29 June 2008

A visitor from Riga

I've written before about meeting the locals in Valencia through Hospitality Club, a social networking site that links travellers looking for accomodation or local knowledge of the places they visit. This weekend we've been hosting Matiss, a student from Riga and it was my turn to show him some of Bristol's landmarks.

Always ready to research places to visit I asked Matiss to give me his list of top things he would recommend to a visitor to Riga and here are his suggestions.

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26 June 2008

The Pantheon - in Rome

I'm sure the Pantheon is magical if you visit very early in the morning. You'll read in your guidebook about the awe inspiring coffered dome with the open hole letting in the elements and how the bronze ceiling was taken to be melted down in the 17th Century. The Roman Temple of the Gods is now a church and free for all to enter.

But folks, I have to tell you the truth here - it was so crowded that the magic was somewhat diminished for us. In fact my mother and son took one look and decided to avoid the crush and wait outside. This is the packed Piazza;

This post has moved to my new blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

24 June 2008

Street entertainment in Piazza Navona - in Rome

Piazza Navona in Rome is a fun place to wander around and relax as it's a centre for musicians and street-artists who come to entertain the crowds here. We sat in front of the Bernini sea gods of Fontagna del Moro and listened to a band but the larger Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the centre of the Piazza was under renovation when we were there.

There are plenty of those moving statues that come to life as soon as you drop a coin at their feet, or entice you in to have a photo taken with them.

This article has moved to my new blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

22 June 2008

An old man's funeral - in India

We'd spent a busy morning, my friend Marilyn and I. Up early to be driven to mass in the village in the cool of the early morning at 7 am. Then a walk round the village with our host, Fr Pratap, to visit many of the families from his parish, followed by a late breakfast of chappattis. Children danced to welcome us, we visited the nuns who taught at the local school, then took a well-earned siesta.

At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we were called again. Come, said Father Pratap - he needed to go and conduct a funeral mass in one of the outlying villages in his parish. After a 20 minute drive we arrived in the large village at the church. Everyone was waiting patiently inside the church for us to arrive, seated on the floor, men to one side, women and children to the other. As was the custom, the immediate family of the old man who had died had not eaten since his death in hospital the day before. They had brought him back to his own village to bury him. We felt bad then, that our siesta had delayed the service, Fr Pratap being too polite to wake us.

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17 June 2008

A cruise in the Mediterranean

I know that many of you are on the look out for a cheap holiday, so how about this cruise in the Mediterranean that my husband took in April? The cruise started in Gibraltar where he boarded the ship to sail back to the UK and it didn't cost him a penny - in fact, you could say it was more of a working holiday.

There were some fabulous sunsets to admire as they left the Mediterranean shores...

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14 June 2008

Jamaica St Studios - In Bristol

I've written before about the great street-art that's being used to brighten up the Stokes Croft neighbourhood of Bristol and encourage community spirit through the People's Republic of Stokes Croft. The organisation is the brainchild of Chris Chalkley who is based at Jamaica Street Studios, so when I heard that this community of artists was holding their annual Open Studios, I had to go along and have a look.

On the ground floor I found Chris, beer in hand, serving cups of tea, home-made cakes and talking to anyone who would listen about his mission to save some of the old buildings in the area from the developers in order to keep a better balance of small businesses, community use and centres of creativity. There was paper and charcoal laid out to encourage any potential artists who fancied having a go and my son and his friend sat in the sun and sketched for a while.

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13 June 2008

Profumo di Santa Marie Novella - In Rome

If you walk between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon you will cross Corso Rinascimento and pass close to Profumo Santa Maria di Novella. I'd heard that this elegant perfumery, which started as a pharmacy run by Dominican Friars, is a haunt of those in search of sensory delights. So while the rest of my family sat relaxing in a cafe nearby, I left them to seek it out. The Roman branch is is small with walls lined with dark wooden glass cabinets, like an old fashioned pharmacy and a table in the middle with fragrances and soaps laid out to smell.

