but not as atmospheric (or smelly) as the Town Centre Market.
• Munda Wanga Environmental Park: Munda Wanga Environmental Park rehabilitates all sorts of animals for re-entry into the wild, unless they are too injured. The park features plenty of regional flora and fauna, including two cheetahs and seven lions, though the American black bear (a gift from Kenneth Kaunda) looks a little out of place. For visitors, the pool, bar and braai grills are welcome additions. It's about 16km south of central Lusaka.

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