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12 June 2008

The Market at Campo de'Fiori - in Rome

I do love a good market and although we weren't cooking for ourselves, we couldn't resist paying the daily market at Campo de'Fiori a visit.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

7 June 2008

In praise of chocolate - in Bristol

In Clifton Village there's a little shop that Bristol chocolate lovers in the know pop into regularly. I know it's popular with discerning locals as I've bumped into one set of neighbours on their way there and another neighbour brought me some of their chocolate as a gift. It's a chocolate bar that goes without any noticable signage to advertise its presence, yet whenever I pass by it's always full.

Today we walked across the green space we call the Downs past the groups of students with portable BBQs and couples sunbathing. Past the bushes smothered with dog-roses and elderflower and the children climbing the trees. Past the Observatory and Bristol's best known landmark, the Clifton suspension bridge.

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3 June 2008

Staying at Residenza Madri Pie - in Rome

If you're looking for a peaceful guest house, very close to the Vatican, with religious connections, then Residenza Madri Pie where we stayed on our recent visit to Rome may be for you.

The Madri Pie religious society was founded in the 18th century with the aim of educating people from all social backgrounds and it has active missions in Peru. Their guest house is situated five minutes walk to the west side of St Peter's square on the less touristy side of the Vatican, in a more residential neighbourhood. As my mother said, we could practically wave to the Pope from our bedroom window.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com
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1 June 2008

Carnival of Europe

This month I'm delighted to host the Carnival of Europe for Karen from Europe a la Carte, who's been off on her travels in Italy.

It was fun to read so many great articles from blogs that were new to me and it took much longer than I thought as I got hooked on reading all the other interesting stuff on these blogs. Here are the best ones for your delight.

For some family fun, why not have a picnic in Parc Guell in Barcelona, among the glorious Gaudi mosaics with Debbie at Delicious Baby. If you're travelling with children you'll be interested in her city-guides with child-friendly things to do in other European destinations such as Paris, Rome and Seville.

If you're heading for Rome, find out how to eat pizza and read about some favourite restaurants in Kristie's article Rome, Italy: The Food & Drinks posted at Culture Shock. Like Kristie, when we were in Rome recently, we found some great new places to eat and some that were well reviewed in the guidebooks but didn't make the grade for us.

If you enjoy ski-ing there are plenty of smaller ski resorts in Europe that are worth visiting for a day or two if you're travelling in the area. My sister often visits northern Greece, a country known more for beaches than ski-ing, over Christmas and Year for the mountain scenery and the local ski resorts. In this spirit Ultimate Vacation Guide visits the Cairngorms in Scotland for a day's ski-ing and lunch at the highest restaurant in Scotland.

However, if your idea of the perfect holiday is to drift down the river admiring castles and vineyards, then you may be interested in this post at The Cruise Info Center, which suggests a few alternatives for river cruises through Europe on the Rhine, Danube or Scottish Lochs.

Always a source of great travel tips on a minimal budget, Less Than a Shoestring shows us how cheaply it is possible to travel in this post on Baring My Budget: Madrid and Barcelona. The post gives plenty of ideas for free things to do in Madrid, Barcelona and Girona in a trip which costed a mere €150.

One of my favourite museums in Paris, the Musee d'Orsay, which always seems more accessible and manageable than the Louvre was featured in this post at The Earthly Paradise. If you're artistically inclined, you'll find some other interesting posts about the decorative arts in Paris and the interesting places Margaret visited on her trip there - I loved the look of those pink macaroons at Duree.

Finally, I hope you'll indulge me if I mention a couple of other posts from my own blog. Firstly, take a look at a guest post on my blog entitled Teacher meets Europe by Monna from the Teacher meets world blog, in which Monna visits different European destinations and muses on what each of them has taught her.

In exchange I did a guest post on Monna's blog on Memories of travelling and Rome, based on my two holidays in Rome, one at the age of seven and my more recent holiday with my own son in April. If you want to see my old family snaps of Rome from the 60's this is your chance.

And if you need any more inspiration to plan your next trip, read the 10 Inspirational Travel Quotations posted at Travelers stories - my favourite is;

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page
St. Augustine

I hope you enjoyed the Carnival of Europe and next month it will be back to Europe a la Carte as usual on 7 July. Do submit your blog articles on travelling in Europe by 30 June using the carnival submission form.

Thanks to Loops San, wwwlicious and tgraham for the photos on Flickr.

